Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He Is

John's gospel was the last of the canonical gospels written, and has the clearest statements of Jesus' divinity. Some people use this to argue that the claim that Jesus was (and is) God Incarnate was not present in the early Church, but developed over time. Much is made of John's "I am" statements ("εγω ειμι" in Greek), where Jesus uses God's name to describe himself.

Of course I wouldn't deny that there was development in the early Church's understanding of Jesus, but as a simple matter of historical fact, the belief that Jesus was God originates very early in the Church, prior to any of the New Testament's composition. This is acknowledged by the vast majority of scholars.

At any rate, the fact that John's gospel has the most and clearest statements of Jesus' divinity simply does not mean that the synoptic gospels do not contain any such statements. For example, Jesus does say "I am" at some incredibly poignant places in the synoptic gospels. Below is Mark's account of Jesus walking on the water, with the Greek phrase "εγω ειμι" replacing the English. Bear in mind that Mark was probably the first gospel written.

When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! εγω ειμι. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

The NIV translates the Greek as "It is I" here, as well as in the parallel description in Matthew 14, which concludes with his disciples worshiping him.

This is just one example; there are other interesting cases. Here are all the occurrences of εγω ειμι in the New Testament for your perusal.

(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)


Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum

49 comments:

Matko said...

Glad you brought this subject up, Jim.

Larry Hurtado's brilliant book, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, analyzes all relevant documents: Paul's epistles, the gospels, Q, etc., and it shows Jesus' divinity started very early on. You could say, to use Hurtado's expression, it was like a Big Bang, having no time to develop. There's no faultiness to believe it started weeks or even days after the crucifixion.

Hurtado doesn't go further, stopping at "religious experiences" Jesus' earliest followers had. Who knows, maybe the early Church had seen the risen Jesus and based its beliefs on him, and found evidence for it in the Old Testament?

Tim O'Neill said...

Ummm, seriously? This is actually being presented as evidence that Jesus was considered God as early as the composition of Mark? Sorry, but if this is the best argument you guys can come up with, you really shouldn't wonder why this sort of apologetics is richly unconvincing to anyone except committed believers.

Here's the most significant, most radical and most controversial thing the gospel writer has to say about Jesus - more radical even than the Resurrection - and he does it in the form of an oblique word game? Sorry, but that is a terrible argument.

As for why Jesus would be saying "I am/It is I" - he's just appeared out of the rain to a boatload of already terrified guys and he's walking on water. Not surprisingly, they think he's a ghost so he reassures them he's their rabbi.

To think that Jesus would take this opportunity to say (in a truly round about way) "By the way, sorry if you're a bit distracted at the moment, but I happen to be not just the Messiah but also the incarnation of Yahweh himself. Just thought you should know." is totally bizarre. As is the idea that this is how Mark would introduce this key concept.

Sorry guys, but that's one of the worst arguments I've ever seen a Christian make.

Jim S. said...

You've misunderstood the point of the post Tim. Some people argue that the concept of Jesus' divinity is a late accretion, and one of the arguments given for this is the use of God's name, "I am," in John's gospel ("I am the vine," "I am the gate," etc.). I'm pointing out that there are examples of this phrase in earlier gospels to contest this argument.

As to whether saying "I am" is a roundabout way for Jesus' to claim divinity, I would just reiterate that in Matthew's account the disciples worshiped him afterwards. At the very least, this emphasizes the point that if the "I am" statements in John's gospel imply divinity, then they would in the earlier gospels as well.

Tim O'Neill said...

You've misunderstood the point of the post Tim.

No, actually, I haven't. Unlike Mark, John's gospel gives some reasonably explicit indications that its writers considered Jesus, at least in some sense, God. So that's not simply based on any "I am" phrases, but on clear indications. To say Mark reflects this Christology as well purely on the basis of this phrase is tenuous to the point of total absurdity.

I would just reiterate that in Matthew's account the disciples worshiped him afterwards.

The check your concordance, because various people "worship" others in the NT and they sure as hell aren't acknowledging those others as God by doing so. They are simply showing deep respect. That the disciples are depicted showing deep respect to a guy they already recognise as God's Anointed and who has just walked on water makes perfect sense. To pretend this means the "It is I" statement means "I am God" on that basis is, again, absurd and contrived in the extreme.

Anonymous said...

Does early or late make much difference? Augustus was deified by the senate in AD 14 when a senator saw his spirit rising through the smoke of his funeral pyre to heaven.
There is an assumption here that these are the words Jesus spoke, hotly disputed.
Even Hurtado whose work I admire does not claim that Christians believed that Jesus was a God when he was alive. Is there any respected scholar who argues this?

Jim S. said...

I'm sorry Tim, but you simply have not understood the post. Let me illustrate this.

1. Christian: The early Church believed Jesus was God.
2. Skeptic: The only examples of this are in the later writings.
3. Christian: Such as?
4. Skeptic: For example the "I am" statements in John are clear claims to divinity.
5. Jim S.: There are "I am" statements in the synoptics. One of them is immediately followed by people worshiping Jesus.
6. Tim: Ummm, seriously? Just because Jesus uses "I am" to refer to himself in the synoptics, it doesn't mean he was claiming to be God. Sorry guys, but that's one of the worst arguments I've ever seen a Christian make.
7. Jim S.: You've misunderstood. This post is only arguing point 5. You're arguing against point 4 which claims that the "I am" statements are clear claims to divinity.
8. Tim: No I haven't misunderstood. You're arguing point 4. Besides, John's gospel has other evidences of Jesus' divinity.

It's obvious that you've misunderstood this post Tim. The fact that John's gospel has more and clearer statements regarding Jesus' divinity is something I pointed out in the post. I'm only arguing that the "I am" statements are not unique to John, and so cannot be used as evidence that Jesus' divinity was a later accretion.

Humphrey said...

I'm enjoying this peer review process we have to undergo now. I guess it is one of the perks of having 'Armarium Magnum - Medieval books reviewed' on our blogroll.

jamierobertson said...

Here's the most significant, most radical and most controversial thing the gospel writer has to say about Jesus... and he does it in the form of an oblique word game? Sorry, but that is a terrible argument.

Why?

1) Jewish rabbis did half their teaching by reframing what had gone before - they would quote the OT and other earlier rabbis extensively (hence the astonishment that Jesus taught of his own authority rather than that of those before him).

2)Jews had the OT hammered into them from their early days, and could recognise - and quote - huge chunks of it. A quote from the OT would have been immediately recognisable to Joe Bloggs Jew. (cf the "Son Of Man" & "3 days of Jonah" quotes, for example)

3) Punning was also a popular and widely used rhetorical technique, for both impact and memorisation. Matthew 16:18, for instance, or the OT naming of Nebuchadnezzar (known elsewhere as Nebuchadrezzer) to ridicule a pagan ruler, and maybe even Joseph or Arimethea. NT-era rabbis also used the technique extensively.

4) And if Jesus wanted to drop a bombshell about his true identity - why not when he had their full attention and just performed an ability affirming miracle?

Various people "worship" others in the NT and they sure as hell aren't acknowledging those others as God by doing so

Where?

Jim S. said...

Maybe the problem is the beginning of the third paragraph. Perhaps I should have put "clearest statements of Jesus' divinity" in quotes to emphasize that it refers back to the "I am" statements as mentioned in the first paragraph. If that's a source of misunderstanding, my apologies.

Anonymous said...

Anyone working within the wider field of first century Mediterranean spirituality knows that the boundaries between the sacred and material were very fluid. Paul and Barnabas were thought to be gods, so were Roman emperors. Herod Antipas is recorded in the synoptic gospels as believing that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist. Too often Christians are told that the resurrection accounts of Jesus are unique- but that it is to divorce them from the wider spiritual context of the times. It is only the canonisation of the gospels that have made them SEEM unique. When one reads the speech of Stephen to the Sanhedrin, he does not even mention the physical (e.g appearance on earth) resurrection of Jesus- Stephen is stoned to death because he believed that Jesus was a prophet 'like the prophets of old' and was at the right hand of the Father. This is what got the early Jewish Christians into trouble - it was hotly contested as to whether Jesus was a prophet, within the tradition of prophets of old, or not.
Geza Vermes is the scholar who has sorted most of this out and has shown that the ways in which Jesus was addressed were conventionally Jewish ones. What Jesus , rightly or wrongly, believed himself to be is another fascinating subject in itself - he may well have been honestly mistaken to believe that he was the messenger of God. What you can't do is to say that the evidence is so clearcut that Jesus actually was divine. It comes down to individual choice-although ,in the normal run of things, it seems unlikely.

Tim O'Neill said...

I'm sorry Tim, but you simply have not understood the post.

No, I understood it just fine thank you.

4. Skeptic: For example the "I am" statements in John are clear claims to divinity.

No sceptic I know of would say anything of the sort. Only John 8:58 could be seriously claimed to be anything like such a claim.

There are "I am" statements in the synoptics. One of them is immediately followed by people worshiping Jesus.

And immediately preceded by people not recognising him and thinking he’s a ghost, so he identifies himself by saying "It is I".

To pretend this is somehow him saying "By the way, I'm God! Surprised? Thought you would be! Subtle huh?" is drawing a long bow worthy of the Battle of Agincourt.

Arguments like this are so contrived as to almost give the contorted Jesus Myther arguments a run for their money. And they prove that this kind of apologetics serves no purpose than to reassure the faithful, because no-one else would be convinced by this kind of pretzel-shaped crap.

Jim S. said...

No, I understood it just fine thank you. ... To pretend this is somehow him saying "By the way, I'm God! Surprised? Thought you would be! Subtle huh?" is drawing a long bow worthy of the Battle of Agincourt.

Dude, for the third time that's not what I'm saying. I really don't know how to make this clearer to you. You keep insisting you understand what I'm saying and then you reiterate something that I have repeatedly insisted I'm not saying. So far our conversation has been:

Jim: A.
Tim: B is absurd.
Jim: You misunderstood. I'm saying A, not B.
Tim: No I understood. You're saying B.
Jim: No, I'm not saying B. You misunderstood. I'm saying A. Not B. A.
Tim: I didn't misunderstand anything. You're saying B.

Tim I admire your willingness to come here and to the forum and debate us. But when I insist, several times, that I don't mean something and you keep coming back saying, "Yes I understand: you do mean that," it makes you look inattentive at best.

Kristofer said...

Seems to me Jesus denied his divinity here

Mark 10:18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone".

Kristofer said...

and other times when he could not do a miracle cause of the lack of belief of the town he was in. Lastly he claimed not to know when the second coming would happen. Seems odd for a deity

unkle e said...

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone""
Doesn't sound like he is either denying or asserting his divinity - he is asking a question, not asserting anything. He often asked questions in response to questions, presumably to make people think rather than give them the answer. You and I are both thinking about it, and coming to our own answers, just as I reckon he intended.

Seems odd for a deity
Sure does, but Jesus wasn't a deity pure and simple, he was a man who was divine. The Bible makes it clear in several places that there were things about him that would be odd for a deity - he got tired, he was killed, Philippians 2 said he emptied himself, etc. So odd, certainly - you could even say unique! : )

Kristofer said...

Jesus was saying he wasn't good, only God is God. Fine enough seems to be a denial of divinity to me though.

Yes a lot of stuff in the NT is odd for a deity, which is why I don't think he was one :)

jamierobertson said...

Jesus didn't say he wasn't good - he fired the question back at the questioner, and did not make a statement either way.

Exactly how you can go from "So, you think I'm good, do you?" to "I'm not good" is beyond me.

unkle e said...

"Yes a lot of stuff in the NT is odd for a deity, which is why I don't think he was one :)"
People have been inventing gods for millennia. They tend to invent gods that they don't think are odd for them. If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah (which I believe on the evidence he was), then it would be surprising if he did look exactly as you'd expect. That's not a reason to believe in him, but it's certainly not a reason to disbelieve either.

Kristofer said...

Mark 10:17-18

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

A person called Jesus a " good teacher"

Jesus immediately asked him why did he call him good? Jesus explains the reason for the question, no one is good except for God. Therefore Jesus is denying his divinity. If Jesus was divine he would not have asked the question. One could argue he was simply testing the man to see if he would realize he was God, but nothing in the text remotely suggests that.

Let me give you a parallel example. Let say some said to someone " Immortal teacher, what must I do to prosper?" Then the teacher immediately says " why do you call me immortal, only God is immortal. To prosper you need to save money, be honest etc."

Reading the above would you think the teacher in question was not correcting the student? If not, why not?

Reading the above have you found anything in the text suggesting the teacher was in fact God.

Lets look at the portrait of Jesus from Mark.

a.) he misquotes the OT, twice. Matthew and Luke correct this

b.) he does not know when his second coming will happen exactly, but he seems to believe it will happen within his generation.

c.) He cannot work miracles because of people's lack of belief in him

No Virgin Birth, No resurrection appearances, how in blazes can one conclude from reading the book of Mark that Jesus was God!

Unless you can find something in Mark that clearly states Jesus identifying himself as God then you cannot begin to claim Mark presents such a portrait of Jesus.

jamierobertson said...

One could argue he was simply testing the man to see if he would realize he was God, but nothing in the text remotely suggests that

Good grief, man, EXACTLY the same could be said for the alternative view. There is NOTHING in that passage that points either way. Jesus' statement is consistent with a denial of divinity or with getting his audience to examine themselves (as is perfectly expected from a rabbi teaching a crowd). Not much point in discussing this further, as we're just going round in circles.

Reading the above have you found anything in the text suggesting the teacher was in fact God.

I've found nothing in your story to show that he wasn't God, which of course is the whole point of what we're discussing.

Lets look at the portrait of Jesus from Mark.

We're well aware of the apparent limitations that Jesus admitted to, as were all the Gospel writers and Paul - UnkleE has already discussed the "emptying" issue. If you wish to explain why the incarnate hypostasis that is the second person of the Trinity cannot be both subordinate yet ontologically on equal grounding with the Father and thus deserving of worship, you know where James' forum is.

No Virgin Birth, No resurrection appearances, how in blazes can one conclude from reading the book of Mark that Jesus was God!

Argument from silence, ignoring the positive evideence that Jim has submitted in the opening post.

Matko said...

In Mark 10:18, Jesus is essentially saying to the ruler, "Do you know what you are implying? You say I am good; but only God is good; therefore, you realize that you are identifying me with God?"

In Jewish thought, God was pre-eminently good, so that the ruler was indeed offering Jesus a compliment usually reserved for God. Since it is quite unlikely that the ruler truly believed that Jesus was identifiable as God the Son, this looks more like an effort by Jesus to make the man think about what he is saying before he blurts it out or engages in indiscriminate flattery.

Kristofer said...

Jamie

No there isn't much point in discussing this further because you refuse to see the obvious.

People very, very rarely refer to themselves as a God. I think we can agree on that. So therefore you gotta find something rather unambiguous if you wish to show the person is claiming divinity. If not, why not?

It is far, far more likely a person isn't a God than is one. 100 billion people have lived and died and none of them to the best of my knowledge were a deity. You are now claiming out person out that 100 billion was which is a percent of .000000000001 of the human race. Don't you think you should offer just some evidence for your claim and do I really have to offer great evidence this person was not a God.

I can show where the person denied his divinity, that should do it right there.

I can show his misquoting the OT

I can show him lacking miraculous powers.

Odd behavior for a deity but normal for a man, which we knows does walk the Earth all the time.

So when encountering a passage in literature that would seem to be a person saying he is not God, then the obvious reading of it is he isn't God. If not, why not?

If someone claimed Jesus was a flying dragon, would you be highly impressed if someone said the silence of NT is an argument from silence. The reason for the silence is obvious in this case, no one thought Jesus was a flying dragon. Now are you seriously telling me that Mark knew about the virgin birth and resurrection appearances and didn't record them! So he took time to write about all these other miracles but he didn't write about them!

The only way you can torture this passage into the Jesus as God view is through extremely tortured theological doctrines and that will only impress an insider.

Kristofer said...

Yes Matko Jesus was saying that and he corrected the ruler immediately. Which would be quite proper for a Jew two thousand years ago or for that matter now days to do.

If someone for whatever reason would call me God I can assure you I would correct them to. Maybe nicely as Jesus did, but none the less I would correct them.

Why is this rather obvious reading of this passage so difficult for people to acknowledge?

Matko said...

Yes Matko Jesus was saying that and he corrected the ruler immediately. Which would be quite proper for a Jew two thousand years ago or for that matter now days to do.

Jesus didn't deny his godhood.

Kristofer said...

Oh Jesus Christ

This is why apologetics will never convince anyone except a blinkered believer

Read the verses!!

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.

In theses verses notice the following.

God=Good

Ruler called Jesus good. An equivalent statement would be

the ruler called Jesus God.

Jesus clearly interpreted things this way cause he asked the ruler

"Why do you call me good?"

seeing good = God he could have equally had said

" why do you call me God"

The fact that he asked him the question shows he did not consider himself to be a deity for the simple reason if he did consider himself a deity he never would have asked the bloody question! Why in heck is this so bloody difficult to understand!

Matko said...

This is why apologetics will never convince anyone except a blinkered believer

Keep you whining for someone who cares.

Read the verses!!

Read the scholars!!

Confirmation and elucidation of this explanation is found in Malina and Rohrbaugh's Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels in which they explain that in an agonistic (honor-shame) culture, a "compliment" like the rich young man's is actually a challenge and an attempt to put Jesus "on the spot" for they are an implicit accusation that one has been trying to rise above others. Jesus' only alternative was indeed to parry the compliment and redirect it to its appropriate subject (unless he wanted to reveal himself directly and fully, in which case, his claim would have been another challenge of honor to others), thus showing himself honorable by diffusing any accusation that would arouse the envy of an opponent.

Thus it is appropriate that Jesus parry the compliment in a way that does not specifically deny his membership in the Godhead (which, as noted, it does not).

In short, there isn't anything here that has Jesus denying goodness, or membership in the Godhead -- just teaching an overenthusiast and/or challenger a lesson.

Why in heck is this so bloody difficult to understand!

Because you're ignorant. Stop wasting our time.

James said...

Gentlemen,

Please calm down or I will have to close this discussion down.

Thanks

James

Kristofer said...

Oh please Matko

I am sorry you cannot read a document, not my problem.

I have no doubt at all I have read far far more books on the Bible then you have.

Your 21, that is a child in my books.

Gee unless Malina has a time machine they cannot possibly know that about ancient society, they are at best making an educated guess by studying modern primitive societies .Of course it is a huge leap of logic to think modern primitive societies act the same way as ancient Judean society did. And saying something cannot happen in a society is ludicrous for obvious reasons. Jews in the 1st century were not supposed to believe in singular resurrections now where they? Clearly something outside the norm of 1st century Judaism just happened now didn't it?

Matko are you a Go.d d.amn fu.cking idiot!!! Someone doesn't have to deny being God not to be considered a God!!! Do you go around telling people on a daily bases you are not a deity! Do you think your friends are possible deities cause they haven't said they aren't deities!

As I have pointed out again and again those verses deny him being a deity which is perfectly appropriate for a Jew and is by far the best reading of those verses. You have done nothing to show why my argument on why that verse is wrong. I will challenge you to find one verse from Mark showing Jesus clearly believed in his divinity. Just one.

And of course there were early Christian groups which did not consider Jesus to be a deity for example the Ebionites. What do you think the Arian debate was over?

So all these Christians failed to recognize the clear divinity of Jesus, but hey I guess they didn't have Hurtado's book to guide them in the 1st through 4th centuries.

You found a book which supported your pet philosophy and your argument (Hurtado's actually) was shown to be wrong. Why do you think mainstream scholars have no problem seeing a progression in the nature of Jesus between the Synoptics and John? Maybe cause they are right, is that possible.

This is apologetics in action folks. Read one book, think you know it all then twist a document to say what it doesn't. Oh throw in a few absurd arguments like he didn't say he was God ( well maybe I am divine too, I have yet to deny my divinity.)

Mix that up with a basic ignorance of history and what do you get, you get a Matko.

Kristofer said...

Oh before I forgot to mention Matko have you ever heard of the following too

Adoptionism
Monarchianism

I guess these are more examples of the uniform belief in the Divinity of Jesus.

Jim S. said...

Kristofer, it takes two to talk past each other. There's no need to resort to obscenities.

The response that has been made to you is that it's just as reasonable to understand Jesus' statement as, "Why are you calling me good if only God is good?" It's a leading question, the kind of question that rabbis asked. It's just as plausible to understand this as Jesus challenging the young ruler to understand the implications of calling him good as a denial of his deity. The only reason you've given for the latter interpretation is that you just seem to think it's obvious. It's not. You have to support it with arguments rather than assertions amid expressions of incredulity that anyone could possibly disagree with you.

You wrote that "People very, very rarely refer to themselves as a God. I think we can agree on that. So therefore you gotta find something rather unambiguous if you wish to show the person is claiming divinity. If not, why not?" If so, why so? Why does the rarity of claiming to be God require "something rather unambiguous"? What's the connection between the claim and lack of ambiguity?

At any rate, there was very obviously a reason why Jesus would be ambiguous about it. He was a Jew speaking to other Jews, and the Jews were probably the people group least likely to equate a human being with God. If he started his ministry on day one with "Hi, I'm Yahweh," he would have been stoned to death before he could get through the beatitudes. Thus Jesus' evidence was implicit: he did things that only God could do, such as forgiving sins and allowing himself to be worshiped. This is precisely why I had to tell Tim that I did not mean Jesus' use of "I am" in Mark amounts to a "Hi I'm God" statement.

Being implicit, however, is not the same thing as being unclear. As I wrote in the post, the consensus of scholarship accepts that belief in Jesus' divinity was present very early, immediately after his crucifixion and death. Moreover, I'm unaware of any scholar who denies that the New Testament as a whole clearly teaches the divinity of Jesus. To deny either of these claims just flies in the face of scholarship.

Kristofer said...

Jim

I think you ought to take up your complaint with Matko as well as me, after all I was just responding to him acting like a horse's butt

I think I pretty much explained by position in four ways

a.) Jesus did not engage in behavior that is consistent with what one would consider to be divine

b.) the simplest meaning of the passage would be the straightforward reading of Jesus correcting an individual who mistakenly believed him to be divine/good. It does not force anything on the text as does your view.

c.) Some early Christians groups rejected the divinity of Christ which shows that it was far from a uniform belief

d.) In such a culture as Ancient Israel one should not assume someone is proclaiming themselves a deity without very strong evidence which has yet to be offered.

The reason you need a clear statement if someone is claiming themselves to be a deity is cause it is such a rare thing and a ambiguous statement is likely to have more then one meaning as has been pointed out.

The evidence for Jesus being a deity is rather pitiful no offense.

When you throw in passages like Mark 10:17-18 which can only not be a rejection of divinity by assuming an awful lot the text doesn't say then it becomes even more pitiful.

I have shown twice why my reading of this passage is correct and no one has remotely rebutted it. My explanation does not require any how it could have been scenarios, fits well with the idea of Jews not believing God was a man and with how rare it is for a person to proclaim them self a deity anyways.

Anyways if their always was a belief in the divinity of Jesus how do you explain groups like the Ebionites.

I will confess I feel a little silly in writing this rebuttal. Even if their is a God ( big if) what is the evidence it would incarnate anyways. That is two big hurdles to be leaped before we can possibly find individuals who might be said God.

So what is the best we can find for this incarnation. A person who could not get the OT straight, could not do miracles under certain circumstances, had no idea about his second coming at one time seemed to deny his divinity and at best stated his divinity in oblique ways which as anyone can and will point has more then one possible meaning!

Karl said...

Kristofer,

The simplest reading of the passage is a lot of times not the correct one, especially when rabbis at the time would often have conversations that had multiple layers and subtle implications; something Jim S. and Matko have pointed out. Something any historical or theological scholar could point out.

Conventional Christian theology holds that Jesus was fully divine and fully human.In other words, he was the divine incarnate in a human body and just like anybody else he had to maintain said body. Hence eat, sleep,use the outhouse, etc...

Of the two groups you listed, Adoptionism states that Jesus was born merely human and that he became divine later in his life. So by that belief he still was considered divine. Monarchism is actually a set of two different belief systems, one of which was Adoptionism. The other was modalism, belief that God was said to have three faces or masks; one of which was Jesus. So he is still divine under that idea as well. Both groups had small followings and were very much fringe groups. And to use them as evidence is kind of like saying since some fringe scientists in the Middle Ages believed the Earth was flat, therefore belief the Earth was flat was the dominant geographical mode of thought in the Middle Ages.

And I think Jesus offered strong evidence to the locals. After all he 1) raised Lazarus from the dead 2) restored a blind man's sight 3) cured the lame and there were a few dozen other special incidents that showed to the people he was not an ordinary man.

Kristofer said...

Karl

The simplest reading of a text is to be preferred unless you have a compeling reason not to. So far no one has remotely given a compelling one to not take this text at face value, which is a denial of divinity.

I have listed my reasons again and again for my reading of this text and no one has tried to actually show why my reasoning is wrong. I suspect this is cause they cannot show why my reasoning is wrong.

So far the only explanation that has been offered is that this is a secret Rabbi conversation, but of course there is zero evidence from the text for this. How hard would it have been after all for Mark to put one sentence in the text indicating this. After all Mark was writing to a Gentile Audience. Do you seriously think Gentiles knew the nuances of Rabbi questions?

Karl

All the groups had small following in the 1st century, as documented by Rodney Stark. Some might have come to a belief somehow later he became divine but to assert there is a early universal belief in the divinity of Christ is absurd in light of groups which did not consider him to be divine, texts such as Mark 10:1-18 in which Jesus states he is not divine. To pretend your group was somehow mainstream in the 1st century makes no sense as it was not likely any larger then the heritical groups.

unkle e said...

Kristofer, I want to suggest a slightly different approach to what the others have done.

The discussion illustrates one of the main points about Jesus, one often commented on - that he seldom gave a straight answer. Time and again, he answered questions with questions, gave a cryptic answer, or answered a different question than the one asked.

It would be good to consider why.

My understanding is that this would not be uncommon in a first century rabbi, and it is still often a recommended approach in debate today. Encourage your opponent to think, challenge preconceptions, etc.

Further, Jesus (in a difficult saying to interpret) seems to say that he spoke in parables so that those who wanted to listen could hear, but those who didn't want to listen were not forced to. His public teaching and debate were designed to provoke a response.

So the debate we are having illustrates this - you look at the gospels and come to one conclusion; I look at them and come to a different one.

The case in point (Jesus's answer to the rich man) has additional layers. Matko and others have outlined some of these. Remember also that Jesus knew that claims to being the Messiah/king would likely lead to trouble (he was eventually executed for this), so he keeps things quiet for a time, because "his time was not yet come".

So his reply is deliberately cryptic. But there are many other places where his claim to divine authority can be seen by those "with eyes to see", including his claim to forgive people's sins, his use of the son of man title, his claiming authority to supersede the commands of the Law, and his use of the "I am" phrase in some crucial contexts.

But in all this, you remain quite free (and responsible) to make your own judgment, just as I do - and just as Jesus intended it. I see my task as a believer to welcome you asking the questions, give you my view of the matter, but not attempt to coerce you or denigrate you for making a different choice. Hopefully you can do the same in return.

Thanks and best wishes.

Kristofer said...

Unklee

I do not have much doubt about the notion that rabbi's carried on conversations with more then one meaning, after all we do that now days.

However can anyone point to anything in the text that would show that understanding of it. No they cannot. The author of Mark easily could have indicated that if he had so desired.

While I have no problem with the idea of Rabbi's engaging in layered conversations I am equally positive they sometimes came to the point and I am sure they directly corrected mistakes.

Now lets consider my view, of Jesus correcting a mistake.

The ruler addressed Jesus as good. This was inappropriate because as people have observed in 1st Century Judean society only God was considered good. So therefore Jesus did what many teachers then and now did, he corrected a mistake.

Then like teachers have done throughout the ages he answered the question. Is this truly a modern innovation?

Both of these are routine things for teachers and I have no doubt as a first century teacher ( Rabbi) Jesus employed these methods.

If this was another religion would you folks argue against my reading of this text. It is very plausible, especially within light of the time period and culture that produced it and it doesn't require any hidden background knowledge which Mark simply does provide. I have to say if Mark had intended your reading he easily could have stated it. And he would have stated it, cause he was writing to a Pagan audience.

I have to observe lastly Jesus shows the fact he is only a human another way in this passage. He misqoutes the decalogue. Defraud not is not one of the 10 commandments.

So in the Unklee I consider Jesus to be just a man. Which is what Jesus said he was.

Karl said...

Kristofer,

I would consider that Jesus's words were in keeping with the oral teaching traditions of Judaism and fit the characteristics of implicit arguments on the subject to be a good reason to interpret it in that light. Something Matko and others have pointed out. They have shown you why your reasoning is wrong, but you refuse to acknowledge it.

And why would Mark put a sentence into the text describing this when any scholar who knows the time period and traditions of Judaism recognize it for what it is? After all, many gentiles did recognize it for what it was as evidence by the rapid growth of Christianity.

And the belief that Jesus was divine quickly did become mainstream after his death. If the group espousing the belief Jesus was divine wasn't any larger than the heretical groups, than why are those groups considered heretical now? Why not did they become mainstream or continue into the present day if they were on equal footing with the 'Jesus is divine' group?

I have read Rodney Stark and even he lists these groups as fringe movements with few supporters compared to mainstream Christianity. Also none of these movements, bear in mind, were founded by anyone who had observed Jesus first hand. Besides, nobody anywhere in this argument has asserted that the belief Jesus was divine was universal (everybody knows the mainstream Jewish community at the time did not believe Jesus was divine, but merely a rabbi who got too big for his britches) at the time, quit tryng to create strawmen. Since many people have already explained to you that you are ripping Mark 10:1-18 I doubt my explaining it to you further would do any good.

Kristofer said...

Karl

As I asked earlier if this was another religion texts would you so disagree with this. No answer

I have already pointed out the flaw with the hidden meaning argument. While teachers ( rabbis) did use such methods ( same as modern teachers) they certainly used direct methods too.

So far you have all tried to use the hidden meaning argument but it fails for the following reasons that I have mentioned again and again.

a. Nothing in the text supports this! That is a fatal flaw. The author or Mark easily could have shown a hidden meaning through the actions of Jesus, the ruler or simply explaining this to a Gentile audience, which was in fact the audience of Mark. The fact he doesn't is a silence that screams....

b.) Just because Rabbis sometimes employed hidden meanings does not mean they always employed hidden meanings. It is not enough that it is possible, you have to show it. I after all can show why this passage makes perfect sense with other means of teaching which were certainly employed during that time period. The method being of correcting and answering the question. I am willing to bet that Rabbis probably used such teaching methods a lot more anyways. Just like modern teachers.

Why does Stark identify these groups a fringe? What was the population of the mainstream 1st century Christians. What was the population of the " heretic" populations. Unless you can answer those questions you cannot state that groups such as the Ebionites were fringe. So you still are stuck with the problem that at least some Early Christians did not consider Jesus to be divine. That alone ruins the argument of a claim that a belief in Jesus's divinity started from day one. At most you can show that the eventually group which won the Christian rat race considered it's rivals to be fringe. Of course if the Ebionates won, we would have a name for "mainstream" Christians and people calling them fringe.


To answer your question

"And why would Mark put a sentence into the text describing this when any scholar who knows the time period and traditions of Judaism recognize it for what it is?"

First off you claim scholars are uniform in their interpretations of 1st Century Israel culture. I highly doubt that. I would go further and say I doubt scholars are even uniform in their interpretation of Mark.

Mark was not writing to 21st century scholars though, he was writing to 1st century pagans. Do you seriously think they would ALL recognize Rabbi teaching techniques. To ask the question is to answer it. Even if some recognized it others wouldn't. A sentence or two would same a lot of confusion.

How do you know none of these fringe movements were not founded by associates of Jesus? How do you know the mainstream movement was. You have provided no evidence for either claim.

Karl, Matko just had a b.itch fit with me for lack of better words. No one has provided any direct textual evidence of their claim that this was a form of Rabbi hidden meanings.

Karl if you want to impress me do the following

a.) find textual evidence for your view.

b.) demonstrate Jesus was using rabbi hidden meanings

c.) show a flaw with my interpretation.

No one has remotely done this cause they cannot do this.

Sorry folks, your self proclaimed deity said he isn't one. I will say if we were discussing another religion you would not be arguing my points at all.

I think the funny thing is that Christians are getting annoyed with me just for listening to Jesus. Odd

karc217 said...

Kristofer,

You do know that argument from silence is a logical fallacy? And keeping with the rest of the book, it very much is in the context you deny it is. And I think Matko and Jim have explained why Jesus would choose to be a little bit subtle in that passage.

And the reason Stark identifies these groups as fringe was because they were fringe. The fact that you are even asking the question about the populations at the time shows you don't have the necessary knowledge to make a judgment call on this matter, but that hasn't stopped you from declaring they were equal in numbers to the 'Jesus is divine' group in your previous post. And the Eboinites were a Jewish sect that followed that viewed Christ as another Rabbi (Jews denying Jesus's divinity, what shocking news) and followed his teachings as they would any other prominent rabbi. They were not a Christian sect. And the fact the Jesus diviners won the 'Christian rat race'-as you call it-shows they either had A) better arguments and more evidence to support their case or B) had more members and resources then other groups.

Scholars that lived in the area and to whom Mark was addressing certainly were knowledgeable about the arguments rabbis used. And considering the success of Christianity and the common scholarly interpretation of passage is the exact opposite of what you claim, I would have to say such a sentence would have been redundant. (And if he had put one in, I have a strong feeling you would just ignore it and/or dispute its interpretation)

And the original blog post did include a link to a bunch of other passages that backed up this interpretation; which I have noticed, as is par the course for you, you have ignored. So here it is again: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=%CE%B5%CE%B3%CF%89+%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%BC%CE%B9&searchtype=phrase&wholewordsonly=yes&version1=68&spanbegin=1&spanend=73

As to your spat with Matko, I noticed that you were the one who resorted to ad hominem attacks and profanity; not Matko. And people have already done everything you have asked for; you have simply ignored it or outright denied it.

And no, people are not getting annoyed at you for listening to Jesus. They are getting annoyed at you for not reading the original post and checking out the links; for not making any serious attempt at rebuttals (you simply keep repeating your original claims like a broken record no matter what anybody else says) for using arguments that consist mainly of arguments from silence, special pleading and ad hominem attacks(all logical fallacies, in case you don't know); and last but not least, making sweeping assertions and substantial claims while providing exactly no evidence to back any of them up (you claimed the heretical groups were larger and when challenged on that you demanded I provide the reference sources instead of providing them yourself) while at the same time demanding your opponents to provide evidence to support their claims when they had already done so (the links in the original post). Now they are getting annoyed with you, imagine that.

Anyway, I doubt this conversation is going to go anywhere, so don't expect another reply from me.

Kristofer said...

Again another who will do anything but provide evidence.

ALL RIGHT I AM PUTTING THIS IN BOLD SO THAT YOU MIGHT GET THE HINT.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TEXTUAL EVIDENCE THAT JESUS WAS USING A RABBI METHOD OF USING A HIDDEN MEANING?

YES OR NO

Lets look at the verse in question

Mark 10:17-18 (New International Version)

The Rich Young Man
17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.

If Mark had intended your meaning here is all he had to do to write it that way

Mark 10:17-18 (New International Version) AMENDED by Me

The Rich Young Man
17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. AND WAITING A MOMENT JESUS SAID "No one is good—except God alone.

That is only six words. If Jesus is waiting then he was clearly waiting for some sort of response. If Mark was written this way then a hidden meaning interpretation would work a lot better. Surely Mark could have done this. Six words.

As it is from the text Jesus did not wait for a response. He corrected and responded, not giving the ruler time to even consider his question. That is not user friendly for an idea Jesus was engaging in hidden meanings.

Kristofer said...

An argument from silence is only a logical fallacy if it is an inappropriate silence. For example I would not expect to find much in a French Newspaper about a local murder. However if we were looking at a newspapers front page from 9/12/2001 from the US and it said nothing about the 9/11 attacks we would suspect immediately that it was some sort of forgery.

My argument from silence in this case is perfectly applicable. Mark wrote in way that indicated this was a correction, answering dialog not a hidden meaning dialog. If he had desired to write in a way to show hidden meanings were intended he would have shown it much more clearly, like my above example. He would have done this to prevent confusion on the part of his audience. And that was an audience vulnerable to confusion cause they were Pagans trying to understand a totally different culture.

Gee Matko is insulting toward me and I return the favor, how utterly Christian of you to side with him.

Kristofer said...

Karl

in the end there has only been one attempted counter argument my view, that of a Rabbi attempting to get the ruler to find hidden meaning. I have destroyed that view a thousand times over now. There is no evidence for it period. That is the flaw with it. It someone is doing special pleading in here it isn't me. I have shown again and again why my interpretation of this verses makes the most sense. In case you missed it:

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

A person called Jesus a " good teacher"

Jesus immediately asked him why did he call him good? Jesus explains the reason for the question, no one is good except for God. Therefore Jesus is denying his divinity. If Jesus was divine he would not have asked the question. One could argue he was simply testing the man to see if he would realize he was God, but nothing in the text remotely suggests that.

Let me give you a parallel example. Let say some said to someone " Immortal teacher, what must I do to prosper?" Then the teacher immediately says " why do you call me immortal, only God is immortal. To prosper you need to save money, be honest etc."

Reading the above would you think the teacher in question was not correcting the student? If not, why not?

Kristofer said...

and

In theses verses notice the following.

God=Good

Ruler called Jesus good. An equivalent statement would be

the ruler called Jesus God.

Jesus clearly interpreted things this way cause he asked the ruler

"Why do you call me good?"

seeing good = God he could have equally had said

" why do you call me God"

The fact that he asked him the question shows he did not consider himself to be a deity for the simple reason if he did consider himself a deity he never would have asked the bloody question! Why in heck is this so bloody difficult to understand!I showed through logic my interpretation of the passage twice now, has anyone produced anything like that for their position?

The best you side has offered is Jesus used a Rabbi technique of hidden meaning, but you actual evidence for that is zilch.

I never said heretical groups were larger. I pointed out that unless we know the ancient Christian mainstream population and "heretic" population from the first century we simply do not know if these heretic populations were fringe or not. Let me give you an example. Shia Islam is about 15% percent of Muslims. Do you consider that to be a fringe movement now? I hope you get my point

I am done with this too

No one has remotely tried to show why my explanation of my interpretation of this passage is wrong. For example am I wrong in saying Jesus asked a question, or stated only God is Good? The utter failure of anyone in doing this tells me that it cannot be done.

No one has tried to produce any actual evidence from the text for Jesus using a hidden meaning teaching and I have shown numerous reasons why this is highly unlikely.

Karl said...

Well, I think I pissed somebody off.

Kristofer said...

No Karl

You didn't piss me off.

I like to be thorough and I wanted to thoroughly bury that hidden meaning nonsense argument.

Personally I think I have completely and utterly flattened it.

What are my factual mistakes I ask again and again? What is the textual evidence for a hidden meaning interpretation of this passage?

I ask in a vain hope someone might answer those questions.

Karl said...

Okay Kristofer, since I have nothing better to do I'll bite.

Jesus claimed to possess the very attributes of God. For example, He claimed omniscience by telling Peter, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times" (Matthew 26:34); declared omnipotence by not only resurrecting Lazarus (John 11:43) but by raising Himself from the dead (see John 2:19); and professed omnipresence by promising He would be with His disciples "to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

: "'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'" (Mark 14:61-62 NIV). A biblically illiterate person might well have missed the import of Jesus' words. Caiaphas and the Council, however, did not. They knew that in saying he was "the Son of Man" who would come "on the clouds of heaven" he was making an overt reference to the Son of Man in Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 7:13-14).


http://www.crosswalk.com/who-is-jesus/11567468/

You want a more detailed explanation, you can try this article: "http://bible.org/article/jesus-%CE%B8%CE%B5%E1%BD%B9%CF%82-scriptural-fact-or-scribal-fantasy

If that proves too difficult for you to understand, here is a simplified version for the Google scholar: http://bible.org/article/jesus-%E2%80%9Cgod%E2%80%9D-scriptural-fact-or-scribal-fantasy

Surely Mark could have done this. Six words.

Do you realize that your entire argument is based here is based on your own personal conjecture here of what you would have done? Mark saw no need to, especially how Jesus's divinity is made abundantly clear throughout the entire New Testament.

You're argument is a inappropriate argument from silence since you are claiming Mark is silent on this one issue, despite the fact he is abundantly clear elsewhere as are the rest of the New Testament authors.

And that was an audience vulnerable to confusion cause they were Pagans trying to understand a totally different culture.

What the hell are you smoking? These pagans lived beside the Jews for centuries. Many listened to the Rabbis preach. Many pagans intermarried with the Jewish families. Roman pagans had about as much trouble understanding Jewish culture as a Texan does understanding Mexican culture.


Matko's responses to you at first consisted of:

In Mark 10:18, Jesus is essentially saying to the ruler, "Do you know what you are implying? You say I am good; but only God is good; therefore, you realize that you are identifying me with God?"

In Jewish thought, God was pre-eminently good, so that the ruler was indeed offering Jesus a compliment usually reserved for God. Since it is quite unlikely that the ruler truly believed that Jesus was identifiable as God the Son, this looks more like an effort by Jesus to make the man think about what he is saying before he blurts it out or engages in indiscriminate flattery.
And: Jesus didn't deny his godhood. It is only after you made this lovely little comment: This is why apologetics will never convince anyone except a blinkered believer that he started to bitch at you.

Immortal teacher, what must I do to prosper?" Then the teacher immediately says " why do you call me immortal, only God is immortal. To prosper you need to save money, be honest etc.

Oh that's cute. Never mind that it is in completely different situation and context then the relevant passage.

Shia Islam is about 15% percent of Muslims. Do you consider that to be a fringe movement now?

I am pretty sure the Sunnies do; kind of like Christians do with these early movements.

I could do more, but it's getting late here. And quite frankly I doubt it would do any good considering your general attitude thus far.

unkle e said...

Kristofer,

You keep asking for evidence of any interpretation of this passage apart from your own, but you ignored the evidence I pointed to. Let me go over it again a little more clearly.

1. Yes, if this passage was the only surviving passage on whether Jesus claimed he was divine, we could not easily support the normal christian belief. His statement is ambivalent, and cannot on its own be taken one way or the other very strongly. You overstate the negative case just as you say christians overstate the positive case.

2. But this is not the only passage and teaching relevant to the topic. Take these for example:

Mark 2:1-12: Jesus forgives a man's sins and is criticised by the pharisees for doing what only God has the right to do. Scholars tell us that one of the major threats the religious authorities felt from Jesus was the undermining of the temple sacrificial system, which was the official God-sanctioned means of forgiveness for Jews. Forgiveness outside of that system was not possible, but Jesus did it here, and many other times, taking on what only God could do.

Matthew 5:21-2, 27-28, etc: Jesus quotes from the 10 Commandments and other parts of the OT Law, given by God, and then presumes to add to the teaching, clearly taking on God's authority.

Mark 12:1-12: Jesus tells a parable that the Jewish leaders knew was against them, and in which the son is killed by those in charge of the vineyard (Israel). The implication was quite clear to them.

Mark 14:61-62: The most common title Jesus gave for himself was "Son of Man", and here he clearly identifies himself with Daniel 7:13-14, which has clear Messianic and divine implications. AM Hunter says: "no title was better calculated both to conceal and. at the same time, to reveal to those with ears to hear, the real identity of the Son of man."

3. These are only a small number of the places where first century Jews would have understood Jesus to be making claims that were equal to God, and I have not even touched on John's gospel!

So I believe we are left with only two alternatives:

1. Argue that the texts are not historical records of Jesus's sayings, or

2. Accept that he made these divine claims.

If you choose 1, then that is your right, but it makes discussion of Mark 10 a bit pointless because it comes from an unhistoric text. But once a person chooses 2, the most logical explanation of Mark 10 is that Jesus was indeed making similar claims, albeit obliquely. I wouldn't use Mark 10 to prove Jesus made claims to divinity, rather I'd use the other more obvious claims to divinity to amplify his enigmatic statements here.

I think that well explains what you are asking when you say "I ask in a vain hope someone might answer those questions."

Kristofer said...

I am going to leave some comments later on this. I am a trip right now and more then a bit busy. I do have some stuff I want to comment on a lot though. I do thank everyone in here though even if we disagree

jamierobertson said...

Kris,

If you're planning to leave lengthy comments, may I suggest the Quodlibeta forums at jameshannam.proboards83.com ? More space and easier to navigate, y'see.

Ilíon said...

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away" -- That is in all three synoptic gospels, and it is a clear and direct claim to divinity. One has to refuse to see what's in front of his face to deny what the Christ is asserting by applying the Psalmist's statement about God (the Father) to himself.