Historical Jesus

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Sakhaiva on Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:30 pm

DotNotInOz wrote:I find it interesting indeed that this passage from Tacitus is so often cited as evidence attesting (even marginally) to the historicality of Jesus (or Yeshua, if you prefer) when Tacitus is clearly a hostile to the "evil superstition" Christianity and writing nearly a full century after the time Jesus may have lived.

Tacitus is a valid historical figure who is not Christian. I like to include him because he is not emotionally involved in promoting Christianity and, therefore, appears a bit more *valid* than the Apostle Peter (who was an eye witness but... is someone I think readers here would too easily discredit.)

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Annals_(Tacitus
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Tacitus

He was not a stupid man; it would be a hard pill to swallow that he would so readily waste his time on a myth.

His writing about events of the time of Jesus is akin to my producing "eyewitness" commentary on the American Civil War when I was a high school student.

1: He never claimed to be an eyewitness.

2: Though you never claimed to be an eye witness to the Civil war I'm sure you would have useful data to share on the subject.

In fact, gather all of the stories about the civil war that have been handed down through the generations (a portion of my family came from the south - two sisters related to my Grandmother helped slaves escape and related conditions and dangers of such work) and we would have a very good idea of what things were like. Like taking a series of small snapshots and putting them together to obtain a much larger picture.


Even Celsus, who went to great lengths to disprove the "godishness" of Yeshua" never denied the man actually existed, writing:

"Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god."

Then again... all we have of Celsus are from the writings of Origen in his Contra Celsum. So maybe Celsus never existed.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Sakhaiva on Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:32 pm

DotNotInOz wrote:deleted...too contentious

Oh man... now you've got me curious DOT
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:03 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:I find it interesting indeed that this passage from Tacitus is so often cited as evidence attesting (even marginally) to the historicality of Jesus (or Yeshua, if you prefer) when Tacitus is clearly a hostile to the "evil superstition" Christianity and writing nearly a full century after the time Jesus may have lived.

Tacitus is a valid historical figure who is not Christian. I like to include him because he is not emotionally involved in promoting Christianity and, therefore, appears a bit more *valid* than the Apostle Peter (who was an eye witness but... is someone I think readers here would too easily discredit.)

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Annals_(Tacitus
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Tacitus

He was not a stupid man; it would be a hard pill to swallow that he would so readily waste his time on a myth.

His writing about events of the time of Jesus is akin to my producing "eyewitness" commentary on the American Civil War when I was a high school student.

1: He never claimed to be an eyewitness.

2: Though you never claimed to be an eye witness to the Civil war I'm sure you would have useful data to share on the subject.

In fact, gather all of the stories about the civil war that have been handed down through the generations (a portion of my family came from the south - two sisters related to my Grandmother helped slaves escape and related conditions and dangers of such work) and we would have a very good idea of what things were like. Like taking a series of small snapshots and putting them together to obtain a much larger picture.


Even Celsus, who went to great lengths to disprove the "godishness" of Yeshua" never denied the man actually existed, writing:

"Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god."

Then again... all we have of Celsus are from the writings of Origen in his Contra Celsum. So maybe Celsus never existed.

Bingo! You've got it exactly right about family stories and the way it is connected to what Tacitus wrote. People hand down stories in their families and unfortunately, very often they have nothing to do with what actually went on, or they have a grain of truth or sometimes they even are fairly close to what happened. (Those of us in the genealogy business cringe when we get people in who want to "prove" a family story. Sometimes they do but fairly frequently they learn that it didn't happen like that at all.) They tell more about the family and its values than history. Likewise Tacitus tells more about his own biases and culture than history in some places, but he has included "family stories" he's heard. It doesn't prove that Jesus existed but it does prove that, in his time, stories were being circulated about Jesus.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by ZenYen on Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:55 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:I'm listening to the lecture (just finished part 1)and there is much I like, especially the use of the correct name
(Yeshua) and the questions regarding canonization (eg, why was the
Gospel of Thomas left out, yet Revelation included?) were thought provoking.

There's one small bit that bugged me a bit; Sheehan was to limit his discourse to historical tidbits... yet he stated that Yeshua lived in India as if it were fact when, in reality, it is still only a
theory. (Notovich's writings have been discredited and there is no
credible historical evidence to support it.) (Don't get me wrong, I'd
love to find that it's true.. you know it!) I just wonder why he felt the need to include this.... and frame it as a fact.

On to part deux!

Regarding the Jesus in India comment: That statement was made in portion of the lecture in which Sheehan was laying out a variety of beliefs about Jesus. The India connection was one of those; another was a journey to Tibet; another was that he had living descendants, etc. Unless I missed the point entirely, Sheehan was NOT saying Yeshua lived in India ... he was simply rattling of a variety of beliefs and that was one of them.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:25 am

Sakhaiva wrote:Tacitus is a valid historical figure who is not Christian. I like to include him because he is not emotionally involved in promoting Christianity and, therefore, appears a bit more *valid* than the Apostle Peter (who was an eye witness but... is someone I think readers here would too easily discredit.)

"Not emotionally involved in promoting Christianity" strikes me as a too-delicate way of expressing the fact that Tacitus is outright debunking what he obviously saw as a pernicious group. That's ALL we know about Christianity and Christians from Tacitus.

If we examine both the tone and the content of this passage, it seems far more likely to me that Tacitus is decrying the stories of their origins claimed by Christians (founder Jesus executed by Pontius Pilate) as just the spurious sort of claims a group harboring "mischievous superstitions" would promote. I don't think we can reasonably give any weight at all to what Tacitus says as testimony to the actuality of Jesus.

He was not a stupid man; it would be a hard pill to swallow that he would so readily waste his time on a myth.

My point is that he more likely was trying to get people to see what nutballs these Christians were BECAUSE their superstition was based on a myth.

We can't even reasonably deduce that Tacitus is saying Christianity is entirely mythical. He doesn't clearly say that he knows anything factual about their origins in this passage. Concluding that he does would be akin to our drawing conclusions about the existence of God from a critic's remarks about Fred Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church.

I said: "His writing about events of the time of Jesus is akin to my producing "eyewitness" commentary on the American Civil War when I was a high school student."

Sakhaiva replied: "1: He never claimed to be an eyewitness."

Ummm...I wasn't suggesting that he did. I put "eyewitness" in quotes to signify my point that I'd have about as much of an idea what the Civil War was like as he would what the origins of Christianity were, i.e. none at all.

2: Though you never claimed to be an eye witness to the Civil war I'm sure you would have useful data to share on the subject.

How would I have ANY useful data about something that happened about 90 years before my birth and about which I've only read?

This is precisely my point: That neither my account nor that of Tacitus could be considered reasonable evidence in any sense of the word "evidence."

Tacitus is clearly writing about a group of people whose claims he disdains. The bottom line is that we don't know if he thought Christians a group of nutjobs whose beliefs were based upon a myth or a group of nutjobs whose origins had some basis in historical reality. They could be either one for all we can discern from what Tacitus says here. All he tells us is what Christians promoted about their origins; that doesn't mean he thought their stories had any basis whatsoever in reality.

Even Celsus, who went to great lengths to disprove the "godishness" of Yeshua" never denied the man actually existed, writing:

"Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god."

Then again... all we have of Celsus are from the writings of Origen in his Contra Celsum. So maybe Celsus never existed.

Actually, it IS quite possible that Celsus never existed. Or perhaps he did exist and was cited by Origen because learned people of Origen's time would have known that anything Celsus claimed was highly specious.

When all I have is what you cite here, I think it likely that Celsus was simply trying to draft a more rational story about Jesus's origins than the virgin birth one.

Again, we can't reasonably give this account any more credence as evidence of Jesus's existence than we can that of Tacitus.

We have NO primary source evidence whatsoever attesting to the existence of Jesus from the time when he was presumed to have lived. We haven't even any original manuscripts of the Christian Bible. We don't even know if the names attributed to the Gospel accounts are those of real people, much less if these writers had any connection whatsoever with people who could have known an actual Jesus.

As Gilly points out, maybe these stories have some basis in reality as do family legends, but we'll likely never know to what extent they do if any.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:58 am

gillyflower wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:I find it interesting indeed that this passage from Tacitus is so often cited as evidence attesting (even marginally) to the historicality of Jesus (or Yeshua, if you prefer) when Tacitus is clearly quite hostile toward the "evil superstition" Christianity and writing nearly a full century after the time Jesus may have lived.

His writing about events of the time of Jesus is akin to my producing "eyewitness" commentary on the American Civil War when I was a high school student.

I think it isn't (except by non-experts) used as "proof."

Agreed, Gilly.

However, Sakhaiva seems to be maintaining that we ought to regard what Tacitus says as evidence of the existence of Jesus.

I think it farfetched at best to do so as I attempted to demonstrate.

It seems to me that the experts are constantly looking for secular sources to compliment religious sources. It is part of the methodology of archeologists and historians. The more sources, the more likely something did happen although not necessarily the way it is reported in any of them.

Again, agreed.

However, I'm sure you would agree that "more likely" does not begin to constitute "actually did happen."
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:36 am

If it comes to that, history is by consensus fairly often Dot. The majority of the experts agree (or pretty often it is the people who have the political power) that this (whatever it is) is what most likely happened and we teach that in our history and archeology classes. The more independent sources that agree, the more likely that it did happen in that way but still... they could all be wrong, eh? Our ideas about history shift as more information is discovered or disproved.

It is a courtesy to Christians to accept Jesus as a historical figure. That doesn't mean that the many myths that later followers attributed to him happened. It just means that a consensus of experts think it is likely that a person named Jeshua once existed and that he was a Jewish teacher.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by TigersEyeDowsing on Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:26 am

I certainly like to think a historical Yeshua existed; I think it's naive to full-fledgedly assume he did or did not, either way. We have to remain open to all possibilities of truth; Currently the holocaust is being written off as fiction and many people believe it didn't happen, less than a hundred years later in our great record-keeping age; imagine the truth of the reality in 2000 years, if humanity exists and it remembers it at all.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:55 am

Btw, while you can read Sheehan's book at the link provided on the course syllabus (given below), some of you may be interested in buying a very inexpensive used copy of what I fondly call "a REAL book."

Abebooks has various copies for only $1.00. You'll pay only about $3.00 for shipping and handling.

I've bought a good many books from Abebooks and recommend it highly as a reliable broker for used books. The description of a copy's condition is almost invariably accurate, IME.

www.abebooks.com


For those who don't mind reading their books online, here's the link to the full text, authorized by Sheehan:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/thomas_sheehan/firstcoming/index.shtml
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Sakhaiva on Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:26 pm

Thanks for the links DOT, I'll have to pass those on - the shipping for abe books seems reasonable!

TED, it's a frightening idea that a Holocaust could be forgotten. Though life works that way; people seldom know about the Ukrainian holocaust (where politicians starved out their own people .... for profit) 7 million died by forced starvation.

Or what about Nanking?



Speaking of forgetting.... or dismissing... Gilly, will this lecture touch on Panthera at all? (that's something one doesn't hear in church)

Starting #3 today
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:43 pm

You're welcome, Sakhaiva.

Abebooks is terrific. I've sometimes found their shipping rates lower than Amazon's for used books.

Abebooks tends to offer a far wider variety of off-the-beaten-path titles and authors, too. For instance, some of my weird occult stuff can be found there inexpensively whereas Amazon wants the proverbial arm-and-leg for the very same edition. Granted, that usually has more to do with how much the source thinks they can get for the book since both Abebooks and Amazon are simply middlemen. Even so, I've usually found more copies from which to choose on Abebooks.

You can also do an advanced search that's quite specific, even down to hardbound, dustjacket, publisher and edition, etc. if you wish. The dustjackets I've gotten always are enclosed in those clear plastic dustjacket protectors like libraries use.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by AutumnalTone on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:02 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:Autumnal Tone; keep this line of reasoning going and we'll be forced to render the entire lecture moot. Wink

Nah. There are some foundational thoughts that Christianity arose from in all its variations, and those are likely to be interesting without being attached to a specific person. Indeed, for me (and likely for others), Christianity gets more interesting without a historical Jesus.


Basically, there is no historical evidence for Jeshua; however, we have ample amounts of writings ...

We have writings of Christians who claim a historical person. We have nothing from non-Christians of the times to corroborate anything. We have a couple of instances that appear to be concurrent, though those have been regarded as later additions by Christians to original texts. We only have writings from long after the reported lifetime of Jesus--heck, even the gospels were written decades later and most not by the person to whom they are attributed.

So, no corroboration from the Romans nor the Jewish temple writings nor any other source, and only claims from Christians writing decades later. Not much of a case for existence.

Thus, not much of a case can be made for orthodox protests over theories as to Yeshua's living in India. I've not read any of the case for such, so I can't say how strong it is. I can say that if it is only as strong as the case for the historical person of Yeshua, then it's as believable.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:47 pm

I don't think so Autumnal Tone. You state that in your opinion there is not much of a case for the existence of Jesus. It follows for you that since you don't think that there is a good case for Jesus existence you think any hypothesis for Jesus being in India has to be weak too. I would expect nothing less. If you don't have the opinion that he existed, how could you believe that he traveled to India?

Others will and do have a different opinion and have reached different conclusions than you have. If a person joins the experts who have the opinion that there is a sufficient evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus, then they would next have to evaluate the evidence for Yeshua going to India. It could go either way, depending upon the evidence. Each hypothesis has to be weighed on the evidence for it.

The point about the "no evidence" and "he never wrote anything" comes up in this class, by the way. It was pointed out that the same could be said for several more historical figures, like Socrates.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:34 pm

AutumnalTone wrote:Thus, not much of a case can be made for orthodox protests over theories as to Yeshua's living in India. I've not read any of the case for such, so I can't say how strong it is. I can say that if it is only as strong as the case for the historical person of Yeshua, then it's as believable.

It's not very strong at all from what I've read. One of the primary reasons why orthodox Christians oppose the idea that Jesus went to India or Tibet to study with the Asian mystics is that even they readily acknowledge that we know nothing whatsoever about the so-called "missing years," those between his scripturally documented appearance at about age 12 teaching the temple priests up to shortly before age 30 when he began preaching.

In fact, most of the people so-claiming with which I'm familiar are New Agers trying to think up something that Jesus might have been doing during those years, usually something they think makes sense within their own contexts--studying Asian religions.

A lot of their accounts are from channeled material. You can give that as much or as little credence as you feel inclined to grant.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:44 pm

Dot, there isn't anything known about Jesus's life until he was baptized by John. In other words, all that is known about his life is the last few years. The 12 year old teaching story was added much later. The birth story was a later addition, too.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:00 pm

gillyflower wrote:Dot, there isn't anything known about Jesus's life until he was baptized by John. In other words, all that is known about his life is the last few years. The 12 year old teaching story was added much later. The birth story was a later addition, too.

What's your evidence for stating that both the birth accounts and the teaching in the temple stories were added later?
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:12 pm

It goes back to the Q document. Both were added later because they are not found anywhere else. The teaching in the temple is part of the embarrassment thing of Jesus being second to John the Baptist. They threw in a story later about how precocious he was. All that came after Jesus was raised to divine status, or so Dr. Sheehan and the experts he quotes believe. (The quote about "about my father's business" is a foreshadowing in the evolving narrative added to lead up to his being the son of Yahweh, something that is a later addition.)

Ed to add: I should say that's the opinion of the Dr. Sheehan and the books and experts and the scholarship from the last 150 years that he mentions. He points out that Evangelicals and Fundamentalist will believe something entirely different.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:34 pm

Yes, well, that view would jibe with Bart Ehrman's, Robert Price's and those of some of the other "atheist scholars" that the orthodox Christians to whom I referred wouldn't give the time of day. I've encountered any number of the latter, several of them ministers, who asserted that we ought to ignore all the scholarly wrangling (unless, of course, it supports rather than denies one of their cherished beliefs) and take our information about Jesus solely from Christian scripture.

I'm looking forward to getting Sheehan's book from the public library. I'd like to see what his sources are. I really hate trying to cross-reference statements with their source citations in online books. It's a real pain trying to go back and forth, one of the reasons why I hate online books.

One problem I have with class lectures like Sheehan's is that a lot of the substance to which he refers is in the printed materials he assigned the students. If you don't also have access to those, you're left going, "Now, what led him to make that statement, pray tell?"
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:36 pm

Yeesh, that is muddled, what I posted. John didn't have much to do with the story about the kid teaching in the temple. In that case things were added by the later Christian community because they had to show that Jesus was superior to John even though John had baptized him. So things were added to explain away that embarrassment.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:46 pm

Didn't confuse me. I got your point that the temple teaching story was likely a much later addition intended in part to "firm up" Jesus's status as clearly higher than that of John the Baptist.

There has had to be a good deal of scrambling to explain why Jesus needed to be baptized at all. Frankly, I could never understand why he would have. Probably the best answer I ever got was that of an old nun who said she felt that Jesus agreed to be baptized to demonstrate its importance even though he certainly didn't need to be cleansed of original sin or to be formally dedicated to God the Father by means of baptism.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:01 pm

I don't think that the historical Jesus thought he was sinless or considered himself a son of Yahweh.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by AutumnalTone on Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:49 pm

Whomever is at the root of the Yeshua stories likely had a different conception of sin than that adopted by Christianity later. I imagine considering himself/herself/themselves demi-gods was also beyond his/her/their thinking.

One observation I've read about Christianity is that it changed the view of the relationship between human and deity, with that bond becoming much more personal with Christian thought than with earlier Pagan thought. I'm not conversant enough with all the skeins of Pagan thought from antiquity to discern the accuracy of that observation, though I suspect it does hold some truth. Peeling back the tales to get to the foundational material would shed some light on that, I think.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:27 pm

Sakhaiva wrote:Thanks for the links DOT, I'll have to pass those on - the shipping for abe books seems reasonable!

TED, it's a frightening idea that a Holocaust could be forgotten. Though life works that way; people seldom know about the Ukrainian holocaust (where politicians starved out their own people .... for profit) 7 million died by forced starvation.

Or what about Nanking?



Speaking of forgetting.... or dismissing... Gilly, will this lecture touch on Panthera at all? (that's something one doesn't hear in church)

Starting #3 today

Yes! He touched on Panthera!

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Beribee on Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:28 pm

UGH.....I'm only 1/2 way through the first one!! I need more time! I love these lectures!

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:40 am

gillyflower wrote:I don't think that the historical Jesus thought he was sinless or considered himself a son of Yahweh.

I didn't intend to imply that I thought he did. I was simply explaining that within the Catholic Christian context of belief in Jesus as both sinless and God, the nun's explanation made more sense than any other I'd heard for why Jesus chose to be baptized. Sorry if my reason for interjecting that wasn't clear.

Both the concept of original sin visited upon all people at birth due to the sin of Adam and Eve and that Jesus was divine are later additions to Catholicism.

As far as I know, baptism hasn't ever been a Jewish custom anyway, so there are probably layers and layers of later add-ons to whatever stories about Jesus the earliest Christians had.
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Re: Historical Jesus

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