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Robert_Tulip

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  1. Cultural evolution of acceptable ideas about religion is like genetic evolution, but much faster, exhibiting steady response to selective pressure. The historicist position as you describe it is a rational attempt to reconcile the cognitive dissonance between science and religion. But as Carrier proves, the anomalies in the paradigm of conventional faith are so severe that the seemingly reasonable step of excluding everything that is implausible, like with the Jefferson Bible, just doesn’t work. The selective pressure in this case is the compelling evidence that a complete paradigm shift is needed to accept that the entire Gospel story is fictional. Carrier’s account of the cultural evolution of the Jesus story begins with pure spiritual revelation in Paul, through to sacred allegory in Mark, with insistence on literal belief emerging in Luke and John, through to the full-blown ear-blocking intolerance that gradually evolved in Christendom.
  2. Returning to commentary on Jesus From Outer Space, Chapter Two concludes with a superb explanation of the weird silence of Paul on the historical Jesus. Before explaining Carrier’s argument, here is a brief comparative digression. I like to compare the relationship between Jesus and Paul with the relationship between Lenin and Stalin in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Jesus and Lenin were the deified founders, while Paul and Stalin were the successors who explained the ideology and built the movement. But there the comparison ends. Stalin provided abundant direct quotes from Lenin and talked extensively about what Lenin did as the first Bolshevik leader, reflecting the common knowledge of the historical role of Lenin. Of course Stalin thoroughly distorted Lenin’s views where it suited him and airbrushed unpersons out of photos and history, but the core of his dependency on Lenin is historically clear. Nothing remotely similar applies in the New Testament. Paul seems to know nothing about the life of Jesus, an absurd situation if Jesus was the real founder of Christianity as described in the Gospels. And as Carrier remorselessly proves, the few highly ambiguous verses in Paul that apologists so desperately distort into service to show Jesus was real do nothing of the sort. Paul’s Jesus is wholly imaginary, constructed from scripture and theology, not from any continuity with people who knew him. That is not compatible with Jesus being real. Carrier provides a simple lesson in historical method, whereby fraudulent propaganda cannot serve as evidence. That rules out all the NT letters except the seven agreed letters of Paul, in which we find no clear statements about Jesus ever living on earth. Let’s consider a few examples. 1 Thess 2 damns the Jews for killing Jesus, uniquely situating Jesus in time and place in all of Paul’s 20,000 words. But this line could not have been written by Paul, since it refers to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem as having already happened, it contradicts numerous other statements by Paul, and it uses ideas that only came much later. That makes it a late forgery, inadmissible as evidence. 1 Cor 15 describes numerous eyewitnesses to Jesus whom he says are still alive, but with the peculiar detail that this mass observation was only after Jesus had returned from the dead. From before his death, nothing. No parables, miracles, location, date, ministry. Nothing. And what Paul does say about Jesus is only from revelation and scripture. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is all theological construction and no historical memory. The famous ‘seed of David’ line about Jesus in Rom 1:3 is about cosmic manufacture, not historical descent, despite numerous fraudulent mistranslations that seek to deceive the faithful. Paul’s line about Jesus being made (not born) of a woman in Gal 4:4 is set within the context of Sarah and Haggar as allegorical women, so is far too ambiguous to serve as historical evidence for something contrary to the meaning of its context. James the ‘brother of the Lord’ in Gal 1:19 only makes sense as a title for James as a Christian, not as a biological sibling of Jesus Christ. Why then does Paul only make these strangely vague and theological references to the historical life of Christ on earth? It only makes coherent sense from the view that Christ was totally imaginary, not historical. Hence rather than saying Jesus was killed under Pontius Pilate by Romans and Jews, Paul gives us the doozy line in 1 Cor 2 that it was “archons of the eon” wot did it. https://biblehub.com/hebrews/5-7.htm provides a case study of translator deception. Numerous modern Bibles fraudulently change the actual text, which refers to Jesus’ “days of his flesh.” Instead, many Bibles refer to his “life on earth” and similar false renditions. The point here is that “flesh” functions in this text as a quite obscure theological concept, but mass religion insists on simplifying it in accordance with its literal historical mythology. The aim is to mislead readers by reading the later Gospel Jesus back into the epistles. As a result, the pious are rightly quite shocked when they discover how systematic and extensive the program of lies has been.
  3. I don't want to turn this AOG thread into a discussion of my ideas, which I have presented to this discussion board in two threads I have started in the General Christian Theological Issues Forum. More than a hope and wish, the "hidden gems" of scientific validity within Christianity is something I have argued in detail, as presented in my recent paper on Christianity for the Age of Aquarius, linked in that forum. "What Christianity actually is" is a highly contestable notion, not something that can be simply reduced to prevailing assumptions. My argument that Christianity began with a now-largely-lost astronomy is not cherry picking, it is a coherent and scientific hypothesis about history. These are excellent questions, but the answers you suggest can all be challenged, as I explain in some detail in the threads I have started. There is good evidence that the authorship of the New Testament involved a far higher level of intellectual clarity than is generally accepted, but this requires acceptance, as Carrier argues, that the ideas in the New Testament evolved as a process of what he calls "sacred allegory", not as an attempt to describe historical events.
  4. No it is not. For God so loved the world – does that mean the physical planet, all of humanity, or just Christians? Its fit is far from simple and clear with messages like 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them”. “that he gave his one and only Son”, - although Genesis 6:1 and other texts say God has other sons. And the Greek monogenē could mean “only begotten”, not “one and only” as many translations put it, but that opens the theological dispute of whether the Son is subordinate to the Father, which generated the Arian heresy. “that whoever believes in him” – that is presented by fundamentalists as simple and clear but in fact is incredibly obscure. The earliest church appears to have believed that Jesus was actually an imaginary allegory, not a real person. That means the ‘belief in Jesus’ was intended in this text as an entry point for an initiated community who understood belief in Jesus in purely symbolic terms. “shall not perish but have eternal life.” Ambiguous. This can be interpreted to mean living in the spirit rather than the flesh in this life on earth, not going to heaven when dead as conventionally understood. Just because dogmatists have said that for two thousand years does not make it true. If in fact the dogma is a corrupted distortion of the original teachings, then real Christianity requires a deconstruction of this process of distortion and dogma. “Basic salvation” is the most unclear thing of all. Science gives no basis to believe in heaven as a literal place. And the Bible itself suggests heaven is the image of what earth could become (thy will be done on earth as in heaven). The “resurrected Christ” makes more scientific and historical and even mythological sense as allegory for the Sun than as an example of God breaking the laws of physics. Jesus himself suggests the goal is to save the world, making the conventional idea of personally going to heaven for ever in return for stated doctrinal assent very shallow. What you say has accurately described historically dominant Christianity. It does not describe either the original ideas of Christianity that gave rise to the Bible, or what Christianity has to become in order to overcome its current obsolescence. I can understand that many ex-Christians want the church to fade away and die. I prefer to argue that Christianity has enduring value as something that contemporary thinking and ethics should build upon and reform, not discard.
  5. True, but to me that only shows that common definitions of religion are in need of change. I think of religion as any organised activity that promotes shared social agreement relating to spirituality. That would mean you can have a secret spirituality that you never share with anyone, or that is just a theoretical philosophy, but as soon as you use your views as a basis for organisation you are practicing religion. Buddhism is a religion where major traditions jettison supernatural aspects. Similarly, the liberal Christianity promoted by Bishop Spong totally rejects theism, while holding on to Christian tradition and culture. These are minority viewpoints, but the fact that traditionalists reject them does not mean they are not religion. The literal original meaning of religion is 'rebinding', from the same root meaning as ligament, based on how ligaments bind our bones together. That means whenever we try to bind people together around shared views we are practicing a form of religion, even if our connection is defined by opposition to an existing belief system, and even if we don't think of our view as religion. I see a lot of grief among people who respect some aspects of religion but can't abide the absurd dogmatism. So I prefer to say that such people don't deserve to have their legitimate views treated as heretical anathema by putting them forever outside the pale of organised religion.
  6. The Bible contains conflicting messages. It is not clear at all in its definitions. My view is that many statements in the pastoral epistles were intended to support the political objectives of the church as a secular institution, and stand in conflict with the teachings in the Gospels. So I don't think it is reasonable to insist that fundamentalist churches have the right to insist only their definition of Christian religion is valid.
  7. Sure, but does that include believing that God and Jesus are metaphors for the good of the world? If you think poetic language about God and Jesus is a valid way to promote an ethical perspective, while upholding the centrality of evidence and logic, does that qualify as Christian? I find it challenging for people to insist that faith means believing things you know ain't so, as Mark Twain put it.
  8. This illustrates the dilemma around the true meaning of Christianity. Bishop Spong, who died this month, was a leader of the liberal Christian movement in the US. I think it is true that people like Spong lack the fervour of fundamentalists who would consider him not a Christian at all. And yet there is a strong scholarly argument that Spong's views are more in line with the original faith of the early church before it was corrupted by orthodoxy, and that it is wrong to assert that his rejection of fundamentalist dogma means he is not a Christian. If to be "really religious" means to hold fanatical intolerant untrue beliefs, then religion has no long term future. But on the other hand, if to be "really religious" actually means to embark on sincere exploration of how human life connects to ultimate reality, then it is possible to see a valid modern form of religion. My view is that the intrinsic delusions of fundamentalism cut it off as a legitimate religious method. I had the opportunity to preach at my church last week (here is the sermon), and focused on how the moral framework in the Bible rejects the doctrine of personal salvation, whereas the psychology of orthodoxy puts this doctrine as central. It is entirely possible to rescue a vital moral core in the Bible while showing that doctrines such as the penal substitution theory of the atonement deserve to be wholly rejected. I appreciate the culture in the US is different from Australia, with fundamentalism having a far more dominant stranglehold over American Christianity than we see in Australia. So I can appreciate how people escaping from that toxic culture react against it. There is also the dilemma that fanaticism can be more effective in building institutions than a more flexible outlook. But if the fanatical group lack sound foundations, they will inevitably cause harm and will not be able to sustain their institution.
  9. I am a member of the Uniting Church in Australia, which is at the progressive end of Christianity, within the liberal reformed church tradition, although I don't share all the liberal political views that dominate in the progressive church. I went to an event for the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" where the preacher was from Assemblies of God. She said she is proud to be a fundamentalist. To me that illustrates how very fractured Christianity is, because the label of fundamentalist is something that I view as morally repugnant. They are simply closed off from hearing alternative views.
  10. All insistence on belief that lacks evidence is cultic. It is morally obnoxious and primitive to bully a person into accepting a claim that is not justified by scientific knowledge and logic. If churches want to talk about God and Jesus, and don't want to be regarded as cults, they should accept that their language is in the realm of poetry and metaphor, not objective fact, and should see dialogue and contestation of ideas as highly welcome. Those who reject that approach are cults.
  11. Tsunamis don't create a wave until they reach shallow water.
  12. I really appreciate this discussion Josh, raising some really important issues. A key point is that Paul’s Epistles are totally compatible with the idea that Jesus Christ was originally constructed as allegory for the sun, like Mithras, Osiris and Serapis. The birth, death and resurrection stories of Christ personify the daily and annual solar cycles of rise and set, light and dark. You are right these metaphors are more concealed in Paul than in the Gospels, yet Paul provides an important moment in the evolutionary process of placing the attributes of the sun into a human context – glory, grandeur, light, power, life, universality, vision, etc. Where precession underpins Paul’s narrative is in the cosmology of pre-existence and incarnation, which exactly maps how the solar spring point of the equinox was imagined to move through the Age of Aries until reaching the incarnation point at the dawn of the Age of Pisces. I think of precession as fundamental to the ancient idea of Christ as the word of God, the logos theology, because it reveals the rational order of the cosmos. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09328a.htm says “already in the Epistles of St. Paul the theology of the Logos had made its influence felt. This is seen in the Epistles to the Corinthians, where Christ is called “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24) and “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4); it is more evident in the Epistle to the Colossians (1:15 sqq.); above all in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the theology of the Logos lacks only the term itself.” Paul’s language about Christ as the power, wisdom and image of God readily lends itself to interpretation as solar metaphor, considering that the Sun displays these attributes in mythology. An implicit example of the zodiac age cosmology in Paul’s theology is his claim that the Israelites with Moses “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4) The Great Pyramid is the greatest astronomical mystery of our planet, such as with its air shaft pointed toward the North Celestial Pole. At the time of Zep Tepi, it appears this shaft pointed to Vega, which was the pole star at that time. The psychology is pretty confusing. Carrier insists on his scholarly credentials, but then comes out with this bizarre outer space alien theory, arguing that just because it is the literal meaning of the Ascension of Isaiah it must have been the original meaning of Christianity, even though it is just as allegorical as anything in Mark. That puts Carrier on the fringe as much as any theory about astrology and the sun. The view I prefer is that all these magical stories about Jesus in outer space are allegory for empirical observation of the movement of the sun by precession. That removes the assumption that the original authors held a magical supernatural view, while retaining the view that they believed in the presence of divinity within the cosmos. Obviously there is a horrendous amount of moronic rubbish that gets spouted about Christian origins, but that means astral analysis just gets rejected out of hand even when it is perfectly sound. That is throwing the baby out with the bathwater and guilt by association. People use their own prejudices rather than review of evidence to assess claims, and small mistakes are used to shut down conversation. Carrier is already “mixed up in prejudices and hostility” by promoting the Christ Myth Theory. “Goes without saying”, I wish. I view this topic as reflecting the process of paradigm shift, with Carrier drawing from Earl Doherty an intermediate theory that is halfway between the old and new paradigms. The old paradigm accepts that religious language refers to supernatural entities, while the new paradigm says that religion is metaphor all the way down. Carrier's Space Alien Hypothesis is a weird hybrid of old and new paradigms. It is all part of what TS Kuhn defined as the second stage of paradigm shift, what he called 'extraordinary research'. So many anomalies have accumulated in the old paradigm of Christ Historicism that a range of alternative theories are being raised to explain the situation. My view is that the third stage, the adoption of a new paradigm, will involve acceptance that Christianity was originally invented as pure allegory based on precession of the equinox as the visible structure of time. In my paper on Christianity for the Age of Aquarius I explain a possible underlying physical explanation of why the Christian myth saw the Aries-Pisces precession cusp as the turning point of the Great Year, apart from its correlation to the astrological cycle. There is a direct correlation between the 24,000 year Yuga cycle and the actual climate pattern driven mainly by precession, as explained by orbital physics. The low point of the Yuga cycle was imagined as happening in 500 AD, while the actual low point of the precession climate cycle, defined by the date perihelion was on the shortest day of the year, was in 1246 AD, an error of only 3%. The Yuga idea underpins the mythology of the whole Western myth of descent from a Golden Age seen in writers such as Hesiod and Ovid. There was clearly a close interweaving between personal salvation and planetary salvation as motivations in early Christianity. How I see it is that the philosophical wisdom traditions that flowed from Plato, Buddhism, Egypt and other sources through to forms of Gnosticism took an intellectual approach toward religion. They looked at the big questions of the fate of the world and the global clash between good and evil, and assessed what it would require for the forces of good to defeat the forces of evil. The context was the Roman Empire perceived as a major force for evil. They saw the victory of the good as a long term problem, in view of the strength of greed and ignorance in the world. But this abstract theology was of little interest to regular worshipers, who were worried more about their personal concerns and interests, including building community and personal afterlife. The New Testament ideas of Christ as planetary saviour were originally developed by the intellectuals to support their planetary salvation theme, beginning well before the time of Pilate, as a Jewish variant alongside the syncretic invention of the Mithras and Serapis cults in the new Hellenistic Empires. These big ideas eventually proved unpopular because they were too confusing for a mass audience, and bishops emerged who could present the populist line and sideline and suppress the intellectuals. I will need to think some more about your suggestion that Paul focused more on the personal and Mark more on the planetary. That is true as far as precession imagery is concerned, but as Doherty and Carrier have argued, the cosmic Christ is central to the Pauline doctrine. Yes, that intellectual degradation brought by the church under Christendom is clear. Christianity was a lowest common denominator religion, serving as a security ideology that could unite with the Roman state to construct a system of secular power. It was a scorched earth destruction of the previous rich cultural ecology of the mysteries. Just some of the mystery knowledge was allowed to remain in distorted form. A reconstruction of the high mystery wisdom grounded in astronomy is essential to find the underlying intellectual rationality behind Christianity. I don’t see the precession theme as an “addition to the mythology”. Rather, it is the genetic code of the mythology, the guiding design of its construction around which everything else was built.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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