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Where did the idea of eternal life in Heaven come from?

DrZoidberg

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Where did the Christian idea of a soul and it's eternal life in Heaven come from?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven_in_Christianity

It's not from Judaism. Since the soul goes to an end point and stays there is not a Hindu/Eastern idea.

So what do you guys think?

Could it be from Egyptian religion? I know that in Old Kingdom only the Pharao could enter into the realm of the gods. Over time this was democratized so that nobles could make it (Middle Kingdom) and then everybody (New Kingdom). Around the time of Jesus the ancient Egyptian idea of the afterlife sounds suspiciously similar to what became Christianity. Is that the source? I know that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_conception_of_the_soul

I know that the cult of Isis was huge in the Roman empire, peaking a bit before Jesus came around. The cult of Isis is pretty much identical to Christianity, except that it was exclusive and not open to any convert. But otherwise exactly the same. But in spite of it's name, the cult of Isis has more in common with Greek religion than Egyptian. And Greeks did not believe in an afterlife like heaven, nor the soul.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysteries_of_Isis

But it is interesting that early Christianity's conception of the afterlife is that your physical body will be resurected and will walk the Earth again. That too sounds quite Egyptian. It's not a neat fit though?

But then again, it could also have been from Zoroastrianism. Where angels and Satan came from. So we know there was a heavy influence of Zoroastrianism on Christianity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrianism

What do you guys think? Am I completely off here? Do we know where it came from, and it was somewhere completely different?
 

southernhybrid

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I agree that Zoroastrianism most likely had a heavy influence on Christianity, and it may be where the concept of eternal life/heaven originated. I don't know that much about the religion, but I did a little reading a couple of weeks ago about it, and almost responded to the thread about the roots of Christianity, as it's very possible that some of the roots came from Zoroastrianism. Then again, so many of these ancient religions have so many similarities, it's not easy to know exactly how much each religion influenced the ones that came after it.

To me, it's obvious that mythology's influence on humanity has a very long history.
 

DrZoidberg

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I agree that Zoroastrianism most likely had a heavy influence on Christianity, and it may be where the concept of eternal life/heaven originated. I don't know that much about the religion, but I did a little reading a couple of weeks ago about it, and almost responded to the thread about the roots of Christianity, as it's very possible that some of the roots came from Zoroastrianism. Then again, so many of these ancient religions have so many similarities, it's not easy to know exactly how much each religion influenced the ones that came after it.

To me, it's obvious that mythology's influence on humanity has a very long history.

The it's-all-a-big-soup answer?
 

Politesse

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We don't actually know all that much about ancient Hebrew afterlife beliefs; it may have just been native belief, picked up from the cosmology of many of their neighbors. I note that in the ancient world, things like the nature of the afterlife or the physical construction of the universe weren't usually considered issues of competing philosophy so much as just knowledge about the world, the same way you know that Mongolia exists. Given that many significant cultural powers in the ancient near east were believers in an eternal soul - Assyria, Babylon, Phoenecia, Egypt - I wouldn't be surprised if many Hebrews did as well, whether or not their priests liked that or even had any opinion on the matter.

There's some evidence that the absence of direct conversation about death in the HS may even be deliberate, given the elaborate rituals described to protect people from the "uncleanliness" of coming into physical contact with the recently deceased in the Levitical texts.
 

rousseau

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We don't actually know all that much about ancient Hebrew afterlife beliefs; it may have just been native belief, picked up from the cosmology of many of their neighbors. I note that in the ancient world, things like the nature of the afterlife or the physical construction of the universe weren't usually considered issues of competing philosophy so much as just knowledge about the world, the same way you know that Mongolia exists. Given that many significant cultural powers in the ancient near east were believers in an eternal soul - Assyria, Babylon, Phoenecia, Egypt - I wouldn't be surprised if many Hebrews did as well, whether or not their priests liked that or even had any opinion on the matter.

There's some evidence that the absence of direct conversation about death in the HS may even be deliberate, given the elaborate rituals described to protect people from the "uncleanliness" of coming into physical contact with the recently deceased in the Levitical texts.

I was waiting for you to chime in. The only other generalization I could add is: from the fact that we're mortal

You could call belief in the afterlife an expression of dissonance over death (which is experienced by everyone). To me the more curious part about afterlife belief isn't it's origin, but instead how ubiquitous and unquestioned it was for millennia.
 

southernhybrid

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I agree that Zoroastrianism most likely had a heavy influence on Christianity, and it may be where the concept of eternal life/heaven originated. I don't know that much about the religion, but I did a little reading a couple of weeks ago about it, and almost responded to the thread about the roots of Christianity, as it's very possible that some of the roots came from Zoroastrianism. Then again, so many of these ancient religions have so many similarities, it's not easy to know exactly how much each religion influenced the ones that came after it.

To me, it's obvious that mythology's influence on humanity has a very long history.

The it's-all-a-big-soup answer?

I guess you could say that. I'm thinking of the Baha'i Faith, a fairly recent world religion compared to most. The afterlife in the Baha'i holy books is very vague. There is no clear cut heaven and hell, from what I remember when I learned about that religion during my 9 year marriage to one of it's followers. One does get the impression that Baha'is believe there is an afterlife, but it doesn't necessarily involve punishments or rewards, as it does in the earlier Abrahamic religions. The Hebrew religion, like the Christian religion, seems to have many different views on an afterlife. It doesn't matter if the original text isn't clear. Followers of all world religions have a tendency to break down into various sects with different viewpoints, don't they?

One could say that the Baha'i Faith is just a kinder, gender version of the Muslim religion, but Baha'is don't see it that way at all. They see their religion as a progressive religion. They believe that humanity and religion evolve over time. That sounds like a fairy tale to me, of course, but that is what they believe.

My opinion is that these concepts were invented due to human's inability to accept that we are mortal. Plus, if one's life is full of hardship and misery, l guess it helps you cope if you are able to believe you will be rewarded in some type of heavenly afterlife. The word afterlife is an oxymoron, isn't it?
 

DrZoidberg

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We don't actually know all that much about ancient Hebrew afterlife beliefs; it may have just been native belief, picked up from the cosmology of many of their neighbors. I note that in the ancient world, things like the nature of the afterlife or the physical construction of the universe weren't usually considered issues of competing philosophy so much as just knowledge about the world, the same way you know that Mongolia exists. Given that many significant cultural powers in the ancient near east were believers in an eternal soul - Assyria, Babylon, Phoenecia, Egypt - I wouldn't be surprised if many Hebrews did as well, whether or not their priests liked that or even had any opinion on the matter.

There's some evidence that the absence of direct conversation about death in the HS may even be deliberate, given the elaborate rituals described to protect people from the "uncleanliness" of coming into physical contact with the recently deceased in the Levitical texts.

You mean except for the little detail that the Jews wrote it down. There's no ancient people we know more about when it comes to their beliefs.

I think you are making the mistake of interpretating the lack of info as them not writing it down. But the Torah is exhaustingly comprehensive. I think you are wrong. We know they had a pretty bog standard pagan belief of life after death
 

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Dreams, inner visions, out of body experiences, etc, may have given the impression of trancendency, a foundation for a belief in life beyond the physical realm.
 

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We don't actually know all that much about ancient Hebrew afterlife beliefs; it may have just been native belief, picked up from the cosmology of many of their neighbors. I note that in the ancient world, things like the nature of the afterlife or the physical construction of the universe weren't usually considered issues of competing philosophy so much as just knowledge about the world, the same way you know that Mongolia exists. Given that many significant cultural powers in the ancient near east were believers in an eternal soul - Assyria, Babylon, Phoenecia, Egypt - I wouldn't be surprised if many Hebrews did as well, whether or not their priests liked that or even had any opinion on the matter.

There's some evidence that the absence of direct conversation about death in the HS may even be deliberate, given the elaborate rituals described to protect people from the "uncleanliness" of coming into physical contact with the recently deceased in the Levitical texts.

You mean except for the little detail that the Jews wrote it down. There's no ancient people we know more about when it comes to their beliefs.

I think you are making the mistake of interpretating the lack of info as them not writing it down. But the Torah is exhaustingly comprehensive. I think you are wrong. We know they had a pretty bog standard pagan belief of life after death

I have spent a lot of time studying the Hebrew Scriptures, and I am baffled by your statement here. No, the Hebrew Scriptures really do not touch on death and the afterlife much at all. There are shadowy references to an underworld called Sheol in about a dozen places, more evocative than descriptive, the story of Elijah evading death, and some Messianic promises of a seeming resurrection in the later, post Greco-Roman books like Daniel. That's it, very little to go on. This is reflected in the fact that conversations about the afterlife are rare and inconlcusive in contemporary Jewish circles. I also have no idea what you could possibly mean by "bog standard Pagan beliefs", as there was no such uniformity of belief in the ancient world, whether in or out of Judea.
 

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Where did the Christian idea of a soul and it's eternal life in Heaven come from?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven_in_Christianity

It's not from Judaism. Since the soul goes to an end point and stays there is not a Hindu/Eastern idea.

So what do you guys think?

Could it be from Egyptian religion? I know that in Old Kingdom only the Pharao could enter into the realm of the gods. Over time this was democratized so that nobles could make it (Middle Kingdom) and then everybody (New Kingdom). Around the time of Jesus the ancient Egyptian idea of the afterlife sounds suspiciously similar to what became Christianity. Is that the source? I know that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_conception_of_the_soul

I know that the cult of Isis was huge in the Roman empire, peaking a bit before Jesus came around. The cult of Isis is pretty much identical to Christianity, except that it was exclusive and not open to any convert. But otherwise exactly the same. But in spite of it's name, the cult of Isis has more in common with Greek religion than Egyptian. And Greeks did not believe in an afterlife like heaven, nor the soul.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysteries_of_Isis

But it is interesting that early Christianity's conception of the afterlife is that your physical body will be resurrected and will walk the Earth again. That too sounds quite Egyptian. It's not a neat fit though?

But then again, it could also have been from Zoroastrianism. Where angels and Satan came from. So we know there was a heavy influence of Zoroastrianism on Christianity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrianism

What do you guys think? Am I completely off here? Do we know where it came from, and it was somewhere completely different?

People did not begin wanting eternal life because it was taught to them by religion. Rather, religion began teaching about eternal life after people already were wishing for it, and the earliest religious response was to rebuke people for wanting eternal life.

The earliest religious literature which philosophizes and expounds on eternal life is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which teaches that it's not possible and that it's wrong to desire it because humans aren't supposed to live forever.

Overall the religious teachings about eternal life have been much more pessimistic than optimistic.

No religion borrowed the eternal life idea from an earlier religion, but rather each religious culture responded to people wishing for eternal life. The earliest response to this human craving was negative, either saying it's totally impossible (Gilgamesh) or greatly restricted to a tiny tiny elite (Egyptians). But later Egyptian religion began making some allowance for eternal life (to a select few other than only the pharaoh), imposing some narrow standards based on merit and obedience to strict laws.

But with Christianity there began a change toward more optimism about the possibility of eternal life. Though in Christianity also the teaching mostly is that "Heaven" is for a tiny minority of the truly faithful, while even most professing Christians fall short, or are apostates and hypocrites, and will be cast into hell fire, or into utter darkness as taught in most earlier traditions.

What caused Christianity to suddenly adopt a more optimistic promise of eternal life is the belief that Christ rose from the dead and offered eternal life free to believers. Except for this, there would probably have been no new optimism about eternal life, and the earlier negativity and pessimism would have continued.

Outside of 3 or 4 stories of a hero resuscitating a victim back to life, there are no resurrection stories in the earlier pagan and Jewish literature and pre-Christian culture, including Dead Sea Scrolls, and virtually no afterlife promises of any kind. (Though the term "eternal life" does appear once in the Book of Enoch.)
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Dreams, inner visions, out of body experiences, etc, may have given the impression of trancendency, a foundation for a belief in life beyond the physical realm.

And this is precisely the genesis of such fanciful notions as afterlives. Sure, it looks like the Egyptians hold the historical patent but such a claim isn't going to interfere with getting on with life. It's a bit of a luxury expenditure but affordable given circumstances.
 

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Some moments, I wonder if it is not a misinterpretation whose misinterpretation sounded just mystical enough to hold onto.

We live forever in the stories people tell of us, and those who lived awful lives will live forever in the stories as villains and people destined to lose and be considered losers.

That could easily evolve over the course of a few charlatan perversions into "there is a place you live forever after you die, now do what I want or you won't go there."

It may have even gotten there through the honest but still awful "do what I want or the tribes stories of you will be bad or not told at all, and you will be gone forever."

Or it could have started out perverse, along those lines. I expect in the beginning of stories, it was all of the above depending on which gang of bald apes you happened to roll with.

But the basic idea of "do what we want or else your name dies with you" is emergent, and an effective threat, a d easily perverted so if we are placing bets that's where my chips would go, and I expect I'd be collecting on them.
 

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Daniel 12:13 "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."

Daniel accepted some form of eternal life and going to some place beyond the grave. This predated Christianity, ignore the quibble over the date of Daniel of this passage.

2 Samuel 12:22-23 "He (David) answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David was confident that one day he would be re-united with his son. This would occur after the death of David.

Whilst the concept of heaven and eternal life in the OT was by no means as developed or comprehensive as the NT, the Jews obviously had an acceptance of a life and destination beyond the grave
 

DrZoidberg

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Daniel 12:13 "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."

Daniel accepted some form of eternal life and going to some place beyond the grave. This predated Christianity, ignore the quibble over the date of Daniel of this passage.

2 Samuel 12:22-23 "He (David) answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David was confident that one day he would be re-united with his son. This would occur after the death of David.

Whilst the concept of heaven and eternal life in the OT was by no means as developed or comprehensive as the NT, the Jews obviously had an acceptance of a life and destination beyond the grave

How isn't this just standard pagan belief? Sheol or hell.

Not to nit pic but the fact that you can find stuff in the Old Testament that might support modern interpretations doesn't prove much. These are translations. And as such words with vague meanings are picked depending on what the translator interprets it's about.

The world is full of Biblical scholars who can read the original languages and who have spent their lives studying this. I'm not aware of any academic Biblical scholar who subscribes to the belief that pre-pharisaic Judaism believed in Heaven. I don't have my own theory on this. I'm just repeating what scholarly works I've read on it.

My impressions is that Christians in general, are great at taking Biblical passages out of context and inserting all manner of unfounded meaning onto it.

I remember going to church with my girlfriend and afterwards my girlfriend (Christian) asked about the meaning of a sermon. She is Danish and the sermon was in Swedish. But the priest thought she meant exegetical support. So we listened to an awesome improvised 20 minute lecture on the passage where he explained all the possible various interpretations and that his was just one of them and also, likely, not the Biblically accurate. But conforming to the state protestant church of Sweden's teaching. Pretty cool. My point with bringing this up is that, these kinds of discussions, need more than just quoting Biblical passages.
 

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Daniel 12:13 "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."
I don't see why one would simply "ignore the quibble over the date of Daniel" when discussing the historical trajectory of an idea. The fact that Daniel is one of the latest written books in the Hebrew Scriptures, acknowledged to have been written after conquest by the Greeks (whose views on the afterlife are well known), is extremely relevant.

2 Samuel 12:22-23 "He (David) answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
It doesn't sound like that in the slightest. How did you reach that conclusion from a passage in which David is clearly grieving that he will never see his son again?
 

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Where did early Christianity get its "eternal life in Heaven" idea?

The following facts seem to not be disputed:

Ideas and longing for Eternal Life existed at least back to 2,000 BC, long before the 1st century AD.

There is no noticeable increase in these ideas during those 2,000 years. By 200 or 100 BC there was no increased interest in it beyond what there was in 2000-1500 BC. It was very rare, if there at all, in the Jewish beliefs. And the interest among Egyptians and Greeks and Romans did not increase toward the 1st century AD.

But then suddenly about 50 AD - 100 AD there is an explosion of interest in this and a sudden claim that one could gain eternal life by just believing in this one character who pops up in 30 AD. There's nothing just prior in any of the literature to explain where this came from.

And there is the claim, in at least 5 1st-century documents, unexplained in anything earlier, that this one was killed and then rose back to life a few days later, seen by many witnesses.

So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

Y'think?

But sshhhhhhh, we're not supposed to say this, because it offends some people.
 

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Dreams, inner visions, out of body experiences, etc, may have given the impression of trancendency, a foundation for a belief in life beyond the physical realm.

And this is precisely the genesis of such fanciful notions as afterlives. Sure, it looks like the Egyptians hold the historical patent but such a claim isn't going to interfere with getting on with life. It's a bit of a luxury expenditure but affordable given circumstances.

Meh. If there’s an historical patent (love that turn of phrase) it is probably held by the first human who realized he/she was going to die simply based on the observation that everyone dies.
 

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The following facts seem to not be disputed:

Ideas and longing for Eternal Life existed at least back to 2,000 BC, long before the 1st century AD.

There is no noticeable increase in these ideas during those 2,000 years. By 200 or 100 BC there was no increased interest in it beyond what there was in 2000-1500 BC. It was very rare, if there at all, in the Jewish beliefs. And the interest among Egyptians and Greeks and Romans did not increase toward the 1st century AD.

But then suddenly about 50 AD - 100 AD there is an explosion of interest in this and a sudden claim that one could gain eternal life by just believing in this one character who pops up in 30 AD. There's nothing just prior in any of the literature to explain where this came from.

And there is the claim, in at least 5 1st-century documents, unexplained in anything earlier, that this one was killed and then rose back to life a few days later, seen by many witnesses.

So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

Y'think?

But sshhhhhhh, we're not supposed to say this, because it offends some people.

It's not that it offends people. It's dumb. Jesus dying and resurrected is a standard pagan story on the Middle East. It's pretty obvious to anybody accustomed to ancient litterature that everything supernatutal attributed to Jesus is traditional pagan stories to prove that Jesus was the son of a god. In paganism anybody who did anything extraordinary is explained by them being partly by divine parentage.

The story of Jesus is bog standard on the pagan tradition.

If all of these tens of thousands similar Jesus figures didn't make a shift in our beliefs then its silly to think Jesus would do it based on that alone.

Theologically the cult of Isis is pretty much a carbon copy of Christianity and predates it by 300 years. Was extremely popular at the time of Jesus life. Not only that, but the story of Jesus has similarities with the story of Osiris. A prominent figure in the Cult of Isis.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysteries_of_Isis

Not only do I not think that. I think it's silly and lazy Christian exceptionalism.
 

DrZoidberg

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Dreams, inner visions, out of body experiences, etc, may have given the impression of trancendency, a foundation for a belief in life beyond the physical realm.

And this is precisely the genesis of such fanciful notions as afterlives. Sure, it looks like the Egyptians hold the historical patent but such a claim isn't going to interfere with getting on with life. It's a bit of a luxury expenditure but affordable given circumstances.

I think that's after the fact reconstruction. Because we live in a Christian society where an afterlife is the accepted default position we think it's natural and obvious. But there's no theological support for that it's been a common belief going back much further than Christianity
 

atrib

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The following facts seem to not be disputed:

Ideas and longing for Eternal Life existed at least back to 2,000 BC, long before the 1st century AD.

There is no noticeable increase in these ideas during those 2,000 years. By 200 or 100 BC there was no increased interest in it beyond what there was in 2000-1500 BC. It was very rare, if there at all, in the Jewish beliefs. And the interest among Egyptians and Greeks and Romans did not increase toward the 1st century AD.

But then suddenly about 50 AD - 100 AD there is an explosion of interest in this and a sudden claim that one could gain eternal life by just believing in this one character who pops up in 30 AD. There's nothing just prior in any of the literature to explain where this came from.

And there is the claim, in at least 5 1st-century documents, unexplained in anything earlier, that this one was killed and then rose back to life a few days later, seen by many witnesses.

So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

Y'think?

But sshhhhhhh, we're not supposed to say this, because it offends some people.

First, I don't agree with your premises - that the idea of being resurrected into an afterlife suddenly expanded exponentially in the first century. You need to cite sources to support this claim if you want them to be considered as a fundamental premise to your argument.

Second, even if we accept the premise as true, at best you are left with an explanation that involves a story of a dead man being resurrected from the grave. There are many naturalistic explanations as to how such a story might have originated; and as you have pointed out yourself, such stories were not uncommon in that part of the world. The existence of the story does not imply the story is true. The vast amount of evidence that speaks against such a story being true makes it extremely unlikely that the story is factual.


You are begging the question here, while desperately trying to cover it up. You don't know whether the story is based on factual events since there is no evidence to corroborate the story. When you are able to rule out all possible naturalistic explanations for the existence of the story, come back and take another stab at it.
 

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The following facts seem to not be disputed:

Ideas and longing for Eternal Life existed at least back to 2,000 BC, long before the 1st century AD.

There is no noticeable increase in these ideas during those 2,000 years. By 200 or 100 BC there was no increased interest in it beyond what there was in 2000-1500 BC. It was very rare, if there at all, in the Jewish beliefs. And the interest among Egyptians and Greeks and Romans did not increase toward the 1st century AD.

But then suddenly about 50 AD - 100 AD there is an explosion of interest in this and a sudden claim that one could gain eternal life by just believing in this one character who pops up in 30 AD. There's nothing just prior in any of the literature to explain where this came from.

And there is the claim, in at least 5 1st-century documents, unexplained in anything earlier, that this one was killed and then rose back to life a few days later, seen by many witnesses.

So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

Y'think?

But sshhhhhhh, we're not supposed to say this, because it offends some people.

First, I don't agree with your premises - that the idea of being resurrected into an afterlife suddenly expanded exponentially in the first century. You need to cite sources to support this claim if you want them to be considered as a fundamental premise to your argument.

Second, even if we accept the premise as true, at best you are left with an explanation that involves a story of a dead man being resurrected from the grave. There are many naturalistic explanations as to how such a story might have originated; and as you have pointed out yourself, such stories were not uncommon in that part of the world. The existence of the story does not imply the story is true. The vast amount of evidence that speaks against such a story being true makes it extremely unlikely that the story is factual.


You are begging the question here, while desperately trying to cover it up. You don't know whether the story is based on factual events since there is no evidence to corroborate the story. When you are able to rule out all possible naturalistic explanations for the existence of the story, come back and take another stab at it.

I can absolutely attest to the fact that many other completely nonchristian cultures believed in afterlives. In fact the Eddas feature this belief quite pointedly, as well as even referencing earlier flood stories, albeit told from the perspective of people who were not "the ones in the boat", who they called out as Jotun!

I find the whole thing quite insulting, in fact, that people would discount Germanic pre-christian religions!

As to the instance of an after life, can only assume that interest in an afterlife is guaranteed to increase following the proliferation of a cult for whom this is a new and major doctrine.

In fact I find it far more likely not that the cult succeeded because of some series of actual events, but rather that the cult succeeded because it used a very effective lie, and the lie succeeded for the same reasons I detailed up thread
 

Jarhyn

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You need to cite sources to support this claim if you want them to be considered as a fundamental premise to your argument.
Ha.
Good one.


One can always hope for a miracle.

Strangely enough, there may be a basis for believing in a real afterlife and/or heaven.

So, let's assume for a moment that the universe is a function of math, purely implied as a hidden relationship created by the axioms of math. Let's assume then that there is an equation which could be solved for a given position in time and space to reveal exactly what is at that time and place...

First off, this would mean a lot of things and absolute knowledge of such would massively mutate our society. But beyond the immediate consequences exist the fact that, assuming you knew where and when to look and how to look there, you could just recreate every mind of every person who ever lived.

Assuming yet again, let's assume that earth is in an easily found region of space-time, that there is some event that will happen here that will put earth on a short list of "interesting places in spacetime" or perhaps impugns it's identity in math as "an interesting number".. This implies that every human existence would be under scrutiny. Every human ever would then have to worry about the possibility of being spun back up and questioned about their life, choices, and even held to account for that after their death. Imagine a world not in which you don't die, but in which you cannot ever permanently die because someone keeps spinning you up because your mind happens to be easy to find in spacetime...

I pity the first person to figure out how to do this, how to project the basis of the universe into useful information within it's time and space because they will never be able to just rest. Assuming they are here on earth and reveal their discovery, someone will from then on always know how to find them. They will not be allowed to die. Forever.
 

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Dreams, inner visions, out of body experiences, etc, may have given the impression of trancendency, a foundation for a belief in life beyond the physical realm.

And this is precisely the genesis of such fanciful notions as afterlives. Sure, it looks like the Egyptians hold the historical patent but such a claim isn't going to interfere with getting on with life. It's a bit of a luxury expenditure but affordable given circumstances.

I think that's after the fact reconstruction. Because we live in a Christian society where an afterlife is the accepted default position we think it's natural and obvious. But there's no theological support for that it's been a common belief going back much further than Christianity

What about tombs and burial sites, including writing that shows preparation for an afterlife, Egyptian, Sumerian, etc, even during the stone age?
 

DrZoidberg

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I think that's after the fact reconstruction. Because we live in a Christian society where an afterlife is the accepted default position we think it's natural and obvious. But there's no theological support for that it's been a common belief going back much further than Christianity

What about tombs and burial sites, including writing that shows preparation for an afterlife, Egyptian, Sumerian, etc, even during the stone age?

Yes, that's an interesting question. Initially in Egyptian religious mythology only the king could potentially qualify to go to the "Field of Reeds". This is not Heaven. This is off far in the west, ie the place where the sun comes up over the flat Earth. So it's physically on Earth. But it's a treacherous journey. And it's his actual body that goes. In times of political coups we see that one leg is shattered of mummies and statues, to keep them from being able to take he journey. In Egyptian religious thought they were big on transformation. Anybody could transform into and out of being a god. If you paid the necessary price, ie sacrifice and ritual. Dreaming was seen as actually visiting the realm of the gods. It was something any Egyptian could do. So the Egyptian gods were a hell of a lot closer to human experience than, let's say, the Abrahamic God. In Abrahamic religion God is all powerful and Omniscient. Not so in Egyptian religion. They're just a little bit more powerful than humans. The pharaoh/king being worshipped as a god, to Christians sounds preposterously arrogant and insane. But it really wasn't.

In Abrahamic religion the conceptual gulf between the terrestrial plane and the divine plane is huge. It was not in Egyptian religion. Life in the Field of Reeds was conceptualized as the same as the mortal life. The only difference is that in order to survive in the Field of Reeds you needed your mummy to survive intact and continual offerings to your personal temple. In the Old Kingdom this was reserved only for the king/pharaoh.

It was also a daily thing. At night the person would sleep as a mummy in the tomb. Then in the morning they'd get up and jog around and then go to the Field of Reeds. Come home to the tomb at night. If I've understood how it's supposed to mean. The way to the Field of Reeds were beset by demons, that needed to be fought off, ever morning, (and every night on the way home). The offerings and prayers helped them stave the demons away.

In the Middle kingdom there was a shift in the culture. The ability to go to the afterlife was democratized. Inside shrines to the pharaoh there would now pop up a bunch of other statues. These were top officials and queens. Imhotep is, famously, the first guy to start this trend. For obvious reasons this created a shift in the duties of priests. A priest wasn't exclusive to one temple of a god. Now their duties became to whizz around the enormous plethora of temples to sacrifice to a sea of statues to people nobody could remember who they were or what they'd done. That's why the temple decoration first appeared. It's just a CV, listing the stuff this prominent person had done, and why he deserves daily offerings so the priest understands wtf he's doing all day.

In the New Kingdom this development got evermore elaborate, and practices were streamlined for efficiency. This was also Egypt at the peak of their power and wealth. So this practice put little strain on the economy.

After pharaonic power collapsed and they were placed under the rule of foreign kings then the need to sacrifice to the specific statues became unimportant. Sacrifices at festivals covered all Egyptians needs. This blew the doors of initiation into the Field of Reeds off its hinges. Now anybody able to mummify their loved ones could go to the Field of Reeds.

The cult of Isis is just straight up current Egyptian religion of it's age. It dates to 300 BC and is exactly the same as what later became Christianity. All you needed to do was be a good person and you'd be rewarded by Eternal Life in the Field of Reeds. No sacrifices were necessary after you were dead. As long as you were a moral person and did your religious duties while alive, you were assured a place in the Field of Reeds. Again... the same life as you'd live in the mortal realm, just forever.

So that's a contender. But the vision of Heaven is quite different from the Field of Reeds. As is the Egyptian gods different from Jehova. It's very different theologies.

The pre-pharisaic God Jehova is wholly abstract. It's truly ineffable. The abode of God, Heaven, is never explained in detail. It's ineffable and amaze. It's quite different from Egyptian theology. Nobody was expected to have to have a job in Heaven. And most importantly, it was the home of God, and God alone. Pharisees changed this ca 100 BC. But where did that come from? I don't know.

The Sumerian afterlife is bog standard pagan afterlife:

"The Sumerian afterlife was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, where inhabitants were believed to continue "a shadowy version of life on earth". This bleak domain was known as Kur, and was believed to be ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal."

So it wasn't that.

It could be from Zoroastrianism? This description sounds awfully similar to Christian Heaven and Hell.

https://www.quora.com/How-are-hell-and-heaven-described-in-Zoroastrianism

Judaism did import Angels and Satan from Zoroastrianism. Why not this as well? Even though it popped up in a period well after Sassanid (Zoroastrianism) rule was replaced by Greek and Roman rule. It could have been something that lingered in the culture for centuries before taking hold?

But centuries is a long time.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Did something new happen with "Christianity"? in the 1st-century?

I.e., the earliest "Christianity" -- not later Council-of-Nicaea "Christianity"

The original question was:

Where did the Christian idea of a soul and it's eternal life in Heaven come from?

A basic problem with this question -- maybe I didn't catch it at first -- is that there is no such thing as "the Christian idea of a soul and its eternal life in Heaven." If you study all the Christian literature, you find no such thing as the Christian idea of a soul etc.

Rather, there are hundreds of Christian ideas about souls and Heaven and eternal life. The new emphasis rather is about how to get to Heaven, which is "the good news" of that time, preached by Paul and others, reporting something which happened, and then because of this there is seen to be a way to gain eternal life which did not exist before. So the real "Christian idea" was not about the nature of "the soul" and "Heaven" and so on, which were accepted much as already believed, in different forms, all having some wish or perception of some afterlife.

So, I plead guilty to slightly altering the original question:

Where did the Christian idea of being saved and gaining eternal life in Heaven come from?

I don't think this changed version turns it into something silly and pointless, because actually it also solves what the original question asks. Because what is different about Christianity is not its ideas about the nature of the soul or Heaven, but its ideas about gaining eternal life, or how the soul is to be saved. --Whatever the exact nature of the soul is.


So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

Y'think?

But sshhhhhhh, we're not supposed to say this, because it offends some people.

It's not that it offends people. It's dumb. Jesus dying and resurrected is a standard pagan story on the Middle East.

No, there are no other dying and resurrecting stories from the Middle East. You can't name one and cite a source for it. I know you can rattle off a list of names of supposed resurrected gods/heroes, but you can't quote any source for those, giving the account of it and reporting the alleged event.


It's pretty obvious to anybody accustomed to ancient literature that everything supernatural attributed to Jesus is traditional pagan stories to prove that Jesus was the son of a god.

No, not "everything" -- not the part relevant to our point, which is the Resurrection. Also the miracle healing stories are not from any traditional pagan stories. You could make a case that the virgin birth and the scene of Jesus being tempted by Satan are derived from earlier pagan ideas.

But you cannot cite any earlier pagan or Jewish sources narrating any resurrection event or miracle healings which resemble the miracle acts of Jesus. And it's these which are related to the "good news" eternal life claim which appears in the 1st century AD and cannot be explained unless something unusual happened at this time to cause this new belief in the possibility of eternal life.

Actually, you're 1 or 2% correct in your claim, if you'll make the effort to find such earlier sources, and we could debate whether they really prove your point. There's virtually nothing there. E.g., we could discuss the Asclepius cult, which you might cite.

And it's true that there is one earlier story, not pagan but Jewish, which was used by the Christian storytellers. And that is II Kings 4:42-44, which bears too much resemblance to the later Jesus fish-and-loaves miracle story. However, that is the ONLY Jesus miracle which appears to have been derived from something earlier. Other than that, there is no Jesus miracle story which can be traced back to some earlier legend. So this is the exception which makes the rule: The Jesus "supernatural" stuff was not derived from "pagan stories" or other earlier traditions. You can't give any other example than this one from II Kings.

At the same time, there is probably fiction in the Gospel accounts, in addition to fact, as there is in most or all the ancient writings. And also there are elements borrowed from earlier pagan and Jewish tradition. And maybe you could argue that the Gospel accounts contain a higher percentage of fiction than most other written accounts of the time. But that fiction element would not include the healing miracles and the Resurrection, which show no indication of being fictional, other than the simple dogma that such "supernatural" events are impossible ipso facto and so must be ruled out, regardless of the evidence.

A true scientific skeptical approach does not impose the requirement that all miracle claims must be ruled out a priori without consideration of the evidence. Rather, science and skepticism only requires doubting, as well as a higher quantity of evidence in the case of miracle claims. Which extra evidence we do have in the case of the Jesus healing miracles and resurrection.


In paganism anybody who did anything extraordinary is explained by them being partly by divine parentage.

That would include anyone who really did do something extraordinary. So, if Jesus did in fact perform something extraordinary, like the miracle acts depicted in the accounts, then some would explain it as due to divine parentage.

On the other hand, if he did nothing extraordinary at all, then probably he would not even have made it into the historical record. Nor would Alexander the Great or Socrates or any other noteworthy figure of history. They all did something extraordinary, or they would have been forgotten. So, why is he in the historical record at all? Didn't he have to do something unusual in order to get reported in written accounts? What did he do that made him noteworthy enough to get this recognition?


The story of Jesus is bog standard on the pagan tradition.

If so, we should have some similar pagan legend we know from written sources of the time of the alleged events, rather than only from literature appearing centuries or thousands of years later, which is all we have.

All the pagan myth traditions are legends which emerged over many centuries, or even thousands of years. While the Jesus legend appeared in about 20 years, first in Paul's epistles, reporting that he was crucified and then raised back to life. Then other accounts reported the same during the period up to 100 AD. So the "story of Jesus" developed during a period of 20-70 years after his death, during which we have at least 5 written sources, for which by comparison there is nothing similar in any of the pagan traditions, which are all products of many centuries of mythologizing and legend-building.


If all of these tens of thousands similar Jesus figures didn't make a shift in our beliefs then its silly to think Jesus would do it based on that alone.

If these "similar Jesus figures" really did exist, someone would finally cite one example and quote from the ancient sources of the time which report on them. That no one ever does this is strong evidence that there isn't even one "similar" figure, let alone thousands. If there is another, someone will present him/her and quote from those ancient sources, instead of continuing to falsely claim that they exist, and falsely giving the laundry list of their names, without giving the ancient source for a single one and quoting the part which tells us about their miracle deeds.

Just quoting your favorite modern Jesus-debunker guru is not evidence for the ancient miracle-worker legends. If those legends are not in the ancient literature, your modern guru cannot invent them just to satisfy your demand for it because you need to believe there were other rival Jesus legends.


Theologically the cult of Isis is pretty much a carbon copy of Christianity and predates it by 300 years.

It contains no miracle-worker or resurrection tales.

You could just as easily claim that Christopher Columbus is a "carbon copy" of Odysseus. You might draw analogies here or there. E.g., maybe Christian baptism became something like an initiation rite similar to those of the Isis cult.

But there is nothing in the cult of Isis claiming someone died and was raised back to life, which can explain why the first Christ cults promoted a new hope for eternal life such as didn't exist before the first century AD. There is virtually no reference to "eternal life" in the earlier literature, outside of one reference in the Book of Enoch. And all references to the afterlife are totally pessimistic, emphasizing how difficult or impossible it is to attain to "Heaven" rather than perishing in Hell or in darkness. It's only in Paul's epistles where suddenly there is a kind of magic key to eternal life, which suddenly becomes a free "gift" instead of something difficult to attain through suffering and merit.

There needs to be an explanation why the prospect of eternal life suddenly changed into something optimistic. Where are there writings from the Isis cult preaching any new optimism about the possibility of eternal life, such as we see in the 1st-century NT writings?

I came across this:
https://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Projects/Reln91/Gender/isis.htm Finally, Osiris's promise of eternal life (through his sacrifice) for his followers has clear parallels to early Christian understandings of Christ.

So yes, there is an interpretation that Osiris promised eternal life to his followers. But this is nothing but a modern interpretation of the ancient cult. Where in any of the ancient literature, prior to Christianity, do we see any such promise? All the language about promising eternal life and about a "resurrection" of Osiris or Horus, etc., is nothing but modern Christian interpolations put back into the ancient pagan legends, not really in any original pagan source literature. There is nothing in the ancient sources about Isis or Osiris or Horus which reports any "resurrection" of anyone or any promise of eternal life to the followers of the cult. Other than, later, some threats of damnation and the possibility of earning some kind of salvation, for a tiny few heroes who struggle hard enough and perform enough meritorious deeds to earn their special place with the gods in eternal bliss.

So you could use the Egyptian sources as evidence that "salvation by works" was borrowed from earlier tradition, by some Christians like James. It's true that salvation by merit, by performing diligently the ancient rites, obeying the Law, etc., was a theme borrowed from earlier paganism and Judaism. But none of that can explain the 1st-century belief, unprecedented, that eternal life is offered as a free gift to believers, from someone whose deeds demonstrated unique life-giving power such as we see in the miracle healing acts and in the Resurrection, all originating from the 1st-century only, not appearing in the earlier legends. You can claim falsely that they appear earlier, but you cannot quote from any earlier source for this.

We could discuss the Asclepius cult, if you think Christianity may have borrowed from that, for ideas about miracle healing or salvation or eternal life.


Was extremely popular at the time of Jesus life. Not only that, but the story of Jesus has similarities with the story of Osiris. A prominent figure in the Cult of Isis.

No, Osiris was killed and did not resurrect back to life.

Leaving aside that there is no serious evidence for the Osiris-Isis-Horus story -- like we have serious evidence for Jesus in the 1st century -- the Osiris story is not about a resurrection of a dead person back to life. There is no "resurrection" word used in any ancient literature describing Osiris -- that's just a word used by later Christians drawing analogies to the ancient legend which was not about a resurrection. The story is that Osiris' body pieces were brought back together so that Isis could "have sex" with him somehow, get impregnated and then spawn Horus.

If they really existed, it's reasonable to believe that the king or pharaoh Osiris was killed, and his wife Isis had a child and claimed the offspring was from Osiris who somehow impregnated her before giving up the ghost, which might be a miracle of sorts, and so the son Horus succeeds Osiris. And worshipers of Osiris are glad to have his heir Horus to rule them, so they think of Horus as the new Osiris.

But this obviously is not what "resurrection" means in the 1st-century Christian writings.

It is not a "resurrection" to simply have your seed passed on to an offspring. You could say any human is a "resurrected" version of their parent(s). That is not what the Jesus resurrection is, obviously. Nothing about the Jesus resurrection has anything to do with his parent having died and spawned him through having sex just before dying.

It is ludicrous and nutty to suggest that anyone is a resurrected version of their parent, just as Jesus resurrected. No, the Jesus resurrection is about someone who died and then came back to life a few days later -- the same person returning as he had been before, possibly changed in some way, but not his offspring being born as an infant and a new and different person than the parent who had died. If that was all Jesus did, then his resurrection was nothing unusual at all. Because EVERYONE is an offspring of their parent.

You first have to get serious. It is not serious to say that the Jesus resurrection is nothing different than what happens to everyone who is born, who is the resurrection of their parent. That's all Horus was. He was the OFFSPRING of Osiris, not the RESURRECTION of him.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysteries_of_Isis

Not only do I not think that. I think it's silly and lazy Christian exceptionalism.

But this is only your knee-jerk impulse, for which you have no evidence.

You've offered no earlier example of anyone who reportedly performed miracle acts or resurrected, virtually nothing in any of the legends, fictional or otherwise, and obviously nothing from any evidence, such as written accounts from the time, such as we have evidence, i.e., written sources reporting Jesus doing miracle healings and resurrecting from death.
 

Jarhyn

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I can't help but think of the Homeric version of The Epic Cycle either. Did that not pointedly feature a forray into the underworld where the dead found their afterlife?

In fact journeys to the land of the dead are a staple of The Epic Cycle, no matter what instantiation you are talking about.
 

DrZoidberg

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No, there are no other dying and resurrecting stories from the Middle East. You can't name one and cite a source for it. I know you can rattle off a list of names of supposed resurrected gods/heroes, but you can't quote any source for those, giving the account of it and reporting the alleged event.

Yes, I can. Osiris. Well documented Greek myth. Orpheus, the son of a God, comes out of the underworld. Also well documented. There's so many sources I wonder how lazy you are? The Orpheus story can be found in Ovid's Metamorphosis, one of the most famous books in world history. The Osiris myth is literally carved in stone in many ancient Egyptian tombs. The list of these stories is long.

The Jesus myth in the Bible was never intended by its authors to be an accurate account. That's not the kind of book it is. It's not a "report". It's a myth intended to be inspirational. A tweaked reality of a super human person. I'm pretty sure that the authors adding reports of miracles for dramatic effect wouldn't have seen it as lying. It's not that kind of book.

It's pretty obvious to anybody accustomed to ancient literature that everything supernatural attributed to Jesus is traditional pagan stories to prove that Jesus was the son of a god.

No, not "everything" -- not the part relevant to our point, which is the Resurrection. Also the miracle healing stories are not from any traditional pagan stories. You could make a case that the virgin birth and the scene of Jesus being tempted by Satan are derived from earlier pagan ideas.

But you cannot cite any earlier pagan or Jewish sources narrating any resurrection event or miracle healings which resemble the miracle acts of Jesus. And it's these which are related to the "good news" eternal life claim which appears in the 1st century AD and cannot be explained unless something unusual happened at this time to cause this new belief in the possibility of eternal life.

OMG. If you'd go to ANY doctor in the ancient Middle-East you would expect a miracle healing. That's why you'd go. They didn't believe that healing powers was a science. They believe it was ALL magic.

Why this demand to find sources for something this well attested and well known? Are you truly this ignorant, or do you think that I don't have access to Google?

150px-Tintinnabulum_Pompeii_MAN_Napoli_Inv27839.jpg

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of a Roman flying penis. Yes, it's a real thing intended to ward off disease... magically.

Faith healing was all over the ancient world. As it is today, in the modern world.

That's as long as I got reading your message. My eyes are straining from all the eye rolling.

All the evidence suggests that all the magical things attributed to Jesus are attributed to him because those are traditional for divine beings and heroes in the pagan tradition. There is NOTHING special or unique about the Jesus miracles. They're so standard and traditional, that to me, it's pretty obvious that they're added in order to jack into earlier preconceptions about divinity to convince pagans of his godly specialness.
 

funinspace

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That's as long as I got reading your message. My eyes are straining from all the eye rolling.
To the Pain... :D except you keep your eyes instead of your ears...

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUJccK4lV74[/YOUTUBE]
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Why was there increased interest in "eternal life" at around 50 AD?

The following facts seem to not be disputed:

Ideas and longing for Eternal Life existed at least back to 2,000 BC, long before the 1st century AD.

There is no noticeable increase in these ideas during those 2,000 years. By 200 or 100 BC there was no increased interest in it beyond what there was in 2000-1500 BC. It was very rare, if there at all, in the Jewish beliefs. And the interest among Egyptians and Greeks and Romans did not increase toward the 1st century AD.

But then suddenly about 50 AD - 100 AD there is an explosion of interest in this and a sudden claim that one could gain eternal life by just believing in this one character who pops up in 30 AD. There's nothing just prior in any of the literature to explain where this came from.

And there is the claim, in at least five 1st-century documents, unexplained in anything earlier, that this one was killed and then rose back to life a few days later, seen by many witnesses.

So, why is there a sudden belief in eternal life in heaven, dating from this point in time, with nothing earlier to explain it?

The best explanation is that the reports about this 1st-century resurrected one caused many to start believing this, or giving them hope for this possibility, when before there had been nothing to give them any such hope. And no one can explain why there was such a claim of a resurrected one only at this time and place and not at any other time or place over thousands of years of legend throughout many lands and cultures with their various superstitions and mythologies and religious traditions.

So maybe it's possible that something unusual really did happen here, in Galilee-Judea, in about 30 AD, which uniquely caused this new "Gospel" (euangelion) good news to sprout up and spread as a new eternal life hope such as did not exist before.

First, I don't agree with your premises - that the idea of being resurrected into an afterlife suddenly expanded exponentially in the first century.

One way to measure this is the frequency of the term "eternal life" in literature. It's difficult to find references to "eternal life" in the literature just before the period in question (before 30-50 AD). It's hardly to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, if at all, and other such literature. It appears once in the Book of Enoch, which probably is in that earlier period, though there are some speculations which date Enoch later.

It's not in Daniel and other apocryphal literature, or it's hard to find it if it's there. It's found in the earlier Egyptian literature and in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and it seems like the latter is where it's found the most, which is very early and probably would not explain the sudden appearance of it in the NT.

(All the above are my findings, as I've looked for references to "eternal life" in that literature and usually could not find them. Maybe I missed them -- they could be there. I just assume it's not there until I learn otherwise.)

So, why does "eternal life" suddenly occur so much in the NT? This is not caused by any apparent increased interest in that subject during the period from 100 BC to 50 AD.

Or, if you see such an interest in it during that time, where do you see it? Where are there references to "eternal life" in the pre-Christian literature, around 200 to 100 BC and later before we see it appear (suddenly?) in Paul and then in the Gospel of John?

It should be obvious to anyone that the term "eternal life" is abundant in the Paul epistles and in the Gospel of John. It also appears a little in the Synoptics, but far less, and perhaps instead is replaced by the "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of Heaven" language.

Does an equivalent term appear in Hebrew or Aramaic, or other languages? And does the Latin Vita Aeterna occur anywhere earlier, in Livy or Ovid, etc.? I'm only guessing that it does not. When I googled "vita aeterna" I got some Christian results, but when I added Ovid and Virgil to it, I got the "aren't many great matches" response. Both terms occur -- "life" and "eternal" -- but not together.

So if this term, in whatever language, does occur frequently in that earlier literature -- before 30 or 50 AD -- then that would refute my claim that there's a sudden new interest in "eternal life" with the Christian writings. I admit I don't have the data to prove a less frequent occurrence of it earlier. But I've looked for it there and noticed that it's hard to find. The only occurrence of this term in anything from that period which I have noticed is the one in Enoch. Presumably it's in some other places too, but it seems to be very rare.

To refute my claim you'd need to show some examples of "eternal life" showing up in the literature prior to the Christian literature beginning with Paul in about 50 AD. If you google "eternal life" all you get is Christian results. Other than the Gilgamesh and the Egyptian Book of the Dead mentions, from the much earlier time. So other than that there's a relative lack of interest in it until Paul in 50 AD.

So I can't prove that interest in eternal life increased at this time, but this appears to be the case from the sudden increase in the "eternal life" term in the literature, as we enter the period of the Christian writings beginning with Paul. Why should this term suddenly become so important at this time, appearing so prominently in these two Christian writers?


You need to cite sources to support this claim if you want them to be considered as a fundamental premise to your argument.

I only need to cite the extreme frequent occurrence of "eternal life" in both Paul and in the Gospel of John to make a good case that "eternal life" became a much more serious idea at this time, around 50 AD and after, along with the apparent lack of this term anywhere else since the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian references. Also, if my premise is false, you should be able to find some other places in the pre-Christian literature where "eternal life" occurs. If it's there, eventually someone will find it and report it. It really does appear to be relatively peculiar to the Christian writings beginning at this time.



παλιγγενεσία (immortality) = ζωὴν αἰώνιον (eternal life)?

"Immortality" appears regularly throughout, with probably no increase or decrease during those earlier centuries. It appears in Philo the Alexandrian, but not the "eternal life" term. Since John and Philo were both influenced by gnostic thinking, why wouldn't they both use the same terminology? Why doesn't John ever use the "immortality" term but instead only the "eternal life" term?

It seems John got caught up in something similar to Paul and different than Philo's "immortality." So this "eternal life" term seems to appear suddenly in Paul and in John, used excessively by both, and there's no apparent explanation, while it's hardly found anywhere else without going way back centuries earlier to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Either that or it's there in that pre-Christian literature and I'm just missing it.

Also, how do we know that "eternal life" in the Gilgamesh and the Book of the Dead is really the same as the Greek "eternal life" (ζωὴν αἰώνιον -- John 3:16)? Presumably they have about the same meaning, while the standard "immortality" (παλιγγενεσία) is somehow different -- just trusting the translators. So the ζωὴν αἰώνιον is both an early idea and also relatively new idea reappearing in the Christian writings. And the question is: why does this term appear suddenly at this time, unless there is a new interest in "eternal life" at this time, and this having a somewhat different meaning than the conventional "immortality" of Plato and other Greeks?

Can't we assume Paul and John had something different in mind with their "eternal life" term than the conventional "immortality" of the Greek philosophers?

So it's legitimate to assume some new interest in "eternal life" here, around 50 AD, in the Christian writings, for which an explanation is needed. This is probably a correct premise.


Second, even if we accept the premise as true, at best you are left with an explanation that involves a story of a dead man being resurrected from the grave. There are many naturalistic explanations as to how such a story might have originated;

Some miracle stories can develop in the culture over many generations or centuries of time. Legends about Hercules, Santa Claus, Brunnhilde, Wotan, etc., developed over centuries, not in only 50 or 100 years. Though with the expansion of publishing through the Middle Ages and into modern times, it has become easier for legends to evolve faster. Especially today with the modern media. But none of that can explain how the Jesus "legend" of the 1st century appeared so quickly.

and as you have pointed out yourself, such stories were not uncommon in that part of the world.

No, I pointed out the opposite, that such resurrection stories are nonexistent prior to the Christ death and resurrection story. You cannot cite any other story from the ancient literature about a dead man coming back to life.

The only qualifier might be a story about Asclepius and one or two other heroes reviving someone, or bringing back to life someone who had been dead. Those are extremely rare. There's no narrative account of such a case, but only a brief reference to the legendary hero having performed such a miracle. Except for those half-dozen stories, there are no references whatever to dead persons coming back to life again. The poetic return of someone in the form of their later descendant, like a reincarnation or Osiris-Horus father-son story is not a resurrection back to life from having been dead. No more so than Alexander being a resurrection of Phillip II, e.g. That's not what "resurrection" means.

Nor are the stories of someone being transformed into a spirit the same as "resurrection," or traveling to a different realm, to Heaven or to Hell or to a place to visit the dead, or even being metamorphized into an animal or other form of life (like King Nebuchadnezzar was transformed into a beast which ate grass and grew feathers and claws). The "resurrection" in Paul and in the Gospels means dying, like we know humans normally die, and then coming back to life, as humans normally do not do. Not some crazy transformation into a different life form or transplantation to a different realm or dimension of reality.


The existence of the story does not imply the story is true.

Usually not, for something irregular like miracles. However, it depends on the number of sources, and also on how close the report of it is chronologically to the alleged event. The vast majority of miracle claims are ruled out because there's only one source, or the sources are much too far removed from the date of the alleged event.

The story cannot automatically be ruled out simply because it claims something unusual. Rather, if there are multiple sources close to the event, then it has to be given some credibility, or the doubt is reduced.


The vast amount of evidence that speaks against such a story being true makes it extremely unlikely that the story is factual.

It's OK to say it's "extremely unlikely" for such a story to be true. But that only means that extra evidence is required for any particular such claim to be true. If there is the extra evidence in a given case, from a source close to when the alleged event happened, then it's no longer "extremely unlikely" as the usual case where there is little or no evidence. The general reason to reject such a claim is that it's contrary to normal experience and there's little or no evidence that it really happened. But in the case of the Jesus resurrection there's more than enough extra evidence that it really happened, so that one can reasonably believe it, even though there is still doubt.


You are begging the question here, while desperately trying to cover it up. You don't know whether the story is based on factual events since there is no evidence to corroborate the story.

The 1st-century documents saying it happened are evidence that it happened. As is the case with virtually all historical events, we rely on the reports that it happened as our evidence. Without those reports that the event happened, there is virtually no evidence for our history -- especially for events 1000 or 2000 years ago.

The only evidence to "corroborate" any reported historical event is other reports that the event happened. If there are extra sources saying it happened, that is corroboration of the event. And of course the extra sources also cast doubt on any details where there are discrepancies. So the agreement among the multiple sources helps to corroborate the part where there's agreement, while any discrepancies cast doubt on the details where there's disagreement. Our five sources for the historical Jesus do corroborate each other on the main points, but there are many discrepancies which make the details doubtful.


When you are able to rule out all possible naturalistic explanations for the existence of the story, come back and take another stab at it.

There's nothing ruling out the possibility that the story is true and also has a "naturalistic" explanation. I.e., the Jesus resurrection could be true and also have a "naturalistic" explanation. Claiming it has a "naturalistic" explanation doesn't suddenly make it untrue, or contradict it.

It's reasonable to believe it based on the evidence, or the written accounts saying it happened, but also allow that it has a "naturalistic" explanation. It isn't necessary to know the explanation in order to reasonably believe it based on the evidence or written record saying it did happen.

Believing it does not require that the explanation be non-naturalistic. Rather, one simply believes it, but does not claim that the explanation is or is not naturalistic. Of course some believers do claim the event is non-natural, or "supernatural" or other terminology, but that's their personal perception, which might be mistaken. We don't really know if it's "natural" or "supernatural" or "naturalistic" and so on. All we know is that we have evidence that it happened, whatever is the explanation how it happened.
 

Tharmas

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Plato in his dialogue Phaedo, several centuries BC, offers four (or three, I can't remember) logical proofs for the immortality of the soul. This would hardly be news to the authors of the New Testament.
 

DrZoidberg

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What makes the Bible special, really really special. Is the amount of texts that has survived. This due to the unbroken prominence of Christianity throughout antiquity combined with the monastic scribal system. This is awesome. ANY other surviving religious texts are fragmentary and pathetic in comparison with the Bible. We have been able to reconstruct and map some Babylonian, Zoroastrian, and other Middle-Eastern religious ideas through the Bible. There's no other religious text that comes even close to it.

This is awesome, and something I hope Christians today appreciate.

But there's a risk to see the lack of other texts as Christianity being qualitatively different, or special in other regards. The numbers of surviving Bibles is an accident of history.

A Catholic bishop in the 1800's took every single existing ancient Inca holy text and burned them. It's all gone. Which sucks for Inca scholars today.

Another Catholic bishop in Spain in the 1700's took about half of the then existing ancient Bibles and sold them to a fireworks factory. He thought they were too weird. So these were all the surviving Christian Bibles that conformed the least to then current Catholic doctrine.

We're exceedingly lucky to be in the situation we are with the Bibles. Any political upheaval in Rome could easily have destroyed all those Bibles as well.

So the details of the reporting in the gospels doesn't mean we didn't get similar details in the reporting for other religions. It's not proof of anything. It's just evidence that Christian monks are good at copying and keeping alive stuff and the the papal library is damn lucky in dodging all the revolutionary bullets flying throughout history.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Where did the new ζωὴν αἰώνιον "eternal life" idea come from? appearing first in Paul, about 50 AD?

(It's difficult to determine if the ζωὴν αἰώνιον term existed at all before the Paul epistles. The earlier "eternal life" language in the Book of Enoch, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and in the Gilgamesh legend, were not Paul's ζωὴν αἰώνιον, so this might be a totally new "afterlife" idea in the literature, appearing in the Christian writings from 50 AD.)

I can absolutely attest to the fact that many other completely nonchristian cultures believed in afterlives.

Where are their writings on the subject? If they said little or nothing to promote their belief about it, then they obviously didn't care about it the way the New Testament writers cared about it.

It's not that non-Christian cultures had no belief in afterlife or Heaven or whatever. What's significant is that this particular group of 1st-century writers gave an obvious unique attention to this and emphatically promoted their urgent good news "gospel" about this, believing there was a new offer of "eternal life" to humans, due to a recent historical event they must communicate to the world

They used a new term ("zoe aionios") or "eternal life" as the name for this "afterlife" belief and gave a new importance to such belief, or an urgency and a need to tell others this "gospel" such as we do not see in the other cultures, even though virtually all cultures did have some belief in afterlife, but did not publish anything of such urgency about it.

So, what explains this unusual interest in an "afterlife" idea/belief which they had to publish and spread as "good news" to others with such urgency? Something must have driven them -- the uneducated believers as well as the educated writers who published these accounts. There were no other cultures promoting such an urgent message and publishing written accounts about it. Whatever their beliefs about "afterlives," they saw no need to spread their belief to others as this one particular cult (or group of Christ cults) did.

If the new "afterlives" belief was just another normal belief like all the others, with nothing different, why did they create this new name "zoe aionios" as the new label for it and go to such effort to spread their belief to others?


In fact the Eddas feature this belief quite pointedly, as well as even referencing earlier flood stories, albeit told from the perspective of people who were not "the ones in the boat", who they called out as Jotun!

OK, other writings exist. What is claimed in the Eddas which you think is noteworthy and urgent for people to know about? Are there miracle acts reported from sources near the time a reported miracle hero performed them? a Resurrection account describing the hero reportedly martyred and then returning to appear alive to large numbers of witnesses and preaching salvation of some kind? What is important in the Eddas that would be urgent for the world to know about?


I find the whole thing quite insulting, in fact, that people would discount Germanic pre-christian religions!

Then why are you discounting them? Tell us their urgent message that we need to know. Why are you keeping silent about it if their religions have something important to tell us? If you know something important in those religions but won't tell us about it, then you're the one who is insulting them.


As to the instance of an after life, can only assume that interest in an afterlife is guaranteed to increase following the proliferation of a cult for whom this is a new and major doctrine.

But that "interest in an afterlife" came first, before the proliferation.

This new interest in an afterlife (or "eternal life" -- ζωὴν αἰώνιον) happened long before the proliferation of the cult. It's the proliferation of the new cult(s) which is the RESULT of the new interest in this ζωὴν αἰώνιον, not the new interest resulting from the proliferation of the new cult(s). The new interest begins around 50 AD (or earlier), not after the proliferation. Maybe it increased during 50-100 AD, but the proliferation was mainly following the new interest expressed in the writings. Something caused the interest first, or the spreading this "gospel" or good news, and then the proliferation happened as a result of this. We need to know what caused this initial new interest, for which they adopted the new ζωὴν αἰώνιον terminology.


In fact I find it far more likely not that the cult succeeded because of some series of actual events, but rather that the cult succeeded because it used a very effective lie, and the lie succeeded for the same reasons I detailed up thread

But of all the new "cults" trying to succeed, the new Christ cult(s) were the least able to use the kind of lie you described ("there is a place you live forever after you die, now do what I want or you won't go there."). Because the new Christ cult(s) were saying the "good news" of salvation as a free gift from Christ without any "do what I want or you won't go there" threat. These new cults least of all included demands to "do what I want" or do this and that in its teaching about the "afterlife" possibility. The new saved-by-faith "good news" was more the opposite of the usual salvation-by-works teachings in conventional religion, where followers have rules imposed on them and rituals and commandments to carry out.

So if any cults were using the kind of "very effective lie" you're talking about, it's least likely to be the new Christ cult(s). Obviously any cult could use such lies, not only the Christ cults. You need to explain why those other cults did not succeed even better than the Christ cults by using such an "effective lie" of demanding "what I want" as a price to pay to get to "a place where you live forever" afterlife.

So as yet no one is explaining where these new Christ cults got their "eternal life" idea which was different than the conventional "immortality" beliefs of the Greek philosophers and Alexandrians like Philo, etc., who did not show this new "eternal life in Heaven" idea which we see beginning around 50 AD with Paul's epistles and then the Gospel writings. Plato's "immortality" teachings had already influenced thousands/millions over 3 or 4 centuries but still had not inspired any afterlife "good news" enthusiasm such we see popping up suddenly around 30-50 AD. So, where did this new "eternal life in Heaven" interest come from which eventually became central to the established "Christianity" of later centuries?
 

Lumpenproletariat

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The cult of Isis is just straight up current Egyptian religion of it's age. It dates to 300 BC and is exactly the same as what later became Christianity.

No, the Isis cult did not have reliable written sources about the actual person Isis (and Osiris and Horus), as the Christ believers had sources about Jesus, written in the 1st century, reporting the Resurrection etc. It matters if the believers have some legitimate evidence for their beliefs, such as written accounts dated near to the time of the reported events they believe.
 

Politesse

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What makes the Bible special, really really special. Is the amount of texts that has survived. This due to the unbroken prominence of Christianity throughout antiquity combined with the monastic scribal system. This is awesome. ANY other surviving religious texts are fragmentary and pathetic in comparison with the Bible. We have been able to reconstruct and map some Babylonian, Zoroastrian, and other Middle-Eastern religious ideas through the Bible. There's no other religious text that comes even close to it.

This is awesome, and something I hope Christians today appreciate.

But there's a risk to see the lack of other texts as Christianity being qualitatively different, or special in other regards. The numbers of surviving Bibles is an accident of history.

A Catholic bishop in the 1800's took every single existing ancient Inca holy text and burned them. It's all gone. Which sucks for Inca scholars today.

Another Catholic bishop in Spain in the 1700's took about half of the then existing ancient Bibles and sold them to a fireworks factory. He thought they were too weird. So these were all the surviving Christian Bibles that conformed the least to then current Catholic doctrine.

We're exceedingly lucky to be in the situation we are with the Bibles. Any political upheaval in Rome could easily have destroyed all those Bibles as well.

So the details of the reporting in the gospels doesn't mean we didn't get similar details in the reporting for other religions. It's not proof of anything. It's just evidence that Christian monks are good at copying and keeping alive stuff and the the papal library is damn lucky in dodging all the revolutionary bullets flying throughout history.

Now this is actually a vey good point. Perhaps the only equivalent treasures to the in the religious text world are the Gilgamesh epic, the Vedas, and the Tao Te Ching; it is not the norm for a religious corpus to survive for thousands of years, and none of them, the Bible included, have done so without severe edits, translations, and redactions over the centuries.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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I can't help but think of the Homeric version of The Epic Cycle either. Did that not pointedly feature a forray into the underworld where the dead found their afterlife?

In fact journeys to the land of the dead are a staple of The Epic Cycle, no matter what instantiation you are talking about.

Fine. But for clarification, trips to "the underworld" and visitations to the dead, and other mystical excursions and flights to other worlds and universes, etc., have nothing to do with death and resurrection such as we see it in the Gospel accounts and in Paul's epistles. The Christ Resurrection is a reported event (which one might reasonably doubt) in which a living human was killed, as millions/billions have been killed, and who then came back to life, rose up (or was raised up), and left the place of burial to be seen alive in the following days by many witnesses who saw him living similarly as they had seen him earlier before he was killed.

It's not a mystical symbol like the stories of Osiris or Orpheus or Hercules or others who are described in poetry 1000 years later as partying with the gods or living on in some spiritual form.
 

steve_bank

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The Jesus story is not mystical? Biblical Tales Of The Supernatural and Paranormal, my book soon to be a best seller. Or a TV series.

Jesus in the gospels by any other name is a Greek demigod. Offspring of a god and a human possessing some but not all the powers of the god. Dies in the end and goes up on high with god.

The ancient Hebrews ere influenced by Babylonian myths and stories. The gospels undoubtedly influenced by Greek mythology. It certainly was not Jewish, Jews forbade any image or depiction of god . That would be blasphemous idolatry.

The image of Jesus with a halo.
 

Jarhyn

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What makes the Bible special, really really special. Is the amount of texts that has survived. This due to the unbroken prominence of Christianity throughout antiquity combined with the monastic scribal system. This is awesome. ANY other surviving religious texts are fragmentary and pathetic in comparison with the Bible. We have been able to reconstruct and map some Babylonian, Zoroastrian, and other Middle-Eastern religious ideas through the Bible. There's no other religious text that comes even close to it.

This is awesome, and something I hope Christians today appreciate.

But there's a risk to see the lack of other texts as Christianity being qualitatively different, or special in other regards. The numbers of surviving Bibles is an accident of history.

A Catholic bishop in the 1800's took every single existing ancient Inca holy text and burned them. It's all gone. Which sucks for Inca scholars today.

Another Catholic bishop in Spain in the 1700's took about half of the then existing ancient Bibles and sold them to a fireworks factory. He thought they were too weird. So these were all the surviving Christian Bibles that conformed the least to then current Catholic doctrine.

We're exceedingly lucky to be in the situation we are with the Bibles. Any political upheaval in Rome could easily have destroyed all those Bibles as well.

So the details of the reporting in the gospels doesn't mean we didn't get similar details in the reporting for other religions. It's not proof of anything. It's just evidence that Christian monks are good at copying and keeping alive stuff and the the papal library is damn lucky in dodging all the revolutionary bullets flying throughout history.

Now this is actually a vey good point. Perhaps the only equivalent treasures to the in the religious text world are the Gilgamesh epic, the Vedas, and the Tao Te Ching; it is not the norm for a religious corpus to survive for thousands of years, and none of them, the Bible included, have done so without severe edits, translations, and redactions over the centuries.

The Eddas are pretty extensive as well. Snorri Et Al did a great job there.
 

Politesse

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What makes the Bible special, really really special. Is the amount of texts that has survived. This due to the unbroken prominence of Christianity throughout antiquity combined with the monastic scribal system. This is awesome. ANY other surviving religious texts are fragmentary and pathetic in comparison with the Bible. We have been able to reconstruct and map some Babylonian, Zoroastrian, and other Middle-Eastern religious ideas through the Bible. There's no other religious text that comes even close to it.

This is awesome, and something I hope Christians today appreciate.

But there's a risk to see the lack of other texts as Christianity being qualitatively different, or special in other regards. The numbers of surviving Bibles is an accident of history.

A Catholic bishop in the 1800's took every single existing ancient Inca holy text and burned them. It's all gone. Which sucks for Inca scholars today.

Another Catholic bishop in Spain in the 1700's took about half of the then existing ancient Bibles and sold them to a fireworks factory. He thought they were too weird. So these were all the surviving Christian Bibles that conformed the least to then current Catholic doctrine.

We're exceedingly lucky to be in the situation we are with the Bibles. Any political upheaval in Rome could easily have destroyed all those Bibles as well.

So the details of the reporting in the gospels doesn't mean we didn't get similar details in the reporting for other religions. It's not proof of anything. It's just evidence that Christian monks are good at copying and keeping alive stuff and the the papal library is damn lucky in dodging all the revolutionary bullets flying throughout history.

Now this is actually a vey good point. Perhaps the only equivalent treasures to the in the religious text world are the Gilgamesh epic, the Vedas, and the Tao Te Ching; it is not the norm for a religious corpus to survive for thousands of years, and none of them, the Bible included, have done so without severe edits, translations, and redactions over the centuries.

The Eddas are pretty extensive as well. Snorri Et Al did a great job there.

Yes, but not even slightly as old.
 

Jarhyn

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The Eddas are pretty extensive as well. Snorri Et Al did a great job there.

Yes, but not even slightly as old.

To be fair, right up till snorri's time they were still oral, held through right poetic structures which constrained dictation and prevented mistakes.

In this way, it's less likely to be corrupted than most.
 

Lumpenproletariat

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Are the Jesus healing miracles just copies of earlier pagan legends common in antiquity?

What are the earlier pagan legends of someone resurrecting or doing miracles?


No, there are no other dying and resurrecting stories from the Middle East. You can't name one and cite a source for it. I know you can rattle off a list of names of supposed resurrected gods/heroes, but you can't quote any source for those, giving the account of it and reporting the alleged event.

Yes, I can. Osiris. Well documented Greek myth.

Yes, the Egyptian who was killed and did NOT come back to life but was succeeded by his son. There are two problems you must address in claiming this is a "documented" story of someone who resurrected: 1) Where exactly is the "resurrection" in the story? and 2) for documenting it as an alleged fact of history (as the Jesus resurrection as an event is documented by written accounts near to the time it allegedly happened), when did the Osiris event reportedly happen in history and when is it reported in the source which documents it? i.e., when is the source dated?

You have to show in the source a claim that this person died and then came back to life to live on as before, seen by witnesses or in some way confirmed. And the source saying this has to be dated reasonably close to when the alleged resurrection event took place. Neither of these is the case for Osiris, who might have been a real person, but for whom we have no sources anywhere near the time that he lived, if he lived.

And the sources we do have about this do not say that Osiris resurrected -- i.e., there is no actual "resurrection" event in the legend. The word "resurrection" is used only by later Christianized scholars giving their interpretation of the Osiris story, not by the original source telling us the event. These modern scholars use the NT word "resurrection" and apply it to Osiris, as having some similarity to the Christ resurrection, in their mind. But the story they take from the source does not say Osiris came back to life, but only that he spawned a son who lived on, just as any offspring lives on, which is not what "resurrection" means. If "resurrection" did mean that, then all humans have resurrected who left behind any offspring, which is obviously not what "resurrection" means.


Orpheus, the son of a God, comes out of the underworld.

Yes, but the story does not say that he died. Resurrection means the person first dies, or is killed, and then is brought back to life. Just visiting another realm or dimension or alternate universe of some kind does not mean the visitor first died. The Orpheus story does not say he first died before visiting the underworld.


Also well documented.

No, "well documented" has to mean more than just hundreds of poets 1000 years later retelling the tale, even assuming sufficient agreement among them. To be "documented" means there are written accounts of it near the time of the reported event. We need something less than 100 or 200 years later which reports it. Preferably only 50 years, but maybe 100 or 200 -- no one has established the rule for exactly how long this time-span should be between the actual event (when it allegedly happened) and the date when it's reported to us in the source. But shorter is better, and many centuries gets to be too long.

For normal events we can trust an author 100 or 200 or even 300 years later, as long as it's not contradicted by other sources. However, for miracle claims, or anything "supernatural" etc., we need extra evidence, such as extra sources, more than one, plus also a reasonable proximity of the report, chronologically, to the event being reported.

We have no such source for Orpheus. The written record for the Christ event of 30 AD, to "document" it, dates from about 50-100 AD -- 5 sources reporting the Resurrection, and 4 of them reporting the healing miracles. That is "well documented" -- but poets 1000 years later retelling a popular legend with no source within 500 or 1000 years of the event is not "well documented."


There's so many sources I wonder how lazy you are?

Lazy enough to want those sources to be reasonably close to the actual event, like maybe within 100 or 200 years. What good are the "so many sources" if they're no closer than 500 or 1000 years later? Hundreds of sources 1000+ years later is not "well documented" -- we have millions of legends repeated over and over in multiple sources centuries later. The later storytellers are not "sources" for the actual event, as evidence for it, near the time when it happened, if it happened. We're entitled to be "lazy" and demand something closer to the actual event.


The Orpheus story can be found in Ovid's Metamorphosis, one of the most famous books in world history.

But Ovid relied only on an ancient legend, not on any reports near to his time from someone close to the event, if it happened.


The Osiris myth is literally carved in stone in many ancient Egyptian tombs.

Not tombs from 3100 BC near to the time of Osiris, if he was a real person, which is possible. The sources we have are sufficient to establish maybe that he lived, and maybe he spawned a son Horus. There's nothing to establish how he died or if anything unusual happened, such as his being raised back to life after being killed. It's reasonable to believe he might have been killed, in a power struggle.

But for miracle claims, such as him having sex after his body had been sliced and diced into a hundred pieces and then put back together -- we don't have any serious sources for an event like that. For bizarre miracle claims we need more than one source, and these must come from a time point near to when the alleged event happened, like less than 50 or 100 or 200 years. The earliest Osiris sources are 500-600 years later than the alleged event.

It's reasonable to assume from them that there was a power struggle in which Osiris was killed, but also that he had an heir Horus who continued his dynasty forward -- and that's your only "resurrection" of Osiris. We're entitled to put together a normal story from the details of the tale, but without the bizarre or miraculous elements, when there is no proper source for these near to the time it happened. It's also a reasonable speculation that his wife Isis made up a story of having sex with him even though he had been killed, so that then her son would inherit the reign. More likely is that she got impregnated by someone else later and then claimed the offspring was really from Osiris, and perhaps a miracle claim got into the story, and people believed her.

Or, if we must totally discount the possibility that any Osiris or Isis even existed and insist instead that the accounts of them are completely fiction stories made up by storytellers, without any connection to history at all, then it's improper to offer this as comparison to the historical Jesus, who probably did exist in history as most historians believe, and who thus cannot be compared to someone whose historical existence is totally discounted as a possibility.


The list of these stories is long.

Of course the list gets long after many centuries of legend-building. These are not strictly "sources" to document what actually happened in history, or at least not for anything dubious or a matter of dispute. But there were the real events historically, which we should search for and for which we can use all the sources to speculate what really happened, including anything unusual, even "supernatural" or dubious claims, but not based on a "long list" of stories added 1000 years later.


The Jesus myth in the Bible was never intended by its authors to be an accurate account.

It was at least partly, if not 100% intended as accurate.

There are inaccuracies, probably, as in any ancient written accounts (and even most modern accounts). In some cases maybe an author included something inaccurate and even knew it was inaccurate. Also there could be something subconscious going on, where the author only half believed it, realizing there was also a fiction element.

But it's wrong to say that ALL the "miraculous" elements were known by the author to be inaccurate or fiction. Rather, there may be some of that mixed in, but still the accounts are intended mostly to be taken as accurate, and mostly believed by the authors, just as Josephus and Herodotus and Cicero believed what they were saying and yet still mixed propaganda into their writings or speeches, including exaggerations or distortions in order to strengthen the case they were making. There could be some conscious and some subconscious elements they included which were inaccurate and not totally honest.

That does not disqualify the accounts as reliable sources for the reported events, and for all the sources we must apply the rule that for "miracle" claims or anything very unusual we must have stronger evidence, such as extra sources, and these reasonably close in time to the actual reported events.

The Jesus miracle acts, including the Resurrection, are a case of "miracle" claims where we do have the necessary extra sources close in time to when the events happened, unlike 99% of miracle claims in all the various legends and sources. And especially for the ancient history events we usually are lacking sufficient sources near to when the event happened to be able to make the "miracle" claims credible.


That's not the kind of book it is. It's not a "report".

But it contains "reports" along with other elements to tell us what happened while also promoting the authors' beliefs or worldview. A written account does not have to be neatly classified as something excluding the "report" element. There probably is no such thing as "the kind of book" that is "report" only. The most respected ancient historian, Thucydides, did more than just give a "report" of the facts, but also included propaganda and psychology and historical philosophy/theory. Likewise the Bible writings also included "reports" along with the teaching matter and are reliable sources for the "report" or factual part, despite also containing inaccuracies, as virtually all the ancient writings did. ALL the ancient writings have to be read skeptically, even Thucydides, and not taken automatically as accurate in all the "reporting" they do.


The Gospels include some NEGATIVE "reports" about Jesus.

And the Gospel accounts do contain some "report" element which has nothing to do with teaching religion and even gives a negative side which is unfavorable to the image of Jesus as divine and perfect.

One example of this is the story of the rejection at Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6) where we're told that Jesus was "not able to perform any mighty deed there," which would not be included in the Gospel accounts if their sole purpose was to promote Jesus as a divine miracle-worker and omit any inconvenient facts. Whatever this rejection at Nazareth event was, it shows that these writers were willing to include reports reflecting something negative about Jesus.

Another negative element is related in Mark 3:21
When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."
This is negative enough to not be something the Gospel writer would provide if it is inspirational only, and limited to positive "myth" telling. Rather, it is something in Mark's source, which has more of a negative tone than positive, toward Jesus, and Mark provides it not in order to promote his portrayal of Jesus, but simply as a "report" from his source which he feels obligated to include.

Another negative element is the story of the demoniac being cured and the demons being sent into a herd of swine (Mark 5:1-20). This story cannot be easily understood as "inspirational" with all the negative imagery in it, of the local ranchers losing their herd and requesting that Jesus get the hell out of their district. If the author is creating only positive "myths" about Jesus, why doesn't he add something for Jesus to do to compensate those ranchers, like maybe performing some miracle for them? The demoniac he healed was not Jewish or somehow special that he alone was worthy to be helped. Mark could easily have added a miracle to benefit the local population and dazzle them with the power of Jesus, as happens in many of the reported miracle episodes. But instead this story leaves us with a bitter outcome where a very large group of locals, who did nothing wrong, end up hating Jesus, for good reason, because he caused much costly damage to their interests.

Plus also the demoniac stories generally have a bizarre unpleasantness about them which would not be included in stories created only to inspire the readers and strengthen their faith with heartwarming myths. The Gospel of John excludes the exorcism stories entirely as something distasteful and of little use in promoting the author's lofty visions of Christ the Cosmic Logos and Word of God Incarnate, whose dignity ought not be tarnished with scenes of him duking it out with demons and ousting them into a herd of swine.

So there is an element of neutral "report" stories in the Gospels which aims only at giving us the cold facts, even something negative, without needing to promote an inspirational or religious or positive teaching. Most effort to derive a positive inspirational message from it is just subjective interpretation. The writings are a combination of the "myth" or religious and inspirational element along with this "report" only element which includes some non-inspiring negativity and which is also an essential component of the writings.


It's a myth intended to be inspirational.

Even if it does contain myth, it's not "myth" exclusively, as if you can neatly categorize every document into "report" only or "myth" only. That's not what the ancient written accounts are. All the historical writings, even Thucydides, are intended partly as "inspirational" rather than exclusively as "report" only. You can say some are more factual than others, but not that they are entirely factual and "report" only, with no part intended as inspirational. Or that all the written accounts must be exclusively "myth" or "report" only without a combination of the two. No, these accounts contain factual "reporting" plus also some "myth" and also some "inspirational" content, and these get intermixed so much that it's difficult to separate even individual parts of the account exclusively into "report" and "myth" and "inspiration" etc.

The authors knew the readers would understand the content both as "report" of fact but also as "myth" and "inspiration" and religious teaching with moral or spiritual interpretation. And nothing prevents it from being these together, both -- not either/or. How the readers would take the stories is the best guide to what the authors probably intended. Even today we learn much from a presentation which contains both fact being "reported" to us but also some "myth" or moralistic inspirational content, or some content intended mainly for entertainment, for impact, to keep our attention. It's seldom exclusively factual "report" only, but is usually intermixed with some drama added for impact, and a fictional element often gets mixed in.

Bible scholar Bart Ehrman (non-Christian) disagrees that the NT Jesus stories were intended only as non-accurate accounts:

Interview -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNIyyoRPbLM&t=1029s

interviewer: Some scholars have claimed, critical scholars, that the authors of the Gospels self-consciously told parables about Jesus. They were writing stories that didn't really actually happen, and knew that, but we don't get it because we're too literal-minded. Were the authors who told stories about Jesus that are likely not probably accurate -- Jesus bodily ascending into the sky, for instance -- did they know it was a fiction and that the readers would get it, that it was a metaphor, or 2) know it was a fiction but were passing it off as something that happened, or 3) did they really think it happened?

Ehrman: Right, so you know, at the end of the day, the question is impossible to answer. We don't know what the authors were actually thinking at the time. Did they think that they were telling a parable, did they think they were telling the literal truth, did they think the readers would get it? So we don't know that. What we do know is how readers always read these stories. And in almost every instance that we have any record of, readers read the stories as being literal descriptions of what happened. Now, did the authors mean for them to take it that way, and that they were mistaken? I don't know, but the fact that every early reader seems to have read these things as literally suggests to me that it was the literal mindset that was widespread in antiquity, and so probably the authors meant these to be taken literally as well.

I.e., the mindset of the readers mostly settles the question, taking the stories at face value, or generally intended to be taken as literally accurate, because we know this was how the readers understood them. But still this doesn't totally exclude any possibility whatever of a fictional element also being there; i.e., not every detail has to be exactly accurate, and both readers and writers understand this. E.g., some element of exaggeration or distortion is normal, such as to add emphasis to an important point. There can be less than 100% accuracy while still the main points are intended as substantially correct, or literally as accurate reporting of the events.


A tweaked reality of a super human person.

There could be some tweaking, but only because the "super human" element is already there, believed to be literally true -- believed because of good evidence -- and then to this there could be some tweaking added, for emphasis. The believer telling it to others, orally or in writing, might do such tweaking, which is less than 100% honest but probably normal. Probably most of the truth we learn has some elements of error mixed in with it, due to some flaw in understanding and communicating and our less than 100% objectivity. But still it's "the truth" more or less, we assume.


I'm pretty sure that the authors adding reports of miracles for dramatic effect wouldn't have seen it as lying.

Not as long as they truly believed the "miracle" element really was there, and what they're adding is only a little extra, out of their less-than-perfect scientifically-objective "just the facts ma'am" frame of mind. But if they fabricated entirely the miracle report, adding it to something which had no such element in it already, then they would have seen that as lying. Probably none of our ancient authors did that in the written accounts which have come down to us -- or it's the rare exception, and we need extra evidence or indication of it if we're to suspect blatant dishonesty. We can be skeptical of everything that looks suspicious, but we can't automatically rule out something unusual by assuming that the author was blatantly lying. Especially if there are multiple authors telling the same unusual reports.


It's not that kind of book.

What "kind of book" is it? It's not much different from most of the historical and other serious writings, all of which contain less than 100% honest content or reporting. Even if the NT writers are 5 or 10% less honest than Herodotus e.g., they are still bound to a certain standard for not "lying" which prevents them from injecting a foreign "miracle" element into subject matter which otherwise had no "miracle" element in it at all. Rather, the truth is that if they did add any such element, this is allowed ONLY because a major "miracle" element was already there, and the new element added was only minor "tweaking" added to it.

Again, there is virtually NO "kind of book" which is 100% accurate reporting, or intended to be factual reporting only in which there could be no "lying" of any kind whatever. The "kind of book" which the Gospels are is not different from other kinds in the standard for what may pass as normal tweaking (less than 100% factual and honest) vs. what would be understood as lying (blatant fabrication).

The "fiction" category is understood (in the ancient literature as well as modern). This "kind of book" is granted wide latitude -- e.g. "poetic license" -- understood by readers and writers, as to the dishonesty. But most literature, including NT writings, are not in that category. They are a "kind of book" which is understood to contain some "fiction" venturing outside the "just the facts ma'am" category, while at the same time also remaining within the "just the facts ma'am" category for much of the content. I.e., they're in both categories, or a mixture of the two, not always easy to separate. This includes most or all the historical writings, and almost anything not in the strict "fiction" category. Obviously some science books would come close to the absolutely-no-fiction-allowed category. Of course it's not possible to neatly classify every piece of literature neatly into its proper category.

So the NT/Gospel accounts are "the kind of book" which is allowed a limited "fiction" or "myth" element, but also containing the "report" factual element as essential, without the same license for "dishonesty" as the fiction "kind of book" is allowed, and following similar standards for not lying as the philosophy and history "kind of book" -- or differing only slightly from these. How readers generally understood them, as mostly literal, is a good guide to how the authors intended them to be understood.


simple summary: You cannot simply pigeon-hole the NT writings (and most other writings) into their designated category, saying they are "this kind of book" or "that kind" and thus judge the content as not factually or literally intended, or as "fiction" and thus to be dismissed as non-historical or inaccurate only because of this category or "this kind of book" designation you have pigeon-holed them into. No, you must analyze each part of the writing, trying to separate fact from fiction in each instance. And you must be willing to allow that we "just don't know" (or can only make a guess) in many cases what the truth is, or what happened; and yet still the source or "book" is helpful in our attempt to guess what happened, because the source appears near to the time in question and thus is one witness to the truth of what happened.

simpler summary: Analyzing/understanding the source (not categorizing it in order to dismiss it) + good guesswork = historical truth-seeking.




(this Wall of Text to be continued)
 

DrZoidberg

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What makes the Bible special, really really special. Is the amount of texts that has survived. This due to the unbroken prominence of Christianity throughout antiquity combined with the monastic scribal system. This is awesome. ANY other surviving religious texts are fragmentary and pathetic in comparison with the Bible. We have been able to reconstruct and map some Babylonian, Zoroastrian, and other Middle-Eastern religious ideas through the Bible. There's no other religious text that comes even close to it.

This is awesome, and something I hope Christians today appreciate.

But there's a risk to see the lack of other texts as Christianity being qualitatively different, or special in other regards. The numbers of surviving Bibles is an accident of history.

A Catholic bishop in the 1800's took every single existing ancient Inca holy text and burned them. It's all gone. Which sucks for Inca scholars today.

Another Catholic bishop in Spain in the 1700's took about half of the then existing ancient Bibles and sold them to a fireworks factory. He thought they were too weird. So these were all the surviving Christian Bibles that conformed the least to then current Catholic doctrine.

We're exceedingly lucky to be in the situation we are with the Bibles. Any political upheaval in Rome could easily have destroyed all those Bibles as well.

So the details of the reporting in the gospels doesn't mean we didn't get similar details in the reporting for other religions. It's not proof of anything. It's just evidence that Christian monks are good at copying and keeping alive stuff and the the papal library is damn lucky in dodging all the revolutionary bullets flying throughout history.

Now this is actually a vey good point. Perhaps the only equivalent treasures to the in the religious text world are the Gilgamesh epic, the Vedas, and the Tao Te Ching; it is not the norm for a religious corpus to survive for thousands of years, and none of them, the Bible included, have done so without severe edits, translations, and redactions over the centuries.

The Gilgamesh epic is a great analogue. Because the only reason we have so many of that epic surviving, is because they wrote in clay = survives well, and it was the one text that Babylonian scribes used in scribal schools to teach writing. So we have a huge number of these that survived. The fact that they were low on every other writing material besides clay means so much survives.

Papyrus was a popular writing medium in the entire Roman empire. Yet texts on it only survives in one country, Egypt. Because of the climate. Accidents in history.

Stone is an annoying material to work in. Anything written in stone, we have to assume has thousands of times more texts written in other, now destroyed materials. Countries with high moisture have very little surviving ancient texts. Which isn't evidence for that they didn't exist.

If it hadn't been for Buddhism spreading to the Himalayas we'd have much less of the Buddhist and vedic texts surviving. Early Hindus and Buddhists, most likely, wrote as much as Christians. Yet much less has survived. The Early Taoists wrote on paper and silk! Extremely sensitive materials. Imagine how much of what they wrote which is lost now.
 

DrZoidberg

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What are the earlier pagan legends of someone resurrecting or doing miracles?


Yes, the Egyptian who was killed and did NOT come back to life but was succeeded by his son. There are two problems you must address in claiming this is a "documented" story of someone who resurrected: 1) Where exactly is the "resurrection" in the story? and 2) for documenting it as an alleged fact of history (as the Jesus resurrection as an event is documented by written accounts near to the time it allegedly happened), when did the Osiris event reportedly happen in history and when is it reported in the source which documents it? i.e., when is the source dated?

You have to show in the source a claim that this person died and then came back to life to live on as before, seen by witnesses or in some way confirmed. And the source saying this has to be dated reasonably close to when the alleged resurrection event took place. Neither of these is the case for Osiris, who might have been a real person, but for whom we have no sources anywhere near the time that he lived, if he lived.

What are you talking about? The Biblical story of Jesus didn't actually happen. It's not a documentary report. It's a made up myth. The story of Jesus is a fantasy exactly like the story of Osiris. And was kept and alive and spread through similar means. They're extremely similar.

What sets them apart is what virtues they're trying to signal, since they're products of different ages. But fundamentally, and in every other way, it's the same kind of story.

The Osiris story also contains the element of Cain and Abel. Still... the Jesus story has Judas. A betrayer in the midst, included to add some drama to the story. It's all the same.

The rest of your post is just special pleading.

And the sources we do have about this do not say that Osiris resurrected -- i.e., there is no actual "resurrection" event in the legend. The word "resurrection" is used only by later Christianized scholars giving their interpretation of the Osiris story, not by the original source telling us the event. These modern scholars use the NT word "resurrection" and apply it to Osiris, as having some similarity to the Christ resurrection, in their mind. But the story they take from the source does not say Osiris came back to life, but only that he spawned a son who lived on, just as any offspring lives on, which is not what "resurrection" means. If "resurrection" did mean that, then all humans have resurrected who left behind any offspring, which is obviously not what "resurrection" means.

Osiris is resurected every morning. Just like the mummys in Egyptian tombs. Each morning they travel to the Field of Reeds and then Each night they come back to the tomb.

Osiris resurecting is also the rich and fertile black silt which is left behind after the Nile is flooded once a year. This is why Osiris is depicted has having black skin. And then he dies again.

The original source of the Jesus story, as well as the Osiris story, is somebody making it up. The witnesses are also made up. It's all made up. There most likely was a real Jesus and he most likely had disciples. But the chances that anything in the Biblical story even remotely resembles anything in the Bible is slim. It's not like this hasn't been studied.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus#Consensual_knowledge_about_Jesus

If it wasn't the fact that so many people today are Christian we'd treat the Jesus story on par with the Osiris story.

Orpheus, the son of a God, comes out of the underworld.

Yes, but the story does not say that he died. Resurrection means the person first dies, or is killed, and then is brought back to life. Just visiting another realm or dimension or alternate universe of some kind does not mean the visitor first died. The Orpheus story does not say he first died before visiting the underworld.

Yes, it does. It's a metaphor. You know... like the Biblical story of Jesus is.

Also well documented.

No, "well documented" has to mean more than just hundreds of poets 1000 years later retelling the tale, even assuming sufficient agreement among them. To be "documented" means there are written accounts of it near the time of the reported event. We need something less than 100 or 200 years later which reports it. Preferably only 50 years, but maybe 100 or 200 -- no one has established the rule for exactly how long this time-span should be between the actual event (when it allegedly happened) and the date when it's reported to us in the source. But shorter is better, and many centuries gets to be too long.

For normal events we can trust an author 100 or 200 or even 300 years later, as long as it's not contradicted by other sources. However, for miracle claims, or anything "supernatural" etc., we need extra evidence, such as extra sources, more than one, plus also a reasonable proximity of the report, chronologically, to the event being reported.

We have no such source for Orpheus. The written record for the Christ event of 30 AD, to "document" it, dates from about 50-100 AD -- 5 sources reporting the Resurrection, and 4 of them reporting the healing miracles. That is "well documented" -- but poets 1000 years later retelling a popular legend with no source within 500 or 1000 years of the event is not "well documented."

They're all religious myths. The point is to engage the audience with a dramatic narrative and give moral teachings. They're not supposed to give an accurate report on what actually happened.

You can trust all of these authors to the same degree. You can trust that they made up all the details. The only truth is the core message of the story. In Jesus case, he was a humble and wise man who sacrificed himself for humanity and took upon himself all their sins because he's such a great guy, and we should be grateful. Not true necessarily in that it happened. But true in the sense that it's in the tradition of the stories we tell about them.

There's so many sources I wonder how lazy you are?

Lazy enough to want those sources to be reasonably close to the actual event, like maybe within 100 or 200 years. What good are the "so many sources" if they're no closer than 500 or 1000 years later? Hundreds of sources 1000+ years later is not "well documented" -- we have millions of legends repeated over and over in multiple sources centuries later. The later storytellers are not "sources" for the actual event, as evidence for it, near the time when it happened, if it happened. We're entitled to be "lazy" and demand something closer to the actual event.

You're pretending the Bible is something it isn't. I know there's a tradition within fundamentalist Christianity to do this. But it was always silly. We knew it was silly when Martin Luther started it. It's a like a guy buying a cheap Versace t-shirt on a beach in Pataya and convinced it's authentic Versace. You can have as much faith as you like in that it's a genuine Versace, and to other people in the same "authentic" Versace t-shirt club you can convince each other they're all authentic. But to ANYONE else you'll always come across as a bunch of deluded clowns.

The Orpheus story can be found in Ovid's Metamorphosis, one of the most famous books in world history.

But Ovid relied only on an ancient legend, not on any reports near to his time from someone close to the event, if it happened.

The Jesus myth is a modern legend. Both are legends.

Trump often talked about how many people told him of how great he was. He said it to increase credibility. But was it? The Bible is the same deal. It's a narrative story telling tool. It's a writerly object. It's not lying. It's just effective story telling. In Trump's case it was absolutely lying. But you know what mean.

The Osiris myth is literally carved in stone in many ancient Egyptian tombs.

Not tombs from 3100 BC near to the time of Osiris, if he was a real person, which is possible. The sources we have are sufficient to establish maybe that he lived, and maybe he spawned a son Horus. There's nothing to establish how he died or if anything unusual happened, such as his being raised back to life after being killed. It's reasonable to believe he might have been killed, in a power struggle.

I'd say chances of that Osiris is based on a real person is slim. He's literally the black earth left behind after the Nile recedes. I have a hard time understanding how a real person can, over time, get warped into something like that.

But for miracle claims, such as him having sex after his body had been sliced and diced into a hundred pieces and then put back together -- we don't have any serious sources for an event like that. For bizarre miracle claims we need more than one source, and these must come from a time point near to when the alleged event happened, like less than 50 or 100 or 200 years.

We have zero credible sources for Jesus' resurrection. We only have the Bible. But nice that you agree that the evidence for Jesus' miracles need more evidence than what we've got. All we have is the word in one, fantastical, book. Which I agree is pretty weak.


The earliest Osiris sources are 500-600 years later than the alleged event.

What? What alleged event are you talking about? In Egyptian mythology Osiris isn't placed in a specific time period. He's just placed in the distant past. A bit like the Garden of Paradise in the Old Testament is placed far in the North East. It's somewhere far far away. Like the Galaxy where Star Wars is set. These are all hallmarks of legend.

The Jesus myth in the Bible was never intended by its authors to be an accurate account.

It was at least partly, if not 100% intended as accurate.

There are inaccuracies, probably, as in any ancient written accounts (and even most modern accounts). In some cases maybe an author included something inaccurate and even knew it was inaccurate. Also there could be something subconscious going on, where the author only half believed it, realizing there was also a fiction element.

You're just asserting that based on nothing. There's a funny text written by Cicero where he complains about how earlier historiographers played fast and loose with facts and then proceed to list his rules for writing good history. Which to modern historians comes across as a total joke because today we'd call his rules fast and loose with facts as well.

Since there was so many copying errors when ancient texts were written, they treated histories differently, and they accepted that they would have added made up things. It was the tradition of retelling stories of the time. Everybody assumed they were being lied to, and had to, in their own heads, adjust for this and read it critically. A way of reading, they would have taken for granted, but which we in the modern post-science world don't.

But it's wrong to say that ALL the "miraculous" elements were known by the author to be inaccurate or fiction. Rather, there may be some of that mixed in, but still the accounts are intended mostly to be taken as accurate, and mostly believed by the authors, just as Josephus and Herodotus and Cicero believed what they were saying and yet still mixed propaganda into their writings or speeches, including exaggerations or distortions in order to strengthen the case they were making. There could be some conscious and some subconscious elements they included which were inaccurate and not totally honest.

That does not disqualify the accounts as reliable sources for the reported events, and for all the sources we must apply the rule that for "miracle" claims or anything very unusual we must have stronger evidence, such as extra sources, and these reasonably close in time to the actual reported events.

The Jesus miracle acts, including the Resurrection, are a case of "miracle" claims where we do have the necessary extra sources close in time to when the events happened, unlike 99% of miracle claims in all the various legends and sources. And especially for the ancient history events we usually are lacking sufficient sources near to when the event happened to be able to make the "miracle" claims credible.

What about miracles don't you understand? You are aware that no miracle has ever happened in all of history? No?

In the Musical Jesus Christ Superstar there's a line where Judas says something like, "why did you come in an age before mass communication?" Implying that if he'd come today then he could have proven he was the son of God and we wouldn't have to deal with the debate about him. He wouldn't have had to be crucified.

That's not the kind of book it is. It's not a "report".

But it contains "reports" along with other elements to tell us what happened while also promoting the authors' beliefs or worldview. A written account does not have to be neatly classified as something excluding the "report" element. There probably is no such thing as "the kind of book" that is "report" only. The most respected ancient historian, Thucydides, did more than just give a "report" of the facts, but also included propaganda and psychology and historical philosophy/theory. Likewise the Bible writings also included "reports" along with the teaching matter and are reliable sources for the "report" or factual part, despite also containing inaccuracies, as virtually all the ancient writings did. ALL the ancient writings have to be read skeptically, even Thucydides, and not taken automatically as accurate in all the "reporting" they do.

No, it doesn't. It's a classic ancient story about a virtuous man doing virtuous things that we're supposed to admire. That's ALL the Bible is. It's a story.


The Gospels include some NEGATIVE "reports" about Jesus.

And the Gospel accounts do contain some "report" element which has nothing to do with teaching religion and even gives a negative side which is unfavorable to the image of Jesus as divine and perfect.

One example of this is the story of the rejection at Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6) where we're told that Jesus was "not able to perform any mighty deed there," which would not be included in the Gospel accounts if their sole purpose was to promote Jesus as a divine miracle-worker and omit any inconvenient facts. Whatever this rejection at Nazareth event was, it shows that these writers were willing to include reports reflecting something negative about Jesus.

Another negative element is related in Mark 3:21
When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."
This is negative enough to not be something the Gospel writer would provide if it is inspirational only, and limited to positive "myth" telling. Rather, it is something in Mark's source, which has more of a negative tone than positive, toward Jesus, and Mark provides it not in order to promote his portrayal of Jesus, but simply as a "report" from his source which he feels obligated to include.

Another negative element is the story of the demoniac being cured and the demons being sent into a herd of swine (Mark 5:1-20). This story cannot be easily understood as "inspirational" with all the negative imagery in it, of the local ranchers losing their herd and requesting that Jesus get the hell out of their district. If the author is creating only positive "myths" about Jesus, why doesn't he add something for Jesus to do to compensate those ranchers, like maybe performing some miracle for them? The demoniac he healed was not Jewish or somehow special that he alone was worthy to be helped. Mark could easily have added a miracle to benefit the local population and dazzle them with the power of Jesus, as happens in many of the reported miracle episodes. But instead this story leaves us with a bitter outcome where a very large group of locals, who did nothing wrong, end up hating Jesus, for good reason, because he caused much costly damage to their interests.

Plus also the demoniac stories generally have a bizarre unpleasantness about them which would not be included in stories created only to inspire the readers and strengthen their faith with heartwarming myths. The Gospel of John excludes the exorcism stories entirely as something distasteful and of little use in promoting the author's lofty visions of Christ the Cosmic Logos and Word of God Incarnate, whose dignity ought not be tarnished with scenes of him duking it out with demons and ousting them into a herd of swine.

So there is an element of neutral "report" stories in the Gospels which aims only at giving us the cold facts, even something negative, without needing to promote an inspirational or religious or positive teaching. Most effort to derive a positive inspirational message from it is just subjective interpretation. The writings are a combination of the "myth" or religious and inspirational element along with this "report" only element which includes some non-inspiring negativity and which is also an essential component of the writings.

Every author in history have tried to make their fictional characters believable and relatable. It makes for a more engaging story.


I've read every book by Bart Ehrman. He believes Jesus was a real person and really was the leader of the movement that became Christianity. But he also believes that real Jesus was nothing like Jesus in the Bible.
 

DrZoidberg

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The Eddas are pretty extensive as well. Snorri Et Al did a great job there.

Yes, but not even slightly as old.

Fun fact about the Eddas is that they were written by a Christian. Snorri Sturlasson was Christian. He was writing down stories still in circulation from Iceland's pagan past. But he was writing them down after that culture was gone, or at the very least dying. Just for posterity and historical reasons.

I am convinced his perspective has influenced the contents. He had every incentive to add stuff, or chose a version of a story, to make Norse pagans more exotic.
 

funinspace

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What are you talking about? The Biblical story of Jesus didn't actually happen. It's not a documentary report. It's a made up myth. The story of Jesus is a fantasy exactly like the story of Osiris. And was kept and alive and spread through similar means. They're extremely similar.

What sets them apart is what virtues they're trying to signal, since they're products of different ages. But fundamentally, and in every other way, it's the same kind of story.

FYI...you are dealing with Lumpy and his Mythological Hero Official Requirements Checklist (MHORC), with its set of random puzzle piece requirements. Here is a tolerable summary from a few years ago about the basics of Lumpy Theology apologetics, as it doesn't really fit within normative conservative Christian theology. He also makes a lot of hay about 4-5 sources for his Miracle Max, but then conveniently ignores the Two Source Hypothesis. He also ignores his own criteria when he states 4-5 sources for his Miracle Max, as Paul never met Jesus, and the GoJ doesn't really repeat the required miracle healings of the synoptics gospels (but for 1 or 2 of them).

Lumpy is really a rather eccentric version of a Christian...He has in the past pretty much thrown out much/most of the OT, along with other parts of the NT. Back in 2018, he even suggested that his Miracle Max healer could have been the son of Quetzalcoatl, if the timing was right or sum such noise... A minor reminder of Lumpy and his mysterious/hidden MHORC (his MHORC is much like the paisley sofa in the Hitchhikers Guide, where one can't see it if one tries to look straight at it):

Yeah, Lumpy also requires his idea of a viable god to be some sort of miracle max healer. And it has to be possible that the people being healed and the witnesses were not followers of said cult at the time, notwithstanding that Joseph Smith still fits this narrative no matter how much Lumpy disassembled. Of course, from the NT no one can really know about the people who purportedly witnessed these events as any outside details are lost in the dust bin of time; but Lumpy insists it is so. But Lumpy never explained why a god needs to be a miracle max. It's all in his Mythical Hero Official Requirements Checklist (MHORC)...


Other opinions on sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-source_hypothesis

Says the religion famous for burning books.
Though Lumpy really isn't so much a Christian, as he is sort of a deist who is enthralled by Jesus as the mono miracle max god. Lumpy even said that he could have been the son of Quetzalcoatl...
 

Jarhyn

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The Eddas are pretty extensive as well. Snorri Et Al did a great job there.

Yes, but not even slightly as old.

Fun fact about the Eddas is that they were written by a Christian. Snorri Sturlasson was Christian. He was writing down stories still in circulation from Iceland's pagan past. But he was writing them down after that culture was gone, or at the very least dying. Just for posterity and historical reasons.

I am convinced his perspective has influenced the contents. He had every incentive to add stuff, or chose a version of a story, to make Norse pagans more exotic.

And again, I'm going to point out that The Poetic Edda was tamper-resistant due to the rules of viking poetry.
 

DrZoidberg

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Fun fact about the Eddas is that they were written by a Christian. Snorri Sturlasson was Christian. He was writing down stories still in circulation from Iceland's pagan past. But he was writing them down after that culture was gone, or at the very least dying. Just for posterity and historical reasons.

I am convinced his perspective has influenced the contents. He had every incentive to add stuff, or chose a version of a story, to make Norse pagans more exotic.

And again, I'm going to point out that The Poetic Edda was tamper-resistant due to the rules of viking poetry.

What rules of Viking poetry? As far as I know Viking poetry had a couple of highlights set in stone, (well... clay. Quite moist clay) but everything between this was made up on the fly by each bard.

I'm very interested to learn something new about my ancestors.

Worth noting is that the myths told by the Vikings were highly regional and varied over time. The worship of Odin/Wotan took place from about the middle of Germany, northern France and far far into Russia. The Poetic Edda is a snapshot from a particular moment in time in one, out of the way, region of the Norse Pagan world. It's notable mostly for that it exists at all.

But we have jewelry and items from all over the Germanic world with all manner of bizarre symbols and stories that didn't survive. So we're just guessing it's the same stories they reference.
 
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