2008-07-14

Doherty discusses the Tacitus’ Annals Renaissance forgery question

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by Neil Godfrey

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This can be found on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board here [Link no longer active, 19th August 2015, — Neil. See below for the pdf version of this discussion.]

His argument is that the notion that the whole of Annals was a Renaissance forgery should be put to rest.

I’m pleased. I really do squirm at the thought that there was once a medieval monk who had an obsession for writing hundreds of pages of fictitious turgid Tacitean prose.

See the attached discussion, Is the Forgery of Tacitus’ Annals in the Renaissance an Untenable Position? led by Early Doherty . . . 

Download (PDF, 2.13MB)

  • 2008-07-23 17:11:54 UTC - 17:11 | Permalink

    A medieval monk writing the Annals … it is good to put to rest such stupidities. Ciao

  • 2008-07-23 17:18:12 UTC - 17:18 | Permalink

    You have reasons for disagreeing with the arguments contra?

  • 2008-07-25 21:54:15 UTC - 21:54 | Permalink

    No, no professional or rational reason, being not a pro in these matters. Just intuition – so not worthy of reporting here – and some knowledge of Tacitus’ marvellous style.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-07-27 06:14:02 UTC - 06:14 | Permalink

    Tacitus? Schmacitus!

    Neil, in your Jesus Category you ask was the Roman invasion seen by some as an act of God or Jesus, coming on clouds with thunder etc, to destroy his old kingdom and declare its replacement with a new spiritual kingdom? Now that sounds more like it.

    What if I could show you beyond a shadow of a doubt using outside Biblical sources that Jesus not only existed but is who He says He is, would you be agreeable?

  • 2008-07-27 14:21:51 UTC - 14:21 | Permalink

    I like to think I am always agreeable to open minded discussion on topics of interest to me, Larry. If, on responding to the sources you show me (and which, I am sure, I have read many times before), I happen to discover that they are not as free from shadows of doubt as you have thought, would you be agreeable? But you may have a new way of looking at something, so do share it.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-07-28 00:13:36 UTC - 00:13 | Permalink

    Neil, you’re a scholar and a gentleman. I’m agreeable. Let’s begin with a few baby steps then go from there:

    1. “With the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Henceforth, Jewish life was regulated by the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view.” Pharisees,Jewish Encyclopedia,p.666

    2. “They were the strongest guardians of the religious vitality of the Jewish people. They had the deepest and clearest insight into the meaning of the religion which was based on the Torah, and they had the greatest influence in making the religion effective in the common life…The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees.” Pharisees,Universal Jewish Encyclopedia,p.474

    3. “There were four major stages in the final break between Christianity and Judaism: (1) the flight of the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem to Pella across the Jordan in 70 and their refusal to continue the struggle against the Romans; (2) the institution by the patriarch Gamaliel II of a prayer in the Eighteen Benedictions against such heretics, and (3 and 4) the failure of the Christians to join the messianic leaders Lukuas-Andreas and Bar Kokhba in the revolts against Trajan (115-117) and Hadrian (132-135), respectively.” Judaism, Encyclopedia Britannica,XV

    4. “GAMALIEL II (to distinguish him from his grandfather, Gamaliel I). The recognized head of the Jews in Palestine during the last two decades of the first and at the beginning of the second century…At times Gamaliel had to meet the attacks of confessors of Christianity…whereupon Gamaliel quotes Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:17 (Shab. 116a,b). The sect of believers in Jesus, which was ever separating itself more distinctly from all connection with Judaism…led Gamaliel, because of its tendencies dangerous to the unity of Judaism, to introduce a new form of prayer…and which was inserted in the chief daily prayer, the eighteen benedictions. This prayer itself, which together with the Shema, forms the most important part of the Jewish prayer book, likewise owes its final revision to Gamaliel. It was Gamaliel, also, who made the recitation of the “eighteen prayers” a duty to be performed three times a day by every Israelite.” Jewish Encyclopedia, p.560-561

    5. “Thus there is in Scripture a successive spiritualization of the idea of Atonement…In Mosaic ritualism the atoning blood thus actually meant the bringing about of a reunion with God, the restoration of peace between the soul and its Maker…The cessation of sacrifice, in consequence of the destruction of the Temple, came, therefore, as a shock to the people. It seemed to deprive them of the divine Atonement… Hence a large number of the Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood “shed for many for the remission of sins” or in Jesus as “the Lamb of God”…R. Akiba, in direct opposition to the Christian Atonement by the blood of Jesus, addressed his brethren thus:…”As the fountain of water purifies the unclean, so does God purify Israel” (Yoma 8:9)…This doctrine, which does away with all mediatorship of either saint, high priest, or savior, became the leading idea of the Jewish Atonement.” Atonement, Jewish Encyclopedia,p.275,276,278

    6. “The historicity of Jesus is proved by the very nature of the record in the New Testament, especially the four Gospels…there is no valid reason for doubting his historical reality or assuming him to be a purely mythical figure…In his own lifetime, it is certain that Jesus became accepted by many as the Messiah.” Christianity/Jesus,Encyclopaedia Judaica

    7. “We are not the murderers of the Messiah and the Son of God, nor the king of the Jews as Pilate wanted to have it. Rather, we are the rightful executioners of a blasphemer and idolater, who was sentenced according to the full weight, but also the fair procedure, of our law… For the first time in History, we encounter Jews who, instead of acting defensively, raise their voice and speak out against what would become the perennial story of the triumphant Church.” Peter Schafer,Jesus in the Talmud,p.74

    8. “Even Jesus the Nazarene who imagined that he would be the Messiah and was killed by the court, was already prophesied by Daniel (11:14)…Because, is there a greater stumbling-block than this one?…And this one caused (nations) to destroy Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant, and to humiliate them, and to exchange the Torah, and to make the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God.” Maimonides,Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10

    9. “We are now in a position to discuss the Jewish conception of the Kingdom of God. The contrast between the Christian dogma and the Jewish doctrine of the Kingdom is evident…Nothing is mentioned in the New Testament of the spiritual and material glory of Palestine in the day of fulfillment…The New Testament is mainly concerned, not with the earthly, but rather with the heavenly Kingdom of God…Jesus thought of the Kingdom as having actually begun with him and his disciples. Compare Mark 1:15: “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”…This dogma of a purely spiritual Kingdom, independent of the material, earthly world, was later expounded more fully by the sophisticated argumentation of Paul…” Rabbi Michael Higger,The Jewish Utopia,p.113.

    10. “The course of the world’s history, as illustrated by the attitude of the heathen toward the Jews, was now viewed as a continuous triumph of powers hostile to God–a triumph which would not end until the whole world had become utterly corrupt, to be superseded by the kingdom of God (on earth) and a new order of things (New World Order)…The official teachings of the Pharisees, after the rise of Christianity, tried, for reasons easy to understand, to negative all that was superhuman in the popular conception of the Messiah.” Antichrist,Jewish Encyclopedia,p.626

    11. “It is safe to say that wherever Shekinah is mentioned in Rabbinic literature it is God’s direct action or activity that is thought of. Independent personality is never implied to it. It is probable that the use of the term was often in Rabbinic writings polemical (against Christian and gnostic sects).” Shekinah,Encyclopaedia Britannica,XI

    “This mutual opposition created a climate of hostility and negation which made the Christian-Jewish relationship more ambivalent and complex, and hence, also, more pregnant with tragedy than any comparable relationship in history.” Christianity,Encyclopaedia Judaica

    12. “The polemic attitude which the conception of the Shekinah betrays toward the founder and the ideal of Christianity is unmistakable.” Shekinah,Jewish Encyclopedia,p.260

    “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 AV

    13. “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.'” Luke 19:41-44 NASB

  • 2008-07-28 11:52:22 UTC - 11:52 | Permalink

    Where are you going with this, Larry? Be upfront. I posted something about an ancient source referencing Jesus and you offered to show me from outside biblical sources verification of certain claims made about Jesus. But you have only posted very late, mostly Jewish, writings. I do not see the relevance of these. Some of the sections you cite from the Jewish Encyclopedia are far from established facts, and are indeed highly questionable. The evidence for the Jewish prayer-book curse on Christians in the late first century is so flimsy it disappears the moment you try to touch it; and the proclaimed flight of Christians to Pella is another insubstantial myth. Your point #6 is nothing more than a claim that the gospels are self-evidently true in their claims. Then point #7 contradicts the gospels by asserting that the Jews killed Jesus as a blasphemer and idolater. Your final point is simply a quote from the gospels, but you said you would show me non-biblical sources. I took that to mean ancient sources such as Pliny, Thallus, Josephus, etc. What are the sources you were meaning but for some reason felt it necessary to hide till some strategic point in a discussion? If you think I am an honest and open-minded person then you should have no problem thinking I will reject something because of non-rational associations. Just spill it all out up front. Or are the non-biblical sources what you have quoted above? Or are you leading to Islamic sources?

    If all of this is already posted on a website somewhere, it would be easier to direct me to that site for discussion or comment than to paste it all again here.

    Thanks
    Neil

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-07-29 14:42:10 UTC - 14:42 | Permalink

    But Neil, this non-Biblical source is as ancient as you can get: “The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees.”

    By claiming that everything about Jesus is “insubstantial”, you’re saying the Jew/Pharisees were/are complicit in concocting a myth that is “more pregnant with tragedy than any comparable relationship in history.”

    Remember, they insist they crucified Him. After all, they were there.

  • 2008-07-29 15:25:03 UTC - 15:25 | Permalink

    No, I do not at all suggest that anyone was “complicit in concocting a myth”. The question is not one of such a black or white alternatives. I’m interested in studying the evidence we have for historical claims. I don’t take historical claims for granted. Myths are born and grow in all cultures and few historians explain them by some sort of conspiratorial fabrication. Part of an historian’s job is to examine the evidence to attempt to explain the past. Where the evidence conflicts with what is generally believed in a particular culture or religious group, then the historian has an additional task with using the evidence to explain how the “myths” themselves arose.

    To take one example. You quote the Jewish Encyclopedia re the prayer-book curse against Christians. Rather than just take this statement at face value, do a little investigation and find out what evidence is used as the basis of this widely believed “fact” of history. The Birkat ha-Minim as it is called simply pronounces a curse on heretics. It is only speculation that assumes this refers to Christians. There are indeed other arguments that suggest it is quite unlikely a reference to Christians.

    As for the tradition that the Jews crucified Jesus, we need to ask what is the evidence for when some Jews appear to believe this themselves. From when does it date? Is it a late tradition that emerged long after the event was supposed to have happened?

    The claim certainly contradicts the gospels that state clearly the Romans crucified Jesus, and the crime for which they did so was not blasphemy. There is another noncanonical gospel that claims Jews did themselves crucify Jesus, but that’s rejected by mainstream Christianity.

    It is quite plausible that Jews growing up in Christian dominated cultures would absorb — and justify to themselves — the prevailing belief that they had been responsible for the death of one they considered a blasphemer. But that is not evidence that they really were responsible for the death of Jesus. Jews certainly did not keep records going back to enable them to know the facts of anyone they gave a hard time generations earlier. An examination of the evidence may well show that this belief is as mythical as the one that George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, or that William Tell shot the apple on his son’s head.

    I don’t say that “everything about Jesus is ‘insubstantial'”, but that many widely accepted assumptions and beliefs about him lack strong basis in historical evidence.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-07-30 03:49:38 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

    MINIM: “Talmudic term for sects holding views considered heretical by Pharisaic tradition. The designation was applied variously to early Christians, gnostics, and other dissidents. Commentators and scholars differ as to the philological origin of the term.” New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia,p.660

    Neil, I want to fully explore with you the absurdity of a group of am ha-aretz claiming the Pharisees crucified a Galilean peasant at a time when the Pharisees would have known whether they had or not. But first, permit me to be upfront with you about something else. I don’t refer people to websites. Except for Maimonides writings and the Encyclopaedia Britannica,XI, I personally own all the sources I’ve quoted plus a whole lot more. I figure the best witness for Christ is a Pharisee. For example, you state my point #7 contradicts the Gospels by asserting that the Jews killed Jesus as a blasphemer and idolater. It’s very strange that you would say this. Let’s compare:

    7. “We are not the murderers of the Messiah and the Son of God, nor the king of the Jews as Pilate wanted to have it. Rather, we are the rightful executioners of a blasphemer and idolater, who was sentenced according to the full weight, but also the fair procedure, of our law… For the first time in History, we encounter Jews who, instead of acting defensively, raise their voice and speak out against what would become the perennial story of the triumphant Church.” Peter Schafer,Jesus in the Talmud,p.74

    “Then the high priest (Caiaphas) rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blashphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy (Matthew 26:65 AV).

    Speaking of Caiaphas…

    “Caiaphas is reported to have said on that occasion (Jesus’ trial) that it was expedient that one man should die for the people (John 18:14), a saying found also among the Rabbis (Gen. R. xciv.9). The fact that Jesus was taken not to Caiaphas (initially) but to Annas is explained on the ground that the latter’s palace was nearer the place of the arrest than that of former.” Caiaphas, Jewish Encyclopedia, p.493

    Now Neil, this is self-explanatory:

    JACOB OF KEFER SEKANYA: Judæo-Christian of the first century; mentioned on two occasions, in both Talmuds and in the Midrash. Meeting R. Eliezer (ben Hyrcanus) in the upper market-place of Sepphoris, he asked him for an opinion on a curious ritualistic question bearing upon Deut. xxiii. 18. As R. Eliezer declined to give an opinion, Jacob acquainted him with the interpretation of Jesus derived from Micah i. 7. R. Eliezer was pleased with the interpretation and was consequently suspected of Christian leanings by the governor (‘Ab. Zarah 17a; Eccl. R. i. 24; Tosef., Ḥul. ii. 24). On another occasion R. Eleazar ben Dama, nephew of R. Ishmael, having been bitten by a serpent, Jacob went to heal him in the name of Jesus. R. Ishmael objecting, Jacob proved from the Torah that one may seek healing from any source whatever. But in the meantime R. Eleazar died, and R. Ishmael rejoiced that his nephew had not been defiled by the treatment of a Christian (Yer. Shab. iv., end, where “Kefar Simaï” is given; ‘Ab. Zarah 23b; Eccl. R. l.c.).Bibliography: Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 113; Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 44; Neubauer, G. T. p. 234.G. M. Sel.,Jewish Encyclopedia,p.35

    ELIEZAR BEN HYRCANUS: One of the most prominent tannaim of the first and second centuries…became a member of the Sanhedrin under the presidency of Gamaliel II (Ab.R.N.xiv.6;Sanh.36b)…During the persecutions of the Jewish Christians in Palestine, Eliezar was charged with being a member of that sect, and was summoned before the penal tribunal…At last he remembered that once, while in Sepphoris, he had met a sectary who communicated to him a single halakah in the name of Jesus; that he approved of the halakah and had really enjoyed hearing it…Though excommunicated, Eliezar is quoted in the Mishnah, the Baraita, and the Talmudim more frequently than any one of his colleagues.” Jewish Encyclopedia,,p.114-115

    “What is found, as shown above, of rabbinical references to Jesus, can be arranged in a sequence beginning with Eliezar, extending through the period of the Mishnah, and traceable in both Gemeras, In itself, the tradition in only of value as independent evidence that Jesus really lived…” Jesus in Rabbinical Literature,Universal Jewish Encyclopedia,p.88

    This one caused Earl Doherty to throw a tantrum:

    “GILYONIM: Term used by the scribes flourishing between 100 and 135 to denote the Gospels. The designation as used by them did not imply any mockery; R. Meïr, who flourished after 135, a descendant of Greek proselytes, was the first to play upon the word ἐυαγγέλιον by translating it as “worthlessness of [i.e., written upon] a scroll.” Although R. Meïr’s words are generally interpreted in this sense, it is possible that, having had a Greek education, he simply intended to represent the sound of “evangelium” more exactly. R. Johanan (d. 279), on the other hand, calls the Gospel “sin-scroll” (Shab. 116a, in the unexpurgated editions, and in Rabinovitz, “Variæ Lectiones,” ad loc.). Only one Gospel is referred to. The Munich manuscript has in the decisive passage, Shab. 116a, the singular where the printed editions have the plural. The title may have been originally briefly ἀγγέλιον. In the first passage quoted below “Gospels” does not mean several recensions—i.e., three or four different Gospels—but only several copies of one and the same work.
    The principal passages are as follows: (Tosef., Shab. xiii. 5 [ed. Zuckermandel , p. 129 ]; comp. Shab. 116a ; Yer. Shab. 15c, 52 ; Sifre, Num. 16).
    “The ‘Gilyon[im]’ and the [Biblical] books of the Judæo-Christians [“Minim”] are not saved [on the Sabbath] from fire; but one lets them burn together with the names of God written upon them.” R. Jose the Galilean says: “On week-days the names of God are cut out and hidden while the rest is burned.” R. Tarphon says: “I swear by the life of my children that if they fall into my hands I shall burn them together with the names of God upon them.” R. Ishmael says: “If God has said, ‘My name that has been written in holiness [i.e., in the “jealousy roll” mentioned in Num. v. 21 et seq.] shall be wiped out by water, in order to make peace between husband and wife,’ then all the more should the books of the Judæo-Christians, that cause enmity, jealousy, and contention between Israel and its heavenly Father. . . . As they are not saved from fire, so they are not saved when they are in danger of decaying, or when they have fallen into water, or when any other mishap has befallen them”
    M. Friedländer (“Der Vorchristliche Jüdische Gnosticismus,” pp. 80 et seq., Göttingen, 1898) has erroneously contended that this passage does not treat of the Gospel. The Jewish Christians of Palestine had a Gospel of their own, the so-called Hebrew Gospel, from which still later Church Fathers quote (see Harnack, “Altchristliche Litteratur,” i. 6 et seq.). Matthew was, likewise, originally written in Hebrew (Aramaic); many copies must, therefore, have been in circulation, and doubts must naturally have arisen concerning the manner in which they were to be disposed of, since they contained mention of the divine name. Furthermore, the whole tenor of the passage shows that those who asked the question which elicited these remarks concerning the “Gilyon” were pious Jews, and they certainly used, and consequently inquired concerning, the Hebrew Gospel. Indeed, the correct reading in this passage has “Gilyon” in the singular; the gnostic writings (which were sometimes called “Gilyonim” also), however, were many; and had reference to these been intended here the plural would have been used.
    Another passage shows that the Gospels have not the sanctity of the Biblical books. “The Gilyonim and the [Biblical] books of the Judæo-Christians do not render the hands unclean. The books of Ben Sira and all books written from now onward do not render the hands unclean” (Tosef., Yad. ii. 13, ed. Zuckermandel, p. 683).
    Talmudic Quotations from Gospels.
    The Gospel is twice quoted in an anecdote, apparently from Babylonia, preserved in Shab. 116b (beginning): “The patriarch Gamaliel II. [c. 100] and his sister, the wife of R. Eliezer, were living near a philosopher who had the reputation of rejecting bribes. Desiring to cast ridicule upon him, the woman took a golden candlestick to him and said: ‘I desire to be a coheir.’ He answered: ‘Divide.’ Then she said: ‘It is written in the Torah, “The daughter shall not inherit where there is a son.”‘ He answered: ‘Since you have been exiled from your country the Torah of Moses has been abrogated, and in its place the Gospel has been promulgated, in which it is written, “Son and daughter inherit together.”‘ On the following day Gamaliel brought a Libyan ass to him, whereupon the philosopher said: ‘Observe the principle of the Gospel, where it is written, “I am not come to take away aught from the teaching of Moses, but to add to it”; and it is written in the Torah, “Where there is a son the daughter does not inherit.”‘ The woman said to him: ‘Let your light shine like a candle.’ Then Gamaliel said: ‘The ass came and overthrew the candlestick.'” It can not be ascertained whether the new law regarding the right of daughters to inherit was included in the original Hebrew Gospel. The Gospels are not otherwise mentioned in the Talmud or Midrash.
    In the Middle Ages.
    From the Talmudic narratives about Jesus it appears that the contents of the Gospel were known to the Talmudic teachers. In post-Talmudic days the Jews were often led to study the Gospels through controversy with Christians . David Ḳimḥi (in “Milḥemet Ḥobah,” and in his commentary on the Psalms) quotes them several times. They were early rendered into Hebrew. Sebastian Münster translated one. In modern times they have been translated into classical Hebrew by Salkinson, and into Mishnaic Hebrew by Franz Delitzsch.
    The great mass of the Jewish people have in the past known the New Testament only from hearsay; and even to-day they do not read it, in spite of all inducements and of its translation into Jewish-German dialects.” Jewish Encyclopedia,p.668,669

    Note the part that says Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. Let’s save our discussion of Carmignac and Tresmontant’s discoveries until later.

    Neil, I’m afraid the likes of Doherty have led you astray but don’t get me wrong. Jews, of course, don’t mind you claiming Jesus never existed because in your way you’re aiding their cause by making “negative all that was superhuman in the popular conception of the Messiah.” This further proves my point.

    BOTTOM-LINE: The Pharisees revamped liturgy in direct reponse to a Jesus at a time when there would have been people still alive who not only would have seen this Jesus but would have known how He died and what, if anything, He died for. These people would have included the Pharisees themselves–particularly Johanan ben Zakkai–because there had been a continuous succession of Pharisee power extending back through Hillel and Shammai.

  • 2008-07-30 09:22:27 UTC - 09:22 | Permalink

    Larry, the Jewish Encyclopedia, like any encyclopedia, is nothing more than a series of articles written by specialists in their field. The same authors of those articles write in much more depth in journals and books. Their encyclopedia contributions are very often introductions or summaries of the current prevailing views of topics. Encyclopedias go through periodic revisions because their information is sometimes found to be inaccurate or outdated. They are not “historical sources”. By historical sources we mean the primary and secondary evidence, the documentation and remains from the times of the events and soon afterwards. Encyclopedia articles are yet one more piece of writing and point of view of one historian among many who write journal articles and books.

    You quoted the JE definition of Minim. And that is a good summary of what it means and how it has been understood by many Jewish writers. But it tells us absolutely nothing about the evidence for the Birkat ha-Minim being being directed at Christians. The JE definition says nothing more than what I said too — that the term is generally thought to have applied to Christians — but there is no evidence that this was the case in the 90’s c.e. of this prayer. The fact that in later generations the terms was sometimes applied to Christians tells us absolutely nothing about the identity of the heretics it apparently addressed in the 90’s. The JE article repeats a common assumption about the Birkat ha-Minim, and it should be recognized that this assumption is a supposition, and is not uniformly accepted by all historians. If you are seeking to know the “facts” then you would get all the arguments about the evidence on all sides and weigh them up for yourself — and examine the evidence for yourself — and not rely on the opinion expressed in just one encyclopedia article as your authority.

    You have not shown my without a shadow of a doubt from non-biblical sources that Jesus was who he said he was. My reply is that the Jewish encyclopedia is not a “historical source”, although it is an essay by a modern historian expressing a widely held (but by no means unanimous) view among other historians. The article cites no evidence for its claims either, but merely makes an assertion without reference to the historical sources to support that claim.

    As for your quoting at length all those passages about the Jews accusing Jesus of blasphemy, there is no need. You surely know I have read them and know them very well. And not one of them says the Jews crucified Jesus. If you want to read a gospel that does describe the Jews crucifying Jesus then look at the Gospel of Peter. There the Jewish king, Herod, is given permission by Pilate to order his fellow Jews to drag Jesus off to crucify him themselves. It is the Jews who mock and beat and crucify Jesus, not the Romans. But the gospels to which you refer say the opposite.

    You also quote a lot from Jewish writings that date centuries after the time of Jesus. Those writings are putting into the mouth of Jesus certain words as part of a narrative to teach readers a certain lesson. One can see the same practice over the centuries where other authors created scenes where Moses or Enoch or Abraham said this or that, yet the texts are clearly very late, and the conversations are clearly the product of a teacher’s imagination. The same was done with Jeschu and other characters from much earlier times in late Jewish writings. There is simply no historical link, no chain of evidence, to support the claim that these conversations really happened in the time they were said to have happened. The mere fact that some Jews say their writings go back to the first century is not evidence that they do. Many people believe mistaken things about their past histories. Historians need to do better than just rely on general opinion.

    I also will protest at your ad hominem against Doherty. I have never seen him express a “tantrum”. If you want to discredit him then quote him or direct me to the evidence for this, and do not insult him with an unsupported sweeping statement like that.

    As for your swipe at me that I have been “led astray by the likes of Doherty”, I remind you that all I have asked for is the historical evidence for various claims. You have only given me encyclopedia quotations that do not cite the actual historical sources for their claims and interpretations, very late Jewish writings, and gospel writings themselves.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-07-30 21:37:55 UTC - 21:37 | Permalink

    And Neil says: “By historical sources we mean the primary and secondary evidence, the documentation and remains from times of the events and soon afterwards.”

    But Neil, you’ve pooh-poohed them all. remember?

    No, Larry. I have pooh-poohed nothing. I have studied the evidence to see what it says, not what people suppose it says, and seek to explain the origins of Christianity accordingly.

    “You have not shown me without a shadow of a doubt from non-Biblical sources that Jesus was who he said he was.”

    Of course I have. It’s called the reality of the world in which you live.

    “You also quote a lot from Jewish writings that date centuries after the time of Jesus.”

    Not so, as we shall see.

    “There is simply no historical link, no chain of evidence, to support the claim that these conversations really happened in the time they were said to have happened. The mere fact that some Jews say their writings go back to the first century is not evidence that they do.”

    You also declare “it is quite plausible that Jews growing up in Christian dominated cultures would absorb — and justify to themselves — the prevailing belief that they had been responsible for the death of one they considered a blasphemer. But that is not evidence that they really were responsible for the death of Jesus. Jews certainly did not keep records going back to enable them to know the facts of anyone they gave a hard time generations earlier.”

    It is not only implausible but impossible. You keep forgetting #2: “They (Pharisees) were the strongest guardians of the religious vitality of the Jewish people. They had the deepest and clearest insight into the meaning of the religion which was based on the Torah, and they had the greatest influence in making the religion effective in the common life…The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees.” Pharisees,Universal Jewish Encyclopedia,p.474

    Pharisees were but one of the Jewish sects in the first century, as ancient historical sources inform us. But to say that even these are immune from normal historical processes of mythmaking is to set them apart from all the normal processes of sociology, anthropology, history, indeed to set them apart from the human race.

    So let’s delve into how the nucleus of Pharisee power moved forward in history as it was documented along the way.

    “The name “tanna” is derived from the Aramaic “teni” or “tena” (“to teach”), and designates in general a teacher of the oral law, and in particular one of the sages of the Mishnah, those teachers of the oral law whose teachings are contained in the Mishnah and in the Baraita. The term was first used in the Gemara to indicate a teacher mentioned in the Mishnah or in a baraita, in contradistinction to the later authorities, the Amoraim. Not all the teachers of the oral law who are mentioned in the Mishnah are called tannaim, however, but only those belonging to the period beginning with the disciples of Shammai and Hillel and ending with the contemporaries of Judah ha-Nasi I. The authorities preceding that period are called “zeḳenim ha-rishonim” (the former elders). In the time of the Amoraim the name “tanna” was given also to one well versed in the Mishnah and the other tannaitic traditions.
    The period of the Tannaim, which lasted about 210 years (10-220 C.E. ), is generally divided by Jewish scholars into five or six sections or generations, the purpose of such division being to show which teachers developed their principal activity contemporaneously. Some of the tannaim, however, were active in more than one generation. The following is an enumeration of the six generations and of the more prominent tannaim respectively belonging to them:
    First Generation (10-80 C.E. ):
    Principal tannaim: the Shammaites (Bet Shammai) and the Hillelites (Bet Hillel), ‘Aḳabya b. Mahalaleel, Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, Ḥanina, chief of the priests (“segan ha-kohanim”), Simeon b. Gamaliel, and Johanan b. Zakkai.
    Second Generation (80-120):
    Principal tannaim: Rabban Gamaliel II. (of Jabneh), Zadok, Dosa b. Harkinas, Eliezer b. Jacob, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, Joshua b. Hananiah, Eleazar b. Azariah, Judah b. Bathyra.
    Third Generation (120-140):
    Principal tannaim: Ṭarfon, Ishmael, Akiba, Johanan b. Nuri, Jose ha-Gelili, Simeon b. Nanos, Judah b. Baba, and Johanan b. Baroḳa. Several of these flourished in the preceding period.
    Fourth Generation:
    This generation extended from the death of Akiba (c. 140) to that of the patriarch Simeon b. Gamaliel (c. 165). The teachers belonging to this generation were: Meïr, Judah b. Ilai, Jose b. Ḥalafta, Simeon b. Yoḥai, Eleazar b. Shammua, Johanan ha-Sandalar, Eleazar b. Jacob, Nehemiah, Joshua b. Ḳarḥa, and the above-mentioned Simeon b. Gamaliel.
    Fifth Generation (165-200):
    Principal tannaim: Nathan ha-Babli, Symmachus, Judah ha-Nasi I., Jose b. Judah, Eleazar b. Simeon, Simeon b. Eleazar.
    Sixth Generation (200-220):
    To this generation belong the contemporaries and disciples of Judah ha-Nasi. They are mentioned in the Tosefta and the Baraita but not in the Mishnah. Their names are: Polemo, Issi b. Judah, Eleazar b. Jose, Ishmael b. Jose, Judah b. Laḳish, Ḥiyya, Aḥa, Abba (Arika). These teachers are termed “semi-tannaim”; and therefore some scholars count only five generations of tannaim. Christian scholars, moreover, count only four generations, reckoning the second and third as one (Strack, “Einleitung in den Talmud,” pp. 77 et seq.).” Tannaim and Amoraim,Jewish Encyclopedia,p.49

    Might I add, these guys were frequently related. They liked to marry each other’s sisters, nieces, aunts, cousins, etc. not to mention fathers passing the baton to sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, etc..

    Now let’s learn about the “father:”

    AKIBA BEN JOSEPH: “Palestinian tanna; born about 50; martyred about 132…father of rabbinical Judaism…the beginning of his years of study would fall about 75-80…the greatest tannaim of the middle of the second century came from Akiba’s school…Convinced of the necessity of a central authority for Judaism, Akiba became a devoted adherent and friend of Gamaliel (II), who aimed at constituting the patriarch the true spiritual chief of the Jews…(to) the desire to disarm Christians–especially Jewish Christians–must also be attributed his wish to emancipate the Jews of the Dispersion from the domination of the Septuagint…used as arguments against the Jews by the Christians…Akiba’s true genius, however, is shown in the work of the Halakah; both his systemization of its traditional material and its further development…it was Akiba who systemized and brought into methodic arrangement the MIshnah, or Halakah codex, the Midrash…Akiba no doubt perceived that the intellectual bond uniting the Jews–far from being allowed to disappear with the destruction of the Jewish state—must be made to draw them closer than before. He pondered the nature of that bond. The Bible could never again fill the place alone; for the Christians also regarded it as divine revelation…Next to the transcendental nature of God, Akiba insists emphatically on the freedom of will…This insistence is in opposition to the Christian doctrine of the sinfulness of man, and apparently controverts his views of divine predestination…But Akiba’s opposition to this genetically Jewish doctrine is probably directed mainly against its Christian correlative, the doctrine of the grace of God contingent upon faith in Christ, and in Baptism.” Jewish Encyclopedia,p.304-307

    In other words, Neil, there was a continuous stream of living Pharisee thought and memory from 10 AD to 220 AD.


    In other words, you have simply failed to delve into the historical documentation that is supposedly the basis of all the above assertions, and failed to show, with historical sources, that the Pharisees were the sole representatives of first century Jewish religion.

    Permit me a simple example to illustrate. Let’s say in 1925, there was an eighty year-old Civil War veteran who told his twenty year-old grandson that he had served with and personally knew Robert E. Lee. In 1985, the now eighty year-old grandson tells his twenty year-old grandson. That’s a span of 120 years of living memory since the Civil War. Now allow me to reiterate:

    BOTTOM-LINE: The Pharisees revamped liturgy in direct reponse to a Jesus at a time when there would have been people still alive who not only would have seen this Jesus but would have known how He died and what, if anything, He died for. These people would have included the Pharisees themselves–particularly Johanan ben Zakkai–because there had been a continuous succession of Pharisee power extending back through Hillel and Shammai.


    “Would have” is not documentary historical evidence that they “did”. You have simply ignored the exact nature of the evidence and insist on claiming that the Birkat ha-minim refers to Christians without any ancient historical evidence to support this claim. And even if it did refer to Christians, you have yet to produce evidence that the Pharisees knew anything about Jesus. The Jewish Encyclopedia is not ancient historical evidence. What is the evidence for the claims made by the JE? Have you examined it for yourself? Or do you simply take the JE as your “authority”?

    To contend that in the second century, the idea of a crucified atoning peasant began appearing on the radar without the complicity of these inbred Tannaim is beyond preposterous. There is way, way too much documented evidence that you have to pooh-pooh to keep this delusion afloat. So my advice is to quit burning your calories on this Jesus didn’t exist business and concentrate full-time on whether He is actually the Son of God. How ’bout it?

    Firstly, you have simply failed to produce a single piece what you call “way too much documented evidence”. You have simply quoted JE assertions and the assertions of very late texts. Secondly, I have no idea where you think I have ever claimed the idea of a crucified atoning peasant began appearing on the radar in the second century. Thirdly, your arguments fail completely to actually address any of the evidence we have surviving from the Second Temple Period through to the second century. You ignore all this evidence in preference for the claims of much later texts.

    You have everything you need right here in #5.

    5. “Thus there is in Scripture a successive spiritualization of the idea of Atonement…In Mosaic ritualism the atoning blood thus actually meant the bringing about of a reunion with God, the restoration of peace between the soul and its Maker…The cessation of sacrifice, in consequence of the destruction of the Temple, came, therefore, as a shock to the people. It seemed to deprive them of the divine Atonement… Hence a large number of the Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood “shed for many for the remission of sins” or in Jesus as “the Lamb of God”…R. Akiba, in direct opposition to the Christian Atonement by the blood of Jesus, addressed his brethren thus:…”As the fountain of water purifies the unclean, so does God purify Israel” (Yoma 8:9)…This doctrine, which does away with all mediatorship of either saint, high priest, or savior, became the leading idea of the Jewish Atonement.” Atonement, Jewish Encyclopedia,p.275,276,278

    Here’s a tester for you. In the Gospels, who kills Jesus?

    A. The Romans?
    B. Pharisees/Sadducees?
    C. Am ha-aretz?
    D. God?
    E. All the above?

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-08-01 04:31:40 UTC - 04:31 | Permalink

    Neil, so far I’ve given you wonderful, mind-expanding perspective from:

    Jewish Encyclopedia
    Universal Jewish Encyclopedia
    Encyclopedia Britannica,XV
    Encyclopaedia Judaica
    Jesus in the Talmud
    Hilkhot Melakhim
    The Jewish Utopia
    Encyclopaedia Britannica,XI

    They represent the summation of hundreds of the finest scholars in the world–particularly Jewish–based on thousands of hours of study from innumerable sources. I assure you that nowhere in these sources–plus many more–does anyone even hint that Jesus didn’t exist–quite the contrary. Their entirety paints a vivid portrait.

    But you’re saying that Rabbi Michael Higger, Peter Schafer, Maimonides, the Jews on the Editorial Boards of the Jewish Encyclopedia, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, and the Encyclopaedia Judaica misinterpreted every known piece of existing data as bad, if not worse, than Josh McDowell. Wow. There’s a bigger delusion going on here than I thought.

    Help me understand this. If both Jews and Christians are wrong and you’re not sure, then aren’t we humans like the Gadarene swine stampeding toward a cliff?

    For example, in its essay on God, the Encyclopaedia Judaica states: “What is peculiarly Jewish is not religion at all, but only divine legislation. God’s revealed law, which binds and obligates the Jewish people alone and is the necessary condition of their salvation. True religion, on the other hand, is universal. God has made known to all men, through reason, the essential and eternal truths about His nature and the world He created.”

    Where exactly does this authority for divine legislation come from?

    By the way, thanks for not throwing a tantrum.

    Addendum: “You guys are all the same. So naive. And ignorant of most of the facts…Don’t waste my time any further.” Doherty to Chasteen,October 31,2006

  • 2008-08-02 19:20:42 UTC - 19:20 | Permalink

    No Larry, I am saying “Think for yourself”. Look at the evidence from the period under discussion for yourself. Do your own research.

    Why do you accept the authority of a single author who wrote an encyclopedia article and ignore the whole field of scholarly debate and the evidence under discussion?

    Just because a Jewish encyclopedia conforms to a standard mainstream view, just as the Catholic encyclopedia also conforms to a standard mainstream view . . . . and so on, does not make them the final authorities for all time on all that can be known about the past.

    Ask yourself why many other scholars propose different views, all presumably using the same evidence. Then check the evidence for yourself. Then question your “authorities” — if they stand the test, fine, if not, also fine. But then you can argue a case, and not simply justify your view because “This Encyclopedic Authority Says This!”

    P.S.
    And I request that you refrain from your dirty ad hominems against Earl Doherty here. Your reference to my not throwing a tantrum stands in stark contrast to my request that you here support your accusation that Doherty threw a tantrum. And by the way, your accusation that I have been led astray by Doherty again demonstrates your own mindset that seems to need some “authority” to do your thinking for you. Had you read much of my blog and of Doherty it would be immediately apparent to you that I differ from Doherty in many, some significant, respects.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-08-03 04:19:35 UTC - 04:19 | Permalink

    Neil, I’ll reiterate, you’re a scholar and a gentleman. But, I’ve skimmed your blog and you remind me of 2 Timothy 3:7 AV: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    As for me, I’m just an am ha-aretz (ignoramus) who made the rash assumption that if he wanted to know anything about Judaism he should check Jew experts. But now you’ve informed me that they can’t be trusted to know what they’re talking about. My impression is that you obfuscate not elucidate but tell you what.

    Let’s have some fun and debate Birkat ha-Minim. You give me all your reasoning and cite your sources and I’ll counter with my Jew experts who have each done exactly what you claim I should do for myself. How does that sound?

    Meanwhile, as an atheist who has “thought for himself,” surely you can answer this simple question:

    In its essay on God, the Encyclopaedia Judaica states: “What is peculiarly Jewish is not religion at all, but only divine legislation. God’s revealed law, which binds and obligates the Jewish people alone and is the necessary condition of their salvation. True religion, on the other hand, is universal. God has made known to all men, through reason, the essential and eternal truths about His nature and the world He created.”

    Where exactly does this authority for divine legislation come from?

    Uh-oh. While refraining from making snide cracks about Earl Doherty I almost forgot to ask, do you read and write German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic?

  • 2008-08-03 15:29:59 UTC - 15:29 | Permalink

    Larry, you like to use the phrase “gentleman and scholar”. I do not think you are either. I have explained my reasons re “scholar” in my last comment. As for “gentleman”, you disqualify yourself by your repeatedly implied “snide crack” asides at Earl Doherty, as well as for your refusal to cite, as requested, your evidence for your crude remarks about him.

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-08-03 20:01:17 UTC - 20:01 | Permalink

    Addendum: “You guys are all the same. So naive. And ignorant of most of the facts…Don’t waste my time any further.” Doherty to Chasteen,October 31,2006

    Neil, you seem to be suffering from cognitive dissonance. I hope you’re not fumbling around looking for the exit because I’m ready to debate Birkat ha-Minim mano y mano. Do you have anything–ANYTHING–of substance from your end? Because all I’ve gotten so far is denial and flimflam. Parroting “Think for yourself” is not evidence that you’re thinking for yourself.

    C’mon, here’s a softball for you: Where exactly does authority for divine legislation come from?

  • Larry Chasteen
    2008-08-08 04:51:57 UTC - 04:51 | Permalink

    I will miss you, Neil.

    Oh sure, we could have discussed the Bethany Tombs, the first century portrait of Jesus in the Roman catacombs and why the Testimonium Flavium hub bub is a ruse to divert attention from Josephus’ Second Coming passage.

    But you know, I built my library around the three major Jewish encyclopedias because they were drafted by some of the most erudite Jews who ever lived. Collectively, these scholars could read and write German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic. Consequently, they could study the ancient texts in the great libraries of Israel, Europe, and the United States. They could dialogue to reach a consensus about every aspect of Jewish history and religion. The result: Jesus’ story is interwoven through out all forty-eight volumes from an astounding variety of perspectives. But predictably, these Jews also agreed that when it comes to Jesus, they were hostile witnesses. They preferred that He never existed but magnanimously agreed that He did.

    With this in mind, I figured guys like you would have difficulty crucifying my sources (Pun intended.) and, sure enough, in dialogue after dialogue you guys always bail out. So almost two years ago I drafted a profile. I haven’t changed a word and, as you can see below, you generally conform.

    -Raised in a loving Southern Baptist home.
    -Indoctrinated by the fear of hell.
    -Doubts the existence of God.
    -Becomes rational materialist.
    -Determines to enlighten the world about the evil, bloodthirsty, make-believe God.
    -Believes humans can save themselves from self-destruction.
    -Well-read and uses standard atheist canards.
    -Uses derash Bible exegesis.
    -Waffles on Jesus’ existence.
    -Truth outside a science lab is subjective, a matter of opinion.
    -Confesses ignorance of true economics.
    -Recoils at “tinfoil hat” New World Order.
    -Denigrates “ancient” Jew’s God but quick to label someone else as anti-semite.
    -Uses Nazi Germany analogies.
    -Likes to bluster and bully.
    -Unless personally convinced, any argument is false.
    -Requires constant support, approval of other atheists.

    Now that you’ve taught me to think for myself, here’s what I think: Since you won’t answer the question “Where did authority for divine legislation come from?” and you’ve conceded that your mission is “to negative all that was superhuman in the popular conception of the Messiah” to advance the New World Order, this makes you yourself living proof of His existence and confirmation of who He says He is.

  • 2008-08-08 17:18:41 UTC - 17:18 | Permalink

    But you know, I built my library around the three major Jewish encyclopedias because they were drafted by some of the most erudite Jews who ever lived. Collectively, these scholars could read and write German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic. Consequently, they could study the ancient texts in the great libraries of Israel, Europe, and the United States. They could dialogue to reach a consensus about every aspect of Jewish history and religion. The result: Jesus’ story is interwoven through out all forty-eight volumes from an astounding variety of perspectives. But predictably, these Jews also agreed that when it comes to Jesus, they were hostile witnesses. They preferred that He never existed but magnanimously agreed that He did.

    Why should these scholars be any more authoritative than any other scholars who have specialized in the same areas?

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