I recently caught up with Michael Turton’s review of Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? — all too belatedly. His remarks apply to probably most historicist scholars who have commented on the mythicist question. But this section struck me as worthy of catching a wider attention:
In reality, the mythicist-historicist debate is a clash of competing interpretive frameworks, a clash over the same body of data over which there are divergent interpretive views — one of which claims success because it has powerful social support. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in the social and historical sciences.
Readers who are familiar with the history of science can probably name many examples of how social approval in a historical or human field for a given interpretation of the data hindering consideration and acceptance of new ideas. The struggle to overcome the Clovis First interpretive framework that came to dominate North American archaeology until about three decades ago is a good example (the battle is still ongoing, and will likely end when the last of the Clovis Firsters dies off). Another good example is the way paleoanthropology was changed by the influx of females in the 1960s; the interpretive frameworks had been dominated by males and their points of view. Every August in the US we see another example of the clash of competing interpretive frameworks over how the atomic bombings of Japan should be understood.
Thus, the reader should be aware that the clash between mythicists and historicists is not a clash between loons similar to those who think the moon landings were faked and NASA, or between Creationists and real scientists, as Ehrman would have it. That is mere rhetoric, lazy, cheap shots.* In evolutionary biology or climate science the methodologies are robust and testable and the evidence overwhelming and the Denialists on either part are essentially anti-science. Historical explanation is not like scientific explanation (though it may draw on it), and scholars who bluster that mythicists are like Creationists are (probably deliberately) making a serious category error.
In historical Jesus studies both mythicists and historicists learn the same ancient languages and study the same texts, using the same methodologies. Both sides keenly appreciate and esteem good scholarship and hold basically the same set of New Testament scholars in high regard, including Ehrman himself. I suspect that if you compared the bookshelves of most people writing on mythicism with Ehrman’s own, they would look very much alike. None of the major mythicist writers can remotely be described as anti-science or anti-scholarship. Again, the problem is not denial of reality, but a clash of competing interpretive frameworks. . . . .
*The comparison to Holocaust Denial is simply beyond the pale.
I recently engaged one supporter of Acharya S / D. M. Murdock and her particular mythicist views. I had never taken much notice of her views before because her books were not written from the approach or questions that I prefer to read. I had no idea that an apparently prominent supporter of her views would not reject outright the approach of Erich von Daniken of “Chariots of the Gods” infamy. I have come to understand on looking more closely at some of the books from this quarter that there is a genuine belief in some new cosmic age approaching now — something that in my mind relates directly to astrology. Till now I have never had any interest in the mythicist publications from this quarter but on becoming slightly better acquainted with it I can say I reject it outright. I am reminded of religious organizations that put a lot of effort into PR — into sounding so secular, correct, scientific, etc — all the while hiding their true beliefs from the general public so that only the most dedicated come to learn of them and become hooked.
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61 thoughts on “Michael Turton on the Mythicist-Historicist Debate”
I am not so sure about the similarities in methods. Really, we are in the middle of a series of fundamentals reorientations when it comes to the the interpretation of texts. “Interpretative frameworks can be disturbingly different.
Good point. I think we have two quite different types of mythicist approaches.
There is the traditional approach where Christ Myth theorists have taken up the arguments of the ‘historicists’ on their own terms and sought to refute them and propose alternative hypotheses. Wells, Price and Doherty I would put in this category. In some ways the difference is much like what we have traditionally found between nonbelievers and believers — following in the wake of the likes of David Strauss perhaps.
The approach taken by TLT is quite different. He is asking a quite different question (rather than “did Jesus exist?” he asks “how can we best explain the sources we have?”). I must admit to applying the logic of the arguments of you, P. Davies and TLT to the Gospels in particular, and critiquing the fundamental assumptions of the historiographical methodology of ‘the historicists’ ever since I started this blog. There are obvious differences between a study of an era 2000 to 200 bce and of a first and second century ce phenomenon, but there are also certain fundamentals of logic and rules of evidence that apply to any period. And the bottom line of this latter comes down to meaning that the source documents are interpreted in quite different frameworks.
Unless I am mistaking where you are coming from . . . .
After reading the mice quote from Turton there, the transition to Murdock seemed kind of abrupt and weird. I am a moderator on her forum and I myself have so far never heard or seen Murdock endorse Von Daniken or any of the ancient astronaut genre. Inf act, I have seen one article on her other website explicitly debunking it as nothing more than a new attempt at Euhemerizing the gods of religion- http://www.truthbeknown.com/anunnaki.htm
I am assuming the supporter you are referring to is Mr. Tulip, no? Having become acquainted with Robert over the past couple of year, I think he would be among the first to tell you that he does not speak on Murdock’s behalf and that his personal views should not be conflated with her own. And yet in spite of that, sadly, it is only Murdock who is named explicitly in the latter half of this blog posting and as a consequence it will be Murdock rather than Robert who will end up being judged by it among your casual readers.
If you wish to reject outright those fringe views which you mention, it should be directed at mythicists who actually do endorse such views, such as Jordan Maxwell or David Icke.
Those are other names I have seen Murdock get unfairly conflated with simply for being friendly to them, even though she has never endorsed shape-shifting reptilians or anything else of that sort.
The closest I have seen to her endorsing a “new age” is simply in regards to the procession of the equinox, not in regards to astrology or some 2012 pole shift apocalypse. In fact, I know we have several threads on the forum debunking those sorts of things, and our regular members are mostly skeptically minded atheists. In fact, here on this blog of yours is the first I’m hearing of Robert possibly considering the Von Daniken thesis.
So, in summary, I agree with this blog post, save only the usage of Murdock, as it does not reflect her views, and should be exchanged for a name that actually does.
The Christ Conspiracy concludes with this:
^Yep, precession, just as I said. Precession of the equinoxes happens. That’s a fact. Whether or not that has any effect on the earth is something Acharya has never made any claims about.
That oft mined quote has been addressed several times and in fact it is on the first page of her FAQ thread-
Perhaps this is yet another reason that a 2nd edition of this book (her OLDEST book, BTW, and we all know on this blog that you and Earl have had to explain that his thoughts have evolved since the first publication of the Jesus Puzzle, hence Neither God Nor Man, other authors have evolved their thinking since 1999, Murdock being one of them) has been in the works and is set to be released next year, as passages like this are clearly too ambiguous for the armchair reader.
So point blank, let me ask you- do you think Murdock believes in, promotes, or practices astrology?
She certainly promotes the idea that the ancient civilizations did, and I don’t know of many folks who would dispute that.
But there’s a world of difference between that and actually practicing it one’s self.
Roger Beck and David Ulanssey do not practice astrology either. But they certainly talk/type up a storm about it when it comes to its usage in the cult of Mithras.
No one thinks Doherty actually believes a cosmic Christ was crucified in a an incorporeal plane. But he sure does talk about it a lot.
Acharya does not practice nor promote the use of astrology. Never has. She talks about it a lot because she is trying to explain its influence on the development of Christianity. Simple. Don’t conflate the messenger with the message.
Acharya does not believe in astrology. She has stated as much herself, therefore anyone claiming the opposite is incorrect, end of discussion.
She simply believes that the ancients believed in it.
Now if you want to hash out whether her wording in early days as an author was still green and perhaps not the clearest way to communicate what she meant, that’s fine, but that’s a different discussion altogether, and one that perhaps you will win, for as I said, she is redoing the book.
P.S. – Murdock herself is easily accessible at Freethoughtnation, Facebook, Truthbeknown, Yahoo Groups, etc. So if you or anyone else is truly interested in clearing up this issue and getting it from the best source possible, straight from the horse’s mouth, you can pursue any of those sites listed.
Uh, yeah Godfrey. I’m thinking that you probably got into religious reformation ideas with Robert Tulip based around Christianity paying closer attention to it’s astrotheological roots and falling into better accord with science, because astrotheological involves astronomy, more or less. Robert Tulip’s a friend of mine and fellow moderator. He happened across the astrotheology of the bible back in the 80’s on his own and has been trying to work out the implications every since. He and I hit it off when he first started posting @ Murdocks forum about his own unique ideas about astrotheology. I was interested in learning more about precession and the two of us explored all variety of speculation and worked the bible over looking for things that were not covered in ZG, or the Naked Truth, and whatever else.
But I’m a little more like you Neil, I was a fundamentalist and then eventually switched over to atheism. I’ve lost any sense of seeing religion as useful or relevant in the modern age. I’m a bit pantheist too. So I only look at religion as a case study. Part of that case study includes investigating the astrotheology of the ancients because obviously the entire ancient world was extremely astrotheological and there’s no chance of ever understanding the ancients without having at least a basic understanding of their astrotheology. Especially when confronting Gnosticism and it’s relation to Christian origins.
So to narrow it down even further, there are mythicists who deal directly with astrotheology and those who dance around the outskirts of addressing it. I don’t know why they dance around addressing it, but I suspect that it has more to do with not venturing into territory they know nothing about more than anything else. And of course there are also mythicists who maintain some religious views while others who do not. We have atheists, agnostics, pantheists, modern Gnostics, and hell, even some liberal open minded Christian types among the mythicist camp. And that’s still a very summarized way of putting it. I meet all types.
But Murdock has never promoted any religious views aside from calling The US Constitution a sacred work, or asking that people respect her religion which is simply the freedom of speech and other good old American rights. Very tongue and cheek stuff. She’s not pushing any alien theories, Gnosticism, or any other New Age religious oriented movements. I’ve been moderating for her for years now and I’d know if there were any religious agenda. To be honest, I’d be put off a bit if she were promoting religious views. I like Doherty, Price, and Murdock each in their own ways. And Murdocks analysis of the astrotheological roots of Christianity is dead on and both Doherty and Price have been quoted acknowledging her worthy contributions to the mythicist movement. Neil, you ought to stop by the forums and visit from time to time and talk with us. The only way to get to know Murdock and her fans is to engage us in discussion. Please do so before passing any more premature judgement.
The FAQ response to the quote does not allay my concerns. Astronomers do not speak of precession being related to humankind entering a new age — let alone one in which the evils of the past will wane. There is nothing more “new-age-ish” about precession than is every appearance of the new moon. To say it is an “astronomical fact” that we are entering “a new age” is simply wrong and the quote on the FAQ page from an astronomer does nothing to say there is any sort of “new age” about precession. Every day is a “new age” with an orbit of the earth — precession is nothing but one of the slowest movements of the many movements of all astronomical phenomena.
But the bottom-line concern I have is the fallacious methodology upon which the whole idea of explaining Christian origins in terms of astrotheology is based. I have covered this several times in my exchanges with Robert Tulip and have nothing to add here.
There are other lesser concerns, such as the conspiracy theory that Christianity was the product of a machiavellian cabal. Of course there are machiavellian cabals scattered throughout social networks and political scenes but when we are talking about the origins of a major social development like the birth and growth of Christianity/Christianities then I do not accept secret conspiracies as historical explanations for such social-cultural innovations.
I was for a brief time on one of Acharya web discussion forums but as I recall I contributed nothing or very little — I felt I had no place in the sorts of conversations that were happening — and did not stay long.
I have never attacked Acharya/Murdock personally and I am sickened by some of the personal attacks I have seen. My opposition to astrotheology is based entirely on its fallacious methodology. The final pages of Acharya’s first book do disturb me notwithstanding the responses here — in fact the responses to date only confirm my concerns. (This is similar to my exchanges with Robert Tulip. It was what he did not say as much as what he did say that left me concerned.)
If you read the CC front to back then I would think that you’d understand the conclusion Neil.
We’re living in a time between astrological ages which are generally strange times to live in, historicially. They are generally strange times because ‘people’ make them that way. It was a strange time in the early first century following the last changing of the ages and a similar transitional period.
The changing of the ages is merely the changing of the vernal equinox sunrise from one constellation to another. No big deal, just making the round of precession and facing another part of the galaxy. It’s the superstition and fantasy that people pour into these time periods that tend to drive the social awkwardness, not literal spooky cosmic forces from afar. Look at what’s going on right now. Mythicism has blown up as we’re nearing the end of the Piscean age. a fairly radical social changing movement. It actually started picking up speed during a time (1700’s, 1800’s) when the pioneering mythicists were very conscious of both the nearing of the end of the age of Pisces within a few hundred years and also from the conscious perspective of how the age changes have played a role, historically, in myth making.
I’d expect to see much more of this with time to be quite honest. And by around 2150 when the vernal equinox sunrise isn’t taking place in the constellation of Pisces anymore, how much do you think Christianity in society will have changed by then? Spooky cosmic forces don’t even play into this type of reasoning Neil. Human beings and how they conduct themselves according our own conceived timelines and projected intentions is what drives social change. And because human beings have oriented themselves around observational markers like the precession of the equinoxes you can safely bet that social changes will generally follow. What sort of social and political changes were going on in the first century following the changing of the last age / aeon? Obvioiusly it was a hornets nest. And it looks like Murdock was hoping for a change for the better this time around. A time where the liars and frauds of religious ideologies fall to the way side as knowledge increases and the old fairy tales like the Christ myth are exposed for what they are in reality.
What you are doing is arguing for a natural explanation for astrology. What needs testing — and repudiation until it passes tests — is the idea that astrology has any basis whatever. You are repeating Robert Tulip’s error of arguing causation on the basis of ill-defined correlation. I reject your above argument as based entirely on ill-defined correlation and in defiance of other more familiar and proven explanations.
It is the personal (one might almost say cult) following of Murdock among her supporters that leaves me very uncomfortable. When I joined her discussion group some time ago what disturbed me most was the sense that I was entering a room full of adolescent groupies declaring Murdock to be “a great one”. I have always deplored the personal attacks others have made on her, but I cannot help but wonder if Murdock herself could do more to promote a more rational discussion of the questions. There is also a lot of dogmatism in her writings, and I mentioned the conspiracy theory above. This dogmatism does little to further genuinely intellectual inquiry.
Contrast Doherty — Doherty stimulates thinking and among “his supporters” are many who argue with him over some of his ideas, even over some of the central planks of his thesis. Doherty is so clearly pushing arguments alone that many even fault him for not giving material that would allow others opportunities to address details of his person.
So then you think that it’s one great coincidence that Christianity emerged focused on the fish symbolism, and midrashed old testament fish symbolism in so doing, and did all of this just after the age of Aries turned over to the age of Pisces? Do you suppose that they quote mined for fish references in the OT because of an historical Jesus who hung out with fisherman? I think the reason is more than obvious.
You see, you’re not providing an alternative explanation by pointing to the OT for midrash concerning fish symbolism and what not. These mystical people (Gnostics, Therapeuts, etc.) were very focused on the stars. Can you honestly say that they were not?
Put it this way, how do you suppose that Doherty’s cosmic Christ theory is built?
The foundation is what?
We’re talking about Judaized people who looked to the sky and conjured up all variety of fantasy and mythologized the heavens. Right smack in the middle of all of this stellar oriented Gnosticism emerges one or more cosmic Christ ideas. The cosmic Christ ideas are of course present in Paul and still evident in the gospels, I’d say, because the life and ministry of Christ is laid out according to the journey of the sun. And mixed in along the way is all of this Jewish midrash which is basically evolving around the underlying journey of the sun. You’ll find that Tulip and myself would say that the astrotheology is primary. And what sort of puzzles me is how in the world you could even go about suggesting otherwise. It’s rather puzzling to me.
If Christianity has many fish references, does that necessarily mean that the era was entirely responding to precession and astrology, and the coming of Pisces? Dont’ overlook this possible, very simple explanation. One that has nothing to do with ancient astrology: we’re looking a culture that lived largely on eating fish.
And wheat: which accounts for the many “sowing” and “reapting” and “bread” references.
None being especially astrologically-based. All being based instead, on the structure of an ancient economy; the means of its subsistence.
Let’s get the fish symbols in perspective. If the earliest fish appear in the Gospel of Mark and those gospels that copied this, and if those fish symbols can be tied credibly to Jeremiah 16:16 in a manner consistent with other “midrashic” or symbolic uses, then is that not the more credible/least complex explanation of the fish imagery in the earliest Christian evidence?
If we find evidence that much, much later indicates other uses of the fish symbol, then don’t we have an obligation to dismiss that from our questions concerning origins? If a particular image appears later as a symbol for the entire movement, then surely we must confine our investigation to the time that that image appears as such.
These are all fair enough points, but people of the near east at the turn of the Common Era also literally bred, raised, sold, and ate cattle as well.
Yet, whatever their reasons, scholars like David Ulansey and roger Beck have concluded that Mithraism was centered the precession out of the age of Taurus, rather than the most “simple explanation” of this merely being homage to the fact that people ate & lived off of bovine. And that change of age was actually further away from the turn of the Common Era than was the change from Aries to Pisces.
The tauroctony iconography also predates Mithraism just as the Old Testament predates Christianity. It can be seen in the cult of Cybele in the first century BCE, with Attis mounting the bull. It can be seen as early as the third century BCE depicting Nike in the exact same way as Mithras.
Nevertheless, whatever their reasons, scholars like Ulansey & Beck have concluded that Mithraism utilized this motif to pay homage to the precession out of the age of Taurus, rather than this simply being nothing more than a type of “midrashic” symbolism, if you will, borrowed from an earlier religion.
There really isn’t a dichotomy here. Religious literature includes all of the above. It uses culture, it uses agriculture, it borrows from previous religions and myths, and it uses metaphors of astronomical phenomenon.
The cult of Osiris also used much talk of what and reaping and sowing and bread. And yes, part of the reason for that, as most Egyptologists acknowledge, is because the Egyptians LITERALLY lived on wheat and grain.
That’s simple enough, right? So why not just stop there? Yet no Egyptologist I’ve ever read does stop there. they keep getting all ‘convoluted’ and ‘complex’, almost universally agreeing with each other that Osirian mythology also incorporates the usage wheat & grain imagery because agricultural cycles paralleled astronomical cycles, and astronomy was used to symbolize the gods.
Sirius and Orion were identified by the Egyptians as celestial forms of Isis and Osiris. The heliacal rising of Sirius and Orion at the beginning of the Nile’s flood season signalled the return of irrigation and thus the return of life to their crops.
Hence when Orion, aka Osiris, returned from the Underworld and rose from the dead, so also the wheat and grain of Egypt rose from the dead with him.
As homage to this, they performed many rituals such as mixing soil with barley seeds, molding it into an effigy of Osiris, mummifying it and then watering it so that grain would sprout from the body of Osiris, for they believed that all the grain of Egypt grew from the body of Osiris, being irrigated by the blood and pus which leaked from his corpse and flooded the Nile and turned it reddish rusty color, like that of wine, hence they believed Osiris’s blood turned the water into wine.
Which leads to another ritual they would perform. They would bake cakes from the grain that grew from the body of Osiris, and “feed” it to the deceased kings so that they could become like Osiris and rise from the dead as well. They would also offer wine and beer to the deceased as well, which likewise symbolized the blood and pus of Osiris.
After resurrection, the goal of the deceased was to successfully pass through the Underworld and then ascend to heaven and become transfigured into one of the immortal “Imperishable Stars”, i.e. the Circumpolar stars of the Northen sky which never set below the horizon, hence, they never again enter the Underworld or Hell. So more astronomy there.
All of the above is attested to not only in the scholarly commentaries of Egyptologists, but in the funerary literature of Egypt as well, especially in the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, and Book of the Dead.
Over and over all of these books speak of how Osiris, and the deceased who emulate him, rises from the dead, ascends to heaven as Orion, descends into hell as Orion, brings the flood & irrigation with his bodily fluids, causes grain to grow from his body, etc., etc.
So, this cult included a dying and resurrecting saviour god whose body and blood were symbolized with bread and wine which were consumed by his followers in an attempt to obtain eternal life like him.
Sounds familiar, no?
And all the while, all of this mythology was symbolism for astronomical cycles and their parallels in agricultural cycles.
I know from reading this blog and elsewhere that Neil and Earl both acknowledge that Christianity was influenced by earlier pagan cults, including that of Osiris.
When Christianity so closely parallels much of the above imagery- death/resurrection/body=bread/blood=wine/etc, and we conclude that Christianity parallels it because it was influenced by it, are we so wrong to also conclude that the cosmic phenomenon which that imagery symbolized was lost on the very Christians who were borrowing & reinventing said imagery?
We know that other authors writing at the same time as the New Testament authors, such as Plutarch, as far removed as they were from the times of the glory days of Egypt, were still well aware of the astronomical symbolism of the cults of Osiris and Dionysus and Mithras, etc., and explained it for us.
Mithraism likewise has much of the same agricultural imagery, yet that did not dissuade Mithraic scholars from also including precessional astrology as part of the influence on the cult and its imagery as well.
Countless Mithraic reliefs can be seen with wheat sprouting from the tail of the slain bull, and grapes sprouting from the bloody wounds where Mithras stabs the neck. Mithraic reliefs likewise depict meals of bread and wine (with beef, of course).
But I’ve yet to read a scholar reduce this to the “simplest explanation” of merely homage to the fact people ate bread or as a “midrashic” commentary upon a predecessor religion.
The bible repeatedly likens Jesus to the sun, such as at his transfiguration, or in Revelation. Revelation also likens angels to stars and speaks of women crowned with stars and being clothed with the sun and moon, of stars falling from the heavens, of seeing great signs in the heavens.
The non-canonical literature does the same.
I assume all of us here are aware of the pre-christian Platonic cosmological model of the seven planetary spheres?
It is any coincidence then that in the assumption of Paul in “his” apocalypse he travels through SEVEN heavens (and this even seems to be alluded to in the NT, with the reference to going to the “third” heaven)?
And the same happens in the Ascension of Isaiah as well.
So reaching the conclusions of the astrotheological influence on the origins of Christianity does not exclude the influence of any other aspect of human experience as well, nor is reaching these conclusions based exclusively on “hey look, a fish here in the bible, and a fish up there in the sky, they must be the same!” That is a gross over-simplification of what is at work here.
If you have problems with methodology, then by all means, let’s discuss them. If not here, then elsewhere. If you wish not to repeat yourself, then by all means, link to where you have already made your point, or better yet, cut & paste your previous words for us.
Neil, you talk about how Earl has open discussions of opposing views with his readers, well, I am one of YOUR readers, as is Tat Tvam. Are you not willing to engage us in the same way?
If Earl encounters one of his fans who views have some overlap with a previous fan he has already conversed with, does Earl dismiss this new fan with something to the effect of “I’ve already discussed that with so-and-so and I didn’t like it”, even when the points being brought up are not all the same?
As I have time I will catch up with more of this comment, but for now I will comment on the comparison made with Ulansey’s study.
Ulansey’s argument succeeds to the extent it does because it addresses every iconographic representation in Mithraism. Ulansey also insists that his argument applies only to the origins of Mithraism (p. 125) and has little relevance to later beliefs of the religion.
The arguments I have encountered for Christianity having comparable beginnings are quite different. Firstly, only selected images are addressed and not the entire narratives. There already exist in the scholarly literature very credible alternative explanations that are more consistent with a host of explanations of other data, too. Secondly, the evidence pointed to appears to me to be late — to make its appearance after the earliest evidence of Christian origins. (And that earliest evidence is somehow forced into the interpretations of the later evidence.)
One more point — the comparison with the stories of Abraham and Moses and their sacrifices only makes sense if those stories of Abraham and Moses are dated in origin to the time settings in the narratives. But the evidence for these stories’ origins is arguably all late Persian and Hellenistic eras.
“[T]he son of him whose name was as the name of a fish would lead them [the Israelites] into the land.” (Genesis Rabba 97:3.)
“climate science the methodologies are robust and testable and the evidence overwhelming and the Denialists on either part are essentially anti-science.”
Clearly Turton has not noticed that the global warming sceptics tend to be people with a strong science background (and many are prominent scientists) who criticize climate science on the grounds that the methodology is dodgy, the evidence underwhelming, and the claims untestable.
If tat tvam asi and RoHa above are indicative of where D. M. Murdock is coming from then I rest my case: there is no possibility of a scholarly exchange of views. Dogmatism and ill-defined correlation are not the basis of a truly intellectually honest inquiry.
Now I am quite open to the possibility that Christianity began as some sort of astrotheology cult or whatever, but before I am persuaded to investigate that possibility in any depth I would need to see something more than rhetorical declamations of woolly correlations as an argument.
I have been through all this with Robert Tulip and have no further interest in repeating that same sort of exchange again here. If anyone has evidence linking astrological fish symbolism or whatever as integral to Christian origins then provide it. Till then the case is closed as far as I am concerned.
“8.If tat tvam asi and RoHa above are indicative of where D. M. Murdock is coming from then I rest my case: there is no possibility of a scholarly exchange of views.”
I don’t know how I could be indicative of D. M. Murdock. I was pointing out that Turton clearly does not know enough about climate science to comment on the scientific status of the sceptics.
“Dogmatism and ill-defined correlation are not the basis of a truly intellectually honest inquiry”
And both of those are found in the True Believers (mostly non-scientists) of man-made global warming. Often the actual climate scientists who support the idea are less dogmatic and fanatical than the non-scientists.
I’ll leave you with the last word on this. Climate science per se is irrelevant to the topic of interest here.
I sort of get where going with this Neil. I guess it’s just that I’m speaking of things as a given because I’ve already poured over this topic for so many years. They’re not a given as far as you’re concerned and I get that.
One interesting lead I might add to the topic is Bill Darlison’s book which is about analyzing the Gospel of Mark:
If Mark is written according to a close following of the zodiac, then there you have it.
But my fish symbolism comment had more to do with the oldest iconography found on Christian tombs. The first century was a time where the vernal equinox sunrise was observed in the constellation of Pisces. Not just that, but also the Pisces-Virgo axis. What do we find coming along? The fisherman and Virgin motif rising in popularity.
Not to mention the OT usage of the ages passing from Taurus to Aries with the Abraham and Moses myths. The NT movement is really just an extention of the much of the same issue when the ages eventually rolled around from Aries to Pisces. And of course beyond that Luke 22:10 orients the reader – who is already on to the astrological theme – that the ‘passing over’ of the sun into the next vernal equinox age will take place in Aquarius, the male waterbearer. The whole outline covers the four lower ages of the Platonic Great Year cycle which amounts to 1/3 of the entire Great Year (4 of 12 ages), a number strung across Revelation which also lays out the Great Year. The 12 foundational Jewels are by old tradition assigned to the symbols of the zodiac, only given in reverse order from Pisces to Aries which lays out the precession of the equinoxes as opposed to the annual year in order of Aries to Pisces. These things ring out at you when you’ve dialed into the langauge of mythology. The cosmological function is of course the 2nd function of a traditional mythology as per Campbell’s 4 function model. It would be dumbfounding to not find the cosmological and astrotheological function at work in the myths….
Can you be more specific here? What tombs are you thinking of specifically? When are they dated and what is the nature of their iconography?
Can you give me ancient sources that inform us about this ancient belief in the “Platonic Great Year cycle” to which you are referring?
Precession was garbled with Plato’s plantetary Great Year into the term Platonic Great Year:
I apologize, I was assuming that were already familiar with the subject. But that would explain why you were confused early about the ages / aeons what the changing of an age is in reference to. At some point it was realized that the vernal equinox sun rises sweep backwards through the 12 constellations of the zodiac. Applying this motion to the circle of the zodiac simply puts first and last signs in reverse order – Pisces to Aries. So the idea is that there is a larger year some 2,600 annual years. And to fix a beginning and end to the Great Year renders Pisces as the first age and Aries as last age, then the cycle repeats.
The subject matter of Revelation delves into these mystical astrological cycles.
Main article: Ichthys
“Among the symbols employed by the early Christians, that of the fish seems to have ranked first in importance. Its popularity among Christians was due principally to the famous acrostic consisting of the initial letters of five Greek words forming the word for fish (Ichthys), which words briefly but clearly described the character of Christ and the claim to worship of believers: “Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ”, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr), meaning, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. This explanation is given among others by Augustine in his Civitate Dei , where he also notes that the generating sentence “Ίησοῦς Χρειστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ” has 27 letters, i.e. 3 x 3 x 3, which in that age indicated power.”
Protestant apologists in opposition to the paganism associated with the cross will turn to arguments about the catacombs bearing the sign of the fish and how crosses arrived on tombs much later. You know, the hard core cross denying type of Protestants who believe Jesus was killed on a stake and not a cross. And my response has been to point out that this fish (Pisces) symbol only serves to connect the early Christians to the zodiac, not eradicate pagan infusion from scripture.
Alpha and Omega
Main article: Alpha and Omega
“The use since the earliest Christianity of the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (α or Α) and omega (ω or Ω), derives from the statement said by Jesus (or God) himself “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13, also 1:8 and 21:6).”
Now, the alpha and omega. Another early Christian theme. What is the constellation of Pisces (fishes) again when looking at the annual and Great Year zodiac? Oh yes, the constellation of Pisces is the first age / aeon of the Great Year, but the last age / aeon of the annual year. So then in a solar personification myth designed with respect to the age / aeon of Pisces, a writer could have the solar avatar declare:
“I am the Aleph and Tau / Alpha and Omega / First and Last.”
Am I right in thinking that you are not familiar with any primary evidence but are relying on books by modern astrologers and wikipedia articles that come with warning signs that their information is lacking verifying citations?
I asked if you could be more specific and give me the evidence that you were thinking of, specifically, when you said, “But my fish symbolism comment had more to do with the oldest iconography found on Christian tombs.” I asked, “What tombs are you thinking of specifically? When are they dated and what is the nature of their iconography?”
Can you tell me what you were thinking of exactly? You directed me to a wikipedia article that covers a very wide time span and a wide range of iconography. Perhaps you can direct me to the specific paragraphs there that support your original reference.
You also wrote: “The whole outline covers the four lower ages of the Platonic Great Year cycle which amounts to 1/3 of the entire Great Year (4 of 12 ages)”.
I asked, “Can you give me ancient sources that inform us about this ancient belief in the “Platonic Great Year cycle” to which you are referring?” You pointed me to an article that quoted a modern astrologer informing us that another mathematician believed Hipparchus knew the true “Great Year” of 26,000 years for precession — but that is not evidence that there was such a belief in this period as some sort of Great Year nor even evidence that they knew 26,000 years was the period of precession. I never rely on secondary sources when I want to learn the foundations of something. I always get to the foundational evidence that the secondary sources are supposedly talking about and start from there. Have you done that or only relied on secondary sources — even those of astrologers?
Once all of this is done, the next step is to establish some evidence — not speculation — linking this knowledge to Christian origins — not just to tendentious selections of late Christian iconography.
I thought you were asking what is the Platonic Great Year and what ancient sources discuss it, to which I shot a basic wiki link about how Plato’s Great Year was fused with precession after Hipparchus, an ancient source who noticed the precession of the equinoxes from looking over Babylonian star charts. That created an even Greater Year than Plato’s and two were merged. In Suns of God astronomer Dr. Krupp is quoted expanding a bit more on the possible antiquity:
“Another important factor in ancient astrotheology is the precession of the equinoxes, a phenomenon caused by the earth’s off-axis tilt, whereby the sun at the vernal equinox (spring) is back-dropped by a different constellation every 2150 or so years, a period called an “age.” One cycle of the precession, through the 12 signs of the zodiacal ages is called a “Great Year,” and is approximately 26,000 years long. According to orthodox history, the precession was only “discovered” in the second century BCE by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus; however, it is clear from ancient texts, traditions, artifacts and monuments that more ancient peoples knew about it and attempted to compensate for it from age to age. In Hamlet’s Mill, Santillana and Dechend demonstrate knowledge of the precession at much earlier times, stating: “There is good reason to assume that he [Hipparchus] actually rediscovered this, that it had been known some thousand years previously, and that on it the Archaic Age based its long-range computation of time.”
Astronomer Dr. Krupp concurs:
“The earliest known direct reference to precession is that of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus (second century B.C.), who is credited with discovering it. Adjustments of the Egyptian temple alignments, pointed out by Sir Norman Lockyer, may well indicate a much earlier sensitivity to this phenomenon, however”.
Again, Krupp says:
“Circumstantial evidence implies that the awareness of the shifting equinoxes may be of considerable antiquity, for we find, in Egypt at least, a succession of cults whose iconography and interest focus on duality, the bull, and the ram at appropriate periods for Gemini, Taurus, and Aries in the precessional cycle of the equinoxes.”
* “Suns of God” page 40
These also tend to reflect into the Taurus, Aries, Pisces, and projected age of Aquarius used in different periods of biblical writing.
If you want to zero in closer on the specific works of Hipparchus and start an inquiry into precession from the original works forward, then here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipparchus#Precession
Precession of the equinoxes (146–127 BC)
See also Precession (astronomy)
Hipparchus is known for being almost universally recognized as discoverer of the precession of the equinoxes in 127 BC. His two books on precession, On the Displacement of the Solsticial and Equinoctial Points and On the Length of the Year, are both mentioned in the Almagest of Claudius Ptolemy. According to Ptolemy, Hipparchus measured the longitude of Spica and Regulus and other bright stars. Comparing his measurements with data from his predecessors, Timocharis and Aristillus, he concluded that Spica had moved 2° relative to the autumnal equinox. He also compared the lengths of the tropical year (the time it takes the Sun to return to an equinox) and the sidereal year (the time it takes the Sun to return to a fixed star), and found a slight discrepancy. Hipparchus concluded that the equinoxes were moving (“precessing”) through the zodiac, and that the rate of precession was not less than 1° in a century.”
What this all amounts to is what I’ve outlined several times already. The age to come in those days would have been the age of Pisces. The reversed motion of the Great Year would be starting off with Pisces, the last constellation of the zodiac, as per the precession of the equinoxes.
Now when you say Christian origins. what exactly do you mean by that Neil?
Do you mean the second century when the Pauline Epistles, and the gospels, and even the catacombs with their fish iconography on tombs appear into the literary and historical record?
Or do you mean to trace back what was going on in the early to mid first century according to Philo’s “Therapeutae” Jewish mystics who’s allegorical works may have started off what eventually got moving during the second century?
That’s where Murdock takes it in “Christ in Egypt” here’s a link to a book discussion about that very thing:
The solution to these various problems with identifying the Therapeuts and the first Christians in Egypt, as well as their texts as the basis of the canonical gospels and epistles, lies in a “radical” analysis of the data concerning Christian origins along strictly scientific lines, without fervent faith or blind belief in the gospel story preventing us from seeing the facts. What we discover when we look closely at the evidence is that the gospel story represents a largely fictional account begun towards the end of the first century, and reworked and reformatted until the end of the second century, at which point it was solidly written into history and backdated to the beginning of the first century. With these facts in mind, especially that there is no credible scientific evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ at any point, or for the existence of the four canonical gospels as we h ave them before the end of the second century, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall neatly into place.
One of these pieces would be the allegorizing “short works” of the Therapeuts depicted by Philo around 20 to 30 AD/CE that possibly discussed the coming messiah or a spiritual savior not yet incarnate, Hellenized texts that were later Gnosticized and historicized in several different directions until they eventually ended up codified in the four canonical gospels at the end of the second century. Another, of course, would be the pre-existing Church structure complete with hierarchy and holidays that existed in Egypt and elsewhere, known by the name of “Therapeuts” and other designations.
Viewing this situation scientifically and logically, factoring in all the correspondences between the Egyptian and Christian religions, could we not reasonably conclude that, rather than having been instituted by a supernatural Jewish son of God, a significant part of Christianity constitutes the natural outcome of a Hellenizing and allegorizing Jewish sect living outside of Alexandria, home of the famed library possessing half a million texts from around the known world, including many discussing religion and mythology? – CiE p.455
I still don’t know what the evidence is that Hipparchus or any of the ancients understood precession to be 26,000 years.
Nor do I know what early Christian tombs you are referring to with the fish symbols.
I respect Michael Turton’s thought highly, but have to disagree with the view that the Historicist-Mythicist difference involves “a clash over the same body of data over which there are divergent interpretive views.” One of the problems I repeatedly encounter is that so much meaningful and critical data that underpin the mythicist position are largely off the table when it comes to scholarly discussion. Mandaism is a case in point (one of many). It is hardly studied at all yet is, in my view, the most authentic surviving link with Nazoreanism–or, if you will, the religion of “John the Baptist” and pre-Christian gnosticism.
Not too long ago I came across a text that has never been translated into a modern language: the Acts of Mark. It sheds an incredibly important light on Mark, e.g. that he was a disciple of the Baptist. The Acta Marci (extant in Greek now for decades) continues to receive a most severe cold shoulder by academics. Another work I came across, dating from the turn of the era is the Book of Gad the Seer. The “editor” refuses to publish it.
No, I don’t think mythicists and historicists are working from the same data. The problem is that so much data are explicitly or implicitly off the table.
Sorry–I meant “Michael” [Turton], not “Robert.”–RS
— (the above comment has now been corrected — Neil)
Rene Salm is spot on!
Here’s more data that is completely omitted and purposely kept off the table:
“At Stonehenge in England and Carnac in France, in Egypt and Yucatan, across the whole face of the earth are found mysterious ruins of ancient monuments, monuments with astronomical significants. These relics of other times are as accessible as the American Midwest and as remote as the jungles of Guatemala. Some of them were built according to celestial alignments; others were actually precision astronomical observatories … Careful observation of the celestial rhythms was compellingly important to early peoples, and their expertise, in some respects, was not equaled in Europe until three thousand years later.”
– Dr. Edwin Krupp, astronomer and director at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, ‘In Search of Ancient Astronomies,’ page xiii
There’s more here:
Rebuttal to Historian Dr. Chris Forbes
This is rubbish. First, it is absurd to assert that this particular topic is “purposely kept off the table” as if through some sort of conspiracy. The reason the astronomical properties of Stonehenge is kept out of New Testament studies is because it is completely absurd to suggest they have any relevance there.
Again, no-one is denying the certain ancient peoples knew about precession of the equinoxes, or that there was a strong interest in astrology. I think we can all take that sort of thing as well-founded. David Ulansey even presents a coherent case that Mithraism originated in concert with a certain understanding of the precession of the equinoxes. Malina can safely argue that the Book of Revelation is threaded together through astrological imagery.
But to attempt to leap from any of this across a yawning chasm to Christianity itself originating as a response to beliefs about precession or other astronomical phenomena — and to do so on the strength of finding keyword needles in the haystack of the Gospels — is nothing but hocus pocus phantasmagorical parallelomania.
Again, let me stress that I am by no means opposed on principle to the possibility of some astronomical/astrological beliefs playing some part in Christian origins, but when advocates of this view start pointing to the lack of reference to Stonehenge in biblical studies as evidence of some deliberate censorship and can provide absolutely nothing more rigorous by way of argument than their own imaginations, they have excluded themselves from any right to participation in scholarly or serious discussions.
Neil, I would recommend studying the subject before constantly denying and dismissing everything immediately as “rubbish” and “absurd” in a knee-jerk reaction. There was no claim that Stonehenge had a direct influence upon Christianity. The point was that archaeoastronomy was rampant in the pre-xian Pagan world as Dr. Krupp makes categorically clear. The credible evidence is there when one actually studies the subject, which is not currently blessed with a legit department of study making it easy for biased and un-objective critics to dismiss.
One will certainly never get approval of this work from NT scholars who only narrowly focus on the bible as they are not require to study the mythical or astrotheological aspects to receive a Ph.D. so, why would we trust their views on this subject when they are ignorant of it? Bart Ehrman’s ‘DJE’ is a case in point.
Gerald Hawkins’ 1965 book, ‘Stonehenge Decoded,’ showed that Stonehenge was a giant prehistoric observatory as well as a temple. The point is that the religious astrotheological concepts are there, not just at Stonehenge but the other places Dr. Krupp mentioned as well (and many more far older), it took over 20 years for Hawkins work to finally be accepted. Archaeoastronomy only recently became a legit department in the mid-90’s. They still need to add the astrotheological aspects to it or create a department of astrotheological studies. Perhaps then it will receive the respect it deserves. One will never fully understand Christianity without the astrotheological and mythical aspects.
The astrotheological and mythical aspects are certainly purposely kept out of the religious discussion as anyone who’s studied the subject knows:
“Scholarly Opinion” by Earl Doherty
National Geographic’s “Ancient Astronomers”
Max, you have completely misread my own comment and the quotations of Doherty and the National Geographic reference do absolutely nothing to support the relevance of “astrotheology” to Christian origins as you misleadingly imply. I have pointed out what evidence means — real evidence relevant to Christian origins — and you simply do not grasp the concept of how evidence is validly used to support an argument. You are not listening, only arguing.
I find astrological references interesting. Though the significance of the fish in Christian iconography, is sometimes thought to derive in part from a reference to Noah. Noah being swallowed/interred and given up for dead, but then vomited back up into life, was thought to be (in the gospels themselves) a presage of resurrection.
(Old Testament Noah tales in turn by the way, are often thought by mythographers to have derived ultimately from clearly related Northern/Babylonian myths of people being swallowed by fish).
You meant Jonah, not Noah. The earliest Christian artwork depicting this, as far as I am aware, is the Santa Maria sarcophagus of the early third century: http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/Sarcophagus-Santa-Maria-Antiqua.html Why presume an astrological connection, though, and if so, so what? (Those are rhetorical questions.)
Well, again, in much the same point I made above, one reason for suspecting astrological symbolism in the story of Jonah is because its predecessor stories were thought to be symbolizing astrological phenomenon as well. Although, admittedly, it’s certainly possible that the intentions of the originators of the motif got lost in the shuffle over the centuries so that by the time the Jews reinvented it for themselves, the astronomy in it was lost on them. However, that Jonah getting eaten by a great fish and then regurgitated after three days parallels a previous story is too conspicuous.
The scholiast on Homer’s Illiad attests that Hellanicus told of a variant myth in which Hercules had to rescue Hesione from the sea monster Ketus, and in the course of the battle Hercules was swallowed by the sea monster and then returned after three days, having lost all of his hair in the process.
Following Hellanicus, Lycophron also attests to this story as well, although only Hellanicus would predate Jonah, given that the most recurrent date I have seen modern scholars agree on for Jonah is 4th cen. BCE, around a century after Hellanicus, and a century before Lycophron. “The book is anonymous and was probably composed during the 4th century BC.” – George W. Coats, Academic American Encyclopedia Vol. 11 (1995), p.442.
Although, of course, scholars can be found dating it as early as the 5th or as late as the 3rd.
Several writers have noted that many of the Hercules myths are metaphors for astrological phenomenon, such as his 12 trials symbolizing the sun’s journey through the zodiac. I know even church fathers have acknowledged that one. I want to say Clement of Alexandria did in Stromata, but I’ll have to double check.
Given that Hercules’ stories come with astrological baggage, it seems reasonable to suspect that his being swallowed by Ketus for three days likewise comes with some as well.
Lycophron also told a variant story of Perseus in which he too was swallowed and returned from the belly of a sea monster as well.
We also know from a depiction on a dish dated to the early 5th cen. BCE (thus also most likely pre-dating Jonah) that there was a variant myth in which Jason was swallowed by the dragon and regurgitated as well. All the while the golden fleece, in full lamb form, is hanging on a tree in the background. So a lamb is hung on a tree while the hero is swallowed (possibly even killed?) and regurgitated (and possibly resurrected).
We know even from Jesus’ himself that this motif of being swallowed and regurgitated is a parallel for dying and resurrecting.
For the astrological symbolism of death-resurrection/swallow-regurgitation and three days as the time between the winter solstice and the “rebirth” of the sun when the increase in day light was visibly noticeable, I simply refer you to Roger Pearse’s fantastic blog articles here:
So in summary, Jesus parallels Jonah; Jonah parallels Hercules/Perseus/Jason/etc.; these heroes, especially Hercules, are marred with astrological symbolism; so in this case that symbolism is most likely that of the winter solstice and rebirth of the sun three days later.
But as you said- so what? Bretton simply said he found it interesting, that’s all. Which ultimately is about the only thing that most of this stuff here amounts to. Most of the rest of the world really just doesn’t seem to give a damn about Christian origins, even most Christians.
I’m getting tired of this influx of rambling posts repeating nothing new and failing to make any evidence based connection to Christian origins.
This is the last one.
If anyone wishes to make a clear evidenc-based case for astrotheology then do so. For a start, I would be most interested in my questions being directly answered. Anything else I will probably delete.
That post in particular was not about Christian origins. It was about Jonah. You say here that you would like your questions to be directly answered, and your question to which I was responding, as I made clear at the beginning, was your question “Why presume an astrological connection,” and that question being in reference to Jonah.
And that I question I most certainly did answer directly.
And it wasn’t even asked to me directly. It’s weird, this last reply of yours makes it seem like you expect me to answer your questions that you’ve been asking of Tat, and are extrapolating your frustrations with his answers over onto mine.
My apologies if my post was “repeating nothing new”, I was not aware that the information in my post was already in your blog. I’ll do a word search to try and find it so I can just have your URLs handy to link to instead should the need arise again and thus save space in future comments.
However, if you are not referring to my info repeating something already in your blog specifically, but rather simply repeating info in general that is publicly available, well then of course, but in that case, any post here can be reduced to the description of “repeating nothing new”, including all of your own.
And in either case, if all of that information in my previous post was nothing new to you or anyone else, one has to wonder why you even asked that question (the one I was responding to) in the first place.
So you & everyone else did in fact already know that one reason “why presume an astrological connection” in Jonah was because the stories it mimics were themselves said to be reflecting astrological motifs?
Okay then, my bad. I didn’t get the memo, my apologies.
And just to clarify again, this post right here & now is indeed responding to your post above (and is doing so DIRECTLY), it is not meant to be responding on behalf of the questions you’ve posed to Tat.
The question I asked and have asked from the beginning is — in this specific context — where is the evidence that the Gospels used Jonah as an astrological symbol. There is a completely satisfactory and far more obvious explanation for the use of this motif staring every reader of the Bible in the face without having to resort to suggestions of cryptic hints of astrology.
Woops: Jonah of course. There are however early, possibly related fish references in the north, to both Jonah … and Noah’s flood.
Just noting fish references any and everywhere in the Near East from any ancient era does nothing to advance an argument for the Christian use of the fish, least of all for the references to fish in the earliest gospel. This is the same mistake as astrotheologians or whatever make by creatively linking a certain interpretation of Stonehenge to Christian origins.
I’m not disagreeing with that. You yourself have suggested that the most likely source for most New Testament passages – and say to fish in the present example – are Old Testament passages. More than astrology. I might agree partially, at least in the present case. And I am furnishing another example of NT “fish” ideas borrowed from the OT. In your support.
In this case there is textual evidence that the New Testament intended to invoke a specific Old Testament “fish” motiff: when Jesus is pictured saying that to his own generation, no sign would be given … “except the sign of Jonah.” Which was explicitly taken in the gospel as an – albeit obscure, allegorical – reference to resurrection (Mat. 12.39 ff; cf. “no sign” at all in Mark 8.12).
Though to be sure? There are several scholarly works linking these NT and OT references in turn, to … early ANE myths, historically. So there is some scholarly evidence there. To some extent, this IS done first of all, 1) on the basis of formal/structural/litearary resemblance or parallels. Though 2) this formal parallel is next also corroborated in scholarly literature – by dates, and known patterns of cultural diffusion.
Literary, structural evidence from formal parallels, is a first useful hint of a real historical relationship. Though of course to be firmed up, to be deemed to be “history,” patterns of cross-cultural similarities, evidenced in literary analysis, need to be confirmed by other historical information.
And 3) it needs to be linked to Christian texts … as I have just done in Mat. 12.39ff.
There are already multiple explanations for why Christians would start using the fish symbolism.
1. The first person in the Bible to be named “Jesus” was the son of a guy named “fish”.
2. Matt likens the resurrection with the sign of Jonah – a fish
3. Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen
4. Jesus multiplies fish as an allegory for the conversion of Jews and Gentiles
There’s no need to posit additional entities unnecessarily. Astrotheology doesn’t provide any further reasons why Christians would use fish iconography, we already have fish iconography in the OT. Appealing to astrology at this point is like trying to shoehorn god into biological evolution when biological evolution doesn’t need a god to explain it.
“Again, no-one is denying the certain ancient peoples knew about precession of the equinoxes, or that there was a strong interest in astrology. I think we can all take that sort of thing as well-founded. David Ulansey even presents a coherent case that Mithraism originated in concert with a certain understanding of the precession of the equinoxes. Malina can safely argue that the Book of Revelation is threaded together through astrological imagery.”
So would you say that Christianity arose in an environment where Mithraism was known?
Seeing as how you know more about precession than you previously led on, have you gone through Joseph Campbell’s work on it as well?
The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion
“For example, in the Hindu sacred epics…the number of years reckoned to the present cycle of time, the so-called Kali Yuga, is 432,000; the number reckoned to the “great cycle”, within this Yuga falls is 4,320,000. But then reading one day in the Icelandic Eddas, I discovered that in Othin’s warrior hall, there were 540 doors, through each of which, on the “Day of The Wolf” (that is to say at the end of the present cycle of time), there would pass 800 divine warriors to engage the antigods in a mutual battle of annihilation. 800 x 540 = 432,000.
…In Babylon, I then recalled, there had been a Chaldean priest, Berossos, who c. 280 BCE., had rendered into Greek an account of the history and mythology of Babylonia, wherein it was told that between the rise of the first city, Kish, and the coming of the Babylonian mythological flood (from which that of the bible is taken), there elapsed 432,000 years, during which antediluvian era, ten kings reigned. Very long lives! Longer even than Methuselah’s (Genesis 5:27), which had been of 969.
So I turned to the Old Testament (Genesis 5) and counting the number of antediluvian patriarchs, Adam to Noah, discovered, of course, that they were ten. How many years? Adam was 130 years old when he begat Seth, who was 105 when he begat Enosh, and so on, to Noah, who was 600 years old when the flood came: to a grand total, from the first day of Adams creation to the first drop of rain of Noah’s flood, of 1,656 years. Any relation to 432,000? …it was shown that in 1,656 years there are 86,400 seven-day weeks. 86,400 divided by 2 equals 43,200.
And so it appears that in the book of Genesis there are two contrary theologies represented in relation to the deluge. One is the old tribal, popular tale of a willful, personal creator god, who saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth…” (Genesis 5:6-7). The other idea, which is in fundamental contrast, is that of the disguised number, 86,400, which is a deeply hidden reference to the Gentile, Sumero-Babylonian, mathmatical cosmology of ever-revolving cycles of impersonal time, with whole universes and their populations coming into being, flowering for a season of 43,200 (432,000 or 4,320,000) years, dissolving back into the cosmic mother-sea to rest for an equal amount of years before returning, and so again, and again, and again.
It is to be noticed, by the way, that 1+6+5+6=18, which is twice 9, while 4+3+2=9: 9 being associated with the goddess mother of the world and it’s gods. In India the number of recited names in a litany of this goddess is 108. 1+0+8= 9, while 108 X 4 = 432. …It is strange that in our history books the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes should be attributed to Hipparchus, second century BC., when the magic number 432 (which when multiplied by 60 produces 25,920) was already employed in the reckoning of major cycles of time before that century).
This is the number (432) of the goddess, or nature. And it ties into precession mythology which informed the Babylonians and apparently also the post Babylonian bible writing periods like the Septuagint and so on.
Looking back at the Abraham and Moses myth situation I’d like to point out that it’s not necessary that these myths were written just after the ages turned from Taurus to Aries, back Mithraism is alleged to have began. The OT books were basically written and filtered through Alexandria a mere hundreds of years before the common era, even if based on old oral traditions. With any of the above knowledge a priest or scribe could assign the proper symbolism to a story which was meant to be projected back in time to earlier periods. The Bull to Ram myths do just that, back date the story line to a given era from the perspective of people living in the late age of Aries privy to these astrological symbols.
Anyone privy to the style of the OT writers had all the reason to take notice that the vernal equinox sunrise was now rising in Pisces instead of Aries and another similar passage of time had occurred like what is described in the Abraham and Moses myths. In keeping with what the OT writers had done with their symbolism, it seems that some felt compelled to extend the same reasoning into the common era and repeat the myth making. And you have to stand back and look at the primary biblical writing periods too. They just so happened to come alive just before the end of the age of Aries and just after the age of Pisces began. That amounts to writing efforts to end the Great Year and writings efforts to kick off the beginning of the new. I’m just saying that this level could be part of the midrash. The astrological symbolism can be just as easily passed down from Judaism as well as the pagan nations. And with Gnostic peoples it seems best understood as a combination of the two. Quote mining the OT seems like a process that was layered several fold…
I object to your insinuation I was somehow hiding something from you in an attempt to mislead you in any way with my questions. I suggest you have been the one to read too much into my statements.
I asked two simple questions. The more you write the less willing or less capable you seem to be of answering them.
Blimy, my brain goes on strike when I see all these numbers being messed about with. Reminds me of Dirac’s large number hypothesis and other “must be more than chance coincidence” conjectures. Or the computer working away in the novel “Foucaoult’s pendulum”. The pattern picturing propensity of the human psyche can spot coincidences in sets of numbers and endow them with meaning, when objectively it would be very improbable that there would be no such apparent patterns, arising at random. All this precession stuff is interesting in working out how the planets and Earth move and when and how it was discovered but has surely no deep religious meaning – or am I just being dogmatic in not wanting to bother to read all this numerology business.
The answers have given to you in the provided links several times over. Hipparchus figured out the movement of precession which applied to the entire circle of zodiacal constellations amounts to nearly 2,600 years. The myths Campell outlined use the number of the goddess (432) which render the same nearly 2.600 year figure (25,920 years). I don’t know if read the links or not but that’s what Hipparchus’ so called discovery of the precession of the equinoxes renders by knowing that the vernal equinox sunrise will precess backwards through the 12 constellations. The modern number assigned to precession has been further refined, so the numbers used in the myths are the way that the ancients were calculating it. The number of the goddess Hipparchus’ figures do not render the modern empirical solution as it turns out, but they were close to it.
And the fish imagery on the tombs in the catacombs dating to the 2nd century and beyond is what I’ve linked to previously. That’s what tracing back some of the oldest Christian iconography traces back to, as well as the lore of Christians drawing the symbol of the fish in the sand as a code for knowing one another as Christian which apparently dates back further.
a) Precession was known via Ptolemy (using Hipparchus) from at least the 2nd century BCE, if not much earlier.
b) The Gnostics were a Hellenized Jewish oriented group of various sub sects which were highly astrological in their mysticism.
c) Mythicists assert that Gnostic ideas predated Orthodoxy and that one or more cosmic Christ Ideas were in circulation pre-orthodoxy.
d) Gnostics were concerned with the world ages known as Aeons.
e) The current world age or Aeon of the first century was the fresh new age of Pisces (observable @ every vernal equinox sunrise)
f) Some of the oldest Christianity iconography is the symbol of the fish (Pisces) and it was used as a symbol of recognition between cultists.
g) The Age of Pisces begins the ascending half of the Great Year of precession which had world savior mythology attached to it and layered heavily with solar symbolism during a time post dated previous cults which were likewise heavily layered with solar symbolism and possibly precession themes such as Mithraism.
and on, and on, and on……
I have been requesting an answer to my 2 questions ever since I asked them. No, they have not been answered.
What is the evidence that Hipparchus calculated precession to 26000 years (and that this was considered a Platonic Great Year)? You have not given me any (except to speak generally of Platonic Great Years — which was close, so let’s answer the second part now — that Hipparchus knew precession as 26,000 years) — all you have given me is a reference to an astrologer who says a scientist thinks . . . . I am asking for the primary or original source evidence that demonstrates this claim.
My other question was to ask for the specific earliest iconography to which you were referring as evidence of the centrality of the fish symbol — you have not pointed to any specific images for discussion or dating.
Here was the original form of my question in which I asked for the above information:
As mentioned in the links Hipparchus’s work has really not survived and Ptolemy citations of Hipparchus’s work are really all that’s left to go by. It’s known that Hipparchus’s work was extant until the 4th century however, but for various reasons it did not survive the following years of Christian document copying process. Here’s an informative article which covers the mystery and history of the gap between Hipparchus and Ptolemy:
Directly following Hipparchus’s time (1st centuries BCE and CE) there was an out break of cults focused on an end of the old world and end times and so on. Christianity arose out of this very thing and did so along side of the astrological cults like Mithraism and Gnosticism. Hipparchus was an astrological teacher as well as an astronomer. And of course the Christian copiests of the dark and middle ages may have simply stopped copying his works because of the astrological content.
This is my point. You do not know the primary evidence. You are relying entirely on secondary literature. I put it to you that what you are reading is entirely extrapolation from Ptolemy and not what Ptolemy himself wrote. There is no evidence that Hipparchus understood or taught that precession was a 26,000 year period. The evidence indicates he believed it was 36000 years– a one degree movement every 100 years. I want to know the evidence itself, not what astrologers or other say or speculate on the basis of their particular readings of the evidence. I suggest you don’t know the evidence but are basing your views entirely on readings of a select range of secondary literature that you find supporting what you want to believe.
You also do not understand how social movements work in history — or even in any period. This is where a broader understanding of history would be of great help. To suggest — as one source does — that many “end of age/new age” cults arose in the wake of Hipparchus, implying that Hipparchus’s discovery of precession itself was responsible for these cults, is entirely fantasy.
There are many social-economic factors that go into the propulsion of new social movements. One does not need Hipparchus or any other single person or event in the second century to explain them. The idea of new ages being born among ancient literate classes is there quite apart from any astronomical/astrological discoveries. The concept is a common theme of literature throughout the mythology and political propaganda of the ancient Near East, Greeks and Romans. Ages come and go as do generations of mythological beings or the fall of old and rise of new kings.
“What is the evidence that Hipparchus calculated precession to 26000 years (and that this was considered a Platonic Great Year)? You have not given me any (except to speak generally of Platonic Great Years — which was close, so let’s answer the second part now — that Hipparchus knew precession as 26,000 years)”
Hipparchus writings were extant through the 4th century but the only remaining reference to his writings is through Ptolemy:
“We know his writings were widely published and survived at least into the 4th century CE. For instance, his influence is evident in the writings of Strabo (1st century BCE) and the Roman author Pliny in the 1st Century CE. Ptolemy obviously had ready access to Hipparchus’s most technical material in Alexandria in the 2nd century CE, and relied on it in compiling his Almagest. Pappus of Alexandria (3rd century CE) and Theon of Alexandria (4th century CE) also knew his work, but after that, 13 of his 14 books disappear.”
But from what can assertained through Ptolemy, Hipparchus’s calculations were as such:
“Hipparchus was also unsure about the actual rate of precession. In fact, somewhere between Hipparchus and Ptolemy, the rate got hopelessly distorted, with long-term consequences. In the Almagest, Ptolemy (Almagest, VII.2) quotes Hipparchus himself from On the Precession of Solstitial and Equinoctial Points (no longer extant), for a series of observations of the star, Spica.15 These observations would have yielded a precessional rate of 1 degree in a little over 75 years, had Ptolemy checked the math. Instead, Ptolemy quoted another rate, 1 degree in 100 years, which Hipparchus had tentatively proposed in his On the Magnitude of the Solar Year (no longer extant).16 Even though Hipparchus only suspected this was the rate, subject to a number of conditions, this latter value was accepted by Theon of Alexandria and remained in use for centuries, confusing astronomers everywhere, while the former, and more accurate value had to be rediscovered many times over before it was finally accepted.”
So it appears that Hipparchus was very close to the 1 degree in 71.6 years empirical to modern astronomy. But Ptolemy distorted the number which is more or less what was discussed in the previous link. And the 2,600 year number is the rough estimate way of talking about it, I get the sense that you’re taking 2,600 years as a firm number in which to argue as absolute. It’s not. And it was never presented that way. It’s just a basic way of referring to the mythic precession of 432 X 60= 25,920 years found in mythologies long predating Hipparchus, which, caused Joseph Campbell to question Hipparchus’s discovery of precession. But that’s all explained in previous posts too.
In any case, Hipparchus’s calculations present a 1 degree in 75 year precession of the zodiacal constellations @ the equinox. That in turns presents a total round about all of the constellations of the zodiac in the 2,600 year +/- range which is what the Great Year is, it’s simply the round of the sun through all of the constellations of the zodiac as per the precession of the equinoxes. This was apparently a part of the numberical mythology of ancient peoples before Hipparchus and after. But after Hipparchus in the centuries before and after the common era, there was a whole slew of mythologizing and mysticism in his wake, as is touched on in the provided links with citations.
“My other question was to ask for the specific earliest iconography to which you were referring as evidence of the centrality of the fish symbol — you have not pointed to any specific images for discussion or dating.”
First of all, that’s what Christians themselves beleive and will tell you when asked: http://cyber-church.com/shortseries/Symbolism.htm
“The Ichthus or fish symbol is probably the oldest of all Christian symbols. …Tradition has it that in times of persecution a believer would, upon meeting and unknown person, use a stick to draw an arch on the ground. Then, if the newcomer was also a believer he (or she) would take the sick and draw the second arch creating the Ichthus (fish) and thus covertly identifying themselves to one another.”
Pretty central to early Christianity. And because of centrality it appears as iconography on the tombs in the catacombs of the 2nd century. Even this Jesus Tomb nonsense does show in any case that the fish symbol was there from early on:
And through to the catacombs of Rome as well:
In other words, there is no evidence that Hipparchus knew precession was 26,000 years. This idea is entirely speculation. How can we know what Hipparchus really was thinking etc if we rely entirely upon Ptolemy’s supposed “distortions” of his work? How can we know Ptolemy did distort his work if his own work is now lost? This is entirely speculation, it seems to me.
In one article you pointed to pyramids are used as evidence precession was known before Hipparchus, but that article was again offering nothing but speculation. All it said was that subsequent generations of Egyptians would have noticed a slight misalignment with the stars and have therefore drawn the conclusion that the heavens had moved. There is absolutely not a scrap of evidence for this. Until some is found it is fallacious to build a theory upon this unsupported speculation.
Again with my second question you have not given me any specific and dated images of Christian symbols indicating the fish as representative of their faith. If we are going to argue that the fish symbol had a significant role in the very origin of Christianity then we are going to need to find evidence for it being in existence from the very origins of Christianity — and not something that was added later. You have only pointed me to one article that is entirely speculative (there is no evidence — only speculation — that it had anything to do with Christianity at all) and another that is a very generalized discussion of fish symbols in catacombs. It was that claim that led to my question in the first place. What are the specific images that are upheld as evidence? Let’s get to the real evidence and examine it — instead of relying entirely on secondary literature that is so filled with speculation and generalities.
Hipparchus is or was credited with the founding of the precessions thats what they are trying to get you to see….as far as the fish Clement of Alexandria is the earliest known reference for this fish stuff….but then it all falls back to the Zodiac Pisces being the sign of the fish. The symbol can be seen in the Sacraments Chapel of the Catacombs of St. Callistus.
This is from the St Sebastian
Tertullian wrote (in “De Baptismo”) “But we, being little fishes, as Jesus Christ is our great Fish, begin our life in the water, and only while we abide in the water are we safe and sound.”
Sorry, Kritter, but I had not let several of your comments through partly because I suspected you were trying to make fun of Acharya S / D.M. Murdock and her supporters with illogical responses that were so embarrassing I thought they may possibly have been intended as a spoof. Because of that element of doubt I did not let them through.
But this comment of yours here that I have let through just now was one that I withheld much earlier because it was a repeat of the same old argument that I had addressed so many times earlier. (Laugh at me if I have been caught out by your subtle satire after all.) Assuming you are serious, my response is the same as it has always been with this sort of claim:
1. I have known ever since high school that Hipparchus has been credited with the discovery of precession of the equinoxes. (He did not, however, as you say, “found” them. Only God or blind laws of physics founded them.) So what? What’s your point?
2. Sorry, but I see no reason in the actual evidence to connect the earliest Christian use of fish imagery — the Gospels of Mark and John, for example — with the zodiacal sign of Pisces. You can catch by line or net all the fish symbols you like in early Christian literature and art and I still cannot see their relation to the Zodiacal sign of Pisces. You just make up that bit about the link to Pisces. It is simply not there in the evidence.
Now if I am wrong and have overlooked something, then I will welcome being better informed.
Well Neil, first of all, let’s figure out what in the world you mean by “Christian Origins.” Do have a fixed date in mind for the origins of Christianity? And if so what would that date be in your thinking?
Oh my goodness. You’re just like James McGrath in your ability to refuse to answer straight questions in comment after comment. I guess it’s a tactic one needs to cultivate when digging one’s heels in over unsupportable arguments. Just be upfront and tell me what iconography supports your claims — be specific — and yes, if you have an unconventional date for Christian origins, I’m open to considering that too — just stop trying to think up covers and retorts to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question.
I’m gathering enough material to do a post on the similar tactics and similarity of methodology and similar attitudes towards criticism found between apologists like McGrath and “astrotheologians”.
Let’s look at Doherty’s idea of early Christian origins which I’m sure we both agree with:
“We are led to conclude that the beginning of the Christian movement was not a response to any human individual at one time and location. Christianity was born in a thousand places, out of the fertile religious and philosophical soil of the time, expressing faith in an intermediary Son who was a channel to God, providing knowledge, love and salvation. It sprang up in many innovative minds like Paul’s, among independent communities and sects all over the empire, producing a variety of forms and doctrines. Some of it tapped into traditional Jewish Messiah expectation and apocalyptic sentiment, other expressions were tied to more Platonic ways of thinking. Greek mystery concepts also fed into the volatile mix. Many groups (though not all) adopted the term “Christ” for their divine figure, as well as the name “Jesus”, which in Hebrew has the meaning of “Savior”. Paul and the Jerusalem brotherhood around Peter and James were simply one strand of this broad salvation movement, although an important and ultimately very influential one. Later, in a mythmaking process of its own, the Jerusalem circle with Paul as its satellite was adopted as the originating cell of the whole Christian movement.”
What primary sources is this theory based on Neil?
Paul and the Gospels have no primary source confirmation in the first century. Nothing to even prove that Paul or any of the Disciples ever existed at all, just like Jesus. To my knowledge the whole New Testament appears into the literary and historical record in the 2nd century. We have to assume that any of the NT really does date to the first century. And some of it may, but we are speculating at best, Where’s the solid irrefutable evidence that places any bit of the above theory firmly into the literary and historical record of the first century?
By the very standard you’re trying to demand of me about astrotheology you have in turn wiped out Doherty completely and also yourself as a firm supporter of Doherty.
Or have I missed something?
This particular Christ myth theory relies on cryptic second hand (at best) information in order to try and piece together a probable origin for Christianity in the first century. And it does so by assuming that such Hellenizing elements from Gnostic peoples were in circulation at that time. We all only have what we do have in order to try and piece together a probable scenario for Christian origins and I thought that you of all people would be well aware of that Neil.
I’m trying to understand though. Maybe your response to the above inquiry will help me to better understand just what in the world is going on here and also what your real requirements for “evidence” consist of when analyzed in this light…
Thankyou. You have made your point clear and given me an answer I was wanting to know. My suspicions are confirmed. Henceforth astrotheology is off the agenda completely as far as I am concerned unless someone can demonstrate a more logically and methodolically valid underpinning than this.
You are saying, in effect, that you do not need primary sources to establish your case — and appear to think Doherty’s arguments are just as flawed.
Doherty’s argument is not based on primary source material if by primary sources we mean artefacts from the time in question. His arguments rest on clear documentary evidence, clear statements of beliefs of a range of Christian-type cults. Yours rests upon “cryptic second hand (at best) information”. So yours needs something else to give your interpretation credibility — enter primary sources that you now seem to imply are not necessary anyway to support your views — while Doherty already has the plain statements of beliefs and teachings in the evidence.
So I am not demanding a different standard of you. I am asking only that you give me external or clear supporting evidence for your interpretation of this “cryptic second hand” data. Doherty’ case rests on clear supporting evidence. Yours does not. There is no primary evidence for your views any more than there is for Doherty’s. But you were the one who claimed there was initially — hence my question.
I have spent a lot of energy addressing scholarly arguments. I think it may be useful for some if I also from time to time attempt to address the flaws in astrotheology, too. But one can only read so much at once. Will see what I can do down the track.
Neil, it looks like the other side of this conversation is also going on over here:
Thanks for this — though it’s something from one perspective I would rather not have seen. It is clear now that none of the “astrotheology” advocates who recently appeared here had the slightest comprehension of what I was trying to do when I was attempting to engage and question them. They took it all as bigotry, psychological hangups, and even as “abuse” against them and Murdock/Archyra personally! They discuss tactics for getting others interested in their belief-system — so it was a mistake to mention von Daniken, they need to point out more of the kudos for their heroine from names of people I “support”, — that is, it is not about intellectual discussion but about winning converts, it seems.
My attempt to zero in on a couple of claims and pushing them for evidence and valid linkages to early Christianity is interpreted as “obsessing” or “freaking out” over a few details and missing — or deliberately being unable to cope with, they would put it — the big picture.
I am particularly disappointed in Robert Tulip for his personal attacks and psychological analysis of me to excuse his failure to persuade me; and also disappointed in D. M. Murdock whom I have never attacked personally — I have publicly deplored the personal attacks of others against her — calling me a “bigot”. A few times I have offered criticism but never abuse. I find her efforts to convince readers that her “scholarship” is considered first-rate in the academic world among anyone who is not “a bigot” risible — extracting phrases from emails out of context without allowing us to see exactly what it was that the authors were, specifically, responding to.
These people remind me of Steph Fisher and Mike Boobs — coming here with all superficial civility but revealing on other venues their true colours and why they are not listening or engaging with the point of anything I attempt to argue with them.
They are not interested in discussion of methods — when you (Kirt) said the link was to the “other side of this conversation” I naively expected to find a discussion about the points I was making about method and logic and how to explain causes and support and test arguments, etc. If I do not agree with their conclusions that is enough for them to call me a bigot and find psychological issues in my make up by doing the same thing Casey and McGrath do, fabricating issues out of their fantasies about my cult history.
Added since posting the above:
Robert Tulip seems most upset that I did not run my blog according to his own requests by allowing him to post an article on astrotheology here and to set up a special post and thread — instead I confined the discussion to a post where I had mentioned Murdock/Acharya in a footnote to a discussion about method.
I attempted to address the methods of the proponents of astrotheology — and to be open minded to it all — but it has all backfired on me. They don’t seem to be very nice people over there.
When you walk into a lion’s den with a pork chop hanging around your neck do expect the lions to be nice? Why would you not allow him to post the article? If your that confident in your supposed assessment of astrotheology then the article should not be a threat but an invitation.
I invited Robert Tulip to post his arguments here but he refused. He insisted I allow him to post a blog article — not a blog comment — on my blog. That is, he was insisting I change the theme and purpose of my blog to suit him. I reminded him he was welcome to post his arguments as a comment or anywhere else and I looked forward to responding to them. But he chose not to do so.