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  #1  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:21 AM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Why didn't Jesus write anything down?

I'm not trying to be cute and this isn't a gotcha. I've poked around the internet a little looking for an answer and the three most popular options seem to be:
  1. He didn't need to because herds of scribes followed him around all the time
  2. In spite of being a good public speaker he was illiterate which was not unusual in that time period
  3. He didn't exist
Right off I don't care about #3 and don't want to discuss it. I'm here to solicit opinions from board members of a theological bent regarding my question. Feel free to elaborate on points #1 or #2 or offer some altogether different explanation if you are so inclined.

Full disclosure: I'm an atheist who is willing to believe there was a popular philosopher named Jesus walking around at the time who said a lot of things that people wrote down.
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  #2  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:31 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Most likely #2, if those are the only choices. If he had herds of scribes following him around all the time, it seems odd that not one word of what they wrote down has been found. Everything written that we have now is from decades after he would have died.

FYI, there was a recent GQ thread on this subject. Just search a little and you'll find it.
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  #3  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:31 AM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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The answer is highly likely to be #2.
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Old 02-26-2011, 11:39 AM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Most likely #2, if those are the only choices. If he had herds of scribes following him around all the time, it seems odd that not one word of what they wrote down has been found. Everything written that we have now is from decades after he would have died.

FYI, there was a recent GQ thread on this subject. Just search a little and you'll find it.
Those aren't the only choices. By all means, "offer some altogether different explanation if you are so inclined."

And I did search but I suppose I used the wrong terms because I didn't find much. I'll try again.
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  #5  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:41 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
Those aren't the only choices. By all means, "offer some altogether different explanation if you are so inclined."
Well, maybe he wrote a few things down, and they were lost. It's really not something we can answer definitively, as there just isn't enough evidence.

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And I did search but I suppose I used the wrong terms because I didn't find much. I'll try again.
Try "Jesus". It was just couple months ago at most.
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  #6  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:42 AM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
And I did search but I suppose I used the wrong terms because I didn't find much. I'll try again.
Oh, sure enough. A thread about my question in GQ. Sigh. Nevermind.
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  #7  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:56 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
Oh, sure enough. A thread about my question in GQ. Sigh. Nevermind.
Don't give up so easily. Although that thread (IMO) strayed beyond the bounds of GQ (where we're supposed to stick to factual statements only), you might get some other discussion going in this forum, where the rules are more fluid.

But that's a good starting place.
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  #8  
Old 02-26-2011, 11:59 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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He did write, so was not illiterate (John 8:6)

from scriptures is appears it was not for Him, as the man, to do. Jesus as the man, is the head of a larger body (that larger body is also Jesus). He is a part of the whole, and He as the man was not the hand. (In scriptures He is the head)

Jesus works and lives and writes though His people, who are part of Him. He is one with them as your hand is one with your body.
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  #9  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:04 PM
Heyoka13 Heyoka13 is offline
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Wouldn't one of the consequences of omniscience be that he could precisely tailor his words and inflection such that his meaning would be accurately transcribed whenever?
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  #10  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:09 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Don't give up so easily. Although that thread (IMO) strayed beyond the bounds of GQ (where we're supposed to stick to factual statements only), you might get some other discussion going in this forum, where the rules are more fluid.

But that's a good starting place.
Now that I've read all three pages and gotten somewhat bogged down in a battle between DrDeth and Diogenes the Cynic (that went a bit over my head!) I feel like #2 is probably as "right" an answer as I'm going to get.
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  #11  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:10 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is online now
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Originally Posted by kanicbird View Post
He did write, so was not illiterate (John 8:6)
The person that wrote that passage never saw Jesus do anything, and if someone did witness Jesus scribble something in the dirt than erase it, we have no idea whether it was anything literate or not-he could have been drawing a picture of a house in the sand.
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  #12  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:12 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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kanicbird, the thread I linked makes a compelling argument against your point so I'll not rehash it here.

Heyoka13, we're not talking about that here. Per the OP, Jesus was simply a really popular man and was not omniscient.
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  #13  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:18 PM
New Deal Democrat New Deal Democrat is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
I'm not trying to be cute and this isn't a gotcha. I've poked around the internet a little looking for an answer and the three most popular options seem to be:
  1. He didn't need to because herds of scribes followed him around all the time
  2. In spite of being a good public speaker he was illiterate which was not unusual in that time period
  3. He didn't exist
Right off I don't care about #3 and don't want to discuss it. I'm here to solicit opinions from board members of a theological bent regarding my question. Feel free to elaborate on points #1 or #2 or offer some altogether different explanation if you are so inclined.

Full disclosure: I'm an atheist who is willing to believe there was a popular philosopher named Jesus walking around at the time who said a lot of things that people wrote down.
The gospels frequently describe Jesus debating the meaning of the Torah with scribes and Pharisees. That certainly indicates that he was well read in the Holy Scriptures.

Although I am a Christian I will assume for the sake of this discussion that Jesus was a mortal. He may have written works that no longer survive. From 66 to 73 AD there was a Jewish uprising that devastated Judea and Galilee. That killed and dispersed eye witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, and destroyed written records.
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  #14  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:25 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by New Deal Democrat View Post
The gospels frequently describe Jesus debating the meaning of the Torah with scribes and Pharisees. That certainly indicates that he was well read in the Holy Scriptures.
I'm led to believe that due to a popular oral tradition at the time, it was not at all uncommon for people who couldn't read to be knowledgeable of scripture or conversant in discussions related to it.

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Originally Posted by New Deal Democrat View Post
Although I am a Christian I will assume for the sake of this discussion that Jesus was a mortal.
I appreciate that. While you are welcome to your faith, it seemed to me that the divinity debate would distract from my question. Hence the caveat.
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  #15  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:27 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
Full disclosure: I'm an atheist who is willing to believe there was a popular philosopher named Jesus walking around at the time who said a lot of things that people wrote down.
Whether it makes sense to use the word "philosopher" to describe Jesus is, in itself, an interesting question, but I think it's safe to say that there was more to his mission than just philosophizing. It's significant that the records we currently have of what Jesus said (i.e. the Gospels—however accurate you believe those records to be) don't just give us his teachings; they place those teachings in the context of what Jesus did and who Jesus was.

Jesus's method of spreading his message seems to have been, not writing things down (which wouldn't have reached all that many of the common people in that largely illiterate culture), but teaching and interacting with people directly, and then sending those people out to interact with others. (I'm thinking of things like the sending out of the Twelve, the sending out of the Seventy-two, and the "Great Commission.")
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Old 02-26-2011, 12:28 PM
Lobohan Lobohan is offline
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Originally Posted by New Deal Democrat View Post
The gospels frequently describe Jesus debating the meaning of the Torah with scribes and Pharisees. That certainly indicates that he was well read in the Holy Scriptures.
You don't have to be able to read to have a strong knowledge of a religion.

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Although I am a Christian I will assume for the sake of this discussion that Jesus was a mortal. He may have written works that no longer survive. From 66 to 73 AD there was a Jewish uprising that devastated Judea and Galilee. That killed and dispersed eye witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, and destroyed written records.
If he had written works, presumably his early followers would have accorded those works a lot of reverence. Even if for some reason the physical documents were destroyed his followers would likely have retained the information.
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  #17  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:36 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Jesus's method of spreading his message seems to have been, not writing things down (which wouldn't have reached all that many of the common people in that largely illiterate culture), but teaching and interacting with people directly, and then sending those people out to interact with others.
No doubt that wandering around hosting theological salons is a great way to spread a message in an illiterate culture, but it seems like you'd still want to put it on the page just for the sake of maintaining the consistency of your ideas. Anyone who has played "telephone" knows that a message can become something else entirely a few hops down the line.

Perhaps Jesus was more concerned with disseminating the themes of his teachings rather than he was with the specific ideas? Or maybe he just didn't really imagine a world where texts would supplant the oral traditions of his day and didn't assign the importance to writing that we would today?
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  #18  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:39 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Originally Posted by Heyoka13 View Post
Wouldn't one of the consequences of omniscience be that he could precisely tailor his words and inflection such that his meaning would be accurately transcribed whenever?
Jesus as a man was not omniscient:
He did not know everything on earth (Luke 8:45) nor future earth (Luke 18:8), nor in heaven (Matt 24:36).

The way Jesus had to work was on faith (some here would like to call it blind faith, but not really accurate, there are signs given, so partial vision is a better way to put it) and that included that the Father would do everything to make any 'mistake' work out for the good ultimately, therefor sinless.

This is the path Jesus asks us to walk - on faith, so He had to, or else He is asking us to do something He Himself did not go through.

Last edited by kanicbird; 02-26-2011 at 12:40 PM..
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  #19  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:43 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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The gospels frequently describe Jesus debating the meaning of the Torah with scribes and Pharisees. That certainly indicates that he was well read in the Holy Scriptures.
The Gospels are not journalistic records, and the ability to debate with Pharisees was no indication of literacy in any case. Oral facility with scripture is fairy common in cultures with high illiteracy rates.

We went into this in the other thread, but the vast majority of the Palestinian populace was illiterate at the time, and Jesus' social class, in particular, had little or no access to education. If he was indeed the son of a tekton, then he was from a sub-peasant class (basically day laborors), living a hand to mouth existence without the time, money or materials to educate their children.
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  #20  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:43 PM
New Deal Democrat New Deal Democrat is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
I'm led to believe that due to a popular oral tradition at the time, it was not at all uncommon for people who couldn't read to be knowledgeable of scripture or conversant in discussions related to it.

I appreciate that. While you are welcome to your faith, it seemed to me that the divinity debate would distract from my question. Hence the caveat.
I have read that five to ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire was literate, and that this was higher among the Jews. The oral tradition is good for accounts of events, but not for laws and theology.
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Old 02-26-2011, 12:50 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
No doubt that wandering around hosting theological salons is a great way to spread a message in an illiterate culture, but it seems like you'd still want to put it on the page just for the sake of maintaining the consistency of your ideas. Anyone who has played "telephone" knows that a message can become something else entirely a few hops down the line.

Perhaps Jesus was more concerned with disseminating the themes of his teachings rather than he was with the specific ideas? Or maybe he just didn't really imagine a world where texts would supplant the oral traditions of his day and didn't assign the importance to writing that we would today?
One thing that should be pointed out is that Jesus and his followers thought they were living in the endtimes. Even if they'd had the ability and the materials to write things down (and parchment was expensive for a group that ostensibly traveling and living off alms), they wouldn't have necessarily seen any reason to preserve things for the long term since they thought the end of the world was coming in their lifetime.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 02-26-2011 at 12:51 PM..
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  #22  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:52 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
kanicbird, the thread I linked makes a compelling argument against your point so I'll not rehash it here.
Sorry, citing a thread that says to ignore a part of the scripture when we are talking about Jesus as described in scriptures just doesn't cut it. Additionally contrary to that cite's assertions it is in most if not all major translations.

There is a reason that passage is in there as it is, why it appears to be a latter addition, which I don't need to go into here, but to say your argument would be a equally invalid saying that the entire NT is a later addition, or everything past the 5 books of Moses was a later addition.

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  #23  
Old 02-26-2011, 12:57 PM
Larry Borgia Larry Borgia is online now
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The popular teacher who never writes anything down so we have to rely on his followers is a not uncommon trope. Lao-Tse and Socrates also never wrote anything themselves, that we know of.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:00 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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I have read that five to ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire was literate, and that this was higher among the Jews. The oral tradition is good for accounts of events, but not for laws and theology.
According to John Dominic Crossan (prominent Historical Jesus scholar and founder of the Jesus Seminar), 95%-98% of the Palestinian population (inclusive of both the Roman province of Judea and the independent tetrarchy of Galilee) was illiterate at the time of Jesus. Jesus was not part of the social class (Priests and Pharisees, basically) who would have had access to an education. It's theoretically possible that he studied with the Pharisees (or perhaps a group like the Essenes) as an adult, but the Gospels make no mention of it if he did.

Literacy was probably higher among diaspora Jews (Hellenized Jews living outside of Palestine, especially in cities like Rome and Alexandria), but a Jewish focus on widespread literacy was a post-70 development that came as a result of the destruction of the Temple, the rise of Rabbinic Judaism, and a new need to recalibrate the religious center of Judaism away from the Temple and onto study of scripture.

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  #25  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:03 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Sorry, citing a thread that says to ignore a part of the scripture when we are talking about Jesus as described in scriptures just doesn't cut it. Additionally contrary to that cite's assertions it is in most if not all major translations.
For anyone who is curious, John 8:6 says:
"They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger."

As I indicated earlier, I find arguments that this verse is apocryphal and arises from mistranslation compelling. That said, if you contend that this verse is proof of Jesus' literacy, will you now conjecture regarding the matter of why a literate Jesus didn't write down any of his teachings?
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  #26  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:07 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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The popular teacher who never writes anything down so we have to rely on his followers is a not uncommon trope. Lao-Tse and Socrates also never wrote anything themselves, that we know of.
I don't deny this at all but I'm mainly interested in Jesus at the moment. However, I'll risk a tangent and ask you to conjecture as to why precisely you think these popular teachers never bothered to write things down and instead chose to entrust their message entirely to their followers.
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  #27  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:18 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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Lao Tse is probably purely legendary. I don't think Socrates cared.
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  #28  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:20 PM
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I know you said you didn't want to discuss option #3 (he didn't exist), but you do realize that that is one of the best explanations for your question? If he never existed, all subsequent writings would have to be supplied by someone else, and that's exactly what seems to have happened.

Even if he existed (and my personal opinion is that he did exist in some form or fashion), he might not have existed in any form remotely like our impression of his life from the gospels. Maybe he didn't preach that much or travel that much; maybe he was a far more obscure prophet than most others. Maybe he only preached good works but didn't claim to heal or feed anyone or walk on water. This would well explain the lack of contemporary writings -- he just wasn't all that spectacular to the pundits of the time but just one of many forgettable religious figures wandering around Palestine.

Paul is considered the major factor in the origin of Christianity. Maybe Paul contributed even more than he is given credit for.

Not considering option #3 is like trying to have a serious discussion on what BigFoot's diet is, his height and weight, and how he likes his women when his mere existence has never been established. It cannot be ignored.
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  #29  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:23 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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One possibility: He did write it down, and Pilate and Caiphas had the writings destroyed so no one would try to, y'know, base a religion off his rantings or anything.

If he were illiterate, weren't most of the Apostles illiterate as well, including at least three of the credited writers of the Gospels? "Literate = Smart" was likely not a common expectation back then.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:31 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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I know you said you didn't want to discuss option #3 (he didn't exist), but you do realize that that is one of the best explanations for your question? ...<snip>... It cannot be ignored.
Yeah, I know. I just didn't want this to become a pissing contest between atheists and Christians as so often happens. I've been there a million times and, while the wild spiraling frequently leads in amusing directions, it didn't want it to happen here.

You're right in that option #3 very neatly explains why Jesus didn't write things down. Though I think it is a more figurative non-existence in that, there was a Jesus but he isn't the guy people are talking about when they say "Jesus." I guess I should have been more specific and stated #3 as, "The Biblical character of Jesus didn't exist."
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  #31  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:33 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
I don't deny this at all but I'm mainly interested in Jesus at the moment. However, I'll risk a tangent and ask you to conjecture as to why precisely you think these popular teachers never bothered to write things down and instead chose to entrust their message entirely to their followers.
Well, Socrates is known not for his message but for his method.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:34 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
I'm not trying to be cute and this isn't a gotcha. I've poked around the internet a little looking for an answer and the three most popular options seem to be:
  1. He didn't need to because herds of scribes followed him around all the time
  2. In spite of being a good public speaker he was illiterate which was not unusual in that time period
  3. He didn't exist
Right off I don't care about #3 and don't want to discuss it. I'm here to solicit opinions from board members of a theological bent regarding my question. Feel free to elaborate on points #1 or #2 or offer some altogether different explanation if you are so inclined.
I'm going with #4. Jesus felt his message was for the people around him not for posterity.

From indications in some things Jesus said, he expected the endtimes to happen very soon. His early followers certainly expected the same. It wasn't until a couple of decades had passed that people started to consider the long term picture and writing things down.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:36 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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One possibility: He did write it down, and Pilate and Caiphas had the writings destroyed so no one would try to, y'know, base a religion off his rantings or anything.
Certainly a possibility. But I'd expect the gospels to allude to the willful destruction of Jesus' work as evidence of the many injustices committed against him if this were the case. You know, the same way banner ads today taunt you with, "The secrets they don't want you to know about!"
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:54 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Certainly a possibility. But I'd expect the gospels to allude to the willful destruction of Jesus' work as evidence of the many injustices committed against him if this were the case. You know, the same way banner ads today taunt you with, "The secrets they don't want you to know about!"
And the GalileeLeaks website would have been all over it!
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:56 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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And the GalileeLeaks website would have been all over it!
If vBulletin supported thumbs-ups you'd be getting one for that.
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  #36  
Old 02-26-2011, 01:59 PM
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He did write, so was not illiterate (John 8:6)

from scriptures is appears it was not for Him, as the man, to do. Jesus as the man, is the head of a larger body (that larger body is also Jesus). He is a part of the whole, and He as the man was not the hand. (In scriptures He is the head)

Jesus works and lives and writes though His people, who are part of Him. He is one with them as your hand is one with your body.
That particular passage is one that many scholars believe was added later. It does not appear in the earlier documents they have, appears as a story added in the margin of others, and then fully inserted in later documents.

I know that doesn't follow certain beliefs about inspiration but those are the facts.
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:04 PM
cosmosdan cosmosdan is offline
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I'm going with #4. Jesus felt his message was for the people around him not for posterity.

From indications in some things Jesus said, he expected the endtimes to happen very soon. His early followers certainly expected the same. It wasn't until a couple of decades had passed that people started to consider the long term picture and writing things down.
That would be my guess as well. Jesus as a teacher stressed that the real change happened in the inner person.

It's also possible that one of his disciples did write things down and those original writings were lost. The Gospel of Thomas is supposed to be just a list of things he said. I can see the literate disciples doing that.
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  #38  
Old 02-26-2011, 02:22 PM
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I think that maybe he didn't write anything down because it simply didn't occur to him to do so. Maybe putting things in writing wasn't something that was common at the time. If, as has been indicated, he was not one of the educated classes of people and if most of the people of his time were illiterate, writing things down just wouldn't have the same significance to them that it does to us today.

If you or no one you knew ever read anything or wrote anything down it just wouldn't seem that important. I think we're looking at the question from a modern perspective where reading history is taken for granted and important events being recorded in multiple forms is commonplace.

Which I guess is answer #2
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Old 02-26-2011, 03:06 PM
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If he were illiterate, weren't most of the Apostles illiterate as well, including at least three of the credited writers of the Gospels? "Literate = Smart" was likely not a common expectation back then.
Matthew, as a tax collector, would have been literate. Luke, as a physician, would have a good chance of being literate. For Mark and John we really don't have much reason to go either way. However, it's also a possibility that some of the apostles may have been illiterate while Jesus was alive and learned to read and write later with the specific intention of getting the words of Jesus recorded.
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Originally Posted by cosmodan
That particular passage is one that many scholars believe was added later.
It's a known fact that the passage where Jesus saves the woman caught in adultery is not in the very earliest manuscripts. However, there is at least one other passage in which Jesus reads, that beings when he enters the synagogue and reads the passages from Isaiah and then claims to be fulfilling them.

In my personal opinion (as a Christian) Jesus did knot write down his teachings because very few people did at the time. Thinking back on it, I can think of almost nothing from ancient times that we are sure was written down at the moment it took place. There may be some examples out there, but it was rare. Assuming that any person who wants their teachings to survive will write them down immediately is projecting a modern attitude into the ancient world.

Part of the message of Jesus is wrapped up with his identity as being a lower class member of a nation that was occupied by a foreign power--in other words, Jesus and his followers were among the lowest of the low. If Jesus had employed a technology associated with the upper class, it would have lessened that part of the message.
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  #40  
Old 02-26-2011, 03:39 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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Some alternate possibilities than the three listed in the OP:

4. Jesus didn't feel that there was time to write stuff down, since the world was ending.
5. Jesus, like most minor cult leaders, was more interested in his little cult of followers (particularly the girls) than in starting and spreading a new religion.
5. What he did write down was never transmitted out of Jerusalem before the town was raised.
6. What he did write down that made it out of Jerusalem was decried as heretical and was subsequently purged.

Overall, #2 is the safe bet. The people who wrote the Bible often had a poor understanding of Jewish life in Jerusalem around the 10BCE-30CE time period, and in general had to fill out a whole life story for a man whom they knew little to nothing about. At the earliest times, the only person who could have given them a factual answer would have been St. Peter. There's no particular reason to think that Peter would have been honest (notice, for example, that the main character of Matthew is Peter). If he thought that having Jesus be a bit more than a stinky beggar living in the slums of Jerusalem (behind Mt. Olives) would sell the religion to the Romans -- who had him up on trial, to be executed -- he may well have raised Jesus' abilities a good deal.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 02-26-2011 at 03:39 PM..
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  #41  
Old 02-26-2011, 03:42 PM
Claverhouse Claverhouse is offline
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Originally Posted by New Deal Democrat View Post
I have read that five to ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire was literate, and that this was higher among the Jews. The oral tradition is good for accounts of events, but not for laws and theology.

This is overstating it rather: I was looking at ancient literacy last year for a post, and found Hebrew literacy at that period to have been around 3%; and, as the author, Meir Bar-Ilan, pointed out, reading was not an economic necessity in a rural land, and this was still 6 times better than the Egyptians of long before:


Even if we assume that in cities (as happens all over the world in urban areas in comparison to rural areas), such as Tiberias, for example, the literacy rate was double and even triple in comparison with the towns, still the figures of literacy are around 2-15%. With the assumption that the rural population was around 70% (with 0% literacy), 20% of urban population (with 1-5% literacy), and 10% of highly urban population (with 2-15% literacy), the total population literacy is still very low. Thus, it is no exaggeration to say that the total literacy rate in the Land of Israel at that time (of Jews only, of course), was probably less than 3%.

At first glance this figure looks quite low, and maybe too low. However, in a traditional society, knowing how to read was not a necessity: neither for economic reasons, nor for intellectual ones. On the contrary. Why should a farmer send his son to learn how to read when it entails a waste of working time (=money)? Why should he himself learn how to read if his culture is based on oral tradition (though with a written Torah)? According to the Torah, there is no need to read or write, except for writing the Mezuza, Tefilin, and the Torah itself. However, for these purposes there was always a scribe, so a Jew in antiquity could fulfill the commandments of the Torah while being illiterate. Not only that, but 3% of the total population seems to be high in comparison with other cultures. In ancient Egypt, a land with a lot of scribes, only half a percent were literate.


Were People Literate in the Time of Christ ?




Further, other cultures, such as the Druids and the Axtecs managed Law and Theology fine without writing. It may even have given the clerics more power since there was nothing to check their decisions against.
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  #42  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:22 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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What, paperwork you want he should do, and get his fingers all tired, maybe? Oy.
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  #43  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:22 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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One possibility: He did write it down, and Pilate and Caiphas had the writings destroyed so no one would try to, y'know, base a religion off his rantings or anything.

If he were illiterate, weren't most of the Apostles illiterate as well, including at least three of the credited writers of the Gospels? "Literate = Smart" was likely not a common expectation back then.
Only to of the gospels are traditionally attributed to apostles (Matthew and John), and even those traditions are regarded by modern scholarly consensus as spurious (Matthew patently so, John perhaps based on some kind of authentic anecdotal core, but one which is still greatly larded with succeeding layers of fictional miracle stories, post-apostolic theology, invented speeches and other appended elements).
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  #44  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:43 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is online now
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Who's to say he didn't ? Just because the Bible doesn't include a Gospel of Jesus and we haven't found one (yet) doesn't mean there never was one.
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  #45  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:49 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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It's highly unlikely that anything written by Jesus himself would not have been preserved, revered and endlessly copied from the start. It's also highly unlikely that the existence of anything written by Jesus himself would not have been mentioned anywhere in any early Christian literature.
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  #46  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:52 PM
Musicat Musicat is online now
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Who's to say he didn't ? Just because the Bible doesn't include a Gospel of Jesus and we haven't found one (yet) doesn't mean there never was one.
True, in the absolute sense. But, AFAIK, no mention of such a document has been made in the next 200 years of writings, which tends to discount that possibility. And I just noticed that DtC is saying much the same thing.
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  #47  
Old 02-26-2011, 04:52 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Who's to say he didn't ? Just because the Bible doesn't include a Gospel of Jesus and we haven't found one (yet) doesn't mean there never was one.
I'd venture that it is hard to be certain of anything if you are going to take this tact.
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  #48  
Old 02-26-2011, 06:15 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Originally Posted by trabajábamos View Post
That said, if you contend that this verse is proof of Jesus' literacy, will you now conjecture regarding the matter of why a literate Jesus didn't write down any of his teachings?

Answered in my above post, re-posted below. It is a bit hard to understand, because of the concept of 'oneness' is hard to understand. God's way is anti-individuality. In the Kingdom of God everyone is God's child, and there is also only one child at the same time, and will forever only be one child of God, yet that one child will be all of us. It is the meaning of the statement that Jesus and the Father are one, and that God is one.

Because the saints are also every bit as Jesus as Jesus, as they wrote it was Jesus writing. Jesus as the man we know from scriptures, was not meant to be the one who wrote, that was the job of other men, but the same God.

From my above posting:

Quote:
from scriptures is appears it was not for Him, as the man, to do. Jesus as the man, is the head of a larger body (that larger body is also Jesus). He is a part of the whole, and He as the man was not the hand. (In scriptures He is the head)

Jesus works and lives and writes though His people, who are part of Him. He is one with them as your hand is one with your body.
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  #49  
Old 02-26-2011, 06:16 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Originally Posted by cosmosdan View Post
That particular passage is one that many scholars believe was added later. It does not appear in the earlier documents they have, appears as a story added in the margin of others, and then fully inserted in later documents.

I know that doesn't follow certain beliefs about inspiration but those are the facts.
Thanks, I am aware of the 'facts', as you are aware of 'inspiration'.
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  #50  
Old 02-26-2011, 06:37 PM
trabajábamos trabajábamos is offline
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Originally Posted by kanicbird View Post
Answered in my above post, re-posted below. It is a bit hard to understand, because of the concept of 'oneness' is hard to understand. God's way is anti-individuality. In the Kingdom of God everyone is God's child, and there is also only one child at the same time, and will forever only be one child of God, yet that one child will be all of us. It is the meaning of the statement that Jesus and the Father are one, and that God is one.

Because the saints are also every bit as Jesus as Jesus, as they wrote it was Jesus writing. Jesus as the man we know from scriptures, was not meant to be the one who wrote, that was the job of other men, but the same God.

From my above posting:
Quote:
from scriptures is appears it was not for Him, as the man, to do. Jesus as the man, is the head of a larger body (that larger body is also Jesus). He is a part of the whole, and He as the man was not the hand. (In scriptures He is the head)

Jesus works and lives and writes though His people, who are part of Him. He is one with them as your hand is one with your body.
I appreciate you taking the time to respond but I really don't understand what you're trying to tell me. This all sounds very metaphysical. You seem to be suggesting that, in some sense, any time anyone writes anything down at all, it is actually God doing the writing. Is that it? What sect of Christianity would this be?
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