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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby Hazel » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:22 pm

>What I meant by archaeology, though, is that there is no archaeological evidence for anything the Book of Mormon claims about the presence of these people groups and cities in North America.

Oh, I'd certainly agree about that. But my point isn't comparing the Book of Mormon to the Book of Luke. My point is that the miracles of the Mormon church are much better attested than the miracles recorded in Luke. (In other words, from a historical perspective, there is much more evidence that an angel visited Joseph Smith than that an angel visited Mary).

> Isn't it interesting how we see things so differently?

Indeed! I'm honestly surprised that you don't see any of my points as possible. For example...

> He obviously intended his account to be taken as history (Lk. 1.1-4)

This kind of "I'm writing history" introduction is very common in fiction, even in other early Christian writings. Heck, I just finished reading a novel that devotes two whole chapters to emphasizing that it's accurate history (even though it's meant to be taken as fantasy). I've heard some good evidence to suggest that Luke never meant his gospel to be taken as history: for example he sometimes has his characters speak in rhyme (such that it rhymes in Greek, not the language that they would have spoken).

> A virgin birth doesn't emphasize Jesus' divinity.

Most Christians I talk to would disagree strongly, to say the least. And of course, there's always the possibility that Luke saw things differently, yes?

> The virgin birth was not already an established belief...

How do you know? We don't know what the author of Luke believed.

> Isaiah 7.14 was not perceived as a Messianic prophecy.

The author of Luke is generally considered to be a Greek (and in the Greek text, the word used in that verse is ambiguous). Isn't it at least possible that Luke misread this verse?

> The virgin birth of Jesus doesn't promote any theological points.

This seems patently untrue. I've heard quite a bit of theological discussions from a wide range of churches (Christian and not) explaining why the virgin birth is significant theologically.

That's my two cents, at least.
Hazel
 

Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby jimwalton » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:34 pm

> My point is that the miracles of the Mormon church are much better attested than the miracles recorded in Luke.

Sure, I see what you're saying, and that is the case. You know that the Bible never claims that only God, Christ, or Christians have the power to do miracles (Mt. 7.21-22; Rev. 13.13). Such ability seems to be within the capability of other spiritual forces. So a miracle isn't necessarily the sign of the true God at work.

> This kind of "I'm writing history" introduction is very common in fiction, even in other early Christian writings

Historical fiction is generally an unknown genre and an non-existent practice in the ancient world. (About the only example I can think of is the Iliad and Odyssey.) Though it is common to us, it wasn't part of their cultural milieu. When Luke says he's writing history, he means it.

> I've heard some good evidence to suggest that Luke never meant his gospel to be taken as history

I've never heard this. I'd be pleased to read it.

> Most Christians I talk to would disagree strongly, to say the least.

Jesus is divine because he's the incarnated God, not because he was born of a virgin. It's not a fact that is *ever* mentioned again in all of Scripture. Paul never claims Jesus was divine on the basis of his virgin birth, but on the resurrection.

> "The virgin birth was not already an established belief..." How do you know? We don't know what the author of Luke believed.

Because we go by the evidence. There is no record (or a hint even) of an established belief about a virgin birth. You'd be pulling it out of the air if you argue for that. And I consider Luke to be the author of Luke, based on the evidence.

> The author of Luke is generally considered to be a Greek (and in the Greek text, the word used in that verse is ambiguous). Isn't it at least possible that Luke misread this verse?

Yes, Luke is a Greek, but he's not the one who refers to this verse, Matthew is. Luke never brings it into his birth narrative, even with all his development of the birth narrative (Lk. 1.26-38, 46-56; and Luke 2).

> This seems patently untrue. I've heard quite a bit of theological discussions from a wide range of churches (Christian and not) explaining why the virgin birth is significant theologically.

Again, I'd be pleased to read them. His virgin birth is to show that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. It suggests a supernatural birth, and that Jesus was the holy one, the Son of God (Lk. 1.35).
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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby Hazel » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:36 pm

> Historical fiction is generally an unknown genre and an non-existent practice in the ancient world. (About the only example I can think of is the Iliad and Odyssey.) Though it is common to us, it wasn't part of their cultural milieu.

What about the non-canonical Christian gospels, apocalypses, and epistles? What about the Ramayana, the Baghavad Gita, and other Hindu mythic texts? Or the epic of Gilgamesh, or greek playwrights? I guess I'd certainly agree that the ancient world didn't know 'historical fiction' in the sense of the novel form that we have, but it seems straightforward that clearly fictional stories have been a part of all cultures, and accepted as such by them.

> "I've heard some good evidence to suggest that Luke never meant his gospel to be taken as history" ... I've never heard this. I'd be pleased to read it.

As mentioned, Luke's inclusion of rhyming speech / spontaneous song by his characters was pretty convincing evidence for me (there seem to be plenty of clearly fictional works where characters speak in rhyme, and as far as I know, very few histories where this occurs.)

The Mystery of Acts (https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Acts-Unraveling-Its-Story/dp/159815012X) puts forward an argument that the author of Luke never intended Acts to be taken as history, based on clear literary references/patterns in the narrative.

> Jesus is divine because he's the incarnated God, not because he was born of a virgin.

Yes, but many Christians sects teach that being born of a virgin allowed Christ to escape "original sin", to fulfill prophecy, and (quite literally!) to have God the Father as his biological father. Of course, our modern day ideas about "original sin" probably weren't known to the early Christian sects, but my point is that there seems to be any number of possible theological implications that might be important for the early Christians.

> Because we go by the evidence. There is no record (or a hint even) of an established belief about a virgin birth. You'd be pulling it out of the air if you argue for that.

So you believe that before Luke wrote his gospel, the Christian sects didn't believe in the virgin birth? That's what I mean by "established belief": I mean that when the author of Luke wrote that gospel, there were already Christians who believed in the virgin birth.

> Yes, Luke is a Greek, but he's not the one who refers to this verse, Matthew is.

Isn't it possible that the author of Luke, as a Christian, read the Septuagint (or at least heard about it from others?). My point is that it seems entirely possible that the author had some idea that the virgin birth was prophesized in the Old Testament. I would likewise agree that it's possible that Luke had never heard of this prophesy: my point isn't that either position is evidenced.

> "This seems patently untrue. I've heard quite a bit of theological discussions from a wide range of churches (Christian and not) explaining why the virgin birth is significant theologically." ... Again, I'd be pleased to read them.

Here's one by a popular apologetic website (https://carm.org/why-is-the-virgin-birth-of-jesus-so-important).

And it's easy to find more (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=why+is+the+virgin+birth+so+important).

But all jibes aside (sorry about that link :-) ), my point isn't that all Christians accept these ideas. Rather that at least a few Christians find the virgin birth to be theologically important, and so it's not unreasonable to suggest that the author of Luke may have thought so as well.
Hazel
 

Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby jimwalton » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:23 pm

I'm enjoying this discussion. Thank you for it.

> What about the non-canonical Christian gospels, apocalypses, and epistles?

It's my understanding that those works were written from the worldview of Gnosticism, a mysterious religious perspective not based on rational knowledge but instead on secret insightful knowledge. I've never heard that they considered they were writing historical fiction. Rather, they considered (by my research) they were writing truths previously hidden but now revealed to those who have been given the knowledge to perceive them.

> What about the Ramayana, the Baghavad Gita, and other Hindu mythic texts?

These Indians texts are philoso-theological texts meant to communicate divine truths. They have very little to do with anything historical, and a Hindu would probably be horrified to hear you refer to them as historical fiction. The intent of the authors were clearly to present packages of theological understanding, devotional guides, and knowledge that leads to nirvana.

>Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is a mythography. Mythographies were never thought of as historical, but theological. There was no particular interest in portraying historical events. Instead, mythographies address how the world works and how it got that way. They are generally not even interested in connecting those events with the human world. The mythologies explained their beliefs and perspectives about core realities.

> As mentioned, Luke's inclusion of rhyming speech / spontaneous song

I've studied Luke pretty deeply, and I'm still not sure what you're talking about. Maybe you're referring to Mary's song or Zechariah's song in Luke 1. Other than that, you sort-a lost me. But there's no particular reason that we have to see these poems as spontaneous or extemporaneous. If they composed them that night or the next day, or even over the course of the next few months, it doesn't contradict what the text says.

On top of that, at least these two texts don't rhyme in the Greek. I'm reading them over, and they just don't. So maybe I still need to know what texts you're talking about.

The Jews were a poetic people, as is evidenced by the poetic prophecies and psalms of the OT. Maybe much like some American inner cities today, they valued thinking in rhyme. These poems don't provide any evidence to me that the work is fictional.

> The Mystery of Acts puts forward an argument that the author of Luke never intended Acts to be taken as history, based on clear literary references/patterns in the narrative.

Yeah, obviously there are quite divergent views from scholars about this.

> many Christians sects teach that being born of a virgin allowed Christ to escape "original sin"

I know what you mean, but this is not the point the Bible ever makes. It's certainly not part of biblical theology that sin is in the sperm, or comes from the male. The only point the Bible makes of the virgin birth is that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and it was therefore a supernatural birth. There is no teaching in the Bible relating Jesus' sinlessness to the virgin birth.

> to fulfill prophecy

Yeah, there was no prophecy of the virgin birth. Matthew alludes to Isaiah 7.14, but Isa. 7.14 was not regarded as a messianic prophecy. Matthew can't help but notice how strikingly appropriate Isaiah's words are to the situation at hand, and so he references it. Paul Wagner writes, "Matthew believes the OT passage is being 'filled up' by Jesus. Matthew thus understands the OT passage as a pattern that is being filled up with more meaning (something Matthew does with other texts). This is not to say that OT passages are prophesying Jesus, since they can be completely understood within their OT context. Matthew takes the patterns presented in these OT passage, however, and applies them to a new situation, like a coffee cup having further meaning 'poured' into it. There is no hidden meaning in the OT that the NT author has discovered through divine inspiration. Rather, the meaning was not in the OT context. Instead, the NT writer is adding new meaning to the OT concept."

> to have God the Father as his biological father

Of course this is just nonsense. It's not like God had sex with Mary. That's assuredly NOT the teaching of the virgin birth.

> So you believe that before Luke wrote his gospel, the Christian sects didn't believe in the virgin birth? That's what I mean by "established belief": I mean that when the author of Luke wrote that gospel, there were already Christians who believed in the virgin birth.

No. I guess I didn't explain myself well enough. The fact of the virgin birth was around since Jesus was born (hints of it in places like Mk. 6.3: "Isn't this *Mary's* son?" It would have been normal to say "Joseph's son," unless they thought Joseph wasn't Jesus' real father.). From that time on, Christians believed in the virgin birth. Luke uncovered this belief in his research (Lk. 1.1-4). What I meant is that there was nothing *before* that time in Judaism that Christianity was cribbing for its own.

> Isn't it possible that the author of Luke, as a Christian, read the Septuagint (or at least heard about it from others?). My point is that it seems entirely possible that the author had some idea that the virgin birth was prophesized in the Old Testament. I would likewise agree that it's possible that Luke had never heard of this prophesy: my point isn't that either position is evidenced.

Of course it's possible that Luke had read the Septuagint. It was written in Greek and had been around since about 250 BC. But the virgin birth isn't prophesied in the OT, so he would never have heard of this prophecy.

> Rather that at least a few Christians find the virgin birth to be theologically important, and so it's not unreasonable to suggest that the author of Luke may have thought so as well.

We have to separate what Christians say today and what they thought back then (not always easy to do). Matthew and Luke both thought the fact of the virgin birth was significant enough to include it in their Gospels, but then neither of them (or any other NT writer) ever does anything with it theologically. It's only later Christians who make theology out of it. The only point Matthew and Luke make are that Jesus' birth was supernatural because the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and she conceived not by male sperm but by the Holy Spirit.
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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby Hazel » Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:46 pm

> I'm enjoying this discussion. Thank you for it.

Likewise: I think we're parsing through some great ideas.

> [On early heretical Christian texts]...not based on rational knowledge but instead on secret insightful knowledge. I've never heard that they considered they were writing historical fiction.

I don't see that that being based on secret insightful knowledge suggests that they were necessarily meant to be taken as accurate history. I thought (but I could be mistaken), that these early Christian writings often had obvious anachronisms or clear mythological references that showed them to be fictional, even to readers of their day (for example, the Apocalypse of Adam was not seriously meant to be a writing of Adam).

Maybe the problem comes from my use of the term "historical fiction", when the phrase "describing events in the past, but not meant to be taken literally" would be better?

> These Indians texts are philoso-theological texts meant to communicate divine truths.

This seems a very good description of the gospels as well.

> They have very little to do with anything historical, and a Hindu would probably be horrified to hear you refer to them as historical fiction.

I'm not sure whether you say this under the assumption that Hindus would take the text to be accurate history, or that they would put it in a different category than "fiction", while still being ahistorical. Either way, I think there's clear evidence that many early Hindus certainly did not regard these texts as historical documents (mainly because of clear willingness to edit, update, and change them depending on the region).

> I've studied Luke pretty deeply, and I'm still not sure what you're talking about [with regards to rhyming text]. Maybe you're referring to Mary's song or Zechariah's song in Luke 1.

Ach, excuse me, you're absolutely right: I should've said "poetry" rather than "rhyming text", and yes, I'm referencing those two 'songs', and the Song of Simeon in Luke 2.

> But there's no particular reason that we have to see these poems as spontaneous or extemporaneous. If they composed them that night or the next day, or even over the course of the next few months, it doesn't contradict what the text says.

In the text (Luke 2:29 - 32) Simeon seems to be clearly portrayed to give his song 'in the moment', as he holds Jesus, upon seeing him in the temple.

Mary's song also seems directly placed in the context of her visit to Elizabeth (with the note about the length of her visit coming after her song). It seems dubious, to say the least, that an adolescent young Nazarene woman would be composing poems. I was also under the impression that the form of these poems suggests they were composed in Greek (is this not the case?) It's also rather strange, to say the least, that this cultural poetry-writing seems fairly limited to the pre-nativity narrative (it basically vanishes as the Gospel of Luke continues, doesn't it?).

Of course, there are some ways to address each of these problems individually (perhaps Zechariah had a prepared poem for the occasion, perhaps Mary was literate and had a penchant for poetry, perhaps Luke was accurately reconstructing Greek poetry from Aramaic counterparts, etc), but all these problems seem easily addressed by the proposition that Luke was offering some creative compositions to begin his narrative, and expected his audience to take them as such.

> I know what you mean, but [original sin] is not the point the Bible ever makes.

I'd certainly agree, but obviously Luke was not basing his theology on a as-yet-unwritten Bible. The original Christian sects held all kinds of views not found in the Bible (hence the arguments between the groups). There could be any number of theological reasons for Luke to want to promote the idea of a virgin birth.

> Yeah, there was no prophecy of the virgin birth.

I agree! But the point is that many early Christians thought there was a prophecy of a virgin birth.

> [On God's biological fatherhood of Jesus]. It's not like God had sex with Mary.

Yes, that's not what I'm suggesting. It wasn't a sex act that would be important, but the fact that Jesus was not Joseph's son, and was the son of God (i.e., conceived by the spirit). That's why the virgin birth might be considered important to early Christians.

> What I meant is that there was nothing before that time in Judaism that Christianity was cribbing for its own.

Aha, I see I misunderstood you. Yes, I'd completely agree with this idea. My point is that Luke had an obvious motivation to confirm the already-existent belief in the virgin birth, and he very well may have already believed in the virgin birth before even beginning to write his gospel.

> Matthew and Luke both thought the fact of the virgin birth was significant enough to include it in their Gospels, but then neither of them (or any other NT writer) ever does anything with it theologically.

Yes, I'd certainly agree with you that neither Matthew nor Luke goes into any theological discussion about the virgin birth, but then, they rarely do so an any topic at all. The point isn't that they wrote the gospels as theological treatises, but rather that they wrote the gospels in part to promote their own theologies.
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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:30 pm

It seems that we're coming to a point of seeing fairly eye to eye on most things. Ah, the virtues of open and respectful dialogue.

> The Gnostic Gospels etc.

The Gnostic Gospels were written as if the person had some kind of visionary experience revealing these mysteries to them, with the consideration that what was coming to them was the real truth about things. Their objective is more ideological than anything else. The question of historiography may have baffled them a little bit. "Did these things actually happen?" we might ask, to which they'd respond, "Ideologically they did, of course." They considered it no less real. Part of the problem is we are applying 21st century terms with a 21st-c. mentality, which just may motivate us to ask the wrong questions in pursuit of something foreign to them.

> This seems a very good description of the gospels as well.

I don't think so. The Gospels are more like theographies: theological interpretations of historical events, whereas the Hindu writings are far more philosophical and far less historical. Where the Gospel read, "Early in the morning Jesus rose and went to Capernaum, and there he met a centurion," the Hindu texts read, "The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when the lead the life of continence, I will tell you briefly: it is OM. This syllable OM is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest. Whoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires."

> the Song of Simeon in Luke 2

Yeah, Simeon's "song" is only 36 words. They don't rhyme. They're not like iambic pentameter or anything. It is spoken in lines, but it's more like a free-form verse. Not a terrible challenge, and it certainly wouldn't convince me Luke's Gospel is fictional. You're right that it was probably spoken on the spur of the moment.

> Mary's song

I don't know about you, but my high school had a literary club where many teenage girls were composing notebooks full of poetry.

> the form of these poems suggests they were composed in Greek (is this not the case?)

Mary was probably not a Greek speaker. Most likely she spoke Aramaic, and possibly ONLY Aramaic (no one can say for sure). But there's nothing in the Greek that would suggest it was composed in the Greek rather than translated to it. As I said, the Greek doesn't rhyme, it's not in rhythmic meter (where you can keep a beat to it), the lines aren't of equal length, and it's lacking in parallelism (which is typical of Hebrew poetry, but not necessarily of Aramaic).

> It's also rather strange, to say the least, that this cultural poetry-writing seems fairly limited to the pre-nativity narrative (it basically vanishes as the Gospel of Luke continues, doesn't it?).

In many cases poetry was the medium of prophecy. It makes sense that Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon's "songs" are poetic because they're prophetic. (Compare the poetic prophecy of Lk. 3.4-6; 4.10-11, 18-19; 7.27, 32; et al.). Jesus speaks somewhat poetically in Lk. 6.20-26, but it's not strictly poetry either, but more like free-form verse also.

> all these problems seem easily addressed by the proposition that Luke was offering some creative compositions to begin his narrative, and expected his audience to take them as such.

That could be true, but it's just as possible that these poems were composed by Mary and Zach, and that Simeon effused poetic praise for 36 words.

> I'd certainly agree, but obviously Luke was not basing his theology on a as-yet-unwritten Bible.

That's not so obvious, and I would disagree with you. The Old Testament was certainly in place. The majority, if not all, of Paul's letters were in place (and Luke was a friend and fellow-traveler of Paul's), and it's fairly certain that Luke got some of his research from the Gospel of Mark, which was also in place. Luke had a lot of material to work with for a theological base.

> My point is that Luke had an obvious motivation to confirm the already-existent belief in the virgin birth, and he very well may have already believed in the virgin birth before even beginning to write his gospel.

Yeah, I hear that. My point is that Luke had an obvious motivation to confirm the virgin birth, because that's what happened. He was merely reporting the facts.

> The point isn't that they wrote the gospels as theological treatises, but rather that they wrote the gospels in part to promote their own theologies.

I agree with the first half, but not with the second. The Gospels aren't primarily theological treatises, but the life of Jesus to present him in a certain light (Lk. 1.1-4; not to promote their own theologies). Luke presents Jesus...

- as the true King confronting the false kingdoms of earth (and in that sense is the most political of the Gospels)
- as the Righteous Ruler. Common themes in Luke are justice, gender equality, caring for the poor, and wealth and poverty.
- as the Prophet who is the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy (but interestingly
he doesn't use Isa. 7.14!)
- Luke develops a theology of persecution in Luke-Acts
- as the sufferer (unjustly so) who brings salvation

These are not particularly theologies as much as they are a perspective of Jesus designed to reach Luke's audience, presumably Gentiles.
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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby Hazel » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:41 pm

> [On the Gnostic gospels] The question of historiography may have baffled them a little bit. "Did these things actually happen?" we might ask, to which they'd respond, "Ideologically they did, of course."

Yes, this is how I find it possible for Luke to have responded as well. My suggestion isn't that Luke might have been willfully deceitful, but merely that historiography wasn't a meaningful concern for him (opening prologue to Theophilus notwithstanding).

> I don't know about you, but my high school had a literary club where many teenage girls were composing notebooks full of poetry.

Yes, but Mary was not a modern 1st-world publicly-educated teenager. She was almost certainly illiterate (young, poor, female, and from a small village).

> My point is that Luke had an obvious motivation to confirm the virgin birth, because that's what happened.

The foundation of this point of disagreement came because (iirc) you suggested that the four witnesses to the angelic visitation testifying about the Book of Mormon would have had obvious motivation to "back up" their already-believed claims about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, but that Luke could have no such claims to support. It seems that we are in agreement now that Luke could have had already-accepted religious claims that he wanted to support, or evidence.

> The Gospels [are not written] to promote their own theologies. Luke presents Jesus...as the true King, as the Righteous Ruler, as the Prophet, as the sufferer who brings salvation...

These seem to me to be explicitly theological points. All of these fairly directly explain and expand on the role of Christ as either God in the flesh, an intercessory between God and man, or an emissary from God.

> It seems that we're coming to a point of seeing fairly eye to eye on most things.

I would agree, but to ground the topic back to the original posts, I feel like none of our agreements have challenged the idea that the miracles of Mormonism are much better attested than the miracles of Christianity (particularly comparing the Annunciation with the Testimony of the Three Witnesses).
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Re: The attestation of Mormon and Christian miracles

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:30 am

> historiography wasn't a meaningful concern for [Luke]

The ancients didn't regard historiography the way we do. For example, we often attach the label "historiography: to literature that we expect will help us determine what "really happened." As 21st century scholars, we are interested in historical reconstruction. It would be an anachronistic mistake, however, to presume that ancient narrators automatically have that same goal. T. M. Bolin says, "Much of the present confusion about [ancient] historiography is due to the fact that the term 'historiography' is understood not as a genre classification, but rather as a sort of truth claim founded upon the assumption of equivocation between historical fact and truth." In other words, when we define historiography in modern terms, we have already distorted the ancient literature. We write history in such a way as to present a particular reality associated with an event, to present a true picture of what really happened from a certain perspective, since no one can tell all of what happened, and since there is always a perspective to an event. Different authors have different perceptions of an event. Nowadays we just have to read the news to read a wide-ranging difference of perspective on the exact same event by our President, or by a shooter in Las Vegas (should we interpret this event politically? religiously? racially? supremacist-ly?). So it's not enough to say historiography is a written representation of an event, because that doesn't say much. The concern of the Gospel writers was not journalistic (reveal your sources), historiographical ("Just the facts, Ma'am"), or biographical (recording every event and word). Their interest was to tell the story of Jesus from a collection of facts portraying Jesus in a particular light. Of course they intend to tell the truth, but not in the same way we think of historiography.

Suppose you took a picture of a person, and then Van Gogh painted a portrait of that person. Which one is more realistic? It depends what you mean by realistic, I guess.

The Gospel writers would have approached historiography not just as an assemblage and presentation of the facts, but as an avenue to express their beliefs about the person of Jesus. As such, some of their "history" is more like a Van Gogh painting than a photograph, more like a theography than a "Just the facts. Ma'am." Even in the book of Acts when Luke tells the story of Paul's conversion three times (acts 9, 22,26), all three are different from each other. Now, either the guy was a pure idiot or the "what actually happened" was not their view of historiography. And yet that's the kind of mold in which we try to force their writings.

> She was almost certainly illiterate (young, poor, female, and from a small village).

There is a difference between illiterate and non-literate. Literacy was valued in 1st-c. Palestine because the Jewish people valued the reading of the Torah and its memorization. Many boys (if not all) were trained to read the Torah. Agreed that the same benefit was often not extended to girls, but in the culture, I wonder if we would be more accurately to describe Mary as non-literate than illiterate. Illiterate has the connotation of ignorant, while a non-literate person can be quite intelligent but just not able to read. I think perhaps you are a little hasty to consider her as incapable of this poetry.

> It seems that we are in agreement now that Luke could have had already-accepted religious claims that he wanted to support, or evidence.

All right. I happen to think his already-accepted claims were based on convincing evidence that it had actually happened rather than on a belief that it was (religiously) supposed to be that way and therefore he assumed that it was that way.

> These seem to me to be explicitly theological points.

Maybe there's a fine line of distinction here. Luke was not promoting his own theology. He was presenting a particular theological interpretation of a selection of historical events. The only particular theology he was advocating was the deity of Jesus.

> I feel like none of our agreements have challenged the idea that the miracles of Mormonism are much better attested than the miracles of Christianity (particularly comparing the Annunciation with the Testimony of the Three Witnesses).

I would tend to agree, but I also have already asserted that the Bible doesn't claim that God and God's people are the only ones who can do miracles. The attestation of the Testimony of the Three Witnesses may possibly be fairly reliable, but I don't really understand where establishing that point gets us, except to confirm your original question.


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