Response to Bedard’s Hellenistic Influence and the Resurrection

 Stephen J. Bedard posted a blog where he linked to an article of his that was published in Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism.



I must say I was very impressed with that article.  It is exactly the kind of scholarship that interests me.  You did a good job of conveying the complexity of the Graeco-Roman world.  You showed the subtle connections that are missed by thinking of religions as being entirley isolated from eachother.

I haven’t read as much about Judaism, and so I was glad to see you go into some detail about the Jewish beliefs about the afterlife.  I knew Judaism had contact with Hellenism, but I’m not very familiar with the specifics beyond having read about Philo.

I noticed you mentioned Set and Osiris.  Murdock writes about some theories of Set.  Based on several quotes from scholars, she proposes that Set was originally the Samaritan god Seth, and that Seth entered Egyptian religion when the Samaritans conquered Egypt.  The scholars she refers to are: James Bonwick, Dr. Samuel Sharpe, Dr. Louis Herbert Gray and Rev. Dr. Sayce

She also points out that Set originally wasn’t considered evil, but only later became the opponent of Osiris by playing a negative role in his death and resurrection story.  Interestingly, Osiris and Set were considered brothers and were even combined as the dual god, Horus-Set.

Murdock doesn’t write about this, but I see a potential connection with the Coptic Gospel of Thomas attributed to Didymos Judas Thomas.  I was reading elsewhere that, in later tradition, Judas “the twin” was considered the twin of Jesus.  This isn’t to say that Set was a direct borrowing superimposed upon Judas.  But, in the way you demonstrate in your article, Set may have been an influence on certain traditions about understanding Judas’ role.

The following quote from your article reminded me of something else that Murdock writes about.

“For a long time, the Egyptian idea of resurrection would have held little attraction for the Hebrews as it originally was a privilege only for the Pharaoh, and later for the very wealthy who could afford the elaborate burial procedures. However, the Middle Kingdom brought great theological advancements…”

Prior to the New Kingdom, love (mri) was bestowed upon a subordinate by a superior which also included by a god bestowing love to a follower, but this was strictly hierarchical except in certain situations such as a leader being beloved by his people.  With the New Kingdom, love became a more common ideal where the follower could offer love to a god.  There was an equality in that the person could, through love, join with their god.  It was at this time that the epithet meri became extremely popular and was applied widely, in particular with Isis. 

This is where Murdock points out that there is good evidence for an etymological connection not only between meri and Christian Mary but also meri and Jewish Miriam.  She references a couple of sources that hypothesize that Miriam may have been an Egyptian name (the Catholic Encyclopedia and an editor’s note in Faiths of Man by Major-General James G.R. Forlong).  She also references Rev. Dr. William Robertson Smith as connecting Miriam with Meri, and references Rev. Henry Tomkins as connecting Mary and Meri.  Furthermore, she references both Dr. James Karl Hoffmeier and Alan H. Gardiner as connecting both Mary and Miriam with Meri.

Response to Bedard’s Laozi, Jesus and the Virgin Birth

My response to Bedard’s blog post about Laozi:

“You are correct that most often it is a supernatural birth and not a virgin birth. But that is not how Jesus myth proponents state it. They describe pagan myths using New Testament language, even if it is not accurate in describing the myth,”

This is irrelevant.  Yes, there are different words in different languages.  But often meanings are similar if not the same.  Words even etymologically evolve between languages as do other cultural elements such as religious motifs.  For instance, Egyptian meri and Christian Mary may be etymologically linked.

Many goddesses were called virgins even after they gave birth.  This is because their virginity was an inherent characteristic.  When speaking about these issues, we are talking about mythology and not biology.

Another issue is that scripture says that Jesus has brothers and scripture doesn’t say that they weren’t Mary’s children.  If they weren’t Mary’s children, scripture would’ve mentioned it.  Anyways, Mary gave birth  and still was considered a virgin.  Obviously, her hymen was broken at least when Jesus came out.  Also, considering that Paganism had examples of goddesses and women remaining or regaining virginity after sex, there is no reason to assume Joseph and marry never had sex.

Responding to Bedard’s Christ as Orpheus

Stephen J. Bedard had another blog I commented on: Christ as Orpheus.

And he linked to an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review, but it cost money and so I didn’t read it.  The article he mentioned supposedly disproved that Christians borrowed from Pagans.  However, I can’t argue against that article as I don’t know what it says.  Interestingly, I did find another article at the Biblical Archaeology Review which supports borrowing.

Borrowing from the Neighbors: Pagan Imagery in Christian Art
by Sarah K. Yeomans

You are correct that, for  Christian apologetics, “It does not help that there seems to have been some sort of early Christian building that had a mosaic of Orpheus as a picture of Christ.”  Nonetheless, it is a fact.  And images like this are numerous.

Showing a pagan parallel doesn’t prove a Christian borrowing from Paganism, but the cumulative evidence is immense.  Nothing is proved absolutely in that we can only speak of probabilities.  Specific examples are only telling in relation to other examples.  This is why scholars of comparative religion and comparative mythology tend to provide many examples to back up any hypothetical connection.  To argue against the connection, you would need to argue in detail against the whole body of evidence. 

Anyways, what all of this does show is that early Christians were knowledgeable of other religions and incoporated into Christianity motifs from those religions.  Also, it causes one to suspect that the incorporating went further.

These Pagan images weren’t merely stylistic conventions.  Within the Christianized Pagan images, there are obvious Pagan mythological motifs.  Let me use some examples from another article I found at the  Biblical Archaeology Review website.

The use of the image of Helios within both Judaism and Christianity is telling because it goes beyond imagery.  Some of the respectable early Church fathers referred to Jesus as the “sun”.  This was simply a common way in the Pagan world to refer to a savior god-man, but it also entails a complex solar theology that was pervasive throughout the Graeco-Roman world.

More relevant to this blog are the images of the Orpheus-Christ.  Orpheus descends into the underworld and this same motif was used by Christians.  Significantly, as far as I know, this motif isn’t supported by Christian scripture even though it was found within early Christian tradition.  If it didn’t come from scripture, where did it come from?  Maybe the same place the images came from.  Also, the descent into the underworld was another common motif of solar mythologies in general.

The article also states outright that Christians borrowed the image of Mary nursing baby Jesus from the Egyptians.  Isis was one of the most popular deities worshipped in the Roman Empire.  Temples, shrines, statues, and icons of her were found all across Europe.  As you know, many have theorized the Black Madonnas were originally Isis statues.  Murdock spends about a hundred pages detailing the similarities between Isis and Mary.  She does this by referring to Egyptian scholarship including that of Christian scholars, and she analyzes the relevant hieroglyphics of virgin birth nativities.  Hieroglyphics are important to keep in mind because they’re not merely images and artistic styles but also a religious language based in religious concepts.

So, you seem to be admitting that early Christians borrowed imagery from the Pagans.  Also, I think I noticed in another blog you admitted that Christians borrowed their holidays from Pagans.  Are you trying to argue that all of this is mere superficial detail?  If you took awasy all of the Pagan elements, what would be left?

All of the elements of Christianity can be found in prior Pagan religions: historical god-men, virgin births, slaughter of the babes, resurrection deities, salvific messages, and the list goes on and on.  Some of these elements preceded Christianity by thousands of years.

No one can prove that there wasn’t a historical Jesus and no one can prove there was.  Even if you could prove a historical Jesus, it doesn’t disprove that the stories of him were partly lifted from Pagan mythology.  Removing the Paganism won’t prove the Good News of Christ’s coming to earth.  Paganism and Christianity have become so entangled that I would argue they’re practically fused together.  Considering what may be original to Christianity is important.  But, ultimately, that may be more of question for faith than for scholarship.

Despite your criticisms of Harpur’s scholarship, why not embrace his vision?  Wouldn’t a Christ figure that revealed himself to all cultures all over the world be more inspiring than a historical figure that no one of significance took notice of while he was alive?  Anyways, plenty of reputable scholarship can be found elsewhere (such as in the Biblical Archaeology Review article).

The other article you linked, I couldn’t read because I don’t have the money to spend.  If you could tell me the basic argument, I could respond.

Murdock on Justin Martyr’s Admission of Parallels

D.M. Murdock, Christ in Egypt, pp 517-19:

Regarding this matter of precedence for parallels, Witt advocated proceeding with caution, but was also certain that the Egyptian religion influenced Christianity, remarking:

“Historians, generally, and specifically those who trace the development of religious ideas, need to avoid the trap of confusing the chronological order with cause and effect: post hoc ergo propter hoc.  On the other hand, the veneration (hyperdulia) of the Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly introduced at about the same time Theodosius ordered the destruction of pagan temples, including the Serapeum and other shrines of the Egyptian gods.  Here, we may think, lies a reason for the absorption of elements, ideas and usages from the old religion into the new.”

As can be seen, the evident borrowing byChristianity continued well into the common era, during Theodosius’s time in the fourth century.  Thus, simply because borrowing occurred during the “Christian era” does not mean it was by Paganism from Christianity.  Again, what is designated as the “Christian era” did not descend suddenly upon the entire world after the year 1 AD/CE but is relative, and to this day there remains places that are still pre-Christian, showing no knowledge of or influence by Christianity.

In capitulating to the fact there are indeed very serious correspondences between the Egyptian and christian religions, apologists insist that these motifs can only be found dating to the middle of the second century at the earliest.  When Justin Marty discussed them in detail, thereby supposedly showing that Paganism must have borrowed from Christianity.  In the first place, this present work reveals otherwise, as practically everything significant within Christianity existed in one form or another in the Egyptian religion long before the common era, much of it revolving around the characters of Osiris, Isis and Horus.

Moreover, in his First Apology (54) Justin specifically claims these parallels, including the Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus’s ascension into heaven, as well the virgin birth and ascension of Perseus, were the result of “the devil” anticipating Christ’s story:

“For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that Christ was to come… [the wicked demons] put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.”  (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 53-54)

In chapter 56 of his Apology, Justin pointedly states that the “evil spirits” were making their mischief “before Christ’s appearance.” (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 55)  In other words, Justin — and others using the same “devil did it” excuse, such as Tertullian and Lactantius — did not dishonestly deny the parallels, as have many modern apologists.”  Indeed, these early Church fathers happily used these correspondences in their polemics and apologies to make Christianity appear less ridiculous — and ridiculous it evidently was perceived to be by the educated Greeks and Romans of the time.  To the se latter groups, the gospel story could not have been any more “real” or “historical” than that of Apollo or Neptune, and surely doubted Christ’s existence as a “historical” figure in ancient times.  Moreover, nowhere does Justin Martyr claim that the Pagans copied Christianity after Christ’s alleged advent, which he certainly would have done, had the copying occurred in that direction.

It is obvious from Justin’s “devil got there first” excuse that these mythical motifs existed beforeChrist’s purported manifestation on Earth and that there were those n his time who sensibly questioned the historical veracity of the gospel story, essentially calling it “mere marvelous tales” — in other words, a myth.  In Dialogue with Trypho (69), in fact, Justin again invokes the “devil got there first” argument, specifically stating that these Pagan “counterfeits” were likewise “wrought by the Magi in Egypt.” (Roberts, A. ANCL, II, 184)  Now, which “counterfeits” and “Magi” would these be?  The “Magi” must be the Egyptian Priests, apparently called as such by people of Justin’s era, while the “counterfeits” must refer to at least some of the Egyptian gods.  Justin also specifically names the Greek gods Dionysus, Hercules, and Asclepius as those whose “fables” were emulated by the devil in anticipatingChrist.  As we have seen, these gods have their coutnerparts in Egyptian mythology as well, in Osiris and Horus, as prime examples.

Faith of the Early Apologists

Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock), The Christ Conspiracy

pp 24.25:

Indeed, the story of Jesus as presented in the gospels, mass of impossibilities and contradictions that it is, has been so difficult to believe that even the fanatic Christian “doctor” and saint, Augustine (384- 430), admitted, “I should not believe in the truth of the Gospels unless the authority of the Catholic Church forced me to do so.”  Nevertheless, the “monumentally superstitious and credulous Child of faith” Augustine must not have been too resistant, because he already accepted “as historic truth the fabulous founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, their virgin birth by the god Mars, and their nursing by a she-wolf…”

Apparently unable to convince himself rationally of the validity of his faith, early Church Father Tertullian (c. 160-200) made the notorious statement “Credo quia incredibilis — I believe because it is unbelievable.”  An “ex-Pagan,” Tertullian vehemently and irrationally defendedhis new faith, considered fabricated by other Pagans, by acknowledging that Christianity was a “shameful thing” and “monstrously absurd”:

“…  I mean that the Son of God was born; why am I not ashamed of maintaining such a thing?  Why! but because it is itself a shameful thing.  I maintain that the Son of God died; well, that is wholly credible because it is monstrously absurd.  I maintain that after having been buried, he rose again; and that I take to be absolutely true, because it was manifestly impossible.”

Early Apologists Speaking Honestly

“The Religion proclaimed by him to All Nations was neither New nor Strange.”

 ~ Bishop Eusebius (264-c.340 AD/CE), The History of the Church (2:4)


“For what is now called the Christian religion existed of old and was never absent from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh.  Then true religion which already existed began to be called Christian.”

 ~ St. Augustine (354-430 AD/CE), Retractiones (1:13)

Tarnas on Agustine’s Anti-intellectualism

I own The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas.  I don’t normally read books about history except when they directly relate to religion, but this is a good book.  It covers a lot of territory and sometimes I wish the author would go more deeply into certain aspects.  Besides that minor complaint, the author does manage to capture some central streams of development.  He spends a decent amount of time on Christianity and the Roman Empire, and that is why I was looking at it recently.  

The following excerpt is about Augustine and the early Christian attitude toward science and rationality. 

pp 113-14: Moreover, in the new self-awareness of the late classical and early Christian era, most acutely epitomized in Augustine, the individual soul’s concern for its spiritual destiny was far more significant than the rational intellect’s concern with conceptual thnking or empirical study.  Faith alone in the miracle of Christ’s redemption was enough to bring the deepest saving truth to man.  Despite his erudition and appreciation for the intellectual and scientific achievement of the Greeks, Augustine proclaimed:

“When, then, the question is asked what we are to believe in regrd to religion, it is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian shoud be ignorant of the force and thenumber of the elemetns; the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out….  It is enough for the christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God; and that nothing exists but Himself that does not derive its existence from him.”  (Enchiridion, in Augustine, Works, vol. 9, edited by M. Dods; Edinburgh (Edinburgh; Clark, 1871-77), 180-181.)

With the rise of Christianity, the already decadent state of science in the late Roman era received little encouragement for new developments.  Early Christians experienced no intellectual urgency to “save the phenomena” of this world, since the phenomenal world held no significance compared with the transcendent spiritual reality.  More precisely, the all-redeeming Christ had already saved the phenomena, so there was little need for mathematics or astronomy to perform the task.  The study of astornomy in particular, being tied to astrology and the cosmic religion of the Hellenistic era, was discouraged.  The monotheistic Hebrews had already had occasion to condemn foreign astrologers, and this attitude persisted in the Christian context.  with its planetary deities, annd aura of polytheistic paganism, and with its proneness to a determinism antithetical to both divine grace and human responsibility, astrology was officially condemned by Church councils (with Augustine especially seeing the need for confuting the astrological “mathematicians”), as a result of which it gradually declined despite its occasional theological defenders.  In the Christian view, the heavens were devoutly perceived as the expression of God’s glory and, more popularly, as the abode of God and his angels and saints, and the realm from which Christ would return at the Second Coming.

Even though this gives good context, I think Tarnas missed the heart of the matter.  Augustine didn’t prize human responsibility above all else, and not all ancient astrology was deterministic (and certainly no more deterministic than Augustine’s theology).  Early Christians were anti-intellectual (in particular towards astrology) because too much analysis would prove Christianity’s indebtedness to other religions and philosophies.

In seeming contradiction with what Augustine said in the above quote, he had also written that when the scriptures conflict with science that the believer should give authority to the latter.  But I imagine that he was mostly thinking of the Old Testament when he wrote this.  Augustine was fine with interpreting allegorically such scriptures as Genesis.  However, his scientific education was surely rather limited and I doubt he ever considered the possibility that science might one day develop so far as to demonstrate the impossibility (i.e., reasonable doubt) of dead people resurrecting and other miracles.

What I find intriguing here is how Augustine correlated Paganism with rationality, science and basically any interest in the world whatsoever.  He dismisses all of this as being irrelevant to Christianity.  This is extremely significant because to this day orthodox Christianity still has a troubled relationship with rationality and science.  The sad part here is that so many Christians over the centuries have perceived a non-existent conflict.  Augustine says that all a Christian needs to know is that all things were created by a good Creator.  Was he so clueless as to not realize that one could worship both the Creator and his Creation?  Was he utterly ignorant of the fact that some Pagans (and some Gnostic Christians) did worship both the Creator and his Creation?  I’m reminded of Augustine’s distinction between the sun and the Creator of the sun.  He was implying that Pagans hadn’t made this distinction when, for example, the Egyptians had made this precise distinction.

And this isn’t just a theological issue.  It was because Christians felt so little interest towards rationality and science that they didn’t realize the great intellectual tradition they were losing.  In fact, as Augustine wrote about this subject in 420, the Catholic Church was in the process of destroying all knowledge it could get its hands on.  How could a great intellectual like Augustine be so indifferent?  Was he so cynical about the world that he was contented to see the Church (and the whole Roman Empire with it) commit intellectual suicide?  Was he hoping this wholesale destruction would hasten the Second Coming or something?

The Non-Unique Messiah: It Doesn’t Matter.

I came across an intelligent blog about the Jewish tablet that describes another supposed messiah prior to Christianity.  What is interesting is that this messiah was resurrected after 3 days.  But this isn’t anything new.  This 3 day motif related to a savior is found withn pre-Christian Paganism.  It’s an astrotheological motif about the solar cycle.  Similar 3 day motifs can be found within Jewish scripture as well, but what is significant is that it is directly related to the messiah in this tablet.  If orthodox Christianity was actually based on the evidence of historical documents, there would be a mass loss of faith at hearing such news.

Below is an excerpt from the blog and below that are some excerpts from the comments.

The Non-Unique Messiah: Does It Matter?

Frankly, if you’ve been paying attention or looked into history at all, this shouldn’t be that surprising.  That a story about rebirth and resurrection should crop up while the Roman Republic was reinventing itself, and while its newly appointed Princeps Augustus was touting his reign as rebirth on a national scale, is no coincidence.  During the first half of what we now call the first century C.E., rebirth was a common religious theme: mystery cults built around rebirth, like the cult of Isis and Osiris, were cropping up everywhere.  New religions always mirror and appropriate temporal events to the divine (look at Mormonism).  Christianity is no different, and it’s not immune from history.  That the non-uniqueness of the Christian story should be so strikingly and starkly presented by this tablet may be shocking, but that human events beget religious beliefs is an anthropological Law.

What I wonder is whether that should be troubling.  No doubt many believing Christians will feel threatened by the discovery that their religion has roots older than the name “Jesus,” and no doubt it proves that religion is always affected (and at least partially inspired) by humans.  It may even suggest that it therefore might be fabricated.  But if you really believe in the truth of the underlying story – i.e., if you’re truly spiritual and not just religious – that shouldn’t matter.

9 Gotchaye // Jul 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm

…it seems to me that a witness who maintains that someone performed a miracle is a whole lot more persuasive by himself than he would be if we’d already heard (and discounted the testimony of) other witnesses making similar claims about other people.

12 Gotchaye // Jul 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

…as the number or likelihood of possible explanations for something increase, the likelihood of any other explanation being correct decreases. This tablet is at least suggestive of other explanations for our observation that modern Christianity (or something indistinguishable from it beforehand) exists, and so other explanations (including that Jesus actually rose) must be seen as less likely.

Criticism of the Apologetic use of Josephus

I’ve been interacting with some apologists lately.  One of the issues that came up was Josephus and whether he refers to Jesus in the Testimonium Flavianum.  I don’t care about the issue in and of itself.  Even if Josephus refers to Jesus, this is still a reference after Jesus’ death.  There is no reference to Jesus or any of the events in Jesus life while Jesus was alive.  Besides, proving that some person mentioned a person named Jesus really doesn’t prove anything.  ‘Jesus’ is just a name.  The theological and supernatural beliefs of Christians can’t be justified by history, but for some reason Christians think it does. 

History is not a science.  Even the soft sciences have more claims for objectivity than New Testament scholarship.  When someone says that scientists have come to a consensus, I tend to respect their authority.  However, the concensus of New Testament scholars doesn’t really add up to much.  Most New Testament scholars are Christians trained at Christian schools.  According to their beliefs, they have strong motivation to prove orthodox opinion.  And, as many of them teach at Christian schools, their jobs even might be risked if they voiced criticisms too openly.

Some of the scholars doubt Jesus historicity are scholars in fields such as ancient languages and history.  These fields are directly relevant to New Testament studies, but apologists tend to dismiss these scholars because their opinions are inconvenient.  As an example, when an apologist says that most Josephus scholars accept Josephus, it’s simply pleading to authority.

For anyone who wants to explore the criticisms for themselves, I’ll offer two articles about Josephus by Earl Doherty and two thread discussions where there are links to other info including an article by D.M. Murdock.  After those links, I’ll offer a link to and some excerpts from the discussion page on the Wikipedia article about “Josephus on Jesus”.

Modern Consensus on the Testimonium

I’m a little afraid to reopen this can of worms, but the article now says that significant number of scholars consider it [the Testimonium] genuine. Really? As in, Josephus actually wrote “if it be lawful to call him a man”, “He was [the] Christ” and “he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him”? Despite Origen’s assertion that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and his failure to quote any of these miraculous passages (even though he does quote the other reference to Jesus as brother of James several times, despite its being far less interesting to a Christian apologist)? I find this difficult to believe. If “a significant number of scholars” really does believe this, it should definitely be backed up by specific references at this point in the article. If “geniune” just means that Josephus wrote something about Jesus here, I suggest this section be reworded, as it is very misleading. Grover cleveland 17:48, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

You’re right. It’s a big, nasty can of worms, which is why I haven’t changed that bit.
I think the best thing to help put “most scholars” in perspective is to realize that most scholars who study these things are Christians in Christian institutions. None of them would reject the entire passage outright for fear of losing either their faith or their job…yet, all, combined, rip each and every minute little piece of it to shreds. Take a step back, and it’s clear that the overall consensus is that the passage is 100% bullshit…yet, at the same time, all the (Christian) individuals insist that their favorite tiny piece of it is real (and that, by extension, that proves that there must have been something real there to begin with).
But, back to the point, it /is/ fair to say that significant numbers of scholars think it’s genuine. It’s also fair to say that significant numbers of Americans think that Saddam Hussein was intimately involved with the September 11, 2001 attacks. In neither case does the majority opinion have any bearing on the reality under discussion, but that doesn’t make the observation of the popular opinion any less valid. TrumpetPower! 18:31, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
Under Wikipedia:Verifiability, this claim should be backed up by references, particularly as it seems to contradict other parts of the article that make the arguments against authenticity. I think it is significantly damaging to the article as a whole and should be removed, unless someone can come up with supporting evidence. Grover cleveland 18:58, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
If you want to tackle it, go knock yourself out. But, if you follow the references and links in the Wikipedia article, you’ll find that, yes, a significant number do indeed hold to the authenticity of at least part of the passage. Incidentally, you’ll also find that all of those who do claim it’s (at least partially) authentic are Christian. Do a census of all modern scholarship on the matter, and I’m pretty confident you’ll find a majority who claim some kind of authenticity…but, then again, the overwhelming majority of scholars who study this sort of thing are Christian. If you include not just modern scholars but historical ones, the consensus is truly overwhelming. But, then again, it wasn’t even possible to claim otherwise and remain alive for much of history….
Of course, to do it right, you’ll also have to define, “scholar.” Only those with teaching positions at accredited universities? What about widely-published authors, fellows at museums, the Vatican…? And, even then, what have you proven? Of what significance is majority opinion on the matter?

Bulk of xx.9 in dispute?

Well, don’t keep us all in suspense–what’re the problems? TrumpetPower! 23:38, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
Well, one of the first paragraphs in that section says the passage is “accepted as authentic by scholars”. Then it goes into detail about the debate, and then seems to present an argument (OR?) on why all the scholars are all wrong. And it doesn’t even give Well’s hypothesis to explain the passage (that the text was origionally a marginal note by a Christian scribe that eventually ended up in the main text). My suggestions would be to at least give citations, and state exactly who is making what claims. —Andrew c 17:11, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
Good points. “[A]ccepted as authentic by scholars” probably needs to read, “accepted as authentic by most scholars.” (Personally, I’m troubled by this whole “scholars” nonsense. First, there’s the problem of establishing what a “scholar” really is–frankly, it seems like it’s usually used as code for “Christian apologist in a seminary.” Further, it’s got that whole argument-from-authority thing going on. Let’s rely upon the facts themselves, not on some nameless person’s interpretation of said facts, hmmm?) I don’t have information on Well’s hypothesis handy, but don’t let that stop you–dive right in! TrumpetPower! 17:23, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

Possible typo / mistake?

From ‘Arguments against authenticity, Origen’:

“The Christian author Origen wrote around the year 240. His writings predate the earliest quotations of the Testimonium.”

In 93, the Jewish historian Josephus published his work Antiquities of the Jews…The one directly concerning Jesus has come to be known as the Testimonium Flavianum”

These statements are contradictory; Origen’s work is descirbed as coming nearly 150 years after the Testimonium, so by definition could not predate it. If the sentance is meant to suggest that the events covered by Origen happened earlier than the events covered by Josephus or that Origen’s source material predates Josephus’ even tho it was written 150 years later or that Origen’s work is the earliest to refer to the Testimonium then it should be changed to state this explicitly.

Also, I think there should be some reference to the fact that even if Josephus’ account is not a forgery, it is still not a first hand independant eyewitness account of Jesus’ life – I believe that the main source of conention of the hitoricity of Jesus is the lack of such accounts outside of the bible. A publication 60 years after an event that relies on only 2nd or 3rd hand information is obviously far more useful than one written 300 years after an event relying on word-of-mouth fokelore, but it is still not sufficiently conclusive for this debate. I think a short, passing mention of this should be made at some point in the article in order to frame the importance of the document & debate, since if people believe this is somehow a definitive document on ‘proving’ the existnce of a historical Jesus then partisan defense or attack of its authenticity is more likely to occur.

Mb667584 14:31, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

There is no contradiction. Josephus wrote The Antiquities in 93. Origen wrote around 240. The earliest quotations of the Testimonium are found in the works of Eusebius who wrote later. Grover cleveland 23:51, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Origins of Christian Values

I’ve been writing a fair amount about the mythological parallels between Christianity and previous religions, but I haven’t written much about how this relates to values.  Christians could argue that the mythological similarities are just superficial details.  It is true that details are just details and in some ways Christians did put those details together in a new way.  Then again, so has every other religion.  Despite literalist Christians insistence on worshipping a particular narrative, a story is still just a story.  What actually matters is the values out of which the story formed.

There are several traditions that influenced Christian moral and theological beliefs.  I went into great detail about Augustine who was influenced by Gnosticism, NeoPlatonism, and Stoicism among other traditions.

Many Gnostics had an ascetic attitude towards the material world and the body.  The Christian mistrust of sexuality is based in this.  Also, this is part of the Hellenistic atmosphere in general.  Egyptian and Greek philosophy had elements of dualism.  NeoPlatonism gave Christianity its love for higher truth and reality where God is absolute, but also NeoPlatonism offered the hope of an intuitive knowing, a faith that God would reveal himself.  Stoicism in particular lent an ascetic bent to Christianity with its ethics of Natural Law (which is particularly important as modern Democracy is built upon it).  Zoroastrianism created the extreme dualism of dark and light, good and evil; and this emphasized God as being in polar opposition to evil.  This was conceived as a battle for souls where God was fated to win.

This metaphor of light and dark was part of the solar theology that had become popular prior to the common era.  Egypt had a major hand in popularizing solar theology which portrayed God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  God according to solar theology was both far away and yet close like the sun and sunlight.  God was present to his believers and responsive to their prayers.  God was in the world as light shines in the dark and yet above the world unsullied by the material realm.  Egyptian religion also made the distinction between God who created the sun and the sun itself as the solar disk.  God was the spiritual light that could be experienced within.

Along with Judaism, all of these traditions had concepts of monotheism or monism.  Egyptian religion is the earliest known example of monotheism.

Another element is savior theology which was very popular in all cultures at the time.  These saviors were conqurerors of evil.  They were teachers, healers and miracle workers.  They offered themselves as examples to live by and they acted as guides, as mediators, as shephards.  As godmen, they stood between earth and heaven.  They were personally accessible to prayers and they acted as guardians.  Saviors are resurrection deities that provide the pathway of rebirth for their followers.  As tradition says of Jesus, some of these saviors even go down into the underworld before ascending.

Related to saviors, were their virgin mothers.  Godmen tended to have strange conceptions and births.  The concept of their mothers being virgins doesn’t make sense rationally or scientifically, but it symbolizes deep archetypal truths.  These virgin mothers are fertility deities (even when made into historical figures).  As such, they are virgins because their fertility is eternal and infinite, their purity and goodness is inviolable.  They are the source out of which all life emerges.  The birth of the savior is the birth of us all.  The savior is similar to the first man, and this is why Jesus is called the Second Adam.  Death had been brought into the world at an earlier time, and the savior comes to defeat death.  Without the Goddess, the God couldn’t manifest in order to accomplish this.  The Goddess gives form.  The Virgin Mary gave Jesus his body, and when Jesus was placed into the womb of the cave his spiritual body was given form.

The name Mary has its most likely etymological origin in the Egyptian epithet of meri which means ‘beloved’ (Re: Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour).  This epithet could apply to any god or goddess, but Isis became increasingly popular.  By Roman times, shrines and temples of her were found widely to the very borders of the Empire and beyond.  The image of Isis nursing Horus is also the most likely prototype of the image of Mary nursing Jesus.  To this day, some of the Black Madonnas worshipped in Europe were originally Isis statues.  The importance of this meri epithet is that it represented an ideal of love.  In earlier Egyptian culture, love was something given by a superior to a subordinate.  This was the relationship of the worshipper to an Emperor or to a god.  Sometime around the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BCE), the understanding of love changed.  Love became an ideal of equality.  A god didn’t just offer love but also received love.  The believer could join their god in a relationship of love.

This seems related to the Axial Age (800 to 200 BCE). Some common traits of the Axial Age religious traditions: a quest for human meaning, reverence for the human worth of individuals, establishment of a compassionate moral code, idealization of an absolute and eternal reality beyond the mind and senses, development of a spiritual elite and travelling scholars, questioning gender roles in particular in terms of Patriarchy, and a challenging of authority.  The latter is interesting because of the ideal within Christianity of martyrdom, but Christianity was a later emergence of Axial Age principles.  Christianity inherited its martyrdom tradition from the Stoics who challenged authority in the hopes of being persecuted.  Also, in challenging authority, Axial Age prophets challenged the rulling religious dogma which included the gods and the conceptions of the gods.  This led to a popularization of monotheism and monism, but it also led to the first signs of atheist philosophy.  Also, allegorical thinking was developed.  Stories and personifications were symbols of a higher truth, but were deceiving and even idolatrous if taken literally.

As you can see, Christian moral ideals and understandings didn’t arise within a vacuum.  Just like every mythological motif, the cherished values of Christianity preceeded Christianity.