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How To Defend The "historical Jesus"


Heimdall

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I found this on Jesusneverexisted forums, posted by Noble Savage

How to Defend the “Historical Jesusâ€

 

By John Armstrong

 

Christians, are you tired of those annoying “Jesus mythers†who have the audacity to question whether your godman ever existed at all, even as a “historical character� In the good old days, these heathens could be silenced with the proper application of dungeons, torture chambers and burning stakes. Unfortunately, Christian leaders today don’t have that kind of power anymore. However, with the proper application of logical fallacies and semantic trickery, you can still be a valiant defender of the faith.

 

In fact, there’s an easy formula that you can follow which is often used by Christian apologists:

 

Step 1: The Ad Hominem

The first step in dealing with the Jesus Mythers is to simply dismiss them. After all, the easiest way to win this argument is not to have it. Most people in our world believe that Jesus existed. The last thing Christianity needs is a discussion that makes them aware that there’s actually not one shred of evidence that dates to the time of the alleged Christ to support that conviction.

 

The ad hominem, where you insult your opponent instead of addressing their arguments, is very useful in this end. Casually dismiss them as crack-pots or crazy conspiracy theorists. You can throw in a false association by asking rhetorically if they also believe in the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot or some similar mythical being. By this quip, you can help confuse who is the skeptic in the discussion and hopefully shift the burden of proof.

 

This tactic will probably not discourage the doubting heathen. In fact, they may object that you’re avoiding the issue by insulting them. Still, you’ve helped to set the tone of the debate and you can easily transition into step 2.

 

Say something along the lines of, “Oh, sorry if I sounded a bit harsh there but…â€

 

Step 2: The Appeal to Authority

“…what else am I supposed to think of you when no historical scholar doubts the existence of Jesus?â€

 

The appeal to authority is where you try to silence an opponent by referring to an expert or group of experts as sharing your belief. This is a logical fallacy because even experts are expected to provide evidence to support why they believe what they believe. “Because I said so†is not a logical argument even if the speaker is an expert.

 

The great thing about this logical fallacy is that many scholars are willing to assume the existence of a historical Jesus and leave this controversial character to the theologians. Although Christianity can’t burn heretics at the stake anymore, this multi-billion dollar industry with their millions of fanatical followers can still be a powerful and intimidating force. A professor’s career can be endangered if he or she has the temerity to question the existence of Jesus. Just ask Steve Bitterman, a community college professor in Iowa who says he was fired for questioning whether the story of Adam and Eve was just a fable. Most historians have better things to worry about than putting their careers on the line just to make a point.

 

Unfortunately, there are an increasing number of brave scholars like Robert Price who are willing to take on Christianity. You may need to combine the “no true Scotsman†fallacy in with your appeal to authority. The “no true Scotsman†is where you make a universal generalization about a certain group of people. When a contrary example is offered, you dismiss that example as not being a “true†member of that group. In this case, you can clarify, “No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus.†What is a “serious scholar� One that doesn’t doubt the existence of Jesus, of course.

 

If the Jesus myther persists in demanding to know the evidence that has apparently “convinced†so many scholars that Jesus existed, transition to the next step.

 

Step 3: The Jesus-of-the-Gaps

You may want to prepare for this step early on by downplaying just how significant Jesus was in history. If you’re forced to this step by a particularly persistent skeptic, you’ll need to be ready to admit that there is not a shred of evidence that dates to the time Jesus allegedly lived that suggests he really existed. Claim that none of this matters because it’s unreasonable to expect that such an insignificant character would be noticed by anyone at that time.

 

Hopefully, you won’t be debating against anyone savvy enough with the Bible to know that it alleges that Jesus was famous and had a successful ministry (Matthew 4:23-25), that he fed thousands of families with magically generated food (Mark 6:37), or that he stirred up such controversy that the Jewish leaders conspired to have him killed. To argue for an insignificant Jesus is to contradict the Gospel accounts of his life. It also precludes the possibility that he was a miracle worker, for surely the kind of miracles that Jesus allegedly performed would have gotten someone’s attention.

 

If your opponent makes this annoying point, you’ll need to proceed to the next step.

 

Step 4: Compare Jesus to Another Historical Figure

If you’re unfortunate enough to be arguing against a clever Jesus myther that has forced you to this step, you’ll need to be prepared to lie. True, this breaks one of the Ten Commandments but remember that Jesus died to fulfill these ancient Hebrew Laws, so they no longer apply. The only value the Ten Commandments have these days is to annoy freethinkers by posting them on government property. If dishonesty bothers your conscience, remember that lying for Jesus isn’t really lying; it’s committing a “pious fraudâ€. Feel better?

 

In any event, this lie involves claiming that historians believe in the existence of other historical characters even though there’s no evidence contemporary with them. Fill in whatever example you like. You’re making it up anyway.

 

Say, “There’s more evidence for Jesus than there is for George Washingtonâ€. When evidence for Washington is offered, switch to, “There’s more evidence for Jesus than there is for Julius Caesar.†When evidence for Caesar is produced, switch to, “There’s more evidence for Jesus than there is for Plato.†Repeat as needed, changing the character from history as you like. Maybe you’ll get lucky and pick one that your opponent isn’t familiar with.

 

If your opponent insists that you stop trying to change the subject and present the evidence you have to support the idea that Jesus ever existed, proceed to the next step.

 

Step 5: Josephus, Pliny, et al.

Although there’s not one scrap of evidence that dates to the time Jesus allegedly lived, there are some questionable references to him that date to the end of the first century or the first half of the second. These references range from the doctored passage from Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews†(when Christians alter a document, make sure that you call that an “interpolationâ€; it sounds better than forgery) to Pliny’s letter to Trajan which confirms the existence of second century Christians (it says nothing to confirm the existence of a historical Jesus but hopefully no one will notice).

 

Bringing up these late references is changing the subject somewhat, since your opponent may have asked for evidence contemporary with Jesus. Don’t let this bother you anymore than the problems with each of these pieces of “historical evidenceâ€. Remember, you’re a person of faith and faith doesn’t require you to be reasonable.

 

If your opponent is educated enough to know the problems with each of these references and brings you back to the subject of the dearth of evidence that is contemporary with your godman, simply proceed to the final step.

 

 

Step 6: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

When your back is against the wall and your opponent has refuted all your arguments and now demands you to produce a shred of evidence to support idea that Jesus existed, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by employing the most annoying of logical fallacies: Argumentum Ad Infinitum. Claim that you’ve already submitted evidence. When the skeptic points out that you haven’t, repeat your claim that you have. Go back to repeating any of the steps that we’ve already covered. Shamelessly trot out arguments that have already been shot down. Eventually, the skeptic will get tired of the repetition and give up. At this point, you win. Praise the sweet name of Jesus! - Heimdall :yellow:

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Brilliant!

 

While totally hopeless from one perspective it does provide insight on the mind of the enemy and that's a very important first step.

 

Just knowing that it's "shameless" repetition, "trotting out and lying," "rinsing and repeating," etc. is going to give me more confidence that it's not my perceptions and memory failing me but an otherwise decent human being acting the dunce for Jesus.

 

It occurs to me that when some of these "Steps" are used as teaching instruments on the graduate level to prove the historical Jesus, we may be looking at a seriously threatened tradition.

 

Step 4: Compare Jesus to Another Historical Figure was shamelessly used by my NT prof. Obviously, he used it professionally. He did not slide all over the place and as a student it did not behoove me to challenge him. However, he did use the argument.

 

Every single questionable reference of Step 5: Josephus, Pliny, et al. was dug up and discussed. He insisted on arguments for the historical Jesus of a quality that he would never accept for a paper I write for his course.

 

The "no true Scottsman" fallacy (Step 2) was used on my by a person on the internet claiming to be working on his doctorate dissertation. He posted considerable portions of his books and other info. He denounced some prominent Jesus mythers with false information. I brought the false information to his attention. He dismissed me with, "If you consider them serious scholars then further communication is pointless." I sent another email but never heard back. However, that alerted me that something serious is wrong. I used an email account that uses only initials for my name so he did not know he was talking to a woman. At one point he addressed me as Mr. I guess if he had known I'm a Ms I would not have gotten this much out of him. We're not talking about a Deep South American, but an Oxford educated man. I feel like the global fundamentalist movement is getting out of control and that we have not seen the end of it yet; nor will we anytime soon.

 

Also from Step 2:

“No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus.â€

Just so all you Jesus mythers know, that is an outright false statement. Tom Harpur is a serious scholar, as also is Robert Price, and Acharya S. All of them not only doubt but argue against the existence of Jesus and they provide evidence for their arguments.

 

I wonder, when people are that hopeless to reason with, would it be decent when one sees that they're going to be this kind to just say, "Oh you're one of those," and just walk away? Otherwise we spend a lot of energy and lose anyway.

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Also from Step 2:

“No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus.”

Just so all you Jesus mythers know, that is an outright false statement. Tom Harpur is a serious scholar, as also is Robert Price, and Acharya S. All of them not only doubt but argue against the existence of Jesus and they provide evidence for their arguments.

And Hector Avalos. That's a very seriously scholar. He seems fairly new on the scene, so I'm sure we'll hear much more from him in the future.

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Heimdall, you are probably the most knowledgeable person I've encountered in the studies of historical accounts, as they relate to stories attributed to the bible. :notworthy:

 

Having said that, may I ask how you are so sure there is not a core person of which this "Jesus" legend is based? They use to think Imhotep was just a myth, as most people think Santa Claus is just a total myth, and now I've seen a documentary that Hercules is probably a legend built around a real person, and even Merlin is suppose to be a legend developed after a real druid priest, etc., etc.

 

I now see where fundamentalism is very pervasive and distructive, which I am all too grateful for what ExC does for others and myself, to rid this brainwashing. :thanks: Yet, just because we can see where lots of the story has no literal merit... how does anyone come to the conclusion that the whole thing concerning "Jesus" is just made up? Please know this is NOT a challenge, as I know I am no where near your understanding. :phew:

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how does anyone come to the conclusion that the whole thing concerning "Jesus" is just made up?

 

I know that this was addressed to Heimdall, but I couldn't resist replying in this way:

 

Because the whole thing seems very fishy

churchyear9.gif

 

:HaHa:

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Amanda, I look forward to Heimdall's answer. In the meantime, let me share my thoughts on the matter.

 

1. I have no idea what kind of incident is required for something to end up a religion that stands the test of time like the story of Jesus. When I stop and think about it, it just overwhelms me. How could anyone appearing in the flesh be that important, or convince anyone he was that important?

 

2. The arguments and evidence for the historical Jesus that have come down to us are simply not strong enough. If we presented no better arguments in academic papers or courts of law for contemporary issues, our cases would fall flat and never be heard.

 

3. A God who was all that Christians proport him to be would have been able to come up with a far superior Plan of Salvation than has come down to us. It would not only make sense to the most highly educated and talented intellectual elite of all times but would cause them to stand in amazement and awe of such insight and intelligence. And it would at the same time appeal and make sense to the uneducated and comfort them no matter how lowly and oppressed their state. In other words, Jesus would be the supreme one-size-fits-all. This would never change for time and eternity.

 

Yet what has actually been the case? Jesus had to be reinterpreted from the very beginning. Jesus promised to return before the people of his generation died. When decades passed and he did not return, something had to be made of the situation. Paul made something of it. He reinterpreted it--explained it away--in a way that could be reinterpreted indefinitely. And it continues to be reinterpreted.

 

That's barely the tip of the iceburg. There may have been a person around whom the legends grew up. For those who didn't see it, in this post to Amanda, I wrote about how legends used to grow around famous people and how stories would get embellished. Scroll down to Story of Peregrinus. Amanda, Apolonuis of Tyana, the story I mention in that post just above Peregrinus, is one historical figure whom some people believe was the person around whom the Jesus stories grew up.

 

Heimdall probably has a much better answer. I'm just dabbling in this kind of thing and "trying out my wings," at this point.

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Even if a historical Jesus (Yeshua) existed, this would in no way validate the reality of a theological Jesus. In my own mind, I am comfortable thinking a man actually existed that the theological Jesus was based upon, very very loosely. However, if a historical person did exist, he is lost to the myth making and accretion of legends and beliefs built around him. A good case in point is the legends that grew around George Washington. Almost everything people learned about GW as children are myths. The chopping down of the cherry tree, tossing the dollar across the Delaware, praying at Valley Forge, etc. were all literary inventions made a generation or more after his actual death. What most Christians do not recognize is that if even a historical Yeshua could be demonstrated to have existed, this in no way validates the theological beliefs that have accreted around him.

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A good case in point is the legends that grew around George Washington. Almost everything people learned about GW as children are myths. The chopping down of the cherry tree, tossing the dollar across the Delaware, praying at Valley Forge, etc. were all literary inventions made a generation or more after his actual death.

 

So that is why he is used as an example? I never heard those stories so it seemed like a crazy name pulled out of a hat, given that there's thousands of national leaders world-wide throughout history that could be used.

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That's really rather good...

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Even if a historical Jesus (Yeshua) existed, this would in no way validate the reality of a theological Jesus. In my own mind, I am comfortable thinking a man actually existed that the theological Jesus was based upon, very very loosely. However, if a historical person did exist, he is lost to the myth making and accretion of legends and beliefs built around him.

 

That's the position I'm at right now as well. And I think it's the logical position to take, given the data that's available.

 

We'll never know for sure, for several reasons. There's no way to know for sure what's authentic and what's interpolated in the Pauline epistles.

 

If you can't know for sure, then you have to accept that there was some type of a Jesus tradition in existence prior to Paul, since it's definitely indicated in certain passages. Then you have to come up with a suitable answer for how this got started. And you have to figure out who Cephas was. And James the Just. And you have to figure out who Paul was persecuting prior to his conversion.

 

And there's this: (pilfered from an IIDB formal debate)

 

1. Jesus must have lived after Adam, since Paul calls him the latter Adam (1 Corinthians 15.22, 45).

 

2. Jesus must have lived after Abraham, since Paul calls him the seed (descendant) of Abraham (Galatians 3.16).

 

3. Jesus must have lived after Moses, since Paul says that he was the end of the law of Moses (Romans 10.4-5).

 

4. Jesus must have lived after David, since Paul calls him the seed (descendant) of David (Romans 1.4).

 

Jesus could be total myth, with no basis as a human being at all. But only if some of the data - particularly as relates to Paul - is falsified. And there's no way to know that. It just seems that the myth position runs into a lot of problems. Unless everything we have to go by (in the form of writings) is discarded as worthless.

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Hopefully, you won’t be debating against anyone savvy enough with the Bible to know that it alleges that Jesus was famous and had a successful ministry (Matthew 4:23-25), that he fed thousands of families with magically generated food (Mark 6:37), or that he stirred up such controversy that the Jewish leaders conspired to have him killed. To argue for an insignificant Jesus is to contradict the Gospel accounts of his life.

 

Hey Coach! Good to hear from you.

 

I went through all of the gospels one time, and compiled every verse I could find that spoke of Jesus' fame. Here it is:

 

News about him spread all over Syria

 

Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

 

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him

 

Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it,

 

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus,

 

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.

 

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"

 

News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

 

Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

 

When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.

 

They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.

 

A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon

 

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another

 

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem

Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

 

HOW ODD that no one managed to say a word about it in any writing outside of the gospels. Not a single word.

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Evolution Beyond... thanks for the laughter! That was a fabulous one! :thanks:

 

I really hate to be the devil's advocate... however, since everyone participating on this topic has grounded roots out of fundamentalism, I hope I can be a bit candid here. The reason I bring this up, is the topic of this thread is from a site called "Jesus never existed". Heimdall, and all of you here, have well deserved respect from me...

 

1. I have no idea what kind of incident is required for something to end up a religion that stands the test of time like the story of Jesus. When I stop and think about it, it just overwhelms me. How could anyone appearing in the flesh be that important, or convince anyone he was that important?

:)Ruby Sera, maybe someone like Hercules, Imhotep, St. Nicholas, Merlin, etc.?

 

Even if a historical Jesus (Yeshua) existed, this would in no way validate the reality of a theological Jesus. In my own mind, I am comfortable thinking a man actually existed that the theological Jesus was based upon, very very loosely. However, if a historical person did exist, he is lost to the myth making and accretion of legends and beliefs built around him.

 

:) I agree.

 

Jesus could be total myth, with no basis as a human being at all. But only if some of the data - particularly as relates to Paul - is falsified. And there's no way to know that. It just seems that the myth position runs into a lot of problems. Unless everything we have to go by (in the form of writings) is discarded as worthless.

:)Mythra, :notworthy: the person I think knows the most about mythology... do you think "Jesus" is entirely a myth, or possibly a legend built upon a person?

 

 

:thanks:

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Hiya Amanda. How ya doin, kid.

 

I don't know the most about mythology here. Not even close. But, as you know I held the Jesus Myth position for a long time.

 

But I poke around a lot on the internet, and I read books and I try and learn everything I can. And I know that many of the pagan / christ parallels are contrived.

 

Particulary when the argument goes from PARALLELS to BORROWING in reference to the gospel story. They just can't be proven.

 

Anyway, I see difficulties in the myth position. If I can get them resolved in my mind, I may return to it.

 

But for now I think there was a guy. A jesus guy in the first century C.E. Not a god-man or a water-walker or anything. Just a guy.

 

Take a look at the "Jesus" thread I started in the Colliseum and you can see more in depth of where I'm at.

 

By the way, nice to see you Amanda.

 

You do know that you're one of my favorites here, right?

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But for now I think there was a guy. A jesus guy in the first century C.E. Not a god-man or a water-walker or anything. Just a guy.

 

Take a look at the "Jesus" thread I started in the Colliseum and you can see more in depth of where I'm at.

 

Mythra, you are probably the one who enlightened me the most on how the bible probably evolved, incorporating ancient mythology. What an eye opener that was! Of course, I give great regards in other areas to HanSolo, MWC, Antlerman, and NBBTB... just to name a few. :thanks:

 

You and I started on here at about the same time... so you are one of my very favorites... as I feel I've been on a journey for years now, in which you have been a big part of it. I'm sure lots of people on here have similar sentiments.

 

Looking at the "Jesus" thread in the Colliseum, seems to be a more appropriate place to be addressing my questions. What a great thread... I wish I had found it earlier.

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One of the worst books I've ever read on the matter is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He's just come out with another book The Case for the Real Jesus which is worse than the other one. Reading it made my head hurt.

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HOW ODD that no one managed to say a word about it in any writing outside of the gospels. Not a single word.

 

This seems to, to me, contradict what you said in the previous post where you point out that Paul had to have been writing about someone who had a following prior to his own writings.

 

If Jesus didn't have a large following during his lifetime, thus a glaring lack of historical documentation, then who were the early xians following that Paul persecuted?

 

My position on this is agnostic. I'm just trying to work my way through the maze. TIA

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TBH, there isn't much evidence that Paul ever persecuted anyone, and if he did, that he was doing it *for* the Romans and not at the behest of another group of Messianic Jews... after all, the Romans never mention ANY single group as more trouble than any other, but they do mention there were a lot of them, and they certainly seem to be a troublesome lot, not only killing Romans but each other...

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One of the worst books I've ever read on the matter is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He's just come out with another book The Case for the Real Jesus which is worse than the other one. Reading it made my head hurt.

 

I am no advocate of burning books... but I confess, in my darkest hours, I'd make an exception in "The Case for Strobel" Saying that he 'investigates' anything is surely going to ensure him going to Hell, although he must have been bound there, having been a Journo and all... TBH I think he writes that shit so his wife will lay him...

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If Jesus didn't have a large following during his lifetime, thus a glaring lack of historical documentation, then who were the early xians following that Paul persecuted?

 

 

TBH, there isn't much evidence that Paul ever persecuted anyone, and if he did, that he was doing it *for* the Romans and not at the behest of another group of Messianic Jews... after all, the Romans never mention ANY single group as more trouble than any other, but they do mention there were a lot of them, and they certainly seem to be a troublesome lot, not only killing Romans but each other...

 

 

Good points. My suspicion is that the group that was persecuted was not "Christians" per se, but probably a rebellious group or heretic group of Jews that believed in some leader they called the savior that had been executed for his crimes. They probably believe he was anointed by God (a Messiah, Christos, 'anointed') and maybe they were declaring that YHWH had taken his soul and made a special place for him in the Heavens. I mean, you don't need to have much of the basic story there, and the Sanhedrin and Romans working together to stop the uprising, but when Paul had the "vision" (maybe he ate a few mushrooms) he saw how he could combine this messianic savior with a bunch of the Hellenistic beliefs and other pagan religions into one basic combination. After all Paul (if he existed) supposedly came from a town that was a center for Mithraism (maybe not fully proven though), so he would have good knowledge in the old dying and rising gods. But on the other hand Paul could be a fictitious character too, but I think it's more likely there was someone like a "Paul", maybe under another name, who did combine and spread this new Gospel. He might even have been in cahoots with the Romans to basically try to destroy the terrorist groups in Jerusalem. It seems like the Romans were pretty tired of the Jewish rebellions and tried to get rid of them, and when this little experiment didn't work, they just destroyed Jerusalem and forced them into diaspora. Unfortunately the newly made religion was too successful. Again, this is my own speculations and how I think the pieces fit together.

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According to an old Jesuit pal of mine (he's nearing 85), Tarsus was the home of the idea that there were three gods in a hierarchy (by the time of the Council of Nicaea) Yahweh, Sophia and the Christos...

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That sounds like a particular kind of Gnosticism. One of them had the trinity as the father, mother (Sophia - Wisdom) and the child (Christos - Logos).

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Yes, very much so... but that was Tarsean 'Christianity'... It was made heresy and canon by Nicaea

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My suspicion is that the group that was persecuted was not "Christians" per se, but probably a rebellious group or heretic group of Jews that believed in some leader they called the savior that had been executed for his crimes. They probably believe he was anointed by God (a Messiah, Christos, 'anointed') and maybe they were declaring that YHWH had taken his soul and made a special place for him in the Heavens. I mean, you don't need to have much of the basic story there, and the Sanhedrin and Romans working together to stop the uprising, but when Paul had the "vision" (maybe he ate a few mushrooms) he saw how he could combine this messianic savior with a bunch of the Hellenistic beliefs and other pagan religions into one basic combination. After all Paul (if he existed) supposedly came from a town that was a center for Mithraism (maybe not fully proven though), so he would have good knowledge in the old dying and rising gods. But on the other hand Paul could be a fictitious character too, but I think it's more likely there was someone like a "Paul", maybe under another name, who did combine and spread this new Gospel. He might even have been in cahoots with the Romans to basically try to destroy the terrorist groups in Jerusalem. It seems like the Romans were pretty tired of the Jewish rebellions and tried to get rid of them, and when this little experiment didn't work, they just destroyed Jerusalem and forced them into diaspora. Unfortunately the newly made religion was too successful. Again, this is my own speculations and how I think the pieces fit together.

 

Hans, this is my hypothesis that has been developing as I have been reading these forums and putting together people's ideas here with what I learned in my course on Mystery Religions. It just fits.

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Yes, very much so... but that was Tarsean 'Christianity'... It was made heresy and canon by Nicaea

 

Talk about CONTRADICTIONS.

 

I guess Constantine didn't care so long as the bishops quite killing each other.

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Constantine was quite the pragmatist... He was British, you know...

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