Religous debates and questions [2]

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by azriel on Mon Mar 02, 2015 6:12 pm

Laughing

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by chris63 on Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:58 am


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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Eldorion on Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:20 am

:facepalm:

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:07 pm

So I've finished Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus" and thought I'd summarize here, though his video posted a while back did a very nice job of summary. It's nice to have the main points laid out in writing, though.

Background:
• The mediterranean world at this time was rife with mystery religions, all with the same characteristics:
- A heavenly being who suffers, dies, and is resurrected for the benefit of mankind (Osiris, Mithras, etc)
- The heavenly pageant was often transcribed into an earthly incarnation, making it more accessible
- the 'mystery' was that the earthly incarnation was meant to be symbolic. Initiates were taught these stories, and when they became mature enough learned that these were only fables to reflect the heavenly story
• Judaism was very fragmented at the time, and included a number of "Joshua cults", in which the old military leader was reincarnated to lead the Jews to freedom from Roman oppression. The greek translation for Joshua, btw, is "Jesus". Old testament prophesy supported these cults, and included mystery religion elements of suffering and resurrection. At least one of these cults held that 'Joshua' had only returned in a heavenly incarnation.
• Both Judaism and pagan religions imagined a fully populated heavenly world, with physical abodes, communities, etc but all in perfected form.

Carrier then goes on to examine the bible and related writings from the early church to find evidence for the two opposing theses:
1. Jesus was a real man who was mythologized into the divine Christ figure
2. Jesus was a purely heavenly being who was mythologized into having an earthly existence
The third option that Jesus actually was a divine being was rejected by Carrier as being untestable. This is the wiggle room granted to the religious.

The biblical evidence turns on the dating of the books of the new testament. Clearly Paul and the epistles were written before the 4 gospels, for they never mention them. So here's some interesting points:

• If Jesus actually existed, stories of his life (as told in the gospels) would be floating around, and Paul would have mentioned them to bolster his points. He never does. In fact, the only indication he gives that Jesus lived on earth is mention of his crucifixion, but as no details are mentioned, this could have been a purely heavenly event in line with other mystery religions. The fact that none of the epistles (not just Paul) fail to mention any aspects of Jesus's life cannot be easily explained if he actually lived, but are easily explained if he was originally a purely heavenly being. The earliest non-biblical christian writer we have that wrote before the gospels (Clement) also did not mention any episodes from the life of Jesus.
• The Gospels themselves have an incredibly methodical structure which may not be evident on first reading, but when mapped out are clearly so stylized that they must be symbolic rather than based on real reports. I won't go into details here, but when you see the pattern of (Jesus being challenged, Jesus going on a boat, Jesus preaching to a crowd) repeated for different themes as well as other hidden structures, you begin to see it.
• Early Christian writers such as Origen explicitly say that the gospels are symbolic for initiates to faith, and once one has matured can have the symbolism explained to them.
• If there was any eyewitness testimony, one would think it would be valuable; yet Paul is at pains to stress that ALL his knowledge of Christ comes from direct revelation - even distancing himself from claims that he may have heard things from others. Since first account witnesses would have been available, this is an extraordinary action which can only be explained if there were no witnesses.
• The Gospels and Acts are fully of people not behaving in natural ways (the disciples are remarkably dense for people who presumably will become leaders of a great movement, for example) and together with their unrealistic structure make it clear that they are acts of fiction rather than reporting on events. And why would Jesus' family make a brief appearance here and there only to disappear without further mention?

I can't fully summarize 600 pages here, but that's the basic outline, and it's compelling. Either the dude was a divine miracle worker with tight and rather odd control on what people say about him and when, or he didn't exist.

The best narrative that supports the evidence is:
1. Jesus was a heavenly being who matched scripture, and underwent his whole life cycle of suffering, death and resurrection in the heavens.
2. An earthly narrative was created that became the gospels, intended to be an easier way to digest the information while remaining symbolic.
3. Later versions of Christianity wholeheartedly embraced the early and simplified incarnation story, while rejecting the more advanced heavenly story, which was suppressed.

And so we get to where we are today.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:54 pm

I watched the vid a while back and found he had some very good points- but there are discrepancies in the gospels accounts, and some references in there which are hard to explain if it was only a heavenly account.
They go to great pains for example to both show Jesus was ion some fashion attached to John the Baptists movement, and expected by some in that group to take over when John is killed, but John himself questions Jesus's suitability for the role right up until his execution.
If you were just making it up they wouldn't have to go trough the hoops they do in the writing to try to establish Jesus as being recognised immediately by John as the Messiah (at his Baptism where the omens are so obvious everyone would have seen it- this is an obvious addition as it doesn't make any sense with John later questioning Jesus if God had personally approved him in front of John).
Thats just one example where the writers seem to be putting their own agenda onto what actually happened- which they would no need to do had none of it actually happened.
It seems to me they were addressing an audience who knew Jesus was art of John's movement- so they couldn't ignore it- but they had to also explain away both Jesus being divine and why John's followers rejected Jesus as leader afterwards.
I have my own theory on that, but in short, John preached God would forgive even those who lived in sin if they repented and changed their ways, whereas Jesus was preaching the much more dangerous (to the Priesthoods) and radical message that God would forgive you even f you did not repent.
Jesus himself barely ever mentions repentance in the NT.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Bluebottle on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:06 pm

Doesn't it also leave out all the early gospels left out of the bible? The gnostic gospels, the dead sea scrolls and so on? We do know there was a whole lot of early writing about Jesus that was simply eradicated by the church. Shrugging

Thanks for the write up, Halfwise. Very interesting stuff. Particularily for those of us without either the time and energy to either watch the video or read the book. Wink

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Mrs Figg on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:25 pm

yep that's very interesting Halfy Thumbs Up

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:33 pm

The same argument could be applied to Pontius Pilate. His whole behavior is irrational: he had nothing to gain by crucifying a man he found no fault in.

Both Pilate and John were known historical characters - it made sense to fit the Jesus myth into the known framework. I don't see that any more hoops are being jumped through here than are jumped through anywhere else. The gospels are fantastical stories; picking one element and saying "this doesn't fit, why would the author include it unless true" doesn't carry much weight.

Mark indeed had a strong reason to include John: Elijah was to precede the Messiah, and John was famous enough to fulfill the role of Elijah.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:39 pm

Bluebottle wrote:Doesn't it also leave out all the early gospels left out of the bible? The gnostic gospels, the dead sea scrolls and so on? We do know there was a whole lot of early writing about Jesus that was simply eradicated by the church. Shrugging

Thanks for the write up, Halfwise. Very interesting stuff. Particularily for those of us without either the time and energy to either watch the video or read the book. Wink

That's almost supporting evidence: a multiplicity of highly varying accounts doesn't support the idea of historical fact, but neither does it dismiss it given how gossip works. The church that survived winnowed out conflicting gospels, settling on those that came closest to being coherent with each other while supporting the idea of an earthly versus a heavenly passion play. The same might be said of Paul's letters, for he refers to several that are missing. Might he have included passages that clearly point to a non-terrestrial jesus?

The lack of these texts of course prove nothing except that some sort of selection process was in play.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:40 pm

My problem there Halfy is there are a lot of examples of this sort of thing, and secondly John and his movement were part of the celebrity gossip of their day ,they were famous- the audience the early Church were addressing would know of John and his movement just as well as we today know of Martin Luther King and his movement- imagine someone coming along and inserting an even more important person they've just made up than Martin Luther into Martin Luthers movement then expecting people to believe and accept it.

For me it seems more likely Jesus was a part of John movement- that there was a schism between John's message and Jesus and that Jesus was rejected by John followers after John's death.
The bible account is a means to explain away to an audience who knows all about John his rejection of Jesus, and why Jesus did not, in his own time, command anything like the popularity or following that John had.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:53 pm

The gospels were written at least 50 years later. There were no eye-witnesses by that time, and little concept of archived news. They could write whatever made their story work for the current generation, which may have heard of John the Baptist, but wouldn't be very competent to challenge historical details about him.

Having to explain away Jesus' lack of a following is even more likely in the event he never existed: hence no following. If he did exist and was influential enough to get a religion founded, he likely would have had a large following. So which makes more sense?

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:02 pm

How then do you explain away the early founders of the Church, they were certainly motivated, many of them went to their deaths for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, and I am not talking about those a generation later, but those contemporary with Jesus and who claimed to know him- or Jesus's brother James, who appears in the Roman record as as the Head of the Church of Jerusalem?

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Mrs Figg on Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:02 pm

I personally think there was a historical person called Jesus, theres just too much detail, like the Joseph of Arimathea tomb, why would they make things like that up?

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:24 pm

Countless examples of people being made up, such as Romulus and Remas, or more recently, Betty Crocker! She even had an address and back story made up for her. Why was she made up? Because people are more likely to trust and pay attention to someone they think is real.

There doesn't have to be a conscious effort to dupe people - people spin stories, and stories become accepted as fact because people want to believe a good story, even in the face of boring fact. We want to believe in King Arthur, even though there's not a shred of historical evidence for him. Plenty of detail, though.

Dying for their faith? That didn't happen immediately, and Acts is not to be trusted. Scholars have compared it to the Odyssey, and it's rife with contradictions and unbelievable behaviors. If you discount Acts then there is a period of 30-40 years where NOTHING is heard or written about Christianity. Just a generation long black box. Long enough to establish myth, at which point the documented martyrs begin to appear.

As far as James goes, Paul never refers to him as the brother of Jesus, just as "a brother of the lord", which is the same term he uses to refer to other apostles. Go ahead, look and you'll only find one such reference - where if he was in fact the brother of Jesus, isn't it strange it's not played up more? And that one reference has been mutated through later translations to play up the appearance that he's Jesus's brother. Earlier translations make it look much more like paul was doing what I said above. Carrier has pages devoted to this.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:33 pm

And if you don't believe one generation is long enough to establish fervor, look at Mormonism, look at Scientology. Both had real founders, but at least for Mormomism the major growth phase occurred after death. Doesn't this suggest the presence of the founder is not necessary to grow a religion? And if the physical presence isn't needed, what about the initial existence? Did Krishna exist?

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:02 pm

Oh I believe one generation is enough, but all religions and even myths tend to start with a spark of truth.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:32 pm

Carrier takes this "spark of truth" to be the scriptures which, if read right, basically lay out the Christian faith, and as example he refers to an Augustan era cult which seems to have done this in the purely celestial sphere, though he doesn't claim this is the one that led to christianity.

Remember how much scripture is quoted in the gospels to prop up claims that Jesus really is the Messiah: it's not an original idea.  These scriptural references led to the presence of a number of Joshua cults - but most likely those with a physical leader would not have been tolerated by the Romans, while those with a purely celestial leader would have been deemed harmless and survived.  Remember the gospels stress that a ministry such as Jesus purportedly led would have been crushed.  So after a cult survived by not actually having such a leader, the memorable back story was constructed.  Though meant to be taken symbolically (and likely therefore more compelling than a reality based story), it was eventually accepted as reality, with claims to the contrary suppressed as heresy. Origen says the Gospels are to be read symbolically; by the time of Ireneaus such thoughts are heresy.

If not for the complete absence of any mention of Jesus' ministry in the epistles, I wouldn't buy it.  But this extraordinary lapse (20,000 words!) coupled with the background of mystery religions and Joshua cults, I have to say I find Carrier's argument to be completely believable.


Last edited by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by David H on Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:34 pm

As a theory, it's actually kind of appealing to me, whatever the truth of the matter.

When I was a kid first struggling to read the Bible on my own, I was troubled to find how absolutely Paul's Epistles seemed to declare that the world as we know it would end within his generation.  This clearly was something that needed an answer, but I never heard one that fully satisfied.

Later when I discovered that the Gospels were actually written after the Epistles, I asked why they were always published before them in the New Testament and why it took so long to write them down. I was told that there was no need to write them if the Second Coming was imminent, and it was only when the early Church leaders saw the last of Paul's generation passing, with still no Rapture in sight, that they saw the need to write the stories down for future generations. That the Gospels were put at the front for study reasons rather than in order of writing.

If you think about it, that's quite compatible with Carrier's theory in many ways.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 15, 2015 11:01 pm

The historical progression makes so much sense as well:

AD 30: supposed resurrection
AD 50: Paul and others make no mention of Jesus' earthly actions, refer only to direct revelation
AD 60: Letter from Pope Clement 1 makes no mention of the earthly ministry
AD 90: Gospels appear, putting the earthly ministry in a highly stylized framework
AD 180: Ireneaus condemns direct revelation (Gnosticism) in favor of scripture
~ AD 230: Origen states gospels should be read symbolically, as does Clement of Alexandria.  Reference to mysteries to be revealed only to those who are ready to receive them.
AD 390: Apostle's Creed.  Doctrinal declaration that Christ was manifest on earth, gospels not symbolic.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:00 am

Muslims seem to think Jesus existed. where did they get that information from?

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:12 am

Remember how much scripture is quoted in the gospels to prop up claims that Jesus really is the Messiah: it's not an original idea. - Halfy

No, its a very old idea. In some early accounts Jesus is born in a cave rather than a stable, whoch puts it even more in that tradition of resurrection, sacrifice stories that go all the ay back to at least Osiris.

For me there are elements which are purely story telling devices and they need seperated out.
Moses is a good example- the whole reed basket sealed with bitumen stuff is straight from the Horus stories before it. Its the same symbolism.
But that for me is how oral stories get their setting- think a film opening, stormy, lightning, a single cabin in the woods- you already know the sort of film it will be because all the tropes are telling you.
In the case of Moses the imaginary tells the audience this is the story of a man and Gods.
The same is true of jesus- he is given aspects of earlier mystery cults and earlier religious figures, not as a deception but merely as scene setting, as information to the audience listening about what sort of tale it is.

But as with Moses it doesn't mean there was a single individual necessarily, but there had to be something, the pro-Israeli's did leave Egypt, they did go to what is now Israel/Palestine.
As with Jesus, there is a lot of addition, a lot of imagery drawing on other sources, but there is also a tangible end result, a real thing that happened somehow- the creation of Christianity- there is a kernel of truth in other words.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:34 am

There does have to be some spark. Carrier attributes this to a combination of prophecy with the rather traumatic Roman occupation, setting up a number of Joshua cults. But the point of a real leader versus a purely mystical leader is well taken. Perhaps this leader is along the lines of Paul, who hallucinates revelation along the lines of prophecy, and others get swept up with it. We end up with a nucleus of leaders rather than a single one, but all envisioning communication with the same prophetic figure.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Eldorion on Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:56 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:But as with Moses it doesn't mean there was a single individual necessarily, but there had to be something, the pro-Israeli's did leave Egypt, they did go to what is now Israel/Palestine.

I admit that this is outside my area of expertise, but I was under the impression that mainstream archaeologists had concluded there was no evidence that the Ancient Israelites ever inhabited Egypt in any significant numbers.  A bit of Googling just now turns up no secular sources claiming that Exodus is based on anything historical.

Edit: I'm actually seeing a surprising number of religious sources (mostly Jewish) arguing that Exodus never happened, too.  Like this one, for example (though he argues there may have been minuscule numbers of Hebrew slaves in Egypt): http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Judaism/2004/12/Did-The-Exodus-Really-Happen.aspx?p=1
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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by halfwise on Thu Apr 16, 2015 2:24 am

Yeah, not long ago I was talking to a Jew who was quite familiar with the idea that Moses was pure fiction, but had a hard time accepting Jesus as a fiction. I think it's because the gospels have such a feeling of immediacy you just want to believe it's true.

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Re: Religous debates and questions [2]

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Apr 16, 2015 3:27 am

there is no evidence for a single exodus Eldo- bu there is evidence of separate waves of settlers over a period of time (there is also good evidence that the proto-jews had two deities, one male one female).
For me the account records a very broad strokes version of the history as we know it, using individuals to present groups of people and periods of time. An its purpose was to make some sort of sense in a single narrative fashion of how people and ideas move about.

So Abraham brought his religion out of ur and into Egypt.
This is historically accurate without a need for an Abraham or for it to have happened in one single event- the religions of Summer spread as far as Egypt, in its infancy, and eventually to Israel when it finally came into being (as evidenced by the OT containing versions of Summerian myths, like the Flood, and close associations with sacred Summerian names- such as Eve Mother of All Living, or Ea).
Moses is of course an Egyptian, hence the Egyptian name- and seems to represent a later people, by now indigenous to Egypt but descended from those earlier waves of immigrants.
Moses returns to the older religion that has been largely forgotten in mainstream Egypt, the religion of his fathers as he calls it (remember Moses represents a people not an individual here, those same people are leaving Egypt in waves over the course of many generations, quite possibly because of religious strife or differences, possibly because they came in on the back of the Hyksos invasions and they were eventually overthrown).
But all those involved were not of one mind, the account of Moses followers and the golden calf is almost certainly a reflection that whatever this older Summer based religion of their fathers was it did not take hold all at once or successfully, and many of them stuck with the Gods they knew- Egyptian gods such as the Appis Bull (Golden calf of the OT). Much blood letting and internal struggle seems to have occurred before the new version of the religion became the dominant one- this covers the account of Moses putting to death a large number of his followers for returning to bull worship. Symbolic of the divisions and fights fought over it before the religion became the 'official' religion of the State. This could have hapened in a single event or it more ikely in my view recalls a period of instability, a time when there was no clear winner.

So for me the entire tale is not literally true, but in its broad strokes as an account of how religion, ideas and people moved around from ancient Summer to Egypt to Israel it is perfectly acceptable and even reasonably accurate

On the subject of the bulls worship an interesting area of study is the effect of astronomy and astrology on religion.
During the Age of Taurus, the bull was in ascension- and bull cults flourished all over the ancient world as a result, from Minos to Egypt- but they all died out when that age came to an end, the Age of Aries brought us a move form polytheism thinking to monotheism, with the Age being heralded n by Akenatens attempts in Egypt to elevate a one God state religion, the ram and sheep are that ages symbols- symbolism heavily embedded in the NT- from the shepherds witnessing the birth to Jesus himself using the imagery in stories about God being a shepherd and people his flock.
And the Age of Aquarius, whose symbol came to be the fish- was one of the first symbols adopted by early Christians.

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