Archive

Monthly Archives: January 2015

The following was written listening to Van Morrison.

The Torah was created with the legalism that developed from the Code of Hammurabi and not with the mathematical logic from Plato, Aristotle and Euclid. Legalism can run astray – “jede Konsequenz führt zum Teufel”. Hence we know that there is the letter of the law and the intention of the law:

“God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Gnosticism“)

Volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder

Judaism also developed from a moon god Iah with the symbolism of volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder. Fire would stand for reason and the message (Moses) and thunder for the voice (Aaron). Observe the duality. I cannot avoid a full quote of a blogtext by Stephan Huller. My interest now concerns his reference to “two powers” but I do not want to quote him out of context on his other argumentation:

“According to the two powers tradition there were two powers in the Deuteronomy narrative’s account of the Sinai theophany – the god whose voice was heard from heaven and Eeshu, ‘his fire.’  I’ve taken the incredibly audacious step of identifying the being whose name ‘Eesu’ in Greek but spelled Iesous (the pronunciation attributed to itacism = ἰωτακισμός).  I have also argued that the spelling of the ‘Jesus’ in the actual manuscripts of the early Church ΙΣ (the manuscripts never identify the Christian Lord as Ἰησοῦς. Indeed Irenaeus in the second century explicitly denies that Ἰησοῦς is the proper name of the Lord arguing instead for yeshu (and demonstrating that with an acronym YSU ‘the Lord of heaven and earth’ perhaps from Genesis chapter 2).

Here’s my observation.  Eeshu creates Moses in his image (as his earthly ‘twin’) – that is bringing him into his presence and impressing his ‘image’ or ‘likeness’ upon his person.  Doesn’t the early Christian tradition argue for the same practice?  There are so many ‘twins’ (Thomas) and ‘brothers’ (James) and ‘brothers of brothers’ (James and John, Peter and Andrew).  There is also a clear ‘adoption rite’ where individuals are baptized and made a brother of Jesus, ‘the firstborn of many brothers.’  There is even the Islamic pseudepigraphal notion of Judas (or ‘Simon’ in the Basilidean tradition) literally taking on the appearance of Jesus.  Note also the parody in the Pseudo-Clementines where Faustus ‘takes on’ Simon’s image and is hunted down by the authorities who want the Magus. 

The author of Deuteronomy declares that when the Israelites were terrified of the two powers (i.e. the voice in heaven and his fiery presence on earth) the Lord promises to send ‘one like Moses’ – a prophet – who will instruct them.  Doesn’t this sound like the heretical understanding of the paraclete especially when applied to ‘Paul’ by the Marcionites, the Valentinians and the ‘orthodoxy’ (Archelaus) in the Marcionite stronghold of Osroene (locked in a battle with Mani who says he is the Paraclete, the twin of Jesus)?  Why do the heretics always resemble Jewish sectarianism against their orthodox adversaries (who ‘confess’ a belief in the monarchia but do not act, think or believe like any Jews known to anyone in history but nonetheless claim to be the ‘true Israel’). ” (Stephan Huller, 2015-01-09)

Philo and the second god

Neil Godfrey has this surprising quote from Philo from Alexandria on duality:

“Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Genesis 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word [Logos] of the supreme Being (Questions on Genesis II.62)” (Vridar.org 2010-07-28)

Godfrey gives some explanations but the one by Margaret Barker seems somewhat more convincing:

“Another scholar, Margaret Barker (The Great Angel) is not persuaded by Segal’s explanation. She believes it is far more likely that Philo took the ideas of a mediating divinity from existing Jewish beliefs and adapted or described them in terms of Greek philosophy. That is, he did not attempt to play with the facts of Jewish beliefs to make them sound palatable to Greek philosophers. He merely used philosophical language to describe Jewish beliefs.” (Vridar, idem).

The distinction between a supreme being and its derivatives (emanations) however is quite gnostic.

Wikipedia presents ‘monotheism with duality’

We find the following statement in the wikipedia portal (not source). Note that “God of Israel” is dubious given the distinction between the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Kingdom of Judah. See Appendix A on God’s indivisibility, and bold face by me:

“The conception of God in Judaism is strictly monotheistic. God is an absolute one, indivisible and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence.  (..) The God of Israel has a proper name, written YHWH (Hebrew: יְהֹוָה, Modern Yehovah Tiberian Yəhōwāh) in the Hebrew Bible. The name YHWH is a combination of the future, present, and past tense of the verb “howa” (Hebrew: הוה‎) meaning “to be” and translated literally means “The self-existent One”. A further explanation of the name was given to Moses when YHWH stated Eheye Asher Eheye (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה‎) “I will be that I will be”, the name relates to God as God truly is, God’s revealed essence, which transcends the universe. It also represents God’s compassion towards the world. In Jewish tradition another name of God is Elohim, relating to the interaction between God and the universe, God as manifest in the physical world, it designates the justice of God, and means “the One who is the totality of powers, forces and causes in the universe”.” (Wikipedia, “God in Judaism”, 2015-01-30)

For mathematics this is inconsistent bullocks. With this text you can drive people crazy.  It states something like: “monotheism = compassion + justice” or 1 = 1 + 1. You may try for a formalisation in propositional logic or set theory: “monotheism = compassion (and ?)(or ?) justice”, but then you have to explain whether mercy can take priority over justice, or conversely. Justice & mercy might be heaven, no justice & no mercy would be hell, but what when only one is lacking ?

Indeed, there is the “Akedah“: the willingness by Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and the willingness by Isaac to be slaughtered, only to obey the law that Yahweh imposes on them. Their submission causes mercy, and Yahweh sends a lamb instead. Jesus however becomes the lamb, and the mercy extends to the believers in Christ who are saved from Original Sin. These are striking stories, but rather artificial, with childish simplicity. There are rather more complex cases in reality. The Torah dodges the real questions, like why women can’t be priests (if only by mercy). A proper modern answer however can be found in democracy, see the tale of the high priests of high treason.

Just to be sure: A hypothesis that Genesis derives from Plato

This present discussion has the underlying hypothesis that the Christian Church (CC) intended to link up Plato’s Demiurge with Torah’s Yahweh. A remarkable analysis is that Genesis might actually derive from Plato, see Godfrey’s report here. See an anthropological mechanism for the whole Bible. Of course, look also for Egypt and Babylonia. Plato is said to have visited Egypt. Godfrey discusses Greenberg, who is no academic egyptologist (his website). J.P. Allen provides an academic source. Alice C. Linsley taught philosophy & ethics at college and this is her take on Plato and Egypt.

Conclusion: the Torah is gnostic

Obviously, the distinction between an all-powerful god and the derivative minions of justice and mercy is very gnostic.

Now, gnosticism is as much a mess as the Torah, or religion overall – see this grand comparison map. I can put some tentative observations in Appendix C, but one could make it one’s life to get more clarity. I put some observations on snakes in Appendix B.

For now, it suffices to conclude these points:

  1. The official (though inconsistent) view that the Torah had a monotheistic Yahweh allowed the true Christian Church (CC) to link up to Plato. Yahweh ~ Demiurge, since these were recognised as unique god(s). In this link-up the Demiurge was not an evil force but the supreme being.
  2. Philo tried to apply Greek logic to the Thora, and came up with the One and his minions. In this, he apparently relied on existing Jewish Gnostism (JG). His effort to link up to Hellenism showed a problem however. Plato linked the Demiurge to the creation of the material world, which in Judaic thought would be done by only an emanation. Philo implicitly invited the Christian Gnostics (CG) to present the Demiurge as an evil force.
  3. Hence my earlier weblog: that Simon Magus looks like a real heretic.  The CC really wanted to get rid of the priesthood in Jerusalem, and CG had to be eliminated.
  4. The problem of the Torah & Philo had already been “solved” before by Egyptian religion or syncretic Serapis: the distinction between Osiris (Father, the One), Isis (Spirit, Mercy) and Horus (Son, Demiurge). This solution also leaked through into Christian Gnosticism early on, and later Christianity and eventually also the Neo-Platonists. Plotinus (204/5 – 270 AD) presented the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. These correlations of functions are not perfect, since Jesus might also be presented as bringing mercy, for example when Simon Magus presents him as a ransom for the Demiurge. What counts is the (undeveloped) logic or set theory behind some trinity.
  5. It is not clear yet who actually forms the CC in the years 70-100 AD …. Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews ?
Appendix A. Simon Magus ~ Atomos ~ Elymas Bar-Jesus ~ Paul

Incidently, the wikipedia article on God in Judaism describes God as “indivisible and incomparable”. The use of the negative is suggestive of the phenomenon of apophasis. Apparently Simon Magus wrote a book Apophasis Megale (the Great Apophasis). Wikipedia translates this as Great Declaration, but doesn’t link to the lemma on apophasis, so that you are less likely to see that it is a wrong translation. Perhaps “The Great Negative” might be a better translation. (See my earlier short focus on nothing.) Subsequently, Simon Magus is reported to have dwelled on this notion of the indivisibility of God. This quote is allocated to him:

“This indivisible point which existed in the body, and of which none but the spiritual knew, was the Kingdom of Heaven, and the grain of mustard-seed.” (Wikipedia, Simonians)

Subsequently, others have linked this to Josephus mentioning of a priest called Atomos, supposedly a Jew from Cyprus. Since Simon Magus is supposed to come from Samaria, there would be a problem with “Jew” and “Cyprus”. However, modern-day wikipedia also correlates Israel (Samaria) with Judea, and this will also have happened in the past, even by a Jewish author like Josephus. (PM. Godley’s discussion of “Jew”.) Perhaps the reference to Cyprus only reflects a short visit. The reference calls attention to Elymas (“Wise”, “magus” ?) a.k.a. Bar-Jesus, who is in conflict with Paul on Cyprus. Perhaps the Acts merely wish to create a smoke-screen on Paul’s true identity ?

Appendix B. Snakes in this story

Some Gnostic sects are the Naassenes (reminding of nazoraios, but without r), the Sethianism and the Ophites in general. I tend to associate these sects with the Therapeutae since we still see medical doctors using the caduceus symbol with a snake. Snake poison would be a powerful medicine. It remains to be seen how this further relates to Hippocrates from Kos, but the god Asclepius who was associated with Serapis at least had his staff with a snake. And, just to be sure, since we are discussing Original Sin indeed, there is also a link to Apophis & the tree of life (not necessarily knowledge), and there is also a contention that Ophiuchus should be a 13th astrological sign in the zodiac.

Appendix C. A bit more on the relation between Torah and Gnosticism

This appendix essentially compares a Jewish encyclopedia article with an introduction of a Hag Nammadi library.

Starting with the latter, we can distill these characteristics for Gnostism:

  1. “The Greek language differentiates between rational, propositional knowledge [not Gnosis], and a distinct form of knowing obtained by experience or perception [Gnosis].”
  2. “heterodox segment of the diverse new Christian community”. Thus no Mithra or so.
  3. “Stephan Hoeller explains that these Christians held a “conviction that direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of such knowledge must always constitute the supreme achievement of human life.”” This would explain that Simon Magus ~ Paul thought that he could rely on “revelation” as a source of knowledge about Jesus.
  4. “Clement of Alexandria records that his followers said that Valentinus (100-160 AD) was a follower of Theudas and that Theudas in turn was a follower of St. Paul the Apostle. This is remarkable, and at least shows an awareness of Josephus (if it is the same Theudas). Following might merely be on ideas, not in person.
  5. “By 180 C.E. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, was publishing his first attacks on Gnosticism as heresy”. But we may assume that the problem already existed with the Bar-Kochba Revolt in 132-135 AD and when Marcion presented his proposal to abolish the Torah (called heretic in 144 AD).
  6. “The complexities of Gnosticism are legion, making any generalizations wisely suspect.” (…) “we will outline just four elements generally agreed to be characteristic of Gnostic thought. “
  7. First: “One simply cannot cipher up Gnosticism into syllogistic dogmatic affirmations. The Gnostics cherished the ongoing force of divine revelation–Gnosis was the creative experience of revelation, a rushing progression of understanding, and not a static creed.” (Already seen in 1 and 3 above.)
  8. Second: “says Bloom, “is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self-within-the self, and [this] knowledge leads to freedom….” This reminds of Socrates: gnothi seauton. But he probably was more matter-of-fact. In the Gnostic case the “indivisible point” of Simon Magus comes to mind: “By all rational perception, man clearly was not God, and yet in essential truth, was Godly. This conundrum was a Gnostic mystery, and its knowing was their treasure.” Obviously we in 2015 still have not resolved the conundrum of consciousness and the ability of a student of mathematics to imagine a perfect circle. But beware of deceit: “The creator god, the one who claimed in evolving orthodox dogma to have made man, and to own him, the god who would have man contingent upon him, born ex nihilo by his will, was a lying demon and not God at all. “
  9. Third: “its reverence for texts and scriptures unaccepted by the orthodox fold. (…) Irritated by their profusion of “inspired texts” and myths, Ireneaus complains in his classic second century refutation of Gnosticism, that “…every one of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed perfect, who does not develop…some mighty fiction.”” One can understand the feeling. Compare nowadays the productive Michael Baigent, and Dan Brown with the Da Vinci Code not adequately referring either (at least morally, see justice and mercy).
  10. Fourth: “This is the image of God as a dyad or duality. While affirming the ultimate unity and integrity of the Divine, Gnosticism noted in its experiential encounter with the numinous, contrasting manifestations and qualities. In many of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts God is imaged as a dyad of masculine and feminine elements. “ Though this is called unorthodox, we find some aspects also in the Torah, as explained. But if you don’t refer and don’t do the syllogisms, then you might think indeed that you are being unorthodox.

The article on Jewish Gnosticism allows us to observe that Paradise can be visited, and thus Original Sin overcome, via Gnosis, and, that also Paul attests of this (II Cor. xii 1-4) (point 7 below). Thus, Paul destroys the argument of the Epistle of the Hebrews that it was Jesus who is required – which is the position of the CC. There is also a strong defence of monotheism of the Torah (points 8 and 11 below):

  1. The Gnosticism relevant for Christianity (CG) had Jewish (JG) origins: “It is a noteworthy fact that heads of gnostic schools and founders of gnostic systems are designated as Jews by the Church Fathers. Some derive all heresies, including those of gnosticism, from Judaism (Hegesippus in Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iv. 22; comp. Harnack, “Dogmengesch.” 3d ed. i. 232, note 1). It must furthermore be noted that Hebrew words and names of God provide the skeleton for several gnostic systems. Christians or Jews converted from paganism would have used as the foundation of their systems terms borrowed from the Greek or Syrian translations of the Bible. This fact proves at least that the principal elements of gnosticism were derived from Jewish speculation, while it does not preclude the possibility of new wine having been poured into old bottles.” This does not preclude foreign influence however (Serapis, Egypt).
  2. “Cosmogonic-theological speculations, philosophemes on God and the world, constitute the substance of gnosis. They are based on the first sections of Genesis and Ezekiel, for which there are in Jewish speculation two well-established and therefore old terms: “Ma’aseh Bereshit” and “Ma’aseh Merkabah.”” But the article argues that the Jewish priesthood regarded the discussion as improductive.
  3. “In the gnosticism of the second century [BC ?] “three elements must be observed, the speculative and philosophical, the ritualistic and mystical, and the practical and ascetic” (Harnack, l.c. p. 219).”
  4. “The speculations concerning the Creation and the heavenly throne-chariot (i.e., concerning the dwelling-place and the nature of God), or, in other words, the philosophizings on heaven and earth, are expressly designated as gnostic.” But discussion is discouraged: “”Forbidden marriages must not be discussed before three, nor the Creation before two, nor the throne-chariot even before one, unless he be a sage who comprehends in virtue of his own knowledge [“hakam u-mebin mida’ato”]. “
  5. Judaism remains monotheistic, but the Gnosis allows a distinction between God and the Demiurge: “The characteristic words “hakam u-mebin mi-da’ato” occur here, corresponding to the Greek designations γνῶσις and γνωστικοί (I Tim. vi. 20; I Cor. viii. 1-3). The threefold variation of the verb in the following passage is most remarkable: “In order that one may know and make known and that it become known, that the same is the God, the Maker, and the Creator” (… reference …); these words clearly indicate the gnostic distinction between “God” and the “demiurge.” “ But this presents the gnostic view, while for the CC the Yahweh ~ Demiurge still would be valid.
  6. “Gnosis is neither pure philosophy nor pure religion, but a combination of the two with magic, the latter being the dominant element, as it was the beginning of all religion and philosophy. “
  7. “”Four scholars, Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Aḥer [Elisha b. Abuyah], and Rabbi Akiba, entered paradise [ = πασάδεισος]; Ben Azzai beheld it and died; Ben Zoma beheld it and went mad; Aḥer beheld it and trimmed the plants; Akiba went in and came out in peace [references]. (…) Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4) speaks similarly of paradise (…)” The latter is remarkable: apparently Original Sin can be overcome, and Paradise can be visited by Gnosis. (Trimming the plants: restrict knowledge about this.)
  8. Very important: “Jewish thought was particularly sensitive in regard to monotheism, refusing all speculations that threatened or tended to obscure God’s eternity and omnipotence. R. Akiba explained that the mark of the accusative, , before “heaven and earth” in the first verse of Genesis was used in order that the verse might not be interpreted to mean that heaven and earth created God (“Elohim”: Gen. R. i. 1), evidently attacking the gnostic theory according to which the supreme God is enthroned in unapproachable distance, while the world is connected with a demiurge (comp. Gen. R. viii. 9, and many parallel passages). “
  9. “The archons of the gnostics perhaps owe their existence to the word = ἀρχή. The first change made by the seventy translators in their Greek version was, according to a baraita (2d cent. at latest), to place the word “God” at the beginning of the first verse of Genesis. Rashi, who did not even know gnosticism by name, said it was done in order to make it impossible for any one to say, “The beginning [‘Αρχή as God] created God [Elohim].””
  10. On duality of man and woman: “Genesis v. 2 was amended to: “Man and woman created he him” (not “them”), in order that no one might think He had created two hermaphrodites.” and “It may be mentioned here, in connection with these views about original hermaphroditism, that even the earlier authorities of the Talmud were acquainted with the doctrine of syzygy (Joel, l.c. i. 159 et seq.). The following passages indicate how deeply the ancients were imbued with this doctrine: “All that God created in His world, He created male and female” (…)”
  11. “The Jews of course emphatically repudiated the doctrine of the demiurge, who was identified by some Christian gnostics with the God of the Old Testament and designated as the “accursed God of the Jews,” from whom all the evil in the world was derived (…). The monotheism of the Jews was incompatible with a demiurge of any kind.” Incompatible with a Gnostic Demiurge, but compatible with the CC interpretation of Plato.
  12. “God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Possibly the origin of the separation of State and Religion.)
  13. “The official view, and certainly also the common one, was that founded on Scripture, that God called the world into being by His word (see Ps. xxxiii. 6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast”). According to tradition, however, it required merely an act of His will, and not His word (…) There were materialistic ideas side by side with this spiritual view. “ Note: The Gospel of John has the beautiful: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. But if the Logos is the Gnostic Demiurge, second to God, then John leads us into a theological morass. The Apocalypse might be the result of a false start.)
  14. Freedom of thought if the Torah rituals were observed: “Gnosis was regarded as legitimate by Judaism. Its chain of tradition is noted in the principal passage in Ḥagigah, Johanan b. Zakkai heading the list. Here is found the threefold division of men into hylics, psychics, and pneumatics, as among the Valentinians. Although these names do not occur, the “third group,” as the highest, is specifically mentioned (Ḥag. 14b), as Krochmal pointed out before Joel. The ophitic diagram was also known, for the yellow circle which was upon it is mentioned (Joel, l.c. p. 142). Gnosis, like every other system of thought, developed along various lines; from some of these the Jewish faith, especially monotheism, was attacked, and from others Jewish morality, with regard to both of which Judaism was always very sensitive.”

My last weblogs assumed that the Torah had a notion of Original Sin. In this, I followed the reasoning of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the philosophy of Paul ~ Simon Magus.

However, rabbi Tovia Singer argues that Paul gives a distorted view of the Torah.

“This stunning misquote in Romans stands out as a remarkable illustration of Paul’s ability to shape scriptures in order to create the illusion that his theological message conformed to the principles of the Torah. By removing the final segment of this verse, Paul succeeded in convincing his largely gentile readers that his Christian teachings were supported by the principles of the Hebrew Bible.

Deuteronomy 30:14 Romans 10:8
But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach).

(…) throughout his epistles Paul sidesteps any statement in the Jewish scriptures that could undermine his teaching on original sin. For example, immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve is narrated, the Torah declares that man can master his passionate lust for sin. In Genesis 4:6-7, God turns to Cain and warns him,

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? If, though, you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you shall master over it.

For Christian architects like Paul, Augustine, and Calvin, this declaration of man’s capacity to restrain and govern his lust for sin is nothing short of heresy.  Moreover, the fact that the Torah places these assuring words immediately following the sin in the Garden of Eden [ftnt] is profoundly troubling for the church. How can depraved humanity control its iniquity when the Book of Romans repeatedly insists that man can do nothing to release himself from sin’s powerful grip?  Yet notice that there is nothing in the Eden narrative that could be construed as support for Paul’s teaching on humanity’s dire condition. On the contrary, in just these two inspiring verses, the Torah dispels forever the church’s teachings on original sin.

(…) In Jewish terms, sin is not a person, it’s an event, and that event happened yesterday.  In chapter after chapter, the prophets of Israel beseech those who lost their way to turn back to the Merciful One because today is a new day.” (Rabbi Tovia Singer.)

Matthew is supposed to have written for the Jews, but Singer holds that what he wrote turned them away because of his lack of proper understanding …

Let us first regard normal sin, in relation to the Torah law, and find that mercy is not automatic:

  • Yahweh offered the law so that his chosen people could follow these and know that he would be satisfied.
  • Perhaps Yahweh did not count it as “sin” if his commandments were not obeyed. But, he would not regard it as positive. On the day of judgement it would not be counted in favour. When it was determined who would go to heaven, why would you be selected ? Not being selected (e.g. being neglected) would be a punishment.
  • Thus, we may hold that the very notion of “law” implies the notion of “sin”.
  • A fortiori, we have Torah texts in which Yahweh sends out punishment.
  • Thus mercy is not automatic.

Let us next consider Original Sin. Yahweh required Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. They disobeyed, and hence they and their descendants are no longer in Paradise. Let us define Original Sin ~ Eating Apple ~ Original Punishment ~ Not being in Paradise. All humanity suffers from that Original Sin (with pain and death). There is nothing in Torah law that you can do redeem this sin, i.e. so that you would directly enter Paradise. You only can obey Torah law during your life and hope for the best afterwards. There is no guarantee that your soul will be allowed into Paradise. Especially since Yahweh is a rather fickle god. Thus:

  • Singer likely is right that the Torah has no explicit statement on Original Sin.
  • He is wrong about the logical implications from the Torah.
  • Obviously Paul should not have changed the Torah quotes.
  • He should have explained that those were inadequate for saving your soul, for above reasons.
  • It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Paul could presume that the Torah had the equivalent of Original Sin.
  • When Christian teaching to Judaism isn’t very effective, this might be because Judaism neglects the logic in the Torah, or adopts an irrational hope for the mercy of Yahweh, or they don’t believe in the fairy tale of Paradise.
  • Rabbi Tovia Singer should have told us this analysis instead of giving this rather simplistic criticism of Paul.

For completeness I refer to the wikipedia article as a portal to more views.

Addendum January 30, 2015

I just discovered that Paul ~ Simon Magus found a way to still get to Paradise without Jesus, namely by means of Gnosis. His assertion would be another argument for the Christian Church to get rid of Gnosis.

“It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I can not tell; or whether out of the body, I can not tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man. . . . How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4)

Robert M. Price makes a distinction in the purposes of a Gospel – to relate a narrative – and an Epistle – to argue a case. See his The marginality of the cross (2004-2005). And I write this listening to Yes: Tales from topographic oceans.

Two blogs ago I showed how the Epistle to the Hebrews (thus not the Gospels) gave the logic of the true Christian Church (CC). Yahweh’s covenant with Moses is demolished, and Jesus’s sacrifice creates the new covenant. Every believer is saved from the Original Sin created by Adam in Paradise: if only you believe in Christ – without the need to adhere to eating laws and such. Logic requires that Jesus’s sacrifice is a real sacrifice, and not some spiritual event only. By the sacrement of the Last Supper everyone can eat Jesus’s flesh and drink his blood, thus partake in Jesus’s death and the release from Original Sin. Indeed, who is dead has no obligations to an earlier contract anymore. And when a new law is written, the old law is kept on record to warrant where the authority derives from.

If Jesus’s death serves a purpose, why not let him die of old age and set a good example in that manner ? Why the choice of crucifixion, with all that suffering involved ? Some gnostics held that Jesus as celestial being could not suffer anyway, but the true Christian Church really wanted him to suffer. Why, what is the purpose of that suffering ?

Just to be sure, a search in said Epistle gives “sacrifice” from sin, and not “ransom”:

“If he had offered himself every year, he would have suffered many times since the creation of the world. But instead, near the end of time he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin.” (Biblija.net, The Common English version, Hebrews 9.26)

Also, who is responsible ? Is it Satan / The Snake who has seduced / abducted the soul ? In that case it would suffice to pay him a ransom to release the human soul from such slavery of the flesh. If it is the human soul all by himself who is responsible then it would be a veritable sin, and then we would need punishment and sacrifice to have justice done.

See here for a short discussion of Original Sin in the Torah.

Christian Church versus Gnostics

There was a difference of opinion anyway:

  • The true Christian Church (CC) created a merger of Yahweh of the Torah with the Demiurge of Plato. This had the advantage of a claim of an ancient religion, all the way back to the creation of the world.
  • The gnostics (a) moved Plato’s Demiurge to the second place as relevant only for the material world, (b) inserted a world spirit as more important in the top position, and (c) abolished the Torah as no longer relevant.
  • The agreement was on a new covenant, the replacement of circumcision by baptism, and the opening up of Judaism to the hellenistic world.
  • The disagreement was on the ancient claim and the importance of Plato and the flesh. Key gnostic Simon Magus presented Jesus’s sacrifice as a ransom for the Demiurge, like a price paid for release from slavery of the flesh. He was ridiculed by the CC by comparing him how he paid a ransom to relieve his lover Helen from prostitution. The CC insisted that Jesus’s sacrifice meant a salvation from sin. Simon Magus ridiculed this by saying that sin no longer existed when the law of the Torah that defined sin was abolished anyhow. This however is a feeble wisecrack, when the major problem for the gnostics was that they had to tell the supporters of Plato that this greatest of the Greek philosophers had made the mistake of overlooking the true God of the spiritual world. The CC embraced Plato and the importance of the material world. The suffering by Jesus logically established the importance of the flesh.
  • Logic required that one party was right and the other party was the heretic.

The logic of the CC is very legalistic, quite in the spirit of the Torah or the courts in Alexandria. We know that Egypt was a very hierarchical society. See (war) historian Richard A. Gabriel Jesus the Egyptian: The Origins of Christianity and the Psychology of Christ. See D.M. Murdoch, Christ in Egypt. Christianity is much rooted in the syncretic religion of Serapis. Christianity is targetted at widening the syncretism of Serapis with Judaism. The Torah resists syncretism since the covenant with Moses assigns supreme power to the king and priests in Jerusalem. The only solution for Alexandria is to design a new covenant. The Torah can be kept as a sign of diplomatic kindness.

The gnostic approach to abolish the Torah is too radical and needlessly harsh, and would block the syncretism for the Jewish priests with their vested interest in the Torah. If you throw out the Torah, adherents to the Torah would not be motivated to look into the argument that the Torah itself leads to its abolition. Gnosticism was very popular in Egypt and Samaria, the area of the old kingdom of Israel that had been more affected by the Babylonian period compared to the kingdom of Judah. But the target was Judea and Jerusalem that stuck to the Torah. Ergo, gnosticism has to go.

Robert M. Price says the same (earlier than me but only now discovered by me):

“Blood of the covenant” represents a midrashic attempt to understand the death of Jesus as a sacrifice performed to seal or renew a covenant between God and the Jewish people, as in Exodus 24:8. Such a theology is spelled out in great detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews.” (Price, op. cit.) (check biblija.net)

Gospels instead of Epistles

The Gospels however only relate a story, and don’t argue a case. For the gospel of Mark it has been suggested that there still is a lot of influence from Marcion (a gnostic related to Simon Magus), who presented a canon with full elimination of the Torah. In the Gospel of Mark we find the “ransom”:

“Mark 14:24, “This is my blood of the [new?] covenant, which is poured out for many” and its twin text, Mark 10:45, “For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” “ (Price, op. cit.)

Matthew however is directed at the Jews and emphasizes the release from sin:

““This is my blood of the [new?] covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We should love to know the precise significance of the added phrase “for forgiveness of sins.” Does it imply something deeper, a la Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews, about the expunging of the moral failures and flaws of the contrite heart, in contrast to the apparently purely ritual expiation of ritual trespasses entailed in the Mosaic sacrifice system? If the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus is taken to inaugurate a new covenant, as in several manuscripts of both Matthew and Mark, would this added moral and/or psychological dimension be the relevant novelty?” (Price, op. cit.)

Points to note are: (1) Price assigns the Epistle to the Hebrews to Paul, but actually the author is debated, and it would not be Paul when he would be equated with Simon Magus, who would speak about “ransom”. Given the elegance and determination of the logic in the Epistle, I would deem that the author must be well educated, and likely in Alexandria (rather than perhaps gnostic or Jewish-Christian Antioch). (2) Price emphasizes the moral content of sin, while at stake is the theological issue of the Original Sin (the arrogance of Adam to want to know as much as God himself), not for itself, but because of the logical argument in Hebrews against the priesthood in Jerusalem.

Blood versus suffering

Price calls attention to a nice midrash:

A final Matthean parallel to the scene of Exodus 24:8 must claim our attention. To what, precisely, was Moses directing the attention of the Israelites on that fateful day when he bade them “Behold the blood of the covenant”? Back up just a little, if you please: “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, ‘All that Yahve has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which Yahve has made with you in accordance with all these commandments” (Exodus 24:7-8). These words seem to possess a familiar ring, and yet what a surprise to realize where their counterparts occur! “Once Pilate realized he was getting nowhere, only that a riot was brewing, he took water and washed his hands in plain view, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood! See to it yourselves!’ And all the people said, ‘His blood be on us and all our children!’” (Matthew 27:24-25). (Price op. cit.)

Indeed, the theme of flesh comes with the theme of blood. But, in practice, Jesus might have made a small cut and sealed the new covenant with his blood, without much suffering. Thus the issue of blood is secondary. The real point remains that the suffering is needed for the logic in Hebrews that we are not dealing with a spiritual event only.

Price holds that Matthew still embraces the Torah

We now cannot avoid a longer quote from Price, in which he argues that Matthew’s Christians would still have to observe the Torah apart from the new covenant by Jesus (bold face by me):

“But for our purposes, the point is that the passage would complete the parallel between Exodus 24:7-8 and various portions of Matthew, implying strongly that the evangelist intended the death of Jesus as a saving event in the particular sense that it inaugurated a new covenant of faithful observance of the Torah and the commandments of Jesus, the new Moses.

We are far here from any sort of Paulinism, much less any traditional orthodox soteriology. One might invoke the theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is usually located in the Paulinist orbit: does it not similarly suppose that Christ brought a new covenant, sealed in his blood? And is not the result apparently the wholesale dispensing with the ritual regulations of the Torah? Not at all. (Our task here is to expound the teaching of the gospels, not the epistles; the relevant issue is whether Hebrews casts any light on Matthew.) The sympathies of Hebrews would seem to lie more in the direction of the Dead Sea Scrolls community, given (among other things) the mention of repeated baptisms (Hebrews 10:22) and the esoteric doctrine of Melchizedek (chapter 7). It is not evident that the writer to the Hebrews envisioned believers as forsaking ritual observance. All his talk about the superannuation and obsolescence of the temple sacrifice system is better understood as a kind of theodicy for the fall of the temple in 70 CE. [ftnt] The end of the sacrifices need not have entailed suspension of other laws, as the Javneh deliberations of Rabbinic Judaism make perfectly clear. But absolutely no doubt can remain about Matthew: he certainly believed exhaustive legal observance was incumbent upon every disciple. Matthew 5:17-19 even condemns Pauline Christians for so much as relaxing commandments, and the least important ones at that. Remember, too, that Matthew 23:23 congratulates the Pharisees for tithing garden herbs, though he faults them for neglecting weightier issues (unlike the Q original, preserved for us only in Marcion’s text, where Luke 11:42 lacks “without neglecting the others”).

Is the cross central to this plan of salvation? Hardly. One senses that Matthew would have been quite satisfied with a Jesus who died at a ripe old age, like his brother Simon bar-Cleophas, like Johannon ben-Zakkai, and like Moses, at 120 years. Matthew can make a place for the cross, as inaugurating the New Covenant, but this is just because he finds the fact of Jesus’ death unavoidable. The Dead Sea Scrolls sect lived the life of the New Covenant, too, but they did it without any doctrine of human sacrifice. (Indeed, Robert Eisenman suggests [ftnt] that the Markan/Matthean “new covenant in my blood” is a pun on and derivative from the Qumran term “new covenant of Damascus,” since the Hebrew for “blood” is dam, while “cup” is chos. Paul and others, initially part of the Dead Sea Scrolls community and partakers of their communal “messianic” meals, Eisenman postulates, carried the idea of the supper (and even the original Hebrew phraseology for it) with them when they apostatized from the Torah-zealous movement and preached a law-free gospel to Gentiles instead. The “Covenant of Damascus” thus became the “covenant of the blood cup,” assimilating the rite to the Mystery Cult sacraments with which the Gentile converts were already familiar. Thus the connection with the death of a divine savior, Jesus, would represent a secondary understanding of the ritual.” (Price op. cit.)

We can find the same reasoning in Price’s review of Eisenman’s 2006 book The New Testament Code.

This might well be. Researchers like Price and Eisenman are more at home in these issues than I am. Let us at least make these observations:

  1. The distinction between an Epistle and a Gospel may well allow for the situation that Matthew only relates a story without being quite aware of the logical significance of the crucifixion for the theological argument. But his change from Mark’s “ransom” to “sin” suggests that he wants more distance from the gnostics.
  2. While Mark’s use of “ransom” points to a desire to link to the gnostic view, his very Gospel consists of a creation of a human form in the flesh on Earth, which doesn’t fit the view of a celestial being. Mark would belong to the gnostic view that Jesus’s flesh is a ransom for Plato’s Demiurge of the material world (and no real sacrifice since sin doesn’t apply for the spiritual world).
  3. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) sect (sects) then is not as determined / focused / obsessed as the Epistle to the Hebrews (then likely from Alexandria) to beat Jerusalem at their own game. (The Epistle provides an argument that the Torah itself must conclude to its own abolition.)
  4. The DSS sect would rather keep the Torah and plead for the appointment of a Zadok high priest, rather than the abolition of the authority of Jerusalem and Torah, which the Epistle to the Hebrews does.
  5. The pun on Damascus indeed seems like a pun, but it leads too far to conclude that death of Jesus would be secondary. Simon Magus still presents this death as a “ransom” to get rid of the Torah.
  6. The adherence to other rules in the Torah (other than the supremacy of Jerusalem, circumcision and eating laws and such) depends upon Jesus, as explained by the Gospels themselves. Matthew at least creates some ambiguity here, but it is known that his Gospel is targetted at the Jewish-Christians. (You might not adhere to some eating laws, but as soon as you belong to a community, you still must pay to support the priest and so on.)
  7. It is not entirely clear from this, yet, that the gnostic Simon Magus really had first joined the Torah-zealous movement.
Price on Luke

Luke presents the Gospel to the civilised world and wants to get rid of the primitive human sacrifice.

“The Third Evangelist’s antipathy for cross-based soteriology is well known, if not entirely understood.” (Price, op. cit.)

““Scripture stipulates that the Christ must needs suffer and, on the third day following, return from the dead, and that [a message of] repentance and forgiveness should be preached in [association with] his name to all nations, radiating outward from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). What is “missing” from this scenario? Any link between the death of Jesus and the efficacy of repentance for forgiveness. True, if Jesus had not died, repentance would not be preached in his name. If Christ had not died, our faith should be in vain. But there is not a word of his death enabling or effecting our salvation.” (Price, op. cit.)

“It appears that someone has sought to import into Luke’s text some of the “butcher shop religion” (Harry Emerson Fosdick) that Luke sought so fastidiously to avoid.”  (Price, op. cit.)

“We saw that Matthew retained the two scant Markan references to Jesus’ coming death as a ransom for many, supplying a more elaborate theological context, that of the new covenant and its sealing in sacrificial blood. Luke does just the opposite: he cuts them both! Where Mark had Jesus say, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45), Luke has, “which is the greater personage, the one who reclines at table? Or the one who serves? Surely, it is the one who reclines, no? And yet I conduct myself among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Conspicuously absent are both the Son of Man references (given the context, a simple mark of self-abnegating humility anyway) and the business about him dying, much less as a ransom.” (Price, op. cit.)

Price on John

Price’s discussion of John is a repetition of these steps:

“On our topic, as with some others, the Gospel of John seems conflicted, pointing in two directions. It would be no surprise if the cause were simply the evangelist’s own lack of closure, a failure to think systematically. But, given the patterns that seem to form, it appears more likely to me that our present text of John is the result of a late harmonization of the recensions cherished and redacted by two competing Johannine factions: the Gnosticizing group condemned in 1 and 2 John and the Catholicizing group who condemned them as false offshoots.” (Price, op. cit.)

More on Eisenman

In his review of Eisenman’s 2006 book, Price finds:

“And the first achievement of The New Testament Code hard won through this methodology, is the realization that the Dead Sea Scrolls stem from the mid to late first century CE (equivocal Carbon dating results no longer even being relevant), and that they represent the sectarian baptizing Schwärmerei known variously as the Essenes, Zealots, Nasoreans, Masbotheans, Sabaeans–and Jewish Christians headed by James the Just. Endless references to the armies of the Kittim and “the kings of the Peoples” make the date clear even before we get to the catalogue of terminological and conceptual links between the Scrolls, the New Testament, and the Pseudo-Clementines. I should say that in all these comparisons Eisenman has established a system of correspondences fully as convincing, and for the same reasons, as the Preterist interpretation of the Book of Revelation by R.H. Charles and others. I just do not see any room for serious doubt any more. Teichner was right; Eisenman is right: the Scrolls are the legacy of the Jerusalem Christians led by the Heirs of Jesus: James the Just, Simeon bar Cleophas, and Judas Thomas. The Teacher of Righteous was James the Just (though Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Personages of Earliest Christianity, 2004, may be right: as per Barbara Thiering, John the Baptist may have been the first to hold that office, with James as his successor). The Spouter of Lies who “repudiated the Torah in the midst of the congregation” was Paul. It was he who “founded a congregation on lies,” namely the tragically misled “Simple of Ephraim,” converts from among the Gentile God-fearers who knew no better. The Wicked Priest was Ananus ben Ananus, whom Josephus credits with lynching James on the Day of Atonement.” (Price op. cit.)

This time window of the DSS fits the time shift hypothesis by Lena Einhorn, that the events really happened around the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple in 70 AD, and were only placed narratively a generation (of 40 years) earlier, (a) to not alert the Romans, (b) to present this destruction as punishment for not listening to Jesus.

Still, this hodge-podge or sects makes one doubt what the real goal of the DSS sect(s) would be. I take my clue from the teacher of righteousness. It may well be that it started 159 BC when the Maccabees failed to appoint a proper descendent from Zadok, and that over time the messianistic interpretation grew. We can allow that Theudas / John the Baptist and later James took over as leader of the main group. There still is no natural explanation how Paul or Simon Magus would first join up and later dissent again. Perhaps before 70 AD there was a natural reason to join forces against the clique in Jerusalem, and differ forces after 70 AD when that clique was gone ?

Enter Roger Parvus

In an amazing recent series of discussions, Roger Parvus looks again at the older hypothesis that Paul = Simon Magus.

  • He shows how CC interpolations reduced the gnostic (ransom) view and inserted the CC (sacrifice) view.
  • The CC story that Paul originally was Saul who persecuted the CC is analysed as an inversion of the true story: that Simon Magus originally was a partner in the CC but later deviated from the flock.
  • This still doesn’t explain the relation of the CC to the DSS sect(s), and how the CC got to dominate the Torah-abiding group led by James (though perhaps lack of good leadership after his death).

This weblog text for today is already too long. Continued tomorrow.

For today we at least understand why the CC was so determined to get rid of gnosticism.

My overall argument w.r.t. mathematics is that it ought to be used to enlighten issues, and not darken them. It is with this objective that my essay The simple mathematics of Jesus investigates the origin of Christianity. Mathematics can be used for geometry and numbers, but also for patterns in general, and students may be interested in the application to gods, pyramids, lost civilisations, and, indeed, the Anunnaki. Mankind got evicted from paradise by a snake, and why could those not have been snakelike aliens ? It helps to see the potential cause for the story: paradise as the section of the sky around the North Pole where the stars never set (do not die), and the constellation of Draco as the snake who replaces the “polar star” due to precession. There are great stories to tell in this manner.

In the mean time, I write this text listening to Marvin Gaye “What’s going on”, 1971, see here live and here.

David Brin – aliens & addiction to rage (and perhaps other forms of not listening)

David Brin has a great science fiction book on contact with aliens, Existence. We should be fools to neglect that issue. Brin also discusses one alien species we might meet really soon: artificial intelligence …. Perhaps Google soon succeeds in its objective to create a God that can guide mankind in these troublesome years ?

Noteworthy is Brin’s: An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology.

His suggestion is that mental feedback can work like a hard drug. Gambling is an obvious example, but just look at a preacher in religious rage and it is hard to avoid the impression that we see an addict. It may be that religion can be a hard drug too, since it is designed to create similar processes of mental feedback.

An antidote is to sit down and walk through the logic of the argument. Indeed, do the mathematics.

Whether someone believes in a religion is up to that person, but we should be able to debunk delusions how such a belief should affect other people.

David Brin - "Existence" (book website)

David Brin – “Existence”

Eric Cline – collapse of civilisation in 1177 BC

Eric Cline’s book on a 1177 BC collapse of civilisation makes for fascinating reading, but is somewhat disappointing on the reliance on the “chaos theory” of a system collapse. This seems too much like a “deus ex machina” or like stating “it just happened”. Of course, if kingdoms rely on each other via trade routes, and people on the move disrupt things, it somewhat becomes something that you can imagine. But the reader would like to see more hard evidence and more causality. What about volcanic activity, from Iceland to the underwater volcano’s in the Mediterranean that we don’t hear about enough ? Books like this would enhance in strength if they would better indicate what questions need to be answered to arrive at a clearer picture.

Cline’s discussion (p89-96) of the exodus suggests at best a date of perhaps 1250 BC, and that locals benefitted from the downfall of civilisations around them, rather than really conquering it like the Bible suggests. This sceptical story presents a challenge to the story as Booysen sees it.

Eric Clilne - "1177 BC" (book website)

Eric Cline – “1177 BC”

Riaan Booysen – wondering about antiquity

I came upon Riaan Booysen’s website because of the links between Jesus, Paul, Simon Magus and the Egyptian, see my last blog texts.

Booysen is an engineer and has a similar interest in the wonders of lost civilisations. Let me give my quick comments:

(1) His discussion on the Star of Bethlehem confirms my idea that mathematics should contribute to enlightenment. He answers one question that I had: how can one find one particular location (Bethlehem) within 15 m accuracy using only a star as guidance, in a world without GPS ? I didn’t check his formula’s, but his discussion seems sound and clear. Check the pictures. This is a discussion that I can give to students in a math class to show that mathematics can help to debunk religious claims. His major conclusion:

“Any attempt to identify a specific star, comet or conjunction of planets as the Star of Bethlehem is therefore  a complete and utter waste of time.”

However, he doesn’t deal with Molnar’s approach that was topic of discussion at the Groningen conference last Autumn. This isn’t a real problem since Aaron Adair with his book on the SoB already had rejected Molnar’s approach too. See his Gilgamesh blog on the conference.  The organisers of the Groningen conference hadn’t really looked at Adair’s book yet. Apparently to this day have a hard time accepting that also Molnar’s approach can’t be the answer. Perhaps they can include Booysen’s discussion in the book that they are writing on the issue (even though he wasn’t at the conference).

(2) His discussion of Thera and the exodus develops the link that everyone has been wondering about. The plagues of Egypt and the exodus so much remind of a volcanic eruption and a tsunami that there ought to be a link. My own tentative solution to the problem is that Thera caused a web of stories, and that the writers of the exodus pieced together a narrative from all of this. Canaan used to be Egyptian territory, but the ties were weakened and the locals started for their own: they might have presented a justification based upon Egyptian royal records. This might be written in the Babylonian period, so that the reference to Egypt would not upset the Babylonian rulers. But, this is mere speculation and quite vague.

Booysen presents a very specific scenario instead. Traditional dating of the eruption is around 1500 BC, with an olive branch between 1627 BC and 1600 BC. Booysen suggests that this was from an earlier eruption, and targets a date for the real big event during Amenhotep (1391-1353 BC). Good evidence seems to be Amenhotep scarabs found in sites of destruction at Jericho and Knossos. There is also a scarab of Tiye in Mycene (here its picture) but a point there is that it might be treasured over the ages. It is upon the research community to check his arguments and subsequent story. Booysen refers to more floods in Greek mythology, but those seem to be too vague to be of use, while some floods seem to refer to astrological events anyhow. Booysen also points to the accepted period of abandonment of Knossos. Wikipedia: “The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age, c. 1380–1100 BC.” Thus, how could it have survived the destruction of an early Thera ?

Booysen partly follows Ahmed Osman. The biblical Joseph would be Yuya, and here is his mummy. Wikipedia:

“It was also suggested that Yuya was the brother of queen Mutemwiya, who was the mother of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and may have had Mitannian royal origins. However, this hypothesis can not be substantiated, since nothing is known of Mutemwiya’s background.”

Wikipedia might have it wrong. See this Amarna letter quote: perhaps Mutemwiya was a Mitanni princess arter all. But an old claim is that Egyptian royalty didn’t marry foreigners … Overall, Booysen’s approach at least strengthen’s the idea there was Mitanni influence on the sun-worship of Akhenaten.

Amenhotep still is removed from 1177 BC, even when his big statue was toppled by an earthquake around 1200 BC. A more conventional story is that Thera around 1600-500 BC explains some plagues but that others are explained by the climate change that caused the Nile to dry up at the capital Pi-Ramesses of Ramses II (1279 – 1213 BC). It was Psusennes I (1047-1001 BC) who relocated the city with its monuments to Tanis (biblican Zoan).

(FYI: Earlier I had the wild suggestions that Psusennes is Solomon and Tanis is Zion and Thoth is David, but I just like to speculate at times. Booysen’s suggestion that crown prince Thutmose is Moses, might also lead to the suggestion that Thoth-MSS is split by authors of the bible into David and Moses. There is also the Cameron movie “The Exodus Decoded” that remains conventionally around 1500 BC, but adds other niceties, see this effort at debunking. One comment that I read somewhere is that “Mycene” might translate as “my Sinai”, with some interpretation, notwithstanding that Mukenai has rather a “k” than an “s”.)

The death of the first born is conventionally related to some fungus:

If the last plague indeed selectively tended to affect the firstborn, it could be due to food polluted during the time of darkness, either by locusts or by the black mold Cladosporium. When people emerged after the darkness, the firstborn would be given priority, as was usual, and would consequently be more likely to be affected by any toxin or disease carried by the food. Meanwhile, the Israelites ate food prepared and eaten very quickly which would have made it less likely to be contaminated. However, this does not explain how the firstborn cattle alone also would have perished.” (Wikipedia)

Booysen prefers an intended slaugher: “These children were executed as commanded by the king (and his high priest).” However, it might only be an exaggeration of an event only applying to the crown prince. As crown prince Thutmose apparently escaped as Moses (in Booysen’s take), to be succeeded by Akhenaten, we still see that Smenkhare ruled only short, and that Tutankhamun was murdered or at least died young. His death might be taken as a symbol for restauration of old Egyptian subborn polytheism. Still, it is not quite explained that Akhenaten embraced the sun while the Judaism of Moses deals with the moon, see the god Yah. Did their mother Tiye raise their two sons on a different god ?

(3) On ancient enigmas and anomalies, Booysen admirably collects various issues circulating on the internet, with telling pictures to make the point that there is something to explain. However, sometimes, or perhaps often, there are explanations. Let me point to the “Ancient Aliens Debunked” series on YouTube, starting with the Tolima Figher Planes. Another amazing title is “Ancient aliens caught lying“. It would be better if Booysen would reorder into those cases that he considers debunked and those that remain questionable.

(4) On Terra Australis Incognita and Atlantis, I have no comments yet.

(5) On Barbelo – The Story of Jesus Christ  I will make my comments in the next weblog. Apparently, barbelo stands for a gnostic concept (wikipedia).

Riaan Booysen "Barbelo"

Riaan Booysen “Barbelo”

I completed reading Richard Carrier “On the historicity of Jesus” (OHJ) (last blog). I skipped the formula’s and will return to those later.  While writing this, I am listening to “Lola” (1964) by Stavros Xarhakos.

Carrier claims that standard historical methods on Jesus are deficient. At the same time he refers to peer-reviewed historical works to claim support for some of his findings. This is not so consistent. Readers may be at a loss, especially when they are no historians but merely trained in logic and methodology:

“The traditional and established methods of historians are analyzed using the [Bayes] theorem, as well as all the major “historicity criteria” employed in the latest quest to establish the historicity of Jesus. The author demonstrates not only the deficiencies of these approaches but also ways to rehabilitate them using Bayes’s Theorem.” (Carrier, cover of “Proving History”) (book not read by me).

One supposes that there is no other way than that historians clean up the mess. The brunt of the work will fall on the historians themselves, as few readers will be interested to delve into the issues in detail.

We may assume however that historians are open to critical comments from readers with backgrounds in different subjects. The study of Jesus has been an ivory tower for too long, which caused the present mess.Thus let us target for a beneficial flow between experts and the educated non-experts. My interest derives from the education of mathematics, seeThe simple mathematics of Jesus(SMOJ) (2012).

Epistle to the Hebrews, logic, the gap between Judaism and Christianity

OHJ made me more aware of the existence and portent of the Epistle to the Hebrews. By his discussion I am struck by the application of logic in that epistle. This isn’t a mere letter but an exercise in logic. This fits my approach in SMOJ, that the clash of Judaism with the Greeks and Romans also was affected by the Greek attention for logic and mathematics (see what Euclid did in Alexandria around 300 BC).

This exercise in logic in Hebrews made me also more aware of the gap between Judaism and Christianity. As Adam had eaten the apple and been thrown out of paradise, Moses made a covenant with Yahweh: the chosen people would be saved from Original Sin as long as they maintained Mosaic Law. This meant circumcision. This also meant obeying the Levite priesthood and support the sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. This also reflected a power struggle in which the kingdom of Judea won from the kingdom of Israel / Samaria, and in which the temple at Gerizim and the priesthood of Melchizedek lost. The Levite monopoly on the priesthood was only nuanced by the option for persons from other tribes to be a nazir for a specific purpose, well supervised by the Temple. Enter now the new high priest of Jesus with a new covenant. As it took only one person, Adam, to create Original Sin, it took only one person, Jesus, to save mankind from it. Rather than sacrifice animals each day, Jesus will bring the greatest sacrifice, his life, be the Lamb of God, and achieve a result for eternity. Circumcision is no longer needed, just the belief in Jesus is enough, and baptism will do. The Levite priesthood in Jerusalem is stripped from its covenant and purpose and power.

Part of the logic is that Hebrews has Adam and Melchizedek as celestial beings, so that Jesus is so too. One of the promises by Yahweh to Moses was that the king of Judea would always be a descendant from David. Everyone from 200 BC to 100 AD could see that this was no longer true to fact. Hebrews solves the issue in theological manner: Yahweh takes the seed from David in heaven and creates Jesus with it. Whence Yahweh kept his promise and all Jews ought to follow Jesus.

The Epistle to the Hebrews beats the priesthood in Jerusalem in their own game. They failed in maintaining Mosaic Law by allowing kings not descending from David and high priests not descending from Levi. They didn’t have a logical answer to their failure. Now there is a logical argument that destroys their power base. What clinches the argument is that Hebrews selects its key phrases and reasons from the Old Testament itself. The epistle isn’t just a lecture but a reasoned argument from the holy book itself. The priesthood in Jerusalem is checkmate.

NB. See here for a short discussion of Original Sin in the Torah.

Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews ?

Carriers starts OHJ with the “Ascension of Isaiah, one of gospels that are not in the official canon. My impression is that he could rather start with Hebrews that is in the canon and that serves his purpose of presenting a celestial (mythical) Jesus too.

It is not known who wrote the epistle but given the theological attack on Jerusalem we may wonder who might have been inspired to develop the logic.

  • Judeans themselves, who became sensitive to apocalyptic ideas about the end of some cycle.
  • Hellenizing Judeans in Alexandria or Antioch, who wanted their society to adapt, check e.g. the high priest Jesus (Jason) in 175-172 BC who founded the city of Antioch, or check Philo (20 BC-50 AD) and the Therapeutae.
  • Judeans who fled from Jerusalem looking for orthodoxy but found themselves developing another logic, possibly in Qumran or Leontopolis.
  • Judeans after 70 AD who needed to adapt to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and a way to save the earlier books about Yahweh. (A new law does not replace an old law but adds to it. Christianity still carries the Old Testament to prove that the New Testament didn’t fall from the sky.)
  • The Herodians who were of Edomite descent and claimed to be of the tribe of Benjamin, who were always criticized for not being from David, and who wanted to appoint their own priests.
  • The Samaritans after the destruction of their temple at Gerizim by John Hyrcanus in 128 BC. Note that the Samaritans had stronger links to Babylonia and were aware of the cult of Inanna (dying and rising goddess). (However, their priests would be from Zadok, and thus less inclined to destroy their own claims, see here and here.)
  • Johanan ben Zak(k)ai flees from Jerusalem in a coffin, predicts Vespasian that he will be emperor and rule over Jerusalem, and is rewarded with Javne, from which current rabbinic Judaism derives. He might feel forced to adapt the holy script that Jerusalem must be ruled by a descendant from David.
  • The Ptolemaic dynasty, who already had created Serapis as a syncretic god for both Greeks and Egyptians, who also wanted to loosen the ties of their native Jews from Jerusalem.
  • The Romans after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD who would want Jews to lose their bellicose belief.

Richard Carrier does not yet follow the “time shift” hypothesis by Lena Einhorn. In my interpretation of his results, but including Einhorn, an obvious scenario is that the story of the celestial Jesus already existed before 70 AD, and that the destruction of the Temple caused some authors to create the Gospel of Mark in which the celestial Jesus is replaced by a Jesus walking the Earth. Thus the motives for the celestial and earthly Jesus somewhat differ, and the latter takes advantage of the earlier. (See this earlier weblog why Christ came to Earth.) The reason for this scenario would be that the Epistle to the Hebrews would not show a notion that the Temple had been destroyed.

Perhaps an alternative still lies with an approach in which the destruction of the Temple was so far in the past that it didn’t matter so much anymore. One scenario would turn the Samaritan Simon Magus into Paul, with one of his pupils again teaching Marcion, see the approach by Detering and his attention for the Dutch Radicals and their view on the Pauline (rather Marcionite) epistles. This slow scenario would allow for a more gradual development till Nicaea in 325 AD. But it is not discussed by Carrier.

I was struck by this review by Robert M. Price of a book by Eisenman. Price also discusses Huller on the Samaritan connection. Huller’s 1999 book wasn’t well received, see also Huller’s sigh on New Testament Scholars, but Price gave it five stars in 2009. The only answer remains proper scholarship.

Nazoraios

Reading Carrier’s book I was again struck by the label “nazoraios“. In SMOJ (2012) I couldn’t get a good explanation for it. Wikipedia still lists the possibilities …. and pick your choice …. Nazarene doesn’t fit. The following new suggestion isn’t in that wikipedia list.

Since the education of mathematics of Jesus requires a good look at Egypt and the pyramids, and since Josephus’s Egyptian is also mentioned by Carrier and Einhorn, I wondered whether NZR would mean something useful here. I presume that vowels in Egyptian and Hebrew are less certain than consonants.

Josephus’s Egyptian might have designated himself as a fulfiller, thereby creating a label for himself that his environment had difficulty interpreting – but as a non-historian I would not know whether the demotic of the New Kingdom was still valid around 70 AD:

“nzrt as “Fulfiller” and pr-nzr as “Fulfilling house” – such a designation of the ancient shrine of the Delta may mean something like “shrine answering (i. e. fulfilling) prayers”. (Timofey Shmakov p 80, rejecting “flame”)

 The same google also gave John Day (ed) “King and messiah” on the Hebrew “nezer”, relating to a head attire (crown, golden head band) for the high priest, see Ps 89.39.

Since the Epistle of the Hebrews presents Jesus as a high priest, I suppose that this might fit. Thus “Jesus the nazoraois” (notably in Acts and copied by Matthew but not Mark) could mean “Jesus who is crowned as the high priest”.

I leave it as a suggestion to the linguistic experts. Interestingly Day (ed) still mentions Milgrom with a link (but called unlikely) to the Egyptian nzr.t (snake goddess) or nsr.t (flame) “both used for the Uraeus serpent projecting from Pharaoh’s crown”. Given the fundamental influence of the Egyptian Book of the Dead upon the Old Testament I wonder whether that link really is unlikely.

By way of conclusion

At this stage I am still far from a conclusion. Perhaps a comparison of SMOJ with Carrier’s OHJ is a good way to see whether there can be some such conclusion. In the mean time: (1) OHJ is an advisable read when you are interested in the origins of Christianity, and on questions about how to deal with the three Abrahamic religions, (2) The arguments on probability and Bayes still seem less relevant than the arguments on logic and facts as these already transpire from OHJ, (3) Ancient history apparently is a mess and we should hope for a climate in which they get their act together, and in which they also open up to critical comments from educated outsiders (as other fields of enquiry do too).

I have not completed reading Richard Carrier On the Historicity of Jesus. Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt (OHJ) (2014). Yet I have read enough to advise you to consider it. The book might mark (not cause) a change in collective perception from a historical to a mythical Jesus. Carrier regards the book as a watershed himself:

“the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review”.

Carrier apparently doesn’t claim a new unique argument but he collects those of many others and his own past, and provides a framework that the academia will have a hard time to neglect. Some earlier books by professor Robert M. Price appeared at the ‘American Atheist Press’ that might be looked-down-upon by the academia (they might also have been published by the “International Do Not Read Me Press”). My own book The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012) is printing on demand which doesn’t seem attractive to the academia either (and I don’t want to be a historian of course, see SMOJ).

Apart from this advance praise we can also identify some risks. These risks should not stop you from considering the book. You cannot live without risk, and I only advise you to read with care.

Failure of the academia

Let us first establish that the academia are a failure in this realm of research. The academia with their “peer-review” have been biased ad nauseam. Theologians presume the existence of God, and don’t mind a “deus ex machina”. Researchers in New Testament Studies presume that the gospels are “history” and neglect evidence to the contrary. Plain historians of antiquity would be more open to doubt but have stayed close to the earlier groups, producing fallacy after fallacy. Historians act as if they are judges of the past but this is unscientific, see below.

Carrier himself is not at the academia. After his Ph.D. he apparently opted for writing articles and books. This present book has been supported by a collection of $20,000 from sympathisers.

Nevertheless, it is a fine surprise to see the academic references by Carrier. It is not clear to me how large the output of the Jesus research is. Perhaps if one article is quoted from a journal we might calculate that 50 articles aren’t quoted, per year, but such articles might be useful for other topics. Overall, it would be advantageous to conquer these academia for science (including the humanities), with their annual inflow of fresh young minds eager to learn science before they are culled to a tradition of failure …

The historian as a judge

Carrier seems to think that historians would be judges of the past. It are they who determine what truly happened and what didn’t happen. I have explained before that this attitude is unscientific. The basic historical issue is to indicate the uncertainties that exist rather than hiding those behind a decision. Steve Mason in What is history? clarifies that “history” originally just means “analysis”, in comparison with believing ‘evidence’ at face value, or passing on stories, or mere keeping of records.

Bayes’s Theorem

Carrier develops uncertainties, indeed. His goal however is an aggregate grand view. I advise against that goal of trying to be a judge over the past. The relevant information about Jesus Christ is lost in history and it is no use to kick the absence of information till it confesses. But I admit that once we have all those uncertainties laying about, and a simple technique to estimate degrees of acceptability and aggregate them, then it might be informative to do so.

His choice of technique is probability theory, with Bayes reasoning. Bayes’s Theorem merely is a technique that allows us to work systematically with (conditional) probabilities, for example the probability of the truth of a hypothesis given the evidence. It is useful to observe that some evidence drops out (in relevance) when it supports both historical or mythical views on Jesus. It seems that the use of this technique indeed allows Carrier to order the material, which supports the “comprehensiveness” of his analysis.

I haven’t further checked his dealing with the method. I have my doubt about this kind of use of probability theory.  I see more scope for logic and better treatment of data. The true problem is the failure of the academia, and it would be nonsense to think that the solution came from Bayes reasoning.

But one reason for me to recommend OHJ as it stands is that it provides for both a structure and lots of historical detail, so that it is useful even when its use of probabilities is overdone. In other realms we use “Delphi techniques” for “expert views”, and it might be useful to record those and reflect on what those tell us – and whether there really are experts.

I still wonder what to do with “lack of evidence” e.g. caused by destruction by church authorities who didn’t like some materials. Perhaps Eusebius had a report about a nazirite Joshua (and could we translate this as “nazoraios” or “lestes” ?) who healed some people but also committed more violence than fitted Eusebius’s image of the Good Lord, and he destroyed that material and instead inserted the Testimonium Flavianum (TF) to maintain the notion that there was historical evidence. Stranger things have happened. I enjoyed reading Carrier confirming that also others suspect that Eusebius inserted that TF anyway.

Overall, even if a calculation would result into a 99% versus 1% split of the probabilities, then one could still opt for the minority opinion (i.e. the 1%), for there still would be a chain of logic. Probabilities are just one of our instruments. It seems that Carrier overestimates the value of the Bayes-framework for improving his field of history of antiquity, also by suggesting that “most probable” could replace judgement. See Appendix A. But perhaps see the video.

Minimal theoretical versions h and m

Carrier presents hypotheses of the historical (h) or mythical (m) Jesus, but in minimal versions. This allows him to argue:

  1. All relevant (larger) historical or mythical theories should satisfy at least one of those minima.
  2. Relevant is the comparison of the marginal probabilities, with μ = Pr[m] and η = Pr[h].
  3. When both events would occur, i.e. that there was both a sect with a myth of some redeemer (Yehoshua means “saviour”) and at the same time a historical Joshua being crucified, with later perhaps some merger, then the joint probability ε would not be relevant for one’s view, and may be regarded as zero. (I am not sure yet whether I correctly interprete Carrier’s view on this.)
  4. When both events would not occur, i.e. no mythical sect and no crucified Jesus, then there would be no reasonable explanation for the rise of Christianity, and the joint probability (δ) would be zero. For example, the deliberate political creation by the Romans in the theory by Joseph Atwill (see below) might be argued to fall in this category. However, the latter would still fit m and thus let us indeed take δ = 0. (Adapted 2015-01-29.)
  5. From the latter two zero’s it indeed is a matter of μ versus η (see OHJ:55).
  6. His estimate is that μ = Pr[m] ≥ 67% and η = Pr[h] ≤ 33%, so that the evidence makes it twice more likely that Jesus was a mythical than a historical figure.
Probability h (historical Jesus) not-h sum
m (mythical Jesus) ε μ – ε μ = Pr[m]
not-m η – ε δ = 0 1 – μ
sum η = Pr[h] 1 – η 1

The joint case with ε is an issue. Are h and defined sufficiently sharp to prevent an overlap ? Perhaps ε is actually quite large, so that it dominates the outcomes for μ and η, so that the distinction between the latter is rather meaningless. Both groups would be right, somehow. There might be various Jesuses, also called Brian. Consider the Egyptian, below. Or consider some person like Flavius Josephus who saved some people from the destruction of Jerusalem, and got a story going that he was a saviour. Perhaps some stories of such remarkable persons got mingled with existing stories about angels and other mythical beings. One might argue that only the existence of such a myth story would allow the absorption of such stories about real people. Others might find joy in being able to point to such an inspiring person. So that the distinction somewhat evaporates. Crucifixion is important, and let us look at how many preaching Jesuses might have been crucified in that period: which is the proper one ?  (My calculation is a bit more complex than OHJ:31.) Carrier is right that the methodology causes us to focus on the arguments around ε. But it seems that researchers did so already before. The real problem is that they have not been willing to take a scientific attitude and allow that there is no historical Jesus. See Appendix B for another example of a possible blur, now on the minimal myth version m.

No reference to Acharya S

Since I regard Acharya S (D.M. Murdock) as major contributor to the analysis of a mythical Jesus, I was interested in what Carrier has to say about her analysis. But she isn’t mentioned in the index. We could infer that Carrier doesn’t regard her work as being of peer-review status and thus not worthy even of mentioning.

This is curious. Carrier focuses on a window of say 100 BC – 200 AD and presents a “Minimal Jesus Myth Theory” (MJMT) with five properties, and the first property would be that “Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity”. We can imagine that this might be some kind of minimum. However, the idea of celestial beings doesn’t drop from thin air. There has to be a history of how people got to believe in such celestial beings. Enters Acharya S who looks at 5000 BC – 1000 AD and shows that astro-theology gives a perfect explanation. Her “Christ in Egypt” is a marvel.

OHJ:52 has this put-down:

“Despite countless variations (including a still-rampant obsession with indemonstrable ‘astrological’ theories of Gospel interpretation that you won’t find much sympathy with here) …”

This is a put-down but also vague. The peer-review editors should not have accepted is – which shows the limits to peer-review again. Perhaps it might be acceptable that Carrier is so frank about his dislikes that he cannot even read books on the subject. But he isn’t just frank but also expresses an opinion, while the rule is that an argument should be based upon actually reading the matter. People in antiquity believed in astrology and this affects the probabilities.

There appears to be more to the lack of “sympathy”. See this webtext with a protest from a co-worker of Acharya S who protest that Carrier has been putting down her work for some ten years now without actually studying it. This is a breach of scientific integrity. Note that Carrier earned his PhD in 2008, at least six years ago. Getting a PhD at Columbia didn’t teach him to look at material with an open mind. My proposal is that he reads and reviews her book “Christ in Egypt” so that we can check whether there is more than bias, or a cause for an apology. This is relevant to the issue. The Egyptian Book of the Dead influenced the Old Testament (OT). The NT is a rehashed summary of the OT. Thus the analysis by Acharya S has major meaning for the probabilities for the myth theory about the NT. See my SMOJ for also this exercise in logic.

No reference to Lena Einhorn

Also important is Lena Einhorn’s time shift hypothesis, holding (a) that the crucial events took place around the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, but (b) that the New Testament (NT) authors changed dates and names to 30 AD to reduce suspicion in the time when they were writing. Einhorn isn’t mentioned either, which means that Carrier’s “history” may be 40 years off-target. Interestingly, Josephus relates of someone “called The Egyptian” who wants the walls of Jerusalem to tumble. While Josephus commonly gives us names, he doesn’t provide one for the Egyptian. But perhaps he did indirectly with the midrash on Joshua and Jericho.

Maltreatment of Joseph Atwill

I haven’t read Atwill’s book on the deliberate creation of the figure of Jesus Christ by the Flavians with the help of Josephus, the Herodians and the nephews of Philo, i.e. the Jewish Alexander family in Alexandria. Atwill is not mentioned in OHJ. On the internet there is Carrier’s discussion of Atwill and his book, and I was shocked by the use of language. This personal abuse is totally uncalled for. Let us look at the steps:

  1. The academia have been failing for at least fifty years if not longer.
  2. Education levels rise overall and you cannot blame people to criticise the academic failure.
  3. Ptolemy Soter around 300 BC deliberately created Serapis to unify the beliefs of Greeks and Egyptians. Thus deliberate syncretism is a proven tool of government. There are various syncretic faiths where-ever the Greeks met local faiths. Thus some syncretism with Judaism is conceivable too: and this became Christianity. The development for the Jews took longer since Judah lay at the frontier of the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt and was constantly fought over, with a moment of independence. Apparently it took the Romans to clinch the matter. Thus it is not strange that Atwill developed the scenario – and it is a criticism of the academia that they couldn’t refer to relevant research to the same.
  4. Robert M. Price is critical of Atwill’s work too: but in civilised manner. It really is possible to do so.
  5. It may well be that Atwill is no trained researcher and that his claims are over the top. If Carrier thinks so, then he can state the arguments and leave it there. It indeed requires scholarship to weed out the nonsense. I would say to Carrier: keep the creative and interested audience, and help guide the discussion by setting the proper example. Atwill also deserves praise for opening up closed arteries and exposing the failure of the Ivory Tower.
  6. Carrier might hold that he has to be critical to academics and non-academics alike, and historicists and mythicists alike, and this is obvious so, but at issue is the abuse of language in Atwill’s case.
  7. Carrier’s personal error with Atwill apparently was getting too deep into a person-to-person exchange. Atwill hasn’t done Carrier any harm. Carrier only complains that it took too much of his time. It is his own responsibility to stop in the right and proper manner. He should have made his analysis on content more public at an earlier stage, so that Atwill would have the criticism of others too.
  8. Yes, Atwill apparently presents himself as a researcher and shouldn’t. When the academia are failing so much and use the Ivory Tower argument to silence criticism, then we must fear that they reap what they sow. The answer does not lie in vilifying non-academics.
  9. Carrier mentions eight reasons why Atwill’s “priors” would be dismally low. When I look at those, then I find much reason to criticise Carrier (see the section in this other text on failing historian Jona Lendering). Atwill apparently has voiced similar points, see vridar.  (I am no historian but it seems that Atwill has recovered something relevant on Gadara too.)
Preliminary conclusion

I don’t think that Carrier can neglect the authors Acharya S, Einhorn, Atwill. He falls in the same trap as the academia have done before.

Yes, it is a victory for Carrier to have this book now published in the academic community. But it is a misconception on his part that he should join the academic community in the disregard of those who are critical of that community.

It would feel much more agreeable and fitting when the community of people studying the Christ Myth could feel proud for what Carrier has achieved, instead of feeling estranged by what is happening now. Today them, tomorrow you.

Appendix A. Most probable (in some set-up) doesn’t mean true

In Proving History (on Bayes) Carrier gives a damning description of the emptiness of the Ivory Tower and the efforts to recover more about the historical Jesus. Then on p14 he states:

“When everyone picks up the same method, applies it to the same facts, and gets a different result, we can be certain that that method is invalid and should be abandoned. Yet historians in Jesus studies don’t abandon the demonstrably failed methods they purport to employ. This has to end. Historians must work together to develop a method that, when applied to the same facts, always gives the same result; a result all historians can agree must be correct (which is to say, the most probable result, as no one imagines certainty is possible, especially in ancient history). If historians can’t agree on what that method should be, then their whole enterprise is in crisis, because agreement on the fundamentals of method is the first essen­tial requirement for any community of experts to deem itself an objective profession.”

Someone alerted me to this passage and its obvious rejection. If an exercise for 10 theories generates outcomes into the range of 9% to 11%, then we cannot hold that historians should agree on the outcome that seems most probable (here 11%). So it may be doubted whether Bayes would give the answer. But Bayes remains a framework to model your contribution.

It remains useful to note Carrier’s observation about the nonsense coming out of the Ivory Tower. It shouldn’t amaze that the outside folk start making critical remarks themselves.

Appendix B. Myth theory without a celestial Jesus

A minimal requirement for a mythical Jesus according to Carrier is: “Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity”. Carrier therefor pays a lot of attention to the Ascension of Isaiah, in which celestial Jesus has a celestial crucifixion. Supposedly this gospel got some circulation before church doctrine put it on the back list (and started changing it).

Note that the crucifixion has to be on a “celestial tree” as a copy of a “tree on earth”. This necessitates a theory that heaven and earth copy each other, see also my earlier explanation why Christ came down to earth. Carrier disapproves of a reading in terms of astro-theology, with the cross given by the ecliptic given by Plato in the Timaeus.

But there is a scenario in which there might not really be a need for a celestial Jesus, while we still could speak about a mythical origin. There is the docetic view like from Philo and the Therapeutae. This concerns God and not necessarily the Son of God. If Josephus lists all relevant sects then it is fair to start from one of those. (Though: I don’t know whether he also lists the sects in Samaria – in the distinction between the old two kingdoms Judah and Israel, and with apparantly some belief for Inanna there from Babylon.) The destruction of Jerusalem of 70 AD required a priestly response for those believers without a Temple. Judaism and the scrolls of the OT needed to be saved from obliteration. Deliberate syncretism cannot be avoided. Perhaps the playwrights in Alexandria put in extra hours. The sacrifice of the son of god is chosen to symbolise the sacrifice of Jerusalem, and there is the resurrection into the new community of survivors. The saviour is immediately fleshed out by Mark from Homer, in the manner described by Dennis MacDonald. Matthew makes sure that he becomes the son of David. This thus would be a mythical origin of Jesus without there actually having been a “crucifixion in the sky” as Carrier suggests.

Of course, when Paul adheres to a celestial view of Jesus, and when Paul would contain the first text, as Carrier suggests, then the scenario of the Ascension of Isaiah is likelier. But Paul might not be the start. In other words, the origin might be messier than suggested.

When you cannot listen to music without reading something, then I suggest this review by Philip Davis of the autobiography of Paul Feyerabend, that starts in World War 2.

When some people are calling for another war of religion, let us remember Country Joe & the Fish in the song I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die: asking What are we fighting for ? This song is so part of collective memory that I was surprised to discover that Joe McDonald still lives and thrives, see his website.

Country Joe and the Fish - Vietnam Song (Source: Screenshot)

Country Joe and the Fish – Vietnam Song (Source: Screenshot)

There is also a great song by Thanos Mikroutsikos Mia pista of fosforo (“Dancing Floor made by Phosphor”), with a movie that depicts Greek people fleeing from either the euro or radical islam. You would not want to get in the same situation.

Thanos Mikroutsikos - Mia pista apo fosforo (Source: screenshot)

Thanos Mikroutsikos – Mia pista apo fosforo (Source: screenshot)

Subsequently there is Manos Loizos in “Ola se thumizoun”, which seems a love song but might also refer to a letter by a soldier who will not return from the battlefield. There is a simple version by Loizos himself and a concert version by Haris Alexiou who is clearly in pain for the sorrow that the letter causes. Here are the lyrics by Manolis Rasoulis.

Manos Loizos, Ola se thumizoun (Source: screenshot)

Manos Loizos, Ola se thumizoun (Source: screenshot)

Haris Alexiou, Ola se thumizoun (Source: screenshot)

Haris Alexiou, Ola se thumizoun (Source: screenshot)