Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quote of the Week- Rousseau on the Gospels

"Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile: Or, On Education, 1762


  1. "...the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ."

    I've often brought that up. To my knowledge (and feel free to correct me, please) there are no direct works of Socrates, only stories or quotes of him from Plato or others. There's likewise better manuscript evidence for the stories and quotes of Jesus than the stories and quotes of Socrates...yet you don't see books coming out entitled "Misquoting Socrates."

    1. Socrates didn't write any of his thoughts because, put simply, he thought writing devalued philosophy. He preferred dialog and *doing* philosophy over writing his thoughts.

      I know that scholars think Plato's Republic is a Plato's philosophy rather than Socrates. It's thought that Plato used a fictitious Socrates to communicate his own thoughts. And I think symposium's source is from a friend of a friend who was hanging out with socrates and the other guys in the symposium. I'm not sure about the other works.

      D'Souza used this argument in a debate with Hitchens and Hitchens just kind of laughed it off/changed subject. Nice.....

    2. You could technically make the same argument for Islam, I suppose. Mohammad never wrote anything about himself or his actions in the sense of a semi-autobiography; the Quran is a direct revelation from God to him, and though it makes mention of him, it's nothing close to, say, what the hadith and sunna sources (written by or sourced to his followers) tell us about him. Even then, if Muslim tradition means anything, it wasn't Mohammad who directly hand wrote the Quran, but dictated it to others to write on whatever was available at the time.

      Again, though, you'll never find Bart Ehrmann writing a book "Misquoting Mohammad" (James White even confronted him about it in their debate, and he avoided giving an answer).

    3. When I read about other religions, I rejected the Islam religion because of its staunch determinism which I find incompatible with reality. I also found the quran to be unreliable and some of their value immoral.

      Can you imagine the bad publicity Ehrman would get for writing a book like that? I bet that's the only reason he doesn't. He probably wouldn't make as much money either.

    4. When you say "determinism," do you mean the kind of "Allah wills it" fatalism found in the more orthodox parts of Islam? That always reminds me of that line in "Lawrence of Arabia" when Lawrence gets told regarding a man who wandered out into the desert "It was written!"

      Islam's greatest error is trying to claim it comes in line with Judaism and Christianity, but a serious and unbiased study of Judeo-Christian thought with Islamic theology shows great inconsistencies.

    5. Yeah determinism coupled with fatalism. Not only is not possible, it's annoying. Think of a creature that can look outside himself and see that he is determined if everything is indeed determined.

      Yeah, the only similarity (I can think of right off) between the three is monotheism.


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