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Primary Sources

drafterman
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6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?

Now, to forstall anyone that has an issue with the definition of Primary Sources provided above, then I'll simply restate the question more explicitly:

Are there any documents regarding Jesus' alleged life and death, created at the time the events took place by people involved in them?
Meatros
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6/26/2012 8:41:55 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
Are there any documents regarding Jesus' alleged life and death, created at the time the events took place by people involved in them?

Nope, there are none. This isn't really surprising though - during the first century (+) Christianity was not really remarkable, so we shouldn't really expect any primary sources.
stubs
Posts: 1,887
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6/26/2012 9:27:53 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?


I think it depends how strict you are with, "at the time the events took place." If you mean like that day, or that week, or that year even. Then no one would say the gospels were a primary source.
phantom
Posts: 6,774
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6/26/2012 9:34:55 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
90% of modern historians agree that he existed. I don't think primary sources are really neccessary.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
InquireTruth
Posts: 723
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6/26/2012 9:43:23 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?

Now, to forstall anyone that has an issue with the definition of Primary Sources provided above, then I'll simply restate the question more explicitly:

Are there any documents regarding Jesus' alleged life and death, created at the time the events took place by people involved in them?

As your history teacher will be well aware of, primary written sources in a dominantly oral and aural culture would be expecting too much. There is remarkable evidence present in the Gospels themselves that suggest a formal oral tradition that dates all the way back to the late 30AD, approximately 7 or so years after the death of Christ.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/26/2012 9:57:43 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 9:27:53 AM, stubs wrote:
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?


I think it depends how strict you are with, "at the time the events took place." If you mean like that day, or that week, or that year even. Then no one would say the gospels were a primary source.

Is there anything that does meet that criteria, outside of the Gospels?
drafterman
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6/26/2012 9:58:04 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 9:34:55 AM, phantom wrote:
90% of modern historians agree that he existed. I don't think primary sources are really neccessary.

And what if we want to establish more than his mere existence?
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/26/2012 9:59:51 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 9:43:23 AM, InquireTruth wrote:
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?

Now, to forstall anyone that has an issue with the definition of Primary Sources provided above, then I'll simply restate the question more explicitly:

Are there any documents regarding Jesus' alleged life and death, created at the time the events took place by people involved in them?

As your history teacher will be well aware of, primary written sources in a dominantly oral and aural culture would be expecting too much.

Well, it's an American History course dating from settlement to the civil war. So this discuss would be out of scope of this particular class. My reference to my History teacher was merely to establish a definition of Primary sources.

There is remarkable evidence present in the Gospels themselves that suggest a formal oral tradition that dates all the way back to the late 30AD, approximately 7 or so years after the death of Christ.

Can you elaborate? What is a "formal" oral tradition as opposed to an "informal" one? Where in the Gospels is this tradition evidenced?
InquireTruth
Posts: 723
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6/26/2012 10:22:46 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
There is remarkable evidence present in the Gospels themselves that suggest a formal oral tradition that dates all the way back to the late 30AD, approximately 7 or so years after the death of Christ.

Can you elaborate? What is a "formal" oral tradition as opposed to an "informal" one? Where in the Gospels is this tradition evidenced?

An informal oral tradition would be on par with what we commonly refer to as gossip. We can imagine with some confidence that stories about Jesus were being communicated about Jesus concurrently with his life and as the events therein transpired. However, a formal oral tradition would be something like a creed, that churches would share together, or even, something like the Gospel Q. The Gospel Q being a tradition that is inferred by many source critics and theologians and believed, by many at least, to be an oral tradition. These traditions are marked by uniformity, exactitude, and a tendency to be repeated in the life of the Church. Evidence for the Gospel of Q is not a topic i'll delve into here. Evidence for an early, formal oral creed, however, can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15. Here many bible scholars (dare I say most?) locate this creed as originating in the community of Jerusalem about 5-7 years after Christ's death. This would be contemporaneous with his immediate eye witnesses and his brother, who was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
drafterman
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6/26/2012 10:32:21 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 10:22:46 AM, InquireTruth wrote:
There is remarkable evidence present in the Gospels themselves that suggest a formal oral tradition that dates all the way back to the late 30AD, approximately 7 or so years after the death of Christ.

Can you elaborate? What is a "formal" oral tradition as opposed to an "informal" one? Where in the Gospels is this tradition evidenced?

An informal oral tradition would be on par with what we commonly refer to as gossip. We can imagine with some confidence that stories about Jesus were being communicated about Jesus concurrently with his life and as the events therein transpired. However, a formal oral tradition would be something like a creed, that churches would share together, or even, something like the Gospel Q. The Gospel Q being a tradition that is inferred by many source critics and theologians and believed, by many at least, to be an oral tradition. These traditions are marked by uniformity, exactitude, and a tendency to be repeated in the life of the Church.

How does one establish the exactitude of the Gospels?

Evidence for the Gospel of Q is not a topic i'll delve into here. Evidence for an early, formal oral creed, however, can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15. Here many bible scholars (dare I say most?) locate this creed as originating in the community of Jerusalem about 5-7 years after Christ's death. This would be contemporaneous with his immediate eye witnesses and his brother, who was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.

I was under the impression that "The Gospels" specifically pertained to Mark, Luke, John and Matthew, so that would exclude 1 Corinthians. And while 1 Corinthians certainly appears to be an example of such a creed, I'm interested in what the evidence is that this tradition dates back to 5-7 years after Christ's death. I didn't see it in that the referenced passage.
phantom
Posts: 6,774
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6/26/2012 10:57:17 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 9:58:04 AM, drafterman wrote:
At 6/26/2012 9:34:55 AM, phantom wrote:
90% of modern historians agree that he existed. I don't think primary sources are really neccessary.

And what if we want to establish more than his mere existence?

Then I would ask what exactly we do want to establish.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
RoyLatham
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6/26/2012 12:18:53 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Jefferson claimed that Jesus was a moral philosopher, and that accounts of performing miracles were added by a monk in the Fourth Century. There are oral traditions of Christ-like figures that predate Jesus. It would therefore be interesting to have first-person accounts of miraculous events or even of non-miraculous speeches and teachings.
Logic_on_rails
Posts: 2,445
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6/26/2012 4:58:30 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Not sure if that definition of primary sources is entirely in accordance with what I've been taught, but I won't quibble now.

From what I gathered off a documentary series (made based on a book of the same name) called The Christ Files there was a 20 year gap between Jesus' death and the earliest written accounts of his life. For a very brief summary look here http://thechristfiles.com.au... .

Now, that might not be written during Jesus' time, yet let us consider 2 points. Firstly, these accounts are often by people who were alive during Jesus' life. Very simply put, upon realising that witnesses to Jesus were dying out some of the witnesses decided to write down what they'd seen. Secondly, given that most records were oral, it makes sense that we don't have an immediate written text on Jesus, especially considering he was no government official.

One final point, archaeological evidence tends to strongly correlate with what is described in religious texts. Ie. Buildings and structures described in these texts are known to have existed by archaeological research.
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The_Fool_on_the_hill
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6/26/2012 5:16:35 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 8:39:01 AM, drafterman wrote:
I'm currently taking an American History class and, in the introduction to the class, the Professor discussed Primary Sources, defining them as:

"[Primary Sources] are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them."

As far as I'm aware, the Gospels of the Bible weren't written at the time the discussed events took place, but rather many decades after the fact, meaning they aren't Primary Sources by this definition.

So, the question is, are there any Primary Sources regarding Jesus' alleged life and death?

Now, to forstall anyone that has an issue with the definition of Primary Sources provided above, then I'll simply restate the question more explicitly:

Are there any documents regarding Jesus' alleged life and death, created at the time the events took place by people involved in them?

The Fool: the first witness is at least over 100 years after the event. lol
"The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another." G. W. F. HEGEL
airmax1227
Posts: 13,244
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6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...
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phantom
Posts: 6,774
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6/26/2012 5:26:03 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...

From what I recall, it claims Jesus was an evil sourcerer, or something of the sorts. Anyways, it doesn't exactly flow with the common concept, but it certainly aids in substantiating his existence.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
ScottyDouglas
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6/26/2012 5:30:06 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 5:26:03 PM, phantom wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...

From what I recall, it claims Jesus was an evil sorcerer, or something of the sorts. Anyways, it doesn't exactly flow with the common concept, but it certainly aids in substantiating his existence.

It actually helps in showing He did miracles. Referencing him as a sorcerer. It is optional if believe their intake of Him.
TheAsylum
phantom
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6/26/2012 5:37:06 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 5:30:06 PM, ScottyDouglas wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:26:03 PM, phantom wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...

From what I recall, it claims Jesus was an evil sorcerer, or something of the sorts. Anyways, it doesn't exactly flow with the common concept, but it certainly aids in substantiating his existence.

It actually helps in showing He did miracles. Referencing him as a sorcerer. It is optional if believe their intake of Him.

Same point I made about a year and a half ago. But people, especially in those times, can be pretty easily convinced into viewing things as magic/miraculous. David Blane does some pretty convincing stuff himself. Doesn't mean it's actual magic. Anyways, I'm not familiar enough with it, so there's undoubtedly more to be said.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
airmax1227
Posts: 13,244
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6/26/2012 5:38:26 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 5:26:03 PM, phantom wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...

From what I recall, it claims Jesus was an evil sourcerer, or something of the sorts. Anyways, it doesn't exactly flow with the common concept, but it certainly aids in substantiating his existence.

It's hard to tell with any certainty if it was specifically referring to Jesus at all. And there are more references than just the sorcery thing, which wouldn't have been unique at all to just that one character. Furthermore the idea of someone claiming to be, or someone claiming some else is the messiah wasn't all that unique either.

So it's nearly impossible to verify any of it as it relates to Jesus in particular. It just happens to be the closest thing to a formal text written in his lifetime that could potentially be referring to him.

But like you said, it does aid in substantiating his existence. Though I'm not sure if that's really even debatable. Even if one doesn't accept any part of the divinity aspects of Jesus, if one were going to start a hoax about his messianic aspects, those choosing to do so, would pick an actual person, to make it plausible. from a simple sociological perspective, it take at least some truth, to get large numbers of people to believe such a significant lie. Though I'm not actually advocating one position or another (though I'm not Christian), just how such a hoax would come to fruition.
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airmax1227
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6/26/2012 5:42:03 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 5:30:06 PM, ScottyDouglas wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:26:03 PM, phantom wrote:
At 6/26/2012 5:17:19 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
The closest thing to a primary source would likely be the Talmud, since it was written during Jesus' lifetime. It's not exactly conclusive though, because it's controversial, dismissed outright by most Christians, and doesn't advance the narrative in general.

The Talmud is also a complex and often confusing text that takes a lot of study just to understand the basics. Nonetheless, it does provide some historical perspective, and could potentially be referring to Jesus, but remains controversial as it would not be advancing the traditional narrative.

http://www.angelfire.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.answering-islam.org...

From what I recall, it claims Jesus was an evil sorcerer, or something of the sorts. Anyways, it doesn't exactly flow with the common concept, but it certainly aids in substantiating his existence.

It actually helps in showing He did miracles. Referencing him as a sorcerer. It is optional if believe their intake of Him.

Not really. Those types of actions weren't unique to a single character being referenced. If there was a single 'sorcerer' uniquely capable of such things it would have been made a much bigger deal. In the context of the Talmud, there were others also capable of doing certain types of 'magic'. These are also referenced in Kabbalistic (Jewish mysticism) traditions.
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InquireTruth
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6/26/2012 8:28:53 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 10:32:21 AM, drafterman wrote:
How does one establish the exactitude of the Gospels?

I don't know what you mean by this question.

I was under the impression that "The Gospels" specifically pertained to Mark, Luke, John and Matthew, so that would exclude 1 Corinthians. And while 1 Corinthians certainly appears to be an example of such a creed, I'm interested in what the evidence is that this tradition dates back to 5-7 years after Christ's death. I didn't see it in that the referenced passage.

Mark, Matthew, John and Luke/Acts. Of course, 1 Corinthians predates all of them. But what 1 Corinthians shows is that there existed sources before the writing of the Gospels upon which these accounts could, and probably did, draw from.

There is a lot of evidence for the early credal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15, not least of which is him actually saying that he didn't write it, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance..." Furthermore, the text is full of non-Pauline language that is clearer in the original Greek, where distinctions like the genitive case are more easily seen. Non-Pauline language includes, "for our sins" in the genitive case. The phrase, "according to scriptures" is utterly unique and unparalleled in Paul's writings (who always says "it is written"). "The Twelve" is decidedly not Pauline, as he prefers "the apostles." Phrases like "on the third day" and "appeared" are only ever found in other pre-Pauline confessional formulas in 1 and 2 Timothy respectively.

This says nothing to the fact that the Gospels drew upon an even earlier source (called the Gospel Q), that would have been in circulation very early after the death of Christ.
drafterman
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6/27/2012 7:39:52 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/26/2012 8:28:53 PM, InquireTruth wrote:
At 6/26/2012 10:32:21 AM, drafterman wrote:
How does one establish the exactitude of the Gospels?

I don't know what you mean by this question.

You said that the the stories of Jesus were examples of some formal oral tradition which was marked by, among other things, exactitude. I'm wondering how you established this quality of "exactitude."


I was under the impression that "The Gospels" specifically pertained to Mark, Luke, John and Matthew, so that would exclude 1 Corinthians. And while 1 Corinthians certainly appears to be an example of such a creed, I'm interested in what the evidence is that this tradition dates back to 5-7 years after Christ's death. I didn't see it in that the referenced passage.

Mark, Matthew, John and Luke/Acts. Of course, 1 Corinthians predates all of them. But what 1 Corinthians shows is that there existed sources before the writing of the Gospels upon which these accounts could, and probably did, draw from.

There is a lot of evidence for the early credal tradition in 1 Corinthians 15, not least of which is him actually saying that he didn't write it, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance..." Furthermore, the text is full of non-Pauline language that is clearer in the original Greek, where distinctions like the genitive case are more easily seen. Non-Pauline language includes, "for our sins" in the genitive case. The phrase, "according to scriptures" is utterly unique and unparalleled in Paul's writings (who always says "it is written"). "The Twelve" is decidedly not Pauline, as he prefers "the apostles." Phrases like "on the third day" and "appeared" are only ever found in other pre-Pauline confessional formulas in 1 and 2 Timothy respectively.

This says nothing to the fact that the Gospels drew upon an even earlier source (called the Gospel Q), that would have been in circulation very early after the death of Christ.

That's all actually very interesting.