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Bart Ehrman's New Book *Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth*


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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:22:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 5, 2012 4:23:41 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
So if A and B demonstrate that it is possible to violate the barriers of the natural world by accurately predicting and fulfilling something
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Which is a big "IF" . . .

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That still does not eliminate the barriers of the natural world which was just violated?
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Assuming for the sake of argument that you could demonstrate something which appeared to "violate the barriers of the natural world," that would at most be a data point in favor of /that thing/ violating the natural order. It would /not/ be evidence that some /other thing/ also violated the natural order.

Let's place this back within the natural order. Over the ages there have been a number of half-baked folk theories as to how certain things in the world worked. It was thought that the sun revolved around a stationary earth, and that explained sunrise and sunset. It was thought that flies spontaneously generated from rotting meat. It was thought that fire required the presence of a mysterious substance called "pholgiston".

These things were believed to be part of the natural order, even though all were later shown to be incorrect. When Copernicus produced a viable mathematical model for the heliocentric universe, he showed that heliocentricity was plausible -- but that said nothing about spontaneous generation, which had to wait another 120 years to be overthrown by Redi's experiments. And phlogistron theory persisted for most of another century after that.

-If- you could show unambiguous empirical evidence of accurate prognostication (which I don't think you can), what you will have shown is that _prognostication_ may be possible -- which says nothing about _resurrection_ claims.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:46:39 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
Who ever said they were being reinterpreted?
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You did. When I pointed out the failed prophesy in Matthew 16:28 in the KJV, you asserted that one needed to pay attention to the particular wording of Mark 9:1, in the 1995 New American Standard edition.

From my POV, either that prediction in Matt. 16 is correct, or it isn't. If you have to first refer to another book, or another edition, then it's pretty clear that Matt. 16:28 is, in and of itself, an inaccurate prediction.

I leave aside the fact that Mark 9:1 doesn't further clarify the passage in Matthew, but instead obfuscate it by introducing an even vaguer term.

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You only start seeing reinterpretation on a major level until about the year 1100CE and on after the crusades.
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There were many reinterpretations prior to the finalization of the canon. Some of them were simply excluded from the canon. Some of them became part of it.

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They had the same interpretation that never changed for centuries.
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If so, then this passage:

" Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."

Is clearly a failed prophesy, since the predicted 'second coming' has yet to materialize, and everyone being addressed by the prophesy has been dead 2000 years or so.

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It does not obligate disbelief but it does demand at minimum a re-examination.
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It doesn't demand re-examination. At best, it might suggest certain lines of inquiry.

However, I still don't feel like we have a viable working definition for "supernatural". 'Supernatural' has to mean more than just "stuff that we don't know right now."

There are many things which we likely don't know about the natural world. But we know many things today that people 100, 500, or 1000 years ago might have /thought/ to be supernatural, but we now know them to be part of the natural world.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:50:10 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
First we have the Creed that historians agree Preceed Paul to 33-37CE,
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Since the first written example we have is that alleged set down by Paul nearly 20 years later, what is the evidence that the Creed "preceded Paul" to 33 CE?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:52:40 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
First Corinthians 15 is not dated prior to 45, but the information the letter contains is dated to the 30's CE.
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Based upon what evidence?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:58:25 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
How is that evidence that he lied? Its at best evidence that Paul believed the unbelievable.
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Granted, it is not -conclusive- evidence that he lied. Applying the principle of parsimony, it is evidence that he either: was mistaken; hallucinated; suffered a dellusion; or lied. All of these are much more highly probable than that he saw a walking, talking person who was known to be dead.

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Paul is known for actually believing that. Hence the reason he was imprisoned multiple times for his report of seeing what he saw. And ultimately killed for it as reported in the book of 1 Clement.
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This is often offered as evidence that Paul was telling the truth -- ie., that he died for his belief. However, that only suggests that /he believed/ it to be the truth; not that it /was/ the truth. Plenty of people have died, and continue to die, for false or erroneous beliefs.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 1:19:30 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
Call it something that violates that physical laws of the universe. Something that does not comply with the fundamental principles of science.
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If something /appears/ to violated the physical laws of the universe, that is evidence that either, a) our interpretation of that phenomenon is in error; or b) our physical description of the universe is at present incomplete. Most scientists would agree with "b".

So it is not clear how this would be evidence of the "supernatural".

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NO that is in incorrect. If you studied it historically the Creed does not include Paul's experience. The Creed ends at verse 7 and Paul is verse 8.
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The authorship of Corinthians is almost universally attributed to Paul. What is your evidence that verses 1-7 are by some other author?

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Again, this is only true today. Not in the past.
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Not so: the human brain hasn't changed significantly in just 2000 years.

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It limits the time period to the 1st century before 70CE.
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Still far too vague to even invoke accurate prediction, much less supernatural evidence. "Sometime within 70 years a temple is going to be destroyed."

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Others were claimed died in the year 33CE but only 1 person was ever recorded under the conditions presented
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Jesus was the only person crucified in 33CE? What is the source for that assertion? We don't even know the year of his death with certainty -- it's been given anywhere from 30-36CE.

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It just demonstrates that Matthew embellished Mark as Mark came first.
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OK, so it doesn't demonstrate a fulfilled prophesy, then. Glad we'ree agreed on that point.

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You just have to know the literature from historical angle.
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If a prediction has to be rationalized, it doesn't fulfill the conditions for a realized prophesy.

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Correct. That's exactly what is necessary.
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Good. Dead people coming back to life is a physical impossibility.

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My argument is therefore that there is a prediction recorded and interpreted in the years 200BCE that describe the events that took place in the year 30'sCE
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I don't agree that even if you could show a particular single prediction to have apparently come true, that you have necessarily established the existence of the "supernatural." I make predictions that come true all the time; I am hardly supernatural.

But lets set that aside for a moment. What *specific* prediction are your refering to from 200BCE? Would you mind citing it is so many words, and giving the source?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 1:30:06 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Elias Vasquez sez:
Historians use references centuries removed with no physical evidence and yet still consider it history.
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You discount the existenceof archeology and paleontology?

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yet there is no doubt to his existence as a physical person and his writings are used for historical research.
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Of course there is doubt; there is always doubt. The question is one of whether the resolution of that doubt is necessary to a particular claim or not.

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So its kind of illogical to assume that the gospels written first in 70CE copied from a deity that is not recorded to show a resurrection until 200CE.
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I didn't assert that Christianity was copied from Mithranism, although I think the possibility exists that parts may have been adopted. What I did was point out that one of the very few non-Biblical sources you cite could just as well have been drawn on an earlier Mithran tradition which predated the gospels, as it might have been the other way around.

Mithras isn't necessary, at any rate. I cited some other examples of resurrecting gods whose stories predate not only the NT, but the OT as well, in some cases by millennia.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:21:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 3:23:00 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
Not only isn't Mithras necessary, but the earliest evidence to Mithraism as we know it dates to the mid-2nd century AD, over a century after stories about Jesus' resurrection were circulating. Besides which, in Mithraism there's no virgin birth (Mithras emerges fully-grown out of a rock), no December 25th, no disciples, no death, no burial, and certainly no resurrection. Mithras slays a bull in the Tauroctany.

As for the alleged dying-rising god cults, as Ehrman correctly says, no evidence for such cults actually exists. Certainly there's no evidence that such cults were known, let alone prevalent, in first century Jewish Palestine.

The idea that the gospel authors and Paul borrowed from pagan myths was discredited and discarded by serious academic scholars long ago.

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:27:23 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
Dr. H.: I've never seen 1 Corinthians dated any earlier than 45 CE, and usually it's dated to 50 CE or a little later. Where have you found a document containing 1Corinthians 15 that has been dated to the 30s CE?

LEE: I posted this to Rachel last night, but maybe you missed it.

I Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early Christian creedal statement that all scholars, whether Christian, Jewish, agnostic or atheist, consider authentic:

"For I handed on to you as first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died." (NRSV)

Drs. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona comment:

"How is this creed dated? Jesus' crucifixion has been dated at A. D. 30 by most scholars, who also date Paul's conversion to between 31 and 33. Paul went away for three years after his conversion, afterwards visiting Peter and James in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-19). Many scholars believe Paul received the creed from Peter and James at this time. . . . Accordingly, even if Paul was not given the creed at this time, he learned information from two of the most prominent disciples who had known Jesus."

Prof. Timothy Paul Jones says:

"So how can scholars know that these words actually came from early oral history? In the first place, Paul introduced this summation with two Greek words that clearly indicated it was oral tradition. These two words were paradidomi ("handed over" . . .) and paralambano ("received"). Ancient readers understood these two words-when used together-to imply that the writer was quoting words that he or she intended to become oral tradition. In this way, Paul clearly indicated that he was about to pass on oral tradition.

"There are also clues in the text that suggest where and when the tradition began. Even though Paul was writing in the Greek language to Greek people, he calls Simon Peter by his Aramaic name, Cephas . Then, there's the repeated phrase "and that"-a repetition that seems odd unless you're familiar with Hebrew or Aramaic. The phrase rendered "and that" is the Greek translation of a familiar Hebrew and Aramaic method for joining clauses. Based on the vocabulary and grammatical patterns in these verses, it seems that this tradition originally circulated in the Aramaic language. . . .

"Most likely, Paul learned this tradition around AD 35 when he visited the city of Jerusalem."

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:31:32 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
IRISH LACE: Using biblical text to corroborate biblical text is neither independent corroborating evidence that anything claimed about Jesus is true and it most assuredly is NOT empirical evidence that anyone rose from the dead.

LEE: We aren't using the Bible to verify the Bible. And again, nobody is arguing that you can prove the resurrection by appealing to the Bible.

What we're doing is taking the New Testament for what it very obviously is, a set of ancient historical documents. Each different NT text was written by different authors, to different audiences, in different places, at different times.

There's a whole scholarly discipline that enables scholars to decide just the type questions you raise above.

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:33:32 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
D. THOMAS: Lee wrote: "Take the gospels for example. They're multiple, independent witnesses to Jesus, because each was written by a different author, at a different time, at a different place, for different reasons, using different sources."

None of that is true. At the very least, Matthew and Luke were dependent on Mark. And almost certainly on another text. And Mark was dependent on the Septuagint.

So much for "multiple, independent witnesses to Jesus."

Your use of the term "witnesses," while common in apologetical circles and technically correct, is misleading. We have no writings by anyone who was, or claimed to be, an eyewitness to the events in Jesus' life.

LEE: D. Thomas, you need to do some basic reading on textual criticism. Because you don't understand how academic scholars use "independent" or "witness."

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:35:01 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
SARAH: I Cor 15:8 is irrelevant. So is the rest of your post. None of your references show Paul meeting a resurrected person called Jesus. Maybe you didn't really look?

LEE: Why do you say I Corinthians 15:8 is irrelevant? I'd say it's extremely relevant.

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 3:39:46 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
SARAH: Ok. Let's pretend nobody ever believed in Tammuz, Isis, Persephone, or the others or had any "cult around them. I shall rephrase to accommodate your radical skepticism:

LEE: The issue is not whether these cults existed--obviously they did--but whether any of these cults had a bona fide resurrection that in any way resembles the very Jewish resurrection belief that colors Jesus' resurrection and whether these cults are evidence of a widespread pagan belief in the same. They don't and they aren't.

And again, why would Paul go over material about Jesus that his churches already knew? He didn't have to mention Jesus' parents or his birthplace because everybody in these churches had already been taught these things by Paul or others and nobody questioned those. He was only responding to certain theological/moral issues, not writing a gospel.

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 4:15:36 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Lee Freeman sez:
Not only isn't Mithras necessary, but the earliest evidence to Mithraism as we know it dates to the mid-2nd century AD, over a century after stories about Jesus' resurrection were circulating.
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You miss my point entirely. First off, it's naive to assume that a complex legend that's been told and retold for 2000 years is based on -only- a single prior legend. Probably there are some parts of Christianity that were in fluenced by the Mithras legend, but dozens of other legends feed into it as well. Mithras isn't necessary simply because there are plenty of other prior religious legends to choose from.

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there's no virgin birth
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Virgins hold a special place in many pagan religions. The Vestal Virgins of ancient Roman Religion -- predating the NT by some 700-800 years -- are just one example. Virgin birth is hardly unique to Christianity, either. Krishna, Dionysus, and the Buddha were all born of virgins. It's not surprising that a virgin was accorded an prominent place in the Christ legend.

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no December 25th
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Not in the Bible, either. Borrowed from a date traditionally used to celebrate the winter solstice, and the rebirth of various solar deities.

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no burial
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Either for Mithras or for Jesus.

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and certainly no resurrection.
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Besides Jesus, we have pre-existing claims of resurrection for Osiris, Isis, Ba'al, and Adonis, among others.

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As for the alleged dying-rising god cults, as Ehrman correctly says, no evidence for such cults actually exists.
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Who said anything about "cults"? An cult isn't necessary for a folk tale or a myth to feed a developing legend.
Characteristics for Sherlock Holmes were borrowed from Dr. Joseph Bell, but I've never seenanyone claim there was a "cult" of Joseph Bell.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 4:36:02 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Lee Freeman sez:
"How is this creed dated? Jesus' crucifixion has been dated at A. D. 30 by most scholars, who also date Paul's conversion to between 31 and 33.
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Most scholars I've read date the crucifixion closer to 33 AD, but that's a quibble.

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Paul went away for three years after his conversion, afterwards visiting Peter and James in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-19). Many scholars believe Paul received the creed from Peter and James at this time. . .
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Why would they believe that, other than mere wishful thinking to make the dates come out the way they would like them to come out? Were is the evidence that Paul didn't hear the Creed from someone in 45-50 AD, when he was writing it down?

Elias, BTW, has suggested that it wasn't in fact -Paul- who wrote it down at all -- in which case when /Paul/ may have heard it is irrelevent.

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"So how can scholars know that these words actually came from early oral history?
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That's not the question; the question is /when/ in oral history.

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In this way, Paul clearly indicated that he was about to pass on oral tradition.
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That's not the point in question. The question is, was Paul passing on something he heard 20 years before, or something he heard last week?

And if he did, in fact, wait 20 years to write it down, we have once again the question of memory and accuracy.

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"Most likely, Paul learned this tradition around AD 35 when he visited the city of Jerusalem."
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Again, I've seen no strong evidence given for this dating. If this "tradition" was as common and widespread as has been previously suggested, Paul could presumably have learned it anywhere, at any time. Nothing you've posted points specifically to 35AD, nor even to a specific decade.

Moreover, I think it would be very difficult for linguistic scholars to place a text written in ritualized verse within one or two decades, lacking specifically dated corroborative material. Think about it: if I hand you a written copy of the Lord's prayer, could you really authoritatively place it in, say 1979 as opposed to 1999? Could anyone? I can't believe this task would be any eaisier with a language and a culture 2000 years old.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 4:42:14 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Lee Freeman sez:
The issue is not whether these cults existed--obviously they did
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Now wait a minute Lee, you appear to be back-pedaling there at a rate surely exceeding the speed limit.
Just a handful of posts previous to this, you said in response to me:

. LEE: "As for the alleged dying-rising god cults, as Ehrman correctly says,
. no evidence for such cults actually exists."

Now you say "obviously they did"?

My position doesn't require that their be "cults", but still, I'm curious. Which is it? "No evidence for such cults actually exists," or "obviously they did [exist]"?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 4:50:54 PM PDT
Dr H says:
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Lee Freeman sez:
Thomas, you need to do some basic reading on textual criticism. Because you don't understand how academic scholars use "independent" or "witness."
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I think you may be speaking pretty much exclusively for Christian apologist scholars. Because the academic scholars I know use "independent" in the same sense as it is used in scientific research: 'independent' means information collected from multiple /unconnected/ sources. An "independent variable" is a variable that does not depend on anything else. 'Independent' means it *stands alone*, and doesn't rely on the original entity under study.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 5:34:30 PM PDT
Irish Lace says:
You are VERY confusing. First you give me one answer:

I said: "Let me be direct with you about something - two somethings actually: using biblical texts to corroborate biblical test is NOT _independent . . .

And you said: "Actually, yes it is."

THEN I said: "Using biblical text to corroborate biblical text is neither independent corroborating evidence that anything claimed about Jesus is true ... "

And you said: "We aren't using the Bible to verify the Bible."

See? Confusing.

Then, oddly enough, you added something that sounds very scholarly but actually seems to be entirely irrelevant or worse - non-responsive obfuscation. I had asked (and you completely ignored): "And who, pray tell WERE those authors? And what verification do you have that ANY of them were witnesses to Jesus? When were the originals written and by whom and what exactly did they say and how do you know since not a single original (especially not any signed by the authors!) exist. And then tell us how the texts for the Bible were selected and compiled? What about THAT process suggests "independent corroborating evidence."

Was this supposed to be an answer? "What we're doing is taking the New Testament for what it very obviously is, a set of ancient historical documents. Each different NT text was written by different authors, to different audiences, in different places, at different times."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 5:36:35 PM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"LEE: The issue is not whether these cults existed--obviously they did--but whether any of these cults had a bona fide resurrection that in any way resembles the very Jewish resurrection belief that colors Jesus' resurrection..."

And when, exactly, did we receive any actual evidence, beyond simple claims in copies of ancient myths, that Jesus did it?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 6:16:23 PM PDT
Sarah says:
SARAH: In which verses does Paul meet the resurrected Jesus? I can't find them.

LEE: Maybe because you aren't really looking? In every one of the accounts of Paul's conversion he claims to meet the resurrected Lord, but especially in I Corinthians 15:8.

SARAH: I Cor 15:8 is irrelevant. So is the rest of your post. None of your references show Paul meeting a resurrected person called Jesus. Maybe you didn't really look?

LEE: Why do you say I Corinthians 15:8 is irrelevant? I'd say it's extremely relevant.

S Relevant to something, no doubt, but devoid of any reference to Paul meeting a resurrected person called Jesus.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 6:46:01 PM PDT
S. Kessler says:
"LEE: The issue is not whether these cults existed--obviously they did--but whether any of these cults had a bona fide resurrection that in any way resembles the very Jewish resurrection belief that colors Jesus' resurrection..."

IL: And when, exactly, did we receive any actual evidence, beyond simple claims in copies of ancient myths, that Jesus did it?

SK: And since when did Jews have resurrection beliefs?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 7:46:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 8:09:25 PM PDT
"I'm betting that you don't believe in Joseph Smith's "probable historical answer" about golden plates and angelic translators. An"

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. "

True. So I refer to your statement about non-natural events. I would propose that natural events predicted and fulfilled demonstrate an extraordinary evidence for violation for the laws of physical world. The type of violation of laws that prevent a resurrection.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 7:56:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 8:08:28 PM PDT
"If Jesus existed and did NOT perform miracles which included raising Lazarus and did NOT himself rise from the dead, what are you left with but an itinerant Jewish preacher with a whale of a legend"

You told me that I need to establish that he CAN do a miracle. Not that he actually did one.

Prophecy fulfillment is by itself a miracle if it took place in perfect completion. By only the natural events in the life of Jesus, he fulfilled prophecy. Specifically his character as type of prophetic figure, his death in the year 30-33CE at Jerusalem, The destruction of the Temple after his death, his arrival on the scene after a gathering in the wilderness of the people, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, his character for ministering to the poor and destitute, and messianic candidate. All such statements are natural basic details we recognize historically.

The fulfillment of all of those prophecies in surrounding his life is in itself a miracle as those events were predicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls and interpreted before Christianity was even on the map.

Its in the Damascus Document, The Talmud and in Maimonides references that you find those prophecies as details of of the Messiah.

Those events are considered historical and are completely natural yet prophetic at the same time. Their fulfillment in history is a miracle.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 7:59:57 PM PDT
Sarah says:
SARAH: Ok. Let's pretend nobody ever believed in Tammuz, Isis, Persephone, or the others or had any "cult around them. I shall rephrase to accommodate your radical skepticism:

LEE: The issue is not whether these cults existed--obviously they did--but whether any of these cults had a bona fide resurrection that in any way resembles the very Jewish resurrection belief that colors Jesus' resurrection

S The Jesus resurrection tale is just a resurrection tale. I don't see anything particularly Jewish about it. We don't have any resurrection stories I know of in which the person's own closest friends don't recognize him and somebody has to stick a finger into his wound to verify whatever that was supposed to verify and then instead of rejoining his family to live out his life the resurrectee ascends to heaven to resume an immortal existence as a god. That may fit some pagan patterns, but I don't know of any such Jewish stories.

Lee: And again, why would Paul go over material about Jesus that his churches already knew? He didn't have to mention Jesus' parents or his birthplace because everybody in these churches had already been taught these things by Paul or others and nobody questioned those.

S No, since we have not one shred of evidence that anybody before Mark's Gospel in 70 CE at the very earliest had ever heard of even one single detail of Jesus' life (unless you count Paul's own recitation of the pagan eucharist formula), let us rephrase:

"And again, how would Paul go over material about Jesus that not one person in the whole world, including Paul, had ever heard of? He didn't have to mention Jesus' parents or his birthplace because nobody had ever heard one thing about either and so they wouldn't be looking for such information and wouldn't miss it and wouldn't judge Paul's writing lacking just because it omits practically everything having to do with Jesus."

Lee: He was only responding to certain theological/moral issues, not writing a gospel.

S Obviously. He probably couldn't have written a "gospel" to save his life.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 8:01:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 8:04:40 PM PDT
"What you do NOT have is independent corroborating evidence for is that any of that "some of it" included anyone rising from the dead, walking on water, healing lepers or feeding multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. "

Not necessarily. I left something out. According to almost all reconstructed versions of the TF Josephus referred to Jesus doing, "startling deeds". Of course there is no direct mention of the resurrection.

Its the Paul Meier version. Other reconstructions claim Jesus was a sorcerer but they do include a version of said reference. Josephus didn't deny that but said it happened.

However, as the previous point stated, Jesus fulfillment of prophecy would in itself be a miracle that might allow one to consider the possibility of Jesus doing the things you mentioned.
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