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C.S. Lewis Gets it Wrong: Liar, Lunatic, Lord … or Legend?

Some say that Jesus wasn’t divine but was still a great sage. C.S. Lewis has no use for this foolish argument. Here is his widely quoted rebuttal:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

“Patronizing nonsense”? We have no problem with wisdom taken from the Koran or the story of Gilgamesh or the Upanishads or any other book of religion or mythology despite their being wrong about the supernatural stuff. Assuming that the Bible’s supernatural claims are false, why must that invalidate its wisdom, too?

But let’s return to Lewis’s famous trilemma: Jesus must have been a liar (he knew that he wasn’t what he said he was), a lunatic (he was crazy, so that explains his wild claims), or … maybe all that he said was true. In that case, he must be Lord.

But this ignores the ferociously obvious fourth possibility, that the entire Jesus story is legend.

We understand that stories can evolve into legends with time—the Iliad, Merlin, William Tell, John Henry, the Roswell UFO story, and so on. I wrote about the legendary growth of the Angel of Mons tale here. Are we to set aside all that we know about nature and imagine instead that a supernatural God sent supernatural Jesus to earth to do supernatural things? We need a lot of evidence to make that jump.

The plausible natural explanation for the Jesus stories is that they were told orally for decades, and they grew with the retelling, changing to fulfill prophecy from the Law or to ensure that Jesus took on the traits of competing religions. Remember that Palestine was the crossroads of Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures.

As Jewish Christianity was reinterpreted through Greek culture, the recipients wouldn’t have just known about Dionysus and Friends, many would’ve been followers, all the more reason to expect an amalgam as the result. (I’ve written more about Dionysus vs. Jesus here.)

I’ve discussed this with Christians in the past and have some idea of the objections that they raise. In the next two posts, I will discuss and hopefully resolve twelve Christian objections to the Legend hypothesis.

Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings
which you can make nothing of, do not worry.
Leave it alone.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Nox

    Liar and lunatic are completely valid possibilities. As are fictional character, inaccurately quoted, or earnestly misunderstood. In the real dilemma there are at least five options more likely than lord.

    We do not have Jesus’ own account of what Jesus said. We have only what the gospel authors quote him as saying in gospels that were written primarily to promote the idea that Jesus is lord.

    If Lewis wanted to show Jesus was the son of god, and didn’t mind treating the new testament as authoritative evidence in support of that claim, why didn’t he just quote the parts of the new testament which call Jesus the son of god? That is all he is doing here anyway. Unless he was just trying to give the impression that the tenets of christianity are reasonable conclusions anyone would come to without needing faith (which according to Lewis, is exactly what he was trying to do).

    With all the things we know the gospels are wrong about, why should we take their word about what Jesus said? Oral tradition would lose verbatim quotes faster than biographical details. Seventy years is long enough to insert miracles. It is certainly long enough to put words in a dead man’s mouth.

    Even granting that Jesus existed, it is still entirely possible that Jesus never claimed to be anything more than human. In the earliest gospel (Mark) he notably does not make this claim.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Nice analysis, thanks.

  • C.J. O’Brien

    In the earliest gospel (Mark) he notably does not make this claim

    Well, he refers to “the Son of Man” in the third person, but it seems clear that he is actually saying that it is he himself, resurrected, who will “come in the glory of the Father with the holy angels”, and in 14:61-2 there is “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And, of course, at the very beginning, at the baptism, the heavens split and the voice of God calls him “my beloved son”.

    I suppose this doesn’t rule out a merely human existence for the duration of his earthly life, but whatever explicit claims he or disembodied voices from heaven make, there’s the matter of healing and feeding miracles, exorcisms, stilling storms, and walking on water. In my view, Mark is not intended to portray a human figure.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      You’re probably aware of the Adoptionist thinking, where Jesus (in Mark) is an ordinary though righteous man who is adopted by God at the baptism and then abandoned at the cross (“why have you foresaken me?”). I find this compelling, particularly the evolution of the gospel stories.

      • C.J. O’Brien

        Actually, the typology in Mark might well be that Jesus is a foundling and actually recognized as truly God’s son when he is possessed by the Spirit (pneuma) at the baptism by John. It is the Spirit which leaves Jesus on the cross, but I believe the quotation from the first line of Psalm 22 is typical Markan irony, not meant to be understood as a cry of dereliction –except to the passerby who stand in for the uninitiated– but as an allusion to the scripture from which it comes, which ends in triumph.

        What I mean by a typology of recognition and not strictly adoption is that it was a common trope of Greco-Roman romances that a child would be exposed or abandoned at birth (itself a common practice in reality) and then, through many journeys and tribulations, come to be recognized by the true father, who is a lord or noble, and so comes into his rightful inheritance. So it may be that in the Markan scheme Jesus is in fact a pre-existing Son “abandoned” in the world below heaven but destined to return there in glory. Doesn’t change the logic of adoptionist readings fundamentally, but it is in closer keeping with ancient narrative tropes and is perhaps more fruitful for the kind of ironic reversals the author is so fond of.

  • smrnda

    You’d think ‘legend’ would be a possibility with any historical figure; there’s always a problem with sorting out what actually happened and what might be a later fabrication, even with people whose existence hasn’t been much in dispute and who lived pretty recently. I was kind of surprised when I checked out Mere Christianity and here is CS Lewis, presenting the gospel accounts as if their accuracy was an indisputable fact – it seemed a pretty weak foundation to try to base his case for Jesus on.

  • James Croft

    I debated this very question on UK radio show “Unbelievable?” a while back. Here’s the link!

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/templeofthefuture/2012/05/unbelievable-was-jesus-liar-lunatic-or-lord-discussing-cs-lewis-apologetics/

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Though I haven’t heard this interview, I heard what I imagine was a later one at Unbelievable (James Croft and David Glass). In that one, James gives a textbook example of polite demeanor plus a withering argument. I wouldn’t want to be sitting opposite him–very impressive.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      A bit rude, I’ll admit, but whenever I hear “Ken Samples,” what comes to mind is “Junior Samples.” Yet another reason I have a hard time taking the guy seriously.

  • Greg

    I agree, why can’t the wisdom be true and the supernatural claims be false? I also agree, it makes sense that the Jesus story was told orally for decades, and over decades got embellished to get people to listen, to become believers. When the story was finally written down, I find it hard to believe it was anything like the original story told, orally, decades before. Using critical thinking to separate fact from fiction is discouraged by the CS Lewis quote, and that definitely will help one mindlessly believe anything. By the time I was 14, my brain started to resist supernatural claims, especially the claim Jesus rose from the dead.

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  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Does no one here know how to read?

    Lewis is pointing out the bankruptcy of the idea that Jesus is a great moral teacher. He does not use this as an argument that Jesus is God, but others do (and Peter Kreeft probably does it best).

    I do have to give you all credit though. At least you all did better than Richard Dawkins, who when discussing this passage in The God Delusion came up with the objection of, “couldn’t he just have been sincerely mistaken”.

    • Don Gwinn

      Please help me out (illiteracy is a crippling affliction, and I need all the help I can get.) I don’t see why a sane man living near the transition point from BCE to CE couldn’t come to believe he was holy or a messiah through an honest mistake, either. Perhaps I’ve made the same mistake as Dawkins; I haven’t read The God Delusion
      Why couldn’t Jesus Christ, if he existed, have been “sincerely mistaken” about his godhead?
      Also, why couldn’t a combination of these explanations be true? Maybe Jesus was a fictional character of oral narratives . . . but the narratives were wild exaggerations about a real historical figure we wouldn’t recognize as Jesus if we read a precisely true biography . . . and that guy was more Koresh than Gilgamesh in the first place.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Don,
        So was David Koresh just honestly mistaken, or mad?

        • Don Gwinn

          Your guess is as good as mine. He looked mad to me, and that’s what I meant to imply–that these are not exclusive explanations, and madness could be involved but not, as Lewis claims, preclude the other possibilities.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Are you saying it is possible to be mad and a good moral teacher, because that’s what it looks like you’re saying?

          Would you regard David Koresh as a good moral teacher?

        • Kodie

          That’s a really weird thing to assume. Insane people can often have profound thoughts. I would not necessarily go too far and say he was a good role model or a “moral teacher”, but you’re saying mentally ill people can’t say anything meaningful, true, inspirational, or helpful. False dichotomy? You don’t give people credit for being complex and layered. A “bad” person to you is bad all the way through.

          Speaking of which, god is terrible. Why does he get a pass?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          It was a question, not an assumption. I am not saying that no mentally ill person ever says anything profound or meaningful. I am questioning the wisdom of regarding someone who has a detached view of reality as an authority in moral teaching. You would want to check every saying of a mentally ill person against some other authority before deciding whether it is worth following. This, in my eyes, would mean that the person is not a “good moral teacher” because you can never trust what they say, you always need to verify it.

        • Kodie

          You just sort of sweep that aside because as it turns out, he says crazy things because he’s magical. And you believe he’s magical because?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          Sweep what aside?

        • Kodie

          He can be a good moral teacher if he’s magical, but not if he’s crazy, and you know David Koresh is not magical so he must be crazy; you know Jesus is magical so he’s a good moral teacher.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I don’t think Jesus is magical. What makes you think I think he is?

          General consensus is that David Koresh was a megalomaniac. Most people say that Jesus was a good moral teacher. What Lewis is saying is that you can’t come to the conclusion that Jesus is a good moral teacher and nothing more. Either he really is from heaven, or he was mad or evil. If you want to come to the conclusion that Jesus was crazy, it is actually more reasonable in my opinion than saying he was just a good moral teacher.

        • Kodie

          I think you are arguing for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead – a magical behavior – according the eye-witnesses. If you are saying he existed, was not magical, and don’t know what a legend is, I grant you that he may have as that doesn’t preclude him from being a legend. I also think your eye-witness argument draws you out to be gullible and willing to believe anything written by a scholar intent on holding up his faith.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          And that makes clear the tough spot that Christians find themselves in. All of us, Christians and atheists, put David Koresh into the “Nuts” bin. And yet, 2000 years ago, he would’ve been seen very differently.

          Same with the savior himself–suppose Jesus wasn’t the Jewish messiah, but it’s my neighbor’s son. We’d all reject the idea–not because we’ve properly evaluated it, but because we know that ordinary people really aren’t divine (despite claims by Koresh or Jim Jones or Sathya Sai Baba and so on).

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Lewis’ point was that you can’t call Jesus a good moral teacher.
          If you think David Koresh is mad, then you will think he’s not a good moral teacher, right?
          And Jesus was called mad, in the same chapter – John 10:20
          And Lewis was not objecting to anyone saying Jesus was mad, or evil.
          He did not try to take the argument so far as proving Jesus was God. He only took it as far as saying he wasn’t a good moral teacher.

          If you want to interact with the trilemma arguing for Jesus’ deity, then try Peter Kreeft’s version.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          We may be going off on a tangent.

          An insane person can say correct things, and someone like David Koresh (let’s assume he was very smart and well read but was had the broken moral compass of a sociopath) is not only charismatic but could also make compelling moral arguments. If I were in his thrall, I might seem them as inspired; outside of his cult, I see him as nuts and have no interest in his writings. But one man’s nut is another’s savior.

          Imagine not changing the truthfulness of Koresh’s teachings (I know nothing about them) but simply changing the size of his cult. If he were alive today and was the pastor of a 10,000-person megachurch, how would he be perceived? If he started a new religion, how would he be perceived?

          That is, don’t change the message but change the followership, and “insane” becomes “spiritual leader.”

        • Kodie

          I don’t think it’s even the size of the congregation so much as whether you are in or outside of it. Even members of a small cult believe sincerely what can be observed from the outside as bizarre or simply untrue. If you believe in Creationism, you talk about evolution as a cult, as propaganda, and deny it. And you would be in the minority (I hope). Similarly, Christians believe sincerely, not because there are so many believers, but because they are inside of it and not outside of it. Their knowledge, they believe, is something real, truthful, and something we “just don’t get” from outside of it. We see them as led by false arguments and bad evidence.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      This post was a bit truncated, and it gets more interesting today with the first of 2 parts that discuss Christian attacks on the legend hypothesis.

      As for, “Couldn’t Jesus have just been mistaken,” you’re right that I reject this thinking–I simply see the whole gospel story as a story and don’t bother explaining one piece assuming that a prior piece actually happened.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        I do hope you engage with Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses as you deal with objections to the legend hypothesis. It’s thesis stands in stark contrast to your “legend growing out of oral tradition” hypothesis.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t. There are only so many hours in the day.

          I’ve heard many times, “Oh, legends don’t develop so quickly,” which, unsurprisingly, I find useless. The Christian is obliged to prove that this isn’t an explanation, and I’ve seen no such proof (or at least mountain of evidence).

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I don’t. There are only so many hours in the day.

          I’ve heard many times, “Oh, legends don’t develop so quickly,” which, unsurprisingly, I find useless. The Christian is obliged to prove that this isn’t an explanation, and I’ve seen no such proof (or at least mountain of evidence).

          The fact that you seem to not have the time to engage with the best arguments against your legend hypothesis hurts your credibility.

          Richard Bauckham is a respected New Testament scholar, not merely a popularizer (as admittedly most apologists are) and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is very highly regarded.

          What books have you read that provide arguments against your legend hypothesis? And how do they compare with Jesus and the Eyewitnesses?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          The fact that you seem to not have the time to engage with the best arguments against your legend hypothesis hurts your credibility.

          This charge could be leveled against everyone. It’s true but irrelevant.

          Richard Bauckham is a respected New Testament scholar, not merely a popularizer

          You could summarize his position for us. That’s why there are comments.

        • Greg G.

          Here are a couple of blog posts about Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:

          Evangelical Channel > The Bible and Culture on Patheos
          Steven Carr’s Blog

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg: Thanks for the links.

          The second one is pretty scathing, and Bauckham’s video (the first one) is pretty uninforming. Karl implies that I’m woefully uninformed of essential arguments on this subject, but that video gives me no drive to go out and read the book.

          Karl: If you think there are powerful arguments that I’ve missed, show us.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          In the video he talks about Papias’ approach to the stories that were told about Jesus. How he attached special weight to those things that came from people known to be eye-witnesses of Jesus.

          Also at the beginning of the video he mentions specifically about the idea that the stories about Jesus were passed around in an oral tradition for some time and thus were significantly changed before they were written down.

          Steven Carr’s comments are regarding a tangential issue to the purpose of the book. Bauckham references several ancient documents to demonstrate elements that indicate which parts rely on direct eye-witness testimony, of which Lucian’s biography of Alexander is only one.

          That Carr can apparently read the whole book and this is the best objection he can find is telling, and indicates an unwillingness to engage with the real arguments within, of which, in addition to the ones mentioned above, include discussion of the credal statement in 1 Corinthians 15, the reliability of eye-witness memory and much more.

          If you are going to credibly propose your legend hypothesis you are going to have to, at the very least, do so in light of his arguments. To be unaware of them is naive, to refuse to investigate them is willful ignorance of the “I had no idea there were drugs in this suitcase, sir” level.

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you understand what legends are. That person in the video spoke of how we “might” (he used “might” and “would” a lot) establish that Jesus really existed. The testimony of eye-witnesses could agree on the fact of the man, and I don’t know if too many atheists dispute that Jesus could have existed as a human being in the area at the time. That doesn’t mean that he did and it doesn’t mean we’re convinced that he did. But it doesn’t speak to the legend. What eye-witnesses in a culture of oral tradition are is just not sitting on “facts” of record. The more they told the story, the more embellishments, the bigger, the more superpower, the more magical, the more legendary the man. This is not journalism to compile the eye-witness testimony, this is – you’ve already got some guys saying magical things happened. Where do you think they heard about it?

          Skeptical of their claims? Go back to the city and ask the people who were really there if that’s what really happened. I wonder what those people will say that’s any different than they talked about already. Does not establish Jesus as a madman, does not establish Jesus as a liar (does not deny that either of those may be true either), may establish Jesus as a guy who existed, but not as he existed so much as stories told about him. I’m sure you’ve heard of Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, Paul Bunyan? All legends, all plausibly referring to real people who existed, and in some cases of doubt whether they do, or difficulty in establishing a single human being? It is not uncommon for local lore (oral tradition) to refer to one single character of entire fiction – based on prototype of a person who populated the area, such as a preacher, a lumber jack or a steel-driving man, making a heroic archetype out of a popular vocation.

          I think I know what they’re going to say when you ask them. The Green Man is real.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          things that came from people known to be eye-witnesses of Jesus.

          “Known”? Papias hears a wild tale that comes through a chain of oral history in a pre-scientific culture. Someone says, “I truly know someone who saw Jesus” and we’re certain of anything from the story?

          If you are going to credibly propose your legend hypothesis you are going to have to, at the very least, do so in light of his arguments. To be unaware of them is naive, to refuse to investigate them is willful ignorance of the “I had no idea there were drugs in this suitcase, sir” level.

          And I’m groping to find these secret arguments of which I’m unaware. So far you’ve told me nothing of which I wasn’t already aware and which I’ve responded to.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Cool story about the Green Man. In these days of urban legends, Christians seem surprisingly reluctant to admit that legends can grow very quickly even with our modern skepticism. Maybe there’s just a need to believe that overrides reason.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          But it doesn’t speak to the legend. What eye-witnesses in a culture of oral tradition are is just not sitting on “facts” of record. The more they told the story, the more embellishments, the bigger, the more superpower, the more magical, the more legendary the man. This is not journalism to compile the eye-witness testimony, this is – you’ve already got some guys saying magical things happened. Where do you think they heard about it?

          Bauckham’s book deals directly with assumptions such as yours that the gospel stories morphed during a period of years of retelling before being written down. If you want to simply assert that this is what happened you are free to do so, but it is not what the evidence indicates, and this book is a collection of some of the best evidence as to how the accounts of Jesus came to be written down. If you ignore it, expect to be taken as seriously as Ken Ham is by scientists.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Simply asserting that Bauckham has won the debate and is now standing over the atheists’ broken bodies and doing a little (virtual) victory dance a la Church Lady doesn’t help us.

          If it’s too long an argument to summarize or do justice to, OK, that’s fine, but don’t imagine that you’ve scored any points for the Kingdom by simply asserting this victory.

          But if the argument can be simply stated, please do so and add some foundation to your claim.

        • Kodie

          If you ignore it, expect to be taken as seriously as Ken Ham is by scientists.

          By whom? You?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          And I’m groping to find these secret arguments of which I’m unaware. So far you’ve told me nothing of which I wasn’t already aware and which I’ve responded to.

          Really?
          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s chapter on the reliability of eye-witness memory. Not simply a post on other research that indicates the unreliability of eye-witness memory, but one that actually deals with the examples and arguments that Bauckham makes.

          I’d like to see a response to the argument that 1 Corinthians 15 includes a credal statement with Aramaic roots.

          I’d like to see a response to the methodology of Papias’ collection of accounts and sayings of Jesus. Not simply a display of incredulity that he actually believed someone was telling the truth!? (How dare he!)

          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s points on which parts of each of the gospels are direct eye-witness accounts., and how we can know.

          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s arguments that the names in the gospels are not anachronistic as has been argued in the past.

          I have not seen you do any of this. All I have seen you do is express incredulity that the accounts could be true or believed, and an assertion that the stories changed as they passed through many retellings during the decades before they were written down.

          You’ve made a claim, now defend it against the research that is out there. If you, the person who has proposed your legend hypothesis, are not interested in doing that, it is a good indication of how seriously people should take your hypothesis.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          By whom? You?

          For starters. But anyone who has studied the issue. You do yourself no favours by not being willing to even investigate the best arguments against your theories. If you’d prefer to fight against straw men, you’re welcome, but not all of the arguments put forward by theists are straw men.

          Bob,

          Simply asserting that Bauckham has won the debate and is now standing over the atheists’ broken bodies and doing a little (virtual) victory dance a la Church Lady doesn’t help us.

          I’m not making an assertion that Bauckham has won the debate. I’m saying he makes points that need to be dealt with if your legend hypothesis is going to have any substance.

        • Kodie

          I’m going to have to go with Church Lady. Chiarirne il significato o chiudi il becco.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s chapter on the reliability of eye-witness memory. Not simply a post on other research that indicates the unreliability of eye-witness memory, but one that actually deals with the examples and arguments that Bauckham makes.

          Yeah, and I’d like to see Bauckham respond to my point that the argument that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses (or perhaps one step removed) is very, very, very tenuous.

          Perhaps you and I will both be frustrated this Christmas.

          I’d like to see a response to the argument that 1 Corinthians 15 includes a credal statement with Aramaic roots.

          “Wow–this bit in 1 Cor. looks like it’s different than the style of the surrounding text!” is also an argument that it was added later than Paul’s authorship.

          And is this proof? Or just intriguing evidence? Because I might well agree that this argument is compelling, but this is going to take me just the tiniest way to accepting the monumental claims made in the New Testament.

          I’d like to see a response to the methodology of Papias’ collection of accounts and sayings of Jesus.

          And I’d like to see an attempt to restore Papias’s tales to any sort of position of credibility when we consider all of them (including the bit about Judas’s head swelling up as big as a weather balloon).

          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s points on which parts of each of the gospels are direct eye-witness accounts., and how we can know.

          “Know”? Like know for certain? I’d like to see that argument–again (though I repeat myself) because the gospel claim is about the largest conceivable. I’ll need a lot of evidence, and categorical proof that we have eyewitness testimony of the resurrection is just the beginning of a long, long road of evidence that any objective person would demand.

          I’d like to see a response to Bauckham’s arguments that the names in the gospels are not anachronistic as has been argued in the past.

          Then make the argument so we can give it a hearing.

          You seem to imagine blood in the water and you’re circling for the kill. Yeah, I didn’t read the book. I doubt I will anytime soon–they’re just too many important books to read. Deal with it. You’ve got a counterargument? Then make it.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Yeah, and I’d like to see Bauckham respond to my point that the argument that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses (or perhaps one step removed) is very, very, very tenuous.

          You could try reading his book. It does deal with this point.

          “Wow–this bit in 1 Cor. looks like it’s different than the style of the surrounding text!” is also an argument that it was added later than Paul’s authorship.

          And is this proof? Or just intriguing evidence? Because I might well agree that this argument is compelling, but this is going to take me just the tiniest way to accepting the monumental claims made in the New Testament.

          Would you argue that a contemporary speech that included the line “four score and seven years ago” indicated that part of the speech was not written by the same author? Probably, after all the language is different. Now, try arguing that this same line in the current speech is a later addition. Doesn’t wash, does it? This is similar to the situation with the section of 1 Corinthians 15. If this is a credal statement then it is a piece of oral tradition that goes right back to the 30s, and surely you must understand that if Jesus’ resurrection is established as a Christian teaching in the 30s, it makes it hard to sustain your legend hypothesis. It might not make you accept all the claims of the NT, but it should cause you to seriously revise your legend hypothesis. Unless you can refute his arguments. Which might mean actually reading them.

          And I’d like to see an attempt to restore Papias’s tales to any sort of position of credibility when we consider all of them (including the bit about Judas’s head swelling up as big as a weather balloon).

          But what was Papias’ methodology? And what might that tell us about the what stories were or were not included in his writings? We have very little of his writings, but one fragment is very enlightening as to his methodology and also the state of Christian oral tradition at the time he lived.

          “Know”? Like know for certain? I’d like to see that argument–again (though I repeat myself) because the gospel claim is about the largest conceivable. I’ll need a lot of evidence, and categorical proof that we have eyewitness testimony of the resurrection is just the beginning of a long, long road of evidence that any objective person would demand.

          Like know with confidence.

          You seem to imagine blood in the water and you’re circling for the kill. Yeah, I didn’t read the book. I doubt I will anytime soon–they’re just too many important books to read. Deal with it. You’ve got a counterargument? Then make it.

          I don’t imagine blood in the water. I’m not going in for the kill. If you think your legend hypothesis holds water then why won’t you defend it? If you really are interested in finding out the truth then why won”t you read the most respected books and authors on a subject? You seem more interested in finding holes in things that people like Ray Comfort and Ken Ham say than engaging with respected authorities.

        • Kodie

          All I have to go on is Bauckham convinced you. 500 pages I’ve never heard of from a guy no Christian I have ever argued with has brought up seems like it might be a full-on crock. Maybe that’s not a good reason to deny something, but resurrection is impossible, and if it was the smoking gun, no Christian would ever bother with their other stupid arguments again.

          I would hold out the hypothesis that someone used a lot of the weasel words and arguments apologists do to suggest strongly that resurrection, though impossible, actually happened (bona fide miracle). I know some theists really think they’re smart enough to catch a faulty argument, but you know how ridiculous resurrection has to be in order to go to such lengths for the purpose of finding just what you’re looking for. Just like archaeologists found the ark, just like scientists prove the earth is fine-tuned, etc. That’s where I’m putting your Bauckham until you use your research skills to find the best shorter article that gives as thorough a summary it can in the fewest pages I have to slog through. If it’s intriguing enough, reading the book might be something I decide to do. I think the 1-star reviews on Amazon for Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses are more reliable than the eye-witnesses 2000 years ago.

          Your reservations against the “legend” hypothesis are the worst. I would say that, clutching at straws. You don’t seem to understand what a legend is, so I think that is clouding your judgment as well.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          500 pages I’ve never heard of from a guy no Christian I have ever argued with has brought up seems like it might be a full-on crock.

          Check out the credentials. Most apologists quoted by Christians are popularizers as opposed to genuine researchers. And the same on the atheist side too. Bauckham is a genuine expert in his field.

          Maybe that’s not a good reason to deny something, but resurrection is impossible, and if it was the smoking gun, no Christian would ever bother with their other stupid arguments again.

          Betraying your prejudices here? If you start off with “resurrection is impossible” then you cannot honestly evaluate the evidence for Christianity. Your conclusion is included in your premises.

          I think the 1-star reviews on Amazon for Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses are more reliable than the eye-witnesses 2000 years ago.

          Straight to the one-star reviews? (Of which there are only 2, compared to 28 five-star reviews). It looks like you’re trying to find reasons to not have to engage with the arguments. It may not be the case, bu that’s what it looks like.

          Your reservations against the “legend” hypothesis are the worst. I would say that, clutching at straws. You don’t seem to understand what a legend is, so I think that is clouding your judgment as well.

          Please explain. I am genuinely interested to know why you think my objections to the legend hypothesis are “the worst”, and what a legend is, and what I seem to not understand about that.

        • Kodie

          Betraying your prejudices here? If you start off with “resurrection is impossible” then you cannot honestly evaluate the evidence for Christianity. Your conclusion is included in your premises.

          Do you believe resurrection is impossible? You have to believe it’s impossible to believe it’s a miracle. You know you find that outside the realm of possible without the addition of a miracle. Don’t you?

          Straight to the one-star reviews? (Of which there are only 2, compared to 28 five-star reviews). It looks like you’re trying to find reasons to not have to engage with the arguments. It may not be the case, bu that’s what it looks like.

          I always, always, always, look at the one-star reviews first. What people don’t like about something is almost always more interesting and informative than reviews of what people liked about the same thing. If people, if 4-and-a-half stars worth of people, are praising something, I need to know what the criticisms are and whether that will be relevant to my decision. In two negative reviews of your book, I got more information than I got out of you so far. They didn’t just say the shipping was billed wrong. They go into great detail what’s wrong with the book, the writing, the methods. Ok, so don’t ask me to read the book – you say my criticisms are addressed in the book. At least 2 people read the book and continued to have the same (and more) criticisms. But you want to know what I think. Personally.
          … … …
          Okay, I read all 41 reviews. Not a single convert. People who rate the book 4 or 5 stars are impressed with the scholarly approach. From 3 stars to 1 star, nobody is impressed, including at least 3 Christians. “Bauckham makes some truly excellent points in this work, but he could have delivered them in a slimmer volume.

          I also would suggest a scholarly approach does not mean a whole lot on its own. If you feel like a student and someone acts like a professor, does that make him know what he’s talking about? Some of the most positive reviews cite this as set apart from the usual insultingly stupid arguments most Christians use. I don’t know but that sets off my alarms too. He seems to know what he’s talking about since he studied things you don’t have access to, and you say he’s highly regarded. That does not naturally or necessarily solidify what’s in his book as fact, as the negative reviewers go on to explain. If you can’t summarize it, I don’t have to directly counter what your arguments are; since you have none, I think the 1-star reviews are good enough to speak to that.

          Please explain. I am genuinely interested to know why you think my objections to the legend hypothesis are “the worst”, and what a legend is, and what I seem to not understand about that.

          You didn’t even address them. A person can have been real and also a legend. A person can be a puppet or a scapegoat – you know, built up, not actually a crazy/liar character in being himself, but attributed to have those characteristics and behaviors. You seem to really stand on this Bauckham stuff without saying what’s so radical about it; he addresses those criticisms, how? Wasn’t someone supposed to be the messiah? You seem to think it’s hard to propose that Jesus was a legend unless we read some fat book that says he was real, according to some people, since that’s how legends aren’t made.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          You could try reading his book. It does deal with this point.

          A reasonable request, but not practical, unfortunately. Just too much stuff to read, as is perhaps the case for you.

          If this is a credal statement then it is a piece of oral tradition that goes right back to the 30s

          This idea that Paul’s 1 Cor. (written in the 50s) contains a fossil from the 30s is simply an intriguing argument. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s not take it too far. The same thinking that it doesn’t quite fit with the style argues that it was added by copyists after Paul wrote it.

          it makes it hard to sustain your legend hypothesis

          What?! You can prove that legends never, ever, ever develop in less than x years? Show me this marvelous proof.

          And what is x? Is it 10 years? Seems to me that legends can develop in 10 days.

          Unless you can refute his arguments. Which might mean actually reading them.

          I have no hint that his arguments are going to surprise me (or, indeed, that I haven’t already heard and refuted them). And you’re not doing your case much good by repeating, “Well, if my big brother were here, he’d beat you up! He’s really strong.”

          Summarize the arguments and let’s see how strong they are.

          what was Papias’ methodology?

          He documented stories that he heard from the early church. Or are you looking for something else?

          Hey–good for Papias for writing this stuff down before it got lost. That’s an important data point for historians. But let’s not take these wild tales as any more important than they are.

          (BTW, I made a short video that discusses Papias. Check in tomorrow for that. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.)

          If you think your legend hypothesis holds water then why won’t you defend it?

          Y’know what I should do? I should write up the 10 arguments I’ve heard Christians make against the idea and rebut them.

          Oh–wait a minute. I just did that. Never mind–I guess I already have defended it.

          Now it’s your turn. Either present new arguments or resuscitate one of these.

          If you really are interested in finding out the truth then why won”t you read the most respected books and authors on a subject?

          For the sweet love of the god who isn’t there, I just don’t have the time or any inkling that my efforts will be repaid.

          If it’s that important, make a wager. “This book is so compelling, that x will happen after you finish it”–I’ll become Christian or I’ll reject the legend hypothesis or something. Otherwise, don’t assign me busy work.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Bauckham is a genuine expert in his field.

          Yeah, so’s Norm Geisler, but his I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist (with Frank Turek) is laughably simple-minded. Habermas and Licona are also scholars, and their The case for the resurrection of Jesus is flabby propaganda.

          And I’m going to sit through another? If Bauckham’s book is on a much higher level, I have no reason to think so.

        • John Carpenter

          you sound like a closed-minded bigot. Sad.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You sound like someone who declares the truth of Christianity to be the most important thing ever and yet can’t defend it. Sad.

        • John Carpenter

          I’ve produced the evidence of experts. You can’t. You can’t even explain where the universe came from.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve produced arguments that you can’t refute. I think I like my position better.

          As for the universe, I agree: I can’t explain where the universe came from. But I’ve got company. You can’t either.

        • John Carpenter

          You haven’t produced any documents. You congratulate yourself and hack into other people’s posts.

          I’ve produced the word of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah. I got it the first dozen times. And I’m amazed that such bravado is attached to such a paltry argument. “Lewis said so.” Yeah, got it. And that’s all you got. I’m bored with this conversation.

        • John Carpenter

          But then you said that neither of us have produced any expert on the subject. So were you lying or do you have memory loss problems?

          Lewis is an expert on myths and legends. You’re not apparently capable of making an intelligent argument nor have much real knowledge of the content of that which you are constantly attacking.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But then you said that neither of us have produced any expert on the subject. So were you lying or do you have memory loss problems?

          I do lie a lot—I’m an atheist, after all. And we know that all atheists lie.

          But in this case, it’s probably memory loss problems. Honestly, I’ve forgotten. So show me: where did I tell you that you hadn’t produced an expert?

        • John Carpenter

          What were those “arguments”? You’re just lying. You’re an ignorant bigot who thinks he can dismiss a real expert on myths and legends. You’re a legend in your own mind.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          You didn’t even address them. A person can have been real and also a legend. A person can be a puppet or a scapegoat – you know, built up, not actually a crazy/liar character in being himself, but attributed to have those characteristics and behaviors. You seem to really stand on this Bauckham stuff without saying what’s so radical about it; he addresses those criticisms, how? Wasn’t someone supposed to be the messiah? You seem to think it’s hard to propose that Jesus was a legend unless we read some fat book that says he was real, according to some people, since that’s how legends aren’t made.

          Sorry Kodie, I really don’t understand what point you’re trying to make here. I understand that a legend can have its roots in a real person, but surely the whole idea behind calling something a legend is claiming that the telling has diverged from reality significantly.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          This idea that Paul’s 1 Cor. (written in the 50s) contains a fossil from the 30s is simply an intriguing argument. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s not take it too far. The same thinking that it doesn’t quite fit with the style argues that it was added by copyists after Paul wrote it.

          And the fact that the statement appears to have originally been in Aramaic places its origin in Judea. Legends can and do develop over time, I’m not denying that. But legends in the locality and time period of contemporaries? If the gospels are legends, then no-one who personally knew Jesus would believe them. And according to the gospels he was a public figure in Judea in the 30s. If he was not, then the gospel story could not take in Judea, and if he was a public figure and not at all as presented in the gospels, then the gospel story also could not take in Judea. The church in Jerusalem in the first century is a very strong plank in the evidence for the truth of the gospel story, and tracing the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 back to an Aramaic Christian community in the 30s backs this up.

          You could try reading his book. It does deal with this point.

          A reasonable request, but not practical, unfortunately. Just too much stuff to read, as is perhaps the case for you.

          Sounds like you need a research assistant. :-)

          I have no hint that his arguments are going to surprise me (or, indeed, that I haven’t already heard and refuted them). And you’re not doing your case much good by repeating, “Well, if my big brother were here, he’d beat you up! He’s really strong.”

          Summarize the arguments and let’s see how strong they are.

          I have given very quick summaries, and you have been dismissal of those before I’ve even really got into the arguments.

        • Kodie

          I’m saying they were expecting a messiah, that’s not a real person yet. And no, you just seem incredulous that someone doesn’t believe Bauckham knows what he’s talking about since resurrections aren’t possible that he went to great lengths on the premise that it happened instead of the premise that these people might have been overstating the facts, given the lapse of time. I watched 10 minutes or so of some video, where a guy talking about this book uses the word “might have” a lot. He might have gathered information this way, and they might have been telling him what they really saw accurately.

          In case you don’t know why atheists are atheists it’s because “might have” isn’t proof of a miracle. It gives a lot of leeway to rational explanations.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I’m saying they were expecting a messiah, that’s not a real person yet.

          And The Great White Hope is a legend too?

          since resurrections aren’t possible

          and

          Do you believe resurrection is impossible? You have to believe it’s impossible to believe it’s a miracle. You know you find that outside the realm of possible without the addition of a miracle. Don’t you?

          OK. So are miracles possible?

        • Kodie

          Yes. I don’t really know what you think I meant. If people are expecting someone ahead of time who doesn’t yet exist, and jam an able body into the narrative doesn’t mean he resurrected, but it does suggest they are capable of and historically did conjure up humans out of thin air.

          No. You can’t say we did as thorough an investigation at the top of our field as we could and hope that this convinces you but is in no way definitive proof, and expect to pass when all other real-world possibilities remain. I would say coincidences also called miracles are possible; they happen within the realm of possibility and may be assumed to have happened magically. For example, a survivor of an accident – is not a miracle. Babies – aren’t miracles. But they are possible and also termed miracle. Bodily ascension into heaven is not possible, and would have to be a miracle to have happened. Sending astronauts into space is an amazing feat, but not a miracle.

          You have a lot of work to prove that souls exist and that there is another realm called heaven. If people saw a vision of a dead person, if they were not being fooled themselves by other people with an agenda – there are too many loose factors to determine whether Bauckham has something there. In the case of an actual miracle, if a miracle occurred, the reporting has too many holes, and you are making a leap over the chasm between possible and impossible without enough proof only because you already believe it to be true and because it’s important to you, and to Bauckham, to give as many indications to believers to cling to. “If I want it to have happened and someone says it did” is not reliable for truth, considering you are trying to prove the impossible happened.

          Like I said, it’s a “scholarly” report. People are impressed because the guy sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Someone also suggested, if this miracle was supposed to be witnessed and reported, god might have waited until the invention of cameras – but you know as soon as cameras were invented, so were hoaxes. It is extremely hard to believe by word of mouth over 2000 years that one time something actually miraculous happened, that a perfect god would not see the errors in that setup. What do you try so hard to prove if you believe it anyway? If it happened today, you wouldn’t believe it. Why do you give people more credit? I think there is some sort of allowance for people without our advanced technology or thinking they were wiser and more confident because they were holy (really?) or religious, or serious, or just way back in the old days when people didn’t dick each other around. I don’t know why they get more credit than people today.

          Let’s just use you for example – you read Bauckham’s book, and neither I nor Bob did. You’ve got people interviewing you for a book report which you find time and space and memory of what you read inadequate to the task of relaying a message. In fact, I’m sure you remember more how you felt when you read it and not noticed so many weasel words.
          ….. …….
          Ok, I read an excerpt on google books. In the way that you have suggested he addressed the skeptics doubts, I get more of a sense that he acknowledged it and kept pressing ahead anyway. There are a lot of words here to the effect of, I know you’re going to say I’m crazy, and I know there are already so many other versions of a historical Jesus, and I know some people won’t even give the theology (a miracle event) a chance, but give this a spin and see if you like it. The book does not convict.

        • Kodie

          So Papias had contemporary detractors. Big surprise.

        • C.J. O’Brien

          Aramaic was the primary language of many people in the GR Near East outside of Judaea and a secondary language for millions. So the assertion that an Aramaic provenance means a provenance in Judaea is risible. It was a lingua franca across the region, and in Mesopotamia and Egypt, for centuries. Furthermore, we would expect a native-Semitic speaker writing in Greek to occasionally produce constructions that follow Semitic conventions rather than standard contemporary Greek literary conventions. Such a person could have hailed from a vast area comprising all of modern Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Sinai and the Arabian peminsula. Asserting that it would have to mean Judaea is apologetics.
          I doubt the Semitic connection to the credal formulae in 1 Cor 15 anyway (as do many scholars, including Kloppenborg), but even if it were an air-tight case it wouldn’t mean a thing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          If the gospels are legends, then no-one who personally knew Jesus would believe them.

          Nonsense. I’ve already dismantled this silly argument.

          And according to the gospels he was a public figure in Judea in the 30s.

          Not enough to get on the radar of any contemporary historian of which we’re aware, but OK.

          The church in Jerusalem in the first century is a very strong plank in the evidence for the truth of the gospel story

          Why? Is evidence from the early days of any other religion strong evidence for the truth of that religion??

          tracing the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 back to an Aramaic Christian community in the 30s backs this up.

          It hasn’t been traced back. We have an intriguing hypothesis. That’s it.

          Sounds like you need a research assistant. :-)

          It’s on the list I gave to Santa …

          I have given very quick summaries, and you have been dismissal of those before I’ve even really got into the arguments.

          If that was supposed to whet my appetite, it didn’t work. If I’ve already given the arguments a thumbs-down, are we done?

          But if you think I simply haven’t understood them, then I’m eager to hear a more complete summary.

        • John Carpenter

          “We
          have more evidence for Jesus than we do for almost anybody in His time period.”
          (skeptic Bart Ehrman)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sure, let’s accept that. OK–Jesus existed.

          Now that that’s out of the way, show me that the miracles in the gospel story are true. Ehrman doesn’t think they are.

        • John Carpenter

          Good. We’ve made progress. We’ve eliminated the “legend” option. So now it sounds like you’re leaning toward the “liar” one. Give “Lord” some more thought. If He’s Lord, He could do the miracles.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nope. I’m happy to accept that Jesus existed, but that’s it. As for the miracles, what explains them better than that they were a legend?

          You do realize that Ehrman is an atheist, right?!

        • John Carpenter

          Ehrman is an agnostic (unless he’s changed his mind recently.)

          What explains the miracles pretty well is that Jesus is Lord.
          The “legend” option has been disposed of. The reason Lewis didn’t even offer it as an option is because he knew legends. You obviously don’t.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK, fair point. That probably is what Ehrman calls himself. My point was that Ehrman rejects the supernatural claims in the Bible just like I do. He’s an odd witness for your side of the issue.

          Uh, no, the Legend option hasn’t been disposed of. You’ve given me nothing except the strong impression that you’d like this argument to go away. (Making you feel uncomfortable?)

        • John Carpenter

          The legend option has been disproven. We’ve called an expert witness, and he’s unequivocally rejected it. That you refuse to accept his testimony (and can’t produce a real expert in myths and legends to testify differently) is only evidence of your blind adherence to your faith. That is, you’re a closed-minded bigot who attacks other’s faith because of the absurdity of his own.

          (Wow–that just came out wrong. Sorry! I’ve got a bit of Tourette’s going on here, I think. Apologies about the slander!)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John: We’ve all got our little disabilities, my friend. Not a problem. Thanks for your honesty!

        • John Carpenter

          You hack into other people’s posts to alter them. That’s the only way you can make yourself look better.

          It’s fraudulent and unethical. You’re a liar.

          (Sorry! It’s those voices in my head again. Seriously–it’s totally cool with me to modify my comments when they get out of line, which they do frequently! I’m mean–if I have to resort to name calling, what kind of arguments do I have, really?)

        • John Carpenter

          I’ve given the expert testimony of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. You aren’t able to produce anything. Then you hack into other people’s posts to make yourself look better.

        • John Carpenter

          You don’t ever seem to actually make an argument at all. You just crown yourself the victor on every issue.

          Then you hack into other people’s posts to alter them to make yourself look better.

        • John Carpenter

          Paul’s letters
          written 15 to 25 years after Jesus and the gospels within 60 years at the most. If Jesus were a legendary figure, the detractors who were living would certainly have used that bit of information. And, no, you haven’t debunked that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What detractors? You mean the detractors in the gospel story?

          The gospel story is a story. Show that it’s history and we can elevate it to that level.

          And if your point is that naysayers would’ve destroyed the gospel argument so that we wouldn’t have it today, I’ve responded to that here.

        • John Carpenter

          By “detractors”, I meant the 1st and 2nd century Roman/Greek and Jewish critics of Christianity. Obviously, if Jesus were a fictional character, that fact would have been noted by the Roman occupiers or the Jewish high priests. That no early critic of Christianity used that arguments is best explained by the fact that they knew they couldn’t get away with it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And by “detractors,” I don’t mean any of the enemies of the gospel mentioned in the gospels. Dismissing these, who do you have in mind?

          Can you drop the “if Jesus were a fictional character”? I’m happy to accept that the gospel story is based on an actual person.

        • John Carpenter

          I just explained who I had in mind. Reread my post. Or do you have reading comprehension problems?

          (Y’know–scratch that. That was really out of line. I apologize for being such a jerk.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John: Hey–I appreciate the apology. I thought you were a little out of line, but it looks like you’re reining that back in. Bravo.

        • John Carpenter

          You hack into other people’s comments to change them. I guess that’s the only way you can appear to win a debate. Then you congratulate yourself.
          You’re a total fraud.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I change your comments as a gentle way to encourage you to stop being such an asshole. Next step: banning.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I just read another Bauckham book review, this time at Apologetics 315. It didn’t sound like there is much here that I haven’t already read or thought of myself, unfortunately.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I think that you will get a lot more out of engaging with the actual book, instead of with reviews, but it sounds like you’ve already decided there won’t be anything in there that will lead you to rethink your hypothesis.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: Agreed. That said, I have far better things to do than read a book that is unlikely to give me any major new insights. I simply have better pickings in my to-be-read pile already. This isn’t a reluctance to be confronted with new ideas; this is time management.

    • Phil

      I am of the opinion that anyone who says “Jesus was a great moral teacher” is just displaying his or her ignorance of what Jesus actually taught.

      That is, Lewis’ argument is for those people out there who have “nice thoughts” about Jesus–those who think that the sum of Jesus’ moral teaching was that people should be “nice” to each other (think: the golden rule) or other such nonsense.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        The Atheist Experience guys did a nice takedown of the Sermon on the Mount here.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        I agree Phil, that is exactly what Lewis was getting at. My faith in the reading comprehension of webizens is somewhat restored :-)

  • avalon

    Lewis seems to think being a “son of God” means a person is supernatural rather than just a human being. Jesus refuted this himself with his reference to Ps. 82:6 in John 10:33-10:38 (The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’…).
    Lewis tries to force the modern definition of the term “son of God” onto the ancient meaning of the term. Seems Jesus meant something very different from what Lewis is implying.

    avalon

    • Don Gwinn

      Interesting. I don’t know that story well, but I always interpreted it as Jesus employing rhetoric to slip out of a tight spot. I took the story of “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” when he was asked about Roman taxation the same way–someone tried to catch him in a contradiction, but Jesus was able to talk his way out of it.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      You should try finishing the quote avalon. The next verse (which continues the same sentence) says “what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?”

      A bit harder to claim that Jesus was refuting any claims to being supernatural when you finish the sentence.

      • blessed Jim

        Karl,
        If you want to put the whole quote in better context, Jesus was speaking to a Hebrew audience. The reference to ‘one whom the Father set apart’ would seem to refer to the Messiah, who (as I understand) the Hebrews expected to be a real human, not God himself. So I don’t think the complete quote clears up the issue of Jesus claiming to be supernatural.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          blessed Jim,
          I’m not so sure that that’s the meaning here. Firstly, the Jews were clearly not satisfied by Jesus response, which included more, such as “”the Father is in me, and I in the Father”, because they still tried to sieze him.

          Also, this must all be read in the context of John’s entire gospel, where Jesus is identified with the logos become flesh, which is a pretty mind-shattering concept.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      avalon:

      In hindsight, that was an embarrassing passage for Jesus to quote. The NET Bible’s critique of the individual phrases makes clear that Judaism at this point is polytheist (perhaps more properly henotheistic).

      • avalon

        Hi Bob,
        Bob said: “In hindsight, that was an embarrassing passage for Jesus to quote. The NET Bible’s critique of the individual phrases makes clear that Judaism at this point is polytheist (perhaps more properly henotheistic).”

        That would be a rational explanation. However, the jewish apologist would be trying to interpret it in a monotheistic way, hence they said “gods” referred to the leaders of Israel.
        Perhaps Jesus was poking fun of the apologists of his day and their strained interpretations (wouldn’t that be funny?). But by the time of Jeremiah the idea of men meeting with God in his council had taken hold (Jer. 23:22 “​​​​​​But if they (false prophets) had stood in my inner circle, they would have proclaimed my message to my people.”).
        In any case, Jesus never called himself the son of God. Son of man, yes; but never son of God.

        avalon

    • SparklingMoon

      Son of God
      ——————————-
      Jesus was the last prophet in Israel. He was called the son of God, an expression that was in common use in scripture but was always employed metaphorically and in no single instance did it connote God. The word ”Son of God” is used in the Bible for prophets, righteous and to believers. There are numerous instances . Some examples out of many:
      Israel is My son, even My first born. (Exodus 4:22)
      Also I will make him (David) Myfirst born, higher than the kings of the earth. (Psalms 89:27)
      He (Solomon) shall be My son, and I will be his Father. (1. Chron 22:10)
      Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)
      Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (John 3:1)

      The most significant explanation is of Jesus himself as it states in the John 10:31-33 :

      ”Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; because that thou, being man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:31-33)

      Here the crucial question was directly posed to Jesus but:
      ”Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, thou blasphemeth; because I said, I am the son of God.” (John 10:34-35)
      Did he claim to be God in this example? NO

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Moon: Quoting from your holy book might inform others of your theology, but it probably won’t convince anyone that you’ve got it figured out. Certainly not me. I need reasons.

        If you have reasons why Christianity is correct, let us know.

        • John Carpenter

          Lewis gave you reasons. You rejected them. It doesn’t look like you’re open to reason at all.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve already slapped Lewis silly. Now it’s your turn at bat. Enough whining–give me reasons.

        • John Carpenter

          You haven’t “”slapped Lewis silly”. You give yourself far too much credit. You’re an ignoramous who doesn’t know the first thing about legends or the New Testament. Get a grip.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t? Show me.

          (Or are you unable to? Feels kinda impotent when you’ve got no rebuttals, doesn’t it?)

        • John Carpenter

          You like to congratulate yourself a lot, rather than making an intelligent comment.

          Lewis was chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. You aren’t.

  • Chris

    I’d say lunatic, definitely. Anyone who thinks he’s going to come down from heaven on a cloud with angels to judge the world is a nutjob with a huge ego. That’s not to say he didn’t said some nice things too. But all of that can be found in other Jewish sources (eg ‘love your neighbor’ is from Leviticus and is used as a summary of the law by Philo and others).

    • John Carpenter

      At least you have enough integrity to follow the logic and make a choice. Too bad it’s the wrong one.

    • Anonymous

      Well if He was a lunatic everyone would have probably dismissed Him as so. But they didn’t.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Surely you can’t be saying that no lunatic has ever held sway over people or created a movement. Rasputin, Charles Manson? Some lunatics babble in the corner; many don’t.

  • Kodie

    I had never really given Jesus or what to think of him too much though until I was living with a guy and I was going to therapy and most of my sessions were about him. One day, my therapist pulls out a sheet of paper noting the symptoms of bipolar disorder, one of which being “delusions of grandeur”. Especially as it became clear my boyfriend was (in retrospect) headed toward his psychotic break. He believed he was the second coming, and he believed the “energy” of the room changed when he entered it. Among other symptoms. It was around then that I compared these symptoms to the stories about Jesus. At the time, I rather considered him probably a real guy, and thought he might have been bipolar or something.

    Since I wasn’t that familiar with the bible then, I hadn’t considered that these stories were written about Jesus and perhaps he hadn’t been like that at all. Who wrote these things down and how much of it was real? It is certainly possible for a real guy to have real thoughts and say real things as much as Jesus is reported to have said or done – and they aren’t all together. A little unraveled at least. Not necessarily dangerous, not necessarily wrong, and not stupid, not greedy, not egotistical. Just as much as any human being desires to know what their purpose is, what their calling is, and likes to feel needed, wanted, appreciated, unique, irreplaceable, or justified in pursuing whatever career to whatever end it leads, could Jesus have been a real person who was really sick and really thought that the world needed him to solve their problems as he saw it. Liar? What did he gain? Why would he die for a lie? That is something nobody really talks about, instead, the apostles. But then again, hero worship. You can’t really convince anyone a mild-mannered teacher could save their actual souls unless you draw him in bold colors. If I am, for example, trying to tell you something, I know I’m not charismatic enough to convince you properly. But I can let my “sources” do the speaking for me and effect the change I seek without taking personal credit for it. I am depending on you to be gullible enough, just like people are today, about manipulated statistics and emotional arguments.

  • Pingback: Jesus a Legend: A Dozen Reasons (Part 2)

  • John Carpenter

    Has it occurred to you that C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends and so excluded that possibility because he knew the NT wasn’t legends?

    •“I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my
    life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this.”
    ( C.S. Lewis)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Has it occurred to you that C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends and so excluded that possibility because he knew the NT wasn’t legends?

      I know that’s what he said, but is he believable?

      A mythologist says that the Bible isn’t legend—OK, that’s an interesting data point. Doesn’t carry the day for me, though, as I’ve made clear above.

      • John Carpenter

        Lewis was the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. And you are?.
        •“I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this.”

        ( C. S. Lewis)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? It’s not me vs. Lewis, but let’s imagine that it is. Some people are biased by religion. Maybe Lewis is one of them. As a result, “Lewis said so” is not the final word on any subject for me.

          Furthermore, many other experts have weighed in on the mythology question. Lewis isn’t the final word for them either.

          And if the Jesus story is plainly not a legend, defend that point yourself. Explain it to me. ‘Cause it sure looks like a legend to me.

        • John Carpenter

          You didn’t engage my point at all. Name one expert in myths and legends that thinks the gospels are legends. And what exactly are your credentials that you think your opinion is comparable to that of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University?

          We cannot all be experts in everything and so must rely on the experts. C. S. Lewis was an expert on legends and you believe he overlooked the possibility that the gospels are legendary. You need to demonstrate why you think your expertise in legends is greater than that of C. S. Lewis. Merely accusing him of “bias” (while assuming you have none) isn’t an argument but a statement of bigotry on your part.

          The tell-tale difference between legends and history is the presence of extraneous details in the later that is not present in legendary fiction, things like “Simon of Cyrene” carrying the cross (even mentioning his sons), naming the owner of Jesus’ tomb (Joseph of Arimethia); mentioning that Peter and the other disciples were 100 yards out in the lake when Jesus appears on the shore and they caught 153 fish, etc.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          You didn’t engage my point at all.

          Yeah, there’s a lotta that going around.

          Name one expert in myths and legends that thinks the gospels are legends.

          I can’t think of anyone on either side of this issue. So does that mean that I can’t (again!) ask you why the legend hypothesis is flawed?

          And what exactly are your credentials that you think your opinion is comparable to that of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University?

          So then your argument is “Lewis said so!”?

          You fail.

          C. S. Lewis was an expert on legends and you believe he overlooked the possibility that the gospels are legendary.

          No, everything I’ve read from Lewis on the topic has been unconvincing.

          You need to demonstrate why you think your expertise in legends is greater than that of C. S. Lewis.

          Whoa. Enough with Saint Doctor Doctor Professor Pope Lewis, OK? I’m happy to accept that he was a brilliant scholar, snappy dresser, and considerate lover.

          Can you address my question?

          Or perhaps you already have. I’ve written quite a bit already on my position. Your response: “Yeah, but Lewis disagrees.” Should I conclude that that’s all you’ve got?

          The tell-tale difference between legends and history is the presence of extraneous details in the later that is not present in legendary fiction

          So we take the legend of Merlin the magician or Paul Bunyan, add in some random, specific details, and it becomes history? I didn’t know that.

        • John Carpenter

          Yes you can name an expert on myths and legends who insists that the gospels don’t look anything like a legend: C. S. Lewis. Your statement otherwise either shows you have a problem with short-term memory loss or that you are a liar. Shall I charitably assume you’ve had traumatic brain injury?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Name calling? Check.

          Ignoring any points on which you have lost? Check.

          Golly, I wish you were on our team, with your loving and considerate approach to discussion and your deep scholarship. A suggestion for the tagline for your blog: “The best in content-free defense of Jesus!”

        • John Carpenter

          What names? You’ve been repeatedly informed that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends. Then you say no experts have been produced on the subject. The conclusion is either that you are lying or that you have a memory loss problem. Which is it? Please explain: are you a liar or just not mentally capable?

          What points have I lost? You like to congratulate yourself a lot but you’ve yet to make an intelligent point.

          You spew insults because you don’t have any facts or reason.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What names?

          If you don’t understand what name calling is, I’m sure you won’t take the definition from me.

          You’ve been repeatedly informed that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends.

          And in the dozen times you’ve mentioned Lewis, I’ve never questioned the facts that he was an expert in mythology and fabulously well endowed.

          Then you say no experts have been produced on the subject.

          Wrong again. I say that I’m looking for an argument from you. And you repeat (again and again) that Lewis said so. OK—that’s all you’ve got. Let’s move on.

          The conclusion is either that you are lying or that you have a memory loss problem. Which is it? Please explain: are you a liar or just not mentally capable?

          Take your pick. You’re the only one who can reason here.

          What points have I lost? You like to congratulate yourself a lot but you’ve yet to make an intelligent point.
          You spew insults because you don’t have any facts or reason.

          Wow. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone so enraged before. Cool.

      • John Carpenter

        •Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), declared that
        Jesus was so imposing that he was “far beyond the power of men to invent” and
        that those who treat him as a myth are bereft of “the capacity to distinguish
        between fiction and the documentary evidence” (as quoted in
        Harrison 1968, 3).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Uh, OK. A quote won’t do it for me. I need reasons. Tell me why “The Jesus story is a legend” fails.

        • John Carpenter

          Adolph von Harnack, a liberal history of religion professor, gives you some reasons. Read above.

          If von Harnack is correct, then perhaps you may want to consider whether you are “bereft of “the capacity to distinguish between fiction and the documentary evidence”.

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