Sunday, June 21, 2009

The NT is Good Evidence

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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:

(1) Miracles

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.

(2) Redaction

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.
__________________

13 comments:

cl said...

Hey what happened? Weren't there some comments here earlier today?

J.L. Hinman said...

sorry about that. those were good comments too. But I had to re do teh whole post because some how it screwed up the html of the blog. The side bar all appeared at the bottom after the text and the only way I could find to fix it was to sart over. Notice the graphic is different and no table of Pauline sayings. I think the html of that table screwed it up.

well I forgot to save the comments.

cl said...

No worries, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't totally crazy.

Anonymous said...

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.



3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


4) That Jesus was knows as a miracles worker.

What is your favorite Earthly miracle of Jesus described by Paul?


5) he claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


6) he was crucified under Pilate.

Pilate not mentioned in Paul or 1st century epistles.


7) Around the time of the Passover.

Date not mentioned in Paul I think.


8) at noon.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


9) rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

Empty tomb not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


10) several woman with MM discovered the empty tomb.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


11) That this was in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem not mentionied in Paul or 1st century epistles.

Loren said...

Brass tacks time. Metacrock, which parts of the purported history in the New Testament do you consider unhistorical?

Imagine yourself going back in a time machine with a video camera to visit the events of the New Testament. What would you see? And what would that camera record?

If you are not an inerrantist, then you should have no trouble discussing what you consider Biblical errancy.

J.L. Hinman said...

Blogger cl said...

No worries, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't totally crazy.

lol whose going to make sure I'm not crazy? ;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


which Anon are you?

I'm going to do the next blog piece no this stuff so I don't want to go too deeply into it now. on second thought maybe it's a good idea.

By "these facts" you mean that he was born in AD 33? why does that have to be found in Paul? Your working under the fallacious assumption that anyting historical for Jesus has to be in Paul. that's not true. Pauls shows us certain things he does not have to show us all things:

(1) He used a saying source similar to Q. so he had the primary material of Jesus' teachings. He does allude to some Gospel narrative, but doesn't go into it explicitly.


Paul alludes to quite a bit of the Narrative. Here's a chart





2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"

so what? why should he?

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.



3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


4) That Jesus was knows as a miracles worker.

What is your favorite Earthly miracle of Jesus described by Paul?


5) he claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


6) he was crucified under Pilate.

Pilate not mentioned in Paul or 1st century epistles.


7) Around the time of the Passover.

Date not mentioned in Paul I think.


8) at noon.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


9) rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

Empty tomb not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.



The resurrection is. Paul clearly says Jesus was flesh and blood. He clearly says the risen body was flesh. You might think of "gloried" to mean spirit but certainly solid.


10) several woman with MM discovered the empty tomb.

These "facts" are not found in Paul or 1st century epistles.


11) That this was in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem not mentionied in Paul or 1st century epistles.

Yes it is, in Acts. Acts is first century.

It's mentioned in Revelation and it's mentioned in 1 Clement (95AD)


Just a rehash of the myther trick. there's no particular reason why Paul should mention any of this. It is not the case taht if Paul doesn't mention it we have no evdience for it. For example his mother being named Mary. No one ever disputes that. IN the hundreds of documents that mention Jesus' mother from first (34 lost Gospels) to middel ages and beyodn to now no document of any kind has ever insisting she was named soemthing else. So it's a pretty good bet taht was written in stone beause it was ture and everyone knew it was true.

It's even in the Talmud that she was named Mary, form the first century.

the little myther trick is to say here's something you don't have, here's some kind of gap, therefore it must be false because there's a gap. that's not the way historians think about things.

J.L. Hinman said...

Brass tacks time. Metacrock, which parts of the purported history in the New Testament do you consider unhistorical?

there's good reason to think of the basic outline of the narrative as historical. We can't really validate many of the specifics.

Imagine yourself going back in a time machine with a video camera to visit the events of the New Testament. What would you see? And what would that camera record?


Of course I and every other history graduate student has played that game, but it's not the way historians think. That sort of question is not really a historical question. Its' not a matter of making out passages. Basically I accept the general outline of the story and the gist of his teaching and certain spcieific sayings because theya re attested to.

If you are not an inerrantist, then you should have no trouble discussing what you consider Biblical errancy.

Scholars don't think that way. No one keeps a chart of "errency." there's not such term in theology what we need to do to be good historians is to understand the assumptions that historians make and how those assumptions are validated or disproved.

the little Jesus myther crap is nt historical thinking. no historian sites around going "Paul didn't talk about Jesus mother."

Anonymous said...

Just a rehash of the myther trick. there's no particular reason why Paul should mention any of this. It is not the case that if Paul doesn't mention it we have no evidence for it. For example his mother being named Mary. No one ever disputes that. IN the hundreds of documents that mention Jesus' mother from first (34 lost Gospels) to middle ages and beyond to now no document of any kind has ever insisting she was named something else. So it's a pretty good bet that was written in stone because it was true and everyone knew it was true.

the little myther trick is to say here's something you don't have, here's some kind of gap, therefore it must be false because there's a gap. that's not the way historians think about things.



You fail to address the substance of the myther theory: Paul's Jesus was a mythical – He came to earth, was crucified, rose from the dead, brought salvation, and appeared to believers after he resurrection. No one doubts Paul believed these "facts."

Other Jewish nutters told similar mythic stories about Enoch.

But Paul never places any of these facts in a historical context. Never gives a date, or place for the crucifixion. Gives no historical narrative of Jesus' life.

Like Paul, the Enoch nutters also never placed their Enoch in history, never gave dates and places for His events.


So, you're right. It is possible Paul knew lots of historical facts about Jesus – and never once revealed of them.

It is also possible Paul's Jesus was entirely mythical. That's consistent with what other Jewish folks did back then. And that can be believed without tendentious tortured post hoc fiddling with Paul's motives.

J.L. Hinman said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meta: Just a rehash of the myther trick. there's no particular reason why Paul should mention any of this. It is not the case that if Paul doesn't mention it we have no evidence for it. For example his mother being named Mary. No one ever disputes that. IN the hundreds of documents that mention Jesus' mother from first (34 lost Gospels) to middle ages and beyond to now no document of any kind has ever insisting she was named something else. So it's a pretty good bet that was written in stone because it was true and everyone knew it was true.

the little myther trick is to say here's something you don't have, here's some kind of gap, therefore it must be false because there's a gap. that's not the way historians think about things.



You fail to address the substance of the myther theory: Paul's Jesus was a mythical – He came to earth, was crucified, rose from the dead, brought salvation, and appeared to believers after he resurrection. No one doubts Paul believed these "facts."


so far that is not the myther theory that's the Orthodox view. The myther idea would have him crucified in space or some spiritual dimension, while Doherty has some crazy idea about him being flesh he doesn't have him being a flesh and blood man from a flesh and blood blood line. But Paul does.

Other Jewish nutters told similar mythic stories about Enoch.

Not pre dating the NT.but the Jews did expect the messiah to do that. So it's not unreasonable to think other Jews would have stories of someone doing it.

But Paul never places any of these facts in a historical context. Never gives a date, or place for the crucifixion. Gives no historical narrative of Jesus' life.

giving him a flesh and blood blood line is placing it in a historical context(Romans 1:3). The rest is just typical myther argument from silence. He doesn't have to give a date no reason why he should. Everyone knew the time frame why he need to say it?

Like Paul, the Enoch nutters also never placed their Enoch in history, never gave dates and places for His events.


show me documentation for it. what document?

So, you're right. It is possible Paul knew lots of historical facts about Jesus – and never once revealed of them.


read the chart I linked to. He alludes to many of them.


It is also possible Paul's Jesus was entirely mythical. That's consistent with what other Jewish folks did back then. And that can be believed without tendentious tortured post hoc fiddling with Paul's motives.

Hebrews is Pauline and it states clearly that Jesus had an earthly father and earthly life.

the major unfairness and weakness of the myther view piont is the way they privilage their outlands readings for no reason and argue form silence.

they like children saying "I think Jesus was a space man and it doesn't say he wasn't a space man since you can't disprove it then it's proved totally."

Kristen said...

Question to "Anonymous":

What do you think an "epistle" is?

It's a letter, correspondence written by one person to another or a group of others.

People only write letters to people they have some connection with. Along the lines of those connections, its quite natural to take certain information as read.

I don't write to my aunt and tell her where my uncle (her brother) lives or his kids' names. We both know these things.

The fact that Paul doesn't mention certain things about Jesus in his letters to the churches, does not mean those things never happened.

Loren said...

Metacrock, you say:
Scholars don't think that way. No one keeps a chart of "errency." there's not such term in theology what we need to do to be good historians is to understand the assumptions that historians make and how those assumptions are validated or disproved.

Metacrock, you ought to read some historians' discussion of the question of how accurate various ancient historians were.

And saying that you don't like the idea of time-machine thought experiments suggests something very unflattering about you.

J.L. Hinman said...

Metacrock, you say:
Scholars don't think that way. No one keeps a chart of "errency." there's not such term in theology what we need to do to be good historians is to understand the assumptions that historians make and how those assumptions are validated or disproved.

Metacrock, you ought to read some historians' discussion of the question of how accurate various ancient historians were.

I am a historian sweetheart. That doesn't contradict what I said. Historians don't say things like "here's chart on errancy."


And saying that you don't like the idea of time-machine thought experiments suggests something very unflattering about you.

9:48 PM

that I haven't watched too much Dr. Who?

I didn't say I don't like them. I said all historian play such games and all historians know they don't prove anything.