Tat, I don’t believe I have ever objected to this quote from the church fathers, indeed I have drawn attention to Murdock’s mention of it. However, what I do question is the inference drawn from this quote that there was indeed nothing new in Christianity. We see this inference in Murdock’s repeated statement in Christ in Egypt that Christianity is “nothing but a rehash” of older mythology. This brings to mind frying up last night’s cold cooked potatoes and carrots to recombine existing ingredients with nothing new added, except maybe some salt and pepper and oil. A ‘rehash’ is quite different from an evolutionary adaptation. If Christianity is nothing but a rehash, we have nothing but a purely negative and cynical reading of Christianity.
This claim that there is nothing new in Christianity had a specific context in Augustine, in his recognition that earlier thinkers such as Plato were Christians before Christ, recognizing the eternal logos as the rational organizing principle of reality. I don’t believe that Augustine would have therefore held that just because Plato apprehended the Logos that the incarnation of Christ brought nothing new into the world, considering his view that Christ made the logos manifest, the word made flesh.
The newness of Christianity, as a universal faith appropriate to a new age, represents an evolutionary mutation of older isolated religions, reviving them in altered form for a common era. Greeks would not accept Egyptian gods with animal heads, or the Jewish idea that the Jews alone were God’s chosen race, and the cult of Serapis lacked the Jewish sense of eschatology. The syncretic combination of these disparate faiths in Christianity updated the old beliefs by bringing them together in a universal believable claim. The fact that this vision got taken over by crass political schemers is not grounds to dismiss it as a rehash.
I find Murdock brilliant in her exposition, but it really is worth analyzing why she gets ignored. My view is that she has got so used to presenting a contrarian position that she finds few people able and willing to engage in constructive dialogue. This leads to a tone in her writing that people can easily read as rather bombastic, as in this ‘rehash’ claim. It is important to give Christianity credit for its positive achievements, while also developing a robust critique, in order to be able to engage with the theological community who naturally react defensively to a perceived assertion that Christianity contains nothing of value. So it is better in my view to stress the evolutionary continuity between Christianity and myth than to assert that Christianity brought nothing new.
Yes, this is part of the newness, but as I have just said, there is also the use of myth from various sources, combining older separate doctrines into a unique synthesis. I think your cosmological point here is essential, but it is not the whole story, which also has to look at the social and political levels in their own terms.
And this Yuga motif is also found in Daniel, with his statue of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. We can also see it in the astral motifs of revelation, especially the foundations of the holy city as the twelve ages of the Great Year. As I just mentioned in reply to DWill on another thread, this cosmology of precession provides an organizing principle for the Christian doctrine of fall and redemption. In the chapter of Christ in Egypt discussed in this thread, we see the motif of Christ and Horus at age twelve as pointing to both the year and the great year, as temporal cycles with twelve natural divisions.
I have previously noted that the natural cycle of ice ages is caused by precession and maps quite precisely to the mythic cosmology. I discussed this at some length in the booktalk thread on Milankovitch Cycle in Myth
. The physical and temporal scale of this claim means that it would be rather difficult to devise experiments for it; what is needed is rather a logical deductive analysis to illustrate that this hypothesis is the most plausible explanation of the available facts.
Each o fthese evolutionary steps is a response to a material change in habitat, congruent with the generally observed evolution of myth as reflecting political realities. We are seeing a similar evolution occurring today, with the formerly isolated western doctrine of Christianity adapting to new global realities.
I don’t think DWill has opposed the mythicist position, it is rather that he has questioned astrotheology as an explanation. It is one thing to say that conventional biblical narratives are false and mythical, it is quite another to explain this problem by reference to an overarching astral hypothesis. Of course my view is that astrotheology provides a compelling scientific explanation, but the burden of proof here remains with astrotheology to provide a convincing hypothesis.
Part of the problem is that the astronomy is not easy for people to grasp. We see even the so-called Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge dominated by the ludicrous fantasy of Walter Cruttenden of a binary star. To have any credibility, it is essential to ground argument in established knowledge. If people want to advance an astrotheological argument as scientific, they have to do the research into how astrotheology is grounded in and compatible with established physical knowledge.
The question of how a hypothetical Jesus figure may have contributed to the rise of the Jesus myth is just speculation. Carl Jung, in his Answer to Job, points out that whatever the historical reality, the myth of Christ as the eternal logos is the primary focus of faith. This is a theme that can be expanded to show that the Christ of faith is astrotheological, because astrotheology keys into the inherent rationality of astronomy, regardless of any speculation about a literal founder figure. It is more than coincidence that Jesus just happened to supposedly live at the precise moment of the observed turning point of the cosmic ages.
My view is that the turmoil following the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD produced an overwhelming requirement for a common new belief, and the Jesus story emerged to fill the hole. The diverse messianic narratives swirling around had to be united into a common story. If there was one man at the origin of the story, he was more a secret theoretical cosmologist than a public religious and political leader. A public leader would have been noticed and mentioned by Josephus and Philo.
These are really critical and central observations Tat, and well posed. The overall problem is to examine the rival hypotheses to assess how well they explain the facts, on the balance of probabilities. Once the astrotheological explanation is understood, which is a big hurdle for most, we can see there really is no other sensible explanation for the loaves and fishes miracle. Again, this miracle points to a cosmic visionary at its origin, not a political leader. It is someone for whom the idea in Peter that ‘a thousand years is as a day to the Lord’ formed the entire framework for time.
The issue with evemerism is that people put their faith in Jesus, and hang on to any straw that can sustain this faith. The Jesus of the Gospels has been comprehensively demolished by science, with the virgin birth, the physical resurrection and all the other miracles now objects of mockery as literal belief. People desperately cling to the idea that even if Jesus did not rise from the dead, at least he inspired the gospels. So the question emerges, are the stories from a man made God (evemerism) or from a God made man (mythicism)?
The internal difficulties of the man made God hypothesis have been laid bare by Murdock in various books, and also by writers such as Earl Doherty. It is absurd why the literal historical Christ does not emerge clearly for more than a century after he lived. This is simply too long a period to be credible. It leaves the ‘God made man’ hypothesis as the primary contender. And we see that this idea of a primary rational eternal logos has a perfect fit with the big story of precession, providing a persuasive empirical explanation of how the Christ myth emerged.