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Messiah prophecies

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Pikachu, Jun 19, 2004.

  1. IglooDude

    IglooDude Enforcing Rule 34 Retired Moderator

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    I felt that his arguments and mine were alike enough to warrant my response. I don't know if he'll be back or not.
     
  2. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    If you will,
    Read my question on post #80...
     
  3. IglooDude

    IglooDude Enforcing Rule 34 Retired Moderator

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    The crux of the matter (for me at least) is that I oppose the idea that the entire bible has been edited. The links in the previous posts do a pretty good job of supporting that.

    Since you said "The pertaining parts of that bible were written by his fanclub years after his death" Pikachu and Plotinus argued that the Old Testament at least has not been written or heavily edited years after his death. If you argue that a coin has no red sides, and sufficient evidence exists to show that the coin is red on one side, then you are wrong, even though the other half of the coin's faces may be black, white, or green.

    I have stated previously that I am not addressing the question of interpretation of the bible, and I'll quote myself here: "You are talking about interpretation, where Plotinus has been talking about the actual text of the Old Testament. In my mind it is clear that various church leaders emphasize different portions and interpret meanings differently, but then again people interpret the US Constitution differently as well and that was written only 200-some years ago."

    So you have in fact read the bible? I recall you saying at least once that you had not read it, but if I recall incorrectly then I withdraw my comment.
     
  4. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    @IgooDude:

    Two major points for you to think about:

    (1)
    I never said the entire bible, I merely pointed out that there are important aspects of
    it that can be twisted by religious leaders to serve their own agenda, whatever that may be.


    (2)
    I have always rejected the bible, but I should mention that it would be rather over
    the top even for me to suggest I can attack it without even knowing what it contains.
    Indeed I have read its passages. We even got issued them at school. And several
    years back, I flung my household's copy in the rubbish.


    I see no real solution to our impasse.
    I think it is best to assume that any section of the bible that is aimed at JC must be
    taken with a good deal of sceptical thought, as the authors did not know the figure,
    and also we are looking at very biased reverential treatment of an alleged figure.

    Holy books are hardly going to tell you any negative facts or habits, are they?
    Historians, however always are quick to point out the eccentricities of Caesar, for instance.
    However, a religious writer would never do that when writing about his icon, JC.

    That is the influence of bias and religious revisionism, in my humble view.
     
  5. Amenhotep7

    Amenhotep7 Spartiate

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    @Curt-

    Your theory would be hard to prove as well. It's alot like the whole 'NASA didn't actually get to the moon' conspiracy theory. It would require SO MANY people to be quiet for SO LONG. It's hard to swallow. Of course, this is what you shall say about pro-Bible theories!:crazyeye: (So? Am I psychic or what?;))

    But I shall agree with you. The New Testament was written AFTER J.C. existed. Ergo, naturally some details would become skewed, exaggerated, or missed altogether.
     
  6. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    And keep in mind that even 60 years ago, people did not ask questions - For fear of being ostracised and ridiculed.

    Enforced fear, ignorance, blind acceptance and class-orientated subservience are the factors in giving religious leaders free reign.

    Do you really think peasants in 1400AD would get far in challenging the church's dispensation of the 'holy word?'

    They would get as far as the gallows, perhaps.

    :(
     
  7. Ozz

    Ozz Chieftain

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    Actually they're the record holders in burnin' church property
    and killing monks and priests (Peasants rebellions of 1300 to 1500)
     
  8. Amenhotep7

    Amenhotep7 Spartiate

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    Peasents rebelled in England, MArtin Luther and other various reformers. They all criticized the Church.
     
  9. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    Such rebellions were ended quickly and achieved not much - In the long term.

    All we achieved was more factions.
     
  10. Amenhotep7

    Amenhotep7 Spartiate

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    Actually, the peasant revolt in England almost succeeded, but then the 14-yr. old king stepped forth and said 'I shall be your leader', after days on end of saking the city of London.:rotfl:
     
  11. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    At the end of the day, medieval rebellions tended to be over more vital things like famine, sickness and taxes.
     
  12. Amenhotep7

    Amenhotep7 Spartiate

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    Yes, but the Monarchy almost always had the backing of the church...
     
  13. Ozz

    Ozz Chieftain

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    They introduced the "mob" as a power not seen since Roman times, the
    serfs and nobles realized the power of the billhook and longbow to kill nobles however well moneyed and well armoured.
     
  14. IglooDude

    IglooDude Enforcing Rule 34 Retired Moderator

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    Fair enough. I agree with that point, for what it's worth.

    Then I am indeed mistaken, and my apologies.

    Where the bible is concerned my skepticism mirrors yours, I do not see it as automatically right or wrong, merely unproven except for specific independently-corroborated parts.

    I concur except to note that it is not a purely religious phenomenon, happening also in the political, scientific, and social realms with comforting regularity.

    We really only disagree on one major point of logic, Curt - I think that no evidence of god leaves the question unanswered, while you appear to think that the lack of evidence is itself an answer. Beyond that my disagreements with you have largely been in the way you present the argument - I have a regrettable tendency to argue with my own side in a debate if I feel they're not presenting my side fairly, and in the great OT religion debate that usually means you. :)
     
  15. puglover

    puglover Disturber of Worldviews

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    Here's a few...
    Genesis 49:10 (From Judah)
    Micah 5:1 - 2 (Born in Bethlehem, God)
    Isaiah 52:15 - 53:12 (a sacrifice, the only innocent dies for the guilty)
    Psalm 22:18

    The angel didn't say, "you shall name him Immanuel" it was "he shall be called Immanuel" (In my translation anyway). It's not refering to a literal name, but a title.

    Cool! :D

    I mean that Israel is the only nation to have an eternal dynasty. Jesus was accepted into the lineage of King David, Ruler of Israel. God said a play on words to David once when David said, "I will build you a house (temple)" and God said, "No, I will build YOU a house to last forever (dynasty)"
    Israel is God's Chosen Kingdom, and the only one that will last forever.
     
  16. Laughing Gull

    Laughing Gull charts, graphs, databases

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    man I wish I was God. I would totally reveal myself to humanity and end all of the bickering and speculation.
     
  17. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    Mostly my fault, I should have made that point earlier.
    No problemo, let's move on! :)

    I can agree with you on this point.

    Again, you have me at the table of agreement here. :)

    Unlike Perfection, I am not perfect! :yeah:

    Well, I admit that sometimes, I let unworthy emotions and rhetoric slip into my posts...

    I regret that, but I am pleased at our general agreement on most points!

    :goodjob:
     
  18. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACE™ SLeague Staff

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    I would tell the humans to grow up, stop the damn grovelling and get into space!

    Then I would remove myself from the universe!
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, thanks to Igloo for backing me up here. In answer to Curt, I didn't reply before because of the vagaries of my rather erratic hours at work.

    Apologies in advance for this massive essay of a post, but Curt seems to be unsatisfied with the evidence presented so far, and this might keep him quiet for a bit! ;-)

    OK. I think that this is where Curt and I agree and where we disagree.

    We both agree that Christianity is bascially untrue, and that not everything in the Bible is true. I studied Mark’s Gospel in great detail at university and came out of it thinking that the expression “Gospel truth” is rather ironic. The Bible is full of myth, legend, and distortion. That is something that any liberal Christian would agree with, as well as anyone who studies the Bible from a secular point of view, as I did.

    But we disagree over the extent of the Bible’s untruth, and in particular over the reliability of the text. When I say “reliability” I mean not the text’s veracity – whether or not it describes things that actually happened – but whether or not the text has been changed over the centuries. Curt says it has, and hints at vast numbers of substantial changes designed to reinforce the dogma and social power of the priesthood. But he gives no evidence, beyond the assumption that this is what Christians would naturally do. I say it hasn’t much and have already given some evidence. Curt, despite refusing to address the evidence that I and others have already given, challenges me to provide more. Here is some. Apologies again for the detail, but the study of ancient texts is never a very user-friendly discipline. Trust me, the serious academic stuff on this is far, far denser.

    Two of the most of important manuscripts of the Bible are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. These are by no means the only sources for our knowledge of the text, but are two of the oldest and the most famous.

    The Codex Vaticanus contains a complete text of the Bible – the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (a Greek translation used by the early Christians) and the whole of the New Testament, except for some of the books at the end, which are missing. The manuscript has been kept at the Vatican since at least the fifteenth century, but where it was before this is unknown. Orthographic experts date it to the fourth century AD on the basis of the script in which it is written, as well, of course, as a study of the materials of which it is made.

    The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in 1859 at a monastery at Mt Sinai. It contains the whole of the New Testament, much of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, and also a couple of other works that, when it was written, were sometimes considered part of the New Testament. It is also thought to date from the fourth century, a little later than the Codex Vaticanus. Where it was before 1859 is unknown, although inscriptions on it indicate that it was probably in Palestine in the sixth or seventh centuries. The Codex Sinaiticus is currently housed in the British Library, where I have seen it with my own eyes.

    The text of both of these ancient manuscripts is pretty much that of the Bible as we know it. If Curt is correct, there are therefore two possibilities. The first is that these manuscripts are not nearly as old as they are usually thought to be. In fact, they must be modern, or at least post-date the most recent “amendations” to the Biblical text that those unscrupulous Christians carried out. The second possibility is that the manuscripts are indeed from the fourth century, but the text they contain is not, in fact, that of the Bible as we know it.

    The second possibility can’t be true. We would have to believe that every scholar who has ever studied these manuscripts has agreed to participate in a massive conspiracy to cover up what they really contain. Perhaps that might, in theory, be true of the Codex Vaticanus, which is after all in the Vatican library. But I don’t think it can be true of the Codex Sinaiticus, which is in the British Library and therefore out of the control of any ecclesiastical authority. The scholars who have studied these texts are not all religious. In fact, I should think that these days most of them are not. I myself have looked at the Codex Sinaiticus and, while I certainly haven’t read all of it, I can testify (even with my rusty Greek) that the bits I have seen appear to match the Bible as we know it today. This book is publicly available to anyone who wishes to read it. In fact, you can see a page of it for yourself at http://www.earlham.edu/~seidti/iam/tc_codexs.html

    Could these manuscripts actually be much more recent than has always been thought? They are thought to be from the fourth century, but if Curt is correct then they must be MUCH later. Experts may argue over whether something is dated to the fourth century or the fifth, but they can tell the difference between a fourth-century manuscript and a fourtheenth-century one. As far as I know, nobody has argued that these manuscripts or any other important textual witnesses to the Bible are modern. If they had, it would have been headline news. Remember the fuss over the Turin Shroud when it was shown to be a forgery. Think of the controversies currently raging over the St James ossuary. That’s the sort of thing that happens when people argue that such things are inauthentic. These Biblical manuscripts are far more important than the shroud or the ossuary. If the Turin Shroud is a fake, that doesn’t mean that Christianity is false. If scholars and theologians have been lying about the manuscript tradition of the Bible, it would cast huge doubt over Christianity. If Curt is right, there is a massive, massive scandal waiting to break, yet no scholar or expert, even the many atheist ones, seems to have broken it. Either that or I just haven’t been paying enough attention to the news recently. As Amenhotep7 rightly points out, we're getting into ridiculous conspiracy theory territory here.

    And Curt claims not to believe in miracles? C’est drôle, n’est-ce pas?

    All of this is not to say that there are no discrepancies between manuscripts, or that there is no uncertainty over the text. Certainly there are variations, and some of these are highlighted on the Codex Sinaiticus page that I linked to earlier. For example, different traditions give different endings to Mark’s Gospel. John 8:1-11 (the story of the woman caught in adultery) is missing from many manuscripts, and in any case doesn’t seem to fit in with the flow of the story. But these are relatively minor matters. They don’t indicate massive tampering with the text. They indicate a few mistakes along the way, slightly variant traditions. As far as I know, the only textual variation that speaks of deliberate tampering on doctrinal grounds is 1 John 5:7, which teaches a doctrine of the Trinity much more advanced than any in the rest of the New Testament. The verse in question appears in only some manuscripts and is universally recognised as an interpolation from some centuries later. So there is some evidence for the sort of thing that Curt talks about, but it is far less extensive than he insists.

    Now consider this. The Biblical texts of all Christian churches today are the same, apart from the minor differences in that of, say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Bible used by the hermits of Siberia is the same as that of the Nestorian Church of the East; the Bible of the Pope is the same as that of Billy Graham; the Bible of the Korean Church is the same as that of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Different churches disagree on which books count as Scripture (Protestants reject some of the books that the Catholics include) but they do not appear to differ on what those books say. If Curt is right, then all of these different churches must have collaborated to change all their texts in the same ways at the same times. So, for example, if the Pope decided in the thirteenth century to add a miracle story somewhere, he’d have had to have got together with the leaders of the Nestorian and Monophysite churches, the Orthodox Church, the Armenian and Ethiopian churches, and the rest. But obviously this is ridiculous. After the sixth or seventh centuries, the Catholic and Orthodox churches couldn’t even speak each other’s languages, let alone collaborate on textual corruption. The Ethiopian church was almost completely out of touch with the rest of the Christian world for a thousand years. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic and Orthodox churches excommunicated each other and even spent some time at war. The Church of the East was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church in the fifth century. These people did NOT get on very well even when they were in touch. Therefore, Curt is wrong to imagine Christians in the Middle Ages altering the Bible at will. Any amendations must have happened extremely early - before the fifth century, at least, when the Nestorian and Monophysite churches split away from the Orthodox.

    To put this point another way, many of us here, Curt included, talk about "the Christians" an awful lot. "The Christians" did this, "the Christians" did that. Which Christians? The ones in Rome? In Constantinople? In Kiev? In Nisibis? In Aksum? These people all believed different things from each other. Half the time they weren't in contact, and the other half they were denouncing each other. Perhaps that's not to the credit of Christianity in general, although you might say the same thing of scientists and still think that science is a worthwhile pursuit. But that's not the point here. The point is that you can't just make blanket statements about what "the Christians" at some unspecified point in history may or may not have done. You have to show some historical sensitivity and provide a bit of context.

    Returning to the argument, if you look at the Biblical text you don't see the kinds of things you might expect to, if it had been altered to such a degree by those nefarious and rather shadowy "Christians". For example, the big split in the church in the fifth century that I mentioned above was over how to speak about Jesus' divinity and his humanity. Some people stressed one over the other. And how did they relate to each other? Some people thought of Jesus as a sort of mish-mash crossbreed whilst others thought of him almost as two people, a divine one and a human one, operating in an unlikely committee (these are rather exaggerated descriptions, by the way). The party that "won" was those who said that Jesus is one person with two full natures, human and divine. There was an awful lot of heartache and bitterness over this, and it lasted for some centuries, because the Nestorians and the Monophysites refused to accept the decision. Now, all these people spent most of their time quoting Bible verses at each other in support of their various views. If Curt is right then they should have spent the rest of their time making up Bible verses for this purpose. So it's funny that we don't find a verse in the New Testament that says something like "Jesus then said, 'By the way, in case you're wondering, I am a single person with two natures. I have a full and perfect human nature and a full and perfect divine nature. These two natures do not interfere with each other. However, I am a single person, numerically identical to the second Person of the Trinity. Anyone who says otherwise is definitely a heretic.'"
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    In fact, the biggest argument against the notion that later Christians fiddled with the text of the Bible is that, if they did, they wasted a lot of opportunities. Nowhere in the New Testament are we explictly told that Jesus is God. Don't you think they might have put that in? Nowhere is the Trinity explicitly taught. Wouldn't that have found its way in there? As I mentioned, 1 John 5:7 shows that someone did do that. But the reading is variant - in other words, the attempt was unsuccessful, because all the other manuscripts disagreed. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the Pope is infallible, that the Bible is infallible, that you must buy indulgences or spend longer in purgatory, or any of the things that we might expect those unscrupulous Christians of Curt's hypothesis to have put in there.

    Indeed, as I have indicated in earlier posts, there is plenty in the Bible that many Christians might have wished wasn't there. I have already given the example of Jesus' prediction that the Kingdom would come before his hearers had died. Now, that may be good evidence that Jesus wasn't very good at predicting the future, and I wouldn't disagree with that. But don't you think it's also pretty good evidence that the later Christians tended not to alter the text very much? If I were some medieval cleric bowdlerising the Bible to support my beliefs, that's the first thing I'd take out. Here's another example. Mark 5:1-17 has the rather strange story of the man possessed by a "legion" of demons. The same story appears, in shorter form, in Matthew 8:28-34 (the author of Matthew based his account, in part, on Mark, and so he repeats much of the same stuff, but shortens it, in order to fit in material that he has taken from other sources as well). But Matthew not only locates the scene in a different place from Mark but turns the possessed man into two possessed men, who apparently speak in unison to Jesus. (Matthew often "doubles" things like this, and I don't know why. Compare the healing of a blind man in Mark 10:46-52 with the healing of two blind men in Matthew 20:30-34. Strangest of all, where Mark 11:1-10 has Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a single donkey, Matthew 21:1-9 has Jesus ride on two donkeys, apparently at the same time. Very peculiar.) Well, if I were messing about with the Bible, I would change one or both of these stories so that they matched. The fact that nobody appears to have done this suggests very strongly that the kind of wholesale rewriting of the Bible posited by Curt did not take place. If Curt still disagrees, I suggest he look at some of the texts cited here and elsewhere (yes, I'm afraid that will involve looking in a Bible, but don't worry, I'm sure you'll be all right) and consider how all this fits in with what he says.

    So I think I've given what I would regard as fairly good evidence that the text of the Bible has remained substantially unaltered over the centuries. It is this kind of evidence that we need to look at when talking about the historicity or otherwise of the Biblical text. I'm afraid that for all his protestations, Curt is acting rather like a fundamentalist. Here are what I think are some typical characteristics of fundamentalists:

    (1) They believe things without any real evidence for them. For example, I don't think there is any evidence that the Bible is inerrant, but fundamentalists believe it anyway, and they believe it even when they are unable to produce a good reason for doing so.

    (2) When presented with evidence against their position, they explain it away or even refuse to look at it. Rather like those Catholic priests who refused to look into Galileo's telescope and see the evidence for Jupiter's moons, because it threatened to overturn their way of seeing the world.

    (3) They see things in very black and white terms.

    I think that all of these characterise Curt's arguments here. He states that the Bible's text has been massively altered by Christians over the centuries, but he doesn't give any evidence for this. In fact, he says that such evidence wouldn't exist anyway, presumably because those wicked priests did such a good job that they eradicated all texts, throughout the entire world and in all languages, that disagreed with their new, "revised" versions. He must think those priests were pretty capable people.

    Again, we've seen a lot of evidence to suggest that this claim is not true. Igloo gave some very good links to sites that describe the kind of thing that Biblical scholars do and which give some of their views. On one of the other threads I gave a link to http://torreys.org/bible/biblia02.html which gives links to a variety of articles and websites about Biblical scholarship. Curt responded by saying that there would be no profit in his reading "holy books" - after all, he's not going to become religious. But I wasn't linking to "holy books" at all, but to scholarship about them. Furthermore, I wasn't suggesting that he or anyone else read the Bible or anything else for edification or spiritual enlightenment. I was trying to point out that arguments about the reliability, veracity, or general contents of any book, especially any ancient book, must be grounded in an understanding of that book's content, as well as its context and that of its authors. Critical Biblical scholarship, which is not Christian, Jewish, or anything else, but is an academic discipline, aims to study these things. It is completely secular (as Curt did subsequently admit). Curt professes to make sweeping statements about the Bible without, apparently, any knowledge of Biblical scholarship. For example, he states in one of his posts that nobody ever dared to say anything contrary to the church's accepted teachings about the Bible until about 60 years ago. Well, I'm afraid that modern critical scholarship goes back at least to the eighteenth century (and indeed is prefigured in some ancient Christian scholars, such as Dionysius of Alexandria and Theodore of Mopsuestia). Generally accepted conclusions of modern scholarship, such as Wellhausen's multi-source theory for the origins of the Pentateuch or the theory of Markan priority in the Synoptic problem, were well established by the end of the nineteenth century, although they were bitterly opposed by most in the Catholic and Protestant churches alike at that time (today, of course, different Christians have very different attitudes to secular Biblical scholarship). It is this kind of scholarship that we need to look at when discussing the Bible, not speculation and prejudice, whether of a pro- or an anti-religion nature.

    Finally, as I have said repeatedly, it is not the case that the Bible must be EITHER completely inerrant, God-breathed and true OR totally false, a mish-mash of myths, lies, and brazen deceit. But Curt seems to think that everyone must believe one of these two extremes. I argue that the Biblical text has not changed much, and that (horrors!) there are some things in the Bible that are probably true. Curt charges me with defending "dogma" and wonders how I can claim not to be religious. Evidently, he thinks that anyone who doesn't regard the Bible as completely made up must believe that it is all true. But isn't it more reasonable to think that the Bible is like most ancient texts that purport to describe history and myth, and is in fact a mixture of genuine history with exaggeration, mythical interpolations, speculation, and completely made-up stuff? Much of our knowledge of the New Testament period, for example, comes from the work of the Jewish historian Josephus. Since Josephus fought in the Jewish wars himself - and actually turned traitor to the Romans - he is certainly no unbiased witness to the events he describes. Historians have to be careful when assessing Josephus' account, and bear in mind what personal agenda he may be pushing. But it doesn't follow that nothing in Josephus is true. The same is true of the Gospels. They may have been written by members of Jesus' "fan club" and of course they are biased, distorted, and often legendary or completely made up. But it does not follow from this that they have no historical worth whatsoever.

    You see, Curt is right to point out that the portrait of Jesus presented in the Gospels must be taken with a very large pinch of salt, because these texts were written to glorify their hero. But you can take scepticism too far. The examples I have given of things like dodgy prophecies on Jesus' part indicate that the authors of the Gospels did not glorify him quite as much as they might have done. They left things in that were potentially embarrassing, that contradicted each other, that did not make a lot of sense from the point of view of the early Church. For example, you will not find many places in the New Testament where Jesus is called "Son of Man". But Jesus uses this phrase constantly in the Gospels. Why would the authors of the Gospels have attributed to Jesus frequent use of an expression that the early Christians apparently thought very unimportant? Wouldn't they have had him call himself "Christ" all the time, like most of the New Testament authors did? In fact, not only does the term "Christ" or "Messiah" crop up infrequently in the Gospels, but Matthew 26:64 actually has Jesus apparently deny that it applies to him. That's another thing that any unscrupulous medieval Bible alterer would have removed! It looks very likely that Jesus really did use the expression "Son of Man", and that the Gospel writers left it in simply because it was something that Jesus really said. Equally, the early Christians called Jesus "Christ", but this word is not in the Gospels very much, and the authors appear hesitant to ascribe its use to Jesus himself (in Mark, other people call Jesus "Christ", but he is decidedly cagey about it himself and tells people not to say it to others). In other words, the early Christians seem to have been less eager than you might think to ascribe things to Jesus that they would have liked him to have said.

    Remember, also, that the Bible consists of 66 quite different books. I think that, say, Exodus and John have little historical value. It doesn't follow that, say, Galatians has equally little historical value. The Bible is not one book, and any given passage does not stand or fall with any other given passage. That is the view of fundamentalists.
     

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