Author Topic: A Few Questions  (Read 4433 times)

A Few Questions
« on: January 04, 2018, 07:46:42 PM »
Hello all,

My name is Zach, or SB Leader as my gaming name goes. This is not my first time on this forum as I interacted for a short stint during a research project for my undergraduate work in 2014. Now, in my graduate studies, I have returned with a few non-threatening questions for a project I am compiling for an Apologetics course (They are actually much the same questions as before!). My goal is, as Francis of Assisi once said, "not so much to be understood as to understand." I will interact as much as possible, but please forgive me for inevitably missing a few things.

Short bio: I am what you may call a "Christian" though that means quite a variety of things these days. A Christ follower may be a clearer signifier. I live in the very cold state of Minnesota and have worked in the financial industry for the past few years. But now, seeking a return to ministry, I am continuing my education seeking an M.Div. Please ask me anything else you'd like to know; I am excited to hear your stories!

Answer in as much or as little detail as you'd like. Here are my questions (Forgive the sometimes awkward wording! I understand that I may find members of this community who are not completely atheist and they are meant to be worded as generally as possible):

1. -How would you describe your religious background and church involvement?

2. -To you, what is God like? Describe God. Or if you do not believe in God, then: what is important in life?

3.-Describe what the term Jesus Christ means to you.

4.-What defines what is good and bad? How are we able to know?

5.-What to you is the most significant issue with the Christian church? The most significant benefit from the same church?

 

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2018, 07:52:03 PM »
#4 seriously dude?
#5 that they don't pay taxes. If they paid taxes I might see some benefit.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 07:55:25 PM by hrdlr110 »
Q for theists; how can there be freewill and miracles? And, how can prayer exist in an environment as regimented as "gods plan"?

"I'm a polyatheist, there are many gods I don't believe in." - Dan Fouts

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2018, 08:16:35 PM »
Hello, I will answer, but keep in mind that my answers are very concise and not meant to be taken as the whole story of my feelings on these questions.


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1. -How would you describe your religious background and church involvement?

In a nut-shell:

Accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior when I was about 14, was on fire for God for some years, had many questions that were never answered by those who should've been able to answer them, read the whole Bible cover to cover, and studied it, and realized it couldn't possibly have been written by any God such as was described therein, and that the God of the Bible was a monstrous, horrific thing. Stopped believing in the Christian world-view and began searching for God in other religions - did not find any. Became an atheist when I realized that the whole concept of a theistic God is illogical and inconsistent.

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2. -To you, what is God like? Describe God. Or if you do not believe in God, then: what is important in life?
I don't believe in God, so, what is important in life is the creation of personal meaning and purpose - not accepting any such imposed on me from outside myself.


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3.-Describe what the term Jesus Christ means to you.
Jesus is the fictional continuation of sun-worship as described by You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login.

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4.-What defines what is good and bad? How are we able to know?
We each define good and bad for ourselves, usually based on how we were raised by our parents/community. One person's good can be another person's evil, just as the killing and eating of a deer by a wolf is good for the wolf but bad for the deer. My own notion of good is that which leads to long-term survival of Earth's biosphere and it's human elements.

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5.-What to you is the most significant issue with the Christian church? The most significant benefit from the same church?
The most significant issue? It's a false belief which can, and often does, lead to harm for individuals and society.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 08:18:37 PM by Unbeliever »
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"Which do I prefer? Sex or chess? It depends on the position."
Boris Spassky

Offline Hydra009

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2018, 08:27:02 PM »
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1. -How would you describe your religious background and church involvement?
Methodist, nearly weekly church attendance as a child that declined significantly in my teens to seldom as a young adult.

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2. -To you, what is God like? Describe God.
I couldn't say.  It seems to be a strangely nebulous concept.  Fervent religious people have difficulty with that question, let alone people who don't often dwell on religious matters.

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Or if you do not believe in God, then: what is important in life?
It depends on the person.  There's no single right answer, imo.  But if you ask people what sort of society they'd like to live in, you get a lot of similar answers: peaceful, prosperous, happy, egalitarian, and as free as possible without damaging that peace and happiness.  It's simply a matter of taking enough baby steps in right direction to get there or a close approximation of it.

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3.-Describe what the term Jesus Christ means to you.
From what I've heard and read, he's a great many things and many of them are contradictory.  If I had to go with something, it'd be a charismatic preacher who tried to rework jewish religious tradition into a passionate, personal religious way of life.  Like most new religious movements, it didn't work out so well in the short term.  Unlike most new religious movements, it had strong long-term staying power.

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4.-What defines what is good and bad? How are we able to know?
Bad = malicious harm.

And it's usually decided by societies reaching a tentative consensus about what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable (ostensibly based on harm) which of course changes over time.  And despite claims that their morality descended from the heavens, religious morality ultimately stems from collective human judgments as well.

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5.-What to you is the most significant issue with the Christian church? The most significant benefit from the same church?
N/A
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 09:17:34 PM by Hydra009 »

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2018, 08:51:01 PM »
1)   I attended a Methodist church until I was sixteen when my parents gave me permission not to attend. My family attended church to conform to social norms and because my mother insisted. She was the only one who believed.

2)   People define God differently but I don’t believe in God as described in the Bible. What is important in life is probably a little different for each person. Everyone has their own story although there are common themes.

3)   Jesus Christ is a person whose followers believe was the son of God. To me, he is some combination of man and myth. He is considered sacred to the majority of people in my community so I tend not to talk about him.

4)   Good and bad are assessments people give to actions based on the suffering of oneself and others. We predict which actions will be good or bad based on experience and we determine the degree to how good or bad an action was after the fact. Even after the fact, people don't always come to the same conclusion.

5)   I think the biggest problem with Christianity is it is dogmatic. The most significant benefit of Christianity is it psychologically and socially encourages believers to be pro-social-- most of the time.
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2018, 08:51:12 PM »
 
1. -How would you describe your religious background and church involvement?

As a child went to Christ of Christ and Baptist church while living in Alabama.  Never really bought into either church nor really understood much of either.

2. -To you, what is God like? Describe God. Or if you do not believe in God, then: what is important in life?

God is a fable/myth/fiction invented by man to control his fellow man. Organized religion is the bane of civilization and we, as a species, would be better off without it.
What is important in life is subjective on the individual level.  It is usually determined by whatever society one lives in.  Our rules of conduct are determined by our society and evolves as a mechanism for our society and species.  Individuals chose what to think/believe according to what works for them. 

3.-Describe what the term Jesus Christ means to you.

Jesus Christ is a fiction--Jesus, the man, never existed (Many Jesus' existed then and now; a very popular name); Jesus and Joshua are both the same name and translate to something like 'savior'.  This Jesus Christ you asked about most likely came from the Jewish yearning for a Joshua (Joshua at the battle of Jericho--Moses led the 'people' out of Egypt and into the desert toward the promised land, but never got there--Joshua lead them into that land) savior; to save them from the Romans.  Christ is simply a name of a title bestowed upon many leader and kings of the Jewish people.  So, you see, Jesus Christ was crafted out of myth, legend and stories of the Jewish past to help some religious leaders control the masses.  There is no evidence outside the bible that he existed.  And the bible has so many versions that it is suspect at best; the bible was crafted to reflect the political/religious views of the people writing whatever part of the bible you are referring to.

4.-What defines what is good and bad? How are we able to know?

Society defines what is good and bad.  We know because whatever society we live in tells us.  In the US, the law of the land is what tells us what is good and bad.  On an individual level, it is a subjective decision on that individuals part.

5.-What to you is the most significant issue with the Christian church? The most significant benefit from the same church?

The issue with the Christian church are many and varied.  What is the church?  Methodist; Catholic; Baptist (and its 10,000 sects), Mormon; Jehovah Witness--well, you get the picture.  There is no 'the Christian Church'--they argue and disagree with everything.  The Christian Religion has no agreed upon set of morals, ethics, values or code of conduct.  For example, 80% of Christian Fundamentalists in Alabama, voted for Moore, who was highly suspected of being a child molester of long standing.  What morals does that reflect?  What ethic?



Those answers are short and very, very incomplete.  I will remark that I think your work in the world of business will make you very prepared for the ministry.  Why?  Because you know how to lie, cheat and steal all in the name of a legal entity; now you will learn how to do it in the world of religion.  You should be very successful, for most of your flock will be basically brainwashed and more than willing to follow whatever you tell them; you can continue what organized religion has done since the very beginning; deceive, and drain the talent, treasures and time (what Unity calls the 4T's)  from your followers.  Despite what I just wrote, I am willing to discuss with you any and all that I stated. 
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2018, 09:02:39 PM »
To add to #1.
From high school on, I became a seeker of the truth of christianity and Jesus.  I was curious and wanted to figure out if god was real or not.  I went to various churches in spurts, but not for long in any one in particular.  I read books on the subject of god and took a couple of religious courses in college.  When I reached my mid 40's I decided to make a concerted effort to figure this out.  I settled on joining the Unity Church in my town.  I liked the people and the philosophy of both the founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.  I was a member for about 10 yrs, was board president for a year and on the board for about 4 yrs.  I ran the sound system during services and was the head greater, as well.  I taught several classes while I was a member as well.  In other words, I was involved and was actively seeking to come to some sort of relationship with the 'christian' god.  I prayed, lived as well as I could the basic tenets of Unity. I gave it a real shot--at least, I think I did.  I read the bible from cover to cover and a myriad of texts and books dealing with the bible (both liberal and conservative in view; both for and against the existence of god), Jesus and what Unity considered the christian way of living. 

My conclusions?  There is no god and it is all a fiction, as I stated before.  That is what I think and it is based on what I consider sound fundamental empirical evidence.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Offline Luther Martini

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2018, 09:09:11 PM »
1.  I was born into a family consisting of people who were Southern Baptist.  As a child I was forced to attend sunday school and church services.  The concepts of deity, original sin, virgin birth, resurrection, in-errancy of the scriptures, etc, were too illogical to me to believe, therefore I never bought into the religion.  Although I was not a believer, I pretended to be converted when I was a teen so that my parents would no longer be embarrassed by my presence, and would stop bothering me with their Christian bullshit.  After I grew a little older, and moved out of their house, I confirmed their suspicion to them that my conversion had been merely an act for their benefit.  ( I suppose that it was a milder form of the same mindset of Muslims or Jews during the inquisition who affected an outward conversion to christianity in order to avoid being killed.)

2.  I do not believe in a god(s).  I value good health, happiness, and safety for my family and myself.  I strive to treat others with honesty, dignity, and respect in order to promote harmony in my community. 

3.  In that Christian mythology is imbedded in the cultural psyche of western civilization, and that Jesus of Nazareth is the main protagonist in the Christian myth, his character is a cultural icon in our society.

4.  In order to get a sense of my basic values, you can re-read my answer to question 2.

5.  The Christian church has throughout history been an organization of oppression, and continues to be used an excuse for people to band together in order to try to impose their beliefs on others and to intimidate, subjugate, castigate or in some way punish those who do not share in their beliefs. 

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2018, 09:46:04 PM »
Thank you all!

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Hello, I will answer, but keep in mind that my answers are very concise and not meant to be taken as the whole story of my feelings on these questions.
Unbeliever, I completely understand. Even if we had the space of a full book we couldn't fit even a quarter of the entirety of one story from anyone on this thread. Thanks for doing your best. I enjoyed reading your answers. May I ask when you stopped believing in the Christian worldview? What was a question that you struggled with, if you do not mind me asking?

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We each define good and bad for ourselves, usually based on how we were raised by our parents/community. One person's good can be another person's evil, just as the killing and eating of a deer by a wolf is good for the wolf but bad for the deer. My own notion of good is that which leads to long-term survival of Earth's biosphere and it's human elements.
I think that's a pretty sensible description, particularly in regards to your own notion. I would agree that of those objectives are noble efforts!

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I couldn't say.  It seems to be a strangely nebulous concept.  Fervent religious people have difficulty with that question, let alone people who don't often dwell on religious matters.
Hydra, thank you. I think your answer here is pretty accurate. My first time interacting with this group, a member asked me "what is a god?" and it was a question that I needed to take some time to develop an answer for--and it was just a sketch, really. For the God I believe in, I would list attributes and aspects of his nature, but a general question is challenging.
You mention that people would generally give pretty similar answers to what qualities they consider good: I agree and don't find it to be a coincidence! One clarifying question, if I may:
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And despite claims that their morality descended from the heavens, religious morality ultimately stems from collective human judgments as well.
Is there an example or two that you would think of in regards to this?

GSOgymrat, thanks for your answers. You mention that people have common themes in what they determine to be important. I completely agree!
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5)   I think the biggest problem with Christianity is it is dogmatic. The most significant benefit of Christianity is it psychologically and socially encourages believers to be pro-social-- most of the time.
These hit deep for me. I think dogma is so often how the American church is portrayed (And portrays itself!). That doesn't really mesh with the message of Christ (Though there are definite lines drawn in his teaching as well). Your benefit is a really unique one that I haven't heard in this context before. I have really found that to be the case at my church, that is does encourage meaningful outreach, and I am glad that it is not wholly missed nationally.

Mike, I appreciate your in depth story of your belief journey. It sounds like you reviewed a lot of material in your search and that you didn't make your decision blindly. I do, however, question where you say that Jesus Christ is fiction. It seems that the general consensus in the academic community is that a man named Jesus did exist (based off of secular, sacred, and syncretic literary sources). Josephus and Tacitus refer to him explicitly in their histories. Could you possibly expand on your comments?

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Those answers are short and very, very incomplete.  I will remark that I think your work in the world of business will make you very prepared for the ministry.  Why?  Because you know how to lie, cheat and steal all in the name of a legal entity; now you will learn how to do it in the world of religion.  You should be very successful, for most of your flock will be basically brainwashed and more than willing to follow whatever you tell them; you can continue what organized religion has done since the very beginning; deceive, and drain the talent, treasures and time (what Unity calls the 4T's)  from your followers.  Despite what I just wrote, I am willing to discuss with you any and all that I stated. 
Man, I endeavor to make sure that is not the case. There is nothing more evil then to twist the truth when you know it (Or perhaps even when you claim to know it!). At my future church, it is my goal to help answer the tough questions--the questions that a few of you have mentioned that your church was not willing to answer. I want to include secular literature in my church's library: I want to look for truth wherever it may be found. And I want to wrestle with the tough questions. If my church does not serve others physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, then we are not fulfilling our role. I apologize that your experience has been so different from that!

Luther, thank you. I find it a somewhat recurring theme that teenage into young adult stage is where there seems to be a disconnect of sorts. Maybe it is the time when parental influence lessens, but I find it curious to hear it a few times.

This may be the only time I am able to respond so in depth, but I will endeavor to continue to interact as much as I am able.


« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 09:59:51 PM by SB Leader »

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2018, 09:49:41 PM »
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#4 seriously dude?
#5 that they don't pay taxes. If they paid taxes I might see some benefit.
Sorry I couldn't get that question to jibe with you. I'd love to hear your considerations on it though--even if you wish to avoid the others!

The church pays in some nations--just not in America. Are those churches doing it right? :)

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2018, 10:58:37 PM »
SB, you said:
"Man, I endeavor to make sure that is not the case. There is nothing more evil then to twist the truth when you know it (Or perhaps even when you claim to know it!). At my future church, it is my goal to help answer the tough questions--the questions that a few of you have mentioned that your church was not willing to answer. I want to include secular literature in my church's library: I want to look for truth wherever it may be found. And I want to wrestle with the tough questions. If my church does not serve others physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, then we are not fulfilling our role. I apologize that your experience has been so different from that!"

Why are you apologizing?  You had nothing to do with it.  I did not rely on any one person or source to make my own decisions.  I sought in all ways that I could.  And I came to realize that there is no 'truth'  to find; not in the empirical sense.  Be careful with the intellectual part of your service.  If you are honest with that, you may find that you come to the same conclusions as I and others have.   
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2018, 11:14:12 PM »
SB, I'd like to refer you to a thread "Jesus--Fact or Fiction?" where that question is addressed.  Richard Carrier has written a book that deals with that question.  Here is the first entry of that thread:

"Richard Carrier published a book a couple of years ago titled: On the Historicity of Jesus (Why we Might Have Reason for Doubt).  I read it when it was published and found it fascinating.  However, it is a long book (almost 700 pages) and very heavily footnoted--which I like.  Early on he established what is factually known about Christianity and Jesus broken down into units or elements of data.  There are 48 elements and each one is a statement of fact or knowledge that has been established and accepted as fact.  These may be disputed, but he indicates only by the most fanatical, but is generally accepted as established among most scholars.  So, I thought I'd list all these elements, one at a time and see if anyone has feedback about these elements. 

So, without much surprise, I'll start the listing with Element 1:

The earliest form of Christianity definitely known to us originated as a Jewish sect in the region of Syria-Palestine in the early first century CE. "

I fear that the vast majority of the experts and scholars you refer to have a vested interest in maintaining the Christian fraud.  The Quest for the Historical Jesus, is fairly new only gaining steam within the last 200 years.  Atheists and their views have not been tolerated until only recently; and even now, atheism is seen in a very negative way.  So, to intimate that history is on your side is a bit disingenuous. Your side have over 2000 years of arguments--my side only a couple of hundred or so.  Carrier, Daugherty and Robert M. Price would like to  differ with your take on the subject.    Read Carrier--it will be a very, very hard thing for you to do, for he does offer documented (with footnotes galore for you to follow up on) arguments for his point of view.  And google "The Quest for the Historical Jesus' and it will give you a brief history of that type of research. 

I will cover Josephus and Tacitus later.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2018, 11:28:25 PM »
SB--Tacitus--this is from one site:

Tacitus (ca. 56 – ca. 117)

Tacitus is remembered first and foremost as Rome's greatest historian. His two surviving works: Annals and The Histories form a near continuous narrative from the death of Augustus in 14 CE to the death of Domitian in 96.

Interestingly, I cannot report on the silence of Tacitus concerning Jesus, because the very years of the purported existence of Jesus 30, 31, are suspiciously missing from his work(!)

Richard Carrier writes:

"...we are enormously lucky to have Tacitus--only two unrelated Christian monasteries had any interest in preserving his Annals, for example, and neither of them preserved the whole thing, but each less than half of it, and by shear luck alone, they each preserved a different half. And yet we still have large gaps in it. One of those gaps is the removal of the years 29, 30, and 31 (precisely, the latter part of 29, all of 30, and the earlier part of 31), which is probably the deliberate excision of Christian scribes who were embarrassed by the lack of any mention of Jesus or Gospel events in those years (the years Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection were widely believed at the time to have occurred). There is otherwise no known explanation for why those three years were removed. The other large gap is the material between the two halves that neither institution preserved. And yet another is the end of the second half, which scribes also chose not to preserve (or lost through negligent care of the manuscript, etc.)."

Ironically, Christians often cite Tacitus as historical evidence for Jesus.

This is the passage cited:

But neither the aid of man, nor the liberality of the prince, nor the propitiations of the gods succeeded in destroying the belief that the fire had been purposely lit. In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters. First, therefore, those were arrested who openly confessed; then, on their information, a great number, who were not so much convicted of the fire as of hatred of the human race. Ridicule was passed on them as they died; so that, clothed in skins of beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or committed to the flames, and when the sun had gone down they were burned to light up the night. Nero had lent his garden for this spectacle, and gave games in the Circus, mixing with the people in the dress of a charioteer or standing in the chariot. Hence there was a strong sympathy for them, though they might have been guilty enough to deserve the severest punishment, on the ground that they were sacrificed, not to the general good, but to the cruelty of one man." (Annals XV, 44)

However, there are serious problems with using this passage as independent corroboration of Jesus:

Jeffery Jay Lowder states:

"There is no good reason to believe that Tacitus conducted independent research concerning the historicity of Jesus. The context of the reference was simply to explain the origin of the term "Christians," which was in turn made in the context of documenting Nero's vices..."

It is not just 'Christ-mythicists' who deny that Tacitus provides independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus; indeed, there are numerous Christian scholars who do the same! For example, France writes, Annals XV.44 "cannot carry alone the weight of the role of 'independent testimony' with which it has often been invested." E.P. Sanders notes, "Roman sources that mention [Jesus] are all dependent on Christian reports." And William Lane Craig states that Tacitus' statement is "no doubt dependent on Christian tradition."
- Jeffery Jay Lowder, "Evidence" for Jesus, Is It Reliable?
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So it may simply be that Tacitus was relying on oral tradition, and not on any historical research for his reference to Jesus. Tacitus himself tells us about the vlaue of such traditions:

"...everything gets exaggerated is typical for any story" and "all the greatest events are obscure--while some people accept whatever they hear as beyond doubt, others twist the truth into its opposite, and both errors grow over subsequent generations" (Annals 3.44 & 3.19). (Cited via Carrier's article)

As weak as the Tacitus claim is, it remains a possibility that even this weak bit of apparent corroboration is a later interpolation. The problems with this claim are examined here:

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Some of these problems are summarized by Gordon Stein:

"While we know from the way in which the above is written that Tacitus did not claim to have firsthand knowledge of the origins of Christianity, we can see that he is repeating a story which was then commonly believed, namely that the founder of Christianity, one Christus, had been put to death under Tiberius. There are a number of serious difficulties which must be answered before this passage can be accepted as genuine. There is no other historical proof that Nero persecuted the Christians at all. There certainly were not multitudes of Christians in Rome at that date (circa 60 A.D.). In fact, the term "Christian" was not in common use in the first century. We know Nero was indifferent to various religions in his city, and, since he almost definitely did not start the fire in Rome, he did not need any group to be his scapegoat. Tacitus does not use the name Jesus, and writes as if the reader would know the name Pontius Pilate, two things which show that Tacitus was not working from official records or writing for non-Christian audiences, both of which we would expect him to have done if the passage were genuine.

Perhaps most damning to the authenticity of this passage is the fact that it is present almost word-for-word in the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus (died in 403 A.D.), where it is mixed in with obviously false tales. At the same time, it is highly unlikely that Sulpicius could have copied this passage from Tacitus, as none of his contemporaries mention the passage. This means that it was probably not in the Tacitus manuscripts at that date. It is much more likely, then, that copyists working in the Dark Ages from the only existing manuscript of the Chronicle, simply copied the passage from Sulpicius into the manuscript of Tacitus which they were reproducing."

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2018, 11:30:17 PM »
SB, another challenge for you, added to the reading of Carrier's book.  Give me a list of ANY contemporary (of your Jesus) historian who wrote about him or his deeds.   
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: A Few Questions
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2018, 11:35:21 PM »
SB--here is Josephus:  Sorry this is a long post, but the nature of studying Josephus makes this almost impossible not to get to this length:

The Josephus Testimonium: Let’s Just Admit It’s Fake Already

BY RICHARD CARRIER ON MAY 4, 201529 COMMENTS

Stylized and modern iconographic drawing of a bust of Joephus, essentially imaginary.A new article just beats this dead horse deader still. Hat tip to Vridar and Peter Kirby. Honestly. The evidence that the Testimonium Flavianum (or TF) is entirely a late Christian forgery is now as overwhelming as such evidence could ever get. Short of uncovering a pre-Eusebian manuscript, which is not going to happen. All extant manuscripts derive from the single manuscript of Eusebius; evidently everything else was decisively lost.

The new article is by Paul Hopper, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University, “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63,” in Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob, eds., Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers (2014: de Gruyter), pp. 147-169 (available at academia.edu).

So in addition to all the evidence I and other scholars have amassed (summarized, with bibliography, in On the Historicity of Jesus, ch. 8.9), including the fact that what was once thought to be an Arabic testimony to a pre-Eusebian version of the text actually derives from Eusebius (as proved by Alice Whealey), and the peer reviewed article by G.J. Goldberg that proved the TF was, as a whole unit, based on the Gospel of Luke (and thus even if Josephan, not independent of the Gospels) and my own peer reviewed article (now reproduced in Hitler Homer Bible Christ, ch. 19) that added even more evidence, including proving the other brief mention of Jesus  in Josephus was also fake (an accidental insertion made centuries after Josephus wrote), and the literary evidence produced by Ken Olson that the TF is far closer to Eusebian style than Josephan style, now Paul Hopper shows that grammatical and structural analysis verifies all of this.

For those who want to understand how this new evidence from Hopper works to produce that conclusion, here is a quick summary:

(1) Hopper shows the author of the TF consistently used finite verbs differently than Josephus does.
We have seen that aorist verbs [in Josephus] typically report single prominent actions associated with the protagonist of the story. They play a crucial role in the event structure of the narrative, and while they cannot alone support the story line, they work to anchor clusters of other kinds of verbs to create episodes. This could hardly be said of the aorists in the Testimonium, however. The aorists here seem to belong in a different genre altogether, one which argues and defends rather than reports.

In other words, the TF is written as apologetics, not history. And Josephus wasn’t a Christian apologist. Indeed, as Hopper points out:

There is an element of protest in the voice of the author of the Testimonium that is impossible to attribute to Josephus, the sober historian: “There must be some truth in all this, because his followers haven’t gone away, in fact they haven’t stopped worshipping him.”

Grammatical analysis and content thus converge to support the same conclusion.

(2) Hopper shows the author of the TF consistently used oblique and passive language to insert Pontius Pilate into its story, contrary to what Josephus had been doing in the whole Pontius Pilate sequence before that.
As Hopper says,

Pilate, the decisive Roman boss of the other three Pilate episodes, ruthless scourge of the Jews and despiser of their laws, now appears as the compliant puppet of the Jewish hierarchy. … [and a]gain, the grammatical structure of the Testimonium is at odds with that of the sequence of Pontius Pilate, in which the chief protagonist is Pilate himself.

In other words, through a stark and bizarre switch in verb forms, the distinctively Christian apologetic that tried to downplay Pilate’s role in murdering Jesus—characteristic of all the Gospels—suddenly is voiced by Josephus, out of joint with Josephus’s remaining treatment of Pilate, and the whole purpose of Josephus’s Pilate sequence (to portray Pilate as a self-motivated, and thus solely-to-blame, callous agitator against the Jews), as if he were a puppet of a distinctly Christian voice, and forgot why he was narrating these events about Pilate in the first place? Not likely.

(3) “The time organization in the Testimonium is strikingly different from that of the surrounding text.”
By which Hopper means:

For example, the narrative of [Pilate’s stealing temple money to fund an aqueduct] is filled with particular details—the rioters shouting insults, the Roman soldiers going among the crowd in Jewish dress, the order to the demonstrators to disperse, the overreaction of the soldiers, and the bloody suppression of the riot. At each point we know not only what the actors did, but why they did it, and what the causes and effects of their actions were. [This] episode, like the other episodes involving Pontius Pilate, has an event structure. Time in these episodes is …qualitative time…experienced by individual actors.

Whereas:

By contrast, the temporality of the Testimonium is chronic…that is, it is part of the general temporality of human history. It takes place in a more remote perspective of slow changes and general truths; it is…the time of social movements and social reorganization. It has a bird’s-eye view of its subject, scanning the entire life of Jesus and his influence in no particular order, anachronistically … . In the Testimonium there are happenings but no events, because events in order to qualify as such must be integrated into an eventive frame, that is, a story, and must have sequence and causal interconnections … . So the Testimonium belongs to a different kind of time from the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The temporality of the Testimonium derives from its presumed familiarity to its audience, which in turn is more compatible with a third century or later Christian setting than a first century Roman one.

Yep. In fact, it makes no sense for Josephus to use that kind of temporal narrative style, when he doesn’t anywhere else here, or pretty much anywhere else in the Antiquities at all. This is exactly, however, how Christians would write it.

(4) Indeed, not just its organization of time, but the absence of plot indicates the same conclusion.
As Hopper explains:

The [aqueduct] story is a narration in which a situation is established and the characters interact, and there is a resolution. It has a plot in the way that recent narrative theorists have stipulated … . The same is true of the other two Pilate episodes, that is, the [legionary standards] episode and the Samaritan Uprising. The careful crafting of emplotment is an essential part of Josephus’s skill as a historian. The Testimonium has no such plot. From the point of view of its place in Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, it does not qualify as a narrative at all. The Testimonium could not be understood as a story except by someone who could already place it in its “intelligible whole”, the context of early Christianity. The Testimonium gains its intelligibility not through its reporting of novel events but by virtue of being a “repetition of the familiar” … [as in] familiarity to a third century Christian readership, not to a first century Roman one. It is not just that the Christian origin of the Testimonium is betrayed by its allegiance to the Gospels, as that without the Gospels the passage is incomprehensible.

Yep. This confirms points I made to the same effect in OHJ (pp. 332-37).

(5) The TF makes no sense to Josephus’s intended narrative; it only makes sense to Christians who needed it there.
In particular:

The Testimonium is anchored in a radically different discourse community from that of the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The Testimonium reads more like a position paper, a party manifesto, than a narrative. Unlike the rest of the Jewish Antiquities, it has the same generic ambiguity between myth and history that [has been] noted in the Gospels as a whole. … [And as such i]t serves to validate the Christian claim of the crucifixion of the sect’s founder during Pilate’s administration, and, by positioning its text within that of the genre “history”, with its ethos of truth, to warrant the historical authenticity of the Gospels. But told as a series of new events to a first century Roman audience unfamiliar with it, the Testimonium would have been a bizarre addition and probably quite unintelligible.

He’s right. Again, see my detailed analysis of this very point in OHJ. Hopper finds the TF does not fit the genre of history at all (unlike the rest of Josephus), but rather fits fairly well the genre of Christian creeds. Which is a dead giveaway as to who actually wrote it. Hopper demonstrates this with grammatical commonalities as well as its obvious content similarity.

As Hopper concludes:

[In the TF, both grammatically and thematically, the] responsibility for the death of Jesus lies with Josephus’s fellow-countrymen, the Jews, not with the Romans, and in this too the Testimonium is hard to reconcile with Josephus’s denunciation of Pilate’s crimes against the Jews. The Josephus of the Testimonium is represented as aligning himself with the Christians (versus the Jews) and admitting that the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah lies with the Jews; it need hardly be said that such an admission on Josephus’s part is inconceivable.

Thus, grammatical and narrative analysis establish the TF as entirely a Christian production.

-:-

Altogether, I find Hopper’s analysis conclusive. His own summary is spot on:

The narrative grammar of the Testimonium Flavianum sets it sharply apart from Josephus’s other stories of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. The most likely explanation is that the entire passage is interpolated, presumably by Christians embarrassed at Josephus’s manifest ignorance of the life and death of Jesus.

Already both Olson and Goldberg, with their own independent analyses, demonstrated the TF isn’t Josephan from an analysis of its vocabulary (which is more Eusebian and Lukan than Josephan). Goldberg allows the possibility that it isn’t Josephan because Josephus may have copied his source slavishly, but since Josephus never did that with any other source he used, we can dismiss that as so much special pleading; at best, Josephus’s practice elsewhere gives this excuse a very low prior probability. Now Hopper has demonstrated the TF isn’t Josephan from an analysis of its grammar. He shows not only that the TF is a unified passage (and not some layered passage, something that Christians only tinkered with), also demonstrated by Goldberg with completely different yet convergent evidence (that as a unity it too conspicuously aligns with the Emmaus narrative in Luke to have been ginned up that way later), but that it is also unified by grammatical practices too unusual for Josephus to have been written by him. Thus, it definitely wasn’t.

Especially with all the other evidence stacked on: its uncharacteristic narrative style (including its bizarre brevity and naive simplicity); the narrative illogic of its position in the text; its not being known to Origen or anyone else before Eusebius a century later; its containing patently ridiculous and fawning remarks only a Christian would make.

So just get over it already.

It’s fake."
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

 

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