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Robert_Tulip last won the day on December 19 2020

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About Robert_Tulip

  • Birthday 03/23/1963

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    I have a Master of Arts Honours Degree for a thesis on The Place of Ethics in Heidegger's Ontology, and was a moderator at the discussion forum Truth Be Known.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    I am a Christian atheist

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  1. This was a powerful program. I hope it is available for viewing outside Australia. If not you can read the transcript. It shows the level of corruption in the Jehovah's Witnesses organisation, with massive coverup of sexual assault designed solely to protect the organisation while shunning the victims with heartless cruelty. It reminds me of Voltaire's dictum that believing absurdity permits atrocity. The cult cannot allow reality to penetrate its bubble. Such fantasy thinking leads JWs to believe they can get away with abuse of human rights.
  2. Your comments help me considerably to clarify my own thinking Josh, so I will continue to respond in detail. A big problem for ancient history is the fragmentary nature of evidence. I have compared it to finding an empty field and trying to imagine the rich forest that used to grow there. Restriction to ‘hard facts’ accepts the dictum that history is written by the victors, given their propensity to destroy facts they dislike. So it is essential to look for hidden clues in a systematic way, which is precisely what Carrier’s use of Bayesian logic enables. Obviously this whole topic of ancient knowledge of precession is bedevilled by analysis that lacks scholarly rigor. Carrier cites Kersey Graves as an example he finds totally unreliable, with Graves using imaginative speculation to claim associations that are totally dubious. I recently listened to a podcast that conducted a similar demolition job on Gerald Massey, the British Egypt mythologist who strongly influenced DM Murdock. Looking at some of his specific claims, it is argued that Massey began with his conclusions and strung together highly tendentious interpretations to justify them. People make similar criticisms of books like Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana and Fingerprints of the Gods by Hancock, although I think both these books combine important information about precession together with overly speculative claims. A challenge in using such books is to avoid both gullibility and overly narrow scepticism. Picking up on your ‘deep antiquity’ theme, the point is that astronomers in the Hellenistic period were heirs to major religious traditions that were mainly oral and secret and that are now mainly lost. Circumstantial evidence for knowledge of precession includes the theme of slaying the bull by Mithras and the Golden Calf story of Moses as symbols of the transition from the age of Taurus to Aries. Then there are the Norse myth of the world mill falling off its axis, the Vedic cycle of light and dark over 24,000 years and the widespread use of numbers associated with the precession period of 72 years per degree. Knowledge that Taurus used to be the constellation at the spring point must have been a widespread basic ordering factor in cosmic mythology. As I mentioned in my paper, the Greek poet Hesiod mentioned how the month when the Pleiades sets just after dusk was the time to plough. That changes by one month every two millennia due to precession, a shift that the old myths of stable societies could remember, if mainly in concealed form. That broad understanding, even without clear knowledge of the speed of precession as suggested by Hipparchus, is sufficient to form a broad prediction centuries in advance of when the spring point would cross into Pisces. Joseph Campbell’s analysis in Myths To Live By notes the widespread presence of the Zodiac Age number 2160, in ways that indicate this was actually widely understood as the estimated number of years in each Age. I do find it frustrating though, that academic scholars reject this strong circumstantial evidence, such as Neugebauer’s critique of the PanBabylonian school as summarised by Gary Thomson. Re-reading the section on precession in Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock reminds me that he associates knowledge of precession with the idea of Atlantis, and a lost high technology ancient civilization, which is viewed as pseudoscience. I agree with Hancock that mysteries such as the Pyramids, Gobleki Tepi and Baalbek have not been solved. However, rather than posit lost technology or a global civilization that lacks evidence, I prefer to speculate that Pleistocene cultures did measure precession over thousands of years, for both religious and agricultural reasons. One precession myth that I find most interesting is the churning of the milk sea, with Mount Meru resting upon Kurma the turtle at the bottom of the universe. It is clear to me, although this is my own original theory, that this turtle myth represents the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is at the Ecliptic Pole, the South Pole of the Sun, the point around which the South Celestial Pole rotates over the precession cycle. Indian astronomers, given thousands of years of stability and peace before the metallic ages of warfare began, could have worked out that the rising date of Kurma at the Southern horizon advances by one degree every 71.6 years, a number that occurs in Vedic myth, as does the close rounded estimate of 72. Why modern critical efforts assert the ancients knew and cared so little about precession is hard to tell, when it was obviously important for both agriculture and religion. This extreme scepticism comes from visceral hostility toward astrology, and the concern that promotion of these ideas has been so closely linked to pseudoscientific views. Hancock asserts a strong correlation between the Hamlet’s Mill precession myth of the world falling off its axis and the Osiris myth of Egypt. Chapter 31 of Fingerprints of the Gods is titled “The Osiris Numbers”. Drawing on the work of Jane B. Sellers, Hancock observes that Egyptians and numerous other cultures stretching from China to Angkor to India to Babylon to Scandinavia and even Mayaland used factors of the Zodiac Age estimate of 2160 years, such as 12, 30, 54, 72, 108, 432, etc. It is remarkable for example that the Rig Veda has exactly 432,000 syllables. The fact that the 24K Yuga cycle lines up directly with the astronomy of light and dark in the Milankovitch Cycle is a powerful smoking gun for this theory of prehistoric precession knowledge. It looks very clear to me that the Jesus story was constructed on a precession model. This invites us to ask why this was done, and what the possible and probable antecedents of this method could have been. The incorporation of astronomical knowledge of cosmic order into the religious mystery traditions provides the simplest explanation. Somehow I think proof in this matter will be like leading a horse to water. Do we want a systematic explanation of history or not? If we do, then the idea that extensive knowledge of astronomy in the ancient world was lost explains many anomalies. Not least, it gets rid of all the miracles from Christianity in a way that explains the reason for these stories. Hipparchus provided a scientific account, but the use of precession in religion rests upon much deeper religious accounts. For example, the story of the dragon giving his power, seat and authority to the leopard bear lion at Rev 13 is a model for the observed movement of the North Celestial Pole. It looks absurd to say this was only noticed after Hipparchus. Similarly, Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares and Fomalhaut were the four bright stars at the solstices and equinoxes in 3000 BC, forming the myth of the four living creatures. It stretches credulity to say that no astronomer-priests would have noticed the steady shift of these major stars away from the cardinal points of the compass. Plato said the Greeks were like children tossing pebbles into the ocean of eastern wisdom. It is a form of racial arrogance to insist that just because records have been destroyed there must have been no knowledge. Christian apologists don’t count because they work from false supernatural assumptions. I certainly find the numerous key examples of New Testament precession imagery I provided in my paper compelling. They include the chi rho cross, the loaves and fishes, the alpha and omega, the tree of life, the holy city, the twelve jewels, the moon at the foot of the woman, the man with the water jug, the wheat and tares and the second coming. These support a coherent cosmology, that also serves to provide a scientific explanation for Carrier’s discussion of the descent of Christ from space.
  3. Hi Josh, many thanks for these superb comments which cut to the nub of issues about the scientific assessment of Christian history. This point around the popularity of saviour cults helps us understand the sociology of Christian origins. However, the deeper underlying theme to explain their identity and purpose is the cosmology that informed these social movements. If precession framing against the Aries-Pisces Age shift was an organising principle for Christianity, that has to be included alongside the sociology of how the cult became popular. That means human tribal psychology has evolved highly complex saviour cult memes over a long time, stretching into prehistory before the invention of writing, with ideas conveyed to initiates by secret voice. Christianity adopted this saviour cult model, which it seems then overwhelmed its original astronomical message, as the suppression by Rome destroyed the highly vulnerable secret oral teachings. Carrier rightly emphasises in the podcast how Christianity subsequently obliterated knowledge of its origins. My view is that astronomy was a central theme of the lost original construction of Christian faith. The Saviour cult origins included strong solar imagery, based as Carrier says on agrarian cycles, with the return of the Sun each spring a symbol of new life. The cults personified the sun as human saviour. Therefore, for Christianity to present Christ as the Sun moving into a new constellation at the spring point by precession links in directly with the evolutionary story of saviour cults as solar deities. Precession was integral to the solar cult vision, not a later addition. Christ was the flowering of this thinking as the meaning of the precession into the Age of Pisces, which then presented the basis to imagine the future precession of the spring point of the Sun into Aquarius in our time now, as the cosmology supporting the original Biblical vision of the Second Coming. Precession does appear in Paul, with the creation groaning in travail at Romans 8, and the cosmology of pre-existence serving as allegory for the long precession of the spring point in the lead up to the incarnation point of the Aries-Pisces Age cusp. This secret astronomy supports the cosmology of Paul. The cross of Christ aligns to the observed motion of the X in the sky, congruent to Paul’s theology of cross and resurrection. Mark and the bandwagon present precession in much more explicit terms than it is seen in Paul. Mark presents the allegory of the loaves and fishes which directly matches the precession vision of a new age of loaves and fishes through the Virgo-Bread/Pisces-Fish axis into which the world moved in 21 AD. That is an excellent summation of the timeline of Christian evolution. But further, astrotheological allegory for the sun and moon and stars existed within the Savior cults for thousands and possibly tens of thousands of years before Christ, stretching well into prehistory. I think it is probable that precession formed the basis of Vedic Yuga cosmology in the Pleistocene stone age period after human arrival in India from Africa, possibly 80,000 years ago. The accurate match between this cyclic cosmology of light and dark and the actual climate cycles caused by orbital precession could reflect Indian observation over millennia of the slow cycles of sea level and glacier advance and retreat. The structure of the Indo-European Language Family enabled such fundamental ideas to spread through religious networks over thousands of years, leading to the presence in European cosmythology of the Vedic theory of successive declining ages of gold, silver, bronze and iron, a theory that matches exactly to the real climate cycle induced by precession. Carrier’s view that Christianity evolved as a saviour cult is fully compatible with the thesis of Jesus Christ having been invented to reflect the required saviour cult of the New Age of Pisces. Rather than astrotheological allegory as colour in the myths, this symbolic structure from astronomy actually grounds the myths, providing the necessary conditions for their physical possibility. As such, precession has a fundamental genetic function for Christianity. Planetary salvation is a theme that Christian theology has neglected, due to the overwhelming focus on the magical salvation of the individual believer, a line that lacks any scientific sense. By contrast, the idea that Christ came to save the world in terms of making our planet a better place to live is an ethical proposition that has abundant grounding in the Gospels, even if Christendom largely abandoned it as too hard, and it is in fact deferred to the second coming, as seen in the parable of the sheep and goats. The gospel authors could see, based on the Yuga precession cosmology, that the world was headed into the bottoming out of the cycle, known in Indian myth as the Kali Yuga, the Iron Age of Ignorance and Darkness. Astronomically, as I explain in my paper, Milankovitch cycles can put this point at 1246 AD when the perihelion, earth’s closest orbital point to the sun, crossed the December solstice, the shortest day of the year. Based on rough knowledge of this climate cycle as it is embedded in the Yuga theory, the Christ precession cosmology saw the Age of Pisces as a time when the power of darkness would remain stronger than light (December solstice), while the Age of Aquarius was imagined as the next month, starting late January, when the light begins to return. So any talk of planetary renewal and restoration and repair had to be deferred until after the low point, creating the need for the two-stage incarnation theory of the Bible. In the Vedic astronomy, the Second Coming matches to the rising Bronze Age, a model that matches the Age of Aquarius as a time when the earth is made new. In the interim people have just had to cope with the uncoordinated individual salvation hope that the church has promoted. The planetary salvation theme is fundamental to the Vedic Yuga myth of the Golden Age, as a long future time when humanity will live in harmony with the earth. It therefore predates the Mediterranean saviour cults, and informs them at memetic level. Naturally so, since human flourishing requires a healthy planet. The Bible presents the transition to this future Golden Age through the apocalyptic imagery of cosmic war between good and evil. The idea is that human destruction of the earth brings on the wrath of God, as stated at Rev 11:18. This cosmic descent myth is in The Ascension of Isaiah, Chapter 10: “7. And I heard the voice of the Most High, the Father of my Lord, saying to my Lord Christ who will be called Jesus: 8. "Go forth and descent through all the heavens, and thou wilt descent to the firmament and that world: to the angel in Sheol thou wilt descend, but to Haguel thou wilt not go. 9. And thou wilt become like unto the likeness of all who are in the five heavens. 10. And thou wilt be careful to become like the form of the angels of the firmament [and the angels also who are in Sheol]. 11. And none of the angels of that world shall know that Thou art with Me of the seven heavens and of their angels. 12. And they shall not know that Thou art with Me, till with a loud voice I have called (to) the heavens, and their angels and their lights, (even) unto the sixth heaven, in order that you mayest judge and destroy the princes and angels and gods of that world, and the world that is dominated by them: 13. For they have denied Me and said: "We alone are and there is none beside us." 14. And afterwards from the angels of death Thou wilt ascend to Thy place. And Thou wilt not be transformed in each heaven, but in glory wilt Thou ascend and sit on My right hand. 15. And thereupon the princes and powers of that world will worship Thee." 16. These commands I heard the Great Glory giving to my Lord. 17. And so I saw my Lord go forth from the seventh heaven into the sixth heaven.” Yes, this was promoted as really taking place in history, exactly as the incarnation of Christ as really taking place in history is promoted in the Gospels. I think the church found this astral imagery uncongenial and banned it as incompatible with the literal gospel. But it was obviously part of the evolution of ancient faith, as a major public explanation of Christian cosmology. My view is that this descent and ascent motif is itself allegory for the real visual observation of the movement of the spring point by precession across the point of perceived cosmic harmony at the incarnation, when the stars and seasons were in tune. What that means is that ancient astronomers could readily see the constellations of the zodiac uniquely matched the seasonal signs of astrology when the equinox shifted from Aries to Pisces in 21 AD. Of course, but the Jesus of Nazareth story was an easier sell to the common joe than this celestial descent. After all, as Carrier lampoons it, “Jesus From Outer Space” as an extra-terrestrial alien visitor to earth as presented in this Ascension text is a criticismwhich orthodox Christians could have made in the language of their day. If enough Christians liked this story they would have put it in the Bible, which they didn’t. Just because it is in the Ascension of Isaiah does not mean this cosmic myth was the original Christian story as Carrier argues. I don’t agree the deeper precession narrative was an add-on by Mark. It was well known long before Mark, providing the cosmology behind the saviour cults. The whole notion that the pre-existent Christ was an entity has a deeply allegorical meaning. Of course it is true this allegory was personified, as were Osiris and Mithras and Bacchus and Adonis. Yet the personification process was understood within initiate communities as allegory for the natural processes of the movement of the Sun. Yes, this is from Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris. It means that the initiated authors of the Gospels knew that the public belief in literal Christianity was untrue. As Carrier makes the excellent point, The Gospel of Mark was written as sacred allegory, not claimed history. The ‘real history’ claims only came in with Luke and John, then were amplified in the Pastoral letters. Historicity went over the top insane with writers like Ignatius of Antioch, who said put your hands over your ears and make loud woop woop sounds if you encounter anyone rejecting the historicity of Jesus Christ, to ensure you won’t hear what they say. Very successful strategy. My local Jung Society had a superb talk by Richard Barz, former ANU Professor of Indian Studies, explaining how an Indian folk tale gave clues to show how initiates conceal religious meaning from the public. As the initiatic meaning of Christianity came under pressure for heresy, they found they had to conceal their astronomy ideas in highly elaborate ways, as I explain in my essay with examples such as the beast of the apocalypse. The possibility of stripping down supernatural stories to their natural content offers an immensely important way to understand Christianity. Because, if the natural content has a coherent and plausible cosmology, then it makes sense to see it in causal evolutionary terms as the original skeleton of dry bones to which the flesh of the supernatural stories was later added. And the original story was gradually forgotten as people preferred their myths. This stripping down is not just a matter of applying a modern perspective, it is about deconstructing what the authors actually intended. I think the Gospel authors had a much more pantheist outlook than how they were later coloured by Christianity with its supernatural agenda. The initiates understood the presence of God in nature as high philosophy. The precession model for them would have been perfectly consistent with the idea of God as animating the cosmos. It is also consistent with our current scientific understanding of the universe as matter in motion. The overall ancient state of scientific knowledge was so limited that the idea of God as a personal intentional being was seen as far more plausible than it is today. Early Christians saw nature as suffused with sanctity. The gospels were constructed with deep reverence for the unknown mystery of the cosmos, seen as a source of divine purpose and meaning called God. Saying its supernatural stories are allegory for natural observation does not have to take the religion out of Christianity in its original form, although it is not easy to integrate that understanding with the degraded level where churches believe untrue myths. If Jesus Christ is a myth, he had inventors. Those inventors knew full well their supernatural allegories were deliberately constructed for a reason. I suggest that reason was, in large part, to put the observed cosmology of precession into mythological form. I am not at all suggesting that process meant they lacked supernatural belief in God. Clearly they had such belief, much as shamanic thinking sees an integrated supernatural spirituality within nature. The problem is to reconstruct the most plausible line of thinking of the Gospel authors. My view is the presence of God in the natural observable order of the cosmos, revealed in the slow movement of precession, was central to their ideas.
  4. Sure, and I acknowledge they were both there, but the question is to thread the line through all the various beliefs to determine which ones were decisive in constructing Christianity as the ultimately victorious ideology. My view is that the popular personal salvation line was all about emotion and lacked intellectual content. It panders to the emotional question ‘do you want to go to heaven or hell?’ By contrast, to say Christianity originated with a theory of planetary salvation, using the astronomy of precession as its framework of history, is a purely intellectual philosophical approach. It develops the idea of heaven as the vision of what the earth could become if the planet was perfectly governed. That is the vision of the future Age of Aquarius that is developed with the Revelation idea of a new heaven and a new earth. The ‘rapture’ idea from Thessalonians of the last Trump is about the most crazy and emotional idea in the whole Bible. It is absurd magical fantasy, designed to suck in gullible believers who are scared of going to hell. By contrast, the concept of planetary transformation in a New Age that runs through the New Testament is perfectly compatible with modern science, and offers a way to understand Christianity in a purely rational way, interpreting all the magic as metaphor for real possibilities. The seven heavens of ancient cosmology were simply the crystal spheres holding the seven planets, in order the Moon, then Sun, Mercury and Venus in various orders as 2, 3 and 4, then Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as 5, 6 and 7. The eighth heaven is the fixed stars. The precession is essentially a movement of the equinox against the eighth heaven in this cosmology. I was intrigued to read the Gnostic text The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth, but found it disappointing, like most Gnostic texts. I thought it might present the equinoctial circle of the celestial equator as the ninth heaven, but if so it is too cryptic. Maybe the tantalising missing lines revealed that the ninth heaven was precession? That literal ascent and descent of Christ, like climbing Jacob’s ladder, seems to be what Carrier is saying, but I have not seen good evidence for it, and he only briefly alludes to this in Jesus From Outer Space. The Ascension of Isaiah beginning at Chapter 6 is his main source, but Carrier seems to think the first Christians took this literally, imagining Jesus as an extra-terrestrial alien, when in fact that is as implausible as the rapture. My view is that The Ascension of Isaiah can best be read as allegory for precession, with the descent of Christ to earth a parable for the gradual movement of the equinox point to the boundary of Aries and Pisces, which marks the imagined moment of celestial harmony at the incarnation of Christ. It all means that the pre-existent Christ was a purely spiritual and conceptual way to imagine cosmic rationality, not a material being. I am not neglecting the 7 layered cosmos, I simply disagree that a material movement of Christ through the planets helps to explain original Christian thinking. It is a nice fable, like walking on water, but lacks the explanatory power of the precession hypothesis. In The Ascension of Isaiah, (6.13; 7.8; 11:39-40) the Seventh Heaven corresponds to the sphere of Saturn. Also known as Old Father Time or Kronos, Saturn links closely to the Mithraic God of Time, Aion, as the outer boundary of the solar system, representative of cosmic wisdom. It is presented as a secret. I wrote an essay on Aion, who evolved into Saint Peter holding the keys of heaven and earth. The Mithraic statues of Aion contain abundant precessional imagery, notably the Lion-Man axis representing the 12,000 years from the Age of Leo (Zep Tepi) to the coming Age of Aquarius, encircled by the six ages represented by the coils of the snake. At 7.10, The Ascension cites the Hermetic idea As Above So Below, which also appears in The Lord’s Prayer. 7.22 places the throne of Christ above all heavens, a position equivalent to seeing the precession movement as the ninth heaven. Overall, this text simply does not do the work Carrier asks of it, to construct a literal vision of Jesus travelling physically through outer space. Given that Carrier rejects the whole Gospel text as sacred allegory, ie as something not literally believed at first, he should similarly reject this allegorical story.
  5. Once again I was out on the bicycle this morning in the spring sunshine, listening to the BBC In Our Time podcast, this time about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. What caught my attention was the discussion about salvation, explained in terms of the individual believer being converted to true faith and going to heaven after death, which struck me as a thoroughly obsolete doctrine. The program noted that this whole line of religion has steadily lost popular appeal over the last half century. I suggest that is no wonder in view of its implausibility. Could Christianity actually have started off with a more coherent theory of salvation than this familiar teaching? I raise the theme of salvation here to question Richard Carrier’s claim in Jesus From Outer Space that the earliest Christians had a focus on personal salvation. That was obviously true of the church as it expanded, and remains the basis of evangelical faith today. However, my view is that the earliest Christianity was a cosmic philosophy in which individual salvation was a secondary factor. This shift from a global to a personal moral focus was a key change. My reading of the Bible sees this personal salvation doctrine as a selfish emotional distortion of the original high moral vision of planetary salvation. This selfish view grew as literal orthodoxy took over from the original symbolic allegory. The problem was that the mass audience could not engage with the original impersonal morality of universal love, with its planetary consciousness. Just to speak of a planetary consciousness in the ancient world seems surprising. Yet the whole world appears as a key moral factor in Matt 24:14, Rev 1:7 and numerous other verses. The tension between this universal outlook and a more personal pastoral motivation of believers is in my view essential to properly interpret Christian origins. By asserting a purely personal focus in the original cult, Carrier introduces a major assumption that I think distorts his perspective. The church has indeed focused on personal salvation, yet the Gospels have a clear focus on saving the world understood in a wholistic rather than individual sense. Believers might say a text like John 3:17 “I came to save the world not to condemn it” simply means Jesus wanted to convert everyone to Christianity, but I prefer to read this as calling for planetary transformation. That lines up with the sheep and goats story in Matthew 25, where salvation is defined purely in terms of your efforts to help others, with no belief involved whatsoever. So when Carrier says Christianity began as a cult of personal salvation, I doubt this refers to the earliest version of the faith. As I explained in my recent paper on Christianity for the Age of Aquarius, my hypothesis is that the church began by constructing the Jesus story from the visual and symbolic astronomy of zodiac ages, grounded in Platonic philosophy. The idea is that they thought a whole age of belief, the Age of Pisces, would have to continue for two millennia before the world would be ready for the real path of secular salvation, the age of knowledge, in the Age of Aquarius. This idea rests on a claimed predictive mapping of ancient astrology onto history by the Gospel authors. It is based on the suggestion that they considered human society was so depraved that people had no immediate prospect of finding shared salvation, in terms of making the world a better place, so the Age of Pisces would need to be an age of belief preparing the way for a time when the world will be able to engage with a more universal and scientific approach to religion. They therefore presented a sequential story in the Bible, based on the first and second incarnations of Christ. The first period imagined the Age of Pisces as a period where salvation was wrongly imagined in purely individual terms of personal afterlife, because that was all the mass audience could support. The authors imagined a slow cultural evolution toward a tipping point when the necessary collective vision of transforming the planet would become socially viable, at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, symbolised by the second coming of Jesus Christ.
  6. Expanding on the problem of evidence, Carrier asks (p41) if we can rescue the historical Jesus from our justified suspicions that he was invented. Unfortunately, every single mention of the historical Jesus has a genetic line of descent back to the single origin of the story in the Gospel of Mark, which itself has all the hallmarks of fictional mythology, constructed as sacred allegory, and is therefore extremely dubious. There is simply nothing to independently corroborate Mark, despite the desperate lies of apologists to the contrary. That slender reed was enough to construct the fabulous certainties of Christendom. The mention of Jesus by the Jewish historian Josephus was a fraudulent interpolation added by the Christian historian Eusebius, to overcome the shock of the absence of Jesus from the original text. This is simply proved by the fact that the theologian Origen wrote extensively about the very chapter in Josephus where this text appears, in a book devoted to proving Jesus was real, but did not notice that Josephus mentioned Jesus. The mention of Christ by Tacitus, if genuine, only proves that a century after the purported time of Christ there were Christians who believed he was real. The main problem with the Gospels is that their genre is propaganda, not history. Carrier describes the Gospel of John as having “patently mythical structure, explicitly stated propagandistic aims, evident deceptions and dependence on prior Gospels.” Luke and Matthew are just creative rewrites of Mark. For real history, as distinct from Christian apologetics, that all means the Gospels have no weight as evidence. Acts is worse, “demonstrably a work of revisionist fiction in the guise of history.” Like the Gospels, and unlike real ancient historians, Acts shows no interest in sources. It has nothing about Jesus that does not depend on Mark except perhaps one line about angelic revelation to Paul (23:9). Carrier says the purpose of Mark’s Gospel was to mythically reify Paul’s Epistles, whose Jesus was entirely imaginary. Reification is the psychological fallacy of converting an abstract idea into something real, filling in the blanks to construct a desired story. Modern psychology sees reification as a common problem, with people finding the need to simplify complex ideas by presenting them in material terms, so that metaphors come to wrongly be regarded as literal statements of fact. That is exactly what happened with Christian origins. As such, the most plausible evolutionary framework to explain the causation of the myth of Christ begins with a purely abstract concept which was gradually reified into the living breathing shitting talking one and only Son of the Most High God, Jesus of Nazareth. Carrier and I agree that this abstract concept came from astronomy, but differ on the process. The irony is that Carrier believes the original authors fallaciously reified the metaphorical language about the descent of Christ from heaven to earth, so he rejects reification in Mark as actually 'sacred allegory', but not in his reconstruction of the origins of the story. My view is that no such reification is involved in the original imagination of the Christ story based on visual observation of the precession of the equinox.
  7. Yes, and this common indifference reflects the dire moral confusion within Christianity. When people see the gross incoherence of faith, how church leaders insist on the truth of false claims, the natural conclusion is that Christian faith appears not to be redeemable against any coherent ethical vision. My view is that mythicism can actually redeem Christianity, by putting it onto a factual historical basis instead of its current framework of supernatural emotional fantasy. The argument is that Christianity originated with a highly enlightened ethical framework, but this origin was almost completely lost under the onslaught of populist faith in the ancient Roman Empire. The result is that the false populist corruption of the original sacred allegory by the church has led to the origins becoming invisible, such that people cannot imagine any form of faith other than the popular fantasy. And yet, elements of the origin can be reconstructed by methods such as Bayes Theorem. As ever though, such a reconstruction will struggle to overcome preconceptions. My argument is that astrology was actually central to the origins of Christianity, but that is such a repugnant suggestion for believers and disbelievers alike that it is simply dismissed out of hand, without any study of the evidence. I am currently writing commentary on the new psychology book Think Again by Adam Grant. He quotes the famous line from George Costanza, ‘it’s not a lie if you believe it’, something that I am sure many ex-Christians can relate to as a source of pain from their time in the church. Grant says this idea reflects how emotional intelligence needs to avoid internalising our feelings and desires as beliefs. But the church lacks emotional intelligence, and instead accepts the path of greatest comfort, believing its own lies. After thousands of years of false belief people become indignant at the suggestion that these dogmas could have originated in pure deception.
  8. Carrier's use of Bayes' Theorem is a controversial point. Today while out riding my bicycle in the beautiful early spring weather I listened to the UK BBC In Our Time podcast where presenter Melvin Bragg interviews distinguished academics for 50 minutes about a specific topic. Today the topic was the great French mathematician and astronomer of the late eighteenth century, Laplace, sometimes called the French Newton. I highly recommend this program - you can hear it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000twgj The reason I mention this is that it turns out that Laplace was actually responsible for putting Bayes Theorem into a more rigorous form. The penny dropped for me when one of the experts explained that Bayes Theorem is inverse probability - meaning you use it when you have a bunch of facts and want to know what probably caused those facts to arise. This concept of 'inverse probability' is exactly what we need to analyse Christian origins. We all know the glorious results of the Christian church taking power and obliterating all its rivals, but we don't know how it happened. So a method that systematically compares the likelihood of all the alternative possible causes in a factual way provides the most scientific method available. I have studied mathematics quite a bit, but I confess I found Carrier's use of Bayes Theorem in On The Historicity of Jesus somewhat unclear. So I was not surprised to find that Jesus From Outer Space totally leaves it out. His feedback from readers - like Ehrman's dismissive comment - must have made him see it as too technical for a general audience. Going back to the quote from Ehrman attacking Carrier, I don't understand his point. What is it about inverse probability that makes it unsuitable for the study of history? It looks exactly what we need in such a case as the historicity of Jesus, where known effects can be analysed in terms of their most probable cause. I think this just shows that Ehrman's support for the historical Jesus is pure politics and emotion with no scholarly merit. He knows that, which is why he won't debate Carrier. It may be that the existence of Jesus Christ is a special case in history. There are few similar examples where the current set of known facts is explained by incompatible rival processes of events. Inverse probability is uniquely suited to the case where historicists say the Gospels describe historical events and mythicists counter that the Gospels are sacred allegory. I will ask Carrier if there are other historical examples where Bayes' Theorem applies.
  9. I disagree. The religious narrative of church belief is based on the claim that God miraculously intervened in history through the incarnation of Christ. If we accept that Jesus was fictional, it shows that the whole story is a parable. As I mentioned above, Carrier explains the evolution of Christian dogma as beginning from a purely imaginary revelation with Paul, mutating into sacred allegory in Mark, and then undergoing its final mutation in Luke and John. Their claims that “ the things that have been fulfilled among us… were handed down to us by … eyewitnesses” (Luke 1) and that ‘these things were written that you might believe Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31) made historicism central to Christian faith, radically excluding the ‘sacred allegory’ interpretation of Mark. A big part of the power of the church rested upon its claim of unique apostolic succession, contact with the Historical Jesus. Pulling the rug out from under this story completely destroys the conventional religious narrative, creating the need for a less arrogant and exclusive approach if the church is to have any credibility. To say Jesus was fiction is resisted so strongly because it is so embarrassing, as a demonstration of the psychological gullibility of humanity. Such a dose of humility, on top of all the doses of crow pie that churches have been forced to consume in recent years, is of great value in opening up a genuine conversation between the church and modern scientific thinking.
  10. I reject the historical Jesus 100%. The underlying message is that applying scientific method to Christian origins, the historical Jesus is as likely as a flat earth, ie 0%. Just as we can explain flat earth thinking by pointing to the basic mistake involved in extrapolating from immediate appearance, so too we can explain the persistence of Jesus Historicist thinking in a similar way. The later Gospels were designed to create the appearance of being historical, but the slightest examination shows they are not. The historical Jesus is incompatible with scientific knowledge in a range of ways, and not just because he supposedly performs miracles. I will get back later to more of the fatal anomalies Carrier identifies with historicism, building on the list I provided above. Non-historical explanations fully explain the existing data and align with scientific knowledge. The invention of Jesus Christ coheres entirely with the discoveries of modern psychology about the propensity of the human mind to accept false beliefs. If we believe in scientific knowledge, we accept that the universe exists as described by modern systematic research. Fantasists who disagree with the consistent explanations of reality based on science put themselves outside the frame of rational conversation. The church deliberately created a mental virus through its insistence on historicism, an infection that is very hard to shake. People have long noticed the mythical sources of the Gospels, they just weren't allowed to say. Heresy was a capital crime under Christendom for more than a thousand years. This abusive bullying is deeply embedded within Christian culture and continues to traumatise this debate. The psychology means people are intimidated into an inability to study and discuss the evidence. The real problem is not whether Jesus really existed, it is why people continue to believe myths when the evidence shows they are totally implausible. My view is the way around this is to respect the poetic meaning within Christian faith while insisting the traditional literal interpretation is obsolete.
  11. Carrier next puts Christian origins into its sociological context, by comparing the saviour cults of Jesus, Osiris, Bacchus and Adonis. The common features of these four cults included their focus on personal salvation, evolution from prior communal agricultural beliefs, requirements for membership, afterlife guarantees, fictive kin groups, rituals of baptism and communion, secret teachings for initiates, coded language for inner mysteries, ability to adopt surrounding cultural ideas, belief in a supreme God, and a cosmopolitan approach. They also shared the teaching of death, resurrection and ascension of the saviour figure and a victory over death shared with followers through baptism and communion. Importantly, they all have stories about them set in human history on earth. This all leads Carrier to ask, given Christianity’s role as the Jewish saviour cult, so similar to these other large religious movements, why we would automatically expect that Osiris, Bacchus and Adonis were fictional inventions but Jesus alone was real. As he cautiously puts it, this all “lends sufficient grounds to at least suspect Jesus is not the lone strange exception. That the Gospels are rife with markers typical of mythical persons only further secures this suspicion.” The remarkable point is that so much of Christianity is described by the combination of Judaism with the cultural package common to other saviour cults of the region. The story of Jesus Christ emerged as the necessary social product of the evolutionary mutation of Judaism into the new cultural niche of the Roman Empire. The messianic founder figure was required only as a divine being, not as a real person, except in the sense that fictionally placing the divinity within history amplified and reinforced his imaginary messianic identity.
  12. Chapter Two, There is a Good Chance Jesus Never Existed, begins with an intriguing comparison between early Christianity and the much older Egyptian religion of Osiris. Carrier explains that according to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, the Egyptian priesthood of the Osiris religion were fully aware that Osiris was not a historical king of Egypt, but they kept up the appearance of the public stories that maintained Osiris was historical, just like Jesus. Plutarch says “you must not think any of these tales actually happened”(para 11). He says Gods were always just celestial, in the pure timeless realm of heaven, uncorrupted by earthly existence. And yet, Osiris had a gospel of his time on earth just as Jesus did. Plutarch says the public myths were all a disguise. It makes me wonder if Egyptian priests were just as furious about being outed by Plutarch as modern Christian apologists are when the allegorical nature of their myths is discussed. The links between Christianity and Egyptian religion are close. Egypt and Israel maintained strong economic and cultural relations, with a large Jewish population in Egypt’s main city Alexandria. Egypt ruled Israel for hundreds of years, including at the alleged time of Moses. As well, a series of other similar saviour mystery cults existed nearby, such as Tammuz, Bacchus and Hercules. Carrier contends that Christianity is the Jewish version of these pagan cults. The comparison between Christianity and Egyptian religion is a topic subject to strong prejudice and taboo. The Christian reputation of Egypt derives from the demonisation in Exodus, celebrating how ‘pharaoh’s army got drownded’ in the Red Sea. Further, Egypt has a magical reputation, as alleged source of traditions such as hermeticism and tarot, which leads Christians to view it with suspicion. Even so, Acts 7:22 states “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”, indicating a level of respect. Similarly, the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt to escape the massacre of the innocents provided an opportunity within the myth for Jesus Christ to learn about Egyptian religious heritage. The question of to what extent Christianity evolved from Egyptian traditions is so controversial that it is largely suppressed. The best book I have read about this is Did Moses Exist? by DM Murdock (Acharya S). Murdock courageously investigates the wide array of similarities between the Gospels and Egyptian myth, first analysed by English writer Gerald Massey. These extensive points of contact suggest far more detailed dependency than Carrier’s point here about the Osiris stories being a similar allegory for initiatic wisdom within Christianity. Carrier has been dismissive of Massey, so it is good to see him recognising here this entry point to this important conversation. I think the topic was damaged somewhat by overly speculative comments in the movie Zeitgeist, as I don’t agree with the reasoning for the claim that Horus had twelve disciples. However, there are abundant parallels between Christ and Horus which do stack up with solid evidence, so the concern that some parallels seem weak should not be used to undermine the overall argument. The example which in my view clinches the proof of Christian dependence on Egyptian myth is the similarity of roles in the stories of Lazarus and Osiris. The wordplay begins with the name of Lazarus, “El Azar”, a homonym for Osiris. Then we see that both are part of equivalent groups of four. Osiris, Horus, Isis and Nephthys match directly at many points of detail to Lazarus, Jesus, Mary and Martha, for example at Pyramid Text Utterance 670. This tight matching extends to details such as both Mary and Isis represented as sitting, indicating direct evolution of the Gospel story of Lazarus in John 11 from the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris. It is remarkable that John cites this story as the main trigger for why Jesus was crucified, with the pharisees saying in direct response to the raising of Lazarus “If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” It seems the underlying meaning of the Lazarus story is that the Roman imperial overlords savagely suppressed the secretive mystery sources of authority of natural religion represented by the Osiris tradition. As a result, the Egyptian mythology could only obtain ongoing life by transforming and resurrecting in hidden concealed form through the Christian allegory of the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus by Christ.
  13. Chapter One, Which Jesus are we talking about exactly?, explains some fatal anomalies in the historicist paradigm. Carrier asks us to imagine a detective putting these factors together on a clue board. 1. Ancient Jewish texts claimed that Jesus lived a century before Pilate. 2. “Christ Jesus” is a title meaning “Anointed Saviour”, not a personal name. 3. The earliest Christian visions are more compatible with a celestial imaginary Christ than a historical earthly Christ. 4. In Mormonism and Islam, the purported founders are angels – Moroni and Gabriel. Both these angelic figures were believed to be historical, like the model for Jesus, suggesting Jesus really began as an imaginary angel and was only historicised later when the literal Gospel story became popular. 5. Satan was depicted as historical in the Gospel temptation in the wilderness. No one now thinks of Satan as a real historical person, but Jesus is just as mythical as Satan in that story. 6. The eternal pre-existence of Christ described by Paul means he was imagined as an archangel like Satan. 7. The temptation story makes sense as imagined outside celestial Jerusalem in the sky, not outside the real Jerusalem on earth. 8. Paul never says anything about historical witnesses to the life of Christ, only witnesses to the imaginary resurrected Christ. 9. Nothing in Paul comes from an actual earthly Christ, only from divine revelation and scripture. 10. The Epistles weirdly lack any reference to the ministry of Christ on earth. 11. The first Gospel, Mark, makes sense as an explanation of why God allowed Rome to destroy the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, not as an actual record of historical events. 12. We know nothing about the authors of the Gospels, or their sources, unlike real history books. The names of the evangelists appear to have been added by later editors. 13. The key material about the ministry of Christ in Matthew and Luke is lifted straight from Mark, a process called redaction. Nothing suggests plausible eyewitness testimony. 14. Luke used material from Josephus, published in 93 AD. 15. The first surviving mention of Luke’s Gospel is very late, after 160 AD, by Justin Martyr. 16. The claim in the Gospel of John about eyewitness testimony is fraudulent (see referenced article by Candida Moss). 17. All the alleged information we have about the historical Jesus comes from just one uncorroborated source, Mark. 18. The long time gap between the alleged events and Mark’s Gospel makes the veracity dubious, since all possible witnesses were long dead. 19. Mark presents his story as a parable, not as history. The claim that it is history only comes much later, with Luke, and then with stronger propaganda in John. 20. All conflicting accounts from that time were subsequently destroyed, by explicit imperial edict on pain of death. Apart from the Gospels we have silence. 21. Since scholars admit most of the Gospel is pure myth, why not admit all of it is? 22. Before Mark, no Christian text says Jesus was crucified on earth. The epistles are compatible with the crucifixion as an imaginary celestial event. 23. The modern consensus that Jesus was real rests entirely upon questionable assumptions. 24. Paul’s language about Jesus being staked on a post is compatible with a range of other scenarios other than Roman crucifixion. 25. Historians who claim Jesus was real routinely treat assumptions as facts. 26. The fact that worshippers believe Moroni, Gabriel, Michael and Jesus exist is not evidence that they actually do exist. 27. The debate about historicity is clouded by enthusiastic amateurs and needs scholarly scrutiny. 28. A number of reputable scholars question the existence of Jesus, but doing so is seen by others as dangerous to their academic career or social standing. 29. The debate about this topic is of appalling quality, with apologists routinely ignoring and distorting what scholars actually write in well-vetted peer review publications. 30. The consensus about the existence of Jesus is defended by ad hominem, dishonesty, contradictions and unsubstantiated assertions, and is not based on reality but on interests in funding, reputation, ideological inertia and refusal to admit the folly of their position, or even on explicit institutional prohibitions against critical enquiry. 31. The scandal of confusion in Jesus studies is that numerous contradictory speculative suggestions are taken seriously, except the one hypothesis that could cut through all the contradictions by removing the automatic assumption that Jesus was a real person. 32. The alleged consensus of historicity is just an axiomatic presumption, not a coherent or reliable argument. 33. The consensus is maintained by bullying, intimidation and ridicule, with implied threats to employment, grants, tenure, respect, status and prestige. 34. A similar debate happened fifty years ago about Moses, leading to a new academic consensus that he was entirely fictional, like other major Old Testament figures. 35. Invention of historical persons with full biographies was common in the ancient world. 36. Christianity has a unique dependence on the historical existence of Jesus, leading scholars to fear shocking and alienating their Christian peers and patrons. 37. The evidence for Jesus follows an evolutionary path: from revelatory being (Paul) to sacred allegory (Mark) to attempt to make this look like history (Luke). 38. This is the opposite of the popular view that Jesus started out simple and only later became mythical and fantastic. 39. Mark never pretends to be writing history. That only came later, as the myth evolved from intended parable to purported history in Luke and John, with a history that was created not recorded. 40. Numerous social movements have historicised an imaginary founder to create cohesion of belief. 41. Continued political success depends on selling the myth as true, since open fiction has no authority. 42. The institutional hierarchy of the church required elimination of challenges to purported apostolic succession, establishing consistent centralised control to overcome chaos and factionalism. 43. The original idea from Paul of Jesus as an eternal celestial being was kept out of the Gospels except for the first verse of John, suggesting the early church intended to hide this real teaching behind the historical allegory. 44. The synoptics explain the real truth is reserved only for initiates (eg Mark 4:11), meaning that the parables told to the public in the Gospels are a front story for the idea of Jesus as celestial being. 45. The descent of Christ from heaven as described in numerous epistle verses from Paul puts Jesus in a class of similar mythical Gods from other religions. 46. The victory of the original celestial Jesus over sin and death was celestial, not terrestrial. 47. The pre-existent Christ was a being whom Philo reveals Jews already believed in, a story that Christians gradually added to with an invented historical backstory. 48. This original teaching was kept secret when the Gospel of the miracle worker of Galilee became the public face of Christianity. 49. Fragments of the original celestial Gospel survive in The Ascension of Isaiah. 50. A lost Christian sect taught the Gospels were just cleverly devised myths (2 Peter 1:16) 51. The Roman suppression of all competing claims as heresy for more than a millennium secured the evolution of ideology from a celestial to an earthly atonement drama.
  14. Continuing in the Preface, Carrier argues the initial Christians saw the earthly Jesus only as a useful myth, but their writings are all lost due to the choices of later Christians. I completely agree with this hypothesis. However, I justify it by the argument that original Christianity constructed Jesus based on observation of precession of the equinox, so I disagree with Carrier's view that this theory involves imagining Jesus as an angelic extra-terrestrial. The Preface concludes with a summary of the book. The themes are: problems with identifying a historical Jesus; the case for doubt; why apologetic responses rely on invalid methods; why the Bible is the sole evidence for Jesus; how Jesus compares to other historical and mythical figures; how Christianity evolved from a celestial to a historical faith; and evidence from Paul. The overall message is that the only explanation that coheres with all the available evidence is that Christianity started with a cosmic skeleton to which the flesh of the Galilee preacher was only added later.
  15. I’ve just finished reading Jesus from Outer Space and can highly recommend it for its demonstration of why the literal Jesus story is utterly impossible, although Carrier’s own theory of how Christianity actually started is not plausible. I will return to reply to comments, but I would like first to set out some of the main argument of the book, with my critique. Carrier says what the Bible authors meant by heaven is the “ancient sense” of our concept of outer space. That is rather confusing, as it wrongly blends spiritual and material ideas. The old geocentric cosmology of concentric spheres supported by ether imagined the planets as each in a sphere called a heaven. He says “they imagined creatures of various kinds lived in every level, which we would call space aliens,” and that the modern idea of heaven as another dimension bears no resemblance to ancient thinking, making heaven a misleading word. Carrier says most leading scholars agree the earliest Christians thought Jesus was an angelic extra-terrestrial who descended to teach the gospel and rose again to his throne among the stars. His difference with other scholars, he says, is that Carrier believes the original idea was that Jesus descended to the sky to battle Satan, not all the way to earth. I am not comfortable with this portrayal. While it has an internally consistent logic, I think it is grounded in a wrong premise about how Jesus was originally imagined. That wrong premise turns on the relationship between spirit and matter, and on the resulting problem of thinking the earliest Christians imagined Jesus in material terms. Carrier’s ‘outer space’ motif picks up that the ancients equated the visible heavens of the starry sky with the divine eternal heaven of God. But Carrier diverges by imagining they originally thought the pre-existent Christ was a three dimensional physical being, who physically descended from heaven, rather than seeing this dogma as a later corruption. Carrier explains that Christianity started with the idea of Jesus as a pre-existent deity in heaven. For example, Paul explains the Israelites “drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Other similar ideas are at Philippians 2 and Colossians 1:15. My view is that this pre-existence of Christ was imagined in the earliest church as purely spiritual and conceptual, and was only corrupted into an imagined physical existence among the ignorant illiterates who gradually infested and took over the church from its founders. For Carrier to call Christ a ‘space alien’ involved a reification (making physical) of something that was actually imagined as purely conceptual. Reification is when you fallaciously think of or treat something abstract as a physical thing. That is exactly what Carrier is doing. A connected example is how Greek mythology tells that heroes like Hercules and Perseus ascended to heaven where they can be seen today in the constellations that bear their names. This is a purely imaginative illustration, which no one could take literally. These constellation figures are two dimensional, formed by imagining lines between stars on the curved surface of the perceived heavenly sphere. They are not three dimensional, like actual heroes. But Carrier insists on an extreme literalism, with his 3D space alien theory. His derisive mockery may be fair as critique of Christendom but not of the authors of the Gospels and Epistles. An irony is that Carrier proceeds to demolish the conventional theory that Paul described a historical Jesus with his lines “born of a woman” at Gal 4 and “from David’s seed” at Rom 1. He neatly explains why both of these lines make far more sense as allegory than as literal claims. He should apply the same symbolic logic to his own space alien theory. As I mentioned, my recent paper on Christianity for the Age of Aquarius explores a hypothesis that the originators of the Christ Theory structured their ideas against the encompassing cosmic order of the precession of the equinox, as the grand motion of the fixed stars against the seasons. On that theory, Jesus was the personification of the Sun. His descent from heaven was the historical movement of time toward the unique moment in 21 AD when the ancient cosmology saw the seasons and the stars in perfect harmony. This is a totally abstract and spiritual way of thinking which the masses could not cope with. Carrier’s crude materialism reflects his strong philosophical bias in favour of the empirical doctrines of modern secular reason, with an inbuilt hostility toward spiritual ways of thought. Taking a more sympathetic and receptive approach toward how Christ could have been constructed as pure myth should not mock these thinkers as magical simpletons. We should treat them with respect as having potentially constructed a coherent story that was subsequently obliterated by the mass stupidity of Christendom. In taking an ex-Christian viewpoint, it is important to define Christianity as the literal nonsense of Christendom that has dominated the world for most of the last two thousand years. Excavating the hidden foundations of pre-Christendom Christianity can help the corrupt edifice to tumble, by revealing how it is built upon sand. This is not to say that religion is intrinsically deluded, rather it is to analyse the delusions to find an underlying coherent view that fully accords with modern scientific knowledge while also maintaining respect for the ancient heritage of spiritual wisdom.
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