Joined: Sat Aug 26, 2006 9:24 pm Posts: 5205 Location: 3rd rock from the sun
Why I'm A Mythicist:
I am a mythicist for several reasons:
* Theists have failed in their responsibilities to provide the 'burden of proof' to substantiate their supernatural religious clams with credible evidence. If there existed credible evidence for these claims faith and euphoria would not be the main requirements.
* There exists no credible evidence for the New Testament character Jesus Christ or any of his disciples whatsoever. Same with other biblical characters such as Adam and Eve, Satan, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, King David, Solomon and others. In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. List of Figures Possibly Used for the Christ Myth
* Matthew 28:16-17 (NRSV) "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted."
WHAT, so the disciples had "doubt" even after supposedly seeing the resurrected Jesus?
* There's no credible reason to believe that the Gospels as we have them today were written until the mid to late 2nd century and the evidence shows that the names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were added around that time.
* Justin Martyr's "Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon" around 150 CE with Tryphon essentially declaring that Jesus is a Christian invention as no evidence for Jesus existed, even back then; debunking those who claim that the first time anybody ever claimed Jesus was a myth was in the 18th/19th centuries.
"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you [PAGANS] believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter [ZEUS]...."
* Celsus may have been another early mythicist (c. 177) as he pointed out that Jesus was a collage of mythical characters borrowed from Pagan mythologies, which, once again, essentially proves theists & those atheists wrong who claim that the first time anybody ever claimed Jesus was a myth was in the 18th/19th centuries.
* The non-biblical 'evidence' for Jesus by Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius and Josephus etc. has all been debunked. There exists no valid evidence by any contemporary of Jesus' own supposed lifetime.
* Pre-Christian Pagan evidence demonstrates that most of the concepts in the Abrahamic religious, for example, were 'borrowed' from Paganism i.e. syncretism. The originally positive Pagan gods were demoted &/or turned into demons of some sort.
* Based on the evidence the origins of religious concepts are founded upon nature and natural phenomena that evolved over time into what we have today.
* Mythicism offers an Occam's razor explanation for the origins of religious concepts by providing the substance and meaning behind the myths as well as their origins, history and evolution based on credible evidence that actually exists.
* Mythicism has the potential to neutralize religious fundamentalism and eschatology ('end times,' Apocalypse, Armageddon - A Brief History of the Apocalypse) by simply explaining where all these myths came from and how they were 'borrowed' or syncretized into the Abrahamic religions.
* "The mythicist position allows us to create greater harmony by acknowledging and enjoying the similarities and differences in religious traditions founded upon valid evidence grounded in natural phenomena." - What is a Mythicist? article linked below:
The Value of Mythicism
"Mythicism has much to offer to those who find it difficult to believe in the gospel story as "history" but who wish to know the deeper meaning behind the story. Indeed, the mythicist position importantly serves as a bridge between theism and atheism, as it does not seek to discount or denigrate the long and exalted history of thought concerning religion and mythology, dating back many thousands of years, as manifested in the religious and spiritual practices of man beginning millennia ago and continuing since then. The pinnacle of mythicist cultures-more specifically those based on astrotheology-can be seen in the massive and mysterious civilization of Egypt, for example. Rather than being ignored and dismissed, such wondrous creations should be explored and treasured as unique and glorious contributions to the overall human accomplishment..."
"The further one regresses in time, the more obvious it becomes that the principal and singular religious worship found around the globe has revolved around nature. This nature worship has included reverence not only for the earth, its creatures and their fecundity, but also for the sun, moon, planets and stars. For many thousands of years, man has looked to the skies and become awestruck by what he has observed. This awe has led to the reverence and worship both of the night and day skies, an adoration called "astrotheology."
While fertility worship has constituted an important and prevalent part of the human religion, little has astonished humankind more than the sky, with its enormous, blazing, white day orb in the azure expanse, and with its infinite, twinkling, black night dome. So fascinated by the sky, or heavens, has been man that he has created entire religions, with organized priesthoods, complex rituals and massive edifices, in order to tell its story. The story begins, as far back as the current evidence reveals ..."
The Case for Mythicism includes a mountain of primary sources and the scholarly works of many mythicists who realized that a significant common denominator between most religions is that their origins were based on nature worship and that the stories were often passed onto future generations as mythology about natural phenomena; examples would be when to plant, when to harvest as well as the creation of a calendar, when to celebrate the birth or re-birth, death and resurrection of the sun god i.e. Christmas and Easter etc.
The most credible and reliable mythicists are those who are fully aware of the astrotheological aspects of religion, otherwise a very significant piece of the puzzle is omitted. We need our own Department of Astrotheological Studies.
by Earl Doherty
"Why is it that no individual scholar or group of scholars has undertaken a concerted effort in recent times to discredit the mythicist position? (The brief addresses that have been made to it in various publications are outlined in my Main Article "Postscript".) In the heyday of the great mythicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a few valiant efforts were offered. However, both mainstream scholarship and the mythicist branch itself have made dramatic leaps since then. Biblical research has moved into bold new territory in the last several decades: unearthing a wealth of ancient documents, arriving at a new understanding of elements like Q, the sectarian nature of early Christianity, the Cynic roots of the great Gospel teachings, and so on; an almost unprecedented "critical" dimension to New Testament scholarship has emerged.
And yet the mythicist position continues to be vilified, disdained, dismissed. We would condemn any physicist, any anthropologist, any linguist, any mathematician, any scholar of any sort who professes to work in a field that makes even a partial bow to principles of logic and scientific research who yet ignored, reviled, condemned largely without examination a legitimate, persistent theory in his or her discipline. There are tremendous problems in New Testament research, problems that have been grappled with for generations and show no sign of getting closer to solution. Agreement is lacking on countless topics, and yesterday's theories are being continually overturned. There is almost a civil war going on within the ranks of Jesus study. Why not give the mythicist option some serious consideration? Why not honestly evaluate it to see if it could provide some of the missing answers? Or, if it turns out that the case is fatally flawed, then put it to rest once and for all.
Doing that would require one essential thing: taking it seriously, approaching the subject having an open mind that the theory might have some merit. Sadly, that is the most difficult step and the one which most critics have had the greatest difficulty taking. It is all in the mindset, whether of the Christian believer whose confessional interests are overriding, or of the professional scholar who could never consider that their life's work might be fatally compromised."
"...As for this tiresome business about there being "no scholar" or "no serious scholar" who advocates the Christ Myth theory: Isn't it obvious that scholarly communities are defined by certain axioms in which grad students are trained, and that they will lose standing in those communities if they depart from those axioms? The existence of an historical Jesus is currently one of those. That should surprise no one, especially with the rightward lurch of the Society for Biblical Literature in recent years. It simply does not matter how many scholars hold a certain opinion."
There are two simple principles to keep in mind when it comes to the mythicist position:
1. When the mythological layers of the story are removed, there is no core to the onion.
2. A composite of 20 people, whether historical, mythical or both, is no one.
Even if you could find some guy there named "Jesus" who said a few things, the New Testament character is not him if all the rest of the story is myth. Indeed, we know that there were several Jesuses saying things, including both the author and editor of the pre-Christian text the "Wisdom of Jesus" or "Ecclesiasticus." In that text we have two Jesuses who said things - some of which closely resemble sayings in the New Testament - are these two Jesuses the "one historical Jesus" people are looking for? No.
"What I demonstrate through thousands of pages put together over a period of almost 17 years online is simple:
The "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament is a fictional composite of characters, real and historical. A composite of multiple people is no one. When the mythological and midrashic layers are removed, there remains no "historical" core to the onion.
The "kernel" you are looking for - the nonexistent "historical" core to the onion - is a handful of sayings that are part of a genre called "Logia Iesou" or "Logia Kuriakou." These "Sayings of Jesus" existed BEFORE the common era and are attributable to many individuals. If we are to hang the gospel story on a handful of pre-existent sayings, we are in some slippery territory indeed. What percentage, then, of the gospel story is supposedly based on a "historical" figure? 10%? How is that stripped figure of relative nothingness a "real person?" As I have demonstrated in my books, practically the entire story can be explained by the stringing together of Old Testament scriptures, Pagan mythological motifs and pre-existent sayings that are part of an ancient genre of "logia."
I maintain that there remains nothing "historical" under these layers. That's not an "obsession," that's a position based on ALL the evidence and facts, in multiple languages from antiquity into the modern era, which I have spent countless hours bringing to the forefront, despite the constant calumny and misrepresentations of my work."
Joined: Sat Aug 26, 2006 9:24 pm Posts: 5205 Location: 3rd rock from the sun
Thanks Tat, it's a start. I'm going to add some links from other threads, blogs or articles for further reading but, I just wanted to get started by providing a succinct list. Of course, this entire forum makes the case but, I'm just trying to start with the basics to keep it simple.
I'm hoping that Acharya will turn this 'Why I'm A Mythicist' thread into a brief blog at Freethought Nation and eventually a short book. There are plenty of books titled 'Why I'm a Christian' or 'Why I'm not a Christian' or 'Why I am an Atheist' etc. but, there's no book entitled 'Why I am a Mythicist.' I think it's an opportunity to provide a case for mythicism from Acharya's view point, which is a far more comprehensive view as opposed to just focusing narrowly on 'Jesus mythicism.' It'll have to cover the basics like providing definitions and explanations of, for example, 'myth' as far too many theists and atheists don't even grasp that in this case as it pertains to religion.
I'd like to see Dr. Robert Price, Earl Doherty and others add their own planks so that we can add them to our mythicist position so that we can agree on a consistent position that a majority of mythicists and freethinkers can agree upon. I've been wanting a 'Mythicist Project' ever since we created the mythicist position in 2009 when Christ in Egypt was published. Of course, I want a Department of Astrotheological Studies too - I guess I want a lot. I would like to see a Wiki article titled 'The Mythicist Position' and have Acharya's position along with planks from Price, Doherty and others.
It would be great if you, and others here, shared your experience of dealing with others and all the obstacles that appear to hold both theists and atheists back from understanding astrotheology and the mythicist position so that it can be addressed in the book along with a plan on how to address it. Your recent episode at Ex-Christian comes to mind.
In my own experience, it always comes back to a severe lack of knowledge and information. I think that pointing out the basics, as I've done above (open to suggestions), is a great way to get started. We will simply start with the basics and create a strong foundation to build upon. Acharya S and others have already performed most of the hard work it's just a matter of organizing it as a type of Case for Mythicism 101 Course starting with the basics.
Your well-considered essay reminds me of an email I recently received:
I'm so happy to find your site. I guess you find things when you are ready for them. I also despair for mankind suffering under the cultish shackles of religion.
I am a big fan of Hitchens, Dawkins and especially Sam Harris, however I don't find much basis for real change for others in their work. Reason is the last thing that appeals to minds imprisoned by cultish memes. I have been searching for a rational site that is not strictly Atheistic. I lean in the direction of your "Gospel Book" which I have just started reading.
I am searching for a way to "bridge" the gap between religion (Here in Texas it is the Fundamentalists) and those of us who have seen a different way.
I am a long time member of AA and the 12 step program. I believe the belief in a Higher Power of our own understanding (or misunderstanding) is a workable basis for Spirituality (maybe the key) and see it work tranformative miracles in people who would otherwise be lost.
Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to shining a light on ignorance. It is people like you that are the hope for a future for mankind.
I appreciate the kudos and understand the sentiment. Negation is not the end of the story. The profundity of humanity endures, and simply saying "no" will not suffice for most people. Here is why there will always be a significant percentage of human beings who claim to believe in a god of some sort or another.
With the mythicist position, one can enjoy the fruits of humanity's shared religious and mythological traditions, without being a believer in them as effective ways to communicate with a god person or necessary to live one's life by. One can believe in a god or "higher power" without being a fanatic and adhering to deleterious doctrines that cause one to be sociopathic. It's a guilt-free indulgence in an aspect of human nature, which also includes the ability to declare there is no god, if one wishes to do so.
_________________ Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt? Try it - you'll like it:
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:17 pm Posts: 2301 Location: Everywhere
Of course, I want a Department of Astrotheological Studies too - I guess I want a lot. I would like to see a Wiki article titled 'The Mythicist Position' and have Acharya's position along with planks from Price, Doherty and others.
Well, if I win the Power Ball I'll see to it that you have your wish.
With enough money anything is possible.
The obstacles I've encountered have been biases that stem from not understanding what we're doing.
We have people from the mystical side thinking that we're hard atheists taking an extreme position denying the historical existence of Jesus. They tend to look at a few things and then quickly conclude that we're out to deconstruct Christianity and claim that it's all just fiction and leave it there without expanding on the metaphors and spiritual meanings of mythology. I've ran into this bias several times and the most recent was the exC.net exchange.
Then we have people from the hard atheist side that see us as too mystical because we deal with mystical subjects and make use of zodiacal symbols to get the point across about the meaning of the myths. They see us as a cult of some type completely the opposite of how the mystical apologists see us as an anti-religious altogether mob of secularists bent on tearing belief apart.
I guess that all comes with the territory of taking a middle of the way position. So I've had to explain it to atheists according to how I think they might understand and to mystics and theists according to a way in which I think they might understand. Since I've spent time in both worlds at various times in life I suppose I've had to adapt to a type of Pauline approach to mythicism where 'I've become all things to all people.'
I do think that we need to get a general consensus on what our mythicist deconstructionism is geared towards so that's its up front and clear to everyone. Something that Doherty, Price, and everyone else (perhaps even Carrier?) would agree with.
Since the MP is an all inclusive position it stems that we're necessarily open to varieties of God belief and lack of God belief. But in either case the common ground and point of agreement seems to be that the myths are not literal history for the most part, leaving them open for finding truth in the allegorical structure or philosophical metaphors for a spiritual value. It's like Ehrman claiming that we're all out to destroy religion. Not really, we're just putting religion into context and perspective. Even the more atheistic mythicists tend to understand that deconstructing the myths serves to put them into perspective and possibly rebuild a better understanding after taking the historicity apart.
I'm a mythicist quite simply because it's obvious to me that the evidence shows mythology as metaphor and allegory clothed in psuedo-historical story line presentations. As a Pantheist I'm inclined to the middle perspective which mythicism accords with as a type of scholarly venture outlining the middle way. I'm tired of the same old polarized theist verses atheist debates and prefer a more in-depth perspective approach.
_________________ The Jesus Mythicist Creed: The "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament is a fictional composite of characters, real and mythical. A composite of multiple "people" is no one.
Sam Harris gave a speech at the Atheist Alliance International (AAI) conference in Washington, DC, in 2007. In this speech, and in other lectures by Dr. Harris, he points out the limitations of atheism:
"My concern with the use of the term “atheism” is both philosophical and strategic. I’m speaking from a somewhat unusual and perhaps paradoxical position because, while I am now one of the public voices of atheism, I never thought of myself as an atheist before being inducted to speak as one. I didn’t even use the term in The End of Faith, which remains my most substantial criticism of religion. And, as I argued briefly in Letter to a Christian Nation, I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people “non-astrologers.”
"Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn’t really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as “non-racism” is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves."
"So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves “atheists.”
Joined: Sat Aug 26, 2006 9:24 pm Posts: 5205 Location: 3rd rock from the sun
Now that mythicism is becoming more and more a topic of great debate across several blogs, forums and books it's time to point out that very few discussing the subject of mythicism have actually studied it in depth. Acharya's work builds upon those highly qualified mythicist's who came before her - those who've not actually studied her work would never know that fact and very few of her critics have actually read her books.
Quite a load of the discussion about mythicism and the mythicist position across the internets these days often comes from those who'd like to squash it forever, however, they know very little about it. Some claim that we should never claim Jesus didn't exist because it just turns off Christians who are not interested in that conversation, while others say we should not label ourselves atheists as Dr. Sam Harris points out above.
Part One: Shirley J. Case: The Historicity of Jesus Major topics: Attestation of Gospels Maurice Goguel: Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History? Major topics: The Mythicist Case (Couchoud); Josephus rejected; Pliny; Tacitus; Anti-Christian polemic; Docetism; Paul and early Christian unity; Son of David born of woman; 1 Cor. 15; Gal. 4:4; Descending god Myth/Ascension of Isaiah/Philippians hymn; Paul and Hellenistic salvation; Lack of history in epistles; the Gospels and the beginning of Christianity
Part Two: R. T. France: The Evidence for Jesus Major topics: Non-Christian evidence: Josephus, Tacitus, etc.; New Testament epistles; Paul; "Words of the Lord"; The Gospels; Reliability of evangelists as historians Graham N. Stanton: The Gospels and Jesus Major topics: The argument from silence; J. P. Holding Morton Smith: “The Historical Jesus” in Jesus in History and Myth Major topics: The argument from silence Ian Wilson: Jesus: The Evidence Major topics: Antiquities 20
Part Three: Robert Van Voorst: Jesus Outside the Gospels Major topics: 7 arguments against mythicism; Thallus & Phlegon; Pliny; Suetonius; Tacitus; Mara bar-Serapion; Talmud; Josephus; Special M & L; Signs Source; Q
Part Four: Alleged Scholarly Refutations of Jesus Mythicism (with comments on "A History of Scholarly Refutations of the Jesus Myth" by Christopher Price)
* Earl's entire 3-part response *IS* his response to Christopher Price in part 4 from what I gather.
Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?
Here is another great article by Rafael Lataster, discussed above as a Jesus mythicist working towards his Master's thesis at the University of Sydney - now completed!
Raphael wrote his Master’s thesis on Jesus mythicism, concluding that historical and Bayesian reasoning justifies a sceptical attitude towards the ‘historical Jesus’.
I am informed that Rafael has an "article soon to be published by Think (Cambridge) on Jesus' resurrection" in which he is arguing "that Jesus' ahistoricity is the more likely hypothesis."
I also found that Rafael published an article in January entitled, "Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?" Great to see people within academia dealing with such issues. Reminds one of the "Religion and the PhD" thread on this forum.
Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 23 January 2013 in response to the Religious Studies Project Interview with Dale Martin on Religious Studies and Biblical Studies (21 January 2013).
Around the half-way mark of Jack Tsonis’ interview with Professor Dale Martin, a contention was raised, that if true, is damaging to Religious Studies (and related disciplines), and betrays the value and one of the key initial purposes of the field. It is obvious to many of us that Religious Studies is useful, due in part to the critical, secular, etic approach to religion that it encourages. (Although this does not necessitate that Religious Studies scholars be irreligious, or be forbidden to or encouraged to avoid teaching or researching their own personal faith). Tsonis questions Martin on criticism that many Religious Studies scholars are effectively arguing for the usefulness of religion, demonstrating a pro-religious agenda. Tsonis mentions one academic claiming that Religious Studies scholars “claim the prestige of the university while following the rules of the seminary.” Tsonis wonders if this is a real phenomenon, and what effects this may have on our colleagues’ methodologies, funding, and employment prospects. Martin’s answer is thoughtful, but also damning.
In attempting to deny the claim, Martin acknowledges that many scholars working in Biblical Studies are Christians, and many of them are of the conservative type. He then says that the claim does not align with his experience, citing examples of scholars teaching on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, without personally practicing or arguing for those faiths. It seems that not only has Martin acknowledged the issue in a roundabout way, but also alludes to a greater problem: the imbalance of power, the greater influence of Christianity in Western academia, compared with other religions, both major and minor. This discussion prompted me to reminisce about my own experiences in my first year of working in the scholarly world, particularly in initiating my Master’s research dissertation.
I faced opposition from within the department to the extent that I had considered abandoning the project. These challenges presented themselves despite the fact that I had not yet decided the angle, or of course, the conclusions. What was the topic that proved so challenging to research? Jesus mythicism, the contention that there may not have been a ‘historical Jesus’. I would eventually pass, with the examiners – themselves scholars of Religious Studies – agreeing that a review of the methods of many Biblical scholars is necessary (for example, the increasingly-maligned Criteria of Authenticity) and that it is entirely rational to be sceptical over the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Such conclusions should not necessarily be so controversial in a field dedicated to the critical and non-confessional study of religion. More worryingly, there were instances where I felt pressure to alter the direction of the project, in order to allow for more ‘Christian-friendly conclusions’.
But why would such respected scholars wish to interfere with the most fundamental of academic freedoms? It may have had something to do with their personal religious beliefs about Jesus. Interestingly however, such belief is not actually required for such a reaction. One example is provided by noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, one of many secular New Testament experts. Professor Ehrman is an outspoken atheist, yet dogmatically defends the historicity of Jesus and the usefulness of his teachings, while harshly and fallaciously (Lataster 2013) criticising those scholars that are audacious enough to be more sceptical than he (Ehrman 2012). Hector Avalos argues that even many non-Christian scholars are influenced by the political power, and finances, of pro-Christian organisations (Avalos 2007). Avalos claims that positive attitudes towards the Bible, Christianity, and religion in general, is often seen as necessary in order to keep these academic disciplines relevant, and funded.
Hoping that Avalos’ gloomy conclusions were wrong, and that experiences such as my own are rare, I would then discover a powerful Christian undercurrent in a related – and perhaps more esteemed – field; ancient history. While studying the historical Jesus under one of Tsonis’ colleagues from the Ancient History department of Macquarie University, I ‘learnt’ that there is a “resurrection-shaped dent in the historical record.” I would then participate in a public debate against one of my own Religious Studies postgraduate colleagues, and another Ancient Historian from Macquarie University, where my (Christian) opponents used their authority as subject-matter experts in attempting to convince the audience that it is perfectly rational to believe that a miracle-man was brought back from the dead by an unproven deity. It didn’t matter to this ancient historian that his resurrection claim is burdened by a crippling prior probability, is supported by extremely poor sources, or that there are far more probabilistic – and naturalistic – explanations, despite his agreeing with my reasonable claim that history is probabilistic. Christian influences can even be found in Philosophy departments, once great bastions of rationalism and scepticism, via Philosophy of Religion (Quadrio 2009).
Back to the interview, Martin further addresses the contention that Religious Studies scholars border on being crypto-theologians, and defends his ‘insider’ status. He argues that his Biblical criticisms ought to be given more weight (compared with a non-believer’s criticisms) as he is a Christian, and might be expected to aggressively defend his faith and agree more with his fellow adherents. As with the speculative criterion of embarrassment, Martin’s criticisms are partly interesting due to their counter-intuitive nature. These relatively small criticisms however, must be weighed against the fact that Martin still believes the unsubstantiated and question-begging claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, by God. Fortunately, in a recent debate, he correctly acknowledges that Jesus’ resurrection cannot be established historically, though this belief does form a part of his worldview (Licona et al. 2012), his values, and ultimately, would be expected to directly or indirectly affect his researching and teaching on Christianity. Martin might indeed offer the occasional criticism here or there, resulting in minor conflict with his fellow believers, but he stops short of, and would not be expected to, criticising and renouncing Christianity and Christian beliefs as a whole.
Further commenting on what became the dominant theme of the interview, Martin offered a surprising and seemingly unreasonable counter to the claim that Religious Studies scholars are apologising for religion. Instead of denying this claim, he accuses English, History, and Political Science scholars as being apologists for modern liberalism. Rather than outright denying or acknowledging what may be a vitally important issue in education, Martin offers a tu quoque justification. i.e. “Everyone else does it.” With the discussion drawing to a close, Martin demonstrates an example of my claim that what he offers is only relatively benign pseudo-criticism of his faith. He criticises researchers who attempt to show the similarities of Christianity to other religions and myths (an important and historical foundation of Religious Studies), while asking scholars to be more open-minded to the potential truth of supernatural events and experiences. I am not arguing that the perspectives of ‘insiders’ are not valuable, that religious believers are unwelcome in Religious Studies departments, and related fields, or that religion is not a force for good in the world. I merely wish to share my own experiences on the matter, and to encourage scholars to leave their personal beliefs at the door, as they enter the sacred grounds of the University.
(This material is disseminated under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. and can be distributed and utilised freely, provided full citation is given.)
About the Author
With a background in pharmacy, medicine, and finance, Raphael Lataster is a hopeful PhD candidate, having recently passed his Master of Arts (Research), undertaken in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, with Distinction. His main research interests include Christian origins, logic, epistemology, justifications and social impacts of secularism, Taoism, overpopulation and sustainability concerns, pantheism, and pandeism. Raphael wrote his Master’s thesis on Jesus mythicism, concluding that historical and Bayesian reasoning justifies a sceptical attitude towards the ‘historical Jesus’. For his doctoral work, Raphael will analyse the major philosophical arguments for God’s existence (as argued by William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga and Thomas Aquinas), attempt to demonstrate the logical impossibility of the monotheistic concept, explore the theological tendencies of Philosophy of Religion, and formulate a conditional logical argument for a pantheistic weltanschauung. Raphael is currently writing and attempting to publish numerous articles summarising his Master’s dissertation, and exploring the themes of his proposed doctoral project. Raphael is always open to – and encourages – feedback and advice, especially regarding the politics and processes of academia and publishing, and alternative worldviews.
Of course, James McGrath just had to attempt to refute Rafael:
It continues to surprise that individuals like McGrath find it so irritating that people question the gospel story, as if blindly believing in a superhuman Jewish man who purportedly lived 2,000 years ago as the incarnation of the God of the cosmos is so very intelligent and morally superior to questioning such a tale. It is not. Believing in this culturally biased fairytale without any solid proof and without knowing that numerous of the "Christians" motifs and doctrines could be found within pre-Christian religion and mythology represents a scientifically inferior and disingenuous perspective.
In any event, I wish Rafael well in his pursuits, and I follow his career with interest.
Amusingly, while searching the Cambridge Journal Think website, I came across this article:
A position that appears to be growing in popularity in atheist and rationalist circles is known as ‘mythicism’. According to this position we have no adequate reason to believe that the gospels refer to a historical figure called Jesus at all. This position of strong scepticism holds that the gospels are entirely mythological texts and that we are mistaken in reading them as embellished accounts of a man who lived and preached in the Middle East around 2000 years ago. I disagree with this position for a number of reasons. In particular, I contend that the apocalyptic material found on Jesus' lips and the hopes for a very real earthly historical transformation strongly suggest that there is an underlying historical basis to the claims that a man named Jesus made ‘prophetic’ statements about events that were expected to happen within his lifetime, and that this historical figure was considered by his band of followers to be the long awaited Messiah. The fact that hopes for eschatological transformation and claims of the coming of a Messiah are nothing more than religious mythological notions does not preclude there having been a historical figure to which these hopes were attached.
Edmund Standing holds a BA in Theology & Religious Studies and an MA in Critical & Cultural Theory and writes regularly for the websites Harry's Place and Butterflies & Wheels, amongst others. This article was first published at ButterfliesAndWheels.com and the online version includes references for all works cited: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/art ... hp?num=378
It is great to see that mythicism is becoming so popular that papers like this one are needed to be published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Needless to say, the argument does not suffice to demonstrate that the "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament is anything but a fictional compilation of characters, real and mythical.
Here's a heads up on an important work in which the author, University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Albert T. Clay, recounts the current state of astrotheological and mythicist scholarship when his lectures were given, in 1908.
Clay was a major Assyriologist at the turn of the 20th century whose pioneering work showing the West Semitic root of Babylonian and Jewish culture, in the Amorites of Amurru, led to a paradigm shift that is now accepted by mainstream scholarship. (So much for ignoring everything before 1950 - as they say, ignoring makes one ignorant!)
In any event, Clay recounts the position of several mythicists of his day, including in the German and Danish schools. These individuals, in my estimation, made very many astute observations that prove to be correct. Naturally, as someone raised to believe in the Bible as containing at least SOME history, Clay cannot accept the mythicist position and thinks it "more reasonable" to assert the evemerist position. As we know, this sort of fence-sitting in the face of the evidence is simply erroneous, as the stories we are analyzing represent not history mythologized but myth historicized - in reality, that insight is the most reasonable position based on all the evidence.
Clay's work is important nonetheless, especially for the recounting in his introduction of the mythicist scholarship of the day, which assuredly focused on the astrotheological origins of much of the mythology. (Clay calls it "astral mythology.") Note that, while Clay is not convinced of the mythicist position, he admits that "these theories have been advanced by some of the foremost scholars." Let me repeat that: FOREMOST SCHOLARS. So much for the "No Serious Scholar" fallacy.
_________________ Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt? Try it - you'll like it:
Have you read any of Thompson's material on Pan-Babylonianism? My view is that the backlash against the Babylonian links to Israel applies some very narrow biases, especially the pervasive modern bias against astral concepts, to denigrate the plausibility of the hypothesis of strong Babylonian influence.
I did not realize Clay went to my alma mater - awesome! So, they should be used to brilliant thinkers and not be so afraid of me.
In the meantime, Clay's work overall is not designed to debunk the Babylonian influence on the Bible. What he was saying is that the Babylonians did not emerge from the Arabian desert and spread west, as previously hypothesized. On the contrary, they spoke West Semitic, which caused considerable confusion until Clay figured out they were from the western Levant originally, a kingdom called Amurru in what is now Syria.
This kingdom of Amorites was massively impactful, basically destroying the Sumerian civilization as they moved east, while adopting its ways and adapting them to the West Semitic culture they brought with them. From Babylon, after this syncretism with Sumerian deities, the Amorite-Babylonians then influenced the western and southern western Levant, including and especially the Jews, who are equated with them in the book of Judith, as "Chaldeans."
Some of the Amorites swirled around the Levant, to the southwest, apparently ending up in Egypt with/as the Hyksos. Some of those evidently move back into the Levant, to the hill country, merging with local tribes - also largely Amoritish - and emerged from there as "Israelites."
Hence, the Amorites in their migrations both created and picked up mythology, to produce pretty much the exact mixture we find in the Bible. It is my understanding that, while a redactor may have written much of the Pentateuch in the 3rd century, some of the stories were already developed to some extent either in writing or orally centuries earlier, using the Ashurbanipal, Babylonian and other libraries.
There is no doubt that the Bible is full of Babylonian mythology and ritual, especially during the Neo-Babylonian period. The blatantly obvious influence of the Amorite-Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh on the Moses myth serves as proof enough of this fact. The Enuma Elish's influence is also blatantly obvious, and Yahweh has been put in the place of Marduk.
However, the point is well taken that much else is pre-Babylonian West Semitic/Canaanite, which is Clay's insight - an insight that changed modern scholarship profoundly. Again, Clay's point is that the Babylonian culture did not emanate directly out of the Arabian desert, which was the current paradigm at the time. Even if he himself may have thought so, his research and thesis do not negate the massive Babylonian influence on the Bible.
As I say, the ancient Jews themselves were as an Amoritish people, identified in antiquity as "Chaldeans," and were significantly the descendants of Babylonians. They also were influenced from India. The most historical aspect of the Bible is that it records the mergers of tribes, with their tribal gods and goddesses subordinated and demoted, where necessary.
Of course, the purpose of my post here was not to focus on Clay's Amorite thesis but on the recounting in his introduction of important mythicist research, showing not only that it was popular but also that it was accomplished by some of the "foremost scholars" and incorporated astrotheology. These are important remarks for the history of Jesus mythicism.
_________________ Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt? Try it - you'll like it:
Scholars of Jesus usually divide themselves into Jesus historicists and Jesus mythicists. Historicists believe that there was a real historical person behind the Jesus of the Gospels, even if there are many legendary additions to his biography.
Dr. Hector Avalos will explore how scholars of Jesus divide themselves as historicists and mythicists. This lecture seeks to demonstrate that there is too little information from the time of Jesus to favor either side conclusively, and so agnosticism is the best position until more relevant new data can be acquired.
I cannot agree with the agnostic position in the case for Jesus and I don't see how anybody well educated on the subject could either. It just seems like special pleading and fear of calling a spade a spade - there's no credible evidence that the New Testament character Jesus really existed. There is actually a lot we can know from the evidence we already do have, which demonstrates the mythical nature of the bible and Jesus.
In my view, the agnostic position is for those who still need to 'grow a pair.' Agnosticism served its purpose back in the late 1800's when the term was first used by Thomas Henry Huxley, but, we've come a very, very long way since 1869.
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