Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Collapsing Christianity: Antonio Jerez vs. Chris Tilling

There's been some interesting discussion over on Chris Tilling's blog under the entry, Was Jesus Wrong? (Thanks to Antonio Jerez for the heads-up.) Chris defends his orthodoxy (a Chalcedonian Jesus who was "fully God and fully man") while acknowledging that Jesus was factually wrong about some things (like his belief in a literal Adam and Eve) but insisting that it's unfair to judge his savior too harshly from the perspective of evolutionary hindsight.

In comments Antonio Jerez says that Chris is trying "to make a circle into a triangle", and that because people like Jesus and Paul were wrong about important things -- like the way they took the creation myths of Genesis 1-3 literally -- "the whole edifice of Christianity collapses". Christianity, in Antonio's view, "depends on the historicity of Genesis".

Antonio's position is similar to Gerd Ludemann's in The Resurrection of Christ. Ludemann says that because Jesus was never resurrected, "people can no longer justify calling themselves Christians unless we totally redefine the word" (p 190). He dismisses "vain" attempts to remain Christian while rejecting the idea that Jesus was literally resurrected: (1) the "vain" kerygma approach of Bultmann (the proper object of Christian faith is the proclamation of Christ, regardless of the historicity of said proclamation) (pp 193-195); (2) the "vain" objective vision approach of Grass (pp 195-197); (3) the "vain" metaphorical approach of Kessler (the resurrection was real but non-literal and metaphorical) (pp 197-198); (4) the "vain" replacement of the risen Christ with the historical Jesus (many liberal scholars today) (pp 198-199); (5) the "vain" theological approach of Wright (pp 199-202). All of these, according to Ludemann, are as bad as (6) the "vain" literal approach of fundamentalists and academics like Hartlich and Broer (pp 202-203) which is self-evidently wrong.

I don't agree with Antonio and Ludemann that Christianity is invalidated by our recognition that early Christians were literally wrong about important things. But let me first emphasize my agreement with Antonio. At one point under Chris' post he writes:
"Modern christian apologets like NT Wright have tried to trip around the problem... by arguing that no Jew at the time of Jesus would possibly have taken the stories in Genesis and Exodus literally. They were a quite sophisticated bunch, according to Wright. As so often Wright is talking pure hogwash. Why should we expect first-century Jewish peasants to be more sophisticated than modern litteralists like the Pentecostals or the Witnesses of Jehovah. As Dale Allison already showed in his book about Jesus years ago there is absolutely no reason to believe that a majority of Jews 2000 years ago read Genesis with more sophistication than Pentecostals. On the contrary a careful sifting of the evidence shows that Wright is talking nonsense. To see how and why I recommend anybody really interested in the subject reading Edward Adams recent book with the title The Stars Will Fall from Heaven – Cosmic Catastrophe and the World's End in the New Testament and its World. Adams shows with impeccable clarity and evidence that many second Temple Jews certainly took the language in Genesis quite literally. They also took the apocalyptic imagery about the End time with the heavens and stars falling, the angels coming and the new heaven and earth created by the jewish god in a very straight manner. The worldview of Jesus, Mark, Matthew, Luke and Paul neatly fit with what doesn't appear to have been an uncommon view among first-century Jews. They were in all imaginable ways children of their time. Of course modern Christians expect the message of Jesus and Paul to be relevant to us moderns in some mysterious way, but I believe that this can only be done by twisting and turning their original apocalyptic message into something totally different (Crossan, Funk et. al ) or by explaining away a thoughtworld that doesn't fit that easily 2008 (Wright et. al)."
I agree with Antonio here 100%. Conservative apologists (like Wright) who metaphorize away literal meanings are as bad as liberal apologists (like Crossan) who erase those meanings altogether. That's confessionalism and revisionism -- bad history either way. We can metaphorize or ignore whatever we want from a theological point of view, of course, but we can't project our wishes onto the past. Antonio is right: Jesus and Paul believed in a literal Adam and Eve. They believed the world was literally coming to an end by apocalypse. They were wrong on these accounts, and we need to acknowledge this head-on.

But I don't think Christianity is thereby made null and void. Why should it depend on the literal truth of this stuff -- creation, apocalypse, and/or resurrection? There are many Christians who don't think so. Dale Allison, for instance:
"From one point of view, Jesus was wrong, because he took apocalyptic language literally and expected a near end. But he wasn't, from my Christian point of view, wrong in hoping for God to defeat evil, redeem the world, and hold us responsible. I continue to be amazed that we can't do with the end what we do with the beginning. We have become very sophisticated in our understanding of Genesis as mythology. It still serves us homiletically and theologically even after we've given up the literal sense. Why can't we do the same with eschatology? We can say that the writer of Genesis was mistaken about the beginning of the world -- it didn't take place a few thousand years ago, there was no Garden of Eden, etc -- but he wasn't wrong -- God made the world, the world is good, but responsible human beings wreck things. I just want to do this with eschatology. I emphasize Jesus was wrong so that I can get to what he was right about."
Religions evolve constantly, and people find new (and hopefully better, like the above) ways of coming to terms with their myths. To say that a religion collapses when a primitive understanding of it is given up, or that later followers are unable to improve upon their religious ancestors without betraying them, seems misguided to me. That's why we need to pay attention to someone like Philip Esler, who asks Christians to honor the biblical authors and their original intent, even when in disagreement, even when we know they were clearly wrong about something. And Esler is a robust Christian -- rather traditional in many ways.

So while my sympathies lie with Antonio (and like him, I'm not Christian), I would never push modern Christians to the unreasonable conclusion that because evolution is factual, and an apocalypse will never come, Christianity is without foundation.

24 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

I'm curious about one point here. Where exactly does Tom Wright make his point(s) about 1stC Jews not taking biblical stories literally. I'm not doubting the point, I just don't remember coming across it and I've read a fair amount of Wright's work.

4/16/2008  
Blogger Paul said...

Oh, and a total side note. I have the same sort of aversion to the term "christianity" that you have to "Jew". For further explanation you can check out Peter Leithart's book _Against Christianity_. Really you should just look over the opening part of the text (on p 13)

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=F54VD0XoqJIC&printsec=frontcover#PPA13,M1

4/16/2008  
Blogger Paul said...

This link might be better:

http://tinyurl.com/4b8vse

4/16/2008  
Anonymous elbogz said...

You have made a very good case about biblical times. But I here is where I take issue. Name one church, name one bible college or one seminary; name one major religious denomination, that says, Well, you know, the bible is a nice myth. Don’t get too caught up with the fact that there wasn’t actually an Adam and Eve, and the story of Noah is a long ago fable…and the genealogy of David is just kind of a bunch of made up names, …... Saying such things, even 50 years ago would have been a complete abomination, and saying them 250 years ago, would have lead to jail and death.

At some point, trying to balance a belief in evolution with reading the bible and believing in God was like the game, Jenga where you pull out one block at a time, until eventually your tower falls down. OK, so, the story of Adam and Eve is a myth. Ok. So, the story of Noah is a fable….ok. So, actually the entire book of Exodus, probably didn’t happen that way…ok….

So, were the words written in Red a myth? Was the resurrection a myth? I don’t know any more, my tower fell down.

4/17/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Paul asked:

Where exactly does Tom Wright make his point(s) about 1stC Jews not taking biblical stories literally.

Wright (following George Caird) applies this particularly to apocalyptic literature. I Thess 4:13-17, Mk 13:24-27, etc. He thinks first-century Jews "knew a good metaphor when they came across one" and used apocalyptic imagery in contexts which had nothing to do with end times. (See New Testament and the People of God, pp 280-338, and Jesus and the Victory of God, pp 320-368.)

Note Dale Allison's critique: "Caird and Wright have just composed new lyrics to a very old theological melody, that they have, whether intentionally or not, turned critical history into a subordinate minister to the needs of Christian doctrine." (Millenarian Prophet, p 169)

4/17/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren,
good to see that you hooked on my bait. And good to see that we are in total agreement that folks like Tom Wright and Dom Crossan are doing more apologetics than history. But that said I don´t think you are really engaging with the main thrust of some of my arguments.

You wrote:
"But I don't think Christianity is thereby made null and void. Why should it depend on the literal truth of this stuff -- creation, apocalypse, and/or resurrection? "
AND:
"To say that a religion collapses when a primitive understanding of it is given up, or that later followers are unable to improve upon their religious ancestors without betraying them, seems misguided to me."

OK, lets see if I can make myself a bit clearer. My logic goes like this.
1. Every new religion normally has a founder who starts a religion with a certain amount of premises. In this case the founder is Jesus who preached and acted within a framework including such basics as a god who constantly acts in and through history, a god who created a first pair of humans called Adam and Eve, a god who has a heavenly opponent called Satan, a god who sends prophets and angels to warn and teach his people, a god who thinks something has gone fundamentally wrong with his creation and therefore thinks that it is time to recreate everything once more in a better way etc etc...
2. When I talk about a religion being invalidated I mean that we always have to go back to what the FOUNDER of that religion thought about things and what HE HIMSELF teached. From my viewpoint it doesnt matter that the persons who wrote genesis talked about Adam and Eve or the serpent in a metaphorical way. What matters is what Jesus himself thought about genesis, the devil, the fate of the cosmos etc etc. The religion of Jesus was definitely not the same as the much earlier version of judaism that the authors of genesis had (and here I am talking from a historian of ideas viewpoint).
3. That later followers of a religious founder (people like Chris Tilling, Dale Allison or Philip Esler) want to or try to make up their own cocktail from the christianities that have arised the last 2000 years has no import at all on my argument. What matters is what Jesus himself teached and believed - it is from the premises that Jesus held that Christianity can or cannot be invalidated. And it certainly doesn´t matter if Tilling et al takes genesis or the resurrection in a metaphorical way. What matters is again the beliefs Jesus himself held.
I think the analogy I made with the Quran and Muhammed is still good. Muhammed claimed himself that the Quran is the ipsima verba of god. If the Quran can be shown not to be the ipsima verba of god then Islam as a religion falls. That later followers of Muhammed may not think so is of no importance to the matter. From a logical and factual viewpoint Islam falls. I think it is really as simply as that.

Loren quoted Dale Allison
"From one point of view, Jesus was wrong, because he took apocalyptic language literally and expected a near end. But he wasn't, from my Christian point of view, wrong in hoping for God to defeat evil, redeem the world, and hold us responsible. I continue to be amazed that we can't do with the end what we do with the beginning. We have become very sophisticated in our understanding of Genesis as mythology. It still serves us homiletically and theologically even after we've given up the literal sense. Why can't we do the same with eschatology? We can say that the writer of Genesis was mistaken about the beginning of the world -- it didn't take place a few thousand years ago, there was no Garden of Eden, etc -- but he wasn't wrong -- God made the world, the world is good, but responsible human beings wreck things. I just want to do this with eschatology. I emphasize Jesus was wrong so that I can get to what he was right about."

I can understand Allison line of reasoning but personally I think it lacks logic. I think the religion of Jesus the jew is about a lot more than a HOPE that god will “defeat” evil in some vague way i this world. It´s an actual promise and it should have happened 2000 years ago. When Allison talks this way I really think the talking becomes so meaningless that it can lead you anywhere you want. It is hardly because Jesus message gives HOPE that serial killers will disappear into thin air or no child will have to die from leucemia in the future. I don´t think early christians claimed Jesus was the son of God, the Messiah, a divine being because of some vague hope or some ethical message. They claimed it because he raised persons from the dead, was spoken about by the prophets in the OT and was resurrected by god the Father himself. If some vague hope and Jesus ethics is all that really matters for a christian like Allison today then I don´t see why he doesn´t turn to any other of the myriads of gurus that have been walking or are presently walking this planets. They can also give plenty of hope and pleasant ethics. If vague hope and ethics is all christianity is really about then I don´t hesitate one moment to say that we are far from the religion of Jesus the jew. I don´t find it meaningful to talk about christianity any more from a historian of ideas viewpoint. And if Allison still wants to call himself a christian it´s up to him. I have never thought otherwise.

4/17/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

PS...
Loren,
I really think I outdid myself in my latest message to Chris Tilling on his blog. The one where I dreamed about Joseph Fitzmyer putting his lord Jesus on the schoolbench when he gets to heaven...

4/17/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Antonio wrote:

When I talk about a religion being invalidated I mean that we always have to go back to what the FOUNDER of that religion thought about things and what HE HIMSELF teached.

If we're defining a religion based strictly on the founder's beliefs and teachings, then I suppose you're right. But that's a rather trivial point, isn't it? Religions evolve from the get-go -- they have to in order to survive. If "Christianity" is defined exclusively by the beliefs and practices of the historical Jesus' apocalyptic movement of itinerant faith-healers, then what Christian group today really qualifies?

I can understand Allison's line of reasoning but personally I think it lacks logic. I think the religion of Jesus the Jew is about a lot more than a HOPE that god will “defeat” evil in some vague way in this world. It's an actual promise and it should have happened 2000 years ago. When Allison talks this way I really think the talking becomes so meaningless that it can lead you anywhere you want.

Ah, but I suppose that's the point of religion -- or at least to an extent. I don't see Christians like Allison and Esler diluting their sacred tradition to the extent you do. I can only repeat that I think it's a bit unreasonable to say that because Jesus' promise about the kingdom failed 2000 years ago, the religion he started is completely invalidated. It's easy enough to invalidate any religion using a standard like this!

4/18/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Loren wrote:
"If we're defining a religion based strictly on the founder's beliefs and teachings, then I suppose you're right. But that's a rather trivial point, isn't it?

I don´t see how it can be a trivial point. If you are going to judge the truth claims or "validity" of a religion the obvious thing is to back to the beginning - in this case Jesus. Just as we have to go back to Joseph Smith to judge the truth claims or "validity" of the mormons. In the case of Joseph Smith it is just so much easier to see through all the follies that lie at the heart of mormonism because Joseph Smith is so much closer in time to us.

Loren wrote:
"Religions evolve from the get-go -- they have to in order to survive. If "Christianity" is defined exclusively by the beliefs and practices of the historical Jesus' apocalyptic movement of itinerant faith-healers, then what Christian group today really qualifies?"

None I suppose! Although I would say that groups like the pentecostals are still adhering pretty closely to what I would count as the basics of the religion of Jesus the jew: a god who still have attributes that are close to the god of the OT and NT, a god who created Adam and Eve, a god who talks through prophets and angels, visionary experencies and extacies (glossia...), missionary activities etc etc.
And of course all religions have to evolve in order to survive. The question is just have much they can evolve in order for us to be able to call a modern descendant of the religion of Jesus the jew "christian". I think an analogy with darwinian evolution can be helpful. Can mormonism be called "christian"? I don´t think so. Mormonism has mutated so far from the religion of Jesus the jew that it isn´t helpful at all to call it "christian". The concept of god and a lot of other basic christian beliefs are so changed that it´s better to see mormonism as a totally new "species", a new religion.

Loren wrote:
Ah, but I suppose that's the point of religion -- or at least to an extent.

Ethics are of course normally part of a religion. But ethics normally follow from a specific cosmology or worldview. Every major religion that I know of - christianity, judaism, islam, hinduism and buddhism grounds itself in a very specific cosmology and from that cosmology follows it´s ethics. Take away that cosmology and the ethic´s that follow from it hang there in empty air.
It is simply not true that science and religion talk about totally different things. This is a misconception that you can even hear from the scientific camp from people like Stephen Jay Gould (in blessed memory). Sometimes science and the cosmology of religions interlock. In the face of sciences merciless debunking of the cosmologies of all major religions it isn´t strange at all that believers (in particular western christians) try to cling to the vain argument that science and religion are saying "truth" in different ways.

Loren wrote:
I don't see Christians like Allison and Esler diluting their sacred tradition to the extent you do. I can only repeat that I think it's a bit unreasonable to say that because Jesus' promise about the kingdom failed 2000 years ago, the religion he started is completely invalidated.

Antonio answers
I suppose that you mean that the religion of Jesus the jew has not been "completely invalidated" because some of his ethical teachings still has some kernel of "truth". They can still be useful and can lead to better relationships among humans. Yes, in that sense I think I can agree with you. But speaking moral "truths" has never been a prerogative of Jesus. A lot of gurus have done that through the ages. We don´t have much reason to think they are Lord of the Universe or part of the Holy Trinity because of that.

Loren writes:
It's easy enough to invalidate any religion using a standard like this!

Antonio answers:
Who said it wasn´t easy! Which is why I haven´t bought all the mumbojumbo that usually follows from believing in a religion.
And isn´t it strange that the standards that I use to measure up the truth claims of a religion is what christian apologists usually use to falsify the claims of islam, hinduism or buddhism. It´s just that when you use the same tools on christianity they are not that interested any more.

4/18/2008  
Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

Dale Allison told me last month that he's not exactly sure why he remains a "Christian." He's asked all sorts of questions, including ones about the resurrection. Though he explained that he did have one experience he couldn't explain at all, when an object on his desk was seen by him and then was no longer there after he turned his back to it, and he found it a little while later in a very odd place, a flour bin. He told me there's no way anyone else in the house moved that object, and strongly suspects it could only have been transported via supernatural means from his desk to being buried in the flour bin.

Me? I'm an ex-Christian, agnostic, who wrote Allison praising his defense of the apocalyptic Jesus in the face of Crossan's cross examination (in a book).

Cheers,
Edward T. Babinski

4/18/2008  
Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

'THE STORY OF EDEN' AS METAPHOR? WHEN WAS OUR COSMOS EVEN CLOSE TO BEING 'EDEN-LIKE?' EVEN METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING?

I'm not a young-earth creationist but there are plenty of articles over at ANSWERS IN GENESIS that address Chris (at Chrisendom's blog) and N.T. Wright's perspective that Genesis should be taken metaphorically by Christians today, and that Genesis has metaphorical value. That group has even produced a book that explains why interpreting the creation story in Genesis as metaphorical rocks the whole Christian edifice since it makes Christianity begin with a metaphorical event yet end with a physical (non-metaphorical) crucifixion for the very real sin of a very real first man, Adam. The book is titled, REFUTING COMPROMISE.

I even read an amusing letter to that effect in a recent issue of CHRISTIAN CENTURY magazine. The letter writer, 'Terry W. Ward' stated in CHRISTIAN CENTURY, April 22, 2008:

It is a difficult task fitting evolutionary ideas into the Christian framework, beginning with Paul's exposition in Romans 5:12 that 'Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned'--not to mention Augustine's more complete formulation into church doctrine of the idea of original sin--which both collapse in the light of evolution.

And what about Paul's thoughts on the direct connection of sin with one man and redemption with another in Romans 5:18, which becomes ludicrous in the light of evolution: 'Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.'

Was the trespass that Paul mentions above perpetrated by some particularly evil Australopithecus or an especially cunning Homo habilis?

Without original sin and a Fall, what becomes of Christ?

The common modern explanation that Genesis 1-3 is to be interpreted metaphorically. If that is so, why does God require a bloody, horrific, non-metaphorical sacrifice of his Son?

This is the difficult task of reconciling evolutionary thought and Christianity. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tried to finesse the conflict by arguing about an omega point toward which all creation was straining. But, after witnessing the depradations of the 20th century his ideas of progress seem tragically misplaced. One also has to wonder what it means to live in a 'fallen' world where no such fall has occurred [and where death--including six mass extinctions in the geological past--have never been a 'curse' but simply 'a fact of life' since long before any species vaguely resembling an 'Adam' had ever evolved].

So without an historical creation and an historical Adam and Eve and an historical fall, the problem of natural evil becomes one of even more stark contrast.

The answer to suffering parishoners that we 'live in a fallen world' makes less sense if every living thing was cursed with death--and over 90% of every ancient species was cursed with extinction--long before human beings even showed up in this less than Edenic cosmos.

[I edited some of Terry's letter--Edward T. Babinski]

4/18/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Edward wrote:

What about Paul's thoughts on the direct connection of sin with one man and redemption with another in Romans 5:18, which becomes ludicrous in the light of evolution: 'Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.'... Without original sin and a Fall, what becomes of Christ?

The common modern explanation that Genesis 1-3 is to be interpreted metaphorically. If that is so, why does God require a bloody, horrific, non-metaphorical sacrifice of his Son?


I suppose a Christian might answer that even though Gen 1-3 is metaphorical (which Paul was naturally wrong about), human history itself is not. Humanity has been a bloody horrific mess, perpetuating bloody horrors left and right, and it thus took the Christ event to deal with the problem. I doubt Christians are too troubled by evolution on this point, and many even believe that God works through evolution. The "fall" could be understood in more ongoing cyclical terms -- in all societies, people of their own free will let "sin" (pride, greed, hate, selfishness, etc) get the better of them.

On the other hand, there are Christians who have problems with passion theology regardless of how it squares with our knowledge of the scientific world. Stephen Finlan, for instance, asks, "If God wants to save, why is such intercession necessary? Why should Jesus' pleading for humanity only be effective after he had been murdered? It does us no good to perceive Jesus as heroic if we are forced to view God as sadistic." (Problems with Atonement, p 97). Finlan advocates the Eastern Orthodox principle of theosis in place of atonement; i.e. to become perfect, godlike, and forgive freely without need for sacrifice or give-and-take in between (pp 121-122).

The point is that Christians can be theologically dexterous either way. One can deny creationism and still maintain that for whatever reason humanity is a mess requiring a literal redemptive solution like the Christ-passion. Alternatively one could be nonplussed by atonement theology regardless of how literal Gen 1-3 is viewed. We're not going to reach a point in the foreseeable future where humanity relinquishes religion on account of what we know scientifically. And the (scientific) reason is simple: people need religion, not least because self-deception is good for us.

4/19/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Oh my, wasn´t my intuition about Allison right after all. So now his belief in the Lord Jesus seems to hinge on himself finding an object in a flourbin! Didn´t I say on Chris Tilling´s blog that most people are prepared to cling on to ANYTHING in order to avoid the painful task of finding a new meaning in their life...

4/21/2008  
Anonymous Ken said...

I'm not quite willing to concede the point that Jesus believed in a literal Genesis 1-3 or even that Jews always did. The fact that they willingly rewrote their tradition in Jubilees or the Targums would seem to suggest a different mindset towards this tradition than the modern historical-mythological dichotomy. I'm not sure that many ancient peoples, especially those in the Near East, shared the same orientation we do or conceptualized the past in a scientific/historical fashion.

4/21/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ken,
I don´t think I have ever argued that ALL Jews took Genesis in a literal way. But I think we have to distinguish between the "uncultured" part of the population (among whom I count the carpenters son from Nazareth) and the educated scribes belonging to different jewish sects who preserved the sophisticated literary techniques that we find in parts of the OT like Genesis. But if even a highly cultured Jewish aristocrat like Josephus took many of the persons and stories in the OT as factual I don´t see why we should expect more of a carpenters son from Nazareth.

4/22/2008  
Anonymous Ken said...

Antonio: Does Jesus really strike you as the typical "uncultured" Jew? If even a portion of the Gospels is taken at face value, Jesus seems to have a highly sophisticated hermeneutic, self-understanding, and message. In any case, he must have been an exceptionally bright carpenter's son, don't you think?

4/22/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ken,
well the difference between yours and mine evaluation of the education level of Jesus probably has to do with my conclusion that most of the sophisticated hermenutic, "selfunderstanding" and the presentation of Jesus message are creations of christian scribes like Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

4/23/2008  
Anonymous Ken said...

Ok. Let's take that... who are these Christian scribes? Typical "uncultured" Jews (Luke notwithstanding)?

Also, don't think that Jesus must have had something going for him to stand out the way he did? I mean he wasn't really a rebel, in the military sense; he didn't write for himself so far as we know; he wasn't rich or powerful; he didn't come back to life (at least so I assume you think); and, now you'd suggest that he wasn't very bright either or sophisticated? It seems like to you he was just another non-descript, itinerant Jewish teacher and hick from Nazareth. What, if anything in your view, did he have going for him? Good looks?

4/23/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ken,
I know the path you are trying to lead me and I am not going to follow you on that road. Yeh, I could propably write you a whole essay on what kind of scribe "Matthew" was (very probably a former pharisee like Paul), but I don´t have the time or the will to do it for you.
And I have never claimed that Jesus was a total ignoramus (even if you want to imply that). But neither should we expect Jesus to have been more sophisticated than a jewish "intellectual" and aristocrat like Josephus who obviously did take many of the fairytales in the OT as factual. And to glean from the picture I get of the carpenters son from Nazareth in the gospels I find no reason whatsoever to think that Jesus had a better grasp of Adam and Eve or Moses than Josephus.

4/23/2008  
Anonymous Ken said...

Well... if you've decided to evade and discontinue the conversation, I'll draw my conclusions from our short discussion.

First, I think you are reaching conclusions without the necessary evidence. You have no more basis to conclude that Jesus accepted Genesis 1-3 literally than anyone who claims he did not. You have conceded as much.

Second, as Loren has pointed out, it wouldn't matter in any case because as he correctly observes the two are not linked in the way you assume.

Third, I did not wish to suggest you thought of Jesus as a total ignoramus but rather pointing out that you are alleging that Jesus was entirely a man of his times, that he did not possess an intellect or sophistication beyond a peasant carpenter from Nazareth, that he was not divine nor, I assume, accomplished anything supernatural as attributed to him by his more sophisticated biographers. Consequently, you are left with a clear and present problem: what was so remarkable about your Jesus that people at all took notice of him? Your Jesus, Antonio, is not very historically plausible as the cornerstone of new religious movement. I am left to wonder why billions don't worship his next door neighbor, Jehoshaphat.

Fourth, I wouldn't assume you know where I am coming from or what my motives are in responding to you beyond the fact that I find your argument less than persuasive. I'm reader of Loren's blog and quite appreciate his viewpoint.

4/24/2008  
Anonymous Ken said...

I'd also add that not taking Genesis 1-3 literally requires a whole lot less sophistication that you might imagine and just as many Christians today can intuitively embrace Genesis 1-3 and evolutionary theory so it would seem equally likely that Jewish peasants of any era could have embraced Genesis 1-3 in a non-literalist fashion, like their scribal counterparts often did.

Also, Antonio, I think you are mischaracterizing Josephus as well. It's quite clear from his entire corpus of writings that his historical perspective is not scientific and that he was not incapable of adjusting his perception of the past in light of other traditions and facts. So, e.g., his view of Hyksos in relation to biblical tradition. Have you read Ag. Ap.? In conjunction with Antiq. it reveals a non-scientific antiquarianism that really can't be subjected to modern categories of historical certitude/historicity.

4/24/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ken,
you are free to draw any conclusions you want on why I don´t to be drawn into a long argument about this or that.
You wrote:
"First, I think you are reaching conclusions without the necessary evidence. You have no more basis to conclude that Jesus accepted Genesis 1-3 literally than anyone "certainly a lot stronger than your claim that he took Adam and Eve in some metaphorical way. Actually, it is quite evident that his preaching (included the further spin on Jesus message that we find in Paul and the gospel writers) don´t hang together if he didn´t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I´m not arguing that Jesus took ALL details in Genesis 1-3 as factual history, but he definitely took Adam and Eve as a the first couple created by God in a factual Eden.

You wrote:
"Second, as Loren has pointed out, it wouldn't matter in any case because as he correctly observes the two are not linked in the way you assume.

Well, I think Loren and me finally DID agree that given my premises and line of reasoning the form of "christianity" that Jesus believed in can and basically has been falsified.

You wrote:
"Third, I did not wish to suggest you thought of Jesus as a total ignoramus but rather pointing out that you are alleging that Jesus was entirely a man of his times"

OK, I can follow you as far as this. Yes, Jesus was entirely a man of his times. His worldview was definitely not ours. Like most Jews of his time he seems to have been a flatearther...

"that he did not possess an intellect or sophistication beyond a peasant carpenter from Nazareth,"

Well, I don´t think I have actually claimed that. A carpenters son can certainly have a sharp intellect and I think you have misunderstood me if you take my comments as suggesting that Jesus was a run of the mill carpenters son. He doesn´t seem to have been. But I don´t find much in the texts we have suggesting that even this bright carpenters son went beyond such basic beliefs of his time like taking a lot in Genesis as factual history.

"that he was not divine nor,"

Nope, I don´t believe that Jesus was divine. I think it is pretty obvious from my comments. And my studies of religious sects have teached me how easy it is for fervent believers of a charismatic guru to raise him to the level of divinity. Jesus is just one example among many - in this case a wild mutation in 1st century Judaism.

"I assume, accomplished anything supernatural as attributed to him by his more sophisticated biographers."
Well, I certainly wouldn´t deny a moment that Jesus did some things that his followers believed to be miracles. I looks that his reputation among the common galilean peasant folks largely rested on his healings and excorcisms.

So if you really want to press me on what I believe were the basic factors that contributed to Jesus success among his followers I would list the following:
1. A charismatic personality who taught his followers to love each other and care for each other. His way of living out this teaching appears to have made a huge inprint on his followers.
2. Jesus healings and driving out of "demons" which both he and his followers saw as a sign of him being possesed by the spirit of God.
3. His preaching about the restoration of Israel, the coming of the kingdom of God in full power in the near future (the resurrection of the dead and God recreating the Universe).

4/24/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Sorry, my message to Ken got a bit messed up. Here is the correct version.

Ken,
you are free to draw any conclusions you want on why I don´t
on why I am not inclined to to get into an argument about this or that.

You wrote
"First, I think you are reaching conclusions without the necessary evidence. You have no more basis to conclude that Jesus accepted Genesis 1-3 literally than anyone who claims he did not. You have conceded as much."

Well, I certainly haven´t conceded any such thing. And the evidence for Jesus having believed in a factual pair called Adam and Eve is certainly a lot stronger than your claim that he took Adam and Eve in some metaphorical way. Actually, it is quite evident that his preaching (included the further spin on Jesus message that we find in Paul and the gospel writers) don´t hang together if he didn´t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I´m not arguing that Jesus took ALL details in Genesis 1-3 as factual history, but he definitely took Adam and Eve as a the first couple created by God in a factual Eden.


You wrote:
"Second, as Loren has pointed out, it wouldn't matter in any case because as he correctly observes the two are not linked in the way you assume.

Well, I think Loren and me finally DID agree that given my premises and line of reasoning the form of "christianity" that Jesus believed in can and basically has been falsified.

You wrote:
"Third, I did not wish to suggest you thought of Jesus as a total ignoramus but rather pointing out that you are alleging that Jesus was entirely a man of his times"

OK, I can follow you as far as this. Yes, Jesus was entirely a man of his times. His worldview was definitely not ours. Like most Jews of his time he seems to have been a flatearther, a guy who thought demons were involved in sickness...

"that he did not possess an intellect or sophistication beyond a peasant carpenter from Nazareth,"

Well, I don´t think I have actually claimed that. A carpenters son can certainly have a sharp intellect and I think you have misunderstood me if you take my comments as suggesting that Jesus was a run of the mill carpenters son. He doesn´t seem to have been. But I don´t find much in the texts we have suggesting that even this bright carpenters son went beyond such basic beliefs of his time like taking a lot in Genesis as factual history.

"that he was not divine nor,"

Nope, I don´t believe that Jesus was divine. I think it is pretty obvious from my comments. And my studies of religious groups have teached me how easy it is for fervent believers of a charismatic guru to raise him to the level of divinity. Jesus is just one example among many - in this case a wild mutation in 1st century Judaism.

"I assume, accomplished anything supernatural as attributed to him by his more sophisticated biographers."

Well, I certainly wouldn´t deny a moment that Jesus did some things that his followers believed to be miracles. It looks that his reputation among the common galilean peasant folks largely rested on his healings and excorcisms. The nature miracles and most other miracle stories in the gospels are just further spins by christian "scribes" like "Mark"

So if you really want to press me on what I believe were the basic factors that contributed to Jesus success among his followers I would list the following:
1. A charismatic personality who taught his followers to love each other and care for each other. His way of living out this teaching appears to have made a huge inprint on his followers.
2. Jesus healings and driving out of "demons" which both he and his followers saw as a sign of him being possesed by the spirit of God.
3. His preaching about the restoration of Israel, the coming of the kingdom of God in full power in the near future (the resurrection of the dead and God recreating the Universe).

4/24/2008  
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Ken wrote:
..just as many Christians today can intuitively embrace Genesis 1-3 and evolutionary theory so it would seem equally likely that Jewish peasants of any era could have embraced Genesis 1-3 in a non-literalist fashion, like their scribal counterparts often did."

Ken,
are you joking with me? I suppose you must belong to that select group of Christians who can "intuitively embrace Genesis 1-3 and evolutionary theory". Strange that the Pope and the catholic church (and most other christan groups) didn´t embrace Genesis and Darwin by intuition or the Holy Spirit. The simple fact is that they had to be force fed darwinism until they couldn´t resist any more.
If you want to follow my musings on why christianity and darwinism are mutually incompatible I would direct you to the blog Higgaion. I hope to post more on the subject tomorrow.

4/24/2008  

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