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Was there a real Jesus of Nazareth ?


mistermack
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7 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Why does it matter? If we accept the argument that someone knew better, why does he have to exist?

Why does the truth matter? Well, I personally resent being lied to, especially when I was forcefully told I had to believe it, for the first ten years of my life. 

I don't blame my parents, they were suckered just like everyone else. Ideally, I would like to prove that Jesus didn't exist, and if Christianity has any value, give credit to the human race, not some imaginary superman.

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very well, let's re-hash a topic that was done to death ....

Jesus was a political protester, and there was a lot to protest about in Judea during the Roman occupation, who was put to death.
Jesus was obviously not his real name, because there are historical records of those times and he is never mentioned, although there are mentionings of political protesters put to death by crucifiction.
Subsequently, his message ( of political reform ) was subtly changed and re-purposed as a 'religious' message.
This did not happen suddenly, but over the course of several hundred years, and by several people.
And I'm not necessarily claiming that the people who changed his message over these hundreds of years had an unscrupulous purpose, but by the 7th-8th century, thehead of the Christian religion was the most powerful man on Earth, such that even the Emperor ( of the Holy Roman Empire ) bowed to him.

Until there is proof to the contrary, that is my opinion.

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1 hour ago, mistermack said:

What Richard Carrier and others are arguing is that the religion started   by worshipping a mythical figure, that everyone understood as a son of god in heaven, and it morphed into a story of a god come to Earth. So when Paul joined, Jesus was god's number one son in heaven. Then this bunch in Jerusalem get going, claiming that Jesus was an actual man, and it got very popular.

No, it's still the other way around. The Jesus cult must have been going strong enough for the Pharisees to be afraid of it

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Paul’s motivations are unknown, but they seem not to have been connected to his Pharisaism. The chief persecutors of the Christian movement in Jerusalem were the high priest and his associates, who were Sadducees

That had to be set off by somebody - as each wave of heretical belief or rebellion always is. Remember, the Jews had a very stable, well established, strict national religion. They wouldn't just go off worshipping any old mythical figure without a compelling instigator to lead them. There was no shortage of candidates! It's that one charismatic instigator we associate with the legendary Jesus. Under Roman occupation, sometimes inept governors and an unpopular local government, there was always an element of incipient revolt, so the breakaway sects were closely watched and quickly suppressed. (In fact, the movie Life of Brian is not that far off the mark - barring the spaceship incident, of course). Open rebellion didn't actually break out until 66CE, by when Paul was dead.  In his time, Jews were free to move about the empire and practice their religion, so there were many Jewish communities in Syria, Galatia, and Rome itself, all quite insular, with their own synagogues.

  Many of the 'mythical' aspects of the Jesus figure were undoubtedly added later, under the Roman church, as were the dates of his birth and death, to correspond with the pagan feasts of midwinter and spring.  Bethlehem was important only to the Jewish followers who wanted their guy to be the promised "rod from the root of Jesse" who would lead the Jews out of Roman bondage, but the story resonated with the meek everywhere - and made Mary central, for those subjects who wanted their femle deities back, so it was kept in. As for the empty crypt - it just makes a ripping good tale. (It might originate in the practice of unceremonious mass burials, or leaving the corpses of political activists to rot on the crucifix as an example to unruly subjects. If they got permission, or could afford a bribe, the family would claim the body to bury according to their own customs.)   Particularly telling is that he doesn't rise up at the crypt or anywhere near: the 'angel' says "seek him in Galilee" (huh?) and then:

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Mark 16:12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.”

a whole bunch of sightings all over the place. Not unlike Elvis. What better reason to spirit away a messy, broken corpse than a desire to keep the legend alive?

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

My guess is that he like the message, love they neighbour etc.

Nope. Paul wasn't a loving kind of guy; he was bossy kind of guy. The message had never stopped him persecuting christians before. I think he saw the cracks in the colonial system; knew trouble was coming and Pharisee rule ending. I think he caught the most promising religious train out of Judea. (But the afterlife belief, which the Pharisees also held strongly, he did share with the christians already. That might be the key.)

 

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

There's your answer. Peter had become the top man in Jerusalem, and Paul wanted to be part of that. 

Except, he went to see Peter and James in Jerusalem,  where they were nobodies. That was much later, in Rome that Peter became leader of the sect. Paul was never 'part of' Peter's ministry in Rome. He only got there in 58CE, spent two years in jail, got out, left Rome, came back in time to be martyred in one of Nero's purges, in 64CE .

2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

Why does it matter? If we accept the argument that someone knew better, why does he have to exist?

He doesn't have to. No legend had to exist in real life. If you just like the story and the message, that's fine; nobody will give you an argument. But if you claim something as literal truth, with the power to drive civil legislation, you'd better be able to back it up, or face a lot of opposition.

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23 hours ago, Arthur Smith said:

Well, maybe. But why was he writing in Greek, rather than Aramaic (the lingua franca of the time and region) or Latin, the official language?

Thanks for finding that. I'll have a look through, though 2014 is a while ago. 

Can't argue with that! ;)

 

On glancing through the previous thread on reality of Jesus, there's a lot of chaff in the wheat. 

Surely St. Paul wrote in Greek because he was not writing to Aramaic-speaking Jews, but to people in and around Asia Minor (Colossians, Ephesians, Galatians, Corinthians, Thessalonians etc.) who spoke Greek, it being the end of the Hellenistic period in the Eastern Med. 

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58 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Surely St. Paul wrote in Greek because he was not writing to Aramaic-speaking Jews, but to people in and around Asia Minor (Colossians, Ephesians, Galatians, Corinthians, Thessalonians etc.) who spoke Greek, it being the end of the Hellenistic period in the Eastern Med. 

That seems reasonable, at least for the epistles generally agreed as authentic. I understand there is a similarity of style and vocabulary that suggests a single author. And possibly Paul used a native Greek amanuensis.

Though it does occur to me that this might be a bit circular. Attributing works to one author by examining the style, content and vocabulary seems reasonable but do we have any independent (other than Biblical texts) historical evidence for the life of Paul the Apostle?

Further, on such a historical Paul, Wikipedia makes the same rather circular argument taking Biblical references as, well, gospel. There doesn't seem to be any more historical evidence for Paul than there is for Jesus.

Edited by Arthur Smith
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26 minutes ago, Arthur Smith said:

That seems reasonable, at least for the epistles generally agreed as authentic. I understand there is a similarity of style and vocabulary that suggests a single author. And possibly Paul used a native Greek amanuensis.

Though it does occur to me that this might be a bit circular. Attributing works to one author by examining the style, content and vocabulary seems reasonable but do we have any independent (other than Biblical texts) historical evidence for the life of Paul the Apostle?

St Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was a Roman citizen and travelled extensively in the Eastern Med. According to the Wiki entry on him, Koine Greek was probably his first language, even though he was a Jew.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle.  This lists what sources we have for his life. There seems no particular reason to doubt that he was a real person.   

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I read the reference to Koine Greek but that in itself is supported only by a reference to a popular book and a 50 minute video. 

Anyway, live and let live. If religion enriches someone's life and they don't feel the need to invest in torches and pitchforks , who am I to criticize?

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49 minutes ago, Arthur Smith said:

And possibly Paul used a native Greek amanuensis.

best candidate: Luke - possibly the only person Paul really loved. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2008/dec/22/christianity-acts-apostles-luke

He is consistently referred to as a physician, which means he studied somewhere, probably Antioch where he's supposedly from, which was cosmopolitan, with a strong Greek contingent. So was Tarsus a trade and naval center, with multi-ethnic population and variety of cultural influence. 

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Very little is known about his personal life before the evangelical career, but there is no wide-spread doubt of the existence of either Paul or Luke - or, indeed, any of the  apostles. Well, somebody real had to start this big, hungry religion! 

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43 minutes ago, Arthur Smith said:

I read the reference to Koine Greek but that in itself is supported only by a reference to a popular book and a 50 minute video. 

Anyway, live and let live. If religion enriches someone's life and they don't feel the need to invest in torches and pitchforks , who am I to criticize?

No, this is also as stated in Diarmaid MacCulloch's "A History of Christianity", MacCulloch being Professor of Church History at Oxford.  

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4 minutes ago, exchemist said:

No, this is also as stated in Diarmaid MacCulloch's "A History of Christianity", MacCulloch being Professor of Church History at Oxford.  

And his evidence that Paul the Apostle spoke Koine Greek as his first language would be?

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14 minutes ago, Arthur Smith said:

And his evidence that Paul the Apostle spoke Koine Greek as his first language would be?

He does not give any references. It just seems to be generally understood. If there were much doubt about it, I would expect MacCulloch to indicate that.

I presume it is because Paul came from Tarsus, in modern day Turkey, which like most of the Eastern Med. spoke Greek at the time. (According to MacCulloch there was already a centuries old diaspora of Jews around the region.)   

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To me, this kind of question can be understood anywhere from,

Did that Jesus really exist? (the particular one that the Gospels mention)

to,

Did some kind of Jesus really exist? (a character of the time whose figure morphed through the centuries into the one we know)

The answer to the first one is (almost 100% sure): No

The answer to the second one is (almost 100% sure): Yes

Trying to determine very precisely, or beyond any doubt, something that's quite blurry to start with, I think is pretty hopeless.

I remember an ad many years ago that said about a cosmetic product something like: Your hair will be 29.5% times more lovely (something like that.) Similar logic.

Some Moses did exist too. Probably. And an Arthur, and an Achiles, but nothing like Charlton Heston, Sean Connery, or Brad Pitt, or the literary figures before them, embelished by the likes of the Bible's authors, Chrétien de Troyes, and Homer.

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51 minutes ago, mistermack said:

So Jesus was just as real as James Bond, and Harry Potter?

No. James Bond is as real as all the best secret agents in the field: he's a distillation of a many examples of a real thing, with wish-fulfillment embellishments added.

Harry Potter is an adult's interpretation of a child's fantasy-life: his exploits are the embellishments on a distillation of smart, decent, competent boys.

Jesus is a distillation of political activists in an age when religion was an identifying aspect of nationalism, with foreign religious embellishments added later.   

The starting point, or template, is one or more actual humans who lived and worked toward something and died.

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4 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Jesus is a distillation of political activists in an age when religion was an identifying aspect of nationalism, with foreign religious embellishments added later. 

You forgot the god bit. He's also a distillation of various gods, what with a virgin birth and rising from the dead, bringing dead people back to life, curing lepers and turning water into wine. Although I suppose that's quite Harry Potterish too. 

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12 minutes ago, mistermack said:

You forgot the god bit.

I assumed that was implicit in "religious".

12 minutes ago, mistermack said:

He's also a distillation of various gods, what with a virgin birth and rising from the dead

Some gods, some demigods - but that's the embellishment part. The Jesus part is the leader, rebel, preacher, teacher, example-setter, trend-maker, martyr; the divine embellishments are the Christ part. Some forms of Jesus did exist; the myths were tacked onto his memory, only after he was killed, then raised to godhood by and authority that could impose its will on the religion of its times. 

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2 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

only after he was killed

I'm curious as to why you accept that there actually was a man, who was killed, at the outset. Are you accepting that the bible stories contain some truth? And if so, why is that? 

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13 minutes ago, mistermack said:

I'm curious as to why you accept that there actually was a man, who was killed, at the outset.

Wasn't that clear? I thought I explained it early on. There were any number of rebellious cells, small insurgencies and political foments during the Roman occupation. There were also religious reformers and self-proclaimed prophets aplenty, each with a loyal following. From time to time, when one of these insurgents got uppity, or collected too large a following, the Romans would crucify him or a whole group of them, for sedition. There was not one Yehoshua stand-in; there were a dozen or more. Hence: distillation.

 

20 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Are you accepting that the bible stories contain some truth?

Of course. All legends contain some truth. There is zero doubt about crucifixion as a means of punishing disobedient subject peoples (rarely used on Roman citizens, but slaves like Spartacus got it) There is zero doubt about the political dissent, Judean nationalism or the existence of religious reform movements. There is zero doubt that somebody, somewhere came up with the kernel of Christian doctrine, because the cult was already established, its churches in several far-flung places were already established  when Paul joined up as a self-proclaimed apostle.  

 

25 minutes ago, mistermack said:

And if so, why is that? 

Christianity exists. It can be rejected, but it can't be denied.

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On 1/15/2022 at 5:04 PM, MigL said:

Don't know mythers
But here it is

 

Yes, I was one of the participants, arguing strongly that Jesus more probably existed than not.

I am missing reference here to the fact that Paul mentions meeting Peter and Jesus' brother James (in a letter that is considered genuine), and that James is also mentioned by a few (two, if I correctly remember) historians in the Roman age.

There is also the strange fact that according to one gospel Jesus was simply born in Nazareth, but in Luke there is the complicated history where Joseph and Maria had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, obvious bending history to get it in sync with the prediction that said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Such a bending would not be necessary if the story was a myth from the beginning.

Most classical historians agree that the evidence hints at a real existence of Jesus. But 'hints' does not mean 'proves'. Read e.g. Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus really exist?.

But the picture of who Jesus really was, is very different from how he is pictured by (modern) Christianity. He seems to have been an apocalyptic preacher, expecting to see the 'youngest day' (the Apocalypse) on Earth (not in heaven!) in his own lifetime, or at least very soon.

I will not repeat every argument here, there are many posts of me in that thread.

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21 hours ago, Peterkin said:

He doesn't have to. No legend had to exist in real life. If you just like the story and the message, that's fine; nobody will give you an argument. But if you claim something as literal truth, with the power to drive civil legislation, you'd better be able to back it up, or face a lot of opposition.

well someone, literally started the legend...

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

well someone, literally started the legend...

Does this mean there was a real Harry Potter?

20 hours ago, exchemist said:

He does not give any references. It just seems to be generally understood. If there were much doubt about it, I would expect MacCulloch to indicate that.

I presume it is because Paul came from Tarsus, in modern day Turkey, which like most of the Eastern Med. spoke Greek at the time. (According to MacCulloch there was already a centuries old diaspora of Jews around the region.)   

As I've never been convinced there was anything to Christianity since I was a child, I've not really looked at what you might call supporting evidence for people and events described in the Bible. Once you discount the supernatural stuff, whether some events and characters are correlated elsewhere is not particularly important. or relevant. However I did come across someone recently (rather vehement in his views) who claimed the Bible is basically an almanac and was not intended to be historical. It prompted me to look at history and archaeology of the Hittites. The Hittites occupied Anatolia for hundreds of years (prior to being conquered by/absorbed into Ancient Assyria) but at their zenith shared a border with Egypt that ran East-West through the middle of the Levant. Whilst Hittite sources record dealings and disputes with Egypt without any reference to Israel and Egyptian records follow the same pattern, the Bible has almost no mention of the Hittite Empire, allegedly at the time of David and Solomon. Israel Finkelstein has worked tirelessly to establish some archaeological support for Biblical people and places without success.

The Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, seemed to come across many places of interest in Palestine three centuries after the crucifixion that are now famous sites for pilgrimage, none of which bear the slightest scrutiny archaeologically.

 

s

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2 hours ago, Eise said:

I am missing reference here to the fact that Paul mentions meeting Peter and Jesus' brother James (in a letter that is considered genuine), and that James is also mentioned by a few (two, if I correctly remember) historians in the Roman age.

That's in Galatians 1:18 2:10, and you can interpret that as a reference to a brother of an earthly Jesus, but also as not. It's ambiguous. 

Here's the quote

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

At first sight, it does seem to refer to Paul meeting a brother of Jesus, and therefore is proof of an actual human Jesus. But the reason that it might not be, is that Paul referred to all Christians as brothers or sisters. He often starts his letters with "I am writing to you, brothers and sisters" and constantly refers to people as either "brothers" or not. In other words, he uses the word brother just to inform the audience whether that person is a christian, or not. Basically, it just means you are one of the bretheren, which he also uses. So this quote could mean he's saying James is the brother of Jesus, or equally, he could be saying that James is one of the bretheren.

The reason why I think it's pretty certain to be the second, is that that's ALL he says about James. If he was talking about the actual brother of a god, you would expect an absolute flood of detail, stuff about the life and sayings of Jesus that only a brother would know. But he says nothing. Just, "then I went to Syria" blah blah blah.

For a man like Paul, dedicating his life to a religion, to pass up on all and every detail he could have extracted from James, true brother of Jesus, is just impossible in my book. So to me, it can only be the first case, that he's just saying that James is a christian. 

Basically, he's just saying, "I met with none of the Apostles, just James, one of the bretheren" 

The other references to a James being a brother of Jesus are actually about a different Jesus. Richard Carrier covers it on his videos, and only committed apologists use it as an argument for a real Jesus. 

Jesus and James were hugely common names in the first century. They didn't use many names back then. For instance, something like one in three women were called Mary. No kidding !  Jesus was about as common then as Dave is today. There were a hell of a lot of them about. 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

well someone, literally started the legend...

Coulda sworn I just said that. However, the church rules don't necessarily flow, or even follow from the instigator of the legend. A great many - one might go so far as to say, most - Christians don't turn the other cheek, love their neighbour, give to the poor or forgive those who trespass against them, let alone imitate the lilies of the field.

3 hours ago, Eise said:

I am missing reference here to the fact that Paul mentions meeting Peter and Jesus' brother James (

Quote

Paul, an apostle that never met Jesus, went to meet Peter and James (Jesus’ brother) on a first visit to Jerusalem. One may presume that Peter and James did not trust this mysterious man, who suddenly, proclaims himself as an apostle. Jesus’ followers, who were Jews, lived by Moses’ Law. But Paul had the idea that Jesus’ message must reach the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles must not submit to circumcision and other tortuous Jewish rituals.https://merionwest.com/2019/06/07/st-peter-and-st-paul-a-bromance-that-never-was/

 

58 minutes ago, Arthur Smith said:

Does this mean there was a real Harry Potter?

There is a real JK Rowling, or there would be no Harry Potter. 

6 minutes ago, mistermack said:

The reason why I think it's pretty certain to be the second, is that that's ALL he says about James. If he was talking about the actual brother of a god, you would expect an absolute flood of detail, stuff about the life and sayings of Jesus that only a brother would know. But he says nothing. Just, "then I went to Syria" blah blah blah.

After one meeting, in which he was rebuffed? The less said, the better.

You keep wanting floods of detail about other people from a man who was utterly self-absorbed.

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8 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

You keep wanting floods of detail about other people from a man who was utterly self-absorbed.

He was self-centred. But, his mission was to preach the Christian message, and he wanted to shine in that. If he actually met the brother of god, do you not seriously think that he would have used that? What better tool could you have, than to say, "yes, ask me anything you like about Jesus, I actually met his brother !! "  

Any self important person like Paul would have used it over and over to impress his audience. He didn't. 

Here's a link from the Merion West site you linked

  https://merionwest.com/2022/01/14/jesus-mythicism-is-about-to-go-mainstream/    Worth a look.                  

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Sigh... Here we go again.

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

At first sight, it does seem to refer to Paul meeting a brother of Jesus, and therefore is proof of an actual human Jesus. But the reason that it might not be, is that Paul referred to all Christians as brothers or sisters. He often starts his letters with "I am writing to you, brothers and sisters" and constantly refers to people as either "brothers" or not. In other words, he uses the word brother just to inform the audience whether that person is a christian, or not. Basically, it just means you are one of the bretheren, which he also uses. So this quote could mean he's saying James is the brother of Jesus, or equally, he could be saying that James is one of the bretheren.

You do know the difference between the articles 'a' and 'the' I hope. Further, James was also called 'the brother of Christ' in Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews.

And I hope you know 'Cephas' is the disciple Peter. 

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

The reason why I think it's pretty certain to be the second, is that that's ALL he says about James. If he was talking about the actual brother of a god, you would expect an absolute flood of detail, stuff about the life and sayings of Jesus that only a brother would know. But he says nothing. Just, "then I went to Syria" blah blah blah.

Expectations? Whose? Yours? Carrier's?

The Pauline epistles are letters to churches he grounded, and meant to react on all kind of problems and theological questions that arose there. He was spreading his variation of believe what was Jesus' aim: not just reinstate the laws of Jews to them, but to prepare for the apocalypse also for the gentiles. This point was probably that which Paul quarreled about with Peter and James.

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

For a man like Paul, dedicating his life to a religion, to pass up on all and every detail he could have extracted from James, true brother of Jesus, is just impossible in my book. So to me, it can only be the first case, that he's just saying that James is a christian. 

I do not assume 'your book' is a scholarly work based on classical text analysis, put in the historical context in that time. Basically, you are just saying "I don't like it, so it is not true".

I am not a Christian, but assuming he existed, makes a much better understanding of the development of early Christianity: the change in character of the gospels the later they are written, the bending of the story of Jesus' birth to fit the prophecies in the old Testament, the mentioning of John the baptist (also mentioned in non-Christian sources), and the mentioning of Jesus (or 'Christ') in a few non-Christian sources (including his crucifixion).

 

2 hours ago, mistermack said:

But, his mission was to preach the Christian message, and he wanted to shine in that. If he actually met the brother of god, do you not seriously think that he would have used that? What better tool could you have, than to say, "yes, ask me anything you like about Jesus, I actually met his brother !! "  

Any self important person like Paul would have used it over and over to impress his audience. He didn't. 

So instead of taking the texts as they come to us, compare them, set them in historical context, you base your opinion on a psychological 'analysis' of Paul's character? There go many suppositions in such a stance. Above I wrote what the epistles of Paul were meant for. You find out by reading the texts, and analysing them in their context.

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