Talk:Jesus/Archive 7

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Jewish views[edit]

Removed this sentence from intro to Jewish views, because: a) Do not understand what it means and so not sure it is correct b) If it is correct and is given a bit more explanation then it probably should be in a daughter article

"For messianic Jews beside being messiah, Jesus is also the shekinah of God shining in the temple body of believers." :ChrisG 18:19, 3 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I understand the sentence, but it is misplaced as an intro to Jewish views; and, I'm not sure that it can easily fit anywhere in this article. The sentence expresses a New Testament teaching regarding the church; and, it would be more appropriate to an article on the church. Mkmcconn 20:05, 3 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Does the frase 'Jewish view of Jesus as Messiah' mean that 'according to standart Jewish view Jesus is Messiah and here you'll read more about the fact...'? If yes this is not very good NPOV --Ilya 11:17, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I find a few parts of this article a little inconsistent. For example, in the life and teachings it refers to 'some sort of disturbance in the temple'. Now as far as I know the only source for this incident is the Christian Gospels, which go a lot further and make it explicit what kind of disturbance it was. If the Gospels are reliable as a source for the fact that there was an incident, surely they are reliable enough for the nature of the incident?

Surely also any article about Jesus must make some mention of the Christian claims of a resurrection. It's not POV to mention that Christians claim this. DJ Clayworth 22:27, 2 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I initially wrote a fairly short section on Jesus' life trying to establish some common ground that the majority of people could agree with. I was pleasantly surprised to find people actually added some information, rather than demand one short paragraph saying born, religious teacher, arrested, crucified.
I think I wrote the sentence about the disturbance at the temple. I only wrote that because I seemed to remember that the different gospel accounts disagree on details. If there is more agreement as to the nature of the disturbance in the gospel accounts I don't think people would disagree with that information being added because no miraculous claims are being made.
I agree that some mention should be made about the Christian claims of resurrection; but I didn't add that to the original account, because since it is the most controversial point I didn't want any controversy to prevent the creation of a short biography. :ChrisG 09:54, 3 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I'm going to boldly add a minimal resurrection section with appropriate NPOV attributions. DJ Clayworth 15:20, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The claim that all of our knowledge of Jesus comes from the Gospels is plainly false (forgot the letters of Paul?) so I removed errors and added a lot of material on what in fact we have. Gene Ward Smith 01:27, 28 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The following was removed from the introduction after the previous edit by Gene Ward Smith. Some of his edit has been retained because the intro did require some rebalancing; but I have cut out this considerable chunk because it was too detailed a discussion for the introduction. It is probably most applicable to Jesus and textual evidence and/or Historicity of Jesus sections of this article and/or the relating main articles. I have also somewhat rebalanced his edit. ChrisG 21:09, 28 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Nearly all of our historical knowledge about Jesus is dervied from the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the letters of Paul, but there is for example a discussion of his brother James in the Antiquities of Flavius Josephus which most scholars accept as authentic. The majority of historians believe the Gospel accounts to have originated from primary and secondary sources written within living memory of Jesus. Evidence for a historical Jesus considered more doubtful by modern historians is provided by other material, often fragmentary, such as the sayings Gospel of Thomas, the Egerton Gospel, the Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel, Morton's Smith's controversial Secret Mark, and the still more controversial and dubious Testimonium Flavianum. Because of its firmly established status as a letter written by Paul himself, in which he speaks of meeting Peter and James, the letter of Paul to the Galatians is considered some of the best historical information we have, and by itself would settle the question of whether there was such a person for most historians.

The page has a link in a menu/table listed as "Jewish view of Jesus". This link goes to the "Jewish Messiah" page. The Jewish view of Jesus is not that he was the Jewish Messiah. How can we improve upon this factual inaccuracy? OneVoice 11:02, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Write the section currently missing from Jewish messiah? — No-One Jones (talk) 11:08, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)

That would not fit the need. As I understand the Jewish view of Jesus, it is in their view undeniable that Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah. Indeed replacing the link from the "Jewish view of Jesus" on the Jesus pages with a link to False messiah would fit better. This may be inflammatory. How do we address it without a crusade? Can Christians accept the idea that Jews do not view Jesus as the Messiah enough to allow this link to be changed or deleted? Do I overestimate the sensitivity of this issue? Indeed, if the "Jewish view of Jesus" is Jewish Messiah one is left to wonder why there are any Jews that are not Jews for Jesus! (a group that is not particularly large) OneVoice 23:37, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I've created a Jewish view of Jesus page from lost material in the Jewish Messiah page, which fixes these issues I think. ChrisG 21:32, 30 Jan 2004 (UTC)

ChrisG, thank you very much for addressing this need. What you are added is a vast improvement on the previous content. OneVoice 12:53, 1 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Mormons do not believe in Jesus "like other Christians do"[edit]

This is not intended to be inflamitory, but to reflect the wording I removed from the article. It is my understanding (and please correct me if I am wrong) that the Mormon belief in the person of Jesus is very different from the rest of Christianity. Therefore, in the interests of NPOV, I have removed the phrase " other Christians do" from the article.

It's late, I'm tired, and this is not intended to be inflamitory. If something I wrote here sets you off please accept my appologies in advance. Respectfully - DavidR (was David) 04:13, 3 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Pharisees and Sadduccees[edit]

The terms Pharisee and Sadduccee are reversed here. It is the Sadducees who are the liberal, wealthy, minority sect.

The Saducees were not liberal. It is also hard to say who was in the majority and who was in the minority. Certainly the Pharisees, being more liberal, were also more populist and one can claim that their following was much greater than the Saducees. Nevertheless, the Saducees were the dominant political and religious authority, and during the Hasmonean Kingdom were, at times, more popular. I don't know if there are any reliable statistics from that time from which we could say who really was in the majority or minority. Slrubenstein

The names and titles of Jesus[edit]

Finally had chance to look at this section, and I must admit I'm a little flabbergasted. What is the objective of this section, and why is it placed in the "historical" section? The heading of the "historical" section says that everything below it is based on empirical evidence accepted by most historians. The "names and titles" subsections is based entirely on the texts of the Gospels and on various Hebrew scriptures. Doesn't this imply that the Gospels and Hebrew scriptures are therefore empirical evidence??

Instead, the 'names and titles' section reads like a speculative attempt to take isolate certain words and phrases from their context, compare them with comparable words and phrases from other contexts, and thereby assign novel meanings to the words and phrases, thus indirectly ascribing novel beliefs to their authors. The entire approach seems very subjective. If this is what "modern scholars" are doing, that's fine, but it seems like it would fit better in the "other perspectives on Jesus" section as yet another significant body of dissenting opinion. Or, as seems likely, I'm just grossly misunderstanding the section, in which case I hope to benefit from someone's patient explanation. Thanks in advance, Wesley 05:26, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Wow! I didn't anticipate this reaction, but I am glad that you spelled it out in the talk section before taking any action. I value your knowledge and judgement so I hope that you will make whatever changes you ultimately believe are necessary to maintain the integrity of the article -- I hope that my clarifications here help in this process. First, it is possible that we need to revise the section on "empirical evidence" and history. Literary texts like the Gospels are important historical sources (I think many people who reject them as sources, and I do not mean you, Wesley, simply misunderstand how historians work and believe that documents are either entirely true or entirely false. In fact, this is almost never true; historians must analyze and inpterpret texts carefully, and there is debate over how to interpret the Gospels as historical sources, but there is no doubt among historians that the Gospels are historical sources. As the article itself says, though, "They look at scripture not as divinely inspired but as the work of fallible humans, who wrote in the light of their culture and time."). Second, most of what I put in comes from Geza Vermes Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels. Geza Vermes is a Fellow of the British Academy and Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, so he is a real historian. Moreover, this book is widely cited by other historians. I am not an expert in 1st century history and have not read a lot of books, but I know that the handfull of books I have read are well-considered books written by well-considered historians, and these books cite Vermes positively. I believe that what I put in this article is a fairly accurate summary of Vermes major points, but I am sure they can be re-written for style; in some cases points may need clarification or qualification; in some cases more evidence or other points of view may need to be added. But I do think the points are valid and reflect current scholarship.
The main reason I added them is two-fold: first, the article had Jesus' title as "messiah." It is true that this is one of his titles. Arguably, today it is his most important title. But to claim that it is his only title (and perhaps even to claim it is his most important title) is anachronistic. At the time that Jesus lived, he may very well have had other titles, some of which may have been more important (I am not claiming this is so, only that it is possible). We have very few sources for this time, but the Gospels constitute one important source. Since they were likely written by religiously motivated authors 50-100 years after Jesus was crucified, they must be taken with a grain of salt, but they still are important historical sources. In the Gospels Jesus has other titles besides messiah. Since this is a section on titles of Jesus, and it already discussed one title, messiah, I think it is important that it discuss other titles.
Second, there is the question of what these titles mean. The meaning of words is determined by their usage in a social context. As the discussion of "messiah" points out, that word has meant different things at different times. This is true for other titles (or phrases) used to describe Jesus. Many people who read the Gospels today come to the Gospels already knowing (or, believing) certain things -- about Jesus, Christianity, Jews, and Roman Judea. This knowledge influences how they read and interpret the Gospels. But what did these words mean when these texts were written, say, in the year 100 C.E.? If we can assume that Jesus or his disciples actually used these words, what did they mean in 20 or 30 C.E.? This raises the question of "context," which you use above. In your comment, Wesley, I understand you to mean by "context" the place in the New Testament where these words occur. That is one important context. But these words were not invented by the authors of the NT; other people were using these words at the time the NT was written, and before it was written. Indeed, the authors of the NT grew up as members of a speech community in which these words were used, and wrote for an audience who, presumably, knew what these words meant. This is also part of the context. The best evidence we have for this context are other texts written during this period, or texts that people during this period were reading (which were written earlier). Vermes is looking at these texts in order to explore possible, plausible, and probable meanings of these titles.
It sounds like I should put the citation in the article. But given you reaction, Wesley, I don't think that would be adequate to respond to your concerns. I hope that what I have just written answers your questions and gives sufficient explanation. If it does, and you see the merit of keeping this material, but believe that it needs to be reworked, I trust you to go ahead and make changes you see fit. If I have not been clear in my explanation, however, I hope you will continue to be patient and give me another opportunity to explain what I did. Thanks, Slrubenstein
I agree that this not an unusual way of interpreting the New Testament. But as a school of interpretation, it ought properly to be grouped with other schools of interpretation, like the Muslims and the Bahais and so forth. (I personally don't think much of "soft" sciences like sociology or psychology pretending they have the same weight as "hard" sciences like chemistry or physics; I believe I have plenty of company in this respect. Sociology has statistics, but not the kind of repeatability of experiments that chemistry has. History only has probabilities and best guesses based on limited data, an even worse situation.) Or, the section above it about this being about factual, empirical information only should be scrapped. Regarding context, yes I was referring to the context of the titles in the Gospels. True, the words were spoken within an historical and cultural context, not in a vacuum. Both sorts of context should be considered; this author considers only one of them. For instance, Matthew 20:17-19 reads, Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again. Following this the mother of two of the disciples asks if they can be seated with him in Jesus' kingdom. From the immediate context, it's clear that Jesus means himself and none other when he calls himself the "Son of Man", and that at the same time he is predicting something extraordinary about himself. One may argue that he wanted to emphasize his mortality by choosing that title, or that he was vaguely alluding to Daniel's 7:13 exalted Son of Man, but in any case by using it in the same sentence with a prediction of death and resurrection, he is saying something extraordinary about the Son of Man. The statistical approach ignores such things. Also, there are other cases in which Gospel writers very self consciously use well known words in a new way, the prime example being John's use of the word 'logos' in John chapter one.
Aside from this debate, however, the overriding presupposition or starting point that "these texts were not divinely inspired, but were written [solely] in light of their culture and time" identifies a particular POV. That's fine; my overarching concern is that this be recognized as a POV, as is the Christian POV, the Muslim POV, and so forth, and not that it be labeled as being particularly neutral or objective, as seems to be the case now.
I remain personally astonished that some scholar would think they understand the cultural context and intended meanings of these texts so much better than those who lived within 100 years or less of the Gospels having been written.

Wesley 23:37, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Wesley, I am surprised by your last comment. If I understand it correctly, then I believe you really misunderstand the nature of historial research. If this is something you want to discuss I'd be happy to pursue it with you on your talk page (or mine). I certainly disagree with your aside on the so-called "soft-sciences." But our disagreements in this regard are irrelevant. What is important is that we both agree that the theories presented by historians are "points of view." I tried to write the section in question in an NPOV language. If you think it has been presented in a way that violates our NPOV policy, and can make changes that make it clear that this is an argument made by some scholars, rather than a universally agreed-on fact, and can make such changes without changing content, feel free to make such changes. All I can say is, I really tried to write it in accordance with our NPOV policy.

I do, however, vigorously disagree with your assertion that the work of historians should be presented in the same way as Muslim or Bahai interpretations. Historians are not motivated by a religious agenda. Muslim, Bahai, Christian, and Jewish interpretations could all be in one section, I agree, a section on how different religions interpret the NT. These belong in one section because however different their interpretations, their interpretations have some things in common: they are motivated by a belief in God, and supported by religious traditions. Yes, historians too have a POV, but it is a very different kind of POV. This is a distinction we make in other articles by the way. It is a distinction we make in the articles on evolution, which mention creationism but as a very different kind of account of the world than that of biologists.

Currently the article is divided into a variety of sections, and some sections do present the points of view of different religions. Are you saying that ALL elements of the article should be organized this way, according to distinct points of view? That we should get rid of sections 2-5 and incorporate them into the later sections?

The material I added reflects interpretations by historians, and I put it in the section on historical research on Jesus. That seemed, and still seems to me, to be appropriate. Slrubenstein

I think the most misleading thing is not what you wrote, but the heading above that said everything under there was based on empirical evidence. Perhaps I should clarify my comparison of historians' interpretations with Muslim or Bahai interpretations. If historians are looking at artifacts like what manuscripts of this or that text we have available, how old they most likely are, and even addressing questions of authorship, I can see presenting that as the work of historical research. When they try to interpret the text itself, for instance when they guess what Jesus meant by calling himself the Son of Man, that seems to be as much a religious or theological task as an historian's. It's the sort of thing that St. John Chrysostom wrote and spoke about at length in his homilies. Would you want me to quote St. John Chrysostom as an historian, since he also interpreted the words used, compared them with similar phrases and passages in the Old Testament, etc.? Similarly, historians may make useful observations about some miracles being recorded in only some manuscripts, but if they conclude that no miracles at all took place, they are probably being informed by a theology that either denies the existence of God at all, denies the possibility of miracles, or something similar. I haven't looked at the articles regarding evolution, but for me the distinction there would be between providing a scientific theory for how the world or various species came to be that doesn't happen to rely on the existence of God, and making a positive statement that scientific evidence shows that God does not exist. If a scientist does the latter, the scientist is no longer doing science but theology.

Wesley 17:48, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Googling for "soft science" turned up at least one link that explains the distinction between hard and soft science, in a paragraph in the second half of the page: I mention it only to show that that's not just my personal opinion, but one shared by at least some 'hard scientists', and also one that doesn't necessarily have a thing to do with religion. Wesley 18:01, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)
To add another example, it seems obvious that finding and identifying manuscripts of Plato's or Aristotle's writings would be historical research, but interpreting what they said would be primarily the work of philosophers. One person may engage in both jobs, but they are still separate disciplines. Finding one person who can do two different things needn't blur the distinction between the two roles. This is why I moved the historians' interpretation of the Gospels down to the perspectives/interpretations section. I may not have identified the transition point perfectly, but I think in principle it's a reasonable move. Wesley 12:19, 11 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Wesley, it may be that "empirical research" needs to be rephrased. However, you need to know that interpreting the meaning of texts is indeed work done by historians and other secular scholars, it is not the work of a philosopher, for example, to interpret what Aristotle "meant" to the extent that what Aristotle "meant" (the verb) is an event that occured in the past, so to determine what Aristotle meant is a job of reconstructing a past event (something historians do all the time). Philosophers can argue that a particular claim of Aristotle is meaningful but false, meaninful and true, or meaningless -- they can evaluate the philosophical value of the text. But not the meaning itself. They asume a meaning, and historican contribute to their understanding of that meaning through historical work. Same with the Bible. Theologians and Historians can both interpret the "meaning" of the Bible, but what they are actually doing is very different and based on different assumptions. You write,

When they try to interpret the text itself, for instance when they guess what Jesus meant by calling himself the Son of Man, that seems to be as much a religious or theological task as an historian's.

And to the extent that you are correct, all I can say is that when the religious person or theologian tries to interpret what "son of man" means, s/he is doing something quite different (making different assumptions for different purposes, and applying different methods or procedures) than what the historian does. But the question of what "son of man" meant is certainly a scientific task. This is because the meaning of words is not entirely subjective, it is objective (otherwise, you and I could not communicate -- we need to use words in a way that follows English conventions, so that not only you but any other English speaker can understand what I am writing this very moment). Do you know that there is an entire academic discipline called linguistics? Among other things, what they do is look at texts in unknown languages and try to figure out what words mean. For example, an anthropological linguist can go to another society and use established methods to learn the language. In order to do this, they have developed methods which can be applied generally to finding out what a term means. These methods are used not only by linguists, but by scholars in Comparative Literature and also historians.

Vermes is reviewing work by historians along these lines. I am moving the section back -- it belongs in the section on "titles," and it clearly belongs in a section on history. But I hope I have been very clear that I am open to your (and others') help in improving the section. I do believe that whatever section it goes in, it needs to be clear and intelligible, and if you or others think it isn't I certainly hope we can work together to improve that. I also believe it must be NPOV. You make a point concerning scientists and evolution. To respond to that point: I do not believe that Vermes or any of the historians he cites are arguing that God does not exist or that Jesus was not divine. It is true that they, like the scientists you mention, are trying to interpret the texts without relying on a religious interpretation, but for all I know these scholars may be atheists, agnostics, or religious. The only assumption I believe they are making is not about Jesus's nature, but about the nature of the language Jesus spoke -- that it was a language other people spoke, that the words he (or those who witnessed and recorded his mission) used were words others were using at the time. I hope this is clear, if not it ought to be ... Slrubenstein

Yes, I'm quite aware of the field of study called "linguistics". I've formally studied modern German quite a bit, and to much lesser degrees Spanish, French, and classical Greek. I know that professional linguists often contradict each other and maintain conflicting theories that are impossible to resolve with experiment, over things like whether any language has true synonyms, or whether seeming synonyms actually have different meanings. The fact that it is impossible to prove such things empirically is part of what makes it a "soft science". When it comes to ancient languages, there is the additional problem that there are no living speakers of ancient Greek or Egyptian, for instance, so much more guesswork is required than usual. For instance, some Greek scholars think ancient Greek may have been a tonal language like Chinese, while others think not. All that can be proven is that modern Greek is not tonal. In a similar fashion it is impossible to "prove" scientifically what Son of Man means, at least not to the degree that chemists can prove that salt is composed of sodium and chloride atoms in a one to one ratio, by means of experiments that any other chemist can repeat and verify. Historians can form theories and advance different reasons for them, and approve of or disapprove of each other's theories, but that's about all. It's the same process that theologians follow. This is why I think it belongs with other religious views, even if its methodology is self-consciously areligious or atheistic.
You compare linguistics with comparative literature and history. I think everyone knows stories of modern authors who see their books reviewed by such professionals and respond, "That's not what I meant at all." And literature scholars disagree over whether the author's intent even matters when interpreting what their book means or conveys. Again, there is no empirical way of settling the dispute.
To come back to these historians' specific methodology, it is fundamentally flawed by looking only at the broad multi-century context in which these words and titles were used, and ignores the immediate contexts in which Jesus used them. I suspect this was done at least in part because examining the surrounding context would undercut their hypothesis or theory that Jesus did not claim divinity.

Wesley 17:34, 11 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Wesley, this just is not the place to debate the validity or limits of history as an academic discipline. The point remains that history is an academic discipline and that historians have explored the different meanings of different titles for Jesus, and an account of this work belongs in the sub-section on titles of Jesus in the section on history. Yes, historians (like linguists) argue over how to interpret these texts, and I have tried to represent these arguments/different positions clearly and fairly. As with any contribution, this account has to be an accurate account of what historians have argued, clear, and NPOV. If you think that what I wrote meets all of these conditions, let's just leave it. If you think that it can be clearer or more NPOV I welcome your suggestions for changes. Slrubenstein

While I don't think you've shown yet how academic historians' work is differentiated from that of theologians' (both are published, peer reviewed, based on interpretation of available data, etc.), I'll go along with the sectioning for now and see where the presentation itself needs balancing. I hope the small adjustments I made removing the word 'empirical' and qualifying the historians as 'academic' are acceptable. Wesley 05:57, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

This sounds reasonable, although I am not sure what you thik "empirical" means (I return to this point later, if you want to address it). As for the difference between historian and theologian, I am not sure whether I can answer you adequately. Obviously there is a disciplinary difference, and perhaps for the article in its current state this is enough (that there is a section on "history," in which we draw primarily on the work of historians). I must admit that I am not entirely sure what theologians today do, which makes it hard for me to answer your question. I assume that the fundamental distinction between historians and theologians is that historians are agnostic when it comes to God and the divinity of Jesus (as I said, from reading Vermes I cannot tell whether he believes in God or not, and I do not think he is trying to argue that Jesus was, or was not, "the messiah." The only assumption I think Vermes is making is that the language Jesus spoke was the same language spoken by others at the time, and so the meaning of his words and phrases were meanings commonly understood at the time). I suppose a theologian can use the same methods as historians such as Vermes, and if that were the case I certainly wouldn't object to putting their interpretation into the same section of the article as those of historians like Vermes. My objection was to puting Vermes in the same section as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu theologians -- only because I assumed that those theologians are making clear assumptions about the divinity of Jesus and are arguing for a particular religion's view. Am I misunderstanding theologians?

Above, you made a distinction that I found very sensible and useful:

I haven't looked at the articles regarding evolution, but for me the distinction there would be between providing a scientific theory for how the world or various species came to be that doesn't happen to rely on the existence of God, and making a positive statement that scientific evidence shows that God does not exist. If a scientist does the latter, the scientist is no longer doing science but theology.

And I am just trying to apply this to the matter at hand. I don't think that the historians I have been relying on are making positive statements that scientific evidence does or does not prove anything about the divine realm, they are merely interpreting texts. Now, what do you mean by "empirical?" My understanding of "empirical is that it may have to do with practical experience or experiments. I think you are using "empirical" in a way that is both too narrow and too broad. It is too narrow in the sense that you seem (if I am mistaken I apolgize) to identify it exclusively with 'experimental" but this is not necessarily the case. Historians like Vermes do rely on empirical evidence in that the texts they look at are physically real and avilable to others, and our knowledge of these texts comes through our sense-perceptions of them. This is very important because it means Vermes' interpretations are not subjective: they are accountable to others. If Vermes' claims that a phrase that appears in one text is identical to a phrase that appears in another text, others can say "no, it isn't, I checked that other text and you are mis-reading it." You make a big deal out of arguments among historians and literary critics over the meaning of texts, but to me this is a sign of a healthy scientific spirit, that researchers hold themselves accountable to one another. On the other hand, you seem to use "empirical" too broadly, because you seem to think that empirical data is evidence that can support or falsify a claim. I do not think scientists and philosophers of science would agree; many distinguish between "empiricism" and "positivism" on just these grounds. (Remember, I do not mean by "empirical" strictly experimental data, but any sensate experience). Scientists often get data that does not fit a particular model. This data is empirical, but it does not immediately falsify the scientist's hypothesis or model. The data could be corrupt in some way (thus, giving an anomalous result in a mass spectometer), or an exception (this is an old principle in positivism -- if you define swans as "white" and discover a black swan, this does not mean that your definition of "swan" was wrong. There could be other explanations for why the exceptional swan is black. Before you call this empirical observation "evidence," you need to know more). Slrubenstein

Source Documents the Gospels are based on?[edit]

To the best of my knowledge this paragraph is historically incorrect, and I don't have the time or the frame of mind to properly correct this from work.

Moreover, historians generally agree that at least some of the source documents on which the Gospels are based were written within living memory of Jesus. These historians therefore accept that the accounts of the life of Jesus in the Gospels, excepting certain miraculous claims and the details that surround them, provide a reasonable basis of evidence by the standards of ancient history, for the basic narrative of Jesus' life and death

We have over 20,000 manuscripts of the New Testament, some dating back to AD 125 and no historian that I am aware of claims they were written from other sources. Please either cite your source documents or expect me to change this. Respectfully - DavidR 20:35, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It is widely considered that the Gospels may have been based at least partly on prior sources, oral or written. The best-known is the 'Q' document. Although it has never been found or identified, it is pretty widely accepted. DJ Clayworth 21:07, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Good call DJ, I was thinking the same thing - I've added a link to it in the article. DavidR - I questions the availability of 20,000 copies of the gospels from AD 125. To my knowledge there are only a handful of manuscripts that date that early, or even prior to AD 400 (perhaps in the 100s for the latter date). You may want to clarify your point/contention above so we can fix it.
Good points -- my knowledge, which may be far less extensive than DLR's, is just what DJ Clayworth says; every historian I have read argues that although the Gospels were written sometime after Jesus was crucified (60-100 years after) they were based on earlier sources, written or oral. I am not sure who wrote the passage DLR is concerned with; that person may no longer be actively contributing. If the passage can be improved, maybe DLR can tell us how s/he would change it? Slrubenstein

Sorry I didn't phrase that sentence better. The earliest manuscripts we have date from AD 125, we have over 20,000 manuscripts (c. 24,000 I believe) of the NT total. I have edited my opening statement to reflect this.

So we are questioning the origin of letters we have seen and have numerous copies of based on a document that no one has seen and that may not even exist? Is this truly NPOV? I've skimmed through about half the Q Document article and notice that it's questioning Luke on style points? Luke has been repeatedly shown, both in his Gospel and in Acts, to be a top notch historian. Anywhere that his writings have been questioned archaeological evidence has eventually been turned up to support him. So please pardon me if I am skeptical about this "hypothetical" (from the Q Document article, but not mentioned this one) document that we have (as far as I can tell currently) little or no evidence for. As I said previously I'll research this and get back to you. I'll also break down what bothers me about that paragraph in a later post. Respectfully - DavidR 22:32, 9 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Based on my research, the Q Document is pretty much a reality (more supported than secular creation theories). I'm not questioning the author of Luke and Acts abilities as a historian. I also didn't make the edit that is in question. I do doubt that archaelogical evidence has supported everything he wrote (such as Christ bleeding great drops of blood), and accept the gospel without question, but it is obvious that he took information from other sources - written or oral. The statement you question to my understanding is whether or not the authors of the gospels 'blindly' accepted the miracles of Christ ("excepting certain miraculous claims and the details that surround them")? Is that correct? Non of us understand your point of contention. Also, with the Bible being translated and printed millions of times, I think it is safe to say we have billions of copies of the new testament. The question is, how many times were they transcribed differently than the earliest copies of them (which we do not have). Even the so-called Secret gospel of Mark and other variations of the earliest manuscripts (or autographs) of the gospels vary in many points and obviously were edited by various early christian sects (see Gnosticism). Miracles were added in and taken out many times. Wesley - you are familiar with this aren't you - do you have any comments on these early documents? -Visorstuff 01:16, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Yes, I'm somewhat familiar with it. Of course there's not going to be archaeological evidence for "great drops of blood" shed in a garden, probably falling on plants or soil... There obviously existed an oral tradition from the time the events of Jesus' life took place until the Gospels were written, and still for some time after that. I've read at least one second century Christian source (sorry can't remember which) that thought the oral tradition at that time was more reliable than the written gospels. I don't know how verifiable it is, but the Orthodox tradition concerning John the Evangelist is that he was the longest lived of the twelve apostles, living up until at least 101 A.D., making him slightly over 100 years old. If so, then even if he wrote the Gospel of John later in life, it would have been within living memory of Jesus' earthly life. Ignatius, a well-known early bishop of Antioch, is said to have seen Jesus teaching while he (Ignatius) was just a boy; it's not hard to believe that there would have been other children and young men and women among the crowds who heard Jesus teach and saw his miracles, and that some of these may have lived long lives. As for the actual "Q Document", it can't be more than a theoretical document until someone produces a manuscript. It is a widely accepted theory among many historians. If Q turns out to be oral tradition, it may not be a "document" at all, and I think the proponents of Q would agree this is a possibility? Wesley 02:34, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I assumed common sense would apply to my comments on the historical accuracy of Luke and Acts. Of course you are not going to find physical evidence for drops of blood spilled 2,000 years ago. And my objections are not about the comments on miracles either. Just because I object to something that sounds like so-called Higher Criticism doesn't mean I bought my lobotomy at a 2-for-1 sale. As Wesley can tell you I am a bit of an amateur historian. My objection is that this Q Document is treated as fact (either a Gnostic or Higher Criticism POV I am guessing) but, as I said, I will be researching it further. Respectfully - DavidR 13:49, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Let's remember that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a place for original research. It simply does not matter whether you or I beleive that Q existed, or believe that it did not exist. What you or I believe about Luke and Acts is irrelevant also. What matters is this: there are different groups of people who have written extensively about Jesus from a variety of points of view (especially, historians, theologians, and clerics). This article must represent those points of view. It is not for us to say that the Christian view is right or wrong; we are however supposed to write an accurate account of what the Christian view is (or what the major Christian views are). Similarly, it is not for us to argue with any historian. Our task is to provide an account of what research historians have done, and what conclusions (however provisional or subject to debate) they have drawn. The research we should be doing should not be aimed at helping us decided whether we believe in Q or not; it should not be aimed at supporting some argument among ourselves. The research we should be doing should help us provide a more accurate account of what others have been saying about Jesus. Slrubenstein

DavidR - No offense was intended - sorry if it came across that way. I do think based on your objection has merit, and wording should be changed. I was trying to draw out what your real objection to the paragraph was. Although I believe that the Q Document did not exist in written form (i do believe it was done in oral form - sorry I did not make this clearer in my earlier - "it's a fact" statement), I do think that as Wesley said, the oral traditions are likely more accurate than most of the written gospels (I'd love the source referred to), as there is evidence that early manuscripts have been tampered with. What we have is inspired and most likely what the author wrote, but there are some holes that exist in the docuement that appear to have been taken (in my opinion and research). However, since the 1800s the existence of a Q document has been studied and the evidence for it is very strong. However, the paragraph does treat it as fact, rather than as a theory and should be changed. -Visorstuff 18:12, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Visorstuff - Fair enough, none taken. Sorry if my response was testy.

SLRubenstein - And what if what these "others" are saying is inaccurate, biased, or unsubstantiated? What if something is being promulgated as a majority opinion and it is, in fact, a fringe opinion in the circles of serious scholarship? I respectfully submit for your consideration that if the Wikipedia is no more than a collection of unsubstantiated opinions then it is not worth the time or effort that the sponsors and creators of this Web site (including you and I) have put into it. My preliminary research into this shows that the Q Document has been thoroughly debunked and is only given serious consideration by a minority of academia. Even the article on the Q Document itself has the word "hypothetical" sprinkled throughout it, yet the paragraph I cited in my objection casually alludes to this unseen, unfound document as if it's presuppositions are proven fact. I have edited it to make it more NPOV, but the sentence is a kludge at the moment.

There may, or may not, have been an oral tradition or an actual written document. However neither of those hypotheses have been historically proven at the present. Therefore, let us move on and try to make this edit look like less of a kludge.

And speaking NPOV, I notice a complete lack of arguments against the Q Document on the article page for it. I suppose I'll have to correct that, too, in my spare time between 0100 and 0500.....  ;) Respectfully - DavidR 18:30, 10 Mar 2004 (UTC)

If it has been debunked by established scholars then of course that should be discussed in detail in the article on Q, and mentioned here. I thought it would be understood that when I said "others" I meant recognized scholars (secular or ecclesial). I am sorry that I wasn't explicit about that, but otherwise what I wrote stands. The problem is, in some cases "debunked" is a point of view. If virtually all scholars hold to a particular view, we should say so. If a majority of scholars hold to one view, and a significant minority of scholars hold to another, we should say so. If scholars are simply divided, we should say so. I don't know anything about Q so I can't say which of these is the case. But I do know that whatever the article says about Q, it should be based on an account of current scholarship. Slrubenstein

Higher Criticism[edit]

I just added a good deal of information to The Historical Jesus of Nazareth. I am covering ground others have attempted to cover before, and only want to do so if I can do so effectively. Wesley cut a mention of "empirical evidence;" I don't want to argue over that, but I do think that the result was a not-very-informative passage. I have tried to explain the basic assumptions of secular historians who study the Gospels and Jesus. I have endeavored to be NPOV and I hope Wesley and others will look over this and let me know if I have written anything that is inflamatory. I have also tried to provide a correct picture, without taking up too much space. SO if anyone out there is more fluent in the assumptions of methods of academic historians, please go over this and make sure I haven't misrepresented the profession -- and if anyone thinks I went overboard, please suggest cuts! I do think that given the subject of this article, it is very important to provide a framework in which people of different beliefs, and non-believers, can share their views, Slrubenstein

Please use the Post New Comment link when starting a new section. it will make it easier to locate and take part in the discussion.
You have replaces a single sentence with an entire paragraph that is nothing more than an explanation of Higher criticism and comes off (to me at any rate) as POV as anything I have read on here. So-called Higher criticism is a viewpoint of a vast minority of religious scholars and is primarily applied to Biblical texts by people who have a presupposition against something then the text. I have almost never seen Higher criticism applied to a non-Biblical text or document from antiquity. If it is an historical document then test it by the standards you test other historical documents against. If it is not a valid historical document, (e.g. Shakespear's plays) then don't expect to find corroborating evidence for the events depicted therein. Respectfully, DavidR 21:03, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

POV? Well, let's make it NPOV. I thought it was NPOV because I make it clear that not all historians do this, and that historians debate their conclusions, and that this is a method used by historians (i.e. not a method universally used). I am not sure what you mean about higher criticism. To my knowledge higher criticism makes specific claims about the sources of the Bible. I didn't discuss this in the paragraph I wrote. Nor did I base this on the works of higher critics. What I did is I looked at several recent works by historians of 1st century Judea and tried to summarize their assumptions and methods. Given that this introduces a section on "history" and that this article draws on research by historians, I think this is important. Slrubenstein

First off let me apologize, I'm feel certain that calling something POV without qualifiers on Wikipedia is an insult to the author, and I did not intend for it to come across that way. Higher criticism strikes me as non-science, particularly since it only seems to get applied to the Bible, and now occasionally to other religious writings, but never to anything like the Gospel of Thomas or the plays of Shakespeare. This leads me to believe that anyone using this alleged science has an agenda before going into their "analysis".
I linked to an article on Higher criticism on Wikipedia every time I used the term, but let me break it down for you. Take the Pentateuch for example. Most serious Biblical scholars will say that Moses wrote it, except for documenting his death at the end of it, which was probably written by Joshua. What the so-called Higher Critics say is that the Pentateuch was was redacted by an author or authors unknown, based on the repetitive use of certain phrases or words. I find this theory completely ludicrous simply because I know that my writing style has altered drastically over the past 20 years, so why shouldn't someone else's? In fact, if a so-called Higher Critic were to critique my lifetimes' writings I feel certain that they would come to the conclusion that the earlier documents had been written by someone different that the later ones. And in one respect they'd be correct, but not in the way they were looking for.
Take the Q document for example. The Higher Critics couldn't stand the fact that 3 documents had been written in separate parts of the world years apart and each said the same thing. Therefore, in the Critic's eyes, they must have a common document they draw from. If one doesn't exist we'll make one up, errrr... I mean postulate one.
I have also taken the liberty of renameing this section to Higher Criticism because I feel that is a more descriptive title of what this section is about. I have been meaning to write an article on the Historical Method, but have been too busy with edits to existing articles. Respectfully - DavidR 16:44, 13 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Hey, I didn't take your remarks personally so though I appreciate your comment there is no need to apologize. Ands I am glad you are explaining your position more clearly. I see now that you and I hold very different views about the Bible. Both as a religious person and as an academic, I reject the claim that the Bible (mine, the Hebrew one, but by extension the NT as well) is literal, written by Moses at or shortly after his encounter with God at Sinai; I believe that tremendous textual and archological evidence make such a position untenable. Slrubenstein
I appreciate that you didn't take my comments personally, thanks. While I don't disagree that there was an extensive tradition (probably from the Scribes, already in existence during the 480 years in Egypt) that was compiled into the Pentateuch I fail to understand why Moses couldn't have written it over a period of time. Nothing in the text states that it was written at or "shortly after" Sinai. My understanding is that it was written over a period of years. But that is a discussion for another page. DavidR 20:12, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
This does not mean that I subscribe without qualifiation to Wellhausen's higher criticism. I do not see a double standard in the study of historical documents -- I think historians study the Bible the saem way they study Homer (and in some cases, Shakespeare). Slrubenstein
You think, but can you cite specific instances? As I stated above I have never seen this technique applied to a non-religious text (e.g. Homer and Shakespeare) or non-religious section of a secular text (e.g. Antiquities). DavidR 20:12, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I can't cite specific instances concerning Homer right now, but I will try to find some for you. But really, I just don't know what to say -- I think if you take any graduate level course in history you will read even more complex debates about interpreting all sorts of texts. I guess one thing I'd recommend for starts is Carlo Ginsberg's The Night Battles about agrarian movements in medieval Italy; also White's Metahistory. Also, look at virtually any book written by Gary Wills on American history -- but you can start with his book on the Declaration of Independence. For ancient history, look at Robin Lane Fox's book on Alexander the Great. All of these use the same methods that historians are using to analyze the Gospels. It just seems to me that this is all old-hat. Please tell me what, in the most authoritative historical research on Jesus (by E.P. Sanders, P. Fredriksen, J. Meier, or G. Vermes) diverges from the way other academic historians work? If anything, the most cutting edge in historical research like Crossan's books are criticized as being too influenced by current methods. It seems to me that most of the criticisms of historians studying the Bible or the New Testament basically come down to the fact that historians study them exactly the same way they study all other documents, i.e. historians are faulted for not treating them as sacred texts! Slrubenstein
Among those schoars are some who identify themselves as "higher critics" but there are others and I try to learn from all of them. I have never read any source criticism of the HT and do not know what Q is, so I cannot judge first hand. But the academic research on the Hebrew bible is to my mind convincing and compelling. You may disagree. And here we must let the subject matter rest, for Wikipedia is not about providing you and I with a space to chat about our different views. Our only task is to work on writing an accurate NPOV encyclopedia article. Slrubenstein
And since we are disagreeing on what is NPOV and what is not I believe that this article is the place for us to discuss our opinions. I too seek knowledge where it may be found. But I also weigh the evidence for myself and determine if it is true based on what I already know and what I can research, rather than blindly accept what some authority tells me is so. DavidR 20:12, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Are you telling me that you started out with a skeptical attitude towards the Bible, and only decided that it was historically accurate after weighing the evidence? Are you saying that you didn't start out accepting the authority of the Bible? How much research did you do before reaching your conclusion? Slrubenstein
This article draws on studies by secular historians. When I added some material in, Wesley was dismisivbe because he felt it was not serious historical scholarship. He was certainly right to question me. So I did two things: I included a citation, and a one paragraph introduction to the assumptiopns and methods of such scholars. I realized that readers who are not used to seeing the Bible as the object of secular scholarship might misunderstand a lot, and I wanted to make sure they had some orientation. I hope my orientation if acccurate and NPOV. You write " Most serious Biblical scholars will say that Moses wrote it, except for documenting his death at the end of it, which was probably written by Joshua." and you are wrong. Most serious scholars thoroughly reject this. Unless you meant to qualify your description further, meaning "most serious religious scholars ..." Okay. Maybe instead of classifying scholars as "serious" versus "dilletante" (a distinctionthat necessarily makes a value judgement that is POV), we should distinguish them based on objective and self-identifying qualities such as "non-fundamentalist" and "fundamentalist." To return to matters of contenct, I have no doubt that there are many serious scholars who believe that mOses wrote the Torah and so on. But these serious scholars are not making the assumptions or using the methods used by historians of other texts, and seldome have full-time appointments at Ivy-League schools. Please don't knock those scholars as "less than serious!" Slrubenstein
My comments about "serious" scholars is more about intellectual honesty than credentials or number of hours put into study. Many people go into research with a preconception of what the outcome should be. In fact this is the Scientific Method, to form a hypothesis and then test it. The problem with many of your Ivy Leaguers (and many other people as well) is that they are unwilling to change their world view to fit data they don't like. Instead they would rather come up with convoluted theories to try and change the facts to fit their perception of the world.
So now that we've deal with the chaff, let's get back to the kernel. To put this information into the article represented as anything other than the fringes of serious academic research I would like to see what other documents that Higher Criticism has been applied to, and I would like to know what proof we have that this is a valid research tool for accurately determining authorship of historical documents. In other words, what historical documents with known authors have had the techniques of Higher Criticism applied to them, and what was the outcome?

Regarding my cut of the word "empirical"... I have no problem regarding texts as empirical evidence, or other archaeological findings. Interpretations of the words in the text, however, are not empirical. They are ideas that the reader has about the words. (This is in accord with one school of linguistic thought; wish I remembered the name of it. Do you recall?) The section that I once moved contained both empirical evidence and subjective interpretation. In removing the word empirical and qualifying the interpretations, I merely tried to distinguish between the two. Before that, when I moved the large section, I thought it might have been useful to more clearly separate what is known from manuscripts, archaeology, etc., and what some historians conclude from the available evidence.

Information about the work of history does seem relevant. I wonder though if it couldn't be placed in its own article? The techniques and methodologies of academic historians deserve an article or two themselves, if they don't have them already. I think by "higher criticism" DLR may have been trying to distinguish between the historical methods of post-Enlightenment historians who tried to imitate "hard" scientists, and historians of much earlier eras. There is, after all, more than one way to engage in the task of history, just as there multiple approaches to many other disciplines. Wesley 03:10, 13 Mar 2004 (UTC)

You are completely right that we should have an antire article on criticaal studies of the Bible -- I could contribute to that, but am not in a position to start it , not right now. As for this article -- well, you do not seem to be demanding me to cut the stuff I put in on Jesus' titles. But you clearly were confused and concerned about the legitimacy of the methods and aims. I respect that, and wanted to preface the section with a brief comment that would help orient readers to the section. I don't expect every reader to like what I added, or to approve of it -- but we do have an obligation to do what we must so that reasers can understand what we put in. Do you think the text I added helps frame/introduce the discussion over the meanings of various names? Can it be improved -- without turning it into its own, detailed, article? Slrubenstein
Would it be accurate and fair to add that the historians we're discussing generally don't believe in supernatural phenomena, and tend to look for naturalistic explanations of any supernatural phenomena that was recorded? This is part of the Enlightenment's rationalist belief that everything can be explained through science. It seems to me that these historians go beyond simple non-literalism to explain away anything supernatural, but perhaps that's just my own prejudice. Which is why I'm asking the question here rather than directly editing the article. Wesley 18:37, 15 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I think your first sentence is accurate and fair, and if you feel it necessary (or worthwhile) to put it in I certainly won't object. As for your penultimate sentence, I am just not sure what you mean by "non-literalism." I do believe historians use a lot of methods for interpreting texts, if this is what you mean. They also question what it would mean to read a text "literally." Bible scholars as early as Dilthey point out that while one may be able to read a text written within one's own cultural and historical horizen (e.g., an article in the newspaper) "literally," how can one do this with a text written in another language, of another time or culture? There are cultural rules for how people use words, for what they denote and connote, and these rules vary over time and space. Even a literal reading of a text from another culture is not a simple thing to do. Slrubenstein
I've added that first sentence only. "Non-literalism" was a poor choice of words; what I meant is that their assumptions regarding the supernatural will lead these... historians? higher critics? to assume that if supernatural events were recorded, the writers surely must have meant something else, or have some reason to invent tales. As for how to read a text properly, Bible scholars as early as Vincent of Lerins recognized the problem, and proposed adhering as closely as possible to how it has been read in all the churches through all the ages (specifically looking for antiquity, universality, and consent). This approach has been followed much longer and by more (church) historians than the academic textual critics to whom you're referring. Wesley 05:24, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
In this case (and in fact in many cases -- I am not trying to single this case out) I think "much longer" is not really relevant, since this length of time has at times been broken by major political, economic, cultural, and intellectual changes. Since universities have been around for a far shorter time than the Catholic or Orthodox Church, it doesn't surprise me that Catholic or Orthodox scholarship is older -- but this is not the point. It is true that by "historian" I mean "secular academic historian" and honestly I thought this would be understood by everyone, although I certainly understand why, on a page about Jesus, this should not be taken for granted. Be that as it may, I think what I wrote is a fair characterization of how secular academic historians work. If my characterization can be improved, I hope others improve it. But I think it is important to distinguish between the views of secular academic historians and others who have read and interpreted the Bible. Moreover, we must adhere to the NPOV policy -- we shouldn't characterize one approach as better or more authentic than another approach; we must simply make clear what the different approaches are. So Wesley, I certainly have no objection if you add another section explaining the methods and assumptions of Church historians, and make clear which parts of the article reflect the findings of Church historians, and which ones reflect the findings of secular academic historians. I believe all of this started when I added information on the titles of Jesus. This information reflected the views of academic historians, so I added a description of their methods and assumptions. How do you think we should organize the article? One part on the view of Church historians and one on the view of secular historians? Or different sections on different themes or moments in Jesus' life and work, each of which distinguishes between the views of Church historians and secular historians? Slrubenstein
It would take less reworking to have separate sections on the views of Church historians, secular academic historians, and historians of other faiths, and should also result in a less fragmented article with less "tit for tat". I mainly wanted to show that secular academic historians are not the only ones, and the article should not pretend they are the only ones. The fact that church historians have been around much longer, and have influenced Christianity as much as they have, I point out only to show that they are significant enough to warrant mentioning. And despite major political, economic, cultural and intellectual changes, the principles laid out by Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century (remaining true to what was handed to the church by the apostles) and by Vincent of Lerins in the fifth are still widely followed today, and have been. Wesley 17:38, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
You don't need to convince me that they are worth including (and I don't think you need to convince anyone else). I never intended to suggest that the views I was including the article were the only valid views. In fact, I think that the article is actually dominated by a Christian view, and does not provide enough material that reflects all of the scholarship by academic historians. (By the way, these may not be mutually exclusive categories -- the work of John Meier is highly respected by secular historians but I think he is a committed Catholic.) I hope you will add material as you see fit. Slrubenstein

I have never read an Encyclopaedia article that within the second paragraph and the rest of the article, that Jesus is a controversial figure. This is not how one writes an article. it seems that somebody that hates Jesus has written the article. Usually articles are written by people who have a thorough knowledge and pro the item being discussed. This article is disgusting.WHEELER 18:07, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Apostle Thomas, Jesus in India[edit]

The theory that Jesus travelled to India as a youth is proposed by some scholars. I added this as a note, as well as marking that Jesus' childhood and adolescence is little testified in the Gospels. I also noted the belief stated in the Syriac Acts of Thomas that St. Thomas (called "The Twin") was actually the twin of Jesus himself. I tried as best as possible to keep these NPOV (I'm not a proponent of either theory), and I tried to state them as beliefs and put sources to those beliefs. I realize that this is an extremely "hot" page, so I wanted to note the changes here. --ESP 20:28, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Is there any evidence for this alleged trip to India? I have also heard about a supposed trip to Great Britian. I doubt He had time to make both of those between His trip to Egypt around the age of two, and His trip to Jerusalem around the age of 12. Thank you for citing your source on the Twin issue, could you please do the same for the India trip? Thanks, DavidR 21:07, 12 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Interestingly enough, there are other stories about Thomas going to India after Jesus' death and resurrection. Coincidence? Hmmmm. Wesley 03:10, 13 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Regarding Thomas going to India, an extremely old Christian sect existed in India dating from at least ~2nd century AD; they claimed to be those proselytized by the apostle Thomas. Unfortunately, when the Portugese showed up they decided this was a heresy and wiped them out. Graft 17:29, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Not quite...there are still remnants of the Mar Thoma church in India, which claims descent from the Apostle Thomas. There are a few in the US, too. Pollinator 21:24, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)


Hey, Kennethduncan, you have some problems with your edits:

Jesus is rarely called "Jesus of Galilee." Probably not important enough to state up top, and definitely not before the much more common "Jesus of Nazareth."

Since all crucifixions under the empire were performed by Roman soldiers, it seems rather redundant to have to state that. Are we trying to say the empire wasn't involved?

Is Christianity the world's largest religion or isn't it? Can someone point to some numbers?

    • Yes, it is: 2.1 bn followers compared to roughly 1.1 bn each for Islam and Hinduism (see Major world religions). Marcika 04:14, Apr 20, 2004 (UTC)

Why was the entire section on relics removed? It was perfectly NPOV. If you have a problem with a section, discuss it and/or reword it. Don't take out information. I don't believe in relics either, but this didn't state the relics were authentic. Please see Wikipedia's NPOV policy. This was my biggest problem with your edits; I will probably put this section back.

Some Jews do consider Jesus a great teacher, but that's a less significant Jewish view than the belief He was a false prophet (measuring significance by number of Jews who believe it and what they are likely to say first). I'm thinking of rewording as follows:

Jesus Christ is deemed a false prophet in most sects of Judaism, and religious Jews are still awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. Christianity originated as a sect of Judaism, but developed into its own religion. Some Jews consider Jesus a great teacher, and many hold to the belief that Jesus' teachings were distorted after his life by his followers in a way incompatible with Judaism.

Not sure why we had to say "like other Christians" about the Mormons; are we going to fight over whether the Mormons are Christians are not? Does this really add any information to the article?

The phrase "the account may be found in the book of Mormon" is not trying to say "you might find it or you might not; we're not sure if it's really there." That's a way of saying, "If you'd like to see this you may do so by consulting the book of Mormon." There was no need to change the wording to "is," although it's really a moot point either way.

Not sure why I felt the compulsion to critique this in such minor detail. Just had a lot of thoughts I wanted to share, I guess. Keep boldly editing, and please accept the merciless editing we will all receive here. :)

Jdavidb 14:07, 8 Apr 2004 (UTC)

A Biased Article[edit]

This encyclopedia article reeks of pro-Christian bias. It is filled with wording designed to promote a Christian viewpoint and discount other views. ChessPlayer 03:47, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Could you give some specifics? A considerable amount of space is devoted to historical research on Jesus, which is certainly not biased in favor of Christianity. Other sections make clear that they are presenting a Christian POV. What scholarly point of view is not represented? Slrubenstein
Well, a good example is writing a long section on what "historians" think, and basing it on the works of two religious scholars who are not professors of history, but professors of religion and theology. These men are not secular, and do not write the views of non-religious historians. They are biased men who support religion, one at least got his degree from a seminary, and the other is a Catholic scholar. ChessPlayer 04:34, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I hate to break it to you, but "secular" does not equal "unbiased". The existence of Jesus as a historical figure is doubted by very few people that have looked at the historical evidence, whether those people are Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, or none of the above. There are honest historians, and these historians--regardless of their faith--agree that Jesus walked the earth. The fact that you have problems accepting this has no bearing on the current academic consensus on the matter.Goethean 15:31, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I hate to break it back to you, but I never said that "secular" equals "unbiased." My point was that the article misattributes a point of view, which comes from people who do not have a secular frame of reference, and attributes it to an entirely different group. I want the article to gave a point of view and correctly state who said it and their background, and not mislead people by calling them historians when they are religious scholars. The two are not the same. ChessPlayer 22:55, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps what ChessPlayer means is that the article does not adopt a skeptical posture and procedure? Mkmcconn 17:44, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)
A Wikipedia article should be written from a neutral point of view; this article is not written according to the NPOV policy. I will give specifics soon. ChessPlayer 21:29, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Here is one specific example: the passage "The Gospels are problematic, because they offer two seemingly incompatible accounts." This is the sort of point of view statement that Christians insert into things. Its the Christian point of view that the two different accounts are "seemingly incompatable". Christians fundamentalists will never allow anything in the Bible to be incompatible; they will always insert adjectives like "apparent" or "seemingly" into statements. If the article was NPOV, it would say that its the Christian fundamentalist point of view that the two incompatable versions are "seemingly" incompatable, and to everyone else they are simply incompatible. It would then state that according to one Gospel, Jesus could have been born at one time, and another if another Gospel is true, and outside the gospels there is no evidence at all about when he was born. Instead, you have a long dessertation that give the impression that Jesus was born sometime around X, and we really know this for sure. ChessPlayer 08:25, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)
You are way confused, man. That's not pro-Christian bias. If that's "biased" at all, it's anti-Christian. Fundamentalist Christians (like myself) don't believe the Bible ever has incompatible or contradictory accounts, so saying that the Bible contains accounts that are incompatible or seemingly incompatible is the opposite of supporting the fundamentalist Christian position. Jdavidb 14:47, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
But what would this mean? I don't think a "skeptical" posture would guarantee neutrality. In the case of religion, skepticism is not neutral, it is one point of view. Religious skepticism of course is very different from the attitude of critical historians (who are not making religious claims). "Skepticism" just seems to vague! Let's be specific. The article provides a point of view acceptable to people who believe Jesus was divine, and I believe acceptable to people who do not believe he was divine. I also believe the article is acceptable to people who believe the NT is literally correct, and to those who do not chare this belief. Is ChessPlayer saying that I am wrong about ascribing these four points of view to the article? Or is he saying that there is another point of view, of which I am unaware? Slrubenstein
I agree with you, that a skeptical posture is not equal to neutrality. I'm looking forward to seeing what ChessPlayer thinks is biased in the article, and I'm curious to see if it is, after all, skepticism that is being aimed for. Mkmcconn 22:42, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia articles are supposed to be NPOV; you state bluntly that "the article provides a point of view ...." and that's my objection. Its a no-no. Articles are not supposed to promote a point of view, not even one that nobody objects to.
The article does give a lot of space to a dissertation on historical research. In fact, I do object to that dissertation as slanting everything towards a Christian viewpoint. Why? because the dissertation is arguing a point, that supports the idea that Jesus really lived, and why we think he did, and what we can surmise about him from the Bible and other religious sources. Its all about how the historian's task is to sift the Bible and try to turn it into history, by making assumptions, and guesses, and etc, etc. This dissertation belongs on its own page. It fails NPOV, cause its saying this view is the right one, that there is a sound historical basis to learn about Jesus using the Bible, and why this is sound; on its own page, it will be less NPOV, as the topic will have changed from Jesus to how some historians try to use the Bible as a historical text. Even if its argued that the dissertation is just one view, its length promotes it and makes the article tend to favor one side. Compare for example, how almost no room is given to the idea that Jesus is a character in the Bible, which is a religious document of Christians, and nothing more. Yet this is the view of most of the planet who are not Christians. I assure you that most Chinese do not treat the Jesus story as anything but that, a story. But here the article gives a long dessertation that makes the point that Jesus is real history. That is bias, not reporting all views neutrally. Its pro-Christian, though no doubt it seems to some to be otherwise, but I am saying the whole frame of reference is skewed. ChessPlayer 09:01, 24 Apr 2004 (UTC)

You misunderstand me, and you may misunderstand NPOV. I never said that the article promotes a point of view, I said it provides a point of view. In fact, the article provides many different points of view, as any good NPOV article should. It also makes it very clear whose point of view these points of view are. Not one point of view is presented as "the truth." The historical research on Jesus most definitely belongs in an article on Jesus. Let me add, although this is clear in the article, that these historians are not Christian and are not promoting any point of view other than secular historical research. I am sure there are people who believe Jesus never existed, but I have read no credible secular academic hitorian who makes this claim. I am not a Christian and I believe Jesus existed because the historic evidence is adequate. What is the proof that he did not exist? Is this proof that is acceptable to secular historians? What historians have argued it? t sounds like you have your own point of view which you want to present in this article. That is unacceptable. The article provides points of view from Chistians and non-Christians, and from religious people an secular scholars -- and clearly identifies each point of view. Slrubenstein

I don't misunderstand you. You say it "provides" a point of view. Fine..except the point of view is written about at great length,and other points of view are not expressed with such length. This turns "providing" into "promoting". You accuse me of wanting to present my point of view in the article, which is quite unwarranted; if wanted to, I would edit the article, and not blab on the talk page. I am trying to make the article a better one, and by pointing out that its not what you are claiming it to be, which is non-biased. You say you arn't Christian; fine. But that doesn't change that the article is biased in favor of a Christian point of view. The article is seriously flawed, and quite out of balance. Again, I think that you and others don't see this cause your frame of references are in the way. ChessPlayer 05:43, 25 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Well, I guess I misunderstand you. I say that the article provides a point of view of critical scholarship, and you say that it promotes this point of view because it is written about at great length. Then you say that the article favors a Christian point of view. Well, which is it -- does it favor a critical scholarship point of view, which is non-Christian, or a Christian point of view? Also, you say that you are not pressing your own personal POV -- okay, but please explain then what scholarly approach you feel is missing? From an earlier posting I wonder if you mean an approach that sees Jesus as a literary device in the Gospels. Well, this is a reasonable (if vague) point, but shouldn't it be developed in an article on the Greek Bible or the Gospels? Let's say that "Jesus" is a symbol or character in a literary work -- okay, but that belongs in an article on the work of literature in question. Virtually all secular non-Christian historians believe that Jesus existed, although they do not believe he was divine. We need an article about this man. This article provides interpretations of the life of a person, not a literary character. It just seems to me that your earlier comments are not about a real person but about a literary character, and thus belong in an article on the text in which this character appears, not in an article on a real person. For example, the article on Julius Ceaser does not go into the character in Shakespear's play. Slrubenstein
"Virtually all secular non-Christian historians believe that Jesus existed, although they do not believe he was divine." - Do you have a source for this? Did somebody take a poll? Do you have a modern authority who is widely respected in the field who is on the record having said this? - ChessPlayer 00:33, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I suspect the statement is based on how hard it is to find an historian who believes that Jesus did not exist. One such person I know of is Earl Doherty, author of The Jesus Puzzle. I don't recall what exactly his professional qualifications are, or what he says his religious affiliation is. Do you know of other such historians? And more generally speaking, are there specific changes you would like to suggest, or do you simply think we should scrap the article and start over? Wesley 17:08, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
correct, Wesley -- I made the statement based on having read a wide variety of recent work by critical historians. If ChessPlayer is saying that Sanders' and Fredriksen's and Vermes' scholarship is religiously biased, I would ask on what groups Chessplay says this? Who has rejected their scholarship as being biased by religion? I have yet to see any evidence at all that Chessplayer is informed by recent critical scholarship. Slrubenstein 17:29, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
You haven't read any historians, if what you have read is the works of Sanders, Fredriksen, Crossan, etc. These men are scholars, but they are not professional historians, and its misleading to pass them off as such. They are employed in departments of religion. Crossan, for example, is no secular historian, but a bible scholar connected with The Jesus Seminar. While these guys might study and write about history, they use different thinking than a historian would, and have different agendas. Its very misleading to pass them off as historians. The field of History is an academic discipline, and professional historians will have PhD's in History. They will teach in departments of History, not religious studies. Their works are reviewed in historical journals, not forums of religion, religious journals, religious councils. Please stop misattributing the beliefs of religious scholars as those of the community of professional historians. History is a distinct profession. Just writing a work that says its taking a historical view of something does not make you a member of it. What you are doing makes people think things like "historians believe Jesus existed" because they don't know the difference between historians and members of other disciplines. I don't know if you are doing this intentionally, because you like the point of view of the authors you cite, or if you simply didn't know they are not historians, so I am mentioning it here. ChessPlayer 21:29, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
ChessPlayer, stop and tell us all what the Jesus Seminar is. Hint: it's not a fundamentalist Christian religious organization. They are the LAST people to be biased in the way you claim. Jdavidb 21:59, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
And furthermore, how in the world does the fact that one historian is a JEWISH studies professor make him somehow biased in favor of the Christian position? You do know Jews don't believe in Jesus, right? Jdavidb
The issue is not what the Jesus Seminar believes. That is irrelevant to my objection. The Jesus Seminar is not cited as a source in the article, so its not relevant. Crossan was cited. He is not a historian, that is the issue. Use him to support arguments made by Bible scholars. Don't use him to support arguments attributed to historians in general, as he isn't one and doesn't speak for them. Secondly, I never said the Jewish Studies Professor was biased in favor of the Christian position.ChessPlayer 02:25, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

22:03, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Let's stay calm, ChessPlayer. I'll ask you for two things, and offer two in return. Would you provide evidence of (1) historians denying that professors of religion or theology have any right to call some of their work "history" and (2) a few notable historians who deny Jesus's existence? In return, I offer this evidence, which you can take as you like: I spent two years on a Master of Arts in religious history at a public university (Simon Fraser University) and I can assure that my department did not have the bias you describe against professors of religion and theology (a few Marxist professors did, I admit, but I would chalk that up to a Marxist bias against religion -- certainly a number of agnostic or atheist professors still had much respect for professors of religious studies). And if you want the name of a few historians who accept Christ's existence, just ask. :-) Michael Grant is one (yes, a real professor of _history_). I understand the perspective you're coming from, but I think that if we look at the available evidence, you'll find that this article in fact is fair in its description of historians' views on Jesus. Jwrosenzweig 21:47, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)


When I submit work to the article that anyone disputes, I will be happy to provide sources for what I submitted. For now, the burden of sources is on those who maintain that material in the article right now is factual. Its not. Its a misrepresentation, giving a set of views then misattributing them. This must stop. Since you want to list yourself now as an authority, I have to ask the name of your said "my" but didn't say if it was the Department of History or not. Was there a Department of History at your school, and was your degree program in it? This is not a rhetorical question, I just want a factual, simple answer, where you state which department your degree program was hosted by. ChessPlayer 22:33, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I have to say, I disagree with your approach. I think we've offered a number of sources and evidence, and your response has been to dismiss them. So I'm asking you to provide the grounds for that dismissal. This may well be a point on which we differ, but I think the issue is not that no sources are being given to you, but rather that you find the sources insufficient.
Goodness, I don't want to present myself as an authority! Simply as someone who can offer a piece of evidence, which (as I said) you can take as you like. I don't think I am an "authority" on what historians think, but I can attest to what some historians think. And I'm sorry that my remarks were vague -- there was a Department of History at SFU (still is, I hope and believe) and my degree program was in that department entirely. There is no school of religion or theology on SFU's campus. So there's your simple, factual answer. :-) I don't know if it's what you were expecting, but it's the truth. Jwrosenzweig 23:26, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Thank you for your kind reply. As a graduate student of history, I think you can appreciate the value of the correct citation of sources. At this stage, that is my sole concern. I insist that the sources cited for the historical sections of the article are not from the profession of historians, but from scholars in other fields. My objection is not to their use, or what they say, but that they are incorrectly being cited, misrepresented as to who they are. There has been endless chatter here on what I do or don't believe, and its all irrelevant. What is of concern, is that the article stop citing people like Crossan, then using them to assert what historians think. The material there right now must be attributed to who said it, and not historians. Crossan is not a historian. If someone wants to write about what historians think, let them find one, and put his thoughts on the page, if its the view of most of his colleagues. Its not correct to cite Crossan, then say, "historians think..." Finally...It seems people want to discuss everything but this issue...and attribute the discussion to me. ChessPlayer 23:57, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I don't want to be inflammatory, but I don't think ChessPlayer sees the difference between the critical scholarship point of view and the Christian point of view. The critical scholarship point of view looks at the texts critically in the light of other historical sources to attempt to determine how much of the texts are valid (which may range from 0%, which would encompass the supposed additional point of view ChessPlayer wants to see, to 100%). I think ChessPlayer mistakenly believes that the only reason people engage in such scholarship is because they believe in the Christian point of view and are trying to substantiate it, when historically the exact opposite is true; the critical point of view originated because persons critical of the Bible did not accept it and looked for evidence against it. Both the critical point of view and the Christian point of view are significant and need to be reported in an article about Jesus. Jdavidb 14:59, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Please don't speculate on what I do or do not see. We can discuss issues just fine without discussing me. This page is getting filled with "Chessplayer thinks this" or "He must think that" and then things I don't think or say get debated at length and attributed to me. I ask everyone to stop discussing me, and just discuss the article, which is what the page is intended for. ChessPlayer 23:22, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I agree with ChessPlayer's points. The article is very biased and POV, not representing much of the majority view in the word. NealMcB 04:17, 2004 May 9 (UTC)
I have posted on my talk page an entertaining story/problem that I hope will help make it easier in the future to resolve disputes and make articles better, by being more in compliance with the basic law of Wikipedia found at the NPOV page. I respectfully invite all editors to visit my talk page, read what is posted and comment there, please. Thank you. ChessPlayer 06:38, 9 May 2004 (UTC)

historical view vs. Christian view[edit]

Facts: 1. There are two Wiki pages with similar names, "Jesus Christ" and "Jesus as the Messiah" 2. More people will visit the "Jesus Christ" page by a huge margin, as typing in "Jesus Christ" is the natural thing to do in search engines. Therefore, whatever is written on the Jesus Christ page will be the most seen. 3. Material on both the historical view of Jesus, and the Christian view, are present on the Jesus Christ page, BUT, material on the historical view takes up most of the Jesus Christ page, while only a brief paragraph about the Christian view exists. Both topics have page links to their own seperate pages entirely devoted to each respective view. 5. The material on the historical view was listed first on the Jesus Christ page, and the introduction used to mention it first. 6. Most people will visit the Jesus page, which is dominated by material on the historical view, and see that viewpoint, but have to go look for the others. 7. The material on the historical Jesus tried to impress the reader with its truthfulness, by making it appear the material was all from Professors of History. Conclusion: Article needs changes to meet the NPOV policy. ChessPlayer 04:56, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

So now you acknowledge that the historical view is not pro-Christian, and you're concerned that the historical view is far more prominent than the Christian, so that the Christian view gets short shrift? I thought you were concerned that the page was "reeking" of pro-Christian bias? Which is it? Jdavidb 18:32, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
The "historical view" that is on the page right now, is pro-Christian in that it supports at great length the position that Jesus existed. It is not pro-Christian if one expects more from the page than simply that; then its anti-Christian. It all depends on your point of view. ChessPlayer 21:00, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Text removed[edit]

I removed this bit because it's off-topic and biased:

Consequently, they believe such texts contain information not only about a described event, they also reveal information of historical value about the authors and audience. Historians then use information about the cultural, political, and economic context (from sources outside the text in question) as a basis for reconstructing the intended or understood meaning of the text. Although historians use established methods, there are often vigorous debates over the validity or strength of a given interpretation.

Perhaps this would fit better in the deconstructionism article.

Not sure why — it describes perfectly valid practices that have very little to do with deconstructionism. However you're right that this text isn't vital to the article. No-One Jones 05:26, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I agree with No-One. The passage has nothing to do at all with deconstruction and has characterized Biblical historiography since the 1800s and is important for explaining how the Bible is ready byhistorians. Slrubenstein
Agree with Slrubenstein. Jdavidb 14:59, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Religious Scholars vs Professors of History[edit]

Men like John Dominic Crossan are not Professors of History, and the article should make it very clear that they are not. Instead, the article currently does the opposite, attempting to make it sound like they are the views of the historical profession. There IS a historical profession, Crossan and the others in the article are NOT part of it, and the article must not cite them, then talk about what "historians" believe as if they believe what Crossan does. I said this before on the talk page, and am repeating it again here in a section of its own. If people want to give the views of professors of history, then find those views and put them on the page, and cite your source. But let's end this conspiracy to attribute the views of religous scholars as a "historical" view of Jesus...unless the article clearly states its a view of Bible scholars. Is this so much to ask? I am going to amend the article and remove the term "historian" whenever it is being used for the views of men who are not historians. I ask that the nonsense of reverting back to a state where Crossan and his ilk are masqueraded as professional historians stop. This has nothing to do with wether Crossan is right or wrong, wether he supports Christian dogma or not, wether Jesus existed or not, wether historians think he existed or not. These are all separate issues, none of which I have asserted either side of. It has everything to do with correctly representing sources. ChessPlayer 00:02, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Are you saying that a person with a religious faith is thereby disqualified to be a historian? If so this could extrapolate to all kinds of bans in society: A person of (insert belief system of choice here) is hereby forbidden to contribute to society or speak to any issue. Unfortunately there are some who seem to believe this nowadays. Are you one?
I think we have to credit readers with some common sense. If they know that a historian is a professor at, say, a Jesuit University, let them make their own conclusions, weighing for possible bias, based on the person's work. This is getting perilously close to a case of spoonfeeding the readers from a solely secularist point of view...Pollinator 01:12, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
No, I am not saying that a person with a religious faith is thereby disqualified to be a historian. The issue is that the article cites either no one, or religious scholars, but misrepresents them as being historians. Its the misrepresentation I object to. ChessPlayer 01:31, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

The article has the statement "Yet, most historians do not dispute the existence of a person named Jesus" and "evidence for Jesus' existence two thousand years ago is by historical standards actually fairly strong"

I challenge the accuracy of these statements. I don't think anybody has conducted a poll. How can they say what "most" historians believe? Whoever thinks these lines true, offer some names of historians who support the claim that their profession as a whole believes these things. I stress, "historians". Not religious scholars. Historians, people you find in departments of History in major universities with PhD's in History. Show me some big names in the historical profession that say "most historians believe Jesus existed, because the historical evidence is fairly strong," and I will be happy to agree with the article and withdraw my challenge. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the names, I think the statements are hogwash and the product of exaggeration and invention. But, I'm perfectly willing to be show to be wrong, and would be happy to apologise. ChessPlayer 05:37, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Let's reverse that challenge. Find serious historians who believe that Jesus didn't exist at all. A little research will tell you that it's very much a minority view.

As for historians who don't doubt the existence of Jesus, there are plenty. Starting with thousands of historians who happen to be Christians (and don't tell me that you won't accept evidence from Christians because they are biased - if you do, then I exclude evidence from atheists because they are biased, too). But a much simpler test for historians who believe Jesus existed - go and read any historical book about the subject.

If names are important to you, start with Paul Meier [1] or Thomas Cahill.

While we are here, what evidence do you have that someone whose title is 'Jewish studies' or 'Professor of New Testament' is less reliable a historian than someone whose title is 'Professor of History'? DJ Clayworth 13:39, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Well, I see the question in another view. I see someone placed an information, that is, DJ placed in the article the information that most historians think like this , or like that, and chessplayer asked for the veracity of these statements, by asking where DJ found this information. DJ reversed the challenge then: but one must agree that until we know what the majority of historians think, the article should not offer these statistics until any of the two, or someone else, produces a reliable information about the percentage of the opinions of the historians .The discussion below about who's an historian and who's not add further dificulties in the pursuit of these numbers Anyone who disagrees with my action might express their opinions: but one must agree that we have no knowledge at this point about what "the historians" believe. Or do we? Manco 18:47, 20 May 2004 (UTC) ( To Slrubenstein below: DATA VENIA, since you know what ad hominem means, you should know what ad verecundiam is: and you should know that this is a rethoric trap as dangerous as the former)

I suspect Chessplayer has done no research at all and is just a BS artist. S/he has yet to specify any problems with the scholarship of Meier, Sanders, Fredriksen, or anyone else mentioned -- all respected historians. Chessplayers attacks are ad hominem and based on a strong bias. DJ, you make a good point, but given Chessplayer's ignorance of academia, I doubt you will get a satisfactory reply. People should contribute to Wikipedia based on what they know, not on what they don't know! Slrubenstein
I was just looking at our articles on History, Historiography, and List of historians. None of them seems to use a definition of "historian" anywhere near as narrow as what Chessplayer advocates; many if not most people listed at List of historians are not or were not found "in departments of History in major universities with PhD's in History". Any serious discussion of what a historian is should probably take place there. But, I suspect this narrow definition of "historian" is not widely held, and it is that narrow definition that I would challenge Chessplayer to defend. Wesley 16:18, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia is open source. It is not authoritative. Many pages are not policed well. People put their favorite writers on the list of historians. If I liked Crossan's book on the historical Jesus, I could list him on the historians page. Would that make him a historian? It would be very misleading to say Crossan is a Professor of History. So, in an article for the public, in order to not mislead, its wrong to call him a historian. Its also not accurate. Crossan's work is not in history, its interdisciplinary. We could start calling him a political scientist too? could we then use his views as those of political scientists, and start making statements about what most of them think, while citing his work and calling him a political scientist? I use Crossan, but only as an example of my point. ChessPlayer 07:40, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Good point, Wesley. There are many people not in history departments (or who go their degrees in interdisciplinary programs) who are, nonetheless, historians. What is important is that the authors cited are read and used by historians, and emply the methods of modern (secular)historiography. It would be a real distortion to identify them as "religious scholars" since they are not commenting on religion per se but on history, and they are not writing from a religious perspective. An analogous case is Charles Darwin -- he was religious, but no one would identify his theory of evolution of species as a "religious theory!" Slrubenstein

Slrubenstein doesn't have the decency to stick to discussing and editing articles and refraining from making unwarranted personal attacks. Just this once, I will answer a low slur made in another part of the page that seeks to caste an aspersion on me ...I have both a BA in History, and years of grad work at the Masters level. Frankly, this shouldn't matter at all, contrary to what SLrubenstein thinks. Wikipedia encourages people to write about what they don't know; that is the policy, not the opposite. This site is not for people to write articles on, then, feeling they know more than others, or simply out of ego, guard sections of it like little fiefdoms, and discourage other people from changing things, such as by saying what SLrubestein said, "People should contribute to Wikipedia based on what they know, not on what they don't know!". This is exactly the opposite of what Wikipedia wants. Finally, it is tempting to reply to Slrubenstein's libels in kind, but I won't. Instead, I will be kind, and remind him or her that it is a wikipedia policy that talk pages are for the purpose of improving articles, not making personal attacks. Please stick to discussing the article alone, in the future. As to the rest of the new comments on this page, including the issue of what and who are historians, I will reply to them soon. ChessPlayer 23:46, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Sorry, but we at Wikipidia do want people to contribute based on what they know, not what they do not know. We just assume that there are many non-professionals whoa re very knowledgable. Had you done any research into 1st century and Biblical history, you would be in a position to help. The fact remains that you have provided no reasonable criticism of the historians' view of Jesus, even from the position of historian. One does not have to have a PhD. from, or appointment to, a history department in order to be a historian. The scholars cited have interdisciplinary training including training in history and historiography, and their work stands as historical research used by historians that holds up to the professional standards of historians. Moreover, they draw on and cite works by historians. You make the silliest editing errors (n.b. I am not judging you, just your error). For example, the text states that Sanders and Meier synthesize and summarize the views of historians. this is a factually correct statement, even if they themselves were not historians. The text states that what follows is a summary of the dominant view of historians. this is a factually accurate statement since it is not a summary of the personal views of Sanders and Meier but rather a summary of work by a range of historians. Many religious people, including all fundamentalists and Catholic as well as most protestant theologians, would vigorously disagree with the account given, and it is a gross misrepresentation to characterize it as a "religious" view. Slrubenstein

Unless I am mistaken, you do not speak for the Wikipedia community, but only for yourself, no one has appointed you a spokesperson. So don't give me this "we" garbage. I have provided no criticism of the historians views, you are correct. Its not an issue I have raised. You, and some others, are continually confusing the talk page with statements about me and my views that are made up by you, and do not reflect what I have said or done. Perhaps you simply misunderstand what I say, and have this unfortunate habit of jumping to conclusions and speculations. Please stop. You say that one does not have to have a PhD in History to be a historian. That is a matter of debate, one you obviously are unaware of. I will give an example. Is Barbara Tuchman, the author of the much-praised work "The Guns of August" a historian? There are many professors of history who have said that she was not. Now, "Guns of August", in case you haven't read it, is a popular history of the run up to WWI, which is quite readible and insiteful. But she was not accepted as a "Historian" by many who were in the profession. I won't bore you with the story, I think you see the point. The same goes with many other works of "history", such as William Shirer's work on the Third Reich. Is Shirer a historian? No, he isn't. It would be completely wrong to quote Shirer's work as evidence for what "historians" think. Now, many will call Shirer a historian...those not in the profession, mostly. But so what?
Now, you are insisting doing something on this page which is very misleading, and I keep asking you to stop. That is to create the impression that people with PhD's in History believe the things you claim they do. If you insist on that you are right...fine...I don't mind...but find these PhD's and use their works. Don't use scholars in Religious Studies clearly identify their opinions as opposed to history professors. Look, its simply not true that history professors are the same as professors who are in Religious Studies departments, or departments of Theology or Religion, and you can just lump them all together, and say that they all are "historians". If this was true, there would be no need for a department of History; why have it, every subject would have its history written by its own professors. Now, I am not saying that Mathematics teachers, for example, can't write a book on the history of math. They can...but don't call them historians...not when trying to make a broad statement of what the historical community as a whole thinks. For example, if you cite a book by a Mathemetician who writes, "Euclid's theory was the most brilliant ever", you can't then proclaim that historians think this...when most professors of history don't know anything about the theorem. Do you see my point? You are trying to make a complicated world simple. Next, you accuse me of making a silly editing error recently. But I was quite aware of it, and knew it hardly mattered, as you were reverting all my changes anyway. But I did it to find something out...and that was wether you were maintaining that all the material was from the authors cited. You are now saying it isn't. In that case, the article is misleading, as a casual reader would assume it was. The purpose of the encyclopedia is to instruct, not play tricks on the reader. It doesn't matter if a close reading would show it wasn't. So, while perhaps you are technically correct that what you wrote doesn't falsely attribute views, in practice, it does. This is the same issue as calling men like E.P. Sanders a "historian". I look at the article as a whole. You want to represent the views of scholars who have written books on the historical Jesus. I have no problem with that. I just have a problem with how you are doing it. I apologise for saying "you" here. I don't want to get personal, and I am extremely offended the way you have gotten personal with me. Can we please stop, and only discuss the article "objectively" if that is possible. Finally, on the issue of who is qualified to submit work to wikipedia. I will admit you are right, and I am wrong about a Wikipedia policy. Wikipidia does want people to write about what they know, or what they think they know. It says so specifically on the policy page, "Contribute what you know or are willing to learn about." I was wrong in saying "Wikipedia encourages people to write about what they don't know". A lot of people are unwilling to ever admit being wrong...I am not one of those. I said something wrong, and I admit my error here publically. Now, back to the issue of sources. You don't want to have the historical views of professors of religious studies labled as a "religious" view. I quite agree with that. I never have said to call it that. Stating that a view is held by Professors of Religious studies is not stating that their views are religious views. I think that is where some of the misunderstanding has been. ChessPlayer 07:02, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Several comments. One is that many historians do accept writers like Tuchman -- not as people who forge a lot of new ground, but as an important part of the discipline. At least, in my experience, historians at several major universities on the West Coast speak admiringly of her work. Furthermore, ChessPlayer, you have not demonstrated that only members of "history departments" are historians. You have been countered on this charge by me and others, and you have yet to go beyond your simple assertion that we are wrong. Many writers from disciplines outside history make important advances in historical writing, and may be referred to as historians within the fields they have written on. There is no reason to draw the distinctions you demand. Your examples from the sciences are misleading in many respects: I've known numerous scientists who wrote so extensively on the history of science that they are respected as "historians". Yes, a qualitative statement (such as Euclid being the coolest geometrician ever) should not be attributed broadly to "historians". But a reasoned opinion on the evidence (such as "it is almost certain that a man named Jesus lived in 1st Cenutry Palestine and acted as an itinerant preacher") that is expressed by many scholars who write on the history of religion is and ought to be an excellent basis for saying that historians are largely agreed on Jesus' actual existence. To address a larger point you are making, you do, in fact, have to back up the statements you make here, if you want them to be taken seriously. Either you wish this article would change or you don't. If you do, we are open-minded people (I am, anyway) and would like to see evidence compelling enough to cause me to agree with you and change the article.....but you refuse to provide this evidence. If you don't wish the article to change, please stop consuming the time of numerous editors by pretending to want change. What you cannot do (and yet what you continue to do) is to demand change but refuse to offer the kinds of hard evidence that would convince others to agree with you. The reason we continue to talk about you (which I know bothers you) is because the only evidence you've provided is your own assertions -- you've given us nothing to discuss but your own opinions and beliefs. If you had offered names of scholars, etc., you would thereby give us material to examine, and reduce greatly any temptation for us to examine you and your beliefs. I hope you can see the point I am making -- it is an important one. As long as you continue to fight on this page for changes to the article, and back up that fight only with your own assertions about history and historical opinion, you will find yourself defending you and the things you think. I urge you to change tactics, or else give up the fight. Thanks, Jwrosenzweig 16:34, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

ChessPlayer's original contention on this talk page was that the article "reeks of pro-Christian bias" and that the wording on it was "designed to promote a Christian viewpoint and discount other views." However, he's changed his assertion now to say that the persons quoted are not historians (by his definition). The fact is that the article never reeked of pro-Christian bias and that the persons quoted are quite critical (perhaps even detrimental) to the Christian view. I've not yet seen any evidence that ChessPlayer understands the difference between the views of these scholars and the Christian point of view. I've not seen evidence he understands the fundamental issues. Notice how the point about pro-Christian bias was dropped. I contend he'll do the same thing with the definition of historian eventually and find something else to gripe about. Apparently it enrages him at a fundamental level that anyone might even consider the issue of whether or not there ever was a man Jesus of Nazareth. Jdavidb 15:07, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC) I'd like to see the issue settled by an appeal to other encyclopedias. What does Brittanica say about the historian's viewpoint of Jesus? How about others? Do they report that most historians accept that there was indeed a man Jesus of Nazareth, or otherwise? Would he classify these encyclopedias as misleading? Jdavidb 15:07, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Thanks Jdavidb, for clarifying the issue. But I will try to respond to Chessplayer in a professional and I sincerely hope not personal manner. My point was that one does not have to have a PhD. in history or be a member of a history department, to be an historian. This is true, and I stand by it. Obviously I do not mean that all people are historians. In context, I was clearly referring to Crossan, Sanders, and the rest. I was not referring to Barbara Tuchman -- this example clouds the issue because I never suggested she was a historian; at best this example demonstrates that academics and laypeople have different criteria for classifying "historians" -- a point with which I agree, and never questioned. I have stated several times that Crossan and the rest got their PhD.s (does Tuchman even have a PhD.?) in interdisciplinary programs in which they studied both history and methods of historical research; their work engages theoretical and substantive research by other historians (does Tuchman have extensive citations from archival research and primary as well as current secondary sources? The ones I mention do); they have published in peer-reviewed journals read by historians (has Tuchman?), and their work is read by historians and assigned in their classes. If you want to dismiss them as not being historians, fine, but don't think that the Barbara Tuchman example is at all relevant. I read and drew on these books because I asked colleagues of mine who teach in history departments in universities, and who have PhD.s in universities, to tell me what are th most highly regarded and frequently cited general works on the historical Jesus, and this is the list they gave me; I also checked academic book reviews. As others have pointed out, Chess Player has retreated (without any real acknowledgement or explanation) from his original claim that the account I developed on the "historical Jesus" is a religious view. All he has done is substituted a new, far more narrow but legitimate claim, that the people I cite teach in departments other than history. He seems not to recognize that in most American universities (the people I cite teach at US universities) ancient historians are often trained in interdisciplinary programs (Classics, or Religion or Bible or Jewish Studies or what have you) and teach in interdisciplinary programs (he seems upset that I lunp people from religious studies departments with people from history departments -- as if these disciplines were as different as say, geology and creative writing. The fact is that most people who teach in religious studies programs are not religious, or bracket their religious beliefs from their scholarship; moreover, when texts like the Bible are concerned, there is considerable overlap between people in history departments and people in religious studies departments). He continues to claim that the account of historians' views of Jesus which I wrote is false, but he has yet to provide any evidence whatsoever for this -- no evidence that Fredriksen or Sanders are not respected by historians who specialize in 1st century Judea/early Christianity, and no evidence that their methods of research and analysis diverge from established standards of academic historians. Slrubenstein

Article Opening[edit]

I've avoided the dispute here, but the current opening of the article is awful, as it doesn't actually say who Jesus was. It says he was a controversial figure, and then goes into different views of him. This is absolutely ridiculous. Something about him being the central figure in Christianity, depicted in the New Testament as the incarnate son of God who was crucified in Jerusalem in the days of Pontius Pilate and was resurrected, ought to be at the very beginning of the article. john 23:08, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I completely agree, and wondered when it would finally be noticed and something done about it. But its not only the introduction...the article as it stands gives unwarranted place to the views of a few religious scholars who are passed off as professional historians who happen to be writing about Jesus, and not the truth, which is that they are religious scholars who happen to be making assumptions, such as there was a man named Jesus, and then trying to write history about him. THe article then goes from beginning with this point, that Jesus is a historical figure, to then sections that go into justifying treating him as a historical figure, to then saying what "historians" say about him. At the same time, there are already Wikipedia pages about the Historical Jesus, probably written by the same person or people, thus having their view on as many pages as possible. The page as it stands right now, is a joke..unless what you want to read about is the views of scholars passed off as historians, who write books on Jesus as a historical person. ChessPlayer 23:59, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
YOU make an assumption, that their is not Jesus -- an assumption not shared by historians who specialize in this period -- and you make it without any evidence whatsoever. Slrubenstein
Stop putting words in my mouth. In fact, I insist you stop talking about me completely. Either discuss the issues in an impersonal fashion, or keep quiet. This is not an place for personal attacks. [User:ChessPlayer|ChessPlayer]] 02:51, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
yes, you are right -- obviously in characterizing the article as "a joke" in which the views of religious scholars are passed off in a deceptive manner you are acting preofessionally. You know what? The only reason you don't want me to talk to you anymore is because I have done research on the matter (by research I mean reading books, you know, those things with words that scholars write) and don't just do google searches, and you know nothing about the scholarly research on Jesus. Everytime I make a substantive point and ask you for evidence, you reply with a tangential point. The question is, how doe historians understand Jesus? I have done research, cited credible sources, and have provided an account. You have done no research, have no sources, and no account and it pisses you off. Given your own ignorance -- and arroagnce in claiming that ignorance is a basis of authority at wikipedia -- you are right, I shouldn't talk to you any more. I have better things to do with my time (like, read books written by scholars) Slrubenstein
Please, I much prefer you read books than make insulting comments about me. When you read them, and transfer what you read to Wikipedia, please be clear about citing your sources...that is the bone of contention here. I don't want you to engage in ad hominem attacks directed at me; neither by alleging that I am ignorant, nor by trying to play a "I have done more research than you, so don't criticize me that I misattribute my sources" game. Research is not the issue. The issue is, scholars like E. P. Sanders are not professors of history, and all I am asking for right now is that the article make this clear. If in fact, the books you read are not from professors of history, make this clear too. Its deceptive to refuse to allow this information into the article. Before you can answer how "historians" understand Jesus, you must inform the reader what you mean by 'historians', its like the word "doctor." Now, you start at the end of your comment to get out of line, and even use vulgarity. I quote: "You have done no research, have no sources, and no account and it pisses you off. " This is vulgar, and completely false and also irrelevant. The vulgarity needs no further comment. The point that its irrelevant does. By it, I mean that I am objecting to what you have written, and its not a matter of my sources against yours...its a matter of you correctly citing your sources. You in a sense have submitted a paper to Wikipedia, and I am giving it an "F" for misattribution of sources, and am asking you to correct it. I don't need to go out and do research, as until you correctly cite what you are saying, there is nothing to dispute in terms of the subject.
The set "professors of history" is a subset of the set "historians"; they are not identical sets. Deal.
Meanwhile, I still can't figure out what you say the problem is, because you keep changing:
  • The article reeks of pro-Christian bias (we demonstrated this to be false)
  • The article misrepresents a view as being that of historians (we demonstrated it to be a view of historians)
  • The persons cited are not professors of history, so they aren't historians (we demonstrated that to be false)
  • The article fails to define historians (so now you acknowledge that the definition of historian used by Slrubenstein is acceptable, as long as it is made explicit? what made you change your mind, exactly?)
  • The historical view of Jesus in the article dominates the Christian view, because there's too much of it (huh? what happened to the reeking Christian bias?)
I give up; what exactly is the problem? Jdavidb 18:40, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I bolded the sentence above because it's the core observation here: it's almost impossible to address ChessPlayer's concerns because he keeps retreating from point to point and his contentions keep morphing. I have trouble believing anyone who thought a statement that the Gospels offered "incompatible accounts" represented a "reek[ing] of pro-Christian bias" ought to be taken seriously on an article about Jesus. Look at what CP said above: "Here is one specific example: the passage 'The Gospels are problematic, because they offer two seemingly incompatible accounts.' This is the sort of point of view statement that Christians insert into things. Its the Christian point of view that the two different accounts are 'seemingly incompatable'." Given that depth of misunderstanding, I think it's reasonable to conclude there's not a lot to be gained by dealing with these ever-changing contentions about alleged reeking "pro-Christian bias" in the article. Jdavidb 17:05, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
The article, until I changed it, said that there were "seemingly incompatible" accounts. I changed it by eliminating the qualifier "seemingly." Without the qualifier, its anti-fundamentalist Christian (a liberal Christian would not care). It was biased in favor of fundamentalism until I changed it. A fundamentalist believes that the Bible never contradicts itself, and has no incompatable stories, only seemingly incompatible ones. Now, I have nothing against the fundamentalist view being expressed; it was context here that also was an element of the bias. The context was a pro-fundamentalist phrase inserted into a section that was not arguing the fundamentalist view. I am not so stupid or ignorant as you are saying. ChessPlayer 22:43, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Yes, it's about time for ChessPlayer to back up his words with some evidence. And the burden of proof is on you, because the overwhelming opinion in western culture is that there was a historical Jesus (whether divine or not, is another matter). So if you expect an encyclopedia article to go against the grain of the vast majority, I think you had better produce more than just empty rhetoric. If you can demonstrate that historians have compelling evidence that there was no historical Jesus, well I for one would certainly like to see it. older wiser 02:08, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I have never edited the article to remove the statement "Most historians do not dispute the existence of a person named Jesus," so, there is no issue like you just challenged. In talk, I do challenge this statement, though, and ask for proof. But for now, I am focusing on insisting that the article correctly cite sources, and not misrepresent Bible scholars and professors of religion, as professors of History. I add the credentials to sources cited, and someone removes them. Why? It seems to me an effort to hide information to slant the message of the text. The article should be as clear as possible who the sources are, their academic degrees, and where they teach, don't you agree? ChessPlayer 02:51, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I changed the article because it seems wrong to me where the placement of the views of Christians were. The way the article was written, it struck me as wrong to give first mention to the view that denied the core issue about Jesus: his divinity. NPOV is the goal; but I don't see how it is more NPOV to first give the view Jesus was a mere man, then the view that he was the Son of God. In any event, this is just a temporary change. The entire article is terrible. Compare it to articles in professional encyclopedias, and it is clear how bad it is. ChessPlayer 06:05, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I agree, to some extent. The article should focus on what the gospels say about Jesus and his teachings. It can then go on to speculation about/discuss the "historical Jesus." I'd also suggest that the article be at Jesus (currently a redirect) rather than Jesus Christ. For instance, Columbia has its article at Jesus (although Britannica and Encarta have it as Wikipedia does). john 07:24, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Hm. I just came back to discover that my edits for satifying a non-trinitarian NPOV have been yanked. (Along with a typo edit, what's that all about? People are getting posessive about keeping their typo's?) Without picking apart the edit history too much, let me simply point out that Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves Christians. So does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists (etc. etc.). They do *not* believe that christ is god, but that christ is a separate, special, being, a divine son of god. To posit in a wikipedia article that "most christians believe..." (christ is god) may not be the best NPOV phrasing. Here's some numbers of adherents and a list of Restoration movements [[2]] to compare for whether or not "most" is the best NPOV term (as it is not qualified by number of faiths, number of adherents, etc.) . Aside from the term used, the article has also recently frequently implied that, regardless of one's belief system, christ was god (not that some, most, or many christians believe it, but simply stating it as factual). I'd say that's definitely a strong POV. Ronabop 07:46, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Well, I think it's indisputable that most Christian groups throughout the last 1679 years have accepted the Nicene notion of the Trinity (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Calvinist-descended-churches, Anglicans, all believe this, certainly). I would agree that we should avoid saying that all Christians believe this. john 08:13, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I guess that depends on one's definition of "most". 50%? 90%? 99%? (And of what? Of believers? Of churches?) Anyways, I tried to bypass the issue by pointing out that there are Christian sects who reject Nicene, so we can bypass "most", and include a POV that wasn't being represented. Ronabop 11:24, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

New Testament[edit]

I really don't think it has to be stated that the New Testament is a theological document. For comparison, should the article also say "... Christianity, a religion, ..."? Most readers will know what it is, and the few who don't can easily follow the Wikilink to find out. Fredrik 10:34, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

ok, perhaps its clutter. I'll delete it if it is still there. ChessPlayer 11:11, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Something is wrong[edit]

Edit histories are not matching up with edit comments. For example, Chess was reverted to a version of my text that I didn't write (er, huh?). Is this article being gamed? Ronabop 11:38, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)


I can't comment for LDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., but I am a member of the church of Christ, and we hold to the view that Jesus was God. I wouldn't class any of the groups in that paragraph as Restorationist, anyway, except possibly LDS. Jdavidb 14:49, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Definition of a historian[edit]

Here are some links to online dictionaries that offer to define what a historian is. Even if these definitions are not written by PhD's of History by professors of history, they should nevertheless reflect how the word is commonly used in the English language.

These links were found via this Google search on the terms "dictionary" and "historian": . As anyone can easily see, the general consensus definition is that a historian is anyone who chronicles events, or anyone who studies past events using whatever primary and secondary etc. materials they can find. In general usage, "historian" is understood in this broad sense, and so referring to the people in the article simply as "historians" rather than as "professors of religion" or "cab drivers" or whatever else they may have been, is entirely besides the point if they have studied and written about history. While "professors of history" may not like it, most people don't assume that every historian has a PhD in history, the way they do assume that every medical doctor has an MD for instance. In fact, historians have been around much longer than universities have, and there will probably be historians long after universities have been replaced by something else. Wesley 16:18, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Well and aptly said, Wesley. You really are a marvel to me, sometimes -- able to remain perfectly calm through just about anything. The above is exactly what I've been trying (and failing) to say for several days now. :-) Thanks for taking the time, Jwrosenzweig 16:40, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I agree. DJ Clayworth 18:06, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I have to say that I disagree. While in certain contexts, the word historian can certainly refer to people who don't have PhD's in history (in the context of any time before the mid 20th century or so, for instance, or referring specifically to "popular historians"), I think it is misleading to refer to an academic who does not have a PhD in history and does not teach in a history department as a "historian." That is to say, this is not about academic snobbery. This is about academic specialization. While it is perfectly appropriate to refer to say, Steven Runciman or Barbara Tuchman or whoever as a historian, even though they do not have a PhD in history, it can be very misleading to refer to someone who has a PhD and an academic job in something that is not history as a historian. (in the interest of disclosure, I am a history graduate student, but I don't think that this is mere narrow parochialism) john 19:43, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I would add that to call someone a "religious scholar" is not to imply that they are religious, but that they are a scholar of religion. Just as to call someone a "literary scholar" is not to imply that they have literary ability (God knows...) john 19:48, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

John, thanks for your perspective. I'd like to ask you to look at Slrubenstein's post above (goodness, things are getting hard to find) where he notes that the departments that the disputed scholars come from are closely aligned to history, and that they have been published in peer-reviewed history journals. You're right that the definition of historian is changing, but when religious studies professors have an academic background in history, publish works of popular history, and also publish articles in respected peer-reviewed history journals, then I think they may be called historians. This is an old argument in history graduate schools (or at least, I remember having it when I was in one), and I know there are some camps that want to define historian as strictly as you and Chessplayer suggest. I believe, however, that (especially in fields like the history of Christianity) most professors of history consistently consider people to be historians who are in departments such as classical studies, humanities, religion, and related fields (perhaps even some anthropology and archaeology). Do you really feel that referring to such scholars as "historians" is misleading about the opinions and judgments of professors of history? Just curious... Jwrosenzweig 19:57, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I don't really know if it's misleading in this case. It certainly can be misleading, but I don't know enough about the particulars of this instance. My main point was that Wesley's argument seems to be more of a defense of popular historians against those academic trolls, when that's not the situation in this case at all. At any rate, I don't see what's wrong with calling them "religious scholars," which is more precise and accurate, and I'm not sure why you are imputing some sense that this term is derogatory. As to my thoughts on the article in general, I am deeply suspicious of Chessplayer, who seems to be promoting a POV. At the same time, he does have a point that the current article has some serious issues, and in particular I think that the issue of who the historical Jesus was is secondary to what the gospels say about Jesus, and the position of Jesus within Christianity. john 22:58, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Although I welcome John's contribution, we have to stick to the issue at hand, which is "how do historians view Jesus" and what do we mean by "historian" in this context. Chessplayer, after evading a whole serious of comments and questions by myself and others, now insists that he protests only the description of certain people as "professors of history." But the article never identified the people in question as "professors of history!" It did, however, identify them as historians. So, can someone who is not a professor of history be a historian? I believe yes, despite what John says. The fact is, there are at many universities interdisciplinary programs; departments that have professors who received degrees in other disciplines; and scholars who trained in one discipline who have migrated to other fields and approaches. This makes identifying an approach somewhat more complicated than simply identifying someon's department (which I have never objected to, and have never deleted). All of this started because I claimed that the account in the article on the historical Jesus reflects the dominant view of historians -- I mean, and I think this goes without saying in the context of the article, historians who specialize in early Christianity. I stand by this claim and no one has provided any evidence to the contrary. I also refer to a few people whom historians regularly cite and use. These people are not in History Departments, but I believe, strongly, that anyone who reads their books will accept them as legitimate critical history up to academic standards; I further maintain that these books and other works by said authors are read and cited by people in history departments. Are there other people whose works are more frequently cited or carry more authority among historians who study the formation of Christianity or the Bible? Is there another view of Jesus than the one I presented that more historians accept? I have never ever rejected this possibility, I have asked only for evidence. No one has yet to provide any evidence at all. this is the issue. Slrubenstein

I never said that people who are not professors of history can be historians. I merely said that it can be misleading to call someone who is a professor of something other than history a historian, even if they write on historical subjects. At any rate, I don't know enough about the specifics to dispute with you. I imagine you're right, and I agree that Chessplayer is clearly pushing a POV. At the same time, I dunno, what's wrong with "religious scholars" or just "scholars" and "most scholars belive" instead of "most historians believe"? I frequently say "scholars" even when referring to people who are academic historians. john 23:24, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Having read your recent remarks, John, I do see your point, and agree that it might be more accurate to say scholars. My only concern is that ChessPlayer seems to want us to redefine people like Crossan so that we can then assert something like "most historians deny that Jesus ever existed". That's why Wesley, Sl, and I have been a little too intransigent, I think -- certainly I agree with you that Crossan isn't necessarily _best_ described as a "historian", but rather that he can legitimately be. And I wholeheartedly agree that the main points here should be Jesus's role in the gospels and in Christianity -- after all, unless we establish why Jesus is considered important, why should the reader care whether or not he "actually existed"? Thanks, John, for being very amiable about the whole thing -- I shouldn't have disagreed as strongly with you, as I think you're actually saying essentially the things I want said about this article! :-) If I was a little too brisk with you, I certainly apologize -- what kinds of changes, then, would you envision for the article's structure? I'm curious. Jwrosenzweig 23:36, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I certainly don't feel that you were particularly snippy with me. I think you and SLR made some legitimate points, which made me moderate my own position. At any rate, I think the article should first discuss Jesus's life and works as described in the gospels, then Christian theological views of Jesus, and only then get into the issue of the "historical Jesus," perhaps in historical context - discussing the higher criticism, and all that 19th century jazz. Non-christian religions' views of Jesus should go at the end. BTW, what do you think of my suggestion of moving the article to Jesus (currently a redirect)? john 23:52, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Let me address a point raised by Jwrosenzweig. I assure you I have no intention of making the assertion that "most historians deny that Jesus ever existed," without first giving convincing proof, on the talk page, in the form of verifiable sources, that such a comprehensive statement is correct. So your concern is noted, and I hope you are satisfied now on that matter. It seems in fact we are in agreement on many points. I agree that Crossan has addressed historical issues, but is not best described as a historian. I absolutely agree that "the main points here should be Jesus's role in the gospels and in Christianity -- after all, unless we establish why Jesus is considered important, why should the reader care whether or not he "actually existed"?" and want to add the caveat, that I can agree with this without thinking that Jesus ever even existed. It doesn't matter what my personal belief is, your statement is true, in my opinion. In fact, it is sorely needed to lessen the bias of this article as it stands right now. Now, some people are going to think me completely inconsistent...but that is because they are filled with assumptions and mistaken thoughts, and if they want to discuss my views in relation to me, I ask them to make comments on my talk page, not this page, this page is so long already, and should be strictly for the article. I will be happy to address issues regarding my views on my personal wikipedia page.

Finally, let me address the general topic of the use of the word "historian" in the article. The issue in my opinion is not how the word "historian" is commonly used, but how it is being used in the wikipedia article. Rather than spending time in debate, let's just amend the article to make it more clear. I think that even if its not generally agreed what "historians" means, what harm is caused by being specific in the article, so its not an issue? If at least some people might be confused by it, and think the article refers specifically to Professors of History, why not just clarify things? The purpose of the article is to be as clear and informative as possible, not to write things in code after a long debate on the meaning. The fact that we are debating it at all is evidence that its ambigous and disputed as to its meaning and should be changed. It is clear that the article gives the views of "scholars"; there are other words too which might be used, and I propose calling them "religious scholars" or "scholars of religion", especially as they have degrees reflecting those terms. E.P. Sanders is a doctor of Theology; he is most accurately called a "theologian". So, any of these, scholar, religious scholar, theologian, all I find accurate. ChessPlayer 00:15, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Well, the problem I see is that qualifying them as religious scholars or professors of theology implicitly calls into question their credentials as historians. It should not matter what their background is if their research is sound and supported by evidence. If the positions are not historically sound, then they should be challenged on the facts and not on the basis of their qualifications or academic discipline. If there are competing positions which are also based on sound research and evidence, then they should also be presented. The cases should not hinge on an appeal to authority (e.g., my credentials are bigger than your credentials). It is irrelevant whether they are a professor of history or of theology. Or are you are making the claim that there is an implicit bias simply due to one's academic discipline? I'm not saying that every professor of religion or theology is equally qualified as a historian, but if their methods and research are sound, it should not matter. older wiser 00:58, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I don't think it's a matter of being more or less qualified. But certainly they have different training, and different methods, and I don't see why calling a theologian a theologian or a scholar of religion a scholar of religion is to impugn the quality of their scholarship, unless you believe that religious studies is somehow a less valid field of scholarly endeavor than history. john 01:16, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

No, I certainly don't think they are any less valid a field of scholarly endeavor. But I think identifying them as theologians or religious studies scholars does convey an implicit questioning of their credentials as a historian. I think if the research they do is sound by the standards of acadmic historical studies, then it is a distraction to point out their academic pedigree. If what they say does not meet the standards of historians, then challenge it on that basis, not with an implicit diminution of their credentials as historians. older wiser 02:20, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
The article readers might not think the views presented are right unless we make them think its from Professors of History, so lets fool em? Not acceptable editing policy, I believe. ChessPlayer 03:03, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

The Online Encyclopedia Britannica Article on Jesus Christ, and Use of the Word "Scholar"

I looked at the article on Jesus Christ at the online Encyclopedia Britannica. It was written by E. P. Sanders, one of the scholars cited in the Wiki article section on historical Jesus Christ. Sanders wrote in an authoritative style. He simply gave an account, and thus had little need to discuss what other scholars thought. Howerver, in the section on sources for the historical life of Jesus, he did mention what other academics thought, in reference to his thesis that the Synoptic Gospels, are the primary sources for knowledge of the historical Jesus. He wrote: "The greatest differences, though, appear in the methods and content of Jesus' teaching. In the Synoptic Gospels, [Jesus] speaks about the kingdom of God in short aphorisms and parables, making use of similes and figures of speech, many drawn from agricultural and village life. He seldom refers to himself, and, when asked for a “sign” to prove his authority, he refuses (Mark 8:11–12). In John, on the other hand, Jesus employs long metaphorical discourses, in which he himself is the main subject. His miracles are described as “signs” that support the authenticity of his claims. Scholars have unanimously chosen the Synoptic Gospels' version of Jesus' teaching." So, I wish to point out, he used the word, "scholars", and not "historians". Later, in the same article, he wrote a section on "The interpretation of Christ in Western faith and thought." In this essay, he does not use the word "historian" at all. He used the word "scholars" twice. So, E P Sanders, when writing an encyclopedia article, doesn't use the term "historian" at all in writing about the historical Jesus, but uses the word "scholar." Sanders does use the word 'historian', though, in a section of the article where he writes an essay about "The debate over Christology in modern Christian thought." He calls Adolf von Harnack (1851–1931), one of the "historians of dogma" Harnack was a professor of church history in 19th century Germany. Finally, in a concluding segment, Sanders asks "What has become a sharp point of division is the amount of historical and critical inquiry that is permitted where the person of Christ is involved." In answering his own question, he never once uses the word "historians," but instead speaks of what Bible scholars are doing in regards to that question in their study. So we can take from this, that Sanders himself uses the word "scholar" in his encyclopedia article, and we should do likewise, except when specifically speaking of a professor of history. ChessPlayer 08:22, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I have no problem with referring to them as simply "scholars". If that's all this has been about, then as John and ChessPlayer have pointed out, there are bigger problems with the article that need to be addressed. I only hope a correspondingly larger amount of verbage is not needed to address these more substantial issues. older wiser 10:10, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Does Chessplayer now concede that neither the article nor I ever referred to Sanders or the others as "professors of history?" Also, do I have to point out that Chessplayer is looking at an online encyclopedia whereas I was referring to a book (you know, those things in "libraries" that people like historians read?) I can understand why Sanders used the word "scholars," in this specific context -- it is a more inclusive term applied to a variety of people who question the status of the gospels (historians, Bible scholars, scholars of religion), and he is referring to the status of the gospels which is important for historians but also for people of other fields. The book I referred to is a much larger work that addresses other issues, including questions of "what happened" and "why" that some scholars are relatively unconcerned with, but which are central questions for historians. There is a value to being more specific about the kind of scholar in question -- it helps identify what kind of issue or question is being asked. Theologians and historians often ask different questions for different purposes. Crossan's book, for example, is not in any way a work of theology (although it might have implications for theologians). To suggest that the book is a theological study is extremely misleading. Most scholars -- critical scholars, I mean -- recognize that the meaning of something has as much to do with those who receive, hear, read, or use it, as with those who give, create, or write it. A theologian may write something that most theologians dismiss, yet which historians rely on consistantly. Is it a work of theology because the author had a degree in theology, or a work of history because the people who read, cite, and use it are historians? I think that the latter is at the very least as important as the former. Finally, we come to the substance -- the synthetic account I presented of how historians view Jesus. I developed this account from reading a variety of books which were not written by PhD.s in history. But I used these books for two reasons: the books themselves summarize works by historians, and these books are used by historians. I thus feel very confident that this view is widely accepted by historians. But I honestly do not know how many religious scholars, theologians, or Bible professors (who are not historians) believe this, and it would be a misrepresentation to claim that. Slrubenstein

I as I pointed out before, you have not used the works of any Professors of History as the basis for this section, and changing from "historians" to "historians and other scholars" only makes the error I have pointed out at length on this page, even more egregious. Leave the historical profession out of this, unless you are using them specifically as a source, in which case, cite the PhD's in History you are using. ChessPlayer 17:06, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I have left two changes you have made: including the authors cited's titles, and also including the more inclusive "scholars." Learn to compromose, especially when you do not know what you are talking about. I explained myself fully in the paragraph above. Come back when you know something besides how to do a google search. Time and time again people have asked for some evidence, and you provided none, instead boasting that wikipedia should be written by people who do not know anything. Slrubenstein

Its not a matter of including the broad term "scholar"; its about your insistence to take the works of scholars in academic fields other than History, and pass them off as the works of Professors of History. I am more than willing to compromise in general, but its not "compromise" to allow an intentional deception in an article. You are falsely creating an issue that this is a matter of asking for "evidence", when this isn't a dispute about competing historical views, the dispute is about your misuse of a word; and other people here have begun to agree that it has been misused. ChessPlayer 17:50, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

You are still not responding to what I wrote above. And anytime you have evidence that the dominant view among historians who study Jesus is different, please, by all means, share it with us. Slrubenstein

ChessPlayer, I believe you've missed the point. Several of us have admitted that there are labels _besides_ historian which can be wisely applied to these scholars, but no one (that I've seen) feels that historian is a "wrong" label. Saying "historians and other scholars" is a very apt wording. Your insistence that only "PhDs in History" may be called historians has been essentially rejected here, unless I misunderstand everyone badly. Even john, who in a number of respects agrees with you, would reject (if I understand him well at all) such a narrow definition. I do not understand why this is such a huge issue for you. These people (we can all agree) do, in fact, write works respected by PhDs of history, published in history journals peer-reviewed by those PhDs, etc. Whether or not we can agree that this makes these writers _best_ identified as "historians", it certainly isn't bizarre at all to call them "historians", and Sl's note wisely opens it up to make sure that even authors who some would reject as historians are still scholars who concur. Why has this become such a point of contention for you? It really seems trivial to me, unless you have decided that you want to discredit the idea that any historian takes seriously Jesus' actual existence (Note: I want to be perfectly clear. I am not saying you DO want to discredit this idea. I am saying I can understand no other motive for such an otherwise inexplicable crusade against the reasonable usage of an admittedly ambiguous word.). And historians do (in large numbers) take it seriously. So I hope you can agree that there isn't much point in continuing to argue about this. I certainly don't see why it's still an issue: please explain to me why it is important, if you still find it so. Jwrosenzweig 18:14, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Comments on Debate and Article[edit]

As an outsider, I wanted to add my gratuitous comment. Being heavily involved in some religious articles I understand the difficult tightrope of NPOV and faith. I think this article is splendidly objective, and at times the criticism of Christian perspectives is greater than support thereof. As a professed Hindu with strong ties to Episcopal and Catholic congregations (where I go to church), I, personally, am impressed by the depth and neutrality of the article. The debates about the nature of historians and the reliability of religious scholars' credibility seems to me misdirected, as it is clear in even religious academia that unfounded faith-based statements are not acceptable; I have read several clearly Christian authors' studies on Christ that are firm in relegating their personal beliefs in Christ's divinity to faith-based understandings and instead going deeply into proper, acceptable scholarly treatments of Christ. Unsolicited-ly yours, --LordSuryaofShropshire 17:18, Apr 29, 2004 (UTC)

Sigh, no revert war, please[edit]

Don't start a revert war against Slrubenstein, ChessPlayer. Stay here and discuss. Slrubenstein is established here; you are not. It is not for you to revert his edits on sight. If you have the discussion here and you lose, you don't get to go reverting the page. As for your comments before about how you weren't aware Slrubenstein spoke for Wikipedians, as far as I'm concerned, he speaks for me. When his three reverts per day are up, I'll be there with mine. Jdavidb 18:11, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I agree. I don't always agree with Sl, but here we are definitely agreed. I'm open to discussing things, Chess, if you can explain what's wrong, but I'd say that you haven't established an argument that allows you to revert these changes when the consensus so far has been against you. Please explain yourself here, and don't revert -- if you can get us to agree to your proposed wording, we'll gladly post it. Jwrosenzweig 18:17, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Fine, I won't revert...if Slrubstein abstains from reverting; he started the reversions. Neither was it clear to me that consensus was against me; the last comments posted were favorable, one supporting it, another either supporting or indicating acceptance. But I have no desire to engage in a revert war, I do have better things to do. As to backing my argument, I have written here at length, given an example from the Britannica, challenged Slrubenstein to cite professors of history for his sweeping statements if he wants to make them sound as if they come from the historical profession, and he hasn't...because he can't. The profession of academic historians do not support him...he has to go outside the profession to find the material he wants. He did that, and since his desire is to know what the historical profession thinks, he read the books that were recommended to him, and wrote an article. But he doesn't want people to know that its not Phd historians his article material is based on. He wants people to think it is. Its fraud. Even when he doesn't revert the inclusion of the credentials of scholars, he has phrased the article so its not clear who the source is. This is not a matter of competing views...its a matter of correcting a misrepresentation of a view. It is not correct for him to attribute works outside the field of history, as the views of the profession. That is NOT done in academia, and if this encyclopedia is to be respectable, what he has done should not be allowed. ChessPlayer 18:49, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Slrubenstein and the rest of us will continue to revert you if you make controversial changes without reaching consensus here, so don't make him not reverting you a condition of your behavior. As to your challenge to Slrubenstein, he has similarly challenged you to cite professors in history who would disagree with the main contention, that the majority of historians accept that the man Jesus lived. You have either ignored or refused to respond to his challenge. I'm far more interested in your response to his challenge than in his response to yours. As to your contention that "he doesn't want people to know that its not Phd historians his article material is based on. He wants people to think it is." you have way missed the point. Nobody here wants people to think the opinions given here are from PhD historians; you and one other guy are the only ones who even care about that. The rest of us don't accept such a narrow, restrictive definition of the word "historian." And don't go posturing about the "respectability" of Wikipedia. It was the respectability of Wikipedia's approach that drew you here in the first place. It was respectable before you and I came, and it will be respectable after you and I leave. Jdavidb 21:03, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Thanks for the support, Jdavidb and Jwrosenzeig. To be clear, I do not claim to speak for Wikipedia or anyone else. But I have done research on this matter, which was the basis for my contribution, and I resent someone who not only has not done research bus who even boasted about it changing material in a way that misconstrues the situation. I have attempted to be reasonable with Chessplayer and all he has done is switch and bait. He writes "he has to go outside the profession to find the material he wants" which simply reveals his lack of understanding of the academic study of Biblical history. I have addressed this issue several times on this page, and he has never addressed any of my substantive comments, nor has he ever provided evidence for his own point of view. I have nothing to add to my comments above, in which I explain the use of the word "historian" and the way in which I conducted my research prior to contributing to this article, except -- read the title of Vermes book. Slrubenstein
ChessPlayer, I have to disagree with you. I think you are misrepresenting what has actually occurred. You have been given the names of several historians (Michael Grant and Paul Maier, among others) who hold PhDs in History and teach in History departments. You have refused to even acknowledge their names or existence. I do not know why you are doing this, but I would ask you to reconsider your statements above. Historians' names have been provided to you, and you've ignored them completely: as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of the matter. There is no shame in admitting you weren't aware that PhDs in History do -- all of us have limited knowledge. I hope you will consider this. Jwrosenzweig 19:49, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I am not saying that there are no PhD's in history who support Jesus' existence; that would be absurd. You are misrepresenting what I said. I challenged Slrubenstein to cite professors of history for his sweeping statements if he wants to make them sound as if they come from the historical profession. I challenge him again: List the works the article is based upon, the authors, cite their academic credentials, list their a priori points of view (such as are they committed Catholic); Then lets compare that list with the article. You want me to discuss Paul Maier; I simply didn't respond to that, as I don't have infinate time to discuss every issue. Paul Maier is indeed a PhD historian, and if the family name means anything, he is related to a father who is extremely religious, if my memory is correct, and has at least one other family member involved with the clergy, or supports it strongly. So what? You are confusing the issue, distracting attention from it; the issue is the use of the word "historians" in the article to decieve. ChessPlayer 20:25, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I am getting very tired of editors (who I generally assume must be atheists and agnostics) on Wikipedia dismissing authors like Paul Maier who are legitimate scholars/historians simply because they or people they are related to have faith. This is offensive to anyone who has faith and believes they can still be a rational human being. I am sorry if I'm being more harsh on you than is my usual approach, but I hope you can understand that it can be irritating. I know, you'll respond that you never said we couldn't quote Maier. Then why start talking about his father and brothers and the clergy? It feels very much like a smear campaign against Christians, whether or not it is so intentioned.
I apologize if I misrepresented you by saying that you felt no PhD's in history support Jesus' existence. You seemed very bent out of shape when it was suggested that historians did....I assumed that meant you thought the idea was ludicrous/blatantly false. I will agree that sources are good, and that I would like it if the sources Sl is using were revealed (the book titles and author's names -- background is a red herring here, and unnecessary, I think). But I will also say that many of the articles here are written based on the general knowledge available to educated people. I couldn't cite you a page that Paul Maier has written that asserts his belief in the existence of Jesus. I just know it from my experience with his writing.
So, what do we have. We have a number of scholars (some of them PhDs of history, some merely writers of historical work) that have been named as supporting the existence of Jesus. We have no counterexamples. Why is the onus on Sl to provide more and more information when you, ChessPlayer, have not produced any evidence to counter it, but rather simply your say-so? You seem to rely heavily on your background as a student of History -- yet several others here have the same background. We are not writing a scholarly article for a journal. We are writing an encyclopedia article -- we don't need pages of footnotes, we need neutral representations of fact. Sl has established a list of authors that supports his claims about scholars in general. I have seen no other list contending that he is wrong. Until that happens, I don't think Sl _need_ provide any more information, though I hope he will in the spirit of collegiality. Jwrosenzweig 21:13, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
There are several different Maier/Meier religious authors today,. Paul Maier might or might not be related to any of them. You're dismissing him out of hand, unless you know him to be a member of one of these families. I note also that you did not discuss Michael Grant.
So now you are narrowing the definition of historian from "historian with a PhD in history who teaches in a history department" to "historian with a PhD in history who teaches in a history department and does not have a priori religious views." You are again changing definitions, obscuring the issue, and retreating from your previous contentions, and will thus now reject any historian by your previous definition who is moved by his historical studies to accept Jesus religious. How convenient! The only way for a historian to meet your definition of historian is to conclude that Jesus did not exist and/or does not merit faith! Jdavidb 21:03, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

To Slrubenstein: you keep trying to divert attention from the issue, which is your attempt to write about what 'historians' think, but hide that it is not Professors of History who are the "historians" you used to write your material. If I am wrong, prove it, cite the sources. List the books, authors, their known biases, religious affilations, as well as academic credentials. Other people who you argued with in the past let you get away with being sloppy about this, to my knowledge. Having submitted work to Professors of History myself, as a history grad student, I am more aware of things like this than they perhaps were, and am now challenging you. This is entirely proper, and a way of eliminating bias from the article. ChessPlayer 20:25, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Pot. Kettle. Answer Slrubenstein's challenge, and maybe we'll consider yours. Jdavidb 21:03, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Slrubenstein posts what "historians" claim, but offers no proof, and continually says things to the effect that I should go away? Then "maybe" you will address what he has put into the article. Sigh. This isn't discussion, its dealing with a faction. ChessPlayer 21:17, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Chess, I can't speak for him, but I don't wish you'd "go away". I wish you'd either start addressing the issues we raise, or else concede that the article is in fact on fairly solid ground. Certainly not leave the site! Substantiating evidence has been offered in the form of numerous named historians and religious scholars, which you have either ignored or else attempted to frame as somehow too biased given their association with people of faith. I don't think you're dealing with a faction (I certainly have never been "aligned" with these editors in other disputes, that I can recall) -- you're dealing with editors who feel they're making pretty simple requests and being met with someone who has an axe to grind against religion. Prove us wrong by dealing with the issues we're raising and offering some counter-examples! :-) I assure you, I'd appreciate it. Jwrosenzweig 21:21, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Its not a matter that a valid source has been used, and I am arguing against what that source says. If that were the case, I agree I should present a better source. But that is not what is the issue here, not what's going on. There is material right now in the article, I ask what sources it is based on. Actually, I probably already know...I just want it explicitly stated, so that after its challenged, the claim can't be made vague. If those sources do in fact warrant what the article says, then the issue is over. Very simple. If Slr is so proud of his research, then let him tell us all about it. List the books, authors, their known biases, religious affilations, as well as academic credentials of the sources for the claims made about what "historians" think in the article. ChessPlayer 21:42, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

All I will say is ann affirmation that I invite Slr to do this though I think it unnecessary, and to reiterate also that "known biases and religious affiliations" is not for him to say, especially as your insistence for such information implies a vendetta of yours against people of faith. I sincerely hope I am wrong about this, but you've done nothing so far to dissuade me. Hoping all ends well, Jwrosenzweig 21:46, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I don't have a "vendetta" against people of faith. I have no desire to bias the article against faith; I have a vendetta against bias, not faith. I think faith should be given a fair and balanced treatment on the page, and don't think it is being given that at all right now. ChessPlayer 22:39, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Can you give any examples of faith being treated in an unfair or imbalanced manner, beyond your suggestion that "historians" do not believe Jesus actually existed? Or is that the only issue at hand? Jwrosenzweig
I will look at the page carefully and reply. I don't want you to think I am ignoring this question. ChessPlayer 03:29, 1 May 2004 (UTC)~

22:47, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC) P.S. I have to add, I think the edit you just made to the article was very fair. I think we're coming a little closer to agreement here and I'm glad. Thanks, Jwrosenzweig 22:59, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

And then you go and make that next edit. ChessPlayer, I left some of that subsequent edit in, but most of it seemed done with poor intentions (hence my restoration of the earlier version). You seem to want to downplay scholars' reliance on anything beyond the NT, and then go so far as to change "narrative" to "story" for no reason I can fathom other than it makes Jesus' life sound more made up (like fictional stories) and less like an historical account. Please talk about things in talk, rather than try to slip edits in that alter language to support your bias. There isn't anything wrong with that section -- it is very clear about why historians have certain _opinions_ and that many of them reject miraculous accounts, and there's no reason to go through altering it to make Jesus seem less likely. This article, believe it or not, is not going to make a Christian or an atheist out of anybody. :-) So why not let the language be neutral? Narratives can be reality or myth (or both). Let's leave it as it is. Jwrosenzweig 23:22, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

This is my third edit I believe of my reply here. I was shocked at your comment, but after going back and looking hard, I found what you were talking about, I think. "The evidence they base their opinions on comes partially from tradition, and partially from some later historical documents that they believe to be in turn produced from eyewitness accounts." was what you are objecting to being deleted from the passage, I think, and you took my deleting it to be because you thought I wanted to downplay scholars' reliance on anything beyond the NT. This was not my intention. My intention was to remove redundant material. In the next paragraph, it again says the same thing about "later historical documents that they believe to be in turn produced from eyewitness accounts", which I assume refers to the Q material. If I assume it, it either is true, or the passage needs re-writing for clarity, as I am better than the average reader. Now, the other material in the deleted sentence is also appears stated again, in the third paragraph. So, please, don't be so quick to ascribe motives to my edits. Finally, your last comment, that I tried to "slip in" a change, is also not true. After a most contentious day, I am well aware that my edits are being looked at harshly and closely by at least two people, so believe me I did't feel there was any chance of "slipping" anything by. Neither is it my style to slip things in. For example, take a look at my talk entry on the Encyclopedia Britannica's Jesus article, where I reported it uses the word "scholar." I could easily have ommited mentioning that they called Adolf von Harnack a "historian", as he was a university professor but not in a category that is clearly defined like in today's academic world, and it could have been used to muddy my case on the use of the word historian. My argument would have appeared stronger had I just not mentioned him. As to wether its a "story" or a "narrative" I think "story" is the better word. First of all, its more readible, most people know what it means, where many people do not know what a "narrative." is. My guess is "narrative" is at the 12th grade reading level in terms of vocabulary, and most people are below that is my impression. Newspapers typically are at the 10th grade level, I am guessing. Secondly, it is good that "story" can be either something true, or something made up. Its up for the reader to decide which, not for the article to pick for them. That's bias. There is a Jesus story; nobody knows if it is true or not. The passage from the article said that historians think it is. That's presenting their side. But insisting on calling it a narrative, for the purpose of telling the reader its not a made up thing, is injecting bias; its not explaining the historian's view, its telling the reader what is true. By careful choice of a less readible word, its implying that what the historians are arguing is true, the story is factual, a factual narrative. ChessPlayer 04:46, 1 May 2004 (UTC)
I'm barely catching up with the discussion here, haven't had time to look at any edits. ChessPlayer, you seem to be displaying poor understanding of the English language, in that calling something a "narrative" need not at all imply that something is true. The "storyteller" in the script of any drama is typically called a "narrator" because he relates a sequence of connected events, regardless of whether the drama is fiction or retelling actual history, or both. You might also look at the discussion of what a myth is and isn't. I believe you called earlier for disclosure of historians' religious affiliation, if any. I'm beginning to suspect you of being religious about atheism. Wesley 03:50, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
I think that one has to look at the edits and see the whole picture, to understand both Jwrosenzweig's objection, and my reply, but I could be wrong. As for "ChessPlayer, you seem to be displaying poor understanding of the English language", Wesley, I strongly suspect you arn't really as nasty as you are sounding here, so I won't take offense, but please, no more of this sort of thing, ok? That goes for "I'm beginning to suspect you of being religious about atheism." too. I don't see where anything in that last sentence is about the article and belongs on the talk page for people to read before making edits. I know you are really a nice guy, so no more of that, ok, please? ChessPlayer 08:13, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
You're right, and I apologize for the personal nature of those remarks. Poor judgment on my part. Remarks on this page should indeed be focused on improving the article. Many of us who have edited religious articles over the years have found it helpful to disclose our own religious affiliations or lack of them, however. It's been an aid to cooperation overall. I agree with the other editors on this discussion page that suspect that the effect of the edits you're proposing would be to add weight to the atheist POV on this page by discounting as far as possible the scholarly support for the very existence of Jesus in history. And I don't believe that calling it a "narrative" was done for the purpose of telling readers it wasn't made up, as you suggest. Wesley 11:43, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
I just want to say that I agree with Wesley about narrative -- ChessPlayer, regardless of reading level, we shouldn't avoid less accurate words when better ones are available, in my opinion. "Story" is almost always used to refer to fictional or semi-fictional works. "Narrative" allows essentially the full range, from truth to complete fabrication (though I think it does tend to show up more often describing myths, it's far less pejorative than "story"). And Wikipedia's task is to get it right (look at many of the science articles -- a lot of those words are far tougher than narrative) -- people can look up narrative if they can't guess that it's something related to "narrator" or "narration". Conversely, they can go to the Simple English Wikipedia which is written with reading level in mind. As for your other edits, I thought they generally were taking out language that was explanatory and helpful, but perhaps you are right that the section becomes repetitive -- when you make changes in the future, I promise to be watchful concerning that, so that I don't reinsert blatantly repetitive language. If I may say so, however, I do want to note that I think you were removing phrases that I found more clear, and leaving in more ambiguous phrasing, which I don't understand. We must have different approaches to article style. Jwrosenzweig 15:58, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
You say you agree with Wesley...but Wesley argued that "narrative" can refer to fiction, and your objection is that "story" refers to fiction. If I am not mistaken, Wesley's point is not supporting your argument at all. Personally, I don't agree with your statements against the use of the word "story." Let me give an example. Consider the passage, "for the basic story of Michael Jackson's life...." Would the reader get the impression that the passage is saying Jackson is a myth? Normally, no, but if the reader were suspicious that someone was trying to say that Jackson didn't exist, his mind might gravitate to "story" as "myth" or "fiction", and then the phrase might sound very biased. However, absent that mindset, the text doesn't imply that sort of thing. Saying "for the basic story of Jesus Christ's life and death..." is not making Jesus sound fictional, except to those looking for it, but rather is a short, clear, simple to understand way of writing that helps to build a readable article. Still, if editors here don't like it, I'm ok with it, I accept I'm out-voted, as usual. Life goes on :-) ChessPlayer 20:42, 3 May 2004 (UTC)
I may be very mistaken, but I believe Wesley is saying (as I am) that narrative can refer to both fact and fiction, and is generally a more neutral/less biased term than "story". Furthermore, as you should be well aware as a student of history, "narrative" is the term most commonly used by scholars when discussing aspects of a culture which may or may not be mythological. "Story" is frequently used by many speakers of English to refer to tales which are not true, or which are strongly suspected to be partially invented: "He told me he was in Kent, but it was just another one of his stories;" "She gave me some story about how the traffic had slowed her down;" "my father used to tell us a lot of stories about his youth." Because it is rarely used in casual, idiomatic speech, the word "narrative" is better for our purposes because it arrives relatively free of those connotations -- we can talk about the "Socrates narrative" without deciding whether or not Plato is telling us the truth about his supposed teacher, or even if we believe Socrates to be a widespread legendary figure who never in fact existed. Jwrosenzweig 21:09, 3 May 2004 (UTC)

Unless there is a strong objection from Christians, I believe we should use the word narrative simply because this is the convention of historians and literary critics (especially since White's Metahistory). Slrubenstein

On a different matter, can I interupt?[edit]

I think the overall intro to the page needs attention. Anyone object to me having a go? It's not a POV thing, and obviously can be reverted if it doesn't gain consensus. Moriori 21:52, Apr 30, 2004 (UTC)

Be bold :) Fredrik 21:54, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I second that motion. :-) Jwrosenzweig 21:56, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Jesus' Life and Teaching[edit]

The header of this section has been changed by adding "according to the Gospels." But the material in the section was not also changed. The very first sentence starts, "Jesus was possibly born in Bethlehem..." and that's not what the Gospels say. If I am not mistaken, Matthew 2:1 says Jesus WAS born there, not "possibly" was. So, either the entire section is re-written to be "according to the Gospels," or this change is wrong. Therefore, I am deleting the new addition based on the reasoning given here. ChessPlayer 03:01, 2 May 2004 (UTC)

Perhaps the contents of the section needs to be modified? The point is, we are not exactly sure what Jesus' life and teachings were. Anything about Jesus is a reconstruction based on various documents. A later section has "the historical Jesus" meaning the life of Jesus as reconstructed by historians, without regard to religion. But most of what is in this section follows the traditional Christian reading of the canonical Gospels pretty closely, so I feel there is a need for some qualification. By the way, the reason I make this point now is that someone switched the order of sections. Personally, I feel that the historical Jesus should come first, but if others prefer this order I have no objection. But if this is going to be the order, there ought to be a more specific, precise heading. Slrubenstein

"In the Christian Tradition" does not describe what the section says either. There are no "Christian Traditions" to my knowledge that say things like "Jesus was 'possibly' born anywhere, or that he "may have been assigned this birthplace by early Christians based on that city's status as the presumed birthplace of King David." I don't think it is a "Christian Tradition" that accuses Mary of having sex with a Roman soldier, but I could be wrong. The addition "in the Christian Tradition" should be deleted in my opinion, but since I removed the last addition to this section header, I will leave it to someone else to remove it this time. ChessPlayer 18:52, 4 May 2004 (UTC)

I understand your point. I am suggesting that a summary of the Gospels be in one section, and alternatives discussed and debated by Bible critics and historians go in another section. Do you disagree? Slrubenstein

Is a summary of the gospels the topic of the Jesus as the Messiah Page?. ChessPlayer 19:35, 4 May 2004 (UTC)

Good point. But my main point is a need to consider the structure of the article, which, like most wikipedia articles, has developed somewhat erratically. Also, "Jesus' life and teaching" is implicitly according to some point of view and we ought to make that point of view explicit. I just think these are things we need to work on. Slrubenstein

I think that you were right in your first response - the contents of the section need to be modified. I started to try, but then realized that the whole section is written from a perspective that pretty much requires a nearly wholesale rewrite to get it to be about "Jesus's Life and Teaching in the Christian Tradition". john 20:33, 4 May 2004 (UTC)

Speaking of attributions[edit]

While we're on the subject of accurately attributing views to "historians", "scholars", and so on, take a look at the first four bullet points. The first begins, "Most Christians believe..." which is clear enough. The second begins "Many Christians believe..." which introduces a minority belief, but one that is admittedly held by many. The third begins "Some people say..." who are these people? Historians? Buddhists? Atheists? Three wikipedia editors? It's left to the imagination. The fourth bullet begins "Others believe..." which is similarly vague; although one can deduce that if the third point is believed by Muslims, the fourth one must be held by non-Muslims.

Seriously, if we're going to carefully say what is believed by Christians, what by professional historians, and what by religious scholars (and I use all these terms loosely), can we not avoid passive voice and attribute these other beliefs as well? Or if no one can be identified, one is left to conclude that no one actually believes these things and the statements are false. Wesley 04:11, 3 May 2004 (UTC)

Thanks to SLR, the "Some people" of the third point has been replaced with "Many historians and critical Bible scholars". This leaves only the "Others" of the fourth bullet, who based on the context of the article we only know are neither "Most Christians", "Many Christians", nor "many historians and critical Bible scholars". I suppose they could be a few Christians, most historians, or people who are neither Christians, nor historians, nor critical Bible scholars. Has Earl Doherty joined the ranks of Wikipedians, or has his view gained a wider following? If it has, then among whom? Wesley 03:15, 4 May 2004 (UTC)

Although I am sure there are people who believe this, as I did not write this part I am afraid I do not know how to attribute it, Slrubenstein

In the fourth bullet par I changed “skeptics” to “people” because “skeptic” is POV. It implies that anyone in bullet par 4 is skeptical of the beliefs of people in any or all of the preceding three bullet paragraphs. If that is true, then it is equally true that people described in bullet paragraph 1 are skeptical of the beliefs of any or all of the people in bullet paragraphs 2, 3 and 4. For objectivity and balance, they would also need to be described as skeptics. Simplest way is to eliminate the word in this specific context'. Moriori 21:56, May 5, 2004 (UTC)
I have re-worked the second bullet regarding beliefs about Jesus' divinity. It seemed to imply that the groups described held beliefs exclusive of those listed in the previous paragraph, which isn't necessarily the case. For example, Mormons (I am one) believe in the Resurrection, but not in the Trinity in the same way as most other Christian denominations do. I hope my re-wording is still NPOV and accurate; I'm not trying to slip a Mormon-only POV in. Hopefully it's a bit clearer that the points of view described in the first and second bullets are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Alanyst 23:08, 8 May 2004 (UTC)
Respectully disagree. You are trying to put the body of an article into what is intended to be a brief bullet par. The bullets are designed to 'categorise' Jesus incarnate, Jesus not incarnate, Jesus just a normal man, and Jesus myth. The body of the article would rightly deal with your information, but a bullet surely shouldn't go into such convoluted detail. The version I have reverted to contains four accurate bullet defs. Cheers Moriori 23:41, May 8, 2004 (UTC)
I am fine with the fourth bullet being either the vague "Many people" or trying to give a name to them, "skeptics". I am open to it or anything in the intro being changed, such as new categories added. I changed the wording to "skeptics" for no other reason than to please Wesley, who started this part of the talk page, noting he didn't like how views where being attributed, and wanted them more concrete. I chose "skeptics" based on this dictionary definition: "One inclined to skepticism in religious matters." I agree with Moriori's description of the structure of the intro; the intention is to put most people's views into one of four categories, and it is ordered based on going from Trinitarian divinity to complete non-existence. I agree with Moriori that people in bullet four disagree with people in the other three bullets. I disagree that "skeptics" is a bad choice; like "historian", "skeptic" has both broad and specific usages, and I again was choosing the specific one. Moriori states that "skeptics" implies that anyone in bullet par 4 is skeptical of the beliefs of people in any or all of the preceding three bullet paragraphs. I agree, but that is using the broad definition of "skeptic." I chose it based on the narrow definition I quoted above. Skeptics (narrow dictionary definition) think that Christianity is myth, not truth, and not history. Some historians are skeptics, but bullet three is worded to exclude them, and I am fine with that. Lastly, I suspected that Mormons probably would not like how the entire Intro is worded, and wondered when one would complain about it. I am respectful and interested in their suggestions of how to change it so that it is not biased against them. I don't know enough about Mormonism to be sure it is biased, but I had suspicions it might be. ChessPlayer 00:58, 9 May 2004 (UTC)
ChessPlayer: I would characterize the present state of the article more as "inaccurate" in terms of its representation of Mormon beliefs than as "biased." I'm generally satisfied with the NPOV-ness of the article; it's just a factual misrepresentation I'm concerned about. Moriori: I appreciate your explanation of the reversion. Perhaps it would be most accurate to remove the LDS reference from the second bullet, as Mormon beliefs are more compatible with those stated in the first bullet. I wonder, though, if the other denominations listed in the second bullet are equally mischaracterized. In any case, I will make the less drastic edit of removing LDS from the second bullet paragraph. Alanyst 22:28, 9 May 2004 (UTC)
Alanyst, like you and Chessplayer I want to see the page as being accurate, and unbiased. I hate to belabour the point here, but the bullets are specifically categorising Jesus, not religions. If Mormons don't believe in an incarnate Jesus then they can't be compatible with the first bullet as you suggest. They have to fit one of the other bullets UNLESS we come up with a fifth category. The danger is, I fear, that to justify that category someone might give screeds of stuff to explain their religion instead of actually defining that particular Jesus. And then someone else might want a sixth bullet for their particular religion. It is possible we could end up with a page of bullets and no substantial body material because it had already been mentioned in the bullets. Well, perhaps not, but you know what I mean. I think your removal of the LDS ref from the second bullet is an honourable action, and it certainly doesn't detract from the page one jot. Cheers. Moriori 00:42, May 10, 2004 (UTC)
Actually, the bullets are categorizing not Jesus, but points of view about him, so we do need to reword the intro to not exclude the LDS point of view. ChessPlayer 01:15, 10 May 2004 (UTC)

I'm changing the fourth bullet so that it says what it meant in an earlier version, because the sum effect of incremental changes has been to change the category into something it was not before. The way it reads now, there is a strong suggestion it refers to the debate between scholars over the "historical" Jesus. This implies that the people holding the fourth bullet point are scholars or people with their views, on the other side of the issue from bullet three. This is wrong, before the bullet was much more inclusive, and refered to people in general, skeptics, who simply did not believe that Jesus was in any way real. One does not need to be a scholar to hold this view, anymore than one needs to be a theologian to be a Christian. Just as it is wrong to reduce Christianity to the views of theologians, it is wrong to reduce skeptics to the views of scholars debating the historical Jesus. I wish people would not try to make everything in the Jesus article refer to the historical Jesus debate; especially as they do not only that, but slant the debate so that the article becomes POV by suggesting what editors here feel is the majority view, is correct. Secondly, I wish to point out another issue. Some scholars make a distinction between the "historical" Jesus and the "real" Jesus, believe it or not. The "historical" Jesus is the sum total of the portrait they paint him as, based on their scholarship...but they do not insist this portrait is of a real person; rather, its a portrait of what the sources suggest to them the "real" Jesus might have been. If you pin them down, some of the scholars admit they don't know anything about the "real" Jesus. When I have the time, I will put this info into Wikipidia, if its not here somewhere already, but given the extensive support here for the view that history proves Jesus existed and we know enough to build a narrative, I can't submit the material without quite a bit of labor, as anything but the majority-approved view will be torn to shreds and even mocked, such is the animosity here displayed by some, unfortuntately. The end result is it will get, like bullet four, eventually back to being what the bullet-three partisans like to see. The entire Jesus page right now is biased by the bullet-three POV, there seems to be a general consensus to treat it as fact, rather than a POV, which it is. The views of historians are just a much a POV as the views of those who believe that the Scriptures are inspired, and that it is false to judge them skeptically; but the article doesn't have the religious point of view expressed extensively and touching each part of the page. That POV, and others, are shuffled off to other pages, while the historical POV is given the bulk of the space on the page. Finally, it is possible that some people don't mind this, as they want the page NOT to say that Jesus didn't exist, and they feel if the opposite POV isn't dominant, then the other POV will be. Have they ever considered supporting a truely NPOV page, with all points of view given fairly, and none being presented more favorably than its rivals? This goes for all points of view; how about the Christian views being stated on the Jesus page at length, and not just linked to, unless all views are just linked to? (which is actually what I favor, but no one has supported that) ChessPlayer 23:42, 11 May 2004 (UTC)

The reason I had changed it from "invented by Christians" to "not an historical one" (which perhaps I should have explained here, yesterday) was after my 3 day edit war with Andycjp, I thought perhaps some Christians might object to the "invented by" phrase. Is there a better way to phrase this bullet without changing content or adding POV? Also, I do agree that if there is going to be significant content on this page (although perhaps your linking suggestion should be considered) that a better job needs to be done on balancing the content. Most of the article seems to be written from the POV that there was an historical Jesus. Satori 00:01, May 12, 2004 (UTC)

I am sorry to get into an edit war with anyone,and I apologise for my impatience.It is my opinion that the Jesus as myth idea is far from being a majority view;if it deserves mention at all,it should be made clear, I feel,that it is not the mainstream opinion.People have all kinds of reasons for disliking the church and individual Christians;most of us make mistakes most days,but to consider the church guilty of making up Jesus shows an unwarrantedly deep cynicism, I feel,and is not supported by historical evidence.The fact that we are all still talking about Jesus 2004 years later speaks volumes about Him,I feel. AndycjpMay 12th 2004

Will Durant[edit]

I cut a note about Durant that seemed extremely biased to me -- right before we quote him about Christ's existence, it mentions his training for the priesthood and association with Christian schools. If we're going to mention that, why not mention Durant's crisis of faith that led him to abandon the priesthood and go into secular concerns? Surely a man whose faith was so lost that it caused him to change careers should have that noted, if we're going to note he was trained as a Catholic? But then we're writing a paragraph on Will Durant in the middle of an article on Jesus. So I say we tell people who we're quoting, and we let them examine who Durant is for themselves. It would be one thing if he was Christianity's biggest cheerleader -- say Durant had been Pope. At that point, I think we could legitimately note that he spent his whole life working as a Catholic cleric. But a man who clearly had good reasons both to believe in and doubt Jesus' existence....I don't think it's our job to decide what information to give the reader in this case. Let them do their own homework, if they decide they want to know who Durant was and where he was coming from. Jwrosenzweig 21:21, 3 May 2004 (UTC)

In principle, I agree. I think the underlying issue is the use of quotes in an article. In general, quotes should be used when the wording is too good to paraphrase; moreover, quotes should reflect not so much the authority of one person as a person who represents a particular point of view. Duran'ts background is important only insofar is it establishes his point of view and the appropriateness of using him to represent a more general point of view. Slrubenstein
Agreed -- Durant's quotation is most important because it establishes several of the talking points used by scholars who believe in an actual historical Jesus. I think it's a worthwhile addition but I think getting too far into his biases won't be helpful, hence my edit. He's way too complex to be pigeonholed, and as you rightly note, it's not really that we're quoting him as an authority, but rather that we're using him as an emblem of a perspective on Jesus. Jwrosenzweig 21:47, 3 May 2004 (UTC)

Order of Presentation of Material[edit]

Seems to me that a good article matches its introduction. The intro thinks his name is important, by mentioning it first; then it thinks the date of birth is I moved those sections to the top. I then took a look, and it seemed to be a more logical presentation. Seems jarring to wait until deep inside the article, then to start talking about his name and date of birth, which are pretty basic things. Besides, we are having this big argument about the name of the page, so why not put the section on his name first for now. Having said all this, I am going to run and hide; all I ask is that the first person to look not simply revert, but give everybody a chance to look and comment; then if people want to revert its fine with me, I have no axe to grind on this issue. ChessPlayer 03:03, 7 May 2004 (UTC)

These changes seem pretty reasonable to me. Slrubenstein