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Re: Jesus

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Quote:DH: I'm interested in how defenders of the Mithras determined Christ thesis can't be so certain the influence wasn't the other way around. I wonder if they will be as critical and skeptical of their supporting evidence as they are dismissive of the canonical and other that canonical Jesus materials.I kinda doubt it. I think once a skull has thickened into an impenetrable monolith, the chances of learning something that doesn't fit their world view is slim.
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Frank 013
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Re: jesus

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[DH: I'm still waiting for the scholars who pronounce your extreme thesis.]Alison Griffith, David Ulansey, Philip G. Kreyenbroek, J.R. Russell, A. David Bivar, Shiwa Okar. [Frank: The Mithras cult was well established when Christianity was just beginning.][DH: This assertion is important. How do you support it?]The historian Plutarch says that in 67 B.C. a large band of pirates based in Cilicia (a province on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing "secret rites" of Mithras.There is at least one relief in modern day Iran that depicts Mithra, it is dated at around 300 B.C.E.Other examples include: In Persia Mithra was the protector God of the tribal society until the Zoroaster's reformation (628-55B.C.E). Mithra like the rest of the Iranian gods was stripped of his divinity and all his powers were bestowed upon Zarathustra.Statius mentions the typical Mithraic relief in his Thebaid (Book i. 719,720), around C.E. 80; Plutarch's Life of Pompey also makes it clear that the worship of Mithras was well known at that time.I read a passage about Mithra in a roman solders journal somewhere; I am still looking for that reference. [DH: Still, you haven't addressed why an imperial force would lift up a crucified criminal of state as the primary example of God and humanity.]Because religion is a powerful motivator and Christianity was very morally malleable. A simple rule of history, the ones who control religion control the people. What the text means is what the controllers say it means.The Christian church did this and it has worked very well for them. They teach the people to give, (to the church) to accept intolerance, to live in a pious chaste and humble manner, and to give unto Caser what is Caesar's and then the church became ceaser.[Can you tell me what other Mediterranean myth provides a crucified criminal of state, who encouraged the dismantling of all dominant familial, political, social and religious structures, as its hero and savior?]Hercules, he killed his family and had to live as an outcast, he also had to endure the 12 labors in penance. After all of this he regained his status of savior and hero. He was not crucified but he died in a terrible manner and was ascended to Mt Olympus where he was granted godhood.[DH: This tells us something about what you understand the character of God to be.]Not my understanding, the general Christians understanding.I would say my understanding of the Christian god is a contradiction. God is described as perfect, all knowing, all seeing, all loving, a force for peace and justice, and he wants us to join him in heaven.If god wanted us to join him in heaven and he loves us he would have given us more to work with. Some proof, not a story book. If God were all knowing he would have seen this crap before it happened and fixed it at his end. If God was perfect he could have gotten the Bible written in a way that would make it less troublesome. If God were a force for peace and justice he would have motive to do this.[DH: Perhaps the appropriate relation to this conflicted Scripture is to challenge the Imperial narratives within it, lift up the voices of Prophetic hope, and utilize this conflict within the text to illuminate these conflicts within our own lives. This, to me, reflects the character of a God worthy of worship: a challenge to confront Imperial domination no matter how holy or sacred its source; even if it is believed to come straight from God.]Well that's wonderful for you, but like I have said before, I think you have a nearly singular view of this religion. In the meantime Christianity is making millions of people act like jack asses. Later Edited by: Frank 013 at: 3/30/06 12:59 am
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jesus

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[GDR: What are their names? How do you know they are fundamentalist Christians?]Here are some of the better known ones.Norman Geisler (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)Ronald Nash: Professor Philosophy and Theology at Reformed theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, He holds a PhD from Syracuse University, He has served two terms as an Advisor to the US Civil Rights Commission and serves as a Fellow of the Christianity Today Institute.Edwin M. Yamauchi: He has been a supporter of the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship throughout his career, and particularly at the campus of Miami University. He has contributed popular articles to periodicals like Christianity Today magazine on the resurrection of Christ and in response to controversial claims made about the Dead Sea Scrolls.J.P. Holding: A Christian apologist named Robert Turkel, who goes by the name "J.P. Holding" online, maintains a web site called Tekton Apologetic Ministries. Turkel's site contains a large number of essays in which he insults Bible skeptics and attempts to attack their positions. Turkel actually had a page devoted to deceased Bible skeptics entitled Rogue's Cemetery. [GDR: Or do you trust that everything there is accurate?]Like I said I already did the research, the sites I copy from agree with my findings. I have been researching Rome, the roman culture and their military for a very long time. I have come across the Mithra stories more than a few times; the mithras cult was very popular with the roman soldiers. [GDR: So this is the way you conduct yourself in a debate. With all the years you claim to have studied religion, you can't debate an argument without bombarding the discussion with crap you copied word for word.]Oh, I'm sorry; I did not realize that copying information that agrees with the material I have read is a crime. The fact is that every site you go to (that does not have a religious agenda) will have nearly identical information. I am not going to waste the little time I have on my computer reinventing the wheel, and I will not apologize for being practical. I do not see you getting upset when someone copies the text from a Bible site. So what's the big deal? I suspect that because you do not have good arguments against this information you must change the subject towards my time saving methods. So I think I'll stick with bite me.Later
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Re: jesus

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[MAD: Are you sure that's verified, or is a theory that someone has advanced?]This is a theory that has been put forth a while ago; it is derived from some of the phrases Paul uses in the Bible, some appear to be direct draws from the Mithras beliefs. It is believed that one of the main centers of Mithraism was Tarsus, home of Paul. Paul uses phrases that appear to be derived directly from the Mithras cult, if this is the case; Paul knows so much about the religion that it seems likely that he was a practitioner. Much of the Mithras cult is lost to time, destroyed by the Christian winners of a religious war. Despite this we know that some of the Mithras cults had initiation rights and only members had access to the stories. What is clear is that Paul was very familiar with the Mithras cult.No it is not conclusive, so I will retract my statement and restate it thusly; it is possible that Paul was a member of the cult of Mithra. I doubt that DH will offer the same retractation about his Jesus claims. About your two reasons; the Jesus person claims clearly did develop from earlier sources, Jesus in the flesh has even been debated among early Christians. What is not clear is what those sources were. If Paul made up the Jesus story, or accepted it from other early people that says nothing about the reality of that person. As we both know just because the majority of people believe or accept something does not make it real. Most people accept the Jesus claims without ever looking at the real evidence. If people are already geared to believe something (taught since birth) and there is no evidence against it. (There is no evidence that supports a negative, only the lack of evidence) People will simply continue to accept it.Later
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Re: jesus

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Oops I missed this one...[DH: I think the consensus of scholars in all the fields I've mention argue otherwise. Your extreme thesis is not supported by the vast body of scholarship, which by the way, recognizes the difficulties in establishing exact historical knowledge of Jesus. But, unlike yourself, is able to make crucial distinctions requiring nuance and a bit more sophistication when drawing their conclusions.]I have found that many archeologists and historical scholars tend to down play the significance of these issues as not to upset the general population. The older archeologists would refrain from giving personal opinions on such topics and only submit the findings; they did not generally make claims like Christians stole the stories from Mithras (even though it is very apparent) because of the unpopularity it would cause. Newer researchers are getting bolder about making these claims and even thought these arguments are old, the information is just now getting out to the general populace. Later
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Re: jesus

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Frank: Paul knows so much about the religion that it seems likely that he was a practitioner. This is possible. I think a more plausible conclusion to draw is that Paul was working to couch his Gospel in language and symbolism that would speak to the Mithraic culture. Being an astute organizer and politician, he understood the necessity of reaching people through their deepest values and convictions. Being an intelligent Roman citizen, he was aware of the multitude of belief systems and religous traditions that flourished throughout the Mediterranean ecumene. Paul worked to make connections and find important affinities between his Gospel of Christ and the Mithras cult. I argue the transmission starts with his Jewish commitment to Jesus as Messiah and Christ, later translated for a Mithraic ethos; you argue the opposite.Frank: Much of the Mithras cult is lost to time, destroyed by the Christian winners of a religious war. Despite this we know that some of the Mithras cults had initiation rights and only members had access to the stories.So, we don't know much about the Mithras cult, but what we do know was largely kept secret. This is not the firmest ground to build your argument on. Plutarch's statement about a large band of Pirates practicing in 67 BCE doesn't support your assertion that it was "well established". What makes Plutarch (an elite member of the patrician classes) any sort of expert on religious practices of outlaw pirate communities? Why should we trust his "Life of Pompey" to be little more than than Roman militarist, imperial propaganda? Frank: Because religion is a powerful motivator and Christianity was very morally malleable. But this doesn't explain why they would include narratives and characters who said and acted in complete contradiction to the Imperial interests: being malleable is one thing; but why include the information at all? I don't see why they would even bother with malleability: they had complete and total control of the text. Why not simply remove any threat to Imperial control? Instead, the key characters, their actions and deeds, are in radical conflict with the values and intentions of the Imperial gatekeepers of the text. This is completely irrational on the part of the Empire: against their self-interests and supportive of energies that will lead to insurrection and revolution. This is the miracle: the power of the Prophetic spirit of Justice that simply wont be silenced by Imperial threats, violence, or crosses.Frank: I have found that many archeologists and historical scholars tend to down play the significance of these issues as not to upset the general population.I have found that most of these scholars operate within a professional ethic that demands scholarly integrity and critical exchange, public debate, and surviving the test of disciplined scrutiny by their peers in the field. They understand the realities of public receptance of their findings, but are not led with these results. It is the peer review that determines their conclusions. And, as I've stated, the overwhelming consensus of peer review in the field does not accept your argument.Frank: Well that's wonderful for you, but like I have said before, I think you have a nearly singular view of this religion. In the meantime Christianity is making millions of people act like jack asses.I think I have been very clear about the abuses and stupidities within Christianity, and other Religions. I haven't hid from any of the legitimate criticisms that point out where Christians have been dangerous asses. I started this thread with the invitation to explore Jesus from multiple lenses, taking seriously a wide spectrum of approaches: historical, doctrinal, theological, aesthetic, comparative, philosophical, political, literary, and critical. I think I've offered a fairly consistent, but incomplete, way of critically addressing the issues. Frank: If god wanted us to join him in heaven and he loves us he would have given us more to work with. Some proof, not a story book.The consensus of historical scholars is that the text followed what is generally understood as the Kingdom of God movement, of which Jesus played a primary role. In other words, first there was people in action, followed by narrative in text. It may be that we can never get to the exact Kingdom of God movement, and can only identify its impact upon the Biblical text and the Mediterranean ecumene. I'm willing accept this limitation on the subject matter; and will admit to the role of my own imagination, hopes, and best guesses. Demanding "proof" will provide very limited and impoverished set of conclusions. It seems to me that God would want humans to struggle with moral ambiguity, take risks and develop the courage to challenge illegitimate authority, even if it means confronting God. I see it as the maturity of humanity: facing our own terror, the terror of our enemies, and working to create a more loving world. Whereas you, like most Fundamentalists, simply see a book of instructions, rewards and punishments that can be only entirely fact, or completely false. Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 3/30/06 2:19 pm
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Re: jesus

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Frank 013: This is a theory that has been put forth a while ago; it is derived from some of the phrases Paul uses in the Bible, some appear to be direct draws from the Mithras beliefs.Well, it contradicts most of the research that I've seen, so do me a favor and give me some references so I can look into this angle for myself.As regards your original point, if there are some phrases in Paul that are drawn directly from Mithraism, then the next order of business is to determine which those phrases are and what their full impact on Christianity may have been. As we both know just because the majority of people believe or accept something does not make it real. Most people accept the Jesus claims without ever looking at the real evidence.I'm fine with that claim. What bothers me is the positive claim that Jesus did not exist. Not because that claim is a threat to any given religious belief, but because there's so little evidence to support it, that it begins to seem like the only reason to make that claim, rather than the more moderate claim that Jesus may not have existed, is because it does threaten those beliefs. That is, I find it hard to swallow precisely because it seems to be motivated more by the politics of atheism than by any evidence.Dissident Heart: I think a more plausible conclusion to draw is that Paul was working to couch his Gospel in language and symbolism that would speak to the Mithraic culture.A third, and I'd say even more likely option, provided that we take as given Paul's familiarity with and inclusion of Mithraic elements, is that he borrowed elements from the language and thought of Mithraism to explain matters that were problematic for the early Christian Church. The foremost among these problems was the death of Christ. But I'm not prepared to comment on any of this in depth until I've seen some of the material from which Frank has drawn his thesis.
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Re: jesus

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Mad: The foremost among these problems was the death of Christ.No doubt this problem was, as Paul named it, folly for the Gentile and scandal for the Jew. Folly because Ceasar had spoken and the bloody Cross was more than enough of a reason to forget yet another nobody, rebellious peasant. Scandal because God would not abandon his Messiah or allow such a wretched impurity to stand as King of the Jews, or Son of God. Those who participated with Jesus in the Kingdom of God movement were profoundly traumatized and readily defeated by this brutal sign of Imperial domination and Religious abdication. What was God telling them through this crucified messiah?The more elite, thus literate, went to their Scriptures to find clues, meaning, and hope. Paul was one of this community. Others, those closest, the outcast and marginalized, thus illiterate- went to their recollection of his stories, deeds, teachings, and what they knew of popular religion and traditional culture.Paul utilized the narratives and symbols of his Hebrew heritage to place Jesus in paramount position for his Jewish audiences. He utilized the popular mythic worldviews of the Mediterranean ecumene to speak to his Gentile audiences. In all cases, at least where Rome was supreme, which meant wherever Paul spoke and wrote, the Cross was not first a symbol of mythic sacrifice. On the contrary, it was a concrete sign that Ceasar had rejected the one nailed to it. Thus, those who embraced this Crucified Savior where simultaneously rejecting Ceasar. Calling oneself a Christian was saying "no" to Rome. Accepting Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, was rejecting the imperial son of God that was Ceasar.
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Re: jesus

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I have been looking into this subject at length lately, and I have two further thoughts to add.1. Even if Mithras and Christianity were developing in Rome at the same time, the Mithra cult was very popular while the Christian cult was small and out of favor. It seems more likely that the smaller less accepted religion would copy from the more popular one, not the other way around. 2. I am going to amend my statement about Paul, while it is possible that Paul added the Mithras elements, there is another character in history that had both the motive and the ability, Constantine. It is entirely possible that it was Constantine who added the Mithras elements when he was overhauling the Christian religion to suit his needs. One of the sites that explains the idea that Paul was a Mithras cult member, is here.paulproblem.faithweb.com/...risees.htm[DH: But this doesn't explain why they would include narratives and characters who said and acted in complete contradiction to the Imperial interests: being malleable is one thing; but why include the information at all?]It is easy for me to come up with logical reasons why an imperialistic entity might leave in the Jesus material. I will give you some examples, these are by no means the only possibilities, and remember we are assuming that they did not change the Jesus material, they actually might have. Reasons.When creating a story the key to popularity is a character that people will idolize or relate to. A myth or religion is no exception. So leaving in the idealistic Jesus character might have been seen as necessary to keep the people interested in the story. Maybe the church realized that people who followed the Jesus ideals would be easy to control, after all a nonbelligerent, people with few material wants is perfect for the oppressor to control. As long as the people did not recognize that the oppressors were what they were, everything was fine.It is possible that the people working with the writing did not recognize the possible problems that the Jesus preachings could have had. And of course there is always the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality. MadLastly I never did, or would, make a positive claim that Jesus never existed, but I will not simply believe that he did exist in the absence of any credible evidence. There might have been people named Hercules, Jason of the Argonauts, and even Zeus, but unless someone can show some tangible evidence to support their historical existence, they will simply remain myth. Later
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Re: jesus

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Frank: It seems more likely that the smaller less accepted religion would copy from the more popular one, not the other way around.Not necessarily. What we know of the Mithras cult is its attraction to Military folk and Pirates (and what we know of that, as you've already stated, is limited to secondary references about secret communities) who may or may not have had a popular following. Considering the brutal necessities of maintaining imperial domination and control, the Soldier element in Rome would most likely be seen as a threat and feared by the masses. Piracy pillaging and disruption would also warrant little favor among the masses. In other words, the population (at least the Plebian, Slave, non-citizen component) would see very little worth emulating or following from a Military/Pirate cult. They would most likely fear and hate it, finding ways to mock and sabotage.Therefore, it seems far more likely that the Mithras cult would want to absorb the Christian cult as a way to attract those masses who had felt the sword, lash and cross of Roman military oppression. Which, I think you are heading towards in your second point regarding Constantine's infusion of Mithraism into Christianity. Still, I don't know what evidence we have of that either.Thanks for the Paul resource as well.Frank: Maybe the church realized that people who followed the Jesus ideals would be easy to control, after all a nonbelligerent, people with few material wants is perfect for the oppressor to control.I think this is what happened as time progressed and the Empire absorbed the Prophetic ideal that Jesus and the Kingdom of God movement represented. What I don't think happened, and what you have been arguing for, is that the Empire created the Jesus and Kingdom of God movement as a way to manipulate the masses. Again, I think Jesus and the Kingdom of God movement came first and Imperial appropriation came afterwards.I think the Jesus and Kingdom of God movement was far from passive: it was radically confrontational in all levels of familial, religious, social and political life. It offered an ideology in profound conflict with Roman imperial domination, and it required a lifestyle that would shut down the expansion and militarist necessities of the Empire.The Empire would not create this story as a way to keep a population passive. The Empire would want to eliminate this element of the story, censor it entirely, and leave the submissive, passive, pie-in-the-sky Jesus as the model for emulation.It simply doesn't make sense, as I see it, why the Empire would construct an anti-Imperial ideology and lifestyle as the divinely ordained way of life. It does make sense, as you rightly describe, that the Empire would highlight elements of the text that present Jesus as non-confrontational and submissive, awaiting justice in the world to come, passively enduring the assualts of this present time. This, of course, is the critique of Religion offered up by Marx in his oft-quoted phrase Quote:Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.What Marx neglects, and you as well it seems, is the activist, agitator, confrontational, engaging, revolutionary elements of Jesus and the Kingdom of God movement...all of which are completely inimical to the Imperial forces that worked to absorb and silence them.
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