Statesboro, GA, USA
Sorry this took so long. I wanted to be somewhat thorough, and things have been busy enough to make sitting down to this kind of thing difficult. But better slow than ďno.Ē
Essential agreement, not total agreement.††And consider the††'heretic' beliefs, like Arianism and Socinianism before them, that exist in christian denominations today. Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians and Mormon's for example, all strongly reject church doctrine and interpretation.
I never claimed "total agreement".
What you fail to mention is that these heresies, (including the more modern ones), need to be interpretively defended by exegesis of scripture. And that's exactly the area where they lack strength. Equality and arbitrariness of doctrines can only be the assumption of those who haven't looked at scripture closely themselves. For example, with the New Testament taken for granted, do you think Arianism is defensible?
When exegetical analysis is done concerning the Arianism of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Hinduistic doctrine of Eternal Progression of the Mormons, or the essentially Greek philosophical relativism / skepticism of the Unitarian Universalists, contradictions abound. The truth is, all of these heresies are only repackaged versions of the early ones, and are refuted in the same manner ... by their incongruity with the whole context of the Bible.
Really, doctrinal truth cannot exist in any form without heretical teaching. Even Paul wrote that "There MUST be hereies also among you, that those which are approved may be manifest".
First, let's begin with the trial before the Sanhendrin in the house of the high priest. Haim Cohn, former attorney general/member of the Supreme Court of Israel and expert on historical law, listed 6 reasons revealing why the trial described couldn't have taken place
To me, such arguments arise out of nothing more than a charge of modern "political incorrectness". Cohn, being a Jew, wants to show that the Jews had nothing to do with the crucifixion of Jesus. But thereís a whole lot of evidence that such a reconstruction leaves out, such as the animosity of the Jewish leaders throughout the ministry of Jesus, and the threat they would feel from the Zealot-hating Romans if Jesus' popularity were allowed to continue unchecked. And if you don't think Cohn is a reconstructionist, remember that he puts forth the view that the Jewish leaders actually tried to help Jesus avert the execution of the Romans, by counselling him. Where did that come from?? I havenít read his book, but I have examined his reasons as to why the trial of Jesus couldn't have taken place as is written in the Gospels. I want to comment briefly on each one ...
1. Sanhedrin could not, and never did, exercise jurisdiction in the house of the high priest or anywhere outside the courthouse and the temple precinct.
But the Gospels donít say that they had the trial "outside" of their jurisdiction. In Luke 22:54 we read "Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest". Are we to conclude therefore that the trial was held at the house of the high priest? No ... For in John we read that he was first taken to Annas the high priest, and then delivered to Caiaphas (the high priest who resided over his trial). "Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.". This confirms that the interlude with Annas, at his house, was not a formal trial but an informal interrogation, followed by the official trial in the temple precinct. Luke 22:66 confirms this too, by telling us, "At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them ..."
Am I missing something here? This is cogently explained from the various accounts of the Gospels, that this "jurisdiction" was not violated.
2.††no session of the criminal court was permissible at night, criminal trials had to be conducted and finished during the daytime
According to Luke this rule was not violated. see 22:66 where he tells us that they met "at daybreak". Also Matthew 27:1 says "Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death."
Again, how do you substantiate the claim that the trial occurred at night?
3.††a criminal trial was not allowed to take place on the eve of a feast day, nor on the feast day itself, and the setting is Pesach or Passover.
There were indications in Jewish writings of potential exceptions to this rule. Even within the framework of the Mishna Tractate rules (which are not certain to have been in effect prior to 70 A.D., and was not compiled until around 200 A.D.) Jesus could have very well been regarded as a "seducer" of the people, leading the populace astray and speaking blasphemy against God.
Consider Deuteronomy 13:1-5 ... "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ĎLet us follow other godsí (gods you have not known) Ďand let us worship them,í you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you."
Rudolph Pesch argues that Jesus, by his symbolic demonstration in the Temple, and by his teaching, was seen as a preacher of rebellion against the established order of God. And even the Qumran Temple Scroll describes a seducer as "one who betrays his people to a foreign nation". Caiaphas also said "it is better that one man die, than for the whole nation to perish", concering Jesus. Doesnít this support that this was just the type of "seducer" that the Jewish leaders considered Jesus to be? Also there was a charge made that Jesus was "subverting the nation" in Luke 23:1.
Pesch also tells us that the Sanhedrin had special regulations for whenever such a case might be encountered. He refered to the principle of horaath saíah or "as time demands". One Jewish interpretation of the matter also suggests that seducers should be executed "precisely on a pilgrimís feast day in Jerusalem", in order to warn the people publically (Rudolph Pesch, The Trial of Jesus Continues, 32). That would fit the Gospel accounts perfectly, and all of itís context. Another excerpt from the Qumran Temple Scroll tells us (commenting on Deut. 21:21) that crucifixion is an ideal punishment for the treasonous man.
Though I reject using the Dead Sea Scrolls for reconstructionist history linked arbitrarily and speculatively to the Christians, I do think they are valuable in revealing intricacies of Jewish thought in the time period of Jesus and before.
Another example of "exceptions" in Jewish legal history is recorded in the The Tosephtha Sanhedrin 7:11 ... "For all who are guilty of the punishment of death by law, one may not set traps, except for the seducerĒ Pesch also noted that this casts an entirely new light on the role of Judas as well.
There is also the possibility that the "trial" of Jesus was not official since the Jews at that time had no juridiction concerning Capital offenses. (though I tend to believe otherwise, that it was an "official" trial with the Sanhedrin). If this were true, then the Jews would be performing a mere informal trial, in order to present to the Roman authorities a more orderly account of the charges brought against Jesus ... in which case the normal "rules" for a formal trial need not apply.
4.††no man might be found guilty on his own confession.
Two notable points here.
1) This Jewish practice was contrary to Roman criminal procedure, where the confession of the accused was enough. Jesus' "confession" was subsequently used by the priests to convict him in the Roman Court before Pilate. Thus the question by Caiaphas was put forth to obtain a political charge that Pilate would recognize ...claiming to be "The King of the Jews". Whether or not it was used to convict him in the Jewish Court, is irrelevant.
2) Jesus' confession WAS the crime itself, not technically a mere confession of a crime. When Jesus said that he was the Christ, it was a crime in and of itself ... witnessed by the high Priest and Sanhedrin. Naturally thatís why Caiaphas exclaimed "Why do we need anymore witnesses?", because he himself had witnessed the "crime" firsthand.
5.††a conviction must proceed from the testimony of at least two truthful and independent witnesses, giving evidence both as to the commission of offence in their very presence, and as to the knowledge of the accused that the act was punishable by a particular penalty.
This is no problem if the Sanhedin witnessed the crime themselves ... (see above).
6.††the offence of blasphemy is not committed unless the witnesses testify that the accused had, in their presence, pronounced the ineffable name of God, the tetragrammaton which might only be pronounced once a year on the Day of Atonement by the High Priest in the innermost sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Kodesh Kodashim.
A few points ...
1) Cohn is depending upon the assumption that the MIshna rules WERE in effect during the time that Jesus was tried. That is a mere assumption. No certainty of this exists, but only that such rules were probably in place after 70 A.D.
2) Even if this Mishna rule was in place, there is no certainty that they were strictly observed.
3) There are other examples in Scripture where "blasphemy" is defined in broader terms. For example, Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming to be able to forgive sins. This was the blasphemy of a man infringing upon the unique prerogatives of God. Since only God could forgive sins, and Jesus claimed this prerogative, then he was a Blasphemer. This is an example of "constuctive blasphemy". But did Jesus commit such constructive blasphemy when answering Caiaphas? Letís see ...
" The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. 'But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' 'He is worthy of death,' they answered." (Matthew 26:63-66)
"sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One" and "Coming on the clouds of Heaven" Are both attributes of Divine Power and Authority, that any Jewish religious leader would have understood. This was clearly blasphemous in their eyes.
There is also a likelihood that a self claim to Messiahship would have also entailed "blasphemy".
But even IF the Jews could not condemn Christ in an official manner for Blasphemy (and that is by no means proven), one has to remember that the whole trial in the scriptures is portrayed as a mock trial, a pretense. This is also harmonious with the other places in scripture that talk of some of the Jewish religious leaders "plotting to kill Jesus". When someone in corrupt leadership is plotting to kill, formalities in a trial tend to mean very little. And that brings me to my last point ...
Again, though there is no certain evidence that the Mishna Sanhedrin rules (the sole source that Cohn depends upon for his points) were even practiced at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, even if they were, it is doubtful whether or not they would have been strictly practiced in the Jewish system.
A.E. Harvey states, in his "Jesus on Trial", " ... it is far from certain that they (the Mishna rules) were in force before the fall of Jerusalem, or, even if they were, that they would have been observed in an emergency."
And would fastidious rules, automatically rule out the breaking of those rules, in the case of an unjust trial? History ought to teach us better. The politics of our own nation ought to teach us better.
As Pesch noted, these kinds of arguments "insinuate, of course, that nothing would ever happen which is forbidden by law. The world, our history, is full of transgressions against laws! If one wanted to make valid laws the measuring rod for the reconstruction of actual history, then one would, at every turn, be led astray."
Second let's look at Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea and, according to gospel depictions; a just, tolerant and reluctant crucifier of Jesus.
There is no incompatibility of the Bible with any historical depictions of Pilate being cruel or oppressive. The Gospel narratives present a Pilate who is 1) apathetic and unconcerned with matters of Jewish religion, such as whether or not someone is a "blasphemer", 2) untrusting and unsympathetic with the Jewish leaders, 3) unconvinced of the Zealot charge given to Jesus, by his very appearance and demeanor, as a man whose experience has taught him what an inssurrectionist looks and acts like. 4) In fear of the powers that rule and bear over him, which might come down upon him if there were an uprising of the Jews that he let get out of hand.
Do the gospel narratives exonerate Pilate? Hardly.
Rather they present a man who knows better, but who for political reasons of his own refused to take responsibility and allow Jesus to go free. The halfhearted attempt to state his own detachment from the decision, was only a farce attempt to escape responsibility which could not be escaped. The Jews did not have power or legal rights to crucify. So it was still Pilateís hand that crucified Jesus. His reluctance to crucify, coupled with his unwillingness to let Jesus go free, was an act of cowardice. And NONE of that is incompatible with cruelty. I think you have misrepresented the Gospel narrative of Pilate, and are missing the more subtle expose' of his poor character.
The authenticity of bible's contents are still questioned to this day. It's important to note that serious critical inquiry into the NT only really began with 18th century theology, long after the canon was established. When looking at the texts one has to look at their history.
What you are referring to is "higher criticism" of the Bible. I personally think that the Church, and the authenticity of the Bible has nothing to fear from higher criticism (criticism aimed at larger issues of authorship authenticity and authority). Itís not that questions of authorship and authenticity werenít approached by the early church (they were), it's just the degree of knowledge, archaology, and detail that we now possess has allowed us to ask many more questions, and answer many more of them as well.
Here is the illegitimate part of "higher criticism" that I have issue with, that didnít show up until the 1800s for a specific reason ... 19th century German Rationalism, and post enlightenment methodological naturalism. These philosophical underpinnings were taken a priori and uncritically into the arena of Biblical Criticism. And much of it went (& goes) like this...
- We know miracles donít / canít happen.
- Therefore text ďAĒ in the gospels canít be really historical.
- Therefore we know miraculous event ďAĒ didnít really happen.
Such circular argumentation is based upon philosophic presupposition. And that was used by many scholars associated with "The Quest for the Historical Jesus", and "The Jesus Seminar". Therefore I have no problem with the questions and challenges of higher criticism. I think they enrich the studies of scripture. But there is a reason that much of the "criticism" didnít arise until after 1800, and alot of it is philosophically based rather than textually based.
By the time real attempts to unify the church were made, one wonders just what texts were out there and what modifications had already been made.
The only problem with that is that in reality, one does not have to wonder at all. As F.F. Bruce (among others) has pointed out, the fast dispersion and copying of manuscripts that happened in the early centuries of Christianity actually makes any deviations stand out with embarrassing obviousness. When many early Alexandrian text-type manuscripts were discovered in the 17th century, they proved to be amazingly consistent with the later Byzantine text-type manuscripts already possessed. As a matter of fact there is a remarkable consistency all the way back through the very earliest manuscripts. The alterations that exist are minor, and inconsequential, touching and effecting no major doctrinal or historical points.
Yet the vague complaint, "who knows what has been altered" isnít based upon texts that are possessed. It is speculative, ultra-suspicious, and plays on the love of conspiracies within us all. But if the texts were really altered, then why wouldn't there have been a plethora of copies of the alleged originals too? Why was everything else copied like mad, except for the authentic texts? And not only would that be incredible in any community, but how much more in a community that was so close to the events at hand, and among the direct descendants of whom these events happened to?
One must also consider the effects Emperor Diocletian, an intolerant pagan who succeeded in destroying a large part of early christian work. Just what was destroyed, and what survived this destruction?
For one, how likely would it be that an intolerant pagan would eradicate authentic Christian texts and leave the others? As a Pagan, he would not care one whit about such subtleties of texts. In other words, he would not discriminate in his destruction.
Also, by the 300s, all of the New Testament works were being copied like mad and well dispersed abroad. Diocletian may have destroyed many texts of Churchmen. But he couldnít have destroyed ONE text of the Church. That would have been like trying to rid your house of roaches with a fly-swatter.
And most importantly, the bible was rewritten in 322 AD, commisioned by Emperor Constantine in his effort to unify the church who also ordered the destruction of all texts and commentary that did not align with them.
Again, you place to much faith in Constantine to eradicate such widely disperesed texts. Who cares if he ordered the destruction of heretical texts? He didnít destroy them all, as evidenced by the existence of them today. Why should we think he was able to destroy ALL of the alleged ďauthenticĒ texts you keep trying to postulate, when he couldnít destroy these others?
How many revisions, translations and codices have existed since then?
Many. But we still have very early manuscripts to compare them with to see whether or not they are accurate. So it really wouldnít matter if there were another millenium's accumulation of translations.
If the translations of the bible are still being revised, then so to should their interpretations and those of non-canon texts.
I really don't know what you mean by "so should their interpretations". Interpretations are revised only if there is textual reason to do so. And that is my whole argument (with the proof in the earliest of manuscripts) that there has been very few changes textually speaking, the existing changes being inconsequential to dogma or history.
I have no problem with revising or interpreting non-canonical texts, as much as anyone pleases. Still the likelihood of those texts reflecting the life and teaching of Jesus, and the early Christians still have to be judged on their OWN merits. Thatís where the non-canonical texts have failed the test of canonicity and still do.
Catholicity, what does this matter? The catholicity of documents doesn't confirm a proper interpretation, only a catholic interpretation. Because an ideal is more widely accepted it invalidates those of an 'isolated' segment?
It wouldn't matter as much, except in a community so relatively close to the events in question. There were many in the Church who were directly associated and descended from those to whom these events happened. Legitimate texts about the life of Jesus, would naturally be accepted in such a community. Spurious texts would naturally be shunned in such a community.
Again, what the church viewed as orthodoxy, all else was considered heretical and by edict either destroyed or surpressed.
Not really. All else, proved in that early Christian community to be rejected in practice. Whenever a late text came out claiming to be written by Apostle X, or Peter, or Barnabas, or whoever, usually only a small segment of people would recognize it, or believe it to be genuine. Their late dates, along with the consensus of that early community, along with adherence to what was already known to be revealed truth, is what determined whether or not it was "Kosher".
I know of no pseudepigraphal work that was "destroyed" do you? You keep saying that. The Church never was able to destroy the New Testament "Apocrypha", the evidence being they are still around. Yes, they were suppressed Iím sure, as to their influence, after they were determined to be spurious texts of doubtful authorship and content. Thatís hardly surprising.
ONLY BECAUSE THEY WERE DISCOVERED IN 1945, and only because they were hidden by monks of St. Pachomius to escape DESTRUCTION in the church's campaign for orthodoxy.
Iíve already answered the "Dead Sea Scroll" argument, in that no damning texts have shown up. You only suspiciously assume that there might be some that we don't know about. So that argument is off the table as far as Iím concerned.
But as for pseudepigraphal texts being discovered in 1945, be specific and tell me what was discovered for the first time. We can't really discuss it until you do.
Um..well aside from the admission by church officials that this was a common practice?
Burning texts was a common practice in the ancient world ... period. Not just the Church. It was felt that it something was subversive, harmful, or politically threatening, it should be destroyed. So each instance needs to be examined to see whether or not destroying texts was from an admirable motive or not, rather than condemning the destruction of texts, as wrong in itself.
Iíll need specific citations of who said what, in what works, so that I can read them in context. As it stands your argumentation is to general, and seems like little more than ad hominem. When you give me more specific info Iíll respond.
And I will look into what exactly Constantine was responsible for destroying.
Or Clement's suppresion of the Secret Gospel of Mark? (Whatever your views on the gospel itself, the fact remains that it was to be surpressed.)
Iíve already explained WHY the "Secret Gospel of Mark" was suppressed ... not by it's enemies, but by it's advocates. It was because secretiveness was the common practice toward ALL gnostic texts, not of those who wished to destroy or suppress them, but of those who wished to keep them from the "uninitiated" and common herd. That IS the very teaching of Gnosticism ... exclusive texts for exclusive classes of people. And it's already been shown too that Clement, though orthodox in his heart and in the main of his teaching, was still influenced by Gnosticism.
Saying that a text willingly concealed by it's advocates, is really a text that was suppressed by it's enemies represents either a serious misunderstanding on your part, or bait and switch tactics of argumentation. I do want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you haven't fully understood this issue yet, or else you wouldnít keep bringing it up.
These are the attitudes, and admissions, that lead me to question and attack the Pauline church and their rule over what was to be released and what was to supressed.
Raph, I read those quotes. A few of them I already am aware of. It seems as if you are attempting to practice the very thing you describe, because so many of these have been taken quite out of their context for your use. If you don't think there is a legitimate use for deceit (though I myself wouldnít call it that) then you never should even think of a surprise birthday party, or of acting cool and collect when your boss calls you to the office about a problem. You're being unfair I think in assuming that these men mean that it's okay to manipulate others for personal profit. I'm not even going to try and respond and defend each quote, because I think the defense is that you have not put forth a legitimate offense.
Consider the apparentely brief time involved in the creation of the gospels. Now consider just how many variations on the texts were in existence.
Though there are differences, they are minor, affecting no substantial point of doctrine or history. All the texts in existence support what you consider to be a later form of Christianity. There ARE no earlier texts, to support your suspicion that the gospel has been changed at will. The best you can do, if you want to maintain that, is to do what some of the advocates of Form Criticism have done, and argue from theoretical documents, such as "Q" and other postulations.
Yes you did give me the standards used to acheive the canon, but again, those standards you spoke of mean nothing with regards to actual authenticity of the gospels as a continuation of Jesus, they only confirm that those sepcific texts are authentically catholic or orthodox in nature.
Just remember that by the time "lists" began to appear in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and by the time any claims to a definite canon had been made, it was getting into the late 2nd / early 3rd century. This is when the spurious pseudepigraphal writings began to appear. So the question of authenticity DID have to do with whether the documents actually reflected the life and teachings of Jesus. It was a defense of earlier documents over and against later ones.
Well for one, let's look at the ending of Mark. Most NT critics are in agreement that the ending (or endings there were anywhere from 4 to 9 versions) of Mark were later additions.First of all, the earliest extant copies, including the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus Codices all end at 16:8. Also, and with regards to tone, scholars have argued that the narrative shift between 16:8 and 16:9 is awkward. Verse 8 ends abrubtly with Mary, the Magdelene and Salome fleeing in terror from the sepulchre and immediately introduces a new story in 9. Beginning more like a new Chapter than a continuation of the story, it also reintroduces the Magdelene, which is also strange, having already been introduced at the beginning of the chapter.
Most Biblical scholars agree that Mark originally ended at 16:8, and that the remainder was added by a scribe zealous to harmonize Mark with the other gospels. The opinion that the original ending of 16:8 is "awkward", and therefore must represent an intentional deletion, an accidental loss of text, or the death of Mark prior to finishing the gospel, is just that ... an opinion. Others have seen the ending as quite appropriate to the mood and suspense of the whole scenario ... leaving the reader with a vivid picture of the tremulous fear and hope that must have characterized the events surrounding the empty tomb.
As for the addendum ... There is nothing of essence in it, which isn't recorded elsewhere in the other gospels. I have no problem in saying it was not originally part of Mark's gospel, and there is no great loss in saying so. In fact most of the Bibles I have read underscore that very point ... telling the reader that the addendum is absent from the very earlierst manuscripts. In summary it neither adds anything unique to the gospel tradition, nor does it cover anything up.
The New Testament as a whole has the synoptic problem to deal with
What is called a "problem" as far as I can see, is simply the attempt to describe how the gospel narratives are related, and whether or not there were other written sources that they commonly drew from. What dire difficulties, other than strictly acedemic, are raised by the synoptic "problem"?
plus the differences between those gospels and the almost gnostic John,
There's good reason that you have to say "almost". For John does not go as far as the gnostics did in their doctrines. Thereís a kernel of truth, even in gnosticism (which is true of heresy in general), and John, one might say, expresses that kind of truth.
Different, yes. Contradictory, no. In content, John's Gospel deals mostly with Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem, while the synoptic Gospels deal with his Galilean ministry.
and the differences in James and Paul(you deny they exist, many argue they do)
Iíve never denied differences. What I have denied is incongruity. Hopefully that will be what I address in my next reply in the "Sermon on the Mount" thread.
(to be continued ... my reply was too long for one entry)