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Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier) 
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 Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)



Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:49 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier brings up that Jesus was created as a replacement for the Temple in Jerusalem. I’ve long concluded this also. In the gospel story, he throws out the moneylenders and then tells the authorities to destroy the temple and he will raise it in three days. The writer even says that Jesus really spoke of himself. So Jesus is the New Temple because the old one was corrupt which was symbolized by the presence of the moneylenders. Carrier delves into it in detail.

The physical Jerusalem temple could not be accepted as the center of Jewish religious life because not only were the priests corrupt but were also under control of the Romans. The temple had no autonomy as a result and so as long it remained under Roman control, the religious lives of the Jews were occupied as much as their land was. There was no freedom. Moreover, there was no hope of gaining that freedom because any military action against Rome was doomed to fail—and indeed those revolts that did take place were all put down. Even if the messianists could be momentarily successful against Rome, Rome would return in full force and put an end to their success. There was, in the air, a feeling that the civil and religious elite among the Jews were corrupt and nothing but Roman lackeys making it impossible to remove them by force because the Romans would never allow it. As long as the temple was corrupt, God would withhold his favor. As such, they could not drive out the Romans. In fact, the occupation of Rome was a punishment from God. As long as this temple system remained, there was no way out.

The only way out of this predicament was to forsake the physical temple altogether and opt for a spiritual temple. To attempt to build another physical temple was to invite disaster. The new temple could not be physical. In this way, corrupt Jewish officials and the Romans they served could not control it. Moreover, the temple was inside you and therefore already built and incorruptible as long as you were pure. All that was necessary was to propose that a great sacrifice had been arranged by God in order to cleanse humanity of all sin and that those who then dedicated themselves to God kept this spiritual temple clean and pure. No sacrifices at the physical temple were needed. The ultimate sacrifice had already been performed. The outward act of dedication to God was to be baptized—the symbolic washing away of sin—and then the eucharistic meal—to “consume” the God so that it became part of you. Then instead of taking orders from priests or governors, they take orders from Christ himself via revelation and visions as well as messages hidden in scripture.

In this way, no money or strife need be employed for ends that were certainly in vain. Here, their victory was already accomplished. To keep this inner sanctum pure other religions already had similar ideas and so their methods would be helpful. The Stoics, for example, who taught that nothing could be done to man by any other that could in any way corrupt the Inner Temple without that man’s consent, were a model. Even the vilest torture could not corrupt that temple. One always had the freedom to choose one’s own way—the only freedom that could never be taken from a man by any other. And as long as a man was pure, God’s promise was binding and active.

The mystery schools provided a blueprint for initiating and progressing new members. The teachings couldn’t be dispensed all at once. One had to be weaned from the teat of this world and onto the teat of the spiritual world—the True Temple. And only after a proper period of weaning could the meat be given.



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Sat Mar 19, 2016 5:10 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Except that this invented Christ that emerged didn't have the make-up that would be expected from fervent Jews who wanted a pure Temple. This concept emerging straight from orthodox Judaism, which insisted on a human messiah, seems difficult to imagine. The invention of the Gospel stories, for whatever reason, is itself difficult to imagine. I mean the kind of invention that is implied in your and Carrier's hypothesis, that a writer or writers decided to create a heroic figure, with backstory, to accomplish a defined end. The Gospels read as reports of the accumulated beliefs existing, probably both in written and oral forms, about the brief career of Jesus. As that type of literature, they have verisimilitude. I'm not speaking of the likelihood of the events they depict, just of the mode of the origin and transmission of the stories.

Another comment is that I don't see why an invented Jesus is needed in the first place in this proposal. Couldn't a Jesus viewed as living be invested with this role of spiritual replacement for the Temple?



Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:03 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
Except that this invented Christ that emerged didn't have the make-up that would be expected from fervent Jews who wanted a pure Temple.


In what way?

Quote:
This concept emerging straight from orthodox Judaism, which insisted on a human messiah, seems difficult to imagine.


It emerged from the Qumran community which was at the center of all the changes that Judaism was undergoing in that period.

Quote:
The invention of the Gospel stories, for whatever reason, is itself difficult to imagine. I mean the kind of invention that is implied in your and Carrier's hypothesis, that a writer or writers decided to create a heroic figure, with backstory, to accomplish a defined end.


The backstory was already written.

Quote:
The Gospels read as reports of the accumulated beliefs existing, probably both in written and oral forms, about the brief career of Jesus. As that type of literature, they have verisimilitude. I'm not speaking of the likelihood of the events they depict, just of the mode of the origin and transmission of the stories.


You can say the same about Moses or Mohammad or Buddha or Krishna or Lao Tzu or Quetzalcoatl.

Quote:
Another comment is that I don't see why an invented Jesus is needed in the first place in this proposal. Couldn't a Jesus viewed as living be invested with this role of spiritual replacement for the Temple?


In what way?



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
Except that this invented Christ that emerged didn't have the make-up that would be expected from fervent Jews who wanted a pure Temple.


what would "Paul" say? "know ye not" :-D

Quote:
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.


Quote:
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?


or Acts has it this way

Acts wrote:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;


it's all the same motif

holy of holies in the tabernacle

Quote:
The Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism, is the inner sanctuary within the Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem when Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple were standing.


christ in the temple of your body

Quote:
to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


now please excuse me, i have a crucifixion to be getting on with :lol:

X marks the spot.

Quote:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.


Quote:
Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.


where else would you find Him? :lol:

Quote:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
The invention of the Gospel stories, for whatever reason, is itself difficult to imagine. I mean the kind of invention that is implied in your and Carrier's hypothesis, that a writer or writers decided to create a heroic figure, with backstory, to accomplish a defined end. The Gospels read as reports of the accumulated beliefs existing, probably both in written and oral forms, about the brief career of Jesus. As that type of literature, they have verisimilitude. I'm not speaking of the likelihood of the events they depict, just of the mode of the origin and transmission of the stories.

Yes, excellent point, I agree, it is very difficult to imagine that the Gospels were invented, given the emotional power and plausibility of the Gospel stories taken at face value (with Jeffersonian amendment). The mythicist argument is that this hypothesis is in fact true even though extremely difficult to imagine. So the hurdle bar that mythicist argument has to jump is the proof that this highly implausible claim about history is in fact more plausible than the conventional wisdom blessed by vast tradition. To jump that hurdle, mythicism must engage with theology.

I am a practicing Christian, and consider that my disbelief in Jesus deepens and clarifies and relevantifies my faith in a purely natural scientific God of the universe. To understand Jesus as allegory for the sun positions human life with respect to our galaxy in an accurate and powerful way. To see that in fact all of the extremely beautiful and wise stories and teachings about Jesus came from early community imagination rather than from memory of events actually serves to deepen their impact. To see that Jesus is imaginary frees him from the shackles of a naïve materialism, enabling us to understand that his imaginary role as mediator, connecting the temporal with the eternal, can be reconciled with modern scientific knowledge.

To see that human psychology and politics are so depraved (using Calvin’s famous Tulip term) as to be able to invent Jesus provides a humbling insight into our weakness and our need for the grace of God for salvation. The fall from grace is the rise of patriarchal monotheism. Belief in the Historical Jesus directly serves the political cultural agenda of this old iron age hierarchical idea of salvation by law. Imagining that the Gospels are literal binds us within the chains of a false delusion. Recognizing the suffering caused by this delusion is in my view the key to human liberation.

The whole story in the Bible of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can best be interpreted as a useful prediction about the need for human cultural evolution. The emergence of global civilization on the basis of metal and agriculture requires a transvaluation of values, a shift from war and conflict to peace and love as dominant values. The society of the ancient world was so fallen into depravity that the only path for salvation was to imagine a perfect man as world leader.

Early Christian imagination was built upon the recognition that the response of ancient society to the presence of such a perfect man would be crucifixion. By imagining the story of Jesus, firstly as Paul’s heavenly descending man of the cross and then as the full Gospel Jesus of Nazareth, the ground was sown for the eventual presence of such a man in a way that would not result in the suppressive way of the cross, but rather a liberating transformation of the world.

Last night at Church we celebrated Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper. This central event within Christian imagination of Jesus involved characters who have a sublime presence within our culture. We had dramatic role plays from Mary Magdalene, Saint Peter, Judas, the Roman centurion who said surely this man was the son of God, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary the mother of James. To imagine now that these deeply complex characters were in fact fictional brings an amazing new depth to the passion story.

I can well imagine that as Christian communities developed their faith, these stories, building upon ancient mythology, provided intense emotional comfort and social bonding. But that is testament more to the power of creative imagination than to any belief that these people were real. The idea that Jesus was the one for all who saves us by the power of his blood is a sublimation of the trauma of the dislocation experienced in the ancient world, not a recollection of actual events.


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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Robert, when you say that it's the centuries of believing that make it so difficult for almost everyone to consent to the myth hypothesis, you are acting in a high-handed manner. That is not the only possibility here. Many scholars and other knowledgeable observers, including some whom you respect, have accepted the mythic aspects of Christianity yet do not accept that the Gospel of Mark was assembled out of whole cloth to achieve some political end. This writer, supposedly, created not only Jesus but scores of other characters, and his fiction was so good that two later writers picked up on it and recycled much of it. The writer placed all of these characters in a quasi-historical setting alongside some figures who are known to have existed. This is an unlikely enough feat, but readers also have many indications of the scattered provenance of the core gospel story. Nothing fits together quite right; the cut-and paste marks are visible; the contradictions are present; all the hallmarks that have made these works so disputed over the centuries. These are not the Book of Mormon.

But we don't have to rely on the common judgment. Using accepted techniques of textual analysis, scholars have postulated a textual ancestry for the Gospel story. Q is only the most famous example.

Your post reads to me as motivated to believe in the myth hypothesis, because it would be a good thing for Christianity and the world. Whether that is true or not, it doesn't have a bearing on this question, whether the Gospel story occurred through special creation, or whether it accrued. Those who think it's the latter have many reasons for thinking it. They are not swayed by "the emotional power and plausibility of the Gospel stories taken at face value." Who among the group we're talking about takes them at face value?



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
DWill wrote:
This concept emerging straight from orthodox Judaism, which insisted on a human messiah, seems difficult to imagine.


It emerged from the Qumran community which was at the center of all the changes that Judaism was undergoing in that period.

If this community was the center of change in Judaism, wasn't it about conservative change? Then to come up with a story that takes a large step away from Judaism seems a strange result for such a community to find desirable.

I also wondered about the Greek-speaking Mark's relationship to such a community. Also about how this community felt about Paul not showing any interest at all in the Temple, and wanting gentiles to be included (if they knew about his writings). But I haven't read Carrier, so it's possible he has answers to these questions.

However, without reading Carrier's book, I can have thoughts about the invention of the Gospels. I addressed these to Robert.



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Carrier compares early Christianity to the Cargo Cult and the parallels are stunning and adequately answer all the apologists who insist Christianity couldn’t have descended from a fictitious leader.

The Cargo Cult started in the early half of the 20th century in the Melanesian islands. They are apocalyptic in nature and centered around a savior they believe to be historically real by such names as John Frum and Tom Navy. The cultists believe that these saviors would someday return and all the dead would be resurrected. Occasionally, some branch of the cult would hold a historical person to be their savior/founder such as Prince Philip who has never visited the islands and who was himself rather bewildered when informed some of these island people he had never seen and knew nothing about hailed him as both savior and founder. In fact, there is not a single case where a historical person held to be the founder of a particular branch of the cult ever had anything to do with it and, in the vast majority of the cases, knew absolutely nothing about these people or their religion.

The Cargo Cult in its earliest manifestation appears to have started in the Papua territory during an uprising and soon spread through the South Sea Islands and particularly in Melanesia. These cults were charismatic and apocalyptic. We find definite parallels to the American Indian phenomenon of the late 19th century called Ghost Dancing which ended in the terrible incident at Wounded Knee in December of 1890. Although its founder, Wovoka, spread his teachings to a number of plains tribes, the Lakota brand was millenarian and apocalyptic where great changes were expected, where great wrongs would be righted and all the dead warriors would return from the dead.

The Cargo Cult also was also given to speaking in tongues, prophesying, receiving secret communication from God and, of course, powerful visions. Scholars who have studied the cult extensively have documented several instances were things prophesied or envisioned were then believed to have actually occurred in about 15 years time.

Cargo Cults and Ghost Dancing cults arise from three factors:

1. In racially and/or culturally fragmented or divided societies.
2. Agrarian societies and especially feudalistic ones and especially when the system is forced by one culture on another such as an occupying army.
3. Societies in which their normal channels of military-political power is met with crushing defeat or in a series of defeats and no longer meets the needs of that people.

We saw the same thing in the American civil rights movement, which was millennial at its root. It also brought great change unlike the Ghost Dance cult and the reason is that American blacks marched and demonstrated and targeted the destruction of laws that held them down. There was little expectation of supernatural interference, no deus ex machina, whereas the Ghost Dance sought a supernatural remedy—that the dance itself had the power to bring change. Today, we see the same thing in radical Islam. Like the American civil rights movement, they do not seek supernatural remedies but shoot (pun intended) for very real goals in very real ways. As a result, they are likely to bring about some of the changes they desire.

Christianity also started with all three of the above conditions met as these other cults did. The prior probability of a Christian-type religion arising under these three conditions is extremely high. We could expect something like it even if we had never heard of the religion.



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
DB Roy wrote:
DWill wrote:
This concept emerging straight from orthodox Judaism, which insisted on a human messiah, seems difficult to imagine.


It emerged from the Qumran community which was at the center of all the changes that Judaism was undergoing in that period.

If this community was the center of change in Judaism, wasn't it about conservative change? Then to come up with a story that takes a large step away from Judaism seems a strange result for such a community to find desirable.


Not at all. They found it desirable precisely because it broke from traditional Judaism which they viewed at having ceased to exist because of the Roman occupation. The people turned to the Essenes BECAUSE they offered a different type of Judaism. there can be no doubt that early Christians heard about the Teacher of Righteousness and needed a similar savior-founder to give their new brand of Judaism a pedigree. Apologists are always yammering that Christianity came first and other religions copied. Well, the Essenes came before Christianity and the similarities are too much to chalk up to coincidence. One copied fro the other.

Quote:
I also wondered about the Greek-speaking Mark's relationship to such a community. Also about how this community felt about Paul not showing any interest at all in the Temple, and wanting gentiles to be included (if they knew about his writings). But I haven't read Carrier, so it's possible he has answers to these questions. However, without reading Carrier's book, I can have thoughts about the invention of the Gospels. I addressed these to Robert.


The gospels are not about Jesus. They are about the communities that wrote them. That's why they never worried if their Jesus was different from other communities' views. Their gospel explains to its followers WHY they exist by presenting their Jesus as a template for them to believe in and follow. Whether this Jesus really existed and whether he was accurately portrayed was the last thing they cared about. We know this is true simply because Jesus couldn't be like all four in the gospels because each had a different character and said and, evidently, believed in different things. Whatever kernel of truth they may ever have been to a gospel incident was freely bent and refashioned by a certain community to have it present Jesus the way they wanted him presented to its believers and members. So why bother with real incidents at all? Why bother with a real savior-founder at all?



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DWill wrote:
Many scholars and other knowledgeable observers, including some whom you respect, have accepted the mythic aspects of Christianity yet do not accept that the Gospel of Mark was assembled out of whole cloth to achieve some political end.
That is not actually what I argue, and I apologise if I have given that impression. Your phrase “out of whole cloth” is another delightful ambiguity worthy of Johnson’s word nerd thread. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/whole_cloth explains that it means both “The fictitious material from which complete fabrications, lies with no basis in truth, are made”, and “Something made completely new, with no history, and not based on anything else.” These two meanings are subtly different, and your use appears to mean the latter rather than the former.

Considering Mark, I believe he was part of an active vibrant Christian worship community in Alexandria, engaged in a perfect storm of creative endeavor. Like Bach writing a cantata every week in Leipzig, the first Christian community were imagining stories about how Paul’s celestial Christ could have been present as the historical Jesus, connecting earth to heaven.

This model of community creativity involves creating Jesus from whole cloth in the first sense, using fictitious material, but not in the second sense, of something made completely new. The essential point to understand about why Christianity emerged to dominate the world is that it evolved from earlier precedents, through a natural process of cumulative adaptation, with new ideas tested through the community sieve for their emotional power and resonance.

I don’t think that Mark was a lonely monk in a cell, but rather was an active leader of a vibrant Gnostic community of faith, as were Mathew, Luke, John and in a different way Paul. These communities were well aware of all the different cultural traditions forming the melting pot of the common era. They drew on these traditions (ie not inventing from whole cloth) to update the myths to imagine they had really happened in a way that provided succor amidst the despair of Roman desolation.

The stories are just too good to be whole cloth, but as well, are too good to have really happened. That applies equally to the miracles and deeds as to the parables. The issue for the Jews of Egypt, refugees from the bloody crushing inflicted by Titus and his dad, was to sublimate the trauma of the destruction of the temple into a new faith vision.

Finding that telling stories in the old Jewish manner of the Exodus and the rest was a satisfying way to produce this faith vision, they built a regular community momentum imagining that Paul’s celestial Christ had actually been an individual from Galilee, executed in Jerusalem. By then, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, Pilate’s time was just long enough ago to deliver inventive plausibility for a steadily growing Jesus narrative.

Setting the Jesus story in the time of Pilate also served the cosmic agenda of the precession story which I have argued is central to the imagination of the new age, marking the alpha omega moment of transition in 21 AD.

Mark’s role, and that of the other apostles after him, was to document this community worship tradition, not to invent Jesus of Nazareth from whole cloth.
DWill wrote:
This writer, supposedly, created not only Jesus but scores of other characters, and his fiction was so good that two later writers picked up on it and recycled much of it.
No, I don’t think Mark created Jesus. That is a bit like saying Larry Page created the internet. If we can somehow imagine a future politics in which the history of the creation of the internet is stripped away and the googlified agenda is to insist Mr Page was responsible, and where this dogma is enforced by imperial diktat, that is like the evolutionary process we see with the Gospels.

A vast social endeavor of creative imagination and worship was stripped back to a literal dogma, a process which then came under the direction of the Roman Emperors, who saw that replacing the old worship of the invincible sun with Jesus of Nazareth as the ground of a mandatory social myth served the interests of imperial stability, while also assuaging guilt about Roman evil.
DWill wrote:
The writer placed all of these characters in a quasi-historical setting alongside some figures who are known to have existed.
I may have advanced that simplified version previously, but considering further, it is essential to realize that Mark could not have been working alone, and was documenting community traditions, including some amazing characters whose mythic impact exceeds the personalities in Melville and Dostoyevsky.
DWill wrote:
This is an unlikely enough feat, but readers also have many indications of the scattered provenance of the core gospel story.
No, there are no clear indications of scattered provenance, unless you mean that the provenance of Lazarus came from Osiris, and other such drawings on various mythological traditions. There are basically no reliable non-Gospel sources for Jesus of Nazareth.
DWill wrote:
Nothing fits together quite right; the cut-and paste marks are visible; the contradictions are present; all the hallmarks that have made these works so disputed over the centuries.
But the lack of fit is more attuned to various congregations developing slightly mutating versions of a core story, such as whether the feeding of the multitude involved 4000 or 5000 men. The contradictions are rather like the two creation stories in Genesis and the conflict between Jah and El in the documentary hypothesis.

Both multitude numbers are included by Mark in his loaves and fishes miracle accounts in chapters 6 and 8, seemingly showing respect for different background ideas which are now lost. I believe the background idea in this case was how many stars are visible in the night sky, but that such an astronomical priestly idea was anathema to Christian orthodoxy so was heavily suppressed, leaving only its allegedly miraculous remnant still visible in the conflicting gospel accounts.
DWill wrote:
These are not the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, and Mark was not a shuckster like Joseph Smith. I think that like his great pupil Elron, Smith provides a misleading model for the Gospel process. Neither Smith nor Elron were initially part of a community, but a community evolved from their fantasies. I think that Mark’s case is the reverse, that his stories documented the fantasies of a community.
DWill wrote:
But we don't have to rely on the common judgment. Using accepted techniques of textual analysis, scholars have postulated a textual ancestry for the Gospel story. Q is only the most famous example.
And Q is a deeply unsatisfying theory. Carrier rejects it entirely, and I agree with Carrier. I am also here positing a textual ancestry for the Gospels, but more as oral community story developed from Paul’s epistles as an earlier skeletal framewor than as written tradition.
DWill wrote:
Your post reads to me as motivated to believe in the myth hypothesis, because it would be a good thing for Christianity and the world.
It is more that I argue that the original Christians had an amazing vision of how human society had to change, and what the real deep ethical problems are that hinder human flourishing. So it makes sense that we are gradually coming around to understand what they really thought, because they were on the money regarding the requirements for salvation, namely that humans have to shift from the instinctive morality of the first are first to the counterintuitive rational spirituality of the last are first.

In this framework, salvation is a serious existential problem of the prevention of extinction, in the recognition that consciousness is dangerously fissile material, which can be controlled to produce massive energy, while also having the risk of melt down or explosion.

The 'good thing for the world' in this framework is a way to open reconciling dialogue based on shared commitment to common understanding, addressing core problems such as religious conflict and climate change.
DWill wrote:
Whether that is true or not, it doesn't have a bearing on this question, whether the Gospel story occurred through special creation, or whether it accrued.
As I have said, I think the Gospel stories accrued, but from community creative worship rather than from memory of actual events, together with some leading genius from Mark.
DWill wrote:
Those who think it's the latter have many reasons for thinking it.
Indeed, and nothing emerges from nothing, since everything always evolves from earlier precedent. That is an all-encompassing law of natural selection, governing culture and astronomy as much as genetics.
DWill wrote:
They are not swayed by "the emotional power and plausibility of the Gospel stories taken at face value." Who among the group we're talking about takes them at face value?
The whole of Christian theology accepts that Jesus Christ really lived, accepting the story that he preached in Galilee and died in Jerusalem at face value as an unquestionable historical assumption. That is what I mean by taking the Gospels at face value, even with the Jeffersonian amendment of taking the scissors to the miracles.


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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
DB Roy wrote:
Carrier compares early Christianity to the Cargo Cult and the parallels are stunning and adequately answer all the apologists who insist Christianity couldn’t have descended from a fictitious leader.
Hi DB Roy, this material is useful to understand the possibility of the invention of Jesus, but I would caution that it is just a small part of the puzzle. The comparison between stone age tribes in the Pacific and the urban civilization of the ancient west is not a simple mapping. The ancient Jews had metal, writing and other advanced technologies which Pacific Islanders lacked until modern times with ‘the coming of the light’ as they put the arrival of Christianity, when they abandoned cannibalism and other primitive practices.
DB Roy wrote:
The Cargo Cult started in the early half of the 20th century in the Melanesian islands. They are apocalyptic in nature and centered around a savior they believe to be historically real by such names as John Frum and Tom Navy. The cultists believe that these saviors would someday return and all the dead would be resurrected. Occasionally, some branch of the cult would hold a historical person to be their savior/founder such as Prince Philip who has never visited the islands and who was himself rather bewildered when informed some of these island people he had never seen and knew nothing about hailed him as both savior and founder. In fact, there is not a single case where a historical person held to be the founder of a particular branch of the cult ever had anything to do with it and, in the vast majority of the cases, knew absolutely nothing about these people or their religion.
Prince Philip met some of his ni-Vanuatu devotees in London, and his daughter Anne has visited them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Philip_Movement

The overall similarity between cargo cults and ancient Christian formation is primarily as you point out, in the experience of crushing military defeat at the hands of an overwhelmingly powerful empire, an experience that conduces millennial fantasy. But I don’t see how Christianity has anything to compare with the magical invocation of the appearance of cargo riches by making pretend radios out of coconuts.

The American presence in the Pacific War bears comparison to the Roman Empire, except that Western powers generally took a benign attitude of protection towards islanders, apart from Australian and German and Japanese practice of enslavement, and the American obliteration of Bikini Atoll in 1954. This protective attitude only applied in tropical areas where malaria protected the locals from invasion, unlike in temperate regions where indigenous cultures were simply obliterated by genocide.

I don’t accept the self-serving Roman propaganda of the empire as a benign peace. The Pax Romana made a desert and called it peace, as https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tacitus Tacitus put it.
DB Roy wrote:
The Cargo Cult in its earliest manifestation appears to have started in the Papua territory during an uprising and soon spread through the South Sea Islands and particularly in Melanesia. These cults were charismatic and apocalyptic. We find definite parallels to the American Indian phenomenon of the late 19th century called Ghost Dancing which ended in the terrible incident at Wounded Knee in December of 1890. Although its founder, Wovoka, spread his teachings to a number of plains tribes, the Lakota brand was millenarian and apocalyptic where great changes were expected, where great wrongs would be righted and all the dead warriors would return from the dead.
Yes, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee presents a useful comparison to the ancient Jesus movement. I think we can usefully consider the New Testament as expressing solidarity with the indigenous oppressed of the world, as liberation theologians such as Boff, Segundo, Sobrino and Gutierrez argue.

A key theme in Biblical messianism is the recognition, like many of the Sioux did in relation to the USA, that Rome was far too powerful for military strategies to be helpful in protecting their culture and identity, and that the old ways were irrevocably gone under the tide of imperial advance.
DB Roy wrote:
The Cargo Cult also was also given to speaking in tongues, prophesying, receiving secret communication from God and, of course, powerful visions. Scholars who have studied the cult extensively have documented several instances where things prophesied or envisioned were then believed to have actually occurred in about 15 years time.
Yes, as I have commented here, the hope is father to the belief. When the hope of a messiah is sufficiently protective in psychological and social terms, motivated reasoning will inevitably give rise to true believers like those who believe fantasies like UFO visits. Time erodes certainty and knowledge, giving scope for people to develop Tinkerbell theologies where wishing makes them true.
DB Roy wrote:
Cargo Cults and Ghost Dancing cults arise from three factors:
1. In racially and/or culturally fragmented or divided societies.
2. Agrarian societies and especially feudalistic ones and especially when the system is forced by one culture on another such as an occupying army.
3. Societies in which their normal channels of military-political power is met with crushing defeat or in a series of defeats and no longer meets the needs of that people.
This is a helpful typology, with clear relevance to ancient Israel. The point here is that the social conditions were in place for the emergence of a comforting fantasy, which is what actually happened with the invention of Jesus.
DB Roy wrote:
We saw the same thing in the American civil rights movement, which was millennial at its root. It also brought great change unlike the Ghost Dance cult and the reason is that American blacks marched and demonstrated and targeted the destruction of laws that held them down. There was little expectation of supernatural interference, no deus ex machina, whereas the Ghost Dance sought a supernatural remedy—that the dance itself had the power to bring change. Today, we see the same thing in radical Islam. Like the American civil rights movement, they do not seek supernatural remedies but shoot (pun intended) for very real goals in very real ways. As a result, they are likely to bring about some of the changes they desire.
“Millennial” is often a term of condescension, such that any interest in eschatology is generally seen as weird and crazy, given that fundamentalists of all stripes have end times beliefs that are genuinely weird and crazy. But I would argue that some level of millennial analysis is essential to understand religion properly, against the Biblical ‘thousand years are as a day for God’ framework.

Astronomy, with its immense time spans, provides the only proper framework of order in which history can be analysed against a millennial framework. For example we can very usefully set cultural evolution within the framework of the orbital dynamics of natural and unnatural climate change.
DB Roy wrote:
Christianity also started with all three of the above conditions met as these other cults did. The prior probability of a Christian-type religion arising under these three conditions is extremely high. We could expect something like it even if we had never heard of the religion.
Yes, Carrier makes this good point very persuasively to compare the psychological and cultural drivers of cargo cults and Christianity. Whenever a people feel collectively wounded, they will sublimate their grief into a fantastic delusion. That seems to be a general truth of history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_(psychology) explains that “In psychology, sublimation is a mature type of defense mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are unconsciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behavior, possibly resulting in a long-term conversion of the initial impulse.” Desires for revenge, theft and conquest can be transformed from impossible dreams into safe religious rituals with a transference of the desire into the afterlife. This happened in ancient Christianity with the displacement of the hope for a messianic kingdom into something not of this world, and in modern Vanuatu with the displacement of desire for cargo into ritualistic totemic magical invocation.


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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
Apologists frequently resort to something in their lore said Jesus said or did and insist that someone who was fictitious wouldn't have said or done this. But the Cargo Cult demonstrates that Jesus never had to say or do any such thing. Nor did he have to exist. As pointed out, something someone envisioned Jesus saying or doing would, in the space of only a few years, be transformed into a historical incident by those who simply wanted it to be true. So all these apologist objections simply don't amount to anything. Even if they proved Jesus was real, they would have to prove he actually had anything to do with the founding of the Christian religion lest he turn out to be another Prince Philip--someone who would be surprised to learn of his special status as savior of souls and founder of a religion he knew nothing about.

When you add in the Jewish belief of God's favor (which Christians euphemistically term as "grace"), it is easy to see they had a supernatural solution at first--if you keep your spiritual temple pure then God's favor is still active and binding and with God watching over you, you will always triumph. As a result, Christianity nearly vanished. Not until the Roman Christians became numerous enough to offer themselves as political tools of change did they also change their own circumstances. I refer, of course, to Constantine. Christians swelled the ranks of his army in return for his favor and when he emerged victorious, he made carried through on his promises which made Christianity a huge religion. Of course, this was also due in large part to the fact that he combined the Christians with the pagan sun worshipers so that both religions really morphed into something new--Sol Invictus became Christ and sabbath was moved to Sunday (the sun's day).

Millennial religions are frightening to me. They can and often do bring huge changes and usually not very good. Their followers are zealots and will stop at nothing and don't care if they die. Consequently, they don't care who they kill. Manson's Family was millennialist and called their end times scenario helter-skelter. But they are just a small-scale version of the much larger millennial religions. The catch-22 is that they need to be wiped out but that is the very thing they are waiting for--that all-out battle.



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Background Knowledge (Context) (On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier)
In Element 43, Carrier discusses the idea of voluntary human sacrifice being seen as the most powerful form of salvation and atonement magic known to both Jews and pagans. This was known as martyrdom which is regarded as a heroic death rather than an embarrassing or a shameful death. For pagans, Socrates was the perfect martyr and Greco-Roman and Hellenistic culture had long accepted self-sacrifice to save a race or nation. The Jews believed it too as it is mentioned in the OT. For example, in 2 Samuel, David crucified the sons of Saul to appease God and God accepts it. This mass crucifixion occurred the day after Passover which was also the time that Jesus was supposedly crucified. In 4 Maccabees, sevens sons are also sacrificed. In Numbers, Aaron and Moses crucified apostate leaders and speared an interracial couple to atone for the sins of Israel. Among the Jews, the sacrifice of the first-born son was considered the greatest of all sacrifices and with Jesus as the only-begotten son of God, it is the same sacrifice of the first-born male all over again. This was often done by crucifixion and it was well known among the Jews long before the Christians say Jesus walked. In the synoptics, Jesus tells his followers to take up the cross and follow him. Clearly, the idea of taking up the cross was already well known. He was telling them that they must be ready to die in his name and that is how they understood him well before the crucifixion took place so the saying had to already be old and a reference to martyrdom.

To the people of that time, the more barbaric and shameful the execution, the more heroic it was and the more magical power it had. This raises a point about something Bart Ehrman once said: if Jesus Christ was a fiction, then wouldn't it make more sense to present as all-powerful messiah rather than having him dying this shameful death? I countered by saying that if his creators did that then they'd have to have some kind of historical evidence to present as proof and they had none. Carrier goes further to point out, they would not have such evidence and could never have such evidence because they could not hope to defeat the Roman military machine and so created a more spiritual victory. They defeated the Romans precisely because Jesus willingly went to this awful, horribly messy death to save the Jews. The worse they humiliated and mistreated him, the greater the victory and the expiatory power his death had. So the trial, torment and execution of Jesus is fictional precisely because it followed these Jewish and pagan models of the self-sacrificing hero. Far from being something new, as Christians claim, it was something very old. An all-powerful Jesus that Ehrman spoke of would have been something new.

In fact, the only thing new about Jesus's sacrifice was that it negated the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham too was to sacrifice his first-born son but then God told him not to and gave him a ram to sacrifice in his son's stead. This sacrifice was the basis of the sacrificial system of the temple--to sacrifice animals as stand-ins for the first-born. The death of Jesus negated this system precisely because the Jews of that time were so disgusted with the corrupt temple system that they did away with its rituals by going back to the older ones with the idea that the voluntary death of God's only son was SO powerful that it did away with animal sacrifice forever (and, in so doing, put a permanent end to the temple which was the real purpose for this sacrifice story in the first place). Carrier shows that the very idea of the sacrifice of a divine son named Jesus was already known in the Jewish literature and so this whole thing was nothing new at all.



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