Thursday, November 23, 2006

Was Jesus a false prophet?

Since this topic came up on the Mormonism and falsification thread, I am setting up this thread to talk about that issue, reserving the Mormonism thread for the Mormonism issue.

25 comments:

exapologist said...

Perhaps I'll just reiterate here what I said in the thread on the falsification of mormonism? OK:

An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet

I agree with mainstream scholarship that Jesus was a failed eschatological prophet. Such a hypothesis, if true, would be a simple one that would make sense of a wide range of data, including the following fourteen pieces of evidence:

1. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to escape the immanent judgment of the eschaton. Jesus was his baptized disciple, and thus accepted his message, and in fact preached basically the same message.
2. Many (most?) of Jesus’ “Son of Man” passages are most naturally interpreted as allusions to the Son of Man figure in Daniel. This figure was an end of the world arbiter of God’s justice, and Jesus kept preaching that he was on his way (“From now on, you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds…”). Jesus seems to identify himself with this apocalyptic figure in Daniel, but I'm not confident whether this identification is a later redaction. Either way, it doesn't bode well for orthodox Christianity.
3. The earliest canonical writing (I Thess): Paul taught an immanent end , and it mirrors in wording the end-time passages in the synoptics (especially the "Little Apocalypse in Mark, and the subsequently-written parallels in Matthew and Luke).
4. Many passages attributed to Jesus have him predicting the end within his generation (“the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent therefore, and believe the good news”; “this generation shall not pass away…”; “you won’t finish going through the cities of Israel before…”; “some of those standing here will not taste death until…”; "From now on, you shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds")
5. A sense of urgency permeates the gospels and the other NT writings: e.g., must hurry to send the message to the cities of Israel before Daniel’s “Son of Man” comes; leaving all to follow him; even burying one’s parents has a lower priority…; Paul telling the Corinthians not to change their current state, since it’s all about to end --- don’t seek marriage, or to leave slave condition, etc., since the end of all things is at hand; and on and on, all the way through the NT corpus)
6. Jesus and Paul taught a radical "interim ethic". This makes sense if they believed that the eschaton would occur within their generation.
7. Jesus had his disciples leave everything and follow him around. This makes sense if Jesus believed that he and they were to be God’s final messengers before the eschaton.
8. There is a clear pattern of a successive watering down of Jesus’ prediction of the eschaton within the generation of his disciples, starting with Mark, and continuing through the rest of the synoptic gospels. By the time we get to John, the last gospel written, the eschatological "kingdom of God" talk is dropped (except for one passage, and it no longer has clear eschatological connotations), along with the end-time predictions. Further, the epistles presuppose that the early church thought Jesus really predicted the end within their lifetimes. Finally, this successive backpedaling continues beyond the NT writings and into those of the apocrypha and the early church leaders, even to the point where some writings attribute an *anti*-apocalyptic message to Jesus. All of these things make perfect sense if we suppose that Jesus really did make such a prediction, and the church needed to reinterpret his message in light of the fact that his generation passed away, yet the eschaton never came.
9. The fact that virtually all the NT authors believed the end would occur in their generation makes perfect sense if Jesus really did make such claims
10. The fact that the early church believed the end would occur in their lifetime makes perfect sense if Jesus really did make such claims
11. Sanders’ argument from the criteria of authenticity: the passages that attribute these predictions to Jesus pass the criteria of multiple attestation (and forms), embarrassment, earliest strata (Mark, Q, M, L, Paul’s earliest letters, the ancient “Maranatha” creed/hymn) etc.
12. Jesus’ parables: virtually all explicitly or implicitly teach a message about an immanent eschaton
13. Jesus’ “inversion” teachings (e.g., "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first"): a common theme among Jewish apocalypticists generally. The general message of apocalypticists is that those who are evil and defy God will not get away with it forever. The just are trampled, and the unjust prosper; thus, this situation will needs to be inverted – as they will be when the “Son of Man” from the book of Daniel comes to exact God’s judgment
14. The fact that the first generation church didn’t write biographies about Jesus, but instead the second generation church wrote the gospels composed of bits of sayings attributed to him, would make sense if his followers believed that the End would occur so quickly (based on Jesus’ teachings) that such a task would be pointless.

But suppose all of this is wrong -- or at least wrong in the one respect that he didn’t mean “this generation” in the way it seems. Still, he did say that the end would come soon, and his apostles said that these were “the last days” etc.


Furthermore, the book of Revelation:

-He’s talking about events within the authors’ day
-Attributes a quick return to Jesus
-Using cipher language, he names Nero as “the Beast” (in ancient languages such as Hebrew and Greek, letters served double-duty as numbers. Thus, it was common to refer to someone without actually saying their name by stating the number that the letters in their name adds up to. Well, Ceasar Nero’s name adds up to 666, and he was ruling and persecuting the church during the time that the book of Revelation was written. In fact, some manuscripts of Revelation have the number read ‘616’, which turns out to add up to a slightly less formal version of Nero’s name!), thus clearly indicating that the end was immanent
-But it’s been about 2,000 years since then!

And so, no matter which way you slice it, the “statute of limitations” has run out on Jesus and his apostle’s claim for an immanent end. But if so, then by OT standards, Jesus was quite simply a false prophet, in which case he’s not a person that a reasonable and ethical person should follow.

It needs to be emphasized that this line of reasoning isn't controversial among mainstream, middle-of-the-road NT critics. I'm not talking about a view held by the Jesus Seminar, or earlier "radical" form and redaction critics like Norman Perrin. Rather, I'm talking about the kinds of considerations that are largely accepted by moderates who are also committed Christians, such as Dale Allison and John Meyer. Indeed, conservative scholars of the likes of none other than Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright largely admit this line of reasoning. Why are they still Christians, you ask? I'll tell you: by giving unnatural, ad hoc explanations. For example, Meyer gets around the problem by arguing that the false prediction passages are inauthentic; Witherington gets around the problem by saying that Jesus preached that the immanent arrival of the eschatological kingdom "might" be at hand(!); Wright gets around the problem by adopting the partial preterist line that the immanent end that Jesus predicted really did occur -- it's just that it was all fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem.

To all of this, I say what should be obvious: you know, deep in your gut (don't you?) that such responses are unnatural, ad hoc dodges of what we know to be the truth here: Jesus really did predict the end within the lifetime of his disciples, but he was simply wrong.

Notice that the claim here is different from one often confused with it, viz., that Jesus happened to say some things that could be interpreted as saying that the end would occur in his lifetime. This isn't the claim I'm making. Rather, it's the much stronger one that Jesus *was* an eschatological prophet -- the end time prediction was what he was all about. It wasn't a message tangential to his central message; it *was* his central message: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

By the way: this case completely undercuts Craig’s “Inference to the Best Explanation” argument for the resurrection of Jesus: the likelihood that a god would resurrect a false prophet is precisely 0, it seems to me (at least if we assume that the OT passages in which God condemns false prophets are assumed to be authentic).

Regards,

exapologist

Mark K. Sprengel said...

Partial preterism eschatology removes much of the problem and is more in line with how apocryphal language was used in declarations of judgement in the OT.

exapologist said...

Hello Mark,

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I have to agree with William Lane Craig that partial preterism is implausible:

It's worth quoting Craig's critique of Wright's partial preterism (which occured in his review of Wright's tome on the resurrection of Jesus) at some length in this connection:

"...Wright defends in his earlier books [i.e. his books prior to his tome on the resurrection of Jesus]...the view that Jesus' prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man in judgement were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. Wright repeatedly asserts that Jews did not anticipate "the end of the space-time universe" at the coming of the Kingdom of God, but a shift within history. I wondered in reading those earlier works how Wright would interpret Paul's teaching that the general resurrection of the dead would take place at Christ's return (I Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 51-54), teaching which was given prior to AD 70. Surely Wright did not believe tht the predicted resurrection took place in AD 70? Certainly not; Wright maintains that the second stage of the resurrection remains future. But if that is the case, in what principled way can we discriminate prophecies concerning Christ's return in AD 70 from those concerning his final return? Are we really to think that Paul, writing in the AD 50s, took the return of Christ and the attendant resurrection to be something different than the return predicted by Jesus and anticipated by the early church (Mk. 13)?" Craig, William Lane. "Review of N.T. Wright's "Christian Origins and the Question of God Vol. 3: The Resurrection of the Son of God", Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 22, No. 2 (April 2005), pp. 241-242.

Also, as I said in my post, the author of the Book of Revelation identifies the Beast with Nero, which requires the eschaton -- including the general resurrection and the final judgement -- to occur within Nero's generation.

Finally, the partial preterist response doesn't even touch my cumulative case argument that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet (well, it's not *my* case, but rather that of mainstream, middle-of-the-road scholarship on the historical Jesus).

Regards,

exapologist

Paul Manata said...

And I defend Sproul's preterist position on exapologist's blog,in this combox.

Paul Manata said...

I also made a post on it on T-blog.

exapologist said...

I encourage others to such what Paul said at my blog as well.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm actually not at all sure that a false prophecy on Jesus' part, even if proven, would refute Christianity. If Jesus is human, and lacked omniscience in human form, then he could have made a statement that to the best of his knowledge was true, but turned out to be false.

In fact, it isn't even a disproof of Christianity even if Jesus lied. I am inclined to side with Constant against Kant that it is sometimes justified, and in fact obligatory, to lie for beneficent purposes. If Christ, as a morally perfect being, always does what is morally, then there are at least possible circumstances in which Christ lies for a good reason. So a false prophecy charge, even if proven true, would not refute Christianity without further argumentation.

exapologist said...

Hello Victor,

I agree with your nice points as far as they go, but I don't think they get to the root of the worries here.

My intuitions are with you when it comes to the permissibility of lying in certain circumstances. Futhermore, as to your other point, I agree that there are conditions under which a false prophesy from Jesus wouldn't count seriously against Christianity. So, for example, if at least certain portions of the OT are not the words of God (in particular, those that make pronouncements against false prophets), then if Jesus' falsely prophesied, then he's off the hook.

Furthermore, if one is a Catholic, then one can reject the bulk of both Testaments, and point out that God speaks authoritatively through the Church and not the Bible. If so, then one could do what John P. Meier does and treat the overt predictions as inauthentic redactions (although he maintains that Jesus *believed* that the eschaton would occur immanently, which is perfectly consistent with what we would expect if we take the doctrine of the incarnation seriously).

However, I don't think that these sorts of concessions remove the deeper problems here:

(i) Jesus didn't just happen to predict an immanent eschaton; rather the pieces of data from the NT I mentioned seem to justify an abductive inference to the view that Jesus was, primarily, an apocalyptic prophet.

(ii) If one takes as authentic the passages where Jesus adamantly and repeatedly prophesies an immanent eschaton (e.g., when they are connected with things such as "Amen, Amen I say to you..."; "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.."), then it's harder to brush these off.

(iii) But if we take the route of denying the authenticity of these passages, and the fourteen points I mentioned in my original post, then it seems that we are left with a worrisome skepticism about who the historical Jesus really was. For these passages pass multiple criteria of authenticity (multiple, indpendent attestation, embarassment, early strata, etc.). And if the best attested data is called into question, then what evidence *does* pass for determining who Jesus really was? Again, it's always permissible to take the Catholic way out and hold to the primacy of the authority of the Church and the tradition, so perhaps one might go that route?

Best,

exapologist

Aquinas13 said...

Full Pretartists believe Jesus' prediction of his coming "On the clouds of Heaven" were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. Using the term "on the clouds of heaven" is a favorite OT motiff for God's judgement. God never literally came to earth in any of those passages. Rather He used gentile kingdoms to punish His people. Jesus is speaking in this tradition.

Only by forcing an overly-literal interpretation on these texts does one have difficulty with the "this generation" prediction of Jesus. That generation was alive in AD 70.

Apocolyptic works such as Revelation repeat the same message in a circular fashion using different symbols, such as 666, to convey the same truth.

Only those taking an over-literal reading of what is not intended that way will have a problem with Jesus' prediction. Such a view of obvious apocolyptic passages is far from an ad hoc argument.

Aquinas13

Aquinas13 said...

Furthermore, if one is a Catholic, then one can reject the bulk of both Testaments, and point out that God speaks authoritatively through the Church and not the Bible. If so, then one could do what John P. Meier does and treat the overt predictions as inauthentic redactions (although he maintains that Jesus *believed* that the eschaton would occur immanently, which is perfectly consistent with what we would expect if we take the doctrine of the incarnation seriously).


First off, Catholics do not "reject" both of the testaments. They do believe in extra-Biblical revelation, but this is far from a rejection.

And I don't see what historian Meier's approach has to do with Catholicism in general? This is a genetic fallacy of lumping the whole of Catholicism in with what Meir does and therefore implying that Catholic is wrong because Meier is wrong.

exapologist said...

Hi Aquinas13,

I certainly agree that Catholics *don't* reject the bulk of the OT or the NT. But my point was that, due to their views about the primacy of the authority of the Church, they *can* in principle, and that there's nothing illegitimate in the least about this.

Also, the point about Meier: I didn't mean to imply that Meier's approach or his views are somehow "wrong" or implausible. Indeed, I think ihis position is completely intellectually respectable. I don't think anyone can accuse Meier's views or (his means of acquiring them) as epistemically blameworthy in any respect. I was rather trying to *defend* the Catholic approach as a plausible way to go in response to the points I was making. It's a position I take seriously when I have doubts about my own position.

Regards,

exapologist

JD Walters said...

Though I don't think it's %100 clear what Jesus' apocalyptic passages were referring to, it might very well have been the case that Jesus was just as surprised by God's vindication as everyone else. Maybe even Jesus was expecting an eschatological coming, and was disappointed in that (cf his cry on the cross in Mark), but God vindicated him in a way nobody would have expected, i.e. resurrection and exaltation.

And Paul's references to an imminent end of the world were extrapolated from his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. So he could very well have been wrong about the imminent end (which he was) without being wrong about the resurrection. He just drew the wrong implications of that event.

Paul Manata said...

Aquinas,

1. It's not "full-preterists" who talk about Jesus' words in Matt 24 being fulfilled in 70 A.D., but *all* preterists.

Full-preterists say that *all* eschaotlogical prophecies have been fulfilled by 70 A.D.

2. Regarding "this generation."

a) When is that phrased ever used to not mean the generation being spoken to? You have the burden.

b) Notice the use of "you." It was the "disciples* who asked him a question and Jesus told them that then *they* say these things then *they'd* know when the time was near.

c) Notice Jesus says that the temple would be destroyed. This took place in 70 ad.

Thus you'd need a *new* temple to be re-built, and so where's your case *for that?*

Anyway,

I've answered exapologist's latest salvo here.

Aquinas13 said...

Hello Paul:

Aquinas,

1. It's not "full-preterists" who talk about Jesus' words in Matt 24 being fulfilled in 70 A.D., but *all* preterists.


This is true, I don't recall denying this. I was speaking purely the full pretarist position as it had not been mentioned in the discussion. Partial pretarism had been mentioned in a few comments already. So...what is your point exactly?

Full-preterists say that *all* eschaotlogical prophecies have been fulfilled by 70 A.D.

I wasn't primarily addressing all eschatological prophecies, just those in the Gospels. I wasn't discussing the full gamut of pretarism. What straw man exactly are you addressing???

2. Regarding "this generation."

a) When is that phrased ever used to not mean the generation being spoken to? You have the burden.


Burden exactly for what? Here is what I said:

That generation was alive in AD 70.

b) Notice the use of "you." It was the "disciples* who asked him a question and Jesus told them that then *they* say these things then *they'd* know when the time was near.

c) Notice Jesus says that the temple would be destroyed. This took place in 70 ad.


Uh, these points are in agreement with what I was arguing for. Again, I ask what exactly are you looking for me to defend?

I have already read Sprouls book and like many of his arguments.

By the way I am a full Pretarist, so I understand every point you have made.

Aquinas 13

Regards, Aquinas 13

Paul Manata said...

Sorry, I must have misunderstood you Aquinas.

Anyway, I critiqued hyper-preterism here:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/04/two-dozen-or-so-orthodox-arguments.html

Jason said...

The essay from Exap, which opens the comments on this thread and to which I am replying, was originally posted (apparently addressing me) in a thread created by Victor to discuss the question of historically falsifying the Book of Mormon. As I pointed out at the time, aside from intruding on another conservation that had been set up by Victor, the type of falsification Exap is attempting with this argument is categorically different from the type of falsification, potential or otherwise, we were discussing in that thread. Exap apologized for the intrusion, and reposted the essay in this new thread Victor set up, at my suggestion, for the purpose.


I will try to summarize my replies, which would otherwise tend to be redundant (on a point by point pass through Exap’s essay), by collecting them topically in the following list. (Note: these numbers are not intended to correspond to Exap’s numbered list of “evidences”--which tend to be somewhat redundant themselves. {g})


1.) I think a more careful distinction needs to be made between two claims, only one of which may fairly be called ‘mainstream’ (since scholars from a broad range may accept it.)

a. Jesus believed and preached that the eschaton would happen relatively quickly, at least within the lifetime of his disciples, and no later than the end of the generation. But it didn’t. Consequently, he was wrong about this.

b. Jesus was _nothing more than_ a failed eschatological prophet.

Position (a) is what I myself had agreed to, with the consequent mention that Jesus was reported (in what is typically taken to be the earliest Gospel) as cautioning beforehand that he didn’t and couldn’t really know the timing. It was to this _agreement of mine_ that Exap posted his essay in reply--a reply that treats me as if I wasn’t agreeing that Jesus taught something that didn’t happen when he expected it to happen. It is position (a) that can be fairly considered to be a _mainstream_ position.

Position (b) is what Exap is arguing for, _beyond_ (a). Since (a) can hardly be considered to be a clearly ‘rightward’ position (even though a scholar on my side of the aisle can still accept it), and since (b) goes beyond (a) in a particular topical direction, then it should be sufficiently clear that (b) is _not_ a _mainstream_ position.

I make this point mainly to call coup on a rhetorical tactic frequently made by, it must be said, groups like the JSem, who desperately want to position their views as ‘mainstream’ scholarship, and so who will conflate two related positions in order to make one position seem more mainstream than it actually is.

Exap may not be doing this intentionally; but even if not, he should be aware of the conflation, and avoid it (or else distinguish more accurately).


2.) I have no dispute at all, against the claim that _one_ of the messages being preached by JohnBapt, Jesus, and the apostles, was that the end of their current age was at hand (which _did_ turn out to be reasonably true, by the way) _and_ that the final restoration of justice by God’s direct action was expected to happen with the turning of the age (which _didn’t_ happen.)

I also have no dispute at all, against the claim that the authors of the NT accepted and promoted _both_ these ideas. (I only make the distinction because Exap seems to rest on the NT authors not being 1st generation disciples. I will have something to say about this later; for now, I am only agreeing on a topic.)


3.) This seems a reasonably good place to add that I disagree with the positions attributed to Meyer, BW3 and Wright (and which I can confirm Wright holds), as much as Exap does, and for approximately the same reasons: I think they are weak and ad hoc explanations. (I haven’t read Sproul’s defense, referred to by Victor in his next main post, but unless he’s saying something radically better than Wright, I don’t expect much from it. I don’t gather, from the comments attached to that post, that it’s radically better than Wright... {wry g})


4.) That being said: I disagree, and strenuously so, with Exap’s attempt to position Jesus’ message as being only, or even primarily, about an immanent final judgment.

My crit on this can be summed up as follows: Exap can only reach this position (that Jesus was _only_ a failed apocalyptic prophet) by eliminating a significant amount of material as being, one way or another, false data. This elimination is not optional. It is absolutely required for his hypothesis ((b), beyond (a)) to hold. Furthermore, such an elimination of vast reaches of material as spurious or otherwise unreliable, would seem to already involve just the sort of widespread historical falsification position that would make a topically accurate comparison to falsifying the Book of Mormon (which, recall, is where this topic showed up in the first place.)

But that isn’t what Exap led with. He led with this, instead: a position that can really only amount to a more-or-less trivial corollary (which, incidentally, is concerned with a catgorically different kind of falsification). He doesn’t discuss (much less justify) the highly necessary elimination of data from the set at all. He barely mentions it in passing.


So, as some examples, we are expected to basically ignore:

a.) every single piece of data that would indicate Jesus was _not_ the disciple of JohnBapt (for which elimination we must substitute only an inference extrapolated from the remaining data, not even a piece of the remaining data itself);

b.) the fact that virtually all the Son of Man sayings refer to Jesus himself;

c.) all the data involved in emphasizing the importance of the Messiah being here already and talking to the characters in the narrative, expecting them to shape up and act right now because he is _here_ _now_;

d.) any data emphasizing the kingdom is beginning already with Jesus’ presence;

e.) not incidentally, any and all data concerning the massive level of Jesus’ self-perceived authority (including over-against those who didn’t think that highly of him to one degree or other).

This list could be expanded somewhat further, too.


So, having discounted no less than 60% of the Gospel material (without even eliminating the reports of the miraculous yet, notice!), we may then perhaps arrive fairly safely at a theory that Jesus’ main message was that the end of the world (along with the Son of Man and God’s judgment) was coming, and that he was only a failed prophet of this.

But, wouldn’t it be more pertinent to discuss the elimination of this vast swatch of material instead, spanning all four Gospels (not to say Acts)?


5.) The tacit (but totally necessary) elimination of this vast swatch of material, requires Exap to ignore the very criteria of reliability that he calls into play (from Sanders, for instance--a man who, incidentally, once famously conceded that after analyzing the data he could come up with no naturalistic explanation for the existence of the Res accounts). Otherwise, he would be obliged to admit data that would render his position more and more tenuous. Admissions of historical accuracy are tricky things to allow: for they have implications and consequences, ignored only at the peril of irresponsible analysis, and it can become very difficult to call a halt after one category without seeming to be merely conveniently selective about what portions of the data will count.

It is important to note, that the claim of _historical accuracy_ necessary for Exap’s theory cannot be merely provisional, merely for sake of argument. His theory depends on _those_ bits of data having been accurately transmitted into the subsequent written materials. But if the criteria of reliability counts for them, why does it not count for the no-less-than-60% worth of excised material which we have to ignore in order for this theory to look stronger?


6.) Exap’s theory requires that a significant amount of backscaling about immanent apocalyptic be present in the texts in some kind of progressive manner, until in GosJohn (for instance) there is hardly anything left.

His theory also apparently requires--based on his continual emphasis and insistence on it--that the NT authors were unanimous on presenting a Jesus whose prime or even only concern was to preach about a soon-to-come final judgment.

To say the least, this glaring disparity would seem to hint that an adjustment in the presentation is needed somewhere. {g}


7.) The timing of Exap’s theory doesn’t hang together very well, when the contexts are accounted for.

For instance, Exap (correctly I think) sets RevJohn’s composition pre-70, on the entirely reasonable ground that it’s referring in code to things happening during Nero’s reign and thence to expectations about what will happen afterward. The end is coming in this generation--and it’s almost here!

But then, he asks us to believe that the Gospel accounts were composed by the _2nd_ generation of disciples, after the failure of the eschaton happening--that _none_ of the Gospel accounts were written by 1st generation disciples.

None? Even the wildest modern sceptic nowadays (such as Burton Mack, proclaiming virtually the whole thing to be fictional from beginning to end) does not set GosMark earlier than 70; why would its author not be considered 1st gen? The material from Acts is most certainly 1st gen in content (even rawly primitive in places)--is there good reason to suppose its author was not himself 1st gen? Is there any good reason at all to suppose it was composed any time significantly after Paul’s initial imprisonment in Rome? Is there any good reason not to consider this text to be, as the author says, the sequel to a biography of Jesus written to Theophilus? Is it even remotely ‘mainstream’ to consider Acts and GosLuke not to be written by the same author? Does the GosLuke author not note, in his opening address (quite in style for biographical accounts of the time) that he is following others who have already written accounts?


This is completely aside from the question of whether Exap is really going to be comfortable about allowing a text with a freakishly high Christology--even more in-the-face than GosJohn’s--to predate 70 in composition and (basically) final form. If RevJohn is pre70, _anything_ in the NT can be pre-70. (Or, putting it in the terms of J.A.T. Robinson--hardly a flaming theological conservative--if GosJohn can be pre-70, which was his own initial position, anything can be pre-70.)

Even if we discount GosMatt and GosJohn, though, as being post-70 2nd gen creations, the evidence as it is indicates that with Acts, GosLuke and GosMark, we have biographers of the 1st gen in action. (And if Exap, as looks likely, considers GosMatt to have been composed between Mk and Lk--well...)


8.) Exap’s composition timing schema doesn’t work out very well in regard to another topically relevant point, either: in GosMark--putatively earlier than the other three Gospels--Jesus is reported to be qualifying his expectations on the timing; a qualification the other texts don't report, _even though_ (per Exap’s 2nd gen compositional timing) it ought to have been even more obvious that the return wasn't going to be during the first generation.

Nor is this fixed in GosJohn. The butt-kicking to come is still coming; Jesus apparently is still going to do it; it’s going to happen sometime after the Res; and there’s nothing more than in any of the Synoptics (maybe _less_ in some regards) that the delay between Jesus’ departure and return might be longer than a generation. Granted, the material doesn’t talk _as much_ about this kind of thing, but it’s still in there. (And not infrequently referenced by sceptics when they want to complain about apparently anti-Semitic attitudes or intolerance, etc.) If the author is going out of his way to distinguish himself from the Synoptic reports--indeed, going out of his way TO SPECIFICALLY CORRECT A POPULAR MISUNDERSTANDING THAT HAS GONE AROUND CONNECTED TO JESUS' RETURN!--then why isn’t he, at the tail end of the century, correcting this other (rather more serious) misunderstanding about the timing in the first place?

For the correction is not “Jesus didn’t mean He would come back before I died.” The correction is “Jesus didn’t mean I would remain alive until He came back.” A correction, by the way, about a piece of material the Synoptics absolutely don’t have (unless it’s part of the missing portion of GosMark perhaps!) Based on a scene of the risen Jesus _after_ the Res.

The correction, in other words, tends to indicate that the material up through GosJohn 20 anyway is 1st gen--and technically chp 21, too.

(I will add that I have put this case without necessarily appealing to the attributed authors as being the actual authors. Obviously, John Mark, Luke the traveling companion of Paul, and the Apostles Matthew and John, would all be considered 1st gen by default.)


9.) The radical “interim ethic” makes good sense if Jesus and Paul believed that the eschaton would occur within their generation, I agree. I also note that, by and large, it makes good sense for common discipline’s sake, in order that we will not be addicted to things--especially since we _are_ all going to meet God someday, whether we go or He comes.

Also, the radicality can be (sometimes) difficult to distinguish from Near Eastern hyperbolic emphasis, especially when the chief authority behind the tradition is famous for making points by a fortiori appeals.


10.) It makes sense for disciples to leave everything and follow Jesus, if Jesus believed that he and they were to be God’s final messengers before the eschaton, I agree. It also, incidentally, makes sense for them to do this if they are being chosen to be emissaries of a king, especially to go help other people and be a witness for him to them.


11.) Jesus’ “inversion” teachings (e.g., "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first") are a common theme among Jewish apocalypticists generally, I agree. The exact same story contexts also report that he expected people to start getting their acts in gear now, because the chief authority _was already here_ (as well as going to return in power to exact God's judgment later.)


12.) May I add that my position (of orthodox Christianity--one that involves the two-natures doctrine) doesn’t require me to simply ignore vast quantities of the material for no clearly stated reason? Nor does it require me to go into the sort of ad hoc explanations Exap mentioned (and, I think, rightly reject). It doesn’t even require me to posit that Jesus might have lied about something in order to get something else done. It simply requires that Jesus be human as well as divine, and that the Persons of the Godhead be distinct as Persons.


13.) The comparison to OT prophetic rules is not unwelcome; but really, if Exap is going to appeal to those, the contrast is almost comical. Jesus didn’t say “The Lord God tells me to tell you, ‘So says the Lord God of Israel: “These things shall take place before this generation dies off.”’” He reportedly spoke on _rather_ more significant authority than that.

In other words, why softball this argument?--that Jesus was _only_ a failed prophet? Why not say that Jesus was a freaking blasphemer who had the mad gall to make himself out to have the authority of God Himself?

By OT standards, or anyone’s for that matter, Jesus would in _that_ case be even _more_ “not a person that a reasonable and ethical person should follow.” And Exap could even go on to say that “the likelihood that a god would resurrect a freaking blasphemer sinning the sin of Satan might actually be _less_ than zero! (at least if we assume that the OT passages in which God condemns Satan-level hubris are assumed to be authentic.)”

Or, if I may quote from James Cameron’s _Aliens_: “Game over man! Game over!... Nuke the site from orbit... cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska...” {g}


So, why not go that route? Wouldn’t that make even more sense that what you (Exap) are currently trying to argue?


Jason Pratt

exapologist said...

Hi Jason,

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your wonderful reply! Would you mind terribly if I take a while to get back to you? Leaving aside the fact that you've given me a lot of penetrating points to think about, I have to do some grading and writing before the quarter ends.

Please don't hold it against me if there's a delay in my return! ; )

exapologist

Jason said...

Not a problem--I make it a stringent point of self-discipline _never_ to infer that just because something I've written hasn't been answered yet, I must have written something unanswerable.

For further reassurance, I also realize very well that it's entirely possible that by the time you can get around to it, topical interest may have moved on, or you may have other projects already cooking elsewhere aside from 'work' work. If we ever get back to it, great. If not, I promise I won't (and wouldn't) chalk it up in my head as a 'win'. {s}

Jason Pratt

Jace said...

Eggheads who sit on their couches and read instead of live...

Who cares about apologetics if the world is still screwed up? Maybe someone is looking for a way out of the charge to change this world. Even Jesus said he didn't know the hour or the day when the earth would come to an end.

I say stop reading and start helping the poor and destitute...then maybe you'll have an idea of what you're talking about it.

Jesus was no false prophet. He gave his all for me and you. He deserves it all back.

Daniel said...

If Jesus lied, or spoke authoritatively about something he didn't know about, he was a false prophet. End of story. I can't see how claiming to be coming again within the generation could be a beneficial lie. Saying this in such close proximity to making the statement that not even "the Son" knows "the hour or the day" is strange, though I guess maybe he just didn't want to be specific. The main ish I have with this whole thing is that if he was willing to make religious pronouncements on things that he did not know the truth or falsehood of, then how can we trust in the first place his fantastic claims to be the Son of God?


Living life according to the teachings of Christianity does make a more fulfilling existence, but if the whole thing is false, then it isn't really any more meaningful then Scientology is, with the auditing that allegedly seems to work only because it co-opts techniques from psychology. Now I agree that the words of Jesus Christ feel truer and more right than any other I have ever come across, but the amount of doubt swirling around them is most depressing.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that more people died fighting wars in the name of Christ throughout history than any other reason.

I also don't see evidence of Jesus bringing much out of people other than "reassurance" of an afterlife and just general hatred and intolerance for all or most non-Christians.

If anything, if there were such a thing as Satan or "Lucifer" or whatever... then these effects would sound more like the work of a devil than a savior.

It could also very well be a trick. The revelations warns against worshipping a false prophet, which could be the devil's way to get us to mistake a real prophet with the "anti-Christ". Kinda the way lots of redneck, bible belt, right wing nuts are trying to say that President Obama is the "anti-Christ" (even though he has, so far, seemed like an honest man with good intentions yet they just don't trust him no matter what he says or does).

Note: I'm not saying Obama is or isn't a prophet or anti-christ. In fact, I think he's just a regular guy and good public servant. I'm just using it as an example scenario of what I mean.

Another problem I have with Jesus is that he seemed quite self-obsessed. If he were alive today, he'd probably be like David Koresh with a small cult of people following him around. He's just kinda like "All you have to do is believe that I am a prophet who died for your sins and you'll have eternal life... drink this wine, it represents my awesome blood, and eat this bread, it represents my awesome body, blah blah blah..."

Seems kinda like backwards logic to me. It requires blind faith, which doesn't make any sense.

Maybe it was just a primitive way of saying that, at the moment you die, don't be fearful but keep a positive attitude looking forward to the next adventure... because if there is an afterlife, then maybe your state of mind during the transition dictates what happens or where you go or something like that. In which case, all he is really saying is, live life the best you can so that you carry the least regrets possible with you as baggage into the "next world" or whatever.

Just a theory.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is definitely not the solution. He failed to bring world peace and justice, it was something that should've been done in the first place. There is no second coming in the Hebrew scriptures, christians are surely giving him a pass for what he didn't do along time ago. It is possible that Jesus set the whole thing up, healing, miracles, demon possession, and resurrection to get people to believe that he was the messiah. Read Deuteronomy 13:1-7 to know more.

Anonymous said...

spalms 32 eyes ezekiel 7 eye reference duetonomy 11 eye reference jeremiah 16 eye reference isaiah 65 eye reference jeremia 2 eye reference.
how does this man know scripture havfing never studied/LEARned. AMAZING feat for someone that doesn't read. READINg old testimate prooves he is a fraud.

Truth Seeker said...

This guy probably has the best approach to this challenge:

http://www.apologeticsinthechurch.com/58/post/2012/07/jesus-apocalyptic-prophet-yes-failed-fanatical-apocalyptic-prophet-no-not-even-if-we-adopt-a-schweitzerian-framework.html

Anonymous said...

The mainstream scholarship does not exist.

Matt 23:36 "Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation."

In Matt 23:36, there is no Hypothetical. Matt 23:34-35 can be ascribed to history, i.e. that generation.

Matt 23:39 "For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, TILL (Gr. heos an) ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

In Matt 23:39, the word "till", but specifically (Gr.) heos an, carries a strong Hypothetical force. The verse may be worded in this manner:

"IF ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, THEN ye shall see Me henceforth."

The if-then Conditional provided by the Hypothetical may be symbolized thusly:

P -> Q

If P, then Q

This is the same phraseology used in Matt 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32.

Matt 24:34 "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, TILL (Gr. heos an) all these things be fulfilled."

The verse(s) may be worded in this manner:

"IF all these things be fulfilled, THEN this generation shall pass."

P -> Q

If we say, "But all of those things were not fulfilled, therefore their generation should not have passed", that is a Fallacy of Reasoning called Denying the Antecedent.

If we say, "But their generation did pass, therefore all those things should have been fulfilled", that is a Fallacy of Reasoning called Affirming the Consequent.

The same applies to Matt 10:28, etc, and the desires and knowledge of the Apostles was NOT sequitur. Act 1:7.