(Updated) Πίεση του κατεστημένου υπέρ της «κρατούσας» επιστημονικής ή ακαδημαϊκής άποψης / Peer pressure in favor of the “mainstream” scientific or academic theories

Θα μιλήσω για τις πιέσεις που υφίστανται οι νέοι επιστήμονες προκειμένου να αφιερωθούν σε θέματα εγκεκριμένα από το κυρίως ρεύμα προκειμένου να έχουν μια αξιοπρεπή σταδιοδρομία. Υπέστην κι εγώ τέτοιες πιέσεις, οι οποίες μάλιστα επηρέασαν την καριέρα μου. Η σύγκρουση ανάμεσα στην ανάγκη για ανεξάρτητες επιστημονικές κρίσεις και την αποφυγή της αποξένωσης από το κυρίως ρεύμα είναι ένα αίσθημα που κι εγώ, επίσης, βίωσα. Δεν γράφω αυτό το βιβλίο για να επικρίνω επιστήμονες που έκαναν επιλογές διαφορετικές από τις δικές μου αλλά για να εξετάσω γιατί πρέπει καν να έρχονται αντιμέτωποι οι επιστήμονες με τέτοιες επιλογές. Θεωρία χορδών. Όλα ή τίποτα; Lee Smolin, σελ. 25.

Η θεωρία χορδών πλέον κατέχει τέτοια δεσπόζουσα θέση στην ακαδημαϊκή κοινότητα, ώστε στην πράξη όποιος νεαρός θεωρητικός φυσικός δεν ακολουθήσει αυτή την περιοχή έρευνας είναι σαν να καταστρέφει την ίδια του την καριέρα. Ακόμη και ερευνητές από περιοχές όπου η θεωρία χορδών δεν κάνει προβλέψεις, όπως η κοσμολογία και η σωματιδιακή φαινομενολογία, συνηθίζουν να ξεκινούν τις ομιλίες και τις εργασίες τους με τη διαβεβαίωση ότι η δουλειά τους θα βασίζεται κάποτε στη θεωρία χορδών. Θεωρία χορδών. Όλα ή τίποτα; Lee Smolin, σελ. 27.

Κάποιοι νεαροί θεωρητικοί των χορδών μού έχουν πει ότι αισθάνονται σαν να τους εξαναγκάζουν να δουλέψουν στη θεωρία χορδών, είτε πιστεύουν σε αυτήν είτε όχι, καθώς εκλαμβάνεται ως εισιτήριο για μια θέση καθηγητή σε κάποιο πανεπιστήμιο. Και έχουν δίκιο: Στις ΗΠΑ, όσοι θεωρητικοί ακολουθήσουν διαφορετικές από τη θεωρία χορδών προσεγγίσεις της θεμελιακής φυσικής δεν θα έχουν σχεδόν καμία ευκαιρία για σταδιοδρομία. Τα τελευταία δεκαπέντε χρόνια, τρεις είναι όλοι κι όλοι οι επίκουροι καθηγητές που εργάζονται σε διαφορετικές από τη θεωρία χορδών προσεγγίσεις της κβαντικής βαρύτητας και οι οποίοι προσλήφθηκαν από αμερικανικά ερευνητικά πανεπιστήμια, και μάλιστα οι προσλήψεις αυτές έγιναν από μία και μόνο ερευνητική ομάδα. Την ώρα που η θεωρία χορδών εξακολουθεί να αγωνίζεται από επιστημονική άποψη, έχει ήδη θριαμβεύσει στο ακαδημαϊκό πλαίσιο. Η κατάσταση αυτή βλάπτει την επιστήμη, διότι καταστέλλει τη διερεύνηση εναλλακτικών κατευθύνσεων, από τις οποίες κάποιες υπόσχονται πολλά. Θεωρία χορδών. Όλα ή τίποτα; Lee Smolin, σελ. 30.

A close if unofficial surveillance was imposed upon potential candidates for positions in the Old Testament field in British universities, and only those who displayed proper respect for the canons of critical orthodoxy were appointed to academic posts. Consequently scholars of a more conservative bent were relegated to comparative obscurity in theological colleges of various denominations and other independent institutions of learning. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, σελ. 28.

The divisive theories of Duhm virtually swept the field. Not even the moderating tendencies of S. R. Driver were sufficient to place this critical emotionalism, in proper perspective, and by the end of the nineteenth century it was considered academically bizarre and unrespectable to begin to suggest views that could be interpreted as maintaining the unity of the prophecy. In Europe, as in England, the appointment to University chairs in Old Testament depended to no small extent upon the amount of enthusiasm with which the prospective candidate adhered to the “assured findings” of the critical school in both Pentateuchal and Isaianic studies, a situation prevalent to a considerable degree also in North America. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, σελ. 769.

Objections to the historicity of Daniel were copied uncritically from book to book, and by the second decade of the twentieth century no scholar of general liberal background who wished to preserve his academic reputation either dared or desired to challenge the current critical trend. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, σελ. 1111.

Even to suggest an investigation of these evidences is absolutely unthinkable in the minds of the Liberal establishment. To propose any kind of objective examination is to invite ridicule and scorn from the practitioners of the Documentary Hypothesis or Form Criticism or Canonical Criticism who maintain a rigid control of the biblical studies department in most of our present-day universities and state-supported seminaries throughout the Western World.

The amazing feature about this Bible-denigrating procedure is its flagrant violation of the rule against circular reasoning that underlies all evidential logic. To the rationalistic mind-set of the Aufklärung and the Encyclopedistes of the mid-eighteenth century it was well-nigh inconceivable for any educated thinking to take seriously the truth-claims of Holy Scripture, and those who undertook to do so were ridiculed as benighted and naive, no matter what scholarly attainments they had achieved in their education. If they really believed that the Bible was the Word of God, they were ipso facto outdated traditionalists who could be safely ignored. Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, σελ. 486.

The history of sciences amply demonstrates that this sort of attitude and behavior, that is, following the prevailing opinion among those in a given field, whether cosmology, physics, biology, medicine, or what have you, has for many centuries been a major cause of the persistence of gross errors in all these disciplines. That a majority holds a given view is not an argument in science; every scholar or researcher is obliged in conscience to examine his own discipline and to ask himself what the assumptions and presuppositions in his discipline that are taken for granted really consist of and what kind of basis they rest on. The history of science also demonstrates that, when a scholar or researcher does undertake to look honestly at the presuppositions and a prioris in his field, the results are often surprising and sometimes even revolutionary. Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 10.

The fact that his results are so much at variance with reigning scholarly opinion may explain the silence that has greeted his book both in France and in Germany…

…Upholders of the dominant opinion in biblical scholarship are not happy with Robinson’s book; if Robinson is right, they are wrong. In scholarship, as in all the other affairs of life, it is always very difficult to own up to being wrong. It is even more difficult to admit to having taught errors and ab­surdities throughout one’s entire scholarly career. That Robinson’s thesis has not found automatic acceptance is therefore quite understandable. Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 50.

In a discussion of sources for the study of Paul, N. T. Wright weighs in on the scholarly consensus that Paul wrote only seven of the thirteen letters attributed to him. He notes that it is odd that even though many of the considerations that drove this opinion have been overturned, it nonetheless remains the consensus. Wright goes on to comment on scholarly fashion:

In addition – it is hard to say this, but perhaps it needs to be said – there is the matter of fashion and prejudice. Just as in Germany in the late nineteenth century you more or less had to be a follower of F. C. Baur, and in Oxford in the mid-twentieth century you more or less had to believe in the existence of Q, so in North America today you more or less have to say that you will regard Ephesians and Colossians as post-Pauline – unless, like Luke Timothy Johnson, you have so massively established your scholarly credibility on other grounds that your acceptance of the letters as fully Pauline can then be regarded, not as a serious scholarly fault, but as an allowable eccentricity (Source).

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About the Passover Meal chronological discrepancy / Περί της χρονικής αντίφασης του γεύματος του Πάσχα

This post arose from a question from a friend, about the time difference observed between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. Specifically, in the Gospel of John we are told that those who led Jesus to Pilate had not yet eaten the Passover Meal (John 18:28), while Jesus and his disciples had eaten it the night before. How, then, can this difference be interpreted?

I know of two possible interpretations which I quote immediately. Anyone who knows any other possible interpretation can contribute by posting a comment with it.

Αυτή η ανάρτηση προέκυψε μετά από ερώτηση ενός φίλου σχετικά με τη  χρονική διαφορά που διαπιστώνεται μεταξύ των συνοπτικών Ευαγγελίων και του Ευαγγελίου του Ιωάννη. Συγκεκριμένα, στο Ευαγγέλιο του Ιωάννη μας λέγεται ότι αυτοί που οδήγησαν τον Ιησού στον Πιλάτο δεν είχαν φάει ακόμη το Πάσχα (Ιωά. 18:28), ενώ ο Ιησούς και οι μαθητές του το έχουν φάει το προηγούμενο βράδυ. Πώς, λοιπόν, μπορεί να ερμηνευτεί αυτή τη χρονική διαφορά;

Προσωπικά, γνωρίζω δύο πιθανές ερμηνείες τις οποίες θα παραθέσω αμέσως. Όποιος γνωρίζει κάποια ακόμη πιθανή ερμηνεία, μπορεί να τη συνεισφέρει αναρτώντας σχόλιό του.

1)    John in no way contradicted the other Gospels… He merely followed a different calendar than they. It is a known fact that the Sadducees, for example, maintained their own calendar, distinct from the calendar used by the Pharisees; and a notable part of the high priesthood came from the ranks of the Sadducees (Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, p. 292).

There is some difficulty in reconciling his chronology of Passion Week with the Synoptic data, but this difficulty might disappear if we were better acquainted with the conditions under which the Passover was celebrated at that time. There is considerable ground for believing that certain religious groups (including our Lord and His disciples) followed a different calendar from that by which the chief priests regulated the temple services. While the chief priests and those who followed their reckoning ate the Passover on Friday evening, when Jesus was already dead (Jn. xviii. 28, xix. 14), He and His disciples appear to have eaten it earlier in the week [F. F. BruceThe New Testament documents. Are they Reliable?, p. 57 (Greek edition)].

 

2)    The reference to Passover may be to the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days (cf. Luke 22:1: “the Feast of Unleavened Bread… called the Passover”), and so “eat the Passover” probably means “continue to celebrate the ongoing feast” (cf. 2 Chron. 30:21). The other Gospels state that Jesus had already eaten the Passover Feast with his disciples, but the current verse seems to refer to the Jewish leaders’ desire to continue in the ongoing celebrations (ESV Study Bible, p. 2063).

About the origin of the Logos concept / Περί της προέλευσης της έννοιας του Λόγου

The theory of a divine Word that was creative was actually developed well before the author of the fourth Gospel wrote. This can be seen in the ancient targum, or paraphrase of Genesis, Neophyti I, Palestinian Targum Manuscript in the Vatican Library, published in Madrid-Barcelona by Alejandro Diez Macho in 1968. Everywhere that the text of Genesis had “God,” in Hebrew Elohim, this targum had “the Word of God,” in Aramaic memra, which was the translation of the Hebrew dabar.

This Hebrew word dabar was translated into Greek sometimes by logos and sometimes by rema–another example of the double translation we have already examined.

The one responsible for the Greek version of the fourth Gospel, of course, translated the Hebrew dabar with the Greek logos. There has been an enormous amount of useless speculation over this word logos. The influence of Greek philosophy on the composition of the fourth Gospel has been discerned in it; the influence of Philo and indeed that of Neo-Platonism have been among the influences cited. This kind of supposed influence has been one of the principal arguments for assigning a date as late as the second century for the composition of this Gospel. It would have been much simpler all around if it had only been realized that logos was a simple translation of the Hebrew dabar.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 217.

How probable is the hypothesis that the Gospels have been “tampered with”? / Πόσο πιθανή είναι η υπόθεση ότι τα Ευαγγέλια έχουν «πειραχτεί»;

The school of Bultmann took as its departure point the assumption that in the Christian communities during the first century of our era—since the community itself in the collective would have been patently unable to act except through its individual members—anyone at all could revise or alter the basic message accepted in the community, including the words reported to have been on the lips of our Lord himself. Indeed, anyone at all could improvise or invent his own version of the Gospel, his own parables, his own teachings; and the community, in the midst of which they lived, was supposed to have been totally accepting of whatever changes or alterations they might happen to have come up with. This assumption seems highly unlikely on its face, especially considering the respect with which the average Jew treated the sacred Scriptures. It is well established that no one had the right to alter in any way whatsoever the sacred writings that had been handed down.

It will be replied, of course, that there were not as yet any Christian Scriptures to treat with respect. But that is precisely the point that remains to be proved! Even if we accepted for a moment the hypothesis that there was a long tradition of oral preaching before our existing Gospels were finally set down in writing, we would still have no evidence or indication that the early Christians permitted members of their churches to alter or manipulate or change the message regularly preached to them concerning the words and acts of Jesus. It is quite unlikely that anyone was permitted to add to or take anything away from the basic message that was known to all. What we know for certain about the earliest Christian churches, we know mostly from the Letters of St. Paul. And St. Paul wrote that “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you” (1 Cor. 11:23). It is more than probable that this rule of the rabbi Paul was the rule observed throughout all the churches in the Mediterranean basin. The hypothesis put forward by scholars that there was a period of “creative evolution” during which numerous “literary transformations” took place which were ultimately incorporated into the text of the Gospels as we now have them is a highly fanciful hypothesis. There is no real objective or scientific basis for this hypothesis. It contradicts everything we know about the Judaism of the first century. The founders and members of the very earliest Christian churches were, at the outset, all Jews who came out of the world of the synagogue. That all these practicing Jews were suddenly transformed when they adopted the good news of Christianity, and henceforth allowed members of their communities to embelish or elaborate upon the basic message as they pleased, inventing a parable here, or a new miraculous episode there, is an improbability of the highest order.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 202, 203.

(Updated) What can a long oral tradition produce (in connection with the Gospels)? / Τι μπορεί να παράξει μια μακρά προφορική μετάδοση (σε σχέση με τα Ευαγγέλια);

Bultmann’s school presupposes what it ought to be obliged to prove, namely, that the four Gospels are late documents based upon a long tradition of oral preaching. It was in the course of the development of these long oral traditions that the episodes narrated in the Gospels were supposedly invented, and the parables of our Lord composed.

Quite apart from the fact that nobody has ever witnessed whole communities producing what the early Christian communities are supposed to have produced, it seems clear that different “traditions” existing in different places would never have resulted in anything but wide diversity and incoherence. A homogeneous result would have been impossible in the case of materials developed in this fashion. Different communities operating under different influences would undoubtedly have produced four gospels as different from each other as are the various gnostic pseudogospels in which all kinds of materials have been indiscriminately thrown together.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 199.

We can always take the easy road of accepting the reigning fashionable opinion. But on the hypothesis of a plurality of independently evolving gospel traditions which resulted in our existing four Gospels, we would never have arrived at usages so precise and consistent. If this hypothesis of plurality of gospel traditions were true, the result would rather have been four gospels that were incoherent and divergent and impossible to reconcile with one another, gospels that were filled with mutual inconsistencies.

If four different traditions had really issued in four different written gospels, they would have been the sort of writings that would have been produced by four different sects, if not by four different religions.

What has to be explained by any viable working hypothesis is the unity of thought among the four Gospels. With the New Testament documents that we in fact have—the four Gospels, the Letters of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation—it is possible to derive a consistent doctrine about God, about Christ, and about the relationship between God and Christ. Why is this possible? It is possible only because all of the different elements of information provided in the various  New Testament sources belong to a coherent and homogeneous logical whole. However, if a number of different Christian communities had each produced its own individual gospel, we would have seen a different Christology issued from each of these divergent sources. But a careful examination of these documents—an examination such as the one we have conducted up to now—resulted in no such thing. The various elements provided in the different documents that make up the small library that has been named, because of a faulty translation, the New Testament, instead give a highly coherent and consistent account of their common subject matter. It is hardly the Christology of a Noetus, or a Praxeas, or a Sabellius that leaps to the eye from the pages of the New Testament; nor is it that of Theodore of Byzantium called “the Currier”. Toward A.D. 180, Noetus of Smyrna taught that Jesus Christ was quite simply God; his was a Christology in which “man” was not involved. When Christ suffered, God suffered; the incarnation was an adventure of God, which did not include any role for man. So much for Noetus.

Theodore the Currier, excommunicated by Pope Victor around A.D. 190, taught the converse. He taught that Christ was merely a man, psilon anthropon. These are the kinds of results obtained by leaving “traditions” to themselves. The various elements which make up the books of the New Testament do not in fact go off on their own. The Christology formulated by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles is wholly consistent with the total message of the New Testament; it is the same Christology the successors of Peter, the popes of Rome, would profess; it is the Christology of such popes as Damasus and Leo.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 200, 201.

What are the sources of the Gospels, and when can they be dated? / Ποιες είναι οι πηγές των Ευαγγελίων, και πότε μπορούν να χρονολογηθούν;

We know that crowds of people, common people, flocked to see our Lord and to hear him speak; many of these people no doubt knew neither how to read nor how to write. Nevertheless we also know that some of the disciples of Jesus were learned men, students of the Book. The author of the fourth Gospel depicts some of these educated disciples. It is a priori impossible that those disciples who did know how to read and write, and who spent their lives in the study of the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, would never have taken notes on what Jesus said, or written down what he did. The sayings of the ancient Hebrew prophets had, after all, been set down in writing. And the disciples of Jesus considered him to be much, much greater than any of the earlier prophets. Thus they would surely have written down his words, his teachings and his actions almost as soon as they had issued from him.

It is the opposite hypothesis that is unthinkable and absurd, namely, that nothing was ever written down about Jesus by his contemporaries, especially when we take into account the milieu in which our Lord lived and worked. He did not appear among some primitive Amazon tribe; the Jewish people probably boasted the highest literacy rate of antiquity when we consider the seriousness with which the Jews studied the Hebrew sacred Scriptures.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 192, 193.

In asserting that documents written in Hebrew lie behind the present Greek text of our four Gospels, we are, of course, proceeding by way of a hypothesis. Here, however, we are dealing with a hypothesis that has to be true-indeed, has to be considered certain-because it is the only hypothesis capable of explaining all the features that we find in the Greek text of the Gospels. The contrary hypothesis is that a long tradition of oral preaching and transmission preceded the setting down in writing at a comparatively late date of the Greek text of the four Gospels as we presently possess it. This contrary hypothesis is the one preferred by a majority of biblical scholars today, as has been the case for more than a century. But this hypothesis appears absurd on its face, especially when we consider the total milieu within which our Lord lived and taught. Why would the scribes and rabbis and people educated in the Hebrew Scriptures included among those who heard and followed Jesus have abstained or somehow forbidden themselves from ever noting down in writing anything about the remarkable personage with whom they were dealing? Why would they have waited so long-many say until the end of the first century-before setting down in writing their “traditions”? And how could those oral “traditions”, which by definition constituted separate strands of the original proclamation of the Good News preserved in different local churches, ever have resulted in the kind of textual results in the Gospels that we have been examining here with some care? Our analysis points rather to under1ying Hebrew texts that were themselves closely related.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 197.

(Updated) Hebrew and early christian “faith” compared with modern world “faith” / H εβραϊκή και πρωτοχριστιανική «πίστη» συγκρινόμενη με τη σύγχρονη «πίστη»

The error, distortion, falsification, or whatever that was perpetrated when musterion (μυστήριον) was translated by “mystery” is very similar to the error that was perpetrated when the Greek pistis (πίστις) was translated by “faith.” We have already taken note of this latter fact, and we shall have occasion to deal with it at greater length when we come to examine the Gospel according to John. Under the New Covenant, the Greek word pistis originally meant having an objective certitude of the truth, a certitude involving one’s mind, or organ of thought. In our modern terminology, faith means not so much having an objective certitude of the truth as having a subjective conviction about it; and so the modern idea of faith is not equivalent to what was conveyed by the Greek pistis.

Moreover, faith has become dissociated from the intellect in the modern understanding through a number of historical influences to which we have already alluded. Our modern irrationalist and fideist prism falsifies the true meaning of the Greek words musterion and pistis. Modern readers see the New Testament, indeed the entire Bible, only as reflected in this irrationalist and fideist prism. The original Hebrew tradition was most decidedly not fideist; nor did it lend itself in any way to what we know today as Lutheranism, Kantianism, or Barthianism.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 93, 94.

We have already encountered and discussed many of the words derived from the Hebrew root verb aman, “to be certain of the truth of”. We shall have to return to this same subject when we come to consider the fourth Gospel. The words emunah or emet which were derived from this root were common and were usually translated in the Septuagint either by pistis (πίστις) or by aletheas (αλήθεια). The translators into Greek of our four Gospels tended to oscillate between the same variant translations. Matthew, Mark, and Luke emphasized the use of pistis, along with the verb derived from it, pisteuein (πιστεύειν), which designated the act of the intelligence in assenting with certitude to the truth which had been disclosed. The fourth Gospel, however, never employed pistis; more than in the Synoptic Gospels, the word aletheia was preferred. We translate aletheia, of course, as truth.

One thing is certain about this matter of truth and our assent to it, and that is that we moderns who speak about “believing” and “faith” are off the mark as far as the original meaning of these concepts is concerned. We have changed the terms of reference. We translate texts from the Gospels, and from the New Testament in general, within a framework that distorts the original meaning of these texts in a fundamental way. For us in the present century, the words “faith” and “belief” have come to be understood within a context established by Luther, Pascal, Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, and many others who have followed the same path. The result in the present climate is that faith is not considered to be a form of knowledge, nor does belief entail certitude. To believe is neither “to be certain about” nor “to know”. In Hebrew, emunah, translated into Greek by pistis, means objective certitude regarding the truth. In our modern parlance however, faith is nothing more than a subjective conviction divorced from objective knowledge as well as from certitude about it. When we see how the fourth Gospel employed the terms gnosis and pisteuein, we will understand that faith in God was an act of knowing which included an objective certitude regarding the truth of what was known.

Thus it is nothing less than a catastrophe when we translate pisteuein today by “to believe”, because, for us, “to believe” merely means a weak subjective assent; it does not include the idea of a certitude about one’s knowledge of the truth which the Hebrew aman conveyed. Amen which is derived from the same root word, thus means “truly”.

It is clear from considerations such as these how important it is to reconstruct the original Hebrew behind the Greek of our Gospels; this reconstruction is necessary merely to get at the exact meaning of terms. We will also be obliged to return to this question when we come to examine the fourth Gospel.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 150, 151.

About the date of composition of the Gospel according to Luke / Περί του χρόνου συγγραφής του Ευαγγελίου κατά τον Λουκά

We come now to the prediction of Jesus of the destruction of the Temple as it is found in Luke:

And as some spoke of the Temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said: “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21:5-6).

If the Gospel according to Luke had truly been composed in the Greek language sometime toward the end of the first century A.D., as practically all contemporary studies on the New Testament affirm, whether they are written in English, French, or German, then a text such as this one could not have been set down on paper without some remark or comment on this remarkable prophecy. By the end of the first century, Jerusalem had already been destroyed; it had occurred some thirty years earlier; the Temple had been burned and razed. It was simply not possible for an author or redactor to pass over this enormous fact in silence, without a single word or sign that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was a known and accomplished fact.

When anyone speaks to us today about the destruction of Berlin or the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, we can usually gather, if only through a word, a sign, or a turn of phrase, where that person stands in relation to those events. A writer who mentions or alludes to these cities betrays the fact that he is aware of the fate that befell them. In the case of this prophecy of our Lord, however, reported by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all three, we get not the slightest indication or hint anywhere in the gospel text that it could have been written after the cataclysmic event it prophesies. Yet there can be no doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was a cataclysm of the first order, not merely for the Jewish communities, but also for the Christian communities that, after all, had originally issued from them. The objection can be made that, by the end of the first century, Christians were no longer interested in the fall of Jerusalem. By then most of the Christians were of pagan origin anyway. No mention was made of the events of A.D. 70, it can be argued, because Christians no longer had the slightest interest in these events.

This objection is a prime example of the logical fallacy called the petitio principii: begging the question. It assumes what it needs to prove, namely, that all the Gospels were written in the Greek language late in the first century. This, precisely, is what still remains to be proved, however. In any case, it is not legitimate to assume that the Christian communities were indifferent to the fate of Jerusalem and the Temple by the end of the century. Most of these Christian communities had originated within Jewish communities, splitting off from them in the way that a cell divides. It is also quite implausible to imagine any author or redactor reporting a prophecy by our Lord himself without going on to mention the spectacular way in which this particular prophecy had been fulfilled.

In Luke, however, just as we saw was the case in Matthew and Mark, there is no mention or comment whatsoever on this remarkable prophecy. This lack of any mention or allusion to the fate of Jerusalem is a real thorn in the side of those scholars holding the current majority opinion about the date of the composition of the Gospels. Nevertheless, they usually refrain from falling back on what they really think about the matter. If they did, they would show their true colors at last. What they really think is: this so-called prophecy of Jesus cannot really be a prophecy for the simple reason that there isn’t any such thing as prophecy; prophecy of any kind is an impossibility. Therefore, this passage in the Gospels has to be a late fabrication, an invention of the Christian community. The very fact that the destruction of Jerusalem could be reported as something that was going to come about means that the passage had to be written after Jerusalem had already been destroyed. If any prophecy at all is an impossibility, Jesus could obviously not have prophesied the destruction of the Temple: the passages to the effect that he did this had to have been written after the catastrophe.

This is the true logic of the situation we are dealing with here. Some scholars are more candid and frank about it than others; some are not candid and frank about it at all. But even if we were to accept their premise, in order to see if their conclusion indeed followed from it, we would still discover that their argument is grossly defective. For if this prophecy, reported in all three Synoptic Gospels were in fact written after the fact, then the lack of any explanation or comment about what would then be a pseudoprophecy would still be telling. Why attribute to Jesus a prophecy he never made, and then fail to exploit it to the full by pointing to its fulfillment? Why not mine the rich vein to the full?

As we have seen, however, there is not so much as a single word or comment in Matthew, Mark, or Luke about the spectacular fulfillment of this prophecy. The inventor of the pseudoprophecy who went to the trouble of fabricating it and placing it in the mouth of Jesus seems to have been totally unaware that the pseudoprophecy had in fact been fulfilled twenty or thirty years before he fabricated it! The supposed fabricator was thus totally incapable of exploiting his fabrication properly in order to reap the benefits from it for the sake of which he presumably authored the fabrication in the first place. All this evidences great caution and discretion for someone who was nevertheless supposedly bold enough to resort to fabrication.

Let us proceed now to examine some of the other sayings of our Lord bearing upon the future:

And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place? … Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom … But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons…” (Lk 21:7, 10, 12).

In this passage, Jesus envisioned the coming persecutions as being brought about by the high authorities of Jerusalem. Did the Christians have anything to fear from the Jerusalem authorities or from the synagogues at the end of the first century? Which synagogues? Certainly not those of Jerusalem or of Judea. Luke spoke of the Christians’ being delivered up to the synagogues and prisons, but nowhere did he speak about any persecutions coming from the Roman authorities. Yet the latter had already begun by A.D. 64 or 65. Luke seems never to have heard anything at all about these persecutions instigated by the Roman emperors. It is a curious fact indeed that an author writing as late as A.D. 100 would seem to be oblivious to the cataclysmic events that had occurred forty years earlier, engineered by the notorious Emperor Nero. This is an especially curious act when we consider that the author in question was Luke, who lived in Rome with Paul from A.D. 61 on. One thing is sure, though, and that is there was certainly no direct threat to the Christians from the synagogues at the end of the first century. By then the threat came from the Roman authorities.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 117-121.

Does the expression «εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ» (“immediately after” [ESV]) of Matthew 24:29 necessarily involve chronological order? / Περιλαμβάνει οπωσδήποτε χρονολογική σειρά η έκφραση «εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ» του Ματθαίου 24:29;

Moving on to other examples, we may note how observers have been aware for a very long time that the Gospel according to Mark makes very frequent use of the Greek adverb ευθύς. In classical Greek, this word signified “immediately,” “at once,” or “forthwith.” Our modern translators have therefore often translated it that way; however, they have surely erred in doing so as far as the New Testament is concerned. Where Matthew tended to employ the adverb ευθέως which also means “immediately,” Mark consistently preferred the adverb ευθύς.

Now the Greek adverb ευθύς is a common translation, one of the accurate possible translations of the Hebrew word hinneh, a word used hundreds if not thousands of times in the Hebrew Old Testament to introduce a fact or an account of something. An example of its common use can be seen in Genesis 24:45: “Before I had done speaking in my heart, behold [hinneh, in Greek ευθύς], Rebekah came out with her water jug on her shoulder.” Another example is found in Genesis 38:29: “But as he drew back his hand, behold [we-hinneh, in Greek ευθύς], his brother came out.”

If, as is the case, the Gospel according to Mark that we possess in finished form in Greek used this adverb ευθύς so frequently, this is because the Hebrew documents from which our present Mark was translated frequently employed the word hinneh in the typical manner of Hebrew narrators.

This usage points to the fact that Mark’s Gospel is indeed a translation. It is a translation made from written Hebrew documents. This particular usage is only one small sign and proof of this, of course. We will be pointing to a number of others.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 85.

(Updated) The Hebrew concept of the soul / Η Εβραϊκή αντίληψη περί ψυχής

“He did not know her”. This is the classical Hebrew expression used in the Bible to describe or signify the physical union between a man and a woman. It is an admirable expression because such a physical union is indeed an authentic form of mutual “knowledge” between a man and a woman; it is a sensible, experiential form of knowing; but it was also a spiritual one for the ancient Hebrews because, as I demonstrated long ago in my Essai sur la Pensée Hébraïque (Essay on Hebrew Thought), it never occurred to them to try to separate or dissociate the soul from the body, as the Platonists, the NeoPlatonists, and the Cartesians all attempted to do.

In ancient Hebrew there is not even a particular word distinguish the body as a separate entity from the soul. There was a very good reason for the lack of such a word; for the ancient Hebrews, there was not any such thing as a body without a soul; there never had been, and there never could be. As the positivists in the Vienna Circle used to say, the phrase “a body without a soul” was devoid of meaning, was meaningless. If there is a body or organism at all, it has to be animated by a living soul. That is why physical union for the Hebrews was also a union of souls. And the expression “know”, used to describe this physical union, was evidently a translation of the Hebrew iada.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 29, 30.

We have already taken note of the very specific view of the nature of man that is assumed by the Hebrew language. The Hebraic expression kol basar that is normally translated as “all flesh” really means all living beings, and, in particular, all human beings. It is in fact strictly synonymous with another common Hebrew expression kol adam which also means “all men,” “all human beings”.

The expression “flesh and blood” in a Hebrew context must not be understood exactly as we would understand it, given our assumptions about the nature of man. Our understanding includes elements that go back to Plato and the Platonists and to Descartes and the Cartesians. With them the flesh is contrasted with the soul or spirit. In Hebrew, however, “flesh” does not refer to the body as distinct from the soul; it refers to the total human being, what we sometimes call in our twentieth-century jargon the psychosomatic unity. “Flesh” in Hebrew designates the whole man, man as he is encountered in nature, man who emerged some tens of thousands of years ago, according to modern palaeontologists, and has now been classified according to scientific nomenclature as Homo sapiens.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 70.

When were the Gospels written? / Πότε γράφτηκαν τα Ευαγγέλια;

The following post is quite extensive. Whoever reads it though, will benefit greatly with new insight on this very serious topic of the date of the composition of the Gospels. Η ακόλουθη ανάρτηση είναι εξαιρετικά εκτενής. Όποιος όμως τη διαβάσει θα αποκομίσει νέα δεδομένα σε σχέση με αυτό το πολύ σοβαρό θέμα του χρόνου συγγραφής των Ευαγγελίων.

There are three massive, enormous historical facts in relation to which it is both possible and necessary to situate the four Gospels. And not only the four Gospels: all the writings of the New Testament. These absolutely crucial historical facts, and the dates they occurred, are as follows:

1)  A.D. 70. The assault on Jerusalem that began on August 29; the burning and destruction of the Temple; the burning of the holy city; and, finally, its capture. The city and its ramparts were razed to the ground, except for the towers of the king’s palace.

2) A.D. 64 or 65 (there exist learned discussions as to the actual year). The massacre of the Christians initiated by the Roman emperor Nero.

3) Around A.D. 36. The commencement of the preaching of the word of God, the good news of salvation announced by the Galilean rabbi Jesus to the uncircumcised pagans. This began after the first Christian martyr, Stephen, had been stoned to death.

In his book Redating the New Testament, the illustrious English biblical scholar, Bishop John A. T. Robinson, has thoroughly discussed the implications for the New Testament writings of the first of these three massive, enormous historical facts, namely, the capture, burning, and destruction of Jerusa­lem and the Temple by the Roman armies of Titus in August and September of the year A.D. 70. The fact on which Robinson has based his work had been previously noticed, but the credit for fleshing out this fact with a sustained and comprehensive argument rightly belongs to Robinson. The fact in question is that not a single one of the New Testament writings, in the Greek versions in which we possess them, seems to evidence any awareness whatsoever of the simply immense fact of the capture, destruction, and burning of Jerusalem and the Temple. There is no trace of this calamity in any of the New Testament writings. Apparently, nobody had ever heard of these events at the time the New Testament writings were set down in written form.

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About the discrepancies of the Gospels / Περί των διαφορών των Ευαγγελίων

Everyone is familiar with what happens when several different people take notes on the same university course; or when several witnesses report something that is said or done in a public street; or when more than one person attempts to report what somebody has said in a public speech, out in the street, or, indeed, even in a private conversation. Several different persons witness the same event; they hear the same identical words. Each person, however, notes what seems most important to him; or what seems most interesting; or what seems most characteristic of the speaker.

A priori, we would expect the same sort of thing in the case of the notes or collections of notes taken down by the disciples of Jesus. What was noted down by one would not be exactly the same as what was noted down by another. There was, indeed, a common body of materia1. This is easily explained by the fact that the origin or source of all the information was the same, namely, the Galilean rabbi; he was the sole source of everything that was reported. There were, however, differences or divergences in what was reported. This was the case for the simple reason that one reporter does not record exactly the same things recorded by other reporters. We need only examine the notebooks of a number of students taking the same course in order to verify what happens in cases of this kind. These student notebooks will exhibit both quantitative and qualitative variations that can be explained by the intelligence, the capacity, the background, the preparation, and the attention of each student. The information they take in will be more or less accurately heard, more or less correctly understood, more or less faithfully taken down, and more or less convincingly summed up, depending on each student.

If we consider all this from the point of view of the totality of what the Galilean rabbi actually said and did, as our unique source of all the various information, then it is clear that a fair amount was lost in transmission, depending upon whether the hearers who were taking down what he said were more or less educated, or whether they took notes more or less accurately of what he in fact said. The information received was not in all respects exactly the same as the information that was transmitted. The total information emanating from the source—Christ the Lord—has not been handed down or passed on in its totality. It has certainly not been understood in its totality. It was received in diverse ways, according to the individual capacities of those who received it. It is only to be expected, again a priori, that the existing notes or collections of notes would similarly be characterized by differences of both quantity and quality.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 6.

Περί του χρόνου συγγραφής των Ευαγγελίων / About when the Gospels were written

Why could not the majority of the passages in the Gospels, or at least bits and pieces of them, have been written down shortly after, or even during, the earthly life of Jesus?

The apostles began preaching the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ from the time the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. What would have prevented them from also having set down in written form from the very beginning the essentials of their preaching? Or within the next few decades at least? What would have prevented some of their hearers from taking notes on their preaching, the preaching of the apostles? Why, finally, decades later would the evangelical literary activity suddenly be begun along very similar lines, but in widely separated places?

Why could there not have been an oral transmission, especially an oral preaching, accompanied by a simultaneous setting down in writing of at least some of the key stories, words, and larger narratives such as the accounts of the passion of Christ? All of these events took place within a Jewish milieu which had been characterized for centuries by the existence of the sacred books of the Old Covenant; they took place in a milieu in which Aramaic and Hebrew were the favored means of communication.

Why cannot the background of persecutions of the Christians that can already be read between the lines of the Gospels refer to the persecutions of the years A.D. 35 to 65? Why could not these persecutions have been those that arose out of the con­flicts between “the religion of Moses”, maintained in the synagogues, and the “new Way”? This hypothesis fits the texts better than the hypothesis that the Roman persecutions beginning under Nero from A.D. 64 on are the ones referred to. The New Testament writings almost never warn against the Romans; they almost always warn against the votaries of the religion of Moses.

Or, let us consider the usual interpretation of “the sign of Jonah”, as mentioned in the New Testament. Could the references to this really be to the beginnings of preaching the good news to non-Jews? The latter effort began with Paul around the years A.D. 45-50. This preaching was enthusiastically received by the non-Jewish pagans, just as, according to the Old Testament, the preaching of Jonah was received by the inhabitants of Nineveh.

Then there is the eloquent silence of the written Gospels on the subject of the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The destruction of the Temple had profound consequences for the entire Jewish world. What can we make of the typically prophetic biblical style that announces future events, if the Gospels were truly written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70?

This list of examples could be extended.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. x, xi.

All this appears clearly when we study the Gospel according to Matthew. This Gospel is a translation into Greek of documents that were first written in Hebrew. This translation is a very ancient one. It does not date only from the end of the first century A.D., as the majority of exegetes still hold today. All the indications, signs, and characteristics in the book we call the Gospel according to Matthew point to a very ancient period, a period only shortly after the momentous events of A.D. 30—certainly before the first joyous proclamation of the good news of Christ to the pagans and the uncircumcised which occurred around A.D. 36-40. There is absolutely nothing in this Gospel that would lead us to suppose that it was composed later; there is no text, nor any fragment of a text; there is not so much as a mark; there is nothing. The claim that the Gospel according to Matthew was only composed toward the end of the first century is a totally arbitrary claim. The only thing this claim has going for it is the fact that the majority opinion among exegetes today supports it. That is simply to say that the opinion rests upon nothing but itself. This view is the plainest kind of begging of the question: the majority of exegetes today hold to this view; therefore, this is the view that must be held to. There is no more logic to the position than that.

The history of sciences amply demonstrates that this sort of attitude and behavior, that is, following the prevailing opinion among those in a given field, whether cosmology, physics, biology, medicine, or what have you, has for many centuries been a major cause of the persistence of gross errors in all these disciplines. That a majority holds a given view is not an argument in science; every scholar or researcher is obliged in conscience to examine his own discipline and to ask himself what the assumptions and presuppositions in his discipline that are taken for granted really consist of and what kind of basis they rest on. The history of science also demonstrates that, when a scholar or researcher does undertake to look honestly at the presuppositions and a prioris in his field, the results are often surprising and sometimes even revolutionary.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 9, 10.