Statesboro, GA, USA
Me: The early Christian community was no established and ecclesiastically organized body.††So it's not surprising that there is a lack of written material from the earliest days.††
Raph: Was the Qumranic community an established and ecclesiastically organized body? they somehow managed to produce a large
amount of written materials.
You yourself said "there is no disputing that the site housed an immense amount of scrolls on sect rules, beliefs and scriptural commentary." Does that sound like a new community, or an established one? Many organized rules, beliefs, and even scriptural interpretations, are not the hallmarks of a new religious movement.
Why not take the more natural path of letting the evidence determine belief, rather than the other way around?
Of the following statements, which would be more natural:
1) "There are organized, and numerous writings, therefore the Qumran community is probably an older sect.",
2) "The organized and numerous writings of such a young sect, shows that the traditional version of Church history is mistaken, for it proves that such things can be written in a very short amount of time"?
You have to assume that the Qumran texts ARE equated with the early Christians in order to argue that a relatively young group could produce so many texts, so quickly. That's a very circular argument. The largest segment of scholarship does not believe that the Qumran society was a new religious group, but one that had been established for a considerable amount of time ... at least enough time to establish the level of organization that the Qumran scrolls exhibit.
the sheer quantity of material recovered at the Qumran site proves that communities of the time did not rely as heavily on the oral traditions as you suggest.
It also depends upon the nature of the community. A religiously established community with a scribal system such as the Essenes would be more apt to write things down, than a group of more common people, peasants and fishermen which comprised the early Christian community. Also you canít rightly conclude that there was NO reliance on oral tradition in the Qumran community.
3.the qumranic community's scrolls are very early, in fact, most likely during or soon after the events in which they speak, as the republican/imperial rome argument would attest to
Some are close to the events described, some aren't. The dating of the scrolls also range from 1st century B.C. to around 66 A.D. Though I think your Imperial / Republican argument is not without it's own problems, even if it were true, this would be in accorance to the majority view that the Qumran community was a separatist and thoroughly Jewish sect. So I have no problem with your dating really (though I still think that the bulk of scholarship would argue for earlier dates overall). What I take issue with is your unfounded connection of the Qumran community and the earliest Christians. There is no evidence for this.
how would you know exactly what's missing from the qumranic materials when after 50 years††only a fraction of what was recovered has been translated? the nag hammadi scrolls were released to scholars and completely translated††by 1977. access to the dead sea scrolls was restricted to a specially selected group for over 40 years, causing an uproar amongst scholars and historians for the monopoly and the unprofessional handling of the texts.
How would YOU know exactly whatís missing from the Qumranic materials when after 50 years only a fraction of what was recovered has been translated? Your argument really depends upon what is allegedly missing, not mine. From what I have read, the majority of scholars involved are/ were indeed Roman Catholic, but not all. Also the decision to keep the translation process for themselves seems to be one based upon a desire to profit monetarily ... The mercenary spirit is not such a flattering motive, I admit, but a much more likely one than a conspiracy worthy of pulp fiction.
I have copies of books on my shelf that pre-date my birth, whose language is archaic compared to our modern tongue. would you assume my age by the books I keep?
Of course not. But someone might accurately estimate the correct century or decade of your life, based upon the books you write. And I was talking about what was written by the Qumran community, not the co-existing manuscripts of the Old Testament, among other more ancient writings, which were found.
...Confused? Me too, and so were most scholars who threw out Birnbaum's method.
Well in quoting Birnbaumís "method", you have just gone over my head and yours too. Therefore it means little to me that you and I (laymen, with little knowledge of paleography) are confused about it. The only thing I can say is, the broad consensus of scholars is still for an earlier date. Eisenmanís theories are still viewed as fringe and unconvincing, by most scholars involved, Catholic or not. Iím not versed enough (neither are you) to really debate Paleography. But I think the strength of the more traditional views of the sect being a separatist Jewish group is not based in dating alone ... there is also interpretation of the texts, and a wholesale lack of any positive evidence that would suggest the Qumran community can be equated with the early Church.
At best (and I really have no problem with this), what is known about the Qumran community might indicate that they were a zealot, messianic, separatist group who were looking for the Messiah. In which case, some of them very well might have known of Jesus, or even began to follow him. There was one of his Twelve disciples who was perhaps of like description, Simon the Zealot.
But there is every indication (and no evidence to counter) that Jesus was anti-zealot, and quite different from the many militaristic Messiahs which inevitably popped up from year to year.
I disagree, you assert that the Temple priests wanted Jesus killed for preaching a different kind of doctrine. You forget that the Priests at this time were appointed by Herod and later the Roman governors of Judea. It's much more cogent to believe that Jesus saught to restore dignity to the Temple, much like the Maccabeans had railed against their 'hellenized' Temple and priests.
Before I respond, let me set a backdrop. I want to try to describe the the differing political mindsets of the Jewish leaders of that time ... The Sadducees (the priestly class) were the Liberal political party of the Jews. They were also collaborationists whose fault (in the eyes of the Pharisees, the more right-wing political body) was their compromise, and un-nationalistic cooperation with Roman authorities. Of course the Sadducaic practice was simply a political approach of purely pragmatic concern, to gain as much favor as possible with the Romans and so procure a relative peace, in the midst of national captivity. To be above all the other captives, though you may be a captive yourself, is not so bad. In fact it is making the best of the worst. That was their philosophy. They really despised Roman Rule over them as much as their conservative cousins, (the Pharisees), but they felt that the best political course was non-resistance and patient manipulation within the system. "Relax and work with what youíve got", they seemed to say. The more rigid Pharisees, on the other hand, hated the Romans and hated them on mostly ideological / theological grounds. If Israel was Godís chosen, then a Pagan nation ruling over Israel was the ultimate disgrace ... dispeasing to God and Jew alike. So their hatred of the Roman occupation of Israel was more religiously fevered than that of the Sadducees who basically had ceased from believing anything supernatural.
Seeing this polar division within the Jewish leadership, wouldn't it be natural that both would find Jesus threatening, even if for slightly different reasons? The Sadducees (of whom Caiaphas was a prime example) were threatened by Jesus since his popularity and controversy might cause the trigger finger of Rome to twitch. During that time there had already been political "Messiahs" who had procured a following, and made their rebellion known. The Romans, out of fear, tended to be quick in making examples of them, so that no further uprisings would happen.
The Pharisees were threatened by Jesus for a slightly different reason (though they too did not want to see the Romans bear down hard upon Israel because of zealotism). His popularity presented a threat to their personal influence and religious sway over the people. He constantly questioned them publically, and exposed their hypocrisy on a regular basis. Their well loved status as the highest teachers of Israel was being challenged. Their persecution of Jesus was from the politics of personal power and grandeur in the eyes of the Jewish people. They didn't like to be discredited, and to have someone else be called "Rabbi" in any popular degree.
So ... you're right that the Sadducees persecuted Jesus for potentially being "too religious", and "too Jewish" ... but I would add, not for pure concern of doctrine (they had little concern for dogma), but for mainly political reasons. But you fail to see that the Pharisees persecuted Jesus for preaching and espousing something different than the Rabbinical/ legal system of that day. He bristled in many ways against their dogma. So theirs was a more a religious contention with Jesus, because he preached something different than the Jewish religion as then practiced and viewed, and which allowed the Pharisees popular control. So they too persecuted Jesus more out of personal concern than out of any real desire for the truth. They just used their narrow doctrines as means to accuse and condemn him.
But if Jesus was neither a re-establisher of Mosaic legalism, nor a collaborationist with Rome, nor a military zealot, but in actuality demonstrated views in common with all three of these groups, and yet different than all three ... Is it any wonder that the leaders of the Jews, whether on the right or on the left, would misunderstand and view him as a dangerous threat?
Oscar Cullmann in his "The State in the New Testament" describes very well, using Mark 12:13-17, this precariously narrow, but middle way that Jesus walked among the political pundits of his day:
ďWe know that it was just this question of taxpaying which was regarded by the Zealots as the criterion, so to speak, of loyalty to Judaism. As a matter of fact this very question was indeed addressed to Jesus in order to 'entrap him in his talkí (Mark 12:13). According to Mark, it is the Pharisees and the Herodians who pose the question. Both groups are at one in wanting Jesus disarmed. And it is the only thing they have in common, for in other matters they are radically opposed. The question is: 'Should we pay taxes to Ceasar or not?' For themselves, the Pharisees would prefer to answer in the negative, although they do not, like the Zealots, draw the extreme consequences. The Herodians on the contrary, are the collaborationists who make common cause with the Romans and naturally for themselves return an affirmative answer. It is just the presence of both groups which constitutes for Jesus the special temptation. Both want him to compromise himself. If he answers yes, he will be shown up as a collaborationist and will disallusion the majority of the people. If he answers no, this is an avowel that he himself is a Zealot, and indeed a leader of the Zealots; and we know what that meant to the Romans.
But Jesus does not so compromise himself. It is true that his answer has often been thus misconstrued, as if the sphere of Caesar is here presented as being of equal value with the sphere of God. But this is precisely not the case. If Jesus had really attributed to Caesarís sphere the same value as God's, then he would have placed himself on the side of the Herodians. For this is exactly what the Collaborationists maintained: Ceasar is Godís counterpart.
... the double imperative logically follows: on the one hand, do not let the Zealots draw you into a purely political martial action against the existence of the Roman State; on the other, do not give to the State what belongs to God!
... Because Jesus' position on this question was not simple but had to be complex, men could mischievously distort his point of view, and the certainly did. Thus they distorted also his critical attitude toward the Temple, representing it as a revolutionary intention to destroy it."
Jesus' position on the practice of Judaism was very similar to his position on Zealotism (in fact his take on Zealotism came from his unique view of Judaism). He had much in common with it, but rejected much of what had become of it. Therefore the left-wing Jews might easily misrepresent him. And yet so would the right-wing Jews. Because he was more extreme, by being essentially LESS extreme than any of them.
So it's just not as simple as you've been making it out to be. Were the Jews persecuting Jesus because he was purely Judaic, and they were Rome-friendly compromisers? If that were the case, then many of Pharisees would have been crucified along side him.
The truer, more subtly complex picture, is that the enemies of each other joined together to deal with a common enemy (who was really their friend, if only they would have heeded). Itís the old addage, that "the enemy of your enemy is your friend".
I disagree,when looking at Jesus' words, the documented hatred and corruption of the Temple priests, the Qumran texts and Josephus' historical accounts, the pieces fit. You call it reconstructionism, I believe christianity as we know it is reconstructionism. And i'd argue the features are far too general, the descriptions of the characters when placed with the accounts of Acts or Josephus' history make sense as more than coincedence or general features amongst religious groups.
First of all, there's still significant debate about whether "The Liar" and "The Wicked Priest" of the Qumran texts were talking about historical individuals in existence at that time, or whether they were in reference to groups of people and beliefs. As you know the writing of that expectantly "apocalyptic" community was often symbolic. They may have been prophetic writings referring to some future conflict. The point is that we just donít know. But to connect the Wicked priest to Paul (whom we have much specific historical data about in the New Testament) is far fetched and on the outer fringe of incredible theories. If Paul were associated with the Qumran community, there is not so much as a mention of his name, or the names of any of these enigmatic characters within the Qumran texts themselves.
In fact priesthood is the only thing that has any substantial commonality with Paul. But the title "Priest" could have easily been used for ANY leader of a religious populace. Internal evidence of Paulís writings easily show that he was NOT anti-nomian, and never demeaned the Law in the way you describe. Internal evidence from Paul's works alone will suffice in demonstrating this.
It is more likely that "The Wicked Priest" and "The Liar" might be applied to Jonathan the Maccabee or his brother Simon. But even that is unproveable, due to the ambiguity of the texts on the matter.
So bottom line, the traditional view appears much more solid, and is not at all toppled by these hyper-speculative theories. As far as I'm concerned, my next goal is to demonstrate that the writings of Paul and James were not substantially opposed, though they have differnet points of emphasis. Your external evidence is very weak. But still the internal evidence of the scriptures is the strongest argument that the traditional view is the soundest view. And to that I will soon turn.
It is obvious that it is the Temple and High Priest's who are not 'Jewish' enough in Stephen's eyes, just as in Jesus' when he chased the lenders from the Temple
Exactly. But I (like the older and greater Stephen) am making a distinction between the true "Jew", and a mere practicer of the Judaic religion. The Jews who were responsible for his death also accused him of speaking "words of blasphemy against Moses and against God". (Acts 6:11). Remember that for the Christians, the Messiah and the very Gospel were naturally that to which the Law pointed to, and acutally (in history) led up to, which explains how they could criticize the Jewish authorities for despising and disobeying the heart and soul of the Law, while still preaching something other than the Law. But the only way the Jewish leaders could reasonably accuse the Christians of "speaking against Moses" was if what they were preaching, were really something other than the Mosaic law ... something different.
You can see this throughout the New Testament. They did the same to Jesus. The view you are espousing, fails to take in account the nuances of thought on both sides. It's more complex than you are making it. If you're going to look at mere accusations of not "keeping the law", then you are in a quandary. Because BOTH sides were claiming that about the other. That information alone can't settle the argument.
The real question is what each side meant by saying such things, and why they said them.
Considering the myriad of factions that exist in modern times, consider the factions that existed before the church was finally unified under Constantine it's not hard to believe. Prove it definitively? Prove Paul's vision.
Thatís not what I meant. I meant for you to offer proof that the Qumran community was positively Christian ... with textual proof, other than ambiguities. We're now arguing internal textual evidence. Defending Paul's conversion experience, beyond the texts themselves, would be a wholly separate consideration ... in metaphysics or psychology I suppose.
Me: This schism was one in which Paul was vindicated and the other apostles seemed to come in line with the truth.
Raph: Yes, according to the church. You have faith in their words.†
No, according to the writings of Paul and of James we DO have. But what do you have according to the texts which have been allegedly burned and subverted by the Church, in order to hide the real disunity between Paul and the other Apostles, with no proof whatsoever that they ever existed?
As surprised as I am that you can't see a difference in James' words vs Paul's.
I never said I canít see a difference. Just as I can see a difference between Paul and Peter... or between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, for that matter. What I don't see, is a difference so fundamental, that the two canít abide together in the same holy house of truth. At least they themselves didnít think so. And thatís what I will attempt to demonstrate next.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (03-06-2005 03:43 PM).]