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Author Topic: Is Jesus the Logos of Greek philosophy?  (Read 9949 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 08, 2006, 05:55:52 PM »

From the beginning of the faith, Christian thinkers have noted the many parallels between the Gospel and pre-existing pagan religions, providing often conflicting explanations. While some claimed it to be the influence of the devil as to deceive the unillumined, others considered them prefigurations of Christ and representative of the longing to know Him within every human being.

One of the most apparent, and often cited, parellels is that of the Word of John 1 and the Logos of Greek philosophy. There are a few questions that must be asked. Did the writer of the fourth Gospel intend to show Jesus as the Greek Logos made flesh? On the other hand, is the parallel completely coincidental, having nothing really to do with Stoicism and the like?

In the Aramaic of John's Gospel, the text states that in the beginning was the "Miltha." Paul Younan in the footnotes of his translation states that "Miltha" has no direct English equivalent, but can mean 'Word,' 'Manifestation,' 'Instance' or 'Substance,' among many other things.
(http://aramaicpeshitta.com/AramaicNTtools/Peshittainterlinear/4_John/Yukhnch1.pdf)
If the Gospel were originally written in Aramaic, by a man who had no connection to Greek thought, then any parallel to the Greek Logos would be entirely coincidental, except for if by divine inspiration.

When is the Word of John 1 first compared to the Greek Logos and by whom? The earlier that the comparison was drawn, the more likely that it was intended by the original author.
Would anyone please be able to quote a father of the church? That would be much appreciated.

Peace.
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2006, 12:34:13 AM »

Why would you look at the Aramaic of John's gospel? And "miltha" seems to be the Aramaic equivalent of "logos" which is also a challenge to translate since it can philosophically mean so much more than "word."
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2006, 01:27:32 AM »

Why would you look at the Aramaic of John's gospel?

Unless proved otherwise, I hold that the Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language which Jesus and the Apostles spoke, the lingua franca of the first-century Middle East.
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2006, 07:56:25 AM »

Unless proved otherwise, I hold that the Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language which Jesus and the Apostles spoke, the lingua franca of the first-century Middle East.

An entirely unsupported assertion...lingua franca? Not for 300+ years and I have as much evidence of that as you do...none.

You've already have one thread for your pet topic, why start this if all your going to do is tout your favorite topic?
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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2006, 12:41:56 PM »

Unless proved otherwise, I hold that the Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language which Jesus and the Apostles spoke, the lingua franca of the first-century Middle East.

Well, you're welcome to believe whatever you want....even if you're flat out wrong.
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2006, 02:27:53 PM »

[quote author=Αριστοκλής link=topic=9694.msg130851#msg130851 date=1155124585]
An entirely unsupported assertion...lingua franca? Not for 300+ years and I have as much evidence of that as you do...none.[/quote]

My point is that if the Apostle John were not exposed to Greek thought, the Word of John 1 could not be an allusion to the Greek Logos. Skeptics consider Christianity to be a syncretic religion of apostate Judaism and pagan philosophies. That would not be possible if the earliest Christians were isolated from Gentile thought.

As for whether Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East, it was such until replaced by Arabic during the rise of Islam:

"After the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 BC, they began to speak Aramaic instead of Hebrew, although they retained Hebrew as the sacred language of their religion. Although Aramaic was displaced officially in the Middle East by Greek after the coming of Alexander the Great, it held its own under Greek domination and subsequent Roman rule. Aramaic was also the language of Jesus. Following the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. AD, however, Aramaic began to yield to Arabic, by which eventually it was virtually replaced."
http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/A/Aramaic.asp

"Aramaic: Semitic language that originally was spoken by the Aramaeans, but which served as the common language used between different peoples of the Middle East from around 600 BCE and until around 650 CE. It was then replaced by Arabic, which spread with the conquests of the Muslim Arabs."
http://i-cias.com/e.o/aramaic.htm

"During the twelfth century BCE, Aramaeans, the native speakers of Aramaic, began to settle in great numbers in modern-day Syria, Iraq and eastern Turkey. As the language grew in importance, it came to be spoken throughout the Mediterranean coastal area of the Levant, and spread east of the Tigris. Jewish settlers took the language with them into North Africa and Europe, and Christian missionaries brought Aramaic into Persia, India and even China. From the seventh century CE onwards, Aramaic was replaced as the lingua franca of the Middle East by Arabic."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic#Geographic_distribution

Peace.


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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2006, 02:48:32 PM »

Your first source supports Greek just as well as Aramaic. Greek was also a common language, so I don't see how any of these support your hypothesis with any real strength.
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2006, 03:02:53 PM »


"During the twelfth century BCE, Aramaeans, the native speakers of Aramaic, began to settle in great numbers in modern-day Syria, Iraq and eastern Turkey. As the language grew in importance, it came to be spoken throughout the Mediterranean coastal area of the Levant, and spread east of the Tigris. Jewish settlers took the language with them into North Africa and Europe, and Christian missionaries brought Aramaic into Persia, India and even China. From the seventh century CE onwards, Aramaic was replaced as the lingua franca of the Middle East by Arabic."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic#Geographic_distribution

Peace.


Sort of mirrors Alexander's spread of Greek, doesn't it?
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2006, 10:24:00 PM »

You are missing the point. Does the Gospel of John copy Greek philosophy or does it not? I say that it doesn't - What say you?

Peace.
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2006, 10:26:08 PM »

[quote author=Αριστοκλής link=topic=9694.msg130887#msg130887 date=1155150173]
Sort of mirrors Alexander's spread of Greek, doesn't it?
[/quote]

Despite the conquest of Alexander, Aramaic remained the dominant language of the Middle East until the rise of Islam. This is attested by multiple sources, not just George Lamsa or his followers.

Peace.
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2006, 10:35:45 PM »

Despite the conquest of Alexander, Aramaic remained the dominant language of the Middle East until the rise of Islam. This is attested by multiple sources, not just George Lamsa or his followers.

Peace.
Ummm, no it didn't, although it was a major language.

"After the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians in 586 BC, they began to speak Aramaic instead of Hebrew, although they retained Hebrew as the sacred language of their religion. Although Aramaic was displaced officially in the Middle East by Greek after the coming of Alexander the Great, it held its own under Greek domination and subsequent Roman rule. Aramaic was also the language of Jesus. Following the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. AD, however, Aramaic began to yield to Arabic, by which eventually it was virtually replaced."
http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/A/Aramaic.asp

"...it held it's own..."  doesn't mean it dominated, but that it wasn't diminished...think of a stalemate or something that won't go away...like 80's Top 40 music.
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« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2006, 10:44:31 PM »

Again, you are missing the point. Unless you believe that the fourth Gospel copies Greek philosophy, then essentially you and I agree.

Peace.
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« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2006, 10:55:18 PM »

Copies Greek philosophy?

The position of the EO seems to be that John recognized the essential compatability of the philosophy of the Logos with the theology of Christ, and the compatability of said Logos and Christ with the OT.  So instead of "copying" Greek philosophy, instead the position is that the Greek philosophers, when they expounded on the Logos, were talking about Christ without even knowing it.  Call it an extention of Paul's address to the Athenians, if you will.
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« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2006, 11:01:21 PM »

So instead of "copying" Greek philosophy, instead the position is that the Greek philosophers, when they expounded on the Logos, were talking about Christ without even knowing it.ÂÂ

There are aspects of the Greek Logos which could not be compared to Christ. Wouldn't it be just as likely that the evil one influenced the philosophers, as to confuse and deceive?
Your position may be correct, what church father first expounded it and when? What I am asking for is some sort of patristic evidence. Otherwise, this sounds like what the New Age movement, especially the neo-Gnostics, would say concerning John's Gospel.

Peace.
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« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2006, 11:09:18 PM »

Matthew,

I think I would agree that St. John’s logoogy relied more upon the philosophy of his Jewish tradition as expressed through the Old Testament and Second-Temple Jewish literature, particularly the Aramaic Targums, than it did upon the logology of Greek philosophy; this is a very plausible judgment that is shared by a number of reputable New Testament scholars including Richard Bauckham and D.A. Carson.

An interesting thing to note however, is that the word used in the Jewish philosophy expressed through the Aramaic targums is Memra and not Miltha.
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« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2006, 11:12:47 PM »

"The Aramaic language is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. Originally the language of the Aramaeans (Aram, which is the Hebrew word for ancient Syria), it was used, in many dialectical forms, in Mesopotamia and Syria before 1000 BC and later became the lingua franca of the Middle East (see Assyro-Babylonian Language). Aramaic survived the fall of Nineveh (612 BC) and Babylon (539 BC) and remained the official language of the Persian Empire (539-337 BC). Ancient inscriptions in Aramaic have been found over a vast area extending from Egypt to China. Before the Christian era, Aramaic had become the language of the Jews in Palestine. Jesus preached in Aramaic, and parts of the Old Testament and much of the rabbinical literature were written in that language. Christian Aramaic, usually called Syriac, also developed an extensive literature, especially from the 4th to 7th centuries. The influence and diffusion of Aramaic began to decline in favor of Arabic at the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century AD . Aramaic survives today in Eastern and Western dialects, mostly as the language of Christians living in a few scattered communities in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran."
"Aramaic Language," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. © 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

It should be immediately apparent that Aramaic remained the dominant language of the Middle East until the rise of Islam. The argument which Greek primacists make concerning the language of the Gospels is that the Apostles, as Mediterranean fisherman, would have needed to know Greek, as well as their common tung, so that they could communicate and trade with non-Semitic peoples. A question that I would ask is who were these non-Semitic peoples that the Apostles were engaged in commerce with?

Peace.
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« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2006, 11:15:55 PM »

An interesting thing to note however, is that the word used in the Jewish philosophy expressed through the Aramaic targums is Memra and not Miltha.

Is Memra the word used in John 1 of the Eastern Peshitta? They sound like cognates of each other.
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« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2006, 11:40:00 PM »

All that St John wrote was that the Son is a logos, not the logos of that philosopher or another. While philosophers sought the eternal principle and used the term "logos" for this, opinions widely differed on what exactly the principle might be. St John doesn't copy the conception of Greek philosophers, he uses their terminology to show that Christianity has its own teaching, divinely revealed in Christ.
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« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2006, 11:46:42 PM »

The concept of the Divine Word already existed in the Hebrew Scriptures, what need would the Apostle John have for Greek terminology?
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« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2006, 12:07:54 AM »

Part of the problem with this question (besides the Aramaic sideshow) is in identifying what this "Greek logos" is. If it's something that comes out of Gnosticism, then it's a safe bet that it derives from the Orthodox Christian concept.
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« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2006, 12:17:54 AM »

Part of the problem with this question (besides the Aramaic sideshow) is in identifying what this "Greek logos" is.

The Logos of pre-Christian Greek philosophy, mainly Stoicism.
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« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2006, 01:41:05 AM »

The concept of the Divine Word already existed in the Hebrew Scriptures, what need would the Apostle John have for Greek terminology?

If you write in Greek, you have to use Greek words.

It seems now that you're just trolling.
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« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2006, 02:25:45 AM »

If you write in Greek, you have to use Greek words.

And is the fact that they use the same word intentional or coincidental?
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« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2006, 02:55:35 AM »

Quote
Skeptics consider Christianity to be a syncretic religion of apostate Judaism and pagan philosophies. That would not be possible if the earliest Christians were isolated from Gentile thought

You seem to be making an assumption that I don't think is true: that Christianity was formed to a pretty solidified form before anyone with a more hellenistic education/culture came onto the scene and exposed Christianity to that terrible Greek stuff. However, Paul was converted by the mid-30's, and in full preaching mode by the early 40's, and I don't think that Paul could be considered part of this narrow Aramaicism that you are promoting, nor was he a minor figure in biblical history.
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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2006, 03:15:02 AM »

However, Paul was converted by the mid-30's, and in full preaching mode by the early 40's, and I don't think that Paul could be considered part of this narrow Aramaicism that you are promoting, nor was he a minor figure in biblical history.

Christianity existed as a movement before Paul converted and began preaching. Furthermore, what evidence would there be that Paul corrupted the Gospel message with Greek thought? Even if Greek were the language he used, that does not mean that his beliefs were influenced by paganism.
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« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2006, 04:54:19 AM »

Poor St. Paul. Everyone blames him for everything.  Sad

If someone is entertaining the notion that St. Paul brought in Greek influence and 'corrupted' the Holy Gospel, I would love to hear any evidence to support this. St. Paul is too often chosen as a scapegoat for critics as someone who has 'corrupted,' 'changed,' and 'altered' the Gospel message and early Christianity. ÂÂ

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« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2006, 05:26:15 AM »

An interesting thing to note however, is that the word used in the Jewish philosophy expressed through the Aramaic targums is Memra and not Miltha.
Is Memra the word used in John 1 of the Eastern Peshitta? They sound like cognates of each other.
The Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word "logos" is actually "rdb" which is transliterated as "dabar"; and just like "logos" the hebrew word "dabar" has as many, (if not more) meanings than "logos".
"Dabar" is how "logos" is translated in Hebrew versions of John 1, and "logos" is how "dabar" was translated in the Greek Septuagint.
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« Reply #27 on: August 10, 2006, 05:52:44 AM »

Matthew,

Miltha is apparently more versatile than Memra, however as far as I know, Memra is the only word the Jews used in the aramaic targums and translations of the Old Testament Scriptures.
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« Reply #28 on: August 10, 2006, 09:33:13 AM »

Uh, Matthew - the phrase "Paul corrupted the Gospel message with Greek thought" is essentially heresy (not officially) according to the EO.  You're entitled to your opinion and all, just letting you know our position.  The integration of Greek philosophical thought with the Gospel...

You know what, I'm going to stop.  This discussion has gone no where, and is going no where, because you are intractable in your position and we are in ours.
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« Reply #29 on: August 10, 2006, 11:42:24 AM »

You seem to be making an assumption that I don't think is true: that Christianity was formed to a pretty solidified form before anyone with a more hellenistic education/culture came onto the scene and exposed Christianity to that terrible Greek stuff. However, Paul was converted by the mid-30's, and in full preaching mode by the early 40's, and I don't think that Paul could be considered part of this narrow Aramaicism that you are promoting, nor was he a minor figure in biblical history.

I disagree, I believe platonism to be apparent in the teachings of Christ, especially as manifested in the Gospel of St. John. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that St. John was the intellectual successor of Philo of Alexandria and that he built on (or at least recorded progress that was built upon) the Platonic Philosophical Tradition. In St. John we see the development of such things as Apokatastasis and the Nature of the Relationship between the One, Logos, and Spirit that essentially serve as a basis for the Enneads of Plotinus. Furthermore, the fact that these people lived arround the time that Philo wrote (who, I assume, everyone will agree was a platonist) makes it not only plausable, but gives evidence for the fact that Platonism was influencing Jewish thought around the turn of the first Century. Yes, Philo was in Alexandria for most his time, but that's not too far from Israel and he hardly lived in a vacuum.

You seem to be being quite unfair to St. John, assuming that he was isolated and ignornat of the Philosophical accomplishments not only of the Roman world, but even of Jewish Scholars of only one generation before him (i.e. Philo), the quality of his Greek, not to mention his use and development of Greek Philosophical Concepts, should demonstrate that he was more educated than you give him credit for.
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« Reply #30 on: August 10, 2006, 04:59:37 PM »

Uh, Matthew - the phrase "Paul corrupted the Gospel message with Greek thought" is essentially heresy (not officially) according to the EO.ÂÂ

I am saying that Saint Paul did nothing of the sort. There is no way, in my opinion, that he would have taken pagan ideas and intermixed them with Abrahamic monotheism.
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« Reply #31 on: August 10, 2006, 05:02:43 PM »

Is Memra the word used in John 1 of the Eastern Peshitta? They sound like cognates of each other.

Aramaic and Hebrew are not entirely the same language, though certain words do share consonants.
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« Reply #32 on: August 10, 2006, 05:09:41 PM »

You seem to be being quite unfair to St. John, assuming that he was isolated and ignorant of the Philosophical accomplishments not only of the Roman world, but even of Jewish Scholars of only one generation before him (i.e. Philo), the quality of his Greek, not to mention his use and development of Greek Philosophical Concepts, should demonstrate that he was more educated than you give him credit for.

The concept of the Divine Word already existed in the Hebrew Scriptures and therefore, any connection to platonic philosophy would be unnecessary. Furthermore, I am also saying that St. John would have held fast enough to the tradition of his fathers as to not desire Greek learning. A common argument made by Jews, and other skeptics of the Christian faith, is that the early Church was so influenced by Gentile thought as to be far removed from traditional Judaism, and therefore providing a syncretic new religion rather than the true Messiah. But I ask, what is the evidence for such an intermixing of doctrines?

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« Reply #33 on: August 11, 2006, 12:30:09 AM »

GiC,

Do you have an argument that connects St. John with Greek philosophy which involves more than the obvious observation that the term logos was one also used in certain Greek philosophical schools of thought? Because if that's all you got, then you have presented a considerably weaker hypothesis to that already posed: that St. John, being a Jew and being familiar with Jewish literature, was simply identifying the Lord Christ with the Memra/Davar of Jewish literature (which he termed the logos according to the fact that such was the most accurate Greek translation of the terms in question).
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« Reply #34 on: August 11, 2006, 12:50:32 AM »

Yeah it is true that St. John uses a common Greek phrase in that day, which also happened to be used by Philo (as I can agree, that he is Middle Platonist). However, the allegation that the Johannine Logos is influenced/carries on Platonist and Philonic thought overlooks how radically different these two Logos' are applied. Like others above have pointed out, Logos was already used in Hebrew Scriptures. So it cannot be said that St. John is "platonist" or "carrying on some tradition," since both parties find a common source in the Hebrew Scriptures. Matter of application, really.

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« Reply #35 on: August 11, 2006, 01:07:12 AM »

Any similarity to Greek philosophy should be considered entirely coincidental, unless proved otherwise.
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« Reply #36 on: August 11, 2006, 02:31:07 AM »

Any similarity to Greek philosophy should be considered entirely coincidental, unless proved otherwise.

Any difference to Greek philosophy should be considered entirely coicidental unless proved otherwise.
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« Reply #37 on: August 11, 2006, 02:38:27 AM »

Any difference to Greek philosophy should be considered entirely coicidental unless proved otherwise.

Given that the Divine Word already existed in the Hebrew Scriptures, a Stoic Logos would be unnecessary. I've already stated this.
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« Reply #38 on: August 15, 2006, 02:22:46 PM »

[quote author=Ιωάννης link=topic=9694.msg130957#msg130957 date=1155200059]
Poor St. Paul. Everyone blames him for everything.  Sad

If someone is entertaining the notion that St. Paul brought in Greek influence and 'corrupted' the Holy Gospel, I would love to hear any evidence to support this. St. Paul is too often chosen as a scapegoat for critics as someone who has 'corrupted,' 'changed,' and 'altered' the Gospel message and early Christianity. ÂÂ

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[/quote]

I see Muslims do this all the time. They blame Paul for "our corrupt Bible"

Why? What basis do they have for that one?

It makes me wonder what the heck is going on in the world.
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« Reply #39 on: August 15, 2006, 04:04:22 PM »

Saint Paul was the greatest theologian of all time and chief among the Apostles.
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« Reply #40 on: August 15, 2006, 05:27:14 PM »

Quote
I disagree, I believe platonism to be apparent in the teachings of Christ, especially as manifested in the Gospel of St. John.

Well, I guess there is the difference. I would agree with you to an extant. However, since the Gospel of John was written at least 60 years after Jesus died, I wonder how much of it was stuff that Jesus/John would have been saying in 33AD, and how much of it was stuff that took decades to develop in the heads of Christians. For the traditional view to be true, someone would have to first demonstrate conclusively that it was even the Apostle John who wrote the Gospel, because if it was not all him then who knows what the authors might have had in their heads? (The only book I've read attempting to show this was John Breck's Scripture In Tradition, and to be quite honest, even as an Orthodox Christian I didn't find his arguments based on the chiasmus and such to be very persuasive). But even if it was John, or mostly him, there might still have been redactors who in attempting to "clarify" John's thought, actually distorted it.

As far as Paul goes, corruption is too strong a word, but I certainly think he made a difference. Just look in Acts 1-15, the original disciples clearly did not understand how universal their message was supposed to be; it had been a big step for them to even minister to Samaritans. According to the Gospels Jesus and his disciples were almost all from the country, and almost always avoided areas that were more hellenistic (e.g., he avoided the two largest cities in the area that he was generally ministering to, which also happened to have been the most influenced by Greek/Rome). Paul was the first one to come onto the scene who knew a good bit about the Greek world, and also didn't shy away from it, but was willing to fully engage it on it's own terms.
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« Reply #41 on: August 15, 2006, 07:46:16 PM »

If an eye witness did not write the fourth Gospel, how do we know that any of its contents are historically accurate?
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« Reply #42 on: August 15, 2006, 10:28:36 PM »

I would think that the answer would be, faith. In any case, two of the four Gospels were written by people who had never met Jesus; Luke wasn't an eyewitness, and neither was Mark. Mark supposedly got his info from Peter, so that's at least 2nd hand. Luke also got his info from various eyewitnesses, and from Paul the apostle. Paul, of course, did not himself know Jesus during his lifetime, but still managed to be the primary informational source/writer of a good bit of the New Testament. Again, I would have to guess, faith.
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« Reply #43 on: August 15, 2006, 10:32:09 PM »

Well, I don't know if I would totally agree that they all weren't eyewitnesses - remember, there were the 12 and the 70 and the multitude.  I'm sure Paul had seen/heard of Jesus, and quite possibly the other two.  Of course they needed help from one of the 12 (or specifically one of the core 3 - Peter, James, and John - in order to get some of the really interesting events/details).
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« Reply #44 on: August 15, 2006, 10:46:24 PM »

Luke wasn't an eyewitness, and neither was Mark.
According to one tradition, Mark is the disciple mentioned in Mark 14:51-52.
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