Friday, March 13, 2009
Considering a book called God Wants You Dead, Eric Raymond recalls some interesting facts about early Christianity, including a couple I'd never heard. These two are rather amusing when one considers that the entire New Testament was written in Koine (i.e., common, post-classical) Greek due to the original, Aramaic-speaking founders of the sect having been all but wiped out:
3. In other Aramaic sources roughly contemporary with the New Testament, the phrase "Son of God" occurs as an idiom for "guru" or "holy man". Thus, if Jesus refers to himself as "the son of God", the Aramaic sense is arguably "the boss holy man".Mild chuckles aside, I suspect that some non-religious people (I am not suggesting that Raymond is one of them.) will see this historical curiosity as buttressing their position, much as they did awhile back when news reports circulated to the effect that the remains of the historical Jesus had been unearthed, amid crowing that Christianity had, finally, been sunk. Nevertheless, as I said then:
4. The Koine Greek of the period, on the other hand, did not have this idiom.
Now, imagine a Koine speaker reading the lost Aramaic source documents of which the Gospels are redactions, with only an indifferent command of the latter language He does not know that "Son of God" is an idiom...
Yes, that's right. I'm suggesting that Jesus got deified by a translation error!
[A]ny arbitrary claim, by its nature, has no evidence for or against it. Whether we have found the skull of Jesus or not [or his supposed divinity is due to a mistranslation] makes precisely zero difference in our evaluation of him as divine, on the question of whether he turned water into wine, or whether he rose from the dead. Whenever something earthly is taken as "evidence" for or against such claims, one will find that the person is guilty of perpetuating, or has fallen for, a package deal, an indiscriminate lumping-together of things that differ essentially in some way. [hyperlink and bold dropped]This means two things. First, there is no need, based on epistemological grounds, to entertain arbitrary claims. And second, the real joke is on anyone who accepts as truth arbitrary, unprovable claims -- and then goes on to base his entire worldview and life around them.