What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed

by yaddayadda 57 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Midget-Sasquatch


    Thanks for all the different leads you gave on the legendary material surrounding JtB. I'll have to take a more in depth look into all of that and the "book of John" by the Mandeans.

    What does Duncan say, if anything, about the Gospel of Thomas? There we just have the sayings collected together without any surrounding story, legends, miracles. The Gospel of Thomas has its own bias (gnostic slant) too though, so we're probably really not any farther ahead with knowing what any historical Jesus actually believed.

    If I'm not mistaken, aren't there a couple of examples where different NT gospels have the same basic saying but in different settings? Making it possible for the readers to reach different slants on the saying. Makes you wonder whose views we're actually getting.

    Too bad some other logia were apparently lost.

  • yaddayadda

    Dunn doesn't deny there is a literary connection between the gospels, that there is redaction, and that there is a Q source, etc. But despite this, Dunn demonstrates that there are clear themes, motifs, that come through each gospel that can only really be explained as the striking impact, impression, that Jesus made on those who heard him and saw him right from the oft. These motifs are best explained in terms of a clear oral tradition, albeit with some variation on the theme as we would expect in oral performances (hence why many of the variations between gospel accounts), but that there is a core that is essentially there and that are not a product of redaction and imagination. Read the book and make up your own mind.

    Honestly, the notion that there was no historical man behind it all and that the gospels are 100% fabrication is, frankly, absurd. It amazes me that persons can say this with any kind of intellectual sincerity and honesty, no matter how faithless they are and how much they reject the inspiration of the bible. One can still reject Christianity and the inspiration of the bible and at least admit that there was a man in Galilee known as Jesus 2,000 years ago. But of course, we see the atheists and sceptics are just as guilty of failing to separate the two and of going to the kind of unreasonable extremes and assertions that the blind fundamentalists do.

    The accusation is made that only persons who want to believe in a historical Jesus believe in one, but that argument won't do. The claim is just as valid in the other direction, in fact, even more so. It is apparent that those who reject the historical Jesus out of hand are as thoroughly disposed to do so by their own personal motivations, biases, and desires, as the Christian is for accepting the historicity of Christ. What should satisfy the reasonable man in such biased contexts is what an independent, objective source would say, at least as far as that is possible.

    But of course the likes of PeacefulPete and Narkissos know much better than pretty much every reputable historian and academic, Christian or not.

  • Carmel

    The argument of "establishment" (i.e. if it is authentic it will survive) works to a degree. I would have to add that most people who set out to "authenticate" or "denigrate" have a preconcieved notion which they are attempting to validate. Would an ex JW or any other ex fundamentalist who has been tragically mistreated by a bible thumping cult be able to objectively consider the subject? I know I would not have been as I had a lot of egotistical reasons to "debunk" for many years. At this point in life, it reminds me of arguing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.


  • Dansk

    This immediately put me off:

    No one with any sense of history can dispute that Jesus existed

    It appears the author has already made up his mind that Jesus existed and is passing this on to his readers. I think I have a jolly good sense of history, thank you very much, and I DO dispute that Jesus existed.


  • peacefulpete

    yaddayadda, I understand your hostility to a new idea, especially one so seemingly blasphemous. Suffice for now me to say that many scholars in fact are shifting away from the 19th century idea of an "historical Jesus" because of both positive evidence and the deafening silences from history and Christian writings. There will always be 'radicals' and conservatives in any reputable field of study, that doesn't suggest arrogance, stupidity, or stubborness. It does suggest the waters are difficult to navigate and there may be a shift in paridigm in the works. As far as motive, I'd love nothing better than for there to surface some historical evidence for an historical person at the core of the stories. That would no doubt be of more value to critics of divisive Fundamentalist literalism than anything else.

    BTW, I'm increasingly confident the Q hypothesis should be set aside in favor of the simpler Farrer/Goodacre. That's another example of overturning a convention that will likely take many years.

    Continue studying, and I suggest reaching out to different ideas if for no other reason but to better understand the other side of issues. Doherty's book would be my first recommendation.

    When you say:

    clear themes, motifs, that come through each gospel that can only really be explained as the striking impact, impression, that Jesus made on those who heard him and saw him right from the oft.

    It is the Gospel themes and motifs that are one of the best arguments against an historical Jesus. Near all the motifs and themes are clearly drawn from Jewish idealizations of Sophia,Logos,Light, Son of Man, etc. along with OT midrash of stories about Moses, Joseph et.al. Many of these idealizations of course were adaptations of similar concepts in the greater religious environment that included healing, teaching, dead raising, water walking, godmen and exalted humans, and wandering sages. To be sure anyone with a religious message in that period would natuarlly reflect many of theses themes, but its the combination of evident conscious manipulation of the story by the Gospel writers to better exploit those motifs, the lack of biographical awareness of any earthly Jesus by Paul, and the lack of consistancy in the images of Jesus in the abundant early noncanonical Christain writings that strongly suggests the literary nature of the character Jesus. He appears to be an embodiment of all that the writers idealized. Perhaps that's a great reason many secular scholars cling to the idea of an historical Jesus, we all love the lone hero who fights for the weak, we can't help but wish he existed.

  • lovelylil

    I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion but also disagree that Jesus as a person was made up 100%. I do believe that the bible writers accounts would be from their perspective so it does not bother me that there are some scriptures that are not identical to others. This also shows me that the accounts are not entirely made up as they would be exactly the same.

    Some here are saying that the account of Jesus was taken from other legends, stories etc. and assert it as a fact yet do not provide one iota of evidence except to cite what someone else says in a book they wrote. When I studied writing in college, we learned how to make a conclusive arguement in our writing by finding ONLY the information that supports our views and placing them into an article. I really feel you have to look at both sides of an issue.

    Many times when people point out contradictions in the bible it is because they are reading the text out of context or not taking ALL scriptures together to get a proper understanding. Sometimes a seemingly contradiction is not really one at all. This is what I have found. Also they look at verses from an intellectual view only trying to pick apart every word to the point that they strip the meaning bare and argue over every nuance of language, thus totally escaping the true meaning of the text. which is exactly what the author of the book yadda recommended says is often done.

    All these book writers are entitled to their opinions also but we need to check ourselves. Some have recomended to me books about other legends, myths were supposedly the bible writers drew from and after I read the books I cannot see how they are related in any sense at all. I am getting a totally different view.

    Anyway - whether the bible contains oral tradition, myths, legends, wise teachings, etc. to me it makes no difference as it still contains lots of great information and common sense teachings that benefit millions of people today. You have to read it yourself though and decide what meaning or value it has in your life. Lilly

  • peacefulpete
    I do believe that the bible writers accounts would be from their perspective so it does not bother me that there are some scriptures that are not identical to others. This also shows me that the accounts are not entirely made up as they would be exactly the same.

    Literary dependence means that a writer uses the work of another and makes minor adjustments reflecting their personal views. If I might suggest getting a Synopsis of the Gospels such as this one at Amazon:

    Synopsis of the Four Gospels : Completely Revised on the Basis of the Greek Text of the Nestle Aland (English-only text)

    You would quickly come to appreciate the way Mark, Matt, and Luke are literarily dependent. Said quite simply, Mark, Matt and Luke are revisions of the same narrative made for separate communities with theological differences. These theological differences are reflected in the revisions the authors made. To argue that the differences indicate historicity is like saying the differences between the book and the screenplay of the Davinci Code are evidence that the story is true.

  • lovelylil


    I understand your point about literary dependence and that is a very valid one. But that in itself does not mean that the Jesus accounts were totally made up. When I study the bible with people of different backgrounds, I often slightly alter the same information in order to tailor it to my specific audience.

    The same can be said with any topic really. If you were doing a lecture for college students you certainly would not speak in the same way or include information from a lecture aimed at third graders would you?

    When I read the bible I personally look at the broad view of what is it the writer is trying to convey in other words the main message in it. I do not believe God directed everything word for word as the writers themselves had much freedom as to what points they thought were most important they could high-light above others, they could gear the message to their target audience, and had freedom as to what words they exactly use. But if you look at the gospels they are in complete harmony if not in every word - in the message they are trying to convey. Just because there are similaries you cannot automatically say that it is because one copied from the other and simply made their own changes but even if certain parts may have been copied, it does not mean that they made it up totally.

    Many times people write about the exact same experience yet some details are different. Here is what happened to me: last year I and another lady were eyewitnesses to an accident in which a car struck a young boy at my children's school. We both saw the same thing, it was not a made up experience. We were Q'd seperatley by police and certain details I gave, the other lady did not. Also there were some subtle differences as we each told what we saw from our position to the scene. Even though there were some minor inconsistancies it did not take away from the fact that the accident happened and we recorded the truth as per our perspective.

    For many people that is enough consistancy in the bible for us as we appreciate the value in them. Just like I appreciate the value in other ancient writings too. I know the book of Proverbs are just Parables and not literal yet they have much value in them due to their common sense teachings among other reasons.

    I think to conclusively say Jesus is totally fictional, we would of had to be there and since we were not, we cannot say 100%. Any writers in our modern age who were not eyewitnesses can write what they want according to their own view, perspective and biases. You may lean more one way or another in your personal views, because it depends on how you personally interpret the records. That is why I try hard not to emphatically state my opinions such as to lead someone to believe I am stating fact. Really all these books on the bible for and against are all conjecture at best. Lilly

  • Blueblades

    I would recommend two books that give one pause. Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. By Bart D. Ehrman, who also wrote Lost Christianities.

    The Jesus Papers, Exposing the Greatest Cover - Up in History. By Michael Baigent, who also co - authored, Holy Blood, Hoy Grail.


  • lovelylil

    Thanks Blueblades,

    those books look interesting. Lilly

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