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H/t Rosa Rubicondior , a scientific research paper discusses experiments indicating that we humans are not the only ones who have an ethic of helping out strangers in need: Bonobos respond prosocially toward members of other groups by Jingzhi Tan, Dan Ariely and Brian Hare. It’s an amazing read. A Bonobo stops doing something that’s “fun” when it sees a complete stranger (another Bonobo from no other community it knows) who is unable to get food and not only stops play, but goes to considerable effort to get the food to that needy stranger. And there’s no reward. It appears to know the commandments of Zeus, Allah, Yahweh and Jesus Christ and obeys them out of unselfish love.
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Oral tradition is something that we have rather abused, I think, in scholarship. If you take, for example, the common material behind the Q gospel and the Gospel of Thomas, there's 37 sayings without any order so this is not a document of any type. Who is preserving it? The people who are living like Jesus, the itinerants who are trying to follow the life of Jesus. They are interested in these stories, not just because of oral tradition, but because it justifies their lifestyle. So whenever somebody says oral tradition, I want to say, "Could you show it to me? I know you can't show me oral tradition, but can you show it to me some way in the text, or at least, in the lifestyle of somebody who would have cared about it?" Otherwise we have a free-floating oral tradition that is becoming kind of meaningless.
Yet at least three stories of the gospels are suspicious: (i) the census (reported in Luke); (ii) the existence of Nazareth; and (iii) the slaughter at Bethlehem (reported in Matthew only). I want to briefly comment on each of these "puzzles" and McRay's explanations for them. Concerning (i), Luke claims that Augustus initiated a worldwide census; that a Roman census took place in Judaea or Galilee before the death of Herod in 4 BCE and that Quirinius was governor of Syria before 6 CE. Many historians reject these claims, arguing that there is no support for any of these claims and that the idea of an empire-wide tax is contrary to documented Roman practice. McRay quoted London Papyrus 904 (dated 104 CE) as evidence that censuses were common Roman practice. However, the census referenced in the London Papyrus asked people to return to their current place of residence to enroll; it did not ask citizens to return to their birthplace .[ 13 ] As for Luke's claim that the census took place while Quirinius was governor and during the reign of Herod the Great, Luke simply conflated the death of Herod (4 BCE) and the exile of Archelaus and the incorporation of Judaea into the empire (CE 6).[ 14 ] Historian Larry Taylor writes, "Fitzmyer, in the Anchor Bible , surveys the wreckage of all the attempts to save the accuracy of Luke. All of the approaches are failures."[ 15 ]
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