Sunday, June 21, 2009
The NT is Good Evidence
This is primarily for Jesus mythers. I'm speaking to all atheists to some extent but mainly to Jesus mythers and I'm saying: NT is good evidence that Jesus lived as a man in history.
Atheists have written off the NT as though it doesn't exist. The reasons they have done so are childish and illogical. Nothing is more irritating than the tendency of the Jesus myth crowd to ignore the Gospels as though they aren't there, to assert that they were written in the late second century and even latter, and based upon a conglomeration of dying-rising pagan god types upon which the Jesus mythos was patterned. This is the most irksome of all becasue its so clearly and definitely disproved. Before going into that, however, I want to deal with the two major reasons why atheists in general write off the NT:
Atheists often take the tact that if miracle happen in a text then everything in the text must be totally wrong. Even if we assume the miralces embellishments, they have to have something to embellish. Do real historians write off texts because they are laden with miracles? No, they do not. One professor (from Oxford and had a big name reputation) for whom I worked as a TA when through and showed me a text from India where it was recorded that there were huge battles with millions of people and gods taking sides, thunderbolts hurled and so forth. They write this text off as useless? No they did not. The took from it the basic concepts that the kings mentioned were in power, they were real kings and real battles were fought. They De-mythologize it but they don't discord it!
Even in British history the battles of the Autheriad are considered to be real battles but they scale them down from thousands of warriors to about 50. Real historians do not rule out every aspect of a text just becasue it's embellished with miracles. That does not make the text invalid. If what we are after is evidence that Jesus lived as a man in history we don't even have to get his teachings right to know that people were talking about him as a real man at a certain point, so he probably was a real man.
I will show that the point at which Jesus' mythos was taken as concrete history is a much much earlier, at least a hundred years earlier than the Jesus myth theory would have it.
Redaction means editing. The redaction of the Gospels basically splice together previously existing documents, such as Q, M, L perhaps others. Atheists have a habit of speaking as though this destroys any validity to the Gospels, it does not. This is so for two reasons:
..........(a) Original Testimony survives
The Gospels were not produced by a single individual but by communities, that's what is meant by redaction; the redactors are people in the community producing the text to answer the community has raised. The work from the original testimony of the first members of the community, which was passed n orally and then written down at some point. Now I'm going to show this process was very short lived, becasue the original writing was no latter than mid first century. It's true the from in which we have Gospels today is from 70-90 but the documents the documents the Gospels were redacted from were much ealier and that is thought to be mid century. Both Crosson and Helmutt Koester agree on this point.
What this means is the whole community was the author, the whole community was the witness, and the whole community was the check on distortions in the text. So the redactoin would have taken place within the boundaries that the community knew were set from the beginning. This is born out by the fact of only one version of the story. But I'll get to this.
..........(b) It's still an Artifact
When Archaeologists find pottery shards in the ground they don't say "O it's broken, just toss it aside it cant' tell us anything." When they find lamps they don't say "O it's just a lamp, lamps aren't important what could a lamp tell us? Since we know the kinds of lamps used in different eras lamps are good means of dating other finds that are with the lamp. Even if a lamp is broken the shard still tells us something and it can be re constructed.
The Gospels, if we approach them as artifacts, tell us a lot even if the miracles are false and the book is heavily redacted. We can re construct the original and we can understand what people believed in a certain time. we can know through the science of Textual criticism (which is validated for all literature not just the Bible) what the original text contained and we can understand what people believed in a certain time.
John Dominic Crosson, in arguing against Jesus myther Earl Doherty says that the fact that people were writing about Jesus as a man in history as early as mid first century is very good indication that he was a man in history.
Now there are three more important arguments that demonstrate the veracity of the Gospels as artifacts:
(links to each of those can be found here)
I. Pre Mark Redaction shows Gospel story circulated in writing by mid first century.
go here for the documentation (2 or 3 pages)
This includes the empty tomb, the Passion narrative, and the story is told with Jesus as a man, flesh and blood man.
The point is even though latter readings are copied latter, they copy readings done earlier. We can tell when the reading was written by its Jewishness. Jewish reading is early a gentile reading is late, 70 being the dividing mark.
For example in the Diatesseron, even though the MS was complied in 172 AD the readings taht it is made from are very early readings and have been passed down in their own tradition. With this in mind reading in the Diatesseron are much old than readings in the canonical Gospels as we have them. This is how we know the story was circulating as early as mid century.
That means Jesus was understood as a flesh and blood man ni the 50s. That is almost a one hundred years before Doherty's time table starts assuming the concrete historical Jesus was being invented. That means the stories of Jesus are almost contemporary, they miss it by 18 years and since many of the witnesses were still alive we can think of it as contemporary. In an age where there was no such thing as up to the minute information, 18 years is not that far away.
When the Mythers say there are no contemporary records of Jesus this is because they have just completely ignored the Gosepl source which are handed down fron contemporary testimony of eye witnesses who saw him, heard him speak and were traveling with him.
II. Jews had oral culture which means they knew how to trasmitt oral tradition and protect its' validity.
They only had to preserve it orally for 18 years (from 33-50) and that with a passel of eye witnesses in the communities. How do we know the eye witnesses were in the communities? By the Resurrection narratives. They preserve in different forms the names of the women. I mean by that Matt has one set of woman, John only name one (MM) and so forth. that's probably because MM was in the John community, (the community that produced John) and Salome was in the Matthew community, and so on. We can also know from Acts and various statements in the Epistles (Paul comments on Andronicus and Junia who he says were from the begining and calls them "Apostles").
The community was the auhor
Oral tradition was not just haphazard rumor but could be carefully controled telling. The Jews had an oral culture and knew how to pass on info accurately.
III. One version of the story.
It's spun differently when told in different ways, but essentually there's only one version. Here's the argument:
1) Mythology tends to proliferate:multiple story versions are common
2) When historical facts are known to a wide audience, people tend not to deny the basic facts of an event.
a) eye witnesses keep it straight
b) People who try to invent new aspects of the event are confronted with the fact that most everyone knows better.
c) people know the story for a fact and just dont' bother to change it.
3) Story proliforations would probably influence further tellings, thus creating many more documents with different versions of the same story.
4) If a myth proliforates we would tend to find more versions of the same story, when there is only one version we can accept a degree of certainty that the story did not proliforate.
5) We do not find a proliforation of versions of the Jesus story in any sources we know of.
6) The most logical way to account for this single Jesus story is through p2, that everyone knew it was the case, there were too many eye witnesses to spread new versions.
a) It is illogical to assume that everyone just liked it so they didn't add to it.
b) There was no canonization process in place in the early period, and the single unified verison existed from the earliest trace of the story.
7)Therefore, we can assume that it is probably the case that the masses were familiar with the story of Jesus because the story reflects events known by all to be factual.
here's a list of facts that never different between one telling and another for the first three or four hundred years of the telling. These are not the only ones just a list I made off the top of my head one day:
1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.
2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"
3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.
4) That Jesus was knows as a miracles worker.
5) he claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.
6) he was crucified under Pilate.
7) Around the time of the Passover.
8) at noon.
9) rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.
10) several woman with MM discovered the empty tomb.
11) That this was in Jerusalem.
these are the kinds of things that would change from telling to telling. There are hundreds of sources in the first two centuries and they all tell it this way.
Moreover, there are 54 lost gospels, either existing theoretically or fragment or in other texts, such as unicials, some of them even go back to first century and may pre date the canonical (such as Thomas) but they all tell it as Jesus was flesh and blood.
Even the gnostics, who denied that Jesus was flesh and blood still kept the idea of Jesus as a man in history, at least to the appearance and the way he looked to other people. So even they locate the phenomenon of Jesus in history as something that appeared to be man. Those who denied Jesus fleshly nature came latter, the Gospel of Thomas speaks of Jesus a felsh and blood man but one who came from above.