Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Do you suppose that God created diamonds only for the rich?"

It's Holy Week, so this kind of crap shows up.  First, it's 2 years old, which is ancient in internet terms, right?  (I know this largely because there's a comment complaining about that very fact.)  Second, it references the "scholarship" of people like R.G. Price, who writes a comment at the post promoting even more of his books and articles.  Never heard of him?  Neither had I, so I did a quick Google search, and found this.

Price is a proponent of what he calls "Jesus mythicism," but some of his questions at that link betray a profound ignorance, an ahistorical perspective, and a complete lack of appreciation of anachronism.  One example will suffice:

Why didn’t Jesus produce any writings of his own?

He lived and died in a culture where the majority of his society were not functionally literate, where oral teaching had huge importance, where ink and paper were expensive luxuries, and where the printing press wasn’t even a twinkle in an inventor’s eye yet. If someone in such a society wanted to get a message out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, their best bet for doing that was to travel around and do a lot of public preaching, since that would reach significantly more people for the time spent. On top of that, we don’t even know whether Jesus himself had had formal training or practice in writing; in that day and age, it’s quite possible that he didn’t.
Any decently educated college student could tell you literacy was not widespread until after Gutenberg's day, and that much of the world's literature we consider "classic" (the Iliad, the Odyssey, Beowulf, Gilgamesh) began as oral narrative that, fortunately for us, was written down.  Socrates didn't write down a word of what he said, Plato did.  Should we be as skeptical of Socrates as Price is of Jesus of Nazareth, on the same basis?*

You can, as you wish, see more examples of Price's incisive ignorance at the link, where an author responds to Price's questions.  I'm sorry I have no patience for this stuff; I'm not the Jesuit scholar I would like to be (without the inconvenience of being celibate, or a priest, etc.).  I learned too much from Biblical scholarship to care for either the sloppy arguments of people defending God, or those dismissing God with reasoning that I wouldn't allow in my Freshman English courses on argument.

Tarico is busy fighting the demons of her childhood fundamentalist upbringing, so I don't condemn her, but neither do I praise her for working out her problems so publicly.  Indeed, the question of the Historical Jesus is far more complex than she or Price even begin to imagine.  Leave off the popularized twaddle of Bart Ehrman (someone else she cites) and deal with the complexities of Crossan's The Historical Jesus.  Or better yet, ignore such irrelevancies (as "Dr. Sarah" inadvertently points out, with her reference to the earliest Christian documents being the letters of Paul, who pointedly never met Jesus of Nazareth, but is chasing down his followers long before the gospels were written.  Oddly, everyone takes this as historically accurate, but thinks the person all these followers were interested in, was some kind of cloud of fictions.  Again, the first Gospel (Mark) was written at least 35 years after the crucifixion.  How did the Gospels reach backward in time to create the following that preceded them all?).    Again, to quote "Dr. Sarah":

If people did think that this person was some eternal Lord, then why didn’t they record anything about him or things that he said that convinced them that he was this eternal all-powerful Lord?

Huh? Innumerable Christians have been recording precisely that for the past two millennia. You might need to clarify that question.
Better still, to learn lessons from what others have done in Jesus' name; like this:

 Hospitality of the heart transforms the way to see people and how we respond to them. Their needs become primary. Tom Cornell tells the story of a donor coming into the New York house one morning and giving Dorothy a diamond ring. Dorothy thanked her for the donation and put it in her pocket without batting an eye. Later a certain demented lady came in, one of the more irritating regulars at the CW house, one of those people who make you wonder if you were cut out for life in a house of hospitality. I can't recall her ever saying "thank you" or looking like she was on the edge of saying it. She had a voice that could strip paint off the wall. Dorothy took the diamond ring out of her pocket and gave it to this lady. Someone on the staff said to Dorothy, "Wouldn't it have been better if we took the ring to the diamond exchange, sold it, and paid that woman's rent for a year?". Dorothy replied that the woman had her dignity and could do what she liked with the ring. She could sell it for rent money or take a trip to the Bahamas. Or she could enjoy wearing a diamond ring on her hand like the woman who gave it away. "Do you suppose," Dorothy asked, "that God created diamonds only for the rich?"

(courtesy of Thought Criminal, in comments)

Long way 'round to get to that, isn't it?  A much worthier meditation for Holy Week, though.

*Indeed, the example of Socrates raises an interesting question:  which is more important to us?  The life of Jesus, or the teachings of Jesus?  Paul's letters are all about the latter; the gospel of John focuses far more on Jesus' teachings than his life.  In the synoptics, for example, the last supper is a dramatic incident where Jesus says little beyond the words of institution of the eucharist.  In John's gospel, however, he talks for several chapters; the only incident is washing his disciples feet.  John's Jesus talks; a lot.  Paul's Jesus gives us little more than his sacrifice, and the institution of the eucharist (which Paul records in only one letter, of the letters we have).  The stories from Jesus' life in all four gospels are important for different reasons.  Does it really matter if we cannot verify their history?  Does it matter if we verify the story of Dorothy Day?  Or does the lesson matter more?

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