by Liam Scheff
Here it is for the newcomer; was “Jesus” (Yeshua) an historical figure? A CNN web-flog takes it on in, albeit at a slant.
‘But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says [Timothy] Freke, author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?”
“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”‘ Link
Indeed, the question is barely asked before it’s allowed to be torn apart by the moment’s go-to ‘apologist’ for the historical Jesus. But who is this man? It is Bart Ehrman, ‘agnostic’ apostate from christian fundamentalism, a preacher who forced himself out of the flock for not believing the Bible was true, or accurate, or written by whom it was attributed to, and for a thousand other complaints.
Bart has spent most of his public career vocally ripping the Bible to shreds for horrified christian audiences. So, what can you make of the fact that he’s still holding onto it with all his white-knuckled might? He’s typed a manifesto in typical ‘apologetic‘ fashion to befuddle the case.
We’re So Sorry
Christian “apologetics” is a form of argument that’s meant to defend the anti-logical, anti-intuitive, anti-reasonable and anti-historical stories from ‘the Bible.’ (‘The Bible’ is in quotes because there are too many different and contradictory books in the thing, too many versions of it, and too much kept out that was initially in it, to really call it a ‘book.’ It’s more of a, well… it’s a kind of library of ancient myth and a lot of welding to hold it together).
But apologetics isn’t Aristotelian argument. “If A = B and B = C, then A=C, etc.” No, it’s not that. It’s pure blackmail. “If you don’t believe A, and we say A is true, because of course A is true (or people wouldn’t have said A is true)…then clearly you’re an idiot, and hell awaits you, idiot sinner bastard. Praise Jesus., etc.”
It’s emotional, pleading, whining, whittling the will down by constant personal attack, devoid of a penetrating logic, that makes weak cases based on strong, divisive emotion, over and over, and over and over, and over and over, and over and over and over and over. And over and over again. (They wear you out by sheer, numbing length, because while a lie is easy to say the first time, defending a lie takes years. Centuries, in fact.)
– “Learning apologetics directly helps our kids critically evaluate the “facts” that enter their awareness so they can determine with confidence what is relevant and what is important. Without such an understanding, the sheer volume of information they are being faced with today easily leads to spiritual confusion and indecisiveness.” [LINK] God forbid you think for yourselves, kids!
“Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus walked on water. He died for our sins.”
Simple, plainly spoken, ‘factual’ statements. Apparently factual. But then you begin to think. Immediately you’ll be told not to do that. “Faith is what you need to counter doubt!” There’s your first ‘apology,’ (or bit of brain-washing, thought-control.) It’s an ‘apology’ to (or a manipulation of) your higher self, your mind and spirit. Your spirit wants to know what’s true. Your mind wants to hold something and turn it around to see how it looks from all sides. You try and you’re left with murky darkness on three of them. You ask the questions:
“Walked on the water? How, why? What? Did anyone see it? Who? Who wrote it down? Nobody? Nobody? Not for 60 years? What? But…”
Well, you’ve gone too far here. You’ve let go of “faith,” which means you’ve grabbed onto critical thinking. This happens in the sciences all the time:
“Vaccines are safe! Vaccines stopped polio! If not for vaccines, everyone would have the plague!”
And as with the religious fundamentalists, you are never permitted to engage in critical thinking, which would look something like:
“But what is in a vaccine? How are vaccines made? In animal cells? In dead animal tissue? And suffused with metal and inflammatory agents and neurotoxins? Why? How can that be helpful to an 8 pound person?”
Go a little further, and the details emerge:
“But what was polio? The Wikipedia says that the polio virus only caused paralysis in .1% – point one – of cases. It didn’t cause polio 99.99% of the time. So how did it cause ‘polio?’ Weren’t they spraying DDT on, like, everybody at the time? Including directly on children, on fruit, on cows who produced the milk that children drank?”
Go a little further, and you’ll have really lost your faith. Religion is everywhere. In the sciences, it hides under a little math to seem, well, more ‘truthful.’ But it’s more myth-making.
A Lie is Easy, but the Truth is More Satisfying
“Jesus is Lord, he walked on water, he was the one son of the one God.” This pleases people. But scratch at the statement and the details begin to pour in.
While the initial fib or myth (or lie) can be told simply, defending it from critics will take centuries. A truth is a little more complex, and will be shouted down by the lie, initially. But the cracks in the fib will show, and the audience, like the riot-prone reviewers on Amazon.com who want to take issue with the portrayal of the villain in “The Dark Knight Rises,” will begin to poke and prod at it. And their prodding will grow in multitude, and their cries of ‘fraud!’ and ‘bullshit!’ will be heard to the highest heaven of Hollywood. That’s when the ‘apologizing’ (or apologetics) begins. And it never ends.
A mythic fib: Jesus is the one son of the one God, who died on a cross for our sins so that we might live.
A closer-to-the-truth statement: We’re a myth-making species. The myth of a dying-and-rising God-as-man or ‘son-of-a-God,’ existed in all agricultural cultures. The dying god represents the struggle of winter and the rebirth of the land in spring. The Christians were Jews who absorbed the gnostic teachings, as well as the Osiris, Dionysus, Horus and Mithras cults and myths, which were powerfully present in the ancient world. We tend to take myths as ‘literally true,’ so we’ve inherited a ‘literalized’ version of a myth.
Bart Ehrman can be found in too many endlessly long, needlessly wordy criticisms of the ‘authenticity of Biblical texts.’ He’s an interesting case study because we witness, in his many dozens of hours of internet video, a man losing his religion through repeated attacks of critical analysis. But it is ‘real-time,’ and you’re aware of every breath and every step he takes. If he summed it up in a phrase it would sound like this: “You can’t trust the Bible, it was written by too many people and there are too many versions. It’s full of glaring errors and inconsistencies.” He ends, of course, with “But Jesus was a real person.”
Well, everyone’s got their breaking point, I guess. Their line in the shifting sand.
The article states:
Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”
The writer doesn’t put the ‘kooks’ in quotes – so is it a quote? In any case, this is the common parlance. If you don’t believe the conventional wisdom, you are “an internet kook.” When he rips the historical veracity of the Bible into a thousand pieces, he is, naturally, a ‘scholar.’ But when scholars do the same but don’t accept the story of the repeating ‘god-as-man’ as historically true…they’re just internet assholes. Sorry, “Jesus deniers.”
Jesus Denier…get it? Like “Holocaust denier?” That’s the message: think critically about anything that the church or government wants you to believe, and you’re just a step away from… right. You’re a witch and a heretic. That’s what the term means in modern parlance. A horrible person who denies the intense suffering of others – a ‘Holocaust denier.’ It’s what they call vaccine opponents and critics, chemotherapy opponents, AIDS critics, critics of Darwin, global warming, etc, etc, etc.
If they said, “Jesus critic” or “Bible critic,” or “vaccine critic.” You see the difference? It would almost be something approximating “reasonable,” and “fair.” But why bother being that when you can employ a violently derisive and divisive rhetorical device? Does it matter that the conventional wisdom has always been, and will always be wrong?
Ah well. The CNN article gives a little, a precious little detail, and might dampen your enthusiasm for digging further. But it can’t hold back the concept: The Christ Myth. Which is what it is and always ways.
How Can You Say Jesus Was A Myth?
How can you say this story is anything BUT a myth? Its purpose is psychological, it’s not about a living person, it’s not historical (it’s not supported by strong or even middling historical evidence), and it maps the myths of a dozen others who were worshiped at the same time and earlier whose magic and mission, whose life and death were similar in too many ways and identical in too many more, to be anything but a story being told thrice.
Even if you want to close your eyes and hum to blot out the sound of history books not finding Biblical evidence, you might pause to recognize this simple truth about the human species: we’re story-tellers. We mythologize EVERYTHING after a time.
Even genuine historical figures and groups are mythologized – and even during their lifetimes. JFK, Gandhi, John Lennon, MLK, Clapton, Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Beethoven, Mozart, the Medicis, the Borgias, the Bushes, the Clintons, the Rothschilds, etc, etc. (Do I have to? Fine. “The Kardashians.) We take a little known reality, and add scads of People Magazine bullshit and hagiographical insanity.
Their ‘bad’ or ‘good’ qualities are magnified or diminished, they are made magical and transcendent in moments and they are painted with our ‘myth-making toolbox.’ This toolbox is the same collection of psychological tools that we painted onto the adults we looked up to (and at) when we were small – especially our parents. Our inherent myth-making worldview made us see them as gods, and we imprinted them on our psyches as total determiners of our human value for the rest of our lives.
We do this everywhere; in the sciences, in celebrity gossip, in religion. We do it not because we’re told to. We do it because we’re a myth-making species. It’s inextricable from the germ line, inseparable from our biology.
Oh really? Yes, we do.
– Spider-man actor says: “He is misunderstood, like Jesus. I don’t mind the Jesus parallel for Spider-man. Jesus is an awesome guy. When Pontius Pilate said: “They say you’re the son of God. If you’re the son of God tell me.” Jesus was like: ‘I know who I am, bitch’.”
Whatever your take on myth, I recommend reading Tim Freke’s and Peter Gandy’s book and books. Here’s a video introduction LINK. As well as the plentitude of others asking the same question. Here is one of the first from the modern era:
It’s an education.
Liam Scheff is author of “Official Stories,” drilling to the core of the gooey religious center of science.