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I kind of figure that Jesus (Joshua?) was a near death experiencer who's story grew and was embellished as time went on. There are too many striking similiarities between the story of Horus and the story of Jesus. Most religions probably evolved from near death experiences, death bed visions, and mystical experiences. As time went on they metamorphicized to fit the cultures they originated from. People have a really hard time believing the Creator of the Universe is as loving and forgiving as near death experiencers say He is.

Jesus is quoted as stating some pretty profound statements. I find that followers of such people are not capable of stating such things as " the meek shall inherit the earth" etc. We don’t know exactly what Jesus said but we can get a flavor of what he was advocating. His message was one of love not religion that I believe most of his followers have completely missed. I have heard some state that Christianly died on the cross.

Art I don’t think it was due to a near death experience that elevated Jesus to this level of understanding but an awaking such as a mystical experience that he was able to see a reality that very few people see. Bucke called these mystical experiences or awakenings "cosmic consciousness". I prefer the term cosmic awareness but both of these phrases reveal to us that these people see a reality that we cannot fathom.

If anyone wants to read about a profound mystical experience check out the book cosmic consciousness by Bucke and look up CMC's mystical experience. It is a delight to read about what she experienced and how it healed her illness and changed her perspective on life. Her mystical experience, which lasted for several months, gave her insights into the meaning and purpose of life. Also her writing style is so 19th century, it is a delight to read.

Go to & click on BUMPER STICKERS.

There are many reasons for not taking the Gospels seriously, or, a minimum, doing so with many large grains of salt. They clearly contain mythical elements, many likely borrowed from earlier myths.

Even discerning an actual eyewitness account within them does little to enhance an understanding of what, afterall, would seem to transcend long ago physical events.

I can easily imagine the man at the center of these tales beginning as a zealot but then transcending his zealotry as the result of a powerful experience. He would then, however, be faced with followers imbued with beliefs in which there was little or no place for such an experience -- this would include SimonPeter, James, and all the rest.

We see the result, distorted by the passage of time, and spun into even wilder directions early on by Paul, who also experienced something outside most of the traditions and beliefs his time and place (there are some Hellenic exceptions); this by a man who had been an enemy of the zealots.

My own personal belief is that penetrating this mess can be greatly aided by exploring the zone of transcendent experience at its heart.

Bill I.

For those who consider ourselves to be Spiritist-Chistians, the most significant aspect of the gospels are the moral teachings of that very special man named Jesus of Nazareth. The historical accuracy of the physical events described, including the so-called miracles, is not critical since all of them could be explained as spirit phenomena of different kinds.

The Gospels definitely contain some eye-witness material, but the literary dependence of the Synoptic Gospels on each other (Mark -> Matthew -> Luke) really cast doubt on the idea for all of them. Why borrow what you already know? However perhaps "Matthew" was setting the record straight, trying to correct the short-comings in Mark/Peter's account.

"Luke" - based on the "we" material in Acts - was certainly involved in some of the events he records, but at the start of Luke he acknowledges he's not an eye-witness. And "John's" Gospel is a whole other story - the writer admits up front that the miracles stories are written to elicit belief in the readers - and that's the chief limitation of all the Gospels: They were written with a certain message in mind. They're tendentious sources. Not pure propaganda fiction, maybe, but not uninvolved Observers either. They're "gospel" not history.

For almost 1,900 years Christians have complained about how ambiuguous and unclear much of Mark's writing is.

'I just don't understand who is being referred to' was one common complaint by commentators on the text.

Sadly for Bauckham's 'suggestions', we can see exactly where the Gospellers did get their stories from.

They took many of them from the Old Testament.

See for details.

No need for wild speculation, about how you have to change texts to make them intelligble when you can see photographs of where the words and plots came from.

Adam wrote,
>They're tendentious sources. Not pure propaganda fiction, maybe, but not uninvolved Observers either

Bauckham makes the point that the eyewitnesses would have been intimately involved in the Jesus movement "from the beginning." They were not disinterested observers. Ancient historians generally valued the testimony of direct participants more highly than the testimony of uninvolved bystanders. They felt that the participants' inside knowledge was an asset that outweighed the presumed objectivity of bystanders.

Steven Carr's article (linked above) is a very good one, and I recommend it. There's no doubt that the writers of the gospels used traditional language and narrative devices to tell their stories. This is a problem for those who think that the stories must be literally true in every detail, down to the specific words spoken. It is less of a problem if the stories are seen as capturing the gist of a real event while recasting the details in traditional formulaic terms.

My personal view is that some of the stories are based on real events, while others are "pious fictions" designed to show Jesus as the equal of earlier prophets like Elija and Elisha. Jesus' reputation as a healer and exorcist seems to have been widely known, so it is likely that he did these things, even if the details have not always been accurately preserved. Feeding the 5000 is, in my opinion, more likely to be a tall tale invented after the fact.

Of course one might argue that Jesus deliberately reproduced the miracles of Elija and Elisha in order to demonstrate that he was a true prophet. I would not take this tack ... but then, I'm not a Christian.

I thought I should clarify that in suggesting that the gospel accounts are based on eyewitness testionmy, I'm not insisting that such testimony must be accurate. What interests me is simply the possibility that the gospels may show us the stories in something close to their original form. This is in contradistinction to the form critics, who argue that the gospel versions have been so greatly modified by the vagaries of oral tradition that they bear little resemblance to the stories as originally told.

Regarding gospel parallels with the Hebrew Bible, New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has something interesting to offer in his book The New Testament and the People of God (pages 429-431). Here is a heavily abridged quotation:

"Jesus was perceived as a prophet. This means that from the start a good many of those who witnessed him at work would be inclined to tell stories about him which fitted their perceptions of how a prophet ought to behave. When, therefore, Jesus was perceived to be accomplishing strange deeds that reminded people of the tales of prophets of old, it was natural that retellings of them would quickly be cast into a mould which reflected, and perhaps echoed, biblical precedent.

"This, of course, stands normal assumptions on their head. It is usually supposed that a 'bibilicization' of stories took place at a fairly late stage. I fail to see why this should be so. It is every bit as likely that Palestinian Jews in the 20s and 30s A.D. would tell stories about a strange healing prophet which had overtones of stories about Elijah and Elisha.

"There is of course a common pattern in the 'form' of healing stories. The ailment is described; Jesus' help is sought; Jesus says and/or does something to the sufferer; a cure is effected; the cured person and/or the bystanders express astonishment and joy. It is difficult to see how the story of a healing could take any other form. The formal parallels with non-biblical healing stories prove almost nothing except that one healing looks quite like another.

"One of the greatest prophets was, of course, Moses; Moses had led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, and had been the divine agent in causing them to be fed in the wilderness. It is clear that some of the strange things which Jesus did -- the stilling of storms, the multiplication of loaves -- were regarded as echoing these themes. Once again, as with the healings, it is far more likely that the stories were originally told in a Jewish framework which allowed overtones of exodus, and of psalms which spoke of YHWH's victory over the mighty waters, to be clearly heard, than that they started as Hellenistic 'proofs' of Jesus' mighty power and only developed scriptural associations at a later stage."

Some good points in those books. I'm an agnostic myself, but one who is waiting for God to provide some "Doubting Thomas" style objective evidence - a not unreasonable request since believing merely by faith makes people do so insane and dreadful things when they mistake some ideologue for the voice of God. I'm disgusted by the arrogant ignorance of so many Believers, of all brand names, and really wish for some objectivity in belief, some external reference point so people's ethical codes aren't built on dubious interpretations of doubtful old texts.
But discerning actual eye-witnesses in the old texts is a step in the right direction. Certainly more convincing than either "inerrancy" or cynical Biblical criticism which pulls parallels from utterly obscure places, then cries "plagarism!"

Wright - 'When, therefore, Jesus was perceived to be accomplishing strange deeds that reminded people of the tales of prophets of old, it was natural that retellings of them would quickly be cast into a mould which reflected, and perhaps echoed, biblical precedent.'

And it is very natural that Joseph Smith, when translating scipture he had just found, would use the King James Bible as a model for suitable religious language.

But Christians like Wright simply write off the Book of Mormon as stolen from the King James Bible.

And they are right to do so. It is a no-brainer.

Christians believed Jesus was a miracle-worker , perhaps even Elijah returned.

They believed the Old Testament was authoritative , non-literal, and full of coded references to themselves and Jesus (see Paul writing 'For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?)

So the more obvious explanation is that Christians searched the scriptures (see Acts 17) for clues about what Jesus did, and wrote miracle stories to reflect their searching of the Scriptures.

These stories took a while to develop.

Paul betrays no knowledge of Jesus as a miracle-workeror as a healer.

The Jesus-worshippers he was writing to in Corinth scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

Later Christians had no problems with calling , for example, Lazarus a classic model of Jesus resurrection, but it seems that neither the Corinthians not Paul had ever heard of anybody being raised from the dead by Jesus.

>So the more obvious explanation is that Christians searched the scriptures (see Acts 17) for clues about what Jesus did,

Well, if they were his disciples, they already knew what he did because they were with him when he did it. I would say they searched the scriptures for ways of interpreting the things they had seen.

>These stories took a while to develop.

This is the issue at the heart of Bauckham's book: are the gospels oral tradition or oral history? Oral tradition takes time to develop - several generations or more - while oral history consists of reports "straight from the horse's mouth." If Mark's Gospel was written c. 80 A.D., about 50 years after Jesus' crucifixion, this is a short enough time to make it possible that Jesus' more long-lived disciples were still around. Did they invent a bunch of tall tales, or were they doing their best to give an accurate account of what they had seen and done in their youth?

>The Jesus-worshippers he was writing to in Corinth scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

The Corinthians were questioning the idea of physical resurrection, which is alien to Greek religious traditions. This is different from resuscitation. The argument from silence in Paul's letters isn't very strong, since we might assume that stories of Jesus' deeds were so common among his followers as to hardly bear repeating. After all, he was addressing his fellow Christians, who must have already heard the stories many times.

>Later Christians had no problems with calling , for example, Lazarus a classic model of Jesus resurrection,

Lazarus was allegedly resuscitated, not resurrected. Resurrection involves the metamorphosis of the physical body into an immortal "spiritual body" with special powers, while resuscitation involves simply having one's familiar mortal body restored to life. Wright's book The Resurrection of the Son of God goes into exhaustive, sometimes tedious detail about this. To look at it another way: Lazarus was revived, but would grow old and die again someday, while the resurrected Jesus would never grow old or die.

I feel funny arguing about this, since I'm not a a Christian and I don't claim to know what happened 2000 years ago. It does seem to me, though, that something memorable must have happened in order to attract a following to Jesus in the first place, and to preserve and expand that following after his death on the cross. The simplest explanation is that he performed healings and exorcisms that were regarded as miraculous, and that his inner circle believed they had been given some strong indication of his postmortem survival. Otherwise it's hard to see why they would have been willing to suffer and die for their new movement.

I've experienced a few pretty amazing "mystical" experiences in my life. They don't happen too often, but when they do I love it. One time I was washing dishes, zoning out, and a voice "popped" into my head and told me what my wife was fixing to do and say. Another time I was reading a book about after death communications, was skeptical, and the exact same thing happened to me. another time I was reminiscing about a conversation I'd had with a dental technician and right when I thought "why worry? God is in control?" a car with that exact same saying, on a bumper sticker, pulled in front of me. It was the timing that was so amazing. I've also had quite a few precognitive dreams. Some big things, and some little things. It's not unusal at all for me to dream about a movie or TV program before watching it. Not sure what it means, but I think it means something. What I do know is that the Universe is weirder than we can even begin to imagine.

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