Friday, November 16, 2007

Big Fat Liars

I've not written in a while for a couple of reasons. One being that I broke my arm and it's hard to type without some sort of elbow support. The other is that I've just about realized the fruitlessness of debating theism, christianity, jesus, god, etc with theists because theists, especially christians (because of the sheer mass of christianity) are completely deluded by the biggest lie ever told in the history of the world.

Harsh? Maybe...but even as I explain this idea to you, you don't have the ability, capacity, or motivation to REALLY take it to heart and see it for what it is, for it would require you to admit your sheepishness and blind faith, and might even bring the walls of your life crumbling down. Scary.


Now I'm not going to rewrite the whole
book here, but I will quote a brief passage from the formerly linked review that I think sums it all up nicely (emphasis is mine)...
Harpur, formerly the religion editor of the Toronto Star and author of many books on faith subjects, believes that originally, there was one primal, central myth which emerged Undoubtedly in Egypt. All the other ancient sacred stories flow from there.

The big difference between the Jesus legacy and other mythological traditions like that of the Egyptian god Horus, was that devotees of the other religions never viewed their divinities as historical figures or their sacred stories as actual facts like Christians did.

The Pagan Christ is forthright in declaring that counter to precedent, Christianity launched a hostile takeover of the ancient salvation myths. Many early church fathers, in an attempt to declare exclusive rights to this mythological Jesus, made him an historical biblical person.

Once these ancient antecedents to Jesus were assimilated into what became Christianity, the pagans and their mythological sources were declared heretical. Since heretics and their books were determined to have no rights, they and their writings were viciously tracked down and eliminated by those who claimed to stand for the newly defined "orthodox" Christianity.
Does that interest you if you're a christian? It should. It should very much. To this day, I have a saying that resonates in my mind. It was spoken by Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas.

"If the resurrection isn't real or true, then we're all in trouble."

I can't cite a source on that because it's something I distinctly remember him saying in a sermon. I'd bet he said it more than once, only because it's so clear in my memory. I think that if most pastors were honest and forthright, they would have to agree with his statement. If they read Harpur's book, they'll find that they're in trouble.

Inertia. Fellow blogger how to live dot org has put that word into my mind. (These are my thoughts about the word.) If inertia is what drives your life, you might as well not be living. You're a robot. Christianity is inertia driven. Most religions are. Christianity isn't bold; it's just purported to be. Pastors and preachers are gifted speakers who are trained to pass on the message. You'd think they would understand the message in it's entirety before passing it along, but, like "ordinary folk" christians, they too are lead by blind faith.

The history of religion is fascinating. The parallels between Jesus and every other idol or god worshiped throughout history are astonishing, especially if you're someone who believes that Jesus was a real man who really lived and really died and really performed miracles and was really resurrected. Really.

Today's christianity is based on the lies of early priests and teachers. Jesus may have been a real man in history, but I don't think it's likely. I certainly don't think it's at all possible that he did everything that is ascribed to him in the gospels. If he did, we should consider him a clone of the Buddha. And Horace. And Dionysis. And Mithras. And Osiris. And Baal. And Krishna. And Thor. And others.

The good thing about Harpur's book is that it identifies christianity as a myth that has been retarded into a fact, and then goes to explain how even the myth is valuable, and how the "Christ within" is still a real and important concept. This book will not demolish your christian faith, but it may change the way you look at it.

I won't say any more as far is in this post. I'd love to discuss, but more than that I'd love to see people read Harpur's book. I think we got our copy at Barnes & Noble in the Christian section. You can find a link to it in the "Books We're Reading Now" section in the sidebar on this page. I plan to fully review the book soon, and I believe Jared does as well.


19 comments:

Nebulous said...

Ouch! I am glad the breaking part is over with and you're on your way to healing.

I also think it is futile to debate with most theists. Most aren't here to learn anything, they're here to defend their beliefs in any way possible and play "whack-a-mole" with any alternative way of thought that arises (speaking of "whack-a-mole", I'm going to make a post about it tonight).

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Hope you heal quickly...but don't pray. As we've seen, it only makes things worse...lol

I completely understand. I'm tired of debating for the most part. I'm tired of ranting about the same things I have said over and over. I think that's why I expanded with my new "Untraditionalist" blog.

"If the resurrection isn't real or true, then we're all in trouble." My interpretation is: if its not real then he's wasted his life. Surely, that would be troublesome. People have a hard time coming to terms with wasting their precious mortal life. The sooner the see the light, the sooner the non-wastefulness can begin :)

And that sounds like a good, informative book. Thanks.

Evie said...

Sorry about the broken arm. That sucks.

I agree with you about the futility of debating theists online. They're probably either trying to get a notch on their belt by "rescuing" you, or just using you to "hone" their debating skills. This is your blog and you don't have to argue with anyone if you don't want to do so. Being a blog administrator can be a pretty good power trip. :-)

At this point in my life, I have absolutely zero interest in reading about, hearing from, or talking with theists. I did all that when I went through the denial stage of my de-conversion. I emerged from that stage realizing that I had been duped big-time. The Christian part of my life is over, dead and buried, and there is no resurrection. The part your preacher got wrong is that we are not in any trouble with religion or resurrections. Far from it. We're free from the fear of hell and free to love life on our own terms.

Evie said...

Correction: we are not in any trouble without religion or resurrections.

Pastor Gavin said...

I'd also like to offer support as you heal from a broken arm. I won't offer to pray for you because I don't think you'd want me to.

A couple thoughts on your post. First, some of us Christian theists might not be here to debate you at all, but just enjoy an intellectual conversation every now and then.

Second, debate usually doesn't do much to bring change in people. When they debate, they tend to spend their energy worrying about how to respond to an argument instead of listening to it. So, if your hope is to debate Christians under the table, you can win again and again and never change them. But the same can be true the other way.

Third, the pastor you quoted was actually quoting Saint Paul. I'm not sure on the chapter and verse (too lazy to look it up right now), but Paul actually says that if the resurrection did not happen then all we believe as Christians is a lie and we're wasting our time. So even the earliest Christians realized the pracarious ledge they were stepping out on. I'm comfortable on that ledge, you're not. I'm saddened that some on that ledge have said and done things that were hurtful to you.

Last, I enjoy history quite a bit. I enjoy church history even more. I am comfortable in the human hand that went into the formation of the church as we know it. I'm also comfortable that the definition of what it means to be a Christian has changed many times over the last 2000 years. I'm also comfortable with the maxim that history is written by the winners. That being said, I'm not comfortable with the suggestion that the early church fathers were aware of and stole the resurrection myths from other faiths. I don't find this very likely. But I know it is hard to accept the similarities without saying they stole them.

also, on another note, why does it always take me two or three times to get the word verification right? does anybody else have that problem?

Stacy said...

Gavin,

"That being said, I'm not comfortable with the suggestion that the early church fathers were aware of and stole the resurrection myths from other faiths. I don't find this very likely. But I know it is hard to accept the similarities without saying they stole them."

Not likely why? What other explanation could there be for such coincidences?

Have you read Harpur's book? Would you?

Dwight said...

I've read Harpur's articles on line but not his book. But similarity with other stories are to be expected, most significant ideas cut across religious and cultural boundaries. That doesn't make them "true" or "false per se. But they do speak to something in us.

Pastor Gavin said...

Stacy,

No, I haven't read the book, and I'm probably not likely to. I did look at the link you gave to the book and read through it. I realize it's not the same.

The reason I feel okay responding to the book without having read it is the same reason I don't feel that I need to read the whole Left Behind series to stand up and argue that they present horrible theology. The arguments he's making don't fit with the history.

The early church, from Paul onward (and Paul is the main person to give us the early theology of Christianity as we know it, though he actually disagreed with some of the church leadership in Jerusalem about how "Jewish" the church should be. He won out in the end, and Christianity, robbed of its Jewishness, became accessible to gentiles around the known world) spent their time trying to figure out certain things about who Jesus was and what to do with him.

The argument that the early church dealt with was never "did Jesus exist?", but was "was Jesus divine?". The Gnostics and the Christians argued about this incessantly. Those who believed in Jesus' full humanity and full divinity ended up winning out and other views died out.

Also, one has to accept that there are such things as coincidences in this world. Often they come from people connecting the dots after events. The human mind likes to find order and similarities in things, so we connect with these and ignore differences. When someone starts listing all the similarities between Horus and Jesus, the similaritis start to feel overwhelming, but when included with the differences, they are not as similar as you'd think.

Have you seen the many similarities between Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush? There are quite a bit. They both led an unpopular war. Neither of them were elected with a majority of votes. They both were Republicans. They both had little international experience before they became president. They both used religious language politically. There are other similarities as well.

And yet, looking at the whole picture and not just the similarities, I would have a hard time seeing Bush and Lincoln as similar in any way at all.

And then there are the strange coincidences with Lincoln and Kennedy and their assassinations. Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln, and visa versa. Both shot in the head on a Friday. Both succeeded by a Johnson. Lincoln was shot in the Ford theater, Kennedy was shot in a Ford Lincoln. Both assassins were known by three names with fifteen letters in them. The list continues. So, did Kennedy's assassination not really happen, was it really something that we made up as we remembered Lincoln's assassination?

Again, similarities and coincidences do happen. That's why there are so many conspiracy theories out there. It is interesting to see these similarities, it is worth noting them, but we cannot assume that the later is always copying the former.

Also, Christianity is much more in debt to Zoroastrianism than the cult of Horus, as it's understanding of good and evil and mythology of angels and demons (which comes from Judaism) are stolen, sometimes word for word, from Zoroastrianism.

Okay, once again, I've gone on way too long.

Pastor Gavin said...

In looking a bit closer at Tom Harpur and his claims (again, admittedly, without reading his book), I am seeing that his primary source for his understanding of the Horus cult is Alvin Boyd Kuhn, an "Egyptologist" from the early to mid 20th century. but it seems that Alvin Boyd Kuhn is to egyptology as the Discovery Institute is to evolutionary theory. I hate to sound like an elitist, but there is a reason for a peer reviewed process for academic papers. With bad sources, your conclusions are going to be bad also.

Stacy said...

"...Paul is the main person to give us the early theology of Christianity as we know it..."

Then why not call it Paulism? Or Paulianity? Paul never even saw Jesus. He (like Joseph Smith and Muhammed, mind you) claimed a divine vision/visitation.

"I hate to sound like an elitist, but there is a reason for a peer reviewed process for academic papers. With bad sources, your conclusions are going to be bad also."

Ha. Harpur isn't the only 'source.'

Your quote above is the exact problem with the bible.

It's easy to demean research to conspiracy theory in lieu of actually reading something else. With all of your doubts and wishy-washiness with scripture and faith, Gavin, you're the person I'd have sent the book to for christmas because I thought you'd read it.

As for your comments on the stronger versions of christianity winning out, are you claiming moral relativity or moral evolution? That doesn't seem very theologically sound to me....it either IS the truth, or it isn't. Or as one reader said, "He is either the REAL Jesus, or he isn't."

Left behind is an intentional fictitious scare tactic for christians. How does this compare with years of research by many people?

This list is a very common one, and since I don't feel like typing it all out, I'm taking it from here:

(This is just buddhism v. jesus)

T.W.Rhys Davids, Nineteenth-Century Professor:

"There is every reason to believe that the Pitakas [sacred books containing the legends of Buddha] now present in Ceylon are substantially identical with the books of the Southern Canon, as settled at the Council of Patna about the year 250 B.C. As no works would have been received into the Canon which were not then believed to be very old, the Pitakas may be approximately placed in the fourth century B.C., and parts of them possibly reach back very nearly, if not quite, to the time of Gautama (Buddha) himself." (Rhys Davids, Buddhism: Being a Sketch of the Life and Teachings of Gautama, the Buddha (London, 1894), p. 10)

Samuel Beal, Nineteenth-Century Professor:

"We know that the Fo-pen-hing [legends of Buddha] was translated into Chinese from Sanskrit (the ancient language of Hinduism) as early as the eleventh year of the reign of - Wing-ping (Ming-ti) of the Hans Dynasty, i.e., 69 or 70 A.D. We may, therefore, safely suppose that the original work was in circulation in India for some time before this date." (Beal, The Romantic Legends of Sakya Buddha from the Chinese Sanskrit (London, 1875), p. vi.)

"These points of agreement with the Gospel narrative arouse curiosity and require explanation. If we could prove that they [the legends of Buddha] were unknown in the East for some centuries after Christ, the explanation would be easy. But all the evidence we have gone to prove the contrary...." (Ibid., pp. viii-ix.)

Ernest de Bunsen, Nineteenth Century:

"With the remarkable exception of the death of Jesus on the cross, and of the doctrine of atonement by vicarious suffering, which is absolutely excluded by Buddhism, the most ancient of the Buddhistic records known to us contain statements about the life and the doctrines of Gautama Buddha which correspond in a remarkable manner, and impossibly by mere chance, with the traditions recorded in the Gospels about the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ...." (De Bunsen, The Angel Messiah of Buddhists, Essenes and Christians (London, 1880), p. 50.)

Max Muller, Nineteenth--Century Professor:

"Between the language of The Buddha and his disciples, and the language of Christ and his apostles, there are strange coincidences. Even some Buddhist legends and parables sound as if taken from the New Testament, though we know that many of them existed before the beginning of the Christian era." (Muller, Introduction to the Science of Religion (London, 1873), p. 243)

Kenneth Scott Latourette, Twentieth Century:

"Approximately five centuries older than Christianity, by the time of the birth of Christ, Buddhism had already spread through much of India and Ceylon and had penetrated into Central Asia and China." (Latourette, A History of Christianity (New York, 1975), p. 274.)

M. L'Abbe Huc, Nineteenth--Century Missionary Apostolic:

"The miraculous births of Buddha, his life and instructions, contain a great number of the moral and dogmatic truths professed in Christianity." (Huc, Christianity in China, Tartary, and Thibet (London, 1857), p. 327.)

T. W. Doane, Nineteenth Century:

...nothing now remains for the honest man to do but acknowledge the truth, which is that the history of Jesus of Nazareth[,] as related in the books of the New Testament, is simply a copy of that of Buddha, with a mixture of mythology borrowed from other nations." (T.W. Doane, "Bible Myths" (New York, 1882), p. 286)

Similarities:

1. Both Buddha and Jesus were baptized in the presence of the "spirit" of G--d. (De Bunsen, p. 45; Matthew 3:16.)
2. Both went to their temples at the age of twelve, where they are said to have astonished all with their wisdom. (Ibid., p. 37; Luke 2:41--48.)
3. Both supposedly fasted in solitude for a long time: Buddha for forty--seven days and Jesus for forty. (Arthur Lillie, Buddha and Early Buddhism (London, 1881), p. 100, Matthew 4:2.)
4. At the conclusion of their fasts, they both wandered to a fig tree. (Hans Joachim Schoeps, An Intelligent Person's Guide to the Religions of Mankind (London, 1967), p. 167; Matthew 21:18--19.)
5. Both were about the same age when they began their public ministry:
* "When he [Buddha] went again to the garden he saw a monk who was calm, tranquil, self--possessed, serene, and dignified. The prince, determined to become such a monk, was led to make the great renunciation. At the time he was twenty--nine years of age...". (Encyclopedia Americana (New York: Rand McNally and Co., 1963), vol. 4, p. 672.)
* "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23).
6. Both were tempted by the "devil" at the beginning of their ministry:
* To Buddha, he said: "Go not forth to adopt a religious life but return to your kingdom, and in seven days you shall become emperor of the world, riding over the four continents." (Moncure D. Conway, The Sacred Anthology (London, 1874), p. 173.)
* To Jesus, he said: "All these [kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9).
7. Buddha answered the "devil": "Get you away from me." (De Bunsen, p.38)
* Jesus responded: "...begone, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10).
8. Both experienced the "supernatural" after the "devil" left:
* For Buddha: "The skies rained flowers, and delicious odors prevailed [in] the air." (Ibid.)
* For Jesus: "angels came and ministered to him" (Matthew 4:11).
9. The multitudes required a sign from both in order that they might believe. (Muller, Science, p. 27; Matthew 16:1.)
10. Both strove to establish a kingdom of heaven on earth. (Beal, p. x; Matthew 4:17.)
* Buddha "represented himself as a mere link in a long chain of enlightened teachers." (Muller, Science, p. 140.)
11. Jesus said: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law, and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).
12. According to the Somadeva (a Buddhist holy book), a Buddhist ascetic's eye once offended him, so he plucked it out and cast it away. (Ibid., p. 245)
* Jesus said: "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, and throw it away;" (Matthew 5:29).
13. "Buddha taught that the motive of all our actions should be pity or love of our neighbor." (Ibid., p. 249)
* Jesus taught: "...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
14. Buddha said: "Hide your good deeds, and confess before the world the sins you have committed." (Ibid., p.28)
* Jesus said: "Beware of practicing your piety before men to be seen by them;" (Matthew 6:1) and "Therefore confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed..." (James 5:16).
15. Both are said to have known the thoughts of others:
* "By directing his mind to the thoughts of others, [Buddha] can know the thoughts of all beings." (R. Spence Hardy, The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists Compared with History and Science (London, 1866), p. 181.)
* "But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said: `Why do you think evil in your hearts?' " (Matthew 9:4).
16. After "healing" a man born blind, Buddha said: "The disease of this man originates in his sinful actions in former times." (Prof. Max Muller, ed., Sacred Books of the East (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879--1910), vol. 21, p. 129f.)
* "As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples said to him: `Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' " (John 9:1--2).
17. Both were itinerant preachers with a close group of trustees within a larger group of disciples. (James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (New York: Edinburgh T. & T. Clark, 1918), vol. 6, p. 883; Matthew 26:20.)
18. Both demanded that their disciples renounce all worldly possessions. (Hardy, Monachism, p. 6; Luke 14:33.)
* "The number of the disciples rapidly increased, and Gautama sent forth his monks on missionary tours hither and thither, bidding them wander everywhere, preaching the doctrine, and teaching men to order their lives with self--restraint, simplicity, and charity." (Hastings, vol. 6, p.883)
* "And [Jesus] called to him the twelve [apostles], and began to send them out two by two.So they went out and preached that men should repent" (Mark 6:7, 12).
19. Both had a disciple who "walked" on water:
* To convert skeptical villagers, Buddha showed them his disciple walking across a river without sinking. (Lillie, p. 140)
* "He said: `Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus, but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out: `Lord, save me!' " (Matthew 14:29--30).
20. "One day Ananda, the disciple of Buddha, after a long walk in the country, meets with Matangi, a woman of the low caste of the Kandalas, near a well, and asks her for some water. She tells him what she is, and that she must not come near him. But he replies: `My sister, I ask not for your caste or your family, I ask only for a drought of water. She afterwards became a disciple of Buddha." (Muller, Science, p. 243)
* "There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her: `Give me a drink.' For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him: `How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?' For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans" (John 4:7--9).
21. Each repeated a question three times:
* "The Buddha next addressed the bhikkhus and requested them three times to ask him if they had any doubt or question that they wished clarified, but they all remained silent." (Encyclopedia Britannica (New York: William and Helen Benton, 1974), vol. 2, p. 373.)
* "[Jesus] said to him the third time: `Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time: `Do you love me?'" (John 21:17).
22. Both received similar receptions:
* "The people swept the pathway, the gods strewed flowers on the pathway and branches of the coral tree, the men bore branches of all manner of trees, and the Bodhisattva Sumedha spread his garments in the mire, [and] men and gods shouted: `All hail.' " (Hardy, Legends, p.134)
* "And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat on it. And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields" (Mark 11:7--8).
23. Both had an archival:
* "[Buddha's] chief rival was Devadatta, a cousin of the Buddha, who is represented as being jealous of his influence and popularity, and as repeatedly seeking to compass his death." (Hastings, vol. 6, p.883)
* "While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying: `The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him!' And he came up to Jesus at once, and said: `Hail, Master!' And he kissed him" (Matthew 26:47--49).
24. Before his death, Buddha said to his disciple: "Ananda, when I am gone, you must not think there is no Buddha; the discourses I have delivered, and the precepts I have enjoined, must be my successors, or representatives, and be to you as Buddha." (Hardy, Eastern Monachism (London, 1860), p. 230.)
* Before his "ascension," Jesus said to his disciples: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19--20).
25. When Buddha died: "The coverings of [his] body unrolled themselves, and the lid of his coffin was opened by supernatural powers." (De Bunsen, p. 49.)
* When Jesus died: "And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the L--rd descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2).
26. "In the year 217 B.C. Buddhist missionaries were imprisoned for preaching; but an angel, genie or spirit came and opened the prison door, and liberated them." (Thomas Thornton, A History of China from the Earliest Records to the Treaty with Great Britain in 1842 (London, 1844), vol. 1, p. 341.)
* "They arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the L--rd opened the prison doors and brought them out" (Acts 5:18--19).
27. Both men's disciples are said to have been miracle workers. (Maria L. Child, The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages (New York, 1855)vol. 1, p. 229, Acts 3:6--8.)

Now, we can see that there are more than just a couple of similarities here, no? And we're not talking about people who were alive in recent times (a la GWB and Abe or assassinations of yore). There is no impermeable proof that any of these things happened. They are stories written thousands of years ago.

I think it very naive and rose-colored of you to not believe that an early christian teacher/writer/whatever could have taken something old, made it his own, and passed it off as truth.

Pastor Gavin said...

You know, the problem with comments on blogs is that there are always three to ten directions I'd like to go when I respond to a post or a comment, and I have to limit my thoughts and comments. Also, the written word always comes across different than I'd like it to. I'm feeling like I'm getting defensive, which is not where I want to be.

If you don't mind, I'd like to start with a couple random thoughts from your comment before I get to the Buddhism similarities.

First, as to Paulism or Paulianity. There are some liberal and post-modern Christians who do want to label what we have as Christianity today as precisely that. They would argue that Paul got way to focused on salvation theology and being born again and we as Christians have lost much of our focus on Jesus' teachings (which really are revolutionary). I find this view attractive, and therefore spend more time preaching out of the O.T. prophets or the gospels instead of Paul for this very reason.

As for my views on the early church, and the "orthodox" Christians winning out over the gnostics, I look at the history of the church and I cannot help but see the human hand in it. It is fun to look at history and wonder "what if" things had been different. Christianity has definitely taken some wrong turns along the way. One of my more favorite theologians was declared a heretic soon after his death and has remained so ever since. But his theology seems sound to me. At the same time, seeing the human hand at work in church history does not preclude God's hand from being at work as well. Before I got here, you were having a discussion with a Calvinist about predestination. I grew up surrounded by this issue. I had baptist and pentecostal friends and we went to a Reformed school and they would argue back and forth with each other about free will and predestination. Is it human hands working in history or is it God's hand. My answer ended up being yes. And yes, when bad things happen I cheat and blame it on sin, but not on individual sins, rather on societal sins and such. What makes a flood a disaster? That the flood happened (though they are a part of the world we lived in) or that people chose to build in a place where the flood could damage them? And then, I ask what it is that led people to build there? Often, the poor are stuck where they are and they have no choice.

Now to the Buddha connection. I do find some of these connections more serious than Harpur's Horus connection. At the same time, some of them are even a stretch. "A fig tree plays a role in both their ministries". It's kind of weak.

But the similarities don't trouble me that much because, again, I find that truth can be found outside of Christianity. It goes back to that theologian I like, Pelagius (it's worth noting that Wikipedia's entry on him isn't the best description I've seen of his beliefs, It's much more interesting to read some of his writings). Pelagius believed quite strongly in the concept that truth could be seen in the world around us and therefore other religions can have pieces of truth show forth in their teachings.

So when I find similarities between pre-Christian holy writings and the Bible, I guess I'm not threatened by this because I believe that they could have captured the truth themselves. And if Buddha was truly the wise teacher he must have been, than many of his teachings would probably line up with Jesus'.

In high school I read a book by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End. It was sci-fi, and it has influenced me in an interesting way. It was sort of new age with humans beginning the next evolutionary step. But some aliens show up in the book to guide our way. And the aliens never let us see them. The reason is is that when we do see them we see that they are red, have horns and a tail. They look like our mythology of the devil. And they are asked if they were on earth before, preparing the way. They answered no, but it is guessed that the human subconscious somehow may be influenced outside time. Subconsciously, we saw their form as evil because we associated it with the end of our race as we knew it. I guess I sort of believe in some aspects of our spiritual beings being outside of time and therefore influenced not as much by the past as the future. Therefore when different religions come upon the same thoughts or same stories, I am not troubled by this. I know, it's a very silly and unscientific way to look at it, but there it is.

Jared said...

First of all, I think you can see the obvious flaw in your analogies (Bush/Lincoln/Kennedy). We have eyewitness accounts of these figures written during their lives. We KNOW they existed.

A quick note on the book Stacy is referring to -- The similarities of Horus, Buddha, Mithras, etc is not the major focal point of Harpur's writing. It is key to his point though and his is not the only source. He presents this, not to indict Christianity as a forgery, but to parallel how Christianism adapted the early Jewish and even earlier Hellenistic cultures using the same characteristics of the Son of the God(s). Harpur's emphasis (and he admitted it's controversial message) was that forcing a literal god-man figure into the equation is the primary weakness of Christianity. It is a good read. Much better than any LaHaye/Jenkins barf fest. :)

Back to the analogies -- what evidence do we have of Jesus' life? That's the real question. I think you would agree that the answer here is hearsay.

What the gospels present to us is a collection of third person narrative stories told (in a manner much like today's fiction) in order to encapsulate the writers' (whoever they were - since we really do not know who wrote any of them) own religious message. All written just after (or during) the Jewish war (~70 CE) With the earliest some 40 years after the life of Jesus. All culled and hand selected by the early church fathers...including the likes of Eusebius and Irenaeus, who intentionally 'formed' the Bible to strengthen their doctrine -- while the rest of the sacred (heretical) gospels were burned. Eyewitness accounts? Let me shake up the magic eight ball...it says unlikely.

"The arguments he's making don't fit with the history"

What history are we talking about? What evidence are you alluding to?

"The argument that the early church dealt with was never "did Jesus exist?", but was "was Jesus divine?". The Gnostics and the Christians argued about this incessantly."

Let's look at this quote in relation to Paul. We know Paul wrote his epistles somewhere around 60 CE. 30 years or so later. We know what he believed about Jesus' divinity but it can hardly be said that Paul even confirmed Jesus' existence based on the total lack of description he gives Jesus' life - with the exception of adding 'according to the scriptures' here and there. He never confirms even meeting an earthly Jesus and is not interested in the least of his miraculous birth, healings, miraculous raisings of the dead, etc...For all we know, to Paul -- Jesus' domain was NOT earthly and never was.

Does this not bother you? Paul is the foundation of your religion yet he never alludes to an HJ. How is he any different than Joseph Smith? Did Paul sit behind a curtain too?

Now - Do I believe in the historical Jesus? I have no freaking clue. I do know, though, that it IS debatable.

How about a better analogy? I've seen this mentioned many times and I love it because, like every boy, I was enthralled with the stories of Hercules (not the Arnold S. movie) You can find it here described by Jim Walker.

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To take one example, examine the evidence for the Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the "historicity" of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus.

Note that Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. Hercules got born as a human from the union of God (Zeus) and the mortal and chaste Alcmene, his mother. Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Like Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules gives example of perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.

Likewise the "evidence" of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mentions Hercules. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have a brief mention of Jesus by Joesphus in his Antiquities, Joesphus also mentions Hercules (more times than Jesus), in the very same work (see: 1.15; 8.5.3; 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Christus, so does he also mention Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him? Of course not, and the same must apply to Jesus if we wish to hold any consistency to historicity.

Pastor Gavin said...

A hopefully short reply. Your points are very well made and well argued.

But, I don't think the Lincoln, Kennedy, Bush analogy falls apart precisely because we accept Lincoln, Kennedy and Bush as real people. We accept the testimony of them and so we figure that the things that connect them are coincidence or in the case of the Bush/Lincoln comparisons, propoganda. I'm just pointing out that sometimes a similar story plays itself out in a different setting and one isn't dependant on the other.

Your argument regarding Hercules is well stated. But I guess I'd argue that people were convinced that Troy was just a myth until the ruins were found. I guess my natural take is to take the role of the agnostic when it comes to ancient myths. Did it happen as stated, probably not. Was it inspired by something that really happened, possibly.

In college and seminary I learned to look at the Pauline letters and not just pay attention to what they are saying, but learn a bit about who they are addressing. There is a fair amount of guesswork and extrapolation that has to happen here, it's part of the fun of history, but the letters were written to churches with real issues and real problems going on in thier lives. You can see the struggle between Paul and "those from James" throughout his letters as they were trying to figure out how jewish to make this new religion. You can see the early formation of the gnostic faith being argued against, specifically in John's letters. Though, it is interesting, because if I remember correctly, my N.T. prof. in college argued that the gnostics did liberally steal from the mystery religions and mix them with Christianity. Just an interesting point that probably helps support your argument more than mine. Oh well.

The one part that is totally being left out of this conversation is a dangerous one for me to bring up because I know you will believe that I am deluding myself, but I also believe, despite all the thinking about the issue, that I have a personal relationship with God and personal experience that points towards my faith. But that's a whole other discussion. And, again, I've gone on too long. (Plus my wife has got my daughter to sleep so I'm done for tonight.)

Jared said...

*For the record, I would lean towards an historical Jesus...much like Bart Erhman.

Anyways, I'm very intrigued by Paul and would love any outside recommendations you might have on his ministry.

Stacy and I watched a great PBS Frontline special/documentary recently called From Jesus to Christ. You should check it out if you haven't already seen it. It was recommended to us by a friend who actually was a student of one of the speakers - Michael White - Professor of Religious Studies at Univ of Texas.

Very solid scholarship here - both 'sides' do a very good job of keeping it factual. I can mail a copy if you're interested.

the chaplain said...

I'm sorry to go OT here, but I'm tagging you for the Memory Meme. Click on my link and go to An Apostate's Chapel for more information.

Keep writing - I enjoy your posts and discussions immensely.

Pastor Gavin said...

You know, I have some good commentaries on some of Paul's letters that are helpful in getting to know him, and N.T. Wright has a book out on Paul that came out last year that is supposed to be full of some good controversy. I cannot for the life of me read N.T. Wright without getting bogged down, though I've heard him speak a couple times and been absolutely blown away.

But, really, for me, the best way to get my head around Paul and his ministry is to read the book of Acts. This is a book that I believe is attempting to be a history of the early church and is attempting to be accurate. A couple points in it it is being told in the first person, as the author, Luke, is with Paul on his mission trip, the other places it is obviously being researched. And I feel that you get a good idea of Paul, warts and all, as you read through it.

I have noticed that people's theologies tend to be strongly influenced by their own stories. Joel Osteen, the pastor of the biggest church in America, preaches prosperity gospel. He preaches that if you believe and trust in God, all earthly blessing will fall your way. This is horrible theology and totally unbiblical, but it is his experience. His life has been golden, and he assumes that this can be the case for everyone.
Paul started out against Christianity and then converted to it. His conversion story is one of him being converted almost against his own free will. And so Paul's theology focuses on salvation being a gift from God, not from human works. His experience influenced his theology.
The sad thing is that Paul as a person is someone I don't really like. He was argumentative, abrasive, he held grudges, he was vindicative, and he really liked to be right. He was going around preaching a gospel that the church in Jerusalem wasn't terribly comfortable with and so they sent people around after him to straighten people out. In his letters he continues to refer derogatorily to "those from James" who were trying to get Christians to take on the O.T. commandments. But then there was a council in Jerusalem where it was decided that his take on the gospel was more accurate than "those from James" and he then had Jerusalem's blessing.

It's all interesting stuff, especially if you look at it from a sociological perspective, but to see it you have to accept that the scripture (at least Acts and Paul's letters) is at least based in reality. If Paul wasn't a real person, then all of this is moot.

Pastor Gavin said...

Oh, and I've seen a part of that Frontline special. I tend to enjoy those kind of documentaries and find them quite interesting. Usually they get scholars (on both sides of the issue) who take scholarship seriously and don't cheat like some of the "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" or "The Case for Christ" kind of books do or get sloppy like "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" was.

the chaplain said...

Pastor Gavin:
One thing I think we agree about is that Paul was a very disagreeable person. Even when I was a minister, I had trouble dealing with his persona. Now that I'm a deconvert, I don't have to deal with it anymore.

If only all of my difficulties could disappear so easily. :)

Pastor Gavin said...

Jared, Stacy,

My eyes have been opened. I am a newly converted man. I had doubted the young earth theory of creation, but then I took this internet quiz which showed me the true path to understanding. Through circular reasoning, bad proof-texting (a verse is quoted saying that God knows every detail about the "behemoth" and the quiz extrapolates that God knows every detail about every animal, yes I believe this about God, but I don't see it in the text they are using), and horrible use of logic (to prove that it didn't rain before the flood, the test quotes a verse saying that a mist rose up from the ground to water the land), this test has shown me that the earth is 6000 years old. You should check it out if you want a good laugh.

This is precisely the kind of thing that makes it hard for Christians who actually do use logic and try to marry their rational minds with their spiritual beliefs.

By the way, hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving.