Pigeon-holing Jesus

We’ve been having a lively discussion about the historical Jesus (a pet topic of mine) on an earlier post, The “Jesus family tomb”. I would like to pick up on a couple of issues that were raised, and approach them from a different perspective.

The first issue came from Addofio, who commented, “People see what they want to see in the (extremely sketchy) evidence” about Jesus. I responded by arguing that I think the broad strokes of Jesus’ life are clear. But Addofio has a point, which will emerge in a moment.

The second question came toward the end of the discussion, from Whig. By that point, we had focussed on the narrow issue, Was Jesus married or celibate (or both)?

Whig argued that Jesus would not have been celibate because he was a Jewish Rabbi. And this is an interesting way of framing the issue. If we knew what title to apply to Jesus, we might be able to make an educated guess about whether or not he was married.

Possible titles for Jesus:

The New Testament depicts Jesus executing a variety of offices:

  • healer / exorcist
  • prophet / social reformer
  • THE prophet / end-time prophet
  • Priest
  • King like David
  • Messiah / Christ
  • Lawgiver like Moses
  • Sage like Solomon
  • Saviour / martyr

The New Testament is content to depict Jesus in all of these ways, indiscriminately, as if they’re all perfectly consistent with one another. But in fact some tension exists between the various offices. For example, end time prophet vs. social reformer: if you believe the world will end within a generation, why would you set out to improve the social safety net?

Scholars prefer to pigeon-hole Jesus. They dream of a single category that captures what Jesus was really about. Nor do they limit themselves to the New Testament alternatives. Scholars have argued that Jesus was a revolutionary, a Pharisee, a magician, a Cynic, etc.

This is where Addofio has a point: each scholar slots Jesus into a different pigeon hole, thus reaching different conclusions about him.

Messiah / Christ:

Allow me to comment on just a couple of these pigeon holes. First, the most contentious office of all: Messiah / Christ.1

Jesus’ followers were persuaded that he was the Messiah. They speculated about it during his ministry; they had second thoughts about it when he was crucified: but all their doubts evaporated when God raised Jesus from the dead. “God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

What Christians thought is clear. The difficult question is, What did Jesus think? Did he believe he was the Messiah? Did he claim the title publicly? Did he evade the issue in public but whisper the truth to his disciples? In my view, the question is less important to history than it is to faith.

From a historical perspective, it is perfectly obvious that Jesus did not fulfill the standard Jewish expectations. He did not become King; he did not throw off the Roman overlord; he did not trample the Gentile (pagan) nations underfoot and establish a world-wide theocracy; he did not restore a legitimate priesthood.

Maybe Jesus was the Messiah despite everything I’ve just said. But, if so, someone radically redefined the word Messiah. Messiah now means, the one who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (instead of a warhorse), as a harbinger of peace. The one who meekly submitted to crucifixion at the hand of the ruling authorities and trusted God to vindicate him. The one who died for the sins of the world and, in a stunning denouement, was subsequently raised from the dead.

We can’t get back far enough to explore Jesus’ psyche, as a modern biography would attempt to do. (Not so, the ancient bioi.) Perhaps Jesus did not think of himself as Messiah, and therefore he didn’t try to act like one; or perhaps Jesus thought of himself as Messiah, but he meant something radically different from the Messiah of popular expectation. A historian does not have adequate grounds to answer that question.

Nonetheless, the outline of events is clear. Jesus did not set out to lead an armed insurrection: to become a mighty Warrior-King akin to David. On the contrary, he was politically passive: he expected God to intervene to turn the existing social order upside down.

That’s the Jesus of history. Whether he merits the title, Messiah, is a question of faith.

Apocalyptic Prophet:

The other title I’d like to discuss is end time (apocalyptic) prophet. This is arguably the most significant rift between New Testament scholars: did Jesus expect the world to end, or did he set out to reform society — in particular, to get a better deal for the poor?

The dispute has a long history. The “liberal” scholars of the 19th century disposed of Jesus the apocalyptic prophet. Albert Schweitzer resurrected him in the famous work, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, first published in 1906. More recently, Domenic Crossan, Richard Horsley and others have set out to rehabilitate the non-apocalyptic Jesus.

I have no doubt that Schweitzer and those who follow him are right. Here are three quick arguments:

  1. The apocalyptic interpretation aligns Jesus with those who came before him and those who came after him. Before Jesus came John the Baptist, who preached an imminent, fiery judgement. After Jesus came the first century church, which again was thoroughly apocalyptic in its expectations. Apocalyptic bookends to the ministry of Jesus, we might call it.
  2. Schweitzer argued that scholars rejected the apocalyptic Jesus out of personal bias. The apocalyptic Jesus seems alien and irrelevant to modern Westerners. This is what misled the 19th century liberal scholars, and I think it misleads Domenic Crossan et al today.
  3. The apocalyptic Jesus corresponds to the Jewish Jesus. Scholars who seek to avoid the apocalyptic interpretation tend to align Jesus with Greek culture. (Crossan tries to blend the two by referring to Jesus as a Jewish Cynic — on the face of it, an oxymoron.)

On the third point, I simply note that the Jewishness of Jesus is abundantly clear. The Jesus of the New Testament believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; he ministered almost exclusively to Jews; he cited the Hebrew scriptures from memory; he debated theology with the Pharisees and Sadduccees; and he celebrated the Jewish passover with his disciples.

As mentioned, Jesus the Jew fits with the apocalyptic Jesus. In the centuries immediately prior to Jesus’ birth, Jewish writers composed a body of apocalyptic literature. Some of the major apocalyptic works were included in the Dead Sea scrolls, plus other apocalyptic texts specific to the Qumran community.

Celibacy fits the paradigm:

I have taken a long, circuitous route, but now I’m ready to return to Whig’s question. The problem, as Whig sees it, is this: Why was Jesus celibate if he was a Jewish Rabbi? This is the very issue that has roiled scholarship: what pigeon hole shall we slot Jesus into?

Jesus was, first and foremost, a Millenarian Prophet. This is yet another way of saying end-time or apocalyptic prophet.

I have lifted the term, Millenarian Prophet, from the title of a book by Dale Allison. It leaves me a little cold, since it has a whiff of “crackpot” about it. But Allison’s argument is a strong one.

The point I want to make is this: Jesus the celibate Rabbi does not make sense, as Whig correctly points out; but Jesus the celibate millenarian prophet makes a great deal of sense.

First, let’s identify some of the characteristic traits of millenarian groups:

Like many Pacific cargo cults, Jewish messianic groups, Amerindian prophetic movements, and Christian sects looking for the end of the world, Jesus’ program

  • addressed less fortunate people in a period of social turmoil;
  • promised redemption through a reversal of current circumstances;
  • divided the world into two camps, the saved and the unsaved;
  • broke hallowed taboos associated with religious custom [Jesus brushed aside food laws and Sabbath laws, and enjoyed table fellowship with “sinners”];
  • replaced traditional familial bonds with fictive kin;
  • took a passive political stance in expectation of a divinely wrought deliverance; and
  • may have promoted egalitarianism of the sexes.

(adapted from Allison, pp. 61-64)

I agree with Allison: this paradigm has great explanatory power. It makes sense of Jesus’ public ministry, but also of his personal characteristics. For example, his celibacy:

Religious celibacy frequently reflects estrangement from the normal structures of society. This is why it so often appears, as it does in the Jesus tradition and in later Christian monasticism, beside renunciations of family and work in the world.

We have no difficulty understanding why Jesus and his followers — like so many millenarian enthusiasts after them — let go of their possessions [Mark 10:28-31], their businesses [Mark 1:16-20; Mark 2:14], their families [Mark 3:33-35]. They did not need this world when they were soon to enter another, and they certainly did not have to worry about extending their community into the future through raising children. Their eschatological dualism — the present order will be eclipsed by another order — encouraged detachment from this world. (Allison, p. 204)

What emerges here is a consistent pattern of renunciation. (“Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me”.) Work doesn’t matter; material security doesn’t matter — God provides for the lilies of the field, doesn’t he? — and family doesn’t matter.

Jesus as celibate apocalyptic prophet — it makes perfect sense.

As is so often the case, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide helpful historical context. The Qumran community had similar traits to those we have sketched for Jesus: Jewish, apocalyptic, and celibate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1The terms are interchangeable. Messiah is a Hebrew word, Christ is a Greek word: both mean, “Anointed One”. Both refer to a specific individual who was expected to fulfil various prophecies from the Hebrew scriptures. But people’s expectations of the Messiah were not uniform. Of particular interest, the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to two Messiahs, one a priest and the other a king.

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55 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. undergroundreformation
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 11:40:18

    Good post. I believe that there are few more important studies than that of the historic person of Jesus, because He so often gets lost in our folklore and tradition. I actually just received Schweitzer’s book in the mail yesterday and cannot wait to get into it.

    Reply

  2. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 17:02:36

    You wrote:

    Jesus as celibate apocalyptic prophet — it makes perfect sense.

    As is so often the case, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide helpful historical context. The Qumran community had similar traits to those we have sketched for Jesus: Jewish, apocalyptic, and celibate.

    No, it does not make sense. That would be a Jesus you would dismiss as a fool and a lunatic.

    Reply

  3. Stephen
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 17:52:29

    That would be a Jesus you would dismiss as a fool and a lunatic.

    Perhaps. As I acknowledged in the post, the apocalyptic Jesus seems alien and irrelevant to modern Westerners.

    Of course, other elements of the Gospel texts may have considerable appeal even to a modern Westerner. But we are not free to gloss over the bits that make us uncomfortable: i.e., to make Jesus over according to our own predilections.

    Reply

  4. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 19:04:11

    But that’s exactly what you are doing, Stephen. You are misrepresenting Jesus and dismissing Christianity as a crock of shit.

    Reply

  5. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 19:06:29

    What do you believe in, Stephen?

    Reply

  6. Stephen
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 19:54:12

    I believe the summary of the good news contained in Acts 10:37-40 —

    “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear.”

    Moreover, I believe Jesus of Nazareth had an extraordinarily intimate relationship with God, which he characterized as a Father/Son relationship. That Jesus believed he was especially anointed to warn people of God’s coming judgement, when the powerful would be dethroned and the disenfranchised would be compensated for their deprivations (cf. Luke 16:19ff.). That Jesus crafted the finest ethic ever spoken, brilliantly synthesized in Mt. 5-7. That we are called to be co-labourers with God in his objectives for his Creation.

    I’m sure I’ve left out lots of important elements of my faith. But perhaps I’ve said enough to imply that I don’t dismiss Christianity as a crock of shit.

    Reply

  7. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 20:15:24

    I have no objections or disagreement with your profession of faith as given above.

    Reply

  8. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 20:19:32

    What are your objectives for creation?

    Reply

  9. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 20:20:56

    I intend to raise the woman up equal to the man. Will you dispute with me?

    Reply

  10. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 21:22:26

    “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20)

    Reply

  11. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 21:25:23

    This is enactment of revelation.

    Reply

  12. Stephen
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 21:50:46

    Objectives for creation would include peace / reconciliation and putting an end to human misery. Also, whatever would come under the broad heading of social justice, including equality between women and men.

    I realize I’ve been forceful in opposing your opinion about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I should add that my objection is not born of sexism.

    In my view, Jesus had an extraordinarily high regard for women. It emerges repeatedly in the Gospels, particularly in Luke: his compassionate treatment of the unidentified, contrite woman in 7:36ff.; the list of women who supported his ministry (including Mary Magdalene) in 8:2-3; the respect he accorded Mary (Martha’s sister) in 10:38ff.; certain parables that featured female protagonists (15:8-10, 18:1-5); his regard for the widow’s meagre offering to the Temple treasury (21:1-4) and, in John 4, his eyebrow-raising dialogue with the Samaritan woman.

    Jesus turned the social hierarchy upside down by treating religious and political authorities with contempt while showing deep respect for children, the poor, Samaritans, and other sorts of social outcasts (e.g. prostitutes and tax collectors). His treatment of women is consistent with his regard for the despised and oppressed.

    I have no objection to women holding high office in the Church. Let a woman become Pope as far as I’m concerned (but I’m not Roman Catholic).

    As I read Paul’s letters, he shared Jesus’ egalitarianism in the early years (Gal. 3:28) but later backpedalled (1Co. 12:13 omits “male or female”), presumably because of some controversy or scandal in one of his churches. It may have solved a problem at the time, but it did considerable harm to the cause of women thereafter, and we’re still suffering for it.

    This, too, is a historical analysis, you will note — and one that favours women’s equality.

    Reply

  13. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 22:13:13

    As I read the history of Christianity or indeed of any true religion, they are stories of oppression and redemption. When we are oppressed our knowledge is kept quiet, or it is destroyed. A literal reading of the scriptures which survived the purges and burnings gives only an incomplete story. Not only can the words never equal the meaning behind them, but the words themselves had to be kept necessarily vague if those carrying them would not be condemned by their testimony.

    Reply

  14. whig
    Mar 07, 2007 @ 22:15:06

    Have I said anything inconsistent in your view?

    Reply

  15. Stephen
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 10:02:20

    A literal reading of the scriptures which survived the purges and burnings gives only an incomplete story. … The words had to be kept necessarily vague if those carrying them would not be condemned by their testimony.

    It is true that the Church has a history of persecuting people that it labels “heretics”.

    On the other hand, we have a fair bit of historical information about the debate over which New Testament books should be included in the canon. There were serious reservations about some books that eventually made it in: e.g. 2 Peter, Revelation. There were certain books that were seriously considered but ultimately rejected: e.g. the Shepherd of Hermas, 2 Clement. There were some parts of the Church that never did accept the same books as everybody else: notably the Syrian Church, which excluded 2 Peter, 2&3 John, Jude and Revelation.

    But the thing to note is this: there was early and uncontroversial acceptance of the synoptic Gospels. Polycarp, writing c. 130 CE, is already quoting from the synoptic Gospels (without naming their authors) and no other Gospels. The beginning of the Muratorian canon (c. 175) is lost, but its implications are clear: the extant text begins by referring to four Gospels and then identifies the last two as Luke and John.

    The most interesting data comes from Iranaeus (c. 185), who objects to sectarian groups that elevate one Gospel above all others. The Ebionites, he reports, rely only on Matthew; “those who separate Jesus from the Christ” on Mark; the Marcionites on Luke; and the Valentinians on John. Iranaeus objects, “Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principle winds … it is fitting that [the Church] should have four pillars” — i.e. the four canonical Gospels.

    Though Iranaeus’s logic is dubious, you will note that even the sectarians were relying on one of the canonical Gospels. Indeed, the earliest canon extant comes not from the Catholic church, but from the heretic Marcion: and Marcion lists only one Gospel, namely Luke.

    What then of the non-canonical Gospels? 2 Clement (c. 150 CE) cites two non-canonical sayings of Jesus. The first saying comes from an unknown source. The second saying was later included in the Gospel of Thomas (22).

    I put it that way (“later included”) because Thomas is a later production based on earlier sources. We have early fragments of certain sayings, in Greek, that later appear (modified) in the extant Coptic version of Thomas.

    Scholars regard Thomas as the only non-canonical Gospel that warrants consideration alongside the synoptic Gospels. Not that it is historical in its entirety, but that it preserves some relatively early material. The other non-canonical texts, including the Gospel of Mary (which you quoted elsewhere) are worthless as sources of information about the historical Jesus.

    I don’t subscribe to grand conspiracy theories. Even the best-executed conspiracies leave traces behind them. In this case, the traces include the record of a debate over canonicity, the survival of Marcion’s canon, the survival of certain non-canonical sayings later incorporated into Thomas, and Iranaeus’s description of the sectarian groups and their respective Gospels.

    These are the data on which any responsible historical reconstruction must be based. And the conclusions which follow are these:

    (1) Some of the canonical texts were subject to dispute — even the Gospel of John was viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. But
    (2) the synoptic Gospels were received early and uncontroversially — even the heretics relied on them in the earliest period.

    If official persecution is one recurrent theme in history, the claim to possess a secret, esoteric revelation from the Lord is another recurrent theme:

    Oh sure, there were twelve apostles, but actually one was Jesus’ favourite. And he gave that one special revelations that the others were not spiritual enough to receive. It contradicts the official version of events, of course, because they don’t want you to know this stuff. But I got it from a guy who got it from the special apostle directly. I deem you worthy to receive the secret knowledge that was solemnly entrusted to me, you privileged soul!

    The Mary Magdalene tale is one among many such examples. It’s a load of hooey — don’t succumb to its seductive allure.

    Reply

  16. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:03:07

    Revelations don’t come from Jesus, they come from God. And God does choose.

    Reply

  17. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:06:44

    Put not your faith in the works of men, who seek to decide for God.

    Reply

  18. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:07:48

    Who he chooses as his messenger is for you to discover by your own knowledge of God, and he may even choose you.

    Reply

  19. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:10:46

    Will you hear me directly?

    Reply

  20. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:15:12

    I chose my wife, or she chose me, or we chose one another, or God chose us. It does not matter, my wife is above all others in whom I will speak or relate. It is this way because it is this way.

    Reply

  21. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:16:01

    And you can be my brother in Christ but you will never be my wife.

    Reply

  22. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:17:20

    God commands marriage.

    Reply

  23. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:17:38

    Deny one word I say.

    Reply

  24. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:20:11

    Jesus did not preach from the new testament. He did not preach from the old testiment. He gave the testament that was given to him by God.

    Reply

  25. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:20:56

    History is older that writing.

    Reply

  26. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:21:40

    now i get to deny one word i said:

    History is older than writing.

    Reply

  27. whig
    Mar 08, 2007 @ 14:21:57

    Test every word.

    Reply

  28. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 00:20:57

    Depending on how you define history?

    “Pas de documents, pas d’histoire.”
    Without documents there is no history.

    French Historian Fustel de Coulanges

    Leopold von Ranke one of the greatest German historians of the 19th century, and considered the founder of “scientific” or source based history, believed that only primary sources had any true validity, so all things of faith were prehistory.

    Of course modern Historians are not this rigid but still treat secondary sources with justified skepticism.

    Reply

  29. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 00:31:56

    And yes Ranke believed you must “test every word” Ranke insisted that only contemporary accounts and related material be used as sources, and insisted that every text document phrase and word be tested using scientific history. He would argue that without documentation you could not “test every word.”

    Reply

  30. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 00:35:28

    In Ranke’s opinion the further from the contemporary the closer to “Hooey” (-: but it makes a good suspense novel.

    Reply

  31. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 00:38:30

    Oh and for all those university grads out there that hate footnotes Ranke was to blame he pioneered the extensive use of them and insisted this was the only way to create a link back to all documents that preceded the one you were creating.

    Reply

  32. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 00:54:39

    One last word Whig you state that God Commands Marriage but it seems Paul who called himself an apostle of Christ would disagree 1 Corinthians 7:9 Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.

    Reply

  33. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:09:02

    Paul was probably a celibate.

    Reply

  34. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:11:05

    I take Paul at his word, and Mary at her word, and Thomas at his word, and so forth. It’s remarkable how well you can understand different perspectives if you realize that they are different.

    Reply

  35. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:12:18

    Paul, however, never met Jesus. Mary did.

    Reply

  36. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:16:32

    Because Paul was one of those who persecuted us, and because he set himself up as a priest, he was denied marriage.

    Reply

  37. Anonymous
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:29:40

    Whig you offer no proof that the Mary of the Gospel was Mary Magdalene, in any way, or that the text has any validity. I’m not a great fan of Paul either but at least the texts ascribed to him are accepted by scholars and not described by them as “Theological fiction.” Also he wasn’t denied marriage he refused it, so the causational relationship you describe is fiction at best.

    Reply

  38. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:31:08

    Sorry forgot to sign that last one Anonymous was me.

    Reply

  39. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:34:26

    The historical fiction note came from a post I made on the “jesus Family Tomb ” Karen L. King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University Divinity School, believes it (the Gospel of Mary) has value but labels it “a piece of theological fiction.”

    Reply

  40. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:37:30

    Who do you think wrote the gospel of Mary and do you think it is a sheer forgery or do you take it at its word?

    Reply

  41. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:39:40

    There are always going to be those who doubt the authenticity of any scripture. Again, question its consistency, and determine for yourself if it is a true writing, whoever reduced it to writing.

    Reply

  42. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:42:00

    I’m afraid I cannot even prove that my own words are mine. You’ll just have to take my word for it, whatever that is worth. Generations from now, undoubtedly people would have reason to question it, internet is hardly a medium that leaves permanent indications.

    Reply

  43. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:43:01

    And please, Bill, tell me where Paul was offered marriage and declined it.

    Reply

  44. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:44:32

    Speaking again for myself, had I refused marriage to my wife, it would have been a mortal sin. Had I never met her, it would not.

    Reply

  45. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:47:47

    Mary was an accused prostitute, she was treated as a fallen woman. Jesus knew her and loved her, and raised her up to himself.

    Reply

  46. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 01:49:07

    If Jesus refused her this, she would have remained as she was.

    Reply

  47. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 02:20:15

    To answer your first question on Paul’s celibacy

    1 Corinthians 7:9 Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good
    thing for them to remain as they are, as I do (the authoritative translation is it was a chosen way of life)

    And your second

    There is no real support for Mary’s prostitute status (I suspect that is one thing Michael Baigent and Dan Brown and the like got right)

    The Bible never says that Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute . Luke does not name her as the repentant prostitute who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair (Luke7:36-50). Nor is she named as the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and saved from being stoned to death by Jesus (John 8:1-11).

    Reply

  48. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 02:40:45

    I forgot to respond to the forgery question. Is Romeo and Juliet a forgery? no it is a fiction. There are numerous theological fictions. Irving Wallace’s the Word is a good example of a modern theological fiction. Dan Brown’s da Vinci code is a fiction. I posit that the Gospel of Mary fragments could have been part of a fiction, and in all honesty there is no way to prove otherwise, as there is no way to prove any of the gospels we just have to decide what it the most credible and doesn’t sound like nonsense given what other sources say.

    Reply

  49. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 02:44:34

    Stephen and I once discussed the metaphor of ripples on a pond to explain the historical reality of Jesus. The marriage of Jesus to Mary until recently has made very few ripples, so did it every really strike the water?

    Reply

  50. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 04:40:47

    Ah, this is the same Bill who just came on my blog and claimed that cannabis causes him to go into anaphylactic shock?

    If Mary is fiction, it is fiction written to be believed, and stated as such. You are therefore calling Mary (or whoever reduced her gospel to writing) a liar.

    Romeo and Juliet is not on point, it does not pretend to be anything but what it is, a fictional tragedy.

    But you say Mary is a liar, and you go into anaphylactic shock from cannabis?

    Reply

  51. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 04:42:04

    And I do not say Mary was ever a prostitute. I say she was accused. There is a difference.

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  52. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 04:43:02

    The more likely truth is she was raped, and blamed for it.

    Reply

  53. Stephen
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 07:51:47

    Just to clarify something Bill said —

    There is no way to prove any of the gospels we just have to decide what it the most credible.

    Bill is of course correct: there is no way to prove any of the Gospels. However, I am arguing that some of the Gospels can be disproven. And the process we use to disprove them is historical analysis.

    Whig, you seem to have completely missed the point of my analysis. The point is, the Gospel of Mary did not exist as of the mid-second century CE.

    That it was ignored by the orthodox doesn’t prove much, I grant you. But the fact is, even the heretics did not refer to it.

    The logical conclusion is, the non-canonical Gospels did not exist at the time — with the notable exception of certain sayings which were later included in Thomas. That’s why Bart Ehrman dates the Gospel of Mary to the “(late?) second century”.

    It is a fiction, just as Bill has argued; just as I mocked, above. Some unknown person invented the ideas found in that text, and s/he credited Mary Magdalene as the source of those ideas to link them back to Jesus. That is, Mary’s name was used (falsely) to validate the ideas.

    But Jesus wasn’t the source, and Mary Magdalene wasn’t the source — they had both departed this world more than a hundred years before the Gospel of Mary was written.

    Only the canonical texts can be traced back to a time near to the time of Jesus:
    • the sayings source utilized by Matt. and Luke, c. 50 CE;
    • Paul’s letters (which contain limited biographical info about Jesus), 50s CE;
    • the Gospel of Mark, c. 70 CE;
    • John plus the other elements of Matthew and Luke, between 80 & 100 CE.

    The Gospel of Mary, late second century: i.e., c. 180 CE? We can’t prove the accuracy of the other Gospels (though we can make a reasonable case for it), but we can demonstrate that Mary is worthless.

    (At least, it is worthless as a source of information about the historical Jesus — it may have worth for other purposes.)

    Reply

  54. whig
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 09:33:23

    Stephen, none of the gospels were reduced to writing during the time of Jesus. You cannot demonstrate that Mary is worthless on such a flimsy basis. You ask me to prove the unprovable, and absence of unprovable proof is destructive to all of the gospels if you thought it a valid way of dismissing any of them.

    Again, you can choose to disbelieve. You can dispute with Mary, and you are entitled to have your own opinion. She could be a phony, a fake, a liar, but you have not impeached her, nor have you found anything inconsistent in my testimony. Bill, on the other hand, has disgraced himself with clear and proven dishonesty.

    With that, I will now discontinue from this thread.

    Reply

  55. Bill
    Mar 09, 2007 @ 16:37:06

    Just to defend myself against the acusation of ‘clear and proven dishonesty,” I suggest readers follow Whig’s link and read my so called dishonesty and decide for themselves. However, my position there is totaly unrelated to this thread, except that it addresses experiential knowledge over literary knowledge.

    Reply

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