Home > Apologetics, Atheism > Historicity of Jesus

Historicity of Jesus

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hey everyone, I was wondering who out there doesn’t believe Jesus to be a historical person at all, and what evidence they base that on.

I’m finding that serious atheists have all made a decision, formed a belief, on who Jesus was, was not, or if he existed at all. It’s interesting because the only evidence I’ve seen that stands up to scrutiny is doubting particular passages of Josephus and Tacitus. Other than that, I’ve been running dry of things to look into on the subject. I’m sure there’s more out there, but on this point in particular the atheist really has to ignore a lot of evidence, and lean in to a minority pool of possibly falsified second or third hand sources for any sort of evidence to lean on to form their beliefs. Other than that it’s just misinformation or selective information. I’d love to discuss in length, but I would suggest you get Josh McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and read the chapters ‘The Historical Reliability of the New Testament’ and ‘Jesus, a Man of History’. Of course you should read some counter arguments, I’ve been looking into them. But there’s not much he doesn’t address in his book and cite some source for extra reading. What do YOU think?

Advertisements
  1. December 14, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    The fact that there are no contemporary sources that back up his existence seriously puts it into question.

    That being said, whether or not he existed isn’t really the issue. An itinerant preacher named Yeshua who ended up being killed may very well have existed. The question is whether or not that person had any sort of supernatural abilities. And textual/anecdotal evidence isn’t good enough to back that sort of thing up.

    • December 14, 2010 at 10:40 AM

      Hey thanks for the feedback. There’s actually a wealth of evidence out there from contemporary sources. As far as we have learned the gospels were written and widely circulated between 50 and 100 AD. That means that the gospels were actually written by eye witnesses and circulated to eye witnesses. The earliest fragment copies we have are from 114 AD. Complete books from 200 AD. Most of the NT from 250 AD and the complete NT from 325 AD. These copies number 5,366 that we know of. The copies of the NT existed in such great numbers, and we have copies written so soon after the originals we can know exactly what was in the original manuscripts. Also, within the first 300 years of second and third generation Christian writings the entire NT can be pieced together from quotations.
      This means that Jesus could not have been devised, or developed into legend. No first hand account over exaggerates, much less four (including Mark who wrote from Peter’s words and was not an eye witness to all of the events. Luke also was not eyewitness to everything.), and everyone who reads the accounts that was there at the events would have opportunity to say it didn’t happen that way.
      Archeological evidence has proved that the writings of the New Testament are flawless. Luke, who wrote both Luke and the Acts, is considered to be one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world. Also, a lot of political stuff was put into the mix. Names and actions of Jewish authorities were recorded, as well as Roman authorities. None of these have been proven false. The New Testament is flawless in the eyes of historical fact as far as we can test it. To dismiss what we cannot test is illogical. You have to ignore a mountain of evidence leaning only on the naturalistic premise that the supernatural is false. If that’s what your basing your ideas on, which I find most people who hold the opinion do, then you are ignoring the evidence.
      Thanks for taking time to read!

  2. December 14, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    “There’s actually a wealth of evidence out there from contemporary sources. As far as we have learned the gospels were written and widely circulated between 50 and 100 AD.”

    contemporary: happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time

    When did Jesus supposedly live? From around 1 AD to about 35 AD.

    When were the Gospels written? Between 50 AD and 100 AD.

    This is not contemporary.

    “That means that the gospels were actually written by eye witnesses and circulated to eye witnesses.”

    No it doesn’t. It means that the gospels might have been written by eye witnesses. It doesn’t prove it. It allows for it. There’s a difference.

    “This means that Jesus could not have been devised, or developed into legend.”

    Assuming he existed, 15 years is more than long enough for a legend to develop.

    “You have to ignore a mountain of evidence leaning only on the naturalistic premise that the supernatural is false.”

    Not at all.

    I ignore claims of the supernatural due to the fact there is no evidence beyond those claims that it exists. Once there is actually evidence for the supernatural I may start to take those claims seriously.

    I have eye-witnesses who will attest to you that they have been abducted by extraterrestrials. Do you believe them? If not, why not?

  3. December 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    My doubts about the historicity of Jesus arise because our earliest sources don’t give much evidence that Jesus was an actual historical person.

    Here are the problems: Paul didn’t know the historical Jesus personally; he doesn’t seem to know when or where the historical Jesus lived; he doesn’t seem to know when or where the historical Jesus died; he doesn’t indicate that he knows anything about the historical Jesus being a teacher; he doesn’t indicate that he knows anything about the historical Jesus working miracles; he doesn’t indicate that he knows anything about the historical Jesus having any sort of earthly ministry; he doesn’t indicate that the historical Jesus had followers; he doesn’t indicate that he knows anything at all about the historical Jesus prior to the night of his crucifixion; he doesn’t indicate that he ever heard anything from anyone who knew the historical Jesus personally; he doesn’t indicate that any of his contemporaries had any contact with the historical Jesus; he doesn’t indicate that any of his contemporaries had any contact with Jesus other than through appearances of the risen Christ; he doesn’t indicate that he knows anything about the historical Jesus or the risen Christ other than that which was directly revealed to him by God.

    The earliest epistles are concerned almost exclusively with an exalted divine being. They do suggest that this being was at one time a flesh and blood man who walked the earth, but they don’t provide any sort of details about this man that would lead me to believe that he was historical rather than legendary.

    I think any historical inquiry has to start with the earliest sources. In our earliest sources for Jesus, he looks more mythical than real to me.

    • December 14, 2010 at 12:13 PM

      Not A Scientist: to discount the evidence in the bible to not know for sure, you would have to discount the evidence of all ancient manuscripts to the point where you would have to admit they are unrecognizable to the originals, and the authorship is completely unknown. A contemporaries of Jesus would be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John- the people. Their writings would be considered contemporary.
      I am not making a case for the supernatural here. I am using the historical reliability of the New Testament scriptures as a starting point to show that Jesus was an historical person, and the gospels give an accurate account of his life (though you may still have trouble with the supernatural elements).
      If your eyewitness was abducted by extraterrestrials, and there were thousands of other eye witnesses of the things that happened and it could be shown to me the wealth of documented evidence and the likelihood that there authorship was authentic, and that those documents were circulated among eye witnesses as well as non-eye witnesses only to withstand scrutiny, then I would be faced with a decision. Choice 1) get a little uncomfortable and admit there is a possibility and continue to look into the evidence to see if it is accurate, even though it goes against what I would naturally presume. Choice 2) Ignore the evidence based on the ground that I do not believe and decide what I think of as truth based on feelings.
      Vinny, my first reaction to what you said of the Pauline Epistles would be that you have not read them for yourself. I won’t make that statement, because that would be unfair to you, who might have read them. It is apparent that Paul did know many of the apostles, he writes of them often, especially in Galatins where he talks about the early years of his conversion. It’s also recorded in Luke that he knew the apostles, and was familiar with the teachings of Christ, and his ministry, as he was persecuting the Christians. In fact, he could be said to be an expert on the subject since he looked into the claims and found it worthy of death to profess to be a follower of Christ. This penalty was based on the fact that Jesus claimed to be the son of God. Paul was very familiar with Jesus’s teaching, apostles, ministry, and death. He writes of them in his epistles. I’d be very happy to give you scripture that prove this, if you like.

  4. December 14, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    I assure you that I have read Paul’s letters for myself.

    Paul does write about some of the other apostles, however, he never says anything about them being Jesus’ disciples during his earthly ministry. Paul never says that he learned anything about Jesus’ teachings from them. In fact, he indicates the opposite in Galatians. Paul attributes his understanding of the gospel to the revelation he received from God, not to anything Jesus himself taught during his lifetime. As far as we know from Paul, the other apostles knew Jesus in the same way that Paul did, i.e., they witnessed appearances of the risen Christ.

    Acts does record that the men Paul knew were Jesus’ disciples during his earthly ministry, but Paul never tells us that they were. All we can tell from Paul is that these men believed in the same exalted divine being as Paul. Moreover, Acts is a later source. Our best and earliest source for what Paul knew is what he wrote himself.

    • December 14, 2010 at 1:45 PM

      Vin, I can see how you can get that interpretation about Paul not knowing the apostles to be Jesus’ disciples during his earthly ministry. However, there are many things you would know that Paul did write about that you said he didn’t. Why would you be so intentionally misleading?
      About Paul not demonstrating that Jesus’ disciples had any contact with him before the crucifixion and resurrection, that’s just a weird claim. What would be the importance of a man rising from the dead that no one cared about before hand. I get it, it’s not that no one cared, it’s that you’re doubting the legitimacy of such claims since the earliest sources don’t record the life of Jesus. It’s just an odd thing to talk about since Jesus was alive, and knew people, and when he was said to have rose went to go see those people, and spent forty days with numerous groups. Paul hung out with those people that were said to have witnessed him risen. And, everyone he wrote the epistles to had already had someone come and plant churches there founded on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s words hang on this foundation. So why would Paul relay a foundation? Also, two of the earliest books of the New Testament were Mark and Luke, written in the early 60s. Paul’s letters were written between 50 and 70 AD. So, there is a source that documents the life of Jesus and his relationship to the apostles.
      Quick definition of apostle that you might be interested in. The apostles were commissioned by Jesus directly, and that is where the word apostle is derived. To say “[name], an apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” is to in essence say, “These are the words of Jesus written down by [name]” Paul saying that they are apostles is saying that they were among him, by definition.
      Quick definition of disciple, follower. To be a disciple of Christ is to do what he did, and live by his teachings. You cannot do what he did, and live by his teachings if you do not know what he did or taught. The 12 apostles, and first generation disciples were among him.

  5. December 14, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    “A contemporaries of Jesus would be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John- the people. Their writings would be considered contemporary.”

    The writings would be considered contemporary if the writings were contemporary. I’m sorry, but writing 15 years or more after the man is dead isn’t contemporary.

    “you would have to discount the evidence of all ancient manuscripts to the point where you would have to admit they are unrecognizable to the originals”

    I do discount them when the actions of the characters in the manuscripts don’t effect the wider world or the point of the manuscripts is only to verify someone’s existence.

    “If your eyewitness was abducted by extraterrestrials, and there were thousands of other eye witnesses of the things that happened and it could be shown to me the wealth of documented evidence and the likelihood that there authorship was authentic, and that those documents were circulated among eye witnesses as well as non-eye witnesses only to withstand scrutiny, then I would be faced with a decision. ”

    Incorrect.
    If someone wrote today that someone else was abducted in 1995, and a whole bunch of other nameless people witnessed it, but none of them or the abductee actually wrote about it and the author didn’t get around to putting it on paper until 15 years later, then you’d be faced with a decision.

    “Choice 1) get a little uncomfortable and admit there is a possibility and continue to look into the evidence to see if it is accurate, even though it goes against what I would naturally presume. Choice 2) Ignore the evidence based on the ground that I do not believe and decide what I think of as truth based on feelings.”

    This is what’s known as a false dichotomy.

    Choice 3: look for actual evidence beyond a person saying they experienced something. If they can provide none, certainly investigate, but do not take the claim seriously until they provide that evidence.

    • December 14, 2010 at 1:57 PM

      NASC, you said, “I do discount them when the actions of the characters in the manuscripts don’t effect the wider world or the point of the manuscripts is only to verify someone’s existence”
      What does that mean? You only don’t discount ancient manuscripts if the actions of the characters affect the wider world? Ot if they’re not only to verify someone’s life? I’m confused at how the content in the way you describe is relevant to the original authorship of a document, or why it would serve as proof.

      Back to the abductee thing, you’re missing something vital. Those were not a silent 15 years. During that time many people went all over the world, even to ethiopia, and India preaching the gospel of Christ. Also, it is not proven false that it could have been written even earlier. Even right after the events took place. There is simply not evidence that it was. But we can get evidence to say it was written 15 years after, and if eyewitnesses all agree that’s one thing. If there is serious dispute among them it would crush the document.
      I’m very interested in my flaw of the choices I gave you, so can you please explain how that is a false dichotomy?
      Explain choice 3 for me as well. What evidence would you be looking for? Possibly a book recording the events, archeological evidence that supports the text, agreement of cultures and writings around the area concerning the documents in question. What would you want as evidence.
      Also, the burden of proof does work two ways. You must have equal reasons why Jesus didn’t exist other than a ‘lack of evidence’ or you’re left with an a-theos of the gaps.

  6. December 14, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    As I understand it, the only letter Paul wrote to a church that he had not founded was Romans. Whatever foundation the other churches had, they got from Paul.

    For Paul, it is the death and resurrection of Christ that has significance. Paul doesn’t seem to care about anything that Jesus said or did prior to the instituting the Eucharistic meal on the night before he was crucified. Moreover, Paul doesn’t claim that he learned about that from anyone who was there. Rather, he says that he received it from the Lord.

    Nothing in Paul tells us when or where Jesus lived or what he did during his life. For all we know from Paul, Jesus could have lived, died and been raised two centuries earlier in Egypt and only started making appearances during Paul’s lifetime. I am not claiming that I think this is what Paul believed. I am just saying Paul tells us almost nothing about what he believed regarding the historical Jesus.

    Paul claims to be an apostle by virtue of having seen the risen Christ. As far as we can tell, that is how he thought others became apostles as well. Paul never refers to anyone as a “disciple” nor does he ever say that Jesus had disciples. In fact, as far as I know, none of the New Testament epistles ever use the word “disciple.”

    Most of Paul’s letters were thought to be written during the 50’s and most scholars would put Luke-Acts after 70 A.D. Only a few scholars would date any of the gospels prior to Paul’s letters.

    Please tell me where Paul wrote about something that I have said he did not write about. It is certainly possible that I have missed something. When I speak of what Paul wrote, I am generally referring to the seven undisputed Pauline epistle. I will admit that the pastorals reflect greater knowledge of the historical Jesus.

    • December 14, 2010 at 10:35 PM

      Vinny, I must apologize. You are right! The term apostles is never used in any of the epistles. Also, many of the things you said Paul did not demonstrate in his writings turned out to be accurate as well. Good job on having that one down, and thanks for sharing, I’d never though of it quite like that.
      However, like you said, this does not demonstrate Paul was ignorant of those things, but rather that they were of no consequence to the epistles. There are also a lot of things that can be inferred through common sense.
      Let’s start with a verse from Galatians. “I saw none of the other apostles-only James, the Lord’s brother” (1:19). Here he puts a brother of a man within the same lifetime of himself. We know from this that Paul was aware of what generation Jesus’ life took place. It also tells us that he was with the apostles. If you read the verse before you’ll find that he met with Peter. You said that these men could have become apostles in the same way as Paul, seeing the risen Christ. Well, either he knew people who saw the risen Christ, or knew people who saw Christ before the cross (because of the gospels we know it was both). You claimed that there was no record in Paul’s writings of either. Later in chapter 2 Paul writes of meeting with Peter, James, and John.
      At this point I think you’re right in saying that Paul does demonstrate that he knew of Jesus working miracles, being a teacher, having a following, the place of his death, of having an earthly ministry. Those can all be inferred based on his belief in Jesus, other points of his writings, and the claims of the people he agreed with.
      I agree that the death and resurrection of Christ is the most significant to Paul, and to myself as well. He was not introducing the idea of Jesus to people, so why would write as if he were?
      He often used the term brothers, sisters, believers, and followers in place of disciples. I have a theory on that one. Disciples were people who followed rabbis in the Jewish culture of the time. Paul was not writing to Jewish cultures, but mostly to Gentiles, so why would he use predominantly Jewishy words? Just a thought. Also, being a scholar of the Jewish law he might have felt the term to be incorrect since they could not literally follow behind Jesus anymore.
      So that’s a look at Paul’s letters. You are definitely right about the silence on some of those, or the not-blatantly stated stuff I had to infer from James being his brother. Paul undoubtedly did know all of those things being the chief persecutor of the followers of Christ and growing up while all of his ministry was going on, and then befriending eyewitnesses of the pre-crucified as well as post-crucified Jesus. But thanks for pointing that out, I never would have thought to care to look into that if not for you, Vinny. Sincerely thanks a lot.

  7. December 16, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    There are many possible reasons why the historical details of Jesus life don’t come up in the earliest epistles. Most of them boil down to the idea that these details were not relevant to the issues that Paul was addressing. However, one possible explanation is that Paul did not think of Jesus as the first century miracle working Rabbi described in the gospels. According to this hypothesis, Paul’s message was based entirely on an exalted divine being whose pre-crucifixion activities, including when and where he lived, were indeterminate, and the gospels were later attempts to historicize an essentially mythical or legendary character.

    I don’t find this explanation completely convincing. On the other hand, I don’t find any of the explanations for Paul’s silence about the historical Jesus terribly convincing either. I have yet to see a theory about the historical Jesus than doesn’t leave many questions unanswered. Personally, I am doubtful that our sources are good enough to allow the historian to do anything more than posit a range of possibilities which is bounded at one end by the possibility that the historical Jesus has been lost to us for all practical purposes.

    • December 18, 2010 at 1:33 AM

      Your first reason sounds pretty good. To my understanding Paul had personally visited each of the places he wrote to, excepting only Rome. He knew the gospel being preached there. He addresses the person of Jesus as if he were a real person, he addresses him as Lord. He also mentions those who were supposed to have known the pre-crucifixion Jesus personally, and addresses them as such. He even calls Peter, James, and John Pillars of the church. You also said that Paul might not have known many specific details of the life of Jesus. He would only know what the apostles revealed to him, or what he was told in his vision on his way to Damascus. And finally, concerning the issues he wrote on, primarily salvation not being for Jews alone, and the nature of how the law and Christ interact and compliment each other, Jesus’ pre-crucifixion life was not relevant.
      So we now have reasons for Paul’s silence on the issue.
      1. He knew first hand what the people of the cities knew about Jesus.
      2. He only was not an eye witness, and did not write as such.
      3. Jesus’ pre-crucifixion life was not relevant to his topics.

      “Paul did not think of Jesus as the first century miracle working Rabbi described in the gospels”
      There is no evidence for that. That is an argument from incredulity at it’s finest.

  8. December 18, 2010 at 2:22 AM

    Having reasons for Paul’s silence about the historical Jesus is not the same as having evidence that he knew about the historical Jesus. As I said, I don’t find the reasons terribly convincing.

    Paul dealt with many doctrinal conflicts in his letters without citing anything Jesus said or did during his life. What I find even more baffling is the fact that he never seems to be responding to anyone who is citing things that Jesus said or did. For example, in Galatians, Paul describes his disputes with those who sought to impose circumcision on Gentile converts. If these believers had in fact been followers of Jesus during his earthly ministry, they would have cited statements Jesus made about the law not passing away and they would have cited the fact that Jesus was a circumcised Jew. Even though Paul did not know Jesus personally, I think he would need to deal with the fact that the people on the other side of the argument had known Jesus during his earthly ministry.

    Paul also deals with various false teachers in his letters. I have to believe that many of these false teachers would have deliberately misinterpreted things that Jesus said or did and some of them would have invented teachings which they would have attributed to Jesus in order to bolster their heretical views. I think that questions about what Jesus really said or did and the meaning of what he said and did wouldn’t have come up frequently.

    The fact that Paul never mentions Jesus being a recently deceased miracle working teacher is certainly some evidence that he may not have believed it. I do not claim that it is conclusive proof, but the historical Jesus would have been very very important to early Christian communities, even for those that who had not known him personally. That the Jesus of the gospels is so conspicuously absent from Paul’s letters cannot be dismissed so casually.

    • December 20, 2010 at 5:37 AM

      I can see a strong point in that argument, sure. But it seems pretty weak. We know from the intent of Paul’s letters the historical Jesus wouldn’t have come up. There is a very small chance that it would if an eyewitness was lying about Jesus’ teachings and Paul was directly addressing that person and was aware of his specific slander. That doesn’t seem to be the case. He simply refutes salvation by law, but instead by grace alone. Does that mean the law can be dismissed as old news? Nope. But that’s not what we should worship. So if your penis isn’t chopped then no big deal, because penis chopping isn’t salvation. Jesus’ death and resurrection is. Do you see how this can become a big issue? I mean, if someone comes along and has a translation of the bible that no one else can read, but some believe, then they can make the bible say whatever they want. Then by following laws any believer can be manipulated into anything. Kind of like the Catholic church that only used Latin versions of the bible and created the idea of penance and last rites, and all kinds of other things people had to ‘do’ to be saved. Preventing those kinds of things was the point of most of Paul’s writings. Do you see how specific details of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion are completely irrelevant to the topics? Especially if they already knew, or at least already knew all that Paul knew?

  9. December 20, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    We know from the intent of Paul’s letters the historical Jesus wouldn’t have come up.

    All we know is that the historical Jesus didn’t come up. In order to know that the historical Jesus wouldn’t have come up, we would have to know everything that Paul knew about the historical Jesus and exactly what Paul thought his congregations knew. Only then could we say that nothing Paul knew would have been relevant to the controversies that he was addressing. Unfortunately, our starting point for what Paul knew has to be what he wrote and his letters don’t tell us what, if anything, he knew about the historical Jesus.

    From 2 Thessalonians 2:2, we know that there were people going around and claiming that Paul had written things that he hadn’t actually written and that Paul’s congregations were not always able to distinguish between his authentic teachings and inauthentic teachings that were attributed to him. For me, it strains credulity to suppose that people attributing teachings to Jesus wouldn’t have been a much bigger problem and that Paul’s congregations wouldn’t have had a bigger problem distinguishing inauthentic sayings of Jesus from inauthentic ones.

  10. December 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Before I wrote I am about to, I believe Jesus was a real person. However, who he was is a whole nother question altogether.

    (a) The gospels are ‘narratives’ and are written with a certain bias/reason in mind. This does not make them history books, they are historical documents, but rather a type of pseudo-history weaved with story into it (for the purpose of making a point). They are gospel accounts, not histories.

    (b) We know Jesus was Jewish, no story with him in it percieve him otherwise. Yet he is surrounded in the gospel accounts with many non Jewish elements within the stories – seemingly based on the mythical accounts of the gods of the Gentiles. Jesus has a virgin birth for example (not a Jewish belief). Jesus is literal son of God – like the Ceaser (ie: Roman idea). Jesus also part of the Trinity, an idea that has absolutely no basis in Judaism – but seems to be borrowed from Gentile pantheons which could lend themselves to this idea. Atonement is also quite in question, Judaism never allows for a ‘human sacrifice’.

    Combining both the need to cater to the Gentile crowds during expansion of Christianity and the use of the gospel to develop teachings, one could see how elaboration on the Jewish Jesus to more Gentile friendly one could happen.

    One needs to remember these books/gospels did not actually get written until maybe as late as the 70’s. In that time frame many elaborations could’ve happened – not neccesarily bad – but for a variety of reasons to add to the story.

    For example, I am pretty sure Jesus was not born of a virgin…the story seems like a clear addition. Mark does not have the story and see’s no need for it. However, by most scholars – Mark was first gospel to be written. Why does Mark ignore such a crucial piece of the story? Paul never mentions this one iota…like he had never heard of it. Neither do any of the letters – most of which are first to be written in the whole NT (namely Paul’s letters). Strange?

    However, upon even closer inspection of the interpretation for the virgin birth it become clear it is a ‘mis-interpretation’ by someone non-Jewish. The text likely used was a greek translation of Isaiah – which was likely Hebrew or Aramaic prior to translation to Greek. The error can only be found in the Greek and not in Hebrew. In hebrew it is ‘young girl’, not ‘virgin’. However, the interpretation would’ve spoke volumnes to someone that was Gentile and knew all the mythic god stories from their own culture about the specialness of a virgin birth.

    The term messiah (greek = Christ) is of special importance in this search for the real Jesus as well. One must compare historical messianic beliefs with those in the NT to see if they match – and if they don’t – why don’t they? I am always looking into this topic and I am coming to find, like many other writers, maybe the Gentile Christ and the Jewish Messiah had quite different qualities or much was added on top. And we can strip away those layers even based on current Judaic beliefs about the messiah – since they are a religion like ourselves – have kept a history of such theology.

    I have come to believe Jesus was real, he was Jewish, and I do believe he was the ‘messiah’. However, I have also come to believe Christianity is really playing some miraculous interpretation tricks with their beliefs about this same character and what he means in the NT.

    • December 25, 2010 at 5:35 AM

      Thanks for the contribution SVS.
      I am a little familiar with the word you’re referring to in the passage of Isaiah concerning the virgin birth. I do believe that ‘young girl’ is held with the strong connotation of being a virgin. I’ll have to look into that again because I’m not sure on the exact way that it was explained.
      To “compare the historical messianic beliefs with those in the NT” is an interesting thing to propose. I agree that it must be done, but done carefully. The Jewish society at the time was based around those messianic beliefs. It’s what they were taught growing up and was the esteemed profession to become a teacher of the law. According to the gospels of the NT they had it wrong in a lot of ways. You must compare, yeah, but always in light of the NT interpretation.

  11. January 4, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    “According to the gospels of the NT they had it wrong in a lot of ways. You must compare, yeah, but always in light of the NT interpretation” (Carly Jo)

    Wrong? If they had it wrong how can we be sure we have it right? We are basing our gospels on the Tanakh texts – not vice versa.

    To compare in light of the NT interpretation as alwats being right is – well arrogant? It’s like saying the latest version always is a better re-write of the earlier version – since it has new additions! If this is the case then Mormonism and Islam need to be given more serious consideration.

    You see the key thing here is ‘historical study’ – inside and outside of the NT texts. Things we know:

    Jesus was Jewish and so were all of his early disciples – therefore what religion were they following?

    In Acts 15 we see Peter, James, and John hanging out with the Pharisee’s and leaders in Judaism – why exactly? In fact, in that story the Pharisee’s help rule on what Paul is doing in Gentile territories. This was some years ater Jesus’ death and we find these same core disciples following what seems to be early Judaism.

    Paul has a mission into Gentile territories – many places in various regions (according to his letters). We know Paul used the local beliefs to help interpret his message – from Acts. The unknown God story is a great example of this. Paul seemed to understand the idea of making Christianity relevant via the iconagraphy around him to get the point home.

    Paul dies at some point and his communities continue. These are clearly seperated from Judaism – according to Paul’s own letters. They would have had no access to Jewish texts and the original teachings behind them. So when the stories they use need a common interpretation they ‘borrow’ from their own cultures (what they know personally) to make the relevant points they need to.

    These stories appear in the later versions of the gospels – again written by 70 AD and after – no original disciple could of proof-read the additions to advocate for what was or was not original in nature.

    By about the time Paul left for his missionary journies there was already a power-play set in motion for the heart of the Christian mentality. Read Paul and it’s all clearly there – in Acts (written by Luke – a Gentile) and within his own letters. Paul, who was never an apostle according to the community in Jerusalem, becomes one – the most important one in fact. Self-appointed albeit – but his mission and his ideas become the cornerstone for later Christianity in centuries after.

    If one thing is clear it is this – there was a Jewish Jesus with Jewish disciples that started this movement. Paul continued it and I believe was strongly misinterpreted in Gentile communities about ideas (from Judaism) that these Gentiles would have had little access to (for corrections and mistakes).

    But we live in quite the freedom of information age – so it’s weird to imagine someone not having access to what we do – biblically and historically. But with this knowledge comes a responsibility concerning those texts to get at what is being meant. In the end, it’s the study of the Tanakh that will enlighten our own texts – not vice versa.

  12. January 4, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Society

    It looks like we are still disagreeing here. I don’t see it as one giant Gentile conspiracy.

    The virgin birth was Jewish in nature and that was one of the reasons why Matthew was referencing it. Yes, the septuigint did change the wording to virgin from young girl/woman, but the Septuagint was widely used by the Jewish community at that time. It wasn’t until after the death of Christ and the rise of Christianity that the Jewish leaders went back to the original Hebrew. Don’t dismiss is just because it is used as a talking point now.

    I will grant you that Judaism does not hold to a Trinitarian view of God, but Christianity holds that the trinity is still one God not many. How many names for God are there in Judaism? Eight I believe. Doesn’t each one communicate a different perspective or nature of the one God? So many names for one God, but no one questions that He is one. Yeshua is the saving and atoning nature of God. Still one God though.

    Abram was going to make a human sacrifice though. Isn’t he seen as the father of Judaism? Isn’t it his covenant that the Jews cling to? Human sacrifice was not allowed under the Mosaic covenant, but that is the covenant that was formed after the Jews told God they wanted rules to follow so they could be righteous. Besides, what human would be holy enough or sin free enough to be acceptable as a sacrifice?

  13. January 5, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    “The virgin birth was Jewish in nature and that was one of the reasons why Matthew was referencing it” (Xander)

    Prove it. If this statement holds any water some rabbi or even Jewish philsopher would of mentioned it. Even Jesus does not mention the idea when referencing himself – and Paul as well does the same thing. That would be an easy call to the greatness of Jesus yet Paul and Jesus forget to mention it.

    I would have to contend this idea was not found in Jewish theology – not even in that time.

    “So many names for one God, but no one questions that He is one” (Xander)

    True, but how many names do you have? Father, son, brother, husband, manager, etc. No one doubts you’re the same person in all of those roles though? But does that make you more than one person? And if you had a son (maybe you do right now) does that son make him you?

    “Human sacrifice was not allowed under the Mosaic covenant, but that is the covenant that was formed after the Jews told God they wanted rules to follow so they could be righteous.” (Xander)

    One small problem with that line of thinking, Genesis is the first book of Torah (5 books which include the law). The Jews would have seen Abram as a predecessor of the law to which God had called him to…thus within the same Torah Law. Had Abram made that sacrifice – we wouldn’t be talking about him as the father of the Jewish people. Or why did God supply a ram?

    “Besides, what human would be holy enough or sin free enough to be acceptable as a sacrifice?” (Xander)

    Good point, none. I would contend the sacrifice Jesus made was of his life, but not in the same regards as atonement per blood (since this was not permissable in his own faith – he would of been breaking the law of God – not fulfilling it). However, his sacrifice was of giving his life (age 33 maybe) for the sake of his faith – like believing something up until and after one’s death – having that kind of faith in God.

  14. January 6, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    Matthew was most likely referencing the Septuagint which was translated by Jews from Hebrew/Aramaic into Greek. No Gentile plot to change the meaning from young woman to virgin. The Septuagint was wildly used by Greek speaking Jews until the 2nd century when Judaism wanted to separate itself from the book that Christianity was using. Given that the Greek translation of almah was taken to mean virgin at that time by the Jewish translators seems indicate that the was the accepted meaning. No reports from Jewish leaders until hundreds of years later to say that the translation was wrong. Regardless, it was translated by Jews this way and that was what Matthew would have been appealing to. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God. Paul referred to him as the Son of God. Mary was alive at that time and could have easily been asked, who was his father. Wouldn’t that have been the quickest way to discount his teachings?

    True, those are roles I play but I am still just one. Jesus is just God. As is the Father and the Holy Spirit. One God with many roles.

    If Jews see Abraham as under the Torah law then they have issues. He married his sister and had off spring. God asked Abraham to make a sacrifice of the most important and valuable thing he had and he was willing to do it, but God said no and provided his own sacrifice. It shows a merciful side to God, but further shows that Isaac was not a worthy sacrifice. Nothing that Abraham could provide would be a worthy sacrifice. We don’t see God implementing a sacrificial system until the Jews stood up and said they wanted to operate under works to be worthy. So every year they had to sacrifice something as the sacrifice was not worthy and able to cover sin for all times. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice supplied by God for mankind. Plus, it really isn’t against the Law. You cant burn a child to God nor sacrifice a child to Molech, but nothing about crucifying.

  15. January 6, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    “Matthew was most likely referencing the Septuagint which was translated by Jews from Hebrew/Aramaic into Greek” (Xander)

    Jews did translate the Tanakh into Greek – that’s a fact. Do you know why they did? Regardless, even with the translation we know without a shadow of a doubt something gets lost in the translation from language to langauge – isn’t this what seminary teachers tell us in Greek translation classes?

    What seems to have gotten lost in the translation was that in Hebrew the word meant young woman point blank. Virgin would of required it to be another word altogether or at least with an additional adjective…which is not the case in the Hebrew. Just saying is all.

    It’s the same in English. If someone told you a young woman had a baby – we might not bat an eyelash. If someone told you a young virgin woman had a baby we might start asking questions. Key thing in those sentences – addition of letters to change the meaning. In the Hebrew the Jewish people are pretty sure that word means virgin (almah) since it is nowhere else used in such a manner. Or else if we find ‘alma’ again in Hebrew we should assume the context means ‘virgin’. Let it be noted, ‘almah’ does appear in other places in the Hebrew text. Betultah is the hebrew word for ‘virgin’.

    http://www.outreachjudaism.org/alma.htm – here’s a good link by Rabi Tovia Singer on the very term ‘almah’ for ‘virgin’.

  16. January 6, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    “Regardless, it was translated by Jews this way and that was what Matthew would have been appealing to” (Xander)

    It was translated from Hebrew to Greek remember – not to english. Can we be sure that the Greek translation in the Septuagint of virgin did not mean ‘young woman’ in that time period? Maybe the term was used because there was no proper fit to the Hebrew to adequately represent ‘young woman’ in the sense it was meant in the Hebrew (young woman in the sense of prior to marriage).

    I know it seems rather redundant but context is everything here – namely when it comes to translating languages to other languages. For example, in the Greek there is 3 terms for love in the NT that cannot be adequately encapsulated in English – so we just use the generic term ‘love’ as a ‘catch all’. We can freely admit there is no adequate term for the 3 Greek phrases for love so we water them all down for the use of the generic term – love. However ‘eros’ is a type of sensual love – intimacy. Then there’s agape and philia.

    However, we know we are losing something in the translation of those 3 terms for love with just using ‘love’. In the same way ‘virgin’ could of been used for young woman in greek…to signify ‘young woman’ in Hebrew – not having an exact equivalent. Fast forward from when the Septuagint was written to the early Christian writers and we may have some confusion from the textual writers using the Greek but now knowing the term ‘almah’.

  17. January 6, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    “Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God. Paul referred to him as the Son of God” (Xander)

    The Greek does not use capitals so how can we be sure the term ‘son of God’ is literal and not just a term. Many people were called sons of God – including Israel and Moses. Jesus was an Israelite and Matthew does paint him in a Moses type light – the term would be allegorically fitting and even literal (he was an Israelite).

    But the idea God has a son, well that’s nowehere in Jewish literature as common belief about messiah – prior or after Jesus. I believe Jesus was the son of God, I also believe Adam was though. Terminology is everything – and maybe – just maybe – the term son of God idea founded the virgin birth story and not vice versa.

    “Mary was alive at that time and could have easily been asked, who was his father. Wouldn’t that have been the quickest way to discount his teachings?” (Xander)

    Small problem, how many lines does Mary actually have in the gospel – excluding the virgin birth story in Matthew? They are sparse. In fact, Jesus denies this woman is even his mother. Should we take that literally too?

    “Jesus is just God.” (Xander)

    And that’s the problem, he’s actually not. Jesus is the ‘son’ of God. There is a huge difference…just like you and your son.

  18. January 6, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I have read that explanation before and I can see the argument in it.

    Check out this link as a counter point to the Rabbi’s claims.

    http://www.seedofabraham.net/virgin.html

  19. January 6, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    “If Jews see Abraham as under the Torah law then they have issues” (Xander)

    No one said Abraham was perfect. David was the best king and we know what he did. Moses was a patriarch type figure that recieved the law from the very fingertips of God, yet no promised land for him. Abe had faults, true, and many of them…but does this discount him from the law?

    “Nothing that Abraham could provide would be a worthy sacrifice.” (Xander)

    Then why sacrifice the ram at all? I mean, nothing Abram could offer was going to be good enough – yet there’s that ram in the thicket.

    “We don’t see God implementing a sacrificial system until the Jews stood up and said they wanted to operate under works to be worthy” (Xander)

    Selective reading? Abe just sacrificed a Ram. In fact all the patriarchs including Adam’s sons sacrificed to God. So how is it that the Jews wanted to operate under the law of sacrifice when it was occuring way prior to Moses (if we use the lineage idea)?

    Regardless of that idea, wouldn’t sacrifice of your first born – if Abraham’s son was most important and the best he could offer – be something more people should have done then? Adam should of offered Abel instead of letting Cain kill him.

    Maybe the point of Abe’s offering was that the lineage had to go on and God would never kill it (ie: Israel). God would never step in it’s way to kill it. God would only supplement it and help them. This is not to say that humanity would not try to kill it (ie: Abraham could of killed Isaac – the father of Israel).

    “Jesus is the perfect sacrifice supplied by God for mankind. Plus, it really isn’t against the Law.” (Xander)

    Now this is pure semantics. So I can kill my firstborn for God if I don’t burn him or offer him to the fires of Molech? I know I don’t need to because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, but what about those that don’t believe in Jesus and sacrifice their first born son to God? Sin, no sin?

    The problem with your semantics is – murder. To sacrifice a human is murder, to take one’s own life is like murder. To kill a ram is supper.

    As for Jesus, he’s God? Are we saying God sacrificed Himself for humanity? God allowed Himself to die? So Nietzsche is correct ‘God can die’? Can your God die Xander? I thought texts of Tanakh were clear on this issue – God cannot die – He is not a human that He is subject to such things. Plus, who ran the world when God died?

  20. January 6, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    “Check out this link as a counter point to the Rabbi’s claims” (Xander)

    I want to address this article and show I am taking this with some consideration. So here I go.

    (1) I definitely concede the idea of ‘closed wombs’ and that being apparent within the Tanakh (namely the Torah stories). There definitely is a tradition of this story existing. One minor problem. In each of the ‘opened womb’ stories God allows a child to be created…are they now literal ‘sons of God’? Should I now consider Isaac in the same category of Jesus – they came about the same way?

    (2) For the ‘almah’ argument – I have addressed this above in a few comments. The strongest being lingusitically was there an equal for ‘young girl’ within contemporary Greek? Or was this translated that way based on convenience – like Greek words for love into English?

    (2a) From Singer’s link (one I provided) how come Isaiah uses ‘alma’ in Isaiah 7:14 (young woman or virgin) and uses the actual term for virgin (betulah) 5 times in Isaiah in other places. Why that kind of inconcictency on Isaiah’s part? Why not use ‘betulah’ in Isaiah 7:14 and save me all this typing?

    (3) Isaiah 7:14 in context

    “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin (or young woman) will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

    If this is Jesus, where’s the curds and honey part in the virgin birth stories? What about the 2 kings…who are they? If I recall, Jewish people were still under Roman control (ie: land) during the whole mission of Jesus and quite beyond. No land was forsaken, no eating that meal is mentioned, and no need for a virgin birth in regards to context.

    (4) The argument for ‘almah’ meaning ‘virgin’ within the short essay is quite wanting. There is no way they can make the jump they do based on the examples they give. They can assume a young woman would be a virgin, and I think that is a fair assumption to make, but they cannot outright say that when there is a Hebraic word for that same term (namely in Isaiah).

    Just because I call someone a ‘young woman’ does not mean that I assume to use ‘virgin’ as it’s equal counter-part – specifically if I know the term for ‘virgin’ and ignore to use it.

  21. January 11, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    Hey Society and Xander, sorry I’m late in replying. As for the virgin birth I have an idea that will easily clear this matter up. Why don’t we all get our our concordances and look up the word used for ‘young girl’ or ‘virgin’ in Isaiah 7:14. I do believe that is the passage in question: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin [or young girl] may conceive and bear a Son, and sahll call His name Immanuel.” We will look at other scriptures in the Old Testament that use the word see how it is used and if it makes sense to say the word is used close enough to virgin to have virgin as a possible translation. Also, just a side note, it would be a pretty stupid sign for somone to have a son as a young girl. Virgin makes more sense in the context. Anyway, I have not yet done this test, but I will, I hope you do too Society and Xander. We can compare results.
    On the subject of Abraham’s sacrifice I will point you to an older blog I wrote on the topic https://carlyjo02.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/genesis-abrahams-sacrifice-nt-jesus-is-lord/
    To sum it up, I disagreee that God waited until Israel asked for a law that child sacrifice was not allowed. It is clear that God was teaching that lesson to Abraham at that moment. Abraham came from Sumeria where child sacrifice was not uncommon, and did not have a strict moral against it. God was teaching him. Read the blog if you want to go in depth a little more.
    I’m also a big far on Ontological arguments concerning God. It’s my favorite, actually. The word one used to describe God is the same word that is used to say in marriage the two become one. It’s a one in essense not in physical being. Also there is a strange plurality used concerning God in the Old Testament. The creation story is an obvious one where God is referred to as multiple. This idea is also found in the idea of Israel. Israel was a person yes, but his name was leant to all of the offspring. When Mary says in Luke 1:54 “He has helpe d his servant Israel” she uses name referring to all of Israel offspring. One name referring to a plurality. In the same way we praise God, one name referring to a plurality. Furthermore, Xander, there is an inconsistency between Jesus’ life and the idea of him just playing a role of God without being seperate from the Father. He prays in John 17 “not my will, but yours be done.” He mentions a difference of will, the temptation of the flesh, and not to give into that temptation but to act according to one spirit with the Father’s will. Also just before that Jesus says something like, it is good that I go so that the spirit will come to you. That makes no sesne if the Spirit is the same as Jesus just in a different role.
    Society, the Jews did recoginize a difference in the way Jesus calls himself God. John 5:18 “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” The Jews understood what Jesus was implying, and when Paul said Jesus was the son of God he meant it the same way.

  22. January 14, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I studied the virgin birth idea and wrote a new blog about it.
    here ya go guys!
    https://carlyjo02.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/virgin-mary-really/

  1. January 4, 2011 at 1:21 PM
  2. January 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: