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Leohan



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sojobo:

I wasn't being condescending. With "you need to understand" I meant "Have this in mind for this context."


Jesus didn't write the Gospels. What he's portrayed as is a God, obviously. The commonfolk, as well as the Romans, saw him as the king and representant of Jews. Jesus himself? ...Well, remember this:

Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses, and of Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they were offended at Him.

Matthew 13:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary and his brethren James and Joseph, and Simon and Judas?

Jesus considered the apostles his brethren. Hell, the inclusion of the word sister right there opens the inclusion to all men. And it can't be literal because it screws up the virginity of Mary.

Jesus knew that he was the son of God, sure, but only because all men were sons and daughters of God. He's another mortal. One that knows the path and works to help the sinners, but a mortal in the end. His situation is not much different to Gandhi's, really. He was idolized despite of his own humility.


About Jesus healing, teaching and not much else thus being flat... Well, there's more steps, but let's apply that same logic to one of the most complex characters in the history of literature: Don Quixote.

Don Quixote follows this pattern: Sees something, confounds it for something else, hilarity ensues.*

So what differentiates him from Mr. Magoo? Pattern is fundamentally the same, after all. The approach, however is far more important than the action. Jesus preaches and so does the priest from my local church. Difference is what he preached, how he preached it and, most importantly, why.


About Peter being the only one that has development, have you forgotten about Judas? As far as I'm concerned he's one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. I dunno what was the guide for his actions but they are plain mystifying. "Is disciple of Jesus. Betrays Jesus for money. Gets forgiven. Returns the money. Commits suicide." Hell, my big problem with the Bible is that I need to know the whys, but without a doubt he passed through a lot of development.

...Well, my biggest problem is actually the couple of huge plot holes called omnipotence and omniscience. But I digress.


The Bible is a huge story of God's people in relationship to Him. Saying the opposite is like saying that Arabian Nights is not a story because it has more stories inside itself. Both books contain tales within tales, and without them the main feature would be impossible to tell.


I'll concede, though, that you are right. There are four different perspectives of the life of Jesus. Doing a mashup would be ridiculous... Yet only choosing one doesn't feel so correct, either. I could choose one, but it can't be representative of what Jesus truly is. I'll propose a tie for insufficient information, but if you want to continue choose a Gospel I guess.


* Hilarity is 80% of the time getting wounded in some way, 35% of the time people laughing because they were trolling him. Over 100% because of compatibility.
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Sojobo



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leohan wrote:
I wasn't being condescending. With "you need to understand" I meant "Have this in mind for this context."

I didn't think you were being intentionally condescending. I'm saying the phrase is condescending. People will think you are condescending every time you use it.

Part 1: Theology

Leohan wrote:
Jesus didn't write the Gospels. What he's portrayed as is a God, obviously.

Other than some of the stranger, mystic parts of John, it is not at all obvious that Jesus is God. There was some divinity about him - he could heal and work other miracles, he spoke a few prophecies and he was called "Son of God", but plenty of others in the old testament did the same things, and plenty were called by the same title - the classical meaning of the phrase means more "one like unto God" or maybe "one with a special relationship with God".

That's not quite the whole story, of course - Jesus also did a few things that were completely new, but nothing that being the long prophesied Messiah isn't unique enough to account for. To guess that he is of the substance of God is based on very little (again, outside of John).

Leohan wrote:
The commonfolk, as well as the Romans, saw him as the king and representant of Jews.

The commonfolk saw him as all sorts of things. At the very start of his story (Mark 1:27) they were amazed that unclean spirits obeyed him. Clearly they view him as something much more than a king already. Some religious leaders actually tried to use this as evidence against him later (Mark 3:22), because no priest, prophet or king had ever done it before, so they argued he must have had a pact with demons.

Later in the same first chapter, Jesus heals a leper (Mark 1:40-42), but more than that, the leper went into the conversation stating that Jesus could make him clean. This is a considerable step higher than a normal healing, because lepers had to go through an extremely tedious process to be verified clean by a priest even after they were healed. To directly make the leper clean is to bend a scriptural commandment. Clearly this man saw Jesus as more than a mere king, as well.

There's also the Syrophoenician woman with the sick daughter (Mark 7:2Cool who directly calls him "LORD", which was a bit risky, as it could have been denounced as blasphemy, but instead it was rewarded. Anyway, this part of the response is getting a bit long, but I thought quote-for-quote was probably the best way to convince that the commonfolk did not have a specific understanding of who Jesus was.

Leohan wrote:
Jesus considered the apostles his brethren. Hell, the inclusion of the word sister right there opens the inclusion to all men. And it can't be literal because it screws up the virginity of Mary.

Small thing, and I don't mean for it to become a significant tangent, but the Bible doesn't claim that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus was born. She was married to Joseph, and it is directly stated that Jesus had siblings; there is every reason to believe she didn't remain a virgin. The Catholic insistence otherwise is extra-Biblical.

Leohan wrote:
Jesus knew that he was the son of God, sure, but only because all men were sons and daughters of God. He's another mortal. One that knows the path and works to help the sinners, but a mortal in the end. His situation is not much different to Gandhi's, really. He was idolized despite of his own humility.

Jesus took his core disciples up a mountain (Mark 9:2-7), where he started glowing, just like Moses did when talking with God. He then proceded to have a chat with Moses and Elijah, the two most significant prophets in Israel's history. Then a cloud appeared, and God's voice thundered out that Jesus was His Son. Jesus did not think he was "just another mortal".

He also took someone's donkey, saying "The LORD needs it" for his triumphant royal procession into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10), and welcomed his kingly annointing with expensive perfume (Mark 14:3-9), despite his followers considering it a wasteful luxury. Jesus was well aware that he was the promised Messiah, a unique religious figure, and deliberately behaved as such. Your understanding of his self-awareness is incomplete.
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Sojobo



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part 2: Literature

Leohan wrote:
About Jesus healing, teaching and not much else thus being flat... Well, there's more steps, but let's apply that same logic to one of the most complex characters in the history of literature: Don Quixote.

Let's not, because you have completely ignored the other half of what I said, which is that there is very little introspection in the Gospel of Mark, and that the Jesus character doesn't develop at all.

Leohan wrote:
About Peter being the only one that has development, have you forgotten about Judas?

Judas does not develop at all in the book of Mark. So no, I didn't forget about him, he's included in "none of the characters except Peter develop at all" in the book of Mark.

Did you accidentally overlook that I specified that I was talking about Mark?

Leohan wrote:
The Bible is a huge story of God's people in relationship to Him. Saying the opposite is like saying that Arabian Nights is not a story because it has more stories inside itself. Both books contain tales within tales, and without them the main feature would be impossible to tell.

The Bible is not the coherent whole you claim it is. Each piece was written for a different purpose, and none of them were written to be part of a new Scripture, because Scripture, to the authors, referred to the books in the Septuagint. The epistles, specifically, were literally just letters of advice and prayer, mostly from Paul to churches he'd founded while he wandered around preaching.

While some books were circulated earlier, it actually took centuries from when the pieces were written for the list we know and love to be generally considered a finalized canon. You cannot analyze the whole body of work as though it is one piece.

Leohan wrote:
I'll concede, though, that you are right. There are four different perspectives of the life of Jesus. Doing a mashup would be ridiculous... Yet only choosing one doesn't feel so correct, either. I could choose one, but it can't be representative of what Jesus truly is. I'll propose a tie for insufficient information, but if you want to continue choose a Gospel I guess.

I'm not saying you should only choose one Gospel. I'm saying that if you are talking about a literary concept like complexity vs. flatness of character, you have to apply it to one Gospel at a time.

Although, speaking of there being four perspectives, I seem to recall that the reason there are four, and exactly four, Gospels is because one of the early Church Fathers thought it just plain "made sense" just like there were four corners of the earth and four winds and four creatures bearing God's Throne in Ezekiel's vision.
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Leohan



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup. I didn't quite realize that you were specifically talking of Mark. My bad.

On the phylosophycal and theological part of the discussion... You win. I'll admit at this point that you outargued me and there isn't enough consistency to make the claims that I did before. Kudos. You know your Christianity better than me.

If we go for the literary POV, though, I still don't quite agree on the Bible not being a huge story composed of smaller, self contained stories. Going back to my Arabian Nights comparison, we have lots of different stories written by different authors and compiled by someone that needed such stories to complete the bigger tale about storytelling. In exactly the same way, the "writers" of the Bible made use of a collection of tales in order to properly explain now God related to His people.

Did this collection of tales sacrifice plot consistency? Hell yeah. But it was, at the same time, the only way to tell the tale. It may not be a novel, but it's a story and a very complex one at it.


Disclaimer: I just realized the pun in "screws up the virginity of Mary. That was all forms of not intended.
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Sojobo



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leohan wrote:
If we go for the literary POV, though, I still don't quite agree on the Bible not being a huge story composed of smaller, self contained stories. Going back to my Arabian Nights comparison, we have lots of different stories written by different authors and compiled by someone that needed such stories to complete the bigger tale about storytelling. In exactly the same way, the "writers" of the Bible made use of a collection of tales in order to properly explain now God related to His people.

I think there can be merit to considering compilation an art form, in much the same way as a collage or a mixtape. If someone were to put together a canon today, culled from tens of thousands of theological works, I would have no trouble viewing it as a whole piece. I would still call inconsistencies inconsistencies rather than complexity, but I would accept your classification.

But. The "authors" of the Bible weren't choosing from among thousands of works. Everything they put into the new canon had to have a certain degree of apostolic authority (written by a disciple or 1st or 2nd generation follower of a disciple) and had to conform to the general theology they'd hammered out over the centuries since Christ was around (no Gnostic entries, thank you). They were probably choosing from no more than 50 pieces, and I can't see that as enough choice to consider the canon a work in its own right.

But. That may be irrelevant to your point about Arabian Nights, because while the framework story of the Arabian Nights is its own work, the collection of stories inside it are just a collection in the same way as the books of the Bible. So, long story short, I think your comparison is fine, so long as you don't demand I consider the Bible to be one story.

Comparison made, I think my position is that if different sub-stories in the Arabian Nights, written by different authors, use the same character in different ways, I would consider them to be using two different characters. Four accounts of differently behaving Jesus is not the same thing as a gradual development over seven tales from Sindbad the rookie seaman delighting in the fantastic world he encounters into Sindbad the jaded overseer of a vast financial empire, going on one last voyage because luxury and concubines just don't do it for him anymore.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sojobo wrote:

But. The "authors" of the Bible weren't choosing from among thousands of works. Everything they put into the new canon had to have a certain degree of apostolic authority (written by a disciple or 1st or 2nd generation follower of a disciple) and had to conform to the general theology they'd hammered out over the centuries since Christ was around (no Gnostic entries, thank you). They were probably choosing from no more than 50 pieces, and I can't see that as enough choice to consider the canon a work in its own right.


the bolded part, to me, would cause me to challenge your conclusion. especially since there have been suggestions that there were gospels of mary magdalen and judas which were specifically excluded, and which might have presented very different viewpoints (particularly about the role of women in the church, and the questions about judas' motives). so whoever put the new testament together has had an impact on what christianity means to everyone who reads the bible now (especially since we no longer have access to what was dropped). it may have made significant changes to the original message, which i think qualifies the whole to be considered a work in its own right.
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Sojobo



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mouse wrote:
So whoever put the new testament together has had an impact on what christianity means to everyone who reads the bible now (especially since we no longer have access to what was dropped).

You're describing this as though there was an individual compiler who chose the books to use with a particular intent in mind. It was much more organic than that.

It would have started with dozens of small churches, some of which had gotten a letter from Peter or John or Paul, or might have a list of sayings of Jesus or a Gospel. As the churches interacted with one another and debated concepts, they would have shared copies of their important literature, and each church's library would have grown.

As the churches grew together, the books that were common to most of the individual libraries would begin to be considered official, and this would have overlapped with mainstream theology moving away from Gnosticism, meaning Gnostic works would be included less and less, and moving toward venerating Paul as primary theologian, meaning his Epistles would be included more and more.

Most churches would have agreed on most of the books (at least 20 of the 27) by the mid 3rd century, but they weren't properly called the canon until 367 by Athanasius. But even after that point, it may have kept evolving if it weren't for the Vulgate (Latin translation), which rather fixed the canon in people's minds. Especially Roman people's minds, who sort of mattered a bit more than other people back in the day.

It is as though we today put together a compilation of Classical music. There would be plenty of pieces created in the correct era, in the Classical style, which we wouldn't include, because they just weren't popular enough to survive. We wouldn't be excluding them as a conscious decision to make a statement about Classical music. Our list would be simply a catalog, not a creative work.

TLDR: The canon was a reflection of the theology of the day, not a conscious attempt to direct it.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

that's not the impression i got, from reading about the council of nicea and the selection of which accounts were, well, gospel. but i am hardly an expert, so i will defer to you.

i still think, though, if you specifically exclude certain accounts while including others, you are if not directing theology, at least affirming one version as "correct" and all potential alternate versions as "incorrect". which, while perhaps not consciously, does end up directing it. (except if you aren't planning to have your version of theology be the official one, why would you bother to codify it? what is the point of being official, if it doesn't mean you determine how things will be thought about in the future?)

anyway, it's late, and i need to go.
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Sojobo



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mouse wrote:
that's not the impression i got, from reading about the council of nicea and the selection of which accounts were, well, gospel. but i am hardly an expert, so i will defer to you.

I am also not an expert. I read a great deal about early Christianity, including writings by the early bishops, while at university, but that's a decade ago, now, and it's altogether possible I misremember things. If Vox is hanging about, I expect he'll find things to correct.

My memories about the Council of Nicea was that it was largely a debate about whether Jesus was of the same divine essence as the Father or "merely" the divine first Creation of the Father, through which everything else was made. Riveting stuff. After the debate, they would have tried to spread the now orthodox theology, via the Creed and statements of faith, but I don't think establishing the canon was part of it.

mouse wrote:
(except if you aren't planning to have your version of theology be the official one, why would you bother to codify it? what is the point of being official, if it doesn't mean you determine how things will be thought about in the future?)

I think that the theology and the canon are slightly different things. I think everything you are saying is correct with regard to spreading orthodox theology via arguments and creeds and statements of faith, and it's perfectly fair to call all of that intentional. I don't think that there was either enough control over or intention behind the formation of the canon to consider it in the same way.
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Leohan



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't be confounded. The complexity I claim Jesus to have has little to do with the inconsistencies. And while I concede you the victory over that part of the conversation (you earned it) I'd still defend Jesus as a complex character elsewhere... But really here the conversation would become very philosophical and I guess we are better off only considering what we can read in the Bible.


Since Christianity existed... Scratch that, since Judaism existed there has been a strict selection of which scriptures would be best to add. There were religious interests that were taken care of by compilers of the text. We can't say that they didn't have room for choice. After all, a thousand manuscripts don't reach the shores of the Dead Sea by their own. Some entity had seen them and considered them unfit for Judaism.

In that same vein, there's LOTS of New Testament apocrypha, most of which did not have fates as nice as the Dead Sea Scrolls and were outright burnt. Yeah, there were several schools of Christianity before the compilation of the Bible, but while the selection adapted to the current needs of the religion, it doesn't mean that there wasn't a lot to pick from and I think that the hard work of the researchers from the early years of Christendom should be appreciated.


You say that the lack of gradual development doesn't allow it to be considered a sole story... Imagine this scenario right here, then. I'm writing a novel. Let's say a mystery novel with 5 characters.

All of the first 5 chapters are a description of the same night as perceived by all of the characters. One of them can approach the situation with fear, another might feel it's an adventure, another probably found some sort of clue, maybe someone has killed in the past but wants to keep that to herself. Each one of them has a different approach and a different perspective of the same events.

Is it unconventional? ...Yeah. Pretty much yeah. But perhaps I feel that telling all of those perspectives is the best way to portrait the scenario as a whole and let the reader take his own conclusions. Are those five chapters different stories about the same event or parts of the same, bigger story?

The answer is both.

If we have four Gospels in the Bible, it's because there were priests that felt that it took more than the perspective of a single apostle in order to understand who Jesus was. Each gospel tells tales of Jesus, but all of them together tell the tale of Jesus as those priests wanted you to see it. That's a storytelling method.



I don't demand you to see the Bible as a sole story. I'm just telling you why I do think it is.
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Vox Raucus



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leohan wrote:
Look. The cool trait Jesus has is exactly that he is, in nature, complex. He may be a part of God's trinity, but he, in turn, has a trinity of his own. Look no further than the Magi's gift for a basic understanding of what are the distinct traits of Jesus:

"Gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God"

Fundamentally, Jesus is a king, a God and a man. All through the New Testament, we see the struggle between those three aspects.

You are confusing the Three Offices of Christ (prophet, priest and king) and the Hypostatic Union (Christ as simultaneously human and divine).

I would agree with Sojobo that as a literary character, Jesus is exceptionally flat. The depth that you are claiming exists is a theological depth, created by attributing complexities to the character that don't arise from the individual stories. The person of Jesus is certainly theologically complex (member of the Trinity, eternally co-existing and eternally begotten of the Father, etc) but those are theological aspects that largely don't arise out of the gospel texts. They are attributed from other sources. Sojobo is right in insisting that each gospel stand on its own as a literary text.

Leohan wrote:
You say that the lack of gradual development doesn't allow it to be considered a sole story... Imagine this scenario right here, then. I'm writing a novel. Let's say a mystery novel with 5 characters.

All of the first 5 chapters are a description of the same night as perceived by all of the characters. One of them can approach the situation with fear, another might feel it's an adventure, another probably found some sort of clue, maybe someone has killed in the past but wants to keep that to herself. Each one of them has a different approach and a different perspective of the same events.

The problem with your example is that the individuals chapters were intended as a part of the same work. That is not true of the gospels - they were written as stand alone works, and the authors never intended or imagined that they would be collated into a single work. While there may be theological reason for including four gospels instead of just one of them, you cannot turn around and say that they were intended to be part of the same story after the fact.
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Vox Raucus



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sojobo wrote:
mouse wrote:
(except if you aren't planning to have your version of theology be the official one, why would you bother to codify it? what is the point of being official, if it doesn't mean you determine how things will be thought about in the future?)

I think that the theology and the canon are slightly different things. I think everything you are saying is correct with regard to spreading orthodox theology via arguments and creeds and statements of faith, and it's perfectly fair to call all of that intentional. I don't think that there was either enough control over or intention behind the formation of the canon to consider it in the same way.

Sojobo is right that the establishment of a canon of scripture was not directive in the same manner that the Creeds were intended to be. The Councils were absolutely intended to direct theology and establish orthodox doctrine from heresy. The establishment of the canon of scripture is only related to that incidentally, as it had a lesser impact on heresy than the creeds did (heretics were generally happy to work within the existing canon - the exception to this gnosticism which was dependent on some of the excluded texts). It's worth noting that there were texts excluded from the canon that continued to be used within the church extensively - the letters of Clement, the Shepard of Hermas and the Didache as some examples. The fact that they were not included in the canon was not indicative of their general usefulness and trustworthiness. It was simply a division between those texts which would be considered authoritative for the Christian faith, and all the other texts. And, as Sojobo notes, the process to majority consensus was exceedingly organic and occurred over time, and by the time it was established "officially" was already accepted by the majority of churches.

I'll disagree with Sojobo on whether the canon would have continued to grow - given the rather strict guidelines that the churches imposed on whether something would be considered authoritative (apostolic proximity in particular) I doubt that books could have continued to be added without jeopardizing some of the books that were originally included, and revisiting those books that were nearly included, but in the end were not. Again, a text that was excluded from the canon did not necessarily diminish in usefulness - many churches used supplemental writings as interpretive lenses through which they understood and applied the teachings of the canon of scripture. This interpretive tradition actually predated the formation of the New Testament canon, as the early church needed to establish a method of interpreting the Septuagint in a manner that included the truths that the churches believed about Jesus. The formation of the canon didn't erase the need for an interpretive tradition - it expanded it.

Sojobo is bang on with everything else he posted, as usual.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vox Raucus wrote:
I would agree with Sojobo that as a literary character, Jesus is exceptionally flat.

I think that's going slightly too far. There are a few moments of complexity for Jesus. He constantly chooses to heal, knowing it makes him into a celebrity of the wrong sort - he meant to be renowned for teaching, not healing. There's conflict in that, and lots of "personal touch" moments.

There are also a few lines fueling Leohan's human/divine conflict in Gethsemane. "Take this cup from me" has loads of character to it. I think Jesus is less flat than I would expect in accounts that are really not meant to be about his character, but instead about his nature, teaching and theological role in history.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All I can say is it was a good read so far on all accounts, especially Sojobo's deep knowledge. I never took a Bible as Lit course or anything like that, so I never really got to study the thing like that. I love researching and studying, heck even watching the History channel specials (as they grow more sensationalist and less thought provoking year after year...sadly), but this has been an interesting side to the debate I rarely get to see, and debated so well. Really, everyone has good points, even if I agree with some more than others.

It struck me as a funny irony as the debate of the Bible as a whole book vs individual stories parallels the nature presented on Jesus of individual parts of a whole. Sorry, just a humorous tidbit that stuck out to me for some reason.

Continuing to study the Bible's history as well as the stories that were or were not included is of vast interest to me, as based on what things have been pieced together from history, we can at the very least see a complex history of the world as well as the individual views of the authors who wrote each section as they showed the mentality of the day and age.
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Vox Raucus



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sojobo wrote:
Vox Raucus wrote:
I would agree with Sojobo that as a literary character, Jesus is exceptionally flat.

I think that's going slightly too far.

Fair enough. I'll just say that as a literary character, he's less round than I would really like. But, again, as a theological puzzle he's fascinating.
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