Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
nightshadetwine
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by nightshadetwine » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:55 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:31 pm
Snopes has an article on the coincidences between the deaths of Abraham Lincoln and JF Kennedy, where they discuss the significance of coincidences: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/linkin-kennedy/
I think it depends on the situation. If a bunch of other president's deaths had parallels then I would start to think maybe they weren't just coincidences. But when you find these motifs in all the Ancient Near Eastern religions I think there's some influencing going on. I suspect that these motifs have an esoteric meaning to them.
If you are looking at influences, I'd focus on the Jewish scriptures as the most likely source, and then branch out from there. Throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks won't get us far. You may well be right that a parallel is an indication of influence, but it can't be assumed.
I think Christianity started from Jewish scriptures but also incorporated Greco-Roman religion. I see the Jewish scriptures as the "base" that Christianity was built on. I think by the time of Paul's letters Greco-Roman mystery cult influences have already been added. I think it was very easy to make the suffering servant in Isaiah into a dying and resurrecting mystery savior. This quote from Richard Carrier's Wikipedia page pretty much sums up what I think happened https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C ... syncretism
Carrier notes four major trends in religion, occurring prior to the formation of Christianity:

"Syncretism: combining a foreign cult deity with Hellenistic elements."[87]
"Monotheism: transforming polytheism into monotheism (via henotheism)."[87]
"Individualism: agricultural salvation cults retooled as personal salvation cults."[87]
"Cosmopolitanism: all races, cultures, classes admitted as equals, with fictive kinship (members are all “brothers”); you now “join” a religion rather than being born into it."[87]
Carrier writes that per syncretism, "Mithraism was a syncretism of Persian and Hellenistic elements; the mysteries of Isis and Osiris were a syncretism of Egyptian and Hellenistic elements. Christianity is simply a continuation of the same trend: a syncretism of Jewish and Hellenistic elements. Each of these cults is unique and different from all the others in nearly every detail—but it's the general features they all share in common that reflect the overall fad that produced them in the first place, the very features that made them popular and successful within Greco-Roman culture."[102]

Carrier contends that Christianity originated from a Jewish sect...

nightshadetwine
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by nightshadetwine » Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:19 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:44 pm
But Judaism was not universal, and may never have been. Hence the increasing sectarianism within it- especially in Iudæa, Galilee, and wider Judea - in the first half of the first century AD/CE, leading to the Roman crackdown and the first Jewish-Roman War. And Judaism had been increasingly 'hellenized', seemingly more so in Alexandria.

The distress of the destruction of the Temple, and the abomination of the inability to rebuild it after the second Roman-Jewish War, would have challenged many Jews theologically (essentially their only or at least their predominant philosophy).

There is likely to have been a number of scenarios that would have varied from place to place in the eastern Mediterranean. It was a stir-fry of religions in the first and second centuries CE that became a melting pot of religions. The shipping trade was spreading many of them around, especially the Egyptian mystery religions.
I think Christianity got it's universalism from the mystery cults.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C ... syncretism:
Carrier notes four major trends in religion, occurring prior to the formation of Christianity:

"Syncretism: combining a foreign cult deity with Hellenistic elements."[87]
"Monotheism: transforming polytheism into monotheism (via henotheism)."[87]
"Individualism: agricultural salvation cults retooled as personal salvation cults."[87]
"Cosmopolitanism: all races, cultures, classes admitted as equals, with fictive kinship (members are all “brothers”); you now “join” a religion rather than being born into it."[87]
Carrier writes that per syncretism, "Mithraism was a syncretism of Persian and Hellenistic elements; the mysteries of Isis and Osiris were a syncretism of Egyptian and Hellenistic elements. Christianity is simply a continuation of the same trend: a syncretism of Jewish and Hellenistic elements. Each of these cults is unique and different from all the others in nearly every detail—but it's the general features they all share in common that reflect the overall fad that produced them in the first place, the very features that made them popular and successful within Greco-Roman culture."[102]

Carrier contends that Christianity originated from a Jewish sect,
"The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity" By James S. Jeffers:
The concept of an afterlife, which was never very important for traditional Greek and Roman religions, was a significant element in mystery religions. In addition, secret ceremonies were central to mystery religions (hence the "mystery" element). Those who were initiated into the cult's secret rites were thereby bound to their fellow adherents. The initiates also learned the central secret of the group, typically involving how to achieve union with the cult's deity. Another common element of mystery religions was a myth telling how the deity had either defeated his or her
enemies or returned to life after death. As the cult member shared in the god's triumph, he or she was redeemed from the earthly and temporal...Instead, and in addition to their desire for redemption, they emphasized the persuit of a sense of oneness with their god and ultimately the attainment of immortality.
The religion of the Olympian gods had little impact on the average Greek peasant farmer. These gods, when they took an interest in human affairs, were depicted as being interested in only the affairs of great men or nations. They had no interest in the common people. The mystery religions of Greece, which go back at least to 1500 B.C., appealed to such people.
The Orphic mystery cult used to go around initiating people into their religion kind of like the Christians did.

"Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture" by Walter Burkert:
As Plato noted, the cult has itinerant "purifiers" and "initiators", kathartai, telestai, who, through the appropriate rituals, offer their clients freedom from various afflictions, including the fear of death and postmortal punishments. The key document for such priests is a decree of king Ptolemy Philopator from Egypt, dated at about 210 B.C., which orders "those who are performing initiation rituals for Dionysus" to register at Alexandria. They are organized in "families", with tradition from "father" to "son" and are presumed to guard a sacred text (heiros logos), be it mythical stories or ritual formulas; this, the decree says, shall be deposited at the royal office in Alexandria under seal. That wandering initiators would cover the distances between Macedonia, Thesaly, Lesbos, Crete, and southern Italy is not remarkable.
Last edited by nightshadetwine on Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:29 pm

nightshadetwine wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:55 pm
GakuseiDon wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:31 pm
If you are looking at influences, I'd focus on the Jewish scriptures as the most likely source, and then branch out from there ... You may well be right that a parallel is an indication of influence, but it can't be assumed.
I think Christianity started from Jewish scriptures but also incorporated Greco-Roman religion. I see the Jewish scriptures as the "base" that Christianity was built on. I think by the time of Paul's letters Greco-Roman mystery cult influences have already been added. I think it was very easy to make the suffering servant in Isaiah into a dying and resurrecting mystery savior.
It's possible Paul's theology coudl have been syncretic from the start, or started with a Greco-Egyptian religion and then added aspects of Judaism.

I don't think syncretism in general has to involve either a foreign cult deity or Hellenistic elements, as Carrier asserts -
Carrier notes four major trends in religion, occurring prior to the formation of Christianity:
  • "Syncretism: combining a foreign cult deity with Hellenistic elements."
  • "Monotheism: transforming polytheism into monotheism (via henotheism)."
  • "Individualism: agricultural salvation cults retooled as personal salvation cults."
  • "Cosmopolitanism: all races, cultures, classes admitted as equals, with fictive kinship (members are all “brothers”); you now “join” a religion rather than being born into it."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C ... syncretism
- but I agree that:
" ... Christianity is simply a continuation of the same trend: a syncretism of Jewish and Hellenistic elements [+/- Egyptian elements]. Each of these cults is unique and different from all the others in nearly every detail —but it's the general features they all share in common that reflect the overall fad that produced them in the first place, the very features that made them popular and successful within [eastern Mediterranean] culture."[102]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C ... syncretism

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MrMacSon
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:54 pm

nightshadetwine wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:19 pm

I think Christianity got it's universalism from the mystery cults.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C ... syncretism:
Carrier notes four major trends in religion, occurring prior to the formation of Christianity:
  • "Syncretism: combining a foreign cult deity with Hellenistic elements."
  • "Monotheism: transforming polytheism into monotheism (via henotheism)."
  • "Individualism: agricultural salvation cults retooled as personal salvation cults."
  • "Cosmopolitanism: all races, cultures, classes admitted as equals, with fictive kinship (members are all “brothers”); you now “join” a religion rather than being born into it."
Carrier writes that per syncretism, "Mithraism was a syncretism of Persian and Hellenistic elements; the mysteries of Isis and Osiris were a syncretism of Egyptian and Hellenistic elements. Christianity is simply a continuation of the same trend: a syncretism of Jewish and Hellenistic elements. Each of these cults is unique and different from all the others in nearly every detail—but it's the general features they all share in common that reflect the overall fad that produced them in the first place, the very features that made them popular and successful within Greco-Roman culture."[102]

Carrier contends that Christianity originated from a Jewish sect ...
Cheers, I agree. I was looking at that Cosmopolitanism category, and the others could apply to the development of Christianity, too.

In those days many people in the Roman Empire deferred to or followed two or three religions: Jupiter, the cult of the emperor (since Augustus), and another religion if they wanted.

Hadrian followed Serapis, and a couple of other 2nd century emperors after him did, too. And of course Hadrian started and promoted the cult of Osiris-Antinoos in 130 AD/CE, starting the city of Antinoopolis where Antinous had died (across the Nile from Hermopolis), and in Athens he founded the Panhellenion, and started a festival to be held in honour of Antinous in October, the 'Antinoeia'.

Moreover, Hadrian focused on his new cult's spread within the Greek lands and in Summer 131 travelled them, promoting Antinous in a syncretised form with the more familiar deity Hermes. On a visit to Trapezus in 131, he proclaimed the foundation of a temple devoted to Hermes, where the deity was probably venerated as Hermes-Antinous. Although Hadrian preferred to associate Antinous with Hermes, the new deity was far more widely syncretised with the god Dionysus across the Empire. The cult also spread through Egypt, and within a few years of its foundation, altars and temples to the god had been erected in Hermopolis, Alexandria, Oxyrhynchus, Tebytnis, Lykopolis, and Luxor, via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinous

I'm not sure Christianity originated solely from a Jewish sect. If it did it would have been a sect either not part of the new school that started in Galilee after the fall of The Second Temple, or it could have been one that split off at some point, and started engaging with communities that followed the mystery religions.

nightshadetwine wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:19 pm

"The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity" By James S. Jeffers:
The concept of an afterlife, which was never very important for traditional Greek and Roman religions, was a significant element in mystery religions. In addition, secret ceremonies were central to mystery religions (hence the "mystery" element). Those who were initiated into the cult's secret rites were thereby bound to their fellow adherents. The initiates also learned the central secret of the group, typically involving how to achieve union with the cult's deity. Another common element of mystery religions was a myth telling how the deity had either defeated his or her enemies or returned to life after death. As the cult member shared in the god's triumph, he or she was redeemed from the earthly and temporal. Instead, and in addition to their desire for redemption, they emphasized the persuit of a sense of oneness with their god and ultimately the attainment of immortality.

The religion of the Olympian gods had little impact on the average Greek peasant farmer. These gods, when they took an interest in human affairs, were depicted as being interested in only the affairs of great men or nations. They had no interest in the common people. The mystery religions of Greece, which go back at least to 1500 B.C., appealed to such people.
The Orphic mystery cult used to go around initiating people into their religion kind of like the Christians did.
Yep. Cheers.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:02 pm

.

I think the Osir.antinous, Herm.antinoos and, it seems, the Antinoos-Dionysus cults are likely to have influenced the genesis of Christianity.
Last edited by MrMacSon on Fri Mar 08, 2019 5:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

robert j
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by robert j » Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:22 am

nightshadetwine wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:55 pm

I think Christianity started from Jewish scriptures but also incorporated Greco-Roman religion. I see the Jewish scriptures as the "base" that Christianity was built on. I think by the time of Paul's letters Greco-Roman mystery cult influences have already been added.
Influences found solely within Paul's letters at the time?

Are you saying that you think, by the time of Paul's letters, mystery-cult influences had already infused Paul's letters and doctrines?

Or are you proposing that, by the time of Paul's letters, different (non-Pauline) Christians groups had incorporated mystery cult influences?

In what period of time do you place the authorship of Paul's letters? (for those 7 generally considered to be by Paul)

nightshadetwine
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by nightshadetwine » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:32 am

robert j wrote:
Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:22 am
Influences found solely within Paul's letters at the time?

Are you saying that you think, by the time of Paul's letters, mystery-cult influences had already infused Paul's letters and doctrines?
Yeah
Or are you proposing that, by the time of Paul's letters, different (non-Pauline) Christians groups had incorporated mystery cult influences?
I'm not sure about other non-Pauline Christian groups.
In what period of time do you place the authorship of Paul's letters? (for those 7 generally considered to be by Paul)
I'm just going by the scholarly consensus although I'm open to them being later. So in the 50s CE.

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Joseph D. L.
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Re: Jesus and other saviors/heroes

Post by Joseph D. L. » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:47 am

rgprice wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:10 am
There are two big problems with most of this:
1) Many of these stories about Jesus didn't develop until much later. The original concept of Jesus was not even as a human being. The birth narrative, for example was added much later, many early Christian sects said that Jesus had never been born at all, that he had existed since the beginning of time, etc.
2) The Jewish sources for the Jesus story are obvious. Every aspect of Jesus can clearly and definitively be traced to Jewish sources.
How can we make any attestment as to what Jesus is if we can't know anything about him?

After all, Lukuas and bar Kochba were humans who were thought of as messiahs. Paul was a human who believed he inherited the Christ spirit from Isu Chrestus. And numerous historical figures were thought of as gods on earth, or related to them. (Like Alexander the Great, and Octavio Augustus).

On the second point, isn't your first argument just as applicable here? If everything we have is late, then the Old Testament sources should also be considered late. Why should they take special priority over common pagan motifs, especially considering that Jews had already been inducted and syncretized into many cults, like Dionysus and Sabazios? The Naassenes prove that such an emergence was not unheard of, and could imply the existence of other similar cults of a Jewish and pagan mix.
Looking for "pagan influences" on the origin of the figure is barking up the wrong tree. There were definitely a lot of pagan influences on the later development of Christianity, like from 4th century on, but the original cult was very Jewish in origin. The parallels with Jewish stories are far, far closer than anything from pagan mythology.
1 Clement and Justin's First Apology proves that there was already an early tradition of comparing Christ to various other gods and traditions, Justin going so far as to say that paganism and Christianity stems from the same source, albeit one is more pure than the other.

What's more, Paul even does the same thing in Acts of the Apostles, when quotes pagan poets honouring a pagan god, yet uses it to promote his god.

And as far as I know, no Jewish figure in any canonical or pseudopigraphic text describes a figure as being on a cross and resurrecting afterwards. Both Osiris and Dionysus were, however. Osiris on the dd-pillar, and Dionysus on the Lenaia pillar. Sure, there a vague allusions to a cross in the Old Testament, but that's only apparent when you have the New Testament in hand and not as an abstract idea.

In fact, most of the comparisons between Jesus and the patriarchs are so vague that the passages were literally rewritten to make them dovetail easier. So it's not as black and white as you make it to be.

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