Author Topic: Religious Mythicism  (Read 3148 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline davedan

  • Lord Cracker
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #30 on: June 02, 2016, 01:44:51 am »
That may well be because of American Christianity's obsession with the old testament.

Offline Art Vandelay

  • Greatest Person to Ever Grace this Shitty Forum
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 8685
  • Gender: Male
  • Check Your Privilege
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #31 on: June 02, 2016, 02:39:24 am »

But I fully accept that Religions evolve over time. Also that the evolution is much quicker during oral transmission and before a 'authorised' version of the written version.

I don't know about that. My countrymen regularly make my head hurt, but to see what they've done to the basic tenants of Christianity in slightly under 250 years is pretty damn impressive. We went from love your event abs do good to those who hurt you to get them damn foreigners outta here and taxes are of the devil. We've completely turned what the main character of the new testament said completely on its ear. From peace to guns in under 250 years.

That's been Christianity in a nutshell ever since it gained any amount of power. American Christianity is just business as usual.

Offline Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #32 on: June 02, 2016, 03:04:09 am »
As far the Jesus Mythism goes it always felt like a stretch to me.  Yeah it's possible that Jesus didn't exist and there are some similarities to his story with older traditions, but it seems more plausible that such traditions got attached to the story of a real person then for him to be a completely made up character.  Most Sumarian historians seem to believe that there really was a historical Gilgamesh, and most of the Historians who study the early days of Christianity seem to feel the same way about Jesus. 

One book I've got (The Evolution of God by Robert Wright) makes the argument that the basics of the Crucifixion story have to be true because they just don't make any sense.  Sure there are similarities with other religions, but it's not stuff that JEWS believed about the Messiah.  The Messiah was supposed to restore them politically on Earth Moses style, not get killed.  And when you look at it that way the Crucifixion story sounds like someone trying to explain why the guy they thought was the messiah just got killed.  You see, he didn't really get killed, he came back to life and flew away, but he'll come back and then do all the Messiah stuff.  As the religion grew they started absorbing pagan and Zoroastrian ideas that were similar until you get Christianity as we know it today.

Offline davedan

  • Lord Cracker
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #33 on: June 02, 2016, 03:12:02 am »
Do you think there was really a Heracles, Ned Ludd or John Frumm?

Offline Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #34 on: June 02, 2016, 03:36:30 am »
Don't know enough of the details, but I'll assume no in Hercules case at least.

But does that matter?  X legendary figure probably didn't exist isn't evidence that Jesus didn't.  We are pretty sure Gilgamesh was real, although he probably didn't fight monsters or go on a quest for immortality.  Troy turned out to be a real city, even if Homer's poems are highly exaggerated.  The "Jesus didn't exist" crowd just seems to attach unwarranted certainty to the idea, he might not have existed, so he definitely didn't.  Most historians seem to think it's a lot more likely then not that the very basics of the story are about a real guy, although lots of details are probably exaggerated or outright made up. 

To give an example the Anti-Stratfordists are found of pointing out that the existence of William Shakespeare is supported by only a small handful of documents, which don't directly support him being the guy who wrote the plays his name is on.  This to them proves it was really Marlowe or Queen Elizabeth or whoever.  Jesus never existed always seemed to be in a similar catigory to me.

Offline davedan

  • Lord Cracker
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #35 on: June 02, 2016, 04:13:04 am »
No but it works the other way as well, merely because one legendary figure was based on an actual person doesn't mean other legendary figures had an historical person as a base.

 You pointed to the fact that scholar's believe legendary figure x (In your example Gilgamesh) was probably a historical figure upon which the legend was grafted which means that Legendary figure y (Jesus) was also an historical figure upon which legend was grafted. My point is that simply because Gilgamesh was a person doesn't mean other legends are.

Nor do I think that you can look at the Jesus Myth from a purely Jewish perspective. Christianity is a syncretism between greek/roman thought and jewish ideas. If most parts of the gospel story are adaptions of myths why does there need to be a historical person? The Pauline Epistles don't appear to require an historical person. They tell us extraordinarily little about any ministry of jesus.

Nor do I think it is fair to lump this idea in with Shakespearean Mythicists. We have Shakespeare's will and we know the plays were performed in his lifetime and attributed to him. The idea that they were written by another who didn't want to take credit is more in line with the people who think Harper Lee did not write 'To Kill a Mockingbird' than questioning the existence of an historical Jesus.

Indeed it is only the fact that Christianity is such a ubiquitous construct in our society that makes for the presumption that there was a Jesus. There is no presumption of the existence of other demigods such as Dionysus, Heracles, Osiris, Ramm, Rabon, Krishna, or Cuchulain.

While not religious mythicism the general consensus appears to be that all the kings of Rome were mythic. Not just Romulus, but Numa, Tarquinus Priscus, Tarqiunus Superbus etc.

Troy is an interesting example. It is unsurprising that there was a city controlling entry into the Black Sea. The archeology suggests that there  were several cities on the site. Does that mean that one of them was the City of Homer's Illiad? Myths are often set in real places, the existence of London proves the existnence of harry potter to the same extent as Troy proves Priam. Its existence does not even prove that it  was attacked by a panhellenic alliance

Online ironbite

  • Overlord of all that is good in Iacon City
  • Kakarot
  • ******
  • Posts: 9487
  • Gender: Male
  • TIME JUDGED ALL!
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #36 on: June 02, 2016, 09:51:33 am »
Is that the same way Mithracism was influenced by Christianity by existing before it? I mean that's what Justin Martyr claimed.

Religions do evolve over time, especially in the oral transmission stage.

Makes religion a sexually transmitted disease eh?

Offline Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #37 on: June 03, 2016, 02:38:00 am »
Quote
No but it works the other way as well, merely because one legendary figure was based on an actual person doesn't mean other legendary figures had an historical person as a base.

 You pointed to the fact that scholar's believe legendary figure x (In your example Gilgamesh) was probably a historical figure upon which the legend was grafted which means that Legendary figure y (Jesus) was also an historical figure upon which legend was grafted. My point is that simply because Gilgamesh was a person doesn't mean other legends are.

Yes I agree, but that is my point.  Legendary characters and demi-gods can be purely fictional and exaggerated accounts of real people just as easily.  Saying that Romulus probably didn't exist does not effect whether or not Jesus did one way or the other.  "It's possible that Jesus might not have existed" and "I have evidence that he didn't exist" are different things, and the supporters of Jesus Mythicism have a tendency to confuse them.

For example there is a similar theory that Socrates never existed, that he was a fictional creation of Plato and Aristotle, since there is little evidence for his existence outside of them writing about him.  But the fact that it is possible they invented Socrates is not evidence that they did invent him.

I agree that Jesus Mythicism is not bullshit on the same order as Anti-Stratfordists.  But there seem to be enough similarities to raise red flags.  Both are based on holes in the historical record, but these holes are not as suprising as they act.  Only a handful of documents support the existence of Shakespeare and there is a lengthy gap in his life where we  have no idea where he lived or what he was doing.  And Shakespeare lived only 400 years ago.  Thus the anti-statfordians say he must not have been able to write those plays, because it is possible that someone else did.  But these holes in our knowledge of Shakespeare are not unusual, out knowledge of most of his contemporaries is just as spotty.    The same is true for Jesus, there are plenty of other people from the same era generally assumed to be real for whom our direct evidence is no or little better.  It is not that shocking that a cult leader in a Roman backwater could have existed without much direct evidence surviving to the present. 

In both cases actual historians overwhelmingly reject the theory, but it gains popularity among non-historians who have ideological beliefs the theory props up (Classist views for 19th century anti-stratfords, atheism/anti-theism for jesus mythists) who then explain away their lack of success with historians by calling them biased.  When an idea is popular with followers of a particular ideology but not with experts in the field, that's generally a warning sign.

Quote
Nor do I think that you can look at the Jesus Myth from a purely Jewish perspective. Christianity is a syncretism between greek/roman thought and jewish ideas. If most parts of the gospel story are adaptions of myths why does there need to be a historical person? The Pauline Epistles don't appear to require an historical person. They tell us extraordinarily little about any ministry of jesus.

And here I'm really going to have to disagree with you.  Christianity evolved into a syncretism of jewish and pagan beliefs, but it did not start as one.  It originated as a jewish movement that later on started including pagan converts (which appears to have been a very controversial choice.)  Explaining Christianity's origins thus needs to be seen in the light of early first century Judaism.  And here there are numerous aspects of his life that make no sense as a character invented by first century Jews.  I already mentioned the crucifixion but there are others.  For example, if Jesus was a fictional character, why was he from Nazareth?  The Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, so if you are a first century Jew making up a fictional story about a fictional messiah, you would logically have the story start there.  But Jesus was from Nazareth.  The oldest Gospel, mark gives no explanation for this and later Gospels give implausible and contradictory explanations of how he total was from Bethlehem, he just had to go to Nazareth to get away from Herod or for a census or something.  This and several other aspects of his story are much more plausible if Jesus was a real person who's followers are trying to explain how this guy who obviously wasn't the messiah really was then for a fictional story of a messiah.

Combine that with the fact that there are some nearly contemporary writings of Jesus by non-christians such as Tacitus that seem to take for granted that he was a real person.  (If Jesus did not exist why didn't Jewish and Roman opponents of the movement make that argument?) is in my view grounds to say that the existence of a historical Jesus is more likely then not.

Offline davedan

  • Lord Cracker
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #38 on: June 03, 2016, 03:42:30 am »
You brought up Gilgamesh existing in relation to the idea of the Jesus Myth. I pointed out some legendary figures and you respond by saying they aren't related, that the existence or mythicism of one is unconnected to the other. I agree. It has no tendency to prove it either way.

Socrates was mentioned earlier in the thread. The interesting thing about Socrates is that the quality of his ideas are completely independent of his existence. The same cannot be said for a religious figure.

I don't think it's correct to say that Christianity started as a purely jewish movement. None of the original gospels were written in Aramaic, nor were the Epistles. Paul himself was asserted to be a Roman Citizen. The gospel of Mark was written in greek and believed to have been written in Rome. I don't see how it can be suggested that it was a purely jewish movement. Moreover while modern historians generally accept the historicity of  Jesus they don't accept the gospel of Mark (from its wikipedia page):

Quote
The modern consensus is that Mark's purpose was to present a theological message rather than to write history.[14]

So what can we know of a historical figure from a writing that is itself myth? Whose purpose was not history but religious instruction.

Even were it written in Jerusalem it is wrong to suggest that would be a purely Jewish movement without Greek and Roman influence. At the time of its writing it was a province of Rome.

I have heard the argument about the inconsistency of the character as being a basis for there being an historical Jesus. Christopher Hitchens does quite a good bit on it. For my part I am not convinced that the inconsistencies in the story are great evidence of historicity.

I take issue with the suggestion that there were near contemporary writings about Christ which accepted his existence. The passage in Tacitus, is neither contemporary (it is 100 years later - John Frumm and Ned Ludd were both believed to be historical in a much shorter timeframe than 100 years and both after the existence of the printing press) and does little to prove his existence. There is no indication in the passage that Tacitus was doing any more than echoing what Christians in Rome were saying. He certainly does not appear to refer to any imperial record of his existence or execution (I don't subscribe to the theory that we should have a roman record of his execution). The most important thing about the passage in Tacitus is that it shows that by that time there was a Roman community of Christians.

I also think it is wrong to think that people of the time would have been concerned if Jesus was real or not such that a refutation on that basis would have been recorded. At the time there were religions which to the uninitiated referred to real people but were revealed to be parable to the initiates.

I think the writing of Josephus has its only problems, not the least it has been tampered with.

Again I am happy to accept, particularly with historical figures, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I do think there is a problem with the idea that there is nothing unusual in there being little evidence of an itinerant Jewish preacher. If the Gospels or the Pauline Epistles record anything of his teaching or anything about a real person that teaching must have made a substantial impact on his followers. Otherwise it is unlikely that there is any reflection on the historical character in the gospel. The fact that any jewish preacher was crucified by the Romans does not prove that he was the spark that ignited Christianity. Even if there were a jewish preacher who was a follower of Rabbi Hillel crucified does that mean real Jesus?

The absolute proliferation of heresy in the early Church has always struck me as unlikely if the leaders of the Church could actually fall back on a received teaching or direct knowledge of Christ. However as much respect is paid to Paul who simply claimed 'inspiration' and 'visions' of Jesus.

In the end I don't think it's a question that can be definitively answered but I do think it is an interesting one.

Offline pyro

  • God
  • *****
  • Posts: 544
  • Gender: Male
  • Pretty unremarkable for a talking fire.
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #39 on: June 04, 2016, 07:50:40 pm »
I'm pretty sure the reason Paul had as much influence as he did was not because of being accepted by the other Christians (he wasn't), but because he preached to Greek and Roman people.
I operate under Crocker's rules. Feel free to be mean to me, if it'll help us communicate more effectively.

Color is not as black and white as we like to think.

Offline Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #40 on: June 05, 2016, 03:32:55 pm »
I'm not claiming to have proof by any stretch.  Proving something like this is impossible.  What I'm saying is a) a historical Jesus fits the available evidence better and with fewer assumptions then a mythic one does. and b) The advocates of Jesus Mythicism greatly overstate the strength of their arguments.

1) The lack of documentation is par for the course on ancient history.
2) Religious movements can form around possibly non-existent prophets like Frum, but it is far more commen for their founders to be actual people.
3) The similarities between Jesus and various pagan figures are mostly superficial and/or appear to be later additions to the Jesus story.

For example various stories about Gods or Heroes being born or concieved by supernatural means are held up as parallels to the Virgin Birth.  But the details of these stories are mostly quit different.  For example Dionysus was conceived by Zeus having sex with his mother, who was then murdered by Hera only for Zeus to take the baby from her womb and carry it to term in his thigh.  This has nothing in common with the Jesus story.  And on top of that the Virgin Birth does not appear in Mark and is believed to have been a later addition to the story that the very earliest Christians didn't believe it.

Now I'll grant you that mark is about as historically accurate as I would expect a biography of L Ron Hubbard written by Tom Cruise.  But that doesn't mean we can't learn anything from it if we read between the lines.  The oldest versions of Mark show a much more Jewish Messiah then later gospels, an ordinary person who is anointed by God after being baptized by John the Baptist not a divinely conceived demi-god.  The more explicitly divine aspects of Jesus seem to have come later in Christian history.  And I've already brought up the inconsistencies argument, for example in Mark Jesus fails to perform miracles when skeptics ask for them, in the gospel of John those same skeptics are amazed by Jesus awesome miracles.  Again this is not proof, but it seems more consistent with the idea of Jesus being an actual early first century Jewish cult leader who's story was broken telephoned and paganized then a non-existent figure. 

Also about Paul, Paul does talk about Jesus about Jesus being a flesh and blood human on earth, not a purely vision

Quote

Since many people who read Mythicist arguments have never actually read the letters of Paul, this one sounds convincing as well.  Except it simply isn't true.  While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn't giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus' earthly life in many places.  He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4).  He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3).  He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15).  He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8 ) and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4).  And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).

http://www.strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/

Now is possible that Paul was lying when he said he met Jesus brother James and would have revealed this was just a parable to initiates to the religion, but there is no evidence to support the idea that Paul thought of Jesus as anything but a physical Human who lived on Earth, or that any other Christians did not.

Jews of the first century probably were culturally influenced by Romans. but to the point that they would be creating a fictional messiah who bore little resemblance to the traditional Jewish idea of a messiah by cobbling together various pagan stories?  Probably not.

Also about Josephus, the consensus among historians is that of the two times he mentioned Jesus, one was tampered with (Antquities XVIII 3.4) but the second was not (Antiquities XX 9.1).  Likewise Tacitus could have been mislead by Christians, but this is out of character.  He was well known for rejecting hearsay and rumor as a basis for Historical research and hated Christians with a passion and probably wouldn't have trusted them for information. 
« Last Edit: June 05, 2016, 03:36:01 pm by Skybison »

Offline Ironchew

  • Official Edgelord
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1889
  • Gender: Male
  • The calm, intellectual Trotsky-like Trotskyist
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #41 on: June 05, 2016, 03:48:46 pm »
a) a historical Jesus fits the available evidence better and with fewer assumptions then a mythic one does.

Personally, I remain unconvinced of Jesus's historicity; the lack of conviction is always at least one fewer assumption than the positive claim.
Consumption is not a politically combative act — refraining from consumption even less so.

Offline Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #42 on: June 05, 2016, 03:57:03 pm »
Until you take into account alternate explanations of where the myth came from he he didn't exist, the specifics of which have their own assumptions that don't fit the available evidence.

Offline Ironchew

  • Official Edgelord
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1889
  • Gender: Male
  • The calm, intellectual Trotsky-like Trotskyist
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #43 on: June 05, 2016, 03:58:57 pm »
Until you take into account alternate explanations of where the myth came from he he didn't exist, the specifics of which have their own assumptions that don't fit the available evidence.

That's you reading into my lack of conviction, not any necessary implications of it.
Consumption is not a politically combative act — refraining from consumption even less so.

Offline davedan

  • Lord Cracker
  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
Re: Religious Mythicism
« Reply #44 on: June 05, 2016, 10:26:16 pm »
Thanks for that Article Skybison, both the parts were fascinating.

Honestly I don't find either the references in Josephus or Tacitus very convincing. Also I think that those references in Galatians are ambiguous particularly in the light of Galatians 1.11-1.12:

Quote
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

I also think this reinforced by Galatians 3:

Quote
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

I think it shows an emphasis on revelation rather than what we would call history or received teaching.

Nor do I think the reference to the baptism by John the Baptist is conclusive either. Although it does show an evolution in Christian thought.

Perhaps the strongest evidence for the historical case is that he came from Nazareth. Whether or not the 'retconning' of Bethelhem, is significant or not it seems to me that the obscurity of Nazareth is very strong for the historical case. In the absence of some strong symbolic meaning for Nazereth it seems strange to have it being the place from where a mythic being is said to originate. I don't think the 'Nazarite'/ 'Nazerene' explanation is very strong.