Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Jun 27, 2017.
I've got a good grasp of the NT, but getting a firm grasp of the "real" geopolitics of the time period seems to me to be a daunting task. I feel like it has taken me years of daily news and history reading/listening to get a decent grasp of the geopolitics of our own time period.
Okay, so there's quite a few striking parallels between Jesus' ministry and Titus' campaign leading to the destruction of Jerusalem. What do we do with that information?
This is the false dichotomy I'm hearing:
1) The gospels and Jesus were invented out of whole cloth as a propaganda tool to crush the Jewish identity and religion (as Atwill proposes).
2) The stories in the gospel are 100% lilterally true and Josephus' history is 100% true and all parallelism is 100% synchronicity/prophecy fulfillment and a "barcode" of the divine rather than a "Flavian barcode" (blind faith in the miraculous viewpoint).
There's a lot of room for nuance in between!
I don't believe the gospels were invented out of whole cloth as a cheap propaganda tool. They are too densely packed with transcendent wisdom for that. They wouldn't have captivated the world for millennia if they were entirely contrived. The propaganda we see today is not wrapped in transcendent wisdom. Our propaganda is wrapped in messages to shop and consume and give the state more power.
I believe the stories (and additionally the gnostic stories) indicate that there were many stories that had been circulating for decades or more, and as I proposed above: there are selective pressures that distill out transcendent meaning resulting in very brief yet very powerful meaningful and useful archetypal stories. These stories formed the seeds of the gospels around which some possible political messaging was attached when the gospels were finally written down.
Regarding the typology between Jesus and Moses: At that time many people were looking for the messiah and rumors spread easily. Just like today you have prophecy buffs claiming this person or that person is the anti-Christ and pulling up all these parallels. The same thing was happening back then. The gospels record that Jesus was constantly being asked whether or not he was the one prophesied to come. If there actually was a superstar prophet or prophets around that time, it is easy to see how stories - whether true or not - would accumulate to affirm the authority of the prophet by drawing parallels to OT events.
There is the constant theme throughout the Bible that prophetic warning always preceeds judgment (ostensibly because God is fair and only punishes people who are able to be held responsible). The obvious reason to show parallels between Jesus and Titus would be to affirm that the destruction of Jerusalem was an act of judgment from the Jewish God. Titus himself claimed that he believed he had help from the god of the Jews.
So here's some additional possibilities:
1) Josephus (or others working for Flavians) wrote both - taking existing stories and bending or fabricating certain parts of them to establish parallels.
2) the gospels came first and Josephus bent the history of Titus' campaign to fabricate parallels.
3) the gospels came second and the Jewish authors bent the stories to establish parallels. Why? They assumed guilt and saw destruction as fair judgment and retrospectively looked back at the warnings and saw some parallels and/or imagined others as an act of repentance and self-flagellation for not following God and crucifying the messiah... the same thing that happened dozens of times throughout the OT.
4) some parallels actually did occur as real synchronicities. Key figures in history (especially military history) sometimes become convinced there is a hidden hand at work in significant events due to synchronicity and pre-cognitive experiences. It isn't beyond the realm of possibility that synchronicities and pre-cogs actually occurred and that as a result, Titus actually became convinced that he was an agent of the Jewish god's wrath sent by their god to punish them. I don't believe Atwill claims the book of Daniel was written by the Flavians... and Daniel lays out a 490 year timeline that seems to have been followed and fulfilled by Jesus and Titus... synchronicity or pre-cognition?
naa... read carefully... or better yet do the research for yourself. look for the forest, not the trees. this is really the main point of this episode... i.e. how to analyze complicated stuff that pushes a lot of cognitive dissonance buttons.
stay the course:
1. who is/was Josephus? (he was a tool of the Romans who sought to subvert Judaism)
2. how/why is Josephus showing up in the Gospel of Mark? (see point #1 )
Alex: (posts Atwill video) "Look at all the trees Atwill has found!"
Me: "These are actually weeds. Look, I just pulled them up."
Alex: "Hey man, it's all about the forest!"
Me: "But the forest is made of trees...so, if there really aren't any..."
Alex's point #2 above: "Look at all the trees!" ("evidence" for Josephus' history being reproduced in Mark)
Me: "Didn't I just prove there aren't any trees?"
Alex: "You're just stuck in cognitive dissonance!"
Me: "Looks like psychological projection to me. Anyway, where do you want me to put these weeds?"
agreed... we wind up somewhere in between. with a lot of giant holes left by the incomplete history.
too much to pull all this apart, but the main rub is that the Gospels want us to believe the sacking of Jerusalem was a prophesy of Jesus. it's hard to maintain this given the historicity (as limited as it may be) of Josephus's War of the Jews.[
this is a non-starter. I've covered it many times with Atwill critics they all ultimately acknowledge the point. it's not even a new idea, been around for 100s of years.
go bug Atwill on his website if you disagree. you can report back what you discover.
Again, there were probably lots of prophecies about the sacking of Jerusalem before it actually happened... I mentioned Daniel as one of the earliest ones. Today (and for the last 69 years since Israel became a nation again) there are thousands of Christian preachers prophesying the sudden destruction of America and the "beast system" (citing many scriptures including the Babylon of Revelation which falls in 1 hour). There were probably many preachers in Jesus' day preaching the fall of Jerusalem citing Daniel's 70 7's and pointing out the oppressive corruption of the Pharisees. It is probably rooted in the biology of some individuals to be focused on an impending doom, so there are probably always people saying these things and since destruction DOES come periodically... like the broken clock that is right twice a day, the prophets of doom are right periodically... but then there's the synchro-mystical pre-cog aspect which we all believe is real, so add that in the mix... and further add to the mix the fact that during periods of general instability and warfare, people are worried about the increasing chaos and predictions of destruction abound.
So, it is entirely likely that there were a host of prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem for decades and that after the fact, they all got condensed down into slightly more accurate prophecies of doom and attributed to Jesus, and all the inaccurate prophesies were forgotten.
watch the vid... read the book. the sequencing is unmistakable.
I watched the video linked above... for the sake of argument I'm accepting that the parallels are undeniably there.
My main point is that the parallels do not prove the gospels were created out of whole cloth as propaganda as Atwill asserts. They do make it seem likely that the gospels were written down after the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the author(s) had a motive to highlight the parallels, and the only obvious motive is to show that the destruction had the fingerprints of God's judgment and that God fairly and patiently gave the Jews ample opportunity to repent before the destruction finally came.
Edit: it is not clear to me that this narrative would be beneficial to the Romans in breaking the will of the Jewish people. The Jews seemed pretty resilient to the idea of being punished by God and had already repented and arose again dozens of times as recorded in the OT. Some might have been encouraged to see their own destruction as an act of God... a sign that God punishes them because he loves them and wants to correct them.
My other main point is that the gospels contain stories that are the result of many years of oral retelling and refinement before being finally written down. Like smooth stones come from a river bed after many years of being tumbled in the waters... these stories are not jagged and freshly hewn, but tumbled. I find it impossible to believe any individual invented 100% of them with a strictly political or "mind-control" motive.
Edit: I think it is most probable that Jesus was a composite character combining the actions of multiple wandering prophets of the day, teachings of some sects like the Essenes, Vedic and Zoroastrian teachings spreading across the Persian empire (the 3 Magi who visited at Jesus' birth were Persian), re-formulations of ancient astro-theological myths, and assorted prophecies in uncertain and rebellious times as the zodiac transitioned to the Pisces (the fish). There may have even been a prophet/preacher actually named Yeshua (greek Iesous) and from the town of Nazareth, son of a carpenter. We can never know for sure. Occasionally singular figures do make an impact on world thought and the legends that grow around them even more-so. Even if the Flavians or Josephus were responsible for the missing source Q, the work does not seem to me to be pure propaganda, but a mish mash of all of the above.
You'll have to show me the yuuuuge number of times you've discussed the evidence in detail with Atwill critics, because in my two years on the forum I haven't seen you interact with the actual data pertinent to Atwill's "thesis." You've certainly ignored all my detailed comments in this thread apart from throwing out the occasional soundbite or logical fallacy. You haven't invited any critics of Atwill onto your show - the only occasion I've noticed you mention criticism is when you've had Atwill on to condemn his interlocutors in abstentia. Quite the convenient kangaroo court you set up there.
And no, the Joel Watts interview doesn't count because you didn't review the particulars of Atwill's ideas (which he wasn't all that familiar with) and you subsequently misinterpreted comments by Watts as an agreement with Atwill (which they weren't).
It's quite clear to me that you've done anything but approach this topic utilizing a key virtue shared by the spiritual traditions and critical inquiry alike, which is detachment. Which is a shame, because as a public figure who stands for the integration of science, scholarship, and spirituality, you could really exemplify the practice. But instead, your approach to this topic, including various remarks in this thread, lead me to the reluctant but firm conclusion your main goal in these conversations is to keep poking the religion of your birth in the eye. And you will resort to only a poor simulacrum of reasoning to justify your conduct.
Lest I receive the tu quoque response, let me make it plain that I've spent years wrestling with very revisionist and yes, mythicist arguments pertaining to the New Testament. I've read my Price and my Carrier, thoroughly and in detail. And I've read the popular and fringe-y people along the way, too: Freke and Gandy, Fitzgerald, Einhorn, and now, regrettably, some Atwill, too. But you know what? I read lots of mainstream scholarship, as well. I read the conservatives and the evangelicals, too, because their hermeneutic of charity is bound to uncover insights that others overlook. Everybody has a place in the great conversation, provided they're committed to decent standards of logic, reflection, and criticism.
Moreover, while yes I am a Christian, I have been through the Ricoeurian desert of criticism and into the "second naivete." My Christianity is deeply inflected by perennialism. Yeah, I'm sure Jesus was a historical character. But if that turns out not to be the case, I will not lack for ontological and meaning-making resources and I will be just fine. I'm just convinced by the evidence that he was real.
So while I passionately and vociferously argue against Atwill, it is not because I fear his arguments and their potential to erode the rock on which I stand.
It's because they're awful. Really, really, awful. And I'm going to make my stand here to keep reminding everyone who will listen that they're awful, using "the data," instead of taking your advice to waste my time in Atwill's den of ignorance, thank you very much.
I know, let's all go shopping.
How Jungian of you...
"Hyper real" seems like an ouroboros to me. These are the same experiences where people report floating around formless and being able to create their our form. Even this everyday-reality is losing its objectivity when things like the Bell's protocols (including the latest, aptly named Big Bell's Test) are questioning tenets like locality and realism.
I always thought that Psychopomp was a good name for a metal band, but unfortunately the name was taken by some euro band that wasn't even remotely hardcore.
These are two good middle of the road factual lectures, one on the historical Jesus (note that one should not muddle 'history' with the 'past')
...and one on the Nag Hammadi GoT...
It is typical for a beginner chess player to resolve pawn tension immediately, this is known and it is because leaving the tension increases complexity and stress....but it causes stress in your opponent as well and you won't be successful if your goal is to dismiss or resolve the conversation rather than finding the truth about the best move.
I am skeptical about philosophers who want the problem to go away. This is a tell of their bias, no? Unfortunately there are not rules for checkmate in philosophy. At least not generally accepted rules which could function in a forum.
I like chess, but don't get yr point.
loved this doc:
Try answering Chotki's points. More good advice is to read the New Testament for yourself and ask yourself if it appears pro-roman when you read everything in its proper context. I was a teenager at a time when there was no shortage of books claiming to know about the real Jesus and in the end they produced a huge "YAWN" from me. I wasn't a Christian then, I was an avid New ager with a toe in the dark side of the occult as well. I got to thinking that the motives of these writers was probably not so much scholarly as emotional knee-jerks against religion. I feel the same about Atwill. Granted, my goalposts have moved a little concerning direct historical evidence since I read a little Atwill (I couldn't stomach much more conspiracy theory before giving up) but like Chotki, I still think the evidence overall is very much in favour of the reality of a historical Jesus. Both Chotki and Gabriel have made some excellent points in this thread which have remained unanswered. I for one would like to see an intelligent refutation if you have one.
I'll make a deal with you Alex: I'll try to read any Atwill you like, if you read the NT at least once.
seems to me like he's denying parallels between Josephus and Mark. this is a non-starter. even the experts he sites don't agree with this position.
Separate names with a comma.