NT Scholarship and Discussions: limits, failings

I often find myself attracted to intellectual discussions because it is a good way to engage new perspectives and learn new info.  However, it almost always ends up more frustrating than satisfying.  There are two factors to this that I’ve observed recently in terms of New Testament discussions.

First off, there are categories of people that just don’t see eye to eye… nor even want to try most of the time.  There are: believers, atheists, agnostics, spiritual seekers, philosophers/theologians, scholars, curious bystanders, and of course trolls.  Excluding the troll category, I find myself a mix of all of these

An even more basic division are those who want to debate (whether apologists, intellectual, or troll) and those who seek meaning.  New Testament studies discussions attract mostly the former type.  It consists of people arguing over the validity of some ancient reference or the proper translation of a word.  It is rare for people to look at the big picture to see how it all fits together because nobody can agree to even a basic set of facts and premises.  This is why mythicists have such a hard time because their position isn’t very convincing when you argue over a single detail.  You have to enter the mindset of an ancient person and get at their fundamental perception and understanding of the world.  In order to do this, it helps to step outside of ancient texts and engage other types of info from diverse fields (such as ethnology and comparative religion).  However, to want to seek out a larger perspective one has to be a meaning seeker and not just an intellectual debater.

This brings me to the second factor New Testament studies isn’t primarily about meaning.  Most of the discussion is about how Christianity and the scriptures developed rather than why.  This is because considering why can’t as easily be answered, and it would require New Testament scholars (of the academic and armchair varieties) to step outside of their comfort zones.  I’ve noticed scholarly types (and those who like to consider themselves as such) tend to stake out a territory.  This happens on an individual level and within an entire field of study.  Many scholars defend their field from the intrusion of scholars from other fields… even sometimes going so far as to say an authority on history or ancient languages aren’t worthy of commenting on New Testament because that isn’t their specialty (even if they spent their whole life studying the New Testament scholarship).  The scholars that dismiss the scholarship of other fields usually do so out of ignorance.  Academia has a way of creating tunnel vision.

Robert M. Price talks about this problem (http://www.atheistalliance.org/jhc/Pricejhc.htm).  He is a good example of someone who seeks a broader understanding in order to resist getting trapped in the lowest common denominator of scholarly consensus.  He writes about higher criticism, theology, apologetics, literary theory, comparative religion, and mythicism… along with unscholarly subjects such as Lovecraft’s horror writing and superheroes.  More importantly, he refuses to identify entirely with any given theory.

Price is on the Jesus Project.  I have some hope that the Jesus Project may open up the New Testament field.  I was reading Richard Carrier’s view on it in his blog (http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/12/jesus-project.html)  It sounds like the project is trying to get past the biases of past New Testament scholarship.  No scholar is being rejected because their theory isn’t consensus opinion, and the participating scholars will actually judge eachother’s theories based on the the strength of the scholarship.  Gee golly!  What a concept!  Carrier has another blog where he discusses the problems of the field in reference to a book he is writing about historicism (http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/09/ignatian-vexation.html).  He points out how New Testament scholars don’t follow the standard practices of historians in other fields.  This is probably because the field has been controlled by apologists for centuries now.  Interestingly, Carrier’s opinion about older scholarship (http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/04/history-before-1950.html) disagrees with the opinion of Price (in the link from the above paragraph).

However, the Jesus Project doesn’t go far enough for me.  I’d like to see some similar project about early Christianity that included scholars from all relevant fields: historians from other fields, ancient language expterts, literary theorists, comparative religionists, comparative mythologists, folklorists, archaeologists (including archaeoastronomers), anthropologists (including ethnologists and ethnoastronomers), astrotheologists, experts on ancient theology and philosophy, and New Testament higher critics.  I’d only exclude apologists if they lacked appropriate objectivity.  The basis of this project would be determining standards across fields in order to encourage discussion.  I can dream.

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors (part 2)

This is a further response that began in my previous post:

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

I said: This is where I think Acharya/Murdock has one key to understanding a larger perspective. There are only two baaic factors that all humans in all places and time periods have shared: a basic human nature and psychoological functioning; and a common enviornmental experience.

Verenna said: “I don’t accept that all humans have a common environmental experience.  We all have “environmental experiences” but they are not common.  The degrees by which they vary is why we have jerks and humanitarians and humanitarian jerks.”

I wasn’t talking about common environmental experience as a social factor, but that plays in as well because research shows that social development follows common patterns.  Rather, what I was talking about is the physical environment: sun and moon, stars and planets; seasons along with daily and yearly solar cycles; migration and growth patterns; universal scientific laws.  Et Cetera.  These environmental experiences (including the social aspects as well) are common to “jerks and humanitarians and humanitarian jerks.”  There is nothing overly controversial about my claim.

I said: As for the latter, the most universal experience humans share is the observation of the sky.

Verenna said: “I disagree.  I think the most universal experience is death.  Some cultures looked up and others looked down.  Others still looked in the trees, in the water, in the wind… don’t let Acharya S pull the wool over your eyes.  Not every culture looked up and saw the same thing.  And not every culture looked down and saw the same thing.”

I certainly wasn’t arguing against other universal human experiences.  Whichever is the most universal, both death and the sky are themes found in every culture. 

Your constant condescension is rude and childish.  You’ve already made it clear that you perceive yourself as a scholar whose insight is simply above my head and I’m a mere simpleton who has been duped.  It’s good you have such a high appraisal of yourself.  Personally, I prefer humility.
 
As I’ve already said, I read widely beyond Acharya/Murdock: other mythicists, comparative mythologists, psychologists and sociologists, socio-historical commentators, and much else.  Not every culture looked up and came up with the exact same myth.  However, every culture observerd the same patterns and there are plenty of examples where they interpreted them similarly.  For example, cultural transmission can’t explain the similarities between myths in Americas with myths in the rest of the world.  Many scholars have noted these types of similarities long before Acharya/Murdock and many scholars still do.

I said: The human mind evolved with people staring at the sky, and it offered a survival advantage.

Verenna said: “No, the human mind evolved when we started eating red meat.”

The human mind had many contributing factors.  I said the mind evolved with people staring at the sky.  I didn’t say that staring at the sky was a sole factor that caused the humand mind to evolve.

I said: The patterns of animals and plants also follow the patterns of the seasons, and knowing these patterns precisely could mean the difference between life and death for the people of the earliest civilizations.

Verenna said: “You don’t need to look to the sky to interpret seasons.  Again, don’t let Acharya S pull the wool over your eyes.  Nature has its own inherited mechanisms that function seasonally.  Interpreting them was just as much a part of the process.  In some cultures, like some Native American cultures, these natural phenomena were more influential than the stars and the skies.”

One doesn’t need to do anything.  However, the seasons go hand in hand with the cycles of heavenly bodies.  If you don’t realize this, then you can lessen your ignorance in two ways.  You could study the appropriate scholars, or you could spend a year outside carefully observing nature and the sky.  Are you serious when you say “Nature has its own inherited mechanisms that function seasonally”?  Duh!  Step outside of your preconceptions for a moment and study some science.  The sun and moon directly influence nature and even human biology.

It is true that different cultures emphasized different aspects of the world.  As you say, some Native Americans may have focused more on terrestrial phenomena, but they didn’t disregard the stellar phenomena.  Other Native Americans, in fact, even worshipped the sun just like other cultures.

I said: As such, Christians didn’t need to borrow mythology from Pagans. The mythology of the heavens was common to the entire ancient world. Any educated person would’ve been familiar with it. Astrotheology was a common framework of knowledge that crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

Verenna said: “Astrotheology is bs.  Sorry to be so blunt about it.  It rests on too many assumed variables which are, to be honest, more speculation and wishful thinking than anything else.”

Thanks for further demonstrating your ignorance.  No, don’t worry at all.  I don’t mind you showing everybody your confusion and misunderstanding.  I imagine it must be rather refreshing for you to be so open about your lack of knowledge.

 
I realize within the field of New Testament studies, the focus of scholarship is generally narrow.  However, astrotheology is an academic study  But, outside of New Testament studies, academics would refer to it as either Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy.
 
I said: There is another aspect that most people forget. Ancient people experienced the world differently, and it isn’t helpful to place our standards and assumptions onto their stories and religions. I think it’s essential to understand cultural development on the largescale.</em>

Verenna said: “But that is just as bad because then you end up generalizing.”

Science generalizes.  So, I guess it depends if you think science is useful or not.  By studying different cultures at different stages of development, theories have been put forth about social development and cultural experience.

 
Considering all of your comments, I think you need to pull your nose out of your New Testament scholarship books.  There is a larger world out there and knowing about it might offer you much needed insight and perspective.

Re: Helping the Historicists Get it Right: What is Mythicism?

A link to a blog by Thomas Verenna and my discussion with him from the comments section:

Helping the Historicists Get it Right: What is Mythicism?

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm “More recent mythicist arguments deal with exegesis, Gospel genre (if the Gospels weren’t written for the purpose of “telling what happened” but rather “telling a good story” there clearly is reason to doubt the historicity of Jesus Christ), intertextuality (the models used by the authors of the Gospels to create narrative—and how much of the Gospel can be traced back to models), Jewish socio-cultural studies in the Hellenistic and Roman periods (did the Jews of the original “Christian” sect expect a historical savior or a spiritual one?), religious-meme change (how quickly did religious trends change and how much could they have changed over that period of time—for example, euhemerizing a legendary figure of Jesus into a historical setting), and proto-Christian origins (was there a “Christianity” before the first-century CE and where did it originate?) . Clearly April would be correct if the mythicist position was reliant only on pagan myth parallels. It’s a good thing then that modern mythicists generally do not rely on pagan parallels whatsoever.”

I agree with you about mythicism not being reliant only on pagan myth parallels. On the other hand, I disagree with how you seem to be rather critical of those who point out those parallels such as Acharya. It isn’t a matter of either/or thinking. I’m not a defender of Acharya, but I am an interested party who seeks out all viewpoints. I’ve read a variety of mythicist theorists and I think all of them have something useful to add.

Anyways, Acharya doesn’t simply rely on pagan parallels. If you dismiss Acharya based on this assumption, then you are falling into the same trap as the historicist scholars. She goes out of her way to consider the subject from multiple perspectives. There is no need to try to smash Acharya’s head down in your attempt to climb the scholarly ladder of peer respectability. In case you didn’t know, both Doherty and Price have given positive reviews of Acharya’s work.

Tom Verenna Says:
April 6, 2009 at 3:58 pm I agree with you about mythicism not being reliant only on pagan myth parallels. On the other hand, I disagree with how you seem to be rather critical of those who point out those parallels such as Acharya. It isn’t a matter of either/or thinking. I’m not a defender of Acharya, but I am an interested party who seeks out all viewpoints. I’ve read a variety of mythicist theorists and I think all of them have something useful to add.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but that’s a rather naive opinion. Not all scholars have something useful to add. Some have nothing useful. Some have a lot to offer while others have a mix of useful and unhelpful points that, overall, make their contributions mediocre at best. Acharya S does not have anything useful to add (in my opinion–others are welcome to disagree). I’ll give my reasons for thinking this below.

Anyways, Acharya doesn’t simply rely on pagan parallels. If you dismiss Acharya based on this assumption, then you are falling into the same trap as the historicist scholars. She goes out of her way to consider the subject from multiple perspectives. There is no need to try to smash Acharya’s head down in your attempt to climb the scholarly ladder of peer respectability. In case you didn’t know, both Doherty and Price have given positive reviews of Acharya’s work.

My problem with Acharya S is more than just pagan parallels. She uses grossly outdated source material. Here are a few examples:

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/sources.htm

Gerald Massey, John Remsburg, Albert Churchward, Edward Carpenter, Franz Cumont, and so on. None of these individuals lived past the middle of the twentieth century. Their scholarship is so dated that using them can only hurt her points, not help make them. This is the underlying problem with Acharya S; she does not adequately research modern credible sources–only dated sources. If only dated sources can be used to make her points, then she needs to reevaluate her points. To give you an analogy of how horrific it is to use dated sources in academia, it would be akin to using a science book from the nineteenth century to back up a new model for the theory of relativity–without using anything that Albert Einstein, or any contemporary era physicist, had written. Her whole astrotheology perspective which she promotes comes from these sources–comes from parallelism that is dated and useless–and thus her usefulness is nil. That may be a hard criticism, but its one she should take to heart and consider.

Despite what you may have read or think you know, my criticisms of Acharya S have nothing to do with me “climbing the scholarly ladder”. It has everything to do with individuals such as yourself, who are trying to do honest research into the question of mythicism, who get sidetracked by this garbage–passed off as academia (of which it is not). The fact that you think she has something useful to say at all is evidence that you’ve bought into her deception. But how can you know, as a layman, what is credible and what isn’t? You have to have done an extreme amount of research to fact-check her claims to know she is full of it. If you haven’t done the research because you think she is an authority (I’m not claiming I am, either, by the way), then you’re the person I’m trying to reach. It is because serious intellectuals like you want to be educated that I come down hard on her–you need to know that what she has to say is severely flawed.

I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I don’t use sources that are from the 1880’s. Unlike Acharya S, I change my opinions to fit the facts (she is stubborn about changing her opinion and has not retracted anything she has been wrong about, not that I’ve seen or read anyway). I want my readers to be able to fact-check me and be able to raise contentions with what I write if they need to. Acharya S, on the other hand, has a group of fanboy cronies who she sends out from her message board to attack any dissenter. Often times these cronies spam other message boards and blogs with more garbage in a trollish and annoying fashion. I wouldn’t hold Acharya S responsible for her fan base, but she sends them out.

Now I’m not attacking Acharya S personally. I don’t know her personally. I can only judge her material. And I’m not the only one. While Bob Price and Earl Doherty speak of her kindly (which is their right), Richard Carrier and others have been outspoken about her inaccuracy. So just because two scholars speak favorably does not mean the whole community of experts agree. And while I respect Earl Doherty a great deal, I am dismayed that he uses her for source material and, unfortunately, he is also guilty of using dated material as well. (Doherty is far better at using modern sources for his material than Acharya S is, however, and overall Doherty’s work is substantially more credible)

To be clear: I would, in fact, be quite interested if Acharya S dropped her pseudonym (as I did) and start using her real name, started revising her theories to conform to existing, relevant, current data, and published academically or, at least, had a group of scholars review her work and offer suggestions (which she should consider, at least). I would read that book and, if it were credible, I would even promote it. But as of yet, that is a future I do not see her ever attaining. Not because she can’t, but because she has no desire to.

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm You can call my opinion naive if it makes you happy. By my comment, I didn’t mean one should be undiscerning about what one reads. I was just implying that all perspectives should be considered in order to grasp a more comprehensive understanding.

If your main source of info about Acharya is from Zeitgeist, then that explains a lot. She only consulted on that project once it had already begun, and she didn’t agree with all of the details.

BTW she wrote a supplement that can be obtained as an e-book that was intended to supply more supporting evidence for the Zeitgeist claims, and she then wrote a nearly 600 page book to flesh it out (Christ In Egypt). Also, she does now go by her real name (D.M. Murdock) which is the name on her recent book.

In Christ In Egypt, she attempted to synthesize all of the scholarly work that has been done so far that relates to the connections between Horus nd Jesus. She references works never published in English before and works never published at all before (such as the academic journals of a German scholar). She probably references Egyptologists more than any other type of scholar, but she does reference other contemporary mythicists (G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, and Richard Carrier).

In particular, she has a whole section where she describes a disagreement with Carrier about the Luxor inscriptions. I’m sure Carrier claims she is inaccurate, and Acharya claims he is inaccurate (http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/luxor.html). If you want to see a neutral viewpoint (by someone they both respect), check out Doherty because he discusses this disagreement on his site. I noticed that Carrier considers Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle to be the best presentation of the mythicist position.

She intentionally uses a wide range of scholars from older to newer, from Christian to non-Christian, from academia to the Catholic Encycopedia, etc. She does this so people like you have no basis to simply dismiss her claims. Anyways, before criticizing older scholarship, I’d recommend you read this article by Robert M. Price:

http://www.atheistalliance.org/jhc/Pricejhc.htm

How can I, as a layman, know what is credible or not? I guess I do it like anybody else who seriously studies a subject. I read a wide variety of authors, and I debate the issues with other informed individuals.

As for her being stubborn about her opinion, I don’t specifically know what your talking about. If you could detail your allegation, I would gladly research it for myself. As for her defenders, I always advise looking at the argument and the evidence rather than the person presenting it. Too often mythicists get dismissed by mainstream scholars who haven’t read their work, but it is even more shameful when other mythicists do this as well.

The last issue you bring up, I can’t speak for her. But, as I said, her theories do take into acount “existing, relevant, current data”. I don’t know if she plans on publishing academically and I don’t know what scholars may or may not have reviewed her work. I do know that Price wrote a foreword to her book Who Was Jesus?, but I can’t say if he reviewed it. One of Acharya’s sources is Massey and he is often dismissed even though his work was reviewed by some of the best scholars of the time (http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/who-is-gerald-massey.html).

Benjamin Steele Says:
April 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm

In case that wasn’t adequate, I’ll give a some of the modern Egyptologists she references: Rudolf Anthes, Jan Assman, Hellmut Brunner, Claas J. Bleeker, Bob Brier, Henri Frankfort, Alan H. Gardiner, John Gwyn Griffiths, Erik Hornung, Barry Kemp, Barbara Lesko, Bojana Mojsov, Siegfried Morenz, William Murnane, Margaret A. Murray, Donald B. Redford, Herman te Velde, Claude Traunecker, Reginald E. Witt, and Louis V. Zabkar.

I’ve noticed many mythicists use Hornung as a reference. Another interesting scholar (from an earlier time) is Wallis Budge. Acharya/Murdock along with other mythicists reference him. I was having a discussion with an apologetic NT scholar recently, and I noticed in a peer-reviewed article by him that he had also referenced Budge.

Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

Here is a link to a blog by Thomas Verenna with a comment I posted:

Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

It is quite humorous that I mixed you up with that other blogger.  I didn’t get enough sleep last night and my mind was apparently a bit fuzzy.

This blog post has good info.  I’ll have to think more about the distinction between legend and mythology.  Do you think most religions begin with legends?  And do you think legends usually begin in some historical model or inspiration?

There is one place where I see a mixing of myth and legend.  Some savior god-men are also identified with the creator god and/or considered to have existed since the beginning.  But I don’t know if either the legend or the myth comes first or if they co-evolve.

I can only juggle so many fields as well, but my curiosity is always distracting me.  I sometimes wonder why I get obsessed about something like mythicism.  I’m more interested in the comparative mythology side of it and how it relates to modern culture as represented in various media (specifically storytelling). 

I’m more of an idea person in that I prefer philosophy and psychology over history, but of course it all blends together.  My desire to analyze ancient texts is mostly limited to how I perceive the ideas to still be vibrant within contemporary culture.  I find it fascinating how certain ideas can act as memes that take hold of the shared experience of a culture for centuries and even millennia.

One of the earliest books I read that started me in the direction of studying all of this was Carl Jung’s Answer to Job.  It was his most personal book, but also it was where he most deeply engaged the mythology of Christianity.  I tend to lean towards an archetypal view of mythology.  Most basically, archetypes are patterns in the psyche, but they’re also patterns in the environment in which the human psyche evolved.  It is very strange how different cultures often come to similar meanings and mythologies about the world. 

This is where I think Acharya/Murdock has one key to understanding a larger perspective.  There are only two baaic factors that all humans in all places and time periods have shared: a basic human nature and psychoological functioning; and a common enviornmental experience. 

As for the latter, the most universal experience humans share is the observation of the sky.  The human mind evolved with people staring at the sky, and it offered a survival advantage.  The patterns of animals and plants also follow the patterns of the seasons, and knowing these patterns precisely could mean the difference between life and death for the people of the earliest civilizations.

As such, Christians didn’t need to borrow mythology from Pagans.  The mythology of the heavens was common to the entire ancient world.  Any educated person would’ve been familiar with it.  Astrotheology was a common framework of knowledge that crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

Thinking along these lines, I suspect that these patterns (in the sky and in the mind) precede the storytelling.  Either legends emerge from this pattern-seeking tendency or legends that arose independently become adapted to the requirements of these patterns.

There is another aspect that most people forget.  Ancient people experienced the world differently, and it isn’t helpful to place our standards and assumptions onto their stories and religions.  I think it’s essential to understand cultural development on the largescale. 

Some examples are ideas such as the Axial Age, Julian Jayne’s view of the pre-literate mind, and the socio-cultural developmental model of spiral dynamics.  The clash of ideas beginning in the Hellenistic period was a clash of paridigms of reality.  I sense this has something to do with the clash between Gnosticism and Christianity… something about the emerging literalist mind… along the lines of Weber’s rationalization of culture.

Or so it seems to me.  🙂  I don’t know how this fits into what you’re talking about, but that is the context I’m considering.

Is your book being published soon?  Will it be available on Amazon?

Re: Arguments Jesus Mythicists Should NOT Use

A blog post at the link below and my response below that:

Arguments Jesus Mythicists Should NOT Use

1. Cite the work of Freke and Gandi.

It is a good general rule to be wary of referencing in a scholarly debate any writer who acts as a popularizer of ideas.  Popularizers serve a purpose, but they usually do so by simplifying.  There are exceptions to this rule as some popularizers are also good scholars, but I agree that Freke and Gandy aren’t exceptions.

2. Cite the work of Achyara S or Zeitgeist the Movie.

Along with the first general rule, I’d add that anyone claiming to be a scholar should be judged by their scholarship (assuming that person making the judgment is claiming to be scholarly).  This requires reading the author to a significant extent, but sadly few critics of Acharya/Murdock ever read her work (beyond maybe an online article). 

As for Callahan, I assume you realize she wrote a rebuttal (http://stellarhousepublishing.com/skeptic-zeitgeist.html).  As for her claims about Egyptian connections, she also wrote an almost 600 pg book (Christ In Egypt). 

In it, she references the contemporary mythicist scholars Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, G.A. Wells, and she has a large section where she discusses her disagreement with Richard Carrier.  Both Price and Doherty praise her work and reference it, and Price wrote a foreword to one of her books (Who Was Jesus?). 

Also, here are some of the modern Egyptologists she references: Rudolf Anthes, Jan Assman, Hellmut Brunner, Claas J. Bleeker, Bob Brier, Henri Frankfort, Alan H. Gardiner, John Gwyn Griffiths, Erik Hornung, Barry Kemp, Barbara Lesko, Bojana Mojsov, Siegfried Morenz, William Murnane, Margaret A. Murray, Donald B. Redford, Herman te Velde, Claude Traunecker, Reginald E. Witt, and Louis V. Zabkar.

I don’t care if you disagree with her, but just do so based on facts and rational arguments.

3. Cite pagan parallels to Jesus which you have not read about yourself from ancient sources.

This is good advice to strive towards, but isn’t practical for the average person.  The scholars have spent their lives reading the originals and the many translations.  And scholars are constantly arguing over specific words that can alter the entire meaning of a text.  This takes years if not decades of study to comprehend.

Also, translations can be deceiving if you don’t know the original language.  You have to read many translations before you can even begin to grasp a particular myth.  Plus, many translations and inscriptions aren’t available online.

Furthermore, the ancients usually had numerous versions of any given story.

So, yes read what is available to you.  But don’t necessarily base your opinion on a single translation of a single version of a single myth.  However, when making a specific argument, it is wise to cite specific examples that you are familiar with… which isn’t to say you can’t also cite reputable scholars on examples you’re less familiar with. 

Still, it depends on your purpose and your audience.  If you’re simply involved in an informal discussion, then primary sources aren’t required.

4. Argue that pagan parallels to Jesus prove he did not exist.

This is very true.  A number of mythicist scholars don’t deny a historical Jesus (e.g., Robert M. Price) and some even accept a historical Christ (e.g., G.A. Wells).  The two issues are really separate debates even though they’re often covering the same territory.

5. Argue that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

True, but… the absence of evidence where one would expect evidence corroborates an argument of absence and increases its probability.  Despite the commonality of prophets and messiahs, the fact that no contemporary of Jesus wrote about him is surprising considering the claims made about him and his followers. 

However, (discounting the historical validity of the grandiose claims of the gospels) if we just take Jesus as any other insignificant historical figure, then your point stands.

Re: Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour

Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour by Stephen J. Bedard

And my response:

Those are good criticisms. D.M. Murdock responds to them, but you’d have to be the judge of how well she does.

The main point probably is that, by the Christian era, Isis was one of the most (if not the most) well known Egyptian deity, and one of the most widely worshipped in the Roman Empire. So, it’s possible that the term Meri was beginning to be identified with her. However, Isis (and Isis syncretizations) were referred with meri and similar terms all the way through the centuries prior to Rome being Christianized.

Even though the Egyptian term Meri could refer to even inanimate objects, I don’t know if there is any evidence that Jews and Romans would’ve been familiar with that meaning. It probably would’ve been most known as an epithet or, as Murdock argues, maybe even as a name. Very few non-Egyptians could tell an ipethet or a name apart when it was stated both as Isis-Meri and Meri-Isis. Murdock sees evidence that Meri was beginning to be used by itself.

As for the second problem, Mary isn’t used exclusively for either Egyptians or for Jews. Mary was a common name for Pagan goddesses. So, it isn’t surprising that it was a popular name for people as well. As for the 6 Marys of the NT, Murdock mentions this and hypothesizes a possible connection to 6 Hathors (as Hathor was the goddess of love that became identified with Isis).

All of this is is just one tiny aspect of the mythicist theory. It doesn’t stand or fall on one single detail. Meri is just a possible connection that many reputable scholars have written about. There are many other possible connections that mythicists point out. As the possible connections increase so does the probability of those connections.