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Ask a Theologian III

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Nov 7, 2009.

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  1. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    The Gospels claim over 500 hundred people saw Jesus.
     
  2. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Of course, the big problem with that is that one person testifying that 500 people can testify of something is still . . . only one person.
     
  3. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Of course.
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, they are independent, probably. Paul was almost certainly writing before any of the Gospels were written. And the Gospels (at least some of them) were probably written before Paul's letters were widely circulated - or at any rate there is no reason to think that the authors of the Gospels were familiar with Paul. They are generally treated as largely independent sources. But of course, one would need to be wary of placing too much weight on that, since it's far from certain.

    (Plus, it smacks of cherry-picking to agree with scholars when they say something you like - such as that the Gospels and Paul are independent sources - while disagreeing with them when they say things you don't like.)

    No, they don't. It's Paul who says that (1 Cor 15:6). That's just one of the points of discrepancy between him and the Gospels and a pretty remarkable thing in itself, given that if this happened it must have been a very dramatic event, and yet no other source even mentions it.
     
  5. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    " Me and a few hundred other people saw El_Machinae rip the head off a tiger.."

    am_Unition
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The accurate way to put it is to say that we are told that there were hundreds of witnesses. We don't know whether in fact there were hundreds of witnesses (so we can't just say there were), and we don't know whether in fact there was none (so we can't just say there was none). In the case of the five hundred witnesses, there is a single source stating that there were hundreds of witnesses. Or, if you like, there is a single witness to the existence of hundreds of witnesses.
     
  7. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Independent Sources depends largely on the context involved. I should mention this was in the context of a discussion on the question Fifty raised, that is the historiocity of the Ressurection. In such a context, I don't think it's fair to say "The account is verified by multiple independent sources".
    Independece implies not only differing authorship, but differing motives of authors.
     
  8. beingofone

    beingofone Chieftain

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    Here is the evidence:

    For the church leaders in the mid second century, the four Gospels were baseline authority in their teachings. In about 170 AD, Irenaeus cited 23 of the 27 New Testament books, omitting only Philemon, James, 2 Peter and 3 John. The Muratorian fragment, written about the same time, attests to the widespread use of all the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. However, other church fathers had already cited those omitted books in various writings defending against Gnostic doctrines. The Codex Barococcio from 206 AD includes 64 of the 66 books of today's Bible. Esther and Revelation were omitted, but they had already been declared as inspired scripture by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian and the Muratorian Canon. In 230 AD, Origen declared that all Christians acknowledged as scripture the four Gospels, Acts, the epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation.


    5,600 of which are copies and fragments in the original Greek. Some manuscript texts date to the early second and third centuries, with the time between the original and our earliest existing fragment being a remarkably short 40-60 years.

    Julius Caesar's The Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts remain, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph)

    Pliny the Younger's Natural History (7 manuscripts; 750 years elapsed)

    Thucydides' History (8 manuscripts; 1,300 years elapsed)

    Herodotus' History (8 manuscripts; 1,350 years elapsed)

    Plato (7 manuscripts; 1,300 years (until Nag Hammadi)

    Tacitus' Annals (20 manuscripts; 1,000 years)

    Homer's Iliad, is the second best-preserved literary work of all antiquity, with 643 copies of manuscript support discovered to date. In those copies, there are 764 disputed lines of text, as compared to 40 lines in all the New Testament manuscripts.

    There were hundreds of texts, different books and Gospels and acts or deeds, that never made it into the New Testament.This fact is never talked about by the so called 'experts.They did not have the same priorities as we do today ie. textual geneology. The Jesus story is re-told countless times from early days (around AD50 first written) to the fourth century.


    There is basically one Jesus story and it's always the same in the hundreds of accounts.


    1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

    2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"

    3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.

    4) That Jesus was known as a miracle worker.

    5) He claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

    6) He was crucified under Pilate.

    7) Around the time of the Passover.

    8) Rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

    9) Several women discovered the empty tomb.

    10) That this was in Jerusalem.


    We find in 1945 AD - 40 never before seen books from antiquity. They all concure, every single one, with the record of Jesus, the Apostles, the resurrection, and the whole enchilada.

    1) The Apochryphon of John - "I John did hear these things."

    2)The Gospel of Thomas - "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down."

    3)The Prayer of the Apostle Paul - ""prayer of Paul the Apostle."

    4)The Apochryphon of James - "James writes to those."

    5)The Gospel of Philip - "The Gospel according to Philip."

    6)The Book of Thomas the Contender - "The secret words that the saviour spoke to Judas Thomas which I, even I Mathais(Acts 2) wrote down, while I was walking , listening to them speak with one another."

    7)The (First) Apocalypse of James - (snipped) "It is the Lord who spoke with me... I have given you a sign of these things, James."

    8)The (Second) Apocalypse of James - "This is the discourse that James the Just spoke in Jerusalem which Mareim one of the priests wrote."

    9)The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles - "And I Peter, inquired about the name."

    10)Apocalypse of Peter - "he said to me, Peter."

    11) The Teachings of Silvanus - "The teachings of Silvanus." (companion of Paul in Acts 15)

    12)The Letter of Peter to Philip - "Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, to Philip our beloved brother."

    13) The Gospel of Mary - "The Gospel according to Mary."


    Now how can literally hundreds of accounts get these 10 facts wrong?

    There are 24 known Gospels in existence not just four.
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I wouldn't agree with that! Why do they have to have different motives? If two people both saw something, and they both describe it later, why do they have to have different motives to count as independent witnesses?

    Independence means that one doesn't get its information from the other, directly or indirectly. Thus, if Arthur says that Grant is having an affair with Sharon, and Pauline, having heard him say it, repeats the gossip, they are not independent witnesses. If, however, Arthur and Pauline both say the same thing without having previously conferred, then they are independent witnesses. Of course, they might just both have heard it from Dot, in which case they are two witnesses to a single tradition. If, however, they got their information from different sources, then they are truly independent. Motive has nothing to do with it.

    I don't think that is true. That makes them sound like conservative evangelicals. The "baseline authority" for second-century Christian theologians was the "rule of faith", as explained by both Irenaeus and Tertullian. The four Gospels were certainly part of that rule of faith but they were not the be-all and end-all of it.

    This may be true but it's not really relevant to what we're talking about.

    You also forget that the Syrian church during this period didn't use the four canonical Gospels - it used the Diatessaron, made by Tatian, which was a harmony of the four canonical Gospels. It wasn't until the fifth century (I think, off the top of my head) when this practice was ended and the four canonical Gospels used instead.

    This, again, may be true, but is beside the point. I can never understand why Christian apologists always trot out these statistics about manuscripts and compare those of the New Testament to those of Caesar, Tacitus, and Plato. There's very little question of the textual integrity of the New Testament books that we have. The main question, from the point of view of the historian, is whether what they say is true in the first place. The fact that the text has been reliably transmitted is irrelevant to that question. I'm fairly sure that my copy of The Da Vinci Code contains a reliable version of the text as written by Dan Brown (or, at least, his editor) but that doesn't make it a useful historical source.

    I think that New Testament experts do talk about extra-canonical Gospels and similar texts rather frequently, in fact. There is a huge literature on them. You can see some very brief overviews of some of this literature at this excellent site.

    I don't know where you get the AD 50 date from; the earliest extant Gospel, either canonical or not, is almost certainly Mark's, which is normally dated to the late 60s or early 70s of the first century.

    Even the list you give here isn't actually accurate, even if we confine ourselves to the canonical Gospels. First, the date of Jesus' death is never given in the Gospels, let alone a date of 33 CE. 30 CE is normally given as the most likely date but really it could have been any time between 26 CE and 36 CE (when Pilate was in office). Second, Jesus does not claim to be "son of God" or "Messiah" in every text. I explained just a few posts ago that a claim to be "son of God" would be anachronistic. As for the Messiah, in Matthew 26:34 Jesus implies that he is not. Compare Mark 14:62, the parallel passage, where he says that he is. That's a contradiction right there.

    Also, the Gospels do not agree on the principal characters. Peter, James, and John are the main disciples in the Synoptic Gospels, but Peter is less prominent in John's Gospel and James and John are completely absent. You say that they all name Philip as a main character, but he is mentioned only briefly in passing in the Synoptics and is prominent only in John. Nicodemus is a major figure in John, but is not mentioned at all in the Synoptics. John also features an unnamed "beloved disciple" who does not appear in the Synoptics, unless he is supposed to be one of the disciples who is named there. Traditionally he's identified with John, but this interpretation doesn't explain what's happened to James. As for Mary Magdalene, she is not a principal player in any of the canonical Gospels; she barely appears in the Synoptics, and in John's Gospel is prominent mainly by being the first person to whom Jesus appears. She has a larger role in some extra-canonical Gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, which is obviously intended, in part, to undermine the teachings found in other Gospels.

    Well, even if we grant that all these Gospels agree about those ten "facts" (which I don't grant), the awkward fact remains that they disagree about an awful lot of other stuff. Take, for example, the Acts of John, in which John describes how Jesus was constantly changing appearance, never blinked or left footprints, and had a crotch like Action Man's. That's not something that exactly agrees with the account in the canonical Gospels - and it's obviously an expression of a highly docetic christology associated with gnosticism. Or you cite the Apocryphon of John. Do you really think that the Jesus of that book - who says things like "The Monad is a monarchy with nothing above it" - has got anything to do with the Jesus of the canonical Gospels? The book exists to put gnostic mythology into the mouth of Jesus - it doesn't preserve any historical information about Jesus. Anything in it that is historical is just copied from the canonical Gospels.

    In general, the basic problem with your argument is that the texts of the Nag Hammadi library which you cite, and indeed most of the extra-canonical Gospels, are much later than the canonical Gospels and do not appear to preserve any authentic traditions that aren't found in the canonical Gospels. To put it briefly, anything of value for understanding the historical Jesus that appears in those Gospels is taken from the canonical Gospels, and anything that they add which is not in the canonical Gospels is wildly unhistorical. They are very important for our understanding of the people who wrote them, and thus for our understanding of the development of Christianity, but as witnesses to Jesus himself they're not much use.

    The only generally accepted exception to this is the Gospel of Thomas, which may preserve some authentic traditions not found in the canonical Gospels, but there is no consensus regarding its sources and, crucially, its relation to the canonical Gospels.

    Other texts such as the Egerton Gospel or the Gospel of Peter probably exist in literary relation to the canonical Gospels. That is, either their authors copied the canonical Gospels, or (less probably) the authors of the canonical Gospels copied them. That means that they are not independent witnesses.

    What it all boils down to is that while there are many texts, they do not represent independent witnesses to the same story. The later ones copied the earlier ones, usually adding embellishments of their own which probably came from the authors' own imaginations. Certainly they're not all the work of the people they claim to be their authors, as your list of the attributions implies!

    So the existence of many later Gospels does not add to the evidence, such as it is, for the resurrection. It just replicates the same evidence.
     
  10. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Yes, but not confiring is not the same as being different authors. While the authors of the Gospels were certainly independent persons, they were certainly if not in contact, in a chain of conference, I.E. the early Christian Community. While I certainly would regard them as independent if they were reached in such a manner, I find it unlikely that these men, as part of a small religion, all of whom would neccesarily have known Jesus for some time, were completely unaware of each other, as well as the Christian Community which they were all almost certainly in contact with.
    But more importantly, to credulously describe a source as independent, they must not have a vested interest in the matter, or at least, not all the same one.
    For example, say if Arthur says that Grant, Henry, Jacob, James and John working together murdered Pauline, and they all deny it, and claim that they were all in one place but did not murder Pauline, I can possibly claim that I have four independent sources willing to testify to their location for each of them. To do so is to be disengenuous. Likewise to claim 5 independent sources of Jesus's resurrection, while citing five works of the Christian Canon is not being entirely honest with yourself or the audience.
    I would say you have 5 sources, not 5 independent ones.
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    But the authors of the Gospels very probably didn't know Jesus, and there's no reason to suppose that they knew each other. Certainly the Christian religion was a very small affair at the time, but it was quite widely distributed around the eastern Mediterranean. Matthew's Gospel is often thought to have been written in Antioch, for example, while John's is usually attributed to someone in Asia Minor.

    In any case, the Gospels aren't independent witnesses for the resurrection since there are clear literary links between three of them: Matthew, Mark, and Luke relied upon each other or upon common sources. (The usual view is that Matthew and Luke both independently used Mark and another common source, Q, as sources.) The relation between John and the Synoptics is uncertain. So as far as the story of the empty tomb goes, we have at best two witnesses here - the Synoptics on the one hand and John on the other.

    Now Paul on the one hand and the Gospels on the other (ignoring the possible independence of John from the Synoptics for the moment) might well constitute independent sources, for the reasons given above. Remember that Paul and the Gospel authors did not necessarily agree on everything in the first place - Paul's and Matthew's rather different attitudes to the Law and to works are the obvious example - and you can see more clearly their distinctness. Plus, of course, the fact that they disagree rather strongly about the details, as also described above. That makes them more clearly independent; if one were copying from the other, or they were both copying from a direct common source, you'd expect them to agree more closely with each other.

    But motive is only relevant for evaluating the reliability of a source, not its independence. In your example, the sources are unreliable because of their obvious bias in the matter (they would have a reason for saying they weren't at the scene of the crime). It's not the fact that they have the same motive as each other. It's easy to think of examples where different sources have exactly the same motive but are clearly independent. For example, if the Sun and the Mirror both report that England have lost the football, they no doubt have exactly the same motive (the desire to sell more newspapers to the kind of people who care about that kind of thing), but that doesn't mean they're not independent sources.

    In the case of the resurrection, why would Christians have a vested interest in saying that Jesus had been raised from the dead in the first place? Wouldn't it be simply because, as Christians, they believed that he had been so raised? And why would they believe that? In the case of early Christians, wouldn't it be because they either had had an experience which they believed to be of the risen Christ himself, or heard about other people's experiences of the risen Christ, which they believed?

    The point I'm trying to make is that these people didn't have a "vested interest" in the matter at all. They had an interest, certainly, but that was because they had some reason to believe that Jesus had been raised. It's not like people making up stories to avoid a murder charge - there, a person's interest in not being charged is clear and obvious, and is prior to the event itself (no-one normally wants to be charged with murder). So if someone says he wasn't at the scene of the crime, it's clear that he has a motive for saying that which is quite independent of whether he was at the scene of the crime. In the case of the early Christians, I don't see why they would have had a motive for saying that Jesus had been raised if they didn't believe that he really had been; and I don't see why they would have believed that if they hadn't heard stories of people meeting the risen Jesus or had experiences which they believed to be of the risen Jesus themselves.

    So I still think that if you have two quite distinct accounts of the resurrection, which do not seem to rely upon each other or upon a common source, then it's perfectly legitimate to say that they are two independent sources. Just because those two sources were later incorporated into the Christian canon doesn't invalidate them or make them any less independent from each other; they're still written by different people at different times, apparently on the basis of different traditions. That's what makes them independent.
     
  12. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    Wrong verse? I don't see a denial of Messiahood in this verse, or in any of the surrounding verses.
     
  13. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    That still is a whitling down of the five he claimed.
    You've made a very convincing claim that what he said could be technically true. But I never really doubted that, just saying so was being disengenuous. Partiallly because in the course of the lecture he made it not entirely clear that for some things he was citing, his only source was the bible. He would at times, quote one of the texts, and then say this way "verified by independent sources" without ennumerating them. Including matters for example Christ being seen after his death. While he may be thinking like a philosopher such as yourself, and see no connection between independent and reliable, for the most part when you say "independent sources" it brings to mind reliable ones.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Oops, I meant Matthew 26:64! Good catch. The wording in that verse ("You have said so. But I tell you..." in the NRSV) is a Greek formulation which basically means something like "That's what you say, but I, by contrast, say this...".

    Yes, it does sound pretty dubious reasoning on his part - or, perhaps more accurately, decent reasoning but with dubious premises. I would say that "independent" sources doesn't imply "reliable" sources, but if Craig appeals to independence as if that's enough to secure reliability, then it's a serious flaw in his argument. Although again, since it sounds like much of his argument depends upon rejecting pretty much all of modern biblical scholarship (or all of it that doesn't agree with a conservative evangelical understanding of the Bible), the whole argument is pretty dubious to begin with. As I've indicated, in my view any argument which is based upon the insistence that the experts in a particular field are almost uniformly wrong is an argument that's got the odds stacked against it from the start.
     
  15. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    Is there anything you could reveal about the Gospel or the Hebrews, beyond (or contradicting) that which can be found on its wikipedia page?
     
  16. beingofone

    beingofone Chieftain

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    I did not say the Gospels were the be-all - I said they were baseline and authoritative in there accounts.

    It demonstrates that there were several things the early Christains agreed on:
    1) Jesus resurrected because of the multiple eyewitness accounts.
    2) The apostles were hand picked as guides by Jesus.
    3) The apostles and all of the eyewitnesses could be consulted as to the events and were.

    That said; it became necessary to preserve the accounts and the Gospels were handpicked as authentic. You must remember that truth is paramount in the teachings of Christianity.

    Nope, not true at all - Tatian combined the four gospels.

    After he combined them he used the Diatessaron - a simple Google search will show this.


    Because the textual geneology is hammered - over and over. You may not question the texts but many do. This is usually done out of shear ignorance of the literal mountain of veracity of integrity and sometimes, nepharious agenda.

    And this is truly the point - you nailed it.

    The proof is that the apostles were willing to be killed for their eyewitness accounts. They all died as old men (except Judas) without ever having recanted their testimony.

    If someone were to hold a gun to your head and say "just say you are not Batman and we will let you live."
    This is akin to saying "just say Jesus did not resurrect and we will let youu live."

    Someone may die for many reasons - but dying for a falshood is not in the realm of probabilities when given the option to recant. Not a single one recanted their eyewitness account.

    That some of the apostles were in their forties when called by Jesus.

    What does the date have to do with the historical accounts?


    Matthew 26:64 does not imply he is not the messiah - how did you get that from the text?
    He is on trial and answering the question of blasphemy. He said that his accusers were claiming that.

    What?
    John 6:67 - 70,71
    John 20:24

    What do you mean the gospels do not agree on the principal characters? Who were the twelve? Do you have record of someone else?

    OK - so what?
    It is a reach to say that certain authors emphasized some and others someone else that they contradict each other. There is no contradiction on the persons involved.

    What?
    James was the brother of Jesus and did not believe until the resurrection. In fact, he thought Jesus was insane before the resurrection. The author of John is - John.

    How do you get that? Luke 8:2

    Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40,47 - she was with the mother of Jesus at the crucifixion and she was not involved?
    Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1,9, Luke 24:10 - she was at the tomb the day of the resurrection.

    Nope - all four gospels agree with this - see above ref.

    She is found in confirming ancient texts - because she was a principal character in the life of Jesus.
    I still do not see a contradiction here, could you point it out?

    Then rather than opinion, could you give a rock solid reference?

    I did not list it in the textual evidence because its authorship is not verified in the text itself. Little is known regarding the actual author or authors of this work. It was not found in the Nag Hammadi so it cannot be verified as authentic.

    That is why I listed the cannon and the Nag Hammadi as hard evidence as the source can be verified. You brought up a red herring.

    Christianity was not limited to Jerusalem and there were many cultures trying to express the same idea.That does not undo the hard evidence.

    Finish the quote you started so that we have context rather than you spinning it:
    "The Monad is a monarchy with nothing above it. [it is he who exists] as [God] and Father of everything, [the invisible] One who is above [the invisible] One who is above [everything] incorruption, which is pure light into which we cannot look."

    Quite different then selective quotation isn`t it?

    Nonsense - the Nag Hammadi contains loads of historical data. It confirms the New Testament as a credible historical library of evidence.It confirms the ten facts listed above concerning the life of Jesus and proves the New Testamnet has not been redacted and is solid. The Nag Hammadi quotes, verbatim, the New Testamnet over and over. The New Testamnet quotes the Nag Hammadi, verbatim.

    All with the same principle players - you know, James, John, Peter, Mary, and the whole same gang.

    1) We cannot date the texts because they were translated to Coptic. All we can date is the binders and so, we must go by the authors and historical crosschecks. Some of the authors are the apostles themselves - they said so, right in the books.
    2) I do not use extra-cannonical gospels because the source cannot be verified; I like to know the truth.
    3) They quote - verbatim - the cannon.They tell the same historical facts and evidence of the life of Jesus. I would say, the New Testament just passed a two thousand year test and is rock solid with true external validation from antiquity.
    4) There is a book in the Nag Hammadi that was written 4 centuries before Jesus, I can prove that.
    What was the date of the composition of Plato`s Republic? So much for the books being written much later than the NT.

    More eyewitness testimony is not much use?
    How so?

    Thomas wrote the book of Thomas - he said so, right in the gospel he wrote. It is word for word with the four gospels in 80% of the quotes - more evidence.

    You keep bringing up spurious texts, why?

    I think what it boils down to is - most people cannot wrap their noodle around an infinite universe that is propelled by infinite energy in a state of infinite momentum - anything can happen, even the miraculous resurrection.

    I would say; wetting the finger and sticking it up in the air is not an accurate dating method.
     
  17. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    I'm sorry, how do we know the apostles were killed for their faith?
     
  18. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Willingness to Die forr a cause or belief is hardly unique to Christiandom. By this standard of truth, we can conclude that Hirohito was a god incarnate, or that Bringham Young recieved visitations by angels, or that Hong Xiuquan is the Brother of Jesus Christ. Or, even on matters of purely secular affairs we can use it to achieve entirely irrational outcomes. For example, Edward the Confessor both did and did not bestow his kingdom to William of Normandy.
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    It's a Gospel apparently originally written in Hebrew, which has been lost apart from a couple of pages' worth of quotations in later authors. Basically, no-one is quite sure of its date or provenance, but it may be late first or early second century. Scholars disagree about whether it is related to Matthew's Gospel or not - some think that it is some kind of alternative version of Matthew, while others think that it's completely independent (and thus represents an independent witness to the traditions). References to it by later writers suggest that they regarded it as a Hebrew original to Matthew's Gospel, but scholars are pretty sure that this can't be the case since Matthew's Gospel was very probably written originally in Greek.

    You can read all the extant elements of this Gospel here.

    Well then, I won't argue with that.

    This is true too.

    I don't know what you mean by "handpicked". But doesn't this rather contradict your own argument? You seem to be arguing that a large number of extra-canonical Gospels are authoritative and preserve genuine reminiscences of the apostles, and agree with the canonical Gospels in everything. Why, then, did the church reject these Gospels and canonise only the familiar four? Wasn't it, in part, because they believed that those four really did have apostolic authority (Matthew and John being written by apostles, and Luke and Mark by close associates of apostles), while the others did not?

    The point is that the Diatessaron is not identical with the four Gospels. It is a harmony based on those Gospels. It's not simply a collection, though - Tatian combined material from all of them into a single narrative, effectively one long Gospel containing everything in the four canonical Gospels.

    No doubt, but it's still not really what we're talking about here.

    We don't know as much about the fates of the apostles as you seem to suggest. However, I don't dispute that they all believed firmly that Jesus had been raised from the dead. But that doesn't make it true. The fact that at least some of them were very probably killed for this belief doesn't prove that it was true, it proves only that they believed it very sincerely. But that is consistent with its being false, because they could have been mistaken.

    I don't understand what you mean - why does this yield a date of 50 CE for the earliest testimony? Which testimony are you talking about?

    You listed it as one of the "facts" which you say all the Gospels contain.

    He says, effectively, "That's what you say" (su eipas - the su, "you", is emphatic) and then goes on to talk about the Son of Man. To my mind that's at least an implicit denial. Even if it isn't, it's at best evasive. Luke's version is also evasive. Mark is the only one to make Jesus unambiguously answer "yes".

    I don't see the name "John" there! I see references to "the Twelve". But why suppose that the author of the Fourth Gospel thought that there was a member of the Twelve called John at all? Because the other Gospels say there was? That's not a legitimate move.

    There are different traditions about the Twelve within the New Testament. Here's a summary of which books mention which names, which I have cribbed from E.P. Sanders' very handy The historical figure of Jesus:

    All four Gospels and Acts

    Simon (Peter or Cephas)
    Andrew, his brother
    James the son of Zebedee
    John the son of Zebedee
    Philip
    Thomas
    Judas Iscariot

    Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts

    Bartholomew
    Matthew
    James the son of Alphaeus
    Simon the Canaanean or the Zealot

    Matthew and Mark

    Thaddaeus

    Luke, Acts, and John

    Judas the son of James, or "not Iscariot"

    John

    Nathanael

    Add those together and you get fourteen people, and that's not even including Levi, who comes in Mark and Luke, or the "beloved disciple", who comes in John. The traditional answer is that some of them had different names, but there's no evidence for this other than a desire to balance the books. It's perfectly possible that although Jesus very probably did have an inner group of disciples which he referred to as "the Twelve", there were not necessarily exactly twelve of them, and perhaps the individuals varied over time. "The Twelve" was a theologically significant name which Jesus might have chosen to use irrespective of the actual number.

    So the Gospels don't agree on the names. More than that, they don't agree on the relative importance of these people. For example, as I said, James and John are prominent in the Synoptics, but they are mentioned only obliquely in John and don't do anything. Conversely, Andrew, Philip, and Thomas are all mentioned in the Synoptics, but they don't do much of interest there, whereas in John they are quite prominent and important.

    You may call identifying a difference of emphasis "a reach", but it's still significant. And yes, as I just explained, there are contradictions over the identity of these people.

    Not that James - I mean James the brother of John, not James the brother of Jesus. In the Synoptics, James and John are major figures, second only to Peter. For example, it is these three alone who witness the Transfiguration. They both always appear together, as well. In the Fourth Gospel, however, they do not appear apart from a couple of references to "the sons of Zebedee". This is a problem for those who would identify the "beloved disciple" of the Fourth Gospel with one of the sons of Zebedee, since it raises the obvious question of what's happened to the other one.

    I don't think there is any good reason to suppose that.

    Being mentioned in passing, which is Mary Magdalene's role in all of these passages, does not make someone a major player. According to Mark 15:40 someone called "Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses" was also present at the crucifixion, but I haven't heard anyone try to claim that she is a major character in the Gospel narratives on that basis.

    No - the Synoptics have Jesus appear to a number of women, among whom is Mary Magdalene. John differs in having Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene alone.

    There isn't an explicit contradiction between the Gospel of Mary and the other Gospels, but the Gospel of Mary presents Mary giving esoteric teachings supposedly taught her by Jesus himself, secretly, and the male disciples Peter and Andrew rejecting them (9:2-4). So this text was written, at least in part, by someone who disagreed with the mainstream, more patriarchal church, and belonged to a community that regarded itself as possessing special, secret teachings that had been passed down via Mary Magdalene and which were not known to Christians as a whole. In other words, they were gnostics.

    The teaching attributed to Jesus in this Gospel bears virtually no relation to the teaching attributed to him in the canonical Gospels. It contains elements of gnostic mythology that are post-biblical in origin (e.g. 4:30). There's no reason to suppose that any of this has anything to do with the historical Jesus. Now yes, it's true that it's not an outright contradiction. But do you really have no difficulty whatsoever in thinking that the teaching in this text was delivered by the same person who delivered the Sermon on the Mount? Really?

    I already explained why at least some of your ten "facts" are not to be found in all the canonical Gospels.

    We seem to be getting to the nub of the matter here, which is that you think that just because an ancient text identifies itself as the work of a particular person, that is a "verification" and we can be certain that the text is in fact the work of that person. But this is not the case. Pseudonymity was extremely common in antiquity, and for pretty much any well-known author you care to mention, we have works under their name that are not authentic. There are works by "Plato", "Aristotle", "Origen", "Ambrose", and plenty of other people, which were written for a variety of reasons which have been extensively examined elsewhere. (Basically they range from rhetorical exercises which were never intended to be taken seriously as genuine, all the way to outright forgery.) Now you can't say that, for example, the Apocryphon of James is "verified" as the genuine work of an apostle simply because it says "written by James" or words to that effect. Do you, for example, think that the works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite - which certainly date from the fifth or sixth century, since they use technical philosophical terminology from that period, and in any case quote Ignatius of Antioch at one point - were really written by the actual Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in Acts 17:34 as a convert of Paul? The texts claim to be written by Dionysius. Or do you think that Paul really corresponded with Seneca? We have the letters that claim to be written by the two great men to each other. But the Paul-Seneca correspondence is an obvious literary fiction which no-one since Jerome has taken even slightly seriously. Now why should we treat these apocryphal Gospels any differently? Like these other works, they can be shown to be pseudepigraphal by the fact that they contain language and ideas that did not appear until a later date, and which do not appear in the New Testament or other works which can be reliably given an early date.

    Well, no, not really. That still doesn't sound remotely like the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels - it doesn't even sound remotely like the Jesus of John's Gospel. It sounds like a combination of Middle Platonic philosophy with gnostic mythology, and neither of those things has much to do with the real Jesus.

    Now if your "hard evidence" consists solely of the fact that the text in which this passage appears claims to be written by John the apostle, that's not very impressive evidence.

    But you're just contradicting yourself now. If the books in the Nag Hammadi library quote the New Testament, then they are not corroborating evidence for the historicity of the New Testament, because they are not an independent tradition. The authors of those books had the books of the New Testament in front of them and they incorporated material from those books into their own work. How is that evidence that this material was historically reliable in the first place? When Sebastian Faulks wrote a new James Bond book recently, he made sure it was completely consistent with the characters and style of Ian Fleming's originals. He could do that because he had Ian Fleming's work in front of him. Does that mean that James Bond is real? By your argument it does.

    I'm starting to wonder if you're really serious now.

    All the Nag Hammadi books you've mentioned are extra-canonical. "Extra-canonical" means they are not in the canon of the Bible, and they are extra-canonical even if by some incredible chance any of them really are the work of an apostle. E.g. if Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (which he mentions in our 1 Corinthians as an earlier letter) were to be found, it would still be extra-canonical.

    And as I said, the Nag Hammadi texts aren't exactly verified sources.

    As I said, if author X is quoted by author Y, that does not make author X any more reliable. All it means is that author Y agreed with him. The fact that your apocryphal Gospels quote the canonical Gospels actually reduces their value as witnesses to the events described in those Gospels, because it proves that they just copied this stuff out of the earlier books. If they described the same events but in completely different language, thus indicating that they might be independent witnesses to these events based on different traditions, then that would make them very valuable and would indeed corroborate the Gospels, at least to some degree. But if they just got it from the Gospels, that's worthless as far as corroboration goes.

    Again, I could rewrite The Da Vinci Code if you like, and even put in lots of quotations from the original, but that wouldn't give the slightest reason to think that The Da Vinci Code describes events that actually happened.

    Two things:

    (1) The version of Plato's Republic found in the Nag Hammadi library is not the original text. It has been reworked and gnosticised to fit in with the gnostic beliefs of the compilers of that library. So that text, in that form, certainly doesn't predate Jesus.

    (2) Even if it were the Republic in its pristine form, what would that prove? Is it impossible for a library that contains a seven-hundred-year-old book to contain any more recent books? I've got a copy of the Bible right in front of me: does that prove that all my other books must be just as old? If the compilers of the Nag Hammadi library included a copy of Plato, then great, but that doesn't mean all the other books they had were that old. As I said before, the ideas and language found in the Nag Hammadi Gospels are highly gnostic and reflect developments in gnostic Christianity that occurred only after the New Testament period and certainly well after Jesus' lifetime.

    More eyewitness testimony would be very useful. But you haven't given the slightest reason to think that these texts provide it, other than the fact that they claim to.

    Again, I'm going to assume you're serious in what you're saying here, at least for the purposes of writing this reply, but I'm finding it hard to really believe that. I've got a copy of Gulliver's Travels here that says it was written by Lemuel Gulliver - he says so right at the start. Any problem with that argument?

    Evidence only that the author of that text had read the four Gospels.

    You started it! A text doesn't stop being spurious just because it claims it's not spurious. If you really think that texts such as those I mentioned are "spurious" and irrelevant, and that other texts which are pretty much exactly the same as them but contain the words "written by John" or whoever are of unquestionable authenticity simply because of that, then it is hard to know how to answer you.

    That's a completely different issue. I made it clear when I said that the testimonies to the resurrection are highly problematic that this was solely to do with the fact that they disagree with each other over key details, such as who saw it and what they saw. This has nothing to do with the additional issue of whether a resurrection is possible in the first place. Even if we're completely open-minded about that, there are big problems.

    Neither is naively taking the author's identity claim to be unquestionably true.
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    There's good reason to suppose that both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome in the 60s of the first century. There are early traditions testifying to this and there seems no good reason for doubting them - although we can dismiss the later legends regarding the manner of their deaths, such as the claim that Peter was crucified upside down at his own request or that the three fountains at San Paolo alle Tre Fontane sprang into being when Paul was beheaded and his head bounced three times.

    James the Just (Jesus' brother) was also pretty certainly killed at around the same time, although the sources disagree over precisely how. One way or another, he was lynched by a group of Jewish leaders. However, it's not certain whether he was killed for his testimony about Jesus or whether it was a sort of mafia hit, done by leaders of different Jewish factions ganging up to off the leader of a rival Jewish faction. What I mean is, it could have been James' position as leader of a group within Judaism that led to his death rather than his faith in Jesus per se. We simply don't know nearly enough about the situation in Jerusalem at that time.

    As for the other apostles, I don't think there is any reliable evidence at all. Obviously later stories grew up detailing what they all did and where they went, but it is impossible to get at the historical reality, if any, behind these stories.
     
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