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Historical Jesus

steve_bank

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Others are more well read than me on religious history and history in general.

What I believe is that basic huamn dynamics does not chmage. Look at the world today in this case the mid east and project back in time. Corruption, geopolitics, race, ethnicity, rligion, opportunists, power politicsm and nationalism.

You can look at the late Yassar Arafat. As corrupt as it gets, he siphoned aid money, put on a poor persona, and got rich.'
Yet he is a hero in Palestine to many.

Christian opportunists who get rich promoting an interpretation. In the time of Jesus there was undoubtedly financial collusion between the Jewish power elite and Rome. The Temple was a profitable corporation of the day.

The Iranian theocracy. Shia vs Suni Muslims.

Get rid of the supernatural and Jesus makes sense in the politics of the day.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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One can wonder where the author of Mark got the idea of having Jesus executed as “King of the Jews,” and the answer isn’t really hard to find.

In the chaos surrounding the Jewish wars in the late 60s, there were apparently a number of warring factions supporting candidates for High Priest. When Titus entered Jerusalem in 70, he found one of last surviving pretenders, Simon bar Giora, dressed in purple robes and standing in the Temple. Titus laid waste to Jerusalem and the temple, and took Simon back to Rome to be displayed as "King of the Jews" in a triumphal march, and then executed.”

The author of Mark who, as tradition has it, lived and wrote in Rome, would have been very familiar with this episode.
That is pretty interesting. Thank-you. I think it supports the argument that the protagonist of the gospel tales is an amalgam.
 

steve_bank

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60 Minutes last night had a segment on Caligula and new archeology.

Something I did not know. Most of the popular image on Caligular are fiction which stems form a fictional book based on an ancient account of Caligula. An Italian archeologist commented politics in Rome was no different than today. Biased accounts and fake news with a political motivation.

It is as mythical as the Jesus accounts. Caligula did exist but many of the 'facts' probably did not. Like appointing a horse as a consul.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Myths about the historical Jesus

Here is a strange sentence from Albert Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus:

Jesus, in order to help his miracle-loving age, reconciled himself to the necessity of performing miracles.


What "miracle-loving age"? Suppose the "age" of Jesus is understood as the period of about 100 BC to 100 AD. What was "miracle-loving" about this period?

(Or, make it 200 BC - 100 AD. Or 300 BC - 100 AD.)

The sentence seems like an attempt to explain why we have such a flood of miracle stories in the Gospel accounts of the 1st century. It seems to say there was an unusual demand for miracle stories at this time, and Jesus had to meet this demand in order to compete with all the other prophets or rabbis or revolutionaries or messiahs performing miracles in order to win disciples to their crusade.

Whatever sense can be made of this quote, it has to be saying there was an unusual emphasis on miracles or miracle-workers during this period. And yet exactly the opposite is the case. There are virtually no miracle claims or miracle-workers popping up during this period.

What miracles are there at this time? The Ovid-Virgil literature of the time recalls some ancient miracle myths from 1000+ years earlier, but no new miracle myths are created, no new miracle-workers performing anything. In Josephus there are a few charlatans mentioned who attracted some rebels to their military crusade, but no indication anyone took seriously their fraudulent claims of miracle power. Plutarch reports King Pyrrhus and his Magic Toe, but that was 400 years earlier, and Plutarch's writings about this are later than 100 AD. And there was one slave-revolt leader in Sicily who perhaps could blow fire from his mouth somehow.

Wouldn't a "miracle-loving age" offer something more than such pathetic examples as this?

Nothing from the period shows any interest in miracles or miracle-workers in either the Jewish or Greco-Roman cultures.



No Jewish miracles during this period

Jewish literature is devoid of miracles or miracle-workers during this period, with the possible exception of the Daniel stories. But even these are attributed to a Jewish hero from centuries earlier, from the 6th century BC. And the miracle-workers Elijah and Elisha are virtually forgotten during this period. The only mention of either of them in the Hebrew Bible is one prophecy in Malachi 3:23. And there's one other reference in the Apocryphal book Sirach (chapters 44-50) which lists all the Jewish heroes going back to Adam.

The 1st-century Jewish writer Philo the Alexandrian says nothing about miracles, almost totally ignoring Elijah and Elisha. He mentions Elijah briefly and also Moses, but says almost nothing of their miracles. Philo's interest is in philosophy and Torah Law, not miracles.

The Dead Sea Scrolls say virtually nothing about any miracles and report nothing of any miracle-workers.

There are no new miracles or miracle-workers reported in the Book of Enoch and other Apocalyptic literature.



No new Greco-Roman miracles or miracle heroes

You have to go back to the ancient heroes Hercules and Asclepius, at least 1000 or more years earlier, to find Greek or Roman miracle heroes and legends. By a stretch you might say Romulus and King Numa were miracle heroes, but nothing from about 400 or 300 and later. At best there were some new visions of the earlier heroes, such as in Ovid, but no new miracle heroes or stories of any recent miracle events.

The closest to miracle claims of this period are those of the Asclepius healing cult. But for these you have to go back to about 300 BC (or maybe 280 or so). From about 300 BC - 100 AD there are no new Asclepius miracle claims. They suddenly start up again after 100 AD. (A comprehensive listing of all the Asclepius miracle inscriptions is found in Edelstein & Edelstein, Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies.) The vast majority of these stories are not miracle claims. The Asclepius accounts are about healing treatments, prescriptions, therapies, herbs, ointments, etc., not miracles. Out of the hundreds of quotations, there are about a dozen which are miracle claims, some of which are bizarre and certainly miraculous if they really happened. But all of them are dated 300 BC or earlier, or after 100 AD.

The Asclepius religious cures were the same as in all religions, holding prayer or ritual exercises, and when a patient does recover, credit is given to the deity.

There's some speculation about Pythagoras maybe having some psychic power. And some weird portents or visions are reported in Herodotus. But these go back earlier than the age of Jesus and can't give any explanation for the later sudden explosion of miracle stories in the Gospel accounts.

The singular example of the Emperor Vespasian doing a miraculous cure stands out, but the report of it is still later than 100 AD. This one is not part of a "miracle-loving age" into which the Jesus miracles fit, but belongs to the later new explosion of miracles near 100 AD. The miracle stories in the Book of Acts also fit this category.


So there are virtually no miracle stories or miracle-worker heroes in the period 300 BC to 100 AD which could constitute a "miracle-loving age" to explain the sudden Jesus miracle-worker. Sometime after 30 AD there appears this sudden avalanche of miracle stories, totally out of character for the period. A totally out-of-place miracle hero appears which no one can explain or put into any context for this period of history. And then, in the centuries following, we get a huge barrage of new miracle heroes, saints and others, all having a strange resemblance to the out-of-place miracle hero of the early 1st century.

So it was not the age of Jesus which was "miracle-loving," but the age following him. Prior to Jesus there was no "miracle-loving" element which can be identified, without going back several centuries to trace some ancient legends about Zeus and Apollo and others. But a few decades after Jesus we see a new "miracle-loving" age beginning which far surpasses anything previous. Obviously it's not the "miracle-loving age" which caused the Jesus miracle stories, but rather these sudden stories which must have caused the "miracle-loving age" which follows.

So there is nothing to explain the sudden rash of miracles appearing in the NT writings in the 1st century. It was the opposite of a "miracle-loving age" and having less interest in miracles than any other age before or after. The truth is that miracles were on the decline, and if the Jesus event had never happened, the trend was the slow disappearance of miracle claims and traditions and rituals.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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It may not be what you're looking for, but Augustus Caesar was allegedly sired in 63 BC by the God Apollo.
You make my point with this example. I.e., it shows you can't come up with a serious example of a reported miracle act during the period of 300 BC to 100 AD. Instant healings -- the lepers, the blind, the mentally ill -- these were reported observed acts done in public and seen by several witnesses.

A serious example of a non-Jesus reported miracle (maybe the best example to be found) is the raising of a dead child back to life, done by Apollonius of Tyana. If one could take it seriously, this would be a real reported miracle act. But miracle birth stories are not serious examples, like the Virgin Mary or the birth of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar and others.

If you could find a prophet "Elijah" or "Elisha" during this period, that would be a serious example -- raising a dead child, bringing down fire from heaven, multiplying loaves, etc., or if you could come up with an Asclepius raising the dead, like legends reported in some of the poets. But all these are ancient legends from much earlier than the "age" of the 1st century.

You could come up with a prophecy that came true, or a vision or portent, where someone experienced something spiritual. But these obviously are not miracle acts comparable to the reported miracle acts of curing the blind, raising the dead etc. which we see in the Gospel accounts.

The Apollonius of Tyana miracle (raising the dead child) is a copycat story lifted from Luke 7:11-18. Although this Apollonius was a 1st-century figure, the only source for this dates from about 220 AD, and is another example of miracle stories inspired by the 1st-century Jesus miracles and is part of the explosion of new reported miracles after 100 AD.

So, that you cannot produce any serious reported miracle acts during this period illustrates the point that this period, the "age" of Jesus the miracle-worker of about 30 AD, is one otherwise devoid of reported miracle acts and is the opposite of a "miracle-loving age" which could offer a cultural background for the unusual barrage of miracle acts in the Gospel accounts.
 
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steve_bank

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Somebody may have revveided someone who was not really dead, or nused someone given up for dead back to health.

Anyone who had literacy, some education, and a knowledge of medicine of the day would appear miraculous .

Back in the 70s when I was into martial arts I did some research on the original Shaolin monks. They received what in the day was a university educationLiterature, sceince, amd medicine of the day. Temples served as university for the kids of parents who cold afford to pay.

Along with education monks also got hard physical traiing.

When they went out in the world and took up residence in a village they could appear miraculous and supernatural to ignorant peasants.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Somebody may have revived someone who was not really dead, or nursed someone given up for dead back to health.

Anyone who had literacy, some education, and a knowledge of medicine of the day would appear miraculous.
There's some truth to that.

But there's only one reported "miraculous" case of someone who brought the "dead" back to health and is documented from the written record of the time, which is the Jesus miracle-worker of about 30 AD. And this was during an historical period when there was the LEAST interest in miracles, and LEAST belief in miracle claims, and LEAST demand for miracle-workers. So the explanation how he was credited with such miracle power cannot be that he lived in a "miracle-loving age" which craved after stories of miracle-workers.

A much better explanation is that he actually did perform these acts, and educated writers learned the facts about this and reported it.


Back in the 70s when I was into martial arts I did some research on the original Shaolin monks. They received what in the day was a university education Literature, science, and medicine of the day. Temples served as university for the kids of parents who could afford to pay.

Along with education monks also got hard physical training.

When they went out in the world and took up residence in a village they could appear miraculous and supernatural to ignorant peasants.
And still, the only one for whom we have historical evidence that he appeared "miraculous and supernatural" is this one case from 30 AD.

Though it's true that after about 100 (or 80 or 90) AD there's an explosion of reported new miracle stories, extending far into the future, almost all of which appear as copycat stories patterned after the 1st-century Jesus miracle-worker who was a singular isolated case for which no one has an explanation.

Of course there's always the catch-all explanation to debunk anything you want not to have happened:

"Aaaaaaaaaaa, people just made up shit!"

With this outburst you can dismiss even the moon landing as fiction.
 

lostone

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It may not be what you're looking for, but Augustus Caesar was allegedly sired in 63 BC by the God Apollo.
You make my point with this example. I.e., it shows you can't come up with a serious example of a reported miracle act during the period of 300 BC to 100 AD. Instant healings -- the lepers, the blind, the mentally ill -- these were reported observed acts done in public and seen by several witnesses.

A serious example of a non-Jesus reported miracle (maybe the best example to be found) is the raising of a dead child back to life, done by Apollonius of Tyana. If one could take it seriously, this would be a real reported miracle act. But miracle birth stories are not serious examples, like the Virgin Mary or the birth of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar and others.

If you could find a prophet "Elijah" or "Elisha" during this period, that would be a serious example -- raising a dead child, bringing down fire from heaven, multiplying loaves, etc., or if you could come up with an Asclepius raising the dead, like legends reported in some of the poets. But all these are ancient legends from much earlier than the "age" of the 1st century.

You could come up with a prophecy that came true, or a vision or portent, where someone experienced something spiritual. But these obviously are not miracle acts comparable to the reported miracle acts of curing the blind, raising the dead etc. which we see in the Gospel accounts.

The Apollonius of Tyana miracle (raising the dead child) is a copycat story lifted from Luke 7:11-18. Although this Apollonius was a 1st-century figure, the only source for this dates from about 220 AD, and is another example of miracle stories inspired by the 1st-century Jesus miracles and is part of the explosion of new reported miracles after 100 AD.

So, that you cannot produce any serious reported miracle acts during this period illustrates the point that this period, the "age" of Jesus the miracle-worker of about 30 AD, is one otherwise devoid of reported miracle acts and is the opposite of a "miracle-loving age" which could offer a cultural background for the unusual barrage of miracle acts in the Gospel accounts.
Where do you get that? If Julius was assassinated in 44 BC, he was only 19 at the time?

I thought ole Julius was born circa 100 BC, and died aged 55-56. Maybe Apollo could have sired him 100 BC, but not 63 BC.
 

thingsweneverdid

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Myths about the historical Jesus

Here is a strange sentence from Albert Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus:

Jesus, in order to help his miracle-loving age, reconciled himself to the necessity of performing miracles.


What "miracle-loving age"? Suppose the "age" of Jesus is understood as the period of about 100 BC to 100 AD. What was "miracle-loving" about this period?

I think when he says "miracle-loving age" he's referring to the Greco-Roman era which did have a lot of stories about miraculous things happening, whether they were in the past or current. There's the miracles that were performed by the emperor Vespasian. Scholars actually think some of the miracles Jesus performs in Mark were influenced by the miracles performed by Vespasian. Pretty much all the miracles Jesus performs in the New Testament texts were what was expected from a divine being or deity. The writers of the New Testament texts were just taking typical miracles that were performed by divine beings in Greco-Roman culture and applying them to Jesus. Of course, it's possible that Jesus was known as some kind of miracle worker, but I doubt anything in the gospels goes back to any actual event.

There's a whole book about this subject called "Miracles In Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook" by Wendy Cotter.

"Spit in Your Eye: The Blind Man of Bethsaida and the Blind Man of Alexandria", Eric Eve, New Test. Stud. 54 (Cambridge University Press, 2008):
Two points stand out: whatever the precise sequence of events and whatever happened in the Serapeum, Tacitus and Suetonius are agreed that Vespasian’s healing miracles were closely associated with the god Sarapis and Vespasian’s visit to his principal temple, and that the vision granted Vespasian in that temple was a confirmation of his kingship... The healings carried out by Vespasian seem designed to demonstrate the close association between the new emperor and the god. Healing was one of the powers long attributed to Sarapis, and the first healing miracle to be attributed to him was restoring sight to a blind man, one Demetrius of Phaleron, an Athenian politician. Vespasian’s use of his foot to effect the other healing, whether by standing on the man’s hand (as in Tacitus) or touching the man’s leg with his heel (as in Suetonius) should be understood in light of the fact that a foot could be seen as a symbol of Sarapis. In some minds Vespasian’s two healings might be taken as a sign, not simply that Vespasian enjoyed Sarapis’s blessing, but that he was in some sense to be identified with the god. This is in part suggested by the ancient Egyptian myth that the kings of Egypt were sons of Re, the sun-god, and is further borne out by the fact that Vespasian was saluted as ‘son of Ammon’ as well as ‘Caesar, god’ when he visited the hippodrome only a short while later... That stories about healing blind men with spittle should independently arise around 70 CE in both Mark’s Gospel and Roman propaganda would be something of a coincidence. The coincidence becomes all the more striking given the parallel function of the stories: the Blind Man of Alexandria is a story that served to help legitimate Vespasian’s claim to the imperial throne, a claim also supported by various prophecies including Josephus’s reinterpretation of Jewish messianic expectations. The Blind Man of Bethsaida leads into Peter’s confession of Jesus as the messiah, but a messiah apparently misconceived in emperor-like terms. Even if this were mere coincidence it seems likely that Mark’s audience would hear one story in terms of the other, but it seems even more likely that there is no coincidence and that Mark deliberately shaped the Blind Man of Bethsaida with the Blind Man of Alexandria in mind.

I actually made a post on this subject here:

Although I posted on a mythicist subreddit, I'm actually not a mythicist.

 
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Lumpenproletariat

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Myths about the historical Jesus

Here is a strange sentence from Albert Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus:

Jesus, in order to help his miracle-loving age, reconciled himself to the necessity of performing miracles.


What "miracle-loving age"? Suppose the "age" of Jesus is understood as the period of about 100 BC to 100 AD. What was "miracle-loving" about this period?

I think when he says "miracle-loving age" he's referring to the Greco-Roman era which did have a lot of stories about miraculous things happening, whether they were in the past or current.
No. There are no Greco-Roman "miraculous things happening" reported during the "age" of Jesus the miracle-worker of 30 AD. I.e., from about 300 BC to 100 AD. Whatever pagan references to miracles to be found are only about ancient heroes and deities, from many centuries earlier. I.e., there were no new miracles or miracle-workers reported in the writings during this period.

(Though perhaps as early as 80 or 90 AD we begin seeing a revival of miracle stories. Not earlier. So the alleged "miracle-loving age" in question might be from 300 BC to 80 or 90 AD.)

But even if we go back farther into the Greco-Roman era, there are virtually no "miraculous things" reported by anyone near to the time of the reported events. All the miracle claims are throwbacks to many centuries earlier, like miracles of Hercules or Apollo and others 1000+ years earlier (if those characters were real people, or we can identify when they existed according to the believed tradition).

There is a huge difference between a reported "miracle" told to us by someone near to the time it happened (if it happened) and a "miracle" told to us by someone several centuries later. The Jesus miracles are in the former category, reported to us within a normal time span for credible historical events of ancient history, which mostly come from sources 50-100 years after the reported event(s). Whereas the Greco-Roman miracle heroes are only from sources many centuries later than when those heroes lived (if they lived, as some of them probably did, minus the mythologizing).


There's the miracles that were performed by the emperor Vespasian. Scholars actually think some of the miracles Jesus performs in Mark were influenced by the miracles performed by Vespasian.
Only the most ignorant scholars. The Mark account dates from about 70 AD, prior to the Vespasian events, and the Vespasian story is not reported until after 100 AD. And the common scholarly view of Mark is that his stories are taken from oral reports going back earlier than 70 AD.

Which scholars believe that writings from about 70 AD were inspired by events which happened several years later? Certainly not Bart Ehrman and most non-Christian scholars who think the stories in Mark are from earlier, especially the resurrection. But also the healing miracles. Though the Vespasian miracles (only 2) are not reported until much later, it's reasonable to believe that some such miracle claim existed earlier, just as it's reasonable to believe the Jesus miracle acts existed prior to when they were first reported in about 70 AD.

(In the case of the Jesus Resurrection miracle, the first report of it is in the 50s, from the Apostle Paul.)

And it's easy to explain the origin of the Vespasian miracle claim: He was the most powerful and most popular celebrity folk hero in the world at that time, and it was normal for such a famous military-political character to get publicized and mythologized in popular culture. The miracle stories about Jesus were already circulating, and so the idea of divine cures was taking hold, so that the Vespasian story caught on, as part of a new trend which did not exist before. No earlier Roman emperor was credited with performing any such miracle.

And unlike the Vespasian case, we cannot explain how the Jesus miracle stories got started, because Jesus had no wide popularity or influence at the time and so could not have been the object of wide popular mythologizing.


Pretty much all the miracles Jesus performs in the New Testament texts were what was expected from a divine being or deity.
Whether such miracles were "expected" or not, there are no other persons or deities or heroes presented to us in the written record as performing such acts.

It's true there are some miracle deeds in stories about Hercules and other heroes, but only in accounts written many centuries later, after many generations of mythologizing, not reported in any account having historical credibility for the time of the alleged events.

If the point is that Jesus is the only one who ever reportedly did what was expected from a divine being or deity, OK, that may be. But there were prayers and rituals performed to various ancient gods, and sometimes the worshipper received a beneficial outcome and so attributed this to the god.


The writers of the New Testament texts were just taking typical miracles that were performed by divine beings in Greco-Roman culture and applying them to Jesus.
No, not performed by anyone in history and reported in written accounts from the time. There are no other reported cases of humans being instantly healed (in written accounts near the time it allegedly happened), or of a hero rising back to life after being killed.

The phrase "typical miracles that were performed by divine beings" of Greece/Rome etc. is a common refrain repeated again and again by Jesus-debunkers, but no one can ever quote the written accounts which narrate any of these "typical miracles" performed by those divine beings. There are no healers reported in the ancient accounts who perform instant healing miracles such as we see Jesus reported in the Gospel accounts. If those written accounts did exist, someone would quote from them. But no one ever does.

If one goes back farther, prior to the "age" of Jesus, like 500 BC and earlier, it's possible to find a few miracles, though nothing reported in any source near to the time of the alleged miracle event. And no Jesus-like miracle-worker.

Of course, it's possible that Jesus was known as some kind of miracle worker, but I doubt anything in the gospels goes back to any actual event.
Of course out of prejudice you can dismiss any written account you want. But that's just a subjective impulse, not based on evidence. The only evidence we have for what happened is what is reported in the written accounts of the time. The best rule is to accept the written accounts, as far as they are not contradicted by other accounts, and to be more skeptical about anything highly unusual, like miracles. For anything unusual, we need more than only one account, and we need something dated reasonably close to when the events happened, unlike the popular pagan myths which were not recorded until many centuries later, even 1000+ years later in many cases. For normal events it's reasonable to believe a source 200 or 300 or 400 years later (if it's not contradicted). But not for miracle stories.

The Gospel accounts meet this requirement for credibility. But where they have discrepancies, or contradictions to each other, they are less credible. When the Synoptic Gospels agree with each other in contradiction to John, we should reject John in favor of the earlier Synoptic accounts, since they corroborate each other. Corroboration of separate accounts increases the credibility.

These writings are entitled to the same treatment as for other written accounts. We should accept ALL the written accounts as sources for what happened (i.e., what happened near the time in question) rather than single out certain ones out of prejudice and disqualify them from consideration. Rather, they should be compared to all the other accounts, and where they are not contradicted, they should be considered as credible. It's reasonable to believe them (though not with absolute certainty) even for miracle claims, if they are corroborated by other sources, while also not being contradicted.


(this Wall of Text to be continued)



 

Lumpenproletariat

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It is necessary to acknowledge the one Jesus miracle that is borrowed from the earlier culture:

The fish-and-loaves story appears to be a copycat story borrowed from a similar story of the Jewish prophet Elisha (II Kings 4:42-44).

Except for this one case, there is no reported Jesus miracle act which can be traced back to something in the earlier culture, Jewish or pagan.

No one can show an earlier miracle-worker performing the miracles we see in the Gospel accounts. There are earlier miracle claims which have no particular connection to Jesus in the Gospels. It's true that you can draw parallels between Christianity and earlier traditions, or the current culture of the 1st century. There are some similarities in the ritual observances and symbolism and teachings -- even the virgin birth. But no parallel of the Christ miracle acts to those of earlier Jewish or pagan heroes/gods/deities.

Obviously all "miracle" acts are some kind of act of power. All cultures of all historic periods have their folklore and tales of wondrous events or divine intervention into human affairs. But there is nothing special in the Jesus miracle acts connecting them to any previous particular miracle heroes doing something similar, to show any dependency of the Jesus miracles on those earlier cases.

(with the sole exception of the fish-and-loaves story being connected to II Kings 4:42-44)
 

Lumpenproletariat

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(from 2 posts back): Which scholars believe that writings from about 70 AD were inspired by events which happened several years later? Certainly not Bart Ehrman and . . .
(i.e., the Mark miracle "spit" stories inspired by the Vespasian "spit" miracle possibly happening at about the same time)

Maybe it was not "several years later" -- possibly the 2 are at about the same time.

I'm trying to determine when the reported Vespasian miracle event happened (if it happened). It's possible that it was about 70 rather than later. So if Mark was influenced by this event, it means he wrote his account under this influence at about the same time that the Vespasian miracle event reportedly happened.

It's not an impossibility.

But highly unlikely. If Mark would be influenced by this event, it would be by his acquiring it from a published account, which did not exist that early. Unless he was very directly involved in the political events at a high level, in Rome, and had some connection to the influence on Vespasian, persuading him to use the ancient Serapis healing god as a tool to promote him to power, or to solidify his power.

More likely is that there was a "spit" idea circulating around, probably originating from some dissident Jewish factions, like the Qumran cult, which had some ideas about "spit" having some kind of healing power, or creative power.

Nevertheless, it may be that the Vespasian event happened in about 70 AD, near the time when the Gospel of Mark was produced or put together in its final form. Even if these (the Mark account and the Vespasian event) were at about the same time, the actual sources Mark used were likely from many years earlier, not something he was only just taking from someone near to Vespasian.

The very worst possibility is that Mark had these stories in his sources and then, influenced by the Vespasian "spit" story, made a sudden decision to add the "spit" idea into these two healing miracles in his account, undermining his credibility as to the details of these healing events.

I.e., Mark 8:22-26 and 7:31-37 (the 2 Mark "spit" miracles).

All this indicates is that the "spit" idea might be fictional, not in Mark's original sources of the story, but not that the original healing story is fictional. It's clear that some details of the miracle act could get distorted and might be fictional. But the general consistency of these accounts, in general, corroborating that Jesus performed such acts, is good evidence that he did these healing acts, regardless of the details in each case.

It's clear that discrepancies in the details are a possibility. Where Mark is quoted by Mt and Lk, the details might get changed slightly, from the earlier account to the later. Such minor discrepancies don't undermine the general credibility of these accounts as evidence that Jesus performed such acts.

Note that both Matthew and Luke omit the Mark "spit" miracles, even though they both rely heavily on the Mark miracles.
 
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steve_bank

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Whenever I see 'historical Jesus'Ii wnat to thnk hysterical Jesus as in rollingon the ground laughing.

Silly me.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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(continued from previous Wall of Text)


Thingsweneverdid: The healings carried out by Vespasian seem designed to demonstrate the close association between the new emperor and the god. Healing was one of the powers long attributed to Sarapis, and the first healing miracle to be attributed to him was restoring sight to a blind man, one Demetrius of Phaleron, an Athenian politician. ("Spit in Your Eye: The Blind Man of Bethsaida and the Blind Man of Alexandria", Eric Eve, New Test. Stud. 54 (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
Note that the only evidence offered for the Vespasian miracle(s) is a quote from a modern scholar. The real sources for this are the Tacitus and Suetonius accounts. But these are not quoted because they are not very convincing. Nevertheless this is evidence and should be used if we're going to take seriously a claim that Vespasian performed any such miracle. And these sources cannot be discounted. The Tacitus account is adequate enough, but the Suetonius version is not very convincing.

Here's the Suetonius account of the miracle:
A poor man who was blind, and another who was lame, came both together before him, when he was seated on the tribunal, imploring him to heal them,3 and saying that they were admonished in a dream by the god Serapis to seek his aid, who assured them that he would restore sight to the one by anointing his eyes with his spittle, and give strength to the leg of the other, if he vouchsafed but to touch it with his heel. At first he could scarcely believe that the thing would any how succeed, and therefore hesitated to venture on making the experiment. At length, however, by the advice of his friends, he made the attempt publicly, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, and it was crowned with success in both cases.
So the only statement here that Vespasian was successful in doing this cure of 2 victims is: "he made the attempt publicly, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, and it was crowned with success in both cases."

So this is one source, for what it's worth.

Here's the other source (Tacitus) for the same miracle event:
One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his loss of sight, threw himself before Vespasian's knees, praying him with groans to cure his blindness, being so directed by the god Serapis, whom this most superstitious of nations worships before all others; and he besought the emperor to deign to moisten his cheeks and eyes with his spittle. Another, whose hand was useless, prompted by the same god, begged Caesar to step and trample on it. Vespasian at first ridiculed these appeals and treated them with scorn; then, when the men persisted, he began at one moment to fear the discredit of failure, at another to be inspired with hopes of success by the appeals of the suppliants and the flattery of his courtiers: finally, he directed the physicians to give their opinion as to whether such blindness and infirmity could be overcome by human aid. Their reply treated the two cases differently: they said that in the first the power of sight had not been completely eaten away and it would return if the obstacles were removed; in the other, the joints had slipped and become displaced, but they could be restored if a healing pressure were applied to them. Such perhaps was the wish of the gods, and it might be that the emperor had been chosen for this divine service; in any case, if a cure were obtained, the glory would be Caesar's, but in the event of failure, ridicule would fall only on the poor suppliants. So Vespasian, believing that his good fortune was capable of anything and that nothing was any longer incredible, with a smiling countenance, and amid intense excitement on the part of the bystanders, did as he was asked to do. The hand was instantly restored to use, and the day again shone for the blind man. Both facts are told by eye-witnesses even now when falsehood brings no reward.

This has to be acknowledged as legitimate evidence. But note that Vespasian himself is very doubtful of the request and consults his medical experts. The miracle-worker himself, the Emperor, doesn't have any knowledge of the curing power, but he is instructed by the worshipers and the Serapis experts who know the proper ritual to be performed.

Tacitus seems to say that even by the time he writes of this, about 105 AD, the eye-witnesses still say it happened. This lends some credibility to the claim. Perhaps they really believed that the 2 victims recovered.

On the other hand, the Suetonius account only says the miracle attempt was successful, with no reference to the victims recovering, and with little mention of witnesses.

So we have 2 sources saying this miracle happened. This is evidence that something happened, one time only, with Vespasian somehow being an agent through which some kind of superhuman healing power happened to these 2 victims. How good is this evidence?

There are only 2 sources, for one event, and except for these 2 we have no evidence that Vespasian ever performed any miracles. 2 sources are better than only one. But we have only this one claimed miracle event (or one event with 2 victims healed), and only the 2 sources. Except for this there is no evidence that Vespasian ever did miracle acts.

Possibly you could argue that at least there's reason to believe Vespasian on this one occasion did a miracle. Or, some great divine intervention happened this one time in the career of Vespasian.

But there's a major factor which casts serious doubt on the whole thing: it's so easy to explain how Vespasian got credited with doing such a miracle, even if it did not happen at all. If the miracle event is easily explained, by ordinary natural means, then this natural explanation is more plausible than a miracle explanation.


the natural explanation for the Vespasian "miracle"

Emperor Vespasian was a famous popular hero celebrity, having millions of admirers across the Roman Empire, and such a popular hero can easily receive attention, in the pop media and in gossip, to bestow honors upon him, crediting him with miracles he never really performed. This had obviously happened, in some similar ways, to earlier heroes like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, and others.

And throughout history there are so many examples of a widely popular hero being credited with miracles or amazing achievements not normally possible. And this is especially so over time, after generations of further story-telling in which the original character gets expanded into a superman figure.

So this mythologizing element can much more easily explain how this miracle came to be credited to Vespasian, even if an actual healing never really happened. If there's another explanation why the worshipers believed it, then it doesn't matter that no healing really happened. Their belief can be explained even if a real healing did not happen here, and so it's more likely to be a psychological and religious interpretation and wish, rather than actual miracle event of someone healed.

(And yet, if the evidence in a particular case is especially strong, the miracle claim might still be the best explanation. But this evidence from Suetonius and Tacitus, in the Vespasian case, is dubious. The two writers seem to be harboring much doubt about it, and are just going along with it because of Vespasian's wide popularity.)

This is a normal pattern when religious people pray and do religious rituals, without any real healing of the victim(s) prayed for, because the worshipers are addicted to their popular hero or religious celebrity who inspires them to set aside their critical judgment and believe the narrative being presented to them. It's not unusual for worshipers to believe a miracle happened, such as miracle recovery from an illness, when these 2 factors are at work: 1) they pray to their ancient god which they already believe in as worshiping members of his cult, convinced that the Divine Power will intervene on their behalf, and 2) they focus on a popular hero figure, or religious charismatic, who has widespread recognition and status. So because of these 2 factors being present, a psychological explanation is more realistic, considering the vast popularity of Vespasian which easily explains why the miracle was believed even if a real miracle event did not happen.

contrast to the reported Jesus miracle acts: But this cannot explain the Jesus miracle healing stories, because he was not a famous or popular or powerful celebrity during his lifetime, or even for several decades afterward. Also, Jesus did not have status in any priesthood practicing an ancient religious cult ritual, nor did he invoke the ancient healing god or cult to give authority to him, as the Serapis worshipers recognized the authority granted to Vespasian.


Vespasian’s use of his foot to effect the other healing, whether by standing on the man’s hand (as in Tacitus) or touching the man’s leg with his heel (as in Suetonius) should be understood in light of the fact that a foot could be seen as a symbol of Sarapis. In some minds Vespasian’s two healings might be taken as a sign, not simply that Vespasian enjoyed Sarapis’s blessing, but that he was in some sense to be identified with the god. This is in part suggested by the ancient Egyptian myth that the kings of Egypt were sons of Re, the sun-god, and is further borne out by the fact that Vespasian was saluted as ‘son of Ammon’ as well as ‘Caesar, god’ when he visited the hippodrome only a short while later.
Note that there is no evidence here that a miracle healing took place. Virtually all the "evidence" for the Vespasian miracle is a focus on the symbolism and the ritual performance of the healing act, without reference to any actual healing which took place. The pagan miracle healings, such as they are, say little or nothing about a victim actually recovering, but only like to focus on the symbolism and interpretation and ancient teachings and rituals. With virtually nothing to tell us that a victim actually recovered.

When you consider any claim that a miracle took place, especially an instant healing, like we see in the Gospel accounts, you must look at the claim that the victim actually did recover, and require the description of this recovery. Is the recovery of the victim highlighted in the story? Or is it all about the fancy ritual, the fancy chanting and praying, the application of religious objects, the charisma of the charismatic healer, the appeal to the ancient gods, and other symbolism apart from the actual recovery of the victim?

Virtually all the ancient miracles in the written record are focused on the symbolism and religious pomp and intensity of the worshipers and priests and pundits, with little to say about benefits experienced by the devotees as a result of a miracle being performed. Does the written account tell us of the benefits to the victims? Far more likely than this are to be found praises to the god and his priests, and presentation of symbols and religious ceremony and commands to obey, and even threats of punishment and destruction of the enemies of the god, or enemies of the established priesthood and its laws and symbols.

And this miracle of Vespasian fits this pattern, with little said about the benefits or recovery of the victims or worshipers seeking the miracle power from him, while instead emphasizing the symbols and rituals, and glorifying the deity seeking to impose the rituals and symbolism onto the worshipers.

We have to ask: Where is the actual description of a recovering victim who is healed? In the Gospel accounts of Jesus healing victims, we see such description. But there is little or no such description in the Vespasian healings and other pagan examples.


That stories about healing blind men with spittle should independently arise around 70 CE in both Mark’s Gospel and Roman propaganda would be something of a coincidence.
Possibly there's a connection. But nothing to suggest that the Mark miracle stories are fictional. The "spit" connection could be a fictional element added later, maybe inspired by whatever also inspired this in the Vespasian story. It's likely Mark added some elements from the popular culture which were not in the original events from 30 AD, or in his earlier sources.


The coincidence becomes all the more striking given the parallel function of the stories: the Blind Man of Alexandria is a story that served to help legitimate Vespasian’s claim to the imperial throne, a claim also supported by various prophecies including Josephus’s reinterpretation of Jewish messianic expectations. The Blind Man of Bethsaida leads into Peter’s confession of Jesus as the messiah, but a messiah apparently misconceived in emperor-like terms.
Let's assume Mark's placement of this story is to introduce the Peter confession. This has nothing to do with whether the healing event actually happened. Mark's "Messiah" pronouncement might be a fact -- Peter actually said it -- or only Mark's theory which he put into Peter's mouth. Either way, it doesn't answer whether the miracle claim is credible. Did this healing act really happen or did it not? This is not answered by speculating what purpose the story is being used for by the author, in placing it into the account.

It's fine to ask the question why Mark includes this story, and why he puts it in this spot prior to the Peter confession. And it's reasonable to question the "spit" element in the story, because of the similarity to the Vespasian story -- coincidence -- which also includes the "spit" theme. But none of that leads to the conclusion that this healing of a blind man did not really happen.

If you're judging that Mark must have concocted a healing story here, in order to provide an occasion for his "Jesus as the messiah" thesis, there's a further question that also must be asked: Why did Mark believe Jesus was this messiah? or why did he promote this Jesus Messiah idea? and in particular: Why Jesus and not someone else? like John the Baptist or James the Just? Why did Mark choose this Jesus character to be his messiah figure and not someone else? Were there not many other candidates for this role who would have been just as logical as Jesus? There were many other popular rabbis who had just as many disciples as Jesus -- many other revered prophets and rebels and martyrs who were just as entitled to the "Messiah" label as Jesus was. What did Jesus do that made him the proper choice to be placed into this role rather than the many others who could have been selected?

And likewise, why did several others, especially writers like Paul, designate this Jesus person rather than someone else for the Messiah role? This is a fundamental question which gets neglected. But you must try to answer this before you conjecture that the writer fabricates miracle stories in order to promote this Jesus Messiah theory as some kind of crusade. You have to explain how several different writers all converged onto this one Jesus figure for their crusade, making this one person their Messiah instead of many others who were equally qualified to fill this role. What brought all these divergent writers into this single project to promote only this one minor dissident character who got crucified as a rebel of some kind? Why this person in particular and no one else?

We have five of them who proclaim that this one was killed and buried and then resurrected back to life, bodily, being seen by many witnesses together -- and the four gospel writers all saying that he performed miracle healing acts, unlike anything found previously in the written record. How do you know they aren't reporting this for the simple reason that they believe it based on the evidence they've acquired? These reports reflect problems of discrepancies and doubt as to some details and yet agreement and corroboration on the main points, all serving to verify the overall picture of a person who did these acts in the time and places identified in the accounts.

If this picture of a miracle-worker is basically true, regardless of all the fine details, then we have the complete picture, with all the questions answered. And this agrees with the conjecture that a miracle story, such as the blind man at Bethsaida, is presented in a way to promote the Jesus Messiah theory, which the writer finds necessary to explain these unusual facts in his sources. That the miracle story is used to promote the theory doesn't in any way undermine the miracle story, because it's precisely this and other such evidence which has led the writer to adopt this theory.


Even if this were mere coincidence it seems likely that Mark’s audience would hear one story in terms of the other, but it seems even more likely that there is no coincidence and that Mark deliberately shaped the Blind Man of Bethsaida with the Blind Man of Alexandria in mind.
If "deliberately shaped" means only that the "spit" element was added by Mark, that does not undermine the credibility of this blind man story in general, as another case of a Jesus miracle healing act. And so maybe it's not a coincidence, but there is such a connection of the Vespasian story to Mark's use of this "spit" theme which he adds to his account. So it's not Mark's blind man story per se that is inspired by the Vespasian story, but rather the "spitting" idea he adds to the story.

And again, this idea might have been floating around generally, so that the Mark story and the Vespasian story are still not directly connected, but rather, the two are connected to this "spit" idea which was used by both. Either is possible, indirect or direct connection of the two miracle stories, with the INdirect connection seeming more plausible.


(this Wall of Text to be continued)
 

Cheerful Charlie

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Lucian's Alexander of Abonoteucius, or Alexander The Miracle Monger. A faker who founded a false religion. His most notable fraud, a tame python with a fake humanhead. Glycon. The "fatheads" of Abonoteuchius wanted miracles and Alexander gave themwhat he wanted. Google, Glycon, images for statues of Glycon.
 

steve_bank

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One time the cable company got the feeds mixed up and I got Egyptian and Indian TV.

An Indian media channel was showing the image of a statue being fed by a spoon and the food appearing to go into th mouth.The commentator was not speaking English but was excited and it was not hard to see what he was probably saying. Somebody on the forum from India said it was common to fake miracles.

From a history of Islam I read it was not ubkown for someone to send agents into an area and spread a prophesy. Then someobe woud appear to fulfill the prophesy.
 

Jarhyn

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How about this for the history of Jesus: qhttps://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Story_of_Jesus

The Toledot has had it's history in being independently documented by Jews for just as long as the gospels have been known.

It seems to indicate that Jesus is a name used for people whose name has been stricken.
 

thingsweneverdid

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I didn't realize you were a Christian. Had I known I wouldn't have replied to your post. I don't get into discussions about whether miraculous things happened 2000 years ago. It's completely absurd. There's just no way to have a logical discussion about that topic. It's like interacting with conspiracy theorists, they can just come up with any excuse to believe whatever they want. It's a complete waste of time.
 

lostone

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We could be arguing with a heretic or some other sort of stand-alone, which might make it worthwhile. Heresies and independents always make for good discussions.
 
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