Daily Archives: 2011-01-14 21:06:27 UTC

Scholars who question the historicity of Jesus’ baptism and why they “do not persuade”

Icon_of_jesus_baptism-138x300I was struck by a sentence by Dale C. Allison in his Constructing Jesus that began as follows:

Indeed, Jesus seems to have submitted to John’s baptism. . . . (p. 53)

Only “seems”? I did not know that any theologian and biblical scholar who accepted the historical reality of Jesus doubted it. So catch that footnote number and make a quick check. Here is the explanatory footnote:

This is rarely doubted, although see William Arnal, “Major Episodes in the Biography of Jesus: An Assessment of the Historicity of the Narrative Tradition,” TJT 13 (1997): 201-26; Leif E. Vaage, “Bird-Watching at the Baptism of Jesus: Early Christian Mythmaking in Mark 1:9-11,” in Reimagining Christian Origins (ed.. Castelli and Taussig), 280-94. Arnal and Vaage do not persuade, in part because, as Mark’s account of the crucifixion and Luke’s theological use of Jerusalem show, remembered facts may not only serve literary ends but may also be fully clothed in legendary and mythological dress. The snag here is that almost every bit of tradition is integrated into the surrounding Synoptic narratives and serves clear editorial ends, so unless we are to find only fiction in the Synoptics, observation of such integration and such ends cannot suffice to determine derivation.

This is why I like Dale Allison so much. He is equal to the most honest biblical scholar that I have encountered who also believes in the historicity of Jesus. He essentially admits his belief is a belief and does not kid himself (or his readers) that his reasoning is not circular. There are a number of other theologians who cannot face this fact about their own writings.

Theologian James McGrath challenged me to address a scholar like E.P. Sanders “point by point” and still deny the historicity of Jesus, and when I did so, including a discussion of what Sanders argues about the baptism of Jesus, McGrath belatedly responded with a weak and meek “I do not agree”. I had hoped for some serious response that included a statement of reasons for his disagreement. I would much rather engage with Dale Allison who does demonstrate an ability to give a reasoned response. read more »

Followup on Questionnaire for the Deconverted

Three months ago I posted links to a questionnaire for atheists and other sceptics who had deconverted from religious faith. See http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/questionnaire-for-sceptics/

Rick (the author of that questionnaire) has followed up with a request for feedback on his restructured Teologye.com website. This is the site where he had placed the original questionnaire, and it now maturing into something much more than when we last looked at it. One of Rick’s goals is to publish the results of the questionnaire on this site.

He would appreciate feedback on the site so has asked me to share this with blog-readers.

The not so great Islamist menace

The following is from Alcanaanite’s Blog (Monzer Zimmo has kindly allowed me to re-post it here)

Dan Gardner: The not so great Islamist menace

Posted on 2011/01/06 by Alcanaanite

Two millennia ago, there was a Jewish Palestinian from Nazareth by the name of Jesus who once said: “The truth will set you free.”  Sooner or later, the truth will reach people, and those who know it will be free; free from fear, free from hate, and free from vengeance.

Yesterday, January 5, 2011, Dan Gardner wrote a revealing article in the Ottawa Citizen, in which he introduces the truth to his readers about terrorism in Europe.  There is nothing more compelling than the truth; facts, numbers, comparisons, and putting things in perspective.  Gardner does it eloquently in his easy to read article.

“The European Union’s Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 says that in 2009 there were “294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks” in six European countries. This was down almost a third from 2008 and down by almost half from 2007.  So, in most of Europe, there was no terrorism.  And where there was terrorism, the trend line pointed down.  As for who’s responsible, forget Islamists.  The overwhelming majority of the attacks – 237 of 294 – were carried out by separatist groups, such as the Basque ETA.  A further 40 terrorist schemes were pinned on leftist and/or anarchist terrorists.  Rightists were responsible for four attacks.  Single-issue groups were behind two attacks, while responsibility for a further 10 was not clear.  Islamists?  They were behind a grand total of one attack.  Yes, one.  Out of 294 attacks.  In a population of half a billion people.  To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comite d’Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine.”

For the full article, click on the following link:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/great+Islamist+menace/4060885/story.html read more »