The Instigator
ApostateAbe
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
J.Maximus
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

The historical Jesus predicted a first-century doomsday

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after 1 vote the winner is...
ApostateAbe
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/29/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,322 times Debate No: 17329
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (27)
Votes (1)

 

ApostateAbe

Pro

Resolution

The historical Jesus Christ predicted that the doomsday would happen within the short time span of his own generation (within the 1st century CE).

Clarification

This resolution is NOT an attempt to faithfully interpret the New Testament, though the writings of the New Testament may be used for evidence. The debate is about the probable historical Jesus, not necessarily the Jesus of Biblical trust and faith (though it can be).

A previous similar debate was completed here: http://www.debate.org...

Definitions

You may disagree with these definitions and adopt your own, but the following definitions are offered to clarify the resolution and my own meanings.
  • "Jesus Christ" or "Jesus" is a proposed historical human being of the same rough profile of the central character of Jesus in the Christian gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • “Doomsday” is a set of events that entail death and destruction all over the world and strongly affecting everyone living, through many such events as wars, political upheavals and natural disasters.
  • A “generation” is a group of people of roughly the same age and living at the same time, and it is used to signify a length of time bounded by the births and deaths of the group of people, as opposed to a longer length of time potentially covering centuries.
  • A “doomsday cult” is a small group of people who are strongly devoted to the perceived will of a human leader and believes that the world will soon face a destructive global calamity. The term is primarily intended to be descriptive, not pejorative. A “doomsday cult leader” is a leader of a doomsday cult, and such a model of Jesus is otherwise known among critical New Testament scholars as, “apocalyptic prophet.”
Opposing Contender

A contender may be anyone who does not believe that the historical Jesus predicted the first-century doomsday, including but not limited to someone who believes or suspects that Jesus was merely a myth, that Jesus was the son of God or messiah, or that Jesus was a mere human but commendable moral teacher, rabbi, social activist or philosopher.

Rules
  • First round is for acceptance.
  • If you wish to forfeit, then post it. Don't let the time run out.
J.Maximus

Con

Did the historical Jesus preach an imminent day of doom? He may have or he may not have; his earliest followers certainly anticipated an immediate apocalypse and littered their messages with this anticipation (1 Thess 5:2–3, 1 Cor 7:26, Mk 13, etc.).

Jesus was most likely an obscure man from Nazareth. Baptized as an adult by John the Baptist, he began his own preaching ministry shortly thereafter collecting a small and insignificant number of followers who thought he was the Messiah come to deliver Israel from foreign rule. In this way, Jesus appears to have been the head figure of one of many early first century messianic movements, with his followers expecting him to rise to power, overthrow the Romans, and re-establish Jewish rule in its rightful place.

Whether intentionally or not, Jesus seems to have founded a doomsday cult. But it is intentionality that is at the center of this debate. Jesus' followers preached him be be an apocalypticist, but can we be sure he himself was an apocalypticist? Jesus' followers expected an imminent overthrow of Roman rule, but how can we be certain that Jesus himself predicted the apocalypse to happen soon? I will argue that we cannot be certain when Jesus predicted the day of doom would occur; and that we can also not be certain that Jesus preached an imminent apocalypse. I will show that the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels have clearly been constructed by their authors—intending them for their contemporaneous audience (Christians living in about 70–100 a.d.). Having shown these words and sentiments to be the words and sentiments of the gospel authors, it will be clear that we cannot rely on early Christian writings to determine the thoughts of a man who himself left no writing and whose supposed theology—attested in multiple ancient sources in drastically varying character—was never reliably recorded by anyone.

Did the historical Jesus preach an imminent day of doom? He may have or he may not have. What I will show is that any conclusions drawn regarding specific aspects of the historical Jesus' theology—that he preached imminent doom or that he didn't preach imminent doom—are unsubstantiated. I will show that my opponent's position cannot possibly rest on evidence about Jesus' theology because such evidence simply does not exist. It is just not possible to validly draw conclusions about the specifics of Jesus' theology given the shroud in which the historical Jesus has been wrapped by his early followers.

I will cite material from early Christian authors and modern scholars to support my claims and refute those of my opponent. When the last round has been posted, it will be clear that any conclusions regarding the prediction of the historical Jesus are simply unfounded and unsubstantiated.

JM
Debate Round No. 1
ApostateAbe

Pro

Introduction

I am grateful, and I thank my learned fellow debater for taking up the challenge of this debate.

The Primary Evidence

The three earliest extant/reconstructed sources of Christian traditions model Jesus as an apocalypticist. Further, all sources reflect a belief in an imminent deadline for the apocalypse. The New Testament evidences are as follows (per NRSV translation):

(1) The authentic epistles of Paul -- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ("we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died) and 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ("We will not all die...").
(2) The gospel of Q, via Matthew and Luke -- Luke 3:7 ("John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'"), Luke 13:22 ("He said to his disciples, 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear...'"), and Luke 13:40 ("You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour").
(3) The gospel of Mark -- Mark 8-9:1 ("Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power") and Mark 13 ("Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place").

The Two Competing Conclusions

It does not necessarily follow, at this point in the reasoning, that Jesus was himself a preacher of the imminent apocalypse. But, there are only two conclusions that can be inferred from the unanimity of these multiple early attestations:

Conclusion #1: Jesus was a preacher of the imminent apocalypse.
Conclusion #2: Jesus was NOT a preacher of the imminent apocalypse, but all of the known immediate or close-to-immediate successors of Jesus were all believers in the imminent apocalypse, and they all spun the teachings of Jesus in that same direction.

Methodology: Argument to the Best Explanation

I propose that Conclusion #1 is far more probable than conclusion #2. I admit that Conclusion #2 is possible, as are millions of other imaginable conclusions of ancient history, but I need only to make my case for Conclusion #1 with significantly greater relative certainty, not absolute certainty.

The historical methodology of Argument to the Best Explanation (ABE) was developed by C. Behan McCullagh to help make decisions of the relative probabilities of competing explanations for the same evidence. ABE is composed of five essential criteria: explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, less ad hoc and disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs (Source: C. Behan McCullagh, 1984, Justifying Historical Descriptions via http://en.wikipedia.org...). I will make my case for Conclusion #1 with two of those five criteria: plausibility and less ad hoc. Both conclusions as they are stated are approximately equal in the remaining three criteria.

Plausibility

The criterion of "more plausible" states that a hypothesis "must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other..."

Jesus was either the intended founder of a doomsday cult or the unintended founder of a doomsday cult. But, it is a sociological pattern that the apocalyptic prophecies of doomsday cults are almost always attributable to the respective cult founders/figureheads. If this pattern holds true, then, without very good reason, we should not believe that it is signifcantly possible that Jesus Christ is an exception.

Martha F. Lee, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Windsor, Canada, primarily attributes belief in an imminent apocalypse to the success of a radical organization due to the urgent motivational nature of such beliefs.

Some deep ecologists, and many of the original Earth First!ers, took this belief one step further. They also advocated biocentric equality, the belief that all species are intrinsically equal and therefore have an equal right to life. Earth First! transplanted these ideas from the realm of philosophical speculation to the realm of political action, adding to them the urgency of a belief in an imminent apocalypse. It is this millenarian transformation that directly motivated Earth First!'s actions and determined its development.

Source: M.F. Lee (1995), "Environmental apocalypse: the millennial ideology of 'Earth first!'", in T. Robbins and S.J. Palmer (eds, 1997) Millennium, Messiahs and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, p. 124.

This apocalyptic mentality is attributable to Dave Foreman, the primary co-founder of the Earth First! organization. According to Lee, Foreman adopted "a purely apocalyptic belief system" (Source: M.F. Lee, 1995, Earth First!: Environmental Apocalypse, p. 105).

This is only one doomsday-cult-like organization, but many well-known doomsday cults follow this pattern, as listed below.
  • Joseph Smith (LDS church)
  • Lyndon LaRouche (LaRouche movement)
  • Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses)
  • Shukri Mustafa (Takfir wal-Hijra)
  • Jim Jones (Jonestown)
  • David Koresh (Branch Davidians)
  • Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo)
  • Claude Vorilhon (Raëlism)
  • Li Hongzhi (Falun Gong)
  • Dada Lekhraj (Brahma Kumaris)
In each case, the founder gained a following seemingly in large part with a doomsday belief.

An exception to this pattern is Haile Selassie I, the figurehead of Rastafarianism, who had a special advantage: he gained a following entirely through the position of a powerful state executive office. His followers developed the apocalypticism of the religion most fully, but apocalyptic prophetic language is found in Selassie's most famous speech, to the League of Nations in 1936:

Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. Should it happen that a strong government finds it may, with impunity, destroy a weak people, then the hour strikes for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.

Source: William Safire (2004), Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, p. 320.

Less ad hoc

It is a possibility that Jesus was analogous to Haile Selassie I, having his own sayings taken to the apocalyptic extreme. However, a strong case should be made for how Jesus managed to gain a strong following without apocalypticism and how this alternative method of cult control became secondary or nonexistent to the apocalypticism in all succeeding traditions.

The criterion of "less ad hoc" states that a hypothesis "must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs." Conclusion #1 is much simpler than Conclusion #2: we have no need for a new alternative primary method of Jesus's cult control (such as Selassie's position as head of state) when the method of doomsday thinking is sufficiently explanatory and central in all of the earliest textual evidence. If we had evidence that speaks to the contrary, then an alternative explanation may be necessary, but no such contrary evidence seemingly exists.

Conclusion

In summary, Conclusion #2 fails the criterion of plausibility given the strong historical patterns of doomsday cult founders, and it fails the criterion of less ad hoc given the need for a new supposition that is not strongly implied by existing evidence. This leaves only Conclusion #1: Jesus himself, not merely all of his known successors, preached the imminent doomsday.

I await my contenders counterpoints. I have no doubt that I am in for a strong challenge.
J.Maximus

Con

INTRODUCTION


The only information we have about the historical Jesus is that which is recorded in the gospels (canonical and non) as well as mentioned in epistles. To get an understanding of Jesus' theology, we cannot look to the theology of the early Christians that has been recorded in the New Testament. The authors who created the works which would eventually become our New Testament did not write in order to faithfully record the thoughts, deeds, and ideas of those they venerated. It is clear that the authors of our New Testament were revisionists: they freely and willingly placed their own words onto the lips of others and their own versions of history into the lives of others. When we compare the claims made by these revisionists to the claims made by those who they would wish to revise, we are struck by the often drastic shift in teaching and story line. Sifting truth out of the revisionists' tales is quite a chore. In the case of Jesus, who left no written records of his actual theology, this can be an even more difficult investigation to undertake.

ARGUMENT - EXAMPLES


To demonstrate the drastic shift presented by the revisionists, I present an example of a well-known early historical Christian who did write about his theology: the apostle Paul. When we compare the theology and history Paul writes to the theology and history others write in the name of Paul/about Paul (pseudo-Paul), we come up with some very crucial differences. Some of them even relate to the imminence of the apocalypse! These are all rather well-known, but are worth laying out here for all to examine:

Paul on Baptism & Resurrection

In the authentic Pauline letters, we see Paul lay out his theology regarding the significance of baptism and resurrection. In particular, the real Paul believes that the rite of baptism initiates one into the death of Christ providing the hope for a resurrection in the coming apocalypse. The 'pseudo-Paul' believes that part of the baptism rite initiates one into a resurrection as well—the resurrection is not hoped for, but actualized.

Paul in Romans 6:3–5 (NRSV):

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.


Pseudo-Paul in Colossians 2:12 (NRSV):

when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Where real Paul talks about a future resurrection, pseudo-Paul talks about a present resurrection. These two theologies are completely incompatible: you cannot be presently resurrected and still be hoping for a future resurrection! The folk putting words in Paul's mouth got it wrong; it's that simple.

Paul on the Life of Paul

In Paul's authentic letters, he makes several well-known claims regarding his activities after being 'converted' to his new faith in Jesus. Pseudo-Paul (in this case the Acts of the Apostles), however, records a much different story, keeping up the pseudo-Paul tradition of failing to accurately record the activities and theologies of the apostle.

Paul in Galatians 1:15–18 (NRSV):

But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days;


Pseudo-Paul in Acts 9:19–26 (NRSV):

...

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God.' All who heard him were amazed and said, 'Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?' Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

...

When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.

Did Paul wait three years to go to Jerusalem or did he go right away? This inconsistency can hardly be smoothed over by a liberal reading of 'after some time had passed' (9:23). These two accounts are simply not compatible. The author telling Paul's story got it wrong; it's that simple.

Paul on the Apocalypse

Paul's authentic letters preach of an imminent apocalypse. Indeed, almost all of Paul's life directives tie directly into his belief of a soon-to-happen apocalypse. Pseudo-Paul, however, has a completely different take on the apocalypse and its timing.

Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3 (NRSV):

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, 'There is peace and security', then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!


Pseudo-Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4 (NRSV):

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.

The apocalypse according to real Paul happens quickly and without warning; Christians are encouraged to be on constant watch. The apocalypse of pseudo-Paul, however, is drawn out with a series of events that gradually unfold to the coming of Jesus. The writer talking in Paul's name got it wrong; it's that simple.

ARGUMENT - DISCUSSION


Why do we see such a clash between the historical Paul and the pseudo-Paul? The answer is rather obvious: hoping to invoke the name and tradition of this maverick, later Christians rewrote his life and theology in order to advertise and advance their own theological, social, and/or cultural agendas. Paul's resurrection became actualized, not hoped for; Paul's relationship with the Jerusalem church became central and essential, not one of Paul's afterthoughts; Paul's apocalypse became delayed and predictable, not imminent and unpredictable. When it suited their purposes, the revisionists shamelessly altered the traditions of those before them.

CONCLUSION


In my next post I will examine specific apocalyptic quotes attributed to Jesus and show why it is a better explanation to treat them as ideological 'interpolations' (false attributions) than to treat them as the actual words of Jesus himself. The argument that best explains the apocalyptic nature of early Christianity and apocalyptic words attributed to Jesus can then be understood.

JM
Debate Round No. 2
ApostateAbe

Pro

I am again grateful to J.Maximus for the very thoughtful presentation of his arguments. His entry was intended to introduce his own arguments, not to rebut my arguments, and I hope he will address my arguments in this third round. I will rebut his arguments in this round.

My fellow debater's central argument is: the early Christian authors did not reliably record the theology of Jesus, so therefore we can not have certainty about the historical Jesus based on their writings.

I accept the presented facts of early Christian doctrinal shift. But, I claim that the conclusion of uncertainty does not follow from the evidence, for the four reasons given as follows:

Multiple attestation places uncertainties of historical reliability in perspective. It is very implausible that multiple traditions would independently commit the same false assertions. The unified agreement of multiple independent attestations can be explained either with their accurate correspondence with the historical founder (Jesus) or by correspondence with an implausibly-sudden drastically shifted doctrine between the founder and the latest common root of the traditions. We know from the writing of Paul in Galatians that the church started to diverge immediately upon the inheritence of leadership of the religion to three disciples of Jesus--Peter, James and John, who disputed theology with Paul (see Galatians 2:9).

Secondly, as I explained fully in Round 2, doomsday cult doctrines are almost always attributable to the cult founder. Doomsday doctrines are almost always necessary and central to the beginnings and developments of doomsday cults, and there is seemingly no reason known from the evidence to count Christianity as among the very few exceptions.

Thirdly, the presented examples of "drastic shifts" are not nearly as "drastic" as the proposed complete overhaul of the central theme of the cult per Paul, Mark and Q. The first example is a shift in doctrine between a future resurrection and a contemporary metaphorical resurrection. The second example is a shift in the travel itinerary of Paul. The third example is a shift in doctrine between a sudden apocalypse and a gradually-unfolding apocalypse. None of these shifts are nearly as drastic as the overhaul that would be required for the cult to go from non-doomsday to doomsday between Jesus and his close-to-immediate successors.

Fourthly, nor has my fellow debater proposed an explanation for such an overhaul. Two of the three relatively-minor shifts have an obvious explanation--Christians were reformulating their doomsday doctrines in light of the expired deadline. The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Epistle to the Colossians were each written, not by Paul, but by forgers ("Pseudo-Paul" as J.Maximus has correctly stated) very late in the first century, seeking to apologize for the apparently-failed prophecy of Jesus (see Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition, pp. 376-381). These were minor shifts in doctrine, but what is the explanation for the proposed complete overhaul of the main theme of the cult from Jesus to his immediate successors, from supposedly non-doomsday to doomsday?

For the combination of these compelling reasons, it is far more reasonable to accept my proposed conclusion as fact, that Jesus himself predicted the imminent doomsday. I await the counterpoints to such arguments, and I thank J.Maximus for his generous contributions of time and thought.
J.Maximus

Con

INTRODUCTION


My opponent asserts that we have "multiple attestation" in which it is "implausible that [these] multiple traditions would independently commit the same false assertions". It is clear, however, that these 'attestations' are almost certainly all false; they refer to the gospel writers' time period and not the time period of the historical Jesus.

My opponent states that "doomsday cult doctrines are almost always attributable to the cult founder." While this may be true, it does not assist us much in the matter of determining the theology of the historical Jesus; we cannot apply this reasoning until we can assert with high confidence that Jesus viewed himself as the founder of the cult that later became Christianity.

My opponent claims that the "'drastic shifts' are not nearly as 'drastic' as the proposed complete overhaul of the central theme of the cult per Paul, Mark and Q.". The New Testament records a history of one theological overhaul after another, with some of the most tampered-with theologies being the ones concerning the apocalypse.

My opponent argues similarly that these "were minor shifts in doctrine". The shifts I mention, however, are anything but minor. They involve the importance of the initiating baptismal rites, the relationship to Jerusalem of the most famous apostle to the Gentiles, and the nature and timing of what would be the most important event in the life of an early Christian: the apocalypse. These shifts are major; they serve as a suitable analogy.

My opponent believes that the best explanation for the points he has raised is that Jesus himself preached an imminent apocalypse. Given the difficulties in my opponent's argument, however, it is clear that the only people to whom we can trace imminent apocalypticism are the early followers of Jesus, who were the primary founders of the early Christian faith. Those who left written records were neither familiar with nor acquainted with the historical Jesus; thus, they did not even possess a theology from Jesus that they could revise—any specific theology attributed to Jesus cannot be traced to the historical Jesus, unless there is significant and abundant reason to think it can be. If the writers did not possess a theology of Jesus, the only way they could have written about a theology of Jesus is to have made one up!

ARGUMENT - EXAMPLES


Here I will examine some textual and historical evidence relating to the first point above. Due to the character limit, I will have to reserve my examination of the other points for my next response(s).

Multiple Attestations: But of What?

The apocalyptic attestations in the New Testament are products of the authors of the works in which they appear. They address the author's audience in the author's time, and are anachronistic as applied to an historical Jesus. L. Michael White says on Mark (emphases added):

White in From Jesus to Christianity:

The story is heavily laced with dramatic irony and with veiled allusions to allegorical images of Jesus's death. In many cases these literary devices are meant to signal issues that relate to the circumstances of the audience, either by way of affirmation or correction. Consequently, due caution is required in taking events or episodes as historical realities of Jesus's own day. (p. 232)

A good example of this can be seen in Mark 13:14, where our author says, "(let the reader understand)". Clearly Mark is addressing his audience, indicating that he is talking about something that they should already know. What they should already know, of course, is that the city of Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Romans. What follows the discussion of the destruction of the Temple is an apocalyptic prediction. But this prediction is utilized by Mark only as a way of correcting the 'misconceptions' of the Markan community that the hour of Jesus' return had already come and gone without a bang. Jesus cannot be making these statements as they are reinterpretations of the apocalypse directly spurred by the first revolt that happened several decades after the death of Jesus. The events that would require these corrective statements would not have yet occurred in Jesus' own day. This cannot represent an attestation of Jesus' apocalypticism: it's only a statement of Mark's apocalypticism. Since we are dealing only with Mark's theology and not that of Jesus, we cannot count on Mark as one of our 'multiple' attestations.

We can also look to Paul who, despite being an apocalypticist himself, never indicates that the historical Jesus was an apocalypticist in any way. In fact, quite the opposite: Paul's Jesus does nothing apocalyptic; he merely dies. The apocalyptic Jesus, for Paul, is not the Jesus of history, but the Jesus of the future—the Jesus who is to come "from heaven with a cry of command" (1 Thess 4:16). Since Paul does not make any attestations to the effect of the historical Jesus being apocalyptic, we cannot count on him as one of our 'multiple' attestations.

Luke's Jesus is even more the telling, for he preaches no amount of imminent apocalypticism whatsoever. His mentions of the destruction of Jerusalem are all references to local wars; his mentions of the kingdom of God are all summed up in one phrase: "the kingdom of God is within you" (17:21; cf. Acts 1:8). In fact, Luke's Jesus states specifically that the Son of Man will not be seen when the disciples wish to see him (17:22); the arrival of the Son of Man is an entirely separate event for Luke from the destruction of the temple, and a separate thing from the arrival of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has already arrived according to Luke, and the Son of Man will not appear in the destruction (of Jerusalem), but some unspecified time afterward (21:25–28; Acts 1:6–7). In effect, Luke calls Mark on his theology and raises him an already present kingdom. Luke's Jesus does not preach an imminent apocalypse; an imminent apocalypse is not part of Luke's theology. We cannot count on Luke as one of our 'multiple' attestations.

ARGUMENT - DISCUSSION


Though I was only able to present a limited amount of evidence, what I have presented clearly indicates that the theology and claims of the early writers cannot be relied upon as evidence of the theology of Jesus. The writings do not evidence multiple attestations to an imminent apocalypticism of Jesus, but rather to the varied nature of apocalyptic thinking in early Christianity. One thing is clear in all of our written accounts: the expected apocalypse is to come within the life time of the writers, decades after Jesus' death; even if Jesus made the claims attributed to him, the apocalypse they refer to is decades upon generations after the time of Jesus—hardly imminent in his own day.

CONCLUSION


I would have liked to have addressed a few more of the points in this response; and I would have liked to have had the opportunity to explore the point I did address even further. This was unfortunately not possible. The examples provided, however, should suffice in demonstrating the vast differences in apocalyptic understanding amongst the early Christians; they were not, as my opponent would have you believe, of a single mind in hopes of an imminent doomsday coming of Jesus. The apocalypticism we do see is the product of the individual differences in early Christian theology, not the product of a carried-forward apocalyptic tradition that originated with the historical Jesus.

JM
__________
White, L. M. (2004) From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Debate Round No. 3
ApostateAbe

Pro

Introduction

I have been challenged heavily and about as much as I expected in this debate, and I remain grateful to J.Maximus for humoring me with this.

His statements are quoted in italics.

More on multiple attestation

My opponent asserts that we have "multiple attestation" in which it is "implausible that [these] multiple traditions would independently commit the same false assertions". It is clear, however, that these 'attestations' are almost certainly all false; they refer to the gospel writers' time period and not the time period of the historical Jesus.

It is true that the attestations of the prophecies refer to their own time periods. I certainly would not deny that the authors may have spun the prophecies in their own favor (i.e. by delaying the deadline). However, we still very much need to explain the multiple attestations of these same specific prophecies, not merely find reason to distrust them and leave it at that. If we are looking for an explanation and not just a lack of one, and all of the earliest sources have the same specific theme (Jesus as a prophet of the imminent apocalypse), then the winning theory has the better explanation for those relevant myths.

Since we are dealing only with Mark's theology and not that of Jesus, we cannot count on Mark as one of our 'multiple' attestations.

The question at hand is whether or not a relevant part of Mark's theology was original to Jesus. One of the ways to answer that question is with multiple attestation. There are all kinds of reasons not to trust Mark, as there are for Q and Paul. However, when many sources say the same thing, then the historical reliability of the claim is strongly magnified.

Why? Because it is very implausible to propose that the same falsehood was developed by the same three sources independently. It matters little if each of the three sources spun the account in their own respective directions--the convergence on the same central theme demands an explanation all the same.

Historical patterns and plausibility

My opponent states that "doomsday cult doctrines are almost always attributable to the cult founder." While this may be true, it does not assist us much in the matter of determining the theology of the historical Jesus; we cannot apply this reasoning until we can assert with high confidence that Jesus viewed himself as the founder of the cult that later became Christianity.

This argument is a non sequitur. We need to take the sociological patterns seriously as evidence to decide which historical theories are most plausible. It would certainly help to have very direct evidence of what Jesus, but we need to make the best sense of the evidence that remains, and Con needs to fulfill his obligation to formulate a better explanation than the one I have given.

My opponent argues similarly that these "were minor shifts in doctrine". The shifts I mention, however, are anything but minor.

More specifically, I claimed that the shifts in doctrine given as examples by Con were "relatively-minor shifts." As significant as they may seem to a different debate, they pale in comparison to the overhaul that would be required for a cult to go from non-doomsday to doomsday. A bathtub holds plenty of water, but not nearly as much as a lake bed. In order to show plausibility of an alternative explanation, an overhaul equally as drastic must be found in either Christianity or other cults. The doomsday doctrine was apparently present in Paul and a central theme in Mark and Q.

Paul's Jesus

We can also look to Paul who, despite being an apocalypticist himself, never indicates that the historical Jesus was an apocalypticist in any way. In fact, quite the opposite: Paul's Jesus does nothing apocalyptic; he merely dies. The apocalyptic Jesus, for Paul, is not the Jesus of history, but the Jesus of the future-the Jesus who is to come "from heaven with a cry of command" (1 Thess 4:16). Since Paul does not make any attestations to the effect of the historical Jesus being apocalyptic, we cannot count on him as one of our 'multiple' attestations.

I grant to Con that Paul does not explicitly attest that Jesus predicted the apocalypse. Paul's explicit telling has Jesus as an agent of the apocalypse, not necessarily a prophet of the apocalypse. Not that the distinction is especially relevant--we don't know for sure what Paul believed about what Jesus preached with respect to the apocalypse, but we can take a very good guess based on Paul's belief in the absolute authority of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:2) and Paul's belief that Jesus would be the instigator of the apocalypse (1 Corinthians 15:24).

Regardless, I would like to remind Con that I cited Paul as one of the three sources that "reflect a belief in an imminent deadline for the apocalypse." So, even in the unlikely case that Paul believed that Jesus was not an apocalyptic prophet, Paul shares an essential commonality with Mark and Q that demands an explanation, and the best explanation is that Jesus himself was the first Christian apocalyptic prophet.

Relevance of Luke's Jesus?

Con said some things that I agree with him about Luke's formulation of the apocalyptic prophecies, and Con said things that I disagree, but there is a much more important matter of relevance. Con pointed out that "We cannot count on Luke as one of our 'multiple' attestations," and, in fact, I didn't. Luke is a relatively late source, containing apologetics for the questionably-failed deadline of the apocalyptic prophecy, much like the still-later sources of the gospel of John and the Second Epistle of Peter. I did not cite Luke as a source. Instead, I cited the three earliest and most relevant--Paul, Q and Mark, which were all seemingly composed before the deadline (~80-90 CE). Con should justify his reason for why the material exclusive to Luke/Acts should be taken as a relevant source of the historical Jesus.

Conclusion

Con has expended excessive brain power addressing week or trivial criticisms, attempting to promote only uncertainty. But, the most effective means for the triumph of Con is to show the significant rivaling probability that all of the earliest leaders of Christianity in the early first century were doomsday cult leaders except for Jesus himself. Con has a wealth of scholarly literature to help him make his case--the many liberal Christian members of the Jesus Seminar primarily promoted a model of Jesus that was non-apocalypticist, attributing the embarrassing doomsdayism of all early sources onto the disciples of Jesus. I challenge Con to find many analogous historical examples of such a proposed cult development. One way or the other, I suggest that Con use his two remaining rounds to build firmly on the evidence a plausible alternative case for a Jesus who was not a doomsday cult leader, even if such a model is equally uncertain. Until then, I assert that all alternative models are fatally divorced from the evidence, leaving only the model of Jesus as a doomsday cult leader who followed the same sociological patterns as so many others.

J.Maximus

Con

INTRODUCTION


Allow me to cut right in to dealing with two related points from above. Here they are again as a reminder:

My opponent states that "doomsday cult doctrines are almost always attributable to the cult founder." While this may be true, it does not assist us much in the matter of determining the theology of the historical Jesus; we cannot apply this reasoning until we can assert with high confidence that Jesus viewed himself as the founder of the cult that later became Christianity.

My opponent believes that the best explanation for the points he has raised is that Jesus himself preached an imminent apocalypse. Given the difficulties in my opponent's argument, however, it is clear that the only people to whom we can trace imminent apocalypticism are the early followers of Jesus, who were the primary founders of the early Christian faith.

ARGUMENT - EXAMPLES


It is technically correct that an apocalyptic mentality of the historical Jesus can explain the apocalyptic mentality of the early Christians. But it is unnecessary to tack such a mentality onto the historical Jesus; apocalypticism was fully developed within various sects of first century Judaism. There is no need to credit any specific individual with the origin of the apocalyptic mentality within early Christianity.

White in From Jesus to Christianity (2004):

The roots of Jewish apocalyptic go back to the Persian period and may be seen in some of the later writings of the Hebrew scriptures, especially Ezekiel and Isaiah 56–66.
...
... [T]he rise of apocalyptic thinking in Judaism may be traced to the latter half of the third century bce, while Judea was still under Ptolemaic control. It combined elements of new astronomical investigations from Greek science, the legacy of Persian and Egyptian influences, and basic Jewish theological convictions about the unity and power of the creator God of Israel. (pp. 69–70)
White goes on to explain the dynamics that make sects prone to apocalypticism, dynamics at play not just within some early Jewish sects, but at play within a large chunk of Judaism as a whole:

White in From Jesus to Christianity (2004) :

The sect calls for a cure for these ills [economic deprivation, political oppression, feelings of the greater society having gone wrong, etc.] through a religious reorientation of the present social order. Far from calling for a radical destruction of its parent religious culture, however, this kind of sectarian rhetoric tends to preserve basic beliefs and practices while calling for a return to "purity" or relief of the oppressed. As a result, the "us versus them" tensions felt by a sect find a natural coherence with the dualistic outlook of apocalyptic. (p. 74)
White also tells us that the failure of the first Jewish revolt led to a decline in apocalyptic thinking in both Jewish and early Christian circles, around the time when the latter movement would still have been largely a subset of the former (p. 224). When Jewish apocalypticism was revived sixty years later, the separation between Judaism and Christianity rendered Christianity immune to the influence of Jewish apocalyptic thought (pp. 227, 231).

Beyond simply being unnecessary, however, attributing an apocalyptic ideology to Jesus goes against the prima facie evidence provided in the gospels. In my previous response I outlined some of the instances in which the gospel writers clearly put their own apocalyptic words into the mouth of Jesus; here are some of the instances in which the gospel writers show Jesus himself not to be apocalyptic. Mark and Matthew contain the story of Jesus rebuking Peter (Mk 8:27–33; Mt 16:13–23) for focusing on the apocalyptic aspects of his messiahship. When asked in Acts about the time for restoring Israel, Jesus responds, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:6–7). Even more telling is the nature of the Messianic secret of Mark. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek ἀποκάλυψις, which means 'unveiling' or 'revelation'.1 In Mark, the miracles associated with Jesus' charge not to tell are apocalyptic in nature: they involve cleansing (1:40–45), resurrection (5:35–43), and sense-restoration (7:31–37, 8:22–26). Following the miracles that others might mistake as signs (the first 'unveilings' or 'revelations') of an approaching apocalypse Jesus orders secrecy. Mark's Jesus takes measures to ensure that people do not perceive his message as one of an imminent apocalypse. Indeed, he doesn't even want people to know he is the Messiah (8:27–30) because he knows they will misinterpret it as an apocalyptic sign!

ARGUMENT - DISCUSSION


For apocalypticism to find its way into an early first century Jewish sect (which is what early Christianity was) requires no elaborate or special explanation. We do not need to attribute various characteristics to the figurehead of the sect in order to explain the apocalypticism that was rampant in any particular Jewish sect at the time. Not only was the early Christian movement Jewish, but it was also sectarian, making its members further prone to apocalyptic mentality. The rise and fall of apocalypticism in early Christianity matches closely with the rise and fall of apocalypticism in Judaism; they appear securely linked in their development, which makes more sense if the ideologies were a shared mentality amongst the two groups and less if they were founded by a particular leader of the sectarian Christianity. An additional appeal of this explanation is that its aspects, unlike the theology of Jesus, are factors which are already evidenced. We don't need to look any further for an explanation for early Christian apocalypticism because we already have one. Apocalypticism seems to have arisen and died in early Christianity just fine without Jesus. Jesus still might have been an apocalypticist; but proposing such a notion is not necessary to explain apocalyptic thinking in early Christianity. Thus, my opponent has no grounds on which to propose such a notion. His assumptive notion cannot provide any needed explanations that the alternative, better evidenced, notion doesn't already provide.

On top of this, the gospel writers seem to indicate strongly that their Jesus did not promote apocalyptic thinking; added on to the fact that apocalyptic messages in the gospels can all be traced to the time and situation of the writers and not of Jesus, we are left with solid reason to believe that Jesus was not apocalyptic. When it comes to actually discussing Jesus' ideology—as opposed to putting words in his mouth—the gospel writers made it clear that he wasn't about apocalypticism.

Jesus didn't found apocalyptic Christianity; apocalyptic Christianity found Jesus.

CONCLUSION


In my remaining responses I will address the remainder of the points I brought up in Round 3 as well as any objections from my opponent that I may not yet have addressed. For his next post, I would like to request that my opponent provide some references to the 'Q material' that he finds to be apocalyptic in nature. He has mentioned the material several times but has not yet indicated any sections in particular that he feels are apocalyptic. If he would like that I address this material, I would like that he present it. I would be most appreciative for having the opportunity to do so.

JM
__________
1 From "Apocalypse" on Wikipedia.
__________
White, L. M. (2004) From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Debate Round No. 4
ApostateAbe

Pro

I regret that this is the last round of a wonderful debate. Quotes of Con are italicized below.

My opponent states that "doomsday cult doctrines are almost always attributable to the cult founder." While this may be true, it does not assist us much in the matter of determining the theology of the historical Jesus; we cannot apply this reasoning until we can assert with high confidence that Jesus viewed himself as the founder of the cult that later became Christianity

The argument does not require the assumption that Jesus viewed himself as the founder of the cult, because the proposed pattern has nothing to do with whether or not a cult founder believed he or she was a founder. Instead, it has to do with de facto cult founders, and Jesus was the de facto founder of the Christian religion. In almost all known cases, the founder of the cult is responsible for the doomsday doctrine, not the followers.

It is technically correct that an apocalyptic mentality of the historical Jesus can explain the apocalyptic mentality of the early Christians. But it is unnecessary to tack such a mentality onto the historical Jesus; apocalypticism was fully developed within various sects of first century Judaism. There is no need to credit any specific individual with the origin of the apocalyptic mentality within early Christianity.

Con goes on to rightly prove that apocalyptic thinking was common in the region and era. Unfortunately for Con, there is and remains a need credit Jesus with the apocalypticism of the religion that he founded, because the strong pattern of doomsday cults requires it. The prevalence of apocalyptic thinking is neither here nor there with respect to the consistent historical pattern of doomsday cult doctrines being attributable to the founder. Con has seemingly sidestepped the power of this argument, perhaps (not certainly) attributable to a misunderstanding of the argument. The argument is NOT about the figures most likely to have invented apocalypticism. Yes, neither Jesus nor his followers invented apocalypticism. But, the issue, per the resolution, is about whether or not Jesus was preached the imminent doomsday, and it is about the figure or figures most likely to be the originators of the specific apocalyptic prophecies attributed by all early Christian records to Jesus Christ.

Further, given that Con himself rightly asserts that apocalypticism was prevalent at the time of Jesus, then it provides a powerful explanation for how Jesus first gained a loyal cult following. Con seemingly dug himself into a hole. Indeed, Con's source (L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity, page 70) affirms that the genre of apocalyptic literature in the region was prevalent from 225 BCE to 200 CE. Does Con wish to provide a second social phenomenon of the same time and place that would primarily explain the initiation of the Christian cult?

Mark and Matthew contain the story of Jesus rebuking Peter (Mk 8:27-33; Mt 16:13-23) for focusing on the apocalyptic aspects of his messiahship.

This is merely speculation, not a directly evident interpretation, and mere speculation should not be presented as evident fact. Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection; Peter rebuked him, for an unspecified reason per Mark, and for predicting his own death per Matthew. There is no apparent connection to doomsday apocalypticism in either of these passages.

If Con's proposition about these passages were mere speculation, then it would be difficult enough in relation to his case. But, Con's speculation is made far more difficult by the fact that, in the passages directly following Mark 8:27-33 and Matthew 16:13-23 (such as Mark 8:34-38), Jesus himself focuses on the messianic aspects of his messiahship.

"Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Con proposes that, directly before the above statement, Jesus rebuked Peter for focusing on the apocalyptic aspects of his messiahship. I believe that this assertion is bizarre.

In Mark, the miracles associated with Jesus' charge not to tell are apocalyptic in nature: they involve cleansing (1:40-45), resurrection (5:35-43), and sense-restoration (7:31-37, 8:22-26). Following the miracles that others might mistake as signs (the first 'unveilings' or 'revelations') of an approaching apocalypse Jesus orders secrecy. Mark's Jesus takes measures to ensure that people do not perceive his message as one of an imminent apocalypse. Indeed, he doesn't even want people to know he is the Messiah (8:27-30) because he knows they will misinterpret it as an apocalyptic sign!

Con argues that some of the miracles of Mark's Jesus are apocalyptic in nature, Mark's Jesus wished to keep these miracles secret, and therefore Mark's Jesus wanted to discourage a perception of his message as apocalyptic. There are two problems with this argument:

(1) There is no prima facie connection between those miracles (cleansing of a leper, resurrection, and healing the blind) and apocalypticism, and Con's premise is not fact but mere speculation on his part.
(2) Mark's Jesus is most explicitly apocalyptic, as we can very plainly see in Mark 8:34-9:1 and Mark 13. Con can freely make assertions about the historical Jesus, but he is much more restricted if he wants to make assertions about Mark's model of Jesus. Con's conclusions should not directly contradict the known facts.

Not only was the early Christian movement Jewish, but it was also sectarian, making its members further prone to apocalyptic mentality.

There are things that could be expected from cult sectarianism. But, it is not apparent that apocalypticism is one of them. There is no direct connection between sectarianism and apocalypticism.

If, however, it can be somehow believed that sectarianism has any causal relationship with apocalypticism, then it hardly helps the case of Con. It is multiply and plausibly attested that Jesus himself was strongly sectarian, ranting against the other Jewish sects of Pharisees and Sadducees (Mark 8:15), and it could have been only either his sectarianism or his apocalypticism that finally motivated Pontius Pilate to crucify him. How, then, is it less likely that Jesus was apocalyptic based on the argument that sectarianism causes apocalypticism?

I will fulfill a request to Con that I provide some references to the 'Q material' that I find to be apocalyptic in nature. I refer Con back to Round 2, where I listed the three earliest Christian sources and cited the apocalyptic passages. The gospel of Q is the second item in the list, and I provided three passages from Q: Luke 3:7, Luke 13:22, and Luke 13:40. The corresponding passages in Matthew are 3:7, 6:25, and 24:44, respectively.

In closing, I invite the question to Con one last time: given almost all of the doomsday cults where the founder is responsible for the doomsday doctrine, what should make us believe that Christianity was a special exception?

This ends my part of the debate. I am strongly grateful to J.Maximus for sharing in this challenging and enhancing experience.
J.Maximus

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for setting up this debate. It has been an enjoyable learning experience for me and hopefully for others as well. Thanks, Abe!

SUMMARIES


Evidence for Jesus' Apocalypticism

There is no evidence of Jesus holding apocalyptic views. The apocalyptic attitudes recorded in the gospels are all clearly attitudes of the authors: they relate to neither Jesus' time nor situation; they only relate to the immediate situation of the authors (namely the first Jewish revolt). These references cannot be relied upon as evidence of Jesus having an apocalyptic attitude.

Evidence against Jesus' Apocalypticism

There is evidence against Jesus holding apocalyptic views. In the earliest gospels, Jesus denounces apocalypticism, chiding his disciples for focusing on the apocalyptic aspects of Messiah. Whenever we see Jesus' true words, they are always anti-apocalyptic. Despite the fact that some of our earliest writers were apocalypticists themselves, the strong tradition of an anti-apocalyptic Jesus seemed unavoidable—they couldn't help but write about it.

Argument to the Best Explanation

There is an alternative explanation behind the rise of apocalypticism in early Christianity. We don't need an apocalyptic Jesus to get an apocalyptic Christianity.

Unlike modern times in which apocalypticism is a fringe ideology, in first century Palestine it was a wide-spread belief. It is difficult to imagine apocalypticism in a modern cult that does not originate from an apocalyptic leader, but this is not something we have to imagine for the first century Jewish world. A better analogy would be to compare apocalypticism of the first century to Creationism of today. Even in a church group that is not founded with Creationist beliefs, and whose founders may, in fact, accept the theory of evolution, the Creationist belief is so prevalent in mainstream Christianity that it is inevitable that it will find its way into the group, especially among sections of the group that are very far removed from the central authority. We can look to the caricature of America's Founding Fathers that many present fundamentalists preach for a further analogy. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, many fundamentalists believe and argue that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians who believed America was supposed to be a Christian nation. These people invoke the Fathers in order to add strength to their arguments, even though the Fathers do not hold the positions these folk claim them to hold.

The same is true of the early Christians. None of our gospels come to us from Jesus' closest followers, but only from people writing decades after his death. They were far-removed from the central authority: Jesus. These people are outsiders to the Jesus movement, bringing their own theology to the already-present mix (Paul himself, for example, admits that the earlier disciples did not agree with his theology at all, Galatians 2). These people brought with them the apocalypticism prevalent at the time, even though it was not an aspect of the original Jesus movement. Though they relied reluctantly on anti-apocalyptic traditions to tell their stories of Jesus, they still inserted apocalyptic words into Jesus' mouth when they found the chance, doing with Jesus what modern fundamentalists do with the Founding Fathers.

And this is not speculation, as my opponent would have you believe; but it is documented fact. Not Paul, not Mark, not the author(s) of the Q material(s)—thanks to my opponent for providing some references—, none of them were followers of Jesus. These people clearly held apocalyptic mentalities, and they clearly put words into Jesus' mouth in order to give their mentalities credit. This is what we know; it is not conjecture. Furthermore, it is an explanation that possesses the utmost of explanatory power in that it fully explains apocalyptic thinking in early Christianity.

CONCLUDING REMARKS


Might the historical Jesus have preached an imminent day of doom? Of course; but my opponent has no evidence to back up the position that he did and no reason to conjecture to that end. There is simply nothing that needs to be said on Jesus' beliefs in order to explain apocalypticism in early Christianity. In this, my opponent has nothing to stand on; the only reason he supposes that Jesus was apocalyptic is because he finds it possible. I cannot bring myself to draw such sure conclusions on the basis of such shaky evidence, and I trust that none of you will bring yourselves to make that mistake either. Thus, I am confident that the voting audience will see through my opponent's thinly veiled appeal to his own personal opinion and realize, as I have done, that there is no evidence to support the notion of 'Jesus the apocalyptic preacher', neither solid nor circumstantial.

Again, sincere thanks to Abe for setting up this debate. It has been an enjoyable learning experience for me and hopefully for others as well. I hope for many future debates between us.

JM
Debate Round No. 5
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
ApostateAbe
What readers?
Posted by J.Maximus 6 years ago
J.Maximus
Hey all you readers, don't forget to vote!!
Posted by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
ApostateAbe
Thanks, J.M, I appreciate it.
Posted by J.Maximus 6 years ago
J.Maximus
And it looks like the comment pages don't process HTML, so there ya have it!
Posted by J.Maximus 6 years ago
J.Maximus
It depends on what forum I am using. For this place I use an HTML code (replace {}/<>):

{blockquote}{hr /}{i}Quote Introduction Here:{/i}

Quoted material here.{hr /}{/blockquote}

<blockquote><hr /><i>Quote Introduction Here:</i>

Quoted material here.<hr /></blockquote>
Posted by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
ApostateAbe
J.M, I noticed that you have used quote boxes that indent the quote, with a line at the top and a line at the bottom. How do you do that?
Posted by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
ApostateAbe
Sure, go ahead and post in my thread in the Religion forum.
Posted by jharry 6 years ago
jharry
Sure that will work.

I have a few more questions, but I think we should take this to either pm or your thread in religion. It's up to you. I feel like this comment section should be for working out details and comments on this debate. Thats just me though.
Posted by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
ApostateAbe
jharry, I would like to have a debate with you of some sort, but my perspective is that the New Testament was written by a variety of different perspectives. The authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke believed in a doomsday with the establishment of the kingdom of God on Earth, but the author of the gospel of John believed in only a spiritual/metaphorical kingdom of God, and Paul likewise seemingly believed that the kingdom of God was in heaven. So, it would be inappropriate for me to debate assuming that the NT is all a single belief about Jesus. Maybe the debate can focus on only a single author, such as the author of the gospel of Mark. I.e. "According to Mark, Jesus was the founder of a doomsday cult."
Posted by jharry 6 years ago
jharry
Apostate, I guess I will have to see the rest of the debate.

"But it is intentionality that is at the center of this debate."

I don't understand this part. I guess you left it open to this. Right now it looks like two athiest/agnostics debating if Jesus intentionally started a doomsday cult. I dunno.

Where I am new to debate, and not very good at it I do know the New Testement and the early Church fathers. I also know a bit about the Church, times and events of the first couple of centuries.

If your interested I might want debate on the possibility that the Jesus started a doomsday cult according to the New Testement.

Again, thanks for the conversation.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Meatros 6 years ago
Meatros
ApostateAbeJ.MaximusTied
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Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Very close debate. Con provides some reasonable doubt,but not enough to overcome Pro's point about cult leaders, which seems to be a strong analogy. This overcomes the skepticism that Con levels, further, Pro uses Con's point about apocalypticism to explain the loyal cult following. Good debate on both sides.