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Jesus In The Nt


thormas
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This part, Paul, was never my experience and I'm sorry it was yours and too many others: "there was harm done to me and many others when indoctrinating young children with this message and I hate that such continues on in the world today. Even if such people are well intended promoting their misguided beliefs, the harm is being done. I've unraveled that mess for me as an adult, but I know many haven't and a cursory search will show us how many people commit suicide because of this teaching. That's why I wish Christianity by and large was taken much more lightly. I think the world would be a better place."

One of my best friends was raise by his Polish grandmother and aunt and he got the 'old time Catholic version of Christianity' and it really screwed him up. They didn't know any better, they did their best, they did what they thought was right but the impact on him is still evident in his 60s. I am not whitewashing the sins of Christianity or some Christians, I am merely saying that great strides have been and are being made - now if only the new found knowledge and wisdom can be given to the everyday Christians, the we have something. My reaction is, never having been one of those (and never really knowing any of those kinds of) Christians and having studied and still studying the great insights of how things should be understood, I react to the idea that the 'bulk of Christians"- the bulk of us - are like this.

Three quick points:

1. There has been a 'softening' and much more not only because we have "developed and realized the lack of compassion that would have to exist for such an abomination to be part of the plan from an all-loving God" but because we also know more about the bible now than those living in the previous 1500 or so years.

 

2. As for history and the existence of the man Jesus, it is not about proof beyond a reasonable doubt but the weight of historical evidence - one way or the other. If someone believed that Custer and his men all died together on top of the same hill in a tight circle, that's there opinion - however, the evidence does not lean to that conclusion. So too, the weight of evidence leans toward the existence of the man Jesus: as you say, "at best I would say that on the balance of probabilities a person named Jesus, who stirred some passion amongst people 2000 years ago in rural Palestine, is likely." What people believe or don't believe about this man is a completely different matter and we soon get to belief statements.

 

3. Regarding the resurrection: history happens when we are part of it, walking and talking and living and death is also an historical event. However, 'after death' technically (for lack of a better word right now) is not a historical event, it is not something that historians can make a judgment on. So too, if resurrection is something that supposedly happened after death - as such, it is not an 'event of history.' What is historical is the 'reaction and reporting of Resurrection and the movement called Christianity that occurred in history. Given all this, I know that many Christians classify resurrection as a historical event - but this is not accurate and not what a historian, one who examines historical events, would say. Many Christians do believe in a 'physical' resurrection however it too often comes off as a resuscitation which is different. The gospel stories, as they stretch human language to try to capture whatever their experience was, don't describe it as only physical (and this to try to show it was real), they also describe the Resurrected Jesus as appearing when doors are closed, disappearing, not being recognized by friends, rising in the air (the heavens) - not things a mere physical resuscitated body can do.

Edited by thormas
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Thormas,

 

I slowly found out as an adult that there were people who called themselves Christians that didn't take the bible as literally as the denomination that I grew up in - I was gobsmacked that they existed! They certainly weren't in the saved category and "they will find out one day" my Mother would say! :)

 

I think Christianity may well have been a blessing if I had experienced a different version of it and certainly there is a 'softening' going on, however I do still think it is probably more the norm than not for Christians to believe in a judging God prepared to sentence some of his flock to eternal damnation. I understand how somebody from your background could be a little ruffled by that comment in light of such teaching not being your common experience - I am sorry if I offended. To be fair, I have been away from any proper christian scene for a good 25-30 years, so I hope your experience is becoming the norm.

 

We do know a lot more about the bible today, however much biblical scholarship was known hundreds of years ago, yet not well known or made public. Certainly governments and churches have done their bit to keep the people in ignorance to a large degree, perhaps thinking that it was in the people's 'simple' best interests. However they don't call our time the 'Information Age' for nothing and our moden communications and access to the internet is seeing the lid blown off a lot of traditionally held understandings.

 

Concerning your 'weighting' for considering Jesus' existence, I think the historical evidence is slim at best. Sure, one can form an opinion that they think Jesus' existed, but just as easily the opposite view can be held because there simply isn't sufficient evidence to refute that latter view. But I think this argument could go on, and on, and on.... :)

 

Not that it's very important, but I don't agree with you that historians can't regard a man who died and came alive again, as a historical event. If such an event did occur then people of that time and location would have been a part of that man's life, or second life if that's what it is. If there was hard evidence that this had occurred then they could very easily make a judgement on it. They could very easily judge that on Friday this man Paul died, but on Monday he was back at his job and having a drink after work with his friends. He later went on to buy a house, marry, have children, and his grandson now lives just there and can tell you what he was like. That would absolutely be a historical event.

 

But I agree with you that it is also historical that people reacted and reported such an event - we just can't prove it historically occurred, today. Obviously neither of us need to lose too much sleep on this point though.

 

In essence, what I was trying to say at the beginning of my posts is that we really don't know the Jesus of the NT. We can make assumptions and be convinced of what 'evidence' is available, but none of us can really know the man or what he was about. Of course that doesn't stop anyone from believing what they say they do about him and being as certain as the next person with a different opinion.

 

That's why I remarked on Joseph's take on it - enjoy it for what it is and don't take it to heart if others don't agree. After all you may be wrong.

Edited by PaulS
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Hi Paul, in a way I have shared your own take on Christianity. Fortunately my own family history does not involve a host of "true believers" fussing over the state of my soul. It was just a case of Sunday School and "gentle Jesus meek and mild", a dad who had no belief at all and a mum whose beliefs were largely benign and well intended. Just thankful that they loved me and thus gave me a fine foundation for living my own life.

 

But then, vulnerable and virtually friendless in a new country (Australia), I had a scrap with a group of "born again" true blue believers. I myself was "born again" - or told myself I was - and for a few months was an active member of the congregation. Fortunately I managed to break away. But I see now, thinking back, that I picked up the idea that "true" Christianity, its core, was indeed such as the "born againers" claimed it was. If the Faith was taken seriously then yes, the Bible was the inerrant word of God, all to be taken literally, and there was a double destiny involved.

 

I see now that in a very real sense, such is a "modernism", a narrow way, born of the printing press and mass literacy. It is an irony that such a modernism looks to the words of the Bible to uphold its "truth" against what has always been a far wider and deeper Faith - that in the End Times false teachings will abound. Truly ironic. Again, I see now - at least, I think now - that this all rests on a confusion between "faith" and "belief". The Fundamentalists would have it that to take Christianity seriously is to BELIEVE ​seriously, to cling to a set of beliefs in defiance of all to the contrary.

 

Joseph made the point that - or at least implied it - that it is the transformative power of Christianity that is its heart. For me, to be transformed calls for a letting go of "belief" as such, and to open to pure grace - a grace that is found as the fabric of all reality, and not just as the message of a Holy Book to be believed in.

Edited by tariki
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Paul,

 

Thanks for the comments. It seems the Catholic experience was very different from some other Christian expressions: in Catholicism we had the Bible, so we had the Word but we were also 'people' of the sacraments. I'm not sure how to judge what is the 'norm' as I was working off your numbers. I just don't see a mentality that the other guys will burn - even living in the bible belt for the past 20+ years.

 

As for Jesus, I don't see the evidence as slim especially when one states the obvious (this would be street level evidence as opposed to a more sophisticated approach): that between almost immediately and a couple years (after the 'resurrection experience") a movement began in 'his' name, people suffered incredible hardship and many died, including some guys that knew the guy that might not have existed. Seems above and beyond to suffer and die for a guy that never existed and you would know he didn't exist because you were there. Then again, not sure, off the top of my head, about evidence for Socrates and never have researched the Buddha. Anyway......

 

That is the point about resurrection, there is no hard evidence because, if 'something' happened from Jesus' side, so to speak, it was outside history (which is between birth and death). What occurred, in history, occurred in the lives of the followers who said they had an 'experience.' Plus, it is not known whether the 'experience' was on the 3rd day of days. week, months later. There was no one back on the job, the 'reports' were of 'appearances - described as drastically different than ordinary existence. What you describe is a resuscitation not resurrection. Only the former is a historical event. You said: "......that it is also historical that people reacted and reported such an event..." Exactly, we can prove that they reported an event or experience, we can't prove what it was they experienced, saw, imagined or whatever. This is another one were we can go on and on........

I guess I disagree with a definitive statement that "we really don't know the Jesus of the NT." I have a higher level of confidence in the expertise and life long efforts of some biblical scholars and historians: there are assumptions but some assumptions are more reliable or have a firmer basis than others. However, in the end, the NT is not about the man, but about (in Christian belief) the 'Lord, the Resurrected One'' who can be known and impact one's life.

 

Never any problem if someone disagrees as long as it is thoughtful disagreement. And your's has been - thanks.

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Isn't it funny Thormas - my church was called the Church of Christ and we regarded Catholics as not true Christians because they idolized Mary and worshiped the Pope! Poor buggers - off to Hell for them! :)

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Paul,

 

Having been of the Pope cult, it is so odd to hear the view of other Christians concerning Catholics - especially since we always though we were right, after all we were just in line with the first 'pope,' Peter. And, of course, we thought God liked us better :-}

 

The saving grace is we are also exercise a good measure of independence, after all we are 'cafeteria' Catholics: we pick and choose what we want to follow yet still, in our view, remain good Catholics.

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Yeah, I don't think my mob went much for independence and they definitely didn't consider themselves cafeteria Christians. Of course they were 100% right also and in fact it was their denomination whom God liked best :rolleyes:

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Thormas,

 

I slowly found out as an adult that there were people who called themselves Christians that didn't take the bible as literally as the denomination that I grew up in - I was gobsmacked that they existed! They certainly weren't in the saved category and "they will find out one day" my Mother would say! :)

 

Thormas and Paul. In your experiences, do you find the majority of self described Christians believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin and was resurrected in a literal fashion? For many Christians this is an absolute minimal belief. Having said that for me the relevance historicity of Jesus becomes irrelevant. Did Socrates exist? Interesting debate but what is important (to me), the thoughts and ideas handed down in his name or is it his historicity?

 

I understand PCs are exempt from the requirement of these beliefs.

 

The question for me is not what Jesus or some ancient scribe meant in the Biblical text (though it is interesting and possibly relevant) but it is about how we should interpret it today and reconcile it in the light of two millennia of collective experience.

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Thormas and Paul. In your experiences, do you find the majority of self described Christians believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin and was resurrected in a literal fashion? For many Christians this is an absolute minimal belief. Having said that for me the relevance historicity of Jesus becomes irrelevant. Did Socrates exist? Interesting debate but what is important (to me), the thoughts and ideas handed down in his name or is it his historicity?

 

I understand PCs are exempt from the requirement of these beliefs.

 

The question for me is not what Jesus or some ancient scribe meant in the Biblical text (though it is interesting and possibly relevant) but it is about how we should interpret it today and reconcile it in the light of two millennia of collective experience.

 

In my experience I would definitely say yes - much like (as Thormas and I were discussing) they also believe in a literal Hell and eternal damnation for those who don't 'see the light'. But as read above, this isn't Thormas' experience.

 

I have no doubt a move is on and many are moving away from such literal interpretations and beliefs, but I would still argue that a majority, or at least a very high minority, hold those core beliefs - Jesus was a God come to earth (born of a virgin), that transcended what we call natural, that had to die as a sacrifice because we are sinners, and that if we don't believe this story then we will be separated from God for all eternity (separation or destruction at best, eternal punishment at worst).

 

As for Socrates - I don't understand the Christian defense of their beliefs by calling up Socrates as some sort of justification. I think when they do they totally miss the point that it doesn't matter if Socrates actually existed or not - it's the thought process and ideas attributed to him that live on. For me it doesn't matter if he existed or didn't. But the Jesus scenario is different for those Christians in my view because they are saying you must believe Jesus existed.

Edited by PaulS
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So Paul ... for me.

We can spend a lot of time interpreting the past texts in terms of today's understanding.

 

So depending on where we put our weight in "faith", the present or the past?

 

For the past forty five years I have lived my life without a need of religiosity. Even my life before that was a curious mix.

 

Today ...while definitely not religious in any of the worldly senses, I am in a semantic sense. One of the many etymologies of religion the meaning to reconnect. Now reconnect to what? To God, society, mankind, love? For me it is to the universe. We somehow see ourselves as separate. And yet we are not. We are part of the universe unfolding and indeed in some sense we do unfold the universe too.

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Sounds good to me, Rom. I sit in a similar place. I maybe think less of connecting with the entire universe and stay with the lower hanging fruit of connection with my species and sometimes with the other species on this planet, as well as the planet itself. Indeed, I think too we are part of the universe unfolding, a relatively insignificant part probably.

 

But perhaps I don't even see it as the need to 're'-connect, but just continue to be connected in different ways and at different levels. Sometimes that may require work, sometimes it just happens naturally and/or due to circumstances.

 

Certainly we can put a lot of time into 'interpreting' past texts and if that floats your boat, all power to you I say (unless it harmful to others). But at the end of the day, no matter what, all one has is an interpretation. I know many will argue for their interpretation though, of course.

 

I have wondered what it might be like to have grown up without religion, and certainly without the kind of Christianity I was indoctrinated into. Like any sort of belief system, it can bias your thinking, even without you knowing it. In some ways I find participating here much like therapy - even 30 years after I gave away following/believing in a son of of a God somewhere in another dimension.

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Thormas and Paul. In your experiences, do you find the majority of self described Christians believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin and was resurrected in a literal fashion? For many Christians this is an absolute minimal belief. Having said that for me the relevance historicity of Jesus becomes irrelevant. Did Socrates exist? Interesting debate but what is important (to me), the thoughts and ideas handed down in his name or is it his historicity?

 

I understand PCs are exempt from the requirement of these beliefs.

 

The question for me is not what Jesus or some ancient scribe meant in the Biblical text (though it is interesting and possibly relevant) but it is about how we should interpret it today and reconcile it in the light of two millennia of collective experience.

 

I don't really know how we would go about getting this information or how reliable polls are or would be (not sure people would answer or answer truthfully). I am originally from the northeast and now in the south but it is far from the traditional south: I don't know many people who hold to belief in a virgin birth - or even talk about it. This might go to the cafeteria Catholic/Christian phenomena I mentioned earlier. People go to church and/or consider themselves Christians but 'they' decide what is important. I don't think this one is high on the list or even thought about except when we get near to 12/25.

 

Resurrection is different: I think people have different takes on it but either believe it outright or believe that 'something' happened.

 

I take it by PC you mean progressive christians and all are entitled to their opinions. I guess one can call himself a Christian but if he denies that 'something happened' then it becomes an interesting discussion.

 

I guess I differ with you in that while I too think it is important how we interpret and reconcile it with our experience, I would (still) like to know, where possible, what was theological creativity and what seemingly traces back to the historical Jesus. Concerning, for example, heaven, hell and eternal damnation, I think the interpretation and reconciling Church beliefs with lived experience is already taking place: in spite of what comes from their religious leaders, people don't think/believe that the nice guy down the block, the charming couple next door, your kid's friend or your work partner are going to hell because they are not Christian.

Edited by thormas
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As for Socrates - I don't understand the Christian defense of their beliefs by calling up Socrates as some sort of justification. I think when they do they totally miss the point that it doesn't matter if Socrates actually existed or not - it's the thought process and ideas attributed to him that live on. For me it doesn't matter if he existed or didn't. But the Jesus scenario is different for those Christians in my view because they are saying you must believe Jesus existed.

Poor Socrates wasn't a justification, merely another example from antiquity.

 

I agree the priority is 'his' (or Plato's) thought process and ideas but some of us also want to know if this guy existed and what we can know, if anything, about him. I have not done such a study, so don't know about historical research into the man or evidence from contemporary sources.

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We can spend a lot of time interpreting the past texts in terms of today's understanding.

 

So depending on where we put our weight in "faith", the present or the past?

 

For the past forty five years I have lived my life without a need of religiosity. Even my life before that was a curious mix.

 

Today ...while definitely not religious in any of the worldly senses, I am in a semantic sense. One of the many etymologies of religion the meaning to reconnect. Now reconnect to what? To God, society, mankind, love? For me it is to the universe. We somehow see ourselves as separate. And yet we are not. We are part of the universe unfolding and indeed in some sense we do unfold the universe too.

So for me, it is not a choice between putting faith in the past or the present, there is a seamlessness.

 

I agree with the idea of connecting or reconnecting and as for what: God, society, mankind, love suits the bill for me. I agree, to use your terminology, we are part of the 'universe' unfolding and indeed in some sense we do unfold the universe. And, for the Christian, if Jesus is 'tied' to this unfolding - then there is the desire or need to better understand the past ...for the present.

Edited by thormas
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Poor Socrates wasn't a justification, merely another example from antiquity.

 

Yes, sorry Thormas, you weren't using Socrates as a justification, but your mention reminded me of an argument I have heard put forward by other Christians as evidence for the existence of Jesus, i.e. we don't question the existence of Socrates (or Plato, or Aristotle, etc) so subsequently we should accept the existence of Jesus. Of course the point missed is that It actually doesn't matter if those people actually lived or not (the thinking attributed to them speaks for itself usually). Whereas fundamental Christianity hinges on the very existence of Jesus. If he didn't actually exist, for them it all goes out the window.

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I would have to say all Christianity hinges on the existence of Jesus.

 

On the actual existence of Jesus or the teachings attributed to Jesus and the writings about that figure?

]

Even now, it is not an impediment to Christianity that the existence of Jesus cannot be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

I think there are people here that would call themselves Christian but for whom it doesn't matter whether Jesus actually lived or not.

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Yes Paul. There are "people here that would call themselves Christian but for whom it doesn't matter whether Jesus actually lived or not". Amen. :)

 

We can be followers of men or followers of that which is greater. Even Jesus is recorded as saying that the words he spoke (and for that matter the works he did) were not his own. To me , that would make his words and actions greater than the man.

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On the actual existence of Jesus or the teachings attributed to Jesus and the writings about that figure?

]

Even now, it is not an impediment to Christianity that the existence of Jesus cannot be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

I think there are people here that would call themselves Christian but for whom it doesn't matter whether Jesus actually lived or not.

I acknowledge that one can 'lift' a christian philosophy or a christian ethic out of the NT, have it resonate for them and live by its principles. Just like one can do the same with Jewish mysticism (doesn't Madonna do that with the Kabbalah?), Buddhism (some on this site), Taoism, etc.

 

I also agree that proving the existence of Jesus is not an impediment for Christianity - because it is not even an issue for the vast majority of Christians; it is neither a question or a concern. So too, his existence is accepted in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and other philosophies and one must assume by many/most agnostics or atheists for 'he' is often associated with the larger question of whom they don't know or doubt exists: God. Now some might doubt he exists but I have not found critical scholars or historians who seriously doubt the existence of the man - although some doubt and debate his significance or the theological statements/beliefs about him.

 

Christianity hinges on the teachings attributed to Jesus in that the expectation is that one will 'hear and accept the good news' and act on it: be Christ (like) in their world. And those teaching, in turn, are accepted as rooted in an actual man: Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Can one doubt the existence of Jesus and call themselves a Christian? Of course, one can call themselves anything. But Christianity, as a religion, that has called/invited others to accept the Good News (since the 'experience of the resurrection'), accepts that the one who it is based on was crucified and died under Pilate, Perfect of Judea within the Roman Empire in the early 30s CE: in other words, he existed!

 

I agree that it may not matter to some whether Jesus existed or not but it is a 'fact' of Christianity (and of history) that he did.

Edited by thormas
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Yes Paul. There are "people here that would call themselves Christian but for whom it doesn't matter whether Jesus actually lived or not". Amen. :)

 

We can be followers of men or followers of that which is greater. Even Jesus is recorded as saying that the words he spoke (and for that matter the works he did) were not his own. To me , that would make his words and actions greater than the man.

 

Can someone be called [or even is a] Christian even if that person has never heard of the concept, Christ or even Jesus?

 

So being Christian is it a set of beliefs or a set of visible actions? Some combination?

Edited by romansh
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