WHICH historical assertions exactly?
A fact claim that could, in principle, be decided by natural means based on material or testimonial evidence.
Like many reports, the fact claims will typically arrive interspersed with interpretations made by the reporters, with appeal to figures of speech,
with literary conventions, and so on. So,
Do you include Matthew historical claim that the saints all rose from the grave and walked the streets of Jerusalem?
Matthew never says whether he is making fact claims or simply retelling the stories current in the Christian community of his time and place. Contrast
Luke, for example.
If it was intended as a fact claim, then Matthew has left out any avenue by which we might verify, even in principle, that these people, who are only
encountered on the street, earlier emerged from graves, how they were then identified as "saints," etc.
However, since the "incident" is the usual thing in the literary genre of apotheosis (the death of the hero is accompanied by signs and wonders...
the earth giving up its dead surely has a ring to it), and since it would likely be recognized as just that at the time it was written, I don't see
any "fact claim" here, historical or otherwise, at least not by the original author.
It may be helpful for you to recall that I am not a Christian, and that few Christians are self-described "Biblical literalists" anyway. Not every
sentence written in the indicative mood is a historical fact claim.
So you only accept a small list of what was claimed, THEN say that small list would not have been noticed.
If Christians claimed that Jesus was "King of the Jews" in the sense of a temporal ruler, then we would expect boatloads of "notice." But they
don't. His "kingdom" was "not of this world." So, we know where not to look for "notice."
But the stories say that Jesus attracted HUGE crowds, and made a big disturbance in Jerusalem, and performed many incredible acts, and came to
the attention of the authorities, Jewish and Roman.
They are BIG things, which WOULD have attracted attention.
But our problem is how much evidence would survive the "attention." I walk through a central city park from time to time. I see crowds gather and
disperse all the time, listening to speakers, or watching street theater, or even attending professional open-air free shows.
No doubt, an interested party might describe some of the crowds as "huge." But most of the clusters leave few traces, and those few traces are
almost always swept up by the city's park employees shortly afterwards.
But you seem to be trimming all those big actions out and leaving only the small ones you personally believe in ..
What I "believe" or don't "believe" isn't our topic. I was happy to disclose that I am an agnostic, since I have said so elsewhere, and saying
so sometimes avoids wasted bandwidth about how annoying "Christians like me" are.
Yes, I trimmed out the claim that Jesus was present at the creation of the Universe. I also extracted from the inference "he rose from the dead" the
natural event, the witnessable event, what was actually reported in the received record, "some of his followers experienced his presence after he
died." Yes, I do believe that some of his followers did just that.
If he was a minor nobody who left NO mark on anybody at the time ...
No, I think Acts
has the outline (if not the details) about right. Jesus had a band of followers, people who freely intermixed dream and waking
experience, and he did have a distinctive take on religious questions. The small cadre kept the dream alive long enough for a master salesman, Saul,
to have a waking psychotic crisis. Saul renames himself Paul, and annoints the socially marginal wandering holy man Jesus as the Christ.
The rest, as the expession goes, is history.
BTW, that sort of thing happens all the time. The operating principle of the device we are now writing to each other with was dsicovered in the 19th
Century by a logician named George Boole. He wrote a book. A version of the computer could have been built based on what he wrote then and there, from
existing and understood components, but nobody knew what in hell he was talking about. Crucially, he never suggested building
In the 20th Century (so one version of the fable goes), a Polish logician named Jan Lukasiewicz was visiting Paris, and stopped at a bookstall by the
Seine. There was a used copy of Boole's magnum opus
, which caught the Pole's eye. Lukasiewicz picked it up, flipped through it, understood
what he was reading, and wrote a paper about the book.
The paper was read by John von Neuman. One day, during WW II, von Neuman was waiting for a train, and ran into some colleagues. They all had security
clearances, so they could talk about what they were working on. The colleagues were building a "computer" out of pieces of 19th Century technology.
Hmm, von Neuman thought to himself...
It seems the computer has turned out to be reasonably successful despite the obscurity in life of the discoverer of its operating principle.
Religion or engineering, ideas catch on because they accomplish for people things that people want done. Paul's "Christianity" is a masterwork of
applied psychology, just as von Neuman's "architecture" is a masterwork of engineering. In both cases, the pioneering ideas are attributed to an
obscure predecessor. In both cases, the underlying ideas went nowhere until they were molded by masters of application.
I don't see the big mystery in either case.
[edit on 2-5-2010 by eight bits]