bookmark_borderThe Carrier-Barnes Exchange on Fine-Tuning

Reader GGDFan77 asked me for my thoughts on the exchange between Dr. Richard Carrier, who I respect and consider a friend, and Dr. Luke Barnes regarding fine-tuning arguments. I initially responded in a series of comments in the combox for my post about Hugh Ross’s estimates for the probability of life-permitting prebiotic conditions. But those turned out to be so lengthy that I think the topic deserves its own dedicated post.
Here’s some brief context for readers not familiar with the exchanges between Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. Luke Barnes:
* Dr. Carrier wrote an essay, “Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed,” in The End of Christianity (ed. John Loftus, Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 2011), pp. 279-304.
* Dr. Barnes wrote a four part series on his blog critiquing that essay by Carrier.
* Dr. Carrier and Dr. Barnes had an extensive back-and-forth exchange in the combox on Carrier’s blog.
Let me preface my comments by saying that I have a lot of empathy for any writer, including Dr. Carrier, who is trying to use the formal apparatus of Bayes’ theorem in a way that is accessible to a beginning-to-intermediate audience, which I take to be the target audience of The End of Christianity. If you go for too much precision and formalism, you risk losing your audience. If you focus too much on accessibility, you risk misunderstandings, oversimplifications, and outright errors. Finding the right balance isn’t easy.

Part 1

With all due respect to Dr. Carrier, I find part 1 of Dr. Barnes’ critique to be very persuasive and, in fact, to be a prima facie devastating critique. (I quickly skimmed the combox on Dr. Carrier’s site to see if they debated anything relevant to part 1, but I didn’t find anything, so it appears that the points in part 1 of Dr. Barnes’ series have gone unchallenged by Dr. Carrier.)
In particular, I agree with the following points by Dr. Barnes.

  • “Bayes’ theorem, as the name suggests, is a theorem, not an argument, and certainly not a definition.”
  • “Also, Carrier seems to be saying that P(h|b), P(~h|b), P(e|h.b), and P(e|~h.b) are the premises from which one formally proves Bayes’ theorem. This fails to understand the difference between the derivation of a theorem and the terms in an equation.”
  • “Crucial to this approach is the idea of a reference class – exactly what things should we group together as A-like? This is the Achilles heel of finite frequentism.”
  • “It gets even worse if our reference class is too narrow.”
  • “This is related to the ‘problem of the single case’. The restriction to known, actual events creates an obvious problem for the study of unique events.”
  • “Carrier completely abandons finite frequentism when he comes to discuss the multiverse.”
  • “Whatever interpretation of probability that Carrier is applying to the multiverse, it isn’t the same one that he applies to fine-tuning.”
  • “If we are using Bayes’ theorem, the likelihood of each hypothesis is extremely relevant.”

In addition, I would add the following comment.

  • In his essay, Carrier writes: “Probability measures frequency (whether of things happening or of things being true).” Not exactly. The frequentist interpretation of probability measures relative frequency, but the frequentist interpretation of probability isn’t the only interpretation of probability. There are “many other games in town” besides that one; there is also the epistemic interpretation of probability (aka “subjective” aka “personal” aka “Bayesian”), which measures degree of belief. Thus, to say that probability just is relative frequency is to beg the question against all the rival interpretations of probability. (And, for the record, I’m actually a pluralist when it comes to probability; following Gillies, I think different interpretations can be used in different situations.)

Part 2

Here are my thoughts on Part 2 of Dr. Barnes’ reply.

This simulation tells us nothing about how actual cars are produced.

I strongly agree.

The fact that we can imagine every possible arrangement of metal and plastic does not mean that every actual car is constructed merely at random.

I agree.

Note a few leaps that Carrier makes. He leaps from bits in a computer to actual universes that contain conscious observers. He leaps from simulating every possible universe to producing universes “merely at random”.

I agree.

 This is a textbook example of affirming the consequent, a “training wheels” level logical fallacy.”

I think this is an uncharitable interpretation of Carrier’s statements by Barnes.

False. Obviously False.

I disagree with Barnes. Here is the passage by Carrier which Barnes is referring to.

It simply follows that if we exist and the universe is entirely a product of random chance (and not NID), then the probability that we would observe the kind of universe we do is 100 percent expected.

Let’s abbreviate the statement “we exist” as B (for our background knowledge); the statement “the universe is entirely a product of random chance (and not NID)” as C (for chance); and the statement “we observe the kind of universe we do” as E (for evidence). Then we can abbreviate the paragraph just quoted as:

Pr-L(E | B & C) = 1, where Pr-L represents a logical probability.

It seems to me that Carrier is correct. Contrary to what Barnes writes, however, it doesn’t follow that we can’t conclude it is highly probable someone was cheating in a game of poker. It just means that the correct way to show that cheating took place is not to use an argument analogous to the argument Carrier is refuting.
Aside: Reading the exchange between Carrier and Barnes reminds me of one of my wishes for people who use Bayes’ Theorem in this way: I really wish people would explicitly state the propositions they are including in their background knowledge. It avoids misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Carrier says that “if the evidence looks exactly the same on either hypothesis, there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis”. Nope. Repeat after me: the probability of what is observed varies as a function of the hypothesis. That’s the whole point of Bayes theorem.”

I think Barnes is being uncharitable to Carrier. When Carrier writes, “the evidence looks the same,” I interpret him to mean “when the evidence is equally likely on either hypothesis.”

All that follows from the anthropic principle…

I need to study this section in detail, but I think agree with Barnes.
I would add the following. In his essay, Carrier writes this:

Would any of those conscious observers be right in concluding that their universe was intelligently designed to produce them? No. Not even one of them would be.

It would be most helpful if Carrier would explicitly defend this statement: “No. Not even one of them would be.” Unless I’ve misunderstood his argument, I think this is false. If we include in our background knowledge the fact that Carrier’s hypothetical conscious observers exist in a universe we know is the result of a random simulation, then we already know their universe is the result of a random simulation. Facts about the relative frequency aren’t even needed: we know the universe is the result of a random simulation.
If, however, we exclude that from our background knowledge, so that we are in the same epistemic situation as the hypothetical observers, then things are not so easy. Again, it would be helpful if Carrier could spell out his reasoning here.

Part 3

Let’s move onto Part 3 of Barnes’s reply.

“Refuted by scientists again and again”. What, in the peer-reviewed scientific literature? I’ve published a review of the scientific literature, 200+ papers, and I can only think of a handful that oppose this conclusion, and piles and piles that support it.

I think Dr. Carrier absolutely has to respond to this point by Dr. Barnes or publicly issue a retraction.

With regards to the claim that “the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range”, the weight of the peer-reviewed scientific literature is overwhelmingly with Craig. (If you disagree, start citing papers).

This strikes me as a devastating reply. Like the last point, I think Dr. Carrier absolutely has to respond or else issue a retraction.

He can only get his “narrow range” by varying one single constant”. Wrong. The very thing that got this field started was physicists noting coincidences between a number of constants and the requirements of life. Only a handful of the 200+ scientific papers in this field vary only one variable. Read this.

Ouch. Same as the last two points.

“1 in 8 and 1 in 4: see Victor Stenger”. If Carrier is referring to Stenger’s program MonkeyGod, then he’s kidding himself.

I haven’t studied MonkeyGod enough to have an opinion, so I have no comment on this one.

In all the possible universes we have explored, we have found that a tiny fraction would permit the existence of intelligent life. There are other possible universes,that we haven’t explored. This is only relevant if we have some reason to believe that the trend we have observed until now will be miraculously reversed just beyond the horizon of what we have explored.

If I understand Dr. Barnes’ point correctly here, then I think he is making a simple appeal to induction by enumeration and I think his argument is logically correct.

In fact, by beginning in our universe, known to be life-permitting, we have biased our search in favour of finding life-permitting universes.

I find this point very interesting. I hadn’t even thought of it that way, but I think he’s right.

Nope. For a given possible universe, we specify the physics. So we know that there are no other constants and variables. A universe with other constants would be a different universe.

think I agree with this.

How does a historian come to think that he can crown a theory “the most popular going theory in cosmological physics today” without giving a reference? He has no authority on cosmology – no training, to expertise, no publications, and a growing pile of physics blunders.

Ouch.

In any case, the claim is wrong…

I don’t have the physics expertise to evaluate this paragraph.

By what criteria is that the simplest entity imaginable? If the point is lawless, why does it evolve into something else? How does it evolve? What evolves? What defines the state space? If it is a singular point, how are there now many spacetime points? Why are they arranged in a smooth manifold? Why spacetime? What if space and time aren’t fundamental? It’s not clear that a lawless physical state makes any sense. Even if it does, if it’s lawless, why do we observe a law-like universe?

Good questions.

Fine-tuning doesn’t claim that this universe has the maximum amount of life per unit volume (or baryon, or whatever). So this argument is irrelevant.

Dr. Barnes is, of course, correct that fine-tuning doesn’t logically entail that this universe has the maximum amount of life per unit volume, in the sense that “fine-tuning” is logically compatible with “the universe NOT having the maximum amount of life per unit volume.” But I disagree with Dr. Barnes that the hostility of life is irrelevant. In fact, as I’ve argued before, focusing only on facts about “fine-tuning” while ignoring facts about “course-tuning” (i.e., the hostility of the universe to life) commits the logical fallacy of understated evidence.

Part 4

Let’s move onto part 4 of Dr. Barnes’ reply. Barnes writes:

What is Carrier’s main argument in response to fine-tuning, in his article “Neither Life nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed”? He kept accusing me of misrepresenting him, but never clarified his argument.

I agree.

Bayes’ theorem follows from Cox’s theorem, which assumes only some reasonable desiderata of reasoning.

I haven’t studied Cox’s theorem, so I can’t comment on that directly. Instead, I want to point out that Bayes’s theorem also follows from the Kolmogorov axioms of the probability calculus plus the definition of conditional probability.

A given proposition K_i can play the role of “background” or “evidence”, depending on the term.

I agree.

Talking about “the prior” or “the likelihood” in such a context is ambiguous. Better to use notation.

I strongly agree.

Look closely at p(o | ~NID.b’). This is the probability that a universe with intelligent observers exists, given that there is no intelligent cause of their universe, and given background information b’ that does not imply o. This is exactly the probability that Carrier is afraid of, the one that could equal an “ungodly percentage” (pg. 293). It is the probability that “the universe we observe would exist by chance” (pg. 293). Carrier argues that this term is irrelevant because ignores o. It does, but rightly so. The posterior does not ignore o. Look at Bayes’ theorem: p(H|EB) = p(E|HB) p(H|B) /p(E|B).  Both E and B are known, and yet the likelihood p(E|HB) just ignores the fact that we know E! Rightly so! This is the whole point of Bayes’ theorem.

1. Here I think Dr. Barnes is being just a tad snarky (“This is exactly the probability that Carrier is afraid of”).
2. This may be a nitpick, but I wouldn’t word things the way Dr. Barnes does, when he writes that p(o | ~NID.b’) is “the probability that ‘the universe we observe would exist by chance.'” Instead, I would define that probability in plain English as “the probability that intelligent observers exist conditional upon our background knowledge conjoined with the hypothesis that a non-terrestrial intelligent designer did NOT design the universe.” The key difference here is that the latter phrasing keeps the distinction between “the universe we observe” and “intelligent observers exist.”
3. I strongly agree with this: “Carrier argues that this term is irrelevant because ignores o. It does, but rightly so. The posterior does not ignore o. Look at Bayes’ theorem: p(H|EB) = p(E|HB) p(H|B) /p(E|B).  Both E and B are known, and yet the likelihood p(E|HB) just ignores the fact that we know E! Rightly so! ”
4. Again, this may be another nitpick but I agree and disagree with this statement: “This is the whole point of Bayes’ theorem.” Not exactly; here I think Dr. Barnes is unwittingly presupposing the epistemic interpretation of Bayes’s theorem. Based on that interpretation, he’s correct. On rival interpretations–such as the frequency interpretation–we wouldn’t talk about knowledge at all, but the relative frequency among some reference class.

Here’s the problem with the argument above. What (3) shows is that, since f follows from o, I need not condition the posterior on f. There is a redundancy in our description of what we know. But that does not mean that the posterior p(NID|f.b) is independent of the “ungodly percentage” p(o | ~NID.b’). The surprising fact on ~NID, that a life-permitting universe universe exists at all, cannot hide in the background. We can draw it out. It’s right there in equation (7).

I agree. Dr. Barnes is making a very similar point to the one I make below, where I talk about pushing the problem back a step.

There a couple of different versions of NID floating around Carrier’s essay….

I agree with pretty much this entire section of Dr. Barnes’s essay.

Question 5: What mathematician should I read to learn about reference classes and why probabilities measure frequencies? Is Carrier a frequentist or a Bayesian?

Actually, this is a question not best suited for a mathematician, but a philosopher. In my opinion, the “go-to” reference books for this question are (1) Choice & Chance by Brian Skyrms and (2) Philosophical Interpretations of Probability by Gillies.

Question 9: Moving on to Carrier’s scientific claims, there’s some explaining to do.

I think Dr. Carrier must directly answer the questions in the bulleted list that follows.

This time could have been spent showing that I am wrong. More time is spent attacking me than defending, or even explaining, his case. Take the comment on January 7, 2014 at 8:43 am. Of 14 sentences: 1 clarification of a previous comment, 2 repetitions of points from his article that I agreed with, 2 claims contrary to mine (hurray! interaction!), and 9 that merely accuse of error and incompetence.

I strongly agree. I hope that Dr. Carrier will directly respond to Dr. Barnes without the personal attacks.

Carrier’s Endnote 23

GGDFan777 also asked me to parse endnote 23 of Dr. Carrier’s essay. Unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are from that endnote.

This is undeniable: if only a finely tuned universe can produce life, then by defintion P(FINELY TUNED UNIVERSE | INTELLIGENT OBSERVERS EXIST) = 1, because of (a) the logical fact that “if and only if A, then B” entails “if B, then A” (hence (“if and only if a finely tuned universe, then intelligent observers” entails “if intelligent observers, then a finely tuned universe,” which is strict entailment, hence true regardless of how that fine-tuning came about; by analogy with “if and only if colors exist, then orange is a color” entails “if orange is a color, then colors exist”; note that this is not the fallacy of affirming the consequent because it properly derives from a biconditional), and because of (b) the fact in conditional probability that P(INTELLIGENT OBSERVERS EXIST)=1 (the probability that we are mistaken about intelligent observers existing is zero, a la Descartes, therefore the probability that they exist is 100 percent) and P(A and B) = P(A|B) x Pr(B), and 1 x 1 =1.

I agree.

Collins concedes that if we include in b “everything we know about the world, including our existence,” then P(L | ~God & A LIFE-BEARING UNIVERSE IS OBSERVED) = 100 percent (Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” 207).

I don’t have access to the material by Collins, but I don’t have any reason to doubt that what Carrier says here is correct.

He thus desperately needs to somehow “not count” such known facts. That’s irrational, and he ought to know it’s irrational.

Sigh. I think the statement “desperately needs” is snarky and off-putting. I think these two sentences are uncharitable to Collins, for reasons I will explain below.

He tries anyway (e.g., 241-44), by putting “a life-bearing universe is observed” (his LPU) in e instead of b. But then b still contains “observers exist,” which still entails “a life-bearing universe exists,” and anything entailed by a 100 percent probability has itself a probability of 100 percent (as proven above). In other words, since the probability of observing ~LPU if ~LPU is zero (since if ~LPU, observers won’t exist), it can never be the case that P(LPU|~God.b) < 100 percent as Collins claims (on 207), because if the probability of ~LPU is zero the probability of LPU is 1 (being the converse), and b contains “observers exist,” which entails the probability of ~LPU is zero.

I agree with his analysis, but — you knew there was a “but” coming — I think this misses the point, which seems to be a restatement of the anthropic principle dressed up in the formalism of probability notation. Yes, if we include “(embodied) intelligent observers exist” in our background knowledge (B), then it follows that a life-permitting universe (LPU) exists. But that isn’t very interesting. In one sense, this move simply pushes the problem back a step.
To see why, we can (in a sense) do a Bayesian analysis in reverse. Abstract away everything we know, including our own existence, and include in our background knowledge only the fact that our universe exists. Based on that fact alone, the prior (epistemic) probability of “(embodied) intelligent observers exist” is not 1 on naturalism and it is not 1 on theism.
In the jargon of academic philosophy of religion, the proponent of a fine-tuning argument for theism is asking us to compare the epistemic probability–not relative frequency–of a life-existing universe conditional upon theism to the epistemic probability of a life-existing universe conditional upon naturalism. To respond to that argument with “But we exist” misses the point.
The proponent of the fine-tuning argument can, should, and will respond, “No shit, Sherlock. Everyone agrees that we exist. The question is whether the life-permitting preconditions of our universe is evidence relevant to theism and naturalism.”

If (in even greater desperation) Collins tried putting “I think, therefore I am” in e, his conclusion would only be true for people who aren’t observers (since b then contains no observers), and since the probability of there being people who aren’t observers is zero, his calculation would be irrelevant

Again, I find the snark (“greater desperation”) off-putting, but let’s put that aside. At the risk of repeating myself, the fact that each of us knows that we exist doesn’t make fine-tuning arguments go away. Yes, we know that our universe is life-permitting because we know that we exist. But why is our universe life-permitting? Some philosophers (including both theists and atheists like Paul Draper) argue that that is evidence favoring theism over naturalism. If they are right, then so be it. But if they are wrong, they are NOT wrong because we exist. That objection just doesn’t work.

(it would be true only for people who don’t exist, i.e., any conclusion that is conditional on “there are no observers” is of no interest to observers).

Dr. Carrier doesn’t speak for all observers. I’m an observer and find the question of interest. So does Paul Draper. So do many atheist philosophers who don’t think fine-tuning arguments work, including Bradley Monton, Keith Parsons, Graham Oppy, Quentin Smith, and so forth. So do many (but not all) theist philosophers. So do many non-philosophers of all stripes. If he doesn’t find the question of interest, that’s fine. But, at risk of stating the obvious, his lack of interest in the argument isn’t a defeater for the argument.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 22

I have argued that the agreement that exists between the seven gospel sources concerning the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis, could be explained on the basis of the common cultural idea of a ‘Messiah’. I conceded, however, that the crucifixion of the Messiah was not a part of the expectation of first century Palestinian Jews, but pointed out that the crucifixion of Jesus and surrounding events are described only in Mark and the Gospel of Peter, and not in the other gospel sources that Ehrman points us to. Thus, there is no agreement between gospel sources concerning the crucifixion of Jesus.
In any case, the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis could be transmitted, for the most part, by a single sentence:
Jesus the Messiah was crucified.
Thus, there is no need for a common textual source to explain the agreements between the various gospel sources, nor a need for an actual historical Jesus to explain these agreements.
In conceding that the common cultural idea of a ‘Messiah’ did not include the crucifixion of the Messiah, I was reflecting the general concensus of N.T. scholars that the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was an invention of the early Christians, which departed from previous Jewish beliefs:
According to Klausner’s generally held view, the idea of messianic suffering, death, and resurrection came about only as an apology after the fact of Jesus’ death. In this view, it is simply a scandal for Christian messianic thought that Jesus was scourged and humiliated as a common rebel, despite the fact that he was the Messiah….After the Messiah Jesus’ humiliation, suffering, and death, according to this view–held by many Christian thinkers and scholars as well as Jewish ones–the theology of Jesus’ redemptive, vicarious suffering was discovered, as it were, in Isaiah 53, which was allegedly reinterpreted as referring not to the persecuted People of Israel, but to the suffering Messiah…
(Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels, p.130-131; referring to The Messianic Idea in Israel by Joseph Klausner).
Boyarin, however, argues that the idea of a Messiah who experiences redemptive, vicarious suffering was a Jewish idea derived from midrash on the book of Daniel and Isaiah:
The notion of the humiliated and suffering Messiah was not at all alien within Judaism before Jesus’ advent, and it remained current among Jews well into the future following that–indeed well into the early modern period. The fascinating (and to some, no doubt, uncomfortable) fact is that this tradition was well documented by modern Messianic Jews, who are concerned to demonstrate that their belief in Jesus does not make them un-Jewish. Whether or not one accepts their theology, it remains the case that they have a very strong textual base for the view that the suffering Messiah is based in deeply rooted Jewish texts early and late. Jews, it seems, had no difficulty whatever with understanding a Messiah who would vicariously suffer to redeem the world. Once again, what has been allegedly ascribed to Jesus after the fact is, in fact, a piece of entrenched messianic speculation and expectation that was current before Jesus came into the world at all. That the Messiah would suffer and be humiliated was something Jews learned from close reading of the biblical texts, a close reading in precisely the style of classically rabbinic interpretation that has become known as midrash, the concordance of verses and passages from different places in Scripture to derive new narratives, images, and theological ideas. (The Jewish Gospels, p.133)
While there is no crucifixion per se in the book of Daniel nor in Isaiah, if the idea of a Messiah who would be humiliated and would suffer vicariously for the sins of others was derived or derivable from Daniel and Isaiah by first century Palestinian Jews, then, given that crucifixion was clearly one of the most humiliating and suffering-inducing forms of execution used by the Romans at that time, it is not a big stretch to see the crucifixion of Jesus as being based upon the idea of a ‘Messiah’ as shaped by Jewish midrash on Daniel (chapter 7) and Isaiah (chapter 53).

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Index

https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/06/05/did-jesus-exit-part-1/
Introduction to the issue: Did Jesus exist?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/06/07/did-jesus-exit-part-2/
Outline of Did Jesus Exist? By Bart Ehrman. Various skeptical points by Ehrman, especially the insignificance of non-Christian historical sources.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/06/10/did-jesus-exit-part-3/
Keith Parson’s advice and Bart Ehrman on the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH).
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/06/15/did-jesus-exit-part-4/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/06/28/did-jesus-exit-part-5/
Development and clarification of the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/02/did-jesus-exit-part-6/
About 17,000 Jewish males in Palestine were named ‘Jesus’ at any given point during the first century.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/04/did-jesus-exit-part-7/
Chronology of Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/08/did-jesus-exit-part-8/
Ehrman’s Seven Gospels Argument (SGA) and the analogy of proving the existence of God with proving the existence of Jesus: both depend on what you mean by the key term ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/12/did-jesus-exit-part-9/
Ehrman’s Seven Gospels Argument (SGA) is concerned with seven gospel sources that are supposed to be independent sources. Ehrman fails to discuss the facts and data required to evaluate his key claim. I propose the MJH-Source Matrix as a guide to evaluate the key claim in SGA.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/15/did-jesus-exit-part-10/
Mark portrays Yeshu’a as a flesh-and-blood person-MJH attribute 1 (A1). In the Comments section (near the end of the comments) I also show that Q portrays Yeshu’a as a flesh-and-blood person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/07/19/did-jesus-exit-part-11/
Crossan’s certainty about the crucifixion and death of Jesus is undermined by skeptical points made by Ehrman.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/08/10/did-jesus-exit-part-12/
M appears to portray Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/08/14/did-jesus-exit-part-13/
L portrays Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/08/17/did-jesus-exit-part-14/
Mark represents Jesus as being ‘Jewish’ in both senses of the word.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/09/27/did-jesus-exit-part-15/
Q represents Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/10/13/did-jesus-exit-part-16/
Q represents Jesus as a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/10/27/did-jesus-exit-part-17/
L represents Jesus as a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/11/13/did-jesus-exit-part-18/
The Batman and Superman characters are common ideas in American culture. So, almost any American in the 21st century could create a story about Superman, and it would include many characteristics of Superman that other Americans would recognize. First century Palestinian Jews had a common cultural idea that could explain many of the attributes that make up the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis: the idea of a ‘Messiah’.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/12/07/did-jesus-exit-part-19/
L represents Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/12/14/did-jesus-exit-part-20/
The Minimal Jesus Hypothesis consists of 12 attributes. The agreement between Mark, Q, L, and M concerning the first 8 attributes can be explained in terms of the common cultural idea of a ‘Messiah’. The remaining attributes are primarily related to the crucifixion of Jesus, which are not explained by the idea of a ‘Messiah’. So, SGA has some significant force ONLY if there is agreement between these gospel sources concerning crucifixion-related events/attributes.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2013/12/15/did-jesus-exit-part-21/
None of the 16 crucifixion-related events found in Mark are found in Q, M, or L. There are no crucifixion-related events covered by Q, M, or L. Thus, the SGA (Seven Gospels Argument) is very weak and inconclusive, because of two serious problems: (1) the common cultural idea of a ‘Messiah’ explains the agreement of the gospel sources concerning the first 8 attributes of MJH (Minimal Jesus Hypothesis), and (2) there is no agreement between the gospel sources concerning crucifixion-related events, which is what most of the remaining attributes of MJH are about.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 21

I have reviewed Q, M, and L passages, looking for crucifixion-related events.
The Gospel of Mark includes several crucifixion-related events in Chapters 14 and 15:
1. The Plot to Kill Jesus
2. The Anointing at Bethany
3. Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
4. The Passover with the Disciples
5. The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
6. Peter’s Denial Foretold
7. Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
8. The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
9. Jesus Before the Council
10. Peter Denies Jesus
11. Jesus Before Pilate
12. Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
13. The Soldiers Mock Jesus
14. The Crucifixion of Jesus
15.The Death of Jesus
16. The Burial of Jesus

Matthew chapters 26 and 27 cover the crucifixion-related events. There are no passages from M that are included in those chapters. Furthermore, there are no crucifixion-related events covered by M. None of the sixteen crucifixion-related events in Mark are found in M.
Luke chapters 22 and 23 cover the crucifixion of Jesus. There are no passages from L that are included in those chapters. Furthermore, there are no crucifixion-related events covered by L. None of the sixteen crucifixion-related events in Mark are found in L.
Luke Chapter 22 does include one passage from Q, but that passage is not directly related to the crucifixion:
Q 22:28, 30
You Will Judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel
28 .. You who have followed me 30 will sit .. on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Furthermore, there are no crucifixion-related events covered by Q. None of the sixteen crucifixion-related events in Mark are found in Q.
I conclude that SGA (Seven Gospels Argument) by Ehrman is very weak and inconclusive. It has at least two very serious flaws:
(1) Most of the points of agreement between the various gospel sources can be fairly well explained in terms of the common cultural idea (for first century Palestinian Jews) of a “Messiah”.
(2) Although crucifixion-related events probably cannot be accounted for in terms of the common Jewish idea of a “Messiah” and expectations surrounding a coming Messiah, only one out of four of the gospel sources (namely: the gospel of Mark) that we have examined include any of sixteen different crucifixion-related events found in Mark. There is no agreement or correspondence between the gospel sources on crucifixion-related events.
There may be a third serious issue as well: lack of agreement or corroboration on the chronology of Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion. Since crucifixion-related events are not found in Q, M, or L, it is hard to see how they could support the chronological aspects of the crucifixion found in Mark. But I need to do a bit more study before I draw conclusions about chronological agreement or lack of it.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 20

The Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH) can be stated in terms of a list of a dozen attributes:
A1. This person was a flesh-and-blood person.
A2. This person was an adherent of Judaism.
A3. This person was a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
A4. This person lived in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s CE.
A5. This person was know to be a preacher of religious beliefs.
A6. This person was known to be a preacher of moral values.
A7. This person was known to be a teacher of religious beliefs.
A8. This person was known to be a teacher of moral values.
A9. This person was crucified in Jerusalem.
A10. This person was crucified by the Romans.
A11. This person was crucified around 30 CE (between 28 CE and 33 CE)
A12. This person was named Yeshu’a.
These are the specific claims that should be confirmed by multiple early and independent historical sources in order for MJH to be considered to be confirmed or highly probable.
However, because the idea of a “Messiah” was a cultural idea that was widespread among Palestinian Jews of the first century, many of the above attributes could have been derived simply from common Jewish beliefs about what the “Messiah” was supposed to be like.
Most adult Americans have a common cultural idea of “Superman” and could write a story about Superman, without consulting any books or written stories about Superman or any movies about Superman, and such stories would contain many common elements (Superman has a red cape and can fly like a jet airplane. Superman has superhuman strength and often uses his special powers to defeat criminals and evildoers, etc.).
Similarly, most adult Palestinian Jews of the first century could create stories about a “Messiah” figure, and those stories would contain many common elements, even if the person creating the story did not use or consult any written documents.
Characteristics (A1) through (A8) can be explained fairly well as being the result of a common cultural idea of a “Messiah”, with the exception of the specific chronological details mentioned in (A8). The chronological details, however, probably cannot be found in all seven of the seven gospel sources that Ehrman points us to, and they probably cannot be found even in all four of the gospel sources that I have been focused on (Mark, Q, L, and M).
Thus, correspondences between the various gospel sources concerning the characteristics (A1) through (A8) provide only very weak evidence for the view that there was an historical Jesus who actually had those characteristics and thereby explains why various independent sources correspond with each other on those characteristics of Jesus.
Thus, it seems to me that Ehrman’s argument really stands or falls on the remaining characteristics (A9) through (A12). These do not appear to be explainable in terms of the common cultural idea of a “Messiah”. So, if all seven gospel sources are independent, and if they all agree on those remaining characteristics, then Ehrman’s argument may have some force, although it would have significantly less force than what it appeared to have initially, when I did not realize there was a plausible alternative explanation available for most of the dozen characteristics showing up in several independent gospel sources.
Most of the remaining characteristics concern the crucifixion of Jesus. There is some redundance here to take into consideration. Crucifixion was (primarily) a Roman punishment, so if one decides that the “Messiah” was crucified, it follows naturally that the crucifixion would be performed by Romans.
Jerusalem also seems like a fairly natural location for the crucifixion, since Jerusalem was not only the most sacred city, for Jews, being the location of the holy Temple, where God (Jehovah) was present, but it was also central politically, in that the wealthy and powerful Jewish priesthood maintained their position of power by collaborating with the Romans. The political conflict between Jews and Romans focused on Jerusalem, and the final battle between Jews and Romans was over the possession and control of Jerusalem.
Death by crucifixion was not what Jews expected to happen to the Messiah. So, the characteristics of Jesus concerned with the crucifixion are not explainable in terms of the common cultural idea of a “Messiah”. However, if some other explanation could be provided to explain why the idea of a crucified Messiah might be present in several of the seven gospel sources, then Ehrman’s first argument would be completely done in. I don’t have such an explanation at this time, but I note this point, because it appears to make the success of Ehrman’s argument precarious.
If just one sentence became somewhat widespread, through oral traditions or word-of-mouth, then the seven gospels argument would be largely undone:
Yeshu’a the messiah was crucified.
The widespread utterance of this one sentence, or very similar sentences, could explain the correspondence of several “independent” gospel sources on the twelve characteristics outlined above, the characteristics defining the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis.
Probably the most significant characteristics are the specific chronological indications, such as the age of Jesus, the date of his ministry, and the date of his crucifixion. If all seven gospel sources independently agree on these chronological points, then that would be significant. But, I think this is not in fact the case. I will need to take a closer look to verify my view, but my impression is that these chronological details are a weak point of Ehrman’s argument.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 19

In Part 14, we saw that Mark portrays Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith. In Part 15, we saw that Q portrays Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith. Does L, the special source used by Luke, portray Jesus as an adherent of Judaism? as a devout follower of the Jewish faith? While the evidence is not as extensive as it is in the case of Mark and Q, the evidence is fairly clear that Jesus is portrayed by L as a devout follower of the Jewish faith.
Jesus and the Jewish Scriptures
L 4:25-27:
Jesus refers to Old Testament stories about the prophets Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:1-16 and 2 Kings 5:1-14), indicating familiarity with the Jewish scriptures. Jesus calls Elisha a “prophet” and says that Elijah was “sent to…a widow” indicating his belief that Elijah was also a prophet. So, Jesus accepted the stories in Jewish scriptures about these men as true, and Jesus accepted the Jewish view of these men as being messengers from God.
L 10:30-37a
Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It involves a man who is travelling “from Jerusalem to Jericho”. Characters include “a priest” (presumably a Jewish priest from the temple in Jerusalem) and “a Levite” and “a Samaritan”. A man who was beaten up, robbed, and left for dead is not helped by the priest or the Levite, but is helped by the Samaritan. Jesus asks “Which of these three was ta neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” In this Jewish context, Jesus is making a reference to the Old Testament command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
L 14:12-14
Jesus also taught that we should be generous and kind towards the poor, disabled, and the blind, which is in keeping not only with the “Love your neighbor” command in Leviticus, but is also a theme in other O.T. passages (caring for the poor, orphans, widows, and resident aliens): Exodus 22:21-27, 23:10-12; Leviticus 19:9-11, 23:21-23; Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 15:10-12, 24:11-16, 27:17-19.
L 16:19-31
Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus portrays Abraham as a saint, in keeping with the Jewish faith. Jesus teaches that there will be rewards and punishments in the afterlife, and that to avoid punishments in the afterlife one ought to “listen to Moses and the prophets” (verse 31).
L 17:12-18
In this story Jesus heals ten lepers, and then tells them “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Presumably he is referring to Jewish priests, and his order reflects a law found in the Jewish scriptures (Leviticus 13:2-8 & 14:2-3). Jesus is pleased by one of the healed lepers who later returned and thanked Jesus, because that leper gave “praise to God”. In other words, that leper showed gratefulness for the miraculous healing brought about by God. Giving praise to God is clearly an important part of the Jewish faith, and is part of the ten commandments of Moses (see Exodus 10:1-6, 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21, 10:19-21).
Jesus as a Teacher of Jewish Beliefs, Values & Practices
L 7:11b-15
In this story Jesus is accompanied by “his disciples and a large crowd”. Jesus performs a healing miracle, a resurrection of a dead man. There is no indication in this passage about what sort of teacher Jesus was, but the fact that he performs a miraculous healing suggests that he was some sort of religious teacher.
L 7:36-47
In this passage Jesus is clearly portrayed as a teacher within the Jewish faith tradition. Jesus is invited to have a meal at the house of a Pharisee. A Pharisee would be unlikely to invite a Gentile or a non-practicing Jew or a promoter of another religion (polytheism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism) to eat with him in his home. Pharisees were devout followers of the Jewish religion. This Pharisee is concerned about the question of whether Jesus was a prophet (verse 39), and he calls Jesus “Teacher”(verse 40). Clearly, in the context of wondering whether Jesus was a prophet, a messenger from God, the term “Teacher” implies a teacher of religious beliefs and practices, not a teacher of mathematics or a teacher of rhetoric, etc.
L 13:10-17b
“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.”
(verse 10). If Jesus was teaching in synagogues on the sabbath, then this strongly implies that Jesus was a teacher within the Jewish faith tradition. Obviously, he would not be allowed to teach in a synagogue on the sabbath day if he promoted atheism or polytheism or Hinduism or some other alternative to the Jewish religion.
Furthermore, Jesus heals a crippled woman on that sabbath day, and is criticized by “the leader of the synagogue” for violation of the sabbath day of rest. Jesus argues that healing a woman who was “a daughter of Abraham” who had been crippled “for eighteen long years” was a legitimate exception to the divine command not to work on the sabbath day. Note that Jesus does not say “Hey, I’m not a devout Jew, so I don’t care about observing the sabbath”. In arguing that this is a reasonable or legitimate exception to the rule, Jesus is implicitly accepting the rule or commandment not to work on the sabbath (see Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
L 14:2-5
Jesus again argues for healing as a legitimate exception to the prohibition of work on the sabbath:
And Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” (verse 3)
Clearly, Jesus is not rejecting the Jewish rule against working on the sabbath, since he wants to discuss whether healing on the sabbath is “lawful”, meaning whether healing on the sabbath would be in keeping with the ten commandments and other laws of Moses.
Jesus on Repentance, Forgiveness of Sins, and Divine Judgement
A major theme in L is repentance and forgiveness of sins, in order to avoid divine judgement and punishment. This was the core message of John the Baptist according to the canonical gospels, and it appears to be a core message of Jesus in L.
In three passages, Jesus approves of or encourages people to repent of their sins to avoid divine judgement.
L 7:36-47
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he [Jesus] was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with ointment. …he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house: you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgeiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to who little is forgiven loves little.”
L 13:1b-5
Jesus comments on a couple of recent events. Pilate had killed some Galileans. And eighteen people were killed in Jerusalem when a tower fell on them. Apparently, popular sentiment viewed both incidents as being a divine punishment for sins of the victims. But Jesus says that these people were not any more sinful than other Galileans or other residents of Jerusalem: “…Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” (verse 3 & 5).
L 19:2-10
Jesus befriends Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was rich, and Zacchaeus responds enthusiastically: “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” (verse 8). Jesus responds to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man cam to seek out and to save the lost.” (verse 9). Jesus appears to be following in the footsteps of John the Baptist, teaching and encouraging sinful and non-devout Jews to repent, and to start living in accordance with the ten commandments and to worship Jehovah, the God of Israel.
L 15:4-6
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep (see Jesus’ comments to Zacchaeus in L 19: 8-9).
L 15:8-9
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Coin.
L 15:11-32
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Son (Prodigal Son). The son in the story clearly represents a sinner who repents and returns back to love and obey Jehovah.
L 16:19-31
Jesus tells the parable of the Lazarus and the Rich Man. The rich man is being tormented in the afterlife, and he pleads with Abraham: “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house–for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” (verses 27 & 28). Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets: they should listen to them.” The rich man replies, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” (verses 29 & 30). Here we see Jesus teaching that one must repent of sin in order to avoid divine punishment in the afterlife.
L 18:10-14a
Jesus tells the story of the Self-Righteous Pharisee and the Repentant Tax Collector. When the Pharisee prays at the temple, he thanks God that he is devout and religious. When the tax collector prays, he says “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (verse 13). Jesus comments that “…this man [the repentant tax collector] went down to his home justified rather than the other [the Pharisee].” (verse 14).
Jesus and Prayer
L 11:5b-8
Jesus teaches that we should be persistent in prayer.
L 18:10-14a
Jesus teaches that we should pray for divine forgiveness.
L 18:2-8a
Jesus teaches that we should be persistent in praying for justice. Presumably, he had in mind the Jewish hope that God would save the Jewish people from oppression and domination by the Romans, although he might also have had in mind the elite Jewish priests of Jerusalem, who were collaborators with the Roman authorities.
I conclude that there is ample evidence that L portrays Jesus as a devout Jew, as an adherent of the religion of Judaism. Jesus was, according to L, familiar with the O.T. and believed Moses, Elijah, and Elisha were messengers from God, and that Abraham was a saint. Jesus believed that we should obey God, specifically that we should obey the commandments and laws of Jehovah, and that most people, perhaps all people, are sinful and need to repent, change their minds and their lives to conform to the commandments and laws of Jehovah, in order to avoid terrible divine punishments in the afterlife. Jesus believed that we should pray to God and worship God. All of this reflects the idea that Jesus was a devout follower of the Jewish faith.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 18

When I was a young boy, I enjoyed watching many episodes of Superman on a black-and-white television.  When I was about ten or eleven years old, my family would gather on evenings when the TV show Batman was on; we would eat hot-buttered popcorn while watching the show together.  Later in my life Hollywood began making blockbuster movies about superheroes.  Superman was one of the earlier blockbusters (1978).  For my birthday this year I received a set of Blu-Ray movies called The Dark Knight Trilogy which includes three recent movies with Batman as the central character.  I see that another superhero movie just came out called Man of Steel which is about Superman.
In the USA, people know who Batman is, and who Superman is, and some people know this without ever having read Superman comic books or Batman comic books.  In fact, some people know about Batman and Superman even though they have never read comic books about these heroes and never seen any of the T.V. shows or movies about them either.  These characters are just a part of American culture, and thus people in the USA know about Batman and Superman, even if they have never directly experienced cultural artifacts such as books or movies about these characters.
I know many features or attributes of Superman, and millions of Americans would agree on most of these points, even many Americans who have never read a Superman comic and never seen a Superman movie or TV show:
1. Superman wears a red cape and a special suit with an ‘S’ on his chest, at least when he is fighting crime or rescuing people from danger.
2. Superman can fly, and he can fly very fast, like a jet or a rocket.
3. Superman has X-ray vision.
4. Superman is extremely stong; he has super-human strength.
5. Superman looks like an ordinary human being, at least when he is not in his hero costume.
6. Superman uses his extraordinary powers to fight crime and to rescue people who are in danger.
7. Superman leads a second life, pretending to be an ordinary human being.
8. In his ordinary ‘human’ life, Superman is known as ‘Clark Kent’, a newspaper reporter.
9. Superman loves Lois Lane.
10. Superman can be weakened and even killed by being close to a substance called Kryptonite.
This phenomenon of cultural awareness of specific ‘facts’ about Batman and Superman raises a problem for Bart Ehrman’s ‘Seven Gospels Argument’ (SGA) for the existence of Jesus.  So far in my analysis of SGA, I have granted the key premise that the seven gospel sources are independent sources. What does it mean to say that these sources (which include Mark, Q, M, and L, among others) are independent sources?
First of all, this means that none of these sources made use of one of the other sources.  For example, the author of Mark did not make use of Q as a source for his gospel, nor did Mark use M or L material.  Similarly, Q did not make use of Mark, nor of M or L material, and so on.
Second, this means there was no other written source outside of the seven sources that was made use of by two or more of the seven.  Mark and Q did not, for example draw on a third source, so that some of the corresponding details about Jesus in Mark and Q were based on the use of a common written source.
The idea is that if these seven gospel sources are independent sources, then a plausible explanation of why they each present a Jesus character who is very similar, Jesus characters who have several features in common, is that they are all based on an actual flesh-and-blood human being named ‘Jesus’ (or ‘Yeshua’), as opposed to all being based on a common fictional character in a book.
American awareness of Batman and Superman raises an objection to SGA, namely that a cultural idea can exist and can be transmitted apart from written documents, and even apart from other cultural artifacts (e.g. plays, movies, T.V shows).  Therefore, it is quite possible that a conception of a Jesus-like character existed prior to the time when Jesus was allegedly born, and that this idea existed and was transmitted apart from books or plays about this character (at least for some people, especially for those who could not read or who did not attend plays).
If there was such a cultural idea available, then the Jesus character found in Mark, Q, M, and L could share common features based on this cultural idea, apart from any book or document.  In other words, it is quite possible that there is a common source for the features of the Jesus character in Mark, Q, M, and L even though there was not a common written document used as a source by two or more of the seven gospel sources.
Furthermore, not only is this alternative explanation a real possibility, but we have good reason to believe that at least the core features of Jesus as found in Mark, Q, M, and L are based on a common cultural idea that was present prior to the time of the alleged birth of Jesus, namely the idea of a Messiah.
The idea of a Messiah evolved over a period of centuries, following the reign of King David.  So, there is not simply a single sharply defined concept of ‘Messiah’.  Nevertheless, there are a number of elements or characteristics that were associated with the idea of the Messiah that are reflected in Mark, Q, M, and L’s characterizations of Jesus:
1. The Messiah would be a man (not a woman).
2. The Messiah would be a devout follower of the Jewish faith (not a worshipper of Egyptian gods, not a worshipper of Greek or Roman gods, not a Zoroastrian, not a Hindu, not an animist, etc.)
3. The Messiah would be a descendant of the Hebrew people.
4. The Messiah would live in Palestine.
5. The Messiah would be a very wise person.
6. The Messiah would be a very just person.
7. The Messiah would be a great leader.
8. The Messiah would have appeal not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles.
The idea of the Messiah may not explain all of the corresponding characteristics of Jesus, all of the similarities in how Jesus is portrayed in the seven gospel sources, but it does explain a number of those characteristics; it does provide a plausible explanation for why several of the characteristics of Jesus are common between the seven gospel sources, even if there was no historical Jesus, and even if there was no common written source, or even a common cultural artifact, that was made use of by two or more of the seven gospel sources.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 17

Does L, the special source used by the author of the Gospel of Luke, represent Jesus as a male descendant of the Hebrew people?
Like Mark and Q, L uses masculine nouns, pronouns and verbs of Jesus:
L 7:11b-15 “his disciples” “with him” “As he approached” “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion” “he came forward” “And he said” “He gave him”
L 7:36-47 “asked him” “He went” “took his place” “he was eating” “his feet” “this man” “he would have known” “touching him” ” ‘Teacher’ ” “he said”
L 10:39-42 “the Lord’s feet” “he was saying” “came to him” ” ‘Lord, do you not care…’ ” “the Lord answered her”
L 13:1b-5 “He asked them”
L 13:10-17b “he was teaching” “he called her over” “he laid his hands on her” “he said this” “The Lord answered him”
L 13: 31b-32 “He said to them”
L 14:2-5 “in front of him” “He said to them”
L 14:8-10 & 12-14 “He said also”
L 15:11-32 “He said”
L 17:12-18 “As he entered” “approached him” “when he saw them, he said” “thanked him”
L 18: 2-8a “He said” “And the Lord said”
L 19:2-10 “to see him” “he looked up” “to welcome him” “He has gone to” “said to the Lord”
Also, as with Mark and Q, the main character in the L source is referred to as ‘Jesus’ (or Yeshua):
L 7:36-47 “Jesus spoke up”
L 10:30-37a “Jesus said to him”
L 13:10-17b “When Jesus saw her, he called her over”
L 14:2-5 “Jesus asked” “So Jesus took”
L 17:12-18 ” ‘Jesus, Master…’ ” “Then Jesus asked”
L 19:2-10 “He was trying to see who Jesus was” “When Jesus came to the place” “Jesus said to him”
‘Jesus’ or ‘Yeshua’ was one of the more common names for a Jewish male (a male descendant of the Hebrew people) in Palestine in the First century.
As with Mark and Q, L places Jesus in Palestine:
L 10:30-37a “Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by the other side. …But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. …’ ”
L 13:1b-5 [told him about the] “Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He [Jesus] asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ ”
L 13:31b-32 ” ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ ” (words spoken to Jesus).
‘Herod’ here is presumably Herod Antipas (‘Herod’ being a dynastic title) who killed John the Baptist around the time Jesus started his own ministry. Antipas was appointed tetrarch over Galilee and Perea in 4 BCE, and he ruled there until 39 CE. Even if the above passage refers to some other ‘Herod’ in the dynasty, the various ‘Herods’ ruled over various areas in Palestine.
L 17:12-18 “As he [Jesus] entered a village, ten lepers approached him. …He [one of the lepers] prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. …”
Samaritans originate from Samaria, and Samaria was located in Palestine between Galilee (in the North) and Judea (in the South). So, this story suggests that Jesus met these lepers when he was visiting a village somewhere in Palestine.
L 18:10-14a ” ‘Two men came up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.’ ” [The phrase “the temple” here clearly refers to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem].
Representing Jesus as a man who was an adherent of the Jewish faith who was living in Palestine in the First Century (at about the time of Pilate) suggests that Jesus was a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
One final passage provides additional confirmation that Jesus was a descendant of the Hebrew people, or at least that L represented him as such:
L 17:12-18 “As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at his [Jesus’] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ ”
In the above passage, Jesus refers to the ‘Samaritan’ man as a ‘foreigner’. Why? Consider the following commentary on Jesus’ parable about the ‘Good Samaritan'(in Luke 10:29-37):
By making the hero of the story a Samaritan, Jesus challenged the longstanding enmity between Jews and Samaritans. The latter were regarded as unclean people, descendants of the mixed marriages that followed from the Assyrian settlement of people from various regions in the fallen northern kingdom (2 Kgs 17:6, 24).
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, “Luke” by R. Alan Culpepper, p.229)
When Jesus refers to the grateful Samaritan (in the ten lepers incident) as a ‘foreigner’, Jesus means that this man was a descendant “of the mixed marriages that followed from the Assyrian settlement…”. In other words, Jesus is implying that the grateful man was racially impure, not a purebred descendant of the Hebrew people. But in using the term ‘foreigner’ Jesus is also implying that he (Jesus) was racially pure, was a purebred descendant of the Hebrew people, and NOT a product of “the mixed marriages….”. So, in this passage, Jesus strongly implies that he is a descendant of the Hebrew people.
My conclusion is that L, like Mark and Q, represents Jesus as being a male descendant of the Hebrew people.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 16

Did Q represent Jesus as a male descendant of the Hebrew people?
We have previously seen that both Mark and Q represent Jesus as a devout Jew, i.e. as a devout follower of the religion of Judaism. But someone can be Jewish in this sense of being an adherent of the Jewish faith without being a descendant of the Hebrew people.
Q does represent Jesus as a male.
First, the name ‘Jesus’ was a common name of Palestinian Jewish males in the first century, and ‘Jesus’ was NOT a common name of Palestinian Jewish females in that time. It was the 6th most common name for Jewish males. So, the use of the name ‘Jesus’ in Q implies that the person in question was a male descendant of the Hebrew people. (Q 3:21, 4:1-13, 7:9, 9:58, etc.)
See Ben Witherington’s post on the Jesus Tomb for details on frequency of the name ‘Jesus’ and other names among Palestinian Jews:
http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/02/jesus-tomb-titanic-talpiot-tomb-theory.html
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Note: The names of Jesus’ family members given in Mark imply that Jesus was a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
(Mark 6:1-3, NIV)
‘Mary’ was by far the most common name for Jewish females in Palestine around the first century. ‘Simon’ was the most common name for Jewish males in Palestine;’Joseph’ was the second most common name for Jewish males in Palestine, and ‘Jesus’ was the sixth most common name for Jewish males in Palestine.
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Second, Q uses masculine personal pronouns (translated as ‘he’ and ‘his’) in reference to Jesus (Q 3:16-17, 4:1, 6:20, 7:1&3, 7:18-23, etc.).
Third, in so far as Q represents Jesus as the promised Messiah (as we shall soon see to be the case), this is a strong indication that Jesus was both a male and a descendant of the Hebrew people, for it was commonly believed that the Messiah would be a male descendant of the Hebrew people.
Q represents Jesus as a descendant of the Hebrew people.
Although the words ‘Messiah’ and ‘Christ’ do not appear in Q, there are fairly clear indications that Jesus was viewed by the author of Q as being the promised Messiah of the Jews. Since being a male descendant of the Hebrew people was a basic requirement for being the Messiah, this implies that Jesus was a male descendant of the Hebrew people, at least as Jesus is represented by Q.
Q appears to represent Jesus as the promised Messiah:
Q 3:16b-17 John and the One to Come
16b I baptize you in‚ water, but the one to come after me is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to take off. He will baptize you in holy‚ Spirit and fire. 17 His pitchfork «is» in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn on a fire that can never be put out.
Q 7:18-23 John’s Inquiry about the One to Come
18 And John, on hearing .. about all these things‚, 19 sending through his disciples, said‚ to him: Are you the one to come, or are we to expect someone else? 22 And in reply he said to them: Go report to John what you hear and see: The blind regain their sight and the lame walk around, the skin-diseased are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor are given good news. 23 And blessed is whoever is not offended by me.
[John the Baptist appears to be asking whether Jesus is the promised Messiah, and Jesus refers to the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 in response, thus implying that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.]
Q 7:24-28 John — More than a Prophet
24 And when they had left, he began to talk to the crowds about John: What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A person arrayed in finery? Look, those wearing finery are in kings’ houses. 26 But «then» what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, even more than a prophet! 27 This is the one about whom it has been written: Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your path in front of you. 28 I tell you: There has not arisen among women’s offspring «anyone» who surpasses John. Yet the least significant in God’s kingdom is more than he.
[Jesus indicates that Malachi 3:1 is a prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptist, thus implying that Jesus was the Messiah.]
Q 10:23-24 The Beatitude for the Eyes that See
23 Blessed are the eyes that see what you see .. . 24 For I tell you: Many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, but never saw it, and to hear what you hear, but never heard it.
[Another indication that Jesus claimed to be the messiah]
Q 22:28, 30 You Will Judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel
28 .. You who have followed me 30 will sit .. on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
[If Jesus’ disciples will one day be Judges over the tribes of Israel, then this implies that Jesus will be the King or ruler over Israel one day.]
In Q, as in the synoptic Gospels, ‘the Kingdom of God’ is a central theme of Jesus’ teachings. Given the context of Roman domination of the Jewish people in Palestine, talk about ‘the Kingdom of God’ seems a bit subversive, and would certainly have inspired Jewish Palestinians to think and talk about whether a Messiah or King of the Jews would soon arise, and who that Messiah might be, and what the Messiah would do about the Roman domination of Palestine. In the religious and political circumatances of first century Palestine, teaching about ‘the Kingdom of God’ would tend to focus attention on the idea of a coming Jewish Messiah.
In Q ‘The Kingdom of God’ was a theme of Jesus’ teaching:
Q 7:24-28 John — More than a Prophet
Q 10:5-9 What to Do in Houses and Towns
Q 11:2b-4 The Lord’s Prayer
Q 11:14-15, 17-20 Refuting the Beelzebul Accusation
Q 11:46b, 52, 47-48 Woes against the Exegetes of the Law
Q 12:22b-31 Free from Anxiety like Ravens and Lilies
Q 13:18-19 The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Q 13:20-21 The Parable of the Yeast
Q 13:29, 28 Replaced by People from East and West
Q 16:16 Since John the Kingdom of God
Q 17:20-21‚ The Kingdom of God within You

We have previously seen that Q represents Jesus as being a devout follower of the Jewish religion. Q also represents Jesus as a person who lived in Palestine. The combination of these two claims implies that Jesus was a descendant of the Hebrew people. There were non-Hebrew people who accepted the Jewish religion, but in Palestine in the first century, most of the people who followed the Jewish religion were descendants of the Hebrew people. So in representing Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith who lived in Palestine in the first century, Q strongly suggests that Jesus was a descandant of the Hebrew people.
Q represents Jesus as a person who lived in Palestine:
Q 10:13-15 Woes against Galilean Towns
13 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the wonders performed in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, in sackcloth and ashes. 14 Yet for Tyre and Sidon it shall be more bearable at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, up to heaven will you be exalted? Into Hades shall you come down!
Q 7:1, 3, 6b-9, ?10? The Centurion’s Faith in Jesus’ Word
1 And it came to pass when‚ he .. ended these sayings, he entered Capernaum. 3 There came to him a centurion exhorting him and saying: My‚ boy doing badly. And he said to him: Am I‚, by coming, to heal him? 6b-c And in reply the centurion said: Master, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof; 7 but say a word, and let‚ my boy be‚ healed. 8 For I too am a person under authority, with soldiers under me, and I say to one: Go, and he goes, and to another: Come, and he comes, and to my slave: Do this, and he does «it» . 9 But Jesus, on hearing, was amazed, and said to those who followed: I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. ?10?
Q 3:2b, 3 The Introduction of John
2b John in the wilderness .. 3 all the region of the Jordan .
Q 3:7-9 John’s Announcement of Judgment
7 He said to the crowds coming to be‚ baptized‚: Snakes’ litter! Who warned you to run from the impending rage? 8 So bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not presume to tell yourselves: We have as «fore»father Abraham! For I tell you: God can produce children for Abraham right out of these rocks! 9 And the ax already lies at the root of the trees. So every tree not bearing healthy fruit is to be chopped down and thrown on the fire.
Q 3:16b-17 John and the One to Come
16b I baptize you in‚ water, but the one to come after me is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to take off‚. He will baptize you in holy‚ Spirit and fire. 17 His pitchfork «is» in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn on a fire that can never be put out.
Q 3:21-22‚ The Baptism of Jesus‚
21‚ … Jesus … baptized, heaven opened ..,‚ 22‚ and .. the Spirit … upon him … Son … .
Q 13:34-35 Judgment over Jerusalem
34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her nestlings under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is forsaken! .. I tell you, you will not see me until «the time» comes when‚ you say: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Finally, Jesus speaks in negative terms about ‘Gentiles’ which implies that he himself was not a Gentile but rather was Jewish, i.e. a descendant of the Hebrew people.
In Q, Jesus expresses negative sentiments about ‘gentiles’:
Q 6:32, 34 Impartial Love
32 .. If you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? 34 And if you lend «to those» from whom you hope to receive, what you ?‚??? Do not even the Gentiles‚ do the same?
Q 12:22b-31 Free from Anxiety like Ravens and Lilies
22b Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you are to eat, nor about your body, with what you are to clothe yourself. 23 Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 24 Consider the ravens: They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet God feeds them. Are you not better than the birds? 25 And who of you by being anxious is able to add to one’s stature a .. cubit? 26 And why are you anxious about clothing? 27 Observe‚ the lilies, how they grow: They do not work nor do they spin. Yet I tell you: Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. 28 But if in the field the grass, there today and tomorrow thrown into the oven, God clothes thus, will he not much more clothe you, persons of petty faith! 29 So‚ do not be anxious, saying: What are we to eat? Or:‚ What are we to drink? Or:‚ What are we to wear? 30 For all these the Gentiles seek; for‚ your Father knows that you need them all‚. 31 But seek his kingdom, and all‚ these shall be granted to you.
GENTILE
New Testament
ethnos appears in the NT with two meanings, “nation” and “Gentile”. In the latter sense, it refers specifically to all non-Jews, that is, to people groups foreign to Israel…
(p.281 Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, edited by William Mounce. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.)
Based on the above passages from Q, I conclude that Q represented Jesus as being a male descendant of the Hebrew poeple.
The passages quoted from Q above are from the reconstruction and translation of Q by the International Q Project:
http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~kloppen/iqpqet.htm