From: Iain Strachan (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 08:49:54 EDT
Jesus on it)
On Fri, 25 Oct 2002 00:08:56 Adrian Teo wrote:
> Another thing is that Jesus, Joseph and James were fairly
>common names, and we have no way of knowing for sure if they refer to
>the ones we are thinking about. I think some people are making too
>big a deal out of this find.
I agree with the above, but it touches on an issue concerning the
discussions on this list that has niggled for a long time.
The fact that people are making a big deal out of this find perhaps
reflects a desperation to find actual historical extra-biblical
evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.
If you do a Google search on "Origins of Christianity", you will find
many web-pages, some scholarly and some cranky, that argue that Jesus
Christ never existed at all; that he was just a mythological figure
that evolved out of other mythological stories (there are many other
mythological accounts, if I recall correctly of a man/god that
results from the union of a human and a God). Other scholars have
argued that the scenario where a virgin is sacrificed in order to
appease the fertility gods is a precursor to the Christian story
pattern. (i.e. new life arising out of a sacrificial death). I've no
reference at hand, but the idea was presented in a Penguin commentary
on T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland". The sacrifice of the virgin
idea is devastatingly presented in Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring".
This also reflects on Vernon's gematria calculations in the Bible.
The plain fact is that it was not Vernon who introduced me to this
phenomenon, but a fairly distinguished Professor of History of
Mathematics (I. Grattann-Guinness), who pointed out to me that the
NT gematria were riddled with examples that came to multiples of the
number 37. His take on the matter is that it is the strongest
possible evidence that human beings constructed the bible, and NOT
God, because human beings have been fascinated by, and have played
with, numbers from the earliest times. The number 37 itself has a
long history of being revered by ancient cultures; Plato himself was
fascinated by this particular number. This all adds to the idea that
Christianity was a concocted myth that human beings wove their own
numerology into, because numbers and their interrelationships are the
only things that you can be sure of (ie prove relationships beyond
doubt). Naturally I disagree with Grattann-Gu!
inness's interpretation of it, and continue to research this
phenomenon in order to better understand why it occurs.
However, the above is somewhat of an aside. I have noted that it is
common practice on this list to debate the historicity of certain
biblical stories (the creation, the flood - global variety -, Jonah,
Job, whether Peter walked on water etc), that are taken as literally
true by those of a fundamentalist persuasion. Those who choose to
take it literally say "what is your faith based upon?". The answer
is "the risen Christ". But .. we really don't have more than a
pitiful handful of evidence for the existence of Christ as a
historical person apart from what we read in the NT. There is
Josephus, who is often quoted, but what if he, too was hoodwinked by
Therefore, instead of this continual chipping away at the bits of the
bible that contradict our scientific knowledge, I would prefer to see
some more solid debate on why we believe Jesus Christ was real. A
creationist takes it on faith that the biblical account of Creation
is historically true. I guess just about everyone on this list takes
it on faith that Jesus Christ was a historical character. What's the
difference? The difference, I suspect, is that we know that Jesus is
absolutely central to our faith, whereas the Creation is perceived by
many as not being a key issue. But to an unbelieving outsider there
would be just as much reason to question the existence of Christ as
to disbelieve the Creation account.
Therefore, let's try and have some positive debate to build up our
faith, rather than this continual chipping away.
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