Is there no evidence that Jesus even existed? Part 2

Theology / Biblical Studies

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Recently I posted a blog entry on the rather radical outlook, held by a fairly slim minority, that not only rejects the truth of Christianity but goes a step further and says that there literally was no such person as Jesus of Nazareth. One of the lines of reasoning that is used to defend this view of history is the claim that we have no early historical references to Jesus. Now of course, and as I pointed out in the last blog entry, a number of very early sources were gathered together into what we call the New Testament. However, the fact that these are Christian documents, written by people who identify as followers of Jesus, causes some people to dismiss them without further question. After all, a person who believes in a historical Jesus of Nazareth who rose from the dead cannot be trusted, right? And so, the most important sources that do refer to the life of Christ that Christians believe in are rejected, not because they are late or otherwise unreliable, but because they present a version of history that many sceptics are unwilling to even contemplate, falling into a dogmatism and partisanship that is completely unacceptable in serious historical study. My first post on this subject, then, briefly explained what is wrong with the methodology of those who insist that the only kind of useful historical evidence that we could have must come from writings that never made it into the New Testament.

Secondly, however, even once we adopt this strange and biased methodology, the claim about the historical Jesus is still highly dubious at best when it comes to the historical existence of Jesus. Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd address this question of historical evidence (among other things) in their magisterial work, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition.

Eddy and Boyd are realistic about sources: some simply aren’t as useful or important as others. In fact some are frankly useless, such as those written centuries later and quite clearly as a theological polemic against a very well developed Christian tradition examples of this type would include rabbinical writings against Jesus or the Qur’an. But beyond sources like these, there are still further grades into which sources fit: sources of minimal value, and then important sources. I’m not going to try to reproduce the diligent work of these two writers here (who are in turn drawing on a wide range of careful and weighty scholarship, for example the work of Craig Evans), so I’ll just offer an overview. If you’d like something more in depth, follow the link above and get yourself a copy of this excellent work. Bear in mind as you read this that there is one and only one question before us: Was there even such a historical person as Jesus of Nazareth upon whom the Christian movement was based? Let’s proceed with this in mind.

Sources of minimal value

Source #1: Thallus

What makes Thallus a source of less value than some others is that we actually no longer have copies of his works. He was a Roman historian who, in the mid first century CE wrote a three volume world history. We know of his works because of other writers who later referred to it. In this case, that writer is Julius, a Christian historian from the third century. Julius was actually writing against a claim of Thallus. Speaking of the Gospel account of Jesus’ crucifixion and the unusual darkness that fell, Julius makes reference to Thallus, saying, “In the third book of his history Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun, wrongly, in my opinion.”

Of course, had Thallus simply said that there had been an eclipse at the time when Julius happened to believe that Jesus had died, Julius would simply have read the account as confirmation of this event. Having access to the context of Thallus’ comment. the reason he took issue with it must surely have been that Thallus was offering an alternative explanation to what happened at the time of Jesus’ death. Yes, it’s a shame that we no longer have Thallus’ work to check for ourselves (which is what makes this example of fairly minimal value), but the reference is still telling.

Source #2: Mara bar Serapion

Mara bar Serapion was a Jewish man who wrote a letter to his son in prison, but the date of the letter is not certain. In fact the window of time in which it was written is about 140 years, some time between the late first century and the beginning of the third century. This is what counts heavily against, not the work’s veracity, but against its usefulness as a clearly early reference. The writer warns is son about the folly of persecuting upright men. The Athenians suffered woe after executing Socrates, the Samosians suffered woe after executing Pythagorus, and he refers to the folly of the Jews when they executed “their wise king, because their kingdom was taken away at that very time.” Nobody disputes that this is a reference to the war leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. It may be tempting to suggest that actually this was a Christian writing, or something saturated with Christian thought, since Christians taught that God visited Jerusalem with divine judgement in the first century. But this reply does not carry much weight. Christians had no reason to make Jesus like the pagan philosophers Plato and Pythagorus, and what’s more, the letter, after referring to the “wise king,” says that the wise king is not dead “because of the new laws he laid down.” In context bar Serapion claims that this person is like Socrates because he lives on through his teaching. Had this been a Christian writing, the way that Jesus lived on would obviously have been spoken of in terms of his resurrection, whereby he literally did live on.

So while this is a reference to the historical execution of Jesus, the uncertain date of the work reduces (but does not eliminate) its value.

Source #3: Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger was the nephew (and adopted son) of Pliny the Elder. He was a Roman senator who published nine

books of letters. In about 110CE he was governor of Bithynia and wrote to the Emperor Trajan for advice on how to deal with Christians. Some Christians had given up their religion under threat of death. These Christians provided Pliny with information about Christian practices, such as gathering for a special meal once a week, living an ethical life, and offer prayers and songs to Christus (Christ) “as if he were a god.” The problem with the source, of course, is that these former Christians are reliant on what the early Christian community taught about Jesus. However, there is some interest in the way that Pliny (and presumably his sources) spoke of worshipping Christ “as if” he were really a god, implying that they all knew that he had been a historical figure, but the Christians taught that he was something more. Still, this is admittedly a less important source than the others.

Source #4: Suetonius

Suetonius was an esteemed Roman historian. In the very early second century, in volume five of his work Lives of the Caesars, he referred to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 CE, “since they were always making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus.” Claudius’ driving the Jews out of Rome is referred to in Acts 18:2, followed by an account of the proconsul Gallio driving a group of Jews out of court, again, for a disturbance over Christian worship.

But why the name “Chrestus”? As it turns out, Chrestus was a common Gentile name, whereas the more Jewish title “Christ” (Christus in Latin, which the Roman officials used) would have been much more foreign. Sceptic Earl Doherty suggests that the historian Suetonius was just relying on false Christian hearsay, but this has got to be a stretch. The man was a well respected historian, writing on the lives of the Caesars, and a man who actually had access to the records of the decrees of Claudius. At very least we have here a plausible reference to a dispute involving a person who would have been – at the time of Claudius at least – a recent historical figure.

Source #5 and #6: Celsus Lucian of Samosata

The importance of these last two minor sources is so minor that I have grouped them together. Celsus was a vocal opponent of Christianity writing in the late second century. He ridiculed and lampooned Christianity, saying that instead of being born of a virgin, Jesus’ mother Mary was sexually immoral and had committed adultery, becoming pregnant with Jesus. It is fairly clear from his work that Celsus was familiar with the well developed Christian faith, so what he says is of little value – and it certainly isn’t independent of the New Testament (indeed, it draws on it). Still, it is interesting to note the way that Celsus seems to grant that nobody could get away with denying that there had been a miracle working Jesus, resorting to the claim that he was a sorcerer in order to explain his miraculous deeds. Lastly, Lucian of Samosata, also writing in the late second century, warned people to stay away from the Christian faith.

… the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult to the world … Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers … after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping the crucified sophist himself and live under his laws.

Yes the source is fairly late. However, the Greek word anaskolopizein use here is not the normal Greek word for crucifixion (as Craig Evans notes), and is not the word used in the Christian Gospels (stauroun). The word that Lucian used literally means “to impale.” Perhaps by referring to “that man who was crucified (impaled?) in Palestine” may indicate some knowledge of the Jesus account outside of Christian circles.

These sources are not worthless. They are very helpful indeed as indicators that the historicity of, at the very least, a historical person lurking behind the Jesus stories, was assumed by many. But they are still relatively minor sources, hampered in large part by their age, and therefore their lack of proximity to the time of Christ. In the next blog entry (unless I’m inspired to write on something else before then) will look at some much more significant examples of early references to Jesus outside of the New Testament.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 42 comments… add one }
  • The Atheist Missionary June 1, 2010, 11:22 pm

    Your scholarship on this issue is very helpful in proving the paucity of contemporaneous records relating to the life and death of Jesus. If you think that is enough to prove that he existed, you will hear no debate from me. My problem is with your acceptance of the miraculous claims.

    This is a great site and I am enjoying your podcasts. If I live to be 100, I will never cease to be amazed at how smart people conveniently set aside their natural sense of skepticism when it comes to accepting suprnatural claims of religion. I contend that most professed “believers” don’t really believe but are unwilling to face the consequences of disbelief (such as the absence of objective moral standards). My bet is that you fall into this camp but … of course … I could be wrong.

  • Glenn June 1, 2010, 11:29 pm

    Thats rather ad hominem in nature, wouldn’t you say, T.A.M.?

  • Pat June 1, 2010, 11:53 pm

    Jesus should have come and visited our planet today. Then you could have had all the the sources you ever dreamed of to show that he did exist-CNN, The Otago Daily Times, Fox News, TVNZ, The Edge, Youtube and all the other media forms that exist today but didn’t 2000 years ago.

    His message would have reached more people if he did come today instead of only coming to one place at a time at a time when news spread very slowly and only to a small percentage of the global population. Imagine the lower amount of violence if the story of Jesus was shared around the world by CNN instead of by The Bible via crusades and such. Just a thought but I’m sure God had his reasons.

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 12:12 am

    So.. this is the sceptical argument from “should have debuted on mainstream TV.” I’ll make a note of that.

  • Steven Carr June 2, 2010, 12:26 am

    Pliny the Younger never mentions ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

    Strike 1.

    Mara never mentions any Jesus.

    Strike 2

    Suetonious never mentions any Jesus , and says the guy Chrestus was in Rome.

    Strike 3.

    You’re out!

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 12:29 am

    Steven, unless you’re actually refuting claims that I made, then you’re standing all alone on a baseball diamond, swinging wildly into the dark.

  • Steven Carr June 2, 2010, 12:31 am

    ‘and he refers to the folly of the Jews when they executed “their wise king, because their kingdom was taken away at that very time.” Nobody disputes that this is a reference to the war leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. ‘

    I guess a few facts are in order…

    Jesus was never a king.

    The Jews did not execute Jesus.

    The Romans did.

    Galilee was not a kingdom after 6 AD, when Rome occupied the place.

    And wasn’t Jesus killed ‘at the very time’ that the ‘kingdom’
    was taken away in 70 AD?

    Isn’t 70 not equal to 33?

  • Steven Carr June 2, 2010, 12:34 am

    GLENN
    Steven, unless you’re actually refuting claims that I made, then you’re standing all alone on a baseball diamond, swinging wildly into the dark.

    CARR
    I think what Glenn is trying to say is that none of the sources he produced mentioned any Jesus of Nazareth.

    No wonder Eddy and Boyd loved those sources. They never mention any Jesus of Nazareth, so Christians feel free to say they confirm the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, the wise king executed by the Jews, according to Glenn’s source….

    A pity that Glenn’s own source contradicts the Christian claim that Jesus was never executed by the Jews.

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 12:37 am

    Steven, seriously, it looks like you’re intentionally avoiding things here. Jesus in fact was called a king, both by his Christian followers (of whom bar serapion was not one), and even in mockery, according to the New Testament, by those present at his Crucifixion. Your distinction between the Jews who had Jesus killed, and the Romans who carried it out is clearly strained, and as for the 33/70 thing, good grief. The point is that it was not long afterwards – just as int he case of, for example the Athenians shortly after the death of Socrates.

    if this is the silly way you dismiss the minor sources, I shudder at how you deal with more substantial sources – which I’ll come to in the next couple of days. But what you’re indicated so far is that even the less substantial examples are beyond your dismissive power to refute.

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 12:38 am

    Umm, and wow Steven, why do you post short comments immediately after your previous ones? You may be consuming to much coffee… Seriously, settle down!

    (I added this when your last comment appeared as I was typing a reply to the one before).

  • The Atheist Missionary June 2, 2010, 12:54 am

    I wouldn’t say ad hominem. Merely a frank admission that I sincerely want to understand why you believe what you do. Keep up the good work.

  • mAX June 2, 2010, 9:46 am

    “Your distinction between the Jews who had Jesus killed, and the Romans who carried it out is clearly strained”

    It is a much more complicated issue of course. To say “the Jews” had Jesus killed is clearly wrong, and should be an expression avoided in our era. This is for several reasons. First such expressions and sentiments have been used time after time to support antisemitism, by ignorant people interpreting this expression as “the Jews killed our savior” and so on… the second reason this expression should be avoided is that it is almost meaningless. Jesus was a Jew, his followers were Jews, the crowds who followed him were Jews, the people who buried him and anointed his body were Jews, a Jew gave up his tomb for Jesus etc. etc. and yet we hear time after time “the Jews killed Jesus.” What is more accurate is that a group of the political and religious elite wanted Jesus killed. Third – there was political struggle between Pilate and the High Priest, and Jesus got caught up in this struggle… both the Roman and Jewish elite were heavily involved in Jesus death.

  • Dave June 2, 2010, 10:16 am

    Pat said: “Jesus should have come and visited our planet today. Then you could have had all the the sources you ever dreamed of to show that he did exist-CNN, The Otago Daily Times, Fox News, TVNZ, The Edge, Youtube and all the other media forms that exist today but didn’t 2000 years ago.”

    I’d argue that you wouldn’t have all those things if Jesus hadn’t existed a long time prior. Most of our major scientific advancements are due to the influence of Christianity on civilization (or you could say western civilization itself is an outgrowth of Christianity, working with the remnants of Greek and Roman civilization)

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 3:47 pm

    Max, yes it’s oversimplified to flatly state “it was the Romans” or “it was the Jews,” agreed. There’s a sense in which it was “the Romans,” and a sense in which it was “the Jews.”

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 6:26 pm

    Glenn Peoples PHD stated; ‘So.. this is the sceptical argument from “should have debuted on mainstream TV.” I’ll make a note of that.’

    Yes you could put it that way. Why attempt to get your message out to the world at a time and place in history when communication and media was localised. Just seems odd to me that Jeusus only ever appeared in one place, at one time and that we know about his life from a small (small compared to present times) number of sources whose reliability is questionable. This so called message of God has just spread like any other human idea-by people through the media forms at the time. Surely if God wanted every person on the planet to hear about himself he could have found a more effective method of information spreading. Multiple location visits by Jesus perhaps?

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 7:01 pm

    Pat, well now, while you’re not really talking about the subject at hand, you are talking about something that interests me. “Surely if God wanted every person on the planet to hear about himself he could have found a more effective method of information spreading.”

    Christian history is full of representatives of the view that God will judge people based upon the degree of revelation that they have received. However, those same representatives also explain that natural revelation is such that atheists (not looking at anyone in particular) have no excuse.

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 7:23 pm

    Pardon my lack of intelligence, but what does ‘natual revelation’ mean? And why do atheists have no excuse?

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 8:48 pm

    Pat, nothing to pardon. I often just assume that because something interests me, everyone else will know the terminology.

    “Natural revelation” in Christian theology means the revelation that God has made of himself through creation.

    As my statement was about what particular representatives of a certain view have said, I assume you meant to ask “Why do they say that atheists have no excuse?” They say this because they say that natural revelation is sufficiently clear that nobody has an excuse for rejecting God altogether. Something like this was also taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1, as follows:

    The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 9:11 pm

    This not only applies to atheists but also to other religous people I assume? Poor old Australian Aboriginals intrepretated the creation rather wrongly then. Lucky the Europeans have managed teach them about Christainity and we can see the success of this from the past 200 years.

    Seriously though, without The Bible any sort of intrepretation of what the ‘creation’ is, means or who created it goes. We can see that this has happened from the number of different creation myths around the world. What in the ‘Creation’ points to the god of the Christian version?

    As I have said before it just seems odd, or rather stupid, to tell the story of God and Jesus in one time and location, knowing in advance what will happen when humans are left to spread the message. If God really did care about everyone and wanted his story told would it not have been better to have revealed himself or Jesus to many different locations? Could have reduced the amount of suffering Christainity is responsible for…

    Ok take me to task over this please.

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 9:22 pm

    Pat, I think you may have read me as saying nearly the opposite of what I actually said. I was explaining the view that people are judged by God according to the degree of revelation that they have received, indicating that if they have receuived less revelation (perhaps, for example, they have never read a copy of one of the Gospels), then God takes this disadvantage into account. This, if correct, would make the scope of salvation wider, not narrower. It was atheists, I said, who had no excuse, according to this view.

    As for the familiar cliche about Christianity being responsibile for so much suffering, I suspect you’d be shoecked to encounter a balanced, fair, and properly comparative study on the kinds of historical events that I suspect you have in mind. When you have the time, you might (or might not) want to listen to one of my podcast episodes called “Why become an atheist?” where I briefly address this.

  • Anon June 2, 2010, 9:49 pm

    Great post Glenn, judging by these uncomfortable comments from atheist guests 😉

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 10:02 pm

    Yeah I think that I did misunderstand what you said.

    In regards to suffering I was trying to argue that if Christanity was spread by God himself instead of leaving it to humans there would have been a lower amount of suffering. Only wanted to address these cases.

    Ok I’m off to convert to Christianity..what denomination do you suggest?

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 10:14 pm

    Pat – oh they’re all the same…. (kidding)

    I’m a bit of an eclectic and an academic, so none of them are really a perfect fit. For me the main thing is that they need to be evangelical. What I mean by that (and what some people might not mean by that) is that they take the biblical message seriously, they try to allow themselves to be changed by Christianity instead of trying to change Christianity to suit them, and they take seriously (in spite of what some think about evangelicals) the historic Christian faith. The genuine desire to see people put back in touch with God through the work of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith, and there are a lot of churches working hard at doing that. There are plenty of churches that I would happily call home as far as denominations are concerned.

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 10:30 pm

    Church of England?

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 10:33 pm

    Actually, in New Zealand the Anglican church is a mixed bag. We’ve got some really great congregations and some pretty liberal ones (and by “liberal” I mean that they are formally affiliated to the church, but reject many of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith). But some Anglican congregations would be a great option, yes.

  • Anon June 2, 2010, 10:49 pm

    Where do you live Pat?

  • The Atheist Missionary June 2, 2010, 11:45 pm

    Glenn wrote: “Christian history is full of representatives of the view that God will judge people based upon the degree of revelation that they have received”. So why would Christians evangelize primitive”cultures living ignorant of Christ? If ignorance is a metaphysical “avoid annihilation card”, why take that card away?

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 11:45 pm

    I’m a rock star so I am constantly on tour and move around. In Australia at the moment.

  • Pat June 2, 2010, 11:48 pm

    TAM; Perhaps those Christians did not understand that at the time? Maybe Christian have only realised that following more research and study of their scriptures? I don’t know. What a crazy world.

  • Glenn June 2, 2010, 11:50 pm

    T.A.M., that’s a good question, and one that Christians who don’t share that view of salvation quite understandably put to those who do.

    One possible response that those who hold the view that I described earlier might say is this: That culture has received a limited natural revelation of God, one that is sufficient to make them accountable to God, but we don’t know that they responded to it in a way that is faithful – a way that is appropriate given the knowledge that God has given them. So we certainly can’t assume that they are safe. We’d better preacht he Gospel to them.

    It would make sense to me if they were to respond that way.

  • Anders Branderud June 3, 2010, 4:07 am

    Historical J…..”!?!

    The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

    While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
    Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and (“spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

    There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: http://www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with “30-99 C.E.”).
    Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

    Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

    What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period… in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

    To all Christians: The question is, now that you’ve been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

  • Dan June 3, 2010, 8:26 am

    I’m sorry, but this claim makes absolutely no sense. As I understand it, you are arguing that All Pharisees were pro-torah, Jesus was a pharisee, and therefore Jesus was pro-torah. Then, to be a true follower of Jesus a person must be pro-torah, Persons who believe the Christian New Testament are anti-torah, therefore persons who believe the Christian NT are not true followers of Jesus.

    I’m reluctant even to accept the legitimacy of the first proposition since “pro-torah” is indeterminate and can encompass an extraordinary number of positions. To the extent you are suggesting that Pharisaical interpretation of the torah was monolithic and without disagreement as to interpretation, and that the interpretation would be understood by any reasonable person as “pro-torah” you would get eaten alive by any competent cross examination. Moreover, the NT is explicit that Christ fulfilled the law to the letter but rejected pharisaical interpretations that represented anachronisms and human overlays on God’s law. The concept of a new covenant with God is not antithetical nor contradictory to approving of the Law.

    The second proposition, that Jesus was a pharisee, is confusing to me since Jesus was, according to the NT, opposed to humanistic overlays on the law imposed by the pharisees. I see nothing in the NT that suggests that he was a pharisee, and much to suggest that he was not. Perhaps you are suggesting that only pharisees could be referred to as ‘teacher’, Jesus was referred to as ‘teacher’ in the NT, therefore Jesus was a pharisee. This argument proves too much then because it is impossible to read the NT as suggesting anything other than a profound disagreement regarding the relationship between God, Law, and Man existed between the established pharisees and Jesus. It means that any teacher of the law would be deemed a pharisee, regardless of whether their teachings agreed with those of other pharisees.

    The first conclusion, I can buy assuming “pro-torah” is interpreted broadly as above. Likewise with the second major and minor premises. The conclusion again doesn’t follow, however. It seems like it’s the equivalent of All true Americans must respect and follow the U.S.Constitution. The U.S. Constitution as enacted preserved the institution of human chattel slavery. Therefore anyone opposed to human chattel slavery is not a true American. This line of argument conveniently ignores the radical paradigm change that occurred with the American civil war that resulted in not just piecemeal changes to the U.S. constitution in the 13-15th amendments, but also a complete and different interpretation of the relation between the American states and the federal government.

    And this leads to the final point in which you charge that “what the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 [AD] Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period … in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT,etc.” What you seem to be saying here is (a) a version of history propounding a late-writing date for Christian scriptures, and (b)an extension of your first argument that Jesus was a Pharisee.

    (a) The scholarship aligned in favor of early authorship of the Christian NT, beginning as early as the mid-50’s AD, is far too extensive for your claims of irrefutability. While the Jesus Seminar and Dan Brown have gotten a lot of mileage out of their claims of conspiracy and late-authorship, those claims are weak at best.

    (b) You then compound this argument by suggesting that what Jesus actually taught is so similar to what ALL [your caps] other Pharisees taught that all we really need to do to understand Jesus is to look at what other people who were not Jesus taught. If you are seriously arguing that someone who promoted a banal adherence to the status quo was the spark for a truly radical paradigm shift regarding the understanding of the relationship between God and Man, that in turn resulted in the torture and death of its adherents (who actually knew Jesus or had access to independent witnesses) for the sake of their faith, it’s simply not credible.

  • Geoff June 3, 2010, 9:07 am

    I’m guessing Anders has never read E P Sanders or the like..

  • Dan June 3, 2010, 6:23 pm

    “I’m guessing Anders has never read E P Sanders or the like..”

    Well, see, Sanders is not “incontestable”. There’s your problem right there.

  • Eliyahu Konn June 3, 2010, 6:55 pm

    Why is pro-Torah indeterminate? Pro = for, no? It is very simple. No Perushim would be given the time of day if he or she rejected even one line of the written Torah. The oral Torah was not agreed upon by all sects of Judaism which is the point of 4QMMT but all adherents to the written Torah had their version of the oral Torah, the Perushim halacha, the Maaseh of the Qumran sect, and The Book of Decrees of the pseudo Tzedokim of the ruling class of the Beit HaMikdash (poorly Temple.)

    Ribi Yehoshua was not merely a teacher, as the term Ribi denotes one with ordination from both the Nasi of the Great Court and the Court itself. Few had this type of ordination. He was able to give authoritative judgments.

    Now if one is ordained to make judgments according to the Torah which may not be rejected, see Devarim 13, then to say that this person would then reject the Torah (the Original Testament) for the sake of the NT (Null Testament)automatically crashes the computer.

    Let me tell you where the problem is. All Xtianity must buy an improvement to Torah. This is illogical. Logic dictates that a Perfect Creator gives a perfect instruction. To assume otherwise is to assume from nothing. Have you never read that as the stars are forever higher than the earth so is the Creator’s ways higher than man’s? But if you assume imperfection in the Creator you may assume anything. If on the other hand you have a concept of how this world works according to logic, physics, mathematics, i.e. things that can be proven, and you attribute this to a Creator, then you may begin to remove yourself from the false miracles, superstition, magic, and myths that were attributed to the Torah observant Jewish Ribi, Yehoshua. Think the Ze-us, Mith-ra, Horu-s myths attributed to Ribi Yehoshua and voila! Jz-eus.

    Face it. You either follow Torah or you follow your own heart, Bmidbar 15:39 (Numbers-for the numb I guess.) Your heart is not an improvement of Torah. Apart from Torah your heart is your elohim.
    http://www.netzarim.co.il

  • Geoff June 3, 2010, 10:27 pm

    “Well, see, Sanders is not “incontestable”. There’s your problem right there.”

    I didnt say Sanders was incontestable. I said its obvious that you hadn’t read him “or the like..”

  • Glenn June 3, 2010, 10:39 pm

    Jesus was not a Pharisee.

  • Dan June 4, 2010, 9:45 am

    Geoff: “I didnt say Sanders was incontestable. I said its obvious that you hadn’t read him “or the like..””

    Geoff – sorry, my sarcasm didn’t carry. The incontestable assertion was quoted from Ander, not me (Dan).

  • Geoff June 4, 2010, 3:18 pm

    Ah right, Dan, sorry 😛

    Anders needs to catch up to the 20th century anyway 😛

  • Glenn June 4, 2010, 3:33 pm

    The 21st would be even better 😉

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