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..........a better assumption to make is that Tacitus is not making a reference to a title at all but instead is confusing title with name. He has no idea he's referencing a title and believes "Christus" to be the actual name of the leader of these people. However, "Christus" is not "Jesus" no matter how many ways you want to try to equate them.

 

I got the same impression from reading it through.

 

I find this description of Christians interesting, has it really changed all that much? -

 

to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
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to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

This is just the thing. The Romans HATED THE JEWS. Did I emphasize that enough? The xians weren't even a blip on the radar as much as they'd love to believe they were. The Romans kicked the Jews out of Rome (Acts does get that right). They were gearing up for the first Jewish war and so they lots of problems with Jews all over the place at this time. Do you think they differentiated based on whether you worshiped the son/prophet (since this hadn't been worked out theologically yet) of YHWH or YHWH directly? I tend to think they acted more like our modern parallel into Jewish persecution, the Nazis, and boiled it down to physical attributes in most cases. A quick look under the robes will tell you all you need to know for the men and their families are guilty by association. Easy.

 

So, Judea, was not considered a good place (it was full of troublemakers). As for what he says, it doesn't surprise me. People accused other religions of being baby eaters and slanderous things like that forever it seems. So if he didn't like xians I can imagine him saying that. The xians turned around and said it when they took power just like the Jews said it of their enemies (an example I just recently heard would be in the bible Jezebel means, roughly, "whore of Ba'al" but everywhere else it actually means, again roughly, "virgin of Ba'al"...the author altered the spelling slightly specifically to slander her and it stuck).

 

After the Romans beat the Jews in the war they then issued a coin of a weeping woman (that represented Judea) just to "rub it in." I personally believe that it is this coin that inspires the image of the woman giving birth in the Revelation (Judea giving birth is the symbolism because then the woman is dispersed into the desert...that "vision" only has maybe 3 chapters that I'd call xian...even the "war in heaven" is nothing but the battle on the temple mount in Jerusalem...but that's another discussion altogether).

 

mwc

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The total silence of Jesus' contemporaries is astounding. Besides Philo, here is a partial list of first century writers and historians who failed to mention him: Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Pliny the Younger, Quintilian, Lucanus, Epictetus, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Hermogones, Valerius Maximus, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Appian, Theon of Smyrna, Phlegon, Lucian, Pompon Mela, Quintius Curtius, Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus,Favorinus, Florus Lucius, Phaedrus, Damis, Aulus Gellius, Columella, Lysias, Dio Chrysostom and Appion of Alexandria.

Thus, until new information is unearthed, I remain a Mythisist.

 

There were approximately 270,000,000 persons on earth at the time Jesus is alleged to have lived. (Source:here. Very interesting site. I took the mean of all the the "guesses.") Likely 269,990,000 knew nothing about him and if we had their names we could make a very long list of those who are silent on the alleged Jesus. That leaves about 10,000 who did know his name. Maybe it was more, let's say 50,000. Of these 50,000, very few were literate and those who were literate likely had neither the inclination nor the substance to record anything of their lives. (Too bad!) Of those who did record anything, likely nothing remains.

 

Your list above, however, contains the literate, educated, intellectual classes--historians, scientists, philosophers, mathematicians. At randon, I choose two from this list (both new names to me, so thank you for the introduction :grin: ): Theon of Smyrna and Lysias. Theon of Smyrna seemed to be primarily concerned with mathematics and the cosmos. It does not alarm me that he did not reference Jesus. (We are missing much of his work, unfortunately, so who knows the extent of his writings.) Regardin Lysias, you must have been referring to another "Lysias" because the only one I could find lived 400 years before Jesus is alleged to have lived.

 

The silence around Jesus coming from his "worldly" contemporaries is not impressive nor deafening, to me. Refer back to one of my posts on the Who's Who of 1960 that fails to mention the existence of Gerald Ford (age 47), Jimmy Carter (age 36) or Ronald Reagan (age 49 and allegedly a fairly famous actor and host of GE Theater at the time) among their list of nearly 40,000 names. (I don't think Jesus would have made the Who's Who of any year prior to about 100.)

 

-CC in MA

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Your first point, mwc, that what we think reading the English translation of this Tacitus passage may be quite different from what a reader in the first quarter of the 2nd century would think is a very solid one.

 

Could it be that Tacitus used the title as opposed to the personal name so as to make his point that the name "Christian" derived from the, as he put it, "founder of the name"? He was trying, perhaps, to point out the origin of the name used to refer to those who believed in this "pernicious superstition."

If we assume the text is genuine, and we read the rest of the text, then a better assumption to make is that Tacitus is not making a reference to a title at all but instead is confusing title with name. He has no idea he's referencing a title and believes "Christus" to be the actual name of the leader of these people. However, "Christus" is not "Jesus" no matter how many ways you want to try to equate them. You can say he got it wrong and try to correct him but perhaps a person known as "Christus" was, in fact, killed by Pilate and IS the true origin of Christianity. We don't know this information is incorrect.

 

The text does read as an interpolation and as bad as Nero was he would not have gotten away with burning people on stakes in the presence of the upper class without severe consequences (his suicide doesn't count...think poisoning since that seemed to be their preferred way of dealing with these sorts of things). These are the actions of Caligula after his illness (when he really went crazy) but a little too late to blame on him.

 

Back on point. Did you even bother to read the text? It's about how Nero built his palace in the middle of the city after it burnt. Tacitus has no problem naming name after name in each paragraph (he even calls each emperor by name so there's no confusion). In addition he sticks pretty much on point until he gets to paragraph 44 and then he does this odd little digression. This is why people question it. You know, I'll just post from 15:43-45 even though it's a lot just so everyone can see what I mean.

 

[15.43] Of Rome meanwhile, so much as was left unoccupied by his mansion, was not built up, as it had been after its burning by the Gauls, without any regularity or in any fashion, but with rows of streets according to measurement, with broad thoroughfares, with a restriction on the height of houses, with open spaces, and the further addition of colonnades, as a protection to the frontage of the blocks of tenements. These colonnades Nero promised to erect at his own expense, and to hand over the open spaces, when cleared of the debris, to the ground landlords. He also offered rewards proportioned to each person's position and property, and prescribed a period within which they were to obtain them on the completion of so many houses or blocks of building. He fixed on the marshes of Ostia for the reception of the rubbish, and arranged that the ships which had brought up corn by the Tiber, should sail down the river with cargoes of this rubbish. The buildings themselves, to a certain height, were to be solidly constructed, without wooden beams, of stone from Gabii or Alba, that material being impervious to fire. And to provide that the water which individual license had illegally appropriated, might flow in greater abundance in several places for the public use, officers were appointed, and everyone was to have in the open court the means of stopping a fire. Every building, too, was to be enclosed by its own proper wall, not by one common to others. These changes which were liked for their utility, also added beauty to the new city. Some, however, thought that its old arrangement had been more conducive to health, inasmuch as the narrow streets with the elevation of the roofs were not equally penetrated by the sun's heat, while now the open space, unsheltered by any shade, was scorched by a fiercer glow.

 

[15.44] Such indeed were the precautions of human wisdom. The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno, too, was entreated by the matrons, first, in the Capitol, then on the nearest part of the coast, whence water was procured to sprinkle the fane and image of the goddess. And there were sacred banquets and nightly vigils celebrated by married women. But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

 

[15.45] Meanwhile Italy was thoroughly exhausted by contributions of money, the provinces were ruined, as also the allied nations and the free states, as they were called. Even the gods fell victims to the plunder; for the temples in Rome were despoiled and the gold carried off, which, for a triumph or a vow, the Roman people in every age had consecrated in their prosperity or their alarm. Throughout Asia and Achaia not only votive gifts, but the images of deities were seized, Acratus and Secundus Carinas having been sent into those provinces. The first was a freedman ready for any wickedness; the latter, as far as speech went, was thoroughly trained in Greek learning, but he had not imbued his heart with sound principles. Seneca, it was said, to avert from himself the obloquy of sacrilege, begged for the seclusion of a remote rural retreat, and, when it was refused, feigning ill health, as though he had a nervous ailment, would not quit his chamber. According to some writers, poison was prepared for him at Nero's command by his own freedman, whose name was Cleonicus. This Seneca avoided through the freedman's disclosure, or his own apprehension, while he used to support life on the very simple diet of wild fruits, with water from a running stream when thirst prompted.

 

See how the whole story of "Christus" is more of a tangent especially when you the whole thing with it being the origin of Christianity and all? It's not really his style. Just look in the very next passage where he mentions Acratus and Secundus (I bolded it). He says who they were and then he describes them. That's his style and you can see him using this style over and over again. He simply has no problem providing names at all (and of course we see people identified by first name much of the time so we'd expect to see Jesus and not some Christ variant...or Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus son of Joseph or something along those lines).

 

So, as I said, even if the whole text is legit it is obvious that he uses names and not titles and so Christus is a name and not a title to Tacitus. This is the same error that I pointed out in Acts where Candace is used as the name for the queen of Ethiopia (since the title, Candace, hadn't been used in early first century the author wasn't aware of this problem).

 

The choices we're left with are: Christus, not jesus, is the founder of Christianity, Tacitus has no clue what he's writing about or these words were inserted later by someone else.

 

As a minor aside, if we're also to believe the Book of Acts it is Paul that brings xianity to Rome. Of course, in the book, there are already xians there but ignoring that there really isn't enough time for Paul to preach from under house arrest to build a large enough group of xians to threaten Nero and for the populace to build a hatred toward. We're talking maybe a few hundred people in all of Rome (even if it reached into a couple thousand it is well known that Rome was far more concerned with other groups during this time period...the Jews being one they especially hated and given a choice between a xian and a Jew it would be no contest who they'd persecute).

 

mwc

 

That was some very good research and I understand your position and find it a valid outcome of your research. Likewise, however, I find that it is just as likely that Tacitus is referring to Jesus (albeit using the title as opposed to the name) and I would find it strange actually if he referred to this "founder" as "Jesus of Nazareth" or "Jesus, son of Joseph." That would seem absolutely like an interpolation to me. His use of "Christus" is reasonable and rings true.

 

Sadly, I can see Nero doing just that to Christians and others: burning them at the stake. I've read enough history to not be surprised by anyting. In fact, I've read enough of yesterday's news to not be surprised by anything. (Anyone read of the mother charged with microwaving her baby to death!!?? According to the news account I read, it's not the first time such a charge has been leveled against a mother.)

 

I find the account of Tacitus reliable. (Of course no one can no for sure.)

 

I'll have to look again at Acts, but my memory is that Paul did not bring Christiainity to Rome, just ended up there. But you may be right.

 

-CC in MA

 

 

..........a better assumption to make is that Tacitus is not making a reference to a title at all but instead is confusing title with name. He has no idea he's referencing a title and believes "Christus" to be the actual name of the leader of these people. However, "Christus" is not "Jesus" no matter how many ways you want to try to equate them.

 

I got the same impression from reading it through.

 

I find this description of Christians interesting, has it really changed all that much? -

 

to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

 

That description is a real gem. I think I'll change my username to "BMS in MA" for "Believer in a mischievous superstition."

 

-CC in MA

 

The xians weren't even a blip on the radar as much as they'd love to believe they were.

 

Then why the surprise that Jesus is not referenced in contemporary extra-biblical sources, or very rarely so if at all, until after 100?

 

-CC in MA

 

After the Romans beat the Jews in the war they then issued a coin of a weeping woman (that represented Judea) just to "rub it in." I personally believe that it is this coin that inspires the image of the woman giving birth in the Revelation (Judea giving birth is the symbolism because then the woman is dispersed into the desert...that "vision" only has maybe 3 chapters that I'd call xian...even the "war in heaven" is nothing but the battle on the temple mount in Jerusalem...but that's another discussion altogether). mwc

 

I confess my ignorance about this coin. If you have a link you can conveniently find I'd like to read more about that and see the coin. Your interpretation linking the coin to the "woman in the desert" text in Revelation is novel. Have you ever studied the preterist view--that all of Revelation has already been completely fulfilled, primarily within the confines of the 1st century?

 

Three links about Preterism: Preterist Archive and Wikipedia and International Preterist Association.

 

-CC in MA

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Did Jesus exist? And if so, what is the non-religious historical evidence?

 

LUCIAN

 

The ancient satirist Lucian lived about 120 – 180+ C.E. In his work called The Passing of Peregrinus, the main character takes advantage of the gullibility of Christians. This composition is among the early “pagan” writings about Christians. Granted, it is not a history book and it is not a 1st century account, but it does provide an insight into the ways in which “outsiders” viewed the Christians a century after the alleged life of Jesus. Peregrinus is a great read, and I must say Lucian’s views of the Christians is quite a riot (next three paragraphs):

 

It was now that he came across the priests and scribes of the Christians, in Palestine, and picked up their queer creed. I can tell you, he pretty soon convinced them of his superiority; prophet, elder, ruler of the Synagogue--he was everything at once; expounded their books, commented on them, wrote books himself. They took him for a God, accepted his laws, and declared him their president. The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day,--the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.

 

Well, the end of it was that Proteus was arrested and thrown into prison. This was the very thing to lend an air to his favorite arts of clap-trap and wonder-working; he was now a made man. The Christians took it all very seriously: he was no sooner in prison, than they began trying every means to get him out again,--but without success. Everything else that could be done for him they most devoutly did. They thought of nothing else. Orphans and ancient widows might be seen hanging about the prison from break of day. Their officials bribed the gaolers to let them sleep inside with him. Elegant dinners were conveyed in; their sacred writings were read; and our old friend Peregrine (as he was still called in those days) became for them "the modern Socrates."

 

In some of the Asiatic cities, too, the Christian communities put themselves to the expense of sending deputations, with offers of sympathy, assistance, and legal advice. The activity of these people, in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense. Peregrine, all this time, was making quite an income on the strength of his bondage; money came pouring in. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

 

 

From this riotious account, we learn that

 

1. Christians are gullible (televangelists, anyone?)

 

2. Christians worship a man who introduced “novel rites”

 

3. This “man” was crucified

 

4. They had "sacred writings"

 

5. The Christians were “brothers” who shared their possessions

 

6. They believed that they were “immortal.”

 

 

While this Lucian passage does little to establish the peerage or pedigree of Jesus, it does possibly provide some insight into those early followers of that "queer" religion.

 

Here are some links for this text and infomation about Lucian:

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucian

 

-CC in MA

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The silence around Jesus coming from his "worldly" contemporaries is not impressive nor deafening, to me.

 

The silence of several of his contemporaries is acceptable. The total silence of all of his contemporaries is not. There is just as much proof for the existance of Santa and the Easter Bunny. There was a first century miracle worker who was said to heal the sick and raise the dead. His name was Appolonius of Tyana.

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The silence around Jesus coming from his "worldly" contemporaries is not impressive nor deafening, to me.

 

The silence of several of his contemporaries is acceptable. The total silence of all of his contemporaries is not. There is just as much proof for the existance of Santa and the Easter Bunny. There was a first century miracle worker who was said to heal the sick and raise the dead. His name was Appolonius of Tyana.

 

There's no evidence whatsoever that Appolonius ever existed. It's all a myth. Made up. No historical foundation at all. Rubbish. Absolute rubbish! :grin::HaHa::grin::HaHa:

 

-CC in MA

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In light of Paul's Jesus, who seems to be a spiritual heavenly being, it would make sense in my mind that the gospel of John would have been next to be written after Paul's writings. And that the synoptics came last, sometime in the second century. That would show a "degenerating" or "materializing" trend of Jesus from heavenly to material flesh and blood. Is there any basis for such a theory? Seems I saw it somewhere but I forget where. In my mind, this would definitely indicate that there was no flesh and blood historical Jesus of the Bible.

 

 

That is a very original thought which I have never heard before, and it would turn everything on its ears! Most say that John was written last (as you reference) when the Christ had emerged from the Jesus. I'd do some research on that very novel idea as it's a real nugget.

 

This from The Jesus Mysteries, by Freke and Gandy:

 

"....the New Testament itself tells the story of how Christianity developed:

 

The Letters of Paul c.50 Jesus is a mystical dying and ressurecting godman.

 

The Gospel of Mark 70-110 The myth of Jesus is given an historical and

geographical setting.

 

The Gospels of Matthew

and Luke 90-135 Details of Jesus birth and ressurection are added

and the story embellished.

 

The Gospel of John c.120 Christian theology is developed

 

Acts of the Apostles 150-170 Having now created the illusion of an historical Jesus,

Acts is created to account for his disciples.

 

Letters of the Apostles 177-220 Letters attributed to Paul and the Apostles are

forged by Literalists in their battles with Gnosticism,

attacking 'many deceivers' who 'do not

acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh'"

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Thanks, Dibby. That definitely differs from what I am being taught by traditional Christians but it's very interesting.

 

I managed to bring this discussion into the classroom today. My prof and a few of my classmates know I'm not Christian. I am trying very hard to understand where the Christians are coming from, exactly how they believe and understand things. I mentioned in an earlier post that both sides (for and against) use the same sources for their arguments. I raised this issue in class. Since the prof knows I'm not Christian it was okay to ask. Otherwise people might have wondered where my faith is going.

 

Finally I got him to verify that the difference is what criteria people use for credible sources. He listed the same sources we are looking at here. Yet for him it is overhwhelming evidence that Jesus existed. For us it is overwhelming evidence that Jesus did not exist. Same sources. Same arguments, except we come at the arguments from opposite perspectives. Very interesting.

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Thanks, Dibby. That definitely differs from what I am being taught by traditional Christians but it's very interesting.

 

I managed to bring this discussion into the classroom today. My prof and a few of my classmates know I'm not Christian. I am trying very hard to understand where the Christians are coming from, exactly how they believe and understand things. I mentioned in an earlier post that both sides (for and against) use the same sources for their arguments. I raised this issue in class. Since the prof knows I'm not Christian it was okay to ask. Otherwise people might have wondered where my faith is going.

 

Finally I got him to verify that the difference is what criteria people use for credible sources. He listed the same sources we are looking at here. Yet for him it is overhwhelming evidence that Jesus existed. For us it is overwhelming evidence that Jesus did not exist. Same sources. Same arguments, except we come at the arguments from opposite perspectives. Very interesting.

 

It is so interesting how differently everyone sees everything. I've been on enough committees to know that it's impossible to reach consensus on even the simplest matters!

 

What class are you taking, RubySera? This fall, I'm taking an elective offered by the the lit dept: The English Bible. Really enjoying myself.

 

-CC in MA

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This from The Jesus Mysteries, by Freke and Gandy:

 

"....the New Testament itself tells the story of how Christianity developed:

 

The Letters of Paul c.50 Jesus is a mystical dying and ressurecting godman.

 

The Gospel of Mark 70-110 The myth of Jesus is given an historical and

geographical setting.

 

The Gospels of Matthew

and Luke 90-135 Details of Jesus birth and ressurection are added

and the story embellished.

 

The Gospel of John c.120 Christian theology is developed

 

Acts of the Apostles 150-170 Having now created the illusion of an historical Jesus,

Acts is created to account for his disciples.

 

Letters of the Apostles 177-220 Letters attributed to Paul and the Apostles are

forged by Literalists in their battles with Gnosticism,

attacking 'many deceivers' who 'do not

acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh'"

 

 

It's impossible to know with certainty when the NT texts were written, but the dates quoted above are in some cases far outside the "established range" generally seen. (Doesn't make them wrong, just makes some of them much later.)

 

Here's a site that's mainatined on the UC-Santa Cruz campus by a Ph.D. in Physics...who seems also to be interested in NT scholarship. He provides a more "traditional" dating scheme: Dating NT.

 

-CC in MA

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Did Jesus exist? And if so, what is the non-religious historical evidence?

 

I am really enjoying this thread and the time I'm spending trolling the Internet for more information that addresses the topic at hand!

 

The co-founder of infidels.org, Jeffrey Jay Lowder, about ten years ago published a well-reasoned essay in which he makes the case for the historicity of Jesus:

 

"There simply is nothing epistemically improbable about the mere existence of a man named Jesus. (Just because Jesus existed does not mean that he was born of a virgin, that he rose from the dead, etc.) Although a discussion of the New Testament evidence is beyond the scope of this paper, I think that the New Testament does provide prima facie evidence for the historicity of Jesus. It is clear, then, that if we are going to apply to the New Testament 'the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material,'

Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels [/i] (New York: Collier Books, 1977)] we should not require independent confirmation of the New Testament's claim that Jesus existed."

 

His essay is at infidels.org.

 

-CC in MA

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Here's a site that's mainatined on the UC-Santa Cruz campus by a Ph.D. in Physics...who seems also to be interested in NT scholarship. He provides a more "traditional" dating scheme: Dating NT.

 

-CC in MA

I agree with a slightly more traditional dating as opposed to some who go way outside, but I was looking at the site you cited, and just felt like debating a little here with some of what they said. :wicked:

 

Also, when you read the Gospels, they read as realistic renditions of what occurred. In many places, there are descriptions and events that are not necessary. The only real reason to put them in is because they happened.

 

After Jesus is arrested, an unknown young man is following them, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. (Mk 14, 43-52). They seize him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked. The young man is not named. Why would the author include this unless he or his source knew that it happened? This line has an intimate eye witness feel to it. It is not central to the storyline, but it is the sort of color that an eyewitness would remember.

Yes, the later Gospels such as Matthew who swallows Mark's Gospel whole and adds flourishes to it to embellish the story, definitely makes it more interesting. But should we consider the little tiny details in Homer's Odyssey, evidence of its true history? When was the last time you watched a good movie? Is every single thing in the story or the cinematography of direct significance? No. They "add" to the story by virtue of "detail".

 

Like the other comments that each group see the same evidence but concludes differently, however I would argue that this doesn't mean the reality of it could equally "go either way". When you factor in the power of religious belief, and the desire for that bias to support emotional desire, well.... you tell me what happens to a dispassionate evaluation? I think not being a religious believer puts you in a better position to be objective. No?

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Like the other comments that each group see the same evidence but concludes differently, however I would argue that this doesn't mean the reality of it could equally "go either way". When you factor in the power of religious belief, and the desire for that bias to support emotional desire, well.... you tell me what happens to a dispassionate evaluation? I think not being a religious believer puts you in a better position to be objective. No?

 

We do have a tendency to notice the evidence that supports the views we already hold. But I don't know that the tendency of a believer to notice that which bolters his/her views is any greater than the tendency of the nonbeliever to do the same. There surely is an emotional desire to believe; I wonder, Is there a similar emotional desire in some to disbelive? In other words, many want, desperately want, Jesus to have existed. Do many desperately want the Jesus character to have been a myth? (Asking questions I do not have an answer to.)

 

-CC in MA

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Did Jesus exist? And if so, what is the non-religious historical evidence?

 

PLINY THE YOUNGER

 

Pliny the Younger lived about 63 C.E. to 113. In a correspondence (about 110-112 C.E.) with Trajan, emperor of Rome 98-117, he references Christian practices and his methods of coercing Christians to renounce Christ, as follows from this link at Fordham University:

 

Pliny to Trajan:

 

It is my custom, Sire, to refer to you in all cases where I am in doubt, for who can better clear up difficulties and inform me? I have never been present at any legal examination of the Christians, and I do not know, therefore, what are the usual penalties passed upon them, or the limits of those penalties, or how searching an inquiry should be made. I have hesitated a great deal in considering whether any distinctions should be drawn according to the ages of the accused; whether the weak should be punished as severely as the more robust, or whether the man who has once been a Christian gained anything by recanting? Again, whether the name of being a Christian, even though otherwise innocent of crime, should be punished, or only the crimes that gather around it?

 

In the meantime, this is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians, if they say "Yes," then I repeat the question the second time, and also a third -- warning them of the penalties involved; and if they persist, I order them away to prison. For I do not doubt that -- be their admitted crime what it may -- their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy surely ought to be punished.

 

There were others who showed similar mad folly, whom I reserved to be sent to Rome, as they were Roman citizens. Later, as is commonly the case, the mere fact of my entertaining the question led to a multiplying of accusations and a variety of cases were brought before me. An anonymous pamphlet was issued, containing a number of names of alleged Christians. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods with the usual formula, reciting the words after me, and those who offered incense and wine before your image -- which I had ordered to be brought forward for this purpose, along with the regular statues of the gods -- all such I considered acquitted -- especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which it is said bona fide Christians cannot be induced to do.

 

Still others there were, whose names were supplied by an informer. These first said they were Christians, then denied it, insisting they had been, "but were so no longer"; some of them having "recanted many years ago," and more than one "full twenty years back." These all worshiped your image and the god's statues and cursed the name of Christ.

 

But they declared their guilt or error was simply this -- on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn and recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god. So far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, they swore to keep from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and not to deny any trust money deposited with them when called upon to deliver it. This ceremony over, they used to depart and meet again to take food -- but it was of no special character, and entirely harmless. They also had ceased from this practice after the edict I issued -- by which, in accord with your orders, I forbade all secret societies.

 

I then thought it the more needful to get at the facts behind their statements. Therefore I placed two women, called "deaconesses," under torture, but I found only a debased superstition carried to great lengths, so I postponed my examination, and immediately consulted you. This seems a matter worthy of your prompt consideration, especially as so many people are endangered. Many of all ages and both sexes are put in peril of their lives by their accusers; and the process will go on, for the contagion of this superstition has spread not merely through the free towns, but into the villages and farms. Still I think it can be halted and things set right. Beyond any doubt, the temples -- which were nigh deserted -- are beginning again to be thronged with worshipers; the sacred rites, which long have lapsed, are now being renewed, and the food for the sacrificial victims is again finding a sale -- though up to recently it had almost no market. So one can safely infer how vast numbers could be reclaimed, if only there were a chance given for repentance.

 

Trajan to Pliny

 

You have adopted the right course, my dear Pliny, in examining the cases of those cited before you as Christians; for no hard and fast rule can be laid down covering such a wide question. The Christians are not to be hunted out. If brought before you, and the offense is proved, they are to be punished, but with this reservation -- if any one denies he is a Christian, and makes it clear he is not, by offering prayer to our gods, then he is to be pardoned on his recantation, no matter how suspicious his past. As for anonymous pamphlets, they are to be discarded absolutely, whatever crime they may charge, for they are not only a precedent of a very bad type, but they do not accord with the spirit of our age.

 

 

***

 

This correspondence, while not substantiating the existence of Jesus, establishes that within 80 years of his alleged lifetime, there were sufficient followers of Jesus that their presence was unwelcome in Pliny’s province of Bithynia.

 

BTW, I love Trajan’s response: “The Christians are not to be hunted out.” Sounds like “don’t ask, don’t tell” to me!

 

-CC in MA

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Like the other comments that each group see the same evidence but concludes differently, however I would argue that this doesn't mean the reality of it could equally "go either way". When you factor in the power of religious belief, and the desire for that bias to support emotional desire, well.... you tell me what happens to a dispassionate evaluation? I think not being a religious believer puts you in a better position to be objective. No?

 

We do have a tendency to notice the evidence that supports the views we already hold. But I don't know that the tendency of a believer to notice that which bolters his/her views is any greater than the tendency of the nonbeliever to do the same. There surely is an emotional desire to believe; I wonder, Is there a similar emotional desire in some to disbelive? In other words, many want, desperately want, Jesus to have existed. Do many desperately want the Jesus character to have been a myth? (Asking questions I do not have an answer to.)

 

-CC in MA

I thought about that last question you asked when I posed my question above. I don't think so for the most part. For myself, I spent a great deal of energy and time trying to make it true. I wanted to believe it. But I could find no justification for it that didn't violate the integrity of my rational mind. If God was true on the level as being proposed by believers, then he would satisfy every aspect of being human, which includes both emotional/spiritual and rational/intellectual.

 

Why should belief in God demand intellectual suicide? That smacks of a con-job trying to get rid of valid questions by quoting verses such as "he has made foolish the wisdom of the world". The other possibility is it that the whole thing really should just be taken emotionally as an inspirational story like any good mythology. Its power lies in the suspension of disbelief, and is not intended to encroach into the realm of rational thought.

 

A way to answer your question, do you find compelling reason to look for evidence to disbelief in Zeus? Or do you simply find no compelling reason to believe in him? Isn't disbelief in Zeus and the other gods of human history atheism minus one god?

 

For the most part I think this is how people reject it, not an active desire to not believe, though I'm sure there are some that do, but that's really more a rebellion against what they really do believe. The other compelling reason to dispute the claims would be out of defense against those who try to impose their beliefs on others and destroy those who don't agree with them. In this case, the motivation is not about "God", but about fundamentalists themselves. By blowing holes through the whole premise of their position you weaken their voice and they appear as the dishonest and insincere that they really are.

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Like the other comments that each group see the same evidence but concludes differently, however I would argue that this doesn't mean the reality of it could equally "go either way". When you factor in the power of religious belief, and the desire for that bias to support emotional desire, well.... you tell me what happens to a dispassionate evaluation? I think not being a religious believer puts you in a better position to be objective. No?

 

We do have a tendency to notice the evidence that supports the views we already hold. But I don't know that the tendency of a believer to notice that which bolters his/her views is any greater than the tendency of the nonbeliever to do the same. There surely is an emotional desire to believe; I wonder, Is there a similar emotional desire in some to disbelive? In other words, many want, desperately want, Jesus to have existed. Do many desperately want the Jesus character to have been a myth? (Asking questions I do not have an answer to.)

 

-CC in MA

I thought about that last question you asked when I posed my question above. I don't think so for the most part. For myself, I spent a great deal of energy and time trying to make it true. I wanted to believe it. But I could find no justification for it that didn't violate the integrity of my rational mind. If God was true on the level as being proposed by believers, then he would satisfy every aspect of being human, which includes both emotional/spiritual and rational/intellectual.

 

Why should belief in God demand intellectual suicide? That smacks of a con-job trying to get rid of valid questions by quoting verses such as "he has made foolish the wisdom of the world". The other possibility is it that the whole thing really should just be taken emotionally as an inspirational story like any good mythology. Its power lies in the suspension of disbelief, and is not intended to encroach into the realm of rational thought.

 

A way to answer your question, do you find compelling reason to look for evidence to disbelief in Zeus? Or do you simply find no compelling reason to believe in him? Isn't disbelief in Zeus and the other gods of human history atheism minus one god?

 

For the most part I think this is how people reject it, not an active desire to not believe, though I'm sure there are some that do, but that's really more a rebellion against what they really do believe. The other compelling reason to dispute the claims would be out of defense against those who try to impose their beliefs on others and destroy those who don't agree with them. In this case, the motivation is not about "God", but about fundamentalists themselves. By blowing holes through the whole premise of their position you weaken their voice and they appear as the dishonest and insincere that they really are.

 

 

Thanks, Antlerman. Interestingly, one of the accusations against the early Christians (as I know you know) was that they were atheists because they did not believe in the gods of the Roman Empire. Richard Dawkins often says that he simply takes his atheism one god beyond to the Christian god, after making the point that most of us (likely nearly all) are atheists about the Roman and Greek gods and goddesses.

 

I never thought about Zeus, in terms of whether or not I would believe in him. That raises a question in my mind, though: Did the Greeks and Romans at one point literally believe in these gods/goddesses in the way that traditional Christians literally believe in God (and Jesus)? Or were these stories always known as stories (myths, not verifiable facts)? Ancient mythology is an area of weakness in my studies that I need to work on.

 

Regarding your equating belief in God with "intellectual suicide," as it was in your case. If that is truly how your gut/mind/heart feels about it, you have no choice but to be atheist. That is the only choice if you are to maintain integrity. If belief in God from time to time causes one to wonder and ponder and maybe even just allow an unsolved question to remain unsolved, that's fine, in my view. Intellectual suicide is not.

 

Let me end with this funny story: I have been spending a lot of time on this forum, as some of you know! My partner -- non-religious, skeptical, son-of-a Ph.D. in the sciences, etc. -- has taken note. Just now he called to me from the other room, "I know you are busy with those heretics, but I need your help!" :grin: (Of course he doesn't really believe you are heretics.)

 

-CC in MA

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[

I never thought about Zeus, in terms of whether or not I would believe in him. That raises a question in my mind, though: Did the Greeks and Romans at one point literally believe in these gods/goddesses in the way that traditional Christians literally believe in God (and Jesus)? Or were these stories always known as stories (myths, not verifiable facts)? Ancient mythology is an area of weakness in my studies that I need to work on.

 

-CC in MA

 

They really did, the same way as people do in christianity. There were sacrifices etc. and plenty of competition between followers of different gods. There were atheists too of course, but they were less likely to speak up, rather like the christian europe of ages past.

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We do have a tendency to notice the evidence that supports the views we already hold. But I don't know that the tendency of a believer to notice that which bolters his/her views is any greater than the tendency of the nonbeliever to do the same. There surely is an emotional desire to believe; I wonder, Is there a similar emotional desire in some to disbelive? In other words, many want, desperately want, Jesus to have existed. Do many desperately want the Jesus character to have been a myth? (Asking questions I do not have an answer to.)

 

-CC in MA

 

I can only speak for myself. I spent the best part of half a century to find a reason to believe in Jesus. I think that should count as sincere "emotional desire to believe." I have searched the literature of a number of Christian communities (I am speaking of large international communities of different types of Christianity i.e. pietism, evangelical, and liberal). I have been studying theology on the graduate level for several years. Nowhere anywhere by anyone do I find sufficient explanation for what changed when Jesus died to support belief that his death was significant.

 

I am finally at the point where I am asking whether he even existed. I took a graduate course in religious studies on the Greco-Roman mystery religions. The course text was Marvin W. Meyer's The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts. He includes a piece by Clemet of Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria was an orthodox Christian. In other words, traditional Christians today (RC, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian, Mennonite, etc.) consider Clement of Alexandria to have been a "real" Christian as opposed to the Gnostics and other so-called heretics. The term orthodox is sometimes used for these Christians.

 

Meyer also includes Gospel of Philip, and writings by Philo of Alexandria, and Plutarch. These are all in a chapter with the title Mysteries Within Judaism and Christianity. Other chapter titles include:

 

The Roman Mysteries of Mithras

The Egyptian Mysteries of Isis and Osiris

The Greek Mysteries of Dionysos

 

Some Homeric hymns are included, Orphic Hymns, Cybele, etc. So you see, it covers the Christian-Judeo God along with the Greek gods. I did a paper on Lucian of Samosota's Glycon Mysteries. I found a piece by Lucian on the internet called The Passing of Peregrinus. That piece had a profound impact on me. Lucian tells the story of the Cynic philosopher Peregrinus's death and how he embellished it depending on who he was talking to.

 

No imagination is required to extend the same style of embellishment to the NT writers. When I apply this style of embellishment to the stories about Jesus in the NT, I come up with a charismatic itinerant preacher who made quite a stir in his part of the country and was killed by the Romans.

 

That is one possibility. The other possibility is that Tom Harper is right--Jesus is a mythical figure; nothing more and nothing less. My prof made the statement yesterday that he does not think the church leaders of the first century just made up the story. I told him that I don't think so, either. He seemed relieved by that. What I did not tell my prof is that I think it is possible that Jesus is an amalgamation or blend or mishmash of a batch of mythical figures from various mythologies of the Mediteranean world of the first century.

 

I don't know too much about oral culture, but perhaps I know more than most North Americans because I lived most of my life in a religious community that spreads across North America as a subculture. Radio and TV are forbidden in these communities because they are seen as part of "the world." These people have enough education to read and write. The various communities are connected with publications and personal letters and telephone. There are enough of these communities to make it possible to travel by car from Ontario to the Rocky Mountains and spend the night mostly with others of the culture. I'm not quite sure but I would hazzard a guess that it is possible to travel from coast to coast in the same manner. So we are talking about a significant population in the present day in Canada and the US that can perhaps be seen as a semi-oral culture.

 

News travels from mouth to mouth (telephone is mouth to mouth in a sense), by letter, and by publications. I lived most of my life without telephone. Part of the oral tradition, as I experienced it, is to remember accurate accounts of news-worthy happenings so that these can be told whenever two people meet. News of births, deaths, and marriages was spread in this way. The same goes for accidents, calamities, and other tragedies. News of building projects, business ventures, and other accomplishments spread in the same way. Any meeting, whether for a work bee or church service or by coincidence, was occassion for sharing any news one had.

 

If Dad helped his brothers on another farm he was expected to hear and bring home any news that might be floating around. I remember my mother's instructions when I was a child when she told me and my sisters very solemnly that if we hear about a birth or death when we were at school (or on the road) we should be sure to tell her when we got home. It was the expectation. Sometimes, in cases of emergency, messengers would travel from home to home with news of a death or fire where help was needed. If such a messenger came across a group of children walking home from school, the message might be given to them, with the expectation that the children would tell their parents. That was the kind of thing my mother was drilling us about.

 

General society is no where near as accurate when it comes to relating things that happened as my people are. I find even on this site, people talk in general terms, concepts, or experiences, rather than in vivid factual detail. I think that is the difference between an oral society and a multi-media society where news is flashed via the air waves.

 

Thus, in this culture people are trained from childhood to remember and pass on news-worthy items within the community. The only source of information is word of mouth, letter, or newspaper. Manual labour is the order of the day. "Nothing ever happens." There is massive amount of opportunity for the mind to dwell on whatever a person knows. At meal time and when working together as a family or larger group, people pass the time by discussing issues they know about. This includes anything from local news to methods of work to religion, folklore, and lay philosophy. Gossip or the "grape vine" is the normal information highway.

 

In such an environment, ideas and beliefs about reality develop that may have little connection with the ideologies of the larger world. Put this in the communities of the ancient Mediteranean world. Keep in mind that the super-highways of the world were built by the Romans at the time, the likes of which the western world would not see again for the next thousand or more years. Via these superhighways, messengers on horse-back could zip through the countryside at break-neck speed and news flashed all over the world in no time. Ideas meshed and mingled and blended and divided and changed and syncretized.

 

Sacred myths of miraculous births, deaths, and resurrections were part and parcel of the ideas floating around at the time. At a time when change was happening so fast and unpredictably as it was happening at that time would be major cause for philosophizing on a grand scale. Why, for instance, was it that in recent times i.e. the past few centuries war lords were able to conquor far-flung lands all the way from Spain to India?

 

We are talking about an environment where the line between the waking world of concrete objects that could be sensed with the senses and the dream world of invisible gnomes and spirits and the likes was almost non-existent. In other words, the two worlds blended into each other. Information from one world was used to explain things that happened in the other world. That the Jesus stories happened to survive for a couple thousand years is probably just the luck of the draw.

 

In such an environment, the Jesus stories could develop from mythical roots or from a real live person. Read The Passing of Peregrinus (link above) and you will see to what extent embellishment commonly took place.

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I never thought about Zeus, in terms of whether or not I would believe in him. That raises a question in my mind, though: Did the Greeks and Romans at one point literally believe in these gods/goddesses in the way that traditional Christians literally believe in God (and Jesus)? Or were these stories always known as stories (myths, not verifiable facts)? Ancient mythology is an area of weakness in my studies that I need to work on.

As in our society, you have those who believe the stories literally happened, others who embrace the myths and rituals as part of their cultural identity. Then of course you had the philosophers who looked at the role of gods in society and their literal non-existence. This is what our own society is like where the majority of people "believe" in God, but on what level?

 

If you ask your average church goer if they believe Jesus literally, actually walked on water, if they are strong enough they would probably admit they really don't, but they still find value in the stories and the institution as a place to raise your kids in. I think those who will insist dogmatically that these things were Facts, with a capital F!, are not reflective of the majority of believers. Then you have people like me who like to dig deeper in these sorts of questions, and the "answers" to questions like meaning and "truth" become more "specialized", to put a word to it.

 

Regarding your equating belief in God with "intellectual suicide," as it was in your case. If that is truly how your gut/mind/heart feels about it, you have no choice but to be atheist. That is the only choice if you are to maintain integrity. If belief in God from time to time causes one to wonder and ponder and maybe even just allow an unsolved question to remain unsolved, that's fine, in my view. Intellectual suicide is not.

Thank you for respecting my integrity and sincerity. There is nothing that sets me off worse than these fool Christians who come in here and say we were never really Christians because of how they read verses of scripture through the theology of John Calvin. To me, when I hear them tell me I never "knew the Lord", is to directly dismiss the sincerity of my heart and insult my personal integrity! This is complete bullshit that they seem to want to tell themselves at our expense because it somehow makes them feel more secure in their beliefs.

 

The years I spent in Bible College on my way into the ministry was not about some "power" thing I was seeking in religion that would bring into question someone's sincerity of belief. For me, it was all about gaining knowledge of the God whom I loved with my whole heart. I could not get enough of it! How dare they throw a Bible verse in my face like that, when the majority of Christianity doesn't agree with them! Like I said, nothing sets me off more than dismissing my sincerity like that.

 

I have no objection to someone seeing "God" as symbol of inspiration. There's plenty of times that I look into the skies and feel my heart soar out of this mundane world of daily life into the splendors and beauties of existence, and I could easily call this "God" as a catch-all expression, a language to frame that experience into. However, that word is sullied and dirtied for me by virtue of theology, by virtue of dogma, and of doctrines and of those who call themselves believers!

 

When I recognize the reality of how people use the symbol "God" as just that, as a language to describe transcendent feelings, those moments of "inspiration", or as a framework of myth to express higher values of human aspiration, then I will look at what they are aspiring to, and less at the language they are using. I respect what those words mean to them. I respect what is in their heart that they are expressing using those words.

 

On the opposite side of that coin, I look at what the fundamentalist is aspiring to and see something in their humanity that is opposite of what the language of "God" should be. I see something that is vulgar, that is prideful, and selfish. It is about elevating self by virtue of condeming others. The word "God" to them is about judging, condemning and controlling, about exclusivity and about power. It is what is in their heart I reject and their use of "God" in their language is an offense to me. “God” as a word to me personally became infected with this polluted mindset in the years I naively sought for understanding “God” in their ranks. My true “salvation” finally happened when I left them and rejected that language in my life.

 

So you understand, when I use the word mythology I am using it in the academic sense as a type of story in language, not in the common use as meaning "a lie". I don't mean it that way at all. There is value in mythology. It is part of our daily vocabulary in how we communicate concepts.

 

Very many of the stories of the Bible are mythological in nature. Walking on water is mythology; Noah's ark is mythological, etc. That doesn't mean there is no "truth" in them that may have some value. But to me the power of the story is ruined by bring it out of the realm of an elevated story in the language of mythology, down into the world of science where it can be examined under the knife. Once you see that it’s not a temporal reality, then loses its value as a transcendent "reality". Do you see? We create God through our language. Change the language, and change the image of God, change the meaning, and change the value of God.

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I can only speak for myself. I spent the best part of half a century to find a reason to believe in Jesus. I think that should count as sincere "emotional desire to believe." I have searched the literature of a number of Christian communities (I am speaking of large international communities of different types of Christianity i.e. pietism, evangelical, and liberal). I have been studying theology on the graduate level for several years. Nowhere anywhere by anyone do I find sufficient explanation for what changed when Jesus died to support belief that his death was significant.

 

This is a very powerful question, so fundamental yet complex and hard to grasp. It really makes me think. Of course we know the view of Paul -- somehow in the cosmos, or at least on this planet, this one person bore in his body the totality of darkness: sin, sickness, infirmity, separation, guilt, pain, suffering, death, the grave and torment. He took these things upon himself, willingly (yet reluctantly). He laid down his life for his friends. But I know you know this.

 

More likely your point is: Why was this necessary? How did this change things?

 

I can speak only to my situation. Somehow I sense that the arc of the moral universe is long, as Martin Luther King said, but it bends toward justice. Somehow, justice must prevail. Somehow, there must be a means of reconciliation who we are in our humanness (fallible, inept, ignorant, weakn) with who we can become. We can't do this ourselves or we can't recognize that we can do it ourselves. We harbor the suspicion that we need someone to show us the way and take away that which is not genuine in us.

 

It is a great salve to the psyche to believe that in that one person's death we have life. In that one sacrificial afternoon, all that is false and falls short of who we are has been redeemed. His death give us someone, a tangible someone, to throw our faults and weaknesses and failures and disappontments to, so that they can vanish and we can move on. It was done for our minds, to meet our sense of justice and goodness, and to allow us to walk away free. In that sacrifice we are given a get out of jail free card, and that jail is the mind, the psyche, the conscience.

 

Don't quote me on anything. Just typing out loud. (And not trying to convince anyone of anything...just typing what I'm thinking in response to your point.)

 

-CC in MA

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...

 

Thus, in this culture people are trained from childhood to remember and pass on news-worthy items within the community. The only source of information is word of mouth, letter, or newspaper. Manual labour is the order of the day. "Nothing ever happens." There is massive amount of opportunity for the mind to dwell on whatever a person knows. At meal time and when working together as a family or larger group, people pass the time by discussing issues they know about. This includes anything from local news to methods of work to religion, folklore, and lay philosophy. Gossip or the "grape vine" is the normal information highway.

 

...

 

 

Really enjoyed reading this biographical sketch and how it might relate to the Jesus story.

 

-CC in MA

 

 

Thank you for respecting my integrity and sincerity. There is nothing that sets me off worse than these fool Christians who come in here and say we were never really Christians because of how they read verses of scripture through the theology of John Calvin. To me, when I hear them tell me I never "knew the Lord", is to directly dismiss the sincerity of my heart and insult my personal integrity! This is complete bullshit that they seem to want to tell themselves at our expense because it somehow makes them feel more secure in their beliefs.

 

The years I spent in Bible College on my way into the ministry was not about some "power" thing I was seeking in religion that would bring into question someone's sincerity of belief. For me, it was all about gaining knowledge of the God whom I loved with my whole heart. I could not get enough of it! How dare they throw a Bible verse in my face like that, when the majority of Christianity doesn't agree with them! Like I said, nothing sets me off more than dismissing my sincerity like that.

 

 

Our holiness (wholeness) depends of being integrated -- body, mind-intellect, heart-spirit. One must find a way to integrate these aspects of our nature; that's integrity. Your journey from Bible College (may I ask if it had a denominational affiliation?), to the ministry (did you minister in a church?) to where you are now must be respected. It's quite a journey you have been on.

 

-CC in MA

 

Antlerman, that is elegant or eloquent. Thank you!

 

Indeed.

 

I don't do the "church thing" at all, but sometimes I wonder if I am failing to remember that the church is a hospital and everyone there is sick, and many of these sicknesses are contagious. Then I wonder if I am failing to remember that the alleged Jesus of history allegedly said that he came to call sinners (read: the sick) to repentence (read: health). Maybe I should not expect as much as I do, so as not to be disappointed.

 

And when I "condemn" those who won't allow gays full membership in the "body of Christ" am I not judging them just exactly as they had judged me.

 

-CC in MA

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I can speak only to my situation. Somehow I sense that the arc of the moral universe is long, as Martin Luther King said, but it bends toward justice. Somehow, justice must prevail. Somehow, there must be a means of reconciliation who we are in our humanness (fallible, inept, ignorant, weakn) with who we can become. We can't do this ourselves or we can't recognize that we can do it ourselves. We harbor the suspicion that we need someone to show us the way and take away that which is not genuine in us.

I know you were addressing Ruby, and I know you said not to quote you, but you are raising a point I have wanted to hear someone raise for a long time, so I'm going to run with it if you don't mind? Why do you feel we cannot do this in ourselves? What makes you say we cannot recognize that we can do it ourselves? What do you see that makes you feel we harbor a suspicion we need someone else?

 

Do you think that maybe this is a leftover from childhood that we look to our parents to "fix" it for us, or to know the answer? Isn't part of becoming an adult learning to recognize our own capabilities, and gaining confidence in ourselves, learning to believe in ourselves? Is it possible that people look to God when they should be looking to themselves? Is it possible that belief in God creates emotional dependencies that we would be better off not having if we hope to function as mature adults?

 

Doesn't standing strong on you own two feet and having belief in yourself as a unique and special individual contribute something uniquely beautiful to the world, to others? If there was a God, wouldn't he want you to love yourself, rather than be dependent on him for your sense of value?? To me, the world is made better by the light offered by each individual out of their own desire to be alive and a part of the world.

 

Looking to others for self-worth is to deny your own value, making it dependent on someone else. This is the problem I have with the idea of a "savior". If anything, a Jesus, or a Buddha, or a God should be a "guide" to lead you to save yourself. But in the end, it’s only recognizing and embracing what's always been there. I wouldn't turn then and call them a "savior" that my "salvation" is dependent on. We need to stand on our own two feet. Otherwise we will never be able to let our own light shine, so to speak.

 

It is a great salve to the psyche to believe that in that one person's death we have life. In that one sacrificial afternoon, all that is false and falls short of who we are has been redeemed. His death give us someone, a tangible someone, to throw our faults and weaknesses and failures and disappontments to, so that they can vanish and we can move on. It was done for our minds, to meet our sense of justice and goodness, and to allow us to walk away free. In that sacrifice we are given a get out of jail free card, and that jail is the mind, the psyche, the conscience.

I agree our minds are our own jail. I don't agree that his death is something that sets us free. If anything, perhaps you could say his life helped show us a way to live that allows us to live free of our own imprisoning thoughts, if it speaks to you that way. I just don't see how looking to another human being as a dumping ground for our shortcomings is helpful to us. An example of forgiveness would be however, forgiveness of others and of our own selves. We are perfect in our "imperfections". We are growing beings, learning, loving, and evolving. Why should we feel bad for being normal? What is sin? Falling short of the mark? We always fall short of the mark each day - if we are striving to be better. So why should we call that "sin" bad? It is part of growth.

 

Don't quote me on anything. Just typing out loud. (And not trying to convince anyone of anything...just typing what I'm thinking in response to your point.)

 

-CC in MA

Sorry, I quoted you. :grin:

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