Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dialouge With An Atheist Friend Over Same Harri's Assertions about Science and Ethics

Science doing ehtics--think no evil

On my message boards a friend atheist named Qunauntum Troll brings my attention to this lecture by Sam Harris in which he tries to show that science can supposedly answer moral questions. To cut through a lot of preliminary stuff, I argue that right out of the shoot in the first few things he says Harris makes every mistake that I accuse atheists of making when they try to argue for biological ethics. Actually two people brought up the same argument. The other one was Quantum Troll. He used the U tube version of the same lecture, here's what I said to him.

Quantum Troll is a friend  and he's an atheist and one of the brightest people I know. We always have good dialogues and it's always challenging to spar with him.


He (Harris) makes every single mistake in logic and promotes every fallacy one after another that I have aid reductionists do starting with the reduction (his own words!) of value to "facts." Values cannot be facts. you can't reduce a value to a fact. that's a fact. you can't do it because it's not the meaning of the word. it's not in the meaning of hte word for it be a fact. that's like saying reducing matters of taste to facts.

Before he does that the first thin he does is to reduce all of ethics to consequentialism. The first thing he says is that values are based upon harm. So he set's up the notion what makes something good, O the outcome determines good, (screw duty, screw obligation, screw rules) and then with outcome what matters is harm. So screw higher ideas. screw self sacrifice screw enduring a harm in order to keep a greater obligation. So I should ditched my parents at their fist sign of trouble.

Then he asserts that the connection between science's ability to tell us what is harmful and that plugs science in as a moral originator. But he's already made so many major fallacies before he could do that or get that to point that his own scheme is already invalid.

He himself uses the term "reduce" he says 'reduce value to facts.' So he's aware that he's just chucking the data right and left.

Morality does not reduce to outcome
values are not facts and can't be reduced to facts
Meta-ethical theory is not only teleological
lack of harm is not the only value.

Does he answer Hume's fork/ no all he does is make the blunder Hume was warning us about and assert that it doesn't matter because that's part of the data he's hidden.

he's made every blunder I've warned about before he even get's cooking.

QuantumTroll wrote:

Meta, give us all a break, will you?

Does Sam Harris ever say that science provides the absolute standard for what is good and what is bad? No.
Does he say that we can look to science in all practical questions of ethics and morality? No.

First, stop saying "give me a break" when I point out obvious classic mistakes. there is not an ethics professor in this world who would not say what I said up front.

that's not even an issue. it's the same as with theology. atheists pontificate about how stupid theology and they never read it. have you ever taken an ethics class? If you don't know what ethical thinking is how can you know if science can do it?
Quantum Troll
What does he do, then?

He does assume a consequentialist ethics. Harm, pain, and suffering are taken to be bad, joy and well-being are taken to be good. Regardless of your specific beliefs and philosophy regarding ethics and morality, you're probably not going to disagree very much with these assumptions. It doesn't matter where they come from, what matters is that 99.99999% of people will agree that suffering is bad and well-being is good.

Yea I do [disagree very much] and it's a big a deal. It's a major deal in ethical theory. what hes' doing is just a classic mistake. that's on a par with a fundie saying that evolution is just a theory becuase they've heard of scientist saying "evolutionary theory." Same level of ignorance.

Look it's circular. To show that scinece does ethical thinking you have to show how you would select values. But he start from the assumptions these values are accepted a prori. If that's the case then its' pointless to say that science can do any thing about them because they are a priori givens anyway we don't need any kind of special theorizing to understand them.

But the fact of it is that does not do anything in the realm of meta ethics (the field where we study what makes good good, bad bad?).
Quantum Troll
Then he says that science can help determine the relative goodness of complex and difficult questions, and it will likely become better at doing so in the future. In other words, science is a tool that can and should be employed in determining moral questions. Today, it is underutilized in this function because people like you refuse to admit that moral questions can (sometimes, maybe often) be framed as questions of fact.

But it can't be such a tool because he doesn't' understand the basic issues and he's every major blunder in just setting up his topic. All he really says is "screw 2000 years of ethical theory, screw Socrates and screw Western thought, let's just let scientists be experts in everything becuase science is the only form of knowledge."

how about this? religion can decide the nature of wave particle duality. now screw all that Quantum stuff let's start looking through the bible to find verses about the nature of light, Good is goodness, so I we need to ask "are waves good or are particles good?"

that's just the sort of thing he's doing.
he's just using the same three tricks that the reductionist scam always uses:

(1) lose the phenomena

in this case ethical thinking and the all specialized theorizing that has been part of an academic discipline since the middle ages is gone.

(2) remove counter evidence by circular reasoning

Usually this is done by saying "this can't be evidence of a miracle because there is no evidence of miracles" but the reason there is none is because whenever it's presented then it's rejected on the grounds that there is none, and this has gone on so long that people start believing there really is none.

In this case it's done by asserting the values he wants to put over as the basic goal of all ethical thinking, just conveniently pretending the rest of the data has never presented (deontolgoical thinking).

(3) re defining the terms

having made the counter data go away then the terms are re-defined to give the illusion that there was never anything there.

In my forth coming book I have two whole chapters where I follow philosopher Wayne Proudfoot through a whole book he wrote and show point for point how the applies this technique to make religious experience go away.


Meta, if you really disagree with the notion that consequentialist ethics based on reducing human suffering and promoting human welfare is a common denominator for a vast majority of ethical thought, then it should be easy for you to show me some concrete examples of when your morality breaks against this rule of thumb. In other words, I'd like you to show me where we would disagree about what is ethical and what is wrong. When do you think it is okay for people to be hurt, and when is it bad for them to flourish, thrive, or be happy?


asking me that is really a doge. The issue is how can we do ethical thinking without using ethical thinking but filtering it through a discipline that is not about ethics? We can only do it by reducing ethical thinking to phsyical world and not thinking ethically.

To do that Harrish just asserts the basic values of utilitarianism as though they are al there is to ethics, then you are trying to justify that move by asserting there can't be anything then saying "ok well show me something if that's the case" as though there are no non-consqeuntialist philosophers. the vast majority of ethicist are non consequential. consentuqialism is taken to be dead and John Rawls is understood to be the last guy to drive the last nail in the coffin.

You should watch that ethics show on PBS. I see it on Sunday night around 6pm but you should look for it on PBS.org. It's a great show they just show a class at Harvard.

There are tons of other ethical theories. Consequential is considered old hat.

Quantum Troll

KR, I'm inclined to maybe believe you. I'm agnostic about the roots of morality. But I think there are more important questions of morality than where morality comes from.

think about what you are saying! don't you know how logic works? you seem to think that ethical thinking can just start from a subjective and emotive value oriented position based upon people who want to think ethically agreeing with certain kind of value as though no one ever thought about ti before. That's like doing away with the data and pretending ethical thinking doesn't exist.

Quntum Troll

Questions about how to actually live in this complicated world of ours. And those are the sorts of moral questions that science might be used for.


you can't begin to think about that without a meta ethical theory. How do you know avoiding pain is good? You like it does that make it ethical? Unless you have a theory of what makes a choice right or wrong then you are not doing ethics. So to say science can do ethics is really just a smoke screen and what you really mean to say is let's just eliminate ethics and pretend my value system is the only one.

Ironically what these people Rawls have proved is that the high sounding aims of utilitarianism turn out be bunk and they pollute the morality of the individual and justify murder like the contra war.

What atheists scoff at because they hate and don't want strictures on their life styles actually secure the good of people and stop pain suffering better than utilitarianism.

I can justify the contra was with Utilitarian thinking. I can't justify it with deontology given the concept of love as the primary duty.

In the contra war the contras in Nicaragua murdered, raped, tortured and lied about it in order to create a climate of fear. They murdered 80,000 innocent civilians and they did things such as cutting off little girls heads and putting them on poles. I can justify that by utilitarian standards because the net result was to destroy the Sandinistas and bring back a capitalist government and idea that capitalism is great and socialism is evil then the greatest goof for the greatest number is to destroy the socialist government and the 80,000 victims are just the less number that have to go so the greater number be happy.

It's only if you have a sophisticated sense of ethical philosophy that you can start delineating goals and set priorities that would stipulate a duty not to kill or an obligation to protect the weak or whatever.

But all of that assumes that you have some means of sorting through values so you don't just accept some scientist saying "this is the value we all except because science says our genes tell us to do this."

You can't establish a duty or an obligation without an ethical theory and you can't have an ethical theory by trying to stipulate truth according to genes. Harris wants to use outcome as the measure but that's the problem with teleological ethics. We need an atheist theory that establishes right and wrong up front so we can rule out political murder, which according to the murderer is always for the good.

Quantum Troll
The only thing I am dodging is a few hundred years of inconclusive philosophizing, and I'm only doing temporarily.


here it comes. O philosophy sux because you have to keep doing it. We want solid hard answers that never change and give us the "Facts" once and for all and will always beyond there 100% proved. You not going to get that. Not ever. Because science is a social construct. That's what is and always will be. As long as think in language you will never have the kind certainty about life you have a bout spore samples.

what this tells me is this is an ideological matter not a matter of ethical thinking!

The sad thing is Harris doesn't arrive at those values by science at all. He merely picks them out of popular culture and politics, and he asserts they are the ultimate in human values with no basis other this immediate political concerns.
Quantum Troll

I'm convinced that there is a common denominator in moral thinking. People might disagree about details, priorities, borderline cases, and abstract theory, but the general principle is everywhere about the same. This is all very interesting and worth discussing, but it is beside the point in this thread.


that proves what I'm saying, you are not even trying to show how science can do ethics, that's just show, what you really mean by that phrase is an ideological selection of values that you already approve.

Quantum Troll

The topic I brought up in this thread is that science can answer moral questions. All we need to agree on is that there is common ground for us to work with. What lies beyond this common ground is irrelevant in this thread.


but instead of demonstrating that all you've really demonstrated is that your ideology has pre selected values it can shove in our faces, tell us those are our primary values, claim that it discovered them scientifically without even bothering to back it up (did he even do a survey?) and then pretend like he's actually proved something.

Quantum Troll

[at this point I'm quoting from earlier but here I put it under his name because I'm quoting him but it's a change in subject from what immediacy came before]
I won't admit that this is a good example of what I was asking for, because I think rational and objective research would show that 80,000 dead civilians and countless more terrorized and destroyed families is quite an enormous amount of harm.


Only only only if you are pre disposed to accept it as a harm. if you don't pre select the value (which is not selected by scinece at all) then how do you prove that it is harm? Only if you pre approve the value is it harm. he gives no demonstration of how to do that.

How about someone who is really married to science? What if someone came along and said "people are not special, they are just organisms, they are no better than things under rocks, we don't get upset when aphids die form insecticide, why should be get upset when this sort of organism dies?" how could you go about proving (with science mind you) that people are more special than bugs?

can't pre seelct, can't appeal to culture, you have to demonstrate by science.

Quantum Troll

A peaceful, gradual transition would achieve the same goal without the harm. Not to mention that the goal itself (laissez-faire capitalism) is highly suspect, and should probably be revised. So there, you provided me with a perfect example of how ideological morality sucks and a "science of morals" could prevent atrocity.


why do we need science to say any of that?
It's only if you have a sophisticated sense of ethical philosophy that you can start dileniating goals and set priorities that would stipulate a duty not to kill or an obligation to protect the weak or whatever.

But all of that assumes that you have some means of sorting through values so you don't just accept some scientist saying "this is the value we all except because science says our genes tell us to do this."

Quantum Troll

Science can help us with morality in two ways. First off, it can help inform us about our values. Note that I'm not claiming that science can do a complete job of setting up a value system. Harris also made this disclaimer.


In what say? Opinion polls? How would you use science to do that and why would it be anymore "demonstrated" than just discussing our values? Moreover, how do you move from "our values" to "right and wrong?" So what if it's our values? How do you prove that our values mean anything?

 Quantum Troll

Second, and this is more important, it can help us make decisions by making evaluations of how well we live up to our standards. A lot of times, what we should do is dependent on what we can do and on the facts of the situation. If our value is to avoid hurting sentient beings, then we can use science to measure how much sentient beings actually hurt and act accordingly. If we have a moral obligation to protect the state of the planet, and we have to balance this with a moral obligation to feed the poor, and we're running out of fresh water in a lot of places, what should we do? I think science has a role in these sorts of questions.


I can tell you of my values just fine without scinece, how does science help us move from the relative discord-able value that means nothing more than some local yahoo thinks X, to "we should do X?"
You can't establish a duty or an obligation without an ethical theory and you can't have an ethical theory by trying to stipulate truth according to genes. Harris wants to use outcome as the measure but that's the problem with teleological ethics. We need an atheist theory that establishes right and wrong up front so we can rule out political murder, which according to the murderer is always for the good.

Quantum Troll

So, according to you, political murder is always bad? If someone had killed Hitler and Mussolini in the early 1930's, would that really have been so bad?


No what I said and irrelevant. The issue is how to derive an ought. i still don't see you showing me a way science does that? It looks to me like all you are doing is assuming that the way we already feel is the basis of ethics. How is that an ought?

Quantum Troll

I'm quite undecided, actually. Harris and I have not said that ethical philosophy is over, science is here to save the day, merely that science is an overlooked tool in moral philosophy.


I still don't see any real demonstration of it's use in ethical thinking.

Notice after all of that:

(1) He never did tell us how is can become "ought." Hume's fork the basic mistake of biolgoically based ethics.

(2) Notice how QT's position degenerated from the strident tone Harris gives in the opening to just a help meet or partner to ethical theory by the end of the thread.

(3) I think the basic reason atheists  want to say that science can take the place of ethics because it backs their ideology that science is the only form of knowledge. They use science as an er zots religion and it functions in their world view in the way that God does in mine. If they replace ethical thinking with science then that's one of the major domains that's left to non scientific thinking and scinece is that much closer to begin all there is in the world of thought. The atheist fundie needs that because for science to take the place of God it must be all  in all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dohery part 7 of 7: Final Installment: Jesus, Jewish not Gnostic


Doherty complies the different understandings of the early church in its attempts to come to terms with what the events of Jesus life and death meant, and plugs into them Gnostic interpretations and uses the fact of theology itself to imply that the church didn't have the story of the cross and the tomb when it began.
Between these two poles lie other incongruent conceptions. In the earliest layer of the Gospel of John, Jesus is the mythical Descending-Ascending Redeemer from heaven who saves by being God's Revealer; later he is equated with the Greek Logos. Jesus is the heavenly High Priest of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the non-suffering intermediary servant of the Didache, the mystical Wisdom-Messiah of the Odes of Solomon. Paul hints at divergent groups in places like Corinth who "preach another Jesus." In the diverse strands of Gnosticism Jesus (or Christ) is a mythical part of the heavenly pleroma of Godhead, sometimes a revealer akin to John's, sometimes surfacing under other names like Derdekeas or the Third Illuminator. (The Gnostic Jesus eventually interacted with more orthodox ideas and absorbed the new historical figure into itself.) But all this out of a crucified criminal? Out of any human man?
As we have already seen, the use of Logos is not an just an imported Greek concept, it also functions as a loan word to express a Hebrew concept. it does not link Jesus to Gnostics or mystery cults or to Philo, it links him solidly to Jewish understanding of who the Messiah was in second temple Judaism. The church's understanding of Jesus did grow overtime, it is still growing. That in no way means that Jesus didn't live on earth or that the story of Jesus is fiction invented because the group had a lack luster history. People understand ideas about God in different ways, it only makes sense that the church would have a plethora of understandings about Jesus, some of these were perversions of the truth, some are harmonious with each other. Jesus can be logos and high priest at the same time. Some are derived from the canonical Gospels. The high priest of Hebrews is not a contradiction to the logos of John. The basis for all of these views, Christ, redeemer, high priest, were all present at Qumran and all part of the understanding that developed in heterodox Judaism of their messianic expectations. All of these concepts, in some basic form would have been in place and implied in any association with Messiah. These concepts were already set up and waiting for a candidate when Jesus came along to be baptized by John. They did not need to come from the Gnostics or the Greeks, they were very Jewish.

We find this in material at Qumran

Florentino Garcia Martinez

Florentino Garcia Martinez is professor at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where he heads the Qumran Institute. This chapter is reprinted from The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995).

Section 1:

"In spite of that, the general lines of the text are clear enough to assure us that in Qumran interpretation, Jacob's blessing of Judah was seen as a promise of the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and of the perpetuity of his royal office. And since the future representative of the dynasty is identified not only as the shoot of David, but also explicitly as the "true anointed," there remains no doubt about the "messianic" tone of the text. Unfortunately, the details which the text provides about this "Messiah" are not many."

section 5
"... However, a recently published text enables us to glimpse an independent development of the hope in the coming of the "priestly Messiah" as an agent of salvation at the end of times."

"It is an Aramaic text, one of the copies of the Testament of Levi, recently published by E. Puech,32 which contains interesting parallels to chapter 19 of the Greek Testament of Levi included in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs. From what can be deduced from the remains preserved, the protagonist of the work (probably the patriarch Levi, although it cannot be completely excluded that it is Jacob speaking to Levi) speaks to his descendants in a series of exhortations. He also relates to them some of the visions which have been revealed to him. In one of them, he tells them of the coming of a mysterious person. Although the text is hopelessly fragmentary it is of special interest since it seems to evoke the figure of a "priestly Messiah." This "Messiah" is described with the features of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, as J. Starcky indicated in his first description of the manuscript.33 The two longest and most important fragments of this new text can be translated as follows:

2.1 4Q541 frag. 9 col. I

1 [. . .] the sons of the generation [. . .] 2 [. . .] his wisdom. And he will atone for all the children of his generation, and he will be sent to all the children of 3 his people. His word is like the word of the heavens, and his teaching, according to the will of God. His eternal sun will shine 4 and his fire will burn in all the ends of the earth; above the darkness his sun will shine. Then, darkness will vanish 5 from the earth, and gloom from the globe. They will utter many words against him, and an abundance of 6 lies; they will fabricate fables against him, and utter every kind of disparagement against him. His generation will change the evil, 7 and [. . .] established in deceit and in violence. The people will go astray in his days and they will be bewildered (DSST, 270).

.... The priestly character of this figure is indicated expressly by his atoning character: "And he will atone for all the children of his generation...."

The agreement of the person thus described with the "Messiah-priest" described in chapter 18 of the Greek Testament of Levi is surprising.34 At least it shows us that the presence of this priestly figure in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs should not simply be ascribed to interpolations or Christian influence. Rather, it is a development which exists already within Judaism. This text also shows us that the portrayal of this "Messiah-priest" with the features of the "Suffering Servant" of Deutero-Isaiah is not an innovation of purely Christian origin either, but the result of previous developments. Our text stresses that although he would be sent "to all the sons of his people," the opposition to this figure, "light of the nations" (Isaiah 42:6) would be great: "They will utter many words against him, and an abundance of lies; they will fabricate fables against him, and utter every kind of disparagement against him" (compare Isaiah 50:6&endash;8; 53:2&endash;10). What is more, according to the editor, it cannot be excluded that the Aramaic text even contained the idea of the violent death of this "Messiah-priest." In other words, this opposition would reach its ultimate outcome as in Isaiah 53. His argument comes from the other fairly extensive fragment of the work, in which possible allusions to a violent death by crucifixion are found. However, to me this interpretation seems problematic. The fragment in question can be translated as follows:

2.2 4Q541 frag. 24 col. II 2 Do not mourn for him [. . .] and do not [. . .] 3 And God will notice the failings [. . .] the uncovered failings [. . .] 4 Examine, ask and know what the dove has asked; do not punish one weakened because of exhaustion and from being uncertain a [ll . . .] 5 do not bring the nail near him. And you will establish for your father a name of joy, and for your brothers you will make a tested foundation rise. 6 You will see it and rejoice in eternal light. And you will not be of the enemy. Blank 7 Blank (DSST, 270).

... Whatever might be the possible allusion to the death of the expected "Messiah-priest," the identification of this figure with the "Servant" of Isaiah seems confirmed by the parallels indicated in fragment 9. In any case, the idea that the eventual death of the "Messiah-priest" could have an atoning role, as Christian tradition attributes to the death of the "Servant," is excluded from our text since the atonement he achieves (frag. 9 II 2) remains in the perspective of the cult.

As far as I know, this is the only text which in the preserved sections deals with the priestly "Messiah" alone. However, many other texts refer to this figure when speaking of a two-fold messianism. This is the two-headed messianism in which we are presented with the "Davidic or royal Messiah" and the "levitical or priestly Messiah" together. They are called the "Messiahs of Israel and of Aaron" respectively."
Martinez urges scholarly caution as the scrolls are very fragmentary, there is no guarantee they do not contain references to other Messianic figures as well, and the notion of a crucifixion for the priestly Messiah is doubtful for several reasons, pertaining to the nature of the text--but his overall opinion seems to be that the concept of a Priestly Messiah on the order of the suffering servant is vindicated

Qumran text, 4Q521

Hebrew Scholars Michael Wise and James Tabor wrote an article that appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov./Dec. 1992) analyzing 4Q521:
"Our Qumran text, 4Q521, is, astonishingly, quite close to this Christian concept of the Messiah. Our text speaks not only of a single Messianic figure, but it also describes him in extremely exalted terms, quite like the Christian view of Jesus as a cosmic agent. That there was, in fact, an expectation of a single Messianic figure at Qumran is really not so surprising. A reexamination of the Qumran literature on this subject leads one to question the two Messiah theory. As a matter of fact, only once in any Dead Sea Scroll text is the idea of two Messiahs stated unambiguously.


"There is no doubt that the Qumran community had faith in the ultimate victory of such a Messiah over all evil. However, a closer reading of these texts reveals an additional theme, equally dominant-that of an initial, though temporary, triumph of wicked over righteousness. That is, there was the belief among the Qumran community that the Messiah would suffer initial defeat, but that he would ultimately triumph in the end of days."
Doherty is magnifying obscurities and making more than he should out of matters best left to experts. He commits murder to the text by trying to pretend that the high Priest of Hebrews is not a flesh and blood character or that this in any way means Jesus didn't have a flesh and blood life on earth when the text says explicitly he did. Here he is trying to load his pagan connections into the base of all abstract reasoning about the nature of Christ in connection to Jesus. It is true that early Christianity was diverse, and that proto Gnostic sects were forming as early as the 50's, which addresses are Corinth. None of that proves in the least that Jesus didn't exist in history or that the original Christian position did not embrace the cross, the tomb, and soterological effects of both. Odes of Solomon Doherty cannot prove are about Jesus anyway. So what if there were erroneous ideas forming? He tries to sum up his position:
A more sensible solution would be that all these expressions of the idea of "Jesus" and "Christ" were separate distillations out of the concepts that were flowing in the religious currents of the day (as outlined in Part Two). Scholars now admit that "the beginnings of Christianity were exceptionally diverse, varied dramatically from region to region, and were dominated by individuals and groups whose practice and theology would be denounced as 'heretical'. " (Ron Cameron summarizing Walter Bauer, The Future of Early Christianity, p.381.) It is no longer possible to maintain that such diversity—so much of it uncoordinated and competitive—exploded overnight out of one humble Jewish preacher and a single missionary movement.
The beginnings were diverse alright, that in no way means that there wasn't a Jesus. Doherty's solution is absurd and requires reversing both history and mythology. It makes more sense to understand the developmental history of Christ as the development of the churches understanding and it's story telling ability rather than to see Jesus as a fictional character. The church struggled with the meaning of the events in Jesus' life, his death, his resurrection. It struggled with questions of group identity, and it struggled to find a form in which to reflect Jesus' teachings and his story. None of this in any way implies that the story wasn't based upon real events that center on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Promised Messiah. Doherty is basically ignorant of the second temple Judaism and messianic expectations. He doesn't seem to understand that "Christ" was the Greek term the Jews used to say "Messiah" not a connection to pagan wisdom traditions.

At the center of this controversy is the question about the nature of the early tradition. I have shown the following points which I think demonstrate the futile nature of Doherty's fantasies.

(1) The Gospels are said to have been so unauthoritative that they were not quoted until way after the Apostolic fathers.
Answer: Just not true, I demonstrate hundreds of quotations from Ignatius, 1 Clement, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Paul.

(2) Paul is said to not quote the Gospels or mention the cross or the tomb

Answer: Just not true; my chart shows that he quotes them many times. Helmutt Koester theorizes that Paul had a saying source, perhaps even Q itself.

(3) three major sources are said to prove an ancient tradition lacking the cross and the tomb; Q, GThom, and E 2.

Answer: Q must lack these elements as part of the definition of itself. Q is the material not shared by all three synoptics and these elements are in all four gospels. Moreover, I show the PMR includes these elements and pushes them back to AD 50, which is just as old as the three non canonical sources mentioned. Thomas is not a single unified source but three different source in Greek and one in Coptic all heavily redacted. There are indications of violence to Jesus in E 2 indicating that perhaps the cross and the tomb were purged from the sources by Gnostic groups.

(4) The development of Q is said to have demonstrated the need to reinvent the history of the group and this is marked by the third state of Q development.

Answer: No real basis in history is shown for such a group. Koester warns of drawing such a conclusion about Galilean Hellenists. The whole point of putting it in Galilee would be just so that would tally with Jesus supposed historical origins. The leadership crisis of the group is as fictional as the group itself. The Q source could easily have been a systemic collection of Jesus ethical teachings, perhaps one that was started before he even died. The narrative action was told in oral tradition and the ethical teachings passed on by remembering his sayings; a historical Jesus would also be a member of a group (presumably John's) or at least "around" the group. John's death would certainly precipitate a leadership crisis it would only be natural to turn to Jesus as the new leader. Of course they would see Jesus as greater because even John said he was greater.

Doherty doesn't seem to understand the nature of theology. He's rife with misconceptions about Christianity that involve understanding the most extreme forms of inerrancy and obscurantism as Orthodoxy. The fact is the early church had the elements of the Jesus story as we know them. They did not know that all that they implies. The Church had to come to terms with the theological significance of the events, and it had to learn how to communicate that in written form and all of this took time. IT is this process of understanding that Doherty tries to pawn off as fictional development, or as invention of the story over time. He cannot square this thesis with either the facts or the authorities he quotes for support.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Health Care is Governement Take over:more hysterial Republican hype

I was sent a URL to a blog where someone is flogging the hysterical propaganda line that the health care bill is a take over by government of health care, it's the think end of the wedge to take over for socialism and so on. The problem with this kind of clap trap is that it assumes that if government took over something that it ought to regulate ni the first place we would be so much worse off than if they merchants of death ran it, which they do now. This is merely the line the servants of the rich take because they want their masters the rich people to keep their power. Government takes away that power form their monopoly of health care, the insurance companies, the rich will be less powerful and we can't have that can we?

Of course it's actually a stupid argument because the health care bill will not make insurance companies less powerful but more powerful! It requires that everyone guy health insurance, They wont buy it form the government, they will buy it form the insurance companies, hence the insurance companies will finally get their hooks into those 35 million people would had to choose food over health care. If anything Im against the health care bill the way it was passed. I was for it back when it had the public option in it. That was so much like socialism, ooooo scary! that's what made it good! Now it's just another scam to help the rich get richer. Ah see the secret, the dems are also the servants of the rich, they just have a longer leash and when they are in the poor do a little better, but ultimately they are truly on the same side as the other guys.

It is just garbage and nonsense to promote this hysterical clap trap that this is the thin end of the wedge for socialism (if only it was). Real socialists will never make you buy insurance! Bad as the version they passed is, it's still better than having 34 million people not covered and letting prices rage out of control because eventually the health care costs will bankrupt the country. They have to control the coast and they have to do it now.

The author of that blog is making a hysterical comment that health care is going to lead to a left wing culture. This is some left over anti-communist hack who has probably never had a real conversation with a real leftist in his life. I was a real leftist and there two things I can tell you about it: (1) there aren't enough leftists left to have a leftist culture, (2) most of those that we did have I wouldn't let run the city dog pound. I wouldn't let any any far right hacks I know near any kind of city services. A few Debsian socialists ran two or three municipalities around the country over the cousre of the 20th century and didn't do too bad at it. Marxist-Leninist have never done anything in America but sell newspapers and take part in gang fights. But this anachronistic hysteria about government leading to socialism is so laughable. What have the republicans done for us? Well they  ran about 40 interventions in Asia, Africa and Latin America during the course of the 20th century, totally over half a million murders (I'm holding back on about 20 other interventions in democratic administrations). They created a lot of hype about global warming being a joke and drug their feet until it's probably too late to save the planet. They stole the election of 2000 and then sunk us into a useless which they lied about to start and then ran the housing industry in to the ground by promoting bad loans and foreclosures until it created ripple effects that almost took the whole economy down with it.

The Brenner study of 1976 found that for every 1% of unemployment there is a 5% increase across the board in stress related heart attacks, strokes, suicide, increased alcoholism, drug addiction, wife beating, child abuse and other forms of pathology. That represents several thousand people per percentage of employment getting the crap kicked out of them by life that didn't have to be. Obama get's blamed for the unemployment rate because he's in office. Bush was in over a year ago so that's way too long to remember what an idiot he was. But obviously Bush's administration is responsible for the over 10% unemployment rate. Obama's administration, it has  been proved by the GAO, is actually responsible for buffering the blow and keeping ti for being as bad by creating 2 million jobs. Now if I had my druthers I would rather he not have tackle health care, even though I know it's essential. I would rather he put all his energy into job creation. They could have created so many more jobs doing the bridge rehab thing and where are the bridges? Well while we castigate the President for not doing things my way, let's just remember that doing that would have meant more government involvement, it would mean public employment programs and more cries form the republicans that he' taking over, government control o no!

What is government control going to screw up that private sector rich guys have no screwed up already? Nothing, we are living under the dictatorship the right wing fears so deeply, but because it's corporate feudalism they don't' mind. I don't really see a difference, I was rather hoping for democracy. Now mark by words, the dems will lose mid term elections becuase everyone will blame Obama for the sky falling and the clouds being too white (we really what is not white enough in the minds of hysterical right wingers) a moron who could not govern a small town will be President next time,the rich will suck everyone's blood every Thursday night and it will be always winter and never Christmas and the republicans will convince the fundies we are living in the thousand year kingdom under them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

People who are impervious to reason

I don't do political stuff on this blog very often. But I can't help it today I'm so angry about the climate of hysteria created by the servants of rich to forestall helping dying people get medical care. I find it hilarious that they think forcing you to buy insurance is unconstitutional and wrong because the Republican governor in Texas (Texas is one of the state's whose  Attorney general is filing suit agaisnt the health care plan) has been making people buy auto insurance for years.

I call republican headquarters and I asked them when will they opposed the requirement to buy auto insurance. The guy didn't understand what I was talking about so I explained it. He said "Yes that's what it's going to come to, Obama is going to make us buy auto insurance." I said Well the republican governor Rich Perry has already done that in Texas, he said "O not that was the Democrats way back." Wrong dozie pron!

There were laws about requiring basic liability since way back but the summer I moved into this house ('08) they passage a law saying that if you don't have insurance they will tow your car away, that was a republican imitative.

Next time: back to theology.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Religous A priori


(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scientific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenologically, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critique

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approach to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines


In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomenology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetic question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the literal sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousands of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truly empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight correlation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturalistic c/e and excluding anything that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm until there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabilistic assumptions building constructs to form a world view) is inadequate because it is merely a contract and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-determinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectively in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-determinate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the spacial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's spacial religious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constructs, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinate are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verities of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxication most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arguments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theoretical pre-cognitive realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical inter subjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognitive for if the life world praxis is non-cognitive and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a correlation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experiences are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of reality the numinous and the phenomenal. The numinous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numinous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be entreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contingency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Doherty part 6: From Group Leader to Cosmic Christ

Finally, Doherty brings up the lack of suffering in Q sayings:

But the most telling feature of the Q Jesus has proven to be the most perplexing, for he seems to bear no relationship to Paul's. Scholars continue to puzzle over the fact that Q contains no concept of a suffering Jesus, a divinity who has undergone death and resurrection as a redeeming act. Q can make the killing of the prophets a central theme (e.g., Luke 11:49-51) and yet never refer to Jesus' own crucifixion! Its parables contain no hint of the murder of the Son of God.

Yet it is not sure that Q doesn't refer to Jesus' suffering or death. Suffering and death are implied all over Q as David Seely ("Jesus Death in Q") tells us (see page 4). Death is frame by cynical view point that reflects the current events through the lives of the prophets of the past. That would be a good reason why the Q saying source does not refer one.

(Doherty goes on) "About the resurrection, Q breathes not a whisper. Jesus makes no prophecies of his own death and rising, as he does in other parts of the Gospels. Note that in a Q passage in Luke 17, the evangelist has to insert into Jesus' mouth a prophecy of his own death (verse 25); it is not in Matthew's use of the same passage" (24:23f).

Of course these scholars make an arbitrary assumption that the saying is placed in Jesus' mouth just Matt didn't use it. The idea that there is no resurrection in Q is not in line with the view of James M. Robinson, who is certainly a much more renown Q scholar than is Doherty:

The Real Jesus of the Sayings "Q" Gospel

by James M. Robinson

James M. Robinson is the Arthur J. Letts Professor of Religion and Director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate School and Co-chair of the International Q Project.

Religion online

Although the Sayings Gospel has no passion narrative or resurrection stories, this omission does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the Q people knew nothing of Jesus' fate or had never thought about where it left them. It is hardly probable that his death was not quickly rumored among his followers, even into the most obscure corners of Galilee. But then, after his death, was not the only sensible thing to do, to give up the whole thing as some tragic miscalculation, a terrible failure? Jesus had assured them, "the Father from heaven gives good things to those who ask him," and yet his last word according to Mark was "My God, My God, why have you left me in the lurch?" (Mark 15:34). What was there left to proclaim?

The emergence of the Sayings Gospel was, to put it quite pointedly, itself the miracle at Easter! Rudolf Bultmann formulated a famous, or infamous saying to the effect that Jesus rose into the kerygma. But perhaps we would do better to say: Jesus rose into his own word. The resurrection was attested, in substance at least, in the Q community, in that his word was again to be heard, not as a melancholy recollection of the failed dream of a noble, but terribly naive, person, but rather as the still valid, and constantly renewed, trust in the heavenly Father, who, as in heaven, will rule also on earth.

There are a few sayings in Q that are best understood in terms of such a "resurrection" faith. "What I say to you in the darkness, speak out in the light; and what you hear whispered into your ear, preach from the rooftops" (Q 12:3/Matt. 10:27). This sounds as if Jesus had rather secretively only whispered his message and left the spreading of the good word to his disciples. We would have expected it to be just the reverse. Surely Jesus said it better, louder, and clearer than anyone! But perhaps such a saying reflects the recollection that his message was suppressed by force and thus obscured but then became all the brighter and louder as it was nevertheless revalidated and reproclaimed.

Q is that material which is shared by Matthew and Luke and not by Mark. But the tomb and the cross are in all four Gospels, so ex hypothesis we must regard them as not in Q. The fact is they may well have been part of Q. They are by definition not Q simply because they are shared by all four Gospels. Since we don't have a copy of Q there's no way to know. At this point scholars weed out connections between early Q and Messiahood by arbitrary and circular means. Speaking of that, Doherty has gone a long way on sheer conjecture about the contents of a document the existence of which we can't even begin to verify. Now I'm a liberal and I'm a good sport Q wise. I think there probably was a Q document, in fact I'm inclined to think it was Matthew's "Logia."

Doherty continues:

Most startling of all, the Jesus of Q has no obvious significance for salvation. Apart from the benefits accruing from the teachings themselves, scholars admit that there is no soteriology in Q, certainly nothing about an atoning death for sin. The "Son who knows the Father" (Luke 10:22, a late saying recast from an earlier Wisdom saying) functions as a mediator of God's revelation—simply personifying what the Q community itself does. The Gospel of Thomas is similarly devoid of any reference to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Funny he should mention the Gospel of Thomas. Soteriological implications are all over Q and they are not hard to find. But be that as it may, Thomas is looked to as a backing for Q in many ways, it supposedly implies that the saying source was a prior form of the narrative Gospel, and it uses many Q sayings. But in Thomas there are clear statements of Soteriological value, and of the deity of Christ:

saying no.28: Jesus said, "I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways."

In terms of Q's soeteriology, or alleged lack thereof, Doherty has simplified the issues. It is not true that Q has no Soeteriology, it more the case that the Soteriology of Q is not Pauline and is very Jewish, very law oriented, so says John Kloppenborg, the scholar who first began the emphasis on Q's lack of a cross or a tomb (see Formation of Q 1987). In terms of Soeteriology we know that the early church was confused. Jesus was not a system builder, he was concerned with modeling behavior and with impressing upon people how to live a godly life. God drafted Paul to be the first systematic Christian theologian, that's why he wrote so much of the NT. So it was Paul who sorted out what it all meant and how all the pieces fit and there's nothing wrong with that. As Christians we should just accept that God chose to do it that way. But the issue in terms of Q is how much of Q do we have? Do we have all the pieces in Matt and Luke? Kloppenborg argues that we do because Matt uses all of Mark so why wouldn't he use all of Q. But he can only rest on that answer if we can be sure that Matt always used every source the same way; Mark was a narrative and Q a saying list.

Dennis Ingolfsland

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society,
Jun 2003

Kloppenborg's stratification of Q
and its significance for
historical Jesus studies

The second reason Kloppenborg cites for believing that virtually all of Q can be recovered is Kilpatrick's argument that the disappearance of Q was explicable only on the assumption that it was almost completely absorbed in Matthew and Luke.27 Some have objected, however, that by this logic Mark might have been expected to disappear also, since virtually all of Mark is included in Matthew. In Excavating Q, Kloppenborg responds to this objection by citing Luhrmann who proposed that Mark's survival and Q's disappearance are simply accidents of history in that Mark's Gospel happened to be carried to Egypt where it was copied and Q was not. Moreover, responding to Dunn who argued that Q may have disappeared for theological reasons, Kloppenborg writes, "In fact we do not know why Q disappeared."28

Kloppenborg is right, of course, but he seems unaware that in arguing that Q's disappearance may have been an accident of history and by admitting that we frankly do not know why Q disappeared, he has contradicted one of his own primary reasons for assuming that we know the extent of Q, that is, that the disappearance of Q "was explicable only on the assumption that it was almost completely absorbed in Matthew and Luke."29 Therefore, the main reasons Kloppenborg proposes for assuming that virtually all of Q can be reconstructed have been successfully refuted by his own arguments.

At this stage he returns to his bread and butter, spinning moonbeams about Paul.

How is this radical divergence between Paul and Q explained? It shows, say the scholars, the differing responses by different circles to the man Jesus of Nazareth. But they founder when they try to rationalize how such a strange phenomenon could have been possible. Besides, the documents reveal many more "responses" than just two. We are to believe that early Christianity was wildly schizophrenic. First Paul and other epistle writers abandoned all interest in the earthly life and identity of Jesus, turning him into a cosmic Christ who created the world and redeemed it by his death and resurrection. The Q community, along with that of the Gospel of Thomas, on the other hand, decided to ignore that death and resurrection and preserve the earthly teaching Jesus, a preacher of the coming end of the world.

Doherty contradicted by Koester, again

Of course that little fantasy is dispelled by my list, which I take from Helmutt Koester, that shows Paul's deep dependence upon Gospel sayings. It's a total myth to assume that he never quotes a Q saying. Yes Doherty tries to say that Paul never quotes Q, but the man he uses as an authority, Helmutt Koester, says Paul quotes Q quite a bit and that Q was widespread.

Helmut Koester comments on the provenance of Q (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 164):

"Even the sayings used for the original composition of Q were known and used elsewhere at an early date: they were known to Paul, were used in Corinth by his opponents, employed perhaps in eastern Syria for the composition of the Gospel of Thomas, and quoted by 1 Clement in Rome at the end of the 1st century. The document itself, in its final redacted form, was used for the composition of two gospel writings, Matthew and Luke, which both originated in the Greek-speaking church outside of Palestine."

Koster latter theorizes that Paul had the Q saying source with him and this is what he calls "my Gospel." It's equally foolish to assume that he doesn't mention the cross or resurrection. Of course because he doesn't anticipate Doherty 2000 years latter and say "O by the way, this was in real flesh and blood on earth in history" then he couldn't have believed it? That's where Doherty wins his fan base, by appealing to the Christ haters who want to destroy Christianity and the mythers who care nothing for facts of reality. By appealing to those who love to fill the cracks in knowledge with their dreams.

view this as a nice chart (scroll down)

Just a small part of the list linked to above:
The last supper (1 Cor 11:23ff)
Confessed his Messiahship before Pilate (1 Tim 6:13)
Died for peoples' sins (Rom 4:25, 1 Tim 2:6)
He was killed (1 Cor 15:3, Phil 2:8)
Buried (1 Cor 15:4)
Empty tomb is implied (1 Cor 15:4)
Jesus was raised from the dead (2 Tim 2:8)
Resurrected Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor 15:4ff)
James, a former skeptics, witnessed this (1 Cor 15:7)
as did Paul (1 Cor 15:8-9)
This was reported at an early date (1 Cor 15:4-8)
He ascended to heaven, glorified and exalted (1 Tim 3:16, Phil 2:6f)
Disciples were transformed by this (1 Tim 3:16)
Disciples made the Gospel center of preaching (1 Cor 15:1-4)
Resurrection was chief validation of message

We see that Paul does quote Q and he does refer to crucifixion, resurrection, and even soteriology. He makes all sorts of references which Doherty denies, to Jesus blood line, his life on earth, alludes to the empty tomb, to his crucifixion to his Messiahship. On the next page I will examine more closely Doherty's allegations about the contents of Q and Pauline theology vis, alleged Gnosticism. I will argue that the theology is very Jewish not Gnostic.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Doherty Part 5: Leader of the Pack


Doherty tries to construct a fictional history for his fantasy group, the "Q community," and then invents a crisis in which they needed a leader. Out of that crisis the Jesus myth emerges to offer them the hope of a leader. One wonders how this would work in real Life. Real groups need real leaders. It seems more likely that a fictional or mythological figure would be the object of worship rather than become a group leader who never existed. But all this talk of a group makes us wonder, was Jesus a total loaner before he began his ministry? John seems to indicate in his Gospel that Jesus had friends, he had a social circle. That consisted at least of the little family of Bethany, Lazarus and his two sisters. But did Jesus not belong to a group? He had a human nature (speaking from an Orthodox standpoint), why would he not belong to a group. Jesus may have emerged out of Hellenistic groups and thus had a penchant for Hellenistic sounding ideas, and he may have been quoting some kind litany of group teaching. On the other hand, Doherty can produce no examples of Jesus actual sayings from other sources. It has always been understood by scholars that Jesus probably had some interaction with John the Baptist's group. It is doubtful that when John saw Jesus coming to him for baptism that this was the first time they met. Doherty tries to turn the relationship of Jesus and John into a power struggle within the Q community and the need for a leader.
Especially revealing is the saying now found in Luke 16:16: "Until John (the Baptist) there was the law and the prophets (i.e., scripture); since then, there is the good news of the Kingdom of God." This, like so much of Q, is acknowledged to be a product of the community's own experience and time (i.e., not going back to Jesus), and yet no reference to Jesus himself has been worked into this picture of the change from the old to the new. Luke 11:49 also leaves out the Son of God when speaking of those whom Wisdom promised to send.
Doherty has totally misconstrued the meaning of this passage. Here he takes as an indication that Jesus was absent from the original group because the saying doesn't include a reference to the "son of man." One wonders why it should? Doherty seems to be oblivious to the fact that it is Jesus making the statement. Why should he be talking about himself? But he is not saying that John has replaced the OT, he is not saying that John is the inauguration of the New Covenant. He's merely using John's ministry as indicative for the times, not as a formal replacement for the Old Covenant. He is saying "the laws was preached, until John came and started preaching the kingdom, now everyone wants the kingdom." He is condemning the Pharisees for their adultery. He says the Kingdom of God is manifesting itself on the earth, people are seeking it, John is a sign of the times, an indication that the kingdom has come. The very next passage shows what he is really saying: (Luke 16:17) "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one title of the law to fail. (Luke 16:18) Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from [her] husband committeth adultery." He's saying that the can't be set aside. The kingdom is here, but the point of it is to manifest the law not to eliminate it. In this context what's the point of expecting a son of man quote? Especially when the son of man is making the statement?

He assumes that the leader was introduced in the third stage of the Q development, the third stage was brought on by the need for re-interpreting the material in light of the need for a leader. "Certain past material would have been reworked and everything attributed to this founder, including healing "miracles" which had been part of the activity of the Q preachers themselves." Of course this would work even better if they had a real leader. One fails to see how projecting a myth into the bogus re-working of group history would solve a leadership crisis, and how it could even be done against the incredulity of the group, short of just making an agreement, "let's have a fake leader." On the other hand, John's death would have left his group leaderless and the leadership crisis could have been avoided if his group merged with Jesus' group and came to see Jesus as the leader. This would work well in real life and seems to be not far from what really happened since we find John cronies such as Aquilla and Priscilla turning up in Christian ranks. Doherty can't provide a reason why the John the Baptist group would suddenly impose upon its fictional past this mythological Jesus figure, but we can understand perfectly why the followers of John would turn to a real earthly Jesus. Jesus was there, he had been baptized by John, he probably had been part of those circles and many of them knew him. Some of Jesus' own 12 had been with John, and Jesus lauded John, they had the same message, and Jesus made sense of John's death to them. If Jesus was Messiah, and John was the heralding voice, then his death is meaningful and serves a purpose in the kingdom. But to manufacture such a meaning with a fictional replacement seems a much dicier proposition.

Doherty's Attempted Answer:
How did such a founder formulate itself in the Q mind if he had no historical antecedent? All sectarian societies tend to read the present back into the past; they personify their own activities in great founding events and heroic progenitors. The very existence of the sayings collection, the product of the evolving community, would have invited attribution to a specific originating and authoritative figure. Such a record set in a glorified past is known as a "foundation document," a universal phenomenon of sectarian expression. (Figures such as Confucius, Lao-Tsu, Lycurgus of Sparta, the medieval Swiss William Tell, as well as other obscure sectarian figures of the ancient world, are examples of founder figures who have come to be regarded as likely non-existent.)
In asking the question Doherty knows its a good point, he knows he needs an answer. He should know his answer is inadequate. All groups put a spin on the past interpreting what came before in light of their need to explain what is happening now. That in no way means that any group could ever invent a leader out of pure fiction and superimpose him/her into the fictional past and then use that to solve a current leadership crisis. One might consider this a pretty crazy idea because why should we ever think that this would contribute to the kinds of things leaders do in the present? The loss of a leader means a current decision maker, not a mouth into which one can stuff an ancient list of sayings. Doherty cannot begin to tell us how this would work. We imagine old Eliaser comes to the meeting:
"I've been in the group 40 years, I've heard of this Jesus guy, who was he?"
"O sure you have, he was our great leader he said all those things, you know, in the sayings list we like."
"I never heard of him, neither has my grandfather."
"sure you have, we all have, and just remember, he didn't die on the cross or raise form the dead."

Moreover, Doherty can't show us the more crucial thing: how would this serve in the current leadership crisis? How do we know the crisis was current? IF the crisis was in the past how did they solve it to begin with? No group works to resolve a leadership crisis that is already 20 years resolved. He points out that groups read the present into the past, but doesn't tell us how reinventing the past would fix the present. In answer to this he postulates the "foundation document" as the answer. In giving the group a heroic past they give the contemporary group something to cling to. He tires to use other figures as proof of this same move. He uses figures such as Lao-tsu and William Tell. But every figure he names is thought to be based upon an historical figure. These have been questioned recently, but mainly by Jesus myth spokesmen. He can not proof that these figures emerged as answers to a crisis need for group leadership.. If they were legendary they each have to be taken on their own terms. They cannot be put over as examples of other figures who were imposed upon a fictional past to save a group. Doherty cannot show any even one of these figures was created to resolve a current leadership crisis.

Then he assumes that the Q community was goaded into replacing John with a superior leader by a rival group. "I also suspect that the existence of a rival sect claiming John the Baptist as its founder may have induced the Q community to develop one of its own, one touted as superior to John." (ibid). Now he's invented a rival group that also followed John. Holy Occam Batman, how many groups were following John anyway? Every time Doherty needs an answer he can just invent a new group. As if he know this is not enough, he invents a third reason:
An additional explanation for the development of this founder is suggested by Q itself. The figure of heavenly Wisdom (Sophia), once seen as working through the community, seems to have evolved into the figure of her envoy, one who had begun the movement and spoken her sayings. Myths about Wisdom coming to the world were longstanding in Jewish thought and would have played a role here. Luke 7:35 (the concluding line of the Dialogue) calls Jesus a child of Wisdom, and Matthew in his use of Q reflects an evolving attitude toward Jesus as the very incarnation of Wisdom herself. Several of Jesus' sayings in Q are recognized as recast Wisdom sayings.
So now he's inventing a goddess worship contingent to the Jewish faith. There is a link between the logos and wisdom. That link is found in proverbs 13 but is made explicit in Wisdom of Solomon. Doherty would have us look to Pagan sources, to Greek Philosophy, to Gnosticism and link to Judaism through Philo to explain the logos of John. But there is a much better, and much more Jewish explanation. Logos was the Greek term that Jews used to express the Hebrew concept of "memra." The concept of "memra" was the Hebrew idea of the Spirit of God revealing itself downward, from heaven to earth. One manifestation of this was wisdom. In fact Logos was just the Greek term which the Jews used to say "memra." Turn to Kaufmann Kolher, Jewish Encyclopedia Online.com.
The Logos. It is difficult to say how far the rabbinical concept of the Memra, which is used now as a parallel to the divine Wisdom and again as a parallel to the Shekinah, had come under the influence of the Greek term "Logos," which denotes both word and reason, and, perhaps owing to Egyptian mythological notions, assumed in the philosophical system of Heraclitos, of Plato, and of the Stoa the metaphysical meaning of world-constructive and world-permeating intelligence (see Reizenstein, "Zwei Religionsgeschichtliche Fragen," 1901, pp. 83-111; comp. Aall, "Der Logos," and the Logos literature given by Schürer, "Gesch." i. 3, 542-544).
Kohlor admits we don't know the extent of Greek influences, but he assumes Philo is bringing them in copiously. Edersheim shows that Philo in use of Logos is really very Jewish. Yes, he has Greek influences, but he is not as divorced from his Jewish roots as some might suggest. I have three full pages on the link between Memra and logos and the use of Memra in the Targimum. They are all linked the page: The Triune God in Hebrew Thought (see also "More Memra" and "Targimum" linked through same page).

So John says "Logos" he's really saying Jesus was the memra, manifested presence of God (see Edersheim Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah see also my Trinity pages). Memra is all over the Syriac translations of the OT used in Synagogues called "Targimum." Edershime gives a chart of uses and where in the OT they are found, it's 16 rows long. But this could never the sort of female goddess figure from paganism that Doherty wants us to accept. He has to assume that the Q community would have been Gnostics. They would have had to be very radical for that period. I'm sure Doherty supporters think the link can be made through Gospel of Thomas, we can discuss that latter. The sort of goddess worship schemata Doherty wants to inflict upon the history is ahistorical and could not have been in Judaism of the day. Wisdom was God. Just because it's personified as a female in a literary device in Proverbs doesn't mean the Jews were into any sort of goddess worship or that this wisdom figure needed a human cohort to express her ideas. For Jews of that day Wisdom was God, God had prophets. In fact the logos prologue is seen as a counter to the Sophia wisdom Goddess of the Gnostics. There is no reason to make these assumptions because "logos" was a very Jewish concept and word when used by Jews.

Here I quote myself, Metacrock, from my Trinity pages, as I quote Helmutt Koster, the authority for Doherty:
As Helmutt Koster says, The Prologue is an anti-Gnostic, anti-Sophia preamble. It is offering an alternative to the mythological Gnostic figure of Wisdom ("Sophia"). This is crucial because Sophia, as the female personification of Wisdom, is linked to God in Proverbs and even more strongly in the Wisdom of Ben Sirach an apocryphal work which dates to about 186 BC. The term "logos" is used interchangeably in that document with the Aramaic term memra. Thus when John says "in the beginning was the word" he is using the term logos in the way that Jewish heterodox sources of the intertestamental period used it, as an expression of God himself, God's presence (see Trinity page 4 "The Triune God in Hebrew Thought?). Koester points out himself that John is writing a biography of the Logos. Wisdom cannot have a biography, she is merely a veggie personified ideal, but the Logos can have a biography because he became a flesh and blood person (as opposed to Gnostic thinking which saw flesh as evil and Jesus' earthly nature as illusory). John tells us in no uncertain terms, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us."

The Meaning of Logos

The word "logos" or "word" in Greek can be used in any sense in which we English speakers would use the term "word" (including as rhama would also be used). In the context of Greek Philosophy it indicated an organizing principle, the concept which constructs the world; for the Hebrews it meant the presence of God, an emanation through various sapheroths, and the self revealing presence, God revealing himself downward to earth. This the two uses (Greek and Hebrew) have in common. As ordering principle of the world, Logos also meant, for the Greeks, revelation, or an idea being revealed. This is the closest sense to its use in John. The Revelation of God to humanity is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the God's self revealing presence.
Doherty, like so many, tries to link Logos to the Greeks, through Philo, through Jewish Gnosticism, but that does not cover the use of Logos by John and by 1 Peter. 1 Peter? He doesn't use the term "Logos" but he speaks of "the excellent glory" in relation to the revelation of God through Christ. That is a euphemism for memra; that is the concept of memra, he's calling Jesus "memra" which is logos. Doherty needs to adapt Christ to Gnosticism and plugs "Jesus" (the fictional character) into the Wisdom circuit where he can be a manifestation and messenger of the female wisdom goddess thing that Judaism never had. But instead he doesn't realize that he's just running afoul of second temple Messianic expectations. He believes Q is devoid of them because he doesn't know what to look for he doesn't know them when he seems them. The Memra/logos connection doesn't plug Jesus into Gnostic wisdom, it plugs him into God, into the Wisdom of God, into being a messenger of God not of "wisdom-Sophia," it plugs him into Messiahshood.

Then he says something so confusing that it seems to totally contradict everything he's put forth in his theory:
Whether the Q community gave to this perceived founder the name "Jesus" cannot be certain. At a late stage of Q, there may even have been some crossover influences from earliest Gospel circles (of "Mark"). Uncovering such things is a conjectural business, as actual historical developments tend to be more subtle and complex than any academic presentation of them on paper, especially 20 centuries after the fact. It is significant that Q never uses the term Christ, for such a founder would not at this stage have been regarded as the Messiah. That role was introduced by Mark.
So there is a tradition that is older than the canonical Gospels, it is the original tradition that became Christianity, it began with no Jesus, because he didn't exist in history, but somehow an earlier version of Mark existed and had Jesus and they barrowed it and then gospels took it back presumably? That makes no sense. If that's the case than the tradition of Jesus must be actually older than that of Q, not to mention the Gospel of Mark? What is he talking about? If he theorizes that the group that eventually produced Mark sprang up independently of the fictional Q group, then how does he account for their adaptation of Jesus? This is also unbelievable on another level. Because here he is disparaging Messiahood because the term "Christ" isn't used in the Q source, but he can't see that the memra link makes him Messiah without the word Christ. The followers began to identify Jesus as Messiah when they saw him doing all the things that fulfill Messianic expectations and when John said he was "the lamb of God." There's a lamb of God literature at Qumran that is tied to messiah. The link from Memra to Messiah is not direct. The Jews didn't expect Messiah to be an incarnation of the Godhead as in Christian theology, but they had begun to think of Messiah as quasi divine in a sense. They understood Messiah as existing before his life on earth, thus his life on earth was an incarnation. He existed before the world was created and the light of the Messiah was involved in creation. The memra was understood as being involved in creation.