What Paul Actually Said

docphin5

Well-known member
Christian orthodoxy claims that Paul actually saw and talked to a reassembled human corpse who had been dead for three solar days. But the evidence says otherwise. I just want to briefly provide the evidence for an alternative explanation to what orthodoxy claims Paul said.

For the record, I believe Paul and the apostles perceived the Christ as summing up all things (Ephesians 1:10) which includes not only material things, e.g., stars/matter/flesh/body, but things inside us as well, e.g. soul and spirit. Paul never mentions a man named Jesus from Nazareth.

It is those who came after Paul who wrote the Gospel stories in the genre of scriptural "histiography" for the purpose of canonizing the teachings of Paul (Dykstra, "Mark, Canonizer of Paul"). What most of Christian orthodoxy does not know or has not learned is that the imperial church of the fourth century (the Roman church) imposed upon the world a literal meaning of the Gospels, under threat of exile, imprisonment, etc., when they were understood by gnostic Christians as holding a secret meaning. If Dykstra is right then the gnostics knew the Gospels canonized Paul's teachings found in his letters which the gnostics held. This is important because the statements of Paul that we are about to read are in fact dealing with gnostic beliefs documented and available for review, thanks to the discovery of gnostic texts, to include the Nag Hammadi library. With that said let us begin to analyze What Paul Actually Said.

1 Corinthians 15:8

(DBT): and last of all, as to an abortion (“ektromati”), he [Christ] appeared to me [Paul] also.

ektróma: untimely birth, miscarriage
Original Word: ἔκτρωμα, ατος, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Transliteration: ektróma
Phonetic Spelling: (ek'-tro-mah)
Definition: untimely birth, miscarriage
Usage: (strictly: a lifeless abortion) an untimely birth.

This teaching that Christ appeared as an abortion comes directly from gnostic beliefs about cosmogenesis. Specifically, that lifeless matter is the result of Sophia's division at the beginning of creation. The fallen Sophia results in matter and the celestial Sophia remains in heaven until such a time she descends to earth. Sophia in Greek means Wisdom who is associated with Christ. Paul taught that Christ and Sophia were the same thing: "Christ the power of God and the Sophia (Greek: Wisdom) of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). Thus to Paul, lifeless matter in the beginning was perceived as an abortion, just like an abortion is lifeless when it is born. Simply, Christ became lifeless when our cosmos began, like an abortion at its beginning.

Here are two references supporting the gnostic belief that Christ or Sophia were perceived as an abortion associated with lifeless matter. There are more.

HIPPOLYTUS' ACCOUNT OF ONE OF THE VARIANTS OF THE SOPHIA-MYTHUS.
The Abortion.

And thus ignorance arising in the pleroma owing to Wisdom, and formlessness through the creature of Wisdom, tumult arose in the pleroma [from fear] lest the creations of the aeons should in like manner become formless and imperfect, and destruction in no long time seize on the Aeons [themselves]. Accordingly they all betook themselves to praying the Father to put an end to Wisdom's grieving, for she was bewailing and groaning because of the 'abortion' which she had produced by herself--for thus they call it.

And so the Father, taking pity on the tears of Wisdom and giving ear to the prayers of the æons, gives order for an additional emanation. For He did not Himself emanate, says the writer, but Mind-and-Truth emanated Christ-and-Holy-Spirit for the enforming and elimination of the abortion, and the relief and appeasing of the complaints of Wisdom. Thus with Christ-and-Holy-Spirit there are thirty Aeons".



Here is another example from Wikipedia on Valentiniasm
(Valentinus was the most well-known gnostic of the 1-3rd centuries claiming descent from Paul)

In Valentinianism, Sophia always stands absolutely at the center of the system,...
Sophia is the youngest of the Aeons. Observing the multitude of Aeons and the power of begetting them, she hurries back into the depth of the Father, and seeks to emulate him by producing offspring without conjugal intercourse, but only projects an abortion, a formless substance. Upon this she is cast out of Pleroma and into the primal sub-stratum of matter.
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
Galatians 1:1

(DBT): O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you; to whom, as before your very eyes, Jesus Christ has been portrayed (“proegrapha”), crucified

pro-graphó: to write before
Original Word: προγράφω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: prographó
Phonetic Spelling: (prog-raf'-o)
Definition: to write before
Usage: (a) I write previously (aforetime); I write above (already), (b) I depict or portray openly, (c) I designate beforehand.

The etymology of the word “pro-graph” is as follows:
pro: before
Original Word: πρό
Part of Speech: Preposition
Transliteration: pro
Phonetic Spelling: (pro)
Definition: before
Usage: (a) of place: before, in front of, (b) of time: before, earlier than.

graphó: to write
Original Word: γράφω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: graphó
Phonetic Spelling: (graf'-o)
Definition: to write
Usage: I write; pass: it is written, it stands written (in the scriptures).

To Paul the crucified Christ has already been written down for everyone to see. He uses the same word when he writes,
“For whatever was written (“proegrapha”) in former days was written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4).
Paul is not referring to the Gospels because they had not been written yet. He is referring to the Tanakh. With that in mind Paul then goes on to reference Deuteronomy 21:22-23 when Paul writes Galatians 3:13.

Galatians 3:13Deuteronomy 21:22-23
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, …for a hanged man is cursed by God.

So where in the Tanakh is Christ portrayed as shamed and killed (i.e., “crucified”) by a tree? Paul tells us, it is the “first Adam” who is a type for Christ (Romans 5:14). Therefore, the portrayal of Christ crucified “before your very eyes” of Paul’s disciples is the portrayal written down previously in the Tanakh in the very first chapters of Genesis. Simply, Christ died at the beginning of our cosmos.

Are there other references in the New Testament for a Christ dying at the beginning of our cosmos? Indeed there is.
(KJV, Revelation 13:8) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

For those who do not see the connection between the word "crucify" and the word "hung" there is this:

stauroó: to fence with stakes, to crucify
Original Word: σταυρόω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: stauroó
Phonetic Spelling: (stow-ro'-o)
Definition: to fence with stakes, to crucify

Thayler's Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 4717: σταυρόω
properly: <snip> for תָּלָה, to hang

Adam's shame and death by a tree was to be hung on a tree or "crucified".
 
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The Pixie

Well-known member
What is your position of Paul's life? Do you think he was previously a Pharisee? Do you think the events in Acts on the Road to Damascus happened in any way?
 

docphin5

Well-known member
What is your position of Paul's life? Do you think he was previously a Pharisee? Do you think the events in Acts on the Road to Damascus happened in any way?
I believe what Paul said in his authentic letters. Many scholars agree that seven of his letters are authentic. Based on the Paul's own words I believe that:

1) Paul was a Pharisee before converting to "The Way' identified as the Essenes, the third sect of Judaism. He ended up becoming their leader, although, he may have had a falling out with other leaders in the group, to include, James and Cephas (more to come). The main distinction between the Essenes and Paul is that the Essenes thought the Messiah would physically deliver them from Roman occupation. They also Judaized. Otherwise the Essenes allegorized scripture, they ritually bathed daily (baptized?), they repudiated animal sacrifice, they had a dualistic view about light versus dark (like the gnostics).

2) I believe that Paul on his way to the enclave at Qumran, which the Essenes called "Damascus" to arrest members of their sect, he was thinking about what they taught, and somewhere on that long winding road, it clicked for him. The light went on --in his mind. And in Paul's own words, "he who had set me apart before I was born,...was pleased to reveal his Son IN me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1:16). Paul in his own words goes on to spend three years in the desert, which happens to be the prerequisite time for initiates to become official members of the Essenes.

a) It would have been absurd for the religious police in Jerusalem to issue arrest warrants for Jews in a neighboring country as the Acts of the Apostles implies. It makes a lot more sense that "Damascus" was the enclave at Qumran occupied by the Essenes who, in fact, called their community "Damascus". Apparently the orthodoxy did not want us to know that Paul's original affiliation was with the Essenes, so a little editing here and some context added there, and...Voila! Paul is now orthodox.
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
Galatians 1:19

(ESV): But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother (“adelphon”).

adelphos: a brother
Original Word: ἀδελφός, οῦ, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: adelphos
Phonetic Spelling: (ad-el-fos')
Definition: a brother
Usage: a brother, member of the same religious community, especially a fellow-Christian.

In Galatians 1:19, the purpose of the addition of the phrase "the Lord's brother", is intended to distinguish the "James" Paul is referring to, from others whose name was also James. IOW there is a James #1 who Paul considers a brother in the community of Christ, in the sense that, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26, 4:6); and there is a James #2 who is Paul’s opponent— Paul wants his readers to know that he considers one James (#1) his brother versus the other James (#2).

For example, the James #2 is likely referred to here as the one who expected Greek converts to Judaize, follow Jewish religious laws and, more specifically, to become circumcised, which Paul denounced has having no benefit whatsoever towards salvation.

And when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars…” (Galatians 2:9)

For before certain men came from James, he [Cephas] was eating with the Gentiles, but when they [James, et.al] came he [Cephas] drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party [James’ party].” For this act of hypocrisy, Paul adds that Paul “opposed him [Cephas] to his face because he [Peter] stood condemned.” (Galatians 2:11-14)

You were running well. WHO hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. I have confidence that you will take no other view, and the ONE who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever HE is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted…I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:7). For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything…” (v 5:6)
 

docphin5

Well-known member
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

...for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,
who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men,


The fact of the matter is that if Paul wrote this then in Paul's mind Jesus is historical. Some scholars make the case that this passage is an interpolation. If it was written by Paul then it is the Jesus-in-the-prophets who Paul has in mind, not the fictional character written in the Gospels. The prophets, were, in fact, killed by their fellow Jews (Hebrews 11:37) when preaching the Gospel of Christ (1 Peter 1:10)

All that has to be shown is that to persecute or kill a messenger of salvation is to kill Jesus himself. For starters we have the words of the fictional Jesus himself whom Dykstra asserts is written in the literary genre of scriptural histiography" to represent Paul in order to canonize Paul's words as authoritative.

Matthew 25:41-46. "Depart from me, you cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...Then they will answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did NOT minister to YOU?" Then he will answer them, saying, "Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to ME."

Paul says he bears actual scars on his body for Jesus because according to Paul, "I no longer live but Christ lives in me".

Galatians 6:17: "From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus"

I know a lot more could be said on this point but I end here for the sake of brevity. Before ending I would add one other interesting point here that one scholar, Weatherly, has noted. This particular wording of "Lord" and "Jesus" is the only time in the entire New Testament where a word, "having killed", is inserted between them, which he asserts is linguistically non-Pauline. For what it is worth, he would render it as, "they killed the Lord in the person of Jesus". I am not a Greek scholar, but to me, it sounds like Paul may be qualifying the killing of the Lord as the person of Jesus found in the prophets.
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
What is your position of Paul's life? Do you think he was previously a Pharisee? Do you think the events in Acts on the Road to Damascus happened in any way?
I believe what Paul said in his authentic letters. Many scholars agree that seven of his letters are authentic. Based on the Paul's own words I believe that:

1) Paul was a Pharisee before converting to "The Way' identified as the Essenes, the third sect of Judaism. He ended up becoming their leader, although, he may have had a falling out with other leaders in the group, to include, James and Cephas (more to come). The main distinction between the Essenes and Paul is that the Essenes thought the Messiah would physically deliver them from Roman occupation. They also Judaized. Otherwise the Essenes allegorized scripture, they ritually bathed daily (baptized?), they repudiated animal sacrifice, they had a dualistic view about light versus dark (like the gnostics).

2) I believe that Paul on his way to the enclave at Qumran, which the Essenes called "Damascus" to arrest members of their sect, he was thinking about what they taught, and somewhere on that long winding road, it clicked for him. The light went on --in his mind. And in Paul's own words, "he who had set me apart before I was born,...was pleased to reveal his Son IN me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1:16). Paul in his own words goes on to spend three years in the desert, which happens to be the prerequisite time for initiates to become official members of the Essenes.

a) It would have been absurd for the religious police in Jerusalem to issue arrest warrants for Jews in a neighboring country as the Acts of the Apostles implies. It makes a lot more sense that "Damascus" was the enclave at Qumran occupied by the Essenes who, in fact, called their community "Damascus". Apparently the orthodoxy did not want us to know that Paul's original affiliation was with the Essenes, so a little editing here and some context added there, and...Voila! Paul is now orthodox.
So here is a scholar who asserts that Paul and James had a falling out over Paul's acceptance of Roman citizenship and submission to Roman authority. Both belonged to the mystic understanding of scripture or Qabalah, that is, the hidden, sacred, or secret gnostic (English: knowledge) meaning of the Law. I have not read the book but I want too.

James would have been the leader of the Jewish Essenes (who hated Roman occupation of Palestine BTW) and Paul would have been the leader of the Gentile converts, who were mostly Roman citizens and/or subjects/slaves, aka, the "gnostic Christians". The major difference would have been that the James' group (see also post #5) would have been more ascetic, more works of the Law, more ritualistic in their way of life, expectant of a Messiah who would overthrow Roman oppression; whereas, Paul's group would have been less ascetic, no works of the Law, and more personal acts of righteousness, more inward contemplation of the good, secret, El, "true God", and expectant of an inner Messiah who would overcome death itself.

"In 60 C.E., when incoming procurator Festus indicated that he was willing to hand Paul over to the Sanhedrin for trial, Paul declared himself a Roman citizen and demanded trial before Nero."

"That Paul was not born a Roman citizen is certain. Most likely he was granted denization papers about 48 CE by Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, whom Paul converted to Christianity and whose name he thereafter adopted (Acts 13:6-12). Paul's prudence in concealing his Roman status for a decade was confirmed by the consequences of his enforced revelation. Jacob [James] had barely tolerated Paul to begin with. At the news that Paul had accepted citizenship from the hated occupying power, Jacob in effect excommunicated him. Envoys were sent from Jerusalem to convert all of Paul's Christian communities to Nazirite Judaism. All cooperation between the Nazirites and Paul's gentile followers ceased, and the way was open for a Christian (John Markos was a Nazirite) to write the Gospel of Mark (as it was later called), which all but repudiated Jesus' Jewishness."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus
 
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Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
Christian orthodoxy claims that Paul actually saw and talked to a reassembled human corpse who had been dead for three solar days. But the evidence says otherwise. I just want to briefly provide the evidence for an alternative explanation to what orthodoxy claims Paul said.
I think this kind of analysis is really cool - but it might be meant for a Christian audience. On the atheist forum we have not established that Paul existed or verified that anything written in the Gospels actually happened. So it seems odd to discuss the nuance in the translation when we have not established if Paul is anything more than an ancient story.

Its like debating the color of the living room before the house is built :)

How can we know that anything written in Paul is true? How can we know if anything written in The Koran or the Book of Mormon is true? I think those are the atheist questions.

If I am out of line I apologize :)
 

docphin5

Well-known member
I think this kind of analysis is really cool - but it might be meant for a Christian audience. On the atheist forum we have not established that Paul existed or verified that anything written in the Gospels actually happened. So it seems odd to discuss the nuance in the translation when we have not established if Paul is anything more than an ancient story.

Its like debating the color of the living room before the house is built :)

How can we know that anything written in Paul is true? How can we know if anything written in The Koran or the Book of Mormon is true? I think those are the atheist questions.

If I am out of line I apologize :)
Yeah, I consider you out of line because there are secular scholars who don't deny the existence of Paul. They consider seven of his letters authentic. So I do mind that you don't want to discuss actual history in the secular forums. Should we exclude discussing what Greek, Roman, Italian, or American philosophers and scholars wrote about God? Of course not, as long as it is historical, evidence-based, and reasonable, and I think you would agree.

For clarity, you will notice that my analysis of what Paul wrote reflects scholarly analysis that precludes myths and superstitions. IOW, the analysis presented supports a secular understanding of what Paul wrote. In fact, it overturns the mythical solitary Jesus if you pay close attention. Thus, you SHOULD be in favor of it because it supports your insistence for evidence about God (versus relying upon superstitions and myths).
 
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Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
Yeah, I consider you out of line because there are secular scholars who don't deny the existence of Paul.
That is not proof of anything. Its an appeal to authority. There are many scholars that question if any of the disciples, including Jesus, even exited since we have zero direct proof.
They consider seven of his letters authentic. So I do mind that you don't want to discuss actual history in the secular forums. Should we exclude discussing what Greek, Roman, Italian, or American philosophers and scholars wrote about God? Of course not and I think you would agree.
Ok - I get that.
For clarity, you will notice that my analysis of what Paul wrote reflects scholarly analysis that precludes myths and superstitions. IOW, the analysis presented supports a secular understanding of what Paul wrote. It overturns the mythical Jesus if you pay close attention. Thus, you SHOULD be in favor of it because it supports your insistence for evidence about God (versus relying upon superstitions and myths).
I understand - thank you.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
That is not proof of anything. Its an appeal to authority. There are many scholars that question if any of the disciples, including Jesus, even exited since we have zero direct proof.
I think you are conflating the mythical stories of a the solitary Jesus of the Gospels (who mythically walked on water, raised himself from the dead, etc.) WITH an actual living human, namely, Paul who actually founded churches in Europe and wrote letters to them in order to encourage them. You are lumping myth with reality and rejecting both.

My position is that we are never going to know the meaning of the myths until we return to what the myths meant to people like Paul, and his students. Would that not be worthy goal of yours, to know if the myths somehow pertain to our very existence?

I actually think Paul was expounding the Greek/Egyptian myths in his letters and after his death, Paul's followers rewrote them ("scriptural histiography") into the Christian myths found in the GoMark with Jesus-in-Paul as the anchor (Dykstra, "Mark, Canonizer of Paul"). All of this happened over a few hundred years, if not thousands of years, and we tend to condense it all into a short time and end up thinking (as Christian orthodoxy planned for us to think) that Paul was writing about the solitary Jesus in the Gospels. He wasn't. He was actually writing about the inner Christ, --the inner Christ of the patriarchs, the inner Christ of the prophets, "the unknown God" of the Greeks, the inner Christ of Paul, the inner Christ of us, the Christ in everything, for he is "the sum" of everything, according to Paul (Ephesians 1:10).
 
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The Pixie

Well-known member
So here is a scholar who asserts that Paul and James had a falling out over Paul's acceptance of Roman citizenship and submission to Roman authority.
I think that that is pretty certain; there are all sorts of hints in the NT.

James would have been the leader of the Jewish Essenes (who hated Roman occupation of Palestine BTW) and Paul would have been the leader of the Gentile converts, who were mostly Roman citizens and/or subjects/slaves, aka, the "gnostic Christians". The major difference would have been that the James' group (see also post #5) would have been more ascetic, more works of the Law, more ritualistic in their way of life, expectant of a Messiah who would overthrow Roman oppression; whereas, Paul's group would have been less ascetic, no works of the Law, and more personal acts of righteousness, more inward contemplation of the good, secret, El, "true God", and expectant of an inner Messiah who would overcome death itself.
I largely agree here too, except about James being leader of the Essenes. I would certainly say he was head of the Jewish Christians, but not Essenes However, I agree with what you say of his group, whoever they were.

"In 60 C.E., when incoming procurator Festus indicated that he was willing to hand Paul over to the Sanhedrin for trial, Paul declared himself a Roman citizen and demanded trial before Nero."

"That Paul was not born a Roman citizen is certain. Most likely he was granted denization papers about 48 CE by Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, whom Paul converted to Christianity and whose name he thereafter adopted (Acts 13:6-12). Paul's prudence in concealing his Roman status for a decade was confirmed by the consequences of his enforced revelation. Jacob [James] had barely tolerated Paul to begin with. At the news that Paul had accepted citizenship from the hated occupying power, Jacob in effect excommunicated him. Envoys were sent from Jerusalem to convert all of Paul's Christian communities to Nazirite Judaism. All cooperation between the Nazirites and Paul's gentile followers ceased, and the way was open for a Christian (John Markos was a Nazirite) to write the Gospel of Mark (as it was later called), which all but repudiated Jesus' Jewishness."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus
I think it was not until John that Jesus' Jewishness was repudiated, but Mark was certainly a step in that direction.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
I largely agree here too, except about James being leader of the Essenes. I would certainly say he was head of the Jewish Christians, but not Essenes However, I agree with what you say of his group, whoever they were.
I need to find a good secular history of the different sects around the time of Paul. What little I know suggests some overlap between Nassenes, Essenes, Ebionites, "Jewish Christians", Jewish mystics, etc. I found this on Wikiwand regarding the Ebionites who may be related to the Essenes. I have read in other places that the Essenes share a lot of the same features of the Greek Pythagorians. Apparently, there is a lot we don't know for certain and a lot of conflicting information.

It doesn't help that we have to unravel the false information inserted by the Roman church to promote the superstitions and myths as historical events. I still see secular scholars refer to the solitary Jesus as historical when no rational person actually believes he literally performed any of the miracles attributed to him, most especially the alleged "resurrection" of a dead, decomposing, human. I think they are under pressure to stick with the party line or face the wrath of the church.

From Wikiwand on "Ebionites"
Among modern scholars, Robert Eismann suggests that the Ebionites revered James the Just, brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church, as the true successor to Jesus (rather than Peter) and an exemplar of righteousness, and therefore they followed the permanent Nazarite vow that James had taken. [69] One of the popular primary connections of the Ebionites to James is that the Ascents of James in the Pseudo-Clementine literature are related to the Ebionites.[70]
 
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Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
I think you are conflating the mythical stories of a the solitary Jesus of the Gospels (who mythically walked on water, raised himself from the dead, etc.) WITH an actual living human, namely, Paul who actually founded churches in Europe and wrote letters to them in order to encourage them. You are lumping myth with reality and rejecting both.
When I started studying Christianity I was told that there was overwhelming evidence for Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the Apostles. I was told that even if I reject the idea that Jesus was the son of God I could not reject the idea that a man named Jesus lived and died on the cross and that Paul, Mark, and Luke existed and wrote the Gospels.

I was stunned when I did my own research to find that this is simply not true.

We do not have a single thing from the time of Jesus that refers to him in any way. The closest we get is the Codex Sinaiticus written about 300 CE. There is not one fragment, tablet, scroll, Roman document, or anything from the 1st Century that mentions Jesus. I was surprised by this.

This is important because historians like to have written evidence from within a human lifetime of an event. If something was written 20 years after an event at least we know that the writer could have been alive during the event. It has some credibility. However, if a document was created more than one human lifetime after an event then we know that the writer was not even alive during the event he is describing. That makes the document of much lesser value.

For Julius Caesar we have countless coins with his image, documents describing him as emperor, etc. from Caesar's lifetime. For Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles there is not one mention from the 1st Century. So I do not agree that Paul's existence as a man has been proven.
My position is that we are never going to know the meaning of the myths until we return to what the myths meant to people like Paul, and his students. Would that not be worthy goal of yours, to know if the myths somehow pertain to our very existence?
Sure - I love to study myths.
I actually think Paul was expounding the Greek/Egyptian myths in his letters and after his death, Paul's followers rewrote them ("scriptural histiography") into the Christian myths found in the GoMark with Jesus-in-Paul as the anchor (Dykstra, "Mark, Canonizer of Paul"). All of this happened over a few hundred years, if not thousands of years, and we tend to condense it all into a short time and end up thinking (as Christian orthodoxy planned for us to think) that Paul was writing about the solitary Jesus in the Gospels. He wasn't. He was actually writing about the inner Christ, --the inner Christ of the patriarchs, the inner Christ of the prophets, "the unknown God" of the Greeks, the inner Christ of Paul, the inner Christ of us, the Christ in everything, for he is "the sum" of everything, according to Paul (Ephesians 1:10).
Ah - thanks - I did not know that. Do you know what the oldest copy of Paul we have is? I'd love to see it.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
When I started studying Christianity I was told that there was overwhelming evidence for Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the Apostles. I was told that even if I reject the idea that Jesus was the son of God I could not reject the idea that a man named Jesus lived and died on the cross and that Paul, Mark, and Luke existed and wrote the Gospels.

I was stunned when I did my own research to find that this is simply not true.

We do not have a single thing from the time of Jesus that refers to him in any way. The closest we get is the Codex Sinaiticus written about 300 CE. There is not one fragment, tablet, scroll, Roman document, or anything from the 1st Century that mentions Jesus. I was surprised by this.
As was I surprised to realize that the Jesus of the Gospels is written using the literary technique of scriptural histiography. But I did not stop believing history for it. Instead, I did my own investigation about what actually happened. It led me to where I am today.
This is important because historians like to have written evidence from within a human lifetime of an event. If something was written 20 years after an event at least we know that the writer could have been alive during the event. It has some credibility. However, if a document was created more than one human lifetime after an event then we know that the writer was not even alive during the event he is describing. That makes the document of much lesser value.
First, are you a scholar of history? If not, then can you please provide a reference from a peered review source which supports your opinion that historians require something written within twenty years of a person's life BEFORE they will find any historical person credible.

I am not buying your opinion because then we would have to exclude billions of actual people having ever "credibly" existed because there is no written document written about them within twenty years of their life.
For Julius Caesar we have countless coins with his image, documents describing him as emperor, etc. from Caesar's lifetime. For Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles there is not one mention from the 1st Century. So I do not agree that Paul's existence as a man has been proven.
According to your thinking the millions of Roman citizens did not exist either because there is no written document mentioning any of them by name.
Sure - I love to study myths.
Yeah, right.
Ah - thanks - I did not know that. Do you know what the oldest copy of Paul we have is? I'd love to see it.
Irrelevant.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
I need to find a good secular history of the different sects around the time of Paul. What little I know suggests some overlap between Nassenes, Essenes, Ebionites, "Jewish Christians", Jewish mystics, etc. I found this on Wikiwand regarding the Ebionites who may be related to the Essenes. I have read in other places that the Essenes share a lot of the same features of the Greek Pythagorians. Apparently, there is a lot we don't know for certain and a lot of conflicting information.

It doesn't help that we have to unravel the false information inserted by the Roman church to promote the superstitions and myths as historical events. I still see secular scholars refer to the solitary Jesus as historical when no rational person actually believes he literally performed any of the miracles attributed to him, most especially the alleged "resurrection" of a dead, decomposing, human. I think they are under pressure to stick with the party line or face the wrath of the church.

From Wikiwand on "Ebionites"
Among modern scholars, Robert Eismann suggests that the Ebionites revered James the Just, brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church, as the true successor to Jesus (rather than Peter) and an exemplar of righteousness, and therefore they followed the permanent Nazarite vow that James had taken. [69] One of the popular primary connections of the Ebionites to James is that the Ascents of James in the Pseudo-Clementine literature are related to the Ebionites.[70]

I find the idea that the Ebionites are what became of the Jewish Christians quite likely. There is a reference in one of the gospels, Matthew at a guess, that is framed as a prophecy of the Christians leaving Jerusalem before it was razed by the Romans, and I wonder if this was the Ebionites, who would go on to follow Jesus teaching rather more closely than the gentiles. Clearly the two branches of Christianity diverged increasingly, and so they were renounced as heretics, but they seem to be much closer to what Jesus actually stood for.

I have always seen the Essenes as rather too ascetic to be Christians. That said (1) we know very little about them and (2) we do not know how the gentile changed Jesus is their texts, so I could well be wrong.
 

Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
As was I surprised to realize that the Jesus of the Gospels is written using the literary technique of scriptural histiography. But I did not stop believing history for it. Instead, I did my own investigation about what actually happened. It led me to where I am today.
What did you use to verify what actually happened? I am always psyched to learn about new sources that I may have missed.

I know that Unical 0189 as the oldest NT fragment in existence and the Codex Sinaiticus as the oldest complete Gospel. I think there may be an older complete copy of one of the other Gospels but I am not sure. If you used other sources I'd love to check them out.
First, are you a scholar of history? If not, then can you please provide a reference from a peered review source which supports your opinion that historians require something written within twenty years of a person's life BEFORE they will find any historical person credible.
Great point. Let me see if I can find where I read that.

My mother in law is a PhD and teaches history at UCLA. She has written 5 books on American History and did all of the autograph research herself - I went with her into the archives in some very old museums to find original letters and such - it was awesome. I know that she does not cite any source that is more than 100 years out of date with the event. Sources are just too open to error or fraud when they are more than a human lifetime removed. So she digs into old libraries to find letters, legal records, and anything from the time of the event she is researching. Its good fun :)

I'll ask here what the best practices are and where they are documented.
I am not buying your opinion because then we would have to exclude billions of actual people having ever "credibly" existed because there is no written document written about them within twenty years of their life.
Belief in the existence of a person is not a binary yes or no. We can have levels of confidence based on the claim and the evidence.

For example, we can say that we have a high level of confidence that Pontius Pilate existed as written in The Bible because we have The Pilate Stone. That is a piece of empirical evidence from the lifetime of Pilate that says his name and office. So we can have high confidence that he existed based on that evidence.

Likewise we have lower confidence that Jesus existed because the first mention of his name is not until 300 years after his death.

We can do this for all of history. We have high confidence in our understanding of George Washington based on all the 18th Century evidence. We have very low confidence in Homer since we have nothing from his lifetime. And so on.

Anyways, that is how most historians describe things. If you watch a documentary on Rome, for example, a scholar may say something about Rome and then add, 'this is based on XXX evidence so we might have it wrong'.

You can obviously agree or disagree with the approach but it makes sense to me from an empirical, scientific perspective. I've found that Bible Scholars do not cite evidence the same way that Roman or Greek history scholars do - they are far looser with what they consider 'evidence' so that may be what seems strange to you. I've gone through the sources of more than one Bible scholar to find that they have nothing to support many of their claims.
According to your thinking the millions of Roman citizens did not exist either because there is no written document mentioning any of them by name.
It depends on the claim.

For example, if you claim to know that there was a Roman gardener named Max Sirrus and he had one leg and tended to the garden of Romulus Augustus in 480 BCE without any evidence then we would reject that - there is no reason to believe you know about this man without some evidence from around 480 BCE.

However, if you just claim that Rome had a million people then there is massive evidence for the Roman people in general so we know that they existed.

The evidence just has to match the claim.

Right now Christians claim there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in Judea in 33 CE. There is no evidence to support this claim other than a mention of Jesus in documents 300 years after the fact. There is not one Roman record, not one tablet, not one census document, not one letter from an Apostle from the time of Jesus. Not one. Which is astounding considering all the claims made about Jesus. So we have very low confidence in this claim until we can find something closer to the time of Jesus to confirm that.

Evaluation of evidence and what you find compelling is subjective and you can disagree of course. But my approach makes sense and is consistent with how ancient world evidence is generally evaluated.

It also bothers me that men like William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel outright lie and say we have mountains of evidence leading up to the crucifixion. We absolutely do not. And I think its good to at least be honest about it. I do not like when hucksters lie to people counting on the fact that Christians want to believe so badly that they will not check sources.

I checked their sources :)

Thanks for the chat - take care.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
I find the idea that the Ebionites are what became of the Jewish Christians quite likely. There is a reference in one of the gospels, Matthew at a guess, that is framed as a prophecy of the Christians leaving Jerusalem before it was razed by the Romans, and I wonder if this was the Ebionites, who would go on to follow Jesus teaching rather more closely than the gentiles. Clearly the two branches of Christianity diverged increasingly, and so they were renounced as heretics, but they seem to be much closer to what Jesus actually stood for.
Any recommendations for reading? Or do you peruse whatever you can find?
I have always seen the Essenes as rather too ascetic to be Christians.
Christian monks were ascetic too. I can imagine that just as there were different extremes of Christianity over the years there probably was different extremes of Jewish Qabalah, mysticism, gnosticism, etc.
That said (1) we know very little about them and (2) we do not know how the gentile changed Jesus is their texts, so I could well be wrong.
I am sure each sect of Christianity, to include, the proto-orthodox, thought that their editing was for a good purpose. I try to read what a particular sect wrote with their bias in mind and with the knowledge that the Roman church had tremendous power to edit the texts when copying them, likely, before they burned them!
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
What did you use to verify what actually happened? I am always psyched to learn about new sources that I may have missed.

I know that Unical 0189 as the oldest NT fragment in existence and the Codex Sinaiticus as the oldest complete Gospel. I think there may be an older complete copy of one of the other Gospels but I am not sure. If you used other sources I'd love to check them out.

Great point. Let me see if I can find where I read that.

My mother in law is a PhD and teaches history at UCLA. She has written 5 books on American History and did all of the autograph research herself - I went with her into the archives in some very old museums to find original letters and such - it was awesome. I know that she does not cite any source that is more than 100 years out of date with the event. Sources are just too open to error or fraud when they are more than a human lifetime removed. So she digs into old libraries to find letters, legal records, and anything from the time of the event she is researching. Its good fun :)

I'll ask here what the best practices are and where they are documented.

Belief in the existence of a person is not a binary yes or no. We can have levels of confidence based on the claim and the evidence.

For example, we can say that we have a high level of confidence that Pontius Pilate existed as written in The Bible because we have The Pilate Stone. That is a piece of empirical evidence from the lifetime of Pilate that says his name and office. So we can have high confidence that he existed based on that evidence.

Likewise we have lower confidence that Jesus existed because the first mention of his name is not until 300 years after his death.

We can do this for all of history. We have high confidence in our understanding of George Washington based on all the 18th Century evidence. We have very low confidence in Homer since we have nothing from his lifetime. And so on.

Anyways, that is how most historians describe things. If you watch a documentary on Rome, for example, a scholar may say something about Rome and then add, 'this is based on XXX evidence so we might have it wrong'.

You can obviously agree or disagree with the approach but it makes sense to me from an empirical, scientific perspective. I've found that Bible Scholars do not cite evidence the same way that Roman or Greek history scholars do - they are far looser with what they consider 'evidence' so that may be what seems strange to you. I've gone through the sources of more than one Bible scholar to find that they have nothing to support many of their claims.

It depends on the claim.

For example, if you claim to know that there was a Roman gardener named Max Sirrus and he had one leg and tended to the garden of Romulus Augustus in 480 BCE without any evidence then we would reject that - there is no reason to believe you know about this man without some evidence from around 480 BCE.

However, if you just claim that Rome had a million people then there is massive evidence for the Roman people in general so we know that they existed.

The evidence just has to match the claim.

Right now Christians claim there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in Judea in 33 CE. There is no evidence to support this claim other than a mention of Jesus in documents 300 years after the fact. There is not one Roman record, not one tablet, not one census document, not one letter from an Apostle from the time of Jesus. Not one. Which is astounding considering all the claims made about Jesus. So we have very low confidence in this claim until we can find something closer to the time of Jesus to confirm that.

Evaluation of evidence and what you find compelling is subjective and you can disagree of course. But my approach makes sense and is consistent with how ancient world evidence is generally evaluated.

It also bothers me that men like William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel outright lie and say we have mountains of evidence leading up to the crucifixion. We absolutely do not. And I think its good to at least be honest about it. I do not like when hucksters lie to people counting on the fact that Christians want to believe so badly that they will not check sources.

I checked their sources :)

Thanks for the chat - take care.
You are again conflating the existence of the mythical, solitary Jesus with the existence of the actual person of Paul.

The mythical solitary Jesus who reassembled his decomposing body parts is NOT equivalent to Paul who actually founded churches in Europe and actually wrote a significant part of the New Testament. You find the existence of millions of Romans credible who wrote nothing and left no written records because of, as you say, "massive evidence" for them, yet an entire religion containing millions who base their beliefs on Paul's letters to his churches is not massive enough for you. Clearly, you have a bias against Christianity and religion in general.

One thing I do agree with you is that "Biblical scholars" are as about reliable as the National Enquirer. Think about it. They have to hold the party line or their ability to work and feed their family is at risk. Extreme pressure drives them to sustain the myths and superstitions as historical, whether they admit it or not. Which is why I like to go to atheist websites and secular scholars for more reliable information because they have nothing to lose. They would like to figure this out as much as I do from an evidence-based, rational perspective so they are open to alternative explanations.

Orthodoxy, fundamentalism, whatever name it goes by, is going the way of the dinosaurs. A giant asteroid called "Science" is wiping them off the map. The only reason it succeeded this long is due to despotism starting with the Roman Emperor followed by the absolute monarchs of Europe. It is amazing what illiterate people will believe if a dictator/tyrant can threaten their lives for not believing it. I feel bad that they did not have the opportunity that we have been given.
 
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Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
You are again conflating the existence of the mythical, solitary Jesus with the existence of the actual person of Paul.
I don't think so. We have almost no empirical evidence that Paul existed as written. The first mention of Paul and the Disciples that I know of is in the Gospels of the Codex Sinaiticus or the Codex Vaticanus. Those were written 300 years after Paul was to have lived. So they are not reliable.

We have nothing from the time of Paul that has his name on it or his writings. We do not have any tablet, Roman document, court record, census, or anything that mentions Paul from anyone in antiquity before 300 CE. And anonymous copies of Gospels written hundreds of years after his death are just not very good evidence of anything.

So it is very possible that the man Paul existed and wrote the Gospel as it is. However, I have very low confidence in that since we have no 1st Century evidence of Paul or his writing. The evidence we do have for Paul was written so long after the event that it is too open to error, fraud, or manipulation to be considered reliable.

It is very possible that Paul was a creation of the later church to give a name and a face to the stories they were writing - this is pretty common in religious history. We just do not know.

We could find a Gospel of Paul document today that was written in 50 CE. Then I'll change my mind and say we do have empirical evidence and high confidence that Paul existed. But for now we just have so little to go on.
The mythical solitary Jesus who reassembled his decomposing body parts is NOT equivalent to Paul who actually founded churches in Europe and actually wrote a significant part of the New Testament.
What evidence do we have that Paul founded churches? Maybe I am wrong and there is evidence from the time of Paul. Do any of those churches have an engraving or anything that says "Founded by Paul in 80 CE" or something? Maybe something like a Pilate Stone but for Paul?

If we have that and I missed it then I am wrong and we can have high confidence that Paul existed. However, if we just have legends written in the 4th Century that claim Paul founded the churches then I do not think we have enough to conclude that any of that is true.
You find the existence of millions of Romans credible who wrote nothing and left no written records because of, as you say, "massive evidence" for them, yet an entire religion containing millions who base their beliefs on Paul's letters to his churches is not massive enough for you. Clearly, you have a bias against Christianity and religion in general.
We really do not know for sure what the church looked like from 50 CE to at least 300 CE. There is no evidence.

In fact we know that different Christian churches used different holy scripture all the way up to 331 CE because that is when Constantine commissioned the creation of the 50 Bibles. These Bibles were identical and were sent to all the churches to ensure that every church was using the same Gospels and NT. They had to do this because the different churches were using different foundational documents like The Gospel of the Nazarene, The Gospel of Phillip, and others that the church wanted them to stop using.

So we know that by 331 CE the Christian church was unified around a consistent view of the Gospels as written in modern Bibles today. It is very possible that the very early church was also based on those Gospels. However, until we find a Gospel of Paul from the 1st Century we just cannot have a high confidence that was true.

I think you have incredible evidence to show that Christianity has existed as it is today as far back as 331 CE. That is amazing. However, we cannot go back farther until we find something from 50 CE or so.
One thing I do agree with you is that "Biblical scholars" are as about reliable as the National Enquirer. Think about it. They have to hold the party line or their ability to work and feed their family is at risk. Extreme pressure drives them to sustain the myths and superstitions as historical, whether they admit it or not. Which is why I like to go to atheist websites and secular scholars for more reliable information because they have nothing to lose. They would like to figure this out as much as I do from an evidence-based, rational perspective so they are open to alternative explanations.
I agree. I am seeing more and more scholars be more honest about what we have. They are not suggesting that anyone stop being a Christian or that anything in the NT is false. But they are honest that our secular knowledge only goes back to 300 CE. Before that we believe on faith, not empirical evidence.

I think that is a good thing :)
Orthodoxy, fundamentalism, whatever name it goes by, is going the way of the dinosaurs. A giant asteroid called "Science" is wiping them off the map. The only reason it succeeded this long is due to despotism starting with the Roman Emperor followed by the absolute monarchs of Europe. It is amazing what illiterate people will believe if a dictator/tyrant can threaten their lives for not believing it. I feel bad that they did not have the opportunity that we have been given.
I hope you are right because I am not seeing it. I see people still saying that the Earth is 10,000 years old and evolution is not true. And that terrifies me. I hope we can find a balance between faith and science. But I think we have a ways to go.

Thanks for the chat - I really enjoy this.
 
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