Who was Jesus anyway?

ARG: << Besides, what’s the argument about anyway? Jesus IS God. There is no argument on that. >>

No comment necessary.

The comparison with Julius Caesar is not a good one. It’s comparing a Emperor in his kingdom with an wandering ideologist who was against a much more powerful clergy that wanted him and his word to disappear.

As for Jesus’s disciples, they seemed to have believed that Jesus’s Second Coming was going to be in their own lifetime. It’s only much later that they realised they might have to wait a bit longer, then they decided to put down what he had said.

The comparison with Julius Caesar is not a good one. It’s comparing a Emperor in his kingdom with an wandering ideologist who was against a much more powerful clergy that wanted him and his word to disappear anyway.

Most scholars, religious or otherwise, will agree that the four Evangelists never met Jesus.

Only humans do inhuman things.

What the heck happened there!? Sorry.

Well, it certainly conflicts with Catholic doctrine, there’s no doubt about that; (it conflicts with Christian doctrine, period), but that wasn’t where I was coming from. I was looking at this from the historical viewpoint, as well as the hermeneutical, with perhaps a bit of the sociological thrown in for good measure.

My point was that guys like Crossan come up with this stuff where they either throw out, deliberately misinterpret, or otherwise dismiss 2,000 year’s worth of textual examination, linguistic cross-references, comparisons with ancient texts both sacred and secular, and any number of other factors, and reduce a text (whether you believe it to be divinely inspired or not) to about three lines, and then they say, “See there? This is what the guy who originally wrote this meant to say—everything else is a lie or was added later, and only *I, with my magnificent brilliance, have been able to sort through the dross to tell you the real story.” This is a little like Herbert W. Armstrong saying that everybody else in the history of the world got all religions wrong—he’s the only one who ever got it right, because God Himself Personally Told Him So. Yeah, right. Personally, I think that tossing out 2,000 year’s worth of work, which was accomplished by the most sincere and brilliant minds in textual translation and interpretation, to say that you’re the only one who ever got it right is hubris to the extreme point of insult. I can imagine everybody from Augustine and Jerome to Kenneth Taylor and J.B. Phillips turning around to look at this guy and saying, "What?!?!? Why, you ignorant little twerp, we spent our lives putting this interpretation as close to a science as we could, and you toss 98% of it out because it doesn’t fit your politically correct views? Who are you?!?!?"

Again, it isn’t so much a case of me dismissing ideas because they conflict with matters of faith, it’s a case of them tossing out a vast body of collected biblical scholarship and then taking the 10-15% they have left and saying, “This is what the whole thing was supposed to say.” As an analogy, imagine burning down the Library of Congress, and the only thing you save out of it is Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Clifford the Big Red Dog and saying “This is the most complete representation of all American literature produced since 1690. All the rest was wrong, lies, and garbage, so we threw it away.” Either case is damned poor scholarship, if you ask me.

Sure I can. It wouldn’t be very nice of me, but I could do it. :slight_smile: Fun aside, however, what I was referring to were the people who simply take what Crossan, et al, have to say at face value and say, “Yup, by golly, they’re right----they have to be, 'cuz they’re experts.” Hogwash. Experts have agendas like everybody else, and if you don’t examine what’s being presented for shoddy scholarship, then you’re being taken for a ride; or in other words, you’re gullible. Other people glom onto stuff like this because it fits what they already want to believe—which is okay, if it’s well researched and can be trusted, but this Jesus Seminar stuff just doesn’t stand up scholastically----it’s shoddy. It’s sort of like dismissing all the data from all the moon shots in favor of some loon who insists that the moon is made out of green cheese because that’s what you want to believe.

Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about whether Christ was actually God or not; what I’m talking aabout is hermeneutics, or the science of translating and interpreting ancient documents. You can’t allow bias into your work here…you can’t slant your information to fit your own purposes, you have to be as accurate as you can with what you have, and then base your conclusions on what you find. That’s not a “matter of faith”, that’s called the scientific method. Crossan does not do this, friends: he has an agenda, and he intends to advance it. In one sense of the word, the Jesus Seminar people are just like the Enola Gay controversy all over again----i.e., “Did the United States drop the atomic bomb because it wanted to end the war and prevent both American and Japanese casualties, or did the United States drop the bomb because they were anti-Japanese racists who wanted to unfairly punish the sweet, anglic Japanese (who never did anything wrong, ever), and also prove to the Soviet Union that we had this fabulous new toy at the same time?” It’s always completely black and white with these people-----totally one way or the other. Reality, however, is always a lot more complicated.

Thanks for your input, though----and for what it’s worth, if this were something that flew in the face of Catholic doctrine and Catholic doctrine alone, I’d have to agree with you----that’s a pretty poor reason for denigrating something and refusing to see that side of things.

Actually, the Jesus Council didn’t simply decide wether something was true or false, but rather voted on each item and put them in categories of historical believability, nothing more. I realise I made it appear more absolute than it was. Many people in the Jesus Council were experts in the field of how historical accounts change over time.

Only humans do inhuman things.

Thank’s, P.M., for clearing that up. As anyone will tell you, exegesis, scriptural history and hermeneutics are not exactly my strengths. You don’t have any questions about the Beatles, do you? :slight_smile:

Adam: I completely agree with you about the deity of Jesus. What I was doing, and forgive me for ragging you on it, was to alert you that you were not quoting from a literal translation but a paraphrase, and that what Jesus is reported as saying is feeding in the contextual meaning of his words, not the actual words as recorded in the Greek Gospel texts. You apparently got defensive, thinking I was denying a tenet of your (and my) faith, and didn’t grasp what I said.

Momotaro said:

Well, actually, no.

  1. Matthew is traditionally understood to have been written by Matthew Levi, whose call to be one of the 12 Disciples is recorded in the Synoptics. In point of fact, most liberal scholars believe the “Gospel According to Matthew” was written by somebody from Antioch (“M”) who took Mark’s Gospel, the Q source (see below), and Matthew’s reminiscences, and wove them together.
  2. Mark has so far as I know never been disputed, that it was written by the John Mark described in Acts, and contains Peter’s reminiscences for the most part. (cf. Papias) Whether Mark knew Jesus at all is debatable; many think he was the young disciple at the betrayal and arrest who is mentioned only in his Gospel.
  3. Luke is almost certainly the physician friend of Paul mentioned in Acts, and never knew Jesus in the flesh. His Gospel is considered by liberals as a mixture of Mark, Q, and his own sources (“L”) – many conservative scholars will buy into this as well on the basis of his introductory remarks to Theophilus.
  4. John is variously ascribed, traditionalists seeing it as totally the work of Jochanan bar Zebedee, the youngest of the 12, and liberals as the work of “the Elder John” who was hanging out in Ephesus about the time it’s believed to have been written, with editorial additions.

Q, from the German Quelle (source), for anybody who’s seen references to it in various religion threads, is the hypothetical collection of teachings of Jesus that Matthew and Luke drew on to supplement Mark when they produced their Gospels, which share 10-20% of material that they and not Mark have. Nothing resembling Q has ever been found, but it’s as much an article of faith to liberal scholars as the Rapture is to millennial fundamentalists.

My personal view is that Mark, Luke, and John were written by the traditional authors. John is reported to have lived to a ripe old age, and certainly could have mastered fluent literary Greek. He came from a well-to-do business family with a house in Jerusalem, lived in a time when Greek was a common lingua franca, and had at least six decades of living and working among Grecophones after Jesus’ death to master the nuances of formal Greek. To say “an ignorant Galilean fisherman could not have written that” says far more about the ignorance of the speaker than of the fisherman in question.

Matthew is the interesting case. The early Second Century scholar Papias describes Matthew’s work as follows: “First, Matthew the Apostle wrote down the logia of Jesus, though not in order.” Logia is usually understood to mean “teachings” or something similar – “words” in the sense it’s used in “words to live by.”

That does not describe Matthew’s gospel, which has a clear and detailed account of what happened when, and when Jesus said what. (Never mind contradictions with Luke and John.)

My own hunch, which I’ve never seen anywhere else, is: Papias was telling the truth. Matthew did write down those logia. This collection is the mysterious Q. After Mark’s Gospel came out, somebody arranged Matthew’s somewhat haphazard collection using Mark as a frame story. This made Matthew’s collection of teachings more coherent and fit into the whole atonement-salvation picture better, and the old collection was pretty well trashed, though Luke apparently had a copy, and reorganized its contents according to his researches, fitting it into Mark in a different order.

Which is probably boring except to Biblical scholars.

Polycarp knows his doo-doo (And I know enough to know that he knows and it’s not BS). Momotaro, "Most scholars, religious or otherwise, will agree that the four Evangelists never met Jesus. " is completely, utterly and absurdly untrue.

As far as The Jesus Seminar, yes they are serious scholars, though they enforce a Liberal orthodoxy; ie, if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you aren’t invited. Moreover, the whole deal with the red, pink, etc cards is a stunt for the media attention, and they’ve admitted as much. One guy said something to the effect that they had to cut out more and more to get the same coverage.

You know, it would really be nice if everybody told the truth. I mean, if everyone could be relied upon to say what they mean, mean what they say, and never tell a falsehood. Can you imagine a world in which experts report only the truth and act scrupulously? A world where people in positions of authority aren’t even tempted to abuse it? I can’t.

Those so-called experts have something they want to say, a point they want to make. They may not deliberately set out to create a bad argument and then shield it so heavily with words and loops that it’s impossible to pick apart. It could simply have been the result of their unknowingly choosing incorrect premises, and then having to do a lot of work to get to the point they wanted.

“The point they wanted.” That’s the key. Those experts do not sit down and say, “Here are the facts, what can we prove?” They say, “Here are the facts, here’s what we want to prove, how can we get from A to B?” If that path requires assumptions and the such, they won’t hesitate.

Do not trust them. I’m not saying that the experts are necessarilly wrong intrinsically. Far from it. SImply take all they have to say with a grain of salt. Pick apart their arguments and see for yourself how they get from A to B. If you don’t like it, then argue it, disbelieve it, or toss it in the outhouse and burn it. You are not constrained to accept someone’s word simply because he is an expert.

Remember how I mention “people in a position of authority?” That’s the men who wrote the Gospel. They had the most contact with Jesus. They were trying to push a minority-held political and/or religious belief across. If doing so meant fudging on a few details (or outright fabrication), it would have never have crossed their minds to do otherwise. Nothing superscedes morals like politics and religion (contradictory though that may seem).

So, who was Jesus? He was just zis guy, you know?

That’s about all you can say as pure fact.

I am with you. Okay, assume the most reasonable level of skepticism. (Not the most extreme; that makes assumptions just as untestable as the Gospels’ assumptions.) What do we have?

  1. There was this itinerant rabbi named Yeshua (Jesus in Greek and hence in most modern tongues) who wandered around Galilee preaching what appears to have been a form of Reform Judaism with strong mystical elements.

  2. He was accompanied for the most part by a band of followers, with an inner circle of twelve that were closest to him.

  3. At one gathering, he somehow ensured that the approximately 5,000 people gathered to hear what he had to say got something to eat.

  4. He went to Jerusalem for Passover, and while there, was arrested by the authorities and crucified.

  5. His followers believed that he didn’t stay dead, and were prepared to defend this assertion with their lives if necessary.

That much can be extracted from the four Gospels and contradicts no natural laws. (Re #5, his resurrection would; their belief wouldn’t.)

Anything more than this is a matter of taking assertions made in the Gospels as valid, i.e., making assumptions, and as David has noted, is a matter of faith. (Even my quick-and-dirty summary makes the assumption that data found in all four Gospels and not “faith-oriented” is valid unless disproven, and that the extreme of skepticism is less valid than the moderate one. It would be possible to assert that the Jesus story was made up of whole cloth just as it is possible to assert that he is the Son of God; I’m trying to make the least number of assumptions in the above summary.)

So far, so good. Now:

The following assertion is a statement of fact regarding the mental orientation of certain people, not a “witness” or an assertion of the truth value of what they perceive. Do not challenge it as what it is not, or I will yell, scream, holler, and threaten to reveal your True Names to Vernor Vinge. :slight_smile: A large group of Christians have subjectively experienced something that appears to be a mental/spiritual experience of the presence of an individual in their lives, guiding them and “speaking inside their heads,” so to speak. This individual purports to be the risen Jesus of Nazareth, still alive and with a personality strongly resembling that depicted by the four Evangelists.

A person who for whatever reason doubts this phenomenon is certainly well within the bounds of reason. There are some Christians who find this phenomenon unreasonable. But it has been the experience of a large group of people throughout the past 2000 years. As such, it deserves analysis. A skeptic could easily take it as self-delusion, guided by a reading of the Gospels and incorporating wish- or fear-fulfillment. But whether true or not, it is a phenomenon that does require analysis.

I agree the phenomenon needs analysis. And not only the Christian phenomenon. We also need to study what’s going on when Hindu’s feel they are communicating with their gods, and what Buddhists are experiencing on their road to enlightenment and…well, you get the idea. People of all religious persuasions make claims of having some sort of experience that they perceive as communion with god. Of course, some Christians will tell you that Satan is manipulating all of those other poor fools–an argument I would find offensive if it weren’t so laughable.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

Of course he is, Lucky! Whaddaya think he’s doing with all that music stuff? (Do you realize that we on the SDMB are the only people with proof of the old 60s-70s radical right Christian claim that Satan is behind all that popular music! :wink:

In regard to Jesus claiming to be God, there is also the reference in John 8:56-58, where people objected that he had made himself out to be greater than Abraham, and he answered that
“…Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was, I am.”

Everything I have read says that this is clearly a reference to the talk that God had with Moses at the burning bush–an identification of Jesus himself with God, that the Jews of the time would have recognized as such. And apparently they did, because they tried to stone him for it.
(And just for the record, this is NIV, but the parallel in the KJV says the same. Just to stay out of that discussion again.)

Yep. My understanding is that “I am” (yego eimi in Greek) as Jesus uses here is

(a) the emphatic form, used when one wants to stress (M. Ali: “I am the greatest”; G. Foreman: “No, I am the greatest” - Foreman would have used the yego eimi form if they’d been arguing in Greek)

(b) carefully avoided by the Jews because it was the name God gave for himself. eimi by itself means “I am” as soy or estoy does in Spanish or sum does in Latin. When speaking Greek, they would never use the pronoun with it. Chaim can give you the Hebrew for the Exodus quote, but what it amounts to is that Jesus is simultaneously using a form of the verb to be and the translated form of God’s Holy Name.

© totally unexpected present tense. The English “Before Abraham was, I am” catches the flavor but doesn’t stress it as much as the original would.

So in just using the verb form, Jesus is making a claim to equivalence with God.

I thought the words for “I am” only sounded like the Name of God in Hebrew, not Greek.

Member posted 09-17-1999 01:30 PM

Quantity != quality. The fact is, people were much more motivated to talk about Jesus than Caeser, Plato, etc., just as today people are more interested in talking about whether Elvis is alive than details about Rutherford B. Hayes’ life. That doesn’t mean that there’s more evidence that Elvis is alive than for Hayes’ existence.

Of course there can. You really shouldn’t assume that which you’re trying to prove.

How does the fact that Jesus is offering access to God show that he is God? Doesn’t it imply that they are separate? The other two quotes can be interpreted in many different ways.

There’s that deceptive tactic again. Son of God != God.

So if someone challenges the religious orthodoxy, they must be claiming to be God, right? Catholic priests claim the ability to forgive sins. Are they claiming to be God?

At least, there’s no conflict that Fundamentalists will admit to. But no conflict != corroboration.

I doubt that. Why do none of the Gospels explicitly state such an important part of Christianity, unless it was added on later? And why is it that virtually every quote used to support idea that Jesus was God comes from John?

How? Produce a transcript of everything Jesus ever said? How do you go about proving that someone didn’t say something? That’s ridiculous.

Absence of evidence != evidence of absence. Especially when you have a bunch of religious fanatic running around killing anyone who disagrees with them. And the fact is that we do have record of such opposition, but Christians just dismiss it as irrelevant heresy.

 First of all, why are you so quick to dismiss the "we're all God" interpretation? Secondly, how does being a loon preclude the possibility of being a nice guy? Thirdly, does believing in an incorrect religious belief make one a loon? Then the vast majority of the world's population is insane, and quite possibly all of it. I don't believe that Jesus was God. You apparently believe that this belief is false. Do you believe that I am insane? If so, why are you trying to sway me with logic? Whether or not Jesus was God is a religious question. Whether he was a poached egg is a factual one. There's a big difference.

BTW, I think you can give C.S. Lewis a run for his money. Lewis averaged only about one major logical fallacy for every two pages. You’ve made about half a dozen in just one page.

 You've provided quotes which suggest that Jesus was God, but there are plenty that suggest the opposite:

“‘All things have been handed over to me by my Father’” Matt 11:27
How can someone hand something to himself?

“‘but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give but is for whom it has been prepared by my Father’” Matt 20:23
If it isn’t his, and it is God’s, then that means that God != Jesus, doesn’t it?

“‘But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone’” Matt 24:36
Again, if God knows, but Jesus doesn’t, then Jesus != God.

“‘let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will’” Matt 26:39
If God and Jesus have different wills, then they must be different people.

“Why do you call me good? No one but God is good.” (don’t remember the location)
Yet another distinction between Jesus and God.

There is also a place where Jesus claims that God has corroborated his story. Corroboration implies separate identities.

These are just a few of the many instances in which Jesus implies that he is not God.

" ‘Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter.’ " -Kurt Vonnegut, * Breakfast of Champions *

furt said:

Really? I’ve always heard the opposite of that. Maybe I live in a parallel world, but anyway, Polycarp really does know his doo-doo better than I know my doo-doo. I know when I don’t have a prayer.

P.S. Thank you, furt and Polycarp, for sinking my boat politely. :slight_smile:

Only humans commit inhuman acts.

“After his death, his followers decided Jesus had been divine. This did not happen immediately; as we shall see, the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century.”

A History of God, Karen Armstrong (“Britain’s foremost commentor on religion”, spent 7 years as a Catholic nun)
Also some more of her comments that might be applicable here:

“Paul never called Jesus “God”. He called him “the Son of God” in the Jewish sense: he certainly did not believe that Jesus had been the incarnation of God Himself: he had simply possed God’s “powers” and “Spirit”, which manifested God’s activity on Earth and were not to be confused with the inaccessible divine essence.”

“Mark’s Gospel, which as the earliest is usually regarded as the most reliable, presents Jesus as a perfectly normal man, with a family that included brothers and sisters.”

“The Psalms sometimes called David or the Messiah “the Son of God”, but that was simply a way of expressing his intimacy with Yahweh. Nobody since the return of Babylon had imagined that Yahweh actually had a son, like the abominable deities of the goyim.”

“Jesus himself used to call himself “the Son of Man”. There has been much controversy about the title, but it seems the original Aramaic phrase (bar nasha) simply stressed the weakness and mortality of the human condition. If this is so, Jesus seems to have gone out of his way to emphasize that he was a frail human being who would one day suffer and die.”

“Eppur, si muove!” - Galileo Galilei

—A History of God, Karen Armstrong (“Britain’s foremost commentor on religion”, spent 7 years as a Catholic nun)

Whose opinion is this? I’m assuming it’s not just yours. Karen Armstrong did spend some time as a Catholic nun, most of that time wishing she weren’t, “kicking against the traces” as it were, and got out as soon as she had the chance. This is according to her autobiography, so I’m only saying what she said herself. She found the religious life very difficult, and finally decided it was not for her. I’m not sure that her opinions on Christian belief should be considered unbiased.

Who’s unbiased? Probably not anyone posting on this thread. If you have a material objection to what she’s said, I certainly want to hear it, but saying she’s biased doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong. I’ll listen to what you have to say even if you are strongly predjudiced to believe in Jesus’ divinity! FWIW, she certainly didn’t seem across-the-board opposed to the concept of the trinity.

The little bit of information I gave about her was from her bio. I simply wanted to give some background on her so you would know I wasn’t quoting my next-door neighbor or the author of The Satanic Bible.

“Eppur, si muove!” - Galileo Galilei