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Christ in Egypt: The Alexandrian Roots of Christianity
Christ in Egypt The Alexandrian Roots of Christianity
As D.M. Murdock has commented at Booktalk, this chapter sets out key arguments in Christ in Egypt. In showing the prominent role of the religious group known as the Therapeuts of Alexandria, Murdock presents a compelling case for the Egyptian roots of Christianity, and shows how the facts reveal that the traditional view of Jesus Christ as a historical person is based on the flimsiest evidence.
Christianity assumes that Jesus Christ was a real man. This baseless assumption has no evidence except the self-serving propaganda of the early church, and has no support in historical sources that would be expected to mention Jesus if he really existed. The amusing thing, abundantly proved in this chapter, is that external evidence from the alleged time of Christ shows that the church already existed among the Egyptian Therapeuts, but Christians have ignored and distorted this evidence because it refutes their framework.
For example, Philo of Alexandria, whose extensive writings provide intellectual foundations for Christian theology, explained before the rise of Christianity how Christian festivals and beliefs were found among the Therapeuts. Many theologians actually discuss Philo, but reject his claims because they undermine their dogma.
Assuming that Philo was wrong because Jesus really lived is just like saying the planets move in epicycles because the sun goes around the earth, or that things get lighter when they burn because they lose phlogiston. This common process of rationalization involves explaining away the evidence in order to fit a rigid false assumption. When the error of the assumption is discovered, the puzzle is solved: planets move in smooth ellipses because they orbit the sun, refuting geocentrism; burnt matter is heavier than unburnt matter through chemically combination with oxygen, refuting phlogiston theory; Christianity evolved from previous mythology through the invention of Jesus Christ as a fictional character, refuting supernatural dogma.
This common structure of scientific revolutions, whereby an old false theory desperately ignores contrary evidence, is abundantly verified in the process of paradigm shift documented by T.S. Kuhn. People have trouble applying this framework of the evolution of ideas to religion because faith claims that it has different standards of evidence from science. But the fact is that despite the efforts of the church to suppress it, enough evidence remains of the actual process of the formation of the church to prove that conventional religious explanations are impossible, leaving the hypothesis of Christ as myth as the only consistent picture.
Murdock explains this process of church formation in relentless detail. Roman Emperors Vespasian and Hadrian, and prominent writers Philo and Josephus, made comments that can only be understood if they had no knowledge of a historical Jesus. Yet their time, location and role means in each case that if Jesus was real it beggars belief that they had never heard of him.
Emperor Vespasian organised a big meeting in 69 AD to invent a new religion suitable for the Roman Empire. This meeting in Israel was documented by leading historians Tacitus and Seutonius, but does not mention Jesus, who one would have thought would have deserved a mention in this context. Instead, there is nothing. Emperor Hadrian, writing early in the second century when Christianity was well established, said “there is no Christian leader who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or a master of wrestlers.” (p443) Of course Christians tried to suppress this letter, as clear evidence of the fraud in their origins, but there it stands, demanding explanation.
With several hundred thousand Hellenizing Jews living in Alexandria at the alleged time of Christ, the means, motive and opportunity for the gradual invention of a new syncretic religion, joining ideas from various sources, are abundantly clear. Philo, writing in Alexandria at the alleged time of Christ, made no mention of this incarnate Messiah, but did say that the Therapeuts formed a community at Alexandria, with practices otherwise thought to be solely Christian.
Ancient Christians Eusebius, Jerome and Epiphanius described the Therapeuts as early Christians. Murdock observes that the only “apparent reason for dismissing what appear to be truthful admissions on the part of the church fathers is that these would be fatal to the received Christian history.” (p455n)
Last edited by Robert Tulip on Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
CiE p. 433 "...International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:
It was in Alexandria that the Jews first came so powerfully under the influence of Hellenism, and here that the peculiar Graeco-Jewish philosophy sprang up of which Philo was the most notable representative.
Indeed, Hellenistic judaism had its "cheif seat" at Alexandria, where also the Jewish bible was translated into Greek and called the Sepuagint. In describing the translation at Alexandria of the Septuagint some two to three centuries prior to the common era, Morenz states, "It can be demonstrated that the place of translation left its mark on many passages." One of these marks included the invocation, "Lord, Lord, King of the gods," which would be a strange statement for a monotheistic people. However, the Hebrews and Israelites were not always strict monotheists but continually "whored after other gods." The Jews who translated the Septuagint were likely Egyptians, rather than Palestinians, as their knowledge of Hebrew was very poor. At the disposal of Jewish Hellenizing efforts were the University and Library of Alexandria, presenting potential edification from around the known world. As concerns the Egyptian religion, Alexandria and Christianity, Morenz remarks:
Without abandoning our principle that Egyptian influence made itself felt as an undercurrent throughout Hellenism, we may nevertheless claim pride of place for Alexandria and so consider Alexandrian theology as the intermediary between the Egyptian religious heritage and Christianity.
As we can see, this respected Egyptologist is not timid in his declaration as to the influence of Egyptian religion upon Christianity, or about Alexandria as beig the "crucible" for this new creation."
Then Murdock moves towards the Therapuet's of Alexandria:
"One group of Hellenizing Egyptian Jews, or, rather, "Hebrews of a fashion," was deemed the "Therapuets," as a type of monastic community centered at Alexandria, with similar groups elsewhere around the Mediterranean. ...However, the Encyclopedia Britannica sees the fact that the origin of the Therapeutan name was not known in Philo's time to serve as proof of the sect's antiquity:
Philo himself was uncertain as to the meaning of the name, whether it was given to them because they were "physicians" of souls or because they were "servants" of the One God.... That the origin of the name of these ascetics was unknown in Philo's time goes to prove their antiquity.
...Regarding the Therapeutan studies, Philo states (X,28-29):
They read the Holy Scriptures and apply themselves to their ancestral philosophy by means of allegory, since they believe that the words of the literal text are symbols of a hidden nature, revealed through its underlying meanings. They have also writings of men of old, who were the founders of their sect and had left behind many memorials of the type of treatment employed in allegory, and taking these as a sort of archetype they imitate the method of this principle of interpretation...
Since the Therapeuts were essentially Jews, Hebrews, Israelites or Samaritans who lived in the Diaspora, their scriptures constituted the Hebrew Bible, while their own writings may have comprised some of the Jewish apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, among others. ...In other words, the Therapeuts interpreted biblical scriptures and their own writings allegorically, which means that they did not necessarily perceive them as "history."
Murdock then goes into the collegia brotherhood system and how wide spread it was around the Roman Empire and how the Therapeuts fit into that system. Much of the tales of Paul's Journey's are noted as going to these various points of interest among the "collegia." She then goes over some of the "mysteries" promoted by these Therapeuts on page 448:
"One of the mysteries was God as a "Trinity in Unity," a doctrine predating the founding of Christianity, despite that religions's claim of being "unique, divine revelation." Another of the mysteries, as we have seen, was the supposed ability of a virgn to "bring forth" as well as that of a woman becoming a "born-again virgin" by virtue of the grace of God. Again, in this regard we possess ancient testimony from Christian writers, e.g., Epiphanius and the Chronicle author, that there was at Alexandria a temple to the maiden goddess Kore in which a virgin brought forth a newborn baby at the winter solstice. The evidence points to the Egyptian Therapeuts constituting a poweful group of paganizing Jews "of a fashion" whose affiliation extended around the Mediterranean and included non-Jewish religious groups and organizations as well. These organizations, a evidenced by the Egyptian Therapeuts, possessed a structure very similar to the later Christian religion. Indeed, there are a number of important and profound similarities between the Therapeuts and the later Christians, again, a comparison noted in antiquity as well."
In the next section called The Proto-Christians, church father Eusebius comes into play in terms of how he regarded these Therapeuts which Philo wrote of in the early first century before Christianity is supposed to have been out, as early Christians. More and more pieces of the puzzle continue to come together as the book moves on...
"One Catholic writer who insisted upon the connection between Philo's Therapeuts and the Christians was Eusebius during the fourth century. In The History of the Church(2.17), in speaking of "Philo's account of the Egyptian ascetics," Eusebius remarks:
Whether he invented this designation [Therapeutae] and applied it to them, fitting a suitable name to their mode of life, or whether they were actually called this from the very start, because the title Christian was not yet in general use, need not be discussed here.
As demonstrated previously, Philo did not invent the designation of "therapeutae," as it was connected to religious associations or collegia centuries prior to the common era. Eusebius goes on to compare Philo's description of the Therapeuts with Christian monastic life, as found especially in the Acts of the Apostles. Although Eusebius asserts that the Therapeuts were the "orginal Christian community converted by St. Mark," the case could be be made that this rare moment of candor from an early Church father will prove deleterious to the implausible claim of Christianity's supernatural genesis, since Philo's account preceeded the creation of the faith. ...In edition, neither Clement of Alexandria nor Church father Origen, an Egyptian who taught at the Alexandrian school make any mention of this story connecting Mark to the Therapeuts or of his presence in their city at any point, which they surely would have done to increase their own credibility as spokesman for a "sanctioned" church. The reason Eusebius wanted Mark to be in Alexandria, of course, was to explain why there were "Christians" there at so early a time. The reality, however, may be that the Therapeuts morphed into Christians because it was they who essentially created much of Christianity, with no "historical Jesus" in fact founding the faith in Judea. In his commentary, Eusebius springs another surprise on us with his assessment that the Therapeuts' "allegorical writings" represented the basis of the canonical gospels! After quoting Philo's discussion of the Therapeuts' "short works by early writers, the founders of their sect, who left many specimens of the allegorical method," Eusebius (2.17) remarks:
It seems like that Philo wrote this after listening to their exposition of the Holy Scriptures, and it is very probable that what he calls short works by their early writers were the gospels, the apostolic writings, and in all probability passages interpreting the old prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews and several others of Paul's epistles
A more blatant identification of the Egypto-Jewish origins of Christianity we could not hope to find. Yet, scholars who hold onto the received Christian history have assiduously ignored or dismissed this "smoking gun." ...As can be seen, Eusebius declared the Therapeuts to be Christians, their writings to be the basis of the New Testament texts, and their customs to be the same as those of the Christians. The question remains, was the Church historian just grasping at straws in order to find an early path for the Alexandrian Christianity, or did he know more, unwittingly admitting, perhaps, that this Therapeutan network, by whatever name, was the real source of the Christian religion? ...Epiphanius thus was quite sure Philo was describing Christians - "Christians," in fact, who lived at Alexandria before Christianity was created in Judea! ...Could it be that Paul's own Syro-Gnostic Christ was syncretized with the Alexandrian-Philonic Logos at Corinth and then spread by Apollos throughout the Therapeutan collegia network? If the theory about Apollos is correct, then Therapeutae branches would be the same as the Christian churches in Paul's letters. Since we know that there existed mystery schools and religious brotherhoods in these very cities addressed in the Pauline epistles, it would not be surprising to find them both representative of the Therapeuts and engaged in the creation of Christianity...."
...Picking up on page 455, Murdock continues:
The solution to these various problems with identifying the Therapeuts and the first Christians in Egypt, as well as their texts as the basis of the canonical gospels and epistles, lies in a "radical" analysis of the data concerning Christian origins along strictly scientific lines, without fervent faith or blind belief in the gospel story preventing us from seeing the facts. What we discover when we look closely at the evidence is that the gospel story represents a largely fictional account begun towards the end of the first century, and reworked and reformatted until the end of the second century, at which point it was solidly written into history and backdated to the beginning of the first century. With these facts in mind, especially that there is no credible scientific evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ at any point, or for the existence of the four canonical gospels as we h ave them before the end of the second century, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall neatly into place. One of these pieces would be the allegorizing "short works" of the Therapeuts depicted by Philo around 20 to 30 AD/CE that possibly discussed the coming messiah or a spiritual savior not yet incarnate, Hellenized texts that were later Gnosticized and historicized in several different directions until they eventually ended up codified in the four canonical gospels at the end of the second century. Another, of course, would be the pre-existing Church structure complete with hierarchy and holidays that existed in Egypt and elsewhere, known by the name of "Therapeuts" and other designations. Viewing this situation scientifically and logically, factoring in all the correspondences between the Egyptian and Christian religions, could we not reasonably conclude that, rather than having been instituted by a supernatural Jewish son of God, a significant part of Christianity constitutes the natural outcome of a Hellenizing and allegorizing Jewish sect living outside of Alexandria, home of the famed library possessing half a million texts from around the known world, including many discussing religion and mythology?
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Re: Christ in Egypt: The Alexandrian Roots of Christianity
The deliberate invention of Serapis by the Greco-Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy i in the third century BC is a model for the invention of Jesus Christ in Alexandria in the second century AD. I mentioned Serapis in the thread on the twelve followers, and would like to explore this further here.
This intentional founding of the worship of Serapis as a new imaginary religion followed the Greek conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and aimed to provide a belief system that would be acceptable to both Egyptians and Greeks. The mixing of different cultures in the ancient Mediterranean world led to the need to mix their religions. When Greeks spread throughout the Hellenistic world after Alexander's wars, they found it necessary to compromise with the beliefs of the local inhabitants rather than keeping their Greek traditions intact. Greeks did not like worshiping gods with animal heads, so they invented Serapis, a combination of the Egyptian god Osiris with the Greek god Zeus, among others.
Why was Serapis not adequate in the common era? The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD changed the situation. The Egyptian city of Alexandria was already half Jewish. It experienced a new influx of Jewish refugees from Palestine. In this melting pot, the previous spiritual cosmic Christ/Serapis was transformed into a historical savior.
Serapis, being purely invented and acknowledged as such, lacked the subversive political force of an incarnate messiah who claimed to be real and not imaginary. Serapis could not compete with the new doctrine. Belief in Christ grafted the law of Moses and Isaiah on to the Greco-Egyptian myth of Serapis, providing a new ethical purpose in a vision of millennial transformation of the world, 'the last shall be first'.
The Jewish War had proved that the Jews could not simply be ignored as part of the melting pot, but it seems that Christianity, after Rome had robbed the Jews of their land, sought to rob them of their heritage as well. Murdock says the Therapeuts were "Hellenizing Egyptian Jews" (p433). It is not surprising that they would graft Israeli traditions onto the Greco-Egyptian myth of Serapis if their agenda was a new universal ethical faith. One thing that is perhaps surprising or ironic here is that if Christianity was actually founded by the Therapeuts, who were a partly deracinated Jewish brotherhood, they gave rise to a dogma which would prove universally popular across the Roman Empire except among the Jews, who became the object of racial hatred on the basis of this new ideology which incorporated their heritage.
A key theme regarding the comparison of Serapis with Christ is the ability to invent religious ideas that enjoy mass appeal. No one says Serapis was a real man, but Roman Emperor Hadrian said that Christians in the early second century were worshippers of Serapis. The motive to write the Gospels appears to be the recognition that myth just didn't cut it as an ethical power. If Christians wanted to transform the world, they needed to believe in a material cause of redeeming change, something directly supplied by the doctrine of the incarnation of God in Christ. Admitting that Christ was fiction like Serapis just would not do.
Earlier Jews had already put religion in the service of politics by inventing the empire of David and Solomon and the supposed antiquity of the book of Deuteronomy in the seventh century BC, hundreds of years after the supposed facts. The invention of Serapis was an even more recent instructive model as a way to give a popular facelift to tired old myths that only worked in a mono-racial society. The most plausible basis for the production of the New Testament is that it was deliberately invented by the Jewish Therapeut Brotherhood of Alexandria, intentionally targeting the new multiracial societies of the common era with a story that would provide a lowest common denominator for all to believe, incorporating a plausible cosmic critique of the lax ethics of the time. Christianity relied on deception to achieve its popularity, a deception so successful that Christians today are still hoodwinked by the fiction that Jesus is more historical than Serapis, Osiris or Zeus.
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Re: Christ in Egypt: The Alexandrian Roots of Christianity
Moving on, Murdock goes into the "Hybridizing Emperor" on p. 457
During the centuries surrounding the era when Philo wrote about the Therapeuts, Greeks and Jews engaged in "extensive rioting" at Alexandria, which likely explains the push for their unification through the worship of hybrid gods such as Serapis. It is in this fractured environment that the idea for Christianity likewise evidently began to become formulated. Of course, various religious movements in Judea and Syria, as well as at Rome, also constituted factors in what eventually became Christianity. Indeed, Antioch and Jerusalem may be considered the "birthplace" of certain Christian ideas, while Alexandria served as the crucible of the Christian religion.
So then Murdock goes on through the following sections outlining what was going on in Judea and Syria, as well as Rome and Alexandria that constituted factors in what became Christianity. First off, in 37 CE Emperor Caligula appointed Herod Agrippa I as King of Judea. He owed a great deal of money to Philo's wealthy brother in Alexandria. This was the source of "much Jewish unrest" and Herod was basically hated. Murdock points out that "This selection probably served as the seed of the anti-Herodianism that eventually made its way into Christianity, a new religion specifically created to remove these thorny issues from the Empire." (p.458)
Then comes the appointment of Vespasian as governor of Palestine by Emperor Nero (37-68 CE). Vespasian was quickly surrounded by "flatterers" and with that came claims that he was "fulfillment of prophecy and the world's savior" as spread around by Josephus. Murdock goes on to point out:
Moreover, rumor has it that when future emperor Vespasian went to Mt. Carmel in Judea to visit priests in 69 AD/CE, he specifically discussed creating a hybrid religion that would unite Judaism and Paganism. The site of Mt. Carmel had been used for religious purposes as far back as 3,500 years ago, if not much earlier. By the time Vespasian visited Mt. Carmel, the alter to the Jewish tribal god Yahweh was being shared by the Greek god Zeus, among others. ...Vespasians "all-important meeting" on Mt. Carmel included the governor of Syria, Mucianus, as well as Basilides, a priest who was possibly a representative of the very wealthy nephew of Philo of Alexandria, Tiberius Julius Alexander, the procurator of Judea under Claudius who later became prefect/governor of Egypt and Alexandria, eventually electing Vespasian emperor. ...According to the Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56-c. 117 AD/CE), during this auspicious occasion on Mt. Carmel the priest Basilides sacrificed an animal and, after examining its entrails, told Vespasian: "Whatever are your designs, whether to build a house, to enlarge the boundaries of your lands, or increase your slaves, a mighty seat, immense borders, a multitude of men, are given to you." This prophecy of good fortune and abundance was spread far and wide by Vespasian's underlings, to the effect that the Roman politician gained great esteem and confidence.
Vespasian later traveled to Alexandria where it is said that when he entered the Serapium Basilides appeared in front of him, "miraculously." He apparently had with him "sacred leaves, chaplets, and cakes." Latin historian Suetonius (69/75-c. 130 AD/CE) said in "The Deified Vespasian" (The Live of the Caesars, 8.7.2 that Vespasian performed miracles after this apparition such as healing a blind man and a lame man in the name of Serapis. Murdock continues on p.460 saying:
Also included in this analysis is a comparison of Vespasian's use of spittle to heal a blind man with the same miracle as Christ was said to have done at John 9:6, in a text post-dates this episode with Vaspasian. It is interesting to note that this spittle incident of curing a blind man occurs in the (Egyptian) gospel of John - as if to compete with this famous miracle at Alexandria by Vespasian - the canonical text of which was nowhere to be found until the end of the first century, by conservative estimates. In reality, there is no hint of the existence of the canonical gospel of John as we have it until the end of the second century, so this famed spittle healing of Vespasians was known to Alexandrians for over a century before hearing about the same miracle of Jesus Christ via Johns gospel. Once more, it must be remarked that the gospel of John appears to have been written specifically to win over the Alexandrian followers of Egypto-Greco-Jewish-Gnostic religion by usurping their myths and legends and reworking them to revolve around a fictional Jewish messiah.
This all adds to what comes later in the section about the gospel of John. But at any rate, there was a lot going on between Syria, Judea, and Egypt on the political front. There was a sense of needing to formulate yet another hybridized godman such as Serapis. Something that could apply to the Jews and possibly draw them into a new state religion. During all of this, there's no mention of any such miracle-making godman as portrayed in the gospels. It's as if he never existed at the time and made no real impact on anyone. Murdock states:
"When Vespasian was in Judea making pretenses to messiahship, one might imagine he would be besieged with agitators who believed that the messiah had already come, especially if Christ had not only existed but had done all the astounding miracles said of him, including healing the sick, multiplying fishes and loaves, raising other people and himself from the dead, with the bodies of "saints" pouring out of their graves and wandering the streets of Jerusalem, as well as Christ ascending to heaven! Yet there is no mention in any history of the era of any such agitation - which might have orginated in the Jerusalem Church, one might think, if it had really existed as such at the time. The gospel depiction of the Jewish and Roman milieus of the time of Jesus's purported advent becomes absurd and naive when the true history and politics of the region are understood.
The rabblerousing continued. The destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE resulted and the trouble continued into the second century in Palestine and at Alexandria. It is only in the second century, after the revolt against Trajan in 116 CE, "that the major elements of Christian myth find there way into literature." (p.461) Before that only the Jewish Gnostic efforts by Paul and others can be detected, which, do not reflect the gospel story as historical. Murdocks points out that, "The Gnostic synthesizing efforts, in fact, are more abundant at this time than are the Judaizing and historicizing endeavors found in later Christianity." (p.461) Later yet, during Hadrian's time some 20 years later, the Jewish homeland was completely destroyed which ended Israel as a nation. This is the point that Christianity as we understand it today began to be formulated. There were also "various factions jockying for position until the end of the second century when Catholic efforts essentially began to dominate within the Roman Empire, culminating with the officialization of the religion in the fourth century by Emperor Constantine." Murdock concludes the chapter as such:
In consideration of all that we have learned here, from the blatantly obvious influence of the Egyptian religion on Christianity to the fact of the canonical gospels not concretely appearing in the historical record until the end of the second century, could it be that what was contained in these "secret books" of Egypt would further prove the Christian religion to be the remake of the Egyptian? Under such circumstances as described here, it is obvious why an emperor or emperors would make efforts to synthesize the many faiths of Rome to unify the empire under one state religion, as we contend happened with Christianity.
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