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In the Name of God بسم الله

Leslie P

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  1. Thanks for the replies. I think I must have been unclear in my question, so I'll rephrase. Do Muslims generally see the disciples as people of God who were faithful to Jesus during and after his ministry, or do they see them as rather useless people who failed Jesus? I haven't come across this before. Where did you get this information from? “The Nazarenes” was a name for the Early Christians in general in C1. The Symmachians were a late second century sect, therefore no guide at all to what people thought in the early/mid first century. The Elkesaites also didn't get underway until the second century, and their beliefs were...well let's just say they don't exactly fit with Islam or Xianity... The Ebionites are a bit more interesting. Unfortunately we have very unreliable information about them, and no-one knows what they actually believed. The early ones followed something resembling the Gospel of Matthew. It's worth noting that much of Matthew is based on Mark. Therefore all of what I said above about Jesus seeing his main task as starting the Kingdom of God still applies to the early Ebionites. They regarded James as the successor to Jesus, but the NT has multiple sources and forms that James agreed with Paul on Jesus' resurrection, divinity, KoG beliefs etc. That Paul was allowed by the disciples to preach what he did tells us clearly that the disciples agreed with him. It may well be that in C1 the Ebionites were orthodox Xians who observed Torah, but their beliefs drifted in C2 and later. In short, we have very strong historical evidence for what the disciples and Early Church believed in C1 and nothing reliable to the contrary.
  2. Many thanks for the work you have put into this reply! Anyone claiming to be the Jewish Messiah as Jesus did was strung up by the Romans, who weren't detail people on that issue. That's why Jesus had to work in secret. 'Now and not yet' (the clip linked above is short and worth a watch). Jesus will not die again, and after the resurrection neither will anyone else. After the resurrection, there will not be any more sin. A two stage process- stage one Jesus resurrected, the door to no death or sin unlocked. Stage 2, Jesus return and the world renewed. Jesus was asked about the destruction of the Temple (eg Mark 13:4, and his answer continues using a wonderful mixture of OT references, plain speaking and Jewish apocalyptic language (JAL) through Mark 13:30 “generation” until Mark 13:37. That's the plain reading. (Otherwise he's answering a question he hasn't been asked...) You're misreading the JAL as literal text, which it isn't. It uses dramatic images to describe future historical events. For instance, no-one believed the monsters of Daniel would arrive like Dr Who villains, but viewed them as standing for empires. Think Joseph and his dream interpretation here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51f9uEYGeKw The fig tree is a metaphor for the unavoidable failure of the Jewish people to fulfil their destiny without God's intervention. Paul's earlier letters suggest he is hoping to be alive when Jesus returns, and later ones he can see it likely won't happen. It's worth noting that the church fathers seem very relaxed about a 'failed' return. In fact, I would invite you to contrast the aftermath of bar-Kochba with early Christianity. They really were not. Bar-Kochba and his like were expecting everything to happen in real time on this earth. That's why all the messianic movements looked like rebellions. That's why Judas Maccabeus bothered to cleanse the Temple. Again, don't confuse JAL for literal text. And in Matt 26, Mk 14, John 13 and 1 Cor 11 making multiple sources and forms, or a slam dunk to have happened historically, as historians would say. Your second quote hits the nail. Post Christian secular societies. Unlike Islam, we're really not geared up for running a nation, more for being suffering underdogs. We don't know what powers he might have had, because we lack the information. Both his letter and Acts confirm his Saul persecution activities, which is talked about as very common knowledge. Persecution of Christians continues to be talked about, both in the NT and outside the HB. Paul's impact wasn't important until Xianity reached a particular size, which took a long time, and in any case it was all about Jesus. Again, why would Saul seek to destroy early Xianity, if it preached the same Torah repentance that he did? And if Jesus preached Torah repentance, why would Paul, now sworn to be Jesus' follower, switch from Torah repentance to selling some nonsense about the KoG, resurrection and the end of sin/death? Thanks again for your reply.
  3. Thanks for your reply, and for trimming the tangents I had allowed to emerge in an uncontrolled way! The Palm Sunday events tell us his appeal went beyond the 120 paid up subscribers, Still, 120 is enough to get the authorities urgent attention, especially with massive crowds at the ultimate celebration of Jewish nationalism. Jesus' “within a generation” prediction refers to the destruction of the Temple in AD70, which was the thing he'd been asked about, and did happen as he prophesied. This is covered by “now and not yet”. The KoG has arrived, but is not yet fully in place. God has done the heavy lifting to destroy sin and death, but the process is incomplete. (Further details available on request.) For those unfamiliar with the idea, here is a short (5m) intro: Link We have strong evidence (multiple sources and forms) that Paul (Saul) persecuted the early Christians, before an experience caused him to join them and spread their message. We also know from multiple sources and forms that the early Christians were from day one preaching Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus as Messiah, the overcoming of sin/death... Why would Paul have persecuted the Jesus sect, if they were saying exactly the same things as he was? Where is the evidence that they weren't already speaking about resurrection, the KoG having started, forgiveness of sins etc etc etc etc etc; what evidence is there that Paul introduced these huge, huge ideas, and the disciples just let him? A couple of issues about which I'm generally puzzled. What is the general view of Muslims regarding the effectiveness of the disciples? Is this (return to Torah → endtimes) what Muslims think that Jesus was saying?
  4. Many thanks for your well thought out post. Historians follow well established historical processes to say what most likely happened. These get used to work out what happened with (for examples) Napoleon, King Alfred and the fall of the Roman Empire. We can apply these directly to the reasons the Early Church got going. We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of number of documents and closeness to the events there, compared to what historians normally work with.. It has often been said that if the resurrection were any normal historical event, there would be no debate about whether it happened or not. So no circular reasoning, just first rate History. When it started, Xianity was too small to the worthy of notice. When it gets going, the independent witnesses I mentioned do write about the events. Exactly. That community, run by the disciples when Paul wrote his letters, clearly believed that Jesus had been resurrected. That he talked about himself establishing the Kingdom of God (KoG). That's what the eyewitnesses were saying. Not really. There were many very different ideas about what the texts meant- in fact what the KoG would be like was something of a 'hot topic' (see Josephus). Jesus set himself up against the religious authorities, and was getting a seriously large following. Those authorities were the ones pushing for his death, with the Romans going along to keep the peace. Hence I need to unexclude the middle and say that Jesus was following the storyline of Israel and the KoG, but not in the way people were normally expecting it to turn out. What Jesus did was fulfilling the OT prophecies, but not how most in C1 Israel thought they would be. But if Jesus was seen to fail, why did his followers want to continue his movement at all? In C1 Israel, followers of a failed messiah simply moved on. Worse, why continue his movement but saying something very, very, very different to what he said? I don't understand this, I'm afraid. Surely the NT narrative says that Jesus defeated sin and death, fulfilling the promises of the OT in full. Then the NT paints Jesus as a true prophet and messiah. Furthermore, since what Jesus did was reserved for God to do, it paints him as God, returning as promised to His people to rescue them. I'm still rather unclear with this. If Moses was still alive, how was this a test of his followers after his death?
  5. Many thanks for your reply, which is excellent in its depth of knowledge and argument. Given how much evidence there is, and how varied it all is, we can be certain about much of what Jesus taught and what the people who were there thought he did. Formally speaking, historians have universally used criteria for deciding how accurate documents such as the NT sources are likely to be. That Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God (KoG) and his role in it is certain using the criteria of multiple sources and multiple forms. This is not “circular reasoning”, but standard historical method. Similarly we can be certain that the Early Church believed Jesus had been resurrected, using the criteria of multiple sources and multiple forms. In addition, we do have secular confirmation from writers like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Lucian, Pliny... I've tried to work out what you mean by this, and I can't. Could you unpack it a bit? Thanks. What Jesus did was in line with OT teaching, but different to how it was commonly read in C1 Israel. They were expecting to be given a region of the Mediterranean, but Jesus gave the whole world. They expected national forgiveness, but Jesus gave it to all of humanity. They expected the Romans would be defeated, but Jesus gave them the defeat of death and sin. What Jesus gave them was so much greater than they expected, which is also more in line with the earth shattering type of thing the OT promised. In addition, there were bucket loads of people at that time who fitted the description “prophet sent to Israelites, calling for the revival of the Torah and denouncing the transgressors”, as a means to bring in the Kingdom of God, not an end in itself. If that was all Jesus did, it was nothing special or important, being done by the entire Pharisaic movement amongst others. There is a far better explanation. Calling yourself “Messiah” in C1 Roman occupied Israel would get you immediate arrest and execution. Game over. Therefore it made perfect sense to start in a cryptic way getting the message across, before becoming much more obvious as the time to die approached (John 16:25-32). Jesus must have taught about the Kingdom of God and his role in it. Given the literally hundreds of direct and indirect references across so many different Christian sources from Mark through Paul and James to Hermas and Thomas, it is really not credible historically to say he didn't. And that is my biggest problem about accepting Islam as true. Given Jesus' unrelenting focus on the KoG, it is quite impossible to see him as just a “ prophet sent to Israelites, calling for the revival of the Torah and denouncing the transgressors”. Given what the KoG meant, he must have been much, much more than that.
  6. Thanks for the reply. You clearly 'know your stuff'! There are the four Gospels, the various letters in the NT, sundry Roman sources, the writings in the post-apostolic period, the written attacks by enemies of the church, and the existence of the church itself. Historians would term all this multiple forms and multiple sources; and we have such a richness that we can be certain what core beliefs of the early church were, such as a belief in Jesus' resurrection. Historians of the C1 Mediterranean period doing non-religious history have no hesitation in using these documents as sources of information. Surely if we do the same, we can reach some very secure conclusions about whether Jesus' contemporaries thought he did miracles, and claimed to be the Messiah? Agreed. As well as the OT and Apocrypha we have Jewish historians such as Josephus. Essentially, the Kingdom of God was a Very Big Deal and is about the belief that God would act in history and fulfil His promise to Israel: to defeat His enemies, declare forgiveness of sins to God's people, and to return to His people as a presence. I do need to point out that the C1 Jewish ideas on the Kingdom of God cannot be squared with the Muslim ideas of what Jesus was up to. Furthermore, the richness of evidence (parables, quotations, subsequent church beliefs...) tells us that Jesus thought that he was bringing in the Kingdom of God. Agreed. I wouldn't say the later creeds were wrong, but I find their complexity very unhelpful and prefer the simpler, early church formulations. I'm not sure which thread you are referring to, but I wonder if you would mind going over the evidence that Jesus was simply trying to return Judaism to the time of Moses again, so we can avoid discussion across multiple threads? Thank you in anticipation.
  7. The Epistle of James was almost certainly written after Paul. However I really must ask you for your evidence for any alleged disagreements between the Epistle of James and Paul. If you're meaning the alleged works/faith disagreement, I need to strongly question that. It is now known that when Paul talks about works being inadequate, he is only talking about works of Torah. Furthermore, Paul can be every bit as hot on people needing to obey God, and behave, as the Epistle from James is. For example, Romans 2:1-10 or Galatians 5:16-21.
  8. Thanks for the comment. There is a huge amount of historical evidence that Jesus though he was starting off the Kingdom of God, defeating death, introducing the new covenant, and keeping God's promise to return to Israel. What evidence can you provide that he was simply trying to return Judaism to the time of Moses? Note also Jesus vs Moses
  9. Thank you for your lengthy reply. You've clearly put a lot of effort into your post. The idea that Paul murdered James is not remotely believable. This suggestion would die at hypersonic speed outside of a very amateur website. This website is full of really big, basic errors- far too many to go through in detail here. Just one example- start with the very first point, that Acts 21 says that James had Paul arrested. You can read it Here If anything it talks about how well they got on. In addition, there is no actual historical evidence I can find on the website for James's beliefs on anything. If you think there are points made on the website that are both important and defensible, feel free to mention them separately and we can follow them up. I've presented some of the evidence in my last post that they were allies. What evidence could you put forward, then, that James and Paul were enemies, or that they disagreed about Jesus? Given the role that sacrifice played in C1 Judaism, and given what Paul writes about it in his letters, he has absolutely no need to draw anything from paganism- it's already completely there in C1 Judaism. What things can you find in the NT about sacrifice that weren't already in Judaism? And to make a wider point, everything Paul says comes in C1 Judaism. What Jesus did was entirely in the context of Judaism, fulfilling the promises God had made in the OT, in a way that was far, far greater than anything that was imagined at the time.
  10. Thanks for the reply. I hope all is well with you. Just because he writes in Greek doesn't mean his content is any less solid Judaism. Also, if he was writing in Greek mostly to churches in Greece we would surely expect him to use the very well-known Greek translation. Again, the content is unaffected by the choice of language. Would a good illustration be that hadith in English mean something very similar to hadith in Arabic? Yet all his theology and beliefs come 100% from his Judaism. Where pagan divinities are mentioned, any worship of them is attacked as forbidden. In contrast, OT Judaism is seen as the divinely inspired truth. Again, style is not content. A post about how to best grow tomatoes on a gardening website would look very different to a scholarly dissertation, while both saying the same sort of things. In order for Christianity to come from pagan beliefs, Paul would need to have taken a random set of things from a range of pagan religions, altered them beyond easy recognition and then fitted them into Judaism. The disciples would then have had to let him get on with it without interference, and allowed huge changes to Judaeo-Christianity. All evidence of this process would need to have been eliminated within Paul's lifetime. There is a huge amount of evidence that this was not what happened. What evidence is there that it did?
  11. Hi there. Thanks for your replies. Paul's puts an awful lot of effort into showing the Jewishness of Christianity. There doesn't appear to be any evidence in his writing of any attempt to adapt that for the Gentiles. Such information as we have says that James and Paul were firmly on the same page (Acts 15:13, 21:18; Galatians 1:19,2:9 etc). Why do you think they weren't? It's an interesting idea, which was first explored in the 1890s. This approach assumes that Paul took an idea from here, an idea from there, invented a whole new religion, then decided to attach it to Christianity for some reason. Then the disciples simply allowed him to completely rewrite everything Jesus had said, change pretty much everything and even joined in so enthusiastically they were prepared to die for it. Furthermore, this pagan influence left no trace in any writing or historical record. The pagan gods have to be abandoned says Paul, not copied. In addition, no-one has any motivation for doing this process, and every motivation for not doing this. As regards the evidence, on the one hand, we have a scattered small group of inevitable coincidences. On the other, we have a huge mass of historical material in which Paul, other C1 letter writers, and the Gospel writers all stress that Christianity is firmly rooted in the Judaism in which God's promises are completed. They all stress the OT prophecies coming true, and that there are witnesses (sometimes alive at the time of writing) who say that they saw all the events.
  12. Thanks you for your reply. As always, some important points have been made. This is correct, and I wish more people understood this. I would think they used the Septuagint because Greek was one of the 'universal' languages of the Eastern Mediterranean at that time (one thinks of the Decapolis, for example). In any case, whatever the language used, would you not agree that the NT is saturated with OT quotes? Paul puts an awful lot of effort into showing how Jesus fulfilled the Jewish OT promises, in a very unexpected way, but a message that was for everybody (“through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed”). For him, Jesus as the fulfilment of God's promises to humanity was at the very centre of his beliefs. Israel was very conscious that the much promised Kingdom of God hadn't arrived. Jesus' sacrifice was necessary for it to happen. The first Christians were Jewish, and all the evidence we have says they were constantly looking at the OT. Any Jewish resistance would have been due to the strong Jewish ideas about how the Kingdom of God/Messiah involved military victory rather than being killed on a cross. I need to ask again what your evidence is that the changes weren't completely supported by the disciples? In my post on May 1st I provide a small part of the evidence that they were. It seems to me that those who knew Jesus best, who had been directly taught by him, who had been entrusted with his message, were the ones who established early Christianity.
  13. Thanks for the reply. I do have a couple of questions to ask. You seem to paint this picture of disciples unable to control their church, and of converts from paganism completely changing the mission, teaching and human status of Jesus. Yet the NT has the disciples applying tight control within a well established leadership structure. As examples: Peter needing God's direct orders over admitting Gentiles in Acts 10,11; Paul's instructions on communion discipline (1 Cor 11); his robust clarification over resurrection (1 Cor 15); the pillars of the church (Gal 2:9); the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). The historical evidence, in multiple sources and forms, of Paul's letters and Acts tell us very clearly that the messages of resurrection, divinity and the origin of communion (5 sources!) were taught from the very earliest years of Christianity. My first question is this: Against all of that that overwhelming evidence, you state that these things came in from outside at a late stage, long after the events, with converts from paganism. What evidence do you have for that claim? Rereading what you've written, I'm not sure what you're referring to, I'm afraid. It's just not possible to read the NT without finding references to OT Judaism soaking the pages. The writers quote the OT, and talk about promises made in a very Jewish context coming true. So my second question is, why do you think the Jewish Early Church were actually taking their beliefs from paganism, rather than Judaism and what they had seen with their own eyes?
  14. Thank you for your very extensive reply. A lot of work must have gone into that. I do have a few thoughts on what you wrote: Mithraism is completely different to Christianity, and the theory that Christianity derived from it is long abandoned in serious academic circles. We know little about it; what we do know about it is substantially different to Christianity, and there is no evidence of either copying from the other in C1. Indeed, Paul is full of the Jewish root of Christianity, and is very unpleasant about getting involved with any other religions. The church fathers you quote as talking about similarity, were complaining that later Mithraism, which was constantly changing, had stolen from Christianity. I'm not needing any particular theory on who the authors of the Gospels are. What we do know is that Jesus' mother, aunt, Mary Magdalene and the 'disciple Jesus loved' all witnessed the crucifixion, and were close enough to talk to Jesus. With witnesses that strong we can take it as a fixed point that Jesus was crucified, unless one is committed for some other reason to saying it only appeared that way (as I understand it that's your position?). Which then leads to the interesting question of why the disciples claimed that Jesus was resurrected. They get a good write-up in the Quran, so it's not deception. Every shred of the extensive evidence tells us that they believed this from the very beginning. The disciples who witnessed the actual events maintained control of the church (Acts 1:21,22; Galatians 2:9 etc). The body disappearing is a necessary, but not sufficient, explanation for their claim the Jesus was resurrected. So I think we're still looking for that elusive reason why the disciples claimed Jesus was resurrected.
  15. This is a particularly thought provoking post. I would agree with this, but then add a follow up question. Why did the disciples, from the very first, say that Jesus had been crucified and killed? It was a huge no-no in C1 Judaism to say your Messiah had been killed, and ordinarily would mean your guy wasn't the Messiah. There were witnesses including a disciple. John 19:25-27 “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Mothers tend to be pretty clear on whether it's their son on the cross or not. If Jesus wasn't crucified and then resurrected, how do we explain the rise of the Early Church with the beliefs that it had?
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