And now, back to Part 5: The Historical Jesus.
Robert took the time to provide some good questions in response to my post. Robert, thanks for these questions. I appreciate the time that you took to engage in this discussion. I hope that my answers are sufficient.
Robert asked: “You wrote, The most recent scholarship has not only further confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament texts, but it has also uncovered additional documentation to support the existence of Jesus Christ in the first century. The book you imply as “most recent scholarship” is Jesus as a Figure in History. which was published in 1998. This constitutes “most recent scholarship”? In truth, recent scholarship has vastly undermined the accuracy of the NT texts, and even of Jesus’s historicity. Books by Robert M. Price are especially compelling.”
My response: My apologies if you thought the 1998 text that I referred to was THE most recent scholarship. There is plenty of recent scholarship, much of which does continue to support the claims made by Crossan, Powell and others. I don’t think that your question in any way refutes the evidence.
Robert asked: “You wrote, There are multiple sources that point to the validity of the Jesus of history, both before and after his resurrection. I would be curious to know of any sources to the validity of the Jesus of history before his alleged resurrection.”
My response: Ahhh… I’ll take the blame for this one… This was bad writing on my part. I think I worded this part badly. What I was trying to say was that there are multiple sources that write about Jesus both before his crucifixion and after his resurrection. I think you may have read this that I suggested that there are texts from before his death in existence. That’s not what I was claiming at all… I’ll take the blame for this one as bad writing on my part.
Robert asked: “You wrote, “Can we trust the text of the Bible?”, I suggest the following: Why not? Christianity was built upon Judaism, which maintained an enormous oral tradition for a thousand years. They had the skills to maintain the accuracy of their traditions and they knew how to preserve their scripture. Why not? Because sciences like archeology and geology have essentially refuted major elements of the Bible, like the exodus and a global flood. Ability to preserve scripture doesn’t mean what’s been preserved was accurate.
My response: Sure, there are competing claims about the historical accuracy of the Old Testament. Christian insiders are constantly arguing over whether the Old Testament is literal or allegorical. Who am I to say which way that argument will go. The important part to me in this post (Part 5: The Historical Jesus) is the accuracy of the gospels. And, as I argue here and elsewhere, I believe that they are solid pieces of first person documentation.
Robert asked: “You wrote, “But what about the conflicting accounts in the gospels?… I offer the following: The Gospels are not a transcript, but they are an account that eye witnesses wrote down as witnesses. This claim is untrue. The Gospels are certainly NOT an eyewitness account, and are not even written as such.”
My response: Actually… each Gospel is read from the perspective of someone that witnessed the events. Whether this witness recorded these things with their own hand, or if they handed them down orally does not change the fact that the gospels were first person records of what happened in the life of Christ.
Robert asked: “You wrote, Each gospel will obviously have a perspective to them. Does this make them inaccurate? No, it just means that they were viewed through a certain lens. The “perspective” does no good in attempting to reconcile the conflicting claims of Jesus’s lineage or the date of his birth, to give just a couple examples.”
My response: I agree. But that does not mean that they are useless either. Major themes throughout the gospels are reinforced through the multiple attestation that we see running through all of the gospels. This in itself strengthens the argument in support of these first person sources as valid historical documents.
Robert asked: “You wrote, As religious scholars agree, the canon that we recognize today as the New Testament was complete and circulating together as a “package” by the end of the first century. Perhaps religious scholars agree, but historical scholars would laugh at this assertion.”
My response: Religious scholars include plenty of historical scholars. Religious studies scholars adhere to the same academic and research standards as any other history researcher. I don’t understand your distinction here as I view the two in the same light.
Robert asked: “You wrote, And finally, people suggest that the New Testament didn’t contain the earliest sources or that the church mixed and matched scripture in order to meet their own “agenda”. Nothing could be farther from the truth here. Scholars cannot pinpoint firm or exact dates when the early Christian writings were made; instead, they posit a range of dates. It is not true that texts were excluded because they were “late”. Many writings were not included, even though they’re dated around the same time as the canonical texts. You wrote, The content and structure didn’t match with the other books in the New Testament. The Gospel of John does not match the other Gospels, but was included anyway, so obviously this criterion was not used either.”
My response: Fair enough… I failed to include a complete explanation of the process of how the canon was collected. Thanks for adding this additional information. As for the Gospel of John being different… yes, it is quite different stylistically, but it does still hold to the same basic message of Jesus.
Robert asked: “You wrote, Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, mentioned Jesus. You failed to note that many consider these mentions to be interpolations by later Christians, in whole or in part.”
My response: I don’t feel the need to dispute this as it is a disputable claim.
Again, thanks Robert for your comments and questions. It is this type of careful eye that I appreciate in my writing. You are keeping me honest and ensuring that I don’t overstate my evidence. If/when I decide to write for the purpose of being published, you’d make a great proofreader and editor to have on hand ot keep me honest.
Now, to further support my support for the historical Jesus, I’d like to spend a few days presenting a paper that I recently submitted for school entitled, “Critique of “In Defense of Atheism” by Michel Onfray, Specifically “The Construction of Jesus” (pg 115 to 129)”.
Stay tuned for more!