Historical Jesus

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:48 am

Btw, if you haven't yet dipped into Sheehan's book, I think that doing so is crucial to a more complete understanding of various points he makes but doesn't elaborate upon very much in the lectures.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through "Call Me Yeshua" and had a number of questions as to why he was saying various things. Most of those have been answered by my reading the first couple of chapters of his book.

While he briefly touches upon how biblical criticism operates in the lecture, he goes exhaustively in the book into how the various branches of it have influenced present-day understandings of Jesus and his significance.

As is customary with college courses, I think that a mere listener will get a somewhat incomplete understanding of what Sheehan is attempting to convey. It's necessary to listen to the lectures AND read the assigned texts. It seems to me crucial to do so with this course.

If you find what Sheehan does interesting, you may also want to get a copy of Paul Wegner's The Journey From Texts To Translations which examines how the Christian Bible evolved from the various manuscripts and then from one translation to the next. Wegner is solidly orthodox (Moody Bible Institute), so you won't get any speculation about "humanist Jesus" from him, though.

Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus would probably be a good auxiliary read for what Sheehan is doing, although Ehrman talks more about how the Bible has been irreparably altered by scribal errors and deliberate editing and insertions.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:15 am

Yes, this is one class where doing the assigned reading is necessary. Sheehan gives more and more suggestions of books to read during the lectures as well and it comes at a bad time for me since the library (and our remote services) will be closed for several months. I've snagged what I could and I've got others on their way although I'm not sure that will work out.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Davelaw on Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:04 am

[quote="DotNotInOz"]
gillyflower wrote:
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.

ritual immersion was and is a big part of Judaism
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by ZenYen on Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:21 am

Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" is a nice add-on for Sheehan's lectures, as is Ehrman's "Jesus, Interrupted." I read both recently, and thoroughly enjoyed them.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by ZenYen on Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:13 am

I was downloading the "Words and Wonders" lecture in the Historical Jesus series and noticed Stanford also has a "Spirituality and Religion" lecture series on iTunes, featuring a lot of different speakers and a lot of different topics. Bart Ehrman is one speaker, talking about "Misquoting Jesus." The Dalai Lama is included, Thomas Sheehan is included, and I saw one lecture entitled "Buddhist in America."

Worth checking out, and I probably will start dipping into those after I finish the Historical Jesus series.

Thanks for getting this discussion started, Gilly, and thanks to all who are participating. It's almost like being in college again, except I'm sober.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:49 pm

Davelaw wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:
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.

ritual immersion was and is a big part of Judaism

Quite so, but the purpose isn't much like that of baptism at all. For one thing, it's not the least bit public as baptism tends to be in a good many Christian churches. The only other person in the room will be the mikvah supervisor who watches to be certain the bather has completely immersed in the bath.

The mikvah is the only ritual immersion used in Judaism that I'm aware of, most commonly used by wives after their period has ended so that they're ritually cleansed and able to have sex with their husband again.

Men may also undergo a mikvah cleansing prior to any big event in their lives as a form of preparation for something new or significant such as an important job or marriage. Of course, women can use the mikvah for these reasons, too.

The point of ritual immersion is a rededication to one's duty to God under Jewish law as well as spiritual rejuvenation to prepare for a major change in one's life.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:59 pm

ZenYen wrote:Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" is a nice add-on for Sheehan's lectures, as is Ehrman's "Jesus, Interrupted." I read both recently, and thoroughly enjoyed them.

I didn't care for Jesus, Interrupted that much. Wasn't that the one where Ehrman explains what led him from fundamentalist Christianity to agnosticism? If so, I thought it read like exhaustive self-analysis that ought to have stayed in his personal journal. I didn't care especially, and good writer that he is on other topics, he was unable to get me to care.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by ZenYen on Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:15 pm

Dot: Ehrman's switch to agnosticism was a small part of "Jesus, Interrupted," but certainly not a major portion of the book, and he mentioned it primarily in answer to critics of his other books who say that examining the Bible with a critical eye leads one to abandon faith. He was trying to point out that it was theological problems, such as the Problem of Evil, that led him away from Christianity, not the in-depth Biblical analysis and de-mythologizing he does as a scholar.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:30 pm

[quote="Davelaw"]
DotNotInOz wrote:
gillyflower wrote:
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.

ritual immersion was and is a big part of Judaism

If you are talking about washing away uncleanliness it sure was. It was not about sin and nothing like what the Christians did to it later.

Oops, Dot addressed this better than I did!

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Davelaw on Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:38 pm

[quote="DotNotInOz"][quote="Davelaw"]
DotNotInOz wrote:
.

The point of ritual immersion is a rededication to one's duty to God under Jewish law as well as spiritual rejuvenation to prepare for a major change in one's life.

not much different from a proclamation of one's New Birth in Christ is it?

see the Baptism of John the immerser and compare to the rituals detailed in the DSS as well as compare to late first century Baptism as detailed in the Didache which called for adult immersion in Living water after praying and fasting.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Davelaw on Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:40 pm

[quote="gillyflower"]
Davelaw wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:
gillyflower wrote:
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.

ritual immersion was and is a big part of Judaism

If you are talking about washing away uncleanliness it sure was. It was not about sin and nothing like what the Christians did to it later.

compare to Peter's Letter

in a similiar manner in which Baptism saves you; not by washing away sins of the flesh; but as a declaration of a clean conscience before God.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:01 pm

Davelaw wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:
.

The point of ritual immersion is a rededication to one's duty to God under Jewish law as well as spiritual rejuvenation to prepare for a major change in one's life.

not much different from a proclamation of one's New Birth in Christ is it?

see the Baptism of John the immerser and compare to the rituals detailed in the DSS as well as compare to late first century Baptism as detailed in the Didache which called for adult immersion in Living water after praying and fasting.

I don't deny that they are similar in some ways (which would only be the case for Christian sects using total immersion, and I'd bet those form a distinct minority although I might be wrong about that what with the remarkable growth of fundamentalist sects), but the primary purpose is quite different.

Christians don't usually undergo baptism more than once nor are they baptized for purposes other than as a formal declaration of faith. Thus, the roles of the mikvah and of baptism within their respective contexts are quite different.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:26 pm

Perhaps this reference to support what I'm saying will help:

"Baptism in the first century Jewish community, just as it is in modern Jewish communities, is unlike the various styles of Christian baptism practiced in churches today. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus he didn't touch Jesus, neither did he pour water over Jesus' head. Jesus would have immersed himself and John wouldn't have touched him. There are a number of different drawings that depict Jewish baptism over the centuries. One very famous ancient drawing was found in a Roman catacomb, which depicts John and Jesus at Jesus' baptism. John is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Jesus who is standing in the water. Modern Rabbinic Judaism still teaches this form of ritual self-immersion today."

http://www.biblicalheritage.org/Jesus/baptism.htm

There is more detail about the important distinctions between the two religions' differing rituals in the article cited.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Thu Apr 29, 2010 5:55 pm

[quote="Davelaw"]
gillyflower wrote:
Davelaw wrote:
DotNotInOz wrote:
gillyflower wrote:
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.

ritual immersion was and is a big part of Judaism

If you are talking about washing away uncleanliness it sure was. It was not about sin and nothing like what the Christians did to it later.

compare to Peter's Letter

in a similiar manner in which Baptism saves you; not by washing away sins of the flesh; but as a declaration of a clean conscience before God.

In the Judaic faith it was not a declaration of a clean conscience (see how the Jewish ideas of clean and unclean are reflected here?). The Jews were quite aware of what clean and unclean meant. It is a ritual to clean yourself, and you are unclean through perhaps no fault of your own, so that you are more acceptable to the god and able to act as a holy person, the way Peter uses it. If you go before Yahweh, you need to do a ritual (immersion), perhaps rededicate yourself to him (notice that isn't a church).

In the first type of ablution the person or article to be purified must undergo total immersion in either mayim ḥayyim ("live water"), i.e., a spring, river, or sea, or a *mikveh, which is a body of water of at least 40 se'ahs (approx. 120 gallons) that has been brought together by natural means, not drawn. The person or article must be clean with nothing adhering (ḥaẓiẓah) to him or it, and must enter the water in such a manner that the water comes into contact with the entire area of the surface. According to law one such immersion is sufficient, but three have become customary. Total immersion is required for most cases of ritual impurity decreed in the Torah (see *Purity and Impurity, Ritual). Immersions were required especially of the priests since they had to be in a state of purity in order to participate in the Temple service or eat of the "holy" things. The high priest immersed himself five times during the service of the Day of Atonement. Other individuals had to be ritually pure even to enter the Temple. However, it became customary among the Pharisees to maintain a state of purity at all times, a fact from which their Hebrew name Perushim ("separated ones") may have developed (L. Finkelstein, The Pharisees (19623), 76 ff.; R.T. Herford, The Pharisees (1924), 31 ff.).

You might like to read the rest of the article at the Jewish Virtual Library:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0001_0_00161.html

After the temple was destroyed (70 ad) everyone was considered impure and the above was discontinued.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:51 pm

It occurred to me that a lot of Wiccans ritually purify themselves before circle by immersion in water. It's part of the process of adjusting one's consciousness in order to create/enter holy space and interact with the gods.

I'm wondering if the NT is the only source about John the Baptist aside from Josephus?

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Davelaw on Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:10 pm

gillyflower wrote:It occurred to me that a lot of Wiccans ritually purify themselves before circle by immersion in water. It's part of the process of adjusting one's consciousness in order to create/enter holy space and interact with the gods.

I'm wondering if the NT is the only source about John the Baptist aside from Josephus?

John is also referenced by Philo of Alexandria.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:46 pm

Could you point me toward a source for that please, Dave? All I could find is although he was believed to be a contemporary of Jesus and John, he didn't mention either one in the things I saw.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:03 pm

I'd be interested as well in such a reference.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Sakhaiva on Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:12 pm

As far as I know there are but 6 first century texts that mention J the B and they are the works of Josephus and the gospels. (Since Luke and Acts are actually 1 work, I'll amend my opening line... 5 first century texts.)

J the B is mentioned in the Qur'an, but now we've jumped to the 6th century. (Yahya is his name in the Qur'an btw)

John is also mentioned in the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazoraeans (back to 2nd century)

Philo mentions Pontius Pilate....... but I do not believe he wrote of John.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Sat May 01, 2010 7:54 pm

Apocalypse to Come (the next to the last lecture) is really good BTW. The first 10 minutes, I'm going to listen to again. All my books came in!

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by Davelaw on Sun May 02, 2010 1:39 am

Sakhaiva wrote:As far as I know there are but 6 first century texts that mention J the B and they are the works of Josephus and the gospels. (Since Luke and Acts are actually 1 work, I'll amend my opening line... 5 first century texts.)

J the B is mentioned in the Qur'an, but now we've jumped to the 6th century. (Yahya is his name in the Qur'an btw)

John is also mentioned in the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazoraeans (back to 2nd century)

Philo mentions Pontius Pilate....... but I do not believe he wrote of John.
on further review that seems to be correct: it seems certain people in the past have taken what Philo wrote about the Essenes and attributed it to John
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Sun May 02, 2010 7:06 am

Philo's writings are frequently cited as evidence that Jesus never existed.

I must say it seems curious indeed to me that someone of Philo's position, a copious writer with family connections to Herod Agrippa as well as significant involvement with Judaism, never said a thing about this revolutionary preacher Jesus.
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Sun May 02, 2010 7:52 pm

If the Historical Jesus thing is right, that would be because Jesus was a wisdom teacher and social reformer out in the sticks who disappeared very quickly the first time (was that the first time?) he came to the Big City, due to an unfortunate miscalculation. The only reason that he is known today is that he empowered his disciples who really believed in the message to go out and teach the same thing he did, with regional twists due to their own communities and backgrounds. It was a good message that quickly got hijacked and nearly lost unfortunately.

I'm looking at it from a Pagan perspective. While I was Christian, the bible stories about Jesus just never made sense to me. I'd sit in the pew and wonder why I saw all these holes and why it didn't mean the same things to me as it seemed to the other people in the pew. I just could not overlook some of the problems. This view of Jeshua makes sense to me at long last. I can understand why there are all these inconsistencies in the bible and what the original message might have been and I can respect it. It is (and I mean no offense) a big relief to have it make sense.

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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by DotNotInOz on Mon May 03, 2010 7:13 pm

Sheehan does have a theory with a degree of plausibility, I'll grant him that.

However, I think he's grasping at straws in order to salvage some historical basis, however marginal, for Christianity.

That there was no such person seems much more likely to me, invoking Occam's Razor.

Knowing that L. Ron Hubbard, a marginally successful science-fiction writer, concocted Scientology as a tax dodge leads me to suspect that Christianity's origin could easily have been similar. Who'd have thought that Scientology would ever acquire anywhere near the number of adherents it has? (Which is not to say that I think it likely Scientology will ever become as widespread or influential as Christianity, but it's a given that none of us will live long enough to find out whether or not it does.)

Seems quite possible to me that Paul and others well-versed in mythologies of the region worked from legends and myths to create yet another super-savior deity. There are too many common elements in the characteristics of Jesus and those of prior savior deities.

Also, despite frequent Christian claims that Jesus was unique, there aren't any revolutionary moral concepts in the sayings of Jesus. Other philosophers and wise men--Confucius, for example--have expressed far more profound moral and ethical precepts.

Just my opinion...
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Re: Historical Jesus

Post by gillyflower on Mon May 03, 2010 9:16 pm

I don't think that Jeshua's sayings were revolutionary (most can be found in the Torah) but I do believe that his social reforms were revolutionary for his era and the Jewish culture. In a time when clean/unclean and separation from gentiles dominated the Jewish life, he taught inclusion, that how one treated other people, without thought to their position and religion, was important and so was being prepared inside for the Kingdom of God.

Whether he intended to or not (and likely he did not) his followers created a new religion. As Sheehan says, we don't know without any doubts that Jeshua existed or walked the talk so it is difficult to judge the man himself. Maybe he was as flawed as most people are. Whatever he was or wasn't, he certainly has had a huge influence upon a lot of people and the world. As have other holy men and women in other religions that are not my own.

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