Author Topic: Religious Mythicism  (Read 3305 times)

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Offline davedan

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Religious Mythicism
« on: January 25, 2016, 03:21:25 am »
The idea of Jesus Mythicism has been around since the 18th - 19th Century. However it is falling out of favour today given the view for instance, absence of proof is not proof of absence. What about other figures, such as Moses, was he a mythic figure (an archetypal lawgiver) or was there a historical person behind it.

What about other figures, Zoraster, Dionyses, Oddyseuss, Heracles, Theseus, Romulus & Remus etc.


Which do you think is based in History and which is purely myth and why?

Offline Sigmaleph

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2016, 08:57:12 am »
Of the given examples, I'm fairly sure only Zoroaster was real.

But it's a difficult question who counts as a "historical person" behind the myth, and by sufficiently lax standards you can probably come up with more. Christianity was started by someone, who was definitely not the son of God or a miracle worker, but maybe did give a sermon on a mount or was a carpenter, who knows.

I think the general view is that there was an actual war between the Greeks and Troy, and of course the Iliad is a massive exaggeration but maybe there was some clever general to base the Odysseus myth off of, or mybe a combination of them.

Rome started at some point, someone had something to do with it, probably wasn't twin brothers suckled by a wolf.

And so on and so forth.
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Offline RavynousHunter

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2016, 09:06:14 am »
I think all myths have a little bit of reality in them.  They might not be based on a single historical personage, but Heracles, for example, could be based on stories of hunters and/or soldiers of exceptional skill and strength.  If nothing else, they represent us trying to connect ourselves to the world around us; giving gods and legends incredible powers, but projecting our own flaws on to them to make them relatable, from pettiness to jealousy to genocidal ambition (lookin at you, Yahweh).
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Offline davedan

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2016, 09:07:55 am »
Well someone started Christianity but it wasn't necessarily a 'jesus' figure. For instance the human mind could behind the creation could have been Paul (or Eusebius). Or for a more recent example (although not a very good one -I'm sure there is better) L Ron Hubbard existed and was historical but Xeno isn't.

Offline RavynousHunter

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2016, 09:14:00 am »
Well someone started Christianity but it wasn't necessarily a 'jesus' figure. For instance the human mind could behind the creation could have been Paul (or Eusebius). Or for a more recent example (although not a very good one -I'm sure there is better) L Ron Hubbard existed and was historical but Xeno isn't.

Aye, that's true.  In that case, they either represent some kind of frightening elemental force (lightning, volcanoes, etc) or something that is advantageous to the creator, which is more likely the case with Jesus.  He was a way for the founders of Christianity to frame Yahweh as something less than the genocidal maniac he was and to make him more relatable to the masses.  After all, in those times, every adult man worth his salt had or at least wanted a son.  Jesus filled that role, brought a tiny sliver of humanity to his father, and made him just acceptable enough for his particular doctrine to spread like wildfire.
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Offline davedan

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2016, 09:26:26 am »
I think all myths have a little bit of reality in them.  They might not be based on a single historical personage, but Heracles, for example, could be based on stories of hunters and/or soldiers of exceptional skill and strength.  If nothing else, they represent us trying to connect ourselves to the world around us; giving gods and legends incredible powers, but projecting our own flaws on to them to make them relatable, from pettiness to jealousy to genocidal ambition (lookin at you, Yahweh).

Heracles is an interesting one. For instance Robert Graves considers that Heracles starts as a sacrificial king. That is the name given to the king who is sacrificed every year to ensure good crops. Eventually the King would substitute a Tainist to take his place in the sacrifice. Later still the king isn't killed but simply hides in a cave for a few days before re-appearing as the reborn king. Later on the myth is shrouded onto the figure of Heracles until his apotheosis.

Although Robert Graves seems to be rather enamoured by the idea of the sacrificial kings. For instance he lots Odysseus amongst the redeemed sacrificial kings and cites his scarred thigh as evidence of this. (On possibly a complete tangent - Odysseus is considered to be a landmark in literature because he is recorded as having a personal imperfect, his legs are too short for his body).

Offline RavynousHunter

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2016, 10:16:42 am »
Hrm, certainly sounds plausible, at least.
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Offline Sigmaleph

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2016, 09:53:08 am »
Well someone started Christianity but it wasn't necessarily a 'jesus' figure. For instance the human mind could behind the creation could have been Paul (or Eusebius). Or for a more recent example (although not a very good one -I'm sure there is better) L Ron Hubbard existed and was historical but Xeno isn't.

Yes, true. The Jesus character could be completely made up. The point I was going for is that there's not a sharp cutoff between "real" and "mythical", and two people with differing standards of what counts as a historical Jesus can disagree on mythicism even if the facts are settled.
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Offline davedan

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2016, 06:05:32 pm »
I understand that there isn't a sharp cut off between historical and mythical. That different people have different standards as to what amounts to a historical figure. This is particularly so for people who have some sort of message. However I think there is a distinction to be made between for instance Plato's dialogues of Socrates and the Gospel. The merit of what is attributed to Socrates does not depend on there being a true historical person. The ideas are judged solely on their own merit and really it doesn't matter whether Plato imagined the dialogue with Socrates or whether it actually happened. The distinction with the Gospels is that the identity of Jesus is crucial as to whether they are accepted. You do not merely take them on face value but they have authority because the person saying them is the "son of God". If the authority behind Jesus is removed then the ideas stand and fall on their own merit. For instance, the Golden Rule, that's still important although it is derivative of what Rabbi Hillel said 100 years earlier.

It is in fact the authority of the attribution to Jesus which means we don't talk about Rabbi Hillel's Golden Rule rather than Jesus's golden rule. All Jesus did was endorse and promulgate what had previously been said by Hillel.

Offline Sigmaleph

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2016, 06:13:41 pm »
Agreed.
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Offline Tolpuddle Martyr

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2016, 06:21:32 pm »
The forge of mythology is probably the campfire, and people would likely talk about who and what they know at first. In the centuries-long game of telephone where the yarn travels from campfire to campfire more and more fantastical elements creep in to the point where the subject of the yarn becomes unrecognizable and the yarn becomes a myth.

That's my hypothesis and I'm sticking to it.

Offline davedan

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2016, 06:46:16 pm »
Although sometimes a mythical figure can spring fully formed, for instance the mythical figure of Ned Lud.

Offline Tolpuddle Martyr

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2016, 07:19:59 pm »
King Ludd is a fine counterexample, there maybe coulda been some truth to the tale of the enraged Ned who smashed the stocking frames in a fit of rage but nobody actually knows. Point taken.

Offline davedan

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2016, 08:25:54 pm »
I like the example because it shows how easy it is for myth to spring up even amongst societies far more advanced than bronze age nomads.

Offline pyro

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Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2016, 10:35:12 am »
Deliberately cross-posted:

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