Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:31 pm

Stephan Huller wrote:Could also refer to the Alexandrian leader of some cult that was at once 'Jewish,' 'Samaritan' and 'Christian' at the time.
Contraindicated by the phrase "when he comes to Egypt" and because the earliest Christian use of the term is fifth century.
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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:37 pm

Stephan Huller wrote:Could also refer to the Alexandrian leader of some cult that was at once 'Jewish,' 'Samaritan' and 'Christian' at the time.
I agree.
Peter Kirby wrote:Contraindicated by the phrase "when he comes to Egypt" and because the earliest Christian use of the term is fifth century.
I don't trust the Catholic Encyclopedia to give an accurate account of early Christianity or events leading up to the appearance of it.

I'm not sure "when he comes to Egypt" contradicts much. I think we'll find a lot more about the development of Christianity or proto-Christianity from future Egyptian archaeology: there are purportedly 1500-2500 sites earmarked for investigation based on new satellite imagery

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:52 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Stephan Huller wrote:Could also refer to the Alexandrian leader of some cult that was at once 'Jewish,' 'Samaritan' and 'Christian' at the time.
I agree.
Peter Kirby wrote:Contraindicated by the phrase "when he comes to Egypt" and because the earliest Christian use of the term is fifth century.
I don't trust the Catholic Encyclopedia to give an accurate account of early Christianity or events leading up to the appearance of it.

I'm not sure "when he comes to Egypt" contradicts much.
This is what the Catholics call invincible ignorance...
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Jan 18, 2015 10:04 pm

:cheeky:

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by Peter Kirby » Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:41 pm

This is of minor interest: "Like Augustus, the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117–138 ce) also wanted a skilled literary man to serve as his secretary, and he chose the ancient biographer Suetonius, who was happy to fill the position (Wardle 2002: 462–480)."
http://media.johnwiley.com.au/product_d ... 516-38.pdf
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:16 am

Interesting. and -
Suetonius’ family was of the knightly class, or equites. A friend and protégé of the government official and letter writer Pliny the Younger, he seems to have studied and then abandoned the law as a career. After Pliny’s death Suetonius found another patron, Septicius Clarus, to whom he later dedicated De vita Caesarum. Upon the accession of Emperor Hadrian (117), he entered the imperial service, holding, probably simultaneously, the posts of controller of the Roman libraries, keeper of the archives, and adviser to the emperor on cultural matters. Probably around 121 he was promoted to secretary of the imperial correspondence, but in 122 or somewhat later he was dismissed for the neglect of court formality, after which he presumably devoted himself to literary pursuits.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/top ... /Suetonius
Suetonius was a close friend of senator and letter-writer Pliny the Younger. Pliny describes him as "quiet and studious, a man dedicated to writing." Pliny helped him buy a small property and interceded with the Emperor Trajan to grant Suetonius immunities usually granted to a father of three, the ius trium liberorum, because his marriage was childless. Through Pliny, Suetonius came into favour with Trajan and Hadrian. Suetonius may have served on Pliny’s staff when Pliny was Proconsul of Bithynia Pontus (northern Asia Minor) between 110 and 112. Under Trajan he served as secretary of studies (precise functions are uncertain) and director of Imperial archives. Under Hadrian, he became the Emperor's secretary. But, in 119, Hadrian dismissed Suetonius for an affair he had with the Empress Vibia Sabina.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius
There is more here - http://www.livius.org/su-sz/suetonius/suetonius.html
.

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:27 am

and Tacitus and Pliny the Younger were friends.
... in the prologue of his Histories:
  • My official career, owed its beginning to Vespasian, its progress to [his eldest son] Titus, and its further advancement to [Vespasian's second son] Domitian.
Tacitus was quaestor in 81 or 82, and after this, he was admitted to the Senate. This ancient body had lost much of its power, but its members continued old traditions about what it meant to be Roman: the empire ought to expand, barbarians had to be conquered, civilization had to be propagated. These ideas, however, had become unfashionable at court. Military men like the emperors Tiberius and Vespasian knew that not every conquest was rewarding, and understood that only living soldiers deterred enemies. Tacitus, however, internalized the senatorial ethic as only a newcomer can.

During the reign of Domitian, he served as praetor, and between 89 and 93, he must have commanded a legion or governed a province ...

... he was appointed consul for 97.

By then, Domitian had been assassinated, the old senator Nerva had been made emperor, and he had been forced to appoint general Trajan as his successor. Well-known supporters of the former regime like Tacitus and his friend Pliny the Younger were able to continue their career, but must have felt embarrassed. This feeling is the background to his Agricola, which was published in 98.

Between 105 and 109, the Histories were published, a splendid account of the Year of the Four Emperors, the Batavian Revolt, and the beginning of the reign of Vespasian. The story breaks off during the negiotiations between the Batavian rebel leader Julius Civilis and the Roman general Cerialis; the greater part of Vespasian's rule and the reigns of his sons are missing. Tacitus is critical of almost every actor - the senators are cowards, the soldiers are greedy, the emperors are weak.

We also meet the theme now familiar: how to act nobly in an age of tyranny?

In 113, Tacitus was governor of Asia (which he had once called "a rich province, easy to extort",note [Tacitus, Agricola 6]. and after his return, he published his Annals, in which he told about the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The famous description of Nero's persecution of the first Christians is part of this book.

Again, we meet senators facing tyrants, like Germanicus, who successfully campaigned in Germania but was recalled by an envious Tiberius - a mirror image of Agricola's recall by Domitian - and perhaps veiled criticism of Hadrian, who had abandoned the eastern provinces conquered by Trajan. It seems that Tacitus died shortly after the publication of this masterpiece, perhaps in 120.

http://www.livius.org/person/tacitus/

This brings us to the vexed question: what sources were used by Tacitus? We know that he wrote letters to people who could tell him more -two letters from Pliny the Younger, concerning the eruption of the Vesuvius, survive- but he must have used other sources of information as well. He pretty accurately renders a speech by Claudius, which has survived as an inscription. The idea that he checked the state's archives, has by now been rejected; and he sometimes quotes authors like Pliny the Elder. Still, it is remarkable that he was capable of ignoring important sources as well - his account of the Jewish War is not based on Flavius Josephus. Essentially, Tacitus' sources are an unsolved riddle - which is less surprising than it seems: he was not a real historian, but a moralist.

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:40 am

.
It has been noted that Suetonius considered Christ (Chrestus) to be a Roman rebel active in the days of Claudius, who reigned A.D. 41-54:
  • "Judaeos, impulsore Chresto, assidue tumultuantes (Claudius) Roma expulit".

    "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus expelled them from Rome" (Clau., xxv).
http://www.mesacc.edu/~thoqh49081/hando ... onius.html

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:56 am

It's interesting that Pliny the Younger's letter to Trajan about Christians refers to worshiping Trajan's image and cursing 'Christ'.
Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose; together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ ...

Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

http://www.mesacc.edu/~thoqh49081/handouts/pliny.html
... For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. ... It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

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Re: Serapis-Christian links overlays??

Post by Robert Tulip » Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:40 am

I wrote the following comments on the Serapis-Christian links and overlay a few years ago at http://www.booktalk.org/post94654.html#p94654 When I wrote it I was not aware that the Hadrian quote is possibly fraudulent, and I still consider it highly plausible.

The deliberate invention of Serapis by the Greco-Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy i in the third century BC is a model for the invention of Jesus Christ in Alexandria in the second century AD. I mentioned Serapis in the thread on the twelve followers, and would like to explore this further here.

This intentional founding of the worship of Serapis as a new imaginary religion followed the Greek conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and aimed to provide a belief system that would be acceptable to both Egyptians and Greeks. The mixing of different cultures in the ancient Mediterranean world led to the need to mix their religions. When Greeks spread throughout the Hellenistic world after Alexander's wars, they found it necessary to compromise with the beliefs of the local inhabitants rather than keeping their Greek traditions intact. Greeks did not like worshiping gods with animal heads, so they invented Serapis, a combination of the Egyptian god Osiris with the Greek god Zeus, among others.

Why was Serapis not adequate in the common era? The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD changed the situation. The Egyptian city of Alexandria was already half Jewish. It experienced a new influx of Jewish refugees from Palestine. In this melting pot, the previous spiritual cosmic Christ/Serapis was transformed into a historical savior.

Serapis, being purely invented and acknowledged as such, lacked the subversive political force of an incarnate messiah who claimed to be real and not imaginary. Serapis could not compete with the new doctrine. Belief in Christ grafted the law of Moses and Isaiah on to the Greco-Egyptian myth of Serapis, providing a new ethical purpose in a vision of millennial transformation of the world, 'the last shall be first'.

The Jewish War had proved that the Jews could not simply be ignored as part of the melting pot, but it seems that Christianity, after Rome had robbed the Jews of their land, sought to rob them of their heritage as well. Murdock says the Therapeuts were "Hellenizing Egyptian Jews" (p433). It is not surprising that they would graft Israeli traditions onto the Greco-Egyptian myth of Serapis if their agenda was a new universal ethical faith. One thing that is perhaps surprising or ironic here is that if Christianity was actually founded by the Therapeuts, who were a partly deracinated Jewish brotherhood, they gave rise to a dogma which would prove universally popular across the Roman Empire except among the Jews, who became the object of racial hatred on the basis of this new ideology which incorporated their heritage.

A key theme regarding the comparison of Serapis with Christ is the ability to invent religious ideas that enjoy mass appeal. No one says Serapis was a real man, but Roman Emperor Hadrian said that Christians in the early second century were worshippers of Serapis. The motive to write the Gospels appears to be the recognition that myth just didn't cut it as an ethical power. If Christians wanted to transform the world, they needed to believe in a material cause of redeeming change, something directly supplied by the doctrine of the incarnation of God in Christ. Admitting that Christ was fiction like Serapis just would not do.

Earlier Jews had already put religion in the service of politics by inventing the empire of David and Solomon and the supposed antiquity of the book of Deuteronomy in the seventh century BC, hundreds of years after the supposed facts. The invention of Serapis was an even more recent instructive model as a way to give a popular facelift to tired old myths that only worked in a mono-racial society. The most plausible basis for the production of the New Testament is that it was deliberately invented by the Jewish Therapeut Brotherhood of Alexandria, intentionally targeting the new multiracial societies of the common era with a story that would provide a lowest common denominator for all to believe, incorporating a plausible cosmic critique of the lax ethics of the time. Christianity relied on deception to achieve its popularity, a deception so successful that Christians today are still hoodwinked by the fiction that Jesus is more historical than Serapis, Osiris or Zeus.

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