How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
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12-06-2017, 12:15 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 12:21 PM by RocketSurgeon76.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
I think the case is pretty well made (others disagree) that there was a Jesus, that he had a brother James, and that Paul met some of the followers of Jesus. That said, the writings of Paul do not match the later version of Jesus we get in the Gospels, and there is absolutely no way the Gospel stories are more than add-ons to a base narrative of the Galilean apocalyptic preacher whose followers later set about embellishing his story with such obvious fervor. It may help you to make a timeline of when each of the books was written, from Paul's early work to the last Gospel (John), and look at how the description changes... think of it by placing "now" as when John was written (c. 100 C.E.), and then look back at the other dates in terms of "how many years ago was this?" If you place John at now, you have Paul's work being literally 60 years prior, or written in the 1950s, and the earliest Gospel being halfway between the two dates. That's a gap of at least 10 and likely 20 years between the death of Jesus and the writings by Paul... and another three decades before the first of the Gospels (Mark) was cobbled together out of bits of stories being passed around about Jesus. Think that's not enough time for a message to mutate?

Make a chart, and look at the claims being made at each date. When you compare the earliest claims to the latest, you will see just how much. That's not even counting later editions of the Gospels-- most scholars agree that John, for instance, went through two and possibly three rewrites to reach its current form.

Look at some of Minimalists's or GoodWithoutGod's posts about how Paul did not speak of a resurrection, but of being raised up-- "Exalted", to see what I mean. If you think of it in Buddhist terms, of one attaining Buddha status by being perfectly holy and thus achieving Enlightenment and Nirvana, you will see why the difference is more than a subtle one. However, when you combined the story out of Galilee with the mythologies (and thus expectations) of the people of Greece/Turkey, where the Christian cult took off, you'll see why the elements from Greek mythology-- of virgin birth, prophetic predictions, and magical powers-- took root in the story.

It's like a game of Telephone (or Rumor, depending on where you're from), where the story of the Galilean preacher is told and re-told across numerous cities and several provinces/nations, adding little bits with each retelling, until you go from a guy who spoke out against violence and the barbarity of Hebrew culture (Jesus) and spoke of the great conflict he (and anyone with their eyes open at the time) saw coming, against the new Roman invaders... to a magic man who was the literal mammalian male offspring of a deity.

Essentially, Christianity is a cross-pollination of Greek and Hebrew cultures, which flourished and evolved in the wake of the diaspora (which is why Paul, a Jew, was in Tarsus, in Turkey, not in Jerusalem, for instance) following the Roman invasion and then especially after the near-genocidal result of the Zealots' rebellion against Rome.

When you see it in context, it becomes clear that the claims of the literalists don't really hold water. The irony is that, when you read Paul in context, he is the one who shows us the Jesus of today is not the apocalyptic rabbi of Galilee.

I apologize if this explanation is a bit rambling and convoluted.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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12-06-2017, 12:30 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 11:52 AM)seoq Wrote:  I guess it might help to point out that I have spent a lot of time thinking about Christian theology and spent a lot of time around fundamentalist Christians. While some others may be able to quickly discern for themselves what is believable and what is not, for me it is a little bit more complicated. I'm still in the process of figuring things out for myself.

It may sound harsh but it's an attempt to throw some cold water over the internet. Any time you start with "let's assume..." you are leaving yourself wide open to arriving at an unjustified conclusion. Assumptions can be useful but you always have to remember that they are at the base of your argument and until there is evidence to support them your argument is unstable.

If we assume Paul really believed AND we assume that he really talked to people who knew Jesus AND we assume that they told him what they believed AND we assume that they believed for what they considered good reasons AND we assume that Paul was threatened for his beliefs then we can say that Paul preached that Jesus was resurrected/ascended/exalted/whatever. So what? Does that tell you what actually happened or what some people claim to believe actually happened?

The other thing about it is that if the claim was that the disciples had lunch or that Jesus liked dogs then I'd be willing to extend a lot more benefit of the doubt and might even accept it. If the claim is that a god incarnated in human form in order to commit a form of suicide to appease himself and then revived himself I'm afraid a bunch of badly translated and extensively revised stories don't quite cut it.

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12-06-2017, 12:53 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 12:30 PM)unfogged Wrote:  It may sound harsh but it's an attempt to throw some cold water over the internet. Any time you start with "let's assume..." you are leaving yourself wide open to arriving at an unjustified conclusion. Assumptions can be useful but you always have to remember that they are at the base of your argument and until there is evidence to support them your argument is unstable.

If we assume Paul really believed AND we assume that he really talked to people who knew Jesus AND we assume that they told him what they believed AND we assume that they believed for what they considered good reasons AND we assume that Paul was threatened for his beliefs then we can say that Paul preached that Jesus was resurrected/ascended/exalted/whatever. So what? Does that tell you what actually happened or what some people claim to believe actually happened?

The other thing about it is that if the claim was that the disciples had lunch or that Jesus liked dogs then I'd be willing to extend a lot more benefit of the doubt and might even accept it. If the claim is that a god incarnated in human form in order to commit a form of suicide to appease himself and then revived himself I'm afraid a bunch of badly translated and extensively revised stories don't quite cut it.

So Paul's claim to have known people who knew Jesus and the biblical idea that he built the church with those people are just works of literature, in your opinion?
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12-06-2017, 01:05 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 11:37 AM)seoq Wrote:  I'm actually not trying to convince anyone. I just want to see what arguments can be formed against the things I'm wondering about.

If you "wonder about" then you dont seem to know, and no counterargument is needed at all! "I do not know" is a perfectly good position about something. Its the starting point for figuring out to actually know it in the future.

So, what is it? You "wonder", aka. "i dont know"? If so: Is this your (common theist) problem, you cant admit to not know and you need to make something up (assume) that you need to argue against (or need us to argue against)? Again, you dont need to assume another starting position than "i dont know, and i am going to try and figure out now".

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12-06-2017, 01:06 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 01:16 PM by mordant.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 10:50 AM)seoq Wrote:  Given that he knew people who knew Jesus first hand / people who allegedly witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Also that he spent years of his life preaching the gospel
message while under persecution and threat of death. That doesn't sound like the kind of life someone chooses when making up a religion, it really seems to me that he believed what he was preaching. I mean why risk so much and labor so much if it was all made up or some sort of conspiracy?

My thoughts about Paul really have me considering things, so I'm making this thread in the hopes that you guys have strong explanations, just so that I can see what logic is left standing.
Read the NT in rough chronological order, which means you read Paul's earliest epistles first, and PRETEND THE GOSPELS DON'T EXIST, because for Paul's initial readers, they didn't -- they came decades later.

You mention, accurately, that Paul lived at a time when there should be eyewitnesses of Jesus' life and ministry. So, logically, Paul would appeal to these as a strong testimony to the veracity of his statements. Oh, but wait ... what does he ACTUALLY do to substantiate his claims? He claims he was caught up into heaven and given a vision personally from god. Seems quite ... odd that he would claim "god told me" (yeah, SURE) when he could have much more powerfully appealed to eyewitnesses. Which means either his teachings were at odds with the eyewitnesses in important ways, or there WERE no eyewitnesses.

Just as an aside, by his own confession, Paul's relationship with Peter and other supposed eyewitnesses was prickly at best.

Finally .. what sort of Jesus does Paul's writing, BY THEMSELVES, attest to? A living, breathing god-man who came to earth and walked among us? Or a celestial being "seated in the heavenlies"? Yep -- the latter.

The gospels represent a more evolved mythos that's very much at odds with Paul's teaching and ministry, in this and other ways. It's just that it's papered over by the order in which the canon of scripture was eventually published -- the Gospels are read by everyone first, and then Paul's teachings are interpreted AS IF the gospels had already been there to establish orthodoxy. When Paul talks about a spiritual, heavenly Jesus, people assume he's talking about how Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father AFTER having come to earth, died, buried, raised from the dead, and gone back to heaven as described in the gospels. But in reality ... that's all an artifact of the gospels being used to lay a foundation of assumptions. At the time Paul wrote, he was writing about a completely different Jesus than the authors of the gospels wrote about ... for completely different reasons and motivations. In fact, I wonder if Paul wasn't the originator of (or at least an early promoter of) what eventually was known as the gnostic heresy.

A minority of Christians, it should be pointed out, see this dichotomy and reject the writings of Paul as Holy Writ, so I'm not the only one troubled by how little Paul actually "adds" to the Jesus story.

I'll let others dispense with the point of whether Paul's willingness to die for the cause (even assuming that actually happened) is proof of anything.

EDIT: Actually no one seems to have addressed that so I'll toss it in.

Sometime in the next 30 days I can guarantee you that some Islamic extremist will give his life as a suicide bomber in the belief that it will curry favor with god and grant him eternal bliss with a large quantity of virgins at his disposal. Does this prove the truth of his beliefs? I mean, you wouldn't die for something that's false? WOULD you?

Sometime in the next 30 days most likely some member of some armed services will give his life for his country in some conflict somewhere. Does this not prove that his country's policies and open / unsettled scores with rival countries or organizations are just and righteous? After all, he wouldn't give his life for something that wasn't just or righteous? WOULD he?

Jim Jones took his life along with a huge number of his followers many years ago ... does this not prove that there was truth in the Jim Jones cult? After all, large numbers of people wouldn't obediently follow Jim Jones in drinking poison to kill themselves unless what he taught was really true ... WOULD they?

Shall I continue, or did you take my point? People give their lives all the time for stupid things.
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12-06-2017, 01:18 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 01:33 PM by seoq.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 01:05 PM)Deesse23 Wrote:  If you "wonder about" then you dont seem to know, and no counterargument is needed at all! "I do not know" is a perfectly good position about something. Its the starting point for figuring out to actually know it in the future.

So, what is it? You "wonder", aka. "i dont know"? If so: Is this your (common theist) problem, you cant admit to not know and you need to make something up (assume) that you need to argue against (or need us to argue against)? Again, you dont need to assume another starting position than "i dont know, and i am going to try and figure out now".

I honestly don't know if Paul existed or any of the things he said were true. I'm simply aware of these things and I'm bringing them up in a way that lets you guys weigh in with your opinions, so that I can see where the logic of everything lays and hopefully that allows me to come to some sort of conclusion. I'm kind of sick and tired of having to continuously go over this in my head (due to my religious past and upbringing) and Paul's testimony stands out to me as one of the strongest "proofs" (if you will) of the Jesus story. Like why would someone take the testimony of other people and allow it to so utterly consume them that they spent the rest of their life preaching it? They must have believed the testimony, and those who gave it must have believed it too to spend their life doing the same thing. This is where I'm at right now.

Edit: Either that or there's some sort of con happening somewhere, for whatever reason.

(12-06-2017 01:06 PM)mordant Wrote:  Shall I continue, or did you take my point? People give their lives all the time for stupid things.

No, I get what you're saying.
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12-06-2017, 01:31 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 03:03 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 12:53 PM)seoq Wrote:  So Paul's claim to have known people who knew Jesus and the biblical idea that he built the church with those people are just works of literature, in your opinion?

There is no such thing as a "biblical idea". There are ideas in some of the texts that eventually were non-unanimously VOTED into what became the canon. There are many ideas in other texts left out of the canon. Timothy said "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17. There was no canon then, so I guess that means all devotional material is what he was talking about.

Many Christians were (also still) Jews for many decades, if not centuries. At the end of the First Century, the Jewish High Priest required the Expulsion Curses be read in the synagogues, as the members of "The Way" (subsect) ie Christians were saying that Jesus WAS the messiah, even though he never got any of the jobs done, a messiah was supposed to do, and Jews felt they were causing trouble. At the end of the 4th Century, 400 CE, St. John Chrysostom, in his Christmas sermon, told his Constantinople congregation, (where he was a bishop) to STOP going to the synagogue. In light of these facts, whatever "built the church" means, it certainly doesn't mean what most people think it means. There was no "clear separation" for a long long time.

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12-06-2017, 01:31 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 10:50 AM)seoq Wrote:  Given that he knew people who knew Jesus first hand / people who allegedly witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Also that he spent years of his life preaching the gospel
message while under persecution and threat of death. That doesn't sound like the kind of life someone chooses when making up a religion, it really seems to me that he believed what he was preaching. I mean why risk so much and labor so much if it was all made up or some sort of conspiracy?

My thoughts about Paul really have me considering things, so I'm making this thread in the hopes that you guys have strong explanations, just so that I can see what logic is left standing.

It does not add any credibility at all. The Bible under wrights all of it's "truths" with the primacy of consciousness. In so doing it contradicts itself and renders itself irretrievable invalid as a source of knowledge. You must consider this when reading the Bible. It should be front and center in your mind when considering any claim. Does this claim violate the primacy of existence? If so then it's incompatible with truth.

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12-06-2017, 01:33 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 01:18 PM)seoq Wrote:  Paul's testimony stands out to me as one of the strongest "proofs" (if you will) of the Jesus story.
Have you considered the epilepsy theory? It's seriously worth a look.

(12-06-2017 01:18 PM)seoq Wrote:  Like why would someone take the testimony of other people and allow it to so utterly consume them that they spent the rest of their life preaching it? They must have believed the testimony, and those who gave it must have believed it too to spend their life doing the same thing. This is where I'm at right now.
Suicide bombers - an extreme example, I know, but the gist of the argument holds up - also believe, 100%, that what they're doing is in accordance with Allah's will. Does that make their belief accurate?

The Heaven's Gate suicide cult believed Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles.

The Branch Davidians believed David Koresh.

The fact that you're having a hard time believing that people would live their lives based on a lie is a fundamental logical fallacy: it's called the argument from incredulity.

What you're experiencing, by the way, isn't new. It's disconcerting, yes, but it's nothing that many of us haven't experienced before. I got through it, so did many others here. You will too.
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12-06-2017, 01:36 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 10:50 AM)seoq Wrote:  Given that he knew people who knew Jesus first hand / people who allegedly witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Also that he spent years of his life preaching the gospel
message while under persecution and threat of death. That doesn't sound like the kind of life someone chooses when making up a religion, it really seems to me that he believed what he was preaching. I mean why risk so much and labor so much if it was all made up or some sort of conspiracy?

My thoughts about Paul really have me considering things, so I'm making this thread in the hopes that you guys have strong explanations, just so that I can see what logic is left standing.

How do you know any of that is true?

You can interview 1000's of people that claim to have been abducted by aliens. Most of them sincerely believe what they are telling you. These are people alive today, that you can ask direct questions, even use a lie detector if you want.

Do you believe they are imparting factual accounts? To clarify, I am not saying they are lying, only that they may be mistaken about their experiences.

Why, when stories about magic god-men are written 1000's of years ago, by unknown authors, who weren't eye witnesses, somehow gain credibility?
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