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darwin

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Posts posted by darwin


  1. The thieves are probably just low-level criminals who would be selling it for scrap, if they could. They may have been drinking alcohol. They are probably very scared now, and will want to cut it up and melt it, or even throw it away.

     

    The best way to get it back intact is this:

     

    The police should try to make it seem like they have very good leads and that they will find the correct thieves and even frame them if they have to. If the item does not get recovered, then the thieves are in big trouble. This will make the thieves think that they have nothing to gain by selling or destroying the item.

     

    The state should offer a complete amnesty covering this and all the thieves other former crimes, and protection from the police and a reward for whoever returns it. The temple priests should start a propaganda campaign, saying that they feel responsible for being negligent and that if the thieves return the item, then the thieves are not very bad and will be forgiven.

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-12-2001).]


  2. Originally posted by Caitanyachandra:

    Devotee B, however, accepts Vedic literature as being apurusaya, being correct and without flaw. What he does is try to understand how Vedic literature practically describes the world he lives in. When he endeavors to do this, the result is something very wonderful, like the book entitled Vedic Cosmography. In the Questions and Answers section of this book, Sadaputa Prabhu very nicely addresses this issue...

    That's right! I have been recommending that book on this and other forums, along with "Hindu Encounter With Modernity", a book about Bhaktivinoda Thakur by Shukavak Das See this page about Shukavak das' book on my website.

     

    I try to have faith in the Vedas, and I am waiting for someone like Sadaputa Prabhu to explain how they really do support the theory of evolution and the fact that our bodies evolved from ape's bodies. It has really helped my devotional life to find Bhaktivinoda Thakur's writings through Shukavak Das' book.

     

    I am interested in your opinion of me. Not so much as to whether or not you think evolution is true or if it is false and I am mistaken, it can be a complicated subject for those of us who are not specialists, but your opinion of me as a devotee who believes evolution to be true and who also needs to stay with Srila Prabhupada and his movement. Please try to overlook all of my other rascally behavior, if you are aware of it, when you make this assessment.

     

    Thank you for your helpful article!

     

    Hari Bol!


  3. Originally posted by Janus:

    ....If life comes from non-life, then man is only a soulless machine and there is no other purpose in life, no ultimate cause except to live to satisfy ones senses.

    Hari bol

    Should we think that we don't have souls just because there is a satisfactory explanation of the material origins of our material bodies? Should we need proven miracles to believe in god?

     

    If god supplied us with such evidence of miracles, wouldn't that cause us to think we believe in god as a super, miracle making, materially all-powerful but ultimately non-transcendental being?

     

    Could this be why we are put into this material world, seemingly devoid of miracles, so that we won't be distracted by such things and we will find Krishna?

     

    Thank you for your nice post, prabhu.

     

    Hari Bol!


  4. gHari prabhu,

    You make a good point about the pleasures of celibacy, but celibacy does not seem work for many devotees or is not achievable by many devotees in present day Iskcon. Don't we need to prevent devotees from leaving the movement entirely? Don't you think we need to show more respect for devotees who can't or will not be sexless?

     

    We need to take an honest look at ourselves and our motives: Are we trying to build a happy society and help new people become devotees, or are we just collecting temporary devotees to fill our Temples? Do we want to keep on forcing many devotees to lie about being celibate? Shouldn't our society have a place for devotees who have a hard time following a monastic regimen?

     

    "No, it'll be great! It'll be great, because all those Ph.D.'s are in there ... discussing 'modes of alienation' and we'll be in here quietly humping."

    Woody Allen,

    in Annie Hall


  5.  

     

    This is from On Leaving ISKCON, Part Two, by Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda das). Steve Gelberg was an ISKCON devotee for seventeen years, and most of that time he was a staff writer for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust:

     

    "To be frank, there is something very sad, tragic even, in the spectacle of sincere spiritual aspirants endlessly struggling against and denying sexual feelings (which are, after all, perfectly natural if you're embodied), continually berating themselves for their lack of heroic detachment from the body, seeking dark corners in which to masturbate or, finding themselves "attached to" another devotee, planning and scheming "illicit" encounters. All this unavoidable cheating and hypocrisy, guilt and shame, denial and cover-up, make a pathetic sham of ISKCON's ascetical conceit. Granted, there are some devotees, small in number, who have a gift (if that is what it is) for serene, contented celibacy. But the mass of devotees simply do not.

     

    After many years of monitoring my own and other's (through conversation and counseling) ambivalence about and mixed-success in following the standards, the whole celibacy fetish began to look a bit suspect. Why the abysmal failure of most devotees to be uncompromisingly celibate? Why the pervasive inability to perform an act of renunciation that ISKCON defines as a precondition not only of serious spiritual practice but of civilized human life? Why that fundamental failure?"

     

    On Page 2 0f "Galva's latest nonsense" topic, I deal with some of the issues Steve raises. I disagree with much of what Steve says. What do you think?

     

     

     

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-10-2001).]


  6. I always use netscape 4.61, but I tried your site with Internet Explorer, and I really like the slide show thing or whatever. It is great that you use Flash or whatever it is, and you don't use Realmedia. I didn't get any sound. Was I supposed to hear something?

     

    Very beautiful, colorful pictures of people taking prasadam!

     

    Posted Image

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-09-2001).]


  7. Yes, we are all fools. Prabhupada would be furious to find out that we are disobeying his cow protection rules and are killing baby cows and suctioning off their milk for ourselves.

     

    Have we no shame? Have we no sense of decency, at long last? Can we finally stop lying? Can we finally stop this cover-up? We must all be atheists to think that our crimes will go unpunished. How much worse will we make this for ourselves?

     

    Oh! Woe is to us!

     

    Woe!

     

     

     

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-09-2001).]


  8. talasiga,

    What do you mean by "we are not without this body".

     

    gHari,

    I don't know. Maybe from 4 headed ape gods?

     

    Everyone,

    Thank you wonderful devotees for making this such a successful, active topic.

     

    If you haven't done so already, please read the 2 articles I asked you to read in my first post.

     

    The first article, Literalism vs Essence by Ramacandra das, is from the Chakra website. Ramacandra das seems to argue that he needs to blindly accept all of the Iskcon world view as true or he will begin a process of questioning everything and lose all faith.

     

    The second article, On Leaving ISKCON, by Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda das), 1991, has been on the internet for at least a couple of years. In it Steve Gelberg seems to describe how he has totally lost his faith and religion. Steve Gelberg was an ISKCON devotee for seventeen years, and most of that time he was a staff writer for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

     

    This is from Steve Gelberg's article. I strongly agree with some of what he says. I strongly disagree with maybe most of what he says. Here is some very good stuff from Steve Gelberg's article. I put his most excellent point in bold.:

     

    "More important than difficulties with particular passages of scripture, however, was my growing sense that there was something unnatural, something artificial and forced, about the very idea of my having to completely supplant my own thoughts, reflections, insights, and intuitions about myself, the world, and my own experience, with a pre-packaged, pre-approved system of ideas and doctrines which, whatever its origins, has evolved through countless hands and been refracted through many minds and sensibilities through the centuries. I began to feel (though it took a long time to admit it to myself) that this is an unrealistic and unfair demand to be made upon any of us, however "imperfect" we may be, because it dishonors the integrity and particularity of who we are.

     

    I came to feel that there is something ultimately impersonal about the notion that we are something utterly different from what we presently feel ourselves to be, and that the differences between us all (qualities of mind, behavioral style, etc.) are simply products of an unnatural, illusioned state -- that when we become who we are meant to be, we'll all conform to a particular, precise check-list of personality traits. And, further, that to evolve into this perfected state we must submit to the authority of certain authorized persons for radical re-education -- cutting ourselves off, more or less, from any ideas, influences or persons that might possibly remind us of the selves we mistakenly felt we were."

     

     

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-08-2001).]


  9. This was posted to the now defunct VNN forums almost a year ago. It is being reposted here due to interest shown in it by many devotees.

     

    darwin, a life:

     

    darwin grew up in a typical american family. His mother was a Democratic party operative and his father was a college professor, he has a brother 3 years younger. Both of his parents were raised as Unitarians, although his mother was adopted. His father's father is a Unitarian minister. His mother's natural father was shot down over France. darwins mother's adoptive mother had to watch her own mother burn to death in an oven explosion, and had to watch, as her brother died at home, of a bone infection. darwin remembers that when he was 6 years old, he and his family were visiting some relatives. His parents, aunt, and uncle were in the front room. It was raining and thundering. His uncle, also a Unitarian minister, who must have been drinking a bit, suddenly screamed "**** you god!". darwin and the other children were startled, never having heard of god talked about as though he actually existed, and worried that if he did exist, he might take offense. A few seconds passed, and the uncle said "We Unitarians can say that". A lightning bolt exploded right next to the house and all the lights went out. One evening when he was four years old, darwin came home from visiting a friend next door. His father told him that his puppy is dead, run over by his mother with the Volkswagen. His father brought him outside to view the remains. The father pulled back the edge of the tarp, and shined a flashlight. The puppy looked perfectly ok, exept that his head was a flat bloody pulp. When he asked his father if there was any magic that could fix it, he was thinking of climbing a very tall mountain in a very far away place.

     

    darwin never got another dog again until he was 16. His parents weren't poor, there was a big back yard, and his younger brother had a dog and a cat, but darwin just had his cat and mice. His parents used to tell him, after his brother got a dog when darwin was 12, that he was too old have a dog, because he would be going to college in a few years. His brother's dog was the second dog their mother had brought home. The first dog was a huge Saint Bernard, a stray that his mothers friends had picked up. darwins father wasn't there to advise against it, as he had left darwin's mother and was "out ***ing around around the town" as his mother would often say. A couple of hours after it got to the house, the dog attacked darwin, leaving him with an inch long piece of his upper lip hanging down over his chin. He went into the the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He then went to his mothers room, stepping over the blood and walking past his stunned brother. He told his mother "don't worry, it doesn't hurt.", when he went in, so she wouldn't get too upset. The lip took 18 stitches with no anesthetic, and the fang wound on the cheek took 5. After a few years, the lip looked fine, though slightly swollen. So when he was 16, darwin was very happy to be getting his own dog. After the dog died at the age of 2, darwin calculated that he would rather loose one of his arms, but not both arms or 1 leg. Again, it was the father who broke the news. darwin remembers that earlier in the day, he and his father were at the mall. The book "Pet Cemetery" had just come out that day, and there was a giant display in the front of the book store. darwin remembers that he and his father shared a nervous look. darwin had a dream in the one hour he managed to sleep that night. He walked his dog one last time, about halfway to the other world, and

     

    darwin sat behind his favorite log, drinking a 40 and watching the muskrat swim by. He had recently been having more dreams about being trapped under water. Before, he would just breath in the water like air. Those had been good dreams. He could still breath in the new dreams, but it was all in flooded buildings with long hallways and down the stairs to the Blue Line, all under water, to where he and the woman had first arranged to meet, away from the Gita class. He was supposed to swim back up the other stairs, but there were no stairs and the chain link fence meant that they would not let him win. When he woke up from that dream he analyzed all the elements; seven year old child in the dream, seven years since the abortion. He looked at the scars on his arm. Had that helped? As he sat behind the log, watching another muskrat swim by, he thought about a new dream he had just last night about Jeffrey Dahmer being murdered in prison, and waking up to find out that John Salvi had been killed. He was not sure if he had met John. One afternoon, a couple of years after the abortion, before he started drinking, darwin saw a group of silent protesters across the street from an abortion clinic. He had spent the earlier part of the day reading 300 year old grave stones and trying to make himself cry. "and the tears of strangers water his grave" was his favorite. He saw a young man approach the group and walk up to the priest. They talked for a short time, the priest handed him something, and he left. darwin waited a few minutes, then went over to the group. The priest asked him how he was doing and where he lived. darwin sort of lied, saying he was "staying with friends". The priest gave darwin 5 dollars. Within the next year, John Salvi attacked 2 abortion clinics, killing a worker in each clinic, including the one where darwin's wife had an abortion. darwin and his wife are still together after 13 years. They now have 2 very young children. darwin no longer sits behind that log.

     

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-06-2001).]


  10. Originally posted by gHari:

    Distance to the Moon - The Moon-thing

    I am very exited about this book. Sadaputa tells us that it's ok to acknowledge that the earth is not flat and that the sun is farther from the earth than the moon is!

     

    Sadaputa Dasa's book tells us that the Vedas don't really mean that the earth is flat, they mean that a map of the earth is flat! I think that his book goes on to say that the map is a complicated projection map so that all the distances come out wrong, just like a wall map makes the US. and Canada look bigger than Africa. I think he also says that it's got 2 or more maps thrown together into the same map, leaving us hopelessly confused. Until Sadaputa Dasa's book, of course.

     

    Now let's hope that Sadaputa Dasa will use his brilliant method to analyze the Vedas to show us how they support the theory of evolution and the fact that we evolved from apes.

     


  11. <table>

    <td width="40%" valign=middle><center>

    Posted Image</center>

    </td><td width="60%">

    <center><h1>God of Science</h1>First Krsna Consciousness Webpage

    To Acknowledge That We Evolved From Apes!</center>

    </TD></table>

     

    I know that the theory of evolution is true, and at the Temple they always say its not true, but I also know I need to go to the Temple and try to be a devotee. Its like what Woody Allen said about relationships at the end of his movie "Annie Hall"; There's a guy who complains: "My friend thinks he's a chicken" Someone asks: "Why don't you have him committed?" The guy says: "I need the eggs."

     

    We all need the eggs. I hope this web page will help.


  12. Dear devotees,

     

    Please read these 2 articles and tell me what you think of them:

     

    The first article, Literalism vs Essence by Ramacandra das, just came out today on Chakra. Ramacandra das seems to argue that he needs to blindly accept all of the Iskcon world view as true or he will begin a process of questioning everything and lose all faith.

     

    The second article, On Leaving ISKCON, by Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda das), 1991, has been on the internet for at least a couple of years. In it Steve Gelberg seems to describe how he has totally lost his faith and religion. Steve Gelberg was an ISKCON devotee for seventeen years, and most of that time he was a staff writer for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

     

    For many of us devotees, if we tried to adopt Ramacandra das' attitude, we would end up like Steve Gelberg. I am trying to find an entirely different, and personalist, approach for myself. See the Bhaktivinoda Thakur page on my website.

     

    I will be thankful for any help you devotees can give me.

     

    Thank you. Hari Bol!

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-05-2001).]


  13. Thank you, shvu prabhu.

     

    When I first started going to the Temple, I had been going every day for about 6 weeks, I asked (I don't think I should say his name because I am such a rascal around here) Swami; "how can we know?". Swami said "When krishna reveals himself." It was like an instant thing. I knew it was true. I know it doesn't translate well to this forum when I repeat it, but it was the big thing for me. I went from atheist who went to the Temple, willing to pretend to myself the god exists in order to heal my shattered mental health, to devotee in like one instant.

     

    On your point about the question "what if you are wrong?", this may not always be a bad question, depending on your school of thought and your Guru. It may bad in our particular school of thought, etc, not because questioning is bad, but that we in this movement are trying to approach Krishna directly through love, through the Guru, and such questions might mess that up.

     

    Thank you, gHari prabhu. I read your other post. I often don't have the patience to read our literature. Thank you for your assistance.

     

    Hari Bol!


  14. shvu prabhu,

    The "what?!" was supposed to be a joke. You said don't ask questions, so I said "what?!". I don't have the energy to explain the other thing right now. Please read the the Bhaktivinoda Thakur page on my website. Also, I would like to try to find Elie Wiesel's writings about his religious understanding. I remember him saying that questions are more important than answers, and that the "spiritual master" tries to help one find better and better questions!

     

    Here are some of my posts from when I was debating atheists:

    ========

    I was not letting the atheist and some of the devotees define god the way they wanted to. The atheist told me that my definition of god was not logical. I don't see how a definition can be illogical. These are some of my definitions of god's qualities: god is all powerful and can do anything god wants to do. god can defy logic or change logic. god can exist or not exist, as god chooses. If god wants to, god can exist, then stop existing, and then start existing again. god can exist and not exist at the same time. etc. god can even defeat the insurmountable barrier not existing, of being a fairy tale, just a figment of my imagination, and then come into existence.

    =================

    Here is one way to approach that; If god does exist, then god can do anything, even change logic and change facts. If god exists now, then god can make it true that god did not exist 5 minutes ago. If god exists, then god can create a situation or a universe were god can not exist and then pop into existence. What if we are in that special type of universe created by god, were god does not exist but can pop into existence? What about a variation on that universe, what if god can exist for me and at the same time not exist for you? Sort of a theory of relativity for god.

    ====================

    It would be possible for god to pop into existence in a universe where god does not exist if god had created that universe were god does not exist and had made the popping into existence of god from the non existence of god possible. My thought could cause god to pop into existence in that universe where god does not exist if that is what god wanted when god created that universe where god does not exist.

    ==========

    No. If I accept, without proof of the existence of god, that god exists, my definition of god is not therefor illogical. What if I accept, without proof, that there is a piece of string in my pocket? Is my definition of string therefor illogical?

    ===============

    I don't think a theory is illogical just because the theory proposes a situation where logic can be changed or circumvented. I think I remember reading, in Scientific American, about a theory in quantum physics that proposed a different logic to account for the behavior of twin photons. That theory is not illogical just because it proposes the existence of a situation where logic is altered.

     

    I think a theory should be called illogical if that theory pretends to follow a certain logic but does not. I think my proposed properties of a possible god are just as logical as theories I have heard about the Big Bang that propose that our universe's laws and even the logic system that our universe operates under where created in the Big Bang and that a universe could have come out having different logic than our universe.

     

    I want to have my definition of a possible god not tied to whether or not I believe in god or if god actually exists. Please help me to see if I can separate the definition of a possible god from the issue of whether or not god exists or whether I believe in god, if you think that is possible.

    =========

    [atheist wanted to know why god might want to not exist]

     

    god might want to stop existing to reward his favorite atheists by having them be correct in their atheism.

     

    god might want to stop existing to punish religious people.

     

    god might want to stop existing to avoid embarrassment for all the bad things that happen.

     

    god might want to stop existing to so god can enjoy doing the impossible by popping back into existence.

     

    god might want to stop existing and then pop back into existence to demonstrate an answer to the question; "how did god come into being?".

     

    god might be forced out of existence by the arguments of brilliant atheist.

     

    god might want to do the Jesus thing. Jesus could suffer allot more if the whole thing was pointless.

    ==============

    [atheist said: "If he is able to come back, then he didn't do a very good job of erasing himself from existence."]

     

    No, just an incredibly great job popping back into existence.

     

     

    [This message has been edited by darwin (edited 11-05-2001).]


  15. shvu wrote:

    Religion is not based on logic and hence questioning will invariably make one lose faith. If it was based on logic, there would have been no faith required, in the first place. Since it [a hidden God, karma, liberation, heaven, etc, etc] cannot be proven by logic, the concept of faith comes in.

     

    Are you able to prove this statement, using logic, or is this an idea you hold onto by faith?

     

    You just have to believe and don't ask questions.

     

    What?!

     

    Asking questions, is not some casual affair as some people seem to think. Questioning is a very intense process and the Questioner must be prepared to go all the way, even if it will result in losing faith. That is the idea of serious questioning. Now who is prepared to do that?

     

    I don't understand. If I want to ask a friend allot of questions, must I also be prepared to chop him into little pieces and flush him down the toilet?

     

    People who claim religion is based on logic, already have some pre-conceived ideas and question around these ideas. They never question their basic assumptions. And when they are not ready to do that, all other questions mean nothing.

     

    I never would have questioned my basic assumptions if I had not met the devotees.

     

    In the first place, one has to have faith that the BG is true.

     

    This is not necessarily the first step.

     

    The only way to progress here, is faith, for as long as one is questioning, one cannot move beyond this point.

     

    When I have allot of faith, I have faith that I don't need to guard my faith against my questions.

     

    Place faith in some Guru, and then accept everything he says in toto, for one cannot reject some of the Gurus ideas and yet claim to be his disciple.

     

    Unless the Guru tells you to.


  16. Posted Image

     

    NEW YORK

    (AP) - Hundreds of firefighters demonstrated Friday against a plan to cut the number of workers searching for bodies at the World Trade Center site, and several scuffled with police.

     

    ``Mayor Giuliani, let us bring our brothers home,'' read one sign at the rally near the site, where 343 firefighters and 23 New York City police officers were among the thousands of people lost Sept. 11.

     

    Some protesters tangled with police, who initially refused to let them into the sealed-off area around the collapsed towers. After a few minutes, they continued on their march, then paused for a minute of silence.

     

    The group marched a few blocks to personally deliver their message at City Hall, where police in riot gear and officers on horseback stood by. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (news - web sites) had announced the staffing cutbacks earlier this week, citing worker safety.

     

    ``Our message has been delivered. If we come back here again, we'll come back with 5,000,'' promised Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, as the protesters stood outside a gate at City Hall.

     

    Once there, the marchers observed a second moment of silence before singing ``God Bless America.'' There were no clashes with police at that scene.

     

    Firefighter Bob McGuire, whose nephew Richard Allen was among those missing in the rubble, said remains had been loaded into trash bins. ``I don't want him to end up in a Dumpster,'' McGuire said.

     

    McGuire denied speculation that firefighters wanted to stay at the site to pad their checks. ``This has nothing to do with overtime,'' he said.

     

    ``Do the right thing!'' the protesters chanted as they listened to union leaders give speeches on bullhorns next to a chain link fence decorated with an American flag.

     

    The firefighters, joined by members of other unions, have worked virtually nonstop at the scene since the towers collapsed.

     

    Giuliani said he wants no more than 24 firefighters and 24 police officers at ground zero at any one time.

     

    The firefighters' union says it fears that would turn the recovery effort into a ``full-time construction scoop-and-dump operation.''

     

    ``That site, besides containing roughly 250 firefighter bodies, also contains many, many, many civilian bodies as well,'' said Michael Carter, vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

     


  17.  

    THE FALLIBILITY OF THE GOSPELS

     

    of its Temple, and the widespread extermination and humiliation of the Jewish people. As is historically well attested, in 70 AD the Roman general Titus returned in triumph to Rome, parading through the streets such Jewish treasures as the menorah (the huge seven-branched candelabrum of the Temple), and enacting tableaux demonstrating how he and his armies had overcome savage, ill-advised resistance from this renegade group of the Empire's subjects, many of whom he had to crucify wholesale. At the height of the celebrations the captured J ewish leader, Simon bar Giora, was dragged to the Forum, abused and executed. In Titus' honour Rome's mints crashed out sestertii with the inscription JUDAEA CAPT A, and within a few years a magnificent triumphal arch was erected next to the Temple of Venus. Intimately linked to this episode, according to at least one British autho- rity, the late Professor S.G.F. Brandon, was the writing of the key canonical gospel of Mark. Generally recognized as having been written in Rome, according to most present-day thinking it was composed around the time of the Revolt and Titus' triumph, and it displays one overwhelming character- istic, a denigration of J ews and whitewashing of Romans. Whoever wrote Mark portrays Jesus' Jewish disciples as a dull, quarrelsome lot, always jockeying for position, failing to understand J esus, denying him when they are in trouble (as in the case of Peter), and finally deserting him at the time of his arrest. The entire Jewish establishment, Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and scribes, is represented as being out to kill J esus. Even his own family think him 'out of his mind' and want 'to take charge of him'. By contrast Pilate, the Roman, is portrayed as positively pleading for Jesus' life: 'What harm has he done?' (Mark 15: 14). At the very moment when Jesus, amid J ewish taunts, breathes his last it is a Roman centurion, standing at the foot of the cross, who is represented as the first man in history to recognize Jesus as divine: 'In truth this man was a son of God' (Mark 15: 39). Given the circumstances of the Jewish revolt and Roman triumph, Mark's motive for portraying matters in this way are not too difficult to understand. For the Rome community of Gentile Christians, who would have been still reeling from the atrocities Nero is reported to have inflicted upon them in 64 AD, it could be seen as embarrassing and humiliating that the very founder of their religion had been a member of this accursed J ewish race, crucified at Roman hands like so many of the recent rebels. How could one hope to win more converts in such a situation? For Mark, and for those who followed him, there could be only one answer: to de- J udaize J esus by representing him as a reject of, and utterly divorced from, his own people. Similarly, the Luke gospel even avoids representing Roman soldiers as crucifying J esus,

     

    46

     

    THE FALLIBILITY OF THE GOSPELS

     

    and Matthew insists on the Jews' assumption of responsibility for Jesus' death: 'His blood be on us and on our children' (Matthew 27: 25). There is a strikingly anti- J ewish character to the speeches attributed to J esus in the John gospel too, where Jesus is recorded as condemning 'the Jews' in the most vituperative way. When speaking to them he is quoted as referring to 'your Law', i.e. the Torah, as if this was no part of his own beliefs, and telling them that they are uncompromisingly evil, with the Devil as their father (John 8: 43-7). According to at least one interpretation of events, the J ewish revolt there- fore needs to be seen as a vital key to an understanding of how and when the canonical gospels came to be written. Because of the manuscript discoveries, it is now generally accepted that the gospels cannot have been written as late as the nineteenth-century German theologians supposed. Among many other considerations, one of the factors which has influenced the dating proposed by Werner Kiimmel (see below) is the inclusion in the gospels of apparent prophecies by J esus of the fall of J erusalem and destruction of the Temple (Matthew 24: 1-3; Mark 13: 1-4; Luke 21: 5-7), and the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22: 1-10; Luke 14: 16-24). In line with Bult- mann's thinking, these are interpreted as prophecies written after the event, a substantial body ofpresent-day theologians having adopted this viewpoint. But such a line of argument is by no means universally accepted, and in 1976 Dr John Robinson, then Dean of Chapel at Trinity College, cam- bridge, well known for his controversial Honest to God, offered an entirely new approach in Redating the New Testament. Here he expressed surprise

     

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    that if the gospels were not written until after Jerusalem's fall, the writers should not have pointedly capitalized on the obvious fulfilment of Jesus' prophecies. The revolt as a past event goes entirely unmentioned. Among indications that the gospels originated before 70 AD, Dr Robinson pointed to the Matthew gospel reference to the Jews' obligation to pay the Temple tax (Matthew 17: 24-27), a burden which disappeared after the Temple's de- struction. If the gospels were written after 70 AD, why should their writers have represented J esus as predicting his return 'before this generation has passed away' (Matthew 24: 34-36; Mark 13: 30-32; Luke 21: 32-33), a prediction which would have been a little late for anyone living in the generation after the Jewish revolt? Dr Robinson's arguments are not accepted by any consensus of New Testament scholars, and are in conflict, for instance, with the insights of Professor Brandon. But at the very least they add force to the argument that some elements of all the gospels are of very early origin, even if they have been re-edited. It is clear that the canonical gospels are neither the second-century tissue of fabrications argued by Strauss and others, nor quite the contemporary eyewitness descriptions that, given the nature of Christianity's claims, we might not unreasonably expect. Ironically, it has not been theologians but outsiders, such as scholars of ancient history , well used to imperfections in the works of the pagan writers of antiquity, who have been most prepared to recognize the strong vein of authenticity underlying the gospels. As argued by Nicholas Sherwin-White in Roman Society and Roman Law in the New T estament:

     

    ...it can be maintained that those who had a passionate interest in the story of Christ, even if their interest in events was parabolical and didactic rather than historical, would not be led by that very fact to pervert and utterly destroy the historical kernel of their material.

     

    Sherwin- White's view has been echoed by the Oxford English don C. S. Lewis, speaking particularly of the J ohn gospel: I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that none of them is like this. Ofthis text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage -though it may no doubt contain errors -pretty close to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century , without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this simply has not learned to read.

     

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    So how are we to judge the gospels? Because of the claims they make, because they were written at least a generation after the lifetime of their principal subject, and because they have suffered much distortion, it is important that we take nothing for granted -not least that J esus of Nazareth even existed.

     

     

     

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