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Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
09-23-2009, 07:19 PM
Post: #1
Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
Ok, I'm not trying offending anyone's beliefs here, but I think it's an interesting point to be discussed.

My personal belief is that there was indeed a historical Jesus, but that the contents of the New Testament was attributed later on in stages. I can't really see a reason to doubt that Paul (who we know is historical) met Peter (who we can assume is historical as far as I'm aware), and thus assume that Peter and so forth knew a teacher called Jesus. The business in the temple is not recounted in another religion, as far as I know, so I'd suggest that this was a true event by the historical Jesus.

However, there are too many similarities with other gods for the entire story of Jesus to be true, in my opinion. I would suggest that the elaborations, such as miracles, etc, were added later to deify the man. Scholars do not believe that the gospels were written by eye witnesses, and as I have stated before, the trial with Pilate is quite similar to the quizing Dionysus gets by Pentheus in Euripedes' Bacchae.

I would suggest that much of the Jesus myth is based upon older myths of Dionysus, Osiris, and so forth (all covered by Sir Frazer in the Golden Bough), and that the Gentiles added this onto the stories of the Jewish man who was crucified.

Any takers?
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09-23-2009, 08:16 PM (This post was last modified: 09-23-2009 08:17 PM by Parousia.)
Post: #2
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
(09-23-2009 07:19 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  My personal belief is that there was indeed a historical Jesus, but that the contents of the New Testament was attributed later on in stages. I can't really see a reason to doubt that Paul (who we know is historical) met Peter (who we can assume is historical as far as I'm aware), and thus assume that Peter and so forth knew a teacher called Jesus. The business in the temple is not recounted in another religion, as far as I know, so I'd suggest that this was a true event by the historical Jesus.

However, there are too many similarities with other gods for the entire story of Jesus to be true, in my opinion. I would suggest that the elaborations, such as miracles, etc, were added later to deify the man. Scholars do not believe that the gospels were written by eye witnesses, and as I have stated before, the trial with Pilate is quite similar to the quizing Dionysus gets by Pentheus in Euripedes' Bacchae.

I would suggest that much of the Jesus myth is based upon older myths of Dionysus, Osiris, and so forth (all covered by Sir Frazer in the Golden Bough), and that the Gentiles added this onto the stories of the Jewish man who was crucified.

The preachings and numerous sayings attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are entirely believable as representing a Jewish reformer seeking to restore a purer and more spiritual form of Judaism as the necessary precursor to the opening of the messianic age. Various episodes, especially his run-ins with the Pharisees and Sadducees, sound like they originate in the tenure of the literalist Shammai as president of the Sanhedrin (20-30 CE). They do not quite make sense in the era of Gospel writing (after 70 CE) when the Pharisees had evolved well beyond that and the Sadducees were essentially non-existent. If we then consider the tenure of Pontius Pilate (26-36 CE) we have a very reasonable timeframe of 26-30 CE for the mission of Jesus.

Paul's various collisions with other traditions of Jesus followers (the word Christianity does not appear for decades yet) and especially his apparent coming in on the losing side here and there have the ring of truth. If it were fictional, he would likely have made himself much more of a hero or at least be more philosophical about losing. (The man had a temper!)

I have always suspected that Paul adapted the external appearances of the religion of his gentile audience to fit the story of Jesus. In particular, various practices of the Dionysian religion seem to have been integrated by Paul as a means of making the gentiles (pagans) feel more at ease with this new religion., e.g., the use of bread and wine, the ‘eating’ of the god, the ritual suffering, death and resurrection of the god. However it is also clear that Paul never abandons the Jewish foundation of this new religion. Window dressing is one thing, but all the important theological points are rooted in Judaism and especially in the apocalypticist tradition common at that time.
The miracles and ‘tall tales’ do not appear until the Gospels, all written after 70 CE in an atmosphere of needing to defend proto-orthodox Christianity against the encroachments of alternatives such as the new rabbinic Judaism and the proto-Gnostic movements. In the wake of the bloody suppression of the Jewish Revolt, there was also a major loss of faith in messianic movements of all kinds. In fact this is exactly the message of Mark, the first Gospel to be written, that Jesus never preached rebellion and the failure of the revolt was irrelevant. Miracles and prophecies (never mentioned by Paul who wrote much earlier) were needed to bolster belief.

Mark, from whom Matthew and Luke often borrowed material, is likely to have lived in Rome and may very well have had a classical education. His Greek seems to be a second language with Latin as his first based on such things as his use of Latin loan words and Latin phrases translated into Greek. His main audience probably had the same background as him. It is not impossible that he presented material such as the trial of Jesus with deliberate classical references. However, the ‘trial’ itself (probably really a preliminary hearing and not a formal trial) does sound a bit like a story repeated by an eavesdropper who was interrupted, possibly by someone recognizing him as a follower. Mark himself was certainly not the eavesdropper but it is not outside the realm of possibility that ‘Mark’ (whatever his real name was) got this and other stories from Peter himself.

We might also note that the mystery cult of Mithras, to which early Christianity is often compared, did not exist until the 2nd century. There was the earlier Mithraic religion, a descendent of Zoroastrianism, but that was not as close a match as the later mystery cult and nowhere near as widespread. IMO the comparisons with other religions are overdone and sometimes just plain faulty. (December 25 for example.)

To summarize:

An historical Jesus? Sounds likely, but a human being, no more.

Inherited characteristics from other religions? To a certain extent, but as a form of ‘advertising’ to the gentiles added later on.


That’s my opinion, anyway.
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09-23-2009, 08:49 PM
Post: #3
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
I'm sorry Parousia, I tried to read your post, and it seems to make a lot of sense. However, I am also listening to EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL on head phones and I can't concentrate as I'm trying not to laugh and wake the girlfriend who is a nurse and who has an early shift tomorrow.

Being serious, your points are good, and I'll address them in the morning. I'm especially interested in what you know about mystery cults, as I've been researching Dionysus' cults for a few years and find it fascinating.
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09-23-2009, 08:55 PM
Post: #4
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
I'm officially designating that musical as a mind virus. I've hooked all my friends on it.

I'm back baby! Thanks for everyone who sent me PMs asking what had happened to me.
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09-23-2009, 08:58 PM
Post: #5
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
(09-23-2009 08:49 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  I'm sorry Parousia, I tried to read your post, and it seems to make a lot of sense. However, I am also listening to EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL on head phones and I can't concentrate as I'm trying not to laugh and wake the girlfriend who is a nurse and who has an early shift tomorrow.

Being serious, your points are good, and I'll address them in the morning. I'm especially interested in what you know about mystery cults, as I've been researching Dionysus' cults for a few years and find it fascinating.

Cross thread reference! Wink

I am not claiming to be an expert on mystery cults. But there are a lot of rank amateurs around offering 'expert' opinions. I know enough not to be TOO stupid about what I say.

Tomorrow and Friday I am teaching the new software in addition to my regular work - means working late - and if the weekend weather turns out decent I am off to the country. I will try to respond but I don't know when that may be.
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09-24-2009, 09:18 AM (This post was last modified: 09-24-2009 09:21 AM by Raphael.)
Post: #6
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
(09-23-2009 08:49 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  researching Dionysus' cults for a few years and find it fascinating.

to summarize how the story ends...

dionySuS cults = bad = satan

jeSuS cults = good = christians
everything not jeSuS bad

namaste

NATURE cannot be HIDDEN only VEILeD with NARRATIVES that defy NATURE

CodeX4 and the Reconciliation of Science and Religion
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09-24-2009, 05:55 PM
Post: #7
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
Well, guys, I'm not too sure where to go from here. This forum's been quite quiet recently.

Raph, you're not wrong there.

Parousia, having read your post properly, it makes a lot of sense. I knew most of that, such as Mark's gospel being the earliest etc, but a lot of the details were new, so thanks, I learnt something there.

I think we agree in your summary. I've read that the early followers (ie within 50 years of his death) were more concerned with the resurrection than with the actual teaching of Jesus. This is the part which I feel ties more closely with the idea of him being an archetypal figure. Obviously a man can't come back from the dead (again, I mean no offence to Christians with that statement), so where did this part come from? At that time, Dionysus' worship was, I believe, at its most popular.

I'm not so sure on your inferrence that it was Paul single handedly adapting the ideas to make them appeal to the gentiles, I would more think that it was the gentiles themselves who adjusted it over time as it seeped into the Hellenistic/Roman mindset. If Paul was writing letters to people to correct what they were doing, then there must have been lots straying from what he taught, especially considering the distance he travelled. So as people gave up on old gods they felt were distant, they warmed to the same ideas when they were asscoiated with a man who had only recently died and resurrected. Dionysus deteriorated into the Roman Bacchus in the early centuries, leaving space for Christ, Mithras and Sol. I can't imagine that the Christ of Constantine was that similar to the Jesus that Peter knew.

Don't worry, I'm not going all Zeitgeist on you all, I just thought it might be something that could get a debate going. I'll try to think of something else too.

I've also contradicted myself a bit, but if no-one picks up on that, then it isn't that important!
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09-24-2009, 07:40 PM
Post: #8
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
(09-24-2009 05:55 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  I think we agree in your summary. I've read that the early followers (ie within 50 years of his death) were more concerned with the resurrection than with the actual teaching of Jesus. This is the part which I feel ties more closely with the idea of him being an archetypal figure. Obviously a man can't come back from the dead (again, I mean no offence to Christians with that statement), so where did this part come from? At that time, Dionysus' worship was, I believe, at its most popular.

The resurrection ties in with the teachings of Jesus on a deep level. The belief system called apocalypticism, which IMO was what Jesus was all about, taught that there would be a judgment of everyone who ever lived. This naturally implied a resurrection of those already dead by that time, to be judged and to receive reward or punishment. The resurrection of Jesus was considered by Paul and his followers to be a sign both of the validity of that promise and of the imminence of the judgment. If you look at the public teachings of Jesus they are all about living morally. In apocalypticism this would both put you on the side to be rewarded and hasten that judgment and reward by making the people more worthy of divine intervention.

(09-24-2009 05:55 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  I'm not so sure on your inferrence that it was Paul single handedly adapting the ideas to make them appeal to the gentiles, I would more think that it was the gentiles themselves who adjusted it over time as it seeped into the Hellenistic/Roman mindset. If Paul was writing letters to people to correct what they were doing, then there must have been lots straying from what he taught, especially considering the distance he travelled. So as people gave up on old gods they felt were distant, they warmed to the same ideas when they were associated with a man who had only recently died and resurrected. Dionysus deteriorated into the Roman Bacchus in the early centuries, leaving space for Christ, Mithras and Sol. I can't imagine that the Christ of Constantine was that similar to the Jesus that Peter knew.

Most of Paul's writings are about either preaching his message of the importance of the resurrection, the imminent judgment and living righteously, or about convincing the Jewish Jesus followers that gentiles should be accepted without their becoming Jews in the process, most especially not requiring circumcision. And it was Paul who first wrote about bread and wine being the body and blood. (See 1 Corinthians 10) it is clear from v 16 that this is an existing practice when Paul writes about it.

Paul wrote his epistles most likely in the 48 to 62 CE timeframe but was actively preaching probably by 37 CE. Whoever started the idea of integrating Dionysian attributes into proto-Christianity, it happened earlier and not later. And Paul most definitely was the driving force behind the popularization of those ideas. But again it was clearly ‘window dressing’, a repackaging of essentially Jewish (apocalypticist) ideas to appeal to gentiles.

Paul’s ‘corrections’ are as much about church organization and discipline – and urging people to ignore his more traditionally Jewish oriented rivals – as they are about theology.

The Christ of Constantine had evolved far beyond the Jesus that Peter followed. This was a long, elaborate and often painful process, involving social and political considerations as much as theological ones. (It was also a fascinating one for the student of the history of religions.)

(09-24-2009 05:55 PM)Zagreus Wrote:  I've also contradicted myself a bit, but if no-one picks up on that, then it isn't that important!

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

- Walt Whitman
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09-24-2009, 10:41 PM
Post: #9
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
Earl Doherty in "The Jesus Puzzle" makes some good arguments for a mythical Jesus, but I'm not willing to eliminate the possibility of an historical basis, however slim.

One of the remarkable observations Doherty makes is the dichotomy between verses that portray Jesus as an itinerant preacher of love and metanoia, and those verses in which Jesus is more "fire and brimstone". His theory, if I recall correctly, is that the former verses, in which the "coming of the Kingdom", the calls for renewal, and the simple "how to live" statements (the Golden Rule, etc.) are presented, were of the earliest tradition; and because they are so non-biographical with regard to any specific information about the speaker it is entirely possible they were simply compilations of a generic country-preacher tradition that was later adopted by the writer of Mark (Doherty considers the anonymous writer of Mark to be one of the most original and brilliant authors of the 1st century, and it's hard to disagree).

The other, more emphatic and judgmental sayings attributed to Jesus, according to Doherty, may come from a later tradition in which the proto-Christian community found themselves oppressed by the more traditional Jewish community and needed a more prophetic voice to keep them together. The Roman destruction of Jerusalem certainly helped this tradition develop.

Of course, I'm sure I've completely botched Doherty's theory, but this is what I remember from the book (which I still have - I suppose I'll need to pick it up and get reacquainted with it if I hope to contribute here).

Anyway, for what it's worth, I like a lot of what Doherty presents, but, like I said, I'm still not willing to make that final leap into the abyss of a totally mythical Jesus. Mythical Christ? Absolutely. But there may be a small grain of truth when it comes to the man.

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09-25-2009, 08:00 AM (This post was last modified: 09-25-2009 08:17 AM by Zagreus.)
Post: #10
RE: Jesus - Real or Archetypal God?
(09-24-2009 07:40 PM)Parousia Wrote:  The resurrection ties in with the teachings of Jesus on a deep level. The belief system called apocalypticism, which IMO was what Jesus was all about, taught that there would be a judgment of everyone who ever lived. This naturally implied a resurrection of those already dead by that time, to be judged and to receive reward or punishment. The resurrection of Jesus was considered by Paul and his followers to be a sign both of the validity of that promise and of the imminence of the judgment. If you look at the public teachings of Jesus they are all about living morally. In apocalypticism this would both put you on the side to be rewarded and hasten that judgment and reward by making the people more worthy of divine intervention.

No, you’re right, that’s me being dopey and forgetting about apocalypticism. Rookie mistake! That would infer then, perhaps, that the similarity of Jesus being a dying and resurrected god is merely a coincidence and that people perhaps read too much into that when comparing him to Osiris, for example.

(09-24-2009 07:40 PM)Parousia Wrote:  Most of Paul's writings are about either preaching his message of the importance of the resurrection, the imminent judgment and living righteously, or about convincing the Jewish Jesus followers that gentiles should be accepted without their becoming Jews in the process, most especially not requiring circumcision. And it was Paul who first wrote about bread and wine being the body and blood. (See 1 Corinthians 10) it is clear from v 16 that this is an existing practice when Paul writes about it.

Paul wrote his epistles most likely in the 48 to 62 CE timeframe but was actively preaching probably by 37 CE. Whoever started the idea of integrating Dionysian attributes into proto-Christianity, it happened earlier and not later. And Paul most definitely was the driving force behind the popularization of those ideas. But again it was clearly ‘window dressing’, a repackaging of essentially Jewish (apocalypticist) ideas to appeal to gentiles.

Paul’s ‘corrections’ are as much about church organization and discipline – and urging people to ignore his more traditionally Jewish oriented rivals – as they are about theology.

The Christ of Constantine had evolved far beyond the Jesus that Peter followed. This was a long, elaborate and often painful process, involving social and political considerations as much as theological ones. (It was also a fascinating one for the student of the history of religions.)

You’ve picked up on my inconsistency there, but it was me more explaining it badly rather than a contradiction. I was jumping between Paul’s time and Constantine’s, and was trying to suggest that as the popularity of Dionysus waned it left room for Christ. I agree that the Dionysian elements were present very early on, and with Paul’s classical education it would be fairly certain that he would have read such things as Euripides, but I’m not totally sure he would have knowingly added that in. To be totally honest, the letters are one of the parts of the Bible I am less familiar with, and I should probably read them again if I’m going to try to discuss them!

I think it can also be tricky to separate the order of the parts in the NT from how they should be chronologically, i.e. Paul’s bits are older than the gospels. My homework, then, is to read the letters.

Regarding the gospels, I’ve just started reading a book by Burton L. Mack, who is a Professor of early Christianity at the School of Theology at Claremont (or he was when he wrote the book anyway). He makes an interesting point about the possible authors:

Quote:As for the later attribution of anonymous literature to known figures of the past, that was also standard practice during the Greco-Roman period. In schools of rhetoric, for example, teachers had their students write full speeches and letters appropriate for such figures to see if the student had fully understood the importance of a historical figure… Scholars agree, in any case, that for these and other reasons, most of the writings in the New Testament were either written anonymously and later assigned to a person of the past or written later as a pseudonym for some person thought to have been important for the earliest period. Striking examples of the latter are the two letters said to have been written by Peter, both of which are clearly second-century creations. (Page 7, Who Wrote the New Testament?)

I thought this was quite interesting. Also, now here’s me going out on a limb; it could also explain why the Pilate trial is similar to the one of Dionysus, i.e. the author based the former on the latter. Just an idea, with me having nothing to back it up!
(09-24-2009 10:41 PM)MerryAtheist Wrote:  Earl Doherty in "The Jesus Puzzle" makes some good arguments for a mythical Jesus, but I'm not willing to eliminate the possibility of an historical basis, however slim.

One of the remarkable observations Doherty makes is the dichotomy between verses that portray Jesus as an itinerant preacher of love and metanoia, and those verses in which Jesus is more "fire and brimstone". His theory, if I recall correctly, is that the former verses, in which the "coming of the Kingdom", the calls for renewal, and the simple "how to live" statements (the Golden Rule, etc.) are presented, were of the earliest tradition; and because they are so non-biographical with regard to any specific information about the speaker it is entirely possible they were simply compilations of a generic country-preacher tradition that was later adopted by the writer of Mark (Doherty considers the anonymous writer of Mark to be one of the most original and brilliant authors of the 1st century, and it's hard to disagree).

The other, more emphatic and judgmental sayings attributed to Jesus, according to Doherty, may come from a later tradition in which the proto-Christian community found themselves oppressed by the more traditional Jewish community and needed a more prophetic voice to keep them together. The Roman destruction of Jerusalem certainly helped this tradition develop.

Of course, I'm sure I've completely botched Doherty's theory, but this is what I remember from the book (which I still have - I suppose I'll need to pick it up and get reacquainted with it if I hope to contribute here).

Anyway, for what it's worth, I like a lot of what Doherty presents, but, like I said, I'm still not willing to make that final leap into the abyss of a totally mythical Jesus. Mythical Christ? Absolutely. But there may be a small grain of truth when it comes to the man.

All of your post makes sense, Merry. It's pretty much, I think, in agreement with what Parousia and I are saying, and the different portayals of Jesus can simply be attributed to who wrote them and at what time. This does not, however, prove that there definitely wasn't a historical Jesus, which is exactly what you are saying.

It is interesting how myths build up around people; we need only look to Hinduism to see how people are deified, and it's not difficult to see why people who want to believe in miracles add them onto people they admire.

To give a more obscure example, of someone who I find interesting, we need only look at the amount of old cobblers that surrounds Aleister Crowley. There is a lot of rubbish surrounding this man, and he only died sixty odd years ago; I imagine the stories will get better as time goes on.
As we have all said, the Christ of Constantine of very different to the Jesus of Peter.

I think I'd place myself on that chart where you did Merry. I think the miracles are obviously myth, but I still don't quite think the earliest Christians would have made it all up from scratch. GT has quite an interesting theory about Paul's vision on the road to Damascus, but I'm not convinced that if Peter definitely existed, he would have lied.

Incidently, does anyone know of any exact proof that Peter existed? I could google it, but then I'm intersted in everyone here's views.
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