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fellside

Why Early Christians Would Die for a Lie

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This is something I've thought about a lot over the past two years. It was one of the most compelling and reassuring ideas for me when I was a Christian. When you read the New Testament, the writers appear to be intelligent, sincere and loving individuals. How could they possibly be lying? And why would they be willing to die for something they knew wasn't true? After all, 11 of the 12 apostles died gruesome deaths and the 12th was exiled. Anyway, here are a few ideas I have about it.

1. They did not know they were headed towards death.

This notion is heavily supported by the New Testament. The disciples of Christ believed that the Jews would accept the gospel of Jesus in mass conversion. The apostle Paul laments the fact that this did not happen in Romans 8 and 9. The Christian response to this lack of conversion was to take the gospel to gentiles instead. But even at this point they believed that after the majority of gentiles converted, the Jews would then believe as well (Romans 10, 11). Surely this kind of optimism does not reflect a mindset of a people convinced of their impending destruction. If they accepted that their fate was an early death, it had to be much later than the time of the resurrection.

In other words, if it was a lie, it was certainly created before they believed they were going to die for it. And when they discovered later on that they would die for it, it isn't unlikely to assume they had gone too far to turn back.

2. The lie was worth dying for to save their people.

It is important to note how bad things had gotten for the Jewish people at the point of the first century. The Jews had been conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hellenists and the Romans in consecutive defeats over the course of several hundred years. Their culture had been torn apart by exiles and plunders. But more importantly, they had been stripped of their religious hope.

The conquests of Israel and Judah had effectively killed the promise God made to them. In God's covenant with David he promises an everlasting kingdom through his descendants and eternal dominion over their lands. The line of David was ruined and the dynasty was clearly not everlasting. This blow to their religious beliefs led to opinions that a messiah would come and rescue them. In fact, there were at least a dozen other Messianic movements within 100 years of Jesus' death. So it wasn't a novel idea to build up someone as a savior of the Jews.

By tying Jesus to David's line and proclaiming him the everlasting king, they could take an apparent earthly promise and make it a heavenly one. The Jewish people could be united under this belief. Again, considering how the apostles hoped for all of Israel to convert to Christianity, this theory has some legs.

3. The lie could bring peace and freedom to the region.

This is similar to number 2. In a sense, the spreading of Christianity in the first century was something like a war of philosophy. By converting large numbers of people in the Roman Empire the disciples could change the political landscape. Is it a coincidence that the disciples headed west with their message and placed such strong emphasis there? The Jews had already tried rebellions with the sword. This was a rebellion of the mind. And if the spreading of the gospel is seen as a war... well wars are something people die for.

Just some ideas. Your thoughts are welcome.

Edited by fellside

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This is something I've thought about a lot over the past two years. It was one of the most compelling and reassuring ideas for me when I was a Christian. When you read the New Testament, the writers appear to be intelligent, sincere and loving individuals. How could they possibly be lying? And why would they be willing to die for something they knew wasn't true? After all, 11 of the 12 apostles died gruesome deaths and the 12th was exiled. Anyway, here are a few ideas I have about it.

1. They did not know they were headed towards death.

This notion is heavily supported by the New Testament. The disciples of Christ believed that the Jews would accept the gospel of Jesus in mass conversion. The apostle Paul laments the fact that this did not happen in Romans 8 and 9. The Christian response to this lack of conversion was to take the gospel to gentiles instead. But even at this point they believed that after the majority of gentiles converted, the Jews would then believe as well (Romans 10, 11). Surely this kind of optimism does not reflect a mindset of a people convinced of their impending destruction. If they accepted that their fate was an early death, it had to be much later than the time of the resurrection.

In other words, if it was a lie, it was certainly created before they believed they were going to die for it. And when they discovered later on that they would die for it, it isn't unlikely to assume they had gone too far to turn back.

What's interesting is that Jesus, in many of the Gospels (including the Nag Hammadi Library) suggests that to look inside and bring it forth would "save you", and that to not do this would "destroy you". Perhaps this was more metaphorical or metaphysical even of a suggestion, as opposed to believe that it was false.

I would be willing to suggest some eastern influence on early Christianity, perhaps through the concepts of "everlasting life" we may find traces or transcendental philosophy or reincarnation even. Although spiritual dualism could be found in Greece already through various branches of Metaphysics, and perhaps Egyptian influence as well (the ka or spirit body concept and elements of resurrection).

2. The lie was worth dying for to save their people.

It is important to note how bad things had gotten for the Jewish people at the point of the first century. The Jews had been conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hellenists and the Romans in consecutive defeats over the course of several hundred years. Their culture had been torn apart by exiles and plunders. But more importantly, they had been stripped of their religious hope.

The conquests of Israel and Judah had effectively killed the promise God made to them. In God's covenant with David he promises an everlasting kingdom through his descendants and eternal dominion over their lands. The line of David was ruined and the dynasty was clearly not everlasting. This blow to their religious beliefs led to opinions that a messiah would come and rescue them. In fact, there were at least a dozen other Messianic movements within 100 years of Jesus' death. So it wasn't a novel idea to build up someone as a savior of the Jews.

By tying Jesus to David's line and proclaiming him the everlasting king, they could take an apparent earthly promise and make it a heavenly one. The Jewish people could be united under this belief. Again, considering how the apostles hoped for all of Israel to convert to Christianity, this theory has some legs.

I'm not really sure what you are arguing here. The tying of Jesus to the line of David was more so an approach to synthesize and incorporate multiple spiritual wanderings into one system that could be later be controlled by the Imperial Cult of Rome. Or at least various Greek papyri and other objects dating back to this time seem to suggest that the Christianity we "know and love" actually has traces of Greek Paganism, Judaism, Gnosticism and even elements of Egyptian cosmology.

3. The lie could bring peace and freedom to the region.

This is similar to number 2. In a sense, the spreading of Christianity in the first century was something like a war of philosophy. By converting large numbers of people in the Roman Empire the disciples could change the political landscape. Is it a coincidence that the disciples headed west with their message and placed such strong emphasis there? The Jews had already tried rebellions with the sword. This was a rebellion of the mind. And if the spreading of the gospel is seen as a war... well wars are something people die for.

Just some ideas. Your thoughts are welcome.

And that's an interesting suggestion, and I think this falls in line with other World Religions the sense to die for an ideal. In a sense it wouldn't be unfair to compare Islam (Jihad) or even Hinduism (Bhagavad Gita, Sikhism) into this same category.

In a sense Jesus is the archetype of the holy martyr, and ultimately his vision for the world transcended earthly becoming, which seems to suggest that perhaps he was a bit of an idealist, that's all.

Edited by Savitri

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A lot of people die for something they believe in (especially religion). I'm curious, why make the distinction of early Christians?

Many people die for something they believe in. This thread is considering why someone would die for something they did not believe in.

I'm focusing on the early Christians because either they really saw Jesus resurrected or they didn't. If Jesus did not resurrect, then they must have lied. So I'm dealing with why they would lie about it and even die for that lie.

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A lot of people die for something they believe in (especially religion). I'm curious, why make the distinction of early Christians?

Many people die for something they believe in. This thread is considering why someone would die for something they did not believe in.

I'm focusing on the early Christians because either they really saw Jesus resurrected or they didn't. If Jesus did not resurrect, then they must have lied. So I'm dealing with why they would lie about it and even die for that lie.

In my opinion, a combination of 2 and 3. Again, some people suggest that it was the Roman Imperial Cult who sought to integrate Jews into the empire...(meaning perhaps it was not them the ones to lie at all...)

A few clues are found in the star of the east mythos/jesus of nazareth that would point towards the legitimate Jewish messiah.

Edited by Savitri

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I'm focusing on the early Christians because either they really saw Jesus resurrected or they didn't. If Jesus did not resurrect, then they must have lied

this seems to be the crux since, as Dodgerbolt has noted, people of religion die as a result of their faith all the time. but i think you're simply not including the obvious answer: they believed Jesus was resurrected, but they were simply wrong; the period in question was as we all know a very superstitious time. with the benefit of hindsight we can look back and say that the idea of sacrificing a goat to appease one's God or gods was ridiculous, and would not in fact bring those committing the sacrifice any more fortune; that they simply believed something which was wrong. they weren't being malicious, and many of them were sincere and relatively intelligent people, they were just wrong, i.e. had beliefs not in accordance with reality.

these were, after all, men who believed deeply in Christ's divinity before he was crucified, and what conceptual difference is there between one physically impossible miracle and another, i.e. between turning water into wine and the bodily Resurrection of a dead man? if they were ready to accept that the son of a God was living amongst them and speaking to them, why would the idea that he had returned from the dead have phased them?

Edited by Blackstar

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this seems to be the crux since, as Dodgerbolt has noted, people of religion die as a result of their faith all the time. but i think you're simply not including the obvious answer: they believed Jesus was resurrected, but they were simply wrong; the period in question was as we all know a very superstitious time. with the benefit of hindsight we can look back and say that the idea of sacrificing a goat to appease one's God or gods was ridiculous, and would not in fact bring those committing the sacrifice any more fortune; that they simply believed something which was wrong. they weren't being malicious, and many of them were sincere and relatively intelligent people, they were just wrong, i.e. had beliefs not in accordance with reality.

these were, after all, men who believed deeply in Christ's divinity before he was crucified, and what conceptual difference is there between one physically impossible miracle and another, i.e. between turning water into wine and the bodily Resurrection of a dead man? if they were ready to accept that the son of a God was living amongst them and speaking to them, why would the idea that he had returned from the dead have phased them?

Are you saying that the early Christians believed Jesus to have risen from the dead despite not seeing it? They just assumed that he had risen? They still would have had to lie in that they all claimed to have encountered him face to face. Even Paul proclaimed to encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus. So even if you accept that they really believed that Jesus rose from the dead, we still have to account for a lie.

To accept your theory that they really believed it and didn't lie, you would either have to propose that (a) the early Christians did not claim to have seen Jesus risen from the dead but instead that notion was added on after their deaths. Or (b )they were somehow mistaken and thought some other individual that they saw was Jesus despite spending three years in close contact with the real Jesus.

Of the dozen other messianic movements around the time of first century, no other movement accepted the idea of resurrection. When a potential messiah died you just went to find their brother or close family member and proclaim them to be the messiah. "Protocol" if you will, would have been to take James (Jesus' brother) and proclaim him to be the new messiah.

Edited by fellside

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The Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire adapted various myths "together" and ultimately gave "Jesus of Nazareth" the "anointing" of the "Messiah" through the fulfillment of the Star Prophecy of the Jews.

Incorporated with the Fisherman of Souls mythos (Greek pagan folklore) and the "feeding of the multitde", they were able to unite different traditions and cultural identities into the Empire (which wasn't half bad at all as long as you paid your taxes).

...

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This is something I've thought about a lot over the past two years. It was one of the most compelling and reassuring ideas for me when I was a Christian.

When you were a Christian? I guess I missed something. Why aren't you a Christian anymore?

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When you were a Christian? I guess I missed something. Why aren't you a Christian anymore?

Mainly has to do with the fall of man. I know you were more of a libertarian free will guy than I was, but regardless of which view I looked at I couldn't get over it. Whether Calvinism, Molinism, of Arminianism, in some sense God wanted the fall to happen. He placed the tree in the garden and with that move led to the damnation and suffering of billions of people. The grace of the gospel didn't seem very graceful anymore when you consider that you're being pulled out of a ditch that you were placed in by your redeemer.

That was the main concern that I had struggled with for about four or five years. I sort of brushed it off as a nagging doubt and kept going. But the more that hole opened up the more other doubts emerged. I was in theological seminary by the time I "gave up" if you will.

Inerrancy of scripture seems impossible to me now as does a 6,000 year old universe. I see logical problems with the atonement of Christ. Moral problems with the ever changing objective moral code of the Bible. And so on. So really there are a lot of reasons why I'm not anymore.

I wouldn't say that I'm an atheist. Deism seems reasonable to me and answers some cosmological problems about the origin of the universe. But I wouldn't say that I could prove deism. Just that I couldn't justifiably believe in Christianity anymore.

Edited by fellside

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Mainly has to do with the fall of man. I know you were more of a libertarian free will guy than I was, but regardless of which view I looked at I couldn't get over it. Whether Calvinism, Molinism, of Arminianism, in some sense God wanted the fall to happen. He placed the tree in the garden and with that move led to the damnation and suffering of billions of people.

Well, look, I respect your decision, and I'm not going to try to change your mind. I'm sure you've thought about this a long time.

For what it's worth, though, I'm not seeing how you get from God's foreseeing and permitting the Fall to God's wanting the Fall. There's an old distinction in ethics between intending a certain outcome of an action and merely foreseeing the outcome. When a soldier jumps on a grenade to save his buddies, for example, what he intends is to save his friends. He does not intend to kill himself (it's not as though, should he survive the grenade, he'll look for some other way to end it). But of course he does foresee that he'll die. So here's an example in which one might foresee an outcome of an action without intending it, without wanting it.

I think something similar happened with the Fall. God foresaw that it would happen and permitted it to happen, perhaps even with some greater good in mind. But that doesn't mean that he intended or wanted it to happen. He's not guilty for its happening. (We are. Though I agree with you that this view is not open to serious Calvinists. I agree that they have big problems here!)

Something similar happens with parents and children. I just had a daughter (it's great; I STRONGLY recommend it). And I had her intentionally. At the same time, I knew that she'd do a lot of messed up stuff in her life. (We all do, so why should she be different?) I did not intend or want to bring about those messed up things, though. I merely foresaw them and permitted them, with a greater good in mind (all the goods that would be brought about in her life, which I believe will outweigh whatever not-so-goods are brought about by her life).

And maybe something similar happened with God. He foresaw and permitted our fallen existence, with a greater good in mind: namely, the incarnation, the atonement, and our eventual state in heaven, a state in which our perfect characters are creditable to us, since we existed in a fallen state that allowed for genuine character development. These are all great goods. The best goods I can think of, really. And I think they certainly outweigh the evils of the Fall. (And, again, God is not culpable for the Fall. He didn't intend it to happen, and he didn't *do* it! We did.)

Anyway, there are some thoughts. I'd be interested to know what you think about this.

Inerrancy of scripture seems impossible to me now as does a 6,000 year old universe. I see logical problems with the atonement of Christ. Moral problems with the ever changing objective moral code of the Bible. And so on. So really there are a lot of reasons why I'm not anymore.

I'd certainly be interested in talking with you more about this. Perhaps after we talk a bit more about the Fall... :-)

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Is that so strange a conversion—one of faith to none at all? I was formerly a Sunday-going Catholic-Christian until my mid-to-late teenage years.

No, it's not so strange. I just haven't spoken with fellside since he changed his mind on this, so I'm curious what prompted the change.

I'm also curious what prompted your change. Why did you stop being a Sunday-going Catholic? What changed your mind?

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Beforehand I'll just state that I did read your entire post but am only quoting a portion for the sake of space.

And maybe something similar happened with God. He foresaw and permitted our fallen existence, with a greater good in mind: namely, the incarnation, the atonement, and our eventual state in heaven, a state in which our perfect characters are creditable to us, since we existed in a fallen state that allowed for genuine character development. These are all great goods. The best goods I can think of, really. And I think they certainly outweigh the evils of the Fall. (And, again, God is not culpable for the Fall. He didn't intend it to happen, and he didn't *do* it! We did.)

Right but God did not merely forsee an event and allow it to happen. He created the circumstances that brought about that event. He placed a tree in the garden of Eden. He commanded Adam not to eat of the tree. If God did not at least in some sense want for the Fall to happen, he would not have allowed those circumstances. It seems you agree with me to some extent that God wanted the fall to happen. You say that the fall brought about goods like the atonement, incarnation, and human charcter. So it sounds like you're saying those justify the occurance of the fall. That it would be good for God to want the fall to happen. For if the fall did not happen (according to you) the universe would not be as good. And as a monilist (are you a monilist still?) you must believe that God creates the best possible universe.

Also, if God is truly timeless, how can real forsight be possible? Christians often use God's immutability to argue for his existence. In fact they often argue that this immutability is necessary for the existence of the universe. If this is the case, then God would experience, know and see everything in an instant. For him not to change, he cannot learn. For God to learn there would have had to be a point in time when he did not know something. And for there to be a point in time where he did not know something he would lose his omniscience and immutability both.

If God really is unchanging, then how can any of his decisions be dependent upon anything but himself? How can God make a decision based on what mankind will do? Do you agree in the notion that God is unchanging and timeless?

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One can be a Molinist and deny that God created the best of all possible worlds.

In fact, some who hold to middle knowledge (not Molinism per se, but the relevant idea entailed by it) deny that there even IS a best of all possible worlds. Plantinga has argued for as much (his O Felix Culpa paper and one of his books, the title of which is escaping me). Also, I think anreizen argued similarly on his blog once (a blog I miss by the way).

Suppose the theory of middle knowledge is true. Then also suppose that for any possible world W, there is a better possible world W* that is just like W except that it includes one more gorgeous, tropical island full of white sandy beaches and palm trees. (Thus, no best possible world.) Now where is the contradiction coming in?

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Re: divine timelessness, some simple deny it. See William Lane Craig and his book on God and time. While divine timelessness has been very commonly put forward by western Christians, it has by no means been universally believed, nor is it something found in a creed (that I am aware of). Anreizen may better be able to speak to whether or not it is a dogmatically held belief among Catholics.

Nevertheless, suppose God is timeless. Arguably, this does not create a contradiction when coupled with divine foreknowledge. Suppose God is timeless and immutable. So, presumably his body of knowledge does not change with the passing of time. So? How does this not permit him to have infallible foreknowledge? Could it not be the case that from eternity he knows all that will ever happen?

Now you brought up a second concern centered on God not being able to make decisions based on anything but himself. Why think this? Couldn't God know what you would do in any given situation and make decisions accordingly even if he is timeless?

But again, I don't think the theist or Christian needs to be terribly attached to the notion of divine timelessness (which is distinct from intrinsic immutability, something Christians have defended through the ages).

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Beforehand I'll just state Right but God did not merely forsee an event and allow it to happen. He created the circumstances that brought about that event.

Well, you make it sound as though it was out of humans' hands. "The circumstances brought about the event," you say. Maybe that's a Calvinist way of looking at things, but we normal people (winky face) think the Fall was genuinely up to humans. So I don't think you can blame God for bringing about the circumstances that he foresaw would lead to the Fall.

Think about my daughter again. I've foreseen and "created the circumstances that will bring about" her doing evil. But I won't be responsible for that evil. She will be. The same goes with God and us, I think.

He placed a tree in the garden of Eden. He commanded Adam not to eat of the tree. If God did not at least in some sense want for the Fall to happen, he would not have allowed those circumstances.

You keep saying God "in some sense" wanted the Fall to happen. I wouldn't use the word "wanted" (or "intended") for reasons that I gave in my last post. I think he just foresaw and permitted the Fall. And he may have had good reason to permit it, just as I had good reason to permit the birth of my daughter even though I foresaw that she would do evil. I think God's good reasons were something like the incarnation, the atonement, and having us genuinely creditable for our perfected characters in heaven.

If you want to call that "wanting," then sure, God wanted the Fall to happen. But it's a very peculiar kind of wanting, one for with God is NOT morally blameworthy. I think that's really what we're disagreeing about: whether God did something immoral in the first chapters if Genesis. I think he didn't; you think he did. But I think we can agree that it's possible to foresee certain bad consequences of an action, do the action intentionally, and yet nevertheless not be morally blameworthy for doing the action. Me having my daughter, for example. The dentist drilling your tooth, for example.

For if the fall did not happen (according to you) the universe would not be as good. And as a monilist (are you a monilist still?) you must believe that God creates the best possible universe.

I do believe that the universe would no be as good without the Fall. I think that the incarnation, the atonement, and our future state in heaven (all of which required the Fall) are of such surpassing greatness that any universe which contains them is better than any universe which does not.

I suppose I'm still a Molinist, though I don't really think much about divine foreknowledge these days. I hold that view pretty tentatively. But the view certainly does not entail that God creates the best possible universe. I know lots of Molinists who believe there is no best possible universe. I suppose I'm one of them.

Also, if God is truly timeless, how can real forsight be possible?
Man, I do NOT know what to say about God's relationship to time. I don't even know what to say about time. Time is really, REALLY weird if you start thinking about it. (It seems to move, or we seem to move through it, but how fast is whatever it is that is moving moving? There doesn't seem to be a good answer. 60 seconds per minute? But that's just 60s/60s, which is just 1. 1 is not a rate.)

I think I'm inclined to say God is in time just like us. I'm pretty sure that's a fairly common view among Christian philosophers these days. So maybe this will assuage your worry about foresight.

Christians often use God's immutability to argue for his existence.

Do they? I don't think I've ever seen an argument like that. How would that argument go?

If God really is unchanging, then how can any of his decisions be dependent upon anything but himself? How can God make a decision based on what mankind will do? Do you agree in the notion that God is unchanging and timeless?

Indeed, how could God even make a decision, if God cannot change? These are good questions. I suppose I agree that God is unchanging, but whatever Christians have meant by that, it had better be compatible with God's actually doing things in time. God speaks in the Bible. So, in a certain trivial way, he changes. He says "T-H-I-S I-S M-Y B-E-L-O-V-E-D S-O-N..." In saying that, he first says "this" and then he said "is." That's a change. So whatever people mean by divine immutability, it had better not stumble over such trivial counterexamples. I suppose it's meant to mean something more about his character. He keeps his promises, his character is the same always, his goodness won't go away, etc. I suspect that's roughly what Christians mean when they say God doesn't change. And I think a view like that sidesteps these worries you raise.

Edited by anreizen

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anreizen brings up a good point about the seeming impossibility of a timeless God making a decision (or really performing any action). Then give up divine timelessness. Ok. I don't think the theist or Christian loses anything important; afterall, there are contemporary Christian philosophers who don't hold to God being timeless. It it not as though believing God experiences time makes one a heretic (at least I hope not, cause then I would be a heretic). I wrote an undergraduate paper arguing for the idea that God does experience time; later I read Craig's book and found him arguing several of the same things I did. :)

I echo what anreizen has said about the traditional understanding of immutability (God sticking to his promises and being steadfast in his character). That is what is theologically important, not the question of does he experience change, IMO.

Back to the OP though. I don't see how any of the three options do as good of a job of explaining the early martyrs as does the theory that says they genuinely thought Jesus had been resurrected.

#1 Is hard to swallow considering most of the 12 Apostles were executed. If their buddies are being imprisoned, exiled, and killed, don't you think that the tenth to be killed would have realized that his death was imminent? Or wouldn't John the Revelator just be like "hey, suffering exile for a lie just isn't worth it, especially considering I might be executed like Peter and the others were"? I think the early Christians (as in, those who knew Jesus and the 12 apostles) were aware that they might be killed for their faith. Certainly Paul was aware he would probably die (Romans 8, Phil. 2, 2nd Tim. 4).

#2 not sure I understand it. Still, I take it you mean either (a) early Christians thought their beliefs would lead to the Jews being freed from Roman rule, or (B) they thought their beliefs would culturally unite the Jews and thus be worth dying for. If you mean (a) I am going to have to say it doesn't seem likely that a story about a carpenter dying and rising again would lead to either a rebellion or the Romans kindly giving the Jews greater independence. Perhaps if the story ended with the resurrected Jesus remaining on earth to wage war, but not his whole story about him disappearing in the clouds. Who wants to join a rebellion for his sake? If you mean (B) I really doubt the early Christians would go to their deaths for the sake of Jewish unification when you consider that the Jews were responsible for a good amount of the suffering they originally endured AND the Jews didn't seem to want to be united to the Christians. Wouldn't it be hopeless for the Christians to seek unification with their Jewish brethren on the basis of the Jesus story given the way some influential Jews were treating the Christians?

#3 By peace to the region are you thinking peace between Jews and Romans or Jewish undermining of Roman rule in a manner that is strictly idealogical? What kind of peace do you think the Christians were after with their crazy story about Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven? And why on earth would they think this story would inspire peace in Palestine? I don't see how that story sounds like the sort of thing that would bring peace to Palestine, so I doubt the Apostles would think that.

What I think makes better sense of the actions of these martyrs is that they genuinely thought Jesus had come back from the dead, was God, and would resurrect them and bless them in glory in the end of time. Paul seems to claim as much, so I will take him at his word regarding his motives until I find something else that explains the matter better.

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What's up, anreizen? (Not sure if you are ok with first names being used.)

These days I am teaching high school math (trying to teach it anyway - boy is it hard to help some kids grasp this stuff some days) in wine country and loving it. Not being a full time student any more, I don't get to spend nearly as much time with lady philosophy as I would like, but I still have access to JSTOR through my old grad school (shhh, don't tell them), so I like to read a philosophy journal article here and there in my spare time. Also, I am trying to convince the school where I work to let me teach a logic class next year, which would be super fun (I know I am a dork).

How is teaching going for you, buddy? Do you get much time to research / write? Can I expect a copy of your Presence at a Distance paper in a journal anytime soon (or hook me up with an email even? ;) )? I read an abstract of it somewhere, and it sounded fascinating.

I hope you and your family are all doing well.

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Well, you make it sound as though it was out of humans' hands. "The circumstances brought about the event," you say. Maybe that's a Calvinist way of looking at things, but we normal people (winky face) think the Fall was genuinely up to humans. So I don't think you can blame God for bringing about the circumstances that he foresaw would lead to the Fall.

Could God have created Eden without the tree? God seems to have created a great many places that do not contain a mystical, forbidden tree. But he decided to create Eden with a tree with forbidden fruit.

If God did not want mankind to fall into sinful chaos and destruction, an easy step would be to get rid of the tree and do something with that pesky snake as well. I don't know how anyone can argue that God didn't want the fall to happen when he made it so easy for such (apparently foolish) people to sin.

If you did not want your daughter to eat chocolate ice cream would it make sense for you to lock her in a room with chocolate ice cream and a talking dog who tells her that chocolate ice cream is good for her?

You keep saying God "in some sense" wanted the Fall to happen. I wouldn't use the word "wanted" (or "intended") for reasons that I gave in my last post. I think he just foresaw and permitted the Fall. And he may have had good reason to permit it, just as I had good reason to permit the birth of my daughter even though I foresaw that she would do evil. I think God's good reasons were something like the incarnation, the atonement, and having us genuinely creditable for our perfected characters in heaven.

I don't think that "permit" is a strong enough word considering the circumstances that God set up. Genesis looks more like a trap than a cosmic accident of free will.

If you want to call that "wanting," then sure, God wanted the Fall to happen. But it's a very peculiar kind of wanting, one for with God is NOT morally blameworthy. I think that's really what we're disagreeing about: whether God did something immoral in the first chapters if Genesis. I think he didn't; you think he did. But I think we can agree that it's possible to foresee certain bad consequences of an action, do the action intentionally, and yet nevertheless not be morally blameworthy for doing the action. Me having my daughter, for example. The dentist drilling your tooth, for example.

The question of whether God did something immoral in the first chapters of Genesis has more to do with what comes after Genesis. Genesis accounts for why we go to hell. The fall of man is the reason why I'm born sinful. It is the reason why bad things happen all the time.

If your daughter eating chocolate ice cream would lead to the eternal suffering of billions of people and YOU left her locked in a room with chocolate ice cream and a talking dog hell bent on getting her to eat it... I think that would make you at worst immoral and at least guilty of some sort of neglect.

God left the fate of billions of people in the hands of two seemingly foolish individuals. Whether or not God caused the fall of man, the simple fact that he created a forbidden tree and let an evil snake roam the garden makes him look culpable for all the madness we see today.

I do believe that the universe would no be as good without the Fall. I think that the incarnation, the atonement, and our future state in heaven (all of which required the Fall) are of such surpassing greatness that any universe which contains them is better than any universe which does not.

Is the atonement as great if it is the result of such cosmic neglect as the Fall? If it took you 4,000 years to solve the problem of your daughter eating chocolate ice cream, would it still have made more sense to simply make it harder for your daughter to eat chocolate ice cream in the first place?

By the way, I think that eternal damnation is far worse than the luxury of having certain beneficial experiences. I think things like the holocaust or the raping of Nanking are worse than the luxury of being able to see a deity walk on earth for 30 some odd years.

As for your answer on God's immutability, if God is not outside of time, how could he create time?

If God did not create time and time is something that just goes back infinitely, then why couldn't an atheist just adopt the same view and say that the universe exists alongside time going back infinitely.

Edited by fellside

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#1 Is hard to swallow considering most of the 12 Apostles were executed. If their buddies are being imprisoned, exiled, and killed, don't you think that the tenth to be killed would have realized that his death was imminent? Or wouldn't John the Revelator just be like "hey, suffering exile for a lie just isn't worth it, especially considering I might be executed like Peter and the others were"? I think the early Christians (as in, those who knew Jesus and the 12 apostles) were aware that they might be killed for their faith. Certainly Paul was aware he would probably die (Romans 8, Phil. 2, 2nd Tim. 4).

I don't think you read all of my initial post. I said that it's possible the apostles didn't know they would die when the lie was created. Of course at some point all of them knew death or exile was coming. The point I'm making is that this wasn't the case when they started spreading Christianity.

Also you're not taking into account my biblical support. The apostles believed that they would win. They believed that the gospel would spread through Israel and then everywhere else. So when the doctrine of the resurrection began, the idea of impending doom wasn't in their minds.

#2 not sure I understand it. Still, I take it you mean either (a) early Christians thought their beliefs would lead to the Jews being freed from Roman rule, or ( B) they thought their beliefs would culturally unite the Jews and thus be worth dying for. If you mean (a) I am going to have to say it doesn't seem likely that a story about a carpenter dying and rising again would lead to either a rebellion or the Romans kindly giving the Jews greater independence. Perhaps if the story ended with the resurrected Jesus remaining on earth to wage war, but not his whole story about him disappearing in the clouds. Who wants to join a rebellion for his sake? If you mean ( B) I really doubt the early Christians would go to their deaths for the sake of Jewish unification when you consider that the Jews were responsible for a good amount of the suffering they originally endured AND the Jews didn't seem to want to be united to the Christians. Wouldn't it be hopeless for the Christians to seek unification with their Jewish brethren on the basis of the Jesus story given the way some influential Jews were treating the Christians?

I mean B. And if you think this is far-fetched it's clear in the New Testament that they thought it would happen. They thought there would be a massive Jewish conversion. Even after rejection.

#3 By peace to the region are you thinking peace between Jews and Romans or Jewish undermining of Roman rule in a manner that is strictly idealogical? What kind of peace do you think the Christians were after with their crazy story about Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to heaven? And why on earth would they think this story would inspire peace in Palestine? I don't see how that story sounds like the sort of thing that would bring peace to Palestine, so I doubt the Apostles would think that.

This is the least thought out of the three. So I won't argue with you too much. But Christianity did eventually spread throughout Rome. And the apostles clearly had some big thoughts in the New Testament about what would happen with their religion. So it's not entirely absurd.

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Fellside,

I did read all of your post, though I may have misunderstood some of it.

Let me make sure I get what you are saying. So Jesus was crucified by Roman officials under pressure from local Jewish leaders, yet those who knew him did not think that their lives would be in danger if they ran around talking about him being a king who has risen from the dead and must be worshipped. These first Christians spread this message because they thought it would unite all the Jews (they thought eventually all the Jews would accept what they said). Is that your gloss of things? I want to make sure I got it.

Now you have suggested that Paul's words in Romans show that the first Christians thought that all Jews would accept their message and for this reason the Christians did not fear for their lives.

According to Acts, the first martyr, Stephen, was killed by a mob While Paul was present and approving of the stoning. Plus, in Phil 3, Paul affirms having been a persecutor of the church. Thus, it seems that Paul knew full well that people could be persecuted for spreading Christianity. In fact, more specifically Paul knew that the Jews might well be the ones doing the persecuting. How is it then that Paul can be your source for showing that the early Christians did not think their lives were in danger BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT ALL THE JEWS WOULD ACCEPT THEIR MESSAGE AND BE UNIFIED? Clearly Paul must have known that some

Jews would threaten Christians, for he himself had been just such a Jew. How is it then that Paul's belief in a mass Jewish conversion leads him to not fear persecution / death?

But your suggestions also included the idea that WHEN THE LIE ABOUT THE RESURRECTION WAS CREATED, THE CHRISTIANS MAKING UP THE LIE DID NOT THINK THEY WOULD BE KILLED. Right (sorry for all the caps, I am having trouble making italics and bold work)?

Presumably you think this lie was concocted sometime not that long after the death of Jesus, for otherwise you run into the problem I previously mentioned of Christians being well aware of the danger they were in due to their friends being killed. Yet, even if the lie was made up quite early, weren't the liars well aware that JESUS HAD BEEN EXECUTED? So even if the lie predates most, or all, of the Christian martyrs, you stil have the problem of the very leader of the cult being executed (not to mention previously driven out of town with stones). How could the liars not know that spreading Christianity would probably put their lives in danger? Plus, Jesus told his disciples that they would suffer for his sake (Mattew 10:16 - 33), so they should have seen suffering coming.

You have also suggested that the martyrs were willing to die because they thought they would "win". I am not sure what you mean by this, except that you've suggested that they thought all Jews would be persuaded by their message and join their cause. You claim that Romans 10 and 11 show this, but I think that is unclear (not that it clearly shows the contrary, but simply that it is unclear). While Romans 11:26 does say that all Israel will be saved, I do not think it is entirely clear that Paul means that all ethnic Jews will accept Christianity. After all, in Romans 11:1 - 24, Paul talks about some being cut off and says that "What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened". Doesn't this appear to communicate that there are some Jews who will not become Christians and a remnant (who were chosen) who will? Also, we must remember that Paul had previously written "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants" (Romans 9:6-7). I think this passage pretty clearly communicates that not all ethnic Jews will be saved (in other words, will not join the Christians). Here Paul claims that only SOME ethnic Jews are chosen, so doesn't this show that the Christians thought that only SOME Jews would join them? I think I have sufficiently shown that the first Christians (i) had reason to think that they would be persecuted by Jews (based on what Jesus had told them), and (ii) actually did think that some Jews would not accept their message (based on what Paul writes in Romans). So what do you think, fellside? Do you still think the early Christians did not foresee suffering, persecution, and possible death as a result of spreading their message. If so, why? Also, do you still think the Christians were convinced that the Jews would join them? If so, what do you make of the passages in Romans that I have indicated?

You have several times referenced a Christian confidence in a massive Jewish conversion. You have pointed to Romans, but I think the points I made here should show that chapters 8 - 11 are inconclusive at best. Is there other evidence you had in mind for this idea you are advancing? Maybe there are other passages you are thinking of that you haven't mentioned that I am failing to take into account. Also, could you maybe better explain how Romans 10 and 11 convey the confidence in mass Jewish conversion that you are suggesting? Maybe I am just being dense and not seeing it (I mean that seriously). Thanks. :)

I agree that Christianity spread and that the authors of the New Testament had big visions of what spreading their message would mean. Still, I don't see what evidence there is to think that the Christians had in mind their fake story of a resurrected Jesus bringing peace to the empire or region. The story they told doesn't even seem like the sort of thing that would inspire peace in an area, does it? Why think they thought it would bring this peace?

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Theory 1: You're skipping over something in Romans. You're analyzing whether Paul talks about a second expected Jewish conversion, or whether Israel in chapter 11 really means ethnic Israel. That's beside the point. The point I'm making is that initial expectation of conversion. How Paul says, "To the Jew first, then the gentile." The early apostles anticipated ethnic Israel to believe. Now what they thought after that initial disappointment is up for debate.

I'm not suggesting that the disciples thought it out of the realm of possibility that they would die. But I don't think it can be argued they thought a premature death certain. You mention Stephen but his death occurred after the notion of Jesus' resurrection came about. All I'm saying in this point is that when the notion of Jesus' bodily resurrection was developed, those responsible did not have knowledge of their forthcoming deaths and sufferings.

All that is required for Theory 1 is for it to be the case that the early Christians did not know for certain they would die for the lie they were creating. Something I think is often overlooked. Now to that you might say, "That still doesn't say why they would die for that lie." It's very easy to imagine someone dying for a lie that they spent the majority of their life working for. That John was exiled when he was an old man says very little about his motivations when he was younger. By the time all of the apostles died, their message had been widely spread among the Mediterranean.

Theory 2: I think you're not giving enough consideration of history during the time of Second Temple Judaism. There had been a dozen other messianic movements within that time period. There was obvious motivation to save the Jewish religion. Christianity can be seen as one more attempt to unite the Jews and fulfill Old Testament prophesies.

Theory 3: This is one really should just fit within Theory 2. I think we can agree that people who start Messianic movements expect them to succeed. Why proclaim someone to be the messiah if you don't think that it will catch on? What we know of other Messianic movements suggests that the early Christian church probably hoped for and expected a political and social change based on their beliefs.

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