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Thread: What were the motivation and aspirations of Jesus in the Bible?

  1. #1

    Default What were the motivation and aspirations of Jesus in the Bible?

    Hi all (Before I start quick disclosure: I am an atheist but I am here to have an honest discussion and am not here to troll and offend anyone.)


    When i read the account of Christ and I read it as a myth that was meant to be examined as testimony I imagine that instead of reading a book Luke, John, or Matthew are at the bar just telling me a story about some guy they knew. This is what a testimony is after all: a story someone tells you. If a book is written in the format of a testimony thus you must not necessarily believe the narrator at all times. Sometimes you can assume that he is lying or exaggerating things just like a stranger telling you a story at a bar would. (Sorry for the long intro but it will help the rest of this make sense... hopefully) So following this logic and using its lens to examine the bible I make 3 assumptions as I read the accounts of Christs life.


    1 - Jesus is not divine and has no special powers. (ex. I've never seen a dude walk on water why would I believe a testimony that says someone saw someone do it somewhere.)


    2 - No one else has special powers everyone is a human limited by the knowledge and culture of Iron Age Middle East.


    3 - Jesus is corruptible just like every other person. Now with all this in play as I go through the bible I hear a story about a Iron age Rabbi that ran an organization with lots of hall marks of a cult like abandoning families to follow a holy teacher, giving up wealth, and dedicating one entire life soul, body, and mind to the holy teacher. Further this holy teacher showed them a bunch of cheap parlor tricks. The holy teacher was so narcissistic and egocentric that anytime anything other then him comes up he tells you how unimportant it is compared to him and tells you to give up everything just to worship him and serve him.


    Further he is reckless and his delusions of grandeur like thinking he is himself a god as well as his corrupt nature like soaking himself in a years wages worth of perfume in one sitting in front of a bunch of people who gave everything up to obey and follow him. The picture is clear. I do not see a wise and loving guy. I see Charles Manson or Marshall Applewhite.


    Again, I am not here trying to offend anyone, I am just trying to honestly explain my thought process. Now that I explained my thoughts, what I really want to ask is what are yours? How do you read the bible? How do you see Jesus? What do you think were his motivations and aspirations? And most importantly why do you believe these things.


    My analysis lead me to make this documentary about the life of Christ where I go into detail and develop my thesis from birth to crucifixion. If you care for such a thing here is a link.

    (I will warn because it is based on the biblical account of the life of Jesus there is explicit content that is violent and sexual in nature in some parts of his life's account.)


    Thank you so much for your time.

  2. #2
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    Not at all wanting to shut this down (and seriously wishing I had the time to respond to it), but I'd suggest moving it to the following other location on this Website: https://www.bibleworks.com/forums/fo...rks-discussion. Mostly the same people would be looking at it there, but it would be better suited to that forum than to this one, which is peer-to-peer support for a particular piece of software.
    David Rensberger
    Atlanta, Georgia

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidR View Post
    Not at all wanting to shut this down (and seriously wishing I had the time to respond to it), but I'd suggest moving it to the following other location on this Website: https://www.bibleworks.com/forums/fo...rks-discussion. Mostly the same people would be looking at it there, but it would be better suited to that forum than to this one, which is peer-to-peer support for a particular piece of software.
    Ah thank you I did not realize I posted this in software discussion. I will post it in a more appropriate place thank you sir.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidR View Post
    Not at all wanting to shut this down (and seriously wishing I had the time to respond to it), but I'd suggest moving it to the following other location on this Website: https://www.bibleworks.com/forums/fo...rks-discussion. Mostly the same people would be looking at it there, but it would be better suited to that forum than to this one, which is peer-to-peer support for a particular piece of software.
    I do not want to doubt post but I also do not think I have the ability to move it. What would be the best way to proceed?

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    Hopefully an admin can move this thread to the proper forum.

    I apologize that I do not have time to respond in detail to your questions, but I will give a brief response. Your reasoning about Jesus would be essentially correct if His claims were not true. But if He was God in the flesh, as He claimed to be, for which He left evidence, then "wise and loving" is a very apt description.

    I'm not sure why you try to transform historical documents--which is what Matthew, Mark, John, Luke, and Acts are--into "some guys at the bar telling you about some guy they knew." Their writings were widely available, and opportunities were available for enemies of Christ who were firsthand witnesses of the events described in Matthew, et al.'s accounts to controvert their accounts, if contrary evidence existed.

    These books don't just throw out stories and expect everyone to take them at face value. They are filled with evidence; among which, yes, is the eyewitness testimony of His apostles. They claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ firsthand, and 11 out of 12 died for standing by those claims, and they all suffered significant persecution for it. Also, Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament Scriptures written centuries before His birth (cf. the 22nd Psalm). The Bible simply asks readers to "Prove (or 'Test') all things, hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). The Bereans were commended as being "noble" because when Paul preached to them, "They searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Such encouragement of thorough investigation is hardly the hallmark of a cult.
    καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    Hopefully an admin can move this thread to the proper forum.

    I apologize that I do not have time to respond in detail to your questions, but I will give a brief response. Your reasoning about Jesus would be essentially correct if His claims were not true. But if He was God in the flesh, as He claimed to be, for which He left evidence, then "wise and loving" is a very apt description.

    I'm not sure why you try to transform historical documents--which is what Matthew, Mark, John, Luke, and Acts are--into "some guys at the bar telling you about some guy they knew." Their writings were widely available, and opportunities were available for enemies of Christ who were firsthand witnesses of the events described in Matthew, et al.'s accounts to controvert their accounts, if contrary evidence existed.

    These books don't just throw out stories and expect everyone to take them at face value. They are filled with evidence; among which, yes, is the eyewitness testimony of His apostles. They claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ firsthand, and 11 out of 12 died for standing by those claims, and they all suffered significant persecution for it. Also, Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament Scriptures written centuries before His birth (cf. the 22nd Psalm). The Bible simply asks readers to "Prove (or 'Test') all things, hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). The Bereans were commended as being "noble" because when Paul preached to them, "They searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Such encouragement of thorough investigation is hardly the hallmark of a cult.
    You make a lot of good points, I am not as familiar with when the gospels first appeared but were they not publish after the destruction of the temple and things like that already have come to pass and thus foretold what has already taken place. I am not familiar with any secular sources besides Josephus who confirms a historic Jesus. Were not almost all the gospels written 100 years + after the fact?

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    Quote Originally Posted by trustyoursources View Post
    You make a lot of good points, I am not as familiar with when the gospels first appeared but were they not publish after the destruction of the temple and things like that already have come to pass and thus foretold what has already taken place. I am not familiar with any secular sources besides Josephus who confirms a historic Jesus. Were not almost all the gospels written 100 years + after the fact?
    While it is difficult to pin down precise dates for the composition of the Gospel accounts, there is plenty of evidence that the first three were in circulation decades before the close of the first century. Other secular sources for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth besides Josephus include Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny.
    καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι.

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    I'm going to try to keep this brief, so I hope it doesn't come off sounding blunt. I'm also going to write two posts, (A) on sources and (B) on Jesus. So no, not that brief.

    A
    Let me say first that, on the one hand, I completely agree with Lee about trustyoursource's guys-in-a-bar scenario. The gospels are nothing like that, and trying to imagine a completely different setting and nature for them and then critique them according to your imagined scenario is neither logical nor very fair. On the other hand, though, I probably have a different view of the gospels than most of the BibleWorks software users here. I don't see them as direct eyewitness accounts, but as the result of a process of oral tradition followed by writing that took several decades. I would give a timeline something like this: Mark shortly before 70 A.D. (the Jewish revolt and destruction of the Temple); Matthew and Luke maybe in the 80s (using Mark and other materials as sources); John perhaps around 90, basically independent of the others though aware of some of the same traditions.

    Few if any responsible scholars these days would date the gospels 100 years after the time of Jesus; I don't think any would question that he really did exist. The notion of Jesus-as-complete-fiction is itself a fantasy pure and simple. I would also agree with Lee that no one would be willing to suffer persecution and violent death for the sake of something they knew to be a fiction. Can you name any other cases in which that has happened?

    OTOH, the gospels were not written (in my opinion, shared with a fair number of scholars) as historical texts, biographies in the modern sense. They were written to provide guidance in faith and living for early Christian communities, and I have no doubt that stories and sayings were adapted in the course of the oral and writing processes involved. In part this was because their authors believed (as Christians still do) that Jesus, risen from the dead, continued to guide and teach them through the Holy Spirit. See John 14:25-26. The gospel of John, in fact, seems to represent a kind of culmination of this process, presenting Jesus as already teaching what later Christians came to believe about him. Calls to believe in Jesus as Son of God are found in John, scarcely at all in the others.

    Personally (and getting back to something of what trustyoursources originally asked), none of this bothers me in the least in reading and studying the gospels, or in my relationship of faith with Jesus. It did bother me quite a bit when I first began to study the gospels critically, many years ago. But gradually I came to the conclusion that if God is real and Jesus is true, then faith in them is compatible with anything that is real and true--including the reality that the gospels did undergo a complex process of adapting, writing, and editing. If all that mattered for faith were literal, historical data and logical deduction, then maybe there would be problems. But if that were all that mattered, the gospel writers (who were obviously intelligent people) would have written something quite different. Let me unpack that in two ways.

    First, facts and logic are great tools, but they cannot tell us the entire truth, about Jesus or anything else. The gospel writers were, so to speak, portrait painters, not photographers. Each of them presents an image of Jesus meant to call the readers toward faith, commitment, and discipleship. Within those images are plenty of facts, enough to allow us to get a good, consistent understanding of what Jesus taught. But the gospels were written to extend his teaching into new circumstances, and Christian life (IMHO) is always a balancing act between being true to Jesus, and being true to him in our own settings. If we knew every single historical fact about Jesus with 100% accuracy, we would still have to make a decision regarding what we believed about him. And the encounter with any person, whether directly with people we know or indirectly through stories, is always more than a matter of facts. It is a matter of personhood, of the personal reality of a human being, which is more than the sum of the data about them.

    Second, this is all the more true with someone like Jesus. One reason why so many different images of him exist (in the gospels and in the minds of their readers and interpreters) is (IMHO) because he could not be nailed down (pun intended). He did not fit any single category, out of the many that were available in his day, such as prophet, miracle worker, mystic, teacher, rabbi, revolutionary, movement leader, sage. What he was and who he was seem to have been unprecedented enough that he evoked a very wide range of responses, in his lifetime and afterward. This is one reason it doesn't bother me that we get different impressions from different gospels. Part of his unprecedented reality was that, probably already in his lifetime and certainly while people who had known him were still living, some of those who encountered him recognized him as a unique bearer of the Presence of God. I believe it was from actual experience with him that the Christian beliefs about him as divine Son of God emerged--whether he himself taught this or not. Not mythology or imagination but experience lies at the bottom of Christian belief and tradition, IMHO.
    Last edited by DavidR; 07-12-2017 at 11:02 AM.
    David Rensberger
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    OK, brevity fails me once again. Here's the second part.

    B
    With regard to what you say about Jesus himself, trustyoursources, I have several responses. You wrote:
    Now with all this in play as I go through the bible I hear a story about a Iron age Rabbi that ran an organization with lots of hall marks of a cult like abandoning families to follow a holy teacher, giving up wealth, and dedicating one entire life soul, body, and mind to the holy teacher. Further this holy teacher showed them a bunch of cheap parlor tricks. The holy teacher was so narcissistic and egocentric that anytime anything other then him comes up he tells you how unimportant it is compared to him and tells you to give up everything just to worship him and serve him.
    Further he is reckless and his delusions of grandeur like thinking he is himself a god as well as his corrupt nature like soaking himself in a years wages worth of perfume in one sitting in front of a bunch of people who gave everything up to obey and follow him. The picture is clear. I do not see a wise and loving guy. I see Charles Manson or Marshall Applewhite.
    First, you have to be careful with the use of sources. You run a lot of things together here from different gospels, and tend to generalize from single incidents. Jesus doesn't tell anyone to worship him, or say that he is God (not "a god"!), with the exception of a couple of passages in the gospel of John. But John (as I said in post A) is in general quite different from the other gospels. I'm one of those who believe that, in this respect, it does not reflect what Jesus himself said, but the convictions of believers of a generation or so later.

    "Cheap parlor tricks" is not very persuasive as a description of the miracle stories in the gospels. There is no table-knocking and dopey sťance stuff. You need to be more specific if you want to be taken seriously.

    The same is true of "anytime anything other then him comes up he tells you how unimportant it is compared to him". Please point out even one specific instance where this happens. As for the Charles Manson and Marshall Applewhite analogies, kindly give the list of people Jesus ordered his followers to kill, or to kill themselves.

    So far, trustyoursources, you're really not presenting the evidence to make your conclusions credible. But I will give you this: the kind of charismatic person that Jesus actually seems to have been (see post A) can evoke overwhelming commitment from followers, and this can be good or it can be evil. Evidently you see life-changing commitment (abandoning family and possessions) as always evil. But note that Jesus does not call on his followers to sell their possessions and give the money to him, but rather to others (Mark 10:21). He himself seems to have lived without a home much of the time; he didn't ask others to do things he wasn't willing to do himself. There is also the role (or lack of role) of violence in his mission. He explicitly renounced it and called on his followers to do so as well (Luke 6:27-36). Cult leaders often encourage their followers to threaten or harm critical outsiders; again, Jesus refused to do so (Luke 9:49-56). (Unfortunately, we who believe in him have not often had the courage to practice his nonviolence!)

    Returning to the subject of commitment, it seems that what Jesus called for was an utter commitment to God, even if that came with a serious material cost. We live in an age in which commitment to anything is regarded as suspect, and giving up one's material advantages for a larger cause is considered slightly loony. Yet as recently as the 20th century some of the most admired figures in history did just that. Gandhi (who saw much to admire in Jesus) gave up a law career, lived poor, and attracted a legion of dedicated followers to his cause. Martin Luther King Jr. (a Baptist minister) suffered persecution and ultimately martyrdom, and he too drew committed workers to the cause of justice, many of whom gave up safety and security to do so. Jesus' call to self-abandonment for the sake of God was a call to find life and identity in very unusual and unexpected places and actions. It definitely did and does look fringe-y. It definitely did and should still take people out of their comfort zones and well-constructed rational defenses.

    As I said in post A, even in possession of all the facts, we still have to make a decision. I decided for Jesus precisely because I saw (and see) in him something deeper and truer than superficial appearances and standard ways of behavior. I see in him a path to God, "the Way, Truth, and Life" (whether he himself said that or not), to finding my own truest self in God, and then finding the truest way to live as myself for the cause of justice in the sight of God (not always successfully, faithfully, or consistently, to be sure). He and his way are freeing, even if I have to drop a lot of baggage along the path to freedom. IOW, the answer to why is that I tried it and found it to be real and true; not only the origin but the best proof of the truth of Christ and Christianity lies in experience, IMHO.
    David Rensberger
    Atlanta, Georgia

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    While it is difficult to pin down precise dates for the composition of the Gospel accounts, there is plenty of evidence that the first three were in circulation decades before the close of the first century. Other secular sources for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth besides Josephus include Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny.
    Thank you for those sources I will look them up.

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