Jesus Mytherism: Overview



I. Simplistic Theories And Logical Fallacies

...A. Kane explains how the "borrowing" took Place:

How this pagan-Christian thing happened is an amazing story, not often told. Around the Ancient Mediterranean Christians and Pagans lived in the same cities -- lived in the same neighborhoods, shared friendships, meeting places, jobs, families, ideas -- for centuries. But of their of their interchange of ideas and ideals we hear not a whisper.

But as we have seen Most of these cults weren't even in Palestine, some of the major one's either dint' exist or lacked the key elements to have lent their notions to Christianity during the crucial early phase. Nevertheless there is such a naiveté© about this approach. The people were living near each other so they barrowed each other's ideas. While there was such fertilization, there were also strict prohibitions upon Jews eating with Gentiles and they did not take those lightly. They resented the Roman presence and were not geared to barrow their ideas.

...B. Classic Earmarks of poor Scholarship

......1) Distrust of Real Academic Scholarship

Surf to the course descriptions at your favorite university's classics or religion departments, say classics at Harvard, and look for courses comparing and contrasting Christianity to Ancient Pagan religions. You won't find any. Christianity compared to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, yes. Christianity compared to Paganism, nothing. It's as if a thousand years of western religious history never happened.

He goes on to say that the victors write history so Christianity covered up all the evidence that would prove him right if we had it. As he says:

"History is written by the victors. In the first centuries AD Paganism and Christianity were in competition. The Christians won. The history you know was written by them. Christian or not, you have a Christian perspective on Christianity's uniqueness -- that's the only perspective you've ever heard. ... That's how we see it. That's the Christian history."

Yet a good many of the Scholars I've quoted are not Christians, Robinson, Steleman, Meyer, Hamilton, Cumont, among others are not Christians. Meyer is a source recommended by Kane. Below Eliade, Champbell, Karanye and Gilford are not Christians.

......2) Argument from Silence

Essentially he's saying "the evidence isn't found, so that must prove I'm right." This is a favorite ploy of many skeptics who try to disprove Christianity. Doherty argues this way all the time. A gap exists in our knowledge so I can fill that gap with what I want to be there and the fact that no counter evidence exists proves I'm right. Another version of this is the idea that all the verses about Christianity teaching reincarnation were taken out by the church. I tell them "but there is no textual evidence for that." Some have actually said to me "that proves they got them all!"

..,,,.3) Poor documentation.

There is not a single footnote on Kane's site. He never connects one source to a single point he makes.

...C. Fallacy of Association

see Ronald Nash article: The page is titled: "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"

Reinhold Neibuhr
"I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.

Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence."

II. Some Similarities Do Exist Between all Religions as a Result of Human Nature and Archetypical Patterning.

...A. Cultural Influences.

But most scholars such as anthropologists and historians of religion today no longer think in terms of out right copying. Rather scholars tend more often to think in terms of influence and cultural drift. "Today, however, most scholars are considerably more cautious about the parallels between early Christianity and the mysteries and hesitate before jumping to conclusions about dependence. To be sure, one religious tradition my appropriate themes from another and so it must have been with early Christianity and the mystery religions. Yet Judaism, Christianity, and the mysteries were equally parts of the religious milieu of the Greco-Roman world, and this explains many of their similarities. As Greco-Roman religions they sometimes faced many of the same challenges, proposed similar ways of salvation and shared similar visions of the way to light and life"

[Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries :a Source book. San Francisco: Harper, 1987, 226]

(This is Marvin Meyer, the same source recommended by Kane on his website)

The notion of outright copying is silly. This depends upon a conspiracy which would produce a wooden figure rather than the vibrant breathing unique personality we find in the Jesus of the canonical Gospels. Moreover, Jewish and Hellenistic thought both grew up together in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Both owed a little to Egypt and a great deal to the civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Both alike deriving something from Aegean culture." [D.E.H. Whitely, Jesus College Oxford, Theology of ST. Paul, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 5]. This makes the cultural influence theory all the more likely, but rules out any sort of direct barrowing. These people thought alike in many ways, but why would a Jewish sect go to pagan cults to barrow their mythology consciously?

...B. Archetypical Patterning

......1) Mythical elements derive from psychological archetypes

"Through out the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance the myths of man have flourished and they have been and they have been the inspiration for whatever else has appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind....Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of permeative and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the very basic magic ring of myth. The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale--as the taste of the ocean is contained in a droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the Symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of the psyche, and each bares within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source."

(Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1949, pp. 3-4)

[One would assume than that they cannot, with any great success be artificially copied, and produce anything with the power of the character of Jesus in the four Gospels.]

......2) Definition of Archetypes

The psychologist Carl Jung defines archetypes as "forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constitutes of myths and at the same time autochthonous, individual products of unconscious origin" (C. G. Jung Psychology and Religion [collected works vol II New York, London: 1958 par. 88]). Campbell tells us "The archetypes to be discovered and assimilated are precisely those that have inspired, throughout the annals of human culture, the basic images, mythology, and vision." (Ibid. 18).

So these images, symbols, and notions about religious figures are in large part products of the human psyche the world over, each viewed through the lens of some particular culture, and with cross fertilization and cultural influences. Now one might object that this makes it all the more likely that the Jesus story is also being viewed through the lens of culture and is merely the product of these archetypes. That is what Campbell himself said, but he also said that that didn't make it unimportant, that doesn't mean that there is no supernatural reality behind it. He was not a Christian, and didn't like Christianity, but he did recognize that there is more to it than just "copying" and more to religion than just "a mere myth."

......3) Source of the archetypes

Jung didn't really stipulate what the final source of archetypes was, it was psychological, and indicative of some higher reality in a Platonic sense perhaps. Marcea Elliade was the other great Mythological scholar; founder of the field of History of Religions at University of Chicago. He was also an official Guru in the Hindu religion (although he was Rumanian) and was a believer in mystical consciousness and Higher reality (see Dudley Gilford III, Religion on Trail.) Champbell also hints at a higher source for the archetypes. How else could these psychological figures and symbols be embed in the human psyche if not some correspondence to a higher reality? With a strict materialist interpretation it makes no sense to even suppose that they exist. yet they are found all over the world, the same basic heroes doing the same basic things, the same elements (See Champbell The Hero With a Thousand Faces) Therefore, they are the product of the link between the human psyche and a higher reality. Not to suggest that some higher reality is telling us about real people doing real things, but that these heroes are symbols for everyone, for the individual and his/her journey through life.

...C. The Archetypical Demonstrates Jesus Deity All the More.

As C.S. Lewis is reputed to have said, with all the dying and rising gods of pagan mythology one might get the idea that it actually happened in some historical instance. IF someone really embodied the details of these myths it would go a long way toward proving that God designed it that way, especially since that historical figure is recorded living long after most of these myths were told. The myths exist as far away as the other side of the world, and yet here is a man who actually lives them and embodies them.

Eliade quotes Fr. Beirnaert:

[the Christian sacraments direct the believer's mind to the power of God in history] ...This new meaning must not lead us to deny the permanence of the ancient meaning [of the archetypes found in the sacraments]. By its renewal of the great figures and symbolization's of natural religion, Christianity has also renewed their vitality and their powers in the depths of the psyche. The mythical and archetypical dimension remains none the less real for being henceforth subordinate to another. The Christian may well be a man who has ceased to look for his spiritual salvation in myths and in experience of the immanent archetypes alone; he has not for all that abandoned all that the myths and symbolism's mean and to the psychic man, to the microcosm [...] the adoption by Christ and the Church, of the great images of the Sun, the moon, wood, waster, the sea, and so forth, amounts to an evangelization of the effective powers that they denote. The incarnation must not be reduced to the taking on of the flesh alone. God has intervened even in the collective unconscious that it may be saved and fulfilled. The Christ descended into hell. How then can this salvation reach into our unconsciousness without speaking its language and making use of it's Categories? [Beirnaert, pp. 284-285 quoted in Marcea Eliade, Images and Symbols, Studies in Religious Symbolism, trans. Philip Mairet Kansas City: Sheed Adnrews and McMeel inc. 1952, English trans. Harvil press 1961, pp.160-161.]

In other words, God could still do both, literally fulfill the images of the archetypes in the historical reality of Jesus Christ, and still arrange them so that they speak of the same transcendent reality through their archetypical symbolism. So Jesus is both the literal historical incarnation, the Son of God, and the archetypical mythical savior figure. But no conscious borrowing is required. All that is needed for this is the human psyche.

...D. The Skeptic will argue that the archetypes colored the historical facts

Many of the smaller details of Jesus' life cannot be proven, but the major outline can be. That he lived, was a healer, was a great teacher, was crucified and his followers claimed from an early time that he rose from the dead, that he was the product of Virgin birth etc. these things can be demonstrated as historical. As shown, most skeptics cannot make good on these claims either, but to whatever extent they do, these similarities only add to the indication that God was working through Jesus Christ.


The Pixie said…
Joe: Many of the smaller details of Jesus' life cannot be proven, but the major outline can be. That he lived, was a healer, was a great teacher, was crucified and his followers claimed from an early time that he rose from the dead, that he was the product of Virgin birth etc. these things can be demonstrated as historical.

The Virgin Birth certainly cannot be considered historical. It is attested only in documents written some 80 years after the event, whenb all witnesses were long dead, and both documents also trace David's line to Jesus via his father.
That does not warrant the Jesus myther thesis, that hardly renders the whole charter fictional.I assume the story would have been known to Jesus family who continued to be a force in that region into the fourth century, They were important in the Jewish church.
The doctrine;s official name is "virginal conception." It's a pancake deal. comes with the faith as part of the complete package.
The Pixie said…
I think Jesus existed, and the other claims you make - "That he lived, was a healer, was a great teacher, was crucified and his followers claimed from an early time that he rose from the dead" - I would not argue against. The Virgin Birth, on the other hand... I appreciate this is off-topic.

The Nash article was interesting. I think what we see is Pagan influences on the already partially established story. Again the Virgin Birth! Something that got added to the narrative from those Pagan influences. But because it came from a very different root, there are important differences between Jesus and, say, Osiris. The Jesus narrative was inspired first and foremost by the man, not a Pagan myth.
Pagan influences on second temple Judaism is not a Very good BET. those groups were not in Palestine and Judaism was pretty well formed by That time. It was naturally resistant to pagan influences, something like the name EL there might be a good case or that, but not something from this period.
David Madison said…
Comparing Jesus to various mythical figures is the favourite activity of the Jesus deniers. The comparisons always turn out to be dubious but there is a more important issue. If Jesus didn't exist then what exactly was going on in the first century? At this point the mythicists offer their utterly crackpot theories about the origin of Christianity.

Now, since they are so keen to compare Jesus to characters from ancient mythology, they must think that these comparisons are relevant to their theories of Christian origins. So here is the challenge: Pick an ancient myth that originated in the same way as the Jesus "myth", and then describe the origin of that myth in detail. Simple.

OK, that was a bit of rhetoric. I know that they are completely unable to describe the origin of any ancient myth in detail. Because they can't do that, they cannot claim that their crackpot theories receive any support from the comparison between Jesus and the likes of Hercules. If they are desperate enough they might claim that the myth of Hercules *might* have originated in a way that is analogous to their crackpot scenario of Christian origins. But there is no reason why we should accept that. And the very fact that we have so much information about Christian origins and no information at all about the origin of the myth of Hercules is itself reason for thinking that there is no genuine analogy.

David Madison
Hey Unknown I like that, you have an interesting approach,it's kind of similar to my initial approach U took years ago against Ghandi and Frick when their book first came out. I like your approach better. Hope you stick around.
David Madison said…
Hi Joe

I just discovered this blog, actually. I'll definitely be looking out for future posts. Keep up the good work.

David Madison
good, if want to join the group and contribute let me know.

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