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Birth Of Christianity - What Actually Happened?


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This is my last stumbling block to de-converting. I have been doing personal study from a secular point of view. (I admit I am pre-supposed to want anti xian evidence, as I very much dislike being a Xian and don't want to return to it. No bad church story, just lack of belief and can't pretend anymore) .

 

I have decided that there is not much truth to the old testament, it is mostly exagerated myths. I think there was a Jesus but would like to think that he as just another spiritual leader - who would have faded like others if not for Constantine? I assume that however exagertated the gospels are there was a leader called Jesus who was crucified and who it sprang from. ( I don't know enough about the Tacticus/Josephus stuff to feel I know for sure, I have read info from all sides, atheist, fundy, liberal Xian. From what I can gather we don't really know much about how genuine or faked it is).

 

(btw - to go on a tangent - does anyone not get this "the gospels must be true because they're so similar - but they can't have been copied from the same document because they're so different". Although now that I've written that, I can see, if they give the same story but from an obviously different point of view/wriitng style, that argument could be valid.)

 

But anyway...when Jesus died, if he didn't prove himself by appearing ressurected, why did the disciples carry on the religion? How do they do it with enough conviction to attract so many more converts - ones willing to die? How did it rise to the level it was at when Constantine made it legit?

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Guest Davka
(btw - to go on a tangent - does anyone not get this "the gospels must be true because they're so similar - but they can't have been copied from the same document because they're so different". Although now that I've written that, I can see, if they give the same story but from an obviously different point of view/wriitng style, that argument could be valid.)

Luke and Matthew appear to be based on Mark. John is a separate book. Even most fundies will agree that at the very least, both Matthew and Luke read Mark's gospel before writing their own.

 

But anyway...when Jesus died, if he didn't prove himself by appearing ressurected, why did the disciples carry on the religion? How do they do it with enough conviction to attract so many more converts - ones willing to die? How did it rise to the level it was at when Constantine made it legit?

There are a couple of possibilities. One is that there were a lot of would-be messiahs, revolutionaries, zealots etc. during that time period. Most were executed, end of story. Jesus was different in that he wasn't advocating an armed rebellion, but rather a spiritually-based rebellion. By encouraging belief in a spiritual kingdom and advocating an odd sort of civil disobedience in which you did more than the Romans demanded, Jesus was presenting an alternative to armed rebellion that many people might have found appealing.

 

Followers of such a movement would be loathe to let it collapse when their leader was killed. So they might very well have stolen his body and spread the rumor that he was alive, but had floated off into the sky.

 

It's also possible that he did not actually die on the cross. I personally doubt this, because the Romans were pretty thorough. But it could have been staged, with perhaps some money changing hands, and a promise that the authorities would never see his face again. Then a couple of careful appearances in front of crowds, and hey! presto! we have a resurrected messiah.

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Thanks Davka. I don't think he faked his death. But, as an aside, I read in Xian apologetics books that noone ever survived Crucifiction. But I'm sure I read somewhere that people often were rescued when the romans stopped bothering to guard them, as was joked about in the monty python movie. Apparently Xians hear the "he faked his death" arguement all the time from atheists, they must do as they spend so much time rebutting it. I'm sure thats the case and they aren't just picking the arguments they would like to rebutt so that the books look impressive for the Xians that read them to calm their doubts.

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Those are interesting points but theyre just not enough to settle my mind. I've spent my life believing it was because he was the son of God. I need something solid.

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There's a lot that bothers me about the entire New Testament. Firstly if Jesus was resurrected and supposedly 500witnessess saw him, why are there no other scholarly accounts of this absolutely anywhere apart from the Bible? It bothers me a lot that there is no historical evidence of Jesus at all. The bible also tells of other dead people rising when the curtain was torn in two. There is nothing in historical records to show this. Did these people go on and live their lives as normal again? Did they find their families? How many people rose from the dead? Were they like walking zombies like night of the dead?

 

Now that I am out of the christian mindset I dont just swallow all of this as true anymore. If anyone wants me to believe anything now I want to see proof and a good darn reason to believe in it. There just seems to be so much in the bible that is swept up under the carpet and ignored that it seems too suss.

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There's a lot that bothers me about the entire New Testament. Firstly if Jesus was resurrected and supposedly 500witnessess saw him, why are there no other scholarly accounts of this absolutely anywhere apart from the Bible? It bothers me a lot that there is no historical evidence of Jesus at all. The bible also tells of other dead people rising when the curtain was torn in two. There is nothing in historical records to show this. Did these people go on and live their lives as normal again? Did they find their families? How many people rose from the dead? Were they like walking zombies like night of the dead?

 

Now that I am out of the christian mindset I dont just swallow all of this as true anymore. If anyone wants me to believe anything now I want to see proof and a good darn reason to believe in it. There just seems to be so much in the bible that is swept up under the carpet and ignored that it seems too suss.

No, no, no. The only parts of the story that are even close to being remotely true are that "jesus" was some sort of amazing reformer that got caught up in a scandal who then was killed and his followers carried on his story. Nothing more. You see? That is it. The rest is just nonsense but you can hang your hat on that "jesus" being a really great guy stuff. Really. Scouts honor. If I'm lyin' I'm dyin' and so on and so forth.

 

mwc

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I just don't get why so many gentiles wanted to join, even to be willing to die. What attracted them to it so much.

Can you be more specific? When and what events are you talking about?

 

mwc

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I don't know, to be honest. I should study early Xian history. I like it when people here tell me how it is so I don't have to read up on it myself. I feel I can trust them.

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I don't know, to be honest. I should study early Xian history. I like it when people here tell me how it is so I don't have to read up on it myself. I feel I can trust them.

Well, when you mention gentiles joining and dying I imagine you had something in mind. Some vague notion of what this means to you, right? So do you have an idea of a when and what? I can envision a number of things myself but I want to try to zero in on what you may have had in mind since I have a feeling (especially after this last response) that it is more coming down from the pulpit than from actually history but I may be wrong. Obviously, there's no doubt that at some point gentiles were xians and xians were persecuted but these are rather generic concepts don't you think?

 

mwc

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I guess I was thinking about Nero, lions, human torches etc. And what really happened in the "Acts of the apostles" era immediatly after Jesus' death.

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Japanese were perfectly willing to die for thier divine Emperor. You don't think Hirohito was really a god do you? Someone dying for thier religion doesn't make it true. Muslims blow themselves up all the time for thiers, does it make it any more valid? When you look at the spread of Islam, how rapidly it developed after it's foundation does that mean it is true? It displaced all sorts of other religions and gods over a vast swathe of territory.

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I know that, its not the fact that there are martyrs that confuses me. Emporers and middle eastern leaders have power, IMO its easy for them to get people to die for them, even to kick off a tradition where people still die for them years after their own death. They used violence and were "big wigs". It's that it could grow from a humble guy preaching, and then grow to that size. Most people like that (obscure cult leaders etc) can get people to die for them but it doesn't last and certaintly doesn't grow.

 

Don't worry I am not going back to the faith, I am just curious as to it all. I couldn't go back anyway. I feel I need to answer this stuff in my own mind to be able to defend my point to myself and others.

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We don't know if he appeared to his disciples or if he even lived in the first place. Everyone who could have seen him was likely dead before the first account of his life and death was even recorded. All records of his life were written by his followers. Kind of like Mormons writing about Joe Smith. How reliable is that?

 

As for why people carried on, why did the Mormon's carry on? The JWs? The xian scientists? [Fill in the blank]?

 

It's what people do. They get emotionally charged over something and they sacrifice reality for it.

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Most people like that (obscure cult leaders etc) can get people to die for them but it doesn't last and certaintly doesn't grow.

 

 

It doesn't? Have you checked out Islam lately?

 

And you don't think Joe Smith wasn't just some obscure flim flam man with a seer stone? Last I checked there were 6 million Mormons and the religion has lasted over 150 years. What do you think would happen to the LDS belief system if the emperor of Rome had adopted it as the official empire religion?

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I don't know much about Islam, but I assume mohamed was powerful and using violence. More like a dictator than Jesus. People still love Hitler too. When I look at other major religions, I can see why they grew as they are products of their own time and place. But Xianity was all about getting people from different places and faiths, thats what unsettles me. Because when I was Xian I really couldn't figure out how it would have grown from those beginings unless it was real. I can see how the other major religions grew without doubting they are false. Thank you for being patient with my "devils advocate".

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yeah, thats a good point about mormons. I just want to know more about the time and situation, ie what was it about Xianity that was so attractive to people then?

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I guess I was thinking about Nero, lions, human torches etc. And what really happened in the "Acts of the apostles" era immediatly after Jesus' death.

I thought so. You're jumbling a bunch of stuff around like most people do. It sounds good but it's not realistic.

 

Ignoring the whole "immediately after jesus' death" thing for the sake of argument (that's another issue) we'll just go on with the traditional basic time line and the usual stories...

 

So. How many gentiles died when Nero supposedly sparked them up? 1? 10? 1000? More? Less? How about zero? Is that a number you'd accept? Accepting the text at face value (as I said for the sake of argument) there's not one bit in there about who died. This bit of text from Tacitus gets post a lot but here it is again so you can see:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

 

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

So are these xians gentiles? Maybe these xians are all Jews? Nero does happen to have an "issue" with Jews. There is a little war over in Judea that starts up under his reign which ends in the destruction of Herod's temple. Xians happen to be basically just another Jewish sect at this point in history so it's doubtful anyone besides Jews and xians are really differentiating between them (and possibly only Jews are really doing this to any extent).

 

Anyhow, simply taking the passage at face value you can't know what the makeup of these people were or how many constitute an "immense multitude." They certainly didn't perish for any cause. They would have been killed as a result of their association to the cause. There's nothing here saying "And the more Nero killed the more Christians lined up to be killed." I am not seeing that. I am seeing "And people who were already Christians got singled out and were killed as a result of their already being in that cult." Now once Nero died people may have joined up again thinking it safe. In fact, it was. It wasn't until later that things got rough again. But it also got rough for the Jews too. Seems things went hand-in-hand for awhile but the Jews were "grandfathered" in and the xians were not.

 

We know from Pliny the Younger that he was dealing with xians not worshiping the gods (including the emperor) and this was a problem. The answer was basically if they recanted and offered to the gods then things were cool but if not then they were screwed. This is not unsurprising. Rome was "liberal" to a degree but not by our terms. So many xians got off by doing just this. They recanted and offered to the gods (including the emperor). Not everyone was running off to be martyred. Martyrs are just a way to "sell" your product. Just like you and everyone else likes to think "Who would die for a lie?" all the while forgetting about all the people who martyr themselves for all those "other" religions. Unless those religions are true then you have your answer. Not everyone dies for the lie. Legends aren't made about "Spiffidus, the recantor" who went home and lived happily ever after even though he was shunned by his fellow cult members (well, the ones who didn't have to gloriously martyr themselves but would have if they'd have been captured).

 

mwc

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Thanks, that is all interesting. When I was Xian, its not that i thought noone would die for a lie, I was aware other cults had people willing to die. Its just that i couldnt see why people would die for Jesus. I could see how a communist emporer or arabic leader could use their Power, charm and charisma to get ready-to-die followers. But jesus seemed so humble I thought he had to have proved his divinity to inspire such zeal.

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I don't know much about Islam, but I assume mohamed was powerful and using violence. More like a dictator than Jesus. People still love Hitler too. When I look at other major religions, I can see why they grew as they are products of their own time and place. But Xianity was all about getting people from different places and faiths, thats what unsettles me. Because when I was Xian I really couldn't figure out how it would have grown from those beginings unless it was real. I can see how the other major religions grew without doubting they are false. Thank you for being patient with my "devils advocate".

 

Christianity was just a small time, but growing cult when Constantine saw it as a vehicle to assimilate other cultures into the Roman empire. Most xian tradition today is a combination of the old pagan traditions mixed with and renamed for xianity. Xianity was then forced on western civilization and then forced on colonies in later years. Probably this occurred in most part due to the fact that it lent credence to the throne as divine right of kings kept down dissent. How do you oppose the king when he is appointed by god and is god's representative on earth?

 

There is nothing profound here.

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Guest Davka

On the question of why gentiles were attracted to early Christianity:

 

Judaism was a proselytizing religion in antiquity. There were some among the Jews who actively tried to make believers in YHWH out of Gentiles in the Mediterranean region. As a result, by the time of Jesus, there were a small but significant number of Gentiles known by the Jews as "Godly Gentiles." These were people who had accepted that YHWH was the one true god, and all the other gods were false.

 

The thing is, if you were an adult male convert to Judaism (and women in those days didn't count for much), you had to commit yourself to following ALL the laws of Moses if you wanted to convert all the way. Including circumcision.

 

Ouch.

 

So there were a large number of Gentiles who accepted the Jewish god, and learned from Jewish teachers, but who, if they went to Jerusalem, worshiped in the Court of the Gentiles. They sort of hung around the fringes of Judaism without totally committing. They wanted to be right with god, but weren't too keen on the cutting. And some of the other Jewish laws bothered them, too - no more lobster? No cheeseburger? No thanks, I'll pass.

 

Anyways, when the early Jewish Christians decreed that Gentiles did not need to convert to Judaism in order to be accepted fully as Christians - IOW followers of the Jewish MessiahTM - the "Godly Gentiles" jumped at the chance. No more outsider status! Sweet! All you need to do is join this particular sect within Judaism (and that's what Christianity was at the beginning, another Jewish sect), and you're in like flint, without the painful loss of very sensitive skin.

 

Just as an FYI, there is some documentation to back this up. Apparently many of the "Godly Gentiles" did convert to Christianity. Add to this the rather persuasive teachings of Saul/Paul, the Billy Graham of Tarsus, and you've got yourself a full-fledged cult, custom-made for Gentiles who want to be part of the Chosen PeopleTM without the attendant crotch-grabbing pain and suffering.

 

Did I mention the lobsters?

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Guest Marty
I think there was a Jesus but would like to think that he as just another spiritual leader - who would have faded like others if not for Constantine? I assume that however exagertated the gospels are there was a leader called Jesus who was crucified and who it sprang from. ( I don't know enough about the Tacticus/Josephus stuff to feel I know for sure, I have read info from all sides, atheist, fundy, liberal Xian. From what I can gather we don't really know much about how genuine or faked it is).

 

 

Aside from being unable to understand how such a powerful and vast religion could spring up from a fictional story (I grapple with this too), what else is there to show that jesus actually existed?

 

Those are interesting points but theyre just not enough to settle my mind. I've spent my life believing it was because he was the son of God. I need something solid.

 

 

How about just considering that the jesus character could be nothing more than a jewish version of the hero common in the Pagan mythos, and never actually existed? The name Yeshua is even “the second coming of Joshua” the hero of the OT. The first texts outlining xtianity came about around the time of the temple’s destruction in 70 C.E. Without a temple, Jews can not sacrifice. But if the messiah came and gave the ultimate sacrifice, than the Jewish god did not fail them! I know this is not “solid” evidence, but I couldn’t give you solid evidence against Zeus or Jupiter either. Do you doubt that those gods are complete fabrications? Why not? If you apply the same reasoning to xtianity that you do to other faiths, your search for answers gets a little easier.

 

I know that, its not the fact that there are martyrs that confuses me. Emporers and middle eastern leaders have power, IMO its easy for them to get people to die for them, even to kick off a tradition where people still die for them years after their own death. They used violence and were "big wigs". It's that it could grow from a humble guy preaching, and then grow to that size. Most people like that (obscure cult leaders etc) can get people to die for them but it doesn't last and certaintly doesn't grow.
I don't know much about Islam, but I assume mohamed was powerful and using violence. More like a dictator than Jesus. People still love Hitler too. When I look at other major religions, I can see why they grew as they are products of their own time and place. But Xianity was all about getting people from different places and faiths, thats what unsettles me. Because when I was Xian I really couldn't figure out how it would have grown from those beginings unless it was real. I can see how the other major religions grew without doubting they are false. Thank you for being patient with my "devils advocate".

 

 

Perhaps you should read up a bit on xtian history; it is far from bloodless. Many cultures were obliterated from the face of the earth either by utter destruction or by assimilation. Join or die. That is how xtianity got a great many of it’s “converts”. If jesus existed, he may have just been a humble guy preaching, but things didn’t take off until xtianity had the power of Rome behind it, then the violence you speak of came online in the xtian machine too.

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I don't know, to be honest. I should study early Xian history. I like it when people here tell me how it is so I don't have to read up on it myself. I feel I can trust them.

Mutate, you definitely need to read my post here:

http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?showtopic=31371

 

I wrote this review precisely for people like you, who want to understand more about why the NT says what it does.

Whether you like to read or not, I can't recomend this book any stronger to you.

Like I'd said in that post, I picked it up on a whim, but I'm SOOOOO glad I did!

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I don't know much about Islam, but I assume mohamed was powerful and using violence. More like a dictator than Jesus. People still love Hitler too. When I look at other major religions, I can see why they grew as they are products of their own time and place. But Xianity was all about getting people from different places and faiths, thats what unsettles me. Because when I was Xian I really couldn't figure out how it would have grown from those beginings unless it was real. I can see how the other major religions grew without doubting they are false. Thank you for being patient with my "devils advocate".

It's a very good question. Why would anyone convert to Christianity at all during the early period. I think I heard an explanation once, but can't remember exactly what it was. It has to do with the actual message itself, and that this was a new kind of religion. It had a slightly different twist than the old pagan ones. If I remember right, it attracted the underclass, working class, and slaves a lot more than the weak middle class. And the empire had a lot of these groups. The old Roman gods couldn't give them any happy afterlife, nor could the gods change their current life, and here came a religion which promised a wonderful life after death at least. At the same time it was teaching that people were equal, regardless of position in life, status didn't matter, and it gave them new hope and purpose.

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I just don't get why so many gentiles wanted to join, even to be willing to die. What attracted them to it so much.

 

People were really starting the question the Grego-Roman gods who were quite petty. Jesus offered them an appealing alternative with eternal life in paradise. And religious people often are willing to die for their beliefs, even today. Just consider Jim Jones, and the Heaven's Gate cult.

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