thorgold wrote:I'd actually hoped someone would call me out on the identity of the authors, as I noticed that was one area I missed in my last post. The authenticity of the documents as written by singular authors is a fairly reasonable question: these works are 2,000 years old, how the heck do we know that the authors we attribute truly wrote them?
First, consider the identity of the authors of the New Testament. We have no Gospel of Peter or Gospel of James; we have Matthew, a tax collector, Mark, a student of Peter, Luke, a student of Paul, and John, the "beloved" apostle. Furthermore, we have Paul, who prior to his conversion imprisoned and murdered hundreds of Christians, along with the brothers of Jesus (who were largely unmentioned). Why would the authorship of the most important books of early church doctrine be attributed to relative nobodies? Why not give the authorship of the book of Matthew to Peter, the forefront leader?
There is a Gospel of Peter. Several, in fact. And a Gospel of Philip, Thomas, Nicodemus, Bartholomew, Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, Mary the mother of Jesus, to name a few. There are probably dozens of others that are lost to us. The Gospels that are currently in the Bible are the ones of the group that won favour at the various church councils in the 2nd and 3rd Century to canonize them. The ones that are apocryphal
didn't make the cut, for various reasons such as denying Jesus' divinity (an issue of some contention at the time). I'm assuming that you would consider most of these to be, if not outright fabrications, at least pseudepigraphical, yes? The idea that the entire church came to a consensus on these matters is nonsense
. The Novatianists, Gnostics, and Arianists certainly did not agree on many of the details of theology, or necessarily which Gospels were worth including (and were subsequently labeled heretics and persecuted by the orthodox Church).
thorgold wrote:And yes, I said "living memory." Your proposed dates for the Gospels are, simply put, wrong.
Sure there is.
thorgold wrote:If one assumes that the gospels are simply copies of each other - Matthew copied Mark, John copied Matthew, et cetera - there must be one "source" from which they all borrowed material. That source is Q. Q exists for the sole purpose of filling the void proposed by the theory you pose, and outside of theory there is absolutely no evidence for Q.
But the point isn't that the Gospels of each other--at least, not directly. Mark is generally agreed to be the first Gospel, or possibly a contemporary of Q. Matthew and Luke contain material lifted verbatim from Mark, but also share material, again, verbatim, that is not found in Mark. The idea that independent writers would have, word for word, the same text as another source, is extremely implausible. So, at very least, Matthew and Luke both had access to Mark, and possibly to either each other, or to some other source, which has been named Q.
thorgold wrote:If Matthew details the same parable as Mark in the same tone, does that mean he copied? Or perhaps he's using that excellent cultural memory I mentioned in my previous post to recall the same event!
Doesn't work so well when you're dealing with exposition:
Matthew wrote:he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
Mark wrote:he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
Luke wrote:and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
I will not comment on the so-called "cultural memory" phenomenon that you are describing except to say that there are plenty of people in modern times who have memorized texts at least as complicated in the Bible (many Muslims still memorize the entire Qu'ran at an early age, for example), but do not display otherwise outstanding memories for everyday events, speeches, or other texts that they have not studied extensively. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be happy to consider it.
thorgold wrote:Fanatacism would lead to the same conclusion, but consider, again, that these were eyewitnesses. True witnesses to an event rarely are full fanatics - it's the 2nd-hand believers that fall prey to extremism, and the dangerously insane. Eyewitnesses, able to draw on personal memories of events and judgment of a person or belief, will not - simply out of rational instinct - follow a false belief to the death.
On the contrary, there are plenty of examples of eyewitnesses to events behaving irrationally in response to them. How many people have seen the moon landing and believe it was a hoax? How many saw 9/11 and believed it was controlled demolition, or that a missile hit the Pentagon? How many people believe that they have been abducted by aliens? Many cult suicides, such as the Jonestown incident
, include the deaths of the cult leader and all followers, eyewitnesses and second-handers alike. Religious persecution or martyrdom is not a uniquely Christian phenomenon.
thorgold wrote:Even if you throw out the corroborating evidence, the fact still stands that the Jews - the most adamant deniers of Jesus' deity and purpose - made absolutely no counterclaim to the records of his miracles. No historical source even hints that Jesus' miracles were forged, or that the events were falsified - if there had been any doubt as to the authenticity of Jesus' miracles, the Jews would've leapt upon it.
The Jews believed he was a sorcerer. At the time, belief in magic was fairly common. There aren't any records disputing the miracles performed by Buddha, Mohammad, or Hercules either, some I'm assuming you believe these are all true as well?
thorgold wrote:The time separating them from Jesus is irrelevant - both were a historians whose works spanned the entirety of the Roman empire - Pliny wasn't around for Caesar, yet his works remain! Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth who made claims to be God and was crucified for blasphemy. It wasn't like he was unique in that regard, there were blasphemers and cultists everywhere. So why mention this one guy from a backwater town who was killed two years into his ministry in histories comprable to the Encyclopedia Brittanica?
Uh, because Christianity was a somewhat influential or interesting movement at the time? Certainly the later works--those of the third century for example--would have had every reason to include discussions of Christianity--whether there was actual evidence for the events or not--because Christianity was the ascendant religion of the Empire.
thorgold wrote:For the majority of your arguments, there's a cheap cop-out: Occam's Razor. For you proposed counterarguments, there's a list of premises longer than my arm that must be true in order for the Bible to be falsified. First, all of the apostles had to be clincially insane, thousands of Christians had to unanimously agree to edit events in living memory, historians of the era had to be incompetent (both mentioning the Christian church as influential, yet failing to mention challenges to their falsifications), among countless others.
No, the assumptions are simple. The Gospels were not written within living memory of the disciples. As you have yet to present any evidence for this claim, I don't see any reason to grant you that they were written during this period, particular when we have evidence to suggest the contrary (and even if they were, I don't, for the reasons I note in the second assumption, feel that this actually severely undermines my argument). Second, we know that most of the people in this period were uneducated, illiterate, superstitious, and it was extremely difficult to communicate with distant groups. This is consistent with the time and place. There were many stories during this period about gods, people raising from the dead, people performing miracles. Indeed, there were a number of contemporary resurrection cults to Christianity. If people believed stories about miracles performed by Zeus and Aphrodite and Hercules, why not Jesus? Miracles are easy to believe in when you live in a world that you do not understand or control: A thunderstorm becomes a miraculous event; a sickness becomes a terrible daemon. Stories grow in the telling, and cross-contamination of stories between religions is common (do you think it is a coincidence that there are a dozen or so different religions that all have a virgin birth?) These two assumptions are sufficient.
Don't get me wrong, it is entirely possible that there was a charismatic preacher named Jesus, or something similar, who lived in region of Palestine sometime within the time around 0-30 CE. It is entirely possible that he was executed for heresy by the Romans. What we don't have sufficient evidence for are the claims that he had any sort of divinity or magical powers.
Josephus in particular went into some detail on the alleged life and works of Jesus - Josephus, whose works spanned the entirety of Roman history in Israel!
What? Nonsense. Did you even read the links I provided? There is only one undisputed reference to Jesus in all of Josephus' works "And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus... Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned."
The piece of text that you are mostly like interested in, the Testimonium Flavianum
, is hotly disputed in academic circles, and is probably, in whole or in part, a later interpolation of his works. This, again, is not all that uncommon for this period in time.
If your goal is to make a high enough standard that the Bible is considered false, go ahead. Just don't go and apply that standard only to the Bible - if the Bible is doubtful as a historical document, so is the rest of human history before the 19th century.
I don't consider the Bible false in its entirety. It is too large and complicated text for that. Some parts of it are almost certainly true. Others are possibly true, possibly false. Others are almost certainly false. The problem is that most of the parts that are almost certainly true are the parts that are rather uninteresting to the average reader. Much like how, we have found evidence for the existence of the city of Troy, and there is evidence to suggest that the city (well, one of the cities built on that location, at least) was destroyed in a war in a period that corresponds well with the Homeric works. So it is entirely likely that a Trojan war did in fact happen. That does not mean that there were ever an Achilles, Hector, or Odysseus, or that these men did anything remotely resembling the feats attributed to them.