Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Bernard Muller
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Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:30 am

Where is the evidence showing Christianity started without a man Jesus, born from a woman, a human who lived on earth?

Cordially, Bernard

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Giuseppe
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:42 am

Two things:
  • The sound silence of at least Paul and Hebrews and Revelation about a human Jesus lived in the recent past
  • The fictional nature of the Gospels, controversial hypothesis about their origin

Ernest Renan, historicist author of a Life of Jesus, said: if we had only Paul, then the doubt about a historical Jesus would be rational.

Given the recent findings about the fictional nature of the Gospels, we are in a point where the Gospels don't affect our judgement about the Origins derived only from pre-Gospel writings. In other terms, it is de facto, if not de jure, as if we had only Paul.


Not only: any Bernard pointing presumed Pauline historicist passages is neutralized in advance by this pure and simple observation:


It is the general tenor of these scriptures that must decide, and as to this there cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of the unbiassed. This general tenor gives great dogmatic value to the Death of Jesus as a God, but does not recognise at all the Life of Jesus as a Man. The very few exceptions are trivial, and only apparent ; but even if they were not trivial, and not merely apparent, it would still not matter—they could not weigh against the utterly unequivocal general tenor. Many more important isolated statements may have been, and confessedly have actually been, interpolated into the text, no one knows when or how, but the general tenor is unmistakable and determinative. The general tenor cannot have been interpolated or corrupted.

(W. B. Smith, Ecce Deus, p. 23, cursive original)

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Secret Alias
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:11 am

Bernard,

The way the gospel of Mark begins with no background whatsoever to Jesus is problematic. Either Jesus was so well known that no background was necessary or something else was going on. It is even more difficult given the gospel was written at Rome. Was Jesus so well known in Rome a generation before the alleged 'appearance' took place that Mark could have written a narrative with no biography? Indeed the closest thing we have to a literary explanation of the reception at Rome is the Clementine literature which - albeit fictitious - at least presents Clement as a Roman citizen who comes to hear Barnabas speak. It at least frames the way a historical reception of a historical Jesus took place. It is hard to believe that people who hadn't listened to Barnabas or some other Palestinian preacher wouldn't have needed, been interested in or expected background on Jesus. Surely having heard street preachers can't have been a pre-requisite to reading Mark's gospel. Mark can't have counted on a oral background to Jesus already having been provided. So why the silence about Jesus's background?

The only way I can see the lack of biography 'work' is if we assume that the earliest gospel was written in Judea and then 'translated' in Rome and elsewhere. In other words, that the lack of biography being a product of familiarity and then 'faithful editing.' But that presents other problems.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:19 am

At the very least you'd have to assume that information about Jesus was passed by 'living voice' and the gospel was written as a supplement to that mystery/initiation process. But even that opens the door to multiple explanations for the person of Jesus including being a supernatural person.

I am not sure why - if the gospel is a 'biography' - that you would need to have the narrative develop as an 'add on' to a mystery initiation or some sort of secret knowledge cult. Again I am not saying that you can prove that Jesus wasn't a historical person. But I think you have to accept the possibility that there might have been a multitude of understandings about the person of Jesus and it is difficult given the paucity of evidence to determine which is the earliest or most original or even that which Mark actually held and promoted.

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Irish1975
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Irish1975 » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:45 pm

The New Testament;
The Odes of Solomon;
The Gospel of Thomas;
The Ascension of Isaiah;
The Didache;
1 Clement.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Jan 04, 2021 1:42 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:30 am
Where is the evidence showing Christianity started without a man Jesus, born from a woman, a human who lived on earth?
I don't think there is any overt, gotcha evidence. Which would be 'par-for-the-course' in that it's hard to prove a negative.

ie. It is hard if not impossible to put an objective deductive argument with sound (ie. true) premises to provide a definitive answer.

The next best thing one can do - given all the information to hand - for both the historicist and the mythicist 'angles' is provide an inductive argument.

ie. One can only infer. To varying degrees.

"all the information to hand" about the development of early Christianity is, as far as I can see, currently a moveable feast, as new ways of looking at the information and at the intertextuality of various early Christian, apocryphal and pseud-epigraphical texts, and thus new information and concepts, come to hand eg. what direction information or concepts (often theological concepts) may have flowed may not be what has been traditionally thought or assumed (and whether information or concepts might flowed almost instantaneously, rather than over longer periods or time as has also been traditionally assumed).



An aside

To elaborate on the notion argument one way or the other, and what type of argument is possible, there is also the somewhat a priori concept of hypothesis and hypothesising: the principle here is to develop the best hypothesis one can to fit one's thinking about an issue. But, there's a quirk: one should generally develop a null hypothesis which assumes that whatever you would like to prove did not happen: essentially the opposite position, a 'devil's advocate' position. And then develop an alternative hypothesis which expresses what you would like to prove.

(Moreover, there are various permutations depending on what one wants to study and what resources are available to do the study, etc. Sometimes (especially in science, often for logistical or financial reasons) an alternative alternative-hypothesis (sic) is developed and study around it is designed so the outcomes may only support or 'not support' either hypothesis ie. the results are unable to prove or disprove but simply just add more to a body of knowledge about the topic at hand.




While information that could be construed as evidence for or against a historical Jesus may be hard to come by, and, as dates for the writing of various texts seems to be becoming less certain, the general information and concepts I have of them is that the Pauline epistles provide little concrete evidence and what they provide is less than one might expect if Paul had got information from key disciples (eg. we might expect Paul to have recited or recounted what the disciples would have said said about Jesus).

The Pauline texts are key theological texts: designed to draw people into a new theology (or at least a new way of looking at an old theology which itself would have been undergoing review (regardless of when one might think the Pauline epistles were written)). The Pauline texts are less interested in the novel Jew, Jesus, but something beyond him. The focus on them was and still is a good bait and switch tactic.

And the Pauline epistles are largely based on the LXX-OT.

As is Mark. And the start of Mark -Mk 1:1-4- as Stephan has alluded, clearly uses LXX passages. And Mark can be seen as an elaboration of the Pauline epistles.

There is also the issue of what weight one puts on the notion that the Pauline letters represent 'gnosticism' and messianism or both: 'gnostic messianism'. And to what extend they may have been redated and interpolated when they were brought into a 'canonical tent' (or a series of 'canonical tents': a Marcionite tent; Irenaeus' tent; Tertullian's tent.


I think, as an analogy for looking at the NT, one has to also look at 'the forest', the overall nature of the the texts, rather than just at the trees ie. the passages or their groupings in chapters or books.
Last edited by MrMacSon on Mon Jan 04, 2021 1:53 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Bernard Muller
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Jan 04, 2021 1:50 pm

to giuseppe.
Two things:
The sound silence of at least Paul and Hebrews and Revelation about a human Jesus lived in the recent past
Paul was not silent about a human Jesus: from http://historical-jesus.info/
Paul wrote about a minimal Jesus (but also, for Paul, pre/post-existent as a heavenly deity) who, "from "Israelites, ... whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh[/b] ..." (Ro9:4-5 YLT) and "come of a woman, come under law" (Gal4:4 YLT) (as a descendant of (allegedly) Abraham (Gal3:16), Jesse (Ro15:12) & David (Ro1:3)), "found in appearance as a man" (Php2:8) "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Ro8:3), "the one man, Jesus Christ" (Ro5:15) (who had brothers (1Co9:5), one of them called "James", whom Paul met (Gal1:19)), "humbled himself" (Php2:8) in "poverty" (2Co8:9) as "servant of the Jews" (Ro15:8) and "was crucified in weakness" (2Co13:4) in "Zion" (Ro9:31-33 & Ro11:26-27).


As for Hebrews: from http://historical-jesus.info/40.html:
"For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests." Heb 7:14
"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.
For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.
Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people."
Heb 2:14-17

The fictional nature of the Gospels, controversial hypothesis about their origin

About gMark, from http://historical-jesus.info/28.html
IF
- Jesus' disciples (and James) never became Christians (see here).
- At least one of Jesus' disciples offered his testimony (c/w with anecdotal material) about Jesus' ministry to the Markan community (see here and here).
- This Jesus was "humble" poor Jew, with no divine power or origin (see here and here and here).
- This Markan Christian community, at the time the gospel was written, and in view of Jesus being elevated by Paul as a Divinity, was expecting Jesus, in his human phase, would have shown divine power and/or origin and not exhibited failures or objectionable conduct/sayings.
- "Mark" wanted to include bits and pieces of the testimony heard from eyewitness(es) in order to provide his gospel with an air of authenticity.

Then we have a dilemma:
- How can extraordinary things requiring divine intervention be added to a human Jesus and his story when the testimony about him did not include any?
- How to use Jesus' disciples when those did not have any reasons to embrace later Christian tenets (Jesus as resurrected & Christ, resurrections, meaning of the "passion", etc.)?
- How can failures or objectionable conduct/sayings (either from Jesus or his disciples) heard from the disciple(s) be cancelled?
But if my five points are correct, then we should find, in Mark's gospel, the author facing that dilemma and providing solutions. And here they are:

Solution 1: Disciples getting gag order from Jesus:
a) NOT saying Jairus' daughter was resurrected (5:43)
b) NOT claiming Jesus was Christ (8:30)
c) NOT telling about the [fictional] events on the high mountain, which included transfiguration, God saying Jesus is his Son and Moses & Elijah alive in bodily forms (9:9-10)

Solution 2: Disciples being ignorant or kept in ignorance:
a) NOT aware of the (Christian) meaning of Jesus' future passion (8:33)
b) NOT understanding what "rising from the dead" meant (right after seeing Moses & Elijah!) (9:10)
c) NOT asking about the meaning of (among other things) Jesus' future rising (9:32b)
d) NOT told about the Empty Tomb (16:8)

Solution 3: Disciples being too dumb to notice extraordinary events:
a) NOT "seeing" the miraculous feeding(s) (6:52, 8:4, 17-21)
b) NOT considering "walking on the sea" or/and the following stoppage of the wind as divine miracle(s) (6:52)

Solution 4: Damage control on witnessed failure & objectionable conduct/saying:
a) Jairus' daughter not resurrected (damage control: 5:42).
b) Rejection of Jesus in his hometown and his failure to heal people there (damage control: 6:4, 5b).
c) Near-impossibility for wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God (damage control: 10:27).
d) Disturbance in the temple (damage control: 11:17).
e) Peter saying Jesus cursed at a fig tree which withered later (damage control: 11:22-25).
f) Disciples falling away after Jesus' arrest (damage control: 14:27b).

This is why I think gMark is not total fiction.

Not only: any Bernard pointing presumed Pauline historicist passages is neutralized in advance by this pure and simple observation:


(bolding mine)
It is the general tenor of these scriptures that must decide, and as to this there cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of the unbiassed. This general tenor gives great dogmatic value to the Death of Jesus as a God, but does not recognise at all the Life of Jesus as a Man [But they do]. The very few exceptions are trivial, and only apparent ; but even if they were not trivial, and not merely apparent, it would still not matter—they could not weigh against the utterly unequivocal general tenor. Many more important isolated statements may have been, and confessedly have actually been, interpolated into the text, no one knows when or how, but the general tenor is unmistakable and determinative. The general tenor cannot have been interpolated or corrupted.

Yes, the general tenor in the Pauline epistles is not about the public life of Jesus. One good reason for that: Paul was not an eyewitness. But some other (likely Peter who went to Corinth) already did, and told his testimony (see my earlier quote from http://historical-jesus.info/28.html
Also to be considered: from http://historical-jesus.info/20.html:
Let's work of the following half verse:
2 Cor 5:16b Darby "and even if *we* have known Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know
[him thus] no longer."

Because "according to the flesh" (Greek: 'kata sarka') cannot mean here "in person" (neither Paul or his Corinthians met Jesus in the flesh), the sense in that context appears to be "according to worldly ways" (Collins' dictionary definition for "worldly": "not spiritual; mundane or temporal"). Please note the NIV Bible renders 'kata sarka' here as "from a worldly point of view"; the NRSV translates the same as "from a human point of view".

And Paul can be demonstrated to use this expression in the same epistle with that connotation:
2 Cor 1:17c "... Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh ..."
2 Cor 5:15a "... we regard no one according to the flesh"
2 Cor 10:2-3 "But I beg [you] that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh."
2 Cor 11:18 "Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast."

And, sometimes, "according to the flesh" is presented as the opposite of "according to the Spirit" (which is Paul's preferred way, by far!):
Ro 8:4-5 "[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those [who live] according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit."
Ro 8:13 "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

So now, let's look back at the half verse, with some comments inserted into it:
2 Cor 5:16b-17 Darby "and even if *we* have known
[Greek perfect indicative: at some time in the past]
Christ according to the flesh,
[reference to some worldly & unChristian knowledge/understanding about Jesus. Then next, Paul is asking his audience to forget this point of view about Jesus]
yet now we know [him thus] no longer."


Cordially, Bernard

Bernard Muller
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:30 pm

to Irish1975,
"The New Testament;
The Odes of Solomon;
The Gospel of Thomas;
The Ascension of Isaiah;
The Didache;
1 Clement."
Really, did you check the New Testament lately? And what about 1 Clement (check 31:4), and gThomas (check 15, 52, 79, 99)?

Cordially, Bernard

Bernard Muller
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Jan 04, 2021 2:34 pm

to MrMacSon,

You said it:
I don't think there is any overt, gotcha evidence. Which would be 'par-for-the-course' in that it's hard to prove a negative.

ie. It is hard if not impossible to put an objective deductive argument with sound (ie. true) premises to provide a definitive answer.

The next best thing one can do - given all the information to hand - for both the historicist and the mythicist 'angles' is provide an inductive argument.

ie. One can only infer. To varying degrees.
Cordially, Bernard

rgprice
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Re: Evidence Christianity started as mythicist

Post by rgprice » Mon Jan 04, 2021 3:16 pm

I'm not going to spend much time on this, as its a topic of somewhat futile debate, but the main points I lay out in my prior book along with new ones I'll be putting forward in my new book are summarized as follows:

1) All material from pre-Gospel writings (Epistles of Paul, James, Jude, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 1 Clement) provide no description of Jesus that is not derived from the Jewish scriptures' or revelation. (Note that describing Jesus as "born of a woman" or having "taken the form of flesh" is not a description of a real person, and all such descriptions are based in scripture)

2) All sayings attributed to Jesus in pre-Gospel material are derived from scripture or revelation, i.e. "The Lord said..." This is consistent with centuries of Jewish writings about unhistorical beings, such as God himself, angels, etc.
3) We have pre-Gospel writings from between 8 and 14 different people, depending on how we count it and what is determined to be forged and by whom. That is 8 to 14 different people, none of which provide any information about Jesus that is not derived from scripture or revelation.

4) There are no known forgeries committed in the name of Jesus prior to the dissemination of the Gospels. This is a very key issue. Many forgeries were made in the names of Paul, Peter, James and others. The reason for these forgeries was to impart credibility upon the teachings/doctrines/theology contained in the letters. If Jesus were a real person, and seen as the originator of the teachings of this group, then the surest way to claim authority for your claims would be to ascribe them to Jesus. Yet no one did this. Instead people forged in the names of Paul, James, etc. This indicates that it was Paul, James, etc. who were seen as the authorities, whose identities it was worth impersonating. That no one thought to forge in the name of Jesus indicates that no one conceived of Jesus as a real person who could be impersonated.

5) The contents of the Gospel of Mark can be demonstrated to be derived entirely from the Jewish scriptures and letters of Paul, along with other extant writings, such as Philo and possibly Josephus. It's clear that the Gospel of Mark is not based on any accounts of a real person, rather it is a fictional story derived from material that is not directly about Jesus. At this point, virtually every line of gMark can be traced back to one of these sources. Its a work of literary genius, but it isn't a biography of a real person. The idea that gMark is based on oral traditions tracing back to some real person is entirely unsupportable fantasy at this point. It's clearly a contrived fiction based on literary references.

6) Every other narrative about Jesus descends from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is a fictional story with no basis in fact. The fact that everyone copied from this fiction shows that no one had any knowledge of any real Jesus. Dozens of other Gospel stories were written about Jesus. Every single one of these can be tied back to Mark in one way or another. (Well, at least I've tied the main 8 or so non-canonical ones back to Mark, and I've no doubt the same could be done for others.)

There are many other points to make, but I think these are the main ones.

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