Jesus Myth

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

Moderator: Metacrock

User avatar
Antimatter
Posts: 102
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:17 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Jesus Myth

Post by Antimatter » Thu May 15, 2008 10:26 am

I've noticed quite a few rants around here recently dealing with the Jesus myth theory. Why is this concept entirely untenable? As a non-Christian, I consider the tales of miracles in the Gospels to be embellishments borrowed from other sources of the day. I don't have explicit proof, but only resemblances in earlier myths that I could point out. I find this to be the most plausible explanation, since I similarly dismiss the miracles claimed by other religions. It really doesn't matter to me if Christ existed historically as some (rather regular) human individual, since Christianity is built upon the legend of Christ in the New Testament. I've never seen a sound refutation of this position that properly understands it. I've only seen denouncements that boil down to "that's crazy" and "most people who believe the Bible disagree with that." Any thoughts?

I should point out that I don't properly understand all the nuances of the theory either. I've had The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man sitting in my pile of books for a few months now, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

ZAROVE
Posts: 412
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:07 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by ZAROVE » Thu May 15, 2008 12:09 pm

I've noticed quite a few rants around here recently dealing with the Jesus myth theory.


Mainly its Metacrock begn frustrated by its previalence on the internet amongst a certian school wo simly want ot discredit Christianity and who are not intereste din actual discussion.

But I digress...

Why is this concept entirely untenable?
If you examine the actual theory and place it agaisnt the actual acadmeic stuies, you woudl see soon that the enture premise of the theory is unsupported.


We know that CHristianity emerged rapidly and spread rapidly, which doens't happen if its a myth-based cult. ( Usign th eodl definition fo cult.)

We know that the story of Jesus's life underwent no real Permutaitons, as we see in the development of Myths. Unless you visit Dan Barkers website, that is, and he strains credulity iwht his view of it.

We know that no one in the firts century ever challenged the eistance of Jeus, even those who most wanted to discredit Christianity. Are we expected ot belive that those hwo liv din Jeruslem and owudl have been aware of the events simply didn't notice, in their attacks ont he ealry CHurhc, that their wa sno such Crucificiton or man named Jesus?


We know that their are far mroe writtings of Jeuss and form far earlier than most other Ancient igures. A big deal is made about the Gspels beign wrotten 40 years late rby the Mythers, but th eoverlooks the EPistles, or say that Paul was silent about an earhtly JEsus, when he wasn't. They also forget that Socratese has one man, Plato, speakign of him, some 40 years later, and we know of Gamaliel form even later recorfs, and thta such delays are cmmon in ancient hisotry.

Textually we have far mroe on Jesus thay any other sage or prophet that live dint he ancient wolrd, with hundreds of texts written within the firts 60 or so years of his life.


And again, the story seems ot not change much, with all the basic outline exaclty the same.


That tells us it slikely not a myth.



As a non-Christian, I consider the tales of miracles in the Gospels to be embellishments borrowed from other sources of the day.
Why is it that they had to be borrowed? Even if the miralces did not ocure, that doens't mean that the ealru Chruch borrowed them, does it? Miralces ar eomnpreasent in Hman writtings, and seem nto to need predecated soruces.

But I guess its always the way, as Christaintiy is alwyas seen as borrowig thngs form others, but no oen form them...



I don't have explicit proof, but only resemblances in earlier myths that I could point out. I find this to be the most plausible explanation, since I similarly dismiss the miracles claimed by other religions.
Acuta;y your asusmign other Myths wher euse din creatign he miracles claism of Jesus, simply because Miracles occured in them.


What you don't consider is that the miralce claism in Jesus where not borrowed, even if embelleshments. Why wodl they need ot be?


And you also ofocuxe do't beleive they coidl eb true because you've decidesd agaisn tthat A Priori.



It really doesn't matter to me if Christ existed historically as some (rather regular) human individual, since Christianity is built upon the legend of Christ in the New Testament. I've never seen a sound refutation of this position that properly understands it. I've only seen denouncements that boil down to "that's crazy" and "most people who believe the Bible disagree with that." Any thoughts?

If you haven't seen Denouncement of the JEsus Myth theory othe rhtna "Thats Crazy" and "Peopel who beleive the Bibel dont' beelive that" then you haven't read much academic study on the matter, sicne thier is far, far mroe to it than that, form both Christians and nonchristaisn alike. Some even ardent atheists.


I should point out that I don't properly understand all the nuances of the theory either. I've had The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man sitting in my pile of books for a few months now, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Yeah Robert Price isn't exaclty the most stable of scholars, and I'd suggest comparign what he says wiht les spopular but mroe academically accepted works.

User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by KR Wordgazer » Thu May 15, 2008 12:36 pm

Antimatter, the Jesus Myth has about the same place among serious historians as Young-Earth Creationism has among serious scientists. There simply is too much real evidence against either theory to consider them tenable at all. And yet wishful thinkers continue to want to believe them, to support their own views rather than adjusting their views to fit the evidence.
Wag more.
Bark less.

User avatar
tinythinker
Posts: 1331
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:16 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by tinythinker » Thu May 15, 2008 2:26 pm

Some clarification I want to toss out (not that anyone will necessarily agree)...

Myth is a form of storytelling that embodies a truth that can be considered ahistorical, that is, a form of truth that doesn't merely equate to or relate a historical event. These are generally truths about the human condition or the nature of reality which have no full and appreciable equivalent in mere descriptive or analytic prose. Just because myths relay ahistorical, or timeless, truth does not mean myths cannot be based on historical events. In fact, striking events that shake or shape a population of people such as a society or culture are prone to mythification. However, for many people the term myth has been conflated with "made-up childish fairy tale" or "false history".

When discussing the idea of Jesus as myth, then, we need more of that excessive explicitness to identify what exactly we mean. If we assume the idea that myth is "a made up fairy tale used as false history", then what we are suggesting by Jesus myth is the idea that there was no Jesus. Ever. Period. This is generally what Metacrock encounters when he debates online and complains about atheists who are "Jesus mythers". If we use the notion that important events or people are often mythicized, then we are suggesting there may have been a person named Jesus who indeed lived in the time of the Roman occupation of Judea and who was likely executed as a reformist rabbi and a populist political trouble-maker (ala Micah, Isaiah, etc and other prophets). If we consider that myths convey timeless truths, then one reason for mythifying the story of Jesus is that it embodies many of these truths. This perspective, for example, is used by Marcus Borg in affirming the value and reality of the pre-Easter (historical life and times) and post-Easter (the symbolic meaning that emerged in the early Church) visions of Jesus. Lastly, one can (as many churches do) make no distinction between a pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus but still recognize that there is more to the meaning and structure of the Gospels than the literal account and that the literary style of Scripture reflects both a historical truth and yet points to a greater truth.

If I am reading things, correctly, what is being discredited and dismissed here is the first form of "Jesus myther scholarship". I am not aware of any compelling scholarly reason to discount the historical reality of a radical 1st century rabbi named Joshua bin Joseph (or "Joshua bin Mary" for the Catholic/Orthodox amongst us). On the other hand, I am not aware of any compelling scholarly reason to accept the historical accuracy of any particular account of the fate of his physical body after his death, either. That said, I really dig that resurrection scene in the Gospel of John when Mary sees her beloved teacher and realizes that even death cannot conquer the love of God reflected in Christ.
Adrift in the endless river

User avatar
Antimatter
Posts: 102
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:17 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by Antimatter » Thu May 15, 2008 2:47 pm

ZAROVE wrote:We know that CHristianity emerged rapidly and spread rapidly, which doens't happen if its a myth-based cult. ( Usign th eodl definition fo cult.)
We know very little about the growth and spread of the Christian church before Constantine ended Roman persecution. Using very rough yet generous estimates for the size of the Christian church, it's growth can be explained with only a few percentage points of annual growth over that span of nearly three centuries. If we compare that figure with other "myth-based" religions, we'd notice that, as an example, Mormonism has grown at least as quickly, if not much more rapidly than early Christianity.
We know that the story of Jesus's life underwent no real Permutaitons, as we see in the development of Myths. Unless you visit Dan Barkers website, that is, and he strains credulity iwht his view of it.
That isn't true at all. The Bible itself contains multiple permutations of the Jesus story, and the Council of Trent rejected several others because those variations were too fantastic and unbelievable.

Take the miracle of the virgin birth as an example. It's entirely absent in the earliest texts in the New Testament: Paul's writings and Mark. Matthew introduced this miracle, and Luke greatly expanded upon it. The legend of Jesus Christ was being further developed and amended as the Church grew, borrowing themes introduced by converts from local pagan religions. Granted, there are alternative explanations, but I find this to be the most plausible because it makes the fewest unsupported assumptions (like actual virgin births).
We know that no one in the firts century ever challenged the eistance of Jeus, even those who most wanted to discredit Christianity. Are we expected ot belive that those hwo liv din Jeruslem and owudl have been aware of the events simply didn't notice, in their attacks ont he ealry CHurhc, that their wa sno such Crucificiton or man named Jesus?
Again, allow me to point out that I'm not concerned with whether Jesus existed as a historical individual. I'm interested in the historical accuracy of the miracles, his resurrection, and the reliability of the Biblical account of those events.
We know that their are far mroe writtings of Jeuss and form far earlier than most other Ancient igures. A big deal is made about the Gspels beign wrotten 40 years late rby the Mythers, but th eoverlooks the EPistles, or say that Paul was silent about an earhtly JEsus, when he wasn't. They also forget that Socratese has one man, Plato, speakign of him, some 40 years later, and we know of Gamaliel form even later recorfs, and thta such delays are cmmon in ancient hisotry.

Textually we have far mroe on Jesus thay any other sage or prophet that live dint he ancient wolrd, with hundreds of texts written within the firts 60 or so years of his life.
You wouldn't happen to have a list of those hundreds of texts?
Why is it that they had to be borrowed? Even if the miralces did not ocure, that doens't mean that the ealru Chruch borrowed them, does it? Miralces ar eomnpreasent in Hman writtings, and seem nto to need predecated soruces.
Even if the miracles of Jesus weren't explicitly borrowed from local pagan myths in Rome and Egypt, the point is that we don't accept those other miracles as historical. What makes Jesus an exception to this?
And you also ofocuxe do't beleive they coidl eb true because you've decidesd agaisn tthat A Priori.
No, I haven't. I've noticed that many different religions make claims to fantastic miracles that don't connect with my everyday experience. I have no reason to accept any of those claims, and Christianity is no exception. And I hesitate to point out that Christian scholars who have accepted the miracles to be true are also relying upon a priori knowledge.
If you haven't seen Denouncement of the JEsus Myth theory othe rhtna "Thats Crazy" and "Peopel who beleive the Bibel dont' beelive that" then you haven't read much academic study on the matter, sicne thier is far, far mroe to it than that, form both Christians and nonchristaisn alike. Some even ardent atheists.
Fair enough. That's why I asked here. Could you provide citations for those ardent atheists? How do they reconcile their ardent atheism with their acceptance of Biblical miracles, if that is indeed what you suggested?
Last edited by Antimatter on Thu May 15, 2008 3:02 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
Antimatter
Posts: 102
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:17 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by Antimatter » Thu May 15, 2008 2:49 pm

KR Wordgazer wrote:Antimatter, the Jesus Myth has about the same place among serious historians as Young-Earth Creationism has among serious scientists. There simply is too much real evidence against either theory to consider them tenable at all. And yet wishful thinkers continue to want to believe them, to support their own views rather than adjusting their views to fit the evidence.
Perhaps we mean different things by "Jesus Myth." What does it mean to you? Who are these serious historians? I have seen thorough and convincing rebuttals of every Young-Earth Creationist claim. Can you provide links to similar rebuttals of the Jesus myth hypothesis?

User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by KR Wordgazer » Thu May 15, 2008 3:20 pm

Antimatter, I wasn't aware we weren't in agreement on what we were talking about. :lol: As I have understood it, the "Jesus Myth" position is that Jesus himself-- his existence-- is a myth. That the person the New Testament accounts are about, never really existed.

As Tiny Thinker put it:
then what we are suggesting by Jesus myth is the idea that there was no Jesus. Ever. Period. This is generally what Metacrock encounters when he debates online and complains about atheists who are "Jesus mythers".
What we have been talking about is this position-- the one Metacrock has encoutered on atheist websites. It is that position which is discounted by all serious historians. There is simply too much external verification from other texts that the Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth did exist, did develop a following, and did get executed by Rome.
Wag more.
Bark less.

User avatar
tinythinker
Posts: 1331
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:16 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by tinythinker » Thu May 15, 2008 3:27 pm

My beef, if anything, is the very fact that people incresingly equate myth with "false history" rather than "story containing a timeless truth". Hence the statement "Jesus is a myth" is in many circles considered a blow against Christianity. It's very much like how some YEC's will say "Evolution is a theory" and think they have weakened evolutionary biology. I have no problem with people criticizing YEC, ID, evolution, theism, atheism, Humanism, Christianity, liberalism, conservatism, etc, but we (large generality not directed at individuals on this forum) need to give each other much more credit and make an effort to get passed the binary reactionism and simplistic dichotomies that use the limited polemic vocabulary of the derisively divisive demagogues. Just a thought.
Adrift in the endless river

User avatar
Antimatter
Posts: 102
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:17 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by Antimatter » Thu May 15, 2008 3:40 pm

Excellent point, Tiny. For a period, I considered myself a liberal Christian. I accepted many Biblical passages as myth, particularly Genesis and segments of the Gospels, but I discovered that I could still appreciate them for their moral lessons. I think the charged reactions we find when discussing the historical accuracy of Jesus arises from the current formulation of Christianity theology. The Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations rest entirely on the atonement for sins on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
Last edited by Antimatter on Thu May 15, 2008 3:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

ZAROVE
Posts: 412
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:07 pm

Re: Jesus Myth

Post by ZAROVE » Thu May 15, 2008 3:52 pm

ZAROVE wrote:We know that CHristianity emerged rapidly and spread rapidly, which doens't happen if its a myth-based cult. ( Usign th eodl definition fo cult.)
We know very little about the growth and spread of the Christian church before Constantine ended Roman persecution.
No, we know a hekc of a lot baout it, because we have records of it. You may wan tot dismis htose records becaue thye are kept by the CHurhc, but at he sam itme we'd have to then disocunt a good many other records, liek those of Socratese kept by his DIsiple Plato, and those of te Palastinian Jews of the ORman Emprie, because no oen else woidl bother ot keep these records.


We have writtigns form CHruch Fathers form the late firts entury tot he 600's AD, and the Pre-Nicene Fathers are obviosuly before COnstantine.



Using very rough yet generous estimates for the size of the Christian church, it's growth can be explained with only a few percentage points of annual growth over that span of nearly three centuries.

Actually, no. If it was base dupon a non-exiastant figure the growth rates woudl be a lot smaller, because the myth sowudl have to ake tiem to perculate and take final form whole graudlaly creatign a self ifdentity, and th emovement woudl firts be composed of a few dozen people, and start.


Instead in CHristianity we have a mvoement that in the ifrts century laone had CHurhce sin every major city in Greece and the Roman EMpire.


Thats at least several hundred people, and much too rapid for it to be a Myth based cult that developed over time.

If we compare that figure with other "myth-based" religions, we'd notice that, as an example, Mormonism has grown at least as quickly, if not much more rapidly than early Christianity.

Mormonism is not a Myth based religion, though, and no one doubts the authenticity of the exitance of the Prophet Joseph Smith.


I think you miss what I am acutlaly syaing.


We know that the story of Jesus's life underwent no real Permutaitons, as we see in the development of Myths. Unless you visit Dan Barkers website, that is, and he strains credulity iwht his view of it.
That isn't true at all. The Bible itself contains multiple permutations of the Jesus story,

No it doens't.


The Bible only recounts the Life of Jeuss in the our Gosples, and each tend to agtree on the outline of his life, and in much tighter terms than just a braod outline.


He is always born in Bethleham, and alwyas teaches, always has the same urn in withthe Pharasees, is always crucified by Pilat e in Jerualme, and laays raises fom the dead on the third day.


So wjat permutaitosn are you talkign about, exaclty?


We se eno mythic develipment of the story of Jesus.


and the Council of Trent rejected several others because those variations were too fantastic and unbelievable.


I beleive you mean, Nicea. Trent was held in the 1500's.

And I think your too reliant upon So-called skeptical soruces, because the Rejecion of many of the other writtigns wa susually due to authenticity and theology, not becuase they wher eunebeleivable.




[quyote]
Take the miracle of the virgin birth as an example. It's entirely absent in the earliest texts in the New Testament: Paul's writings and Mark. [/quote]

Pauls writtigns whrre also incedental literature which addressed spacific concerns of spacific communities. There are lots of etails that he doens't mention, simply because he was not attemptign to give a presentaiton fo the life story of Jesus of Nazareth.


That doens't, however, prove that the idea did not exist at the time of his writtign his epistles.


Marks GOspel is ausmed ot be older base don criterion I do nto fully accept. Namely the datign of it tot he temples desturciton ebcause it predicted htis is weak to me, and the ida that it beign shorter makes it older doens't nessisairly proive true. But even goign wiht it, you still do not have a case.


Marks GOspel begins withhe beginning of Jeuss's Ministry, which doens't preclud the Virign Birht beign preasent in the ealry Churhc communities, it only means that Mark did not write abtu it spacificaly.


Abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.



Matthew introduced this miracle, and Luke greatly expanded upon it.
Speculation. You cnanot show that Luke was dependant upon Mathew and even those hwo think Mathew and Luke took Mark and anther osurce Q to buld their gosples do not think Luke wa sinfleunced by Mathew.

Besides, the ealry CHruch record says Mathew was first written, and although I will be blasted for takignt he CHurhces side, so what? It snot like modenr shoalrhsip is wihtotu tis baises and the CHurhc is a lot closer in time to the events, s why shoudl I beleive the hteory of the day and not even consider he CHurhces datign of the texts?



The legend of Jesus Christ was being further developed and amended as the Church grew, borrowing themes introduced by converts from local pagan religions.
Your proof of htis is what?


Can you show a direct link between Pagan religions and CHristianity? By direct proof, I dont mean a lenghty explanaitin for how the VIrign Birht did not appear itn eh ealriest writtigns and was adde din mathew base don pagan stories, I mean, show me the pagan stories that the idea was borrowed form, and then show me the creidble link between the pagan community and CHristian one.


Otherwise, this is not relaly proven fact, even thoguh you speak as though it is.



Granted, there are alternative explanations, but I find this to be the most plausible because it makes the fewest unsupported assumptions (like actual virgin births).

Actually, you find it the most plasuable, I suspect, because it accords bettewr wiht your own A Priori beleifs, and becuase it helps o nealty explain away Christainity and find borrowings. It sliek when I called Skeptic magaine for an interview, and was in a conversaiton about how Egyptian texts had influnced the bible and the bookj of Proverbs was rlelay larlgye taken form Egyptian soruces, all based upon ideas accepted as fac tthe lady had read from books by


I'm sorry, but you have a set of asusmptiosn and needs that also must be considered and oen thing I tire of is beig told how I refuse to see evidece by aies hwo ever so often sue logic and reaon. It snot liek your view of what is an dis not more plausbale inst infleunced by what woudl suit you rown purposes.




We know that no one in the firts century ever challenged the eistance of Jeus, even those who most wanted to discredit Christianity. Are we expected ot belive that those hwo liv din Jeruslem and owudl have been aware of the events simply didn't notice, in their attacks ont he ealry CHurhc, that their wa sno such Crucificiton or man named Jesus?
Again, allow me to point out that I'm not concerned with whether Jesus existed as a historical individual. I'm interested in the historical accuracy of the miracles, his resurrection, and the reliability of the Biblical account of those events.


But the thread itself, need I poitn out, is not base d arudn that, it is based around your notaiton of Metacrocks endless posting about the JEuss Myth theory. The Jeus Myt theory is not that Jeus sexisted but his Miralces didn't, or veen that Pagan elements wher ebororwnd to embellish his life sotrh, but that JEuss himself never eisted.

That is what you see Metacrock discussing, and what is meant by a CHrist Myther.




We know that their are far mroe writtings of Jeuss and form far earlier than most other Ancient igures. A big deal is made about the Gspels beign wrotten 40 years late rby the Mythers, but th eoverlooks the EPistles, or say that Paul was silent about an earhtly JEsus, when he wasn't. They also forget that Socratese has one man, Plato, speakign of him, some 40 years later, and we know of Gamaliel form even later recorfs, and thta such delays are cmmon in ancient hisotry.

Textually we have far mroe on Jesus thay any other sage or prophet that live dint he ancient wolrd, with hundreds of texts written within the firts 60 or so years of his life.

You wouldn't happen to have a list of those hundreds of texts?
http://www.earlychristianwrittings.com houses many.




Why is it that they had to be borrowed? Even if the miralces did not ocure, that doens't mean that the ealru Chruch borrowed them, does it? Miralces ar eomnpreasent in Hman writtings, and seem nto to need predecated soruces.
Even if the miracles of Jesus weren't explicitly borrowed from local pagan myths in Rome and Egypt, the point is that we don't accept those other miracles as historical. What makes Jesus an exception to this?

WHo is we?

and the poitn is you still cang sho any conneciton t Pagan cultures.

Its asusmption base don speculation and further asusmption.




And you also ofocuxe do't beleive they coidl eb true because you've decidesd agaisn tthat A Priori.
No, I haven't. I've noticed that many different religions make claims to fantastic miracles that don't connect with my everyday experience.
Woudl you expect miracles to be every-day occuances?

I have no reason to accept any of those claims, and Christianity is no exception. And I hesitate to point out that Christian scholars who have accepted the miracles to be true are also relying upon a priori knowledge.
I don't conern myself wiht Christian Schoalrs at allpoints, but I am tellign you tht you have no actual evidence agaisnt them, and this helps to oursuade you to look for alternate explantions, wich in turn may lead you to erroneous conclusosn such as the ealry CHristain communities borrowing form local Pagan traditions, of which you hav eno evidence, simply because it "SOund smor eplausable" and you have ehard it oemwhere.

Acutlly borrowign form Pagan cultures is not plausbale givne how CHristianity larlgye shunned them.






If you haven't seen Denouncement of the JEsus Myth theory othe rhtna "Thats Crazy" and "Peopel who beleive the Bibel dont' beelive that" then you haven't read much academic study on the matter, sicne thier is far, far mroe to it than that, form both Christians and nonchristaisn alike. Some even ardent atheists.
Fair enough. That's why I asked here. Could you provide citations for those ardent atheists?
It depend son what you mean.

If you ar enot interested in debatign Jeuss's actula historical existance, which is what I was referign to, that omits a lot. If you only mean the borrowign from Pagan cultures, Ill see if I can dig up somethign but I do know that most who study the matter conclude that this did not happen, because the ealry Christains, even those hwo converted form Pagan bakcgrounds, shunned paganism as a whole, much like Judaism did.

It thus is unlikely that they'd borrow elements form it.

How do they reconcile their ardent atheism with their acceptance of Biblical miracles, if that is indeed what you suggested?

It is not ehat I suggested.

I suggested that they scoff at the Jeuss Myth theory, which states that Jesus never existed and is an amalgamation fo pagan gods, and that they'd scoff at the idea of Pagan Borowing.

Post Reply