Where is early Christian history?

Here are a couple of papers that question what we think we know about early Christianity. It is fascinating. There are so many assumptions we make in trying to understand something. When these assumptions become shared beliefs of a society or of a field of study, a reality tunnel can form.

I don’t know if Jesus ever existed and I don’t know if even Christianity existed in the first century. It honestly doesn’t make much difference to me, but obviously it makes a big difference to many people and not just fundamentalist Christians. What interests me is both the questioning itself and the fact that we live in a time when people are free to question such things.

Anyway, here are the papers:

http://historyhuntersinternational.org/2010/10/08/the-gospels-according-to-hadrian-the-magic-wars-and-the-massiah/

http://historyhuntersinternational.org/2011/03/06/the-vacuum-of-evidence-for-pre-4th-century-christianity/

And here is part of the second paper:

Perhaps the most surprising discovery is somewhat akin to the famous Holmesian episode in which the dog didn’t bark in the night.

Not a single artefact of any medium – including textual – and dated reliably before the fourth century can be unambiguously identified as Christian. This is the most notable result of our archaeological survey of sites, inscriptions, libraries, collections and so on from the Indus River to the Nile and north to Britain.

Taking into account the vast volume of scholarly works claiming expert opinion for the exact opposite point of view, let me clarify terms.

There is, of course, much archaeology interpreted commonly as Christian. This does not contradict the bald statement above. The difference lies between data that spells out Christian clearly and unambiguously, and that which expert opinion claims to look as though it is Christian.

There are very many texts claimed to be Christian and composed before the fourth century, though the documents themselves are not dated to that early period. We have found no text before the fourth century which mentions either Jesus Christ, or the term ‘Christian’.

The earliest fragments and codex of the New Testament pre-date the fourth century, though nowhere in them have we found the key word Christ. Many biblical scholars claim that they do, but our visual inspection of them fails to find a single such usage of this term. We have been unable to find a single text transliterated correctly in this regard.

As there are gospels and other texts of a religious character, so there is archaeology for places of worship and many artefacts: none spell Christian. Claims that any are Christian are, in fact, a matter of opinion only and we disagree with all such opinions.

Six months ago, this was a tentative view and during this time, many scholars have been asked – challenged even – to provide evidence of a contradictory nature and other than largely silence, the response has been supportive of this view. We did receive a list of (well-known) sites and events purported as Christian, though not a single artefact.

This should not be understood as a claim that nothing was happening in these three centuries that can be related to the appearance of Christianity in the fourth century. The archaeology that can be associated most-closely with Christianity is for the name Chrest, a magical Jesus Chrest and for ‘Servants of Jesus’. We have termed these chrestic. In ancient Greek, the pronunciation of both terms – Christ and Chrest –  is identical as far as is known today and this acutely interesting and fortuitous linguistic circumstance facilitated the re-working of textual artefacts as well as recasting the entire context of the original theurgy related to the cult.

As Chrest was expunged from the New Testament and replaced with Christ, so the possibility arises that following the prosecution of chrestic followers by Diocletian – mis-termed commonly ‘The Great Persecution’ of Christians – the chrestic archaeology record was wiped clean generally as far as possible.

Source of Bible Covenant with God discovered?

Source of Bible Covenant with God discovered?
By D.M. Murdock

god calling abraham to his covenant image

Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed an Assyrian tablet dating to around 670 BCE that “could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.” […] 

Ancient treaty resembles part of the Bible

Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.

The tablet, dating to about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham’s covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison.

Although biblical scholarship differs, it is widely accepted that the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty, the seventh century BC.

“Those documents…seem to reflect very closely the formulaic structure of these treaty documents,” he told about 50 guests at the Ottawa residence of the Turkish ambassador, Rafet Akgunay.

He was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt on the condition that they worship only Him and follow His commandments.

But it will be interesting for scholars to have this parallel document.

“The language in the [Assyrian] texts is [very similar] and now we have a treaty document just a few miles up the road from Jerusalem.”…

[…] Although the article states that the archaeologist Timothy Harrison “was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt,” it is nonetheless raising that very issue in a manner which breaks with the centuries-old tradition of bending all finds in the “Holy Land” and other places of biblical interest to fit the Bible, in attempts to prove the “Good Book” as “history.” It is obvious that this sort of bibliolatry appeasement from the more scientific segment of society is losing ground precisely because of such discoveries – and the implication of this one is a doozy.

America: Christian Nation?

http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_rate.htm

Various studies in recent years have cast a grave doubt on the 40% value.

Public opinion polls generally do not report real opinions and events. They report only the information that the individuals choose to tell the pollsters. Quite often, their answers will be distorted by a phenomenon called “social desirability bias.” Pollees answer questions according to what they think they should be doing, rather than what they are doing. For example, a poll by Barna Research showed that 17% of American adults say that they tithe — i.e. they give 10 to 13% of their income to their church. Only 3% actually do. 9

The gap between what they do and what they say they do is closer in the case of religious attendance. It is “only” about 2 to 1.

[…]

If this study by Presser and Stinson is accurate, it would indicate a substantial drop in actual church attendance from the mid 1960s to the mid 1990s. Since the reported attendance has remained stuck at the magical 40% figure for decades, one might conclude that the rate of exaggeration of church attendance is increasing. Also, it would appear that polls are to be mistrusted. Nobody really knows what the percentage attendance is. To obtain accurate data, pollsters will have to abandon the comfortable task of polling opinion by phone and camp out in church, synagogue, and mosque parking lots so that they can count noses.

[…]

Tom Flynn, writing for the Free Inquiry magazine wrote:

“Some pollsters have refined their survey instruments after the 1993 Hadaway paper. Gallup changed its questions, but continued to report weekly churchgoing at over 40%. Yet when the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) redesigned its mammoth General Social Survey (GSS), church attendance figures declined sharply. For many years GSS data had supported Gallup’s; the redesigned 1996 GSS reported that only between 29 and 30.5% of Americans attended church in the last week, a figure similar to Presser and Stinson’s.”

“Hadaway, Marler, and Chaves wonder, “To what extent do these findings challenge the conventional wisdom that Americans are a very religious people?” At the least, they would seem to reinforce the claim that despite the rhetoric, active religious participation remains a minority interest in American life.” 2

 […]

The director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, Robert Wuthnow, said that the terrorists’ attacks have not changed the basic makeup of the U.S.:

  • About one in four of American adults is devoutly religious;
  • one in four is secular, and
  • the remaining half is mildly interested about religion.

 – – –

http://reasonweekly.com/reasonweekly-originals/are-americans-faking-religiosity

Church attendance as established by surveys is one of the main factors alleged to illustrate the depth of religious feeling in America. Depending on which poll you consult, between 33 percent and 43 percent of Americans claim to attend church weekly. Using the low end of that range, we get a figure of around a hundred million people. Even cursory crack research, however, reveals that this might not be true, for the simple reason that there might not be enough seats in all churches in America to hold nearly as many people.

[…]

According to a study conducted for the Catholic Biblical Federation in 2008, 93 percent of Americans have at least one copy of the Bible at home. Twenty-seven percent of Americans surveyed believe that the Bible is “the actual word of God, which must be taken literally, word for word,” and 78 percent view its contents as true. Almost half of American respondents agree–either somewhat or completely–with the statement “The Bible should be studied at school,” and 56 percent have given a Bible as a gift at least once. In addition, a Harris poll conducted the same year showed that Americans overwhelmingly name the Bible as their favorite book.

One might deduct from these numbers that the Americans’ knowledge of the Bible is at least somewhat satisfactory. Nobody could like the Bible, let alone maintain that its contents are true, give it as a gift, or recommend that it be taught in schools, without possessing at least an elementary awareness of its teachings. In order to agree that the Bible contains the unerring pronouncements of God, which are to be taken literally, word for word, from beginning to end, one must necessarily be acquainted with what these pronouncements are.

Not so. According to polls, a mere half of Americans are able to name a single Gospel, and a majority are unfamiliar with the fact that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Thomas, according to 22 percent of Americans, wrote one of the books, and Sodom and Gomorrah were married, if we are to listen to half of American high school seniors.

While a majority of Americans maintain that they use the ten biblical commandments as a life guide, 60 percent are unable to name more than four. Among adult and teen believers, “God helps those who help themselves” is the most widely-known verse in the Bible; only 38 percent of respondents correctly said that this was not a Bible quotation, while 42 percent thought it was, and 20 percent did not hazard a guess.

Sixteen percent of American Christians believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was born in Jerusalem, 8 percent in Nazareth, 6 percent abstained from responding, while the rest got it right. Twelve percent also attribute to Jesus the writing of a book of the Bible.

America seems to not be the solid bastion of Christianity that many claim it is or wish it were. In large numbers, Americans from all walks of life shun church and reduce their Bibles to the status of objects of decoration, while they maintain, perhaps in a bout of wishful thinking, that God, churches and religion rule their lives. People who believe Joan of Arc to have been Noah’s wife, as one in 10 Americans do, can not be said to have even a fleeting interest in their scripture. Americans are indeed religious; just how religious is a question that still needs investigating. In private, religious apathy piles thick behind the screen of public piety, and the famously robust American religiosity–taken for granted by many–seems to become a delusion of biblical proportions.