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The Christ Myth Theory

1Heidegger1!

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I just went back to the Wikipedia page on the Christ myth theory, which I haven't looked at in years, to find it is basically being portrayed as analogous to Young Earth Creationism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory . And, Internet Infidels/Secular Web gets a mention:

Ehrman notes that "the mythicists have become loud, and thanks to the Internet they've attracted more attention".[380] Within a few years of the inception of the World Wide Web (c. 1990), mythicists such as Earl Doherty began to present their argument to a larger public via the internet.[note 35] Doherty created the website The Jesus Puzzle in 1996,[web 24] while the organization Internet Infidels has featured the works of mythicists on their website[381] and mythicism has been mentioned on several popular news sites.[382]

Since its resurgence in the 1970's, proponents of the Christ Myth Theory have only managed to publish one peer reviewed book on the topic, "On The Historicity Of Jesus" by Dr. Richard Carrier, with the footnote that this was published by Sheffield, who also published Thomas Brodie's mythicist autobiography, so they seem to like that sort of thing. The only related peer reviewed publication was by Dr. Raphael Lataster, arguing for Jesus Agnosticism. I have interviewed Richard before and find his argument rigorous and plausible, though I ultimately disagree with mythicism on interpretive grounds.

What do others think of Jesus Mythicism? Do you find it plausible, or finge/crank? Would anyone be interested in discussing the recent Loftus/Price mythicist book Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist.

1653832683562.png

I realize I'm raising this in the context of Internet Infidels / Secular Web, where Richard used to work, and he has a significant online following, so there may be some interesting discussions to be had!
 

1Heidegger1!

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Do you find it plausible, or finge/crank?
Those aren't necessarily non-overlapping categories.
True, I find it fringe, and yet plausible.

I think Carrier makes a compelling argument that there is definitely influence here from Pagan Dying/Rising God mythology (see his post https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13890 ). Another good point he has is the Rank-Raglan mythotype, that if we put the names of figures in a hat that are as heavily mythologized as Jesus, the likelihood of drawing the name of an historical figure is at best 1/3.

I also don't feel the historicist's "go to" arguments like the "James, the brother of the Lord" passage, or the seed of David passage in Paul are particularly problematic for mythicism. With the former, Carrier is right that "James" in Paul could simply be referring to a non-apostolic baptized Christian, not a blood brother of Jesus, and for the latter, as Covington pointed out to Carrier, we have an analogy to magically preserved sperm in Zoroastrianism (which the Christians seem to have been using anyway), so that objection doesn't really work either.

I disagree with Carrier on interpretive grounds since the message the first Christians were trying to sell makes far more sense from a historicist perspective than a mythicist one. I try to outline my argument on the Internet Infidels/Secular Web "The Secular Frontier" blog in this post with embedded links here: https://secularfrontier.infidels.or...ast-about-mythicism-atonement-and-gnosticism/ . But yes, mathematically in terms of prior probability, I think Carrier has a better argument than the other historicism arguments I've seen out there like Bart Ehrman's.

It's not important to me from a personal point of view, since Christianity is not more likely true if Jesus existed. It's all just ancient superstition however you paint the portrait of Jesus, mythical or historical.
 

dbz

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I just went back to the Wikipedia page on the Christ myth theory, which I haven't looked at in years, to find it is basically being portrayed as analogous to Young Earth Creationism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory .
Also N.B.:

Current discussion topics:
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Christ_myth_theory#Title
  2. The Hypocrisy Of Dr. Bart Ehrman On The Historicity Of Jesus & comments @
 

bilby

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It's not important to me from a personal point of view, since Christianity is not more likely true if Jesus existed. It's all just ancient superstition however you paint the portrait of Jesus, mythical or historical.
^This.

It seems like a completely pointless discussion of things we do not, and probably never can have, sufficient evidence to determine; And even if we were able to find such evidence, it would have exactly zero impact on anything at all.

Finding out that there really was a reporter for a major newspaper in the twentieth century called Clark Kent, who was adopted as a baby by a mid-western farming couple, and had colleagues called Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, would be of very minor interest. Nothing about such a discovery would really matter.

Now, proof that a person could leap tall buildings in a single bound, was more powerful than a locomotive, or was faster than a speeding bullet: That would be interesting. But such proof would remain interesting whether or not there was a real Clark Kent.

Jesus historicism or mythicism is futile. There were people in Nazareth in the first century CE. Some were undoubtedly carpenters. Did one such have a son called Jesus? Who cares? There were doubtless plenty of mid-western farmers called Kent in the early twentieth century, and it would be unremarkable if one had adopted an infant. That doesn’t add or subtract anything from the Superman stories.
 

1Heidegger1!

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I just went back to the Wikipedia page on the Christ myth theory, which I haven't looked at in years, to find it is basically being portrayed as analogous to Young Earth Creationism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory .
Also N.B.:

Current discussion topics:
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Christ_myth_theory#Title
  2. The Hypocrisy Of Dr. Bart Ehrman On The Historicity Of Jesus & comments @

Thanks for sharing the video. With all the Ehrman video cross-referencing it must have taken a long time to put together unless he had a team working on it. Yes, Carrier says he was disappointed with Ehrman because he had hoped Ehrman would have put forth a much better case in favor of historicity than he did in "Did Jesus Exist?" For me,, one point Ehrman could have made is that while Carrier thinks Jesus paid our sin debt by being crucified by demons in outer space and was never on earth, then why does Luke not have a sin debt atonement interpretation of the cross? Ehrman comments:

It is easy to see Luke’s own distinctive view by considering what he has to say in the book of Acts, where the apostles give a number of speeches in order to convert others to the faith. What is striking is that in none of these instances (look, e.g., in chapters 3, 4, 13), do the apostles indicate that Jesus’ death brings atonement for sins. It is not that Jesus’ death is unimportant. It’s extremely important for Luke. But not as an atonement. Instead, Jesus death is what makes people realize their guilt before God (since he died even though he was innocent). Once people recognize their guilt, they turn to God in repentance, and then he forgives their sins. see: https://ehrmanblog.org/did-luke-have-a-doctrine-of-the-atonement-mailbag-september-24-2017/

In the link I gave above I argue that this Lukan model of non sin debt atonement is actually what we see in Paul and Mark, so mythicism is wrong about the meaning of the central event of the religion (the meaning of the crucifixion), and so thematically Jesus probably died on earth because the main idea doesn't make sense from the celestial Jesus point of view.
 

dbz

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I argue that this Lukan model of non sin debt atonement is actually what we see in Paul and Mark, so mythicism is wrong about the meaning of the central event of the religion (the meaning of the crucifixion), and so thematically Jesus probably died on earth because the main idea doesn't make sense from the celestial Jesus point of view.
Per Kimbell, John (2014). The Atonement in Lukan Theology. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-6856-3.
• CHAPTER TWO – THE NEW COVENANT SACRIFICE @ https://www.google.com/books/editio...QBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA18&printsec=frontcover
When attention is given to the Old Testament ideas standing behind Luke’s account, it becomes evident that Jesus is interpreting his death as a sacrifice that atones for the sins of God’s people so that they might enter a new eschatological covenant with God.

Does your Lukan model of non sin debt atonement derive from "the sins of God’s people" ?
 

dbz

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Per John MacDonald:
Per Carrier @ comment-31255 (3 October 2022) "Open Thread On the Historicity of Jesus".
Modern theology is irrelevant. To explain the origins of Christianity you have to work from their theology, not someone else’s. For example, Hebrews 9 is an accurate and actual representation of the original Christian atonement theory that formed the religion. And it matches very closely Jewish atonement theology generally from the time, as one would expect. That is why this is what I discuss in OHJ. Everything there is based on what actual ancient Christians and Jews said, as interpreted historically, not through the lens of modern apologetics. How modern Christians conceptualize crucifixion theology has no bearing on this question.
 

1Heidegger1!

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I argue that this Lukan model of non sin debt atonement is actually what we see in Paul and Mark, so mythicism is wrong about the meaning of the central event of the religion (the meaning of the crucifixion), and so thematically Jesus probably died on earth because the main idea doesn't make sense from the celestial Jesus point of view.
Per Kimbell, John (2014). The Atonement in Lukan Theology. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-6856-3.
• CHAPTER TWO – THE NEW COVENANT SACRIFICE @ https://www.google.com/books/editio...QBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA18&printsec=frontcover
When attention is given to the Old Testament ideas standing behind Luke’s account, it becomes evident that Jesus is interpreting his death as a sacrifice that atones for the sins of God’s people so that they might enter a new eschatological covenant with God.

Does your Lukan model of non sin debt atonement derive from "the sins of God’s people" ?

As with anything else in biblical studies regarding the New Testament, the evidence is often ambiguous and can be taken a number of ways. I find Ehrman's interpretation of Luke's crucifixion model compelling as he outlines it in Misquoting Jesus and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. It fits nicely with the ancient understanding of the "turning of the mirror" imagery we see with the death of Socrates in the Phaedo ("let us offer a rooster to Asclepius") and elsewhere. I outline all of this in the article I linked to. This reading of Ehrman was current as of his 2017 blog post I linked to, and fits perfectly with the "father forgive them" statement of the Lukan crucified Jesus.
 

1Heidegger1!

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Per John MacDonald:
Per Carrier @ comment-31255 (3 October 2022) "Open Thread On the Historicity of Jesus".
Modern theology is irrelevant. To explain the origins of Christianity you have to work from their theology, not someone else’s. For example, Hebrews 9 is an accurate and actual representation of the original Christian atonement theory that formed the religion. And it matches very closely Jewish atonement theology generally from the time, as one would expect. That is why this is what I discuss in OHJ. Everything there is based on what actual ancient Christians and Jews said, as interpreted historically, not through the lens of modern apologetics. How modern Christians conceptualize crucifixion theology has no bearing on this question.


As I have discussed with Carrier in the past when I interviewed him for II/SW, his "sin debt payment" interpretation of the cross has some major flaws.

For one thing, as he himself admits, sin debt atonement is logically incoherent because it doesn't, for instance, serve justice to punish an innocent child in Africa for the crimes of a felon in Chicago. That's the opposite of justice! Moreover, as Dr. McGrath has repeatedly and compellingly shown along with other progressive Christian thinkers, that "sin debt payment" interpretation as God demanding justice because he can't forgive is completely idiosyncratic in a Jewish context because if there is one thing the God of the Hebrew scriptures can and does do, it's forgive.

Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.

Carrier would have to outline a highly sophisticated argument to overcome these prior existing contextual interpretive hurdles. He certainly doesn't provide such a defense in his scholarly monograph On The Historicity Of Jesus or his popular trade book Jesus From Outer Space. As Gordon Wenham shows regarding Christ's sacrifice and the book of Hebrews, the Levitical background of Hebrews shows that the sacrifice of the one animal is meant to purify the location so God can be present amidst a sinful people. The other Levitical animal here, scapegoat that the sins are placed upon, is not killed, but in fact released into the wilderness, so this isn't a model that can be used to prooftext Christ's death as being responsible for the sin debt being wiped clean.
 

Jarhyn

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I recall a Christ mythicist from highschool, the only other one I've met in the flesh. I think about her, wishing that she had not been essentially dragged off to Texas by her dad and forced to marry and be "cowed".

Eventually her point sank in even if it took almost a decade, and exposure to these forums: a hundred percent of the cultists came about in the timeline that would be explained well by a Greek style play presented as reality.

Whether Jesus existed or not, the only contemporary accounts are accounts about the cultists and what they believed.

Trusting the documents OF a cult ABOUT the cult is about as reasonable as picking up a Mormon text and saying it's an argument for the historicity of Xenu.

We have 2000 years of vigorous book burnings and book HIDING going on from the organization that grew up from those tiny cults.

There's just no evidence for it.

Personally I think it has more value as a tragedy and allegory and work of fiction anyway.

From this lens as "fiction but one which contains truth", we can glean much: a number of decent fables, some ethical paradigms with good staying power, and a number of good imprecations against being a greedy fuck which I managed to learn (and more importantly come to understand) in spite of rigorous Republican upbringing.
 

dbz

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FYI: Cho presents the argument made by Ehrman per Lukan atonement theology contra Kimbell et al.

• Cho, Jeung Un (2020). "Studies by Bart D. Ehrman". A text-critical study on the Lukan account of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:17-20) : the shorter reading and its implications. Stellenbosch University: Thesis (MTh). p. 20, § 2.4.4. Online PDF is available.
Ehrman makes a specific discussion about Acts 20:28, which is often brought up as an example of Lukan atonement theology (Kimbell, 2014:53-58; et al.). Contra arguments associating Acts 20:28 with the Pauline theology of atonement while focusing on the phrase περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, he argues περιεποιήσατο does not imply Jesus’ self-giving act as an atoning sacrifice, but God’s action using Jesus’ blood to acquire the church.
 

1Heidegger1!

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I recall a Christ mythicist from highschool, the only other one I've met in the flesh. I think about her, wishing that she had not been essentially dragged off to Texas by her dad and forced to marry and be "cowed".

Eventually her point sank in even if it took almost a decade, and exposure to these forums: a hundred percent of the cultists came about in the timeline that would be explained well by a Greek style play presented as reality.

Whether Jesus existed or not, the only contemporary accounts are accounts about the cultists and what they believed.

Trusting the documents OF a cult ABOUT the cult is about as reasonable as picking up a Mormon text and saying it's an argument for the historicity of Xenu.

We have 2000 years of vigorous book burnings and book HIDING going on from the organization that grew up from those tiny cults.

There's just no evidence for it.

Personally I think it has more value as a tragedy and allegory and work of fiction anyway.

From this lens as "fiction but one which contains truth", we can glean much: a number of decent fables, some ethical paradigms with good staying power, and a number of good imprecations against being a greedy fuck which I managed to learn (and more importantly come to understand) in spite of rigorous Republican upbringing.

I appreciate Christian origins from a secular philosophical standpoint. For instance, I appreciate Jesus redefining Love/Agape from love of God and neighbor to include love of enemy. This helps us move beyond the eros of glory/honor obsessed Achilles to bestowing value where even those who are sometimes seen as undesirable like widow, orphan, stranger and enemy have full worth. That was Nietzsche's positive takeaway from Jesus in the Antichrist: the loving Jesus vs the blaming Christ. It's just a healthy approach to life if you strip away the magic/superstition.

It can certainly get heated debating with mythicists. Ehrman said of Carrier that:

Carrier wrote a very long and detailed response which was meant to show, as is his wont, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have been asked several times by several people to respond to his response, but I know where that will go – it will take a response twice as long as his to show why his views are problematic, he will reply with a reply that is four times as long to show I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will respond with a response twice as long as that to show that I do, he will rejoin with …. (Ehrman, 2016, ehrmanblog)
 

Jarhyn

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I recall a Christ mythicist from highschool, the only other one I've met in the flesh. I think about her, wishing that she had not been essentially dragged off to Texas by her dad and forced to marry and be "cowed".

Eventually her point sank in even if it took almost a decade, and exposure to these forums: a hundred percent of the cultists came about in the timeline that would be explained well by a Greek style play presented as reality.

Whether Jesus existed or not, the only contemporary accounts are accounts about the cultists and what they believed.

Trusting the documents OF a cult ABOUT the cult is about as reasonable as picking up a Mormon text and saying it's an argument for the historicity of Xenu.

We have 2000 years of vigorous book burnings and book HIDING going on from the organization that grew up from those tiny cults.

There's just no evidence for it.

Personally I think it has more value as a tragedy and allegory and work of fiction anyway.

From this lens as "fiction but one which contains truth", we can glean much: a number of decent fables, some ethical paradigms with good staying power, and a number of good imprecations against being a greedy fuck which I managed to learn (and more importantly come to understand) in spite of rigorous Republican upbringing.

I appreciate Christian origins from a secular philosophical standpoint. For instance, I appreciate Jesus redefining Love/Agape from love of God and neighbor to include love of enemy. This helps us move beyond the eros of glory/honor obsessed Achilles to bestowing value where even those who are sometimes seen as undesirable like widow, orphan, stranger and enemy have full worth. That was Nietzsche's positive takeaway from Jesus in the Antichrist: the loving Jesus vs the blaming Christ. It's just a healthy approach to life if you strip away the magic/superstition.

It can certainly get heated debating with mythicists. Ehrman said of Carrier that:

Carrier wrote a very long and detailed response which was meant to show, as is his wont, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have been asked several times by several people to respond to his response, but I know where that will go – it will take a response twice as long as his to show why his views are problematic, he will reply with a reply that is four times as long to show I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will respond with a response twice as long as that to show that I do, he will rejoin with …. (Ehrman, 2016, ehrmanblog)
I mean, fuck, I'm a mythicist and I'm a fucking wizard. I am going to point out that I do absolutely think that parts of this story are the result of someone the original author knew, being observed living his life.

It sounds like the kind of trouble I would get into if I was born at the turn of the age, myself.

Even so, the majority of it is a work of fiction, and was spread around originally as such. The cult only likely ever saw this fiction is how I see it, and it has value moreso as fiction.

There's value in a good piece of fiction. I mean shit, my favorite author is a Mormon! And a fiction author.
 

1Heidegger1!

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I recall a Christ mythicist from highschool, the only other one I've met in the flesh. I think about her, wishing that she had not been essentially dragged off to Texas by her dad and forced to marry and be "cowed".

Eventually her point sank in even if it took almost a decade, and exposure to these forums: a hundred percent of the cultists came about in the timeline that would be explained well by a Greek style play presented as reality.

Whether Jesus existed or not, the only contemporary accounts are accounts about the cultists and what they believed.

Trusting the documents OF a cult ABOUT the cult is about as reasonable as picking up a Mormon text and saying it's an argument for the historicity of Xenu.

We have 2000 years of vigorous book burnings and book HIDING going on from the organization that grew up from those tiny cults.

There's just no evidence for it.

Personally I think it has more value as a tragedy and allegory and work of fiction anyway.

From this lens as "fiction but one which contains truth", we can glean much: a number of decent fables, some ethical paradigms with good staying power, and a number of good imprecations against being a greedy fuck which I managed to learn (and more importantly come to understand) in spite of rigorous Republican upbringing.

I appreciate Christian origins from a secular philosophical standpoint. For instance, I appreciate Jesus redefining Love/Agape from love of God and neighbor to include love of enemy. This helps us move beyond the eros of glory/honor obsessed Achilles to bestowing value where even those who are sometimes seen as undesirable like widow, orphan, stranger and enemy have full worth. That was Nietzsche's positive takeaway from Jesus in the Antichrist: the loving Jesus vs the blaming Christ. It's just a healthy approach to life if you strip away the magic/superstition.

It can certainly get heated debating with mythicists. Ehrman said of Carrier that:

Carrier wrote a very long and detailed response which was meant to show, as is his wont, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have been asked several times by several people to respond to his response, but I know where that will go – it will take a response twice as long as his to show why his views are problematic, he will reply with a reply that is four times as long to show I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will respond with a response twice as long as that to show that I do, he will rejoin with …. (Ehrman, 2016, ehrmanblog)
I mean, fuck, I'm a mythicist and I'm a fucking wizard. I am going to point out that I do absolutely think that parts of this story are the result of someone the original author knew, being observed living his life.

It sounds like the kind of trouble I would get into if I was born at the turn of the age, myself.

Even so, the majority of it is a work of fiction, and was spread around originally as such. The cult only likely ever saw this fiction is how I see it, and it has value moreso as fiction.

There's value in a good piece of fiction. I mean shit, my favorite author is a Mormon! And a fiction author.

There's so many different ways to interpret Jesus. Some of the more popular are apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish messiah, prophet of social change, and rabbi. More recently, we can add Jesus as mythical figure placed in human history (like Hercules). I think mythicism is a perfectly reasonable portrait, is rigorously argued by Price, Carrier, Fitzgerald, Godfrey, etc. I disagree with it because it depends on the penal substitution interpretation of the cross, which I disagree with as an interpretive model. I don't think there was any theology originally connected to the cross. That came later. Our first gospel Mark has an interesting story of the disciples getting violent at the arrest. It's unlikely Mark would have invented the story of the disciples being violent. Also, they wouldn't have gotten violent if it was part of the plan for Jesus to die. But who knows? Maybe mythicists are right, or maybe historicists are. I think Jesus existed, but is basically lost behind endless layers of propaganda and magic.
 

dbz

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The Hebrew scriptures appear to be awash in atoning blood:

• Godfrey, Neil (4 January 2019). "Why a Saviour Had to Suffer and Die? Martyrdom Beliefs in Pre-Christian Times". Vridar.
The blood of the martyr atones for the sin of his people -- Deut. 32.43; II Mac. 7.37 f; IV Mac. 1.11; 6.28 f; 12.7 f; 17.21 f; SB, II, 274 ff; 281 f; MidrHL. on 7.9; MidrPr. on 9.2
• Godfrey, Neil (15 January 2019). "Salvation through a Saviour's Death -- Another List". Vridar.
[T}he blood of Jewish martyrs was believed to purify and cleanse the nation; the martyrs’ blood led to God’s forgiveness of the sins of the nation and the salvation of all.
 

1Heidegger1!

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Does your Lukan model of non sin debt atonement derive from "the sins of God’s people" ? (dbz)

So basically what I'm arguing is Jesus was wrongly put to death because of the sins of the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and crowd placating indifferent to justice Pilate, who are also in all of us to varying degrees. So, the more you hear or read about Jesus and all he said and did, the more you see what a travesty his execution was. God's specially chosen one meant to restore the Davidic throne was given the most horrific possible execution.

As we come to see our guilt in this, we repent and also want the world to change. This happens, for instance, when we look at our society we created and how it trampled on LGBTQ rights with the traditional definition of marriage. This repentance was especially urgent in Jesus' time because they thought the end of the age and judgment was imminent. We see something similar with the death of Socrates where the more we learn about him, the more offended and outraged we are that society put him to death. And this approach works. We no longer execute people for being a nuisance (Socrates the gadfly).

This is what I'm arguing against the penal substitution interpretation, which as I said is logically incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish.
 

dbz

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Per Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? (2021).

Comment by rgprice—3 December 2021—per Widowfield (1 December 2021). "We've Been Published -- Varieties of Jesus Mythicism". Vridar.
I just want to make the following note. I wrote my contribution for this shortly after the publication of Deciphering the Gospels, and before I got deep into the research for the new book I’m working on now. My views have changed significantly since I wrote the contribution for this book. I don’t think what I wrote for this is particularly problematic, but it doesn’t really reflect my current views on the Gospel origins. That’s fine, because I qualified my proposition: “The case I’ve laid out may not be entirely correct in every detail, but what is important here is that nothing about this model is outlandish or even novel.”

I stand by that. I don’t think what I laid out is correct, but it also wasn’t outlandish. For those who haven’t or won’t read it, I basically laid out a case for Mark having been written by an associate of Paul’s and for the other Gospels being derived from Mark through mundane ways and for rather obscure reasons. I would say now that I don’t think the writer of Mark was an associate of Paul’s, and that we have a much better understanding of the motivations behind the writing of Matthew, Luke and John than what I understood when I wrote that. I now view Matthew and Luke as having been derived from Marcion’s Gospel and written in opposition to Marcionism. John appears to be a “Gnostic”/Valentinian Gospel that was appropriated and revised into an orthodox form. So this views Matthew, Luke and John as appropriations of “heretical Gospels”. I still view Mark as the first of the recognizable Gospels, preceding Marcion’s Gospel.
 

neilgodfrey

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I just went back to the Wikipedia page on the Christ myth theory, which I haven't looked at in years, to find it is basically being portrayed as analogous to Young Earth Creationism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory . And, Internet Infidels/Secular Web gets a mention:

Ehrman notes that "the mythicists have become loud, and thanks to the Internet they've attracted more attention".[380] Within a few years of the inception of the World Wide Web (c. 1990), mythicists such as Earl Doherty began to present their argument to a larger public via the internet.[note 35] Doherty created the website The Jesus Puzzle in 1996,[web 24] while the organization Internet Infidels has featured the works of mythicists on their website[381] and mythicism has been mentioned on several popular news sites.[382]

Since its resurgence in the 1970's, proponents of the Christ Myth Theory have only managed to publish one peer reviewed book on the topic, "On The Historicity Of Jesus" by Dr. Richard Carrier, with the footnote that this was published by Sheffield, who also published Thomas Brodie's mythicist autobiography, so they seem to like that sort of thing. The only related peer reviewed publication was by Dr. Raphael Lataster, arguing for Jesus Agnosticism. I have interviewed Richard before and find his argument rigorous and plausible, though I ultimately disagree with mythicism on interpretive grounds.

What do others think of Jesus Mythicism? Do you find it plausible, or finge/crank? Would anyone be interested in discussing the recent Loftus/Price mythicist book Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist.

View attachment 38791

I realize I'm raising this in the context of Internet Infidels / Secular Web, where Richard used to work, and he has a significant online following, so there may be some interesting discussions to be had!
When I was asked to contribute a chapter to this book I was relieved that I did not have to argue a case for Jesus mythicism. To me, there is no case to answer: The Jesus of the gospels is recognized as mythical by critical scholars and the Jesus of Paul's letters is a theological construct. Whether there is a historical Jesus behind either the gospels or the letters is impossible to determine because there is no contemporary independent source to confirm the existence of such a person. That state of affairs was explicitly acknowledged by Albert Schweitzer in his detailed book arguing against the mythicists of his day. And reliance upon contemporary independent witnesses is the touchstone of the historical method. (Even where sources are late, historians look for indications that the author was drawing upon sources from the time of the person or event being discussed.)

The problem with trying to make a case for the historical Jesus by trying to imagine what the author of the gospels would or would not have made up (criterion of embarrassment) -- e.g. the disciples getting violent at Jesus' arrest -- is that very many details in those gospels were evidently made up to illustrate some fulfilment of scripture. But more to the point, I think, is if we let ourselves be guided by the normal methods of dating documents, and that means again relying upon independent witnesses. In the case of the canonical gospels, there is no clear cut evidence that anyone knew of them until the mid second century. We can speculate all sorts of reasons that we lack earlier evidence of their existence, but then we are merely trying to explain why we don't have the evidence for what we want to be true.

As for the meaning imputed to the crucifixion of Jesus, among the earliest sources is a range of views. Some spoke of his death as a ransom being paid to "the devil" to release the dead from Hades. Others treated his death the same way some treated the (momentary) death of Isaac (some traditions said Isaac was slain but restored immediately) and the Maccabean martyrs -- the blood atoned for all sins of Israel.

There is also good reason to think that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark was a careful personification or metaphor for the people of Israel, especially their demise in 70 and even perhaps 135 CE. But one thing is sure: we have no clear cut evidence that anyone had heard of a gospel narrative until the middle of the second century -- and that first evidence comes with Marcion apparently producing his gospel (whether that was based on an earlier gospel we don't know). And once one was known, a cottage industry of producing lots more was begun.

Before then, who knows? We have the Book of Revelation. Perhaps the Ascension of Isaiah.
 

1Heidegger1!

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Per Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? (2021).

Comment by rgprice—3 December 2021—per Widowfield (1 December 2021). "We've Been Published -- Varieties of Jesus Mythicism". Vridar.
I just want to make the following note. I wrote my contribution for this shortly after the publication of Deciphering the Gospels, and before I got deep into the research for the new book I’m working on now. My views have changed significantly since I wrote the contribution for this book. I don’t think what I wrote for this is particularly problematic, but it doesn’t really reflect my current views on the Gospel origins. That’s fine, because I qualified my proposition: “The case I’ve laid out may not be entirely correct in every detail, but what is important here is that nothing about this model is outlandish or even novel.”

I stand by that. I don’t think what I laid out is correct, but it also wasn’t outlandish. For those who haven’t or won’t read it, I basically laid out a case for Mark having been written by an associate of Paul’s and for the other Gospels being derived from Mark through mundane ways and for rather obscure reasons. I would say now that I don’t think the writer of Mark was an associate of Paul’s, and that we have a much better understanding of the motivations behind the writing of Matthew, Luke and John than what I understood when I wrote that. I now view Matthew and Luke as having been derived from Marcion’s Gospel and written in opposition to Marcionism. John appears to be a “Gnostic”/Valentinian Gospel that was appropriated and revised into an orthodox form. So this views Matthew, Luke and John as appropriations of “heretical Gospels”. I still view Mark as the first of the recognizable Gospels, preceding Marcion’s Gospel.

I Like RG Price. I read his “Deciphering” book a while ago.

It’s not that I think the idea that Jesus never existed, mythicism, is a bad theory. It has a lot of explanatory power, like the dying/rising God mytheme, and the Rank Raglan mythotype. And so it certainly should be included at the table with all the other plausible portraits like Jesus as apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish messiah, prophet of social change, or rabbi. Each of these portraits explain the evidence and attempt to explain a way apparently recalcitrant evidence. Any could be right. I’m just throwing my hunch on the pile of this embarrassment of riches.

For me, one thing I think we need to ask is what problem was the original Jesus movement trying to solve? For me, Ehrman and Allison make a compelling case that the first Christians were apocalyptic. They thought the end of the age was near, and so also final judgment. The problem was that people were awful (consider the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and indifferent to justice/crowd placating Pilate in Mark) and needed to have a change of heart and repent if they were to be judged favorably.

So, the question is how does the cross inspire a change of heart and repentance? Carrier’s model, that Jesus was never on earth but crucified by demons in outer space seems to have little ability to make our guilt conspicuous. On the other hand, as I identify with the moral failings of the crowd, religious elite and Pilate, this can certainly make explicit my own shortcomings to me and hence be a catalyst for a change of heart and repentance. Without repentance forgiveness is impotent, such as with a wife continually forgiving a spouse who won’t stop cheating. Realization and a change of heart is needed, and I think that’s one reason my model makes more sense of the cross than Carrier’s. But, as I said, the evidence is ambiguous so you can read it a bunch of different ways.

New Conservative Christian: Christ's death wiped away my sin debt. I'm clean

Devil's Advocate: What if you sin again?

New Conservative Christian: I can repent

Devil's Advocate: If repentance works, why did Jesus have to die in the first place?
 

Jarhyn

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Does your Lukan model of non sin debt atonement derive from "the sins of God’s people" ? (dbz)

So basically what I'm arguing is Jesus was wrongly put to death because of the sins of the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and crowd placating indifferent to justice Pilate, who are also in all of us to varying degrees. So, the more you hear or read about Jesus and all he said and did, the more you see what a travesty his execution was. God's specially chosen one meant to restore the Davidic throne was given the most horrific possible execution.

As we come to see our guilt in this, we repent and also want the world to change. This happens, for instance, when we look at our society we created and how it trampled on LGBTQ rights with the traditional definition of marriage. This repentance was especially urgent in Jesus' time because they thought the end of the age and judgment was imminent. We see something similar with the death of Socrates where the more we learn about him, the more offended and outraged we are that society put him to death. And this approach works. We no longer execute people for being a nuisance (Socrates the gadfly).

This is what I'm arguing against the penal substitution interpretation, which as I said is logically incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish.
So, there's another interpretation of the cross available, just saying...

A common enough thought in modern fiction is that on the whole, a rather large volume of people are  murderously angry at god, specifically.

In the words of a very good song "fuck you in the ass mouth and cunt ya. Fuck you in the eye; Hasa Giga Eeboai! Fuck you in the other eye! Fuck you, God!"

In some respects, the sin he was being sacrificed for was not the sins of the crowd but his sin specifically for standing up to die for what he claims to have done: the sin of creation.

If there ever was an original sin, it was making people and then playing with us like things.

The part about there being parts that arguably would have been written out, that part is interesting. Still, what we have is unarguably a pile of fictions.

There are nonetheless parts of that story that I see the human being that it was written about? Not a god but a person who lacked the cultural and linguistic tools to communicate a very complicated series of ideas any better than you could expect of any bronze age thinker with bronze age languages, no matter how brilliant.

I can see a lot of myself in him.
 

1Heidegger1!

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FYI:
There was some overlap of content presented in Varieties of Jesus Mythicism and the "International eConference on the Historical Jesus". GCRR. 24-25 July 2021.

See review: "The GCRR eConference on the Historical Jesus: A Retrospective". Richard Carrier Blogs. 1 August 2021.

Carrier's summary was good. One thing I think he's a little weak on is when he claimed:

For example, Matthew has to invent a new apologetic for the empty tomb because no one had ever heard of such a thing before Mark invented it; otherwise, Mark would have had to have done what Matthew did, as the empty tomb story would have been spread across three continents for four decades by then. But only after Mark publishes the notion do we hear an obvious rebuttal arising to it (“they just stole the body!”) that Matthew then has to answer.

That's possible, but another equally plausible alternative is Mark was aware of the objections against the empty tomb (eg disciples stole the body), and didn't have a good apologetic response and so didn't bring it up because it was a weak point in the Christian argument. Pearce made the same objection against the empty tomb when I interviewed him but the objection is a weak one. Carrier and Pearce's inference from Mark's silence could be right, but there is no reason to think so.
 

1Heidegger1!

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I just went back to the Wikipedia page on the Christ myth theory, which I haven't looked at in years, to find it is basically being portrayed as analogous to Young Earth Creationism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory . And, Internet Infidels/Secular Web gets a mention:

Ehrman notes that "the mythicists have become loud, and thanks to the Internet they've attracted more attention".[380] Within a few years of the inception of the World Wide Web (c. 1990), mythicists such as Earl Doherty began to present their argument to a larger public via the internet.[note 35] Doherty created the website The Jesus Puzzle in 1996,[web 24] while the organization Internet Infidels has featured the works of mythicists on their website[381] and mythicism has been mentioned on several popular news sites.[382]

Since its resurgence in the 1970's, proponents of the Christ Myth Theory have only managed to publish one peer reviewed book on the topic, "On The Historicity Of Jesus" by Dr. Richard Carrier, with the footnote that this was published by Sheffield, who also published Thomas Brodie's mythicist autobiography, so they seem to like that sort of thing. The only related peer reviewed publication was by Dr. Raphael Lataster, arguing for Jesus Agnosticism. I have interviewed Richard before and find his argument rigorous and plausible, though I ultimately disagree with mythicism on interpretive grounds.

What do others think of Jesus Mythicism? Do you find it plausible, or finge/crank? Would anyone be interested in discussing the recent Loftus/Price mythicist book Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist.

View attachment 38791

I realize I'm raising this in the context of Internet Infidels / Secular Web, where Richard used to work, and he has a significant online following, so there may be some interesting discussions to be had!
When I was asked to contribute a chapter to this book I was relieved that I did not have to argue a case for Jesus mythicism. To me, there is no case to answer: The Jesus of the gospels is recognized as mythical by critical scholars and the Jesus of Paul's letters is a theological construct. Whether there is a historical Jesus behind either the gospels or the letters is impossible to determine because there is no contemporary independent source to confirm the existence of such a person. That state of affairs was explicitly acknowledged by Albert Schweitzer in his detailed book arguing against the mythicists of his day. And reliance upon contemporary independent witnesses is the touchstone of the historical method. (Even where sources are late, historians look for indications that the author was drawing upon sources from the time of the person or event being discussed.)

The problem with trying to make a case for the historical Jesus by trying to imagine what the author of the gospels would or would not have made up (criterion of embarrassment) -- e.g. the disciples getting violent at Jesus' arrest -- is that very many details in those gospels were evidently made up to illustrate some fulfilment of scripture. But more to the point, I think, is if we let ourselves be guided by the normal methods of dating documents, and that means again relying upon independent witnesses. In the case of the canonical gospels, there is no clear cut evidence that anyone knew of them until the mid second century. We can speculate all sorts of reasons that we lack earlier evidence of their existence, but then we are merely trying to explain why we don't have the evidence for what we want to be true.

As for the meaning imputed to the crucifixion of Jesus, among the earliest sources is a range of views. Some spoke of his death as a ransom being paid to "the devil" to release the dead from Hades. Others treated his death the same way some treated the (momentary) death of Isaac (some traditions said Isaac was slain but restored immediately) and the Maccabean martyrs -- the blood atoned for all sins of Israel.

There is also good reason to think that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark was a careful personification or metaphor for the people of Israel, especially their demise in 70 and even perhaps 135 CE. But one thing is sure: we have no clear cut evidence that anyone had heard of a gospel narrative until the middle of the second century -- and that first evidence comes with Marcion apparently producing his gospel (whether that was based on an earlier gospel we don't know). And once one was known, a cottage industry of producing lots more was begun.

Before then, who knows? We have the Book of Revelation. Perhaps the Ascension of Isaiah.

It's tough. The best I can do with the gospels is that Mark highlights the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, an indifferent to justice / crowd placating Pilate (breaking Roman law - releasing Barabbas, a known killer of Romans, and having the crowd decide Jesus's fate) bringing about the unjust death of Jesus, and Jesus allowing his death to make this hidden evil conspicuous: my version of the classic Moral Influence interpretation of the cross by Abelard. And this is what happens. The Roman soldier says "truly this is God's son." In Luke the soldier says "truly this was an innocent mam." That's what I make of it as a literary theme. It's the same as Socrates death in the Phaedo though extremely augmented because Jesus is the specially favored son of God. If this theme is right, a mythical Jesus executed by demons in outer space doesn't really work because while I can identify with the corrupt and fallible humanity in those men responsible for Jesus' death and see it in myself, not so much Carrier's sky demons. But your right, mythicism could be right. It's tough.
 

ramoss

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.
There is one paragraph I would like to address. If you look at Paul's writing and attitudes from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of items that are distinctly not Jewish. The concept of Salvation he added is just one of them. His attitude to the law as being 'troublesome and a burden' shows a distinctly non-Jewish attitude to the Jewish traditions and scriptures. There is also the claim of his being of the Tribe of Benjamin. By the time the 1st century rolled around, very few Jewish men knew what tribe they were from, unless it was the Levites or the Cohen's. On the other hand, Herod the Great, a Jewish convert, declared himself to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. The declaration by someone and trying to associate himself with Herod the Great is very much a convert way of thinking. There is also a strong lack of empathy and knowledge about the school of theological thought that he alleged to have been associated with.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.
 

neilgodfrey

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It's tough. The best I can do with the gospels is that Mark highlights the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, an indifferent to justice / crowd placating Pilate (breaking Roman law - releasing Barabbas, a known killer of Romans, and having the crowd decide Jesus's fate) bringing about the unjust death of Jesus, and Jesus allowing his death to make this hidden evil conspicuous: my version of the classic Moral Influence interpretation of the cross by Abelard. And this is what happens. The Roman soldier says "truly this is God's son." In Luke the soldier says "truly this was an innocent mam." That's what I make of it as a literary theme. It's the same as Socrates death in the Phaedo though extremely augmented because Jesus is the specially favored son of God. If this theme is right, a mythical Jesus executed by demons in outer space doesn't really work because while I can identify with the corrupt and fallible humanity in those men responsible for Jesus' death and see it in myself, not so much Carrier's sky demons. But your right, mythicism could be right. It's tough.
Yes indeed -- your analogy with Socrates is spot on. That was a well known theme before Plato and has been a favourite ever since, among Jewish storytellers and others--- the idea of a righteous man being too good for this world and a blind and ignorant and wicked mob killing that righteous man, sometimes a woman, who is "too good" for this world. It's the old, old story.

It's the same story if Jesus was a personification of the Jewish people. They were hated and destroyed by Rome, but a "new Israel" rose again from their death experience. That's also the story of the Old Testament over and over -- Israel being punished or destroyed, whether for their sins or simply because they are righteous, and a "new Israel" emerging to replace them.

As for the theology, coming up with some "meaning" for that death -- different interpreters came up with different theories, from atonement to ransom or whatever.

I don't think we have any secure evidence for a heavenly crucifixion. The Ascension of Isaiah was used by Carrier and before him Doherty but I've tried to dig into the more recent scholarship on that text, and it's mostly in Italian, some French, and it looks like both Doherty and Carrier got that one wrong. The Ascension of Isaiah never had a crucifixion in the firmament at all.

Not that a heavenly crucifixion is automatically ruled out as an impossibility. Some gnostics in late antiquity and later some early "heretics" in early middle ages in Europe had teachings about heavenly crucifixions. But I don't see the evidence for it in Christian origins.
 

neilgodfrey

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.
There is one paragraph I would like to address. If you look at Paul's writing and attitudes from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of items that are distinctly not Jewish. The concept of Salvation he added is just one of them. His attitude to the law as being 'troublesome and a burden' shows a distinctly non-Jewish attitude to the Jewish traditions and scriptures. There is also the claim of his being of the Tribe of Benjamin. By the time the 1st century rolled around, very few Jewish men knew what tribe they were from, unless it was the Levites or the Cohen's. On the other hand, Herod the Great, a Jewish convert, declared himself to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. The declaration by someone and trying to associate himself with Herod the Great is very much a convert way of thinking. There is also a strong lack of empathy and knowledge about the school of theological thought that he alleged to have been associated with.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.
Even if he wasn't a "very good Jew" that still leaves him as part of "the tribe". I have just finished reading a history of gnostic origins and the author made a good point when he said that even though gnostic teachings were "anti-Jewish" (e.g. teaching that the Creator god was a lesser god, even the devil in some cases), yet all their teachings were actually bounced off their interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures. They may have said Cain was the "good guy" and the serpent was the "wise and good god", but they did so by studying and re-interpreting the Jewish Scriptures. Their teachings were based on the Jewish Scriptures but with twist against the orthodox interpretations of them. So were they Jewish or not? I suppose once they read the Scriptures "backwards" like that they automatically excluded themselves from the Jewish camp, but their springboard to get there was itself "Jewish".
 

dbz

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.

Paul's "Christ" or "Chrestus"

When scholars of early Judaism, who have cast about for any instances of the word “messiah” in Hellenistic— and Roman—period literature, find an unparalleled cache of such instances in the letters of Paul, New Testament scholars reply that Paul says it but does not mean it, that for him χριστός means “Christ,” not “messiah.”
—Matthew V. Novenson[11]

In the authentic letters (epistles) of Paul, every reference to Χριστός (Christ) was abbreviated as ΧΣ.[12] Bart Willruth notes:

You ask, “Does Paul never spell out “christos”?​

We don’t know. If he did, then some later copyists abbreviated it and no other copyist preserved it. The evidence we have is that ALL copies of old manuscripts, prior to the fourth century, used the abbreviation XS. The overwhelming probability is that Paul’s original manuscripts also used that abbreviation. Later readers and copyists didn’t know the original intent. Some rendered it “chrestos” while others rendered it “christos”. It appears that the earlier interpretation was “chrestos”. In any event, Paul never explained the meaning of his abbreviations and it was left to later users of the text to “divine” his intent, based on their own wishes or expectations.[13]

"Chrestus" has related derivatives that far better fit Jesus than "Christ" does, especially to a non-Jewish audience:
 

ramoss

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.
There is one paragraph I would like to address. If you look at Paul's writing and attitudes from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of items that are distinctly not Jewish. The concept of Salvation he added is just one of them. His attitude to the law as being 'troublesome and a burden' shows a distinctly non-Jewish attitude to the Jewish traditions and scriptures. There is also the claim of his being of the Tribe of Benjamin. By the time the 1st century rolled around, very few Jewish men knew what tribe they were from, unless it was the Levites or the Cohen's. On the other hand, Herod the Great, a Jewish convert, declared himself to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. The declaration by someone and trying to associate himself with Herod the Great is very much a convert way of thinking. There is also a strong lack of empathy and knowledge about the school of theological thought that he alleged to have been associated with.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.
Even if he wasn't a "very good Jew" that still leaves him as part of "the tribe". I have just finished reading a history of gnostic origins and the author made a good point when he said that even though gnostic teachings were "anti-Jewish" (e.g. teaching that the Creator god was a lesser god, even the devil in some cases), yet all their teachings were actually bounced off their interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures. They may have said Cain was the "good guy" and the serpent was the "wise and good god", but they did so by studying and re-interpreting the Jewish Scriptures. Their teachings were based on the Jewish Scriptures but with twist against the orthodox interpretations of them. So were they Jewish or not? I suppose once they read the Scriptures "backwards" like that they automatically excluded themselves from the Jewish camp, but their springboard to get there was itself "Jewish".
That was examined in the 'Tribe of Benjamin' claim. Herod was a convert, and trying to associate himself with Herod is a way to proclaim he was a convert. Now, by the use of his language, and his attempt to create a new religion based on a 'god made flesh' , at that point not only he was a convert, but he was apostate.

Now, a piece of information that reinforces that idea is that Epiphanius said that the Ebonites claims Paul converted to Judaism to woo the daughter of the high priest, and became bitter and apostate after she rejected him. Although the direct evidence for that is weak, it is reinforced by the lack of knowledge that Paul would have had, and the attitudes he would have had were he brought up in a religious Jewish household.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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Strictly from a literary sense, I was taught that as the Gospels were released, the Jesus will be, was, was born god timeline shifts back. There is this indication that they expect a return and as that fades, the significance of who he is going to be shifts into ultimately what he was. Oh, he was god all along, jinx!

This implies there was someone who had a group of followers, he died, and then that was that. There was an expectation, and with most religious ones, this one failed to fulfill... and so there was some sort of audible. Not much else can be read into it. The interesting part is how this got legs and ran on. Granted, religions back then are like restaurants these days, so many fail, only a few succeed, so they stick out in the memory for obvious reasons. Christianity likely provided a convenient wedge tool for the Romans, and so it was politically viable and then got out of hand.
 

dbz

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I was taught that as the Gospels were released, the Jesus will be, was, was born god timeline shifts back. There is this indication that they expect a return and as that fades, the significance of who he is going to be shifts into ultimately what he was. Oh, he was god all along, jinx!

Per Ehrman (2 March 2018). "Early Christology: How I Changed My Mind". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
I have been arguing that there were two separate streams of early Christology (i.e. “understandings of Christ”). The first Christologies were almost certainly based on the idea of “exaltation.” . . . The other type of Christology came a bit later. It was an “incarnation” Christology which indicated that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being – for example, an angel – who became a human being for the purpose of salvation.
See:
Reasonable Doubts Podcast @time 00:15:25. "How Jesus Became God". YouTube. Bart D. Ehrman. 29 September 2017.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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Is there any reason to believe these were competing mindsets or simply an evolution based on current events? The shift is in the Gospels themselves, at least the writings that became The Gospels.
 

dbz

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Is there any reason to believe these were competing mindsets or simply an evolution based on current events? The shift is in the Gospels themselves, at least the writings that became The Gospels.
If Jesus was a myth from the start we have to explain how two of the three canonical evangelists viz. Matthew and Luke following after the earliest: Mark . . “corrected” his account as given by Mark and made him and his followers a little more realistically human.

Neil Godfrey presents how the canonical gospels—when laid out chronologically—illustrate the progression towards historizing a bodily resurrection. Godfrey writes:
  • Mark merely has an empty tomb and no resurrection appearance, and this is the sort of indicator that one reads in Greco-Roman stories of Heracles and co — the disappearance of the body was the conventional indicator that the deceased had been taken to join the gods.
  • Matthew has a resurrection appearance or two, and in the first one the women hold Jesus by the feet. In the second one Jesus stands on a mountain and some disciples are not even convinced it is Jesus.
  • Luke has Jesus vanishing before the eyes of onlookers and appearing mysteriously in the middle of closed rooms, but to persuade disciples he was nonetheless flesh he told them to touch him and watch him eat.
  • John then has the famous doubting Thomas scene where Jesus, after having asked his disciples to have a look at his flesh, appears again to require they (or at least one of them) thrust their hands into his side. He then starts a fire on a beach and cooks everyone a meal of fish.
So even within the gospels themselves we can see an evolution of the idea of the resurrection of the physical body.[347]

• The pre-gospel timeline per Richard Carrier:
  1. …Many counter-cultural Jewish sects were seeking hidden messages in scripture.
  2. …Cephas (Peter), a member or leader of one of those sects, had “visions” telling him one of those messages was now fulfilled.
  3. …That fellow influenced or inspired others to have or claim supporting visions.
  4. …They all died.
  5. …Then some later folks did what was done for all savior gods: they made up stories about their savior god to promote what was by then a lifetime of the accumulated teachings, dogmas, and beliefs of various movement leaders.
  6. …They all died.
  7. …Then some later folks started promoting those myths as historically true.
  8. …Those who protested that, were denounced as heretics and agents of Satan.
  9. …They all died.
  10. …Those who liked the new invented version of history won total political power and used it to destroy all the literature of those who had ever protested it.
• Carrier (26 September 2020). "Establishing the Biblical Literalism of Early Christians". Richard Carrier Blogs.
[T]he Gospels actually grow in historicization, becoming more historicized over time (which is indeed indicative of the Gospel tale beginning not in history but as myth, and only being converted into history slowly over time, as Mark 4 pretty much warned us).
 
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1Heidegger1!

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Great discussion everyone!

If anyone is new to the Moral Influence interpretation of the cross and would like to think more about it, a good place to start is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Notice how forgiveness, not punishment of sin is on the menu here, even though the brother of the returning son thinks he should not simply be welcomed back just because he had a change of heart:

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother​

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ” (Luke 15)

We have a contrast between the love and compassion of the father vs something like retribution at sin of the brother. Notice how we have the imagery of being dead and resurrected in terms of a change of heart.
 

1Heidegger1!

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.
There is one paragraph I would like to address. If you look at Paul's writing and attitudes from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of items that are distinctly not Jewish. The concept of Salvation he added is just one of them. His attitude to the law as being 'troublesome and a burden' shows a distinctly non-Jewish attitude to the Jewish traditions and scriptures. There is also the claim of his being of the Tribe of Benjamin. By the time the 1st century rolled around, very few Jewish men knew what tribe they were from, unless it was the Levites or the Cohen's. On the other hand, Herod the Great, a Jewish convert, declared himself to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. The declaration by someone and trying to associate himself with Herod the Great is very much a convert way of thinking. There is also a strong lack of empathy and knowledge about the school of theological thought that he alleged to have been associated with.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.

Hi ramoss. I referenced this in relation to Dr. Fredriksen, so I'll try to answer this from her perspective. I'll briefly try to flesh out the core what she is arguing for a Jewish reading of Paul:

Paul thought the law and temple were an artificial burden for the gentiles, but a privilege for the Jews, so it's important to note who Paul is addressing. The Jewish Paul had a favorable view of the Law and temple for himself and the Jews when considered apart from the Gentiles. For the Jewish Paul, it was not a burden but a privilege (e.g., Romans 9:4-5; 1:3; 15:9; see Fredriksen, 2018, p. 25, 35, 154, 165). Fredriksen comments:

This is not an either/or situation: for Paul God’s spirit dwells both in the Jerusalem temple and in the “new temple” of the believer and of the community. (Fredriksen, 2018, p. 154)

Why, then, should Paul, or any other apostle who was a member of this covenant community, have ceased to live according to the Law? The Law was a curse for gentiles…. The Law was a service of death for gentiles. But for Israel the Law, God-given, was a defining privilege. (Fredriksen, 2018, p. 165)

Fredriksen argues that Paul does not reject the temple, but likens the new pagan believers to it (1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

References:

Fredriksen, Paula. (2018). Paul: The Pagan’s Apostle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
 

Jarhyn

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I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
 

ramoss

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Dr. Fredriksen has compellingly shown that Paul was not divorced from Judaism but thoroughly Jewish to the end. To say Paul, highly educated in Judaism and from the birthplace of the Stoic enlightenment, would have as his core belief something utterly incoherent and fundamentally un-Jewish at such a foundational level is problematic. To maintain the penal substitution interpretation of atonement you have to believe the original Jesus movement had at its foundation a principle that was completely logically incoherent and utterly foreign to the basic understanding of the forgiving Jewish God.
There is one paragraph I would like to address. If you look at Paul's writing and attitudes from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of items that are distinctly not Jewish. The concept of Salvation he added is just one of them. His attitude to the law as being 'troublesome and a burden' shows a distinctly non-Jewish attitude to the Jewish traditions and scriptures. There is also the claim of his being of the Tribe of Benjamin. By the time the 1st century rolled around, very few Jewish men knew what tribe they were from, unless it was the Levites or the Cohen's. On the other hand, Herod the Great, a Jewish convert, declared himself to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. The declaration by someone and trying to associate himself with Herod the Great is very much a convert way of thinking. There is also a strong lack of empathy and knowledge about the school of theological thought that he alleged to have been associated with.

He might have been Jewish, but he wasn't a very good Jew.

Hi ramoss. I referenced this in relation to Dr. Fredriksen, so I'll try to answer this from her perspective. I'll briefly try to flesh out the core what she is arguing for a Jewish reading of Paul:

Paul thought the law and temple were an artificial burden for the gentiles, but a privilege for the Jews, so it's important to note who Paul is addressing. The Jewish Paul had a favorable view of the Law and temple for himself and the Jews when considered apart from the Gentiles. For the Jewish Paul, it was not a burden but a privilege (e.g., Romans 9:4-5; 1:3; 15:9; see Fredriksen, 2018, p. 25, 35, 154, 165). Fredriksen comments:

This is not an either/or situation: for Paul God’s spirit dwells both in the Jerusalem temple and in the “new temple” of the believer and of the community. (Fredriksen, 2018, p. 154)

Why, then, should Paul, or any other apostle who was a member of this covenant community, have ceased to live according to the Law? The Law was a curse for gentiles…. The Law was a service of death for gentiles. But for Israel the Law, God-given, was a defining privilege. (Fredriksen, 2018, p. 165)

Fredriksen argues that Paul does not reject the temple, but likens the new pagan believers to it (1 Corinthians 10:14-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

References:

Fredriksen, Paula. (2018). Paul: The Pagan’s Apostle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
From what I have read from the paul's letters, well, his 'burden for the gentiles but privilege for the Jews' doesn't quite fit
 

Jimmy Higgins

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I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.

It reminds me of religious Y2k'ers that thought the End Was Nigh... and a church billboard on 1/2/2000 reading "Jesus blessed us with another millennium." Religion often seems to be more about explaining why something hasn't happened, like the King the Little Prince meets.
 

Jarhyn

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I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.
To put in perspective, cosmologically speaking, from the perspective of someone who has honestly seen that he has done exactly the thing that he himself is a little angry at any potential "or more" for doing, and doing as bad a job of it as I have ever done, yeah...

I can see a different perspective on "original sin", is all, namely by seeing what I've done with my own hands and being utterly ashamed for it.

To me, it makes a lot more sense than that some innocent thing needs to die because we are guilty.

Getting the worst of it and dying and being fucked off after being better than everyone else on the world you created, which is what I'm getting the original author wrote, is more useful and meaningful an interpretation.

"Love everyone, I love all of you, I'm sorry for everything being so hard all the time."

It's an apology of sorts. Not of the religious apologetics kind, but a sincere "I fucked up".

Imagine though: if we find a Grand Unifying Theory of Everything, something that explains all of time as a function of something simple, we will have proven that a human mind is capable of describing, naming, and so implementing it.

Tell me, if one of us, having reproduced and observed this initial process and so if one of us is capable of creating the universe, what does that say about God? To me it says "well, if this can be contained in something as finite as the graph structure of a single living human mind, then it can be accidentally or on-purpose shit out of a wide variety of processes, either of this physics or of a myriad of behavioral processes described by other fundamental interaction models and limits and rates."

It means that ALL THIS can emerge from a myriad of things in perfect fidelity so is the same identical in all such cases of sufficient fidelity.

I can absolutely forgive people for fucking up, especially after a good apology.

Honestly, this is why I think it would be insane to want to be God. It would mean a... Well, it would mean having to  accept that every time you lived, you would probably be killed and for nothing that you did in life but for creating this in the first place.

I suspect the vast number of stories we have in which God, or a prophet, or whatever dies and suffers, this is us getting the only revenge we can on this probably-non-existent thing.

I personally don't find revenge helpful, or kind. I would much rather be met with love and life and a long joyous occasion to walk the Earth were I such a thing! I already forgive, because I too am guilty of exactly the sins I lay on God himself, were he to exist.
 
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T.G.G. Moogly

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It would seem to me that young earth creationism would more likely associate itself with gospel literalism, a historical protagonist in Mark who lived and died as written. Just because I do not ascribe to mythicism does not mean I am a historicist about the gospel protagonist.

The canonical gospels are obviously fictional accounts. I think it was Doherty who used the phrase "having confessional interests" to describe most persons and scholars who took the gospels historically.

For me the most interesting question is what was on the mind of the writer who penned Mark when he penned Mark as the work seems to have arrived from nowhere. And I use the word "writer" instead of author because I do not believe the writer of Mark was the author, nor someone who had a personal relationship with the gospel protagonist.

Are there any works which associate Mark with literature of the day? That would be an interesting read and might relate to the topic of Moral Influence. Fiction would seem to set right between myth and historicity, much the same as literature today.
 

1Heidegger1!

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It's tough. The best I can do with the gospels is that Mark highlights the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, an indifferent to justice / crowd placating Pilate (breaking Roman law - releasing Barabbas, a known killer of Romans, and having the crowd decide Jesus's fate) bringing about the unjust death of Jesus, and Jesus allowing his death to make this hidden evil conspicuous: my version of the classic Moral Influence interpretation of the cross by Abelard. And this is what happens. The Roman soldier says "truly this is God's son." In Luke the soldier says "truly this was an innocent mam." That's what I make of it as a literary theme. It's the same as Socrates death in the Phaedo though extremely augmented because Jesus is the specially favored son of God. If this theme is right, a mythical Jesus executed by demons in outer space doesn't really work because while I can identify with the corrupt and fallible humanity in those men responsible for Jesus' death and see it in myself, not so much Carrier's sky demons. But your right, mythicism could be right. It's tough.
Yes indeed -- your analogy with Socrates is spot on. That was a well known theme before Plato and has been a favourite ever since, among Jewish storytellers and others--- the idea of a righteous man being too good for this world and a blind and ignorant and wicked mob killing that righteous man, sometimes a woman, who is "too good" for this world. It's the old, old story.

It's the same story if Jesus was a personification of the Jewish people. They were hated and destroyed by Rome, but a "new Israel" rose again from their death experience. That's also the story of the Old Testament over and over -- Israel being punished or destroyed, whether for their sins or simply because they are righteous, and a "new Israel" emerging to replace them.

As for the theology, coming up with some "meaning" for that death -- different interpreters came up with different theories, from atonement to ransom or whatever.

I don't think we have any secure evidence for a heavenly crucifixion. The Ascension of Isaiah was used by Carrier and before him Doherty but I've tried to dig into the more recent scholarship on that text, and it's mostly in Italian, some French, and it looks like both Doherty and Carrier got that one wrong. The Ascension of Isaiah never had a crucifixion in the firmament at all.

Not that a heavenly crucifixion is automatically ruled out as an impossibility. Some gnostics in late antiquity and later some early "heretics" in early middle ages in Europe had teachings about heavenly crucifixions. But I don't see the evidence for it in Christian origins.

Neil Said

" Yes indeed -- your analogy with Socrates is spot on. That was a well known theme before Plato and has been a favourite ever since, among Jewish storytellers and others--- the idea of a righteous man being too good for this world and a blind and ignorant and wicked mob killing that righteous man, sometimes a woman, who is "too good" for this world. It's the old, old story... It's the same story if Jesus was a personification of the Jewish people. They were hated and destroyed by Rome, but a "new Israel" rose again from their death experience. That's also the story of the Old Testament over and over -- Israel being punished or destroyed, whether for their sins or simply because they are righteous, and a "new Israel" emerging to replace them."

Another aspect could be literary repentance imagery working at both an individual level and a group level. So at an individual level we can have the repentant soldier claiming Jesus was innocent in Luke, and at a group level we can have the repentant nations come to realize how terribly they acted toward the Jews. Marshall Roth offers one way of reading Isaiah 53 with this theme. For instance, he says:

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is a beautiful, poetic song, one of the four “Servant Songs” in which the prophet describes the climactic period of world history when the Messiah will arrive and the Jewish people assume the role as the spiritual leaders of humanity... Isaiah 53 is a prophecy foretelling how the world will react when they witness Israel's salvation in the Messianic era. The verses are presented from the perspective of world leaders, who contrast their former scornful attitude toward the Jews with their new realization of Israel's grandeur. After realizing how unfairly they treated the Jewish people, they will be shocked and speechless. See: https://aish.com/isaiah_53_the_suffering_servant/
 

neilgodfrey

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I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.

It reminds me of religious Y2k'ers that thought the End Was Nigh... and a church billboard on 1/2/2000 reading "Jesus blessed us with another millennium." Religion often seems to be more about explaining why something hasn't happened, like the King the Little Prince meets.
Interestingly, Markus Vinzent demonstrates that until late in the second century Christian writings didn't place much emphasis on Christ's resurrection and return. What was front and center as the saving act of Jesus was his death. Paul's letters were "(re?)discovered" by Marcion in the middle of the second century and really only had an impact on "orthodox" teachings from the last decades of that century.

-- Vinzent, Markus. Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity: And the Making of the New Testament. Ashgate, c2011.
 

dbz

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[A]ll the Pauline letters are in fact skillful falsifications from the second century.
Hermann Detering
Wikipedia
[7]

Some scholars such as Hermann Detering and Robert M. Price
Wikipedia
following the previous scholarship of the Dutch Radical School
Wikipedia
have argued that the Pauline epistles are from a later date than usually assumed.[8] Willem Christiaan van Manen
Wikipedia
of the Dutch Radical School saw various issues in the Pauline epistles. Van Manen claimed that they could not have been written earlier than the 2nd century. He argued that the canonical Pauline works de-emphasized the Gnostic aspects of early Christianity.[9]

The Pauline epistles which make up the bulk of the NT have no historical attestation prior to Marcion. . . . Prior to Marcion, most of the other forms of Christianity had been largely Jewish with Platonic influences. Marcion's Paulinism mixed with Jewish Christianity formed a syncretic amalgam, a synthesis of the absorption of two differing streams.
—Bart Willruth[10]
 

1Heidegger1!

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It would seem to me that young earth creationism would more likely associate itself with gospel literalism, a historical protagonist in Mark who lived and died as written. Just because I do not ascribe to mythicism does not mean I am a historicist about the gospel protagonist.

The canonical gospels are obviously fictional accounts. I think it was Doherty who used the phrase "having confessional interests" to describe most persons and scholars who took the gospels historically.

For me the most interesting question is what was on the mind of the writer who penned Mark when he penned Mark as the work seems to have arrived from nowhere. And I use the word "writer" instead of author because I do not believe the writer of Mark was the author, nor someone who had a personal relationship with the gospel protagonist.

Are there any works which associate Mark with literature of the day? That would be an interesting read and might relate to the topic of Moral Influence. Fiction would seem to set right between myth and historicity, much the same as literature today.

If there was a Jesus, I don't think there is any reason to suppose Mark knew him or was working from eyewitness reports of him. Mark seems to be mostly rewriting the Hebrew Scriptures and other Greek sources like Homer. Dr. Robert M. Price had an influential article on this originally published in the Encyclopedia of Midrash by Neusner and Avery-Peck (eds), which was later posted online for free by Price here: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm . I asked Avery Peck once whether he thought Price's article stands up today, and he agreed with most of Price's examples of imitation and said that The Jewish Annotated New Testament takes the conversation forward in a fruitful manner. Price's mythicist conclusion has been challenged by some like Ehrman and McGrath on the grounds that some of the new stories were poor matches for the originals, and some examples are common ancient life and so do not require a literary antecedent, like Crossan trying to account for the empty tomb in a literary manner.

My 2 cents is that if there was a Jesus he is forever lost behind the way he is presented by the NT writers. For reasons I gave above and in the link I provided here https://secularfrontier.infidels.or...ast-about-mythicism-atonement-and-gnosticism/ , I think transformation is a major theme, the way we are transformed when the cross of Christ makes conspicuous the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite and indifferent to justice Pilate who are also present in us as a catalyst for our repentance. I think Neil is right there is a societal connection, and as I said above the nations come to see how they mistreated Israel and this inspires repentance.

The repentant Roman soldiers in Mark and Luke seem to suggest this way of interpreting, and make sense in the context of an expected coming judgment. But this is all literary framing so it would take a sophisticated line of argument to find history here. It's historical fiction. On the other hand, if we read this interpretation of the cross back into Paul, it would seem there was probably some historical Jesus in there somewhere.
 

Jarhyn

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It would seem to me that young earth creationism would more likely associate itself with gospel literalism, a historical protagonist in Mark who lived and died as written. Just because I do not ascribe to mythicism does not mean I am a historicist about the gospel protagonist.

The canonical gospels are obviously fictional accounts. I think it was Doherty who used the phrase "having confessional interests" to describe most persons and scholars who took the gospels historically.

For me the most interesting question is what was on the mind of the writer who penned Mark when he penned Mark as the work seems to have arrived from nowhere. And I use the word "writer" instead of author because I do not believe the writer of Mark was the author, nor someone who had a personal relationship with the gospel protagonist.

Are there any works which associate Mark with literature of the day? That would be an interesting read and might relate to the topic of Moral Influence. Fiction would seem to set right between myth and historicity, much the same as literature today.

If there was a Jesus, I don't think there is any reason to suppose Mark knew him or was working from eyewitness reports of him. Mark seems to be mostly rewriting the Hebrew Scriptures and other Greek sources like Homer. Dr. Robert M. Price had an influential article on this originally published in the Encyclopedia of Midrash by Neusner and Avery-Peck (eds), which was later posted online for free by Price here: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm . I asked Avery Peck once whether he thought Price's article stands up today, and he agreed with most of Price's examples of imitation and said that The Jewish Annotated New Testament takes the conversation forward in a fruitful manner. Price's mythicist conclusion has been challenged by some like Ehrman and McGrath on the grounds that some of the new stories were poor matches for the originals, and some examples are common ancient life and so do not require a literary antecedent, like Crossan trying to account for the empty tomb in a literary manner.

My 2 cents is that if there was a Jesus he is forever lost behind the way he is presented by the NT writers. For reasons I gave above and in the link I provided here https://secularfrontier.infidels.or...ast-about-mythicism-atonement-and-gnosticism/ , I think transformation is a major theme, the way we are transformed when the cross of Christ makes conspicuous the enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite and indifferent to justice Pilate who are also present in us as a catalyst for our repentance. I think Neil is right there is a societal connection, and as I said above the nations come to see how they mistreated Israel and this inspires repentance.

The repentant Roman soldiers in Mark and Luke seem to suggest this way of interpreting, and make sense in the context of an expected coming judgment. But this is all literary framing so it would take a sophisticated line of argument to find history here. It's historical fiction. On the other hand, if we read this interpretation of the cross back into Paul, it would seem there was probably some historical Jesus in there somewhere.
I expect some aspects of him are not lost, or are simply aspects of the writers themselves.

The story does not need to be true to contain truth, and this is the seminal work of some author somewhere at some point, the opus of someone who thought long and hard about some things, was clearly aware of the whole apocalyptic street preacher named Jesus stereotype, he came to some fairly serviceable answers, and didn't have the time or audience or educational technology to show his work on any of it.

The gnostic nature of early Christianity explains a lot of the form of the language used in some of the gospels, though, particularly John. There are a lot of threads of Jewish mysticism, of Kabbalah, in a lot of it.

From the dogmas of such traditions, there is a relationship between being a deity and coming into understanding of the shapes of certain truths about the universe, and I expect this is what the author originally meant in much of the language, especially seeing as how the whole thing sprung up from a tradition of Jewish mysticism. This is especially obvious from the fact that literacy among anyone in that day and age was rare and often such skills were retained and taught out of communities of mystics.

There was almost certainly a heavy intersection between Jewish converts from earlier mysticism to the new cult.

If any of the understanding of these earlier forms of mysticism have survived into modern traditions, the language used in much of it has a lot of interpretations the church would find heretical.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.

It reminds me of religious Y2k'ers that thought the End Was Nigh... and a church billboard on 1/2/2000 reading "Jesus blessed us with another millennium." Religion often seems to be more about explaining why something hasn't happened, like the King the Little Prince meets.
Interestingly, Markus Vinzent demonstrates that until late in the second century Christian writings didn't place much emphasis on Christ's resurrection and return. What was front and center as the saving act of Jesus was his death. Paul's letters were "(re?)discovered" by Marcion in the middle of the second century and really only had an impact on "orthodox" teachings from the last decades of that century.

-- Vinzent, Markus. Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity: And the Making of the New Testament. Ashgate, c2011.
It all coincides with the writings. It is less important to know what someone has written as it is to know why they have written it or why they changed what was written.
 

Jarhyn

Wizard
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Androgyne; they/them
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Natural Philosophy, Game Theoretic Ethicist
I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.

It reminds me of religious Y2k'ers that thought the End Was Nigh... and a church billboard on 1/2/2000 reading "Jesus blessed us with another millennium." Religion often seems to be more about explaining why something hasn't happened, like the King the Little Prince meets.
Interestingly, Markus Vinzent demonstrates that until late in the second century Christian writings didn't place much emphasis on Christ's resurrection and return. What was front and center as the saving act of Jesus was his death. Paul's letters were "(re?)discovered" by Marcion in the middle of the second century and really only had an impact on "orthodox" teachings from the last decades of that century.

-- Vinzent, Markus. Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity: And the Making of the New Testament. Ashgate, c2011.
It all coincides with the writings. It is less important to know what someone has written as it is to know why they have written it or why they changed what was written.
Arguably, it is the inverse, if one can accept "complete fiction" of the work: there is only the text.

Not even the cultural context is important after a while, though largely the nature and structure of beliefs common in Jewish mysticism is an oft-overlooked aspect of that context in interpreting it in a contemporary way.

Also, it should be noted that the authors/writers/whatever clearly were not on the side of the orthodoxy of the time, implying more reason for supporting the more mystical traditions of Jewish faith.
 

dbz

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male
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Max 1:3 possible that Jesus b. Joseph/Pantera was a historical personage
Jarhyn said: "There was almost certainly a heavy intersection between Jewish converts from earlier mysticism to the new cult."

Jarhyn said: "[T]he nature and structure of beliefs common in Jewish mysticism is an oft-overlooked aspect of that context in interpreting it in a contemporary way."

  • Video lecture #18 Middle and Neo-Platonism by Arthur F. Holmes (2015) per “A History of Philosophy”. YouTube. Wheaton College, Illinois.
 

Jimmy Higgins

Contributor
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Feb 1, 2001
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38,483
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Calvinistic Atheist
I have for some time now interpreted the cross as something different, and the whole story in an apocryphal or downright heretical way: Jesus died not for our sins, but for God's original sin in making a world with suffering, ignorance, and death in it, delivered by those who suffered ignorance among death long enough to hate God for creating the universe and who were happy to find a convenient victim to take the rap for it.

He died that so we might forgive each other.

At least in the story.
I think the point was that Jesus died so he could come back. The death wasn't supposed to be the end, it was sort of a transition point, and lacked importance. The return was the big billing for the Messiah.

But there was no return, for obvious reasons. So, his death now needed to actually accomplish something... and then that seemed to transition even more in suggesting that he was always god, before birth.

It reminds me of religious Y2k'ers that thought the End Was Nigh... and a church billboard on 1/2/2000 reading "Jesus blessed us with another millennium." Religion often seems to be more about explaining why something hasn't happened, like the King the Little Prince meets.
Interestingly, Markus Vinzent demonstrates that until late in the second century Christian writings didn't place much emphasis on Christ's resurrection and return. What was front and center as the saving act of Jesus was his death. Paul's letters were "(re?)discovered" by Marcion in the middle of the second century and really only had an impact on "orthodox" teachings from the last decades of that century.

-- Vinzent, Markus. Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity: And the Making of the New Testament. Ashgate, c2011.
It all coincides with the writings. It is less important to know what someone has written as it is to know why they have written it or why they changed what was written.
Arguably, it is the inverse, if one can accept "complete fiction" of the work: there is only the text.
The issue here is that it is neglecting the most important part of religious writings. They have an agenda! So the "why" is crucially important.
 
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