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A Critique of 1 Corinthians 15

Christians often point to chapter 15 in 1 Corinthians as important evidence for the resurrection. This book, Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth, was written roughly a decade before the earliest gospel of Mark (written in c. 70 CE). This makes it the earliest claim for the resurrection of Jesus.

Let’s see if the story holds up. Here’s the section that many Christians point to:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3–8)

Claims about the dating of this important passage are all over the map. Some argue that it actually precedes Paul’s writing. They say that it appears to be in a different style, as if it were a creedal statement (like the modern Apostle’s Creed) that would have been recited by believers. That is, though Paul wrote this epistle 25 years after the crucifixion, it had been an oral creed since as early as a few years after Jesus’ death. They cite this as evidence that belief in the resurrection was years earlier than Paul’s writing.

But if it’s a creed, it’s not evidence. A creed is a faith statement—a statement of what people believe. It even sounds like one. There is no mention of time or location, like a police report or newspaper article would have, and “Christ died for our sins” isn’t an observation, it’s a faith statement.

Others propose a very different interpretation: that the different style suggests that it was added to copies decades after Paul’s writing. The gap from the creation of this epistle to our oldest copy is about 150 years. That’s a lot of opportunity for hanky-panky as scribes copied and recopied the letter, especially during the early turbulent years of the new religion of Christianity. We can’t know for certain what the original said.

Now consider more questions about this chapter.

  • Jesus was “raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This is a reference to Jonah 1:17 (“Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”), but how can the resurrection of Jesus be “according to” this scripture? That verse in Jonah is hardly a prophecy.
  • Jesus appeared “to the Twelve”? But they were Eleven after Judas was gone, and his replacement was elected after the ascension of Jesus.
  • “Christ died for our sins”? Here, the sacrifice of Jesus parallels the Old Testament animal sacrifices. But later in this chapter, Paul discards this by saying, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (15:17). So he’s apparently changed his mind, and now it’s the resurrection that is the saving act.
  • Paul says, “and last of all he appeared to me also.” But the appearance to Paul as recorded in Acts 9:3–9 was a visionary sighting (his companions at the time saw nothing). Is Paul’s list of appearances above a combination of visionary and actual sightings? If so, which of the others are visionary as well?
  • Later in the epistle, Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (15:22). This is nice symmetry—we didn’t do anything to get tarred with the brush of Adam’s sin, and we don’t need to do anything to get the redemption of Christ—but most Christians don’t think everyone’s going to the same place.
  • Paul says, “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (15:28). This isn’t too surprising, since our concept of a Trinity of co-equal persons was developed in the fourth century, but it does highlight the fact that Paul might be shocked by what Christianity has become.
  • Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable … it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (15:42–4). This makes clear that the resurrected Jesus was spirit, not flesh. This sounds a lot like docetism, a heresy that was rejected in the First Council of Nicaea. It also contradicts Luke’s physical post-resurrection Jesus: “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39).
  • We’re told that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.” But later, after Jesus rose into heaven, the believers were “a group numbering about a hundred and twenty” (Acts. 1:15). The 500 can’t have been too impressed with what they saw if they weren’t all believers. And if Paul’s claim is such compelling evidence, why didn’t any of the gospels include it?

Though an important bit of history, this chapter may not be as compelling as believers think.

The book [of Mormon] is a curiosity to me.
It is such a pretentious affair and yet so slow, so sleepy,
such an insipid mess of inspiration.
It is chloroform in print.
— Mark Twain

Acknowledgements: I’ve gotten some of these points from The Atheist’s Bible Companion to the New Testament by Mike Davis, Nailed by David Fitzgerald, and one particular sharp-eyed commenter.

Photo credit: Codex Sinaiticus project

About Bob Seidensticker
  • MNb

    Dating of 1 Cor. 15 is less important than seems to be assumed. The author says it explicitely: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”. This means he knew an early version of the Gospels, which means that 1. Cor. 15 is not an independent source of information. Another interesting question if the copiists who wrote down the earliest versions of the Gospels as we know them also knew this letter. If yes the inescapable conclusion is that they have influenced each other.
    From a scientific point of view this means that the OT offers only one testimony of the Resurrection and as every professional historian knows: Testis Unus Testis Nullus.
    1 Cor. 15 is irrelevant for the question if the Resurrection is a historical event.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

      MNb:

      The author says it explicitely: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”. This means he knew an early version of the Gospels

      The phrase was used to note the (usually oral) transmission of a tradition from one person to another. It does not indicate that Paul knew of a written form of the Gospels.

    • vorjack

      Given Paul’s background, I suspect that “Scriptures” meant the Hebrew Testament. Paul was a Pharisee, and interpreted the OT in the same creative way that the others did. Likely he had found interpretations of the texts that confirmed a dying and rising messiah.

      Certainly since Christians still today insist that the OT foretells the coming of Jesus, I don’t think we can assume that “Scriptures” means that there was an earlier written gospel that Paul had access to.

      • John Kesler

        vorjack wrote:
        Given Paul’s background, I suspect that “Scriptures” meant the Hebrew Testament. Paul was a Pharisee, and interpreted the OT in the same creative way that the others did. Likely he had found interpretations of the texts that confirmed a dying and rising messiah.

        I agree (cf. the words of Jesus in Luke 24:25-27). One of the possible passages that Paul had in mind is Hosea 6:2:

        “Come, let us return to the Lord;
        for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
        he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
        2 After two days he will revive us;
        on the third day he will raise us up,
        that we may live before him.

  • MNb

    If anything (but it’s quite a big if afaIc) 1 Cor. 15 provides evidence that the Resurrection actually did not take place. I am absolutely no expert on this, but it reminds me of the story of Marion Keech as documented by Leon Festinger. He mentions five conditions for cognitive dissonance and a first glance tells me that all five might be fullfilled for 1 Cor. 15.
    Maybe you could write about this a next time?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      MNb: Thanks for the tip about cognitive dissonance. I’ll add it to the list.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This book, Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth, was written roughly a decade before the earliest gospel of Mark (written in c. 70 CE).

    Have you done a post about the dates of various NT books, and what the dates are based on? I think a lot of people would be surprised at how many assumptions and how few hard facts go into assigning dates.

    • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com Hausdorff

      That sounds like it would be really interesting.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Interesting suggestion for a blog post, thanks. That is an important fundamental that I hadn’t covered.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Some basic points:1) We do not have manuscripts from those very early times. All of our manuscripts are copies from a century or more later.2) There is some chatter in secular writings which supports the existence of an early Christian church (but not of Jesus H. Christ himself). Summarise.3) There are some writings of “early church fathers” like Origen, commenting on the existence of other alleged documents. Summarise.4) Much of the dating is based on the content of the texts, which I think should throw up a caution flag.

        • Greg G

          4) Much of the dating is based on the content of the texts, which I think should throw up a caution flag.

          Some use lack of content to date documents, too. Those who try to date the gospels as very early use the lack of a mention of Paul’s death to argue that he was still alive when Acts was written and that the gospels preceded Acts. They don’t consider that Paul’s death may have been unremarkable so it only shows that Luke wrote Acts before the Christian community started making martyrs of their long-dead heroes with noble death myths.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Some argue that it actually precedes Paul’s writing.

    Of course the message precedes Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians. That’s the only way the phrase (“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance”) makes sense.

    But if it’s a creed, it’s not evidence. A creed is a faith statement—a statement of what people believe.

    Why is a creed not a piece of historical evidence? It isn’t an either/or proposition.

    There is no mention of time or location

    It’s a summary statement so it need not be detailed. And it does mention that the resurrection occurred on the third day so there is some indication of time (relative to death). Moreover, one can infer a general time span in which the resurrection had to have occurred in order for Jesus to appear to the people mentioned in the passage.

    and “Christ died for our sins” isn’t an observation, it’s a faith statement

    Again, it’s not an either/or statement. That Christ died is an observation.

    Others propose a very different interpretation: that the different style suggests that it was added to copies decades after Paul’s writing. . . . We can’t know for certain what the original said.

    We can’t know much of anything with absolute certainty. However, the manuscript evidence is unanimously against the suggestion of Price and Detering. As your own link notes, most biblical scholars disagree with Price and Detering, with one scholar writing: “This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text.”

    Jesus was “raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This is a reference to Jonah 1:17 (“Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”), but how can the resurrection of Jesus be “according to” this scripture? That verse in Jonah is hardly a prophecy.

    Are you sure it’s a reference solely to Jonah 1:17? But let us suppose it does refer to Jonah 1:17. Recall from the Gospels that Jesus said he would fulfill the sign of Jonah in a typological fashion. To say Jonah 1:17 is not a prophecy is irrelevant.

    Jesus appeared “to the Twelve”? But they were Eleven after Judas was gone, and his replacement was elected after the ascension of Jesus.

    But the replacement was a witness to the resurrection as well (Acts 1:21-22). Thus, Jesus did appear to the Twelve.

    So he’s apparently changed his mind, and now it’s the resurrection that is the saving act.

    Again, you’re black-and-white thinking clouds your critique. It isn’t an either/or issue.

    This makes clear that the resurrected Jesus was spirit, not flesh.

    A Greek, scholarly commentary will show that this is not the clear meaning of the passage.

    But later, after Jesus rose into heaven, the believers were “a group numbering about a hundred and twenty” (Acts. 1:15).

    That’s the number present in Jerusalem, not the total number of believers throughout the world.

    And if Paul’s claim is such compelling evidence, why didn’t any of the gospels include it?

    We don’t know but they make no claim to be narrating every resurrection appearance (e.g., Acts 1:3).

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      Of course the message precedes Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians.

      Precedes Paul’s epistle as a polished and widely distributed creed.

      Why is a creed not a piece of historical evidence? It isn’t an either/or proposition.

      A statement of the form “I believe X” is different from the historical claim, “X happened.” Sure, a faith statement might be historical evidence, just not much.

      It’s a summary statement so it need not be detailed.

      I would say: it’s a faith statement so it has no interest in being detailed. The Apostle’s Creed would sound pretty silly if dates and historians’ qualifiers were added.

      with one scholar writing: “This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text.”

      Do we interpret this to mean, “We can’t deduce much historically from this tenuous chain of evidence, but it at least gives us that”? I might agree with that. Or does this claim of the resurrection form historical evidence as strong as, say, that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon?

      And keep in mind that the consensus among theologians isn’t the same as a consensus among scientists. 99.9% of Muslim theologians probably claim that Muhammad is a prophet of the creator of the universe, but that doesn’t make it a historical fact.

      But the replacement was a witness to the resurrection as well (Acts 1:21-22). Thus, Jesus did appear to the Twelve.

      If Jesus appeared to the Eleven plus 500 people, who would call this “the Twelve”? Seems likelier that Paul is speaking from a time before the Judas tradition became part of the gospel.

      A Greek, scholarly commentary will show that this is not the clear meaning of the passage.

      If “spirit” is confusing in this context, I invite you to clarify.

      That’s the number present in Jerusalem, not the total number of believers throughout the world.

      … which was also 120? I would think that if you’re picking an apostle, you’d want as large a pool of qualified candidates as possible. If there were a handful in Galilee also, for example, I’d think they’d try to round them up as well.

      We don’t know but they make no claim to be narrating every resurrection appearance (e.g., Acts 1:3).

      It’s hard to say that the 500 is both compelling evidence (to argue that skeptics should take it as important evidence) and not compelling evidence (none of the 4 gospel authors thought it interesting enough to include) at the same time.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

        Bob:

        Precedes Paul’s epistle as a polished and widely distributed creed.

        Yes, which is part of the reason why it said to indicate that the resurrection was proclaimed in the years immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion.

        A statement of the form “I believe X” is different from the historical claim, “X happened.” Sure, a faith statement might be historical evidence, just not much.

        Each piece of evidence needs to be examined in its own right. You can’t make a blanket statement that a faith statement, by its very nature, is “not much” in terms of historical evidence. Moreover, this particular passage is in the form of “X happened”.

        For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

        Do we interpret this to mean, “We can’t deduce much historically from this tenuous chain of evidence, but it at least gives us that”? I might agree with that. Or does this claim of the resurrection form historical evidence as strong as, say, that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon?

        You initially linked to Wikipedia to note that some scholars (Price and Detering) suggest the passage was added to the text at a later date. I take Campenhausen and Hunter to be saying the authenticity of the passage is beyond reasonable dispute (i.e., the passage was written by Paul).

        And keep in mind that the consensus among theologians isn’t the same as a consensus among scientists.

        I don’t know whether Campenhausen or Hunter are theologians. Regardless, all the manuscript evidence is in favor of the consensus position, not the position of Price and Detering.

        If Jesus appeared to the Eleven plus 500 people, who would call this “the Twelve”? Seems likelier that Paul is speaking from a time before the Judas tradition became part of the gospel.

        Paul knew Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23) so we can dismiss your suggestion. I’m not sure why you find Paul’s reference to the Twelve puzzling. John refers to Thomas as “one of the Twelve” (John 20:24) after the resurrection and before Judas’ replacement is selected. It seems “the Twelve” is a shorthand way to refer to a specific group that had symbolic importance.

        I would think that if you’re picking an apostle, you’d want as large a pool of qualified candidates as possible. If there were a handful in Galilee also, for example, I’d think they’d try to round them up as well.

        The choice for Judas’ replacement was narrowed down to those who had followed Jesus from John’s baptism to the ascension, not just those who saw the resurrected Christ. Lots were drawn between only two individuals. There’s no reason to believe there were a large number of “qualified candidates”.

        It’s hard to say that the 500 is both compelling evidence (to argue that skeptics should take it as important evidence) and not compelling evidence (none of the 4 gospel authors thought it interesting enough to include) at the same time.

        I did not claim it is both compelling evidence and not compelling evidence. I said we don’t know why the Gospel writers did not include the appearance to the 500.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          all the manuscript evidence is in favor of the consensus position

          … that 1 Cor. was written by Paul. OK, I agree with that. (Seemed like you were making a bolder statement before.)

          Paul knew Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23) so we can dismiss your suggestion.

          Paul doesn’t mention Judas, so let’s not dismiss my suggestion.

          I’m not sure why you find Paul’s reference to the Twelve puzzling.

          I don’t. I find it damning. This is just one more way that the Pauline story differs from the gospel stories.

          I said we don’t know why the Gospel writers did not include the appearance to the 500.

          Seems like the obvious explanation is that our New Testament (and the noncanonical books from that time) is a bunch of snapshots showing how the story changed with time.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

          Bob:

          Paul doesn’t mention Judas, so let’s not dismiss my suggestion.

          You wrote: “Seems likelier that Paul is speaking from a time before the Judas tradition became part of the gospel.” Why is it likelier? You have no positive evidence that the Judas tradition was added after 1 Corinthians was written. You assume that Paul knew of a betrayal but that he did not know the betrayer. This is an argument from silence.

          In the very same passage that Paul mentions the betrayal he accurately recounts details from the last supper (compare his account to Luke’s). Paul had contact with the Jerusalem disciples. Are we to believe he learned that Jesus was betrayed but did not know the name of the betrayer?

          I don’t. I find it damning. This is just one more way that the Pauline story differs from the gospel stories.

          OK, I fail to see how it is damning. It seems that an ancient author used a term you find somewhat odd.

          Seems like the obvious explanation is that our New Testament (and the noncanonical books from that time) is a bunch of snapshots showing how the story changed with time.

          It isn’t obvious to me because you don’t offer any positive evidence for your claims and the traditional/historical hypothesis is supported by positive evidence and explains the accounts. You provided a just-so story without any solid argument.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          Why is it likelier?

          Because it’s a straightforward explanation of the facts. We know about the fallibility of oral history, about how new facets can attach themselves to a story. It doesn’t lead to a supernatural conclusion.

          Do you think that a skeptic is obliged to provide “positive evidence” that the resurrection didn’t happen? And, in the absence of any, the Christian is entitled to his assumption in the truth of the gospel story?

          Are we to believe he learned that Jesus was betrayed but did not know the name of the betrayer?

          Why do you ask? Is that hard to imagine?

          Paul wasn’t that great a historian, at least from the assumption that the gospels are correct: “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thes. 2:14–15).

          OK, I fail to see how it is damning. It seems that an ancient author used a term you find somewhat odd.

          Not odd at all. Let’s drop the assumption that there was one actual series of events and that the books of the NT, where they mention it, are accurate. Then things nicely fall into place. Paul knew a story, the author of Mark knew a different story, and so on.

          It isn’t obvious to me because you don’t offer any positive evidence for your claims and the traditional/historical hypothesis is supported by positive evidence and explains the accounts. You provided a just-so story without any solid argument

          First off, you have the burden of proof since you’re making the (remarkable!) claim. I needn’t bring any positive evidence to rebut what you bring.

          Second, the Principle of Analogy summarizes the straightforward idea that we search for the most straightforward analogies, for example: “the Jesus story looks like a legend, so I’ll put it in that bin.”

    • Reginald Selkirk

      That’s the number present in Jerusalem, not the total number of believers throughout the world.

      Good point. There was probably a large contingent of Christians in New Zealand at the time.

  • avalon

    1. What was the purpose of 1 Corinthians?
    One purpose was to address divisions within the church. A church that Paul himself started:
    1Cr 1:11 ” there are quarrels among you.” 1Cr 11:18 “I hear there are divisions among you”

    2. What were these quarrels or divisions?
    Here’s one:
    “how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1Cor 15:12)
    Here’s another:
    “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (1Cor 15:35)

    So the story up to the point where Paul writes this letter is:
    Paul establishes a church. He visits it, then later writes a letter (one previous to 1 Corinthians, which we don’t have). Gets reports from the church saying some members don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, while other members don’t agree on how resurrection occurs or what type of body they will have. So Paul writes again (what we call 1 Corinthians) explaining what resurrection is all about and why it’s important to believe in it.
    My question would be: If Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact and central to Christian belief and something being preached by Paul, how did these divisions come about in a church he established himself and wrote to at least once before? “(H)ow can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”
    How could there be any question on what type of body is resurrected? If this was so central and important to Christians one would think Paul would have ‘set it in stone’ long before this letter. If anything 1 Corinthians shows how unimportant belief in Jesus’ resurrection was and how varied the beliefs were just a short while after his death.

    avalon

    • JohnH

      “how did these divisions come about in a church he established himself and wrote to at least once before? ”
      Because even though Paul knew of the reality of the resurrection the believers in Corinth had not seen Jesus alive (or resurrected either) and the Christian belief in a bodily resurrection is directly contrary to the popular philosophy that dominated Corinth. You clearly have no clue about Gnosticism or what Egyptian and Greek Philosophy have to say on the subject. Go read a Gnostic Gospel and then come ask this question again.

      • avalon

        “Because even though Paul knew of the reality of the resurrection the believers in Corinth had not seen Jesus alive (or resurrected either)”
        Neither had Paul seen Jesus alive or resurrected. He experienced a vision.

        “the Christian belief in a bodily resurrection is directly contrary to the popular philosophy that dominated Corinth.”
        So Paul decided not to teach them about it? Or did they become Christians without changing their philosophy?

        “Go read a Gnostic Gospel and then come ask this question again.”
        Why? The followers of Jesus (Paul being one) were Jews first. It’s far more enlightening to read what the Jews thought about sin offerings and the “Lamb of God”. I suspect that’s where the historical truth lies.
        Romans 8:3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,…

        The sin offering had to be burned.

        Heb 13:11-12
        For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, to sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp.

        avalon

        • JohnH

          Am I supposed to take you seriously?

          Vision is sight implying that even if no one else around him did that Paul actually did see Jesus.

          Are believers completely immune from influences of popular and scholarly philosophy today? Take two seconds and just think and most of your questions would be answered.

          The Gnostic Gospels are prime examples of the strong Greek, Egyptian, and Mystery influences on early Christianity. Asking why believers in Christ would not believe in a bodily resurrection and then refusing to look at the Gnostics is completely avoiding the answer that is sitting right in front of you in order to pursue your own pet theories.

          Look up the symbolism of baptism according to Romans and then consider the Baptism of fire or of the Spirit. then read 1 Corinthians 15 again and I believe your concern about being burnt is more then explained.

      • ScottInOH

        The Gnostic Gospels and their fate are indeed fascinating. They show exactly the conflict that avalon describes: early Christians (whether they called themselves that or not) disagreed over whether Jesus was resurrected at all and, if so, whether it was spiritually or physically. Fifteen years after the crucifixion, all of those stories were being told, all by people of considerable standing within the (fragmented) movement. If we are generous, it took well over a century, and not a little political and military force, to unify the canon.

        That is remarkable if the Son of God came to Earth, performed unprecedented miracles, rose from the dead, and transformed humankind’s story. It is far less remarkable if a charismatic Jew lived in Palestine, acted in the tradition of the prophets, was executed by a colonial power, and left behind a group of confused followers in a society willing to see the supernatural all around.

  • Greg G.

    The Acts versions of Paul’s conversion are contradictory and absurd. Acts 26:14 has Jesus quoting Dionysus from a Greek play. We should be skeptical of those.

    In Galatians 1:12-16, Paul describes his revelation from Jesus Christ. He was studying Judaism but God called him by grace and revealed his Son in him. It reads as if he may have got the revelation through reading the scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 15, he describes all the appearances with similar wording so he doesn’t think theirs was any different that his own.

    The Messianic Jews based their prophecy on the clear but failed prophecy that David’s seed would always sit on the throne. The OT writers blamed it on God still holding a grudge because previous generations didn’t follow the Law. The Jews thought if they obeyed the Law, then God would fulfil that promise. They used out-of-context verses to support the idea that someday a Messiah would come to reclaim the throne. After a few centuries and multiple conquests, at least one Messianic cult started reading verses on suffering. Since they couldn’t be applied to the future Messiah, they began to read that it had happened in the past. Thus, Paul used the “according to the scriptures” line.

    It would have taken some fuzzy thinking to reconcile the two ideas but they seem to be good at it. In Galatians 3:16, Paul says that verses like Genesis 13:15 used the word “seed” to mean Jesus being Abraham’s seed because “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’”, even though Genesis 13:16 shows “seed” is definitely plural. Hebrew 7:9-10 says Levi paid Melchizedek through Abraham because “Levi was still in the body of his ancestor”. If “according to the Scriptures” says Jesus was of David’s seed, then he was of David’s seed, even if David was yet to be born. They didn’t need for there to be a real Jesus.

    The next generation read the same scriptures as recent history and invented a first century Jesus. To this day, Christians read the New Testament stories drawn from out-of-context OT verses as fulfilled prophecy.

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

    But if it’s a creed, it’s not evidence.

    If it is a creed it is evidence that that which the creed says was taught and believed. If it is indeed a creed quoted by Paul (and 1 Corinthians is probably one of the least disputed of all Paul’s letters and commonly dated to the early 50s) then it obviously pre-dates this letter and establishes belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ before this time.

    You are right that this doesn’t prove that Jesus rose from the dead. But it does make the idea that the resurrection is a legend that developed over time very difficult to sustain.

    • MNb

      The early 50′s is still about 15 years after the crucifixion. That’s more than enough to develop all kinds of legends/

      • Bob Seidensticker

        MNb:

        That’s more than enough to develop all kinds of legends

        In a pre-scientific era? Yeah, I think so. Believers have the burden of proof to show, not that the story might have made it through a time period intact, but that it did.

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

        The early 50′s is still about 15 years after the crucifixion. That’s more than enough to develop all kinds of legends

        So you’re saying that 15 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and with many people regularly travelling between Jerusalem and Corinth that no one in Corinth was able to establish whether there is any truth to the story of Jesus’ resurrection, empty grave, establishment of the church in Jerusalem, various miracles of Jesus and the apostles, etc?

        To put it in context, we’re talking about time since Princess Diana’s death. Why are there no legends about Princess Diana rising from the dead?

        • ScottInOH

          There were multiple versions of the Jesus story in circulation at the time. They weren’t all true (and maybe none of them was). The process of deciding which one would be codified as the Right one was not based on a search for evidence but on political and military power.

          As for the Princess Diana question, I suspect the answer lies in popular credulity. I would like to think the availability of official death records has something to do with it, too, but the number of people who believed Elvis was still alive 15 years after his passing would belie such a claim.

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

          There were multiple versions of the Jesus story in circulation at the time.

          I’m curious. What multiple versions were circulating in the 50s?

          The process of deciding which one would be codified as the Right one was not based on a search for evidence but on political and military power.

          One would wonder how the story of a fringe group with no political clout and a military that at its greatest consisted of “two swords” managed to survive for three centuries if that were the case.

          As for the Princess Diana question, I suspect the answer lies in popular credulity. I would like to think the availability of official death records has something to do with it, too, but the number of people who believed Elvis was still alive 15 years after his passing would belie such a claim.

          Are you suggesting that Jesus wasn’t crucified? Or that the crucifixion didn’t kill him? And I think the Elvis case differs significantly in that his death did not occur publicly and the claims are not that he rose form the dead, but that he didn’t actually die.

        • ScottInOH

          I’m curious. What multiple versions were circulating in the 50s?

          The ones Paul wrote against, at the very least.

        • Greg G.
          The early 50′s is still about 15 years after the crucifixion. That’s more than enough to develop all kinds of legends

          So you’re saying that 15 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and with many people regularly travelling between Jerusalem and Corinth that no one in Corinth was able to establish whether there is any truth to the story of Jesus’ resurrection, empty grave, establishment of the church in Jerusalem, various miracles of Jesus and the apostles, etc?

          We have no record of the empty grave and miracles stuff until two decades after after the 1 Corinthians letter. There were Messianic Jews with churches for a few hundred years so the early Christians would have been merely adding a new message, something like Philo’s Logos having been crucified and resurrected at sometime in the past. Everything the epistle writers tell us seems to come from cherry-picked, out-of-context Old Testament verses. That’s all Paul knows. His revelation seems to have been from reading scripture and 1 Corinthians 15 uses similar words to describe how Jesus appeared to the others.

          Of course, two decades after 1 Corinthians was written, Jerusalem was not a travel destination. There wouldn’t have been anyone there who could verify or dispute claims about what happened four decades earlier.

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

          We have no record of the empty grave and miracles stuff until two decades after after the 1 Corinthians letter.

          Almost all scholars date Mark before the Fall of Jerusalem. There are several scholarly opinions dating Matthew and/or Luke after the Fall of Jerusalem, although the majority would date them in the 60s. John is the only gospel that is consistently dated after the Fall of Jerusalem. Regardless Mark has a record of the empty tomb that is not in the much-contested ending that includes the post-resurrection appearances. And Mark’s gospel is full of miracles by Jesus.

          Everything the epistle writers tell us seems to come from cherry-picked, out-of-context Old Testament verses. That’s all Paul knows.

          You are making a big stretch to say that Paul only knows what he writes in his epistles. The epistles were written for specific purposes, and providing a record of Jesus’ ministry was not one them. The gospels on the other hand …

          Of course, two decades after 1 Corinthians was written, Jerusalem was not a travel destination. There wouldn’t have been anyone there who could verify or dispute claims about what happened four decades earlier.

          Not in Jerusalem. But it would not have been too difficult in a city like Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, etc to find someone who was there when it happened. Regardless, for almost 20 years after the writing of the letter, the recipients had the opportunity to either travel to Jerusalem, or to ask visitors from Jerusalem. Considering that there would have been annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem by Jews for festivals, and that these events occurred during the Passover Festival, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find things out.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Almost all scholars date Mark before the Fall of Jerusalem.

          “Almost all”? I’m not sure of this. You could be right–I don’t have a source handy that refutes this, but perhaps you do. This is certainly what fundamentalists argue, but they’re only 7% of Americans. How do mainstream Protestant or Catholic theologians date it?

          But it would not have been too difficult in a city like Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, etc to find someone who was there when it happened.

          This reminds me of arguments about the spherical earth. Eratosthenes computed the size of the earth in 240BCE, showing that it was a sphere. So therefore everyone in the world knew the truth? Can we even argue that everyone in Greece knew the truth? Of course not. Similarly, suppose there was one dude in Corinth who knew that this whole Jesus thing was nonsense. Why imagine that the truth will sweep Greece?

        • Greg G.

          Hello Karl,

          Almost all scholars date Mark before the Fall of Jerusalem. There are several scholarly opinions dating Matthew and/or Luke after the Fall of Jerusalem, although the majority would date them in the 60s.

          Most scholars put Mark’s composition in the 70 to 75 range. The early date is because it appears to be written after the fall of Jerusalem and the late date is to allow for its spread to Matthew’s and Luke’s communities. Matthew is dated to the 85-95 range and Luke is generally in the 90′s. Theologians like to date Luke/Acts to the 60′s but their excuse for that is that Acts doesn’t mention Paul’s death.

          Everything the epistle writers tell us seems to come from cherry-picked, out-of-context Old Testament verses. That’s all Paul knows.

          You are making a big stretch to say that Paul only knows what he writes in his epistles.

          I’ll concede that Paul may have known more than he tells us in his letters. My wording should have included such a qualification. But he tells us in Galatians 1:12, 1:16 and 2:6 that he didn’t learn the gospel from any person and he never tells us anything he couldn’t have taken from the scriptures.

          Of course, two decades after 1 Corinthians was written, Jerusalem was not a travel destination. There wouldn’t have been anyone there who could verify or dispute claims about what happened four decades earlier.

          I read just this morning that people would visit the Mount of Olives, which was 80 meters higher than the Temple mount, to view the ruins. I wonder how long it would take to get tourists to visit a war-torn area?

          Not in Jerusalem. But it would not have been too difficult in a city like Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, etc to find someone who was there when it happened. Regardless, for almost 20 years after the writing of the letter, the recipients had the opportunity to either travel to Jerusalem, or to ask visitors from Jerusalem. Considering that there would have been annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem by Jews for festivals, and that these events occurred during the Passover Festival, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find things out.

          In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes all the appearances of Jesus using the same words as he uses for his revelation. He doesn’t seem to think the others had significantly different revelations. His descriptions of his own revelation seem to be from his studies. We can discount the Acts versions because they range from contradictory to absurd with Jesus quoting Dionysus in Acts 26:24.

          So in Paul’s time, there was no gospel stories to check out. When the gospels were written, they would have spread faster than any debunking manuscripts. There would have been a market for the gospels but not likely one for debunkings. The debunkings would have to have been based on 50 year old memories and all they could have said was “Maybe I wasn’t there that day or I was in another part of town, because I never heard about it.” How would that story propagate?

          Mark seems to have taken a few of Paul’s writings and fleshed that out by using The Odyssey and The Iliad seeded with details from the Old Testament. Ever notice how the miracles tend to be exaggerations of miracles by Moses, Elijah and Elisha? Randel Helms does in Who Wrote the Gospels? So many passages in Mark can be attributed to the literature from his day that there’s nothing left to be attributed to oral tradition.

          The other gospels borrow from Mark because they don’t have any other stories about a first century Jesus. Matthew uses 90% of Mark and about half of that is verbatim. He leaves out things like Jesus taking two tries to heal a blind man and the naked boy at Gethsemane or rewords things that are theologically problematic. Luke does the same. John appears to not have used a written copy of Mark but heard the stories.

          I accept that there was a Q document but from what can be reconstructed from it is a list of sayings with nothing about the crucifixion and resurrection. The epistles only tell us about the crucifixion and resurrection but never mention any teachings or ministry of Jesus. It doesn’t seem like they were referring to the same person.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I think Scott has addressed your question, but I’ll just add an incredulous reaction to your suggestion that one man having the truth is relevant to the story at hand. Seems quite naive to me. For starters, how would an audience be able to tell the true story from the false one? You think that the true story will magically sweep a city, displacing the old (false) story? That certainly doesn’t happen today, when a newspaper can print an incorrect account of events that happened just yesterday.

          And I wonder: does a variant of Gresham’s Law (“Bad money drives out good”) apply here? Does a cool story drives out the truth?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      If it is a creed it is evidence that that which the creed says was taught and believed.

      Right. But it’s precious little for us in the 21st century to see as evidence supporting the belief itself.

  • Norm

    When death comes,as it will soon Bob,then you will understand the truth and value of your wisdom.

    • MNb

      Scary! That will make Bob S convert.
      At the other hand you will never know the truth and understand the value of your wisdom, because it’s ashes to ashes and dust to dust and nothing of you will be left. For anyone who actually has gained some wisdom, like my 18 years old son, that’s a comfort.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Norm:

      That’s your answer? To shake your fist and say, “Well you can have your fancy arguments and ‘burden of proof’ nonsense, but you’ll see! Soon enough, you’ll see!”

      Sorry–I need evidence. Your threats about your furious Canaanite war god are as scary as someone else’s threats about Buddhist hell or a petulant Shiva or whatever.

      • Norm

        Ha no Bob there is no fist shaking and no threats,only the sad realization the evidence that will convince you will come too late.W ith all the personal testimonies freely available from people who have experienced what you desire to know,which are discarded so easily.Google Howard Storm,a fellow atheist and listen to his NDE.There are hundreds of peoples experiences in book and video form if you are honest enough in your quest for evidence to listen,being the “freethinkers”that you all are.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          only the sad realization the evidence that will convince you will come too late.

          Yep, that Yahweh. He’s a trickster. He’ll convince who he pleases, and the rest get to roast in his hell forever. Dude’s got an amusing sense of justice!

          W ith all the personal testimonies freely available from people who have experienced what you desire to know,which are discarded so easily.

          That’s what I say! I point to testimonials from Mormons and Wiccans and Hindus, and I wonder what else stiff-necked people like you need. I mean, seriously, it’s all there, right in front of you if you’d just consider it.

        • Norm

          Oh so its God who chooses what we believe eh,so He’s responsable yeh, this is why I call atheists “denialists”.They have a “Reason Rally”,call themselves “Freethinkers”,we want “evidence”you say but Bob your only trying to convince yourself there is no accountability when you die.Supporting same sex marriage and abortion really are good examples of how far youve slipped from being reasonable and how bound up in your thinking you have become.Reading your blog you come across as a very smart man who is above the smut and juvenile attitudes so often expressed on these sites ,but you are only fooling yourselves to hope you wont stand before God where all your sharp wit and sharp tongue counts for naught when you get that tightness and pain in your chest,what follows is all down hill,but it doesn’t have to be that way,and its your responsibility…not Gods.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          Oh so its God who chooses what we believe eh,so He’s responsable yeh

          Yeh. Fundamentalists typically believe that the actual conversion of a soul is done by the Holy Spirit, not by men (so that they can’t boast, I assume).

          Bob your only trying to convince yourself there is no accountability when you die.

          So I can just be a hedonist and follow the atheist’s rule, “if it feels good, do it”?

          How you can imagine that atheists aren’t accountable to anyone, I can’t imagine.

          Supporting same sex marriage and abortion really are good examples of how far youve slipped from being reasonable

          I’ve written quite a bit about both topics here. Search for them if you want to read what I think. I suspect that we’re on opposite sides of this question. This may shock you, but I think my positions are actually the well-reasoned ones.

          it doesn’t have to be that way,and its your responsibility…not Gods.

          God’s provided me insignificant evidence that he exists. I guess he doesn’t much care whether I believe or not.

    • Grim

      No he won’t, he won’t exist anymore and will be incapable of understanding anything. That’s what death means.

      Your only chance to understand anything is while you’re alive.

      • Norm

        Keep telling yourselves that for once you do die only then will you fully understand what you carn’t comprehend this side of mortality…..and the evidence you also deny will also be so embarrassingly undeniable.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          the evidence you also deny will also be so embarrassingly undeniable.

          Gee–what a shame that it’s not so obvious now, when we can actually benefit from that.

          Is it difficult trying to rationalize how God can know the fundamental importance of the truth and yet be so reluctant to have that truth known? What’s the deal–is it a secret or something?

        • Norm

          The evidence really is so obvious Bob that children literally do get it.While it may be an interesting hobby arguing the validity of scripture or other old documents it wont get you far because your debate is only based on your currant understanding,and you personally are trying to prove it wrong to justify your position ,so you certainly arn’t being objective.The truth is right in front of you but the cost of acknowledging it it to high for your pride so you deny it.Thats why I call atheists denialists because its a more accurate description of your lack of faith.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          The evidence really is so obvious Bob that children literally do get it.

          Are we talking Muslim children? Because they aren’t confused about the correct supernatural truth (there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger, and all that).

          While it may be an interesting hobby arguing the validity of scripture or other old documents it wont get you far

          Understanding why you say various things (“Mark wrote the book of Mark,” “the apostles died martyr’s deaths,” and so on) and whether they’re anything more than tradition is pretty important, I’m sure you’ll agree.

          you personally are trying to prove it wrong to justify your position ,so you certainly arn’t being objective

          I’m trying to find the truth. That Christianity is nonsense seems to be correct, but I’m open to that position being incorrect.

          The truth is right in front of you but the cost of acknowledging it it to high for your pride so you deny it.

          You’re saying it’s easier for you to change than me? That’d be hard for me to accept.

        • Norm

          Personally I think the Muslim children (and Jewish) are right,there is only one God.Im not threatened by their interpretation of scripture,I dont think the correct and complete understanding of the bible,koran or the tulmud is what gets you into heaven.You would be right if the bible was just tradition,we would all be wasting our time because tradition leads to religion and God knows we dont need more religious people do we.Trouble is Bob I dont believe that your trying to find the truth,but disprove the historical accuracy and in doing so you can dismiss the moral teachings and the prophetic warnings of the whole earth and your personal future as not true as well.I dont know why God doesnt just give us all an undeniable spiritual experience ,Ive had a few but I mostly am encouraged by others and I hope you do find the truth in a way that you are truly convinced and no,I am absolutely not saying that it is easier to change than you,on the contrary Im a grandad and still struggle with things and attitudes I should be well past by now .I dont come here to stir up atheists and argue,but if a post is bullshit then I will say so.On the whole this site does seem more civil than some others which is a reflection of you personally Im sure.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          I dont know why God doesnt just give us all an undeniable spiritual experience

          Kinda makes God look nonexistent. A loving God would give us all the information we need to know that he at least exists, since belief in him is a requirement for heaven.

          On the whole this site does seem more civil than some others

          Thank you for saying so. I hope the blog is a positive challenge and worthwhile experience for you.

        • Norm

          Kinda makes God look non-existent….not at all.Most people dont need an amazing spiritual experience to see,understand and know God. We see God in creation,especially people and mostly in our own lives.Interesting side note,one article I read on Muslims becoming Christian said 1 in 4 did so as a result of a “devine revelation”,so in countries where you can lose your life to convert to Christianity when you have a spiritual experience like they have,you know the truth and its irrelevant what anyone else says .This is why all the testimonies of amazing conversions that people so easily dismiss,you do so at your loss.I saw a statement from a scientist who said we only use 3% of our DNA and that 97% is waste.My first thought is , he only understands what 3% of DNA is for.So when he can figure out 50% he will just get a pass,70% a B, but 3% well he still in kindergarten isnt he.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          Most people dont need an amazing spiritual experience to see,understand and know God.

          They don’t need one to think that they understand God. I’m sure you’ll agree that there are people all over the world (the majority, in fact) who have incorrect supernatural beliefs. Why imagine that you’re one of the minority who’ve figured it out?

          one article I read on Muslims becoming Christian said 1 in 4 did so as a result of a “devine revelation”

          I’d like to see this. What I want to see is someone who knew nothing about Christianity becoming a Christian because Jesus (or equivalent) appeared to them.

          This is why all the testimonies of amazing conversions that people so easily dismiss,you do so at your loss.

          Don’t you dismiss the conversion stories of the other guy’s religion? Or are they all valid in your mind?

  • Mick

    Good try Norm. Your comment lacks wit and wisdom, but not bad for a first effort. Did you make it up yourself, or did a big boy tell you what to say.

    • Norm

      Thanks Sunny ,I will work on my wit but I have a feeling you wonk quite get wisdom,but hey lets try eh.

  • MNb

    Prove it. I don’t know the original word, but scripture is derived from the Latin word for to write.
    What you forget is this – even if scripture refers to an oral tradition – which you’ll have to prove first – it is the same oral tradition where the Gospels came from. So still not independent.

    • MNb

      This (6:02) was for Jayman above.

  • http://Newsvine King Dave

    I really enjoy this site.
    There is one part of the Jesus story I have no truble believing. That a person was tortured and executed in a bloody public fashion, for the slightest religious infraction. This still goes on unmolested and everyday in modern Islam, without the happy ending.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Dave: Thanks. I hope you drop by frequently.

      Yeah, Christianity is kinder and gentler, despite the savage god portrayed in the Old Testament. The outliers are few. It’d be nice if Islam made the same progress.

  • SparklingMoon

    Nowhere in the Gospels any hint about Trinity.Gospels only speak of the One God Who is without peer. Some eminent and even hostile clergymen have had to admit that the Gospels do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. According to Christian scholars, this doctrine was borrowed from the
    Greeks, who believed in three gods just as the Hindus believe in Trimurti (three idols). When Paul turned his attention to the Greeks, he wished to please them so that they could convert to Christianity. With this in mind, he introduced into the Christian faith the concept of ‘the three persons of the Godhead’, to mirror the Greek concept of three gods, despite the fact that Jesus himself had never thought of such a thing. Like all Prophets, his teaching about God was simple as God is One and He has no partner.The religion which is championed as ‘Christianity’ is, in fact, the religion of Paul and not that of Christ, for the latter never taught the doctrine of the Trinity. As long as he lived, he only taught the Oneness of God and His being without partner. After he died, his brother James—who was his successor and a holy man— also taught the Oneness of God. But Paul unjustly opposed him and started preaching contrary to his true teachings, and went to the extent of creating a new faith. He set his followers against the Torah and taught them that there was no need for the Law after the Messiah’s Atonement, and Christians did not need to follow the Torah because the
    Messiah’s blood was enough to wipe away their sins.

    Jesusas was a humble and selfless person who did not even want to be called ‘good’; but Paul made him ‘God’. It is written in the Gospels that someone said to Jesus “O Good Master!”, but he said, “Why callest thou me good?” And how wonderfully do the words which he uttered at the time of the crucifixion testify to his belief in the Oneness of God. With the utmost humility, he had cried, Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?, “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?” Can any reasonable person believe that he who supplicated to God with such humility, and considered Him to be the Lord and Master, could himself have claimed to be God? The truth is that those who have a relationship of personal love with God are often made to use some metaphoric expressions regarding themselves which ignorant people use to prove their divinity.(Naseeme Dawat)

  • Greg G

    For starters, how would an audience be able to tell the true story from the false one? You think that the true story will magically sweep a city, displacing the old (false) story?

    A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. –Mark Twain (from memory)

    Paul knew Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23) so we can dismiss your suggestion.

    Paul doesn’t mention Judas, so let’s not dismiss my suggestion.

    We can’t dismiss that Paul simply inferred that bit from Psalm 41:9.

  • Greg G

    Hi Jayman,

    In the very same passage that Paul mentions the betrayal he accurately recounts details from the last supper (compare his account to Luke’s). Paul had contact with the Jerusalem disciples. Are we to believe he learned that Jesus was betrayed but did not know the name of the betrayer?

    Luke copied the story from Mark. Mark seems to have embellished the story from 1 Corinthians. There is a circumstantial path that Paul may have taken the practice from the Mithras cult. Justin says the Mithras cult stole it from the Christians but has no proof. Plutarch wrote a biography of Pompey where he mentions that the pirates around Cilicia worshipped Mithras and their rites are practiced “to this day”, referring to the mid first century. Cilicia is in Tarsus, where Paul is from, and he tells us he visited Cilicia after his revelation. The betrayal and bread meme likely comes from Psalm 41:9.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

      Greg G:

      Luke copied the story from Mark.

      To an extent but there are differences too. The ancient sources state that Luke was a follower of the apostle Paul. Luke follows Paul more closely than Mark does:

      1Cor 11:24: This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
      Mark 14:22: Take it; this is my body.
      Luke 22:19: This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

      1Cor 11:25: This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.
      Mark 14:24: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many
      Luke 22:20: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

      Mark seems to have embellished the story from 1 Corinthians.

      The words “seems to have” means you don’t actually have evidence that this is the case. The ancient external sources actually state that Mark took notes from the apostle Peter and the above comparison suggests you’re wrong.

      There is a circumstantial path that Paul may have taken the practice from the Mithras cult.

      And there is a direct statement from Paul that the tradition was passed down from Jesus. It seems like you’re looking for solutions to problems that don’t exist.

      The betrayal and bread meme likely comes from Psalm 41:9.

      Or sometimes people were betrayed by those close to them, the kind of people you would share bread with, bread being a staple food.

      • Greg G.

        Hi Jayman,

        Thanks for the reply.

        You are correct about Luke being closer to 1 Corinthians. Mark seems to quote from memory a lot as if he perhaps wasn’t rich enough to have his own texts at hand. Matthew and Luke correct him in many places.

        The words “seems to have” means you don’t actually have evidence that this is the case. The ancient external sources actually state that Mark took notes from the apostle Peter and the above comparison suggests you’re wrong.

        At New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash, Price collects the work of several scholars who have traced the writings of Mark to the Old Testament and to Greek literature. In addition to that I would argue that Mark was familiar with Q as seen in Mark 4:1-34. I argue that Mark used Galatians as a source. We see “Abba, Father” used in different contexts and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) used differently. We see Paul’s argument against Peter put into Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. If that had happened, why would Paul and Peter have argued with Paul and Jesus in agreement? How would Mark have gotten that from Peter? Mark has three main sidekicks for Jesus – Peter, James, and John – the same three mentioned in Galatians. In Galatians, Peter eats with the Gentiles but backs down when authorities from Jerusalem arrive. In Mark, he backs down from those who question whether he was with Jesus. In Galatians, James and John are “reputed to be pillars” (Paul scoffs at the notion) and, in Mark, they ask Jesus to sit on either hand. There are too many correspondences to write off as coincidence but the correspondences are in various contexts so Mark used the information in many ways.

        I haven’t scrutinized Paul’s other epistles but I caught a second correspondence in 1 Corinthians but didn’t write it down and can’t remember it. Anyway, this is evidence that Mark used at least some of Paul’s writing, but Mark 7 vs Galatians 2 shows that he didn’t get it from Peter.

        And there is a direct statement from Paul that the tradition was passed down from Jesus. It seems like you’re looking for solutions to problems that don’t exist.

        Paul never met Jesus and in Galatians 1:12, 1:16, and 2:6, he tells us he didn’t get anything from the Jerusalem bunch. You are accepting solutions without recognizing the real problems.

        Or sometimes people were betrayed by those close to them, the kind of people you would share bread with, bread being a staple food.

        Yes, that’s what Psalm 41:9 says:

        Even my close friend,
        someone I trusted,
        one who shared my bread,
        has turned against me.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Jayman:

        The ancient external sources actually state that Mark took notes from the apostle Peter and the above comparison suggests you’re wrong.

        What ancient external sources did you have in mind? Are you thinking Papias? The chain of evidence through Papias is very tenuous.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

          Bob:

          What ancient external sources did you have in mind? Are you thinking Papias? The chain of evidence through Papias is very tenuous.

          Papias is the earliest attestation of the tradition. However, as far as I know, his viewpoint was the unanimous viewpoint in the ancient church (and apparently even agreed upon by some opponents of Christianity).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          If you watched the video (or read the related post), you’ll see that pointing to Papias is very tenuous, as I said. You got something stronger than the connection that I summarized? I’d be happy to hear about it.

  • Greg G

    Paul wasn’t that great a historian, at least from the assumption that the gospels are correct: “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thes. 2:14–15).

    The Wikipedia page on 1 Thessalonians has a discussion on that passage plus the verse before and the one after being an interpolation.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      Good catch. I should’ve said “1 Cor. isn’t a great historical reference” rather than pinning that on Paul.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Bob:

    Because it’s a straightforward explanation of the facts.

    First, it’s less straightforward than the explanation that Judas truly did betray Jesus and this historical fact made it to both Paul and the writers of the Gospels. Second, it is easy to come up with an historical explanation. What sets apart good explanations from bad explanations is evidence. You haven’t provided any evidence and most of your claims bump up against the evidence we do have.

    We know about the fallibility of oral history, about how new facets can attach themselves to a story.

    You continually appeal to mere possibility. Almost anything is possible. But you haven’t shown it’s probable in light of the evidence.

    It doesn’t lead to a supernatural conclusion.

    Judas’ betrayal of Jesus isn’t a supernatural event to begin with.

    Do you think that a skeptic is obliged to provide “positive evidence” that the resurrection didn’t happen?

    He is if he proposes alternative historical explanations. You aren’t merely saying the evidence for the resurrection is insufficient. You are saying things like the Judas tradition arose after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. As with all historical claims, that requires evidence to support it.

    And, in the absence of any, the Christian is entitled to his assumption in the truth of the gospel story?

    The Christian argues for the historical reliability of the NT. He points out that Paul is unlikely to lie to his audience because his audience could check his claims, that NT writings are confirmed by external written sources, that NT writings are confirmed by archaeological finds, etc. Unlike you, he is making a positive case for his beliefs.

    Why do you ask? Is that hard to imagine?

    Yes, it’s hard to imagine Paul did not know Judas’ name when he had met people like Peter and John who knew the account.

    Paul wasn’t that great a historian, at least from the assumption that the gospels are correct: “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thes. 2:14–15).

    That undermines your argument since Paul is correct that the Jews had a hand in killing Jesus. Paul (or one his disciples if you want to take that approach) was aware of the involvement of Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13).

    Let’s drop the assumption that there was one actual series of events and that the books of the NT, where they mention it, are accurate. Then things nicely fall into place. Paul knew a story, the author of Mark knew a different story, and so on.

    But even granting that, things don’t fall into place. You’re elaborate background stories (e.g., Paul knew of Jesus’ betrayal but not Judas’ name) are based on nothing more than your imagination.

    First off, you have the burden of proof since you’re making the (remarkable!) claim. I needn’t bring any positive evidence to rebut what you bring.

    Christians routinely provide evidence, whether you find it sufficient or not. And my main reason for responding is not to make a positive claim so much as to show your objections to 1 Cor. 15 fail.

    Second, the Principle of Analogy summarizes the straightforward idea that we search for the most straightforward analogies, for example: “the Jesus story looks like a legend, so I’ll put it in that bin.”

    You’re begging the question. Whether the story of Jesus is a legend is the very issue under discussion. I could just as easily note that the Gospels look like Greco-Roman biographies so I’ll put them in that bin.

    • Greg G.

      Paul never tells us anything more about the betrayal than he could have read in Psalm 41:9. You can only imagine that he knew more than he told. Paul tells us that he got his knowledge from revelation while studying Judaism. If Peter or James told him about the cricifixion, he would have counted that as added knowledge. Paul never tells us about Jesus’ teachings or ministry. He could have been told that stuff by Peter or James but Paul says they didn’t. If they had known Jesus, you would think that would have popped up in a 15 day visit.

      How could anyone check Paul’s claims? He never says exactly when Jesus was crucified. He only shows that it was written long ago that he was crucified as if it happened before the Old Testament was written.

      Many scholars think the 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 passage is an interpolation. 1 Thess 1:10 says that God’s wrath is yet to come, but 1 Thess 2:16 says it has come. It sounds like a margin note written decades later. Scholars have more sophisticated reasons to think that, too. The only thing that happened to the Jews in the first century that was spectacular enough to be called the wrath of God would be the destruction of Jerusalem. If that is what verse 16 refers to, then Paul didn’t write it because it happened 20 years or so after he wrote the letter. If it does not refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, then Paul must have been referring to something that happened long before the first century.

      Scholars think 1 Timothy was written no earlier than the late first century so it could have been influenced by the gospels so it is not useful to your argument. But if we look at 1 Tim 3:16, we see that the author thought Jesus was “seen by angels”. That phrase only makes sense if it means “seen by angels only” which implies that Jesus was not seen by men. Unless you wish to argue that Pilate was an angel, then 3:16 and 6:13 contradict. The verse also says Jesus “was preached to all the nations”. Note the passive verb. It doesn’t say that Jesus did any preaching. So you are resorting to an apparent interpolated margin note of a pseudapigraphal letter.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Greg G:

        We see Paul’s argument against Peter put into Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. If that had happened, why would Paul and Peter have argued with Paul and Jesus in agreement? How would Mark have gotten that from Peter?

        I think that’s a good point regarding Mark 7:19. Even if Peter was a major source for Mark that does not mean he was the only source. However, I don’t think this requires seeing Mark as dependent on Paul.

        Paul never met Jesus and in Galatians 1:12, 1:16, and 2:6, he tells us he didn’t get anything from the Jerusalem bunch. You are accepting solutions without recognizing the real problems.

        I took you to be saying that the Last Supper was taken from the Mithras cult. In 1 Cor. 11:23 Paul explicitly says the Last Supper tradition came from Jesus.

        Yes, that’s what Psalm 41:9 says

        You said the betrayal and bread meme comes from Ps. 41:9. My point is that both Ps. 41:9 and the Gospels can be based on actual events. Just because there are some similarities between two writings does not mean one writing borrowed from the other.

        Paul never tells us anything more about the betrayal than he could have read in Psalm 41:9.

        He says the betrayal occurred on the night the Eucharist was implemented. Ps. 41 says nothing about the Eucharist.

        Paul never tells us about Jesus’ teachings or ministry.

        We are currently discussing a passage (1 Cor. 11) where Paul tells us about Jesus’ teachings at the end of his ministry.

        He could have been told that stuff by Peter or James but Paul says they didn’t.

        In Gal. 2:2 Paul states: “I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” Apparently it was conceivable the Jerusalem disciples could have shown Paul was running in vain. Elsewhere, such as in 1 Cor. 15:3, he uses the language of a tradition being passed from one person to another. You take Gal. 1:11-12 in far too wooden a fashion.

        If they had known Jesus, you would think that would have popped up in a 15 day visit.

        In Gal. 1:19 James is identified as the Lord’s brother. Clearly they knew Jesus.

        How could anyone check Paul’s claims?

        By comparing his statements with the statments of others. It’s not like people never travelled.

        He never says exactly when Jesus was crucified. He only shows that it was written long ago that he was crucified as if it happened before the Old Testament was written.

        In 1 Cor. 15 he mentions that most of the witnesses to the resurrection are still living. Since the resurrection followed Jesus’ death this gives a general time frame for the crucifixion. In 1 Tim. 6:13 he (or his disciple) mentions Jesus testified before Pontius Pilate.

        Many scholars think the 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 passage is an interpolation.

        I just checked Metzger’s textual commentary of the NT. The UBS, a committee of textual scholars, judges the passage to be certainly authentic. You are relying on fringe scholarship.

        But if we look at 1 Tim 3:16, we see that the author thought Jesus was “seen by angels”. That phrase only makes sense if it means “seen by angels only” which implies that Jesus was not seen by men. Unless you wish to argue that Pilate was an angel, then 3:16 and 6:13 contradict.

        1 Tim. 3:16 also says Jesus appeared in the flesh. The mere fact that he was seen by angels has no bearing on whether he ws seen by men. You added “only” to the text to create a problem that wasn’t there to begin with.

        • Greg G.
          We see Paul’s argument against Peter put into Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. If that had happened, why would Paul and Peter have argued with Paul and Jesus in agreement? How would Mark have gotten that from Peter?

          I think that’s a good point regarding Mark 7:19. Even if Peter was a major source for Mark that does not mean he was the only source. However, I don’t think this requires seeing Mark as dependent on Paul.

          The link I provided shows that nearly passage about Jesus in Mark can be accounted for from the literature of the day. There’s not much left that Mark could have got from Peter.

          Paul never met Jesus and in Galatians 1:12, 1:16, and 2:6, he tells us he didn’t get anything from the Jerusalem bunch. You are accepting solutions without recognizing the real problems.

          I took you to be saying that the Last Supper was taken from the Mithras cult. In 1 Cor. 11:23 Paul explicitly says the Last Supper tradition came from Jesus.

          Yes, I suspect Paul may have taken the idea for the ritual from the Mithras cult. He may have also got some of the verbiage and theology from Psalm 41:9, Exodus 24:8, and Isaiah 53:12. That seems to be the way the revelation works. Reading the Isaiah 53:12 verse is probably how his theology was developed, too.

          Yes, that’s what Psalm 41:9 says

          You said the betrayal and bread meme comes from Ps. 41:9. My point is that both Ps. 41:9 and the Gospels can be based on actual events. Just because there are some similarities between two writings does not mean one writing borrowed from the other.

          That might be right if it was only a few correspondences.

          Paul never tells us anything more about the betrayal than he could have read in Psalm 41:9.

          He says the betrayal occurred on the night the Eucharist was implemented. Ps. 41 says nothing about the Eucharist.

          Of course that comes from other verses.

          Paul never tells us about Jesus’ teachings or ministry.

          We are currently discussing a passage (1 Cor. 11) where Paul tells us about Jesus’ teachings at the end of his ministry.

          1 Corinthians 11 doesn’t have much else that doesn’t come from combining Old Testament verses.

          He could have been told that stuff by Peter or James but Paul says they didn’t.

          In Gal. 2:2 Paul states: “I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” Apparently it was conceivable the Jerusalem disciples could have shown Paul was running in vain. Elsewhere, such as in 1 Cor. 15:3, he uses the language of a tradition being passed from one person to another. You take Gal. 1:11-12 in far too wooden a fashion.

          Paul’s revelation is nothing but what he read in the Old Testament. He describes all the other revelations in 1 Corinthians 15 the same way.

          If they had known Jesus, you would think that would have popped up in a 15 day visit.

          In Gal. 1:19 James is identified as the Lord’s brother. Clearly they knew Jesus.

          It’s not that clear. Paul calls everybody brother. The root “adelph-” is used 192 times in the Epistles by my count. In Romans 16:15, Paul greets someone’s sister and two uses in 1 John 3:12 about Cain killing his brother are the only times it is used in the literal sense. 1 Corinthians 9:5 uses the plural of “brother in the Lord” in regard to those who are married and supported by the Corinthians. A similar list is found reversed in chapter 15 so the “brothers of the Lord” probably are the Twelve, so it doesn’t appear to be used literally. Furthermore, Paul sounds irate in Galatians. He is mad that someone was sent to preach that faith wasn’t enough. He tells us that James, Peter and John are “reputed to be pillars” but he isn’t impressed by it. He tells us that James sends people to other cities and that Peter changes his behavior if James is likely to hear about it. He seems to be mocking James’ power by equating him with Jesus’ level. The Epistle of James appears to respond to nearly every point Paul makes in Galatians so Paul may have struck a nerve. The James that wrote the epistle claimed to be a servant of Jesus but not his brother.

          How could anyone check Paul’s claims?

          By comparing his statements with the statments of others. It’s not like people never travelled.

          Paul wasn’t talking about anything that could be checked out by talking to people. He talked about what he read in scripture.

          He never says exactly when Jesus was crucified. He only shows that it was written long ago that he was crucified as if it happened before the Old Testament was written.

          In 1 Cor. 15 he mentions that most of the witnesses to the resurrection are still living. Since the resurrection followed Jesus’ death this gives a general time frame for the crucifixion. In 1 Tim. 6:13 he (or his disciple) mentions Jesus testified before Pontius Pilate.

          Paul does not say any of those people witnessed the resurrection. He says the scriptures say that Jesus died for people’s transgressions (Isaiah 53:12), was buried (Isaiah 53:9), and rose on the third day (Hosea 6:2). 1 Corinthians 15 says that Jesus “appeared” to all of those people, not that they saw the resurrection. He describes that appearance the same way he describes the appearance he had which is from reading scripture.

          Many scholars think the 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 passage is an interpolation.

          I just checked Metzger’s textual commentary of the NT. The UBS, a committee of textual scholars, judges the passage to be certainly authentic. You are relying on fringe scholarship.

          Wikipedia lists the following sources for the claim:
          5.^ CollegeVille Bible Commentary, p 1155
          6.^ Pearson, p. 88
          7.^ Birger A. Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 A Deutero Pauline Interpolation”, Harvard Theological Review, 64 (1971), pp. 79-94
          8.^ Schmidt, D., “I Thess 2:13-16: Linguistic Evidence for an Interpolation,” JBL 102 (1983): 269-279

          But if we look at 1 Tim 3:16, we see that the author thought Jesus was “seen by angels”. That phrase only makes sense if it means “seen by angels only” which implies that Jesus was not seen by men. Unless you wish to argue that Pilate was an angel, then 3:16 and 6:13 contradict.

          1 Tim. 3:16 also says Jesus appeared in the flesh. The mere fact that he was seen by angels has no bearing on whether he ws seen by men. You added “only” to the text to create a problem that wasn’t there to begin with.

          Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:8 that the rulers of the age crucified Jesus, not the Jews. Paul thinks the crucifixion happened in an age before the Bible was written.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

          Greg G, my disagreements with you probably run pretty deep and touch on issues of methodology. Instead of responding to individual points I’ll just state where I think those disagreements lie.

          First, you seem to think that if you can find some connection between an NT document and another writing (mainly the OT) that this is evidence the NT writer is pasting together the older writings to create a new, largely fictional account. But this strikes me as implausible on its face. And it proves too much. Using your apparent methodology, one could note similarities between obviously historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, and argue a so-called biographer of Kennedy was just borrowing pieces from a biography of Lincoln.

          Second, you seem to believe that when Paul says something was revealed to him that this occurred solely by his reading through the Old Testament. Yet Paul’s own writings speak of revelation as Christ breaking into his world. This is more like the experience of an OT prophet than someone just reading the OT texts.

          Third, you conflate “brother in the Lord” with “brother of the Lord”. The plain meaning of Paul is that James is the literal brother of Jesus. This is further confirmed by other writings which note Jesus had literal brothers, including one named James.

          Fourth, if you are going to propose a textual interpolation it’s quite important to have manuscript evidence. A few citations from Wikipedia hardly counters the manuscript evidence and consensus of a group of textual critics.

        • Greg G.

          Greg G, my disagreements with you probably run pretty deep and touch on issues of methodology. Instead of responding to individual points I’ll just state where I think those disagreements lie.

          To me, it’s “what do you know and how do you know it?” I can understand how astrophysicists get to dark matter and dark energy. I can understand how mathematicians derive their proofs. I can understand the principles that historians use to reach their conclusions.

          But when it comes to Jesus, the scholars seem to bend over backwards to support his existence. When we asked how they know, it just that most scholars agree. They disagree on almost every particular. They disagree on the strength of each piece of evidence. They reject everything that is implausible but are willing to accept anything that is merely plausible. They reject the Jesus with big crowds but since they “know” there was a Jesus, he must have had small crowds. The earliest writings of Jesus don’t mention crowds following him, nor a ministry, nor teachings, nor anecdotes. The Gospel Jesus is not the same as the one depicted in the Epistles.

          First, you seem to think that if you can find some connection between an NT document and another writing (mainly the OT) that this is evidence the NT writer is pasting together the older writings to create a new, largely fictional account. But this strikes me as implausible on its face. And it proves too much. Using your apparent methodology, one could note similarities between obviously historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, and argue a so-called biographer of Kennedy was just borrowing pieces from a biography of Lincoln.

          Check out all the Christian websites that list the so-called prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus. Why would you think the early first century Christians would not have done something similar with many of the same verses? Why would you think the gospel authors would not have done that if they had no oral story? Why would they do that if they actually did have oral traditions of a real first century Jesus?

          Scholars propose that there are sources the gospel authors used that we no longer have. When someone points to a document that existed at the time they were writing and contains the same information, it is refused because it doesn’t meet their expectation.

          Second, you seem to believe that when Paul says something was revealed to him that this occurred solely by his reading through the Old Testament. Yet Paul’s own writings speak of revelation as Christ breaking into his world. This is more like the experience of an OT prophet than someone just reading the OT texts.

          In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul distinguishes what he thinks from what the Lord says. He never tells us anything about Jesus or what the Lord says that isn’t written in the scripture available in the early first century. He never tells us that Jesus says that slavery is wrong, for example.

          Third, you conflate “brother in the Lord” with “brother of the Lord”. The plain meaning of Paul is that James is the literal brother of Jesus. This is further confirmed by other writings which note Jesus had literal brothers, including one named James.

          No, I don’t conflate the prepositions. My argument is that Paul uses the phrase sarcastically. Instead of a regular greeting, Paul inserts that he was sent by the Lord and not by a man or men, implying that somebody has been sent by a man. Throughout the first two chapters, he points out that James sends people on missions and implies that even Peter is afraid of him. He says that James, Cephas and John are “reputed to be pillars” but that he’s not that impressed with them. Would he express such disdain for James if he really thought James was “the brother of the Lord”? He is telling the readers that James is so high and mighty that he is like the Lord. He, Paul, is sent by the Lord whereas someone, probably Peter, is sent by “the brother of the Lord”.

          Fourth, if you are going to propose a textual interpolation it’s quite important to have manuscript evidence. A few citations from Wikipedia hardly counters the manuscript evidence and consensus of a group of textual critics.

          The alleged interpolations we discussed are based on contradictions within the letters themselves but they are irrelevant to the discussion. If 1 Thess 2:14-16 is not about the destruction of Jerusalem, it can’t be used to date the claim to the first century. If it is about the destruction, then it is an interpolation. 1 Timothy is a forgery written long after Mark so it can’t verify anything from the early first century.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          When we asked how they know, it just that most scholars agree.

          Almost every Christian scholar agrees. There’s certainly no consensus within the field of History that Jesus was resurrected, and I doubt there is within Theology given all the competing contradictory beliefs. Christianity would only win by stacking the deck (its members do not form a majority of the world’s population).

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      First, it’s less straightforward than the explanation that Judas truly did betray Jesus and this historical fact made it to both Paul and the writers of the Gospels.

      Huh? How does this help? You’re now back to the original problem where Paul refers to the “Twelve” in apparent unawareness of Judas.

      What sets apart good explanations from bad explanations is evidence.

      Uh, yeah. That’s my point.

      You continually appeal to mere possibility. Almost anything is possible. But you haven’t shown it’s probable in light of the evidence.

      Principle of Analogy. My explanation leans on things that are not only natural but understood in many, many examples. We understand how stories change over time. We understand about legends. We’ve seen zillions of supernatural claims that aren’t actually, y’know, true. And so on.

      The punch line of your story is “and then Jesus raised from the dead.” I think the P of A gives my explanation the edge.

      He points out that Paul is unlikely to lie to his audience because his audience could check his claims

      I think I just recently wrote a post about that. Paul’s flat-out lying to his audience would have minimal risk of consequences, and the likelier instance of his just passing along a tale he heard has even less risk.

      that NT writings are confirmed by external written sources, that NT writings are confirmed by archaeological finds, etc.

      This isn’t the place, but, as you can imagine, I find these claims unsupported.

      Yes, it’s hard to imagine Paul did not know Judas’ name when he had met people like Peter and John who knew the account.

      Oh? Tell us how we know this.

      I start from first principles: we have a story (OK–many stories). Is it history? Could be, but I need more evidence than simply that the story exists.

      Paul is correct that the Jews had a hand in killing Jesus.

      The verse says, “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus.” You’re saying that this is correct? Or are you just making conversation?

      You’re begging the question.

      Nope. The Jesus story looks like the many legends that came before and after, so that becomes our default hypothesis. Might be wrong, of course. This might be the one supernatural tale that is actually correct. But the natural conclusion (as well as the natural explanation for every element of the story) is our default position.

      I could just as easily note that the Gospels look like Greco-Roman biographies so I’ll put them in that bin.

      The gospels look like ancient biography. Yes, that’s the bin to put them in. (Again, could be wrong, but it’ll take a lot of evidence to push us away from that default.)

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Bob:

        You’re now back to the original problem where Paul refers to the “Twelve” in apparent unawareness of Judas.

        I already argued above why that is not a problem. Do you think it’s a problem that John identifies Thomas as a member of the Twelve after Judas’ betrayal?

        Principle of Analogy. My explanation leans on things that are not only natural but understood in many, many examples. We understand how stories change over time. We understand about legends. We’ve seen zillions of supernatural claims that aren’t actually, y’know, true. And so on. The punch line of your story is “and then Jesus raised from the dead.” I think the P of A gives my explanation the edge.

        One can counter that we understand how history is preserved over decades in an oral culture. The recent work of Craig Keener on miracles shows that it is quite easy to find eyewitnesses to alleged supernatural occurrences. So it really boils down to whether a miracle happened or not. I put stock in the fact that the NT has shown itself to be generally reliable and natural explanations make less sense of the evidence. You seem to put stock in your a priori views of the supernatural.

        I think I just recently wrote a post about that. Paul’s flat-out lying to his audience would have minimal risk of consequences, and the likelier instance of his just passing along a tale he heard has even less risk.

        If you’re referring to your post on the 500 eyewitnesses I’ve already responded to it.

        Tell us how we know this.

        Paul states in his letters that he met Peter and even mentions Peter travelling or being known to the churches he is writing to. Thus the churches would know if he was lying about such a thing.

        The verse says, “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus.” You’re saying that this is correct?

        Yes, in the sense they had a hand in getting Jesus executed.

        This might be the one supernatural tale that is actually correct.

        How many alleged miracles have you investigated?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          One can counter that we understand how history is preserved over decades in an oral culture.

          I’ve read a little on this subject, and I’m not sure it does much for your position. The emphasis on accuracy is a modern invention, when we have something reliable (a book, say) to compare it against.

          the NT has shown itself to be generally reliable and natural explanations make less sense of the evidence.

          Uh, yeah, supernatural tales are usually fairly plausible if you take out the supernatural stuff. That doesn’t mean that the supernatural stuff actually happened.

          Tell me how natural explanations make less sense of the evidence. What is left unanswered by natural explanations?

          How many alleged miracles have you investigated?

          Who cares? I’m no expert. I point to the fact that the scientific community hasn’t accepted any religious miracles.

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

          I’ve read a little on this subject, and I’m not sure it does much for your position. The emphasis on accuracy is a modern invention, when we have something reliable (a book, say) to compare it against.

          Have you come across Gerhardsson’s Memory and Manuscript which studies oral transmission in rabbinic Judaism? Or what about Kenneth Bailey’s studies on oral tradition in both moderna nd ancient Middle Eastern contexts? Or that of Jan Vansina which shows that accuracy was valued extremely highly in Polynesian oral tradition such that not even one mistake was tolerated?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I’ve not read these books. Tell us what they say.

          Is your point that a story could get transmitted without error? I agree. Perhaps we have evidence of specific ones that did. What I want is enormously compelling evidence that this story was transmitted without error. Why “enormously compelling”? Because of the enormity of the claims.

          Show me how the gossip fence isn’t the analogy to use here.

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

          There are different types of oral traditions and it is is important to understand the differences. The first is the difference between formal and informal oral traditions. The second is the difference between controlled and uncontrolled oral traditions. And for those that are controlled the mechanisms of control are also pertinent.

          In 1 Corinthians 15 the Greek word katecho, from which we get our word catechism, is used. Paul also uses paralambano, which is a technical word for formal transmission of tradition.

          Thus, it seems that what is being talked about here is closer to an actor learning Shakespeare than neighbours gossipping over the fence.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          it seems that what is being talked about here is closer to an actor learning Shakespeare than neighbours gossipping over the fence.

          What I need from you is very strong evidence (very strong because of the enormous punch line made by the resurrection) that this approach was almost universally used to make a plausible case that the gospel story was controlled as it moved from person to person before it was written. Given the wide range of geographic possibilities for the authorships of the 4 gospels (I’ve heard cities all across the eastern Mediterranean), we know that it spread far as well as for a long time (40-60 years, ballpark).

          What I think you’re saying is that it’s possible that a story could travel this journey without getting corrupted in a major way. OK, I can agree with that, but so what?

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

          What I need from you is very strong evidence (very strong because of the enormous punch line made by the resurrection) that this approach was almost universally used to make a plausible case that the gospel story was controlled as it moved from person to person before it was written. Given the wide range of geographic possibilities for the authorships of the 4 gospels (I’ve heard cities all across the eastern Mediterranean), we know that it spread far as well as for a long time (40-60 years, ballpark).

          What is actually relevant is that this was the case regarding Paul and these particular verses. Paul says that he passed on (to the Corinthians in Corinth in the late 40s or early 50s) what he received (most probably in Jerusalem, although it is possible that it was in Damascus, but definitely in the mid-30s). Paul uses the word for formal transmission of tradition in describing this case. Now you are saying that something that Paul says he effectively learnt by memorization, and then taught the Corinthians by memorization got scrambled in one of these two transmissions?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Paul says that he passed on (to the Corinthians in Corinth in the late 40s or early 50s) what he received (most probably in Jerusalem, although it is possible that it was in Damascus, but definitely in the mid-30s).

          You’re a smart guy, well-educated in this field. You can think of problems with this claim just as well as I do.

          (1) “Paul says”–so what? Was he lying or tweaking the truth? Was his memory flawless?

          (2) And how do we know what Paul says? Our oldest manuscripts of 1 Cor. are centuries later than the autograph. What happened to the text during that dark period?

          And what is your point here? That Paul reliably recorded a creed from 20 years earlier? Sure, let’s assume that. Where does that get us?

          Again: yes, it’s possible that a story survived without significant error for any period of time. That does very little to assure us that the Jesus story (with its remarkable punch line) is history.

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

          And what is your point here? That Paul reliably recorded a creed from 20 years earlier? Sure, let’s assume that. Where does that get us?

          That is exactly my point. Where it does get us is an evidence that the story of Jesus rising from the dead was circulating in Jerusalem before 40CE. Which puts your legend hypothesis on very shaky ground.

          (1) “Paul says”–so what? Was he lying or tweaking the truth? Was his memory flawless?

          What evidence do you have that Paul is lying or tweaking the truth? Although his memory was surely human and therefore not perfect, firstly he was rabbinically trained which means he was better trained in memorization than most people – full stop. And secondly how often do you forget your times tables? Because that is the level of forgetfulness that is required to forget something that you have committed to memory and recounted over and over again. You really seem to be clutching at straws.

          (2) And how do we know what Paul says? Our oldest manuscripts of 1 Cor. are centuries later than the autograph. What happened to the text during that dark period?

          We have enough manuscripts from close enough to the autograph to be very sure that what we have is the same as what was written. Again, where is your evidence of change in the manuscript transmission? Or are you clutching at straws again?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Where it does get us is an evidence that the story of Jesus rising from the dead was circulating in Jerusalem before 40CE. Which puts your legend hypothesis on very shaky ground.

          Oh? And when did this “resurrection” take place, according to Paul? That is, 40CE is how long after the resurrection (again, in Paul’s mind)?

          What evidence do you have that Paul is lying or tweaking the truth?

          Absolutely none. (Why do you ask? Is this relevant to the conversation?)

          he was rabbinically trained which means he was better trained in memorization than most people – full stop.

          The whole thing is a story–full stop. That’s our starting point.

          You really seem to be clutching at straws.

          There’s a lot of that going around.

          Tell me again–why do you think you’ve avoided my (1) questions? I don’t need to hear that he might have been accurate. Sure, he might’ve been accurate. That’s not much of a foundation on which to build your remarkable thesis.

          We have enough manuscripts from close enough to the autograph to be very sure that what we have is the same as what was written.

          The burden of proof is yours. Shoulder it.

          You have 200 years, roughly, of who-knows-what, and you must get Paul’s epistle over that gulf. This wasn’t considered scripture at that time. The idea of a single error requiring the Hebrew page to be discarded didn’t apply for this. We have many competing Christianities during this period. And the epistles got through with zero meaningful errors? For certain? Show me.

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

          Oh? And when did this “resurrection” take place, according to Paul? That is, 40CE is how long after the resurrection (again, in Paul’s mind)?

          You won’t find a specific date in Paul’s writing. However he was present at Stephen’s stoning which was very soon after Jesus’ death. I don’t see how this is relevant, though.

          Absolutely none. (Why do you ask? Is this relevant to the conversation?)

          I thought you were big on following where the evidence goes. In this case, it seems like you have some prejudicial bias to suggest that Paul is not being honest for no other reason than you don’t like the implications of accepting his testimony as honest.

          The whole thing is a story–full stop. That’s our starting point.

          Christians have stories. Atheists have stories. Testimony given in court is a story. History is a story. We all have stories. Some are true and some aren’t. To say something is a story does not discount its truth value at all. If you want to show a story is false, go ahead and do your best, but just pointing out it is a story does nothing.

          Tell me again–why do you think you’ve avoided my (1) questions? I don’t need to hear that he might have been accurate. Sure, he might’ve been accurate. That’s not much of a foundation on which to build your remarkable thesis.

          You yourself said you have no evidence for your (1) questions. So there is nothing to suggest he wasn’t accurate. Show me some evidence and I’ll consider it.

          The burden of proof is yours. Shoulder it.

          You have 200 years, roughly, of who-knows-what, and you must get Paul’s epistle over that gulf. This wasn’t considered scripture at that time. The idea of a single error requiring the Hebrew page to be discarded didn’t apply for this. We have many competing Christianities during this period. And the epistles got through with zero meaningful errors? For certain? Show me.

          But we have many manuscripts. Show me the discrepancies in the manuscripts for these verses and that will be evidence that it has changed. With the number and spread of manuscripts, if there are no discrepancies in these verses then we can be very sure that what we have is what was written. The burden of proof is actually yours to show that it has changed.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          [Paul] was present at Stephen’s stoning which was very soon after Jesus’ death

          … according to a book that Paul didn’t write.

          I don’t see how this is relevant, though.

          Because cobbling together your story, taking an idea from Paul from here, something from an anonymous author there, and so on is no way to do reliable history. If you say that it’s the best we’ve got, OK, I can see that. But that doesn’t make it reliable. The puzzle pieces you’re working with are unreliable.

          In this case, it seems like you have some prejudicial bias to suggest that Paul is not being honest for no other reason than you don’t like the implications of accepting his testimony as honest.

          Why is this hard? You make an argument with the punch line “and then Jesus was raised from the dead by the creator of the universe.” And then you support the validity of pieces of your argument by saying, “Well, they could’ve made it through 200 years of copying without change” or “they could’ve made it through X decades of oral history without change.” Not much of an argument.

          If you want to show a story is false, go ahead and do your best

          Why would I do that? You are the one advancing the story. You show the story true.

          So there is nothing to suggest he wasn’t accurate.

          Yeah, except for that whole resurrection thing. That kind of makes the story suspect.

          But we have many manuscripts. Show me the discrepancies in the manuscripts for these verses and that will be evidence that it has changed.

          What part of “burden of proof” do you not understand? Let me try one more time: there are 200 years from Paul’s original of 1 Cor. until our oldest complete copy. I do not need to show that it was changed; you have to show that it wasn’t.

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

          What part of “burden of proof” do you not understand? Let me try one more time: there are 200 years from Paul’s original of 1 Cor. until our oldest complete copy. I do not need to show that it was changed; you have to show that it wasn’t.

          I understand burden of proof. You’re making a claim that the text was changed. Back it up or drop it.

          p46 and p123 and the four great uncials are all exactly the same. I don’t know of any variant readings for 1 Cor 15:3-6. Find me one and then we have some evidence that it has been changed. If you can’t find any variants, then you are making a claim that is not backed up by any evidence, and in fact goes against all of the evidence we have. Hmmm, where have I heard a phrase like that before …?

          Why is this hard? You make an argument with the punch line “and then Jesus was raised from the dead by the creator of the universe.” And then you support the validity of pieces of your argument by saying, “Well, they could’ve made it through 200 years of copying without change” or “they could’ve made it through X decades of oral history without change.” Not much of an argument.

          I’m not simply saying it went through X decades of oral history without change. I’m arguing it was memorised by Paul within 5 years of the events and then written down by him two decades later (after having been recited many many times in the interval). This is what the text tells us. There is no contradictory evidence.

          Yeah, except for that whole resurrection thing. That kind of makes the story suspect.

          This is circular reasoning. The whole reason we are discussing this passage is because it is a claim for the resurrection.

          … according to a book that Paul didn’t write.

          So what?

          Because cobbling together your story, taking an idea from Paul from here, something from an anonymous author there, and so on is no way to do reliable history. If you say that it’s the best we’ve got, OK, I can see that. But that doesn’t make it reliable. The puzzle pieces you’re working with are unreliable.

          Nice spin. Not a very accurate summary of the facts. If you think this little of the historical evidence backing this up, how can you believe any history? If this is your attitude, I have some friends I’d like to introduce you to, I’m sure you’d get along … https://www.facebook.com/alincolnism

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          You’re making a claim that the text was changed. Back it up or drop it.

          Wrong. (Haven’t I made that clear already?) You’re making the claim that Paul’s creed makes an reliable part of an argument supporting the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead by his creator-of-the-universe dad. Back up the “reliable” part or agree that it’s pretty flimsy.

          Find me one and then we have some evidence that it has been changed.

          No, I don’t think you understand the burden of proof. Show me the autograph or show that change is almost impossible over the many decades.

          I’m arguing it was memorised by Paul within 5 years of the events and then written down by him two decades later (after having been recited many many times in the interval). This is what the text tells us.

          You mean that this is what we infer from the text? Yes, some have inferred that, but it’s certainly not what Paul says.

          Coulda happened, but that’s not much of a foundation on which to build the biggest supernatural claim.

          This is circular reasoning.

          Huh? You said, ” there is nothing to suggest he wasn’t accurate.” And I said, “Yeah, except for that whole resurrection thing. That kind of makes the story suspect.” Where’s the circular reasoning?

          If you think this little of the historical evidence backing this up, how can you believe any history?

          A trick question, I’m guessing?

          Because history doesn’t make supernatural claims.

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

          No, I don’t think you understand the burden of proof. Show me the autograph or show that change is almost impossible over the many decades.

          Let me see if I understand what you are saying here …
          You are saying that the burden of proof rests on a person who shows that a document says something to prove that it has not been changed from the autograph? Do you mean to apply this to all classical documents? If so, then we suddenly can say nothing at all about classical history because we do not have the autographs. If not, then you are making a case of special pleading by demanding that this document meet standards that no other classical document meets.

          You mean that this is what we infer from the text? Yes, some have inferred that, but it’s certainly not what Paul says.
          Well, how do you translate what Paul says here then? Because you’re saying something very different from what the experts are saying.

          3παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 4καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 5καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· (1 Corinthians 15:3-6, Westcott/Hort)

          Huh? You said, ” there is nothing to suggest he wasn’t accurate.” And I said, “Yeah, except for that whole resurrection thing. That kind of makes the story suspect.” Where’s the circular reasoning?

          K: Did the resurrection happen?
          B: No.
          K: But what about the reports of the resurrection?
          B: They’re wrong.
          K: Why?
          B: Because resurrections don’t happen.
          This is what I think you’re saying. Tell me if I’m wrong. Because the above is definitely circular.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          you are making a case of special pleading by demanding that this document meet standards that no other classical document meets.

          History rejects supernatural stories. The consensus view of historians on any issue is that there is insufficient evidence for any supernatural claim. I’m doing the opposite of special pleading; I’m saying that biblical claims of historicity must meet the same standards as apply to other historical documents.

          Well, how do you translate what Paul says here then?

          Sorry–I can’t read Greek.

          Because the above is definitely circular.

          Yes it is. This isn’t what I’m saying.

          K: The resurrection happened. Paul’s 1 Cor. 15 creed is evidence of a very early belief. This early dating is important because the smaller the time from event to document, the more reliable.
          B: How can we trust this document? Since our first complete copies of Paul’s writings don’t show up until the 4th century, how do we know that there was no hanky-panky during that time?
          K: Paul was trained in memorization. Some early parchment fragments show no significant changes. (Perhaps other arguments, too.)
          B: Yes, yes–I agree that our epistles could have made it through the gauntlet of time without change, but is that your argument? Simply that Paul’s story might be true? I’ll grant that, but that’s not much of a foundation on which to build the incredible claim of the resurrection.
          K: ?

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

          Sorry–I can’t read Greek.

          So on what basis can you say?

          You mean that this is what we infer from the text? Yes, some have inferred that, but it’s certainly not what Paul says.

          Because in English says “What I received, I passed on as of first importance …” Where the words for “received” and “passed on” refer to formal transmission of tradition (ie learn until you know by heart) and the “as of first importance” implies that this was a standard part of Paul’s teaching wherever he went.

          If this is not so, show me why.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          So on what basis can you say?

          Reading our best copies in the original language is required to understand the Bible? Few Christians would argue that.

          If this is not so, show me why.

          Again, I have no obligation to show you. Anyway, I’m happy to accept that that’s what Paul says, according to our copies of the book.

          Sounds like this thread is winding down. You’re saying that Paul makes claims, and I’m saying that this is a tenuous argument from a historical standpoint.

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

          K: The resurrection happened. Paul’s 1 Cor. 15 creed is evidence of a very early belief. This early dating is important because the smaller the time from event to document, the more reliable.
          B: How can we trust this document? Since our first complete copies of Paul’s writings don’t show up until the 4th century, how do we know that there was no hanky-panky during that time?

          So far so good

          K: Paul was trained in memorization. Some early parchment fragments show no significant changes. (Perhaps other arguments, too.)

          Actually the memorization issue is not related to the preservation of the text. I have confirmed that none of the major texts have any variant readings. As long as the sources I am checking online are correct, there are actually no variant readings at all for this passage (the sources just refer to where there are variant readings and 1 Cor 15:3-6 is not mentioned). One of the papyrii that includes these verses dates to 200CE, which is a gap of 150 years and that is about as good as it gets for classical documents.

          B: Yes, yes–I agree that our epistles could have made it through the gauntlet of time without change, but is that your argument? Simply that Paul’s story might be true? I’ll grant that, but that’s not much of a foundation on which to build the incredible claim of the resurrection.
          K: ?

          I think you’re misrepresenting the case a bit by saying that I’m saying the text “might have” not changed. Take the six major manuscripts:
          p46 200CE
          p123 4th C
          Codex Sinaiticus 4th C
          Codex Vaticanus early 4th C
          Codex Alexandrinus early 5th C
          Codex Ephraimi Rescriptus 5th C
          Claromontanus
          Augiensis
          Boernerianus
          Coislinianus
          Mosquensis
          Angelicus
          Porphyrianus
          Athous Lavrensis
          Uncial 056
          Uncial 0142
          Uncial 0150
          Uncial 0151
          Uncial 0243
          Uncial 0280
          Sangarmanensis
          20 Latin manuscripts (in addition to several of the above that have Greek and Latin)
          19 Syriac manuscripts

          That’s 21 in Greek, and not one textual variant in these verses. Now for you to say that actually every one of these manuscripts is in error requires enormous odds. If the chance of making an error in the passage is 50% (extremely generous odds) then (assuming independence of the manuscripts – agreed unlikely they are all independent but then I’m giving you 50% odds) then the chance that all of them are in error is 0.00004%. Agreed, this isn’t zero, so there’s still technically a chance, but it’s a one in a million chance.

          You could add in the 20 Latin manuscripts (in addition to several of the above that have Greek and Latin) and 19 Syriac manuscripts as well. As far as I know there are no variants in those manuscripts either (but there is a lot less info about them online). Given this, you are starting to look at astronomical odds to support a theory that the text has been changed.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          That’s 21 in Greek, and not one textual variant in these verses. Now for you to say that actually every one of these manuscripts is in error requires enormous odds.

          No imagination perhaps?

          Imagine P46 was the source for all the later copies (I’m not saying that’s what happened, but perhaps something not far off from this). That explains why they’re all the same.

          Now that we have that out of the way, we have P46 written 150 years after Paul’s autograph. And we’re back to the same old boring question that I (apologies!) must keep asking: how do we know that no hanky panky took place during those 150 years?? How do we know that P46 is an accurate representation of what Paul intended rather than what someone else with an agenda wanted?

        • Bob Jase

          I wish Karl would just show us the originals and prove his case or stop claiming that copies of copies of copies made centuries later somehow prove there ever was an original Pauline letter.

          Its not as if it isn’t known that most of the claimed Pauline letters are frauds, why not the original of this one?

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

          Imagine P46 was the source for all the later copies (I’m not saying that’s what happened, but perhaps something not far off from this). That explains why they’re all the same.

          Unfortunately there are some major problems with this theory. The first is the ordering of the books. p46 has Hebrews following directly after Romans and before 1 Corinthians. Other manuscripts vary the order of the books as well, which indicates that the collection and collation of the books of the New Testament was not finished before copying started and that the different manuscripts we have cannot be all sourced to one extant copy.

          The second is that we have quotations from writers before 200CE (eg Irenaeus) that quote from the New Testament. These writers come from all over the Mediterranean. The idea that they all shared one single manuscript is ludicrous.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Other manuscripts vary the order of the books as well, which indicates that the collection and collation of the books of the New Testament was not finished before copying started and that the different manuscripts we have cannot be all sourced to one extant copy.

          Imagine P46 being the origin. Someone else copied P46 (call it manuscript X) and mixed up the order, and then subsequent copies are made from this new tradition.

          Like I said, something not far off from what I said could explain this.

          The idea that they all shared one single manuscript is ludicrous.

          I’m glad we agree.

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

          Imagine P46 being the origin. Someone else copied P46 (call it manuscript X) and mixed up the order, and then subsequent copies are made from this new tradition.

          You’ve got to be joking, right?

          You are suggesting that a copyist removed Hebrews from in between Romans and 1 Corinthians and placed it near the end (where exactly we can’t tell because p46 is missing the last leaves and ends in the middle of 1 Thessalonians, and probably doesn’t include all the Pastoral epistles), and swapped around Ephesians and Galatians, oh and inserted the non-Pauline epistles as well.

          And your evidence for such a drastic edit of a NT manuscript? Oh, that’s right, you don’t have any!

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

          And by the way, you’re also claiming that despite the huge number of NT manuscripts indicating the great amount of copying going on, you’re saying that not a single copy of p46 exists where this particular re-ordering did not occur.

          Why not just come right out and say that aliens changed the text? You’re almost that far out already.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          You listed many manuscripts and said that there was “not one textual variant in these verses.” Then you made a bizarre stumble into probability wondering about the odds that all of them being in error was miniscule.

          I don’t know why my proposal is hard to understand. Imagine two traditions (book order, text content, whatever). One is correct and one is false. Now destroy the correct one. We’re talking about a religion here, so the remaining one is (not surprisingly) copied and those copies copied. You say they’re all the same. OK, but what does that tell us about what happened before? Not much. This tells us nothing about the Wild West period of the manuscripts, before they were scripture, during the period when many competing Christianities vied for supremacy.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You are suggesting that a copyist removed Hebrews from in between Romans and 1 Corinthians and placed it near the end (where exactly we can’t tell because p46 is missing the last leaves and ends in the middle of 1 Thessalonians, and probably doesn’t include all the Pastoral epistles), and swapped around Ephesians and Galatians, oh and inserted the non-Pauline epistles as well.

          Christianity changed over time. Yes, I’m suggesting that books came into and out of canonicity and that the order of books wasn’t fixed. Indeed, this is true today. Look at Wikipedia’s canon of 10 Christian traditions.

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

          Yes, I’m suggesting that books came into and out of canonicity and that the order of books wasn’t fixed.

          But what you’re suggesting is that one copyist made drastic changes and not only that no other manuscripts without the particular changes this copyist made survived, but there is no other lineage of copying over the entire Mediterranean. If you try to work out the odds for one and only one copy out of many manuscripts that existed at the time being the source for the thousands of extant manuscripts today, I think you’ll find it is about as astronomical as your other alternatives.

          The bottom line is that any theory that the text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 has been corrupted requires holding an unreasonably unlikely position.

          This isn’t about the canon of Christian Scripture. It’s about the history of the NT manuscripts.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          But what you’re suggesting is that one copyist made drastic changes

          Are we talking about changing the order of the books? We know the order and list of books was fluid.

        • Bob Jase

          Interesting the first compiler of a Christian canon was Marcion who would later be treated as a heretic and his followers were oppressed by the ‘orthodox’ Church.

          But that church still cherry-picked his version for what they liked including a canon.

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

          Are we talking about changing the order of the books? We know the order and list of books was fluid.

          We know that there is variation in the order of the books. I understand the reason being due to the collection and collation of different books of the NT by different Christians/Christian communities.

          You’re saying it happens because copyists play fast and loose with the order of the books. Am I reading you right? What are you basing your theory on?

  • Greg G

    Papias is the earliest attestation of the tradition. However, as far as I know, his viewpoint was the unanimous viewpoint in the ancient church (and apparently even agreed upon by some opponents of Christianity).

    IIRC, Papias says they had a text from Mark and one from Matthew that they couldn’t translate well. From that they concluded that he was referring to what we call Matthew, that it was translated to Greek and Mark condensed it.

    So they were unanimously wrong.

    Papias may be right about Mark but he doesn’t provide us with how he knew that.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      What I’ve read is that Papias was a collector of oral stories from the early days of the church. He summarized this in a book written in 120CE, already quite late in the game. But it’s worse than that: we know of Papias only because his book was excerpted in a book by Eusebius 200 years later. And our earliest copy of that is a translation 140 years after that. Add to this that historians think very little of the scholarship of Eusebius and Eusebius thought very little of the scholarship of Papias, and you have a very weak argument.

      But I’m talking here about the authorship of Mark, so this may not apply if we’re talking about something else.

  • Greg G

    Hi Bob

    But I’m talking here about the authorship of Mark, so this may not apply if we’re talking about something else.

    When the early church followers assigned names to the gospels, did they have anything more to go on than Papias’ word that Mark wrote something he and his followers could read?

    Did they have anything more than Papias mentioning that Matthew wrote something? I think there is a place where the name Matthew is used internally so they reasoned that the author knew his own name and changed it. It’s been years since I last put any thought into this subject, so educate me.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      The short answer is that the origin of the pairing of the disciple Mark with the gospel of Mark came from Papias. I’ve written a summary here.

      Punch line: it’s a tenuous link, little more than tradition.

  • Greg G

    Hi Norm,

    Have you considered that an omnipotent god could attain its desires with or without suffering? That means all suffering is unnecessary. There is suffering in this world. If there is an omnipotent god, then it has chosen for there to be unnecessary suffering, which means the omnipotent god is sadistic. It could be that a god who wishes to stop suffering but can’t. There could be a god who can’t prevent suffering but would choose it anyway. The least troubling option is that no god exists.

    If I am right, I will spend eternity in the same serene state I was in before I existed. If you are right, you will spend eternity with a god who is either sadistic or incapable of preventing ailments from accumulating and escalating.

  • Greg G

    That is exactly my point. Where it does get us is an evidence that the story of Jesus rising from the dead was circulating in Jerusalem before 40CE. Which puts your legend hypothesis on very shaky ground.

    The early Christians were Jews who believed the Messiah was coming within their lifetime. There sect also believed a heavenly Jesus was crucified and resurrected before their oldest scripture was written. The epistles don’t support the idea of a ministry or a life in the first century.

    Although his memory was surely human and therefore not perfect, firstly he was rabbinically trained which means he was better trained in memorization than most people

    In Galatians, Paul tells he was advanced in Judaism beyond the other kids. He persecuted Christians and tried to destroy the church with harsh words and disapproving looks. He read some verses about suffering and decided the were hidden stories about a crucifixion that happened long ago and the fact that people were beginning to see that meant his return was imminent. He traveled to Syria and back to his home in Cilicia. His mom wouldn’t let him go to Jerusalem until he turned 18.

    That reading is more likely than yours.

    We have enough manuscripts from close enough to the autograph to be very sure that what we have is the same as what was written. Again, where is your evidence of change in the manuscript transmission? Or are you clutching at straws again?

    Actually there are more variations in the manuscripts we have than there are words in the New Testament. Some of them would affect many doctrines but they don’t know which are the original meanings.

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

      Actually there are more variations in the manuscripts we have than there are words in the New Testament. Some of them would affect many doctrines but they don’t know which are the original meanings.

      How does someone calculate variations if there are more variations than words? Surely a more pertinent question would be, “How many words/verses of the New Testament have variations in the manuscripts?” I’ll give you a clue, it’s not 100%.

      And then, what sort of variations are we talking about? Most are alternate spellings at the level of flavour/flavor.

      Which variations would affect doctrines?

      • Bob Jase

        Count the words, get a number. Count the variations, get a second number. Compare the numbers.

        Really Karl, was that too much logical thinking for you?

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

          A maths teacher sets his class of 25 students a test of 100 problems. After the test he chastises his class saying that he was extremely disappointed that the number of different wrong answers was greater than the number of questions in the test. Yet every student scored over 90%.

          This should illustrate that quoting that the number of variations is greater than the number of words in the NT is the sort of statistic that gets statistics lumped in with lies and damned lies. A more important question is “What % of verses in the NT have variants?” and also (And Greg has given us some examples here) “Which ones are they?”

        • Bob Jase

          Well you could always read Ehrman’s books Forged, Misquoting Jesus or The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture if you really want to know what prolems those variations caused. There were whole councils held disputing the meaning of words which had one or two letters different in variant copies.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          This should illustrate that quoting that the number of variations is greater than the number of words in the NT is the sort of statistic that gets statistics lumped in with lies and damned lies.

          I agree that this isn’t the interesting issue. Rather, it’s the point I raised before, that scholars are able to correct errors with decent accuracy only when they have two or more copies. When you have manuscripts of Mark with the long ending and others without, you can decide which one is more likely to be authentic. But it’s when you don’t have two or more traditions to evaluate from that you can say nothing. Imagine two traditions, one of which has been lost to history. Maybe the lost one is the more authentic one.

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

          But it’s when you don’t have two or more traditions to evaluate from that you can say nothing. Imagine two traditions, one of which has been lost to history. Maybe the lost one is the more authentic one.

          Which verses of the NT do we only have one copy? Which have only two copies? Go even further, which verses have the least number of copies, and how many do they have?

          Are there any that are not (like the long ending of Mark, the John 8 pericope, 1 John 5:7), not explicitly noted in Bibles as being as such?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Which verses of the NT do we only have one copy?

          ?? We don’t know for which verses we have an erroneous copy because the correct tradition didn’t survive. That’s the problem.

      • Greg G.

        Hi Karl,

        There are an estimated 400,000 variations and a little more than 180,000 words in the New Testament. There are several thousand manuscripts from the 2nd century to the 15th century. No two are completely alike. But most of the variations are obvious scribal errors such as a misspelling, a missing word, or a duplicated line. The experts can trace the lineage of some manuscripts by copying of variations and the copying of new variations. They even have words for each type of error. But there are also deliberate changes made by the scribes.

        From Misquoting Jesus, here’s Bart Ehrman’s Top Ten Verses That Were Not in the Original New Testament:

        1 John 5:7 There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.

        John 8:7 Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.

        John 8:11 Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.

        Luke 22:44 In his anguish Jesus began to pray more earnestly,and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.

        Luke 22:20 And in the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

        Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons and they will speak with new tongues.

        Mark 16:18 And they will take up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any poison it will not harm them, and they will lay their hands on the sick and they will become well.

        John 5:4 For an angel of the Lord went down at certain times into the pool and disturbed the waters; and whoever was the first to step in when the water was disturbed was healed of what ever disease he had.

        Luke 24:12 But Peter rose up and ran to the tomb, and stooping down to look in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves. And he went away to his own home, marveling at what had happened.

        Luke 24:51 And when Jesus blesses them he departed from them and he was taken up into heaven.

        Does your theology depend on any of those verses?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          Does your theology depend on any of those verses?

          Karl could respond that scholars have found these errors. So, while they’re a bit embarrassing (like the snake handlers who use the long ending of Mark), they don’t affect much.

          But here’s the bigger problem. These are the erroneous verses that we know about. And why do we know about them? Because we have at least two copies, with the older (or more reliable) one being favored over the other. What about the case where we don’t have the two copies?! Are there zero such errors? Five? Five thousand? We simply don’t know.

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

          Does your theology depend on any of those verses?

          In short, no. There are other Scriptures that underpin any important theological doctrines that these verses teach.

  • Greg G

    Trinitarians rely on 1 John 5:7. In MqJ, Ehrman points out how seriously Luke 22:44 changes Luke. Mark’s Jesus suffers and fears but that is the only place in Luke that Jesus isn’t at peace. Luke’s Jesus prays for his executioners. That verse changes the whole passage by becoming the main point.

  • Greg G

    That Luke 24:51 creates a big contradiction between Luke and Acts. Did Jesus ascend then or 40 days later? Removing it should be a blessing to believers.

  • Greg G

    Hi Norm

    I agree that this forum is quite civil. I also like that it provides delicious food for thought. The comments are mostly about ideas and not about the commenters.

    If 1 in 4 Christians in Muslim countries had a divine revelation then 3 in 4 didn’t. The brain can have Eureka events that feel very profound and can be about nonreligious ideas. That term comes from when Archimedes sat in a bath while contemplating how to determine how much gold was in a crown. He realized he could compare the weight with how much water it displaced to determine density. He ran through the streets naked yelling “Eureka!” (I have found it!) We hear about them when these revelations turn out to be for thousands of years but when they’re wrong nobody mentions them anymore. The euphoria seems extremely profound but it’s not a reliable method for determining truth.

    When you see God in creation and when you doubt the scientist on his study of DNA, it sounds like you are looking at the world very superficially. You didn’t investigate how the scientist determined what was active and what wasn’t. People viewed lightning as proof of a god and took it as proof he was angry. But investigation shows that a god does not throw lightning bolts in a temper tantrum. Investigation shows that some of our DNA is inactive endogenous retroviruses and we should be glad they’re inactive. Investigation shows that what seems to be miraculous is just the product of natural processes. Pretending a god is behind them puts that god on the same path as all those thunder gods that nobody believes in anymore.

  • Greg G

    Hi Karl

    Yes, we should expect more variations as the number of copies increases. It follows from this that the same types of errors should have been present in the older manuscripts that we don’t have, which is a point Bob S. has tried to make. We see simple errors but also intentional theological edits and interpolated margin notes. How can you eliminate those errors if you don’t have older manuscripts? These are questions every believer should be asking instead of trying to make atheists prove the errors exist.

    Your analogy of the math class is worse than presented. All the students copied from one another, copying right and wrong answers alike, but still came up with different answers showing they didn’t really understand the material. In most cases they even forgot to fill in the line “Name:_____________”.

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

      Your analogy of the math class is worse than presented.

      I used the maths class example to demonstrate that the total number of variations is an irrelevant issues. What is important, and I think you understand it, is how confident we are of what the originals said.

      We see simple errors but also intentional theological edits and interpolated margin notes. How can you eliminate those errors if you don’t have older manuscripts? These are questions every believer should be asking instead of trying to make atheists prove the errors exist.

      I think we agree on this. Bob asked what about the verses we only have one copy of? I don’t know what verses he’s thinking of, but the ones that are questionable get marginalized (by parentheses or footnoting). Ironically, the fact that this does happen gives us more confidence that the rest is genuine.

  • Greg G

    The mobile edition for direct responses so I must respond to the main post.

    This conversation has showed me how sparse my knowledge of the manuscript evidence is. Thanks for the opportunity to learn.

    At The Oldest Extant Editions of the Letters of Paul, I read that there are 779 manuscripts of the Pauline letters. He mentions that there is scarcely a verse that is the same in each, to address one of your questions.

    He says that there are lineages that can be traced back to eight manuscripts that aren’t copies of one another. We have no copies of any of the letters that aren’t in a grouping of most of the others.

    He points out that each manuscript uses the same titles for the letters. Letters wouldn’t have had titles to start with. Titles wouldn’t be necessary until there was a collection.

    Here I’m presenting my own thoughts rather than information from the source linked.

    This indicates to me that each of the eight manuscripts had a common ancestor.

    It would have taken time for the collection we have to be assembled. A collection would have been built up by acquiring smaller collections of copies. Each smaller collection would have errors and interpolated margin notes. The collater would have to decide whether something was added to one or omitted to the other without the benefit of a large base of references. Any errors inserted at this stage would be passed on to all the manuscripts based on this collection.

    It would be absurd to think that no variations occurred in a century or so of copying. The only way to detect such errors would be by internal inconsistencies or inconsistencies between letters. Simply finding an apparent interpolation or edit in all extant manuscripts only shows that it didn’t happen after the mid first century or so.

    That would be what Bob is talking about.

  • Greg G

    Hi Karl

    They often made and sold books separately as a whole New Testament would be expensive. The groups were divided into the four gospels, the Pauline epistles, the general epistles, and Revelation. Acts was put with the general epistles and Hebrews usually went into the Pauline epistles.

    The scribes preferred to begin with the longest and end with the shortest so they could adjust size and spacing as needed as they approached the end. They usually kept the pairs together such as 1 & 2 Corinthians.

    Papyrus sheets would be stacked and folded. Past the halfway point, more pages couldn’t be added. The p46 scribe started out writing too big and had to write smaller and smaller. It’s estimated that he would not have been able to fit all the letters into the missing pages, if he had them all. A scribe getting paid by the paragraph might be inclined to include margin notes but one in the p46 predicament might tend to omit something.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg: Fascinating. I’d heard about some of the mechanics of papyrus scrolls (there were apparently two standard lengths, Mark being a short one and Matthew and Luke being long), but I’d never heard of the details of codices.

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

    Greg G,
    Bob is proposing a theory that p46 was a source for all of the other extant manuscripts that include 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.

    I understand and accept that scribes would follow the practices you say. This explains why p46 could have a different order than other manuscripts. But what you explain makes it extremely unlikely that p46 would be a source for manuscripts with a different order.

    Which leaves Bob in a quandary. He could choose the extremely unlikely possibility that p46 was a source for all other extant manuscripts including 1 Corinthians 15:3-6. He could choose the extremely unlikely possibility that there were multiple independent scribal changes resulting in each of the extant manuscripts having identical readings of 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 that differ from the autograph. Or he could follow the path that most scholars do and conclude that the extant manuscripts record 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 exactly as Paul wrote it.

    • Greg G.

      Hi Karl

      Bob is proposing a theory that p46 was a source for all of the other extant manuscripts that include 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.

      I understand Bob’s argument as it hypothetically came from p46 or something similar from:

      Imagine P46 was the source for all the later copies (I’m not saying that’s what happened, but perhaps something not far off from this).

      So I think Bob’s postition is that all the extant families of manuscripts came from one collection of manuscripts where variations of the copies may have been reconciled and that differences between each family occurred after that point. I think your position is that each family came from different lineages from each of the individual letters where variations between the families occurred independently in the copies of the letters before they were collated..

      The fact that each family has the same names for each of the letters shows that the families are not independent so I favor the position I ascribed to Bob. Perhaps all extant families come from Marcion’s collection or perhaps from someone lost to history.

      As for 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, I interpret it differently. Paul never describes anything like the Acts versions of his revelation so it would be wrong to read those accounts back into the epistles. He only talks about the crucifixion and resurrection in terms used in the Old Testament. His understanding appears to come from the scriptures alone. In that passage, Paul uses the same words to describe what the others saw as the words he uses for his own, which indicates he doesn’t think their experiences were different than his own. The “according to the scripture” just means that’s what the scripture tells us, not the Christian interpretation of “in accordance with the scriptures”.

      This is offered as a plausible explanation. There was a belief in Jerusalem that the Messiah was coming. It may be that Cephas began to read some verses on suffering as hidden information about the Logos that Philo calls Jesus as a history of what happened before the scriptures were written. Then he pointed them out to the Twelve who were like representatives of the twelve tribes. Then they brought it before a group of 500 people who were impressed. Then James accepted it and then some who became apostles. That thinking got some momentum and Paul opposed it for a while before he read it in the scriptures, too.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      I hope this doesn’t cover much of the ground Greg did.

      [Bob] could choose the extremely unlikely possibility that p46 was a source for all other extant manuscripts

      What’s unlikely? There’s a tree of manuscripts (including P46 and the ones you say are identical) that have a common ancestor. Imagine that the common ancestor (written in, say, the mid-second century) doesn’t faithfully record the autograph. Sounds plausible to me that stuff could’ve been added during the one hundred years for which we have no records.

      You have the difficult job, IMO. You’ve got to argue that our manuscript tradition for these verses is identical (ignoring insignificant changes) to the autograph. Wow–where do you even begin with that? You say, as you have, “well, there’s no evidence that there was a change.” Yeah, I get that. I’m demanding proof that there wasn’t.

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

    Greg and Bob,
    I hope you don’t mind me responding to both of you in one reply.

    What’s unlikely? There’s a tree of manuscripts (including P46 and the ones you say are identical) that have a common ancestor. Imagine that the common ancestor (written in, say, the mid-second century) doesn’t faithfully record the autograph. Sounds plausible to me that stuff could’ve been added during the one hundred years for which we have no records.

    What is unlikely is that the NT documents had already spread over the whole Mediterranean by the time you said. From the south of France, through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, there were towns and cities with Christian communities each with their own copies of the Scriptures. Your suggestion that every manuscript recovered traces its ancestry from only one manuscript or collection (and consequently from only one of these towns) is extremely unlikely.

    The fact that each family has the same names for each of the letters shows that the families are not independent so I favor the position I ascribed to Bob. Perhaps all extant families come from Marcion’s collection or perhaps from someone lost to history.

    Your evidence doesn’t back up your conclusion. The fact that each letter has the same name could equally be attributed to the fact of the genuineness. In any case, most of the epistles’ names can be derived from internal evidence. The gospels did not include the names within the script, however, it was common practice to write the title of the manuscript on the outside of a papyrus manuscript so it could be easily identified in a collection.

    The fact that there were a multitude of christian communities with their own collections of NT documents from the very earliest times makes the claim that what we have now is solely derived from one later collection very difficult to sustain.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      What is unlikely is that the NT documents had already spread over the whole Mediterranean by the time you said.

      Imagine the Wrong Manuscript, the predecessor to all the manuscripts on your list, written in (say) 150CE. Someone with an agenda changed it from the original. The correct manuscripts weren’t copied and those traditions died, just like most documents written during that period.

      Your suggestion that every manuscript recovered traces its ancestry from only one manuscript or collection (and consequently from only one of these towns) is extremely unlikely.

      Huh? All copies trace their ancestry back to the autograph of Paul, right?? Not much of a stretch to imagine that they all trace their ancestry to a later copy that contained errors and that that copy’s siblings all faded into dust.

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

        Huh? All copies trace their ancestry back to the autograph of Paul, right?? Not much of a stretch to imagine that they all trace their ancestry to a later copy that contained errors and that that copy’s siblings all faded into dust.

        The main problem with your hypothesis is the rapid spread of Christianity. How many churches were there in 150CE? Spread across how large an area? Now they may not have all had all the Scriptures (and some may have even had nothing more than the OT) but most would have had a collection of NT documents. We have evidence from early church fathers from that period that shows that they are familiar with various NT documents. So there must have been many copies of each NT book even at that early stage.

        In contrast, Paul’s autograph existed at one place, and for it to be disseminated more widely, it would have been copied. Even a letter like Galatians which was likely carried around a circuit of churches would have ended up residing at one place and need to be copied to be disseminated further.

        Now in a culture of copying to facilitate dissemination, can you imagine that from 200CE on we only have manuscripts that are copies of one particular manuscript from 150CE despite there being many manuscripts and churches at that time? Actually there is a piece of evidence that would support your theory, and that is if it was found that Christianity was extinguished in every place bar one, and this one place is the location of your proposed manuscript. However, history suggests nothing of the sort – despite many persecutions, Christianity spread all over the Roman Empire and beyond.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          So there must have been many copies of each NT book even at that early stage.

          I’m still missing the problem.

          You’re aware of the Byzantine and Alexandrian traditions, right? We have a poorer record of the Byzantine manuscripts because–guess what?–the dryer conditions in Alexandria preserved stuff better. That might explain how we have no record of an older, superseded tradition. Like two competing species, the P46 tradition (which we’re imagining as wrong) could’ve competed with the correct tradition. Eventually, the Wrong tradition won out, either because churches discarded the less popular alternative or because the competing stories were harmonized.

          Even a letter like Galatians which was likely carried around a circuit of churches would have ended up residing at one place and need to be copied to be disseminated further.

          Are you imagining this being centralized? Where the Galatian church somehow controlling how that epistle was disseminated or copied? I see no evidence of this.

          Now in a culture of copying to facilitate dissemination, can you imagine that from 200CE on we only have manuscripts that are copies of one particular manuscript from 150CE despite there being many manuscripts and churches at that time?

          I’m missing the problem. We can agree, I’m sure, that manuscripts are copied and that errors are made. I would add that it’s easy to imagine agenda-driven rewrites (false teaching, at least from the perspective of the original). Now we have an environment where there are two traditions. There’s no force that would favor the correct one over the incorrect one; instead, the sticky one would tend to succeed.

          You know about the Comma Johanneum, right? You’ve got two versions of John, one with the addition and one without. The one with became the popular one, with the (correct, one supposes) one without preserved only in the oldest manuscripts. It works like competing species, it seems to me.

  • Greg G

    Hi Karl

    If you have one letter, it will be called ” The Letter from Paul”. When you begin to collect them, you would have several scrolls with very similar titles on the outside of the scroll. How likely is it that all the different collectors would invent the same naming convention that is different from the one used for the General Epistles and come up with the same names?

    We have references in the late first century to multiple Pauline letters without mention of the source. 2 Peter 3:16 recommends them but only by Paul’s name so they must have been collecting them.

    Marcion had the means to travel and wealth to collect writings. We know about his later exploits from his opponents but in his early career he must have been accepted and welcome. All the Pauline collections have the same naming convention and only one variation on the names (Laodicians vs Ephesians) that he used. We have no earlier reference to those names. Perhaps in his earlier, less heretical days, his collection was the favored version around the empire.

    • Bob Jase

      Of course its always possible that the first compiler of ‘Paul’s’ letters was actually their author and that could have been Marcion. The ‘authentic’ letters reflex his version of Christianity more than the later orthodox ones do.

      • Greg G.

        Hi Bob J

        I think Mark used some of Paul’s letters as sources, particularly Galatians and 1 Corinthians. Compare Paul’s argument with Peter in Galatians 2 with Jesus abolishing the food laws in Mark 7. It sounds like someone put Paul’s side into Jesus’ mouth. It certainly doesn’t make sense that Peter would argue against Paul if Jesus taught it. It doesn’t make sense if the letter was written after Mark. We also see “Abba, father” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark and Galatians. There are three people named in Galatians and those are Jesus’ three main sidekicks. Peter is said to eat with the Gentiles until James men come and he changes his actions in Galatians while he says he will never deny Jesus but does when asked in Mark. Paul says James, Cephas, and John are reputed to be pillars in Galatians while Mark has them asking to be on either side of Jesus.

        The Letter of James seems to be an answer to Galatians. It mentions several topics that Galatians brings up, sometimes agreeing and sometimes arguing against them.

        1 Corinthians has something about the communion ritual and so does Mark. Justin Martyr says that the Mithras cult took it from Christianity so we know they did it. Plutarch was a contemporary of Paul and wrote a biography of Pompey, a first century BC Roman general. In it, he mentions that the pirates of Cilicia worshipped Mithras and their rituals were still used “to this day”. Cilicia was a major city in Tarsus where Paul was from and he says in Galatians that he went to Syria and Cilicia after he had his revelation. It seems that Paul would be a plausible pathway for the ritual.

        I trust the scholars that compare the style and vocabulary of all the letters to be able to find the similarities that indicate letters were written by the same person yet distinguish letters that do not fit the profile. So I think some of the letters were written by the same person and the most likely candidate would be Paul himself.

        Now they developed some of those techniques way back then to identify forgeries. 2 Thessalonians is rejected because it is too similar to 1 Thessalonians. It seems to have been designed to pass the style comparison tests. For those test to have been developed, applied, and countered would have taken time, I would expect. It would not have been done by the person who was forging other Pauline epistles that are still recognized as being from the same hand. Marcion had 1 & 2 Thessalonians, so it doesn’t make sense that his group would have made 2 Thessalonians that way. If he did 2 Thessalonians, then he didn’t do the others.

        It would also be strange for him to write them with Old Testament references only to rewrite without those references later.

        My Jesus myth theory is that the early first century Christians never spoke of a first century Jesus. They thought he had come before the Old Testament was written and verses that talked about suffering were hidden messages about the Jesus who came long ago. The generation after the destruction of Jerusalem misunderstood and created the early first century Jesus.

        Have you noticed that scholars who argue for a historical Jesus will propose that the gospel authors used sources we no longer have and oral traditions. But if you point out a writing that was common during that era, that anybody literate in Greek would have studied, that the students would have been trained in the art of mimesis using those works, and that have passages with the same information as several pericopes, they reply “We don’t need to see those correlations. These aren’t the documents we’re looking for. Move along.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          I think Mark used some of Paul’s letters as sources, particularly Galatians and 1 Corinthians.

          Maybe that’s the reason that Peter denied Jesus 3 times. It’s not an embarrassing truth; it’s a chance to lampoon a political enemy.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I think Mark wrote that the women were afraid to tell about the resurrection so Peter and the rest didn’t get the warning to go to Galilee to explain why they didn’t get out of Jerusalem. Mark pretty much lampooned all the Disciples.

          After Jesus predicted Peter would disown him three times, Peter says “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Mark 14:31) Compare that to 2 Kings 2:2, 4, and 6 where God is telling Elijah where to go and Elijah is telling Elisha to stay and Elisha repeats, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” Since Mark knows Jesus is about to die, he changes Peter’s line to be about dying. Instead of saying it three times, he breaks the promise three times.

      • Greg G.

        The ‘authentic’ letters reflex his version of Christianity more than the later orthodox ones do.

        As I understand it, he had edited the letters to remove the Old Testament and Jewish tendencies, so the “inauthentic” ones may have required more editing to suit him. They may not have originally agreed with where his religious philosophy ended up but in the end they did.

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

    You’re aware of the Byzantine and Alexandrian traditions, right? We have a poorer record of the Byzantine manuscripts because–guess what?–the dryer conditions in Alexandria preserved stuff better. That might explain how we have no record of an older, superseded tradition.

    OK, so we have at least two traditions of NT manuscript copying. Two pertinent questions arise here, firstly, how do they differ? and secondly, at what point in history do they diverge?

    Since the Byzantine text (whose manuscripts are generally later than the Alexandrian text but does include some early manuscripts such as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Ephraimi) generally adds when compared to the Alexandrian text, this casts doubt on various verse such as the longer ending to Mark, the John 8 pericope, etc. The verses called into question by these variations are clearly marked in most Bibles today.

    Also, the Alexandrian text can be identified back as far as the 2nd century (p90 is dated 150CE), which leaves precious little time for the changes you wish to find to be introduced.

    One additional point of yours that I have not responded to yet is the accuracy of the copying. As one commenter pointed out earlier, there are several different types of variants that are catalogued by NT scholars. All extant manuscripts of all text-types are at least 85% identical, and most variants are spelling variations or word order variations that have no effect on the meaning of the text. Are you suggesting that 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 was a later addition to the letter? Or that it was changed?

  • Greg G

    Hi Karl

    P90 is a fragment with less than half the words from a dozen verses in John. The gospels have a different history than the epistles. Their history is decades shorter than Paul’s epistles.

    Such a short passage wouldn’t have enough information to identify it as Alexandrian by fitting the profile. Its affinity is more likely based on the papyrus and handwriting. We might infer that the rest of the document would match the profile but it’s a shaky foundation to argue against earlier variations because we don’t know it didn’t have variations.

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

      Greg,

      Such a short passage wouldn’t have enough information to identify it as Alexandrian by fitting the profile. Its affinity is more likely based on the papyrus and handwriting.

      As I understand it, these are some of the main criteria for determining whether a manuscript is Alexandrian or Byzantine. After all, the distinguishing Byzantine textual variants are not numerous (John 8 pericope, long Mark ending, etc). Remember 85% of the text shows no variation, no matter what manuscript tradition it comes from.

      My two questions to Bob I believe are still pertinent here.

      • Greg G.

        After all, the distinguishing Byzantine textual variants are not numerous (John 8 pericope, long Mark ending, etc).

        Thanks for this, Karl. It helped bring together for me some vague old questions and recently acquired factoids.

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

          Greg, not sure exactly how I helped, but you’re welcome.

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