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Ask a Theologian

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    To be honest I don't see what's wrong with his answer - I think he's quite right. He's not avoiding the question, he's explaining it. You can't just say that the Gospels are propaganda because they were written with an agenda - that's to pack a huge amount of assumptions and implications into a few words. It is anachronistic to apply modern terminology and assumptions to ancient texts and events, and you do need to explain what you mean carefully, and if anyone were to ask me the question you asked him I'd probably say much the same (although my spelling's better, naturally!). You can't conclude that a refusal to give a straight "yes" or "no" answer is unbearable vagueness - perhaps the question is so over-simplistic that only a complex answer can address it. Your question has something of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" about it.

    Now when you asked about the waffliness of modern theologians I thought you meant the dogmatic variety, and I'd stand by that. But I don't think this is true of historical theology, any more than it is true of other forms of "history of ideas" (to use a horrible phrase) or indeed history in general.

    By the way, I'm not sure why you think the Gospels were written centuries apart. The earliest Gospel was probably Mark, which was probably written in the late 60s of the first century (or maybe the early 70s), and the latest was probably John, probably written in the mid-90s of the first century. So in fact, from the earliest to latest was probably only about thirty years. But I don't see why the date of the Gospels is relevant to their genre, which seems to be implied by your claim that because they were not written at the time of the events they describe, they must be "propaganda". Finally, of course, it's not obvious at all that the Gospels were written to spread the faith, because that assumes that they were intended to be read by non-Christians; I think it much more likely that they were written for internal consumption, as it were.

    Also, there's no such place as "Oxbridge"!
     
  2. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    He speaks like that all the time and whilst to you it might make light reading, to me it's just impenetrable waffle. :) Thanks for the translation though. The guys problem is he doesn't know how to tailor his responses to his audiences.

    Yeah four pages later he still hadn't forgiven me for using the term propaganda which didn't exist in the 1st century AD, I had explained I just mean it in that modern sense not that it applied in that context. And to be frank I still think it is propaganda, but that's meet for another thread. All I wanted was an explanation of what the hell he was talking about in English, not theobabble. I never got it, he just kept getting more and more impenetrable and vague and arm wavey, it was like talking to fog, eventually he just ended up criticising my learning claiming it was hard to explain to a laymen, at which point I gave up.
     
  3. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well I'll have to take your word for it; the bit you quoted seemed perfectly clear to me. I'm not sure how it could be rephrased to be more comprehensible or which bits you think are "theobabble". Also, surely if you accept his point that propaganda as we know it did not exist in the first century, then you must realise that it can never be accurate to call anything from the first century "propaganda", irrespective of whether they would have called it that or not. You can't just use terms like that of ancient texts and expect simple yes-or-no responses.
     
  4. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    All of it, I can't understand what he's driving at at all. It's just blah...

    4 pages of this without any reference links or sense and I just gave up. Eye of the beholder obviously, I just haven't got a clue what he's driving at or trying to say at all, and I never figured it out. Although your translation helps. The trouble is if I have to run a translation program every time I want to talk to someone it's a waste of my personal time talking to them. I don't speak theologian, can you dumb it down a shade?

    And its not just him he was the icing on the cake, the tip of the iceberg. Don't think my question was specifically and only about this guy, it was about talking to theologians in general and the way they go about discussing the subject in my experience.

    It's an idea though, I should really put up a thread about this subject here, see what people think. Because I got nowhere with a couple of theologians on another site at all, and we mutually agreed to close the thread as no one was getting anywhere, it was like sitting in a room full of foreign students, none of which speak the same languages, and trying to discuss the finer points of quantum chromo dynamics.

    By the way it wasn't the discussion that was a problem or even that I might be totally wrong about propaganda, it was the annoyance of not being able to have a discussion because of language issues, when all three of the participants speak fluent English. Very frustrating. :)
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    He's not speaking theologian. This is theologian:

    What your theologian friend was speaking was just normal English, to be quite honest!
     
  6. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    My arse. :lol:

    Anyway like I say EOB, do you think a thread about "propaganda" would have legs?
     
  7. scy12

    scy12 Chieftain

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    Using modern expressions for ancient phenomena is not necessarily anachronism unless your expression is wrongly used on that context.

    The word Propaganda fits great with ancient politics as well . For example the exaggeration of the Greeks and the Persian historians of the achievements of their compatriots in battle is propaganda. According to some most of politics is Propaganda. I am uncertain if Propaganda is the right word to use for Religion.

    Though several of the instances where Propaganda is used could be used regarding Religion. The Gospels claim to be the truth, shows political opinion regarding the jews and the Romans behaviors and offers to be the part of salvation. All for forwarding and agenda and that is spreading the religion. One could say almost all of Rhetoric , Religion and Politics is Propaganda as it attempts to convince it's viewer into it's correctness and it may use wrong claims.

    One could claim that the point of Propaganda is to make exaggerations to support a cause and since those who written the Gospels didn't have that intention.


    As for the other Theologian i would like to quote his points i don't think his answer is not understandable or moronic.



    To prove that a point or an expression is anachronistic you must prove that is wrong in the context it is used. People often claim that a modern word used for ancient situations is anachronistic but that position doesn't make sense.


    The fact that those Propaganda qualities are found in other literature does not in any way invalidate any claim around Propaganda.

    If we neglect the Propaganda that exists in any literature because of it's broadness then we are making a bad dealing of the understanding such literature. IF this phenomenon is so broad as you claim , highlighting the areas in literature where the claims are Propaganda becomes even more less negligible.
    It is good that you mention poetry as not being Propaganda according to a not ignorant person . The problem here is that History has recorded , Political organizations States and several groups have used Poetry to express their position . Worldwide the people that belonged to the communist parties where free to only Pro communists poems that conveyed messages that established that their system or leader where the best in comparison to their's enemy.

    The political exaggeration , lies that is used in Politic rhetoric to forward an agenda is named Propaganda. And a way to convey political messages are poems. So infact Poems can be used for Propaganda.

    If you think otherwise that doesn't mean that poetry is isn't Propaganda only that you find Propaganda is acceptable .

    And just become a phenomenon is broad then that doesn't imply it doesn't exist or it is unrecognizable.

    This is a valid idea but as i didn't claim that it was bad propaganda i don't won't to address this right now. It is better that you come with peace with this statement (that it may be good or bad propaganda) rather than making easily infallible claims such as poetry not being Propaganda. To continue this further i am not saying that all poetry is propaganda , simple because poetry is just a way of expression of Literature it isn't necessarily a genre. And as certain Literature can be propaganda so can poetry.
    claiming poetry as an example of not Propaganda doesn't make matters any better.


    Answer - See my original post before quoting this guy on how Religion may or may not be propaganda.


    Just because some things are ugly theologically and politically that doesn't mean that the content was not "Edited" or was not making political , (theo)logical exaggeration's.
     
  8. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Is there any reason to believe the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually wrote the Gospels, and later versions were copies? Or in other words that the actual source documents of the Gospels were themselves, not some odd Q text or x text or whatever?
     
  9. Fifty

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

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    Interesting! Well, I never knew about that late medieval stuff, most of my historical reading has been in the early moderns (Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume, Berkeley, Locke, now taking a Kant course).

    In what ways do you think medieval methodology was better than current analytic philosophy?
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As far as I know there's no particular reason to suppose that the traditional attributions are correct. Those attributions are late (mid-second century at the earliest) and at least some of them fly in the face of the evidence: for example, if Matthew's Gospel was written by Matthew (an eye-witness) and Mark's Gospel was written by Mark (not an eye-witness), why did Matthew base much of his account upon Mark's?

    The Gospels are based upon mostly oral traditions. It's possible that some of those traditions were written down into texts before the Gospels - for example, the Passion narrative in Mark's Gospel shows greater unity than the rest of it, suggesting that perhaps the author of Mark had access to a written Passion narrative. Also, John's Gospel has gone through various versions and certainly incorporates earlier written material, such as the "Signs Gospel". But most of this stuff was originally oral, so you shouldn't get too hung upon "source documents".

    Now that I'm not sure of. The medievals wrote in a very structured and formulaic way, using syllogisms explicitly, which is very helpful when it comes to analysing their arguments. It is always clear whether an argument is valid or not. They will say things like: "You say that all Xs are Y, and that a is X, and therefore a is Y. This syllogism is valid, and the major is true, but the minor is false. I prove it like this. No Zs are Xs. But a is a Z. Therefore a is not X. The conclusion that a is Y is therefore unproven." and so on. If you think a scholastic author goes wrong, it's always clear where it's happened. Of course it makes them fiercesomely offputting to read, but there's not much one can do about that. Aquinas is probably the most accessible of them, which might say more about the others than it does about him.
     
  11. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Great are there any documents found closer to Christs life that mention the players in the NT, or wasn't it considered de riggeur to write anything down then, AAMOI? I know the dead sea scrolls come from around that time or before, but do any of them mention say x from the Bible?
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish and contain nothing that is clearly Christian; some people think they contain references to Christian things and perhaps even Jesus but really that's just speculation.

    Bear in mind that the first Christians thought the world was about to end any day, so they weren't much interested in writing things down for posterity. The earliest Christian writings we know of are Paul's letters, but they don't say much about Jesus' life. Exceptions are 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, on the Last Supper, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, on the Resurrection. There are also other sections on Paul which seem to parallel Jesus' teachings in the Gospels without making any explicit reference to them, such as 1 Thessalonian 4:13-17, on the eschaton, and Romans 12, on ethics. Paul seems not enormously interested in the details of Jesus' life, which may also be representative of the first generation of Christians, or at least some of them, and that would also explain a lack of texts on the subject from that generation.

    Of the various texts that purport to record Jesus' sayings and deeds, the canonical Gospels are certainly both the earliest and the most reliable, with the possible exception of John. Note, by the way, that earlier does not necessarily mean more reliable (eg, where Mark and Matthew disagree, you can't assume that Mark is right and Matthew wrong simply because Mark was earlier - perhaps Matthew knew something Mark didn't).
     
  13. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    I see, any idea why the Church schizmed over the issue of the Rock? Ie some thought it was Peter and we have plenty of reference to that, although others thought the minister for the Christian Church was James, Ie the Eastern Orthodox Church who have him as their first Pope. I always find this part hard to decipher, as there's a lot of conflicting opinions raging on who's right and who's wrong, and it's hard to determine who is more right other than in scriptural terms not surprisingly, shame nothing but oral tradition exists from James ministry I suppose. Gives me a head ache.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The Catholic and Orthodox churches don't disagree over the identity of the first Pope. I've never even heard any claim before that the Orthodox think James was the first Pope; tradition has always held that James was the first bishop of Jerusalem just as Peter was the first bishop of Rome.

    The Catholic and Orthodox churches broke apart over a number of issues. These included the question of the authority of the Pope (was he in charge of the whole church or just a first among equals, like a Speaker of the House except for bishops?); the question of the Filioque (does the Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son, or from just the Father alone?) and the question of the azymites (should the bread used in the Eucharist be leavened or unleavened?). And these disagreements, in turn, came about to some extent from cultural differences, such as the fact that they spoke different languages and increasingly had distinct histories and concerns.
     
  15. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Ah OK I meant church leader, the first leader of the Greek Orthodox Church is James, I used the term to denote that. Not Papalcy if you see what I mean.

    So political reasons more than divisive theology? That's how I understood it too, but people seem a little bit unknowledgeable generally so you get nowhere. For example if I say first church leader, Peter not the Rock, they automatically get defensive and then I'm left with nothing. Last time I said that I put up a chronology of Eastern Orthodox leaders and that was about as far as I got. Came to the right place.

    I can see how that's devisive but I don't think the Greek Orthodox would agree that Peter was the Rock on which Christianity should be built. Classical humour joke: he's not a rock he's a person. :)
     
  16. holy king

    holy king Chieftain

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    why did "jacobvs" get translated into "james" and not "jacob" ?
     
  17. RalofTyr

    RalofTyr Chieftain

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  18. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Because of free will. Which of course mankind doesn't have anyway but that's a whole 'nother omnisicent/predeterminism thread. :)
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    No, James was not the "first leader" of the Greek Orthodox Church! Where are you getting these ideas? As I said, both churches hold that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. At that time, neither bishop was the "leader" of the whole church. In the west, people increasingly came to believe that the bishop of Rome had authority over all other bishops, but those in the east rejected this view. This was partly because in the west there was only one patriarch - the bishop of Rome - while in the east there were three - the bishops of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem (to begin with) - so naturally they evolved a more communal model of church leadership. From late antiquity until the present day, the effective "leader" of the Orthodox Church is the patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul), who has the title "ecumenical patriarch", but he is not analogous to the Pope. The fact that the Orthodox Church looks to the ecumencial patriarch while the Catholic Church looks to the Pope has got nothing to do with disagreements over Peter and James. In fact the Orthodox Church accepts that the bishop of Rome should be the first among equals of the bishops, but it believes that as matters stand he is in schism, which is why the ecumenical patriarch is the de facto first among equals. Were the two churches to become united, the Orthodox would probably regard the Pope as they currently regard the ecumenical patriarch, at least in theory.

    No, I didn't say political reasons, I said cultural ones, which underlay the divisive theology.

    Sometimes it does; "Jacobus" is the Latin form of "James", which is why the followers of James II were called Jacobites. I don't know why this is.

    We've already discussed lots of possible answers to that at enormous length in this thread, I think. Briefly, the main responses that Christians have come up with include:

    (1) The world is better with evil in it, because suffering produces moral character and that's the most important thing.
    (2) Evil is an unfortunate but necessary consequence of free will, which is so valuable that the world is better with it, even given the evil consequences.
     
  20. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    OK whatever, I'm just saying that in Orthodox chronology the leadership of the pope is not mentioned. But obviously this is so controversial you had to write a paragraph telling me things I already know. If you say that James wasn't the first de facto authority of the Orthodox church I accept that, not like I'm going to argue about it I don't give a toss personally who leads either of them. As for the fact that you don't believe James has anything to do with the argument over who should have authority I'd say that was also something I don't agree with you on, but that's out of the remit of this thread. I think that's the most likely argument that would have lead in part to a schism, the fact that Peter is the rock, and the fact that the Orthodox believe "James" or the Bishop of Jerusalem of who James was the first, should have equal authority? That's what I'm driving at, but since it looks like I'm about to collide at high speed with you over this I'll leave it.


    That is politics? So church politics has nothing to do with theology or cultural division, that's like saying the war between Iraq and Iran had nothing to do with politics created by (cultural division/theology) and thus nothing to do with politics? Ok that's controversial but it's a view you are welcome to.

    Politics mean interaction between people of authority or states, it doesn't define itself as precisely as you seem to be using the word, but then that's a misunderstanding I think, but what I mean by politics and what you mean by politics appear to be two different things. I presume you would be happy to say an ecumenical councils decision would be church politics? That's what I mean by politics.
     
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