A quick exercise. I want you to list all the iconic, famous, notable people of which you are aware that mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again or found. Take a minute to think long and hard. How many can you list?
Amelia Earhart is one that first comes to mind for me. The famous pilot and her Lockheed 10-E Electra disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937. Jimmy Hoffa is another well-known American Teamster who disappeared in July 1975. Glenn Miller, the famous big-band musician and composer, disappeared over the English Channel in 1944 and Michael Rockefeller, the 4th generation member of the famous American aristocrats the Rockefellers, disappeared in 1961.
What about young children that are still missing? How many famous cases and names of children can you list? According to ListVerse.com here are 10 Cases of Missing Children. Why did those ten children make ListVerse.com’s list or why did Earhart, Hoffa, Miller, and Rockefeller have their disappearances make regional or worldwide news? Answer this: Why is it such an extraordinary news-event that these adults and children vanished? What’s the big deal? Was there something about those people who made their vanishing so dramatic? Was there controversy, wealth, or status surrounding those missing people? Is one of them anymore important than the other?
I want you to remember your answers to those questions as you continue reading. What if there had been a group of forecasters that weeks, months, years prior to all these vanishing adults and children said “Sound the alarms! Person A, person B, child A, and child B will vanish for a long time or forever!“ And those forecasters (psychics?) explained how they would vanish. Would their foretelling make the disappearances more astounding? Of course they would. They would be predictions that would turn the world, or at least the local region upside down. Period. It would be as historical as mankind stepping on the Moon for the very first time.
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No matter how many notable or controversial missing persons and children you can list, none of them will EVER matchup in fame or value to the one 12-year old boy I’m about to describe. No, correction. I am not the one who described him. The most famous book around the world — according to millions and billions of people past and present — will describe this one phenomenal 12-year old boy. Here is an introduction of this “boy” by Robert Deffinbaugh:
“There is nothing in fact or in fiction in the history of man which matches the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Humanly speaking, no one anticipated God’s intervention into human history by the birth of a child, born in a manger. Not even Judaism was looking for Messiah to come in this way. Furthermore, we have become so accustomed to the biblical narratives of the birth of our Lord and the credal formulations of the doctrines involved that we have often ceased to appreciate the mystery of the incarnation.
If we are to properly appreciate the mystery of the incarnation, we must first come to recognize the importance of the coming of our Lord as God incarnate.”
— Robert Deffinbaugh, Th.M.- Dallas Theological Seminary and Bible.org
Indeed, “nothing that matches“. Nothing ever has and ever will match him… for the rest of time. A pretty lofty, magnanimous Earth-shattering claim, huh? And Mr. Deffinbaugh certainly isn’t the only minister or man-of-the-cloth or congregation member to make such a claim. Some 2.2 billion professed Christians knowingly or unknowingly profess it as well. God incarnate is well-known, well-established, and fully understood, which makes it obviously true! Yes?
“In Christian doctrine the Incarnation, briefly stated, is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became a man. It is one of the greatest events to occur in the history of the universe. It is without parallel.”
— Lehman Strauss, Philadelphia Bible Institute and Bible.org
One method 4th – 5th century CE Church Fathers used and now modern Christians and their apologists utilize to show doubters the divine will of their God and remarkable boy-Savior, are the “fulfillments” of many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. According to these Fathers and subsequent preachers, bishops, cardinals, and ministers these passages that were spoken, taught, and scribed on papyrus centuries before Jesus’ birth plainly reveal Jesus as the coming Jewish Messiah. This simultaneously gives the biblical Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament their divine, unmatched inerrancy and infallibility for Christendom. The game-changer!
I want to take a closer look at these prophecies and subsequent meanings.
Taxonomies of Messianic Prophecies
There are four types of Messianic-Christian prophecies: 1) Birth, 2) Ministry, 3) Betrayal, and 4) Death. It must be noted that some of these four types are actual historical events that transpired before the Old Testament book and passages were written. However, these a posteriori issues are not the critical topics of my post and should be addressed another time in another blog-post. For now what is necessary to understand is how 50 – 400 predictions, the number, came true and the miraculous impact of these Old Testament passages support/prove to the faithful Christian divine, incomprehensible odds of coming true when they were written and/or taught some 6 to 7 centuries before Jesus was born; the miraculous part. Most all radical Christians who immediately embrace past and present paranormal phenomena, will unequivocally admit that what the Bible says about Jesus’ nativity and the events surrounding his foretold birth are literally true. No ifs, ands, or buts. But for the sake of time, let’s consider just the popular birth prophecies.
Messianic Birth Prophecies — The most well-known, due to the widespread Roman Catholic Churches built between the late 5th-century to 16th-century, are these two about the virgin birth in Bethlehem:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” — Isaiah 7:14
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.” — Micah 5:2
There are at least 12 more mainstream, supposed Messianic passages Christian apologists assert prove the phenomenal divine intervention through Jesus’ family, local events, his birth, and his time on Earth (click here if interested). The early Church Fathers, and all later Christian apologists today say this divine intervention by God was predicted some 6 to 7 centuries before Jesus. Christians claim today there are hundreds more passages proving Jesus’ mega-exclusive, spectacular arrival on Earth, not as a simple man, but as God’s one-and-only Son. I am not going to address every single one. Scrutinizing every single one would take months. The 12 passages I linked to above suffice.
Though I will not examine all 50 – 400 of the remaining Messianic passages of Jesus’ adult ministry, betrayal, and crucifixion — they do not apply right now to the subject of ancestry, birthplace, and his first 12-years — it is nevertheless hard for Christians not to be conscious of them when the Synoptic Gospels are not placed in chronological order. Further complicating this matter, the four Gospels focus most of their narrations on Jesus’ final four-ish years, from 29 to 32/33 years of age. Hence, with all the decades of a posteriori hindsight, it is quite awkward for the modern Christian to not envision Jesus more than just a regular boy, a sinful boy from the seed of Adam. The diversion seems to be his last 3-4 years. On the other hand, with all the hoopla of his Messianic birth, he is not just a common boy. He is “the One” from the Holy Father who embodies never-before-seen or heard… non-human abilities! Let’s add more hoop-lah. Enter the three Kings/Magi and the sensational celestial event over Bethlehem. How is all of this convergence possible?
There are three or four plausible explanations for what the “star” might have been, but mathematically none of them would’ve happened around the approximate time of Jesus’ birth and Herod’s final two years of ruling. Hubert J. Bernhard, educator and lecturer at San Francisco’s Morrison Planetarium, composed a 4-part series of record LP’s called “The Planetarium Lecture Series.” One of the episodes in his series addresses the Star of Bethlehem. Bernhard, along with many Christian apologists over the last two millenia, explained the events this way:
“If you accept the story told in the Bible as the literal truth, then the Christmas Star could not have been a natural apparition. Its movement in the sky and its ability to stand above and mark a single building; these would indicate that it was not a normal phenomenon, but a supernatural sign. One given from on high and one that science will never be able to explain.” — Hubert Bernhard, The Planetarium Lecture Series.
Whatever created or moved the Star of Bethlehem it was bright enough for the Magi to journey from start to finish some 500-miles from the Orient/Babylonia to Judea. This most certainly would have been an event that thousands or millions of other people, astronomers, and star-gazers too would have seen. But for the time of Jesus’ birth, no one in that 500-1000 mile area (or beyond) recorded anything. Nothing. Despite this widespread omission and silence, for miracle-believing Christians these synchronizations of prophetic Hebrew passages, their fulfillment, and the cosmological spectacle cannot be understated. It was an unprecedented, epic, historical phenomena.
Inside evangelical circles then, what do we have regarding God’s newborn Messiah/Christ? “One of the greatest events to occur in the history of the universe“ Strauss shouts “without parallel“! Wow. “Without parallel“!
“When you read the record of the coming of Jesus into the world — born in a stable, born of a woman, reared in the woodshop of a poor Jewish carpenter — you could not grasp the truth that He was the God-man if the Scriptures didn’t reveal it.” — Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Suddenly and astoundingly the long-awaited foretold boy phenom known as Messiah-G-man vanished! Gone.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. — Luke 2:42-52
Those passages are the very last words written about the boy-wonder, Messiah-G-man for the next 17-years!
What is very odd, very suspicious of this disappearance at this point in the Gospels is that with such spectacle of a newborn King, heralded by a supernatural cosmic event — that summoned other kings/magi hundreds of miles away — forced King Herod of Judea to slaughter hundreds or thousands of baby boys, of which is also not recorded by anyone in the province or region, especially by Roman historians or scribes, no one seems to care… except the Gospel authors many decades later. These events also (a decade later) have a 3-day 2-night lost Messiah-G-man who mesmerized and dumbfounded Rabbis in the Temple.
Amazingly, all of this Earth-shattering Gospel news becomes un-news worthy! Basically, Messiah-G-man becomes the antithesis of starboy Messiah-G-man, the one and only Son of God who, as Billy Graham alludes, that the Scriptures revealed 6-7 centuries before! What is going on? Why would the Hebrews suddenly become completely apathetic to their coveted Messiah? Or more concerning, why do the Gospel authors ignore this anomaly numerous decades after Jesus’ birth and four more decades after his death? To cloud the story more the authors then offer vague, abstract fog where Jesus might have been and more puzzling… what he wasn’t doing!
So Where Did He Really Go?
There are five or six interesting theories of where and why Messiah-G-man, Jesus, deviated from his universal, divine mission. The fact that there are any theories at all speaks to the necessity for a theological (not logical) explanation for God’s one and only (not so busy) Son. Consider these theories by historical and biblical scholars:
- Jesus stayed in Nazareth. This is the most widely accepted explanation in Christendom. It is the least complicated scenario for God’s one-and-only missing years. He simply stayed in his hometown, probably working at his father Joseph’s trade of carpentry and studied Jewish scripture, then became the head of the household after Joseph’s death, as if nothing of divine import was happening or was needed. Ho-hum, oh well for 17-18 years.
- Jesus traveled to Japan. This explanation is based more on legend than plausible evidence.
- Jesus traveled to Britain. This explanation is also based more on legend than plausible evidence.
- Jesus traveled to the Himalayas, and trained with mystics there. To date, this is another explanation that unravels with no plausible or reliable evidence to support it. The final two theories below, however, are more compelling.
- Jesus went to Qumrān, and studied with the Essene sect. Some scholars have speculated that Jesus left home for Qumrān, on the edge of the Dead Sea, where he supposedly became a member of a monastic community along with his cousin John the Baptist. Modern interest in Qumrān surged after the 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient religious texts, in nearby caves. The theory makes the case that both Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes, whose philosophy embraced a view of oneness of everything in the universe with God, and espoused non-violence. It is argued that Jesus either wrote or was influenced by an apocalyptic book called The Secrets of Enoch.
- Jesus became a disciple of John the Baptist. In his book Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, Bruce Chilton casts doubt on the notion of Jesus staying in his hometown, because the gospels don’t mention him trying to marry and start a family, “which is what a village youth who simply stayed home would have done.” Instead, Chilton believes, Jesus didn’t return home at age 12 after visiting the Temple, but instead remained and eventually became a follower of John, who trained him in his philosophy. “Jesus had a rebellious, venturesome spirit,” Chilton argues. “He did not become a passionate religious genius by moldering in the conventional piety of a village that barely accepted him.”
All of these theories have one thing in common: conjecture. Yes, even the most popular explanation that Christian apologists offer — he stayed in Nazareth as a normal ho-hum boy doing carpentry — is ultimately creative imaginations with insufficient or the thinnest of any support. For the reasonable, logical Christian this mystery should give serious pause, to put it mildly.
Before one goes selling the farm, the kitchen sink, and all royalties for such a profound life-altering FAITH-future decision for Christ, let’s step-back, put on a neutral thinking-cap, look under the rugs and behind the curtains and consider everything. There are some major incongruencies, fallacious logic, Scriptural apathy, and distorted history with this monumental mind-numbing claim of incarnation. I want to cover it, or uncover it. It starts with a gross distortion of Hebraic history and principles within the pinnacle of the mighty Roman Empire.
Understanding earliest Judeo-Christianity, the movement named “The Way” by followers of Yeshua the Nasorean [sic] in the 2nd century CE, cannot be fully understood without first understanding the riff between Roman client-King Herod — with his and Rome’s harsh oppressive rule over unruly provinces and dissidents — and the obstinate Jewish sectarian people of Samaria, Perea, Galilee, Iturea, and Idumea. One could say these acute Roman policies created a powder keg atop matches and nitroglycerin. Let me set the scene.
Hebraic Principles Into Esoteric Obscurity
With Second Temple Judaism there existed unique principles and philosophies distinct from old Israelite Judaism (polytheism) and compared to other Near and Middle Eastern religions of the time. The Hebrew word Mâšîah or Messiah, could mean priest, prophet, or king. During the 6th-century BCE while exiled in Babylonia, the ancient Jews began hoping for, wanting, and anticipating a special Anointed One to restore them into Israel. Then in 539 BCE the Persian king Cyrus allowed them to return to Israel. In the early stages of the 1st-century BCE, Jews were once again conquered and suffered harsh repression at the hands of the Greco-Seleucid Empire. Bitterness, rebellion, and hope for that special Anointed One rose again desperate for an independent Jewish kingdom.
Next came the Roman Republic in 192 BCE pushing the Greco-Seleucids to the far-eastern reaches of Asia Minor. Jews were once again repressed, bitter, rebellious, and in desperate want of restoration to a sustained independent kingdom. During this period Jewish Messianism took on complex dual or triple meanings and interpretations because Israel (and their God?) was repeatedly defeated and kept falling under foreign rule. Some Jews believed the Anointed One would be a great military king. Others believed he would be a purifying priestly Son of Man to judge humanity, while still others believed he would have to be a prophet, teacher, and commander. Many Messianic forms developed during the four major Jewish exiles (i.e. a Personal Messiah), however, during these periods none of them are fully understood outside of Judaism. Jewish Messianism becomes increasingly esoteric and obscure to the rest of the world. Enter a progressively heavier Hellenistic rule and influence on Judaism. Meanwhile, Jews everywhere are now gasping and craving their Anointed One.
Rome’s Rise: Republic to Imperial Apex
From 3,900 sq. miles in 326 BCE as a small Republic to 2.5 million sq. miles in 117 CE, the splendor and spectacle that was the Imperial Roman Empire reached its majestic pinnacle during the Five Good Emperors. Scholars of early Antiquity maintain that Rome’s ascendency to a Republic and world power is attributed to three sociopolitical developments and organization of the 1) Citizen Assembly and Military Assembly, 2) the Senate consisting of Patricians and Plebeian Tribunes, and 3) the prestigious Consuls. Until 27 BCE this Greco-Roman form of representative government with efficient support of military legions, navies, and generals prepared the way for Rome’s rise and expansion across the entire Mediterranean.
For our purposes here what is important to understand is the Republic of Rome’s established 500-year foreign provincial policy. The vanquished people and province under the victors remained free socially, if they remained peaceful, and paid regular tributes to Rome. In return they’d receive protection and social-political order. Riot or incite civil discord and Roman retribution was swift and severe. What did the Jewish people generally experience under Rome’s heavy hand? More historical context first.
Fall of the Hasmonean Dynasty
The collapsing Seleucid Empire to the Roman Republic and Parthian Empire created a balancing of powers surrounding the Hasmonean Kingdom from c. 140 to c. 116 BCE until they enjoyed full autonomy in 110 BCE. At that time the Hasmoneans consolidated Samaria, Perea, Galilee, Iturea, and Idumea forming what some scholars call the Kingdom of Israel. For around 70-years the Hebrews and orthodox Judaism flourished along side influences of Hellenic Judaism from Alexandrian rule, then Roman conquest in 63 BCE. Due to these theocratic sociopolitical differences between Hyrcanus II, Salome Alexandra, and Aristobulus II, the Hasmonean Dynasty sank into civil war and disintegrated, but not before some Hebraic principles and Messianism became fixed.
Maccabean-Hasmonean Judaism believed in one single, indivisible, unsynthesized God. It explicitly rejected polytheism, dualism, and trinitarianism, which are incompatible with pure monotheism as Judaism teaches according to their Tanakh. Hellenic forms of Judaism, e.g. Philo of Alexandria, are more liberal with attributes of God sometimes referred to as Shituf. These beliefs greatly distinguished Judaism away from the other Near and Middle Eastern religions.
Animosity, Death, and Herod’s Sons
On some small or great level most everyone is familiar with King Herod the Great. Whether one considered Herod I great or ruthless depends on the point-of-view. From a material and development standpoint, Herod accomplished many projects including his most magnificent, the port at Caesarea, considered an engineering marvel. From a social standpoint, he was held in bitter contempt by his subjects, especially by the orthodox Jews for his everything-Greek appetite and favoritism and worse, his several transgressions of Mosaic Law. Though King Herod considered himself Jewish by his father and by politically marrying Hasmonean princess Mariamne, the orthodox Sadducees and Pharisees considered it suspect at best. Herod had also dissolved and curtailed the Sadducees influence within the Sanhedrin and had placed an unusually high taxation rate on the people and often reverted to violence and mercenaries to maintain civil order and fueling a deeper animosity. By the time of Herod’s death in 4 BCE, civil peace was quite volatile and disobedience to Rome fever pitched.
Herod’s three sons inherited a kingdom ready to boil over.
Rising Anti-Semitism: The Jewish-Roman Wars
Disdain toward conquered barbarian cultures was not unusual in Antiquity so labeling earliest Jewish conflicts should be considered part of a wider military and sociopolitical picture. But from the time Roman general Pompey intervened in the Jewish civil wars in 66 BCE, sectarian Judea and Israel were in escalating conflict amongst themselves and with the Romans. Frustrated Prefects and Procurators could not comprehend the strange Jewish customs. Civil flare-ups and strife, which the Romans regarded as petty, would cause an uproar among the Jews. When Pontius Pilate moved his two Auxiliary Cohort units from Caesarea to Jerusalem to enforce order, in protest to effigies of Emperor Augustus on Roman military standards, a large group of Jews walked 70-miles to Pilate’s house in Caesarea to encircle it by laying themselves on the ground for five days. Why? It violated Moses’/God’s Second Commandment. It can be argued convincingly that the Jews never truly appreciated, felt they were, or intended to be under Roman command or rule. Anti-Semitism rises even more.
Although Rome clearly had every military, economic, and political advantage in suppressing rebellions and levying heavy taxes, orthodox and zealot Jews still wanted to fight. Discord, resentment, and revolt continued to rise in Galilee, Samaria, and particularly in Judaea, and still the Jews sought to fight. Between 19 CE and 160 CE Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, Suetonis, and Cassius Dio all report increased intolerances, punishments, and expulsions toward the Jews. The hostilities eventually led to the sacking of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple in 70 CE followed by crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-136 CE. The aftermath of these multiple Roman victories are what many scholars argue as the biggest historical, philosophical, and fragmentary swerve-threshold of all Judaism until the atrocities of 1933-45 Europe.
Meanwhile, Roman religions and cults had different interpretations of the divine.
If there is one concept that all ancient Mediterranean civilizations understood from the Bronze Age, through Prehistory, to early Post-classical history, it was apotheosis. Call him Heracles, Hercle, Hercules, or Caesar, the deification of great men was commonplace. The mixing and transformation of apotheosis over time and conquests were also commonly practiced. This was the case with the sheer size of the empire the Roman Legions were vowed to protect and defend against foreign enemies. One of the popular cults of the eastern legions in contact with the Persian culture was Mithra.
Despite there being no direct evidence that 2nd and 3rd century CE Christianity and Mithraism were influenced by each other, there are remarkable similarities. For example, most historians and biblical scholars know and agree that Jesus was not born in winter in late December. Mithra was born of a virgin December 25th and visited by Magi. There are also similar themes in doctrine and practices such as salvation, the symbolism of water/baptism, and followers had a sign or mark symbolizing Mithra like Christians had the cross.
Other similarities between Mithraism and early Christians included pursuing abstinence, celibacy, and self-control to be among the highest virtues. Likewise, both had comparable beliefs about the world, eschatology, heaven and hell, and the immortality of the soul. Their ideas of battles between good and evil were similar (though Mithraism was more dualistic), included a great and final battle at the end of times, similar to Zoroastrianism and as will be explored next, similar to outlying Jewish sects (Qumrān) divergent from the Pharisees and Sadducees inside Jerusalem. Mithraism’s flood at the beginning of history was deemed necessary because, according to Mithraic eschatology, what began in water would end in fire. Both cults believed in divine revelation as key to their doctrine. Both awaited the last judgment and resurrection of the dead.
Roman Records and Qumrān Scrolls
Most modern historians, even non-Christian less-biased historians, agree that a great Jewish Rabbi/teacher and reformer named Yeshua, or Jesus, did exist. This is often referred to as the historical Jesus. However, where the historicity of Jesus is concerned — the consideration of non-Christian sources to construct who this controversial person was and authenticate what his intent and reforms consisted of — there is no one single unanimous picture, and contextually not even from the Gospels. Personally, I do not give as much credibility to Roman-Jewish (Hellenic) sources such as Flavius Josephus or Saul of Tarsus, another Roman-Hellenic Jew. To align with the Historical Method, Jewish or Christian sources must be taken with a fair amount of caution. Therefore, what are we left with when Christian, Judeo-Christian, and Roman-Jewish-Hellenic sources are removed as biased or partially biased? Answer: purely Roman or non-Jewish, non-Christian sources.
Under these guidelines there exists only one purely Roman, valid, neutral source about a man named Jesus. It is by the Roman historian and senator Tacitus in his final work, Annals, completed c. 116 CE. It is essentially a short fact-sheet only, mentioning a wise Jewish king that was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and there were a small band of Hellenic-Christians living in Rome. However, as mentioned before this only validates a historical Jesus, but not the historicity or nature of Jesus. There are a handful of very minor references, but all of them concern Christians in general, or one dissident in Rome named Chrestus, and not the enigma, Rabbi/Reformer or failed Messiah named Jesus. For some relevant historicity about the man Jesus/Yeshua and his anti-Temple sectarian ties, we can however, utilize the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The historical background of the Qumrān Scrolls give us an unprecedented context into Jesus’ critical last years in Judea and Jerusalem and a backdrop litmus-test to the canonical New Testament, namely the Gospels and Apostle Paul, and to all Jewish and Christian sources regarding Jesus.
[The Dead Sea Scrolls] further our knowledge of ancient biblical interpretation and the effect of historical events on religious life and ideas. The texts shed light on philosophical disputes about issues such as the Temple and priesthood, the religious calendar and the afterlife. More practical disputes were focused on everyday law and observance. — The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
Of particular interest is Robert Eisenman’s theories drawn from the Qumrān Scrolls where he names James, the brother of Jesus, as the Teacher of Righteousness (from the Damascus Document), the Wicked Priest (from the Habakkuk Commentary) as High Priest Ananus ben Ananus, executioner of James, and Paul/Saul as the Man of Lying, or the one teaching false doctrines and misleading theology about a kingdom built with blood. Eisenman also labels Paul/Saul as Herodian, an influence that easily renders his Christology favorable to Hellenistic Rome instead of James the brother’s Torah-based Messianic version, and evidenced by tensions with the Pillars of the Jerusalem Council.
Another renown expert on the Qumran Scrolls and Second Temple Judaism is what Dr. Lawrence Schiffman has concluded after his life’s work. Being a leading scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls he analyzed and surveyed the contribution of the Scrolls, compares the Jewish legal position of the authors of the scrolls to that of the Pharisees and early-Christians, then demonstrates how early-Christianity deviated from the fundamental beliefs of Judaism and why Christianity was rejected by Jews, but accepted only by Greco-Roman non-Jews. Here is the link to Dr. Schiffman’s outstanding lecture on the falsifying and hijacking of Jesus’ heritage, teaching, and reforms. Click here.
When external independent (non-Christian) sources are included in the overall picture of Judea, Rome’s impact and influence, along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, it becomes obvious why the Jewish-Roman War was building to a climax. This was Jesus’ world.
IGNITION! Jewish Messianism Out, Hellenic Apotheosis/Christology In
As alluded to above, Roman anti-Semitism was ever-present across the empire and its volatility was increasingly recorded in Roman literature as early as the 1st-century BCE. Politician and lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero in his Pro Flacco writes derogatory remarks of Jews as “barbara superstitio” which translates, Jews were unpatriotic, sacrilegious, backward, and alien. Tacitus also writes his anti-Jewish sentiments during the Jewish Revolt of 70 CE saying they are perverse, corrupting, too wealthy, cliquish, and out-breeding true Romans!
Philo of Alexandria recorded that one of Tiberius’ lieutenants, Sejanus, was likely an instigator of anti-Semitism with many Roman soldiers. What is abundantly clear throughout the Roman and non-Roman records is that until the 3rd and 4th-century CE Rome did not tolerate any level of rebellion or dissidence among her conquered foreigners. Consequently, with the incessant Jewish sectarian zealous elements in Syria-Palaestina and around Jerusalem (as the Jerusalem Talmud records), Roman legions destroyed the bulk of sectarian Judaism by 136 CE, including those opposed to the Temple Priesthood in Jerusalem, e.g. Qumrān and Masada. This little-known historical context is important to note because the outlying Jewish sects — indirectly mentioned in John 8:37-39; 44-47 and Acts 7:51-53 also alluded to in the Qumrān Scrolls — are the ones that offer modern historical and biblical scholars a required contrast to Hellenist-Herodian Judaism, which composes most of today’s Christian (anti-semitic?) canonical New Testament.
“The original apostles and followers of Jesus, led by James and assisted by Peter and John, continued to live as Jews, observing the Torah and worshipping in the Temple at Jerusalem, or in their local synagogues, while remembering and honoring Jesus as their martyred Teacher and Messiah. They neither worshipped nor divinized Jesus as the Son of God, or as a Dying-and-Rising Savior, who died for the sins of humankind. They practiced no ritual of baptism into Christ, nor did they celebrate a sacred meal equated with ‘eating the body and drinking the blood’ of Christ as a guarantee of eternal life.
Their message was wholly focused around their expectations that the kingdom of God had drawn near, as proclaimed by John the Baptizer and Jesus, and that very soon God would intervene in human history to bring about his righteous rule of peace and justice among all nations. In the meantime both Jews and non-Jews were urged to repent of their sins, turn to God, and live righteously before him in expectation of his kingdom.” — James Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity, pp. 24-25
Enter the Hellenist Saul of Tarsus. As everyone knows, Saul/Paul never met Jesus face-to-face or followed him during his ministry in Syria-Palaestina. Everyone also knows that when he arrived in 1st-century Judea and Syria he was there to persecute earliest Jesus-followers. Paul’s initial version of Judaism was from the Hillel school and it taught a Hellenistic balance between classical literature of the Stoics, philosophy, and ethics. This would have been frowned upon (loathed?) by the outlying Jewish sects such as the Essenes, Ebionites, and that preached by John the Baptist. For Saul/Paul that drastically changed while on the road to Damascus and his 3-years spent in Arabia. This is an odd mention; peculiar. Three years spent in Provincia Arabia during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE), a wealthy Nabataean client-kingdom for Rome with trade routes through Persia to India and China and obviously, according to Galatians 1:16-17, had some type of pivotal importance to Paul before beginning his own mission of Christology. To even be mentioned, it suggests it led to Paul’s overhaul of the failed Earthly Jewish Messianic kingdom (Jesus’ execution) into an other-worldly kingdom. And all of the disciples/Apostles, including pseudo-Apostle Paul, expected this other-kingdom to happen in their lifetimes.
Was Arabia where the true pure kingdom of God and the nature of Jesus found? Personally, I think it requires consideration. In fact, the full spectrum of Roman, Jewish sectarian, Judeo-Christian, Hellenist Christian, and secular historical and archaeological sources (i.e. Independent sources) currently do NOT support it for lack of sufficient evidence. Although with Rome eliminating most outlying Jewish sectarians and annexing the Nabataean Kingdom in Arabia, Rome favoring Herodian-Hellenistic Judaism, and increased intolerance of earliest “the Way” Judeo-Christians, Pauline Christology was nicely poised to fill the voids for social peace. And along with the struggling hopes amongst despairing, over-taxed mainline Jews and their Diaspora brethren in the wake of brutal Roman legions, as well as lowly widowed or enslaved Gentiles (who never grasped Judean Messianic doctrines in the first place), an open, inclusive Pauline Christology more easily supersedes Jesus’ failed kingdom of God!
Let’s revisit Rome.
Splitting Crumbling Empire vs. Authority
The pinnacle of the Roman Empire is considered to be 117 CE when it reached its largest in size and most prosperous economically. After the Five Good Emperors (96 – 180 CE), as it is known by scholars, the Empire began its slow and steady decline. From the Severen Dynasty, to the Imperial Crisis of the Third Century where over 20 emperors came and went in less than 50 years (235-284 CE), until Aurelian and Diocletian temporarily reunited the Empire until 285 CE when Diocletian split it in half — it was still too vast to efficiently administrate. Following the retirement and death of Diocletian in 311 CE, he had decreed two successors: Maxentius and Constantine. Both generals plunged the empire into chaos and civil war again. As most of us know, Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. He became sole emperor of both the Western and Eastern Empires until 337 CE.
During the 3-plus centuries between Emperor Tiberius (14 CE) and Constantine (337 CE), the small floundering Jewish reform movement transformed by Paul was growing within the empire and with four contributing events became Rome’s official religion by Constantine’s Imperial endorsement.
Emperor Constantine I
Asserting that Christ was responsible for his victory at the Milvian Bridge, Emperor Licinius and Constantine began a series of laws (e.g. Edict of Milan) giving legal tolerance for all religions and favorably to Christianity. As many Roman emperors had done in the past, claiming deification to supplement their status and authority, Constantine chose the Hellenistic Christ in which the Apostle Paul promoted to Gentiles. At the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE), he officiated over the theological codifying and standardizing of Christianity with assistance from Church Fathers, and distinguished important issues of Jesus’ divinity, nature, and which testaments were more aligned with the God-Son.
Constantine was a cunning general and by reforming the military, revaluing the currency, enacting social-welfare and political reforms, building projects as well as renaming Byzantium to New Rome (modern-day Istanbul) which soon became Constantinople, he stabilized the Empire. Soon after his death, however, the Roman Empire sank into civil war and decline yet again.
Emperor Theodosius I
Three emperors later Theodosius (379 – 395 CE) reinstated Constantine’s and Jovian’s reforms and took them much further. He outlawed pagan worship throughout the empire, closed all schools and universities, and converted pagan temples into Christian churches. Theodocius’ religious reinstatements and reforms were controversial and unpopular among Rome’s aristocracy and middle-class who still held traditions in paganism. They saw the emperor’s edicts institutionalizing Christianity and removing the gods from the Earth and society and replacing all of it with one God ruling from heaven. While attending the Nicaean Council bitter debates ensued between Theodosius and disciples of the Nicene Creed (Christ is the same as God the Father), against other Arian groups in the empire. Highly motivated to promote orthodox Christianity, Theodosius surpassed the ecclesiastical authorities and stamped the binding Imperial creed of the consubstantiality of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Trinitarianism). Henceforth those followers were to be considered Catholic Christians. It is safe to say, Theodosius began the principle of religious intolerance at the second ecumenical council in 381 CE, or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
But the fight between Arianism vs. Trinitarianism was not over. The official canon of the Christian Bible was only finalized over three more progressions: 382 in Rome, 391 the Vulgate, and 397 CE in Carthage. The confusions and debates about Christ’s nature, particularly his Incarnation (Monophysitism vs. Dyophysitism), took another 34-years to legalize at the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE! And guess what? The fight did not end. By 451 CE the Hellenistic Christian Church split. In the Eastern portion of the remaining empire formed the Oriental Orthodox Churches and in the doomed Western portion of the crumbling empire formed the Roman Catholic Church.
A Quick Summary
- Due to the four exiles, Jews are gasping and craving their Anointed Messiah to arrive, restore, and lead.
- Late-Ecclesiastical distortion and misunderstanding of Jewish Messianism — of which they hijack its prophecies for THEIR Hellenist-Christ and distance and distinguish themselves above and away from Judaism, anti-Semitism is born.
- Rome rises in size, authority, and influence all over the known world while Judaism barely survives under harsh oppression and religious constraints, corrupting many of ancient Jewish orthodox principles of life and worship.
- When the Apostle Paul arrives on the scene after 3-years in Arabia, suddenly the Greco-Roman Gentiles throughout the unstable empire seek refuge and belonging in Paul’s Christology and social-welfare. It is not exactly the same as Jesus’ kingdom of God and reforms for Judaism.
- What does this do 300+ years later to Jesus’ retro-actively imposed Incarnation?
Incarnate G-man — Conclusion
By the end of the 5th-century CE in Western-Eastern Mediterranean history Jesus’ original Jewish Messianic reforms were so lost and convoluted by wars, Pauline Christology, sectarian genocide, and centuries of sociopolitical upheaval throughout the vast Roman Empire. In all directions from 2nd to 5th-century CE Jerusalem, the true nature and revelations of outlying Jewish sects opposed to the Second Temple Priests, such as the Essenes, Ebionites, Mandaeans/Nasoreans, and Samaritans (of which Jesus favored; Luke 10:33; 17:16; John 4:39), could not be glimpsed or gleaned until the 20th-century CE with discoveries such as Nag Hammadi, Qumrān, and more.
By the end of the 5th-century CE almost all of the ecclesiastical authorities in Christendom had forgotten, overlooked, or ignored the fact that this all-powerful, all-knowing God who wanted to reconcile and restore (Messianic undertones) all of humanity, not just the Jews, and came in the flesh in a human body under a phenomenal celestial Star seen for at least 500-miles in every direction, according to His perfect plan! But for only 12-years; as an impressive teaser, if you will.
This same God in the flesh then decides that 17-18 years of supposedly ho-hum nothingness, doing preparatory work of “carpentry(?)” in a tiny insignificant town, was more important than restoring and saving humanity. A change of divine plans? Why? You are the living God in the flesh with all the power in the known universe! Or was it Jewish bar Mitzvah traditions for a boy into a man? But that would be quite human, quite Jewish, and quite petty when considering the salvation of all humanity.
This begs the question or questions… was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua — who John the Baptist, James his brother, and Simon/Peter knew well — not who he became to Saul/Paul in a blinding light on the Damascus Road and in Arabia? Was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua not who he became after the deadly Jewish-Roman Revolts? Was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua not who he became during the internal conflict, corruption and decline of the Roman Empire up to Constantine? And was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua not who he had become to Theodosius and the many ecclesiastical Councils up to 451 CE? Given these widespread rampant controversies and confusion, wouldn’t a full 32-34 years of life for Jesus/Yeshua to clarify exactly his nature and what solution was needed to restore one’s self and all of humanity to God’s “loving kingdom” been a better approach? Why even waste 17-years? Or was there something about Jesus that required hiding?
Because the concept of Incarnation is a retro-active scriptural and ecclesiastical reacting to evolving conundrums. Jesus was not God Incarnate and not His one-and-only Son. The true verifiable, extant history of Jesus the man and Paul’s Christology (both explicit and implicit), contrasted with the torturous labyrinth of Hellenistic apotheosis theology, as I’ve hopefully shown here, has in the end shown itself to be quite outdated and bogus non-sense.
If there is no divine, miraculous God-man called Jesus Christ, then what is Christianity?
∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼
Further information — Dr. Richard Carrier is a renown historian, philosopher, and author specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism and secular humanism, as well as in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, particularly on the origins of Christianity. He attained a Master’s and Ph.D. in Ancient History from Columbia University and Bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a prominent defender and advocate for American Free-thought and Intellectualism. What I like most about Dr. Carrier’s approach to Christian Fundamentalism and the origins of Christianity — e.g. his book “On the Historicity of Jesus” — is his meticulous use of historical methodologies and mathematical probabilities with incorporations of Agnotology, another discipline I am very fond about.
I thought his YouTube presentation here at the Center for Inquiry Canada in Toronto, CA about “Why the Gospels are Myth” would be a good final close. It is a 1-hour 28-min presentation and examination, but well worth it in my opinion because as I mentioned before he incorporates several various disciplines and sources.
This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.professortaboo.com/contact-me/.
We lost a Prime Minister. Seriously. Harold Holt. Vanished into thin air, never seen again.
Josephus notes that people survived crucifixions, so if Jesus was not some messianic amalgam, or some 1st Century crisis-cult metafictional device, then India sounds plausible. There’s even a tomb in Srinagar said to be his.
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Hahaha… I did not think of Harold Holt. Did anyone really care he was gone — like all of Judaism did with Yeshua’s vanishing? 😉
I’ve always been fascinated with Isa/Jesus in Persia then on to Kashmir, India learning from all those gurus throughout. I hope someone continues exploring and examining that theory — there’s enough to do so! There damn sure isn’t anywhere near enough evidence to prove (suggest?) that he stayed in Nazareth.
Thank you John for your thoughts.
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Did anyone really care he was gone
Probably not. Going walkabout (or in his case, swimabout) is fairly common.
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On walkabout. Maybe Jesus was an Aussie?
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So given this apathy(?) about a “special” person, what would that REALLY say implicitly about a Jesus disappearing? No big deal until some other sociopolitical agenda is devised? 🤔 😉
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What do you mean by metafiction in this context?
An immersive literary tool used to relay (powerfully so) doctrinal points.
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What specifically in the Jesus narrative/Gospel seems metafictional to you though?
In literary criticism, typically metafiction refers to fiction that calls attention to its own fictionality and explicitly comments on the nature of fiction.
Exactly! The parables. A fictional character telling a fictional story. It’s immersive, drawing the listener/audience in deeper in the hope of them engaging the message at a far deeper level.
I wrote a post on this subject, if you’re interested. No one that I’m aware of has thought of this, but it is known that the Greeks not only knew of metafiction, but used it in the 1st Century BCE. So, it’s not entirely impossible.
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Sorry, I didn’t get to respond to this earlier.
While there are arguments in critical literature that ANY kind of frame narrative constitutes metafiction and sometimes even any kind of fiction is automatically metafiction (in so far as the moment you consider a fictional work’s relationship to the reality it attempts to depict it inevitably requires a person to think about the work’s fictionality), I’m a little skeptical of that type of argument.
The problem here is:
a) Critical terms should not only be true, but useful. If every work of fiction is technically a metafiction or any work with a frame narrative, then the term stops being useful as a descriptive tool. It doesn’t really add anything to call a fictional work a metafiction, if all works are metafictions.
b) We do have works that explicitly call attention to their ficitionality, especially in postmodern literature. Such as, but not limited to: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, Operation Shylock by Philip Roth, many of Jorge Luis Borges’ stories, Therefore, I think the term is best reserved for works that use these explicit metafictional techniques, which then usually adds something to their specific artistic goal.
So, sure, one could argue that Jesus telling parables constitutes metafiction in so far as all frame narrative implicitly call our attention to a work’s fictionality, but I would generally reserve the term for works that explicitly do so for the reasons listed above.
Basically, I don’t think it adds anything to say: I think Jesus is a metafictional tool in comparison to I think Jesus was just a fiction.
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Importantly, as a tool or method of storytelling, a metafictional story does not seek to hide the fact that it is fiction. Instead it intentionally reminds the audience that they are participating in a fictional story and quite purposefully draws attention to itself. In fact, it shouts out “Look at me, I’m fiction!” and that’s the method’s genius. The function of this device which deliberately jogs the audience’s mind to remember they’re experiencing fiction (like Emma Thompson’s voiceover narration in Stranger than Fiction) is to encourage the individual to engage the ‘truth’ at a deeper level.
The character Jesus ‘speaks’ in parables thirty separate times, and unlike the sometimes wild variations in what the character does, when he does it, and where he does it, these parables do not change to any great extent from one version of the story to another.
The notes to the parables appear to be there on purpose. They are identified, which is a hallmark of the tool in use. They’re spotlighted, even announced, and given that this core of thirty parables are repeated across both gnostic and synoptic gospels are a pretty clear indication that they were in fact the aboriginal root of the original Judean story; a story centred on teachings, not a man per say.
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Sure, I understand why you’re identifying those episodes as metafiction.
There is a debate within the scholarly literature over how exactly to define metafiction, or more specifically where does one draw the line. Does Shakespeare’s plays-within-plays count? Do all stories-within-stories count? Anything with a frame? Is all fiction metafictional one way or the other? Or to take one specific scholarly argument: are there different degrees of metafiction?
The issue for me is the focus is not on exploring the nature of fictionality, but telling parables and making doctrinal points. It seems to me the Christian audience of the text likely would’ve thought Jesus was real.
Some scholars would say, “yes,” this is a metafiction because it calls attention to the fact that Jesus is about to tell a parable, while others would say, “no” because it doesn’t do enough to call attention to its own fictionality, nor is it the central theme of the work.
In metafiction proper, not only does it employ self-referential elements, but in most cases the theme of the work itself is the exploration of the nature of fiction, authorship, and writing. See for example works like Jorge Louis Borges’ Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote (link)
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It seems to me the Christian audience of the text likely would’ve thought Jesus was real.
The audience wasn’t Christian. That’s the point. If I’m right, this device was created by 1st Century Crisis Cultists. Christianity didn’t start in Palestine, it started in Syria and Turkey. I imagine Paul listened to the micro-plays, adapted it/them, and took this package north to the diaspora… where the church began.
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Fabulous and informative post! Well done sir!! I have been thinking about this lately as well after a comment you made a while back. I am going to assume for this exercise that jesus actually was a real person. You posed a question near the end, “Or was there something about Jesus that required hiding?” There are a few scriptures that allude to the fact the locals had trouble recognizing him, as though he had been gone for a while. “Is not this jesus of Nazareth?” And “Is not this the carpenters son?” I would lean towards a missing jesus versus a silent one. As you are aware, the similarities of Jesus to Joseph of Egypt contain too many parallels comparing Joseph and Jesus in the Bible to be coincidence. According to almost every scholar and bible enthusiast, Joseph was a type and shadow of the coming messiah, and the outline of their stories are pasted all over the web.
1. Both were favored by their father
2. Both were Shepards
3. Both were betrayed and sold for thirty pieces of silver
4. Joseph became a slave. Jesus disappeared from the annuls for 17 years after one verse about his childhood. “And he grew in stature and wisdom”. Jesus is no where to be found in the scripture after the twelve year old boy was found in the temple by his parents. He reappears at the age of thirty with the wisdom of a rabbi. There are between 65 and 125 parallels to Joseph and Jesus, depending on how closely you want to correlate things, but there is a lot. And every source documents dozens, but casually skips over this part of the comparison.
My hypothesis is this; “If” there was a Jesus, he spent 17 years as a slave or bond servant in the court of some wealthy Roman or other. Why hide that part of his life unless there was something incriminating? Or this 17 year part of the fable was hurriedly forgotten? As a coincidence, one of his few dire warnings he stated was in the harming of children. “It would be better that a millstone was hung around your neck and drown, than to harm a child” (paraphrase)
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Thanks Jim for reading and your great comment! As I mentioned to you before, this was a MONSTER of a subject to tackle. I felt I had to show how distorted and twisted the Hellenic Christology that started with Saul/Paul then further convoluted by the Church Fathers up to Theodosius and beyond… simply got it wrong and most likely could not have avoided distorting the Jewish Messianism due to Rome’s heavy hand and brutal Legions. Ugh, hence the large bulk of Roman-Jewish anamosity and killing, etc, in this post.
I think I know what you are alluding to here — the apparent “attraction” of Persian/Arabian royalty and nobility to young boys as has been recently discovered? For Romans, more so than the Greeks, pedophilia was a bit more socially unacceptable (or hidden?) than it was in Greece, Macedonia, or Asia Minor. Is this where he could have become a slave-boy?
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Well that thought occurred to me but it was not a practice in Jerusalem and surrounding areas close by at the time. That trade was was available to romans though. I was leaning towards the bond servant softer slavery type servitude. I am not aware of the specific travels of Jesus absence so I lean towards local possibilities.
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And another possibility were the practices of Tiberius and then Caligula, and Jesus using terms like “Fishers of Men”. Yes?
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Ah, the minnows.. ☹️
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Oh man, did you HAVE to give me THAT image!!!? 🤣
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The timing is certainly right
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Thank you kindly Jim for the Pingback. 🙂
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Re “Under these guidelines there exists only one purely Roman, valid, neutral source about a man named Jesus. It is by the Roman historian and senator Tacitus in his final work, Annals, completed c. 116 CE. It is essentially a short fact-sheet only, mentioning a wise Jewish king that was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and there were a small band of Hellenic-Christians living in Rome. However, as mentioned before this only validates a historical Jesus, but not the historicity or nature of Jesus.”
If you consider Tacitus was writing c. 116 CE, all you can say is that he was recording the beliefs of Christians of which he was a acquainted, not that that was an historical fact and, hence, does not validate the existence of an historical Jesus.
And regarding the description of the 12-year old Jesus in the Temple, “He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.” How is it that Mary did not understand this as she had been visited by an angel and informed of her status before Jesus was born, no? Was not Joseph also informed? (Otherwise where did this child come from?) How could they be bewildered? There are so many holes in scripture like this. (Another is Yahweh wandering around in the Garden asking Adam where he was. Really? He didn’t know?)
And the Three Magi, that is >i>magicians. Why was so much credence put into magician’s claims, etc. Note that Christians currently believe magicians are evil, even though they praise those three for recognizing their baby Jesus.
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Excellent points! Thank you very much for this well-informed comment!
Re: Tacitus, you have gone a step further in really measuring his writing about the subject and I’m likely on your side about this ONE “independent(?)” source about a historical Jesus. The man and his history/nature is so damn convoluted and twisted today that for the lay-person it is way too confusing… and it therefore solicits a TON of FAITH — granted empty faith — to make sense of the folklore! So I’m indifferent really when it comes to his actual historical existence.
I LOVE your point about mother Mary and Joseph in the Temple! Exactly! After all this Comic hoop-lah and Magicians and King Herod slaughtering young boys, how on this Earth could they both not understand!!!!? Once again, we have BAD, poor, retro-active editing in Luke 2. And “Yahweh wandering around in the Garden…” doesn’t sound at all like an all-knowing God does it? 😛 🤣
Outstanding, informative post. I need to read this over more slowly to get even more out of it. Terrific!
Oh, Christ was an altar boy for St. Caesar’s Church of the Immaculate Deception during his first 12 years. The nuns there were strict as f*ck so he wasn’t allowed to do any “God” stuff for fear of being hit by a ruler. That’s why we don’t know anything about those years. You’d know this were true if you simply believed what I’m telling you.
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Hahahaha… yes Jeff. A good reread or two would help, or not! 🤣 As I have told Jim before, THIS examination of 400-500 years of ancient history is no walk in the park. I did not give it the proper justice it deserves. However, one will NEVER KNOW the truth surrounding Greco-Roman Christology (vs Jewish Messianism) unless you dig and dig and examine the ENTIRE compendiums of all relevant context. Superimposed on the Gospel stories and Paul’s epistles you start to see THE REAL PICTURE. Or to put it another way, you see the religion for what it really is: folklore.
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When I first became a “non-believer” openly, I had small twinges of “Oh, I might be wrong about this” feelings pop up from time to time. But, over the years, as I’ve read more and more information, like that which you’ve provided here, I no longer have any such twinges. There is no substitute for open-minded learning and the asking of pertinent questions in regards to things like religion and religious indoctrination.
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I could not agree more Jeff. It is how we learn and learn WELL, hopefully passing on — to our descendants or close friends — knowledge, as well as ignorance (innocent or manufactured) for increased odds of survival/thriving AND more importantly, sound understanding of our reality, our planet, and the universe. Writing it all off as if it were ‘eternally evil’ and useless is frankly a cowardly cop-out!!!
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Brilliant history! It feeds my knowledge-hungry soul! I found Tacitus’ sentiments about Jews “out-breeding true Romans” to be eerily relatable to today’s anti-immigration xenophobia as exemplified by President Trump.
Regarding prophesies, they are a dime-a-dozen in my view. We humans have been trying to predict the future since the dawn of Man. In fact, we are obsessed with it. I suspect it is an aspect of our psychology which is predominantly egocentric and fearful of the unknown. Interestingly, few if any of these prophesies are specific much like the works of Nostradamus.
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Yes. Applying our modern sciences of psychology, neurology, endocrinology, behavioral sciences, paleoanthropology, and anthropology absolutely has relevance to this subject, particular Greek, Persian, Roman, and Jewish histories! Then when you consider the despair and desperation of horrible times, e.g. several Jewish exiles, Roman-Jewish wars and harsh sociopolitical oppression, what does one find? Human beings thinking and having extraordinarily insane as well as ingenious responses… whether true or not, or believable or not!
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Good post. Very detailed. A couple of points to consider:
1) I’m a little skeptical of outright dismissing Josephus as a source based on the historical method. There is no real reason to assume he is biased in a way that would interfere with his reporting of information on this matter, especially in terms of establishing a historical Jesus, since he wasn’t a Christian.
2) Tacitus in my view remains a valid source because typically Tacitus tells us elsewhere when his information is hearsay.
3) As I understand from my research (not overly extensive) on Mithraism, I’ve seen little evidence that Mithra was considered to be born specifically of a virgin or on December 25th. Typically, the majorty of iconography suggests Mithra was born from a rock (I don’t really see autochthonous births as being exactly the same thing as a Virgin Birth). Although, I agree there is evidence that Christians co-opted the December 25th pagan holiday celebrations of Sol Invictus and some evidence that they had similar practices (borrowed/shared rituals?) from Mithraism.
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Ahhh, CR! I am happy you stopped by, read (my monstrosity 😉 ), and commented. Thank you!
Your three points deserve consideration; I personally don’t find much to contend with given the whole of my scrutiny about the Christian Incarnation. Honestly, I was looking forward to YOUR feedback — I’ve always assumed it comes from a Jewish background; I could be mistaken — about the purer form of Jewish Messianism that has been lost and quite distorted over 2,000+ years of history.
Re: Mithraism, my primary purpose for including it was to offer the “dots” for possible/probable connection with Jesus’ and Saul’s/Paul’s exposure(?), familiarity(?), involvement(?) with the religion/cult AND its possible/probable connection with Roman-Hellenic apotheosis, all creating a plausible collage of Christology and its Incarnation. If you are able to shed more light on Jewish Messianism’s involvement in the entire picture here, I would be super grateful Sir. 🙂
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Do you mean in the context of modern Judaism?
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I left it open to you to hopefully respond however you thought best. If that is through modern Judaism or what you know about Second Temple Judaism (if there’s a clear distinction), or both(?)… I would be very grateful. I know (as a Gentile? 😉 ) there are still some aspects of it, past and present, I can still learn.
I think this link will give you some info (link). It is a roundtable where rabbis from each major denomination of modern Judaism responds to the question about the Messiah.
In general, Modern Judaism is different from Second Temple Judaism in that the Messiah isn’t really conceived as a warrior-king type, but usually more as a Talmudic scholar.
Likewise, there are sharp differences between liberal forms of Judaism versus Orthodox forms in their conception. More liberal forms of Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanistic, Independent), see the Messiah more as a metaphor for human social action (our hopes, dreams, and duties in a symbolic form or image), while some forms of Orthodox still expect a guy in the flesh who will reform the world.
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Thank you CR for the link and this reply. When I have a chance later today I will read the Moment Magazine article. Thank you Sir.
Nice resource. Thanks for that.
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I consider the Tacitus reference nothing but fraud, and if memory serves, Gibbon also thought along these lines.
I have Annals and also Gibbon’s work, ( do not ask me to quote the specific passage) but read him a long time back. I should have made a note, dammit!
I stand under correction but I believe there were only two surviving copies of Tacitus and (one of) these was found in a monastery, sometime in the 14th/15th century?
Okay just squizzed Wiki. Seems in the ballpark.
I consider it telling that such a famous Roman would make mention of the smelly little Lake Tiberius Pedestrian and none of the early church fathers referenced Tacitus as an independent corroborating source for Yeshua, and there were some who were au fait with Tacitus writings and referenced other parts of his work.
Much like Josephus and his notorious Testimonum
It is like Find the Lady – the card trick using sleight of hand.
If he was real there was always the chance, no matter how remote, or how obscure, of discovering some archaeological evidence for him.
To paraphrase Life of Brian:
”They’re making it up as they go along.”
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“Making it up as they go along” (that is the ecclesiastical authorities) is certainly what comes forth when you superimpose the ENTIRE context of Roman-Jewish history over those 400 – 500 years of Christianity’s development. And when the Tacitus Annals are the best and only true independent source — and Josephus’ words are certainly nowhere NEAR as divinely spectacular as the Gospels! — it’s not too difficult to glean the obvious bias and fiction going on. Place on top of the Gospels Paul’s/Saul’s epistles, especially what he omits about the birth, “resurrection,” and his time in and reason for Arabia, it becomes impossible to treat the New Testament as infallible, huh? The Gospels are certainly not historically reliable either.
I’m not reading all that!
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Hahahaha! That will probably be good for your brain Hariod. Thank you for at least stopping by… with those five words. 😉 😛
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I’ve made one run through and my head hurts. Seriously, I am new to the history and find it fascinating. I’m a big believer in that as much actual history one could absorb about Christianity, would set you free from the ridiculous dogma. It would take me years of reading and I don’t have that time left. Can you suggest a beginners book or website that could condense the history from a non religious viewpoint. Like a ” Historical Christianity for Dummies that is Secular and not Dogma.”😊
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Hahaha. Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I hear ya Mary, trying to cover 500-years of important contextual history is a monster to tackle. Give me a bit of time and I’ll see what I can find for you. 😉
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I don’t usually recommend Wikipedia as the best or primary resource for such paramount topics like this, but with regard to gaining a general knowledge of Jewish Messianism, particularly the sort that the Roman Imperial Legions practically wiped out (in 66-73 CE) and that later Pauline Christology hijacked for their Hellenistic-Gentile Kingdom of God version — and antithesis of Jesus’ reforms — this particular Wikipedia page I found to be basic and easily readable/understandable as well as very accurate. It isn’t like the ‘Something Something for Dummies’ series, however, I think it touches on the key points rather well. The first two sections, “Jewish Roots” and “Influence of Hellenistic philosophy on early Christian theology,” with sub-sets, are particularly enlightening:
As far as a book I’d recommend explaining a simple or basic version of how Jesus’ “Incarnation” originated and developed, I don’t know of any at the moment. It might be difficult to find one for the simple fact that the doctrine of Incarnation is so convoluted and embedded in Antiquity’s Hellenistic philosophy over two-plus centuries that it is IMPOSSIBLE to condense into a “Dummies” series. Sorry Mary.
Hope this helps a bit.
Thank you so much….appreciate your time.
What would be your opinions of Bart Erhman books?
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Bart Ehrman is a favorite of mine simply because we have similar backgrounds and deconversions. Wheaton College, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree, has a close relationship (athletically mostly) with my own college/university: both Christian Liberal Arts institutions. But also we’d play Wheaton in soccer often and some of our coaching staffs at each campus were graduates of the other college/university. The curriculums that Bart went through for his under-grad are the same we had at my university. Then Bart deconverted in similar ways I had deconverted from Christology. So what do I think of Bart Ehrman and his books?
READ THEM ALL!!!! 😛
However, if you are asking for one book to start out with and applies to my post here… I recommend “How Jesus Became God: The Exhaltation Of A Jewish Preacher From Galilee.”
The book is certainly on the higher-end reading of academia compared to a “Dummies” series, but 416 pages are doable in a few days or couple of weeks. What I particularly enjoyed about the book was Ehrman’s pointing out how the Gospel of John is a retro-active apotheosis of Jesus the Teacher/Reformer, especially when comparing him to Mark’s Gospel which was the very first gospel written after Jesus’ death. These contents in the two gospels and their timelines are a HUGE point and distinction to understand!
Thanks again Mary for your feedback!
I’m reading that book right now.
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What do you think of it so far Jeff?
Quite a well written, informative book. Ehrman is a good writer and, as far as I can tell, a good historian with knowledge of the bible, Jesus and their history. He’s convinced a guy named Jesus did live, not a god, mind you, but a real dude who preached. Certainly nothing unbelievable about that. However, I’m becoming more inclined to think “Jesus” was perhaps more than one preacher and is an accumulation of “Jesuses” from the time. Either way, though I know this is a hotly debated topic among non-believers, it doesn’t matter to me. The “god” Jesus is a total fabrication just as Thor and Odin are, and that’s what matters most to me in this matter. I’m really enjoying the book.
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It matters none to me either. The most important part of Christology to understand is that Yeshua was NOT god, Yeshua was only a wise Rabbi/Reformer, Messianism was RAMPANT throughout Second Temple Judaism that there were MANY Messiah claimants, and Hellenistic Christology hijacked true Jewish Messianism which has nothing to do with Yeshua.
Jesus Christology isn’t much different than modern Bigfoot/Sasquatch “faith.” 😉 😛
P.S. I’m thrilled you are reading that book Jeff. I’m impressed Sir! 👍
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Oh, I be smart like dat. Prof! I be smart!!!
By the way Mary, you might be interested in this video-podcast with Ehrman regarding the Incarnation myth in light of his book “How Jesus Became God.” 🙂
Thanks again. I enjoy podcasts
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I’m going to step in here and recommend one of the very first books I read when I started my own book research. It’s not by a “noted” author … in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find him using Google. Nevertheless, what he put together is outstanding!
His name is Andrew D. Benson. The (rather large) book is called “The Origins of Christianity and the Bible.” It’s an older book (copyright 1997) but the information is superb. The only drawback is it’s (now) pricey. Amazon has it listed (through outside sellers) at $70+ (398 pages). Nevertheless, I highly recommend it.
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And Ehrman’s books, I find, to be quite good. He’s a good writer.
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Thank you Nan! I am putting that one on my Wish List now and reading about it, reviews, etc.
I’ve also had since the mid-1990’s this excellent book compiled by many Jewish, Christian, and Secular scholars who edit or edited for Readers Digest: “The Bible Through the Ages.” ISBN numbers: 0895778726, 9780895778727.
What I liked most about this book, and still do, is that it is compiled from MANY different sources and experts, not just one.
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P.S. I’m thrilled you are reading that book Jeff. I’m impressed Sir! 👍
Does it have pictures? If so,I may read it as well.
Mine didn’t so I drew some in the margins. Birds, cats, and some puppies.
Improv! I like it!
Maybe you should email Bart and ask him to publish a colouring book version or a join-the-dots one?
join the dots to make Jeebus float into Heaven; then color him as a white guy, and bingo! You get the next book Bart writes absolutely free!
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Having read this post a second time, I had the same thoughts I commented on before … (amazing consistency!) and I had another, namely: Yahweh created Adam as an adult. Why would He make Jesus slog through being a child and teenager (All that masturbation!) to get to the point of his mission. Even the gospels have a roughly 17 year gap in the story (even if they invented the first parts). It is clear that Mark’s story makes more sense. Jesus was a guy and then when baptized by John he received his holy mission/commission. But that wasn’t godly enough. Jesus couldn’t just be a prophet, he had to be god his effing self! So, why did himself make himself experience 30 years of humanity (did He not know what that was like) before he could do his thang?
The whole story is stupid and not becoming of an all-knowing god. Can you imagine the uproar is a man emerges from a mud puddle (he did it before) and then spoke? Telling us he had a message from god? Imagine that happening at every mud hole on the planet! Now that would be worthy if an all-powerful god, this Bible business is pathetically unimpressive.
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Pingback: Saul the Apostate – Part IV | The Professor's Convatorium
Wow! A lot of work went into this. Just a few comments:
Bethlehem was a small town.
– “Trinitarianism” by deduction? It is only a concept developed in the centuries following Christ’s death.
Christians do not believe Jesus was born on the 25th December.
Really? St Ignatius says in ca. 107/110 A.D. ” Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” That’s nearly three centuries earlier.
The official split between Rome and Constantinople was in 1054, and it is only in the 8th century that divisions became severe.
You use a good word at the beginning of your article to describe some speculative assertions: Conjecture. It pretty much describes to the whole post.
First, thanks for your comment WSA. I’ll gladly tackle each line of your comment.
Yes it was. Why did you not be a lot more specific so we wouldn’t waste as much time? Okay, nonetheless I will assume you are passively contending (unsure?) what the reasonable number of slaughtered babies would be. I can certainly help you with your vacillation since the Gospels are vague, ambiguous, and absolutely no help with such a monumental massacre that no less deserved being mentioned (for some reason?) in Matthew 2. Josephus doesn’t even bother with the event in any of his accounts.
The Eastern Orthodox Church (Byzantine Church), including the Orthodox Church in America clearly state in their liturgy it was 14,000 infant boys. Egyptian/Arabic sources (Coptic) total it at 144,000 and Syrian Saints total them at 64,000. What do YOU say the number was WSA? And provide your specific source for your number please.
The ultimate problem here is that just because King Herod was a ruthless ruler doesn’t prove that baby Bethlehem boys were slaughtered, especially since there is NO non-Gospel accounts recording any such event in Bethlehem. Therefore, Matthew 2 is an embellishment by much later Greco-Roman Christological scribes. Unreliable.
No, not deduction. Not sure where you extrapolated that. If Christians of the 3rd-century CE (and later) claim their Savior-Messiah from Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism (STSJM) and all those Hebrew texts — which absolutely involves all the prophecies of THEIR Messiah/Christ they lay claim to (hijack?) — then authentic STSJM scriptures must be kept properly interpreted. As a simple explanation to what I’m demarcating, read this Jewish thorough explanation FROM Jewish scholars and Rabbis… all of it:
Those Jewish scholars/Rabbis explicitly state regarding the Greco-Roman invention of the Trinity:
Additionally, read carefully their sub-section “Jewish Objections” about this UNFOUNDED Scriptural concept of God.
Yes, developed by Saul of Tarsus (not a true representative of Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teachings) but of his own invention for Hellenic Gentiles — ironically something the Hellenist Jews and the Syro-Palestinian sectarian Jews (Jesus’ affiliations) already had an inclusive protocol for Gentiles wishing to join Judaism in Synagogues: the Noachian Commandments. Hence, Saul’s/Paul’s new fangled mysticism did not line-up with Jesus’ teaching and Torah-following lifestyle or Kingdom of God on Earth. I am more than happy to point you to these abundant sources regarding Saul’s Apostate Trinitarianism, which includes ALL later Patristic Fathers of what later became the Roman Catholic Church.
Hahahaha. WHICH Christians exactly are you referring to? Please be specific with breakdowns of those who do and don’t along with your sources. Thanks.
Sorry, you missed the over all point WSA. What is happening in the Roman Empire at that time, the heavily Hellenistic Roman Empire that Saul of Tarsus is from and promotes (not Yeshua/Jesus) is distorting and maligning is the Yahweh/God of Moses or the Torah, or even the Jerusalem or Babylonian Talmuds of which the Essenes, Ebionites, and many other Sectarian Jews (that Jesus certainly affiliated with) and taught about the Messiah and the Kingdom of God on Earth thru Israel was NOT what Saul/Paul propagandized! Palestinian Jews DID NOT ACCEPT any of Saul’s/Paul’s bizarre teachings and this is demonstrated even in the canonized New Testament, Acts 21:21 for example:
This perfectly explains Saul’s/Paul’s many New Testament vendetta-like anti-Semitic passages, especially in Romans.
The point and problem was that St. Ignatius didn’t unite even the Greco-Roman Gentile Christians and he had serious opposition too, e.g. Gnostics and Orthodox Jews, and considered Ignatius a heretic, ignorant of the exegesis of Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 44:6. See this article for introductory details:
Not that splitting hairs is necessary here and proves nothing, I’m very, VERY interested to read your source for 1054 as the “official split.” Please provide it.
Meanwhile, how then would you describe the partitioning after Constantine’s death in 337 amongst Constantius, Fausta, Constantine the 2nd, Constans, and Dalmatius? Furthermore, how would you explain Attila the Hun’s conquests against Rome in the West (Gaul and Cisalpina or N. Italy) and his alliance with the Constantinople Court in 451?
But again, this is ultimately irrelevant to the problematic non-Jesus, non-Jewish God/Yahweh being divided in any fashion that the Tanakh clearly does not teach, no matter what Ignatius dreamt up or any Patristic Fathers reimagined 300-400 years later. If a new movement/religion that is Greco-Roman in nature (Apotheosis), then do not claim ownership of ancient Hebrew texts and Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism. Stand alone on one’s OWN merits.
Personal opinions are fine. In my post here I included sources/references and I’ve included more sources/references here in my comment-reply for you to verify WSA in your own further, equitable research. Otherwise, your “conjecture” is no more valid than you claim/assert mine is. However, you’ve offered no sources/references other than an inference to Ignatius. That is a bibliography that is severely lacking, if I’m perfectly honest. Hence, you’ve merely expressed your personal opinion and probably bias too. 😉
Thanks for the comment WSA. I hope it remains civil and productive from here on out.
Thanks for a comprehensive reply Prof.
Number of children killed by Herod in and around Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was a rather small town. Knabenbauer estimates fifteen or twenty (Evang. S. Matt., I, 104), Bisping to ten or twelve (Evang. S. Matt.), Kellner to about six (Christus und seine Apostel, Freiburg, 1908); cf. “Anzeiger kath. Geistlichk. Deutschl.”, 15 Febr., 1909, p. 32.
Christians will interpret their scriptures for themselves if you don’t mind, we don’t need Jewish or atheistic/agnostic interpretations.
Jesus born on 25 December.
I’ve never heard of this strange idea that Jesus was born on 25 December, it is not Catholic nor Protestant, and I doubt it would be Orthodox. You work out how relevant it is overall if it exists.
St Ignatius and the Catholic church.
St Ignatius’ words stand, as well as the witness of the Church Fathers about church hierarchy and deference to Rome. Your rewrite of history and conspiracy theories about Paul are conjecture.
Date of the Split between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia says,
I’ll attempt to read the next post soon.
WSA, I want to politely remind and reframe/redirect the purpose of this dialogue here. You asked me on Ark’s blog-post “What post do you suggest I should read? I would be particularly interested to hear about particular reasons for deconversion.” I answered with three blog-posts for starters. These 3 posts (and others) will cumulatively extensively explain why I deconverted. It is historically based and it is biblically based, the latter being extremely problematic and unreliable. As long as you keep this in perspective — i.e. my deconversion was based historically & biblically — and NOT turn it personally on me (a diversionary tactic) or implying it is MY foolishness and/or ignorance, I will not consider that an insult to my education, background, experiences, and 28+ years of hard work to check, recheck, and double-check from SEVERAL various standpoints (not just from ONE viewpoint like Catholic!) and Independent sources. However, if you are unable to keep the dialogue firmly on the historical and biblical basis my patience with that diversionary tactic upon my person will only be tolerated for a short time. Let’s keep the dialogue, contentions, and external subjects firmly on the history and biblical sources. Deal? 🙂
That said, I’ll address your second reply line-by-line…
I see here that you copied/pasted straight from the Catholic Answers Forum at this URL address:
Which those answers there are straight from the Catholic Encyclopedia. And for whatever reason(s) I had great difficulty trying to access the “Catholic Encyclopedia” online and after almost 2-hours of trying many different access points, my time to do this expired. However, I was able to find the ten Catholic contributors to this 20th-century encyclopedia:
• William Francis Barry – British Catholic
• John Chapman – Roman Catholic priest, England
• Charles De Smedt – Belgian Jesuit priest
• W. H. Grattan Flood – Irish Catholic musicologist
• Georges Goyau – French Catholic historian
• Frederick George Holweck – German-American Roman Catholic priest
• Johann Peter Kirsch – Luxembourgish Roman Catholic ecclesiastical historian
• William Turner – Irish Roman Catholic bishop
• John Hungerford Pollen – English Jesuit historian
• Herbert Thurston – English Jesuit liturgist
Ummmm, WSA? Not to be the least bit blunt or disrespectful, BUT… is it safe to say that there is some heavy Catholic bias here from your answers to the slaughter of the innocents (Bethlehem boys)?
Regarding those three vague references/names within your Bethlehem casuality numbers by Knabenbauer, Bisping, and Kellner:
• Joseph Knabenbauer was a German Roman Catholic scholar
• Bisping? Who is this? Is it safe to assume he was also Roman Catholic? Hahahaha.
• Kellner? I’m assuming this is Ján Kellner, the Slovak Catholic priest (b. Dec. 1912 – d. July 1941)?
But nevertheless, all of this copy/paste info you’ve given is not only STRICTLY Catholic (bias), it is merely conjecture and again, demonstrates no reliable veracity to Matthew’s Gospel, Chap. 2. In fact, Fr. Charles Grondin (a Catholic too) states himself:
Once again, and trying not to belabor the important point here, Matthew 2 is not reliable for at least two reasons: 1) there is no mention whatsoever in any Independent sources (i.e. non-Catholic, non-Christian) verifying this slaughter, and 2) even Christian/Catholic numbers vary from 6 boys to 14,000 boys. Without question that is highly suspect and unreliable!
Also, please refrain from hasty, vague copying/pasting from your Catholic sources without providing specific, discernible information. Thank you WSA. Additionally and for future discussions, you WILL NEED TO PROVIDE other non-Catholic, non-Christian, INDEPENDENT historical sources that are also verifiable. Thank you.
WOW! Now I must say, that flippant brush-off is not only audacious, but hints of pious elitism if I’m perfectly honest. That is analogous to you disowning your own biological parents as null-and-void. 😮 You will never be able to do that no matter what cognitive circus you go through; they are your parents, YOU are a byproduct of them… from at least birth to say 17-18 years old. Thus, Christianity can NEVER completely sever its umbilical-chord from Judaism! Christianity NEEDS the Hebrew Scriptures and context. Period. No debate. So I’ll assume you didn’t mean it that way. 😉
But to further establish my point here, how would you elaborate on these two New Testament passages:
And you claim that “…we don’t need Jewish or atheistic/agnostic interpretations“??? Really? Is not Isaiah a Jewish/Hebrew book of Scripture that Christians rely on… heavily? And we don’t need “…atheistic/agnostic interpretations“??? Then what is going on WSA when anyone and everyone have a Bible and read it? Is “God” absent from His Word when a non-Catholic reads it? I’m VERY interested in your answers here.
You are actually making my point and perhaps don’t realize it. You are unsure and also say Catholics, Protestants, and MAYBE Orthodox Believers are too. What an odd, but very telling response. So what is going on all over the world, especially the Western Hemisphere, when Nativity Scenes are EVERYWHERE on church lawns, residential home lawns, and for most of the month of December stories after stories to adults and children convey the exact same theme every year on Dec. 25th!? In your words what does this Nativity tradition every Dec. 25th represent WSA? And if everybody that does it is WRONG, as you are hinting, WHERE did this confusion and widespread duping/tricking originate? Please answer that.
Hahahaha! Another flippant brush-off dismissal. Again, that really does hint/smell of pious elitism. There are billions of non-Catholics and non-Christians who (strongly?) disagree with you, Ignatius, and the Patristic Church Fathers. Besides, you, Ignatius, and those Church Fathers were/are self-described interpreters of supposed “divine things.” That doesn’t mean it is true in the least. It DOES project bodacious elitist piety. Perhaps you didn’t mean to convey that. 😉
Okay. All of that is one, maybe two viewpoints of history. But it is not the general consensus and again I think you might be unnecessarily splitting hairs for a weak side-issue that doesn’t address the growing fragmentation and eventual collapse of not just the Roman Empire, but the original “The Way” Movement by Yeshua’s/Jesus’ Jewish sect that included his biological brother James (the Just). After the fall of Masada (73-74 CE), the authentic teachings of Palestinian Sectarian Jews of Messianism at that time (Jesus’ as well) were lost. Hence, the predictable confusion and splitting for the next 700-900 years of both the Empire and the Christological Church. This is further corroborated by contemporaneous discoveries of manuscripts, archaeological evidence, and Independent scholarship such as the Dead Sea Scrolls to name one non-Christian non-Hellenic source/library. Therefore WSA, it is not conjecture on my part.
I think if you got outside of your apparent heavy Catholic bias and Catholic sources, you’ll soon find that what I have written here is anything BUT conspiracy theories and conjecture. You’d actually and truthfully find that the “Catholic lens” is by no means the one and only lens to examine Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism and the seedlings and first roots of what later became (much much later) the Greco-Roman Catholic Church and Apotheosis. But I can’t make you do what you don’t want to do, can I? 😉
Take your time on the other posts. Feel free to ask questions, productive relevant questions and I do strongly recommend you venture outside of your Catholic walls and into the vast libraries of Independent evidence and scholarship.
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Tks for that. I’ll try to be as brief as I can.
Fr. Charles Grondin is quite right. “All someone can do is estimate the population of Bethlehem at the time and extrapolate”. That is the way to do it. 14,000 boys. Orthodox liturgy is not Catholic.
In general I will provide Catholic sources. If I want to learn maths, I go to a maths teacher. If I want to know something about atheism, I talk to atheists, etc. It’s not rocket science.
You say: “Christianity NEEDS the Hebrew Scriptures and context.“
The Hebrew scriptures ARE part of the bible. They are part of the Christian scriptures, and Christians interpret them on their own, by all means looking at historical, cultural, and other relevant factors. Jews do not interpret the old testament for Christians any more than they interpret the Koran for Muslims, nor do you.
You say: “Is “God” absent from His Word when a non-Catholic reads it? I’m VERY interested in your answers here.”
A very interesting question. First, what do you mean by God’s word? It has a variety of meanings for Christians. Among other things, the Word of God is Jesus incarnate, the “Logos” of John 1. The Word of God is God’s Creative Word which created and maintains the universe. The inspiration which God gave to the prophets is the Word of God. And also the Word that he plants in our heart: “Yahweh declares. Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people.” Jer 31:33. Jesus’ oral preaching is the Word of God, as well as the teaching of his apostles. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 — “[W]hen you received the word of God which you heard from us,) The church’s teaching is the Word of God. “Luke 10:16 “16 ‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.'” –
But I assume that you are referring to the bible, which is indeed the Word of God. It should be clear from the above that a non Christian can have access to the “Word of God”. But as you move towards God by doing his will (what is good) then you move into greater light, and your spiritual senses are awakened further. By responding to God’s grace, your eyes are opened and your understanding increases.
You say: “what does this Nativity tradition every Dec. 25th represent WSA? And if everybody that does it is WRONG,”.
It is not “wrong”, any more than celebrating your life with friends and family on the day you were born (generally a date that you know) as opposed to the day you were conceived (generally a date that you don’t know). No one is looking for (scientific) precision here.
I certainly did not mean to convey “bodacious elitist piety.” But the scriptures are God’s revelation to Christians, they have an experience of Jesus, the Holy Spirit dwells in them, and they study the Word of God, comment on it, reflect on it, discuss it, meditate on it, read those who have a greater understanding than them, etc. If you have no faith, you do not have to go there, if you are not searching, you don’t have to look there. But if you want to learn about the Christian faith, not merely as an academic exercise, talk to Christians, go to Christians, and learn from them.
There are many professors of divinity in our universities who are very knowledgeable, know the bible backwards, speak Hebrew and Greek, are conversant with ancient history, etc. To them the bible is book, like any other. They shall never be able to pierce its mysteries. Those looking at the bible from a critical perspective will see only a dead thing, the bible a dead book. What they see in it will only reflect their lack of faith. Faith is not something you can buy, acquire, demand; it is a gift, and for those who sincerely seek, they will find it. Hebrews 4:12-13 — “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare”.
The Orthodox/Catholic split is a side issue.
I can see this line of dialogue is coming to or needs to come to an end. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that American English is NOT your 1st or native language, is it? That is an honest genuine question, not to offend. 🙂 And WordPress formatting and HTML formatting are not your strong-suits either, right? Perhaps you are new to WordPress and HTML coding on the internet? It does take a long while to master them. 🙂
But this line of dialogue is also coming to an end because you are not answering specifically my specific questions to you. I’ve counted 3-4 (or more?) unanswered or avoided questions by you. I believe I have shown the courtesy of answering your one initial question of me, about my particulars of fervent, in the Spirit, 100% committed 11+ years of Christian life, service, and faith… then deconversion. But then, that is the one and only question you’ve asked of me over on Ark’s blog-post up to this point.
So I was under the impression on his blog that YOU wanted to read some of my posts and ask ME questions FIRST — to gain thorough understanding of MY journey — rather than challenging things about my 11+ years of fervent, in the Spirit, 100% committed, excellent seminary education, Christian life and faith… then deconversion. But you are not asking or have yet to ask multiple questions to gain first the understanding. It appears you are merely here to try and correct someone who you don’t know at all… because you are NOT asking near enough questions. Do you realize how that comes across to me and any of my readers here?
I will study, consider, and address your two latest replies — a small bit of time tonight — but it will be tomorrow before they are posted/published here. Today was a very busy, draining day for me… in a good way, fortunately! 🙂
English is not my native language, I’m not sure what that implies, and I am new to WordPress.
I’m sorry if I’ve missed some of your questions, and am happy to go there. It would help if you could repeat them for me.
However, I cannot do everything at the same time. So far I read the first post you asked me to read, and obviously that’s what I’m commenting on. I presume the others you gave me are about your deconversion. When I read those, I’ll comment on that and ask you relative questions..
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Thanks for answering about your native language. I appreciate that.
In trying to better understand YOUR style of writing/language — which I quickly deduced/inferred was not American English, or perhaps not even English at all — I used WordPress’s available internet data and IP address for all Commenters on one’s blog.
Your IP address indicates you are using an internet provider in Perth, Australia. But those don’t always mean a user is actually INSIDE that area or native to that region or country. So I thought maybe you were not yet thoroughly familiar with American English (vs. UK English) and our/my colloquialisms, grammatical structures, etc. I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt for possible/probable innocent misunderstandings.
What does it imply or have to do with our subject here? It just helps me better communicate with you IF I have at least a basic understanding of YOUR language style. That way I will try to be cognizant of complicated writing, terms, etc, that American (Southern/Southwest – Dallas, Texas specifically) English-speakers are very use to and know. Make sense?
I believe you can scroll up and reread our exchanges and find those questions… of course with the “?” mark at the end. 😉 Let me know if those comment-exchanges are not visible.
Regarding my other two posts I suggested to you… yes, they offer more resolution/focus and more context/background to (along with several others) my last 3-decades of further study, experiences, discussions, debates, etc, with Christians from around the world and here in the U.S. and Texas. However, if there is something you are not sure you fully understand… then ask me. I honestly am a wide-open book about who I am now, how utterly thrilled and happy I am — couldn’t be better! — and try my best to find multiple avenues of engaging all sorts of people no matter their location, race, creed, beliefs, personal opinions, and make this world a much better place than it was when I eventually leave it! 🙂
Alright, good night WSA. Til tomorrow. 👍
Thanks for that excellent reply Prof.
Apart from not being a native speaker, I do not have a very verbose style and have a tendency to abbreviate or use incomplete sentences when it does not affect the meaning. I don’t detect from my side any difficulty in following your English, which is quite excellent.
I’m glad that you have found meaning and happiness where you are now. A person can only follow their conscience, that’s the primary call.
Here are the questions I could find, and some answers.
I did not judge this a very important issue, the number of boys killed by Herod.
I have no particular interest in this topic, but if we assume that there were 1,000 people living in that area, of whom one sixth were women of childbearing age, say 170, and that they on average had five children , that’s 850, divided by say 25 years of fertility, that gives us 34, times two for children under two, that makes 68. Now, that’s pretty much a wild guess. I’ll leave it to the experts to work it out.
For what it’s worth: “WF Albright, who was considered a primary archaeologist of his era, did some extensive research on populations at the time of Jesus. His estimate is around 300 for a village the size of Bethlehem holding 6 or 7 children under 1 year of age.”
Catholics don’t believe Jesus was born on Dec 25th. Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and members of the Churches of Christ do not celebrate Christmas, as well as many Pentacostals and Evangelicals. That’s a start. I’m pretty sure the Orthodox, who have so much in common with the Catholic church, don’t. It’s really not necessary to write a treatise on it.
Let me know if I’ve missed some.
The event or incident — whatever anyone wants to imply and call it — of the Bethlehem slaughter (or not) is one in a long list of many other Gospel incongruencies, ambiguity, and erroneous statements/claims when they are compared to authenticated and/or most plausible, cumulative history of the region, characters, cultures, Empires, and time-periods.
The many errors, incongruencies, ambiguity, and problematic (to be kind) explanations or apologetics of such confusing Gospel narrations AS the slaughter in Bethlehem — and your own added uncertainty of factual details corroborates — clearly demonstrate overall: the Gospels are NOT infallible from a pure, divinely breathed, perfect “God” as most fundamental-evangelical Christians propose, but instead are unreliable stories written by imperfect, subjectively and geopolitically, religiously biased MEN some 4, 7, and 9-decades AFTER the actual events happened. Mistakes throughout.
In such a violent, volatile, oppressive area and time-period where ROME and her Imperial rule and Hellenic culture controlled just about every aspect of Judaen, Syro-Palestinian, Egyptian, Anatolian life… stamped their ultimate, brutal victory TWICE during the infancy/childhood of a fledgling tiny Jewish-sectarian ascetic reform movement Yeshua and his students were part of. That was in 74 CE (the genocide of Judaen Jews and the fall of Masada) and 136 CE (the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt). Hence, the Victor writes history the way they see fit. Palestinian sectarian Jews were wiped out, including the remnants of the original Jewish “The Way” Movement. A new Hellenic-Roman version was written and spoken about. That “Spring cleaning” if you will, most certainly included the survived, primary portions of the Synoptic Gospels and the much later Gospel of John laden with various historical pseudo-facts (and errors) recklessly thrown in. The Acts of the Apostles is even worse with more bad pseudo-facts and errors.
Therefore and to conclude, the poorly inserted ambiguous Bethlehem slaughter represents just one of MANY demonstrations of the Gospel of Mark and the other three Gospels that as a whole are NOT reliable factual history. They are but merely sensationalized Hellenic-Judaen story-telling with a specific Roman-religious agenda in mind, primarily Saul’s/Paul’s Herodian-Jewish twists. His Christology is easily believed in mystical ways of individual Gentile “faith,” not from the original Yeshua/Jewish teachings and most certainly not Universal truth. One or two TINY socioreligious cultures inside a vast bigger world of many cultures does not make the Gospels perfectly true for all humanity. They are only four blurred lenses about esoteric, obscure, incomplete, amalgamations of two convoluted socioreligious cultures (Jewish and Judeo-Christian), a failed Messiah-caricature and his followers/students, and heavily influenced, controlled, and manipulated, by a more powerful Greco-Roman Empire.
So WSA, despite your downplaying of the event, it’s actually why this ambiguous Gospel entry IS IN FACT critical support to a bigger conclusion that the four Gospels are a production of unreliability. I support this in much greater detail on my page “Why Christianity Will Always Fail.”
Perhaps, again(?), I did not clearly state my explicit question(s) and the implied/inferred need to dig deeper into the problematic, erroneous Nativity stories and early life of Jesus/Yeshua… one of the major points of this blog-post AND a big reason why you and I started this dialogue! So, again in a different way…
In light of the proclaimed importance of Jesus’ birth by the early Roman Catholic Church and all following churches to and beyond the Protestant Reformation, etc, etc, IT IS NECESSARY (in treatise form if necessary!) to study the origins of Christmas or “Christ Mass” to further show the confusing unreliability of the four Gospels. I guess in a way your caution and apathy of Christ-mass details, its date, and enormous implications of the Nativity — within God’s purpose for a Lamb of God — is actually proving MY POINT and reflects the exact same apathy and confusion I encountered in 1991 – 1992 (and since) from every single seminary professor, iconic Christian theologians (R.C. Sproul to name one), church ministers, elders, and deacons, so on and so on… is a demonstration of just how maligned, ambiguous, and overlooked these contradictions and problems equate to HUMAN story-telling and not a perfect, God-breathed set of Gospels.
Christmas (Christ Mass) is an annual commemoration of the birth of “Christ.” Christmas is about all the celebrations around most Western civilizations during the month of December, with Nativity Scenes/Props everywhere on about every street and street-corner and at Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic churches in the United States, Italy, England, Germany, South Africa, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand (Western civ churches), Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, India (Oriental Orthodox churches), Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Slovenia, the Caucasus/Caucasia, and pockets of the old Ottoman Empire Near East (Eastern Orthodox churches). So I would say that among “Christians” around a massive portion of the world, Nativity/Christmas/Christ Mass… is a storied concept with horribly vague, pseudo-historical non-facts. HAH! No wonder there are so many different dates, versions, and interpretations… even in the Roman and Eastern Churches!
What a convoluted mess. And it all started because the Gospels obviously didn’t get it right! Even in the 4th-century CE Pope Julius I, who set the exact date for Dec. 25th, and St. Gregory Nazianzen (Greek Orthodox) was worried about all the many Pagan traditions and festivals contaminating the Nativity. Yet, most generic pseudo-church attending Christians have absolutely no clue about this chaos which authentic history bears out about a (their) failed Jewish Messiah. Worse still is 95% of “Christians” — perhaps you too WSA — have little clue or no clue about the FULL context of Jewish Messianism or Second Temple Sectarian/Palestinian Messianism which can NEVER be separated from Christianity. Never!
Alright, now I’m off to answer/reply to your last comments from yesterday.
Thanks for this excellent, revealing dialogue WSA. 🙂
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What a lot of nonsense. You write well, it is a pity to waste such good talent.
Ahh, thank you for the “good talent” compliment! But I simply ride on the shoulders of many other great, brilliant humans in a kaleidoscope of expertise; many, multitudes!
A person is certainly entitled to their own personal subjective opinions — unless of course they do the extensive work and explain, in treatise form if necessary, why and how they believe they own exclusive jurisdiction of truth, go the distance and not quit so easily! — but your curt brush-off here shows you are not interested. That’s perfectly fine.
Nevertheless, thank you kindly for your participation here and what you helped reveal. 😉
Best regards to you WSA.
All the best Prof.
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When there is unfounded division between two people(s) or even pointless demarcations of superior/inferior, saved/unsaved, Jew/Christian, Christian/Muslim, or God/Devil — complete utter TRUE non-sense between human beings from the same planet, from the same identical natal birthing with all the exact same basic needs for survival — what helps most for attaining unity, success, and a better life together is doing EXACTLY what Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis (a high ranking Ku Klux Klan leader) committed to do WITH each other over many years to finally accomplish what was best for the greater good for the greatest number! Watch the entire 4-minute clip closely, if you can, for a civil, encouraging parting send-off: 🙂
Fear stifles, courage fulfills. Treating others equally is really the only way to START making life and death together more pleasant, acceptable, and endurable when done together, not divided. ❤
Jesus continually stressed:”Do not be afraid”. He repeated it over and over, more than any other admonition. An yes we are all made in the image of God in Christian understanding, and that introduces a radical equality between all, as well as a concept of personhood which was completely absent in pre Christian times, when women and children as well as slaves were regarded as chattels belonging to the head of the household, male. In the end what matters is the truth. Missing from your list above is that a Christian is the same as an atheist. If that were true, why would you continually vilify Christianity?
Hmmm, question. In light of what you state is “radical equality between all“… what all does this mean when (supposedly) Jesus/Yeshua the “Son of God” said…
Is that radical FULL EXHAUSTIVE equality between all on Earth?
That radical equality profoundly changed the culture of the time to a more just equitable and humane society over time. As Jesus’ quote, this is what the church teaches:
“”Outside the Church there is no salvation”
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?
335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”338
Hmm, thanks WSA.
You could have just simply given me/us the internet link to what you’ve copied/pasted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as such:
That would’ve sufficed. Anyway, at my Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS) we had the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, i.e. very similar extensive commitment to full understanding of God’s Scriptures, inside and out, through and through. So I am very familiar already with what you’ve copied/pasted. But I was asking YOU personally, not the Catholic Church. 🙂
Or you could have also just simply stated this:
That too would have had the same cold, flippant insensitivity as the copied/pasted Catholic Catechism. Nonetheless, “Outside the Church there is no salvation” does not ring equality, in the full sense, not in the least. That is divisive and elitist language, not inclusive equality.
I think we’ve exhausted our dialogue now. Thank you for your participation here WSA. It was most certainly… REVEALING… on many points.
Best regards to you.
That’s the same sort of reply I got from a flat earth zealot, but of course he also misrepresented my reply (he also edited the guts out of it) and also deleted my last comment. So the world goes round, for the show.
Good luck anyway.
I have to be honest, that is a bizarre strange reply.
Flat Earth zealot? Since I am not at all a proponent of a “flat Earth” nor am I a “zealot” in the probable connotation of a religious zealot… I fail to see how this reply has anything to do with Catechisms or how “Outside the [Catholic?] Church there is no salvation” which I find is in essence extreme inequality, divisive, and elitist language. The exact opposite of what you are saying is radical equality.
Misrepresented your reply? Hmm, okay, then I’ll ask the question again differently and you are welcome to try again in your own words, not thru copying/pasting from the Catholic Catechisms…
What does “Outside the Church there is no salvation” mean exactly for all human beings who are apparently and “radically equal” as you said Jesus made us?
Read the passage I gave you, and engage with it, then we can take this further.
Sorry WSA. I am unable to stay on the merry-go-round. It is exactly the reason (out of many many more) I deconverted in 1991-1992 and ever since. Staying on that merry-go-round (and this one here) gets one and everyone nowhere.
Thanks for the dialogue. It revealed much.
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Apologies for jumping in, but if I may take up something here.
The Word of God is God’s Creative Word which created and maintains the universe.
That’s all well and good, but you’re simply describing a speculative arrangement between the actual and synthetic worlds. That’s fine, you’re free to propose this presumptive architecture, this hypothetical configuration, but you’re not actually explaining anything, least of all WHY the synthetic world exists—in the manner that it exists—in the first place.
Given the Creator didn’t need to create , why did the aseitic Creator deliberately create this quarantined, evolving, artificial world 13.8 billion years ago? For what purpose was the world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off, evolving material scape?
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No apology necessary John. The more perspectives and diverse backgrounds the BETTER, in my opinion! 😁 That way it allows us, the individuals, to think on our own and make our OWN decisions. So please feel free to “jump in” whenever you’d like Sir.
Those are excellent questions at the end John. Thank you! I do hope WSA has the opportunity to answer them. 🙂
A good question, and I wouldn’t mind discussing this further.. We don’t usually think along those lines.
A Christian understanding would be out of love, as God is love.
Yes, it is a good question. Indeed, I’d say it is the most important question of them all; the one that should keep you up at night and haunt your every waking moment. Given that, I find your admission (we don’t usually think along those lines) somewhat baffling.
Now, I’m sorry, but ‘God is love’ doesn’t explain anything. It is also historically and theologically incoherent. You seem to be suggesting something similar to Aquinas’s ‘goodness spilled out’ (bonum diffusivum sui), but we know this is wrong. An aseitic being cannot “open” and spread out. An aseitic being cannot leak into something new, for that would contradict the very definition of aseity. Something artificial was created… something wholly separate from the aseitic being, and we know this because this world is sealed between the three things an aseitic being could never directly experience, but could impose on an artificial scape: a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Self-evidently, this world was not some sort of an inevitable accident. It was created deliberately.
So, the question remains: Given the Creator didn’t need to create, WHY does this synthetic world exist—in the manner that it exists—in the first place? For what purpose was the world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off, evolving material scape?
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John, excellent theological insight and existential questions. 👍
In the past I have heard/read many, many Apologist answer those questions in various circular ways, but their answers typically come back to ‘God’s incomprehensible mysteries and us lowly (depraved?) humans will always reach our created (vs. Creator’s) or designed mental limitations when it comes to grasping His infinite nature.’ Which is fine, I guess, IF and only if Christians place themselves in the exact identical condition. And THAT is the baffling part (and more circular) when it comes to their “special” Scriptural exegesis/hermetical gifts (gifted only to them) over a non-Believer’s LACK of exegesis/hermetical gifts. It is truly a cop-out and a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole. Hahaha. 😄
And John, care to guess what the Christian Apologist’s typical answer/attitude is to me when I tell them about my 11+ years of my 100% surrender to Him and His admission requirements and subsequent 100% dedication to everything Christian AND the “Holy Spirit’s” blessings upon me during those 11+ years? Can you guess?
Later amendment/addition here:
And there we go. As I’m reading up above WSA’s last reply to me about the “equality” implied in John 14:6, he answers EXACTLY with what I’ve heard/read a million times or more:
My truly committed with immense conviction 11+ years… now means nothing, zilch, it’s bogus B.S. like it never happened… according to them, other (equal? unequal?) humans! 😄 That’s when it all starts to sound/appear like a Mafia scheme or living in a harsh Police-State (e.g. North Korea) where you are either 100% inside and supernaturally gifted, or you are 100% ostracized with no more special membership privileges or Spirit. Nothing in between exists. And then…
we secularists/pagans or non-Believers are indiscriminately thrown back on that never-ending circular merry-go-round that Christians can freely come and go as they please, etc, etc, ad nauseum! 😄 Is that the “God-love” that so many of them liberally talk about, but is often hard to find amongst them?
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That’s easy. You were never a TrueChristian™
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Hahaha… man, if I had a dollar for every time I was told that, you know where I’d be living John and how!? 😆👑🤑💰💰💰💰💰
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You put this very well: “Something artificial was created… something wholly separate from the aseitic being, and we know this because this world is sealed between the three things an aseitic being could never directly experience, but could impose on an artificial scape: a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Self-evidently, this world was not some sort of an inevitable accident. It was created deliberately.”
I won’t go into “could never directly experience”, but it is beyond the scope of our discussion anyway.
I am not currently “searching”, so this is not something that keeps me “up at night and haunts” my “every waking moment.”
In a few words, I do think that God created the universe out of love. In a Christian context, creating Adam and Eve in his own image, putting them in the garden of Eden in a secure relationship with him. (Let’s not go into the literal sense of Genesis too much, it’s a distraction), giving them free will, and putting them to the test. And rescuing man after he loses his way, so as to bring his plan to a successful conclusion.
Just out of interest, St Augustine wrote, ca A.D. 401-415, “Just as all those things, which, through the seasons, develop in the tree, were already present but invisible in its seed, so too it is to be understood of the world: that when God created all things at once, it had in it all the things which were made by him …….. before they make their appearance in the course of time.”( The literal interpretation of Genesis , -5, 33, 45) A precursor of the idea of evolution it seems.
I do think that God created the universe out of love
All well and good, but again, that does not explain anything, and without knowing why this world exists, in the manner that it exists, your entire worldview (your ontological foundation) is not only irreparably incoherent, but historically absurd. For example, could a designer of extraordinary compassion and unlimited means oversee a world where the very mechanisms necessary to physically experience something beginning to resemble ‘happiness’ (enkephalin and opioid receptors) would not even exist in the world before some 3.5 billion years of terrestrial evolution had passed and untold billions of generations of living things had suffered enormously without as much as the hope of corporeal relief? If the Creator is “Love,” then why was happiness not possible from the very beginning?
WHY evolution? What possible rational reason could the Creator have had to invent—literally invent—that slow, messy, painful, error-rich process? What conceivable purpose does this predatory petri dish serve to a fully complete, supposedly gentle, loving entity?
These are critical questions, and to put it simply: If your worldview is to be taken seriously, if it is to be considered coherent, then it must explain the world that is, not stand in contradiction to it.
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You have a human mind. Pretty weak stuff I think you’ll agree. You can’t even begin to comprehend – nor can I – God’s design and the ultimate end of things. You don’t have the data. So don’t even try.
No, I don’t agree.
It seems to me that you can’t reconcile physical reality with what you *want* to believe, so you ignore it.
Now, I ask you: What do you call a worldview that can’t account for the world?
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Can’t account for the world?
Did I miss your explanation for why this artificial world exists, in the manner that it exists?
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And just a note on Augustine: 80% of all mutations are harmful to an organism’s fitness. Does 80% speak to competent guidance, or randomness? Also, I assume you believe Yhwh to not only be competent but also caring. From a historical perspective, does ‘competent’ and ‘caring’ translate to, for example, the Great Oxygen Catastrophe 2.5 billion years ago which killed off virtually all life on earth, but created an oxygen-rich atmosphere which enabled multicellular life to take root? Any rational person would conclude, No; having to kill off virtually all life because you stupidly got the atmosphere wrong does not indicate competence or mindfulness.
When applied to the actual world, you can see, obviously, how your worldview is thoroughly incoherent. It does not explain the world that is, has been, and will be, and without that, you seem not to be in possession of an explanatory model, rather a pantomime.
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Refer to my previous comment.
What has that to do with 80% of all mutations being harmful to an organism’s fitness? What does that have to do with the Great Oxygen Catastrophe? What does that have to do with the physical mechanisms necessary to experience ‘happiness’ not even being present in this world until some 250 million years ago?
It appears actual history disturbs you.
So again, by your display here, you are not in possession of an explanatory model, rather a pantomime which survives ONLY IF you keep it isolated from the actual world.
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Is that NOT the primary setup and M.O. of any/all Police-States and straight out of a dictator’s playbook? The examples to this are historically endless!
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You assume that you have all the evidence to make a judgement, I don’t.
If you’re right, it does not matter, if I am , well, there’ll be consequences.
I have 13.8 billion years of evolutionary history to assess with an impartial eye and draw conclusions from. So do you. I gave you three things to explain in the context of your belief system. You couldn’t explain even one. If you can’t reconcile your worldview with physical history, then your worldview is—self-evidently—not an explanatory model, rather a pantomime.
If you were a rational player, this should disturb you. It should irritate you. It should keep you up at night, needling your every waking moment.
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I’ll leave you to your conclusions.
All the best.
I didn’t give you any conclusions. I asked you to explain three things in the context of your belief system. You couldn’t explain even one.
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there’ll be consequences … Oh yeah! Threats will do it every time. I’m sure John is totally convinced now.
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On another point too I had pop into my head about the value of “Independent” sources and analysis, not just one. It is an analogy I’ve use before with other staunch Christians.
Imagine for a minute you are a homicide detective/investigator and there has been a homicide/murder in a crowded park during a family reunion. There are witnesses everywhere, including family members. Now, as a reputable experienced homicide detective… is there just ONE reliable witness to the murder or is there more, many more? Also, is there physical evidence to reconstruct the crime or in your mind you’ve already decided before arriving at the scene there is no evidence whatsoever to collect?
Is it wise and fair to interview only ONE eye-witness… say the mother of the accused? Take every word from the mother as completely truthful and factual? Case closed, no other witnesses or evidence at the crime scene is necessary? Is that the most equitable method of investigating a murder or ancient story?
See my point? That is why all independent sources are just as important/critical as the mother’s testimony.
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Tks Prof. I appreciate your comment.
The only difference is that we are talking about faith here. There is no doubt that many non Christians can contribute to a greater understanding of the scriptures. Archeological finds, ancient customs, understanding of the old testament from Jews can shed some light about biblical texts, etc. But they can never determine Christian teachings, in the case of the Jews if only because they rejected Jesus as Messiah.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree with your assessment here of our dialogue so far without a lot more further questioning and defining of terms and context.
There are many various definitions of “faith” and what it is, what it consists of, or its manifested nature. One definition I am okay with is… “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” With the emphasized part, I would also accept “human intuition or choices based on past experiences and exposures and their connected positive or negative illicited emotions.” What I would also DEMAND be included in the “official authorized” definition of faith would be…
Or in four words: Approval to be lazy. And not have to do necessary laborious work, or addressing/confronting difficult realities for self, family, socially, and globally as a member of the entire Human Family. Simply throwing up one’s arms and quitting, and not physically cognitively working the problem for a collaborative solution or answer, but instead tossing it away to an unseen, unproven “God,” does not work in the mid-term or the long-term. Faith = Lazy.
And that sort of divisiveness and desire to be “set apart” as superior, elite… is a big reason/cause for MORE human suffering. As the renown, acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard Naturalist E.O. Wilson states: “Exclusion makes us suffer. Inclusion makes us thrive.” We are a gregarious, family-oriented, community-oriented species. Building walls and more walls eventually results in isolation on a remote island. Hence, I STRONGLY disagree with you there WSA. That type of language is harmful for unity, collaboration, and love.
And that is certainly only one TINY version of the authentic Yeshua/Jesus and Second Temple Sectarian/Palestinian Messianism and why you are having such difficulty in understanding the historical context of your “faith’s” first seedlings, roots, and budding. This shows a lack of fuller, authentic Independent knowledge of Jewish Messianism, specifically the ascetic/baptismal groups outside of Jerusalem: Essenes, Ebionites, Nasoraens, Zealots/Sacarii, and several others. We know MUCH MORE about these groups from the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran for example, which are completely independent of the Hellenic-Herodian Jews that the Romans much preferred… whose manuscripts and Greek mystical/apotheotic practices & doctrines eventually made up large portions of the New Testament, that is the 4th-century Hellenic canonized New Testament.
Therefore, as you can see WSA, we are actually far apart on exactly what “faith” means and what it consists of.
You say: “positive or negative” illicited”” emotions”, I suppose you mean “elicited”?
You say: “ I would also DEMAND”. You are not in a position to demand anything. Everyone is free to believe what they think fit.
If you are happy with your fiction, so be it.
Yes. And you can be happy in your fiction as well. Win win. 😉
Have a good evening or day… wherever you are. LOL 😛
Indeed they most certainly are! And this is something worth cherishing.
However, if they consider what they believe to be fact/truth and wish to impart these beliefs upon a wider audience they must be prepared to subject such beliefs to open, honest scrutiny, especially where it involves children, and offer up
evidence to fully support such beliefs.
It is for such reasons that Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design are regarded as pseudoscience and are not permitted to be be taught in state schools.
So, feel free to believe what ever you like, but if your claims fall short of what is regarded as recognised scientific, historic, and archaeological evidence then you should demonstrate sufficient integrity and keep such beliefs to yourself.
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We live (for the moment) in a free country.
Yes, we do, and the fact you have no respect for those – specifically children – who are often unable to marshal a defense against the nonsense you would peddle speaks volumes for your own personal lack of integrity.
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You are delusional.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. — Galatians 5:22-23 – RSV Catholic Ed
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ — Matthew 7:22-23 – RSV Catholic Ed
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves [spouting insults].” — Matthew 7:15 – RSV Catholic Ed
WSA, this is your first warning. If you were not aware of my Professor’s Netiquette page, here is the link:
I’ll try to steer clear of your site.
All the best.
I don’t think that steering clear in total absence is necessary either. One thing I have found with many (too many?) Christian apologists over the last 27-years is that generally non-Believers, secularists, or Free-thinking Humanists like myself are NOT attacking/criticizing you personally. It is the ideology that we are disturbed by and see many, many problems, ambiguity, and contradictions with Christendom as a whole, as an ideology and lifestyle.
And “Faith,” as I explained earlier, is simply not a verifiable, defensible or provable position/posture either. That’s where much of OUR frustration is directed… along with the aforementioned serious problems and fallacies found throughout the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. At least for me that criticism isn’t really directed specifically at the person, but the lifestyle paradigm. The way I view Christians is in many ways just like ANYBODY on the entire planet can be tricked into “buying” a lemon-car or a beach house in Antarctica, everybody can be tricked, to a degree, by an emotional or sensationalized, beguiling sales and marketing scheme. Everybody, including myself. We humans make mistakes all the time. We don’t need to make those mistakes so dramatically fatalistic. I hope that makes sense.
Best regards and you only received one warning. You are still welcomed to return.
Exactly how is stating that you have a lack of integrity for indoctrinating children with religious belief in any way delusional?
I know Prof has experience dealing with people suffering from certain mental illness and therefore I defer to his experience – and based solely on (him) reading our comments – which of the two of us would he consider is delusional.
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Pingback: Christ: The Roman Ruse | Dwain the Professor's Convatorium
This article could use a LOT of references. In fact, the lack of them makes great portions of the article to look entirely suspect.
Lines like this one increase the “suspicion” level:
“Personally, I do not give as much credibility to Roman-Jewish (Hellenic) sources such as Flavius Josephus or Saul of Tarsus, another Roman-Hellenic Jew. To align with the Historical Method, Jewish or Christian sources must be taken with a fair amount of caution. Therefore, what are we left with when Christian, Judeo-Christian, and Roman-Jewish-Hellenic sources are removed as biased or partially biased? Answer: purely Roman or non-Jewish, non-Christian sources.”
In this line (above), the author is stating a *personal* preference, and deciding on that basis that Tacitus is about the only reference to an historical Jesus. And, of course, it begs the question: What if the reader (like me, for example) has no concern whatsoever of the author’s personal preference?
The article calls to question many of the claims and pericopes in the Gospels, but, there are scant few (non-Christian) scholars that consider the Gospels as “historical”. Therefore, as one who agrees with this “non-historical” nature of the Gospels, and yet, considers himself Christian, I find such attempts to point out the errors, the inconsistencies, the contradictions (and so on) of the Gospels as something of a worthless exercise. “Those already in the know” already understand the Gospels should not be taken as reliable historical accounts. So, while such (exceedingly common) negative evaluations might be fun to repeat, ad nauseam, they are always *repeats*: alas, there is nothing new under the sun, including the Same Ol’ NT Criticisms. As such, this article provides little new information, except (of course) to readers who haven’t already read this same info elsewhere.
Another thing I find fascinating is how the author takes quotes from Christian’s writings on theological themes – (ie, Graham, Deffenbaugh, Bernhard) as if (I think?) they are speaking as historians (which they are not), and at the same time, will note Robert Eisenman’s almost-fully-rejected theories (regarding Essenes and info found in the Dead Sea Scrolls) as possibly providing some kind of insight as to the life of the historical Jesus, while on the other hand, the very highly-acclaimed Dr Bart Ehrman notes “The overwhelming consensus is that Jesus never had anything to do with this sect – the very strong majority of scholars continues to think that they were Essenes. But they were Jews with a very similar view of the world”.
Closing out this writing is a series of “rhetoricals” – a very over-used style among skeptics, which (on a purely personal level) I always find to be a bit exasperating: rather than ask “was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua — who John the Baptist, James his brother, and Simon/Peter knew well — not who he became to Saul/Paul in a blinding light on the Damascus Road and in Arabia? Was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua not who he became after the deadly Jewish-Roman Revolts? Was 1st-century Jesus/Yeshua not who he became during the internal conflict, corruption and decline of the Roman Empire up to Constantine?”, why would an author simply not take on each question (which he has obviously asked in his own mind, anyway) as the subject of a few sentences or a paragraph? What is the author asking ME for?
And, to *end* the article on rhetoricals… well… just as a matter of personal preference (which nobody else really need be concerned with), it does tend to grate on my nerves. I’d rather see a statement of some kind of “conviction” to wrap up a writing of this type: “There is no divine, miraculous God-man called Jesus Christ, which leaves Christianity as a sham.” (or, something along those lines). I suppose, from a purely *stylistic* point of view, I find the “rhetoricals” to be sort of passive-aggressive. I’d rather a writer just put his own view on the line, and let me agree or disagree. But, when the writer is asking me to provide the answer, I have to ask – (and thus, I get to end this review with a rhetorical) – “if he’s asking me for an answer, then what did I even read this for?”
Well this is quite the surprise. Very happy you decided to visit here Ftbond. I’d like it if you visited frequently. That said, since you and I have a history over on Gary’s blog—sometimes quite edgy, to put it diplomatically—I will ask you to please go and completely read my Professor’s Netiquette page before we engage in lengthy debate/dialogue here AND before I fully tackle your opined comment from the Christian point-of-view. Let me know here when you have.
Also, keep in mind Ft that most all of WordPress blogs are NOT official University scholars with professional-academic journal publications, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Those type publications demand unreasonable amounts of time (years?) to publish their work/findings to colleagues and peers for critical review, which also takes years; this is not what 90% of WordPress bloggers do, nor have the realistic time to write professional scholarly works in those journal publications. Does that mean there are not some WordPress blogs with degrees of professional, well-researched works? No, of course not. Awhile back I had wished YOU had a WP-blog you link to with your comments Ftbond so that the public could get at least a HINT, a small glimpse of your work and personal beliefs. But alas, you are a mystery, a shadow if you will, who pops up here and there to comment with no links to your citations or references, ever. Unless there are some somewhere you haven’t told us about over on Gary’s blog? Anyway…
Meanwhile, over the next few days I will gather my citations, references for my post here to address your personal concerns, draft my response to your questions, then post it when it is adequately finished and you’ve read my Netiquette page.
Have a good weekend Ft.
Thanks for your “welcome message”.
I read your Netiquette page before writing my “review” of the posted blog entry.
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Excellent Ft! Is there any chance you’ll start and publish your own WordPress blog?
I kind of doubt it. I’m not either a prolific nor gifted writer.
But, so I won’t be much of a “shadow”, I’ll be glad to share a few “bullet points” bit about my own “beliefs”.
First, I don’t “believe” that Jesus was bodily-resurrected. I’m *convinced* that he was.
“Bodily-resurrected” does *not* mean Jesus’ corpse was laying in the tomb, and then, a finger twitched, a toe twitched, an eyelid twitched, an arm moved, then legs, and lo and behold, that lifeless corpse sat up and managed somehow to walk out of the tomb.
I’m not a Trinitarian at all. That’s probably (IMHO) one of the worst “dogmas” that Christians are taught, and I wish it had never become part of “normative” Christianity.
As I’ve oft said on Gary’s blog, “I don’t do Gospels”. I don’t base my beliefs on the Gospels, and I do no accept any of them as *reliable* sources of history – but, that is not to say that they don’t contain *any* accurate history. It’s just that they’re not (at all, by any means) defendable as “history texts”. (same thing goes for the book of Acts, which most scholars just consider as “Part II” of Lukes writing).
I don’t regard *anything* written in the NT as “God’s inerrant Word”. I consider it as representative of the “orthodoxy” of Christian beliefs.
I’ve got no idea who wrote the Gospels.
On the other hand, I disagree with those that argue that there was no “historical Paul”. One can speculate that there was no man named “Paul” that actually wrote Paul’s letters. One can even argue that Paul’s letters weren’t even known to the broader Christian community before Marcion (supposedly) introduced them. One can come up with all kinds of conjectures – but in the end, I use Occham’s Razor on this one: the simplest answer is usually the right one: there was a guy named Paul who wrote letters, and signed them with the name “Paul”. [ and, no, I don’t believe Paul wrote all the letters ascribed to him. I go with majority consensus of scholars on this one, and accept seven of his texts as “authentic” ]
Whether the resurrection of Jesus did, or did not, happen as an historic event has absolutely no dependencies whatsoever on anything written *about* that event. If the event happened, then it happened, and no writings of any skeptic can change that. If it didn’t happen, then it didn’t happen, and no writings by any Gospel writer (for example) can change that either. But, did it happen? That’s the only question of any real importance, as far as I’m concerned.
I could go on, but I won’t. The Bottom Line, though, is that you won’t get a lot of mileage out of me if you’re thinking you can challenge something the Gospels say, and then expect me to defend it. That being said, I’d also say there are some things I see skeptics commonly get wrong, like asserting that the day of Jesus’ crucifixion was different in the Synoptics and in the Gospel of John, but, if I ever take issue with such a common misconception, it’s simply because there is an actual, *knowable* explanation (and, I hate seeing people who have never studied Judaism or, in particular, Jewish history – especially at the time of Jesus) getting stuff wrong simply because they don’t even know as much as to (at least) first look at the Jewish Encyclopedia. In other words, there *are* some things in the Gospels that actually *are* correct, historically, and I – being a stickler for such things – might take issue with misconceptions on *those* points. But, stuff like the Nativity accounts, or how many women were at the tomb? I got no idea, and base none of my own theology on such things.
So, there’s a brief introduction for you…
Of all the things I’ve read that you have written, this one if the clearest. IMO, you have laid out exactly where you stand … and why. Pity that more don’t do the same.
Of course, those of us who put little validity in ANY of the bible will disagree with much of your outlook. But that’s to be expected.
I guess at this point the question becomes … are you willing to consider other points of view as being valid and/or justified? Because I’m sure the Professor will offer some. 🙂
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Hi Nan! ❤
Over on Gary's blog I've offered numerous valid, justified, and (highly?) plausible POV's to Ftbond and Gary's readers, not at all as the sole authority on the subject at hand, but as inspiration(?), a challenge(?) to Followers to at least broaden their lenses and fair(?) investigative research from ALL authenticated, cumulative, historical context of the Levant Era from 516 BCE to 74 CE, but also up to 787 CE at the end of Second Council of Nicaea. However, as even fewer religious fanatics today are aware, to be more fair on this history, the Era should end in 1517 CE with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This is a much better, equitable lens to study the time-period.
For the sake of comprehensive, authentic history they should also understand WHY the very original Christian Church… from the Greek Jesus Christ-ology theology, split from its very own roots! This of course led to some 33,000 different denominations of Christianity from a previous SIX different branches of Christianity! Grrrrrrr, but alas, most religious people/Christians today are not interested in verified facts or high plausibilities.
Unfortunately, they prefer personal bias, otherwise called “Faith™.” 😦
Professor, you HAVE to realize/consider that MOST people don’t go anywhere NEAR the depth of study that you do. As a result, much of what you write is simply over their heads. They aren’t going to argue, correct, dispute, discuss or even criticize because … well, they have no clue.
While I sincerely appreciate your vast vault of knowledge, I personally don’t interact with you very often for the very reasons I’ve cited above. It’s like … “If you say so.”
This is most definitely not a criticism. I’m just offering a personal opinion on why I think you don’t get a lot of “discussion.” Yes, it could be, but may not always be, that “personal bias” you speak of. More likely, it’s … “Geez! I didn’t understand a thing he wrote!”
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On no, no Nan. I don’t take your comments or critiques of me personally. We both understand people have personal preferences of what they read—we can’t make everyone happy, or comfortable with us 100% of the time. And I realize you know that too. And it is perfectly fine that you don’t prefer my style. Many don’t! 😄 I am most assuredly a stickler for detail and detailed supporting and/or confirmed evidence, data, and facts. However, I am always looking to improve my writing style as you, myself, and Ark have discussed before.
Years ago one of the reasons I was moved from Special Ed teaching to AP (accelerated advance placement) teaching was because my Principals saw I would not let my General Ed (and a few Spec Ed) students take shortcuts or make someone else do THEIR work. I challenged them to use other’s exceptional works (in history & current) to aid in forming their own viewpoints and conclusions. On some of our WordPress blogs we follow I think the same applies, or should.
What I hope is that others you are referring to NEVER take me as a supreme authority on subjects—some I’ve studied extensively at university and seminary. But instead they should do their own wide-ranging homework, their own legwork covering many or all POV to either confirm or deny what I’ve offered, what they once believed or didn’t know, or as you state NOT get stuck saying 99% of the time “If you say so.” Aside from traditional methods of research, investigation, and historical forensics, if you will, modern technology makes the conceptual method of Agnotology THAT MUCH MORE accessible to anyone who has access to an internet connection and electronic device! Hence, today there’s really no excuse anymore for complete ignorance… even if just to look up terms and definitions! This is very exciting for humanity! And of course, everybody has the freedom to choose their sources of learning. 🙂
With obvious exceptions, all of us have good-to-excellent functioning brains. However, as you and I sometimes find on WP blogs and comments much of the time the demonstrated ignorance/naivety is a question of effort, desire, or lack of… and more about their comfortable bias and laziness. 😉
But instead they should do their own wide-ranging homework, their own legwork … Agree. BUT … most don’t, won’t, or can’t — the latter often being they are working people and just don’t have the time.
Personally, I love doing research. But it has to be in a subject/topic that I enjoy. Early Christian history is not something I care to delve into. Yes, I touched on it a bit in my book, but NOWHERE to the extent of the information that’s out there.
I do agree that sometimes the level of ignorance (or in some case, just plain stubbornness) demonstrated by some can be frustrating. But we simply plow through and hope we’re sowing seeds that will take root.
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In complete agreement with you on everything here Nan. Thank you Ma’am. ❤
As a minor footnote for here, one of the domains Agnotology also dives into and elaborates upon is the VERY important area called Time and Mental Constraints upon individuals and sectors of a population. From my 5-part series Games of Unknowledging – Part I:
And Nan, this unavoidable pothole in our perpetual desire and need to KEEP learning always, will always be limited and challenging. That is the best reason needed to learn exemplary skills of critical-analysis utilizing a very large data-bank (or bibliography) of VERY DIVERSE renown, acclaimed experts, scholars, scientists in MANY disciplines! The more the better. If a person uses only ONE source (the Bible? Which Bible?), ONE person or group (Apostolic/Patristic Church Fathers?), and never diving equitably into alternative or opposing (to self) findings, sources, or perspectives, then how can a most plausible or factual premise/foundation be formed?
IMHO, you can’t build any sound, rationale world-view or foundation of accuracy, precision, facts, truths, etc, for life with 7.6 billion other humans on Earth… most of which are NOT Christian for very good, factual reasons. 😉
Thank you Nan for your feedback here. It is always welcomed. ❤
Ft, WHY can you not use that comment right there for your own About page? Or your first blog-post? How long did that comment take?
Then, once you’ve got your About page drafted and posted, the rest is pretty simple and depending on the subjects written/blogged about it doesn’t take too much time or burdensome effort to compose a religious blog. At least consider the idea, okay?
Because this was such an in-depth long comment, it required several days (off and on) to make my extensive dissection, and hence, I may later find errors in my reply here that require correction. Fyi.
Ft, in your comment above you wrote:
First and foremost about your interpretation/comprehension of an entire section of my blog-post—utilizing Roman Records and Qumrān Scrolls to name just 2 available domains—misleads readers here. You perhaps should’ve asked for clarification first. What Ftbond has left out in his tiny lens with blinders is this prior portion:
Then the follow-up portion:
Notice the bolded-emphasis of adequate (not exhaustive) referencing or citation. Readers are encouraged to do their own extensive study and exploration of (and beyond) the ENTIRE Syro-Palestinian time-period during the Second Temple Period which must include the Hellenistic Greco-Roman Empire’s impact on it. It is totally unreasonable for me to attempt to reference every single bit of scholarly work done on this/these subjects which took me 15+ years to do (under-grad and post-grad) and the scholarly work done likely took those experts their entire academic and professional careers to finish! I merely offer sufficient starting points for readers. Continuing on…
All in all, there were fourteen (14) hyper-linked references in that section for any novice historian interested to begin their OWN research and exploration for their own conclusions.
Nevertheless, the point that you missed Ftbond is this: Out of all known (41) forty-one 1st-century CE historians and writers during Jesus’ lifetime or within less-than 100-years of his life, there are no mentions of a Jesus Christ in any of their works. Nor within a century of Jesus’ life do any of these authors/historians make any mention of the later disciples or apostles. Why? Not news-worthy perhaps? See this graphic:
But let’s be fair. The exceptions are Flavius Josephus’ forged mention and then highly disputed mentions by Pliny the Younger and Suetonius. The Tacitus mention in his work “Annals”—written 83-years later of Jesus’ execution—about events surrounding the 6-day Great Fire in Rome in which Nero blamed a GROUP of Roman Christians, can hardly be used as concrete evidence for the Cosmic-Earth-shattering risen Savior of ONE man named Christ! That’s the point of that entire section you’ve referenced, but misread or misinterpreted.
You then continued with:
That is fine for your OWN subjective, personal opinion and conclusion (denialism?) Ftbond. But it is contrary to the cumulative scholarly consensus of Tacitus’ brief mention of a GROUP of Christians in Rome. Moving on…
Correct. Because the Gospels are not historically reliable according to MANY non-Christian scholars and some Christian scholars like John Dominic Crossan and the late Robert Funk. For them the Gospels as a whole and in other respects are unreliable as 18th – 21st century infallible historical narratives about Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus) and the time-period surrounding him. Their fence-teetering is a very small scholarly minority today. Nonetheless, here are a handful of Secular scholars who consider the Gospels as non-historical fact or as just a mythological legend/cult in a genre of ancient Greek Apotheosis, commonplace in the Hellenic world:
• Reza Aslan
• David Fitzgerald
• Peter Singer
• Bart Ehrman
• Richard Carrier
• Michael Martin
• Kai Nielsen
• Edward O. (“E.O.”) Wilson
• Daniel Dennett
• Quentin Smith (“blog-author takes a long deep breath…”)
• Lawrence M. Krauss
• Steven Weinberg
• Stephen Hawking
• Alexander Rosenberg
• Robert Eisenman
• David Sloan Wilson
• Paul Kurtz
• David Sloan Wilson
• Sam Harris
• Patricia Churchland
• Fang Zhouzi
…and some 50-70 more that can be listed. Look-up all 20 of those non-Christian scholars Ftbond and you will honestly see you are not equitably considering ALL the entire evidence surrounding your Greek Christ. Moving on. You continue…
Perhaps for YOU Ftbond, but not for everyone else who wants to know as much of the truth, facts, and most plausible historical context/evidence of all events surrounding Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus). Most of us want to know everything about 1st-century CE Jerusalem, and Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism—the very complete context and background around your 4th-century Canonical New Testament. A person who is equitably, honestly wanting to know what all happened before, during, and after “Christ’s” life CANNOT get the full picture by ONLY the Canonical Gospels in the New Testament and CERTAINLY NOT Acts and the Epistles! No, they MUST go outside of traditional Greek-Hellenistic sources of Apostolic-Patristic Church Fathers of the 2nd- thru 5th-century CE. The unreliable New Testament is INSUFFICIENT for a fair assessment. Moving on you wrote…
Ftbond, I think your subjective, personal opinion is flawed here. Most all layperson Christians and many tunnel-visioned Apologists like yourself do NOT know all of this contextual, authentic, history and subsequent criticisms. For example, please tell me how many different Jewish Sects existed in 1st-century Palestine/Jerusalem—a complete list—influencing Hebrew and Roman issues of the time which led to the First Jewish-Roman War. Give me their specific names and a brief description of their distinctions as well as their similarities to the Gospel narratives of these sects. Providing YOUR references to this answer would be appreciated.
Your very first sentence Ftbond is misleading and a wrong interpretation or exegesis of what my complete blog-post was reporting. Let me help you.
Graham, Deffenbaugh, and Bernhard are all using what is written in your Canonical New Testament, taught to them in their home church or seminary, AND extrapolated only what their Greek New Testament states historically (as they believe and most/many Christians do too) and theologically, as most Christian ministers, priests, or educators have been doing for millenia. Way too many common Christian followers embrace whatever those type men sell them. And what you are misunderstanding from this small portion of the post and wrongly regurgitating is that Robert Eisenman, Bart Ehrman, and many more I could list who are considered renown experts of this literary historical time-period is that the vast majority of Christian Evangelicals, ministers, private Christian University professors, etc, DO NOT properly interpret the Gospels and New Testament inside the FULL authentic historical background of the time-period: 516 BCE thru 74 CE and up to at LEAST the last Ecumenical Council in 787 CE.
Here you’ve obsessed about one tree (the Essenes) in a VAST forest spanning near 590-years of Second Temple Sectarian Judaism. Yes, Bart Ehrman has much to contribute to this domain from the Canonical Christian-Greek Bible, less so with other related domains, but he is in NO WAY one single source for this 590-year period the way you are narrowly proposing or choking out all other related trees, to continue the analogy. The Essenes were only one sect out of at least 12 that we know about today during the Second Temple Period. There were the Samaritans, Zealots, Ebionites, Sicarii, Herodians (Saul of Tarsus? Rom 16:11), Naziri or Nazarites/Nazoraeans and Elkasites/Elcesaites (these 2 sects were frequently misunderstood by Gentile Greeks and much later Christians), Scribes, Hemerobaptists (Panarion 1:19 by Epiphanius), Karaites (c. 1st-century BCE – post-70 CE), and lastly the well-known Pharisees and Sadducees. So this comment Ftbond, is overly vague and does not expound enough to give proper context of Second Temple Jewish sects of the time-period. Moving on…
This paragraph is simply wrong, an inaccurate evaluation of the post as a whole and all it references externally to hopefully inspire readers to further question and explore much deeper the authentic history of Second Temple Period in which Yeshua bar Yosef was born, raised, learned, taught, then executed by the Romans, rather than taking ONE single source as completely authoritative—i.e. the Greek-based Canonical New Testament’s problematic version. Everybody can decide on their own, but cannot make a highly informed decision without going OUTSIDE of the Greek-based NT narratives. One MUST study all sources of the time-period to make a fair conclusion.
But in the end your personal speculations here Ftbond and over-constricting questions ignore the BIGGEST question my blog-post raises. I challenge you to answer: How is it possible for the Son of God as foretold many centuries earlier in Jewish-Hebrew scriptures, surrounded by fantastical stories of his birth, hunted by King Herod via a Massacre of the Innocents (an unproven historical event), making a spectacle at the Temple of wisest rabbis/priests by a 12-yr old country boy, suddenly disappear without a trace or any hints for searching Romans by Jews to his whereabouts… for 17-YEARS!? And remember…
Given their obvious literary devices of distinguishing, make unparalleled(?) sensational Divine-hoopla about a long foretold, Earth-shattering ‘Lamb of God’ for all humanity, foremost being his ability to mythically cheat death as the Son of God, what is YOUR answer for the vanishing? This infant, then boy, then Divine man could never be anonymous around anyone, especially in a crowd. So with that much Divine manifestation, why waste 17-years for a crucial, world-changing, Divine-intervention drama, a drama above all dramas? And WHY is this extraordinary, unmatched restoration story—by THE GOD/SAVIOR of the Universe—NOT narrated by ANYONE ANYWHERE (41 known historians or more!) except by nearby, biased, Greek-speaking, Greek-writing gospel copyists/writers (C.M. Hegg link below* )… and oddly enough composed 70-110 yrs AFTER Jesus’ execution!? Was it not a drama that affected not just Judea, not just the Levant and Mediterranean shores, but the entire human race!? That reads, sounds and stinks of gross foul-play story-telling.
Closing out this dialogue and putting it to final rest by what you’ve offered here, I see little point whatsoever in carrying it further with you for the simple reason that you obviously do NOT have an adequate understanding of Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism and its relationship, or multiple relationships, with Gentile Greco-Romans of the Roman Empire. And this cannot be achieved by strictly staying inside the Greek-Christian history of the 3rd- and 4th-century CE or Greek-based Canonical NT and the Greek early Apostolic/Patristic Church Fathers. That is impossible.
Thank you Ftbond for your perplexing perspective here, but unfortunately it only adds more confusion to the time-period and the sensationalized stories surrounding Jesus’ first 29-years. You haven’t offered anything significant and I doubt you’d be able to with such a narrow-lens of the subject. Best regards to you.
P.S. Regarding only Greek-speaking, Greek-writing gospel composers I mentioned above with C.M. Hegg and the asterisk:
* – “The argument that the writers of the synoptic gospels were Jewish and therefore would have written in Hebrew is less than conclusive.”
Click to access in-what-language-were-the-synoptic-gospels-written-in.pdf
This msg may (or may not?) appear “out of thread”, but for some reason, I’m not seeing “Reply” buttons on other’s posts….
re: “I guess at this point the question becomes … are you willing to consider other points of view as being valid and/or justified? Because I’m sure the Professor will offer some. ”
Points of view about what, Nan?
As Dwain notes in an earlier post, he’s posted stuff about the Second Temple Period and the Hasmoneans and how “the church” split from it’s roots – and – while I might doubt some of his actual “history” (having studied both that same history under a published Dr of antiquities who was also a known archaeologist), I already largely agree with what he says, and in particular about how “the church” split from it’s roots. But, over on Gary’s blog, where I’ve had the opportunity to attempt to chat with Dwain, basically, I’ve never succeeded in letting him know that there are indeed other people (myself included) that actually *have* studied such things. So, it’s been real limited conversation. When somebody already pigeon-holes you, well, it’s hard to get them to listen to anything you have to say, right?
So, lemme know what “points of view” you’d like to discuss.
😄… now now Ft, sparring and jabbing within good sportsmanship is just fine and a great way for opponents to sharpen their skills. But since you addressed this comment specifically to Nan—while taking your shots at me—I’ll remain in my corner watching and grinning. 😉
Unless of course you invite ME to offer MY counter-views and rebuttals to your Nan-reply. And remember, you’ve already given me MUCH in your initial comment for me to dissect and dismantle. We humans have ONLY a 24-hour clock in which to do exceptional work.
absolutely you’re invited. I just don’t know how to do anything like “tagging” you (as in a facebook post) to alert you that you’re being mentioned…
and BTW – if there’s a way to do that, please let me know how…
Unfortunately, there is no way to do that on WordPress. You have to comment/reply specifically to whomever you wish to notify.
Well, then this invite is in addition to your initial comment and here where I am located it is getting quite late. So it will need to be tomorrow, perhaps, or next week. Thank you for inviting me into your convo with Nan.
PT, regarding “replies” on your blog. You may wish to go into Settings and under “Discussion,” increase the number of threaded comments. It appears they are currently set at a fairly small number (3?) — and you often get several more than that on active discussions.
Just a thought.
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Ahh, I will definitely look into that Nan. Thank you. So many WordPress users comment on the bloggers specific URL, and then many utilize the WP Reader which makes threads much easier to follow. For instance, Esme’s Cloud—on her specific URL—goes to 6-8 threads? It’s a lot! By the 4th or 5th threaded reply the page and your discussion are so narrow you might have 2-3 words per line. Yikes! 😬😄 I was avoiding that on my personal specific blog-URL.
Nonetheless, I think I will experiment, increase the Thread # to 6, maybe 8? We’ll see. 😉
I have mine set at 6 — but you’re correct that when reading on a phone or tablet, the comments farther down do get narrower and narrower.
Using the Reader makes everything easier, but not everyone does … or even knows it exists … so we just have to do the best we can. 🙂
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So true Ma’am. 🙂
There’s absolutely no harm in discussing different viewpoints.
However, when I’m talking to people like Gary, Ark, Dwain, and even you, I am very aware (because each of you has made it very apparent) that you are quite literally *opposed* – even vehemently – to the idea that Jesus was bodily resurrected, historically.
It is as if there is some kind of “personal” reason you have this *opposition* – like, somehow, it affects you in some negative way if that idea (of Jesus’ resurrection) is actually *true*.
And, that’s the difference between all you guys and myself: the fact that you *don’t* accept that Jesus’ resurrection was historical fact has no affect on me whatsoever. And, I’m totally OK with the idea that it’s *possible* that someday, somebody just might dig up incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was *not* bodily resurrect – at which time, I’d drop the notion like a hot potato.
But, as things are, the fact that none of you accept Jesus’ resurrection as historical has no bearing whatsoever on me. The same thing cannot be said in reverse though. For each of you, my acceptance of Jesus’ resurrection makes me your target, and my message is one you vehemently reject with a passion.
If you really want to “discuss”, then, great. Let’s discuss.
Please don’t lump me in with the others you mentioned. I’m not nearly as adamant as they are about convincing others that their beliefs (in the resurrection or any other Christian-related happening) is incorrect/off-base/questionable. When writing my book, I addressed some questionable areas related to the resurrection, but I wasn’t trying to “convince” anyone whether it actually happened or not.
Generally, my purpose/aim in Christian discussions is to make people think about what they believe — and to be willing to consider other possibilities. Having said that, I’ve come across believers who make statements that are simply NOT TRUE, but because this is what they’ve been taught … or heard 10,000 times in church … they adamantly defend it. I admit I may get a bit more “involved” with someone like this.
I have no desire to get into a discussion with you. As you’ve said, this is your belief and it will remain so until “incontrovertible evidence” changes your mind. And I say … so be it.
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This was a concise, nice response Nan. Appreciated. 🙂
You know, when I deconverted in 1991 after 11 long, intense years of full-time work and earnest commitment (120%+… same as my youth, collegiate, pro & semi-pro soccer career!) to all aspects of ministry which also included 2-yrs of seminary and church leadership, I really had—and still do today to degrees—every intention of NOT wanting to change any Christian’s faith/beliefs, but only explaining in extensive detail MY reasons for deconverting. Hence, my blog and my blog-pages. What I address here is NOT aimed at individual persons/Christians, but at their Bible, the religion’s first seeds and roots, Second Temple Judaism/Messianism WITHIN the Roman Empire and its governing policies, as well as the entire remaining historical contexts surrounding all five of those domains.
But as you know well many, many Christians, especially online Evangy-Fundy-Extreme Christians, take my multifaceted approaches as personal attacks on them. Yet, it is really only about Christianity/Christology history’s FULL context and how it has been passed on for well over 2,300 years! (sigh) 😔
Nan, while increasing my thread #/count in Settings > Discussions, I also noticed there’s a button/switch for “Users must be registered and logged in to comment.” I’m wondering, if I enable this feature, it will aid in the problem(s) I just pointed out to Ftbond—that random strangers with no personal blog with important information and hence not being transparent (to reasonable degrees) enough to aid in civil, productive dialogue/debate, enabling this could help. Maybe?
I would NOT mark that option as I don’t believe it has anything to do with them having their own blog. It’s more about them “registering” with yours. The one above this option, however, should definitely be marked.
Also, be sure to mark (if it isn’t already) the one that indicates the person must have a previously approved comment.
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Nan, Dwain –
Here’s a POV for you guys: If Jesus *wasn’t* resurrected, as an actual historical event, then my interest in “things religious” is zero. Got no use for it at all. I’m not sure if I’d be the happiest atheist or the happiest agnostic on the planet, but, it would be one or the other.
I don’t see at all Ft that your speculative premise there needs to be so drastically black or white, A or B only. There exists so many more world-views, paradigms, life mottos, a conglomerate of various principles that can TOTALLY make many (most?) human beings very happy, very content and tranquil with who they are, who we are on this tiny, minuscule Pale-blue rock/dot of a tiny planet, in a average solar system and galaxy in the entire Cosmos. All you have to do Ft is explore, observe, and be SLOW to judge or conclude what is and what is not. Whether you became an atheist or agnostic or whatever, extreme knee-jerk reactions are not necessary. It is truly that plain and simple.
Just some friendly pointers for you.
I don’t recall I asked for any pointers.
What makes you think I haven’t already explored, observed, and so on? In fact, what makes you think there’s any “knee-jerk” at all to what I’ve already concluded? How do you know whether my thoughts on the matter are knee-jerk or whether they’ve developed over the last 60 years?
The answer: you don’t.
Maybe YOU need to get a little bit slower in judging what is or what is not.
Ft, I think you are being a bit too hyper-sensitive again. Just because me or any random person expresses THEIR thoughts, their perceptions of you and how you write, comment, doesn’t mean they are attacking you. What I was reading in your previous comment to both Nan and I was that WHY does it have to be A or B and nothing else?
I hope you try to be less sensitive to other’s ideas, suggestions, or challenges.
fair enough. I suppose I just don’t like people “presuming” things about me, when all they gotta do is *ask*. But – OK…
Why does it have to be A or B? Either “Jesus was resurrected – historically”, or “I’d be happy as agnostic or atheist”?
The only reason I am convinced there is a God at all is because of Jesus’ resurrection. So, if that resurrection *didn’t* happen, then, I got nothing else that convinces me there is a God.
At that point, well, I could consider just about *any* options – for example, like, “we’re all avatars in some alien’s computer simulation”.
But for me, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. If there is no God, then I have no interest in speculating that there “might be” an afterlife – like – our “consciousness” existing in eternity or something. Might be true, might not be. But, just knowing myself, I’d just presume there was no afterlife, and nothing like “karma” that makes the world go around, or any such notion. All such notions could be true, some could be true, none could be true.
The resurrection of Jesus – if it occurred – is a statement that there is, at the least, a “power” – and, evidently, one with a “mind”, and thus, a “will” – which decided that that person (Jesus) was to be resurrected at that point in history.
If it didn’t happen, then, fine. It didn’t happen. But, rather than spend my time on speculative mental inventions, I’d rather have a beer and watch the Cowboys. But, that’s just me.
It doesn’t HAVE to be A or B. If it isn’t “A” (Jesus’ resurrection), then it could be B or C or D, on thru Z. It’s just that I wouldn’t really even be *interested* in B thru Z, because all of it would be pure speculation. The beer and Cowboys sounds better…
ft … just from my perspective only … it’s entirely up to you what you want to believe. Whether anyone agrees with you or not is irrelevant. We each have our personal reasons for believing as we do. I admit there are MANY who, because they think your belief is “wrong,” will try to convince you otherwise — and this is what leads to discussions such as you’ve been having on Ark’s blog.
I don’t see any harm (in fact, it can be rather entertaining) in discussing different viewpoints because it CAN increase a person’s knowledge on a subject. But whether that knowledge changes their original thinking? Maybe. Maybe not.
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Well said Nan. Thank you. ❤
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My memory is sometimes not perfectly precise, BUT I generally have a long-standing principle of “asking” complete strangers questions when first engaging them. I honestly try to make it a habit.
Another principle/habit I will always utilize is first going to a stranger’s blog and read carefully everything they have divulged about themselves, why they are blogging, etc. This often avoids exactly what you are complaining about “presumptions”! When a total stranger does not have their own blog (link), this etiquette becomes very time-consuming and exponentially more difficult when trying to dialogue via WP comments. Honestly, having one’s own personal blog that provides most everything you are pointing out, avoids or lessens these mines in the minefields of super brief 10-20 word comments.
That said, I THINK(?) I remember initially asking questions way back on Gary’s blog or perhaps Ark’s, I can’t remember exactly. Sadly, soon after say the first 4-6 comments, you and I went head-first into the minefield like wild bulls in a Spanish bull-fighting arena. 😆 And the rest is history.
For now, I am stopping there. The rest of your comment above can or can’t be addressed later. I’d like to read your response to this first.