The Historical Jesus (Page 2)
ghostgeek: Why was he crucified? Paul doesn't say but I suspect it involved a protest in Jerusalem over the financing of a new water supply for the city from temple funds.
No mention of miracles from Paul.
I.e., no mention of the HEALING miracles.
And that's because PAUL OMITS ALL the facts about Jesus prior to the night he was arrested, or everything up to the crucifixion event. Paul cares only about the crucified and risen Christ, not about anything earlier which Jesus did. Nothing biographical except that one night before the crucifixion.
Many Christian writers later omit any mention of the Jesus miracle healing acts, even though they knew of those miracle acts by Jesus. The miracle healings of Jesus have generally received less attention in Christian theology.
The Resurrection is given much attention, but other than this, the theologians and preachers only dwell on the virgin birth and on the fulfillment of the ancient Hebrew prophecies. They generally disregard the miracle healings of Jesus, even though they're aware of these in the Gospel accounts.
Just a straight up that Jesus was crucified and seen three days after his death. So if we're to believe what's likely to be the basis of the Jesus story, this is it.
The "basis" is the power he had, life-giving or life-source power, which he demonstrated in both the Resurrection and in the healing acts. This was a totally UNIQUE power which was not demonstrated by anyone else. So the healing acts he did are additional evidence of this power. This additional evidence gives further support to the belief, or strengthens further the reasonable conclusion that he had such power.
What did Jesus do that was noteworthy? As Paul would have told you, he got himself crucified.
No, that's not what was noteworthy. Many thousands of others also got themselves crucified and are forgotten as nobodies.
His resurrection is what was noteworthy.
But his healing acts are also noteworthy, even though Paul omits them, just as many later Christian writers omit them or play them down.
ghostgeek: What makes you think Paul skipped over Jesus' healing acts? Why couldn't it be a case of him not knowing about them because they never occurred?
ghostgeek: Everything you believe about Jesus Christ is based on four fictional gospels. That's why they come after Paul's Epistles. The Evangelists took what was in those letters and spun a myth that is still with us.
ghostgeek: What makes you think Paul skipped over Jesus' healing acts?
The fact that many Christian writers and theologians have skipped over them. Or, in the case of the most famous ones, they played down the Jesus healing miracles and instead put all their attention on the virgin birth and on the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies. This is the general pattern among all the later writers, or "Church Fathers" or the Patristic Writings. Many omit any mention whatever of the Jesus healing miracles, though emphasizing the Resurrection. They apparently thought the healing miracles were not important.
Look up Irenaeus and Cyprian and try to find reference to the Jesus miracle acts in them. Even in Justin Martyr they're difficult to find, though he mentions them a little.
EPISTLE OF 2 PETER
One New Testament writer who omitted the Jesus miracle healings is the writer of 2 Peter, which is generally dated the very last of the NT writings -- maybe about 130 AD. This one obviously knew of the Jesus healing acts, shows familiarity with the earlier Gospel accounts, and he gives as proof for Jesus the famous revelation at the time he was baptized -- the "Voice" they heard from heaven: "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." For this Christian writer, the miracle "Voice" from the sky is the proof for Jesus, rather than the healing acts, which are disregarded.
There are no Church writers, other than possibly Eusebius, who give serious attention to the Jesus healing miracles.
We can assume Paul intentionally "skipped over" the Jesus miracle healing acts because of the fact that he omits everything about Jesus prior to the night of his arrest, and his omission of the Jesus miracles is just part of this general omission by him. Paul did not want to present any of the earlier biography of Jesus. He also omits virtually everything about the disciples, other than mentioning his own interaction with Peter and James.
Consider Paul's many other omissions. He says nothing about any events in Judea or Galilee. He omits mention of John the Baptizer and those in power, like Herod Antipas and Pilate and the High Priest and the Sanhedrin and others involved with the trial, though he makes allusion to those in power. Why does he make so many omissions? Whatever the reason, it doesn't mean these people didn't exist and didn't do the things mentioned in the Gospel accounts.
Why couldn't it be a case of him not knowing about them because they never occurred?
Because the evidence is that they did occur, not that Paul didn't know of them. We can easily explain why he omitted to mention them even though they did happen. Many things happened which Paul probably knew but didn't mention.
A reason we should believe Jesus did those miracle acts is that otherwise there is no way to explain what was important about him, or why anyone became his "disciple" or thought he was special.
Without those miracle acts, he was no different than John the Baptizer or James the Just and many other popular prophets and teachers. If he did nothing different, why was he made into a Son of God and called "Messiah" and other labels not assigned to any others?
The evidence is that John the Baptizer was more popular and drew larger audiences to his speeches than Jesus drew. If people wanted to make up miracle stories, they'd be more likely to assign them to John the Baptizer than to Jesus. Or to many others just as important or more important than Jesus. Other than the miracle healings, we have no indication that Jesus did anything important at all, prior to the Resurrection.
If multiple sources say the same thing, e.g. some unusual event(s) happened, that certain miracle acts took place, and no source contradicts it, then this claim is credible, the event(s) did happen. That one source omits it doesn't undermine it, especially if that one source is so narrowly focused and omits many points included by the others, and omits everything about the subject prior to a certain late point in the chronology.
ASCENSION OF ISAIAH
Here is another Christian book which plays down the miracles of Jesus, omitting any reference other than one mention of "signs and wonders" he did. Nothing about any healings, though obviously the author(s) knew the Gospel accounts of the Jesus healing miracles. Much is narrated about Mary and Joseph and the infancy/childhood period, and various cosmic signs, but no miracle of Jesus is mentioned other than the one vague mention of the "signs and wonders."
This apocalyptic document mentions Jesus of the first century, even though it pretends to be written centuries earlier. It's in a similar category as the Books of Enoch, assigning its words to an earlier prophetic source. This essentially pro-Christian document emphasizes the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and gives several details, such as mention of the 12 disciples, one of which turned evil. But it omits any miracles done by Jesus other than the vague "signs and wonders." It gives much more mention of miracles to be done by the Antichrist claiming to be God.
So this "Ascension of Isaiah" document speaks of Jesus and his 12 disciples and other events from the Gospel accounts, but never mentions any miracle of Jesus other than his Resurrection and ascension.
EPISTLE OF POLYCARP
This document shows unmistakable familiarity with the Gospel accounts, written about 150 AD. It repeats mention of the Resurrection, or Jesus "raised from the dead," but omits any reference to the Jesus miracle healing acts.
There are many examples like these, of later Christian writers showing familiarity with Jesus in the Gospels, sometimes quoting Matthew, often mentioning the Resurrection, and even the Virgin Birth and the Star of Bethlehem, preaching Christ in one way or another and yet never mentioning any miracle acts of Jesus other than the Resurrection. This was very common.
The Christian writers actually show a disdain for the Jesus miracle healing acts. They are much more comfortable praising him because of his Virgin Birth and his supposed fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies.
Everything you believe about Jesus Christ is based on four fictional gospels.
They are legitimate written accounts confirmed as 1st-century-dated, near to the reported events, fulfilling the requirement for a genuine source for historical events. That they contain some fiction or are otherwise imperfect does not distinguish them from all the other ancient written sources we rely on for the historical events -- all of which writings contain some fiction and propaganda from those writers, including historians. We believe Josephus and Herodotus, e.g., who both report much propaganda and superstitions and religious traditions they believed in. The Gospel accounts too are reliable sources for the historical events, despite the religious superstitions contained in them.
Of course "everything you believe" from ancient history is based on the limited written sources of that time which report it. All of which sources contain their share of "fiction" and other dubious content which cannot be believed automatically without any questioning. So no matter what your ancient history knowledge is, it is based on those limited sources which are flawed and sometimes inaccurate. And yet that's where we get our facts about what happened.
That's why they come after Paul's Epistles.
They are not so much later. From Mark to John is about 70-100 AD, or 40-70 years after the Jesus events. This is a relatively short time span between the reported events and the later reports of the events. More typical for ancient history is 50-200 years between the events and the earliest reports of it in the writings. It's very rare to have reports from writers contemporary to the actual events they report.
Being only 20-50 years later does not necessarily mean more fictional. The later writer has more overview, with more sources containing something the earlier writer had missed. There's virtually no contradiction between Paul and the Gospels about what happened. Mainly he's closer to the events and probably knows of them from a closer view, having direct contact with some direct witnesses. But he's not the only credible source. They harmonize on the essential facts despite his omission of the miracle healing acts, which are also omitted or played down by most of the other Christian writers.
Even if Paul should be judged as the more credible, yet we're much more informed by having both the earlier Paul and also the later Gospel accounts to present the picture to us of what happened. These differing presentations agree generally but also conflict on interpretation or theology. Our overall picture is more accurate as a result of having them all. And as with all other ancient sources for history, they contain both fact and fiction. The confusion of some details and conflicting interpretation show to us that a basic unusual event must have happened which they knew was important, and it's good for us to get the substance even if there are conflicting interpretations of it.
That substance is inseparable from the basic fact of the miracle power Jesus demonstrated, which all the sources agree on, regardless if they each explain it differently. All of them seem to go toward a Salvation or Redemption message, or hope we have as a result of this "good news" event in history.
ghostgeek: The Gospels are indeed written, and most likely come from the first century AD, but claiming they are legitimate accounts is pushing it a bit. For example, in Mark we see it stated that Judas Iscariot went off to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus, but how did this information reach the Evangelist? Actually we're not told, and as Judas ended up dead soon after, the supposed means of transfere is obscure to say the least. As before, one more reason to think the Gospels are fiction.
ghostgeek: Any number of people in the first century were claiming the ability to heal individuals, as they still do today. Thus the ability to transcend death would be a bigger attention grabber than getting the lame walking again.
ghostgeek: Basically, Lumpenproletariat, you need to establish the Gospels' authenticity. Can you do this, or is it going to be more belief over substance?
The Gospels are indeed written, and most likely come from the first century AD, but claiming they are legitimate accounts is pushing it a bit.
They're just as legitimate as any other written accounts concerning the events of the time in question. "Legitimate" means they're entitled to be used for determining what happened just as any other written accounts are. Being near to the events and claiming to report to us what happened makes them "legitimate" to be used as sources for learning what happened. And of course ALL the written accounts of any kind have to be read critically and not automatically believed for everything they say. We can use them as sources and also be critical to distinguish the fact from the fiction.
For example, in Mark we see it stated that Judas Iscariot went off to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus, but how did this information reach the Evangelist?
How the information reached the writer is something you could demand of millions of writings which usually don't tell us how the writer knows of it. Just because we don't know exactly how the writer got the information is no reason to doubt the information told in the account. At the time the event happened it might have been known to only a few, but after a year or two it surely was known to hundreds who were familiar with the events generally. The Gospel writers/evangelists 40 or 50 years later learned the general story in written and oral accounts of it, and probably they had conflicting versions of it. Nothing about this casts any doubt onto Mark and the other Gospel accounts reporting this. Surely you can find discrepancies in the differing accounts, as is normal with any reporting of the ancient events. But the events did happen, regardless of the details.
Actually we're not told, and . . .
So what? We're almost never told by the writers how they got their information. We believe the ancient writings which tell us what happened without needing to know how the writer got the information.
. . . as Judas ended up dead soon after, the supposed means of transfer is obscure to say the least.
Any of the Sanhedrin members could have reported this to others. Word of it would get around even if it was mostly kept quiet. We're told one of the Sanhedrin members was sympathetic to Jesus, and others also could have been. They could have told others about it.
You could quibble with any reported historical event if you insist we must always know exactly how the knowledge of it got circulated to others. We're seldom told this in any ancient writing which reports an event.
It's not important exactly how much they paid him, or what kind of coins were paid, etc. There's also a possibility that Judas was motivated by something other than payment of money, so that the money part might be a fabrication. E.g., perhaps Judas was a zealot who was mad at Jesus for not leading the insurrection he had hoped for. Perhaps he demanded the release of Barabbas as payment to him for the information, because Barabbas was the kind of anti-Roman revolutionary Judas favored. There are many possibilities what the exact deal was between Judas and the Sanhedrin or priests.
The 2 versions of the suicide of Judas are confusing and contradictory. So there too there are more questions than answers. None of this casts doubt on the general story that Judas betrayed Jesus for some reason/motive. We don't need to put all the pieces together exactly in order to believe the general story.
As before, one more reason to think the Gospels are fiction.
Once again -- Please pay attention to this! -- ALL the written accounts contain both fact and fiction.
Yes, they are fiction, BUT they are fact also. They're BOTH. It's simplistic and naive to insist that every written account has to be 100% fact or 100% fiction and nothing in between.
Yes you can pick apart Mark or the other accounts and find unanswered questions about the Judas betrayal and many other particular points in the story. There's much more that we don't know than what we know, given the 4 or 5 sources and the different versions of what happened -- especially the differing interpretations.
But the general story is a true event. And most significantly we know, based on the evidence, that Jesus did the miracle healing acts and also rose back to life after being killed. Or it's highly probable, like many/most of our historical facts which we "know" from 1000 or 2000 or 3000 years ago.
Even though all our written accounts we rely on for it contain both fact and fiction, and so are not infallible.
Any number of people in the first century were claiming the ability to heal individuals, as they still do today.
"claiming"? possibly, though there's little about them in the written accounts.
But more importantly, there is NO EVIDENCE of any other healers or miracle-workers in the first century.* No evidence of any miracle healing acts performed by anyone such as we have evidence for the many miracle healing acts of Jesus around 30 AD. In fact, none from about 300 BC to about 100 AD.
Prior to 300 BC we could consider the reported healings at the Asclepius temple. These were ancient religious healing rituals in honor of the ancient god Asclepius. Out of the several hundred testimonials to the god Asclepius we might find a dozen or so "miracle" healing stories which would be in the "miracle" category, or beyond known medical science.
*Possible exceptional case in the 1st century would be the story of the Emperor Vespasian doing one miracle where he healed two worshipers of the God Serapis, performing the prescribed ritual to this ancient healing god. There are 2 sources for this story, so probably some such healing ritual event did take place, and the reports give a favorable picture, as if the 2 Serapis worshipers did in fact recover. Like we know popular religious healers today can get favorable reports from some of their religious devotees.
In this case of Emperor Vespasian, what happened is that the worshipers prevailed upon him, by means of his advisers, to perform the ritual, and the advisers suggested to the Emperor that it would be good publicity to do the ritual, as prescribed, and surely the two worshipers would report a good outcome. However you explain it, this is the only 1st-century case of a reported miracle healing in any of the literature.
Other than this one case, there is no 1st-century source (outside the New Testament) reporting any miracle healings. And even the Vespasian case doesn't appear in the literature until shortly after 100 AD, i.e., about 30-40 years later than the event of about 69 AD.
The supposed miracles of Apollonius of Tyana don't appear other than in one source about 150 years later than the alleged event(s), and those of Hanina ben Dosa not until 300 AD or later in the Talmud. These much later sources are not reliable for any claimed miracle events of the 1st century.
So it's not true that we have any other reported 1st-century miracle workers. This claim is a fiction told by Jesus debunkers trying to downplay the evidence we have for the Jesus miracle acts in the 4 1st-century Gospel accounts, which are legitimate evidence for 1st-century miracle claims.
Thus the ability to transcend death would be a bigger attention grabber than getting the lame walking again.
We have evidence that Jesus did both. It's true that the Resurrection is a bigger attention-grabber.
But both had an impact which explains why Jesus is important in history. Without his power to do such acts, he would have gone unnoticed in history, and probably there'd be nothing about him at all in the 1st-century writings, and no one would have paid any attention to him, and so we'd have no explanation why Jesus became noteworthy at all, as he has become.
Basically, Lumpenproletariat, you need to establish the Gospels' authenticity.
They are as authentic as any other sources for ancient history, with allowance that some of the historical writings are more reliable, as objective sources, and yet even these are tainted with nationalistic and religious traditions and superstitions.
Even non-historians like Homer contain historical fact, which makes them authentic sources for history, as long as the religious bias is taken into account. And also the non-historian Cicero is an authentic source for history, even though he is a biased politician and propagandist with an agenda. This does not disqualify him. We could include Philo the Alexandrian and many other writers who had religious and political bias, and yet these are authentic sources for the historical events.
ALL of these sources must be taken critically, with none assumed to be infallible sources, as some take "the Bible" to be. This religious belief in the Bible is not the reason to believe the Gospel accounts about Jesus. These accounts are authentic just as all the other ancient writings are authentic as sources for reporting the events near the time they were written. And where several of these accounts agree on what happened, it's credible, as long as no other sources contradict them.
Can you do this, or is it going to be more belief over substance?
All our knowledge of ancient history (maybe even ALL history) is BELIEF based on the evidence from the written accounts. The only "substance" of history knowledge is believing what is told by the evidence from those written accounts. And this means ALL the written accounts from the time, without arbitrary excluding any of them.
We should include the Koran, the Vedas, the Buddhist and other scrolls -- all the ancient writings are legitimate sources for telling us the facts of what happened during the times they were written. The writings even as much as 200 years later should be taken into account, as sources, though for miracle claims we need something closer than 200 years. And for miracle claims we need more than only one source.
This is the only "substance" in deciding what to believe as historical, or for determining the historical events, and separating fact from fiction. You have no legitimate criteria for excluding "the Bible" or the Gospel accounts as sources for history, as long as these are examined critically, using the same rigid standards as with all other ancient documents we use as sources for the historical events.
ghostgeek: So, even though you can't say how the author of Mark got hold of certain information, you are absolutely convinced that the Gospels are authentic? That certainly confirms you to be a Christian believer but it does little to confirm the truth of the Gospels.
So, even though you can't say how the author of Mark got hold of certain information, you are absolutely convinced that the Gospels are authentic?
"authentic"? What do you mean by that word?
You're saying the Gospel accounts don't exist? They weren't ever written by anyone? or are 15th century forgeries? You already acknowledged that they were written in the 1st century.
Being "authentic" only means they were written at that time, near to the events, like virtually all our writings for ancient history giving us the evidence for events of the time, i.e., within 100 or 200 years, so it's originating from a credible source for that period rather than someone 1000 years later. And that makes them legitimate sources for the events of that time, or that century.
It doesn't mean they are infallible or were written by direct disciples of Jesus. They are authentic or legitimate sources for telling us what happened around 30 AD. Other writings of the same time are also "authentic" if they tell us about the Jesus events.
What are you saying is not "authentic"?
That certainly confirms you to be a Christian believer but . . .
Not at all. Virtually all the Bible scholars, including the non-believers, date the Gospels as 1st-century and as sources for the 1st-century history, or, a piece of Galilean and Judean history of that time.
The non-believer scholars date Mark from about 65-70 AD, and the other four Gospels from 80-100 AD. These are real writings, "authentic" 1st-century written accounts telling about Jesus at around 30 AD. All scholars accept them as legitimate sources. They are not forgeries or fake or inauthentic. It's not known who wrote them, but they give our best information on the historical Jesus.
. . . but it does little to confirm the truth of the Gospels.
The vast majority of the ancient historical facts are not "confirmed" by anything. Even the facts from Josephus and Polybius and Herodotus and Tacitus and others are mostly not corroborated or confirmed by anything.
What do you expect to "confirm" any source? The 4 Gospels are 4 separate sources which each claim Jesus did the miracle healings and the Resurrection. Most of our ancient history facts don't have that much confirmation from a second or third source. That multiple sources all report the same fact is more confirmation than there is for many/most of our ancient history reported events.
You're not explaining what you mean by "authentic" and "confirm" -- what critical standard are you imposing on a source to make it "authentic" or to "confirm" it? Whatever it is, the 4 Gospels and the epistles of Paul have at least the same degree of authenticity and confirmation as any other sources for ancient history, which we routinely accept.
You're not explaining why you apply this double-standard onto the Gospel accounts, demanding some extra authenticity or confirmation in their case which you don't impose onto any other ancient writings. Do you reject ALL ancient history? That's what you have to do if you impose these extreme critical standards onto all the ancient writings.
So do you believe the Quran when it claims that the angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad?
No doubt Muhammad heard "voices" just like the Apostle Paul and Moses and other prophets heard "voices" of some kind. There's no way we can judge who they heard, or if they just imagined it.
We don't need to believe in the voices anyone heard in order to know of Jesus and to believe he did the reported miracle acts. Even if Paul's vision was not a direct encounter with the real historical Jesus, but was only based on what he had learned during the time of 31 or 32 or 33 or 34 AD, being a contemporary of the period and hearing the same reports others were hearing, whatever -- his account tells us what he understood to be the truth about Christ, his death and resurrection, and the way of Salvation, or way to Eternal Life offered to anyone who believes. If there are other interpretations than Paul's, then we have to consider them also.
And the Gospel writers/editors too tell us what they learned of the Jesus events, regardless whether there were "voices" they heard, or if they imagined it was an angel telling them something about it. The 1st-century evangelists present it mainly as based on the current reports, both written and oral, about what had happened.
We can judge the truth of their report, and also the truth of anything Muhammad claims, regardless whether they thought an "angel" told it to them. Much of the "Gospel" message is based on reports handed down or passed on to the later writers, taken from someone claiming to have heard it from someone earlier.
Belief that Jesus demonstrated super-human miracle power is not based on someone claiming to have heard "voices" or an "angel" revealing some truth to humans. The accounts say there were witnesses who saw these miracle acts he did in public places, like at the synagogue, or a house where people were gathered, so it was eye-witness accounts where the stories originated, not someone hearing voices or angels speaking to them.
There are many claims of prophets hearing God's "voice" speaking to them and relaying his commands to the people, but that is not the origin of the reported Jesus miracle acts done in public places before many witnesses. These acts he did are known to us the same as the many events of history, or events in the news, which we learn from the reports of those who had been present. It's that ordinary reporting of events which is the basis of our knowledge of the Jesus miracles. There is no reason to arbitrarily reject that evidence, but rather we can critically judge it just as we judge any other claimed events which are reported to us and which we believe when the evidence is convincing.
ghostgeek: How does anyone know that much of the Gospel message is based on reports handed down to later writers? Has anyone seen one of these reports? The answer, of course, is no, so what we really have is supposition upon supposition upon supposition. Remember that Mark, Matthew and Luke are referred to as the synoptic gospels because of their close similarities, thus whittling down the supposed list of different sources we have to go on.
How does anyone know that much of the Gospel message is based on reports handed down to later writers?
There's no way to know for sure how ANY ancient history was reported down to the later writers. We assume we have knowledge of the Persians and Greeks and Romans and others, and yet we can't prove how this information was transferred from those who originally witnessed the events down to the writers, 100 years later, who wrote the accounts which come have down to us.
But there is reason to believe the original events happened and were witnessed, and then word of it spread and was finally learned by descendants 100 and 200 years later.
If you reject this because we can't prove how the information got from the original witnesses down to later generations, then you have to toss out ALL our knowledge of ancient history.
So the facts about the historical Jesus, including his miracle acts and Resurrection, are based on the same process that occurs with all our normal history knowledge (i.e., ancient history), recorded by writers 100 years later, or even 200 or 300 years later in some cases. It's only in rare cases where the writer of our historical account was actually a contemporary to the events.
Of course there are some of these exceptions, like Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, and a few other cases. Of course, the Apostle Paul was a contemporary to the Jesus death and resurrection, though he was not a direct witness. But being contemporary, we can especially trust him to have some closer knowledge or familiarity to the event. And he did have contact with some who knew of it directly. So at least this part was not passed on over 20 years but comes from the earliest time.
Paul's report of the death and resurrection is limited to the last days of Jesus, and such as it is there is no contradiction of Paul to the later Gospel accounts which also report earlier events before the arrest and trial.
But that the earlier events, like the miracle healing acts, were passed on in oral or written reports to the later Gospel writers simply assumes that we know some history, witnessed originally and then passed on to the future who learned it only indirectly. If you reject that, then you must reject virtually ALL of ancient history, such as all the history books and history classes in our schools.
So if you think all our known (ancient) history is a hoax, or fiction stories which never happened, then you would also reject the stories about Jesus, which have no more authenticity than all the other reported facts of (ancient) history, i.e., about the Egyptians and Babylonians and Persians and Greeks and Romans, etc. etc. If you reject all that "history" taught in our schools, colleges, etc., then it's understandable that you'd also reject the Jesus events, being only reported events witnessed and passed on to others and on down from the original time to later generations.
Has anyone seen one of these reports? The answer, of course, is no, so what . . .
Has anyone seen the reports used by Herodotus or Polybius or Thucydides or Tacitus, etc.? All our ancient historians relied on earlier reports, and 99% of those reports have never been seen by anyone since that time.
. . . so what we really have is supposition upon supposition upon supposition.
Yes, you're free to toss out ALL our ancient history, because it's only "supposition upon supposition upon supposition." Most of us believe we do have at least some reliable information about what happened 1000 or 2000 or 3000 years ago, based on the accounts which have come down to us, reported by writers who learned of it from their sources, i.e., from sources they assumed trace back to the actual events 50 or 100 or 200 years earlier.
And it's true that there's plenty of doubt about the history events, so that we can't have 100% certainty about any of it. Though maybe we have 99.99% certainty about a small part of it. The Jesus events are documented just as well as most (not all) other ancient history events. (E.g., the Caesar assassination is more documented than the Jesus miracles, but that particular event is especially unique, not typical. MOST of the ancient history events are not so well documented, and yet are believable and accepted as our standard history.)
It's good to keep in mind the quote by historian Will Durant: "History is mostly guessing, the rest is prejudice."
Hopefully that's a small exaggeration. But there's plenty to doubt about most of our known history of the Greeks and Romans etc.
Remember that Mark, Matthew and Luke are referred to as the synoptic gospels because of their close similarities, thus whittling down the supposed list of different sources we have to go on.
You could say that our 5 sources -- Paul and the 4 gospel accounts -- are not 5 totally separate 100% independent sources, which would be so rare that there's no other case of it in all the history record earlier than 1000 years ago. Any source is dependent on something earlier, and so technically is not an "independent" source.
But whether these 5 sources are 100% "independent" or not, this record -- of the Jesus miracle acts -- is more documented or corroborated than 90% or 95% of our accepted historical record, or 95% of our recognized historical events (of ancient history).
Just because a source has some dependency on an earlier source, or quotes from it, does not undermine the credibility of the source. That it quotes an earlier source shows that the writer is being more careful to be accurate, or careful to check his story in comparison to the earlier version which is likely to have been closer to the actual events. That the later writer quotes the earlier one helps to add credibility to the earlier writer, and increases the total credibility of what is reported.
So tell me, what actually confirms that the Gospels aren't fiction?
Nothing "confirms" that any ancient history source is not fiction. But any source which corroborates what another says helps add credibility to it. And also that a source is not contradicted by any other source adds credibility.
The Gospels should be judged by the same critical standards as any other source. They are not to be judged by a different standard because of bias.
We believe most of the ancient sources without having anything to "confirm" them as not being fiction.
But for something "supernatural" or in the "miracle" category we need to have more than one source only, and we need a source near to the time when the events happened (unlike the legends of the pagan gods and heroes). This is the best we can do to separate fact from fiction. And the Gospel accounts meet this criterion or standard for separating fact from fiction.
ghostgeek: The Gospels should be judged by the precepts of logic. If Mark's Gospel says the women who visited Jesus' tomb ran away and told no one that it lacked its occupant, then there's no possible way this information could have become common knowledge. This being the case, the only way it could be in the gospel is if it's fiction.
The Gospels should be judged by the precepts of logic. If Mark's Gospel says the women who visited Jesus' tomb ran away and told no one that it lacked its occupant, then there's no possible way this information could have become common knowledge.
You're wrong for 2 reasons:
1. It's not true that the women never told anyone. What Mark says can easily mean that they "told no one" that day, or for several days after, and not that they never told anyone ever, for the rest of their lives.
In all likelihood they did finally tell someone. It's even possible the Mark writer never learned that they finally told someone, but only understood that at that time they told no one. Mark says this to emphasize the confusion or bewilderment of those women on that day, not their permanent silence about it.
2. Even if the women never told anyone, it's likely that report of the empty grave would eventually happen anyway, because of others who would discover it. Nothing about the Mark story says no one else ever visited the grave also, to see what was there. So others may also have discovered it, so that this became known anyway, regardless of those women. It's even possible others discovered it even before those women did, and word of this other visit to the grave site never got to Mark.
So your logic is wrong by requiring facts that aren't necessarily so. You can insist that those are the facts, but your insisting it doesn't make it so. The truth is that we don't know, and what you're demanding is so seems to be unlikely, or probably is not so.
This being the case, the only way it could be in the gospel is if it's fiction.
No, it's in the Gospel because Mark thought those women didn't tell anyone that day, or for 2 or 3 days, because they were afraid, or confused, not because they kept silent about it for the rest of their lives. Assuming the Mark account is essentially correct, then the women still would eventually speak of it to someone -- certainly to each other, and this then would likely get heard by others. Plus also the empty grave site would be discovered by others as well.
Your fundamental error in all this is your premise that the Resurrection event simply could not have happened and did not happen. And from this premise, which you insist on without question, you find a way to dismiss the Mark story of the women visiting the grave site. But you cannot use your final conclusion as a premise to prove your conclusion. Rather, you must allow that the story might be true, and then find something which makes that possibility contradict something which must be true (or probably is true).
ghostgeek: Mark 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
The above is the original ending of Mark's Gospel, as is found in two important Greek manuscripts from the fourth century. These are codices Sinaiticus (ℵ01) and Vaticanus (B03). Nothing about the women later changing their minds and blabbing about what they'd seen and heard. As for the empty tomb being discovered by others, that wouldn't explain how the writer of Mark knew about the young man in the white robe who told the women about Jesus going on ahead to Galilee.
Bluster all you want, but there is no way the writer of Mark's Gospel could have received word about what the women discovered and were told. The structure of the original ending precludes it.