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Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier) 
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 Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)



Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:49 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Enjoyed the coverage of the mystery religion stuff.

I like the book best when it's laying out some knowledge.



Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:59 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
As long as it agrees with your thinking. I will prove the existence of Christ beyond any shadow of a doubt!



Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:40 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
ok bob, i'll start another thread called "bob proves the existence of Christ"

just so we don't clog up this book discussion thread.



Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Interesting passage from Chapter 4:

"...I have seen recent attempts to claim that pagans had no notion of resurrection, ...by producing a hyper-specific definition of one particular kind of resurrection, proving they didn't have or accept it, then concluding they had no notion of resurrection at all. But such a specificity did not exist in ancient vocabulary. Many different Jewish and Christian sects believed in many different kinds of resurrection, and all were called 'resurrection'. And there were yet more kinds of resurrection imagined among pagans, and considerable overlap between their ideas and those of the Jews and Christians. I shall thus avoid any fallacy of anachronistic precision by using all words for 'resurrection' to mean just what they meant to everyone in antiquity, whether pagan, Jew, or Christian: rising from a state of death to be alive again. Nothing more."



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier lists a few dozen "elements" in this chapter concerning the Middle East in the 1st century and the religious climate of that period. He mentions that messianism was riding high and that many Jewish sects and writers of that period expressed messianic expectations prior to the formation of Christianity. He goes through the writings of Josephus who never specifically mentioned messianism but mentions four figures that were clearly messianic:

The Samaritan said he would reveal the relics of the true temple on Mt. Gerazim. The Samaritans considered themselves the true Jews and also had messianic expectations. In Deuteronomy, Joshua led a congregation to Mt. Gerazim after crossing the Jordan to receive a blessing from God. This was seen as the beginning of Israel. So the Samaritan was seen as reconstituting Israel on Mt. Gerazim.

Theudas said he would part the Jordan as Joshua had done in the 3rd chapter of the book bearing his name. So, again, the reconstitution of Israel and similar to Jesus starting his messianic career by being baptized in the Jordan except the waters don’t part but rather the heavens above them. Jesus was celestially baptized.

The Egyptian, Josephus tells us, gathered disciples and preached from the Mount of Olives. He said he would topple the walls of Jerusalem just as Jesus spoke of those walls falling such that not one stone would remain atop another. Joshua also toppled the walls of Jericho after crossing the Jordan as his first act of messianic conquest and so this is, again, a reconstitution of Israel. This particular messianic figure being called the Egyptian also brings to mind Joshua being born in Egypt prior to the Exodus and Jesus also spending his infancy in Egypt according to Matthew (while no other gospel makes this claim).

The Talmud also claimed that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the messiah, a “son of Joseph,” who would die and be resurrected and then quotes Zecharia 12:10 in support of this:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

Carrier concludes that the Christians borrowed this concept from the Jews even though the Christian references pre-date the Jewish ones because the idea that the Jews would have vindicated Christianity by making this up after the fact is too ridiculous to be seriously entertained. There were certainly enough pogroms against the Jews, including the burning of talmudic manuscripts that we can assume the earliest references had been long destroyed. If this is not true then we must assume that Jews and Christians alike independently hit on the idea of Isaiah 53 referring to their messiah, a son of Joseph, which is equally ridiculous.

In the seventh century writing, Apocalypse of Zerubbabel, there will be two messiahs—one the son of David and the other the son of Joseph. Messiah ben-Joseph would come first and be killed by an evil tyrant and then Messiah ben-David would resurrect him and the End of Days would begin. Similarly, Daniel chapter 9 references a messiah that will be killed just before the End of Days and his death will atone for all sins. In the Melchizedek scroll (11Q13) of the Qumran community, there is a reference to a “messenger” in Isaiah 52-53 who is the suffering servant who dies to atone for humanity’s sins. The 11Q13 scroll also implies that this servant is indeed the same messianic figure mentioned in Daniel Chapter 9. Hence, the messiah will die, atone for everyone’s sins and the world will end.

In the Wisdom of Solomon, an important book to the early Christians, reference is made to a son of God that hated and dies a torturous death but is resurrected and crowned king in heaven. We can surmise that at least some Jews and Christians understood this son of God to be identical to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

In Zecharia 3:1, we read of a high priest Jesus or Joshua being put on trial by Satan: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” In Chapter 6, we read:

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.

This Joshua appears to be the same as Jesus Christ as recounted in Hebrews—a high priest who sits on a throne:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. " And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Likewise among the Dead Sea community was the belief that the messiah was pierced for our transgressions and in Hebrews we read in Chapter 2:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

So before the Christians came along, the Jews and Samaritans already had not only messianic expectations but ones that appear to be remarkably similar to the Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ.



Last edited by DB Roy on Sat Feb 06, 2016 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Anyway, if you bothered to read through all that, there are these three dots--Isaiah 52-3, Zecharia chapters 3 and 6, and Daniel 9. We need only connect them. Here is Carrier's conclusion (verbatim):

The significance of this is that if such a connection has been made, the connector would have before him, in a simple pesher of Jewish scripture, a celestial being named Jesus Christ Rising, a high priest of God, in opposition to Satan, who is wrongly executed even though innocent, and dies to atone for all sins, is buried and subsequently 'raised', exalted to the highest station in heaven, appointed king with supreme heavenly power by God, and who will then build God's house (the church). That sounds exactly like Christianity. And all from connecting just three passages in the OT that already have distinctive overlapping similarities. such a coincidence cannot be ignored; it must be included in our background knowledge. Would Christians really have been that lucky, that all this connected so obviously? Or are we seeing here where the whole idea of the Christian gospel came from in the first place?



Last edited by DB Roy on Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 06, 2016 4:58 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
In Zecharia 3:1, we read of a high priest Jesus or Joshua being put on trial by Satan: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” In Chapter 6, we read:

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.

This Joshua appears to be the same as Jesus Christ as recounted in Hebrews—a high priest who sits on a throne:


Carrier tries to argue that a heavenly Joshua the high priest is found here and this was a basis for the supposed belief in the 'hallucinated' sub-lunar Jesus of his thesis.

First off Joshua the son of Jehozadak was an earthly human high priest as can be seen from the O.T in books like Haggai.

He is not the same as the Jesus Christ in Hebrews. He's a high priest and his name is Joshua so is a type but is not the same person.

Secondly it is not this Joshua who sits on the throne but the one called the Branch who is to come.
This is clear from the Hebrew. www.biblehub.com/text/zechariah/3-8.htm

Joshua and his associates are described as symbols of what is to come.

DB Roy wrote:
Anyway, if you bothered to read through all that, there are these three dots--Isaiah 52-3, Zecharia chapters 3 and 6, and Daniel 9. We need only connect them. Here is Carrier's conclusion (verbatim):

The significance of this is that if such a connection has been made, the connector would have been before him, in a simple pesher of Jewish scripture, a celestial being named Jesus Christ Rising, a high priest of God, in opposition to Satan, who is wrongly executed even though innocent, and dies to atone for all sins, is buried and subsequently 'raised', exalted to the highest station in heaven, appointed king with supreme heavenly power by God, and who will then build God's house (the church).


Carrier is correct to see in the passage on Joshua the high priest and the promised Branch, messianic prophecy.

However as I said this Joshua is an earthly high priest and is not himself the Branch to come.

Of course Christians rightly recognize messianic prophecy. Carrier though sees the Christians he imagines using the O.T. to fit their sub-lunar apparition.

Christians see the historic Christ fulfilling these prophecies in his suffering and sacrificial death in Jerusalem in real time and history.
Christ did not become high priest after his death,and Hebrews does not say this. In fact it was as a high priest that his death was sacrificial.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Flann wrote:
Christians see the historic Christ fulfilling these prophecies in his suffering and sacrificial death in Jerusalem in real time and history.


yes and these are the same christians who believe

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 )

yes, christians believe faith IS evidence :lol:

and they also expect to be taken seriously even though they no longer have the power of the state to back them up.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
youkrst wrote:
Flann wrote:
Christians see the historic Christ fulfilling these prophecies in his suffering and sacrificial death in Jerusalem in real time and history.




yes and these are the same christians who believe

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 )

yes, christians believe faith IS evidence :lol:

and they also expect to be taken seriously even though they no longer have the power of the state to back them up.


If you want to know what that means just look at all the examples in Hebrews 11. It doesn't mean belief without evidence.

Some promises are in the future and not yet seen but based on experience of God's faithfulness in our lives we believe those as yet unseen will be fulfilled.

Atheists just say it's all coincidence when we say God answers prayer. It's not slot machine stuff and it's not always yes.
We are promised both good and bad in this life. Not prosperity gospel stuff.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Flann wrote:
Atheists just say it's all coincidence when we say God answers prayer.


Image



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier presents an excellent case that Christianity was originally another mystery religion—a “Judeo-Hellenistic mysgtery religion.” The apologist’s objection that Christianity is different from any mystery religion will be found groundless when we realize that none of them are like one another due to the different cultural imprints stamped on each. He makes clear that Christianity is not Osiris cult 2.0 in that it is its own religion and not drawn from another or a continuation of another. Osiris and Isis cults were Egyptian-Hellenistic, Mithras cults were Persian-Hellenist, Attis and Cybele cults were Phrygian-Hellenist, Jupiter-Dolichenus cults were Anatolian-Hellenist, etc.

None of these cults were anything like any of the others. None evolved out of the others. Indeed the very raison d’etre for a mystery religion was to create something new and different from anything else. But they were all mystery religions because they shared certain traits and Christianity shared them in spades:

1. They were syncretic in that they took their local or national religions and combined them with Hellenism to produce something new, different.
2. They were essentially monotheistic. Some were henotheistic by having one main god in charge of lesser gods but were moving towards full monotheism as virtually mystery religions started off as polytheistic.
3. They were individualistic as opposed to communal. Your personal salvation was the most important thing. Eternal salvation for the individual.
4. They were cosmopolitan, i.e. open to everybody regardless of race, social standing, gender, etc.
5. All had belief in a savior and the name “Jesus” just happens to mean what? And this savior is always son of God. The son (sometimes daughter) of God must undergo some sort of suffering. By suffering, this savior triumphed over death and gave salvation to members of the cult. Their deaths or tribulations were known as “passions.” Often there was a resurrection to confirm the triumph over death.
6. There was always in an initiation involved where the candidate had to symbolically undergo the passion of the savior such as baptism.
7. There was always a ritual meal meant to unite the initiates in communion such the Christian eucharist.
8. There were always secret teachings which the initiate was under oath never to reveal to outsiders.

As an example, let us look at Freemasonry. It is syncretic and borrows from Egyptian, Greek, Arabic/Persian, Jewish and Christian sources to produce a new and different system from any other cult. Freemasonry is monotheistic and involves individual salvation via rising through the grades. Freemasonry divulges secrets to members which they swear under oath never to reveal to others. Freemasonry was once rather exclusionary in the United States generally admitted only men of high standing although black men were initiated and allowed to form their own lodges. Today blacks and whites co-exist in the same lodges. Women cannot be Masons in the U.S. but are admitted in the French lodges. Also, Co-Masonry admits women in equal standing with men but is considered “irregular” by the Free and Accepted Masons. Masonry does not have a savior per se but there is Hiram Abiff, the Master Builder of the Temple of Solomon. He was accosted and killed by three errant craftsmen in his employ and buried next to an acacia tree for refusing to divulge to them the Master’s Word. He was disinterred by Solomon and raised from his grave with the Lion’s Paw grip and the secret Master’s Word (“Mah-Hah-Bone”) was whispered into his ear. When the Masonic candidate is initiated, he is accosted by the three members represented the errant craftsmen and “killed” by them and then is raised with the grip and the Word. I know of no ritual meal served in Freemasonry. But there can be no doubt that Freemasonry is a mystery cult and while it has clear throwbacks to the ancient cults, it has less in common with them (via lack of a savior, the admission of women or ritual meal) than Christianity does especially in light of the fact that baptism was the preferred initiation in the ancient cults.

Christianity was taught in parables and mysteries (the very word used by Paul) which is how mystery schools operate. These mysteries were expressed mainly through allegory and symbols. Mark has Jesus say in 4:11, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables…” The doctrine of the Kingdom of God was a typical mystery school doctrine. Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul openly writes of teachings hidden from initiates and which can only be understood by the teleloi or higher-ranking members. Hebrews 5 also pontificates on the differences between the “babes” (nepioi) who must be nurtured on milk (low level teachings) and the “mature” (teleloi) who can eat the meat (advanced teachings). There were three levels of teachings in some Christian schools and four levels in others.

In none of these mystery schools throughout the Old World—Christian or otherwise—was there any need for their savior to be historical any more than Hiram Abiff needed to be. And if there is no reason to assume that Osiris, Isis, Attis, Cybele, Mithras or Jupiter were historical, why would we suddenly decide that Jesus is?

Apart from Carrier, we can see why astromythology was so widely employed in the mystery schools. A savior who dies, is buried, assailed by demons and rises triumphant to conquer death describes the rising sun every morning. Indeed, in Freemasonry, Hiram Abiff is openly admitted to be the sun who dies in the winter months (the three errant craftsmen of December, January and February) but who is raised in March by the Lion’s Paw grip, i.e. the sign of Leo reaches out to Hiram from his cold, dark grave and restore him to strength (i.e. the sun is strongest in Leo and is the ruler of that sign). Likewise, Jesus is the light of the world which goes dark upon his death.

There is no point to disputing that Christianity was a mystery school. It is undeniable. The prior probability is far too high. The posterior probability will be even higher.

The personalization done by the mystery cults becomes apparent: YOU are your own savior! You will be saved ONLY by your own efforts. YOU are Jesus, Attis, Osiris, Isis, Cybele, etc. It is YOU that undergo the trials of this world and YOU that will be buried unless YOU prevent it by perfecting yourself and THAT is the purpose of the mystery school. Modern Christians have completely discarded their religion’s higher teachings thinking that the baby milk they find in the bible can save them.



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
The personalization done by the mystery cults becomes apparent: YOU are your own savior! You will be saved ONLY by your own efforts. YOU are Jesus, Attis, Osiris, Isis, Cybele, etc. It is YOU that undergo the trials of this world and YOU that will be buried unless YOU prevent it by perfecting yourself and THAT is the purpose of the mystery school. Modern Christians have completely discarded their religion’s higher teachings thinking that the baby milk they find in the bible can save them.


couldn't agree more :yes:



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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
Interesting passage from Chapter 4:

"...I have seen recent attempts to claim that pagans had no notion of resurrection, ...by producing a hyper-specific definition of one particular kind of resurrection, proving they didn't have or accept it, then concluding they had no notion of resurrection at all. But such a specificity did not exist in ancient vocabulary. Many different Jewish and Christian sects believed in many different kinds of resurrection, and all were called 'resurrection'. And there were yet more kinds of resurrection imagined among pagans, and considerable overlap between their ideas and those of the Jews and Christians. I shall thus avoid any fallacy of anachronistic precision by using all words for 'resurrection' to mean just what they meant to everyone in antiquity, whether pagan, Jew, or Christian: rising from a state of death to be alive again. Nothing more."


Yes, the claim of Christian uniqueness regarding resurrection is a typical example of the fallacious nature of dogmatic reasoning.

Ancient natural myth saw the daily and annual death and rebirth of the sun as the framework of time, and therefore as the basis for the meaning and purpose of life. Christianity anthropomorphized the pantheist ideas of resurrection into an incarnate historical myth as a political strategy to mobilise religious sentiment against Rome.

The big difference between Jesus and earlier myths was that a key to the power of Jesus was the claim that he actually lived in history, crucified under Pilate and born in Bethlehem etc.

The absence of these spatiotemporal locators in Paul meant that Paul’s celestial Jesus lacked political traction. As soon as Mark introduced the Pilate and Jerusalem myths, as a way to combine all the old imaginary resurrection archetypes with the politics of actuality, the church was on to a winner.


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Post Re: Ch. 4: Background Knowledge (Christianity) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
But a winner in what way? To strike a blow for messianism or to use that as a mask of the Roman royals to feather their own nests and rise to power in a new way. It wouldn't be out of character for the Romans to have done this. They were famous for incorporating their enemies' gods and build bigger, finer temples to them for their support. Was the Roman church just another such tactic? In their efforts to quell messianism in Palestine, did they figure, "Hey, let's build churches to this Jewish God and his messiah son in Rome." And once this was accomplished, did they reinvent the story and put out their own scriptures? And when they saw the response did they realize that under that sign (mask) they may conquer--the frigging world?



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