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You Know Things That God Himself Does Not

I mentioned in a previous post that with school out for the semester, I am catching up on my elective reading, especially theological essays. It strikes me, just how similar the tone is at times between the stridently religious and the stridently political, even when the authors are atheist or intensely secular. There is a habit in both groups to demand agreement and to launch invective at people expressing contrary opinions. Huh.

Anyway, reading through this stuff it hit me that doctrine and dogma are very often overstated, and the major lessons are sometimes missed. What's odd is that people so obviously familiar with Scripture, nonetheless miss the clear examples where God warns us not to become legalistic, to work to persuade through love rather than threats, to offer hope rather than contempt. Look at the lessons in the biblical book of Ruth, a Moabite woman through whom the lineage of King David runs. Look at the first Pharaoh in Genesis, the one who rose up Joseph to privilege and power through respect for his ability and integrity. Switching to the New Testament, many people vaguely recall the Roman Centurion whose faith was praised by Christ, but they forget that he was not only no Jew, there is no evidence that he became a formal disciple of Christ either. And then, of course, there is the loudest message - the one we know as the Good Samaritan. Jesus warned people many times that God looks at the heart, not the sign on the door - remember how he said that when a tax collector and a Pharisee both prayed to God, only the tax collector was reconciled, because he asked for mercy and was contrite, while the Pharisee was arrogant?

I am not saying that doctrine and dogma are not important in their own right, but we need to make sure we have our hearts right first. And nowhere is that more obvious, than when we consider the strange paradox that while God is omniscient and Man is not, we know things that God does not know!

Here's how that works: God is absolutely pure, and therefore no sinful man may enter into His presence. As a result, even the slightest sin is an eternal barrier between us, and so represents a formidable problem, which Christ resolved by taking the penalty unto Himself on our behalf. Therefore, promises the Lord, our sins are not merely forgiven as humans think of the word, but taken away as if they never were, so that they may not in any way be a barrier between God and the people He loves. If any of us were to see God in Heaven and mention our sins from the past, he would tell us frankly and honestly, 'I do not know what you mean. What sin?'

We, however, do remember our own sins (and many of us make a point to remember as many sins committed by other people as possible); even the Bible details sins by such heroes as David and Paul. I say 'heroes' not to excuse their sins, but to point out that those two are clear examples of men whose sins were forgiven, yet we also know, thousands of years later, what some of those sins were. As a result, we mortal humans actually know some things which God has denied to Himself. Oh, the logic of it makes sense to me, but it means that the Almighty has chosen to accept limited omniscience in order to be true to His word. The implications of that choice are frankly staggering, but also for another place and time.

For here, we humans might do well to ask ourselves whether our moral bearings are as true as we like to claim, and whether we ourselves might do well to put aside details and choose to see each other according to grace and hope rather than indictment and accusation.


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Comments (22)

"God is absolutely pure, an... (Below threshold)
Mike:

"God is absolutely pure, and therefore no sinful man may enter into His presence."

DJ, I'm curious how you would explain the life and deeds of Jesus Christ in light of this statement; that is, assuming that you believe that Christ was both fully human and fully Divine.

Arguing that "God" cannot allow Himself to be defiled by the presence of man in his natural state, but that "Jesus" somehow intercedes on our behalf and shields our sinfulness from "God" by eliminating it from His memory, seems to create a dualism between God and Jesus that I do not believe is supported by scripture.

Even if Moses was not prepared to behold God (Exodus 33), He forever changed the relational dynamic between mankind and Himself by revealing Himself in the form of Jesus Christ, who was fully Divine (e.g. uncorrupted by sin), yet dwelled among mankind and (as the Gospels tell us) even delighted in the company of "sinners."

but it means that ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
but it means that the Almighty has chosen to accept limited omniscience in order to be true to His word.

God is sovereign and so he can choose not to know some things and He can also choose not to seem sovereign in all things if it suites His purpose. The concept that God is both sovereign and has granted humans free will is a stumbling block for Calvinists. It's interesting how some believe God is sovereign and then insist that God can't do certain things because He's sovereign. They need to become like little children and trust that God is both sovereign and has granted humans free will. Why, because God what's children not robots.

God is absolutely ... (Below threshold)
God is absolutely pure, and therefore no sinful man may enter into His presence.

I find this statement curious. Is it that God is not allowed to be in the presence of sin or that God does not allow sin in his presence? If the former, is God bound by some higher law? If the latter, doesn't God forgive sin of those who ask? Why does Jesus need to be a buffer?

Ben

Great post. I'll take a sta... (Below threshold)

Great post. I'll take a stab...

Mike - the virgin birth is why there is no dualism. Jesus was not (earthly) born of a natural father, but rather was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was tempted in every way as a man, and suffered, but he was God's son, not Josephs son. So Jesus was more like Adam (created without the sin nature)than like any other man. Just as Adam was tempted, so was Jesus. Jesus never succumbed, therefore didn't sin.

Benjamin - God's inability to be in the presence of sin isn't a "law" he must follow, it's an element of His character. Darkness & light can't exist together because of the nature of what light is (not dark). On the cross Jesus cried,"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." That was the pivotal moment when He took our sin. The (completely just) Father must judge sin, even in His Son. He did it so that He (also completely merciful) could give us the opportunity to be in relationship with Him for eternity. We simply have to ask that Christ's "payment" be "credited to our account."

How'd I do DJ?

for those interested in the... (Below threshold)
peabody3000:

for those interested in the historical contexts of the bible and jesus, there is no independant record that any such things did occur or that the jesus character actually lived at all. the gospels etc were only committed to writing well over a hundred years after the time the new testement events are supposed to have occurred, and until then were basically campfire stories passed around through various retellings. there is a similar legend which pre-dates the jesus stories by some hundred years about another man who was of divine birth, performed miracles, and was ultimately crucified

God's inability to... (Below threshold)
God's inability to be in the presence of sin isn't a "law" he must follow, it's an element of His character.

I think I understand. God is like a light-bulb. The light is the opposite of darkness and can't exist simultaneously. Is that a correct analogy?

The (completely just) Father must judge sin, even in His Son. He did it so that He (also completely merciful) could give us the opportunity to be in relationship with Him for eternity. We simply have to ask that Christ's "payment" be "credited to our account."
Couldn't God just forgive us without going through Jesus? In other words, why did Jesus have to die in order for God to "give us credit"? Couldn't God just wipe clean the slate and say "believe in me, avoid sin as much as you can, and be truly remorseful for the sins you do commit"? I guess I'm trying to understand why Jesus is needed for God to forgive us.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.
I thought, according to John, his last words were "Father unto thy hands I command my spirit" (John 23:46). Your quote sounds like like hopeless, kind of like "why are you doing this to me"

Ben

peabody3000,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

peabody3000,

for those interested in the historical contexts of the bible and jesus, there is no independant record that any such things did occur or that the jesus character actually lived at all.

In fact Jesus is mentioned by Josephus Flavius, a first century Jew, Roman citizen, and advisor to the Roman general Vespasian. There are two versions of what Flavius wrote about Jesus. The least likely to have been tainted by Christains making copies is as follows:

"At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of the people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out."

the gospels etc were only committed to writing well over a hundred years after the time the new testement events are supposed to have occurred, and until then were basically campfire stories passed around through various retellings.

Many leaves of Papyri have been found that contain New Testament verses. The largest collection is known as the Chester Beatty collection, which was published in 1931 and is partly owned by the University of Michigan. You can view some of the collection on line. The oldest fragment in that collection contains John 18:31-33 on one side and John 18: 37-38 on the other. The fragment is dated to the first part of the 2nd century. This means that shortly after the Apostle John's death, the Gospel of John was in circulation in Egypt.

The oldest known papyri fragment also contains verses from the Gospel of John and it was featured on the cover of Time Magazine back in the 90's. That Papyri fragment was dated to the 1st Century, which proves that at least the Gospel of John was in circulation in Egypt during the Apostle John's lifetime.

The theory you repeated about NT being passed down verbally was developed in the mid 1800's by German critics, who wrote numerous learned papers on the subject. Too bad for them that their entire lives work was proven to be poppycock by archeological finds.

there is a similar legend which pre-dates the jesus stories by some hundred years about another man who was of divine birth, performed miracles, and was ultimately crucified

There's no evidence that any legend with the details you listed predates the NT. There is however, volumes of evidence showing that other religious and secularly groups created stories and myths in an attempt to discredit the NT. The source of the legend you cite must be considered to be one of these groups until there's peer reviewed archeological evidence to the contrary.

You see, the Bible has withstood so many of these "there's no evidence" claims that nowadays anyone making such a claim must themselves have evidence to back up their claims. The NT is now considered authentic 1st century writings and historically accurate as to times, places and persons. I'm not saying there's proof of the supernatural events, but that the NT is proven scientifically authentic, as well as historically and geographically accurate. It's existence is itself a miracle and Christians believe the NT is what it claims to be. Yes, that's something that has to be taken on faith, but the opposite is also true. There's no scientific proof the NT is not the word of God.

Benjamin - God's justice (a... (Below threshold)

Benjamin - God's justice (a necessary part of his character as deity) requires a payment for sin. The apostle Paul said, "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 3:23)The crucifixion of Christ was the picture of what sin incurs. That's why it's the ultimate demonstration of love. Jesus was the only man who ever could legitimately pass the death penalty. Instead, He chose not to. If Christ hadn't been crucified (and resurrected) then I would have to pay the penalty for my own sin.

Both DJ and realityunwound ... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Both DJ and realityunwound have done a good job explaining Calvinist/Reformed soteriology and atonement theory. These are the doctrines that C. I Scofield included in his famous Scofield Reference Bible, which is the single most influential written work in the American Protestant fundamentalist tradition, save for the Scriptures themselves.

If you attended Sunday School at a Protestant fundamentalist, holiness, or full gospel church, this is probably the explanation of salvation that you were taught. It is certainly the one that I learned.

All Christians believe that Christ died for the sins of mankind, and that Christ's death was substitutional; that is, Christ died in our place, so that we do not have to face a physical death in order to be freed from the shackles of the sinfulness that is simply a part of our human nature.

The problem lies in explaining exactly how God accomplished the salvation of mankind through the death of Christ, including the long-standing questions about whether or not Christ had to be killed in order for mankind's sins to be forgiven. This subject has been debated since the dawn of Christendom, and we still have not come up with an answer that makes everyone happy.

I'm not trying to prove anyone "wrong" or belittle anyone else's beliefs. (I don't believe that Benjamin is either.) I simply wish to make it clear that Reformed theology is not completely authoritative, and that there are other ways of looking at how God deals with sin.


a necessary part o... (Below threshold)
a necessary part of his character as deity
What makes this a necessary part of his character? Is it a limitation he has, a part of his definition that he must abide?
If Christ hadn't been crucified (and resurrected) then I would have to pay the penalty for my own sin.
I'm still having difficulty understanding this and maybe it ties to limitation that God has with dealing with sin, but couldn't God have just forgiven us directly?

Ben

In fact Jesus is m... (Below threshold)
Todd:
In fact Jesus is mentioned by Josephus Flavius, a first century Jew, Roman citizen, and advisor to the Roman general Vespasian.

Mac, the text you refer to is "The Antiquities of the Jews" was written in 93 A.D., and contains two references to Jesus. The first mentions Jesus as the brother of James. The other, the Testimonium Flavianum, talks more extensively about Jesus, but is considered a forgery added later due to linguistic inconsistencies. But even if it were true, it is more an observation of the beliefs of Christians then first hand knowledge.

The theory you repeated about NT being passed down verbally was developed in the mid 1800's by German critics, who wrote numerous learned papers on the subject. Too bad for them that their entire lives work was proven to be poppycock by archeological finds.

Most evidence indicates that the teaching of Jesus was spread word of mouth by followers, explaining the explosion of apocryphal texts like the Book of Mary, Gospel of Judas, etc. Essentially missionaries of Christ would travel and spread the word to groups of people, preaching a basic message. These groups in turn added to the message (divinely or not), resulting in a large number of texts eventually be written. It wasn't till much later that Christianity settled on a canonical text that is known today.

I think that some of legends that Peabody was referring to were legends like Hercules (son of a god), Romulus (born of a virgin), Gautama Buddha (born of a virgin), Dionysys (born of a virgin, persecuted). All of these existed long before Jesus was born. Justin Martyr, an "early church father", during the early expansion of Christianity said:

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.

He acknowledges previous Jesus-like qualities in the Gods of the pagans, but attributed them to the devil in anticipation of Jesus' arrival.

the Bible has withstood so many of these "there's no evidence" claims that nowadays anyone making such a claim must themselves have evidence to back up their claims.

The historicity of the Bible is often questioned. Looking alone at the NT, Jesus is not mentioned by any contemporaries outside the Bible (and apocrypha). The earliest references are the previously mentioned Flavius and other text more in documenting the existence of Christians. The Apostle Paul seems oblivious to the life of Jesus, and only references his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, leading to questions as to whether he believed Jesus existed on Earth or was like many similar Gods and existed only in an mythical plane (depending on your translation of Hebrews 8:4).

One of the most cruel events documented in the NT is the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod. While in keeping with Herod's cruelty (he did kill wife and two of his sons as threats), the entire event is only documented in the Book of Matthew. Aside from that, there is no evidence that the event ever happened. The same goes for the Sermon on the Mount.

On the flip side, it wasn't until 1961 that any evidence that Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, as documented in John, so at least parts of the Bible are based in fact.

Todd

Todd,The ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Todd,

The other, the Testimonium Flavianum, talks more extensively about Jesus, but is considered a forgery added later due to linguistic inconsistencies.

If you check the link I provided you'll see that your information is out of date due to the finding of a second manuscript (Arabian). The quote I gave is John Meier's 1991 reconstruction.

But even if it were true, it is more an observation of the beliefs of Christians then first hand knowledge.

Josephus was a historian and though he likely had no first hand knowledge of Jesus, his account provides a non-NT source for who Jesus was, which was the point I was making.

Most evidence indicates that the teaching of Jesus was spread word of mouth by followers, explaining the explosion of apocryphal texts like the Book of Mary, Gospel of Judas, etc. Essentially missionaries of Christ would travel and spread the word to groups of people, preaching a basic message. These groups in turn added to the message (divinely or not), resulting in a large number of texts eventually be written. It wasn't till much later that Christianity settled on a canonical text that is known today.

All such claim have been known to be poppycock since the early 20th century when collections of papyri found in Egypt were published. No one in the few centuries following the time of Jesus could know what scraps of the NT would later be found, so there was no means of adding anything to the original writings without such editing being discovered. To this day no such tampering has been discovered. The papyri fragments dated from the 1st and early 2nd century contain the same text as post canonical texts to a remarkable degree given the only means of duplicating them was to copy by hand. Other papyri dated from the mid 2nd century to the mid 3rd century provide the same check for most of the conical texts. What you claim as "Most evidence" has been proven wrong by scientific evidence. It's now nothing more than myths propagate by many to mislead the ignorant.

Justin Martyr, an "early church father", during the early expansion of Christianity said. . .

Justin goes on to list Mercury, Perseus, and Asculapius as having some of the same aspects of Jesus, but in no other source prior to the NT are all these attributes, and more, assigned to a single individual. That was the point I was making. Also, Justin writings were never claimed to be divinely inspired, and may contain mistakes.

The earliest references are the previously mentioned Flavius and other text more in documenting the existence of Christians.

The lack of such evidence is meaningless in the context of the scientifically proven accuracy of the Bible. Many times in the past some academic would make the claim that there was no independent evidence of such and such only to have some archeologist did up the evidence some years later. Given such a context scholars no longer pay much attention to the "there's no evidence" claims. Sorry, but now you need some sort of proof to challenge the historical accuracy of the Bible.

The Apostle Paul seems oblivious to the life of Jesus, and only references his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, leading to questions as to whether he believed Jesus existed on Earth or was like many similar Gods and existed only in an mythical plane (depending on your translation of Hebrews 8:4)

This is an example of nonsense. One only needs to read Act to make such a determination.

One of the most cruel events documented in the NT is the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod. While in keeping with Herod's cruelty (he did kill wife and two of his sons as threats), the entire event is only documented in the Book of Matthew. Aside from that, there is no evidence that the event ever happened. The same goes for the Sermon on the Mount.

Once again, such "there's no evidence" assertions are nowadays dismissed by most scholars. Anyone with a high school education can pick out a specific event in the Bible and make the claim "there's no evidence" for it. Thus, it has become common to dismiss all such baseless assertions in light of the modern archeological support for the accuracy of the Bible.

On the flip side, it wasn't until 1961 that any evidence that Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, as documented in John, so at least parts of the Bible are based in fact.

It's apparent that you haven't been paying attention to this subject for long. Modern archeological has verified hundreds of biblical details. Even apart from archeological the NT gives dozens of facts about places that can be verified just by looking at a map. Acts documents Paul's trip to Rome and studying both maps and archeological evident support the accuracy of the information in Acts. The point you seem to be missing is that the Bible and particularly the NT has been proven historically and geographically accurate at literally hundreds of data points. Papyri discoveries scientifically prove that at least the Gospel of John is an authentic 1st century writing. Other Papyri discoveries prove most of the rest of the NT books are authentic 2nd or early 3rd century writings. The preponderance of the evidence has shifted the burden of proof to those challenging the NT. It's now scientifically acceptable to say that there's no evidence that the NT is not what it claims to be.

Mac,It's apparent th... (Below threshold)
Todd:

Mac,
It's apparent that you haven't been paying attention to this subject for long.

Well, that's to be debated elsewhere, I think :-).

Justin goes on to list Mercury, Perseus, and Asculapius as having some of the same aspects of Jesus, but in no other source prior to the NT are all these attributes, and more, assigned to a single individual.
You are correct, though Jesus does not contain the all the attributes the the gods mentioned above. If you were to write a Gospel to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, wouldn't you write it to match the attributes associated with the prophecies?


No one in the few centuries following the time of Jesus could know what scraps of the NT would later be found, so there was no means of adding anything to the original writings without such editing being discovered. To this day no such tampering has been discovered.

Even today there are dozens of versions of the Bible, offering different translations depending on the message needed. My previously mentioned Hebrews 8:3, depending on the translation, asks whether Paul even believed that Jesus existed on the earthly plane. It's not to dismiss the entire Bile or its message, but to instead question our interpretation of the Bible, being fallible as we are.

But even within the Gospels, there are inconsistencies within the Bible. Ask these questions and you get different answers depending on where you look in the Bible.

What were the last words of Jesus on the cross?
From Matthew 27:46: "eli, eli, lama sabachthani" or "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me".
From Luke 23:46: "Father unto thy hands I command my spirit"
From John 19:30: "It is finished"

How did Judas die?
From Matthew 27: "Then he went away and hanged himself."
From Acts (not Gospel, but NT): "there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out."
Yes, he could have hung himself and then had his body fall and burst open, but then where did that occur and what happened to his 30 silver:
From Matthew: "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left."
From Acts: "With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field;"

When did the Last Supper occur?
In Mathew, Mark, and Luke, it occurs on the first day of Passover
In John a day earlier.

What is the Mark of the beast?
Current tradition holds it as the traditional triple-6, whereas the earliest (Payparus 115) as it as 616.

As for the oral tradition, without it there wouldn't be all the alternate texts of the Bible, including the Gospel of Judas, Book of Mary, varying versions of a letter from Peter to Philip, Book of Allogenes, Gospel of Truth, along with other apocryphal books. If the original NT had existed in perfect form, why would these alternate texts even appear.

Papyri discoveries scientifically prove that at least the Gospel of John is an authentic 1st century writing.
The earliest evidence of Gospel of John I'm aware of is Papyrus P52 dated from the second century. Even the Chester Beatty Papyrus 46 is thought to have been written between 150 and 250AD by most scholars, though one put it at 60AD. Most biblical scholars put the order of the Gospels as Mark (c65-70AD), Matthew (70 to 100AD), Luke (80-100AD), and John (90-110AD), though these are the estimated dates they were written not based on the existence of the writings themselves.

Ben

Papyri discoveries... (Below threshold)
Todd:
Papyri discoveries scientifically prove that at least the Gospel of John is an authentic 1st century writing.

My apologies, I misread your line. You are correct that John is a 1st century document and possibly slightly earlier.

Todd

Ben (Todd),<blockquot... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Ben (Todd),

You are correct, though Jesus does not contain the all the attributes the the gods mentioned above.

That's backwards. None of the gods mentioned had all the attributes of Jesus. There is no story that predates the NT that describes such a person as Jesus. As I said before, many religious and secular groups have propagated such myths in their attempt to discredit the NT.

If you were to write a Gospel to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, wouldn't you write it to match the attributes associated with the prophecies?

Two of the four Gosples are eye witness accost of the earthly ministry of Jesus. The other two are accounts written by the companions of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. Together they cover the OT prophecies about Jesus.

Even today there are dozens of versions of the Bible, offering different translations depending on the message needed.

How many translations have been made from the oldest Greek and Hebrew manuscripts is irrelevant when judging the authenticity of the NT. The Papyri discoveries prove scientifically as I stated that the key books of the NT are authentic writings going back to the 1st century in the case of the Gospel of John. The theory that the NT was embellished along the way has been proven to be poppycock by these archeological finds.

The English translations are just that, translations. Scholars do the best job they can in producing translations, but there are going to be variations between them. If you have a question about the meaning of a particular verse, you need to check many of the translations, read the commentary, and check the meaning of the words in the best Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. You also need to understand the Jewish and Roman customs of the time.

My previously mentioned Hebrews 8:3, depending on the translation, asks whether Paul even believed that Jesus existed on the earthly plane. It's not to dismiss the entire Bile or its message, but to instead question our interpretation of the Bible, being fallible as we are.

In addition to what I mentioned above, the Bible is interpreted by the Bible. You only need to read Acts and the other epistles of Paul to know that Paul believed Jesus was a real flesh and blood person capable of being crucified and shedding His blood. Hebrews 8:3-4 refers to the resurrected Christ and in no way questions His earthly ministry as a man.

But even within the Gospels, there are inconsistencies within the Bible. Ask these questions and you get different answers depending on where you look in the Bible.

The Gospels of Matthew and John are first person eye witness accounts. The Gospels of Mark and Luke were written by companions of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. If they were identical in every detail that would be strong evidence of a common source or of collusion. Eye witness accounts of 9/11 vary in details from one person to the next. Does that mean 9/11 is a myth?

As for the oral tradition, without it there wouldn't be all the alternate texts of the Bible, including the Gospel of Judas, Book of Mary, varying versions of a letter from Peter to Philip, Book of Allogenes, Gospel of Truth, along with other apocryphal books. If the original NT had existed in perfect form, why would these alternate texts even appear.

The Apostle Paul mentions people who wanted to hijack the Gospel message for their own purposes. As more and more gnostic and heretical texts appeared the early church fathers realized they needed to document the authentic NT books. The process of canonizing the NT was a long and tedious process done at a time when far more original works existed. The process was completed at the Council of Carrthage in 397 AD. Many spurious books and forgeries were known at the time and you can find lists of them if you want to research this.

The earliest evidence of Gospel of John I'm aware of is Papyrus P52 dated from the second century.

That's because that's what's on-line. An older fragment was pictured on the cover of Time Magazine back in the 90's. That fragment was dated from the 1st Century. I don't have the proper citation, but I have seen the magazine and wish I had documented the issue. Apart from such Papyri discoveries, there are references in some of Paul's epistles such as I Timothy 5:18 that prove the Gospels of Matthew and/or Luke existed at the time Paul wrote I Timothy. Writings by many of the early church fathers quote nearly all of the NT. The theory that the NT was changed sometime prior to canonization, while often repeated, is pure poppycock.

Ben (Todd)</blockq... (Below threshold)
Todd:
Ben (Todd)
Yea, I gotta work on getting my aliases correct depending on the context. I'll stick with Todd as it's more appropriate to this conversation.
That's backwards. None of the gods mentioned had all the attributes of Jesus. There is no story that predates the NT that describes such a person as Jesus. As I said before, many religious and secular groups have propagated such myths in their attempt to discredit the NT.
What are the attributes that define Jesus? Son of God, born of a virgin, resurrection, miracles? All these are attributes of particular person just like Hercules diverted a river, killed a hydra, and captured Cerberus, but listing those attributes aren't attempts to discredit the NT, they are just attributes. You make it sound like a conspiracy against the NT. The reality of the situation is that Jesus and his attributes and other, previous gods, and their attributes are independent entities.
Two of the four Gospels are eye witness accost of the earthly ministry of Jesus.
With the exception of Luke, none of the Gospels list a specific author, but have been attributed to various people. Mark is traditionally associated with Mark the Evangelist, companion to Peter; Matthew is attributed to the disciple of Jesus; John to a disciple. But again, none of these three say "as written by". Mark and Matthew were given attribution by Papias, an early Christian writer. Luke was written by a companion of Pauls and is also thought to be the author of Acts (as Acts basically says that), but was not an eyewitness account.
Together they cover the OT prophecies about Jesus.
Again, if you were to write a document to convince Jews of Jesus being the Messiah, wouldn't you match the prophecies in your narrative. If you were an Jew during that period and came and said "I have this person who doesn't match the prophecies, but is the Messiah", you wouldn't get much traction. Again, that's not to say Jesus wasn't the Messiah, just that if you wanted a convert people you needed him to match what they expected.
The Papyri discoveries prove scientifically as I stated that the key books of the NT are authentic writings going back to the 1st century in the case of the Gospel of John.
At best, bits and pieces of the Gospels have been found over the years. Some match what is in existence today, as close as our translations can make them. Others differ vastly. The Gospel of Mark has multiple ending, depending on the version, with the earliest complete text not including the final twelve verses. As for the authenticity, the books may consistent from the first century, but once something is committed to writing it's easy to copy, especially if it has divine significance.
An older fragment was pictured on the cover of Time Magazine back in the 90's
And then it disappeared from the record? Why would all current information (online and off) point to the earliest fragment (not the time of writing) being from the second century?
The theory that the NT was embellished along the way has been proven to be poppycock by these archeological finds.
What archeological evidence supports Jesus walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, being crucified, or and of the other attributes or history of his life?

Todd

BTW I know we have hijacked... (Below threshold)
Todd:

BTW I know we have hijacked this post long past its original purpose. If the the moderator would like us to take this offline, I can be reached at todd.meyers1971 at yahoo.com.

Todd

Todd,What... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Todd,

What are the attributes that define Jesus? Son of God, born of a virgin, resurrection, miracles? All these are attributes of particular person just like Hercules diverted a river, killed a hydra, and captured Cerberus

I would list the following: Virgin birth at a specific place and as a descendent of a particular king. The working of many miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascendancy. These and many more in fulfillment of prophesy written hundreds of years before.

What you want to do is say this god has this attribute and this god has this attribute and this god has this attribute and then claim it's the same as one man having all of these attributes. It won't work.

but listing those attributes aren't attempts to discredit the NT, they are just attributes. You make it sound like a conspiracy against the NT.

Yes there has been and are many who conspire against the NT Generally the attacks take the form of forged manuscripts or baseless assertions. This case is another baseless assertion that goes hand in hand with the now discredited claim that the NT books were not written until the 4th century. The claim is that prior to being written, the NT stories were embellished with older legends. We now have good evidence that the NT books were written and in circulation across the region in the early 2nd Century and the evidence for John is even earlier. Nevertheless, the claim that attributes like a virgin birth, miracles, and resurrection were attributed to other gods prior to the NT. I don't disagree that there were various gods with various similar attributes, but nowhere prior to the NT are they ascribed to a single man. If you want to continue with this line, then provide some evidence for your assertion. Otherwise, it must be consider it baseless.

With the exception of Luke, none of the Gospels list a specific author, but have been attributed to various people.

The knowledge of the authorship of the Gospels is from the early church. You can dispute it if you want as have many critics in the past. Nevertheless, there's no evidence that anyone else authored these books. It's just another baseless assertion.

Again, if you were to write a document to convince Jews of Jesus being the Messiah, wouldn't you match the prophecies in your narrative.

If we follow your logic than we can conclude that the writers of the Gospels were not trying to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, but rather they were trying to document what they saw and heard either first hand or through the Apostle Peter or the Apostle Paul. The fact that the authors didn't try to go beyond what they heard and saw is strong evidence for their authenticity.

Instead, God's plan was to use Paul, a highly educated Jew from the inner circle of Jews, a Hebrew's Hebrew to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. He did that in the book of Hebrews. It still didn't convince the Jews because they believed the Messiah would restore the nation of Israel, which Jesus did not do, at least not until 1948. Then the body of Christ in the form of the U.S.A., a Christian nation at the time and the most powerful nation on the earth stood with the Jews to restore the nation of Israel. Christians still stand today with the Jews to protect Israel. When I see the American flag burned along with the Israeli flag I remind God (as He says to do) that the enemies of Israel know who the true friend of Israel is.

At best, bits and pieces of the Gospels have been found over the years.

Just the Chester Beatty collection alone contains over a hundred full and partial papyri leaves (pages). There are 86 full leaves containing Paul's Epistles. More such finds have been made since the Chester Beatty collection was published in 1931.

Some match what is in existence today, as close as our translations can make them.

There's no translation involved. Scholars compare the Greek of the papyri with the earliest Greek manuscripts.

Others differ vastly. The Gospel of Mark has multiple ending, depending on the version, with the earliest complete text not including the final twelve verses.

There is no vast difference. Some of the Greek manuscripts used to produce the first Latin translations were missing pages. In fact the King James translation was based on the Greek Textus Receptus which itself was based on six older Greek manuscripts, none of which were complete and even together did not include the full NT. For the missing parts the scholar (Basel) used an older Latin translation, which itself was based on prior Greek manuscripts.

It's because of the dark ages and the difficulty in making and preserving complete copies of the NT that there are differences in various translations. However, when the papyri are compared with the earliest known Greek manuscripts the accuracy is astonishingly good. We now have older Greek manuscripts than those used in some of the early translations of the Bible. Newer translations use these older Greek manuscripts and so they differ, but there's nothing sinister or mysterious about the differences.

And then it disappeared from the record? Why would all current information (online and off) point to the earliest fragment (not the time of writing) being from the second century?

Give me a break. Yes, I was negligent in not getting exact information when it was presented during a two hour long lecture, so just ignore it.

What archeological evidence supports Jesus walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, being crucified, or and of the other attributes or history of his life?

I was referring to the papyri proving that at least some books of the NT were in existence in the 1st century, and thus, the stories were not embellished for centuries before being written down as had been claimed by some critics.

I stated way back in post #7 that there's no proof of the supernatural events documented in the NT and that those aspects of the NT had to be taken on faith. That's always been the case. The point of all this is that at the data points where there is archeological evidence the NT has proven to be an authentic and historically accurate document. It's testimony of the things that can never be proven by archeological evidence.

Give me a break. Y... (Below threshold)
Todd:
Give me a break. Yes, I was negligent in not getting exact information when it was presented during a two hour long lecture, so just ignore it.
I'm afraid I can't. You've used the Time cover twice in our conversation as evidence of first century John. Either you have to produce a reference or recant it. Most (not all) of what I have written I have checked with various sources for authenticity.
Virgin birth at a specific place and as a descendent of a particular king. The working of many miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascendancy.
Again we come to a question of authenticity. Even assuming that two of the Gospels were written by Disciples, they have no first hand knowledge of how or where Jesus was born other then what they were told. Even Jesus wouldn't know, though we'll assume he would have. To his death, my grandfather denied jokingly (we think) being the father of my aunt, claiming it must of been divine intervention. The point being that if you were to write a Gospel to validate the claim that your Messiah was the true one, you'd include details that matched the prophecies. As for the miracles (including the resurrection and ascendancy), again, the writer has leeway in what they put in to augment their message. These go for the attributes of Heracles, Dionisis, or Jesus. As for other prophecies, my personal favorite is Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem being used as evidence of Jesus being the Messiah. What makes it my favorite is that Jesus full filled it because he "forced" it by having his disciples to acquire a donkey because it was part of the Zechariah prophecies. If that prophecy had to be arranged, you have to question what others Jesus would have arranged.
now discredited claim that the NT books were not written until the 4th century.
Again, you seem to advocate an air of conspiracy. At one point the belief was presumably 4th century authorship, but as evidence appears, scholars revise their dates based on the most current information. That's the beauty of science.
The fact that the authors didn't try to go beyond what they heard and saw is strong evidence for their authenticity.
We will never know what what the authors actually heard or saw, only what they wrote down and what you take as actual events. Who is to say that what is written wasn't embellished by the original authors. Each of the books have different takes on the life and times of Jesus, some contradicting each other, as I listed previously. Others have areas in which Jesus is alone, but his words are still recorded.

Take for example the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus takes three disciples, Peter, James, and John (attributed author of the Gospel of John) and then leaves them to walk a "stones throw away", or a short distance. During that time he prayed and asked to have his burden lifted. When he returned he found the disciples had fallen asleep. They may have heard Jesus praying, but they may not. But if you take into account the Gospel of Luke, in which an angel appears before Jesus, it seems strange that the disciples would fall asleep after such an appearance. Maybe they did hear Jesus praying, if so they would have heard him talking to an angle but the only only disciple present to is attributed to a Gospel, John, failed to mention either event. So either he heard prayer and saw the angle, told everyone and then left it out his Gospel as unimportant; or he was unaware of it occurring. Or maybe he fell asleep before Peter and/or James and then missed them telling the story to Mark. Possible, but again Jesus found all the disciples asleep, a improbable event given the appearance of the angle or at the least a one-sided conversation with one they couldn't see.

But I think ultimately I think it comes down to this. You and I have fundamental difference in how to view the Bible. We can throw ideas and theories around and back up with various levels of evidence, but neither of us is going to agree fully with the other. And nothing we've said hasn't been argued by scholars much smarter then at least me with no clear consensus reached on the Bible in it's entirety. While I have enjoyed our little corner of theological discussion, I have to call it a day as my wife has grown tired of listening to me as I research my responses and complain about how some person on Internet just can't "accept I'm right about everything" :-). I appreciate your arguments and the fact that you pushed me to (hopefully) back up my claims even if you don't agree with them. I look forward to your responses to the above, but I think I will draw my end of this discussion to an end.

Todd/Ben/a boy named Sue

I'm afraid I can't... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
I'm afraid I can't. You've used the Time cover twice in our conversation as evidence of first century John. Either you have to produce a reference or recant it. Most (not all) of what I have written I have checked with various sources for authenticity.

The issue here is the date of the oldest known papyri fragment. You yourself said that one scholar gave a 1st century date to P52 then in post # 14 you wrote "You are correct that John is a 1st century document and possibly slightly earlier.". If I have to recant than so do you. Maybe it was P52 pictured on the cover of Time and they used the 1st century date. What we know from P52 is that John was in circulation in Egypt no later than the early 2nd century and there's no reason to doubt that it was written by the Apostle John.

Again we come to a question of authenticity. Even assuming that two of the Gospels were written by Disciples, they have no first hand knowledge of how or where Jesus was born other then what they were told.

Of course you can say the same thing about what the public knows about Obama's birth. This is the moving goal post line of attack. No historian writing about anyone would have such first hand knowledge, yet it's accepted as fact until it comes to the Bible. Then critics want to impose an impossible standard. The lack of evidence is not evidence. If it were, then we can dismiss most of what we think we know about world history.

The point being that if you were to write a Gospel to validate the claim that your Messiah was the true one, you'd include details that matched the prophecies.

That theory is easily dismissed as I did yesterday. An honest witness sticks to what they heard and saw and know to be true. The Gospels are just that and that's why they endure.

again, the writer has leeway in what they put in to augment their message. These go for the attributes of Heracles, Dionisis, or Jesus.

But your argument fails because there are many authors who consistently documented what they heard, saw, and knew to be true. The only explanation besides truthful witness, is a conspiracy beyond anything ever perpetrated on the world before or since. However, if such a conspiracy existed to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah they would have been certain to include details that matched all the prophecies in detail as you have stated several times. The fact that that's not the case shows there was no such conspiracy and that the writers of the Gospels stuck to what the heard, saw and knew to be true, as I have stated several times.

As for other prophecies, my personal favorite is Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem being used as evidence of Jesus being the Messiah. What makes it my favorite is that Jesus full filled it because he "forced" it by having his disciples to acquire a donkey because it was part of the Zechariah prophecies. If that prophecy had to be arranged, you have to question what others Jesus would have arranged.

If that is a stumbling block to you consider this, all the fulfillment of prophecy was forced. God forced the virgin birth in a time and place and in the line of David. God forced the exile to Egypt and the prophesied return, and on and on. That's the point of prophecy. Only God can control events to bring about what has been prophesied. Besides the event you cite there are many other's that Jesus "forced" even wearing a seamless garment to his crucifixion so that the guards would have to cast lots for it in fulfillment of prophecy. And of course that's where your line of criticism fails. If Jesus knew the prophecies and forced the ones he had control of, then he knew he would have to be crucified. Are you now going to claim Jesus was insane?

Again, you seem to advocate an air of conspiracy.

In find it surprising and revealing that you claim to have no knowledge of the persecution of early Christians. Google "Diocletianic Persecution" and you'll find a concerted attempt by Rome to stamp out Christianity including ordered the destruction of Christian scriptures. The book of Acts documents a similar attempt by the Jews. Yes, there were and still are conspiracies against the NT.

At one point the belief was presumably 4th century authorship, but as evidence appears, scholars revise their dates based on the most current information. That's the beauty of science.

There's nothing scientific about making baseless assertions. It's easy to do and I could make hundreds of them against the evidence for evolution such as there's no proof that various fossils were found where they were said to be found. After all, for a successful career in that field scientists must find important fossils and there are many examples of scientists manufacturing data to advance their career. They may even suspect their competitors of such fraud and feel justified in making claims like this key bone was found with the rest of the bones when in fact it was found a kilometer away (and actual case for an important find). If I applied the modern chain of custody rules used for evidence in criminal cases, more than 95% of all fossil finds could not be considered authentic.

We will never know what what the authors actually heard or saw, only what they wrote down and what you take as actual events. Who is to say that what is written wasn't embellished by the original authors. Each of the books have different takes on the life and times of Jesus, some contradicting each other, as I listed previously. Others have areas in which Jesus is alone, but his words are still recorded.

First, there is no contradiction in the oldest Greek manuscripts. The varying ability of the various translators and the difficulty of preserving the text explains every supposed contradiction you or any other critic has proposed. Yes, the words of Jesus were recorded when he was alone, but you have to suppose that Jesus himself didn't tell His followers what happened. Jesus was a teacher and He was training His followers and so He told them what had happened. They simply recorded what they heard Jesus say.

But I think ultimately I think it comes down to this. You and I have fundamental difference in how to view the Bible. We can throw ideas and theories around and back up with various levels of evidence, but neither of us is going to agree fully with the other. And nothing we've said hasn't been argued by scholars much smarter then at least me with no clear consensus reached on the Bible in it's entirety.

I agree. I'll only add that I do believe the NT is what it claims to be and so many of the questions you raise are easily answered by the belief that God was involved. What I wonder is why anyone who doesn't believe the NT is what it claims to be bothers investigating it, because without faith it cannot profit them. That is, unless their goal is to discredit the NT for their own academic or political gain. Maybe you have another motive that I haven't considered.

What I wonder is w... (Below threshold)
Todd:
What I wonder is why anyone who doesn't believe the NT is what it claims to be bothers investigating it, because without faith it cannot profit them. That is, unless their goal is to discredit the NT for their own academic or political gain. Maybe you have another motive that I haven't considered.

Actually, I'll go ahead and answer this (and then I'll stop, I promise :-).

I am neither smart enough to be an academic or incompetent enough to be a politician.

My interest in the NT is simply one of exploration. I do believe that Jesus did exist, though not in the form you believe. I believe in a Jeffersonian Jesus, a man who lived, spoke wisely, then died, and whose followers added to his life things he never ascribe to himself. I believe in a Jesus who was a teacher who sought to show people the difference between a being religious and being spiritual. I believe in a Jesus who said "love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return". And I try to live by the teachings of Jesus, but not because they come from a god or offer me an afterlife, but because they are simple truths that better the world and myself. No, my interest in the NT has little to do with any tangible gain; instead it offers enrichment to my soul.

Todd

Todd,I be... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Todd,

I believe in a Jeffersonian Jesus, a man who lived, spoke wisely, then died, and whose followers added to his life things he never ascribe to himself.

By 1804 Jefferson completed "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth". Jefferson assumed the supernatural aspects of the NT had been added by priests over the centuries. We now know Jefferson was wrong and that many NT books were complete and in circulation in Egypt as early as the 2nd Century.

Jefferson didn't have the archeological knowledge we have today, so what follows doesn't apply to him. However, for anyone with today's knowledge to believe that Jesus was just a man, then it follows that his disciples must have been the greatest liars, schemers, counterfeiters and con artists the world has ever known in order to orchestrate and control the writing of the NT. Jesus must have been the worst judge of character the world has even known to entrust such a bunch of scoundrels with his teachings. Either that or Jesus was the ring leader of a criminal organization that makes the mythical illuminati look like a boy scout troop. If Jesus was just a man then anything written of him or his sayings are likely the words of despicable people who wrote them to deceive you. If Jesus was just a man then his teachings carry no more weight than those of any other mere human. You might as well follow the teachings of Attila the Hun, or Adolph Hitler as they are all morally equivalent.

If Jesus was just a man then we have no soul, our conscious is an illusion, and we are the descendents of slime and products of chance. There is no plan for our lives and they have no more purpose than to pass on our genes to produce yet more purposeless lives. Humankind is just an infestation of the planet. If Jesus was just a man, then among wretched humankind, Christians are the most pitiable. An argument the Apostle Paul makes and rejects on the basis if what he had heard, seen and knew to be true, but of course he must be one of the scoundrels who perpetrated this most incredible fraud.

We know Jefferson's theory about how the supernatural aspects of the NT came about was wrong, and to believe what it would take to forge the NT is to truly believe in miracles.

The NT prophesied that Israel would exist in the end times, but it was destroyed as a nation in the first century. In Jefferson's time no ancient nation had ever been restored, so it looked like the NT was wrong. However, in 1948 Israel came back into existence, even speaking their ancient language. The NT prophesied that an army of 100 million would march against Israel in the end times. In Jefferson's time that was an absurd number, but not so today. The NT prophesied that before the end, Israel would make peace with it's neighbors. Watch for it, and when it comes to pass the time will be short. Will you then accept the free gift of salvation, or will you continue in your disbelief?




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