Saturday, March 08, 2008

Should We Trust "Christ-Rejecting Jews"?

In a recent thread, a poster by the screen name of Jimmy repeated an argument I’ve often seen used by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. He objected to a citation of Josephus on the subject of the Old Testament canon on the basis that Josephus was a “Christ-rejecting Jew”.

I think most people understand why such an objection is problematic. But since it seems that many Catholics and Orthodox don’t understand, I want to address the issue further.

A lot of people have rejected Christ. The Roman historian Tacitus rejected Christ, yet we trust much of what he reported about wars, taxes, Nero’s persecution of Christians, etc. I trust a weatherman who tells me that the temperature fell below freezing this morning, even if he’s an agnostic. I trust a taxi driver to get me to my destination, even if he’s a Muslim. Etc.

If Josephus writes about Jesus’ relative James, and he uses a particular Greek term to describe James’ relationship with Jesus, why can’t we cite Josephus’ choice of terminology as evidence relevant to the issue of the perpetual virginity of Mary? If Josephus uses Greek terms for “cousin”, “relative”, etc. in other passages, yet uses a term with a primary meaning of sibling when discussing James’ relationship with Jesus, then that choice of language has implications for the perpetual virginity of Mary. The fact that Josephus rejected Christ doesn’t eliminate the significance of his choice of terminology.

Any error committed by any source, including a rejection of Christ, undermines the general credibility of that source. But a source’s general credibility can be undermined without being eliminated. And the less of a connection there is between a source’s error and the subject under consideration, the less significance that error has. The church fathers were wrong on many issues. They sometimes made false historical claims, sometimes contradicted each other on doctrinal issues, etc. It doesn’t therefore follow that we can’t trust anything they said.

If we’re to dismiss Josephus on the issue of James’ relationship with Jesus, we need more than Josephus’ rejection of Christ to justify that dismissal. A rejection of Christ doesn’t imply a likelihood of wanting to misrepresent the relationship between Jesus and James. Similarly, a rejection of Christ doesn’t imply a rejection of the canonicity of Tobit. People like Jimmy need to make more of an effort to show a connection between the non-Christian status of a source like Josephus and that source’s alleged unreliability on an issue.

I’ve sometimes seen people, particularly Roman Catholics, suggest that the ancient Jews rejected the Apocrypha in response to Christianity. But while some of the early Christians accepted one or more Apocryphal books as scripture, the early Christians made far more use of other books the ancient Jews accepted, such as Isaiah and Daniel. If the ancient Jews were determining their canon on the basis of a desire to undermine Christianity, they could have done much better than removing books like Tobit and 1 Maccabees. And neither the earliest Christians nor the earliest Jews seem to have thought that there was some widespread acceptance of Apocryphal books that ceased in response to Christianity. Such a canonical change doesn’t seem to have been part of the earliest discussions between Judaism and Christianity. A Paul or a Justin Martyr will bring many charges against the Jews of their day, but such a canonical change isn’t one of them. That sort of canonical change doesn’t make sense, and the earliest sources don’t seem to be aware of any such change.

My point here, though, is that the testimony of a source like Josephus can’t be dismissed just because he was a “Christ-rejecting Jew”. We need more than that.

25 comments:

  1. What you need to uderstand is that the writings about Chritianity by Josephus have been evaluated as a fraud.

    Knowledgable scholars have studied the texts thoroughly and have declared them a Chsitian forgery, added many decades after the death of Josephus.

    You have a completely different problem.

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  2. Jeffrey Levine wrote:

    “Knowledgable scholars have studied the texts thoroughly and have declared them a Chsitian forgery, added many decades after the death of Josephus.”

    The majority of scholars accept the authenticity of the James passage, and a majority accept the authenticity of a core form of the Jesus passage. For documentation, see the following:

    http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm

    And:

    http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/josephus.html

    But the Catholics and Orthodox I’m responding to don’t normally dispute the authenticity of the two passages in Josephus. And Josephus’ comments related to the Apocrypha aren’t part of the two disputed passages. It seems that you didn’t pay much attention to the subject of this thread. Apparently, you were looking for an opportunity to comment on the disputed passages in Josephus, and you decided to do so even if your comments didn’t have much relevance to what I was discussing.

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  3. Jeffrey, you really don't understand the issues.

    1. What these "knowledgable scholars" question are particular portions of his work, namely parts of it that appear to be Christian interpolations, with respect to Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum.

    2. However, even once those are removed, this only excises a portion of the TF, not the whole shebang. Neither does it touch his discussion of James and his relation to Jesus.

    3. The discussion here relates not to the TF but to the OT canon, a portion not disputed.

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  4. Should We Trust "Christ-Rejecting Jews"?

    Idunno ... should You ? :-\

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  5. The Jews living at the time of Jesus, had no problem rejecting him. Gentiles with ni knowledge of Judaism were the only people to accept Jesus as Christ, and most of thise people were coerved by force!

    G-d through the Torah gave the Jewish people a number of indicators that would readily identify the awaited messiah. The only requirement that Jesus did fulfill was that he was born of a Jewish mother. G-d was not intended to be the father of the Messiah.

    When you examine these passages, you will realize that Jesus was nothing more than a regular man. That is why the Jews rejected Jesus. He was not the Messiah. If you can't accept that, check with the Jewish Torah (not the Christian version). It will teach you everything you need to know!

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  6. Jeffrey Levine,

    Why have you changed the subject? Why haven’t you interacted with what we wrote in response to your initial comments about Josephus? Because you know that you were wrong?

    You write:

    “Gentiles with ni knowledge of Judaism were the only people to accept Jesus as Christ, and most of thise people were coerved by force!”

    That assessment assumes that much of what the New Testament and other early sources report about Christian origins is incorrect. You’ll have to argue for that position rather than just asserting it. You can find thousands of pages of material arguing for the contrary in our archives.

    You write:

    “The only requirement that Jesus did fulfill was that he was born of a Jewish mother.”

    You don’t tell us what the “requirements” supposedly are, and you don’t attempt any refutation of the common Christian arguments for Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Again, consult our archives for articles on Jesus’ prophecy fulfillments. Some of those fulfillments, such as His Davidic descent, are acknowledged by a majority of scholars.

    You write:

    “G-d was not intended to be the father of the Messiah.”

    So, you want us to believe that there’s an Old Testament passage that tells us that the Messiah is not to be God’s Son as Christianity defines the concept? What would that passage be? Surely you aren’t just saying that the Old Testament denies the Messiah’s sonship in some other sense that Christians don’t assert. How would that be relevant?

    You write:

    “When you examine these passages, you will realize that Jesus was nothing more than a regular man. That is why the Jews rejected Jesus.”

    No, the ancient Jews rejected Jesus as a sorcerer and magician, they acknowledged that His tomb was empty, and the evidence suggests that they acknowledged some of His prophecy fulfillments, such as the Bethlehem birthplace. The earliest Jewish rejection of Jesus didn’t involve a denial of His supernatural nature. Rather, it involved a denial of the Divine origin of that supernatural nature. They attributed His power to Satan rather than God. See, for example:

    http://christian-thinktank.com/mq12.html

    Unfortunately for your chosen method of argumentation, your predecessors didn’t agree with you. The earliest Jewish opponents of Christianity were too near to the events, too accountable to the relevant facts of history, to be able to take your approach.

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  7. The Jews living at the time of Jesus, had no problem rejecting him. Gentiles with ni knowledge of Judaism were the only people to accept Jesus as Christ, and most of thise people were coerved by force!

    I'm afraid you'll now have to explain the opening chapters of Acts. If the only people to accept Jesus as the Christ were Gentiles, then please explain the the Book of Hebrews, written to a community of Jewish Christians. You'll also have to explain the Apostle Paul, a Jew. You'll need to explain the Apostles themselves. You'll need to explain Timothy.

    G-d through the Torah gave the Jewish people a number of indicators that would readily identify the awaited messiah. The only requirement that Jesus did fulfill was that he was born of a Jewish mother. G-d was not intended to be the father of the Messiah.

    The text says that he would be son of David, heir to the Davidic throne. Through his adopted father,that is attained, through his mother, that is also attained.

    There are also Messianic texts in which God is speaking to this King and calling him "my Lord," for example Psalm 45 and Psalm 97 and Ps 110.

    When you examine these passages, you will realize that Jesus was nothing more than a regular man. That is why the Jews rejected Jesus. He was not the Messiah.

    This is confused. On the one hand you claim the Messiah would be a "regular man." On the other, you claim that they rejected Jesus because he was a "regular man." I gather you mean that Jesus did not fulfill any Messianic prophecies. Care to make an actual argument and not a mere assertion?

    If you can't accept that, check with the Jewish Torah (not the Christian version). It will teach you everything you need to know! I have interacted with many Jews with respect to this, and they say the Torah is a "closed book" and requires an interpreter. That's why they run to the rabbis.

    But why should we run to rabbinic Judaism to determine the meaning of the Tanakh?

    Also, we Christians aren't using a "Christian version" of the Torah. That's a Jewish prejudice against Christianity's former use of the LXX showing, a holdover from the ancient days. These days, the underlying texts we use is drawn from a number of sources, including the MT, which would be, as you say, "the Jewish version."

    We are Christians precisely because we *do* understand and exegete the Tanakh. It is you who have gone and made your own righteousness apart from the Law. It is you who apostatized and rejected your rightful king. It is you who put that same king to death by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, by nailing him to a cross at the hands of godless men. You have one and only one course to follow now. Under the terms of the covenant and the curses laid out for covenant breakers in Deuternonomy, you must repent, elsewise those curses befall you. You must enter the rest promised to God's people, and you must enter the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah in Jer. 31:31-33. That covenant has come and is now before you. Repent and trust in Christ alone. This is the only course of action open to a consistent Jew. Not to do this is to be no better than the Gentile, it is, indeed, to demonstrate your heart is uncircumcised.

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  8. "The Jews living at the time of Jesus, had no problem rejecting him. Gentiles with ni knowledge of Judaism were the only people to accept Jesus as Christ..."

    Yes, and the Jews during the time of Isaiah had no problem in rejecting Isaiah either. Jews during the time of Jeremiah had no problem rejecting Jeremiah either.

    As John said:
    John 12:39-40
    “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.””

    Jeffrey,

    You need to repent and accept God's annointed king, and He will forgive you of your transgressions.

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  9. My, my, my, Gene, aren't we >Anti-Semitic< today! :-) :D

    That's a Jewish prejudice against Christianity's former use of the LXX showing, a holdover from the ancient days.

    So, ... You willin` to translate Isaiah 7:14 as 'young lady' anytime soon? :-) :D -- Well, ... guess not, then ... :-) :D

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  10. Saint and Sinner,

    seems like You have joined the >Anti-Semitic< crowd as well ... my, my, how things change so rapidly these days! :-) :D -- They don't call it the Age of Speed for nothin`, You know ... :-) :D

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  11. My, my, my, Gene, aren't we >Anti-Semitic< today! :-) :D

    No, for, unlike the Orthodox, Jimmy, Jay Dyer, and yourself, I don't reject what Jewish sources say on the basis that they are Jewish. That's anti-Semitism.

    Indeed, the Jewish problem with Christianity is the equation "Christian = Gentile," exemplified by Mr. Levine here.

    So, I've simply leveled the same accusation against Mr. Levine that I have leveled against you for similar reasons. Mr. Levine burns the Star of David, and you burn the Cross. There is no difference. I'm being quite consistent, but perhaps that's difficult for you to see, muddle headed commenter that you are.

    So, ... You willin` to translate Isaiah 7:14 as 'young lady' anytime soon? :-) :D -- Well, ... guess not, then ... :-) :D

    Well that's not a problem for me, Lvka, since Jews translated the text of Isaiah for the LXX. If you were consistent, you'd reject that text on the basis of the Jewishness of the translators.

    You're also arguing fallaciously, yet again. The translated meaning of words is dependent on the context. "Almah" has a broad semantic range, but there are contextual reasons for translating it as "parthenos" in Greek. Moreover, I don't need to translate it into Greek in order to ascertain the meaning of it.

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/fabprof2.html

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  12. 1). I don't need to translate it into Greek in order to ascertain the meaning of it.

    Yes, You most certainly do.

    You do, because the context speaks of a wonder of a completely different kind altogether:

    Isaiah 7:16  For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings
    .

    Saying that THEN was just like saying some half-a-century ago that communism will eventually fall and succumb: it was just unthinkable at that particular time: that was Isaiah's prophecy, and it was breath-takingly unbelievable to say the least. :-|

    As for Immanuel, he's born in the next chapter:

    Isaiah 8:3  And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4  For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria. 8  And he [the King of Assyria] shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel. 10  Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
    .

    You just can't "deduce" from the text itself, -were it to read "young woman"-, the idea that what You should *actually* look for over there is a miraculous or super-natural [virginal] bith: it's just not possible. :-\

    So, yes, You depend on the Septuagint like a fish on water, whether You like it or not, whether You want to believe it or not, or whether You're able, or willing, or prepared to accept it or not.

    2). As for the distinction Jews=Jews and Christian=Gentile, all I can say is that You've read Jimmy's argument wrong: the man simply said:

    You assume a break between the Jewish people of God and the Christian people of God in recognizing the canon
    .

    He meant the Old Testament Church [exclusively Jewish], and the New Testament Church, "Christian": he didn't say 'Gentile'. Then he went on to talk about Christ rejecting Jews, not Jews in general: the Seventy were as Jewish as can be; so were the Apostles, St. James, and all the other Bishops of Jerusalem after him: the Jerusalem Church never vanished off the face of the world: it stood there through good times and bad times: even when it was no longer called Jerusalem anymore, but "Aelia Capitolina":

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Orthodox_Patriarch_of_Jerusalem#Bishops_of_Jerusalem

    It never deserted the place. And, guess what, it still existe today! (It even has a web-site: though under construction).

    And what shall I say of the very-much-Semitic Aramaic-speaking Church of Antioch, and all the Semitical Church Fathers that she has gifted us with?

    3). As I have said before: Protestants quote St. Paul saying: "the truth comes from the Jews" and "the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God" ... then they go on to talk about the M.T. and to denigrate the LXX, all the while forgetting that:

    -- the LXX is very much a *Jewish* >oracle<.
    -- St. Paul quotes it over and over again, 90% of the time.

    That's what we are arguing here for.

    4). you burn the Cross

    Please refrain in the future from such regratably shameful slander. I think that it is below Your level ... or do You disagree? :-<

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  13. "seems like You have joined the >Anti-Semitic< crowd as well ... my, my, how things change so rapidly these days! :-) :D -- They don't call it the Age of Speed for nothin`, You know ... :-) :D"

    I second what Gene noted, and it is obvious, lvka, that you currently lack the mental power to see that the two arguments are not analagous.

    "So, yes, You depend on the Septuagint like a fish on water, whether You like it or not, whether You want to believe it or not, or whether You're able, or willing, or prepared to accept it or not."

    Again, lvka, your ignorance causes you to use outdated arguments.

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/fabprof2.html

    http://www.amazon.com/Commentary-New-Testament-Use-Old/dp/0801026938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205036427&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Answering-Jewish-Objections-Jesus-vol/dp/0801064236/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205036469&sr=1-5

    "all I can say is that You've read Jimmy's argument wrong"

    Gene was refferring to Jeffrey. Pay attention.

    "As I have said before: Protestants quote St. Paul saying: "the truth comes from the Jews" and "the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God" ... then they go on to talk about the M.T. and to denigrate the LXX, all the while forgetting that"

    We never denigrated the LXX, and in case you haven't noticed, we've said that the Jews wrote the LXX as one of our arguments against automatically rejecting anything that came from them.


    T-bloggers:

    This isn't my call, but lvka is simply repeating all of his same arguments over and over. Don't you think it's time to give him the boot?

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  14. An Eastern Orthodox theologian is now blogging over at Parchment and Pen:

    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/03/08/why-eastern-orthodoxy-part-1-introduction/

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  15. There's a big difference between what Tacitus wrote about some Emperor and what some Jew writes about the canon. The canon is a theological question. If I dig up a document in Utah in 2000 years time stating that the God-inspired list of books accepted by true Christians includes the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Abraham, all that speaks to is the theological position of one "Christian" in Utah. This is about as good as what Josephus tells us - an apologetic for his own flawed, theologically heretical sect. In 2000 years one can argue back and forth about why a "Christian" in Utah would possibly record the wrong canon, and present all number of theories, none of which actually matter to the fact that it is the wrong canon.

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  16. Jimmy wrote:

    “There's a big difference between what Tacitus wrote about some Emperor and what some Jew writes about the canon. The canon is a theological question.”

    The canonical issue in question involves some historical matters. If we want to know what canon was followed by Jews of the apostolic era, then the testimony of Jews of the apostolic era, such as Josephus, is relevant. Similarly, historians accept Josephus’ testimony about Jesus’ existence, the fact that He was executed under Pilate, the fact that He had a brother by the name of James, etc., even though such facts have some theological relevance. The same is true of Tacitus. If Tacitus makes historical claims that have some theological significance, we can’t dismiss his testimony just because he was a “Christ-rejecting Roman”.

    You write:

    “If I dig up a document in Utah in 2000 years time stating that the God-inspired list of books accepted by true Christians includes the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Abraham, all that speaks to is the theological position of one ‘Christian’ in Utah.”

    Your analogy assumes what you need to prove. We have a large amount of evidence leading us to the conclusion that Mormonism isn’t representative of what most professing Christians believe about the canon. Where’s your comparable evidence that Josephus is something like a first-century equivalent of Mormonism on canonical issues?

    As I’ve explained before, the issue isn’t whether it’s possible that sources like Josephus were something like an equivalent of Mormonism. Rather, the issue is what’s probable. When so many other Jewish sources also reject the Apocryphal books, along with many Christian sources, the suggestion that Josephus was something like a first-century equivalent of Mormonism is ridiculous. Just as Mormonism is unlikely to convince the large majority of other professing Christians to change their canon in the near future, it’s unlikely that Josephus was part of some Mormon-like group that convinced the large majority of other Jews to change their canon in so short a period of time. As I asked earlier, if such a change did occur, then why don’t we see it mentioned in sources like the New Testament and Justin Martyr? And what motive would the Jewish people have had for removing books like Tobit and Judith while keeping ones like Isaiah and Daniel? Where’s your evidence that Josephus was some Mormon-like figure at a time when most Jews agreed with your Eastern Orthodox canon?

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  17. Saint and Sinner,

    I'm familiar with that article. There are also other kindred articles on the same themes over there, at Think-Tank, which I've also read. (Another site I like is Tektonics, by J.P. Holding).

    And I'm not sure how anything he's written there changes anything I said here.

    Best wishes.

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  18. Jews have nothing to repent for. We follow the word of G-d! When you learn to follow G-d and G-d alone, you will find the salvation YOU all need!

    A few Jewish apostoles does not a movement make. And weren't there apostoles that lost confodence in Jesus once he died?

    You should also remember that there is not a single mention of this person named Jesus oputside of the Chritian Bible. Forget about the Josephus forgeries.

    Not a single Jew ever looked at Jesus as a king. That is just simple Christian propaganda.

    Look at all the "evidence" for the existance of Jesus. There is NONE. And what is claimed is all a fraud (shroud, multiple texts, etc.)

    I'm sorry guys, but we Jews have it right!!

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  19. Where’s your comparable evidence that Josephus is something like a first-century equivalent of Mormonism on canonical issues?

    There were lots of Jewish sects in this era. Whatever sect Josephus is in, it isn't the true people of God!

    the suggestion that Josephus was something like a first-century equivalent of Mormonism is ridiculous.

    Why? It's no more ridiculous than just assuming the books of Qumran are THE Jewish canon.

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  20. Jimmy said:

    "There were lots of Jewish sects in this era. Whatever sect Josephus is in, it isn't the true people of God!"

    i) So you have absolutely no actual evidence that the Pharisaic canon was aberrant.

    ii) Do you think every Pharisee was damned? Was Nicodemus damned?

    "Why? It's no more ridiculous than just assuming the books of Qumran are THE Jewish canon."

    No one is assuming that. It would behoove you to know what you're talking about before you open your mouth.

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  21. Jimmy wrote:

    "There were lots of Jewish sects in this era. Whatever sect Josephus is in, it isn't the true people of God!...It's no more ridiculous than just assuming the books of Qumran are THE Jewish canon."

    You're repeating bad arguments that have already been refuted. Again, Josephus wouldn't have to be part of what you consider "the true people of God" in order for his comments about first-century Judaism to have the significance we've suggested. And replacing Mormonism with the Qumran community doesn't avoid the problems with your Mormonism example that I addressed in an earlier post. Instead of interacting with what I said, you've just changed your example from Mormonism to the Qumran community.

    We have a lot of information about Josephus. We know what he said about the canon, and he didn't claim to be speaking for a group comparable to Mormonism or the Qumran community. And Steve Hays has given you examples of other Jewish sources who corroborate Josephus on this issue. We've repeatedly asked you for documentation that the Jews of the first century followed your Eastern Orthodox canon. We've also repeatedly asked what your canon is, since different Eastern Orthodox follow different canons. But you don't tell us what your canon is. And you don't offer any documentation that the Jews of the first century were following your canon. When we offer examples of Jewish rejection of the Apocrypha, you ignore those examples, dismiss them as "Christ-rejecting Jews", or suggest that they might have been some sort of equivalent of Mormonism (or the Qumran community). If the Apocryphal books you accept were accepted by most ancient Jews, then why are you so reluctant to even tell us what those Apocryphal books are, and why can't you cite the relevant Jewish sources agreeing with you, but instead have to keep trying to dismiss the Jewish sources that we cite?

    You're not giving the readers any reason to agree with your position. Instead, you're just trying to cast doubt on the alternative, such as by speculating that perhaps a Jewish source your opponents cite is only representative of a minority position. You don't examine the source in question to see how plausible it is to dismiss him as an equivalent of Mormonism. You just speculate that it might be so. As I've asked you repeatedly, and you still haven't given an answer, why should we think that an alleged majority support for your Apocryphal books would leave fewer traces in the historical record than an alleged minority position that's comparable to Mormonism? To use your Mormonism example, would we expect people researching twenty-first century America to just happen to keep coming across Mormon documents while missing the far larger number of documents from Baptists, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, etc.? Are we to believe that sources like Josephus were an equivalent of Mormonism, and they somehow managed to become the majority shortly afterward, yet the earliest Christians and other relevant sources didn't say anything about that shift?

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  22. i) So you have absolutely no actual evidence that the Pharisaic canon was aberrant.

    Scholars don't even agree if he was a Pharisee.

    ii) Do you think every Pharisee was damned? Was Nicodemus damned?

    Irrelevant.

    No one is assuming that.

    You're assuming something very similar which is that you can pick somebody from antiquity whom you don't know from Adam, and make them the authority for the canon.

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  23. Again, Josephus wouldn't have to be part of what you consider "the true people of God" in order for his comments about first-century Judaism to have the significance we've suggested.

    First century Judaism isn't monolithic!

    All you have is a witness to one sect of first century Judaism. The only thing we know about this sect is that it isn't the true people of God.

    Even IF Josephus was a "Pharisee", which is debated, and even IF you think that Pharisees were the true people of God (again, debated), then Josephus is a Pharisee with very poor historical judgement in not realising Jesus was the Christ, but somehow has amazing clarity in knowing the canon. (Oh, except he never tells us the canon).

    Oh, and scholars recognize that he is speaking in apologetic mode, and can't be taken entirely seriously.

    We know what he said about the canon

    Yeah, not much.

    he didn't claim to be speaking for a group comparable to Mormonism or the Qumran community.

    How is it not comparable? An heretical sect is an heretical sect.

    And Steve Hays has given you examples of other Jewish sources who corroborate Josephus on this issue.

    Someone corroborates Josephus' silence on the canon? Well color me impressed.

    We've repeatedly asked you for documentation that the Jews of the first century followed your Eastern Orthodox canon.

    I've given you lots and lots of evidences that their canon doesn't line up with yours. Since it is not my position that there was a settled canon at this time, it is hardly something I need to document that there was a particular canon. The fact we can both cite sources shows there wasn't.

    When we offer examples of Jewish rejection of the Apocrypha

    Have you actually cited anyone yet? Philo was found to quote the apocrypha. Josephus quotes it. Neither says that the canon excludes these books. In short you've got nothing.

    . As I've asked you repeatedly, and you still haven't given an answer, why should we think that an alleged majority support for your Apocryphal books would leave fewer traces in the historical record than an alleged minority position that's comparable to Mormonism?

    1) You haven't shown your position is a majority position either in reality or in the evidence.

    2) Transmission of 2000 year old information is not even nearly uniform. That's why they can dig up tons of previously unknown information at Qumran. This is especially so for Judaism which has suffered a number of continuity breaks since 20 centuries ago with limited means and desire to copy obscure sources.

    To use your Mormonism example, would we expect people researching twenty-first century America to just happen to keep coming across Mormon documents while missing the far larger number of documents from Baptists, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, etc.?

    If you ask Mormons in centuries from now, yep you'll probably turn up things that agree with Mormonism! So if you quote Jewish sources, you'll find things that agree with later Judaism, because that is the material that interests later Judaism.

    Are we to believe that sources like Josephus were an equivalent of Mormonism, and they somehow managed to become the majority shortly afterward, yet the earliest Christians and other relevant sources didn't say anything about that shift?

    Judaism was being turned upside down in this period, by Christianity and by the destruction of the temple. There is no need for more information than this.

    Now where are these sources discussing the disappearance of Qumran? Apparently this didn't register in the historical record.

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  24. Jimmy keeps repeating bad arguments that have already been refuted:

    "First century Judaism isn't monolithic!"

    How many times have we explained to you that we're arguing for a majority view of the canon, not a "monolithic" Judaism?

    You write:

    "All you have is a witness to one sect of first century Judaism. The only thing we know about this sect is that it isn't the true people of God."

    Josephus doesn't say that he's speaking for "one sect". And we know much more about Josephus than that he "isn't [part of] the true people of God". He was a Jew who lived during the apostolic era and had access to many sources relevant to the first-century canonical beliefs of the Jewish people. The fact that Josephus wasn't a Christian doesn't prevent him from having common human faculties, such as eyesight and memory. You don't have to be a Christian in order to be a credible historical source. That's why Christian historians frequently accept the testimony of Josephus and other non-Christians when reconstructing first-century Judaism or when discussing what historical sources said about Jesus, for example. The idea that Josephus can't be trusted to tell us about the canon of the Judaism he witnessed and that others he consulted had witnessed, because he wasn't a Christian, is absurd.

    You write:

    "Oh, and scholars recognize that he is speaking in apologetic mode, and can't be taken entirely seriously."

    It was common for ancient sources to speak hyperbolically or exaggerate in some contexts, just as some modern sources do so. That's not just true of Josephus, but also of some of the church fathers, for example. Somebody like Basil of Caesarea or Augustine will refer to a belief as if it was universally accepted, even though we know from other sources that it wasn't, but their testimony still has some value in telling us what they believed and in telling us that their belief was popular enough to lead them to think that it was universal or to speak as if it was. We don't dismiss a source like Basil or Augustine just because he sometimes was inaccurate in speaking hyperbolically or exaggerating, for example. Steve Hays and I have already acknowledged that some Jews disagreed with Josephus. We're not arguing that Josephus' canon was universally agreed upon. But it's significant that Josephus thought that his canon was widely accepted, and other sources suggest that Josephus represented the majority of Jews in his rejection of the Apocrypha.

    You write:

    "How is it not comparable? An heretical sect is an heretical sect."

    You're changing the subject. We were discussing whether Josephus' view represents the view of the majority of the Jews of that era. I was saying that you haven't demonstrated that Josephus and Mormonism are comparable in terms of their relative size. You haven't shown that Josephus was to first-century Judaism what Mormonism is to Christianity. I wasn't denying that Josephus and Mormonism are both wrong in their rejection of Christ.

    You write:

    "I've given you lots and lots of evidences that their canon doesn't line up with yours. Since it is not my position that there was a settled canon at this time, it is hardly something I need to document that there was a particular canon. The fact we can both cite sources shows there wasn't."

    Again, since you've failed to make a case for Eastern Orthodoxy's alleged authority to settle the canon for us, you haven't given us any alternative that's as good as or better than following whatever Jewish canon Jesus and the apostles seem to have accepted in the first century. I disagree with your arguments about whether Esther was commonly accepted as part of the Jewish canon, but even if we were to accept your claims about Esther, the exclusion of Esther would do nothing to add the Apocrypha to the canon. In other words, whether you want to argue that all 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament were part of the Jewish canon of the first century or argue that less than 39 were part of it, you've given us no reason to think that the Apocryphal books were part of the mainstream canon, and you've given us no reason to think that Eastern Orthodoxy had the authority to add those books later.

    And your claim that "The fact we can both cite sources shows there wasn't [a canon]" is ridiculous. If most Jews followed canon X, the fact that you can cite some sources disagreeing with that canon doesn't prove that there was no majority canon. As we've explained to you many times, we're not arguing that our canon was universally agreed upon. That's not the issue, and the fact that you keep trying to make it the issue, even after being corrected so many times, doesn't reflect well on you.

    You write:

    "Philo was found to quote the apocrypha. Josephus quotes it. Neither says that the canon excludes these books. In short you've got nothing."

    Again, the issue isn't whether Apocryphal books are quoted. A source can quote a book without considering it canonical.

    And your claim that Josephus doesn't exclude the Apocrypha is absurd. It's reminiscent of your ridiculous claim that Jerome and Rufinus excluded Esther, even though both men include Esther. Do you consult these sources before you make claims about them? Josephus refers to twenty-two books, which wouldn't include your Apocrypha, and he comments that the canon was closed prior to the time when the Apocryphal books were written (Against Apion, 1:8). He comments, in the passage I just cited, "It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time". Other Jewish sources also refer to such a cessation of prophecy and refer to the canon's closure prior to the time of the Apocryphal books.

    You write:

    "You haven't shown your position is a majority position either in reality or in the evidence."

    We've cited far more Jewish support for the exclusion of the Apocryphal books than you've cited for the inclusion of them. If Josephus and the other sources we've cited from Roger Beckwith's book and elsewhere don't represent a majority, then how did the Jewish people get to the point of accepting their present canon that excludes the Apocrypha? Are you suggesting that they previously accepted some or all of the Apocrypha, then stopped doing so? If so, why are we supposed to believe that? If not, then what's your point? Are you suggesting that the evidence doesn't favor either conclusion? If so, that's a ridiculous position to take. If so many Jewish sources refer to the canon as closing prior to the time of the Apocrypha, whereas not nearly as many include one or more of the Apocryphal books, and the large majority of Jews from antiquity until today have excluded the Apocrypha from their canon in practice, the simpler and preferable explanation of the data is that most Jews excluded the Apocrypha during the timeframe in question. It would be much less likely that some shift took place in which a majority in support of the Apocrypha changed into a majority in opposition to it.

    You write:

    "Transmission of 2000 year old information is not even nearly uniform. That's why they can dig up tons of previously unknown information at Qumran. This is especially so for Judaism which has suffered a number of continuity breaks since 20 centuries ago with limited means and desire to copy obscure sources."

    Speculating that the historical record might be distorted doesn't prove that it is. If the record is distorted, we still have to rely on it when researching historical issues like the ones we're discussing. You want to cast doubt on the credibility of the historical record, since the record doesn't support your position on the issue under discussion. But anybody with a losing position in a historical argument could take the approach you're taking. A Gnostic, Mormon, or Roman Catholic could claim that any evidence you cite for Eastern Orthodoxy or against his belief system comes from a distorted historical record. Would you accept that sort of argumentation if it was turned against Eastern Orthodoxy?

    You write:

    "If you ask Mormons in centuries from now, yep you'll probably turn up things that agree with Mormonism! So if you quote Jewish sources, you'll find things that agree with later Judaism, because that is the material that interests later Judaism."

    First of all, Jews weren't the only people who preserved Jewish documents.

    Second, Jewish sources aren't the only ones who commented on issues related to Judaism. Many patristic sources, for example, confirm that the Jews of their day excluded the Apocrypha from their canon.

    Third, even if we only had Jewish documents that the Jewish people had selectively preserved in some distorting manner, the fact would remain that those would be the documents we have access to. Speculating that there might have been other documents that would support your position, but that the Jewish people didn't preserve those other documents, doesn't give us any reason to think that such documents actually existed. If they did exist, then why didn't the more honest Jews or non-Jewish sources refer to those documents? Or were all Jews dishonest? Were all non-Jews who knew of such documents too apathetic or incompetent to preserve references to those documents?

    Fourth, I want to note, once again, that your comparison to Mormonism assumes what needs to be proven. You keep describing scenarios in which a source like Josephus might have been comparable to Mormonism, yet you never give us evidence leading to the conclusion that such sources were comparable to Mormonism. You just speculate that they might have been.

    You write:

    "Judaism was being turned upside down in this period, by Christianity and by the destruction of the temple. There is no need for more information than this."

    If we have so little information about ancient Judaism, then how do you know that ancient Judaism "was being turned upside down in this period, by Christianity and by the destruction of the temple"? How can you trust the ancient sources who provided you with such information if the historical record is as unreliable as you've been suggesting?

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