Hope for the Historian as Activist

I attended my first Conference on Faith and History (CFH) in 2006 at Oklahoma Baptist University. At the time, Gary Land, chair of the history department at Andrews University, encouraged me to participate. I had not had much experience attending professional meetings and noticed at the time that very few of the Adventist scholars I rubbed shoulders with participated in any kind of professional meetings outside of Adventism. So, I was partly curious as well as envious of those who were involved, just to see what such a meeting was like. My friend Julius Nam, at the time a professor at Pacific Union College, joined us for a panel session about Adventism (Nam and I were then in the planning stages of the 50th-anniversary conference commemorating Questions on Doctrine). At that time, I was excited to see where Christian historians were doing research and where they were taking the church.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11744

Says who?

A close reading of history forces one to admit that it wasn’t necessarily Jesus who made this claim. In fact, a thorough historian must allow that Jesus potentially requires absolutely nothing from anyone, least of all faith-based obedience.

There is no historical evidence for the existence of such a person so anything he might have actually said or needed, while he was alive or now, is hypothetical conjecture based on hearsay and potentially fictional “facts”.

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I am not sure I understand you. In the first paragraph you seem to imply that Jesus existed. In the second paragraph you seem to cast doubt on his existence. In reference to the historicity of Jesus here is a quote lifted from Wikipedia:

Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that a historical human Jesus existed.[7][16][17] Historian Michael Grant asserts that if conventional standards of historical textual criticism are applied to the New Testament, “we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.”[18]

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I consider the fact that Jesus had nothing to do with writing one word of the NT further evidence that the “Christ” described there is not real.

The direct descendent of an omnipotent god would have necessarily possessed the ways and means to write a testimonial of himself that would have made it impossible for 30,000+ divergent sects to argue over its true meaning for 2,000+ years!

Can anyone prove Jesus was a nonexistent, mythical being?

This is like trying to prove OJ didn’t kill his wife, He was found “not guilty” but the laws of logic tell us that there is no way to prove he didn’t do it.

BTW, your implication that I was saying Jesus was a real person in my first paragraph is merely that, I.e., your implication.

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[quote=“NY_G_PA2, post:4, topic:22654”]
I consider the fact that Jesus had nothing to do with writing one word of the NT further evidence that the “Christ” described there is not real.

That is a different conversation to be had. First, we have to agree that the person, Jesus, actually did exist; and the second issue, was he accurately described in the pages of the Bible.

There is no disagreement, even from the most fundamental Christians, on the question of whether or not Jesus, personally, wrote any of the New Testament.

Everyone agrees that he did not.

I take this fact as being one clue to his nonexistence given that mythical people don’t leave a paper trail.

Can I prove this to be the case?

Fortunately for me, the burden is always on the claimant so I feel no urgency or duty to in that regard.

Beside, or even above that, it doesn’t matter to me if Socrates was real or not to accept the wisdom of “knowing myself “.

Similarly, I can take or leave any part of so-called Christianity dogma on the grounds of its efficacy and reliability, rather than worrying about the “truth” about Jesus’ existence or questioning his anecdotally miraculous life.


Yes, there’s no use arguing about whether or not Jesus actually said “thus and such” before determining he historically existed. Then you have to determine to what level were all the stories about him, and the quotes attributed to him, historically true. The authorship of the four separate gospels is yet to be historically determined. At this point, we have to ask, what is the actual importance here - a historical Jesus’ or, as you say, acceptance on the ground of “efficacy and reliability”…

There is such a thing called “internal proofs”. Referring to C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis was brought to belief by a series of steps, one of which, he muses, was nonsensical, saying that “Christianity itself was very sensible apart from its Christianity”.

Finally, what brought him four square into the fold, was a comment from “the hardest boiled of all the atheists” when he said - about the historicity of the Gospels - “Rum thing, all that stuff …about the Dying God; rum thing, It looks as if it had really happened once.” This statement alone did not seal the deal form Lewis, but it opened the floodgates.

Maybe the whole “thing” is more about faith than historically proven entities and deeds.

My question remains.

Who says what constitutes Christianity?

Since we know Jesus is not an NT author-either because he had no interest in leaving a paper trail or because mythical persons can’t write-there is no reason to accept any supposedly Christian dogma or doctrine contained there as Jesus’ “gospel”.

At this point in time, obviously, the short answer is “tradition”. History will not totally answer that question, just like science can’t totally answer the question of creation.

“Christianity” was created by men, quite literally. Jesus of the Bible was more of a philosopher rather than the “guru” of a new religion. It was Paul who organized the words attributed to Jesus, into a belief system. The thoughts the Bible claims came from Jesus, come out of “left field” without a precursor, or an evolution of thought. Jesus never turned the tables on the Jewish religion, as such. His focus was the heart of man.

Since Jesus never did “write” anything down, (as you say) we have to rely on our fellow-man, and trust how Jesus’ words changed their/our focus from ourselves to others. That is the antithesis of our natural inclinations. I don’t think we would have come to that focus on our own.

I see no reason to trust 2,000 year old hearsay over my natural inclinations and I don’t think the creator who instilled those inclinations in me would expect that of me, either.

I understand that this goes against one of the basic tenets of almost all organized religions but I’m also convinced that the notion of original sin is anathema to some of the world’s most prominent secular thinkers, including perhaps Jesus, who, if the stories about him are to be believed, was nearly stoned to death for telling his listeners that they were gods.

If history is to be believed, our natural inclinations run along the lines of “every man for himself”. Whatever social and personal modifications of those tendencies has occurred, is the result of a couple of thousands of years of Christianity. Of course, man has succeeded in twisting “love your neighbor” into a lucrative industry as well, and the “money tables” are still here.

I don’t remember Jesus telling his listeners they were gods. It’s more about God having become one of us.

As to societal and economic modifications claimed as an essential benefit of Christianity, the case can be made that overcoming The Dark Ages, a concomitant result of that theology, was only possible as humanity became enlightened and moved beyond the belief in blind obedience to a long dead, or perhaps even unreal, savior and his purported creed.

In regards to your having forgotten that Jesus was nearly stoned to death for quoting David’s psalm about the divine nature of humans, you are certainly not alone among people who claim to accept and profess at least some version of Jesus’ “good news”!

So enlighten me - chapter and verse.

I don’t do proof texting as I’m convinced it proves nothing, so I’ll leave that to you.

Besides, you’re a former teacher, right?

Isn’t that what you would encourage a potential learner to do, if for no reason other than to help him remember the lesson?:wink:

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Yap, found it. But why would you believe a non-existent Jesus; and a religious system on which Christianity is also based? But that’s an interesting quote.

The whole idea of Jesus being the “son” of God, but calling himself “the son of man” must have some significance. Jesus has also been called “the first fruits” implying we are all “sons” of God within a certain framework.

I didn’t say I believed it.

I only said I’d read that’s what Jesus said.

As to the divine nature of humans, Jesus also said we are all just like him in that we are all sons of god.

Which also seems to imply that we are gods.

(My dad’s last name was Clements, so that makes me a Clements, too.)

Do I believe what Jesus had to say in the topic?

I’ve never met the man and don’t even know if he was real, so I have no way of knowing what he knew or believed.

As to whether or not I believe I’m a god, just like every human, the closet I can come to a “true” statement in that regard would be to paraphrase an old Zen quoin: if I told you know I’m a god, that would be lie, just as it would be disingenuous of me to say I know that I’m not.

Hope you figure it out.

I agree with the Ancient Greeks on that topic.

Hope is for dopes.

So the question of my potential divinity is settled in my mind.

Just as settled as is the knowledge that there’s no way to express that knowledge in words due to the fundamental limitations of language.

How’s the weather up there, on Olympus?


That’s exactly the type of cynicism I’ve dealt with from SDA’s and Christians since birth.:yawning_face::yawning_face::yawning_face:

If you’re really concerned about the meteorology in heaven though, I suggest you ask Jesus or Zues…provided either of them will talk to you or is actually real!!:rofl::rofl::rofl: