Monday, July 18, 2011

Since I'm already setting off anti-Christian readers, I'll get one more item off my chest. There's a meme floating around which is Internet crankery; the idea that Jesus was not a real person. The belief is based on outdated history from about a century ago. Mainstream historians--many of them non-believers--today agree he was a real person.

Encyclopedia Britannica popped into my head as a random encyclopedia, so I looked up "Jesus Christ." It says, "Jesus, also called Jesus of Galilee or Jesus of Nazareth (born c. 6–4 bc, Bethlehem—died c. ad 30, Jerusalem)... He was born a Jew in Bethlehem before the death of Herod the Great in 4 bc, and he died while Pontius Pilate was Roman governor of Judaea (ad 28–30)."

By contrast, the same encyclopedia uses words like "flourished during early 2nd millenium"  for Abraham or "flourished 14th–13th century bc" for Moses where there might be some question about whether these were actual individuals.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are interesting parallels between Jesus and other mythological figures such as the Egyptian god Horus:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nwB7kofgkE

Jonathan said...

Anonymous, you should know that Zeitgeist is a discredited propaganda film that even skeptics claim is total BS.

No-one in the academic community takes the so called Horus/Jesus parallels seriously.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Horus - there are parallels with other mythological figures.

Prominent Egyptologists such as Erik Hornung and the late E.A. Wallis Budge argued for parallels between Jesus and Osiris, another Egyptian deity.

There are parallels with other Near Eastern, Hellenistic, Persian figures as well.

Note that the fact there might be parallels doesn't mean that Jesus wasn't a real person.

Anonymous said...

There is some discussion of the parallels here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_in_comparative_mythology

TGGP said...

Have you ever checked out the Jesus police?

Anonymous said...

The Pagan Bible by Melvin Gorham is available in its entirety at the following address:

http://www.nyx.net/~wboas/pagan.txt

Jonathan said...

Anonymous, I suppose that you are implying that the parallels show that the earlier pagan stories influenced the Christian story.

I really don't know of any scholar who entertains these ideas. Nevertheless, I've heard these ideas thrown around by people like Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher like they were well established and undisputed facts. However, it's more or less just propaganda.

Erik said...

For example, Jesus and Horus were both divine.

Be careful how much you prove with parallells. http://lesswrong.com/lw/2w/are_you_a_solar_deity/

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I suppose that you are implying that the parallels show that the earlier pagan stories influenced the Christian story.

Pagan influences on Christianity are well established.

I really don't know of any scholar who entertains these ideas.

I'm not exactly what you mean by "these ideas", but I presume you mean the parallels with other figures.

As previously mentioned, prominent Egyptologists such as Erik Hornung and the late E.A. Wallis Budge argued for parallels between Jesus and Osiris, another Egyptian deity.

Other scholars have noted parallels with Dionysus,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_in_comparative_mythology#Dionysus_and_the_Greek_mysteries

and Mithras,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraism#Mithraism_and_Christianity

Anonymous said...

Be careful how much you prove with parallells.

Who said anything about "proving" anything?

And these parallels aren't examined in complete isolation. They're not parallels from separate universes. They're from places with geographic, cultural, and historical contact with each other.

Anonymous said...

The idea that Jesus was not real is far from an Internet meme and its not new. I remember it back in the 70's in fact and I suspect it was privately held long before that. It was rarely publicly voiced for fear of being tortured to death by religious zealots or in more civilized times, ostracized

This 1594 quote seems to imply it as well (Wikipedia here)

It has served us well, this myth of Christ.

* Widely attributed to Leo X, the earliest known source of this statement is actually a polemical work by the Protestant John Bale, the anti-Catholic Acta Romanorum Pontificum, which was first translated from Latin into English as The Pageant of the Popes in 1574: "For on a time when a cardinall Bembus did move a question out of the Gospell, the Pope gave him a very contemptuous answer saying: All ages can testifie enough how profitable that fable of Christe hath ben to us and our companie." The Pope in this case being Leo X.

Also if you want to make your point, Britannica is hardly a masterful source. They suffer from the same flaw as any other source, bias.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous, the references on the wikipedia page are pretty weak. The fact that a handful of "scholars" believed that some correlation between stories proves entailment doesn't really prove much.

I only hear conspiracy theorists of the likes of "The Davinci Code" or "Zeitgest" promote this meme.

My observation is that the vast majority of archeologist or Biblical scholars argue on things like the Q source hypothesis and such. If most scholars took this seriously then I'd hear more about it from them. The fact is I don't; so, it's pretty a given for me that they don't believe it or don't consider it worth their time.

I'm not saying that it isn't necessarily true, but it is far from an established fact.

Eric, great article.

Anonymous said...

I'm an agnostic, but the linked post seems representative of the usual Bolshevik hatred of Christianity:
http://jesuspolice.com/detail_review_section.php?id=49

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about "proves entailment"?

Those references point to scholars who note parallels and resemblances. They don't necessarily argue that the parallels and resemblances "prove entailment".

I don't know why you put scholars in quotes, other than as a lame attempt to denigrate them. The scholars in question include contemporary scholars, prominent deceased ones, and important early Christian apologists such as Tertullian and Justin Martyr.

As far as a general pagan influence is concerned, it's well established that Hellenistic philosophy and Germanic paganism have influenced Christianity.

As far as the parallels with other mythological figures, you can conclude whatever you want. You can conclude that there aren't really any parallels, or that they're mere coincidences, or, like the early Christian apologists, that they're demonic imitations created by the devil to mislead Christians. Or you might conclude that in the cosmopolitan world of Classical antiquity and the Ancient Near East, various religious and mythological figures may have influenced each other.

Anonymous said...

Other memes.
Jobs Jews dont do = prole job.
Non-professional gentile = prole(with adjectives).

Jonathan said...

I agree that there are scholars who note parallels and resemblances. If that's all you were saying then I misunderstood. Zeitgeist claims plagarism. That video is total BS, and I thought you were one of the supporters of that meme.

Jonathan said...

Also, I'm well aware that Christianity has pagan influences. Whether the gospel stories were directly influenced by pagan stories is questionable.

Jim Bowery said...

Anonymous said...
The Pagan Bible by Melvin Gorham is available in its entirety at the following address:

http://www.nyx.net/~wboas/pagan.txt


Anon, thanks for that link. I lost my copy of Gorham's early book. I have all of Sovereign Press's books, which draw heavily from "The Pagan Bible" as well as "The Culture of Individual Integrity" - but it is good to get the original works. I still haven't seen a copy of "The Culture of Individual Integrity" as Gorham bought up all the publisher's stock when he found people just didn't get the idea of actual individual sovereignty (as opposed to the debased ideas that have now resulted in Wikipedia deleting the page for individual sovereignty and redirecting it to "self-ownership").

Ron Guhname said...

I was in the university library today, guessed there would be a reference book with the name Encyclopedia of Christianity, found that it was Oxford U Press, and looked up "Jesus."

On page 655: "From the 18th century on, attempts have regularly been made to prove that Jesus never existed and that his figure is in some way a personification of the ideas which led to the founding of the new religion of Christianity or the result of a combination of a series of existing myths. However, there is sufficient evidence about Jesus to rule out this view, which cannot stand up to detailed examination."

Jim Bowery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Bowery said...

Ron, there is reasonable evidence that Jesus existed and was an exceedingly important historic figure. The Germanic tribes had long been a thorn in the side of the empire and despite Paul's best efforts with the Gauls, they still weren't being pacified. As the Western empire came under increasing pressure, now from the Germanic Goths, something had to be done to set in stone the idea that men were not sons of God -- that they must be ruled by theocracy: as had always been the case with Roman subjects until Jesus disrupted all theocracy (not just Judaism). The eastern empire witnessed what was happening to Rome and the Council of Nicaea was their response.

Anonymous said...

On page 655: "From the 18th century on, attempts have regularly been made to prove that Jesus never existed and that his figure is in some way a personification of the ideas which led to the founding of the new religion of Christianity or the result of a combination of a series of existing myths. However, there is sufficient evidence about Jesus to rule out this view, which cannot stand up to detailed examination."

The fact there might be parallels with other mythological figures doesn't mean that Jesus wasn't a real person.

There are warrior-prophet figures in mythology with parallels to Muhammad. That doesn't mean that Muhammad wasn't a real person.

Jim Bowery said...

Anon writes: The fact there might be parallels with other mythological figures doesn't mean that Jesus wasn't a real person.

What it does indicate is that the "gospels" most likely contain certain -- shall we say -- "embellishments".

The theory that Jesus was basically about disintermediating man's relationship to their "heavenly father" was dealt with by the theocrats turning Jesus himself into the intermediary. Genius.

Of course, this isn't what Ron means when he says "anti-Christian".

viverravid said...

Ron,

There has been a new(ish) development in the Jesus-myth argument which is a bit more credible than the previous stuff you mention.

The argument is based primarily on readings of Paul's (genuine) epistles in the original Greek, and claims that they make more sense given a different conception of Jesus. It doesn't rely on drawing parallels with previous deities, except in the broadest sense that these ideas were features of the culture Pauline Christianity grew in.

The best summary of the argument I have found is here, in Dr. Richard Carrier's review of Earl Doherty's "The Jesus Puzzle" (the book that originated the theory).

Richard Carrier is due to publish soon a two volume book called "On the Historicity of Christ" which is intended to be a proper scholarly treatment of the argument. He occasionally posts related stuff on his blog.

Dr Carrier is a prominent atheist, but he is also a serious scholar with qualifications in the relevant fields.

viverravid said...

Oops, so rereading Carrier's review I see he doesn't actually mention most of the main points in the argument, just assesses it's validity as historical argument.

I found Doherty's book good but the online material is not so good. A semi-summary of the argument, with some quotes of the relevant passages and links to further detail, is here.

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