2013-10-18

The Propaganda War Against Mythicism

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by Neil Godfrey

As their weapon of choice against the Christ Myth hypothesis (“mythicism”), theologians, religion and Biblical scholars appear from where I stand to regularly deploy the instruments of propaganda. The motivations appear to me to be to maintain

  • their status and reputation in a society infested with critical and anti-establishment influences, and
  • their control over the terms of religious debates, dictating what are legitimate topics for review and what are not.

I use the term “propaganda” because it’s yet another valid way of explaining what is happening. Simpler expressions are “labeling” and “framing the debate”. Adding the concept of “propaganda” to the list might help us understand more clearly what is actually happening in these “discussions”.

Lasswell
Harold Lasswell

To me the word “propaganda” stands for the opposite of true education, democratic or honest intellectual engagement and dialogue. Here’s a description of “what propaganda is” from some passages from the classic article “The Theory of Political Propaganda” by Harold Lasswell and first published (as far as I am aware in 1927) in the American Political Science Review:

Propaganda is the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols . . . Collective attitudes are amenable to many modes of alteration . . . But their arrangement and rearrangement occurs principally under the impetus of significant symbols; and the techniques of using significant symbols for this purpose is propaganda. . . . [As opposed to education] propaganda to the creation of valuational dispositions or attitudes. [What I would call honest dialogue] implies the search for the solution of a besetting problem with no desire to prejudice a particular solution in advance. The propagandist is very much concerned about how a specific solution is to be evoked and “put over.” And though the most subtle propaganda closely resembles disinterested deliberation, there is no difficulty in distinguishing the extremes. (my bolding)

Propaganda, I suggest, is the primary weapon used by the academy of biblical scholars and theologians against the Christ Myth theory. I have encountered very few genuine efforts of academics to “educate” the public (that is, “educate” as opposed to sway them by “propaganda”, given that “propaganda” is a process akin to “indoctrination”) or even to “educate” their peers of the deficiencies in any one of the “mythicist” cases.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is that it manipulates symbols with the intent of bringing about social control. The symbols must have major significance for the audience, significant enough for them to hold real power over tan audience’s emotional reactions — “ideally, symbols of the Sacred and the Satanic.” (Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, p. 12)

Understand the power of symbols.

Symbols are related to the psychological phenomenon of the stereotype. A stereotype is a seeming value judgment, acquired by belonging to a group, without any intellectual labor. . . The stereotype arises from the feelings one has for one’s group, or against the “out-group.” . . .  In propaganda, existing stereotypes are awakened by symbols. (Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, p. 163)

Probably the most used symbol in the propaganda war against mythicism is “The Scholar”. This symbol has siblings: “peer review”, “published in a reputable/academic journal”, “PhD”, “scholarly training”, “skilled in relevant languages”, to identify some.

Now I know some people will jump on that above sentence and accuse me of suggesting that “scholarly training” and being “skilled in biblical languages” are nothing more than worthless empty symbols. And such an effort will itself be demonstrating how propaganda works. By ignoring nuance they will be reinforcing the power of the symbol itself and the mechanics of propaganda. They will be reaffirming that “The Scholar” is sensible, wise, naturally right, while the critic who is associated with the enemy, “mythicism”, is vacuous, unavoidably silly, dumb and risible.

Recall the Sacred and the Satanic.

The Scholar thus is the symbol of the wise and sensible and knowledgable; and the target “mythicist” falls into the very opposite of all that the Scholar symbol represents.

The important thing to note is that none of this is an intellectual engagement. It is a manipulation of attitudes. It is an emotive appeal to the public to side with what they innately know is right, with the wise and good, and to eschew the opposite of what is right and healthy.

Mythicists are associated with the “Satanic” symbols: fundamentalists, creationists, holocaust-deniers, anti-intellectuals, parallelomaniacs, self-published, unpublished, amateurs, unskilled, untrained, bloggers . . . .

But propaganda must appear to be realistic and honest (Ellul, p.240). So where there are PhDs among the mythicist this must be recognized; and where questions raised by mythicism are also questions asked by The Trained and Published Scholars, this too must be acknowledged. Yes, even Scholars have wondered why Paul does not write more about the historical Jesus; yes, Brodie and Carrier and Price are “real scholars” but we must regrettably (with the respect always due to fellow Scholars) call them failed colleagues who are no better than all that is opposed to “real scholarship”.

The message is again conveyed through the game with the symbols.

Recall how Bart Ehrman, James McGrath, Maurice Casey, Rabbi Joseph Hoffmann, Larry Hurtado, have all ostensibly addressed some particular argument of mythicists. They have, I submit, consistently embedded their arguments within the language of the symbol. The mythicist is an ex-fundamentalist on a crusade against Christianity, he is an outsider, not a real scholar, and so forth. At the same time enough of the mythicist argument will be acknowledged — remember propaganda must always appear to be honest — to give the impression that the Scholar is indeed living up to all that his status as a Scholar implies.

The manipulation of symbols is necessary for three reasons. First of all, it persuades the individual to enter the framework of an organization. Second, it furnishes him with reasons, justifications, motivations for action. Third, it obtains his total allegiance. (Ellul, p. 23)

There is no room for shades of grey. You are with us Scholars or against us. Actually, not so much “with us” as “following us”, “listening to us”, “respecting us and what we say”. The audience is meant to believe it has the only sensible and good reason possible for embracing the wisdom of the Scholars.

And where does all this end?

The reason propaganda-talk is necessary is because there is genuine disagreement between those who speak up within the academy and some who speak out from without the academy. Some people are disturbed by legitimate questions and plausible arguments that challenge the traditional wisdom of the establishment elites.

So what happens to these contradictions, questions, doubts when propaganda spearheaded by the elites and their lackeys enters?

As in all propaganda, the point is to make man endure, with the help of psychological narcotics, what he could not endure naturally, or to give him, artificially, reasons to continue his work and to do it well. This is the task of propaganda. . . .  (Ellul, p. 225)

Jacques Ellul is thinking of political propaganda to keep the working classes hard at it despite poor conditions and inadequate reward. But the same point applies to mental labour. The many points of confusion, of contradictions, of unanswered questions, can be endured if one emotionally sides with The Scholars. Those who are not “real Scholars” and who find ways of removing these confusions, contradictions and unanswered questions by constructing models that are alien to those constructed or inherited by the Real Scholars can offer nothing of value because they are not, well, “Real Scholars”. Their answers are by definition “unscholarly”. So the emotive power of the symbol of the wise and knowledgeable is enough to cause some of the audience to endure what become merely “apparent” contradictions, etc.

Jacques Ellul
Jacques Ellul

 

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43 Comments

  • Greg
    2013-10-18 07:04:01 GMT+0000 - 07:04 | Permalink

    One of life’s greatest ironies is that evils often inspire the institution of other evils to oppose them; the desire to thwart the control of another drives one to exercise their own control armed with any justification necessary to distance the nature of their cause from the one they are combating. Scholars such as James McGrath aim to defend academic freedom by making their stand against dangerous ideas in the name of truth, and yet it is this very act of labeling which belies such pretext and fosters the very environment they fear, yet crave: one which operates not on truth, but on maintaining a power dynamic. To whomever is on top if the “right” ideas hold power then this is proof that the system works; if they use their power to malign ideas it can be nothing but benign. And once the paradigm shifts the cycle continues because those who don’t understand evil are often the most certain.

  • 2013-10-18 16:02:57 GMT+0000 - 16:02 | Permalink

    I must agree, the tone, rhetoric and symbols used by the folks you mention all seem very propaganda-like. I am not sure where I stand on the mythicist option, but I find their input very valuable. And when I hear anti-mythicists using clear propaganda, it makes me immediately doubt their position because I can hear the protective, indignated stances.

  • Scot Griffin
    2013-10-18 16:05:36 GMT+0000 - 16:05 | Permalink

    I don’t know. It all seems less like propaganda and more like polemic, which has its own rhythms and patterns. The last refuge of an academic scoundrel is to point out that his opponent is not an academic.

    The problem that prominent mythicists seem to have is that they want to be accepted by the Academy. That’s why people like Richard Carrier kick people like Atwill: serious mythicists believe they are knocking on the door of academic legitimacy, and they don’t want the crazy aunt in th’s e attic coming down and ruining their chances of getting inside. This quest for “legitimacy” is what gives the Academics their power. Ironically, it is the deference that serious mythicists heap on the Academy that confirms the Academy’s rightful dominance, not the Academy’s own assertions of its symbols.

    Spending a little more time on the “takedowns” of Atwill, they bear striking similarities to how the Academics treat the serious mythicists. For example, it is clear that Carrier has either not actually read Atwill’s book or at least has not comprehended it. Atwill’s “paralellism” approach to reading the New Testament, is not, as Carrier dismissively chides, a “Bible Code”-style approach to reading a text but is, manifestly, an application of intertextuality, a legitimate approach to literary criticism. And Atwill states that he did indeed read the original Greek of Josephus, not just the vulgar English translation, as Carrier asserts (“which he seems only to read in English and not the original Greek”).

    A more striking parallel between the Academy’s treatment of mythicists and the serious mythicists’ treatment of Atwill is that they pick on multiple, small details and arguments to dismiss the big idea. There is no doubt that Atwill is overly enamored with the specifics of his theory and thus asserts all sorts of unknowable and, in some cases, plain wrong details as part of his theory of history, but the fact remains that if you accept that Josephus’ The Wars of the Jews pre-dated the Synoptic Gospels, which is plausible if not likely, then applying Carrier’s Bayesian analysis to the parallels between Josephus and the Gospels, the best explanation for those parallels is that the authors of the Gospels relied on Josephus as a common source. Does that prove that Rome created Christianity? No, but it does reopen the question of the nature of Christianity’s genesis. Did it really bubble up in a quasi-democratic religious community to become canon, as the Academy and serious mythicists insist, or was it imposed by the ruling elite? But just as academics don’t want to allow questioning of the historicity of Jesus, serious mythicists don’t want to allow questioning of the unproven assumption that Christianity was an organic, vulgar (as in arising from the common people) religious movement that evolved during the first few centuries of the Common Era until it was formally adopted by Rome.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2013-10-18 22:37:33 GMT+0000 - 22:37 | Permalink

      Sadly, I think you are right. There is nothing intrinsically bizarre with the idea that a religion could be started from the top and imposed on subjects. That is what has happened often enough through military conquest. As for the State-Invention of a religion, that is very close to what “minimalists” are arguing for the origins of Judaism — that it emerged as a response to resettlement of people into Palestine under the direction of Persia. Thompson appeals to evidence that as populations were deported and resettled (including in pre-Persian times) they could be taught to adopt a new religion or worship new gods.

      And if Bruno Bauer makes a comparable argument I would not scoff at the idea until I read it for myself. Bauer was not a dummy. (I don’t know the extent to which there is commonality between Atwill’s and Bauer’s ideas. I can’t take Carrier’s assertions at face-value.)

      I regret not taking more time to investigate Carrier’s claims about Atwill before I wrote my recent post about Atwill-kicking. Carrier does have a track record of kicking fellow mythicists without taking time to understand or even read properly their arguments. His treatment of Rene Salm comes to mind.

      I have known mythicists who have appeared to really want to have their work seriously considered by the academy, only to end up very disappointed. Not because the academy did reject their works after serious consideration, but because the academy chose to steadfastly ignore it or polemicise against bizarre misrepresentations of it. It is better not to attempt to confront a hostile academy in the first place.

      I will have to try to collect my Atwill book when I’m visiting my old home near Brisbane next week and see if any of it is worth a more detailed treatment — at least an honest set of arguments explaining why I did not embrace its thesis — on this blog when I return.

      • richard
        2013-10-19 08:26:12 GMT+0000 - 08:26 | Permalink

        So let’s assume that Empire (or State) started the religions that we have now then. We’ve got three main ones now, do we assume that the first was started by the Persians, the second by the Romans and the third maybe by the Persians again?

        Did the Greeks not try their hand at this then?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2013-10-19 10:50:11 GMT+0000 - 10:50 | Permalink

          I have never argued that “the state started” Christianity or Islam or even Judaism. That’s not quite what I was implying. I have yet to read Bauer’s work before I can comment on his thesis. There is nothing controversial, however, that state conquests lead to religious conversions, or that mass deportations in the ancient Middle East were related to worshiping of different gods.

          • richard
            2013-10-19 11:39:20 GMT+0000 - 11:39 | Permalink

            The problem for a 1st or 2nd Century imposition of Christianity by Roman elites or the state is not that it’s not plausible it’s because we don’t have Christianity taking off in the Roman world until the 4th Century. In the meantime there were a few other gods tried out by the Romans as well such as Sol Invictus a sun god. And although Sol is very latin the new testament wasn’t and here it might be interesting to note that son and sun are homophones in Greek as well as in English.

            • SolsticeV
              2013-10-20 17:53:47 GMT+0000 - 17:53 | Permalink

              People like RM Price make a good case that “Christianity” started as a somewhat Gnostic movement, (nothing to do w Judaism) and along came the “Petrines” who hijacked it and turned it into a supercession of Judaism starting w gMark, and then gMatthew.. Well, who are the “Petrines” ? I don’t agree with all of Atwill, but I would like to hear about the possibility of the Petrine movement which took over Gnostic Christianity… could they have had some Roman elite backing for the purpose of dealing with the zealot movement?

              • richard
                2013-10-27 02:46:37 GMT+0000 - 02:46 | Permalink

                Yes it seems to me that stories get changed, characters get different motivations and they may even end up saying the opposite of what they actually said, once a story is updated for ‘ideological’ reasons.

            • Scot Griffin
              2013-10-20 19:26:35 GMT+0000 - 19:26 | Permalink

              @richard,

              “The problem for a 1st or 2nd Century imposition of Christianity by Roman elites or the state is not that it’s not plausible it’s because we don’t have Christianity taking off in the Roman world until the 4th Century.”

              There are actually two distinct thoughts here: Christianity as cult, and Christianity as state. There can be no doubt that the Christian cult did not become endowed as part of the State until Constantine, but that does not mean that the Christian cult did not have Roman origins. Certainly, some of the early Church Fathers were Roman elites (if you were Roman and could read, you were an elite), and your first pope (Clement of Rome) was Roman and ascended to the papacy in the first century CE. If the Church was centered in Rome in the first century CE, how could it not be influenced, if not imposed, by Roman elites?

              Also, what evidence do we have “in the wild” (i.e., outside of Rome or major cities under its control) that predates the establishment of the Church and pope in Rome? I am not being rhetorical, as I am far more interested in the Old Testament and have not studied the origins of the New Testament all that much. Thanks.

              • richard
                2013-10-22 06:00:30 GMT+0000 - 06:00 | Permalink

                Scot, if indeed there is a 1st Century origin for Christianity I see the 4th Century version as being influenced by post 1st Century attempts at raising religions such as Sol Invictus. As for sun gods well Apollo was the sun god and son of Zeus (son of god). Apollo’s mother, Hera, was also worshipped as a virgin. As for outside evidence, I have seen none. In fact I have specifically looked for it in the Museums of Europe and was rather surprised at the dearth of it. They still had statues to the Roman gods in Switzerland in the 7th Century for example.

              • richard
                2013-10-22 11:05:45 GMT+0000 - 11:05 | Permalink

                Mix up there. Apollo’s mother is Leto not Hera, I don’t think there’s any virgin tradition with Leto but then I’m not that great on Greek myth.

        • Scot Griffin
          2013-10-20 18:31:04 GMT+0000 - 18:31 | Permalink

          @richard,

          “So let’s assume that Empire (or State) started the religions that we have now then. We’ve got three main ones now, do we assume that the first was started by the Persians, the second by the Romans and the third maybe by the Persians again?

          Did the Greeks not try their hand at this then?”

          If by the “main ones” you mean Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I’d argue that the first (Mosaic Yahwehism) was started by the Greeks, not the Persians. Based on what little evidence we have, the Yahwehism of the so-called Persian era was not monotheistic and displays no awareness of the Torah. My personal theory is that Mosaic Yahwehism was an important detail but not the primary point of the Torah, which was to establish a Hellensitic state along the lines proposed by Plato and, to a lesser extent, Aristotle. The Torah in that sense was the constitution and laws of that state, and it was published in Greek to encourage Hellenistic colonization of Coele-Syria, just as the god Serapis was recast in Hellenistic garb to encourage Hellenistic colonization of Egypt (particularly Alexandria).

          • richard
            2013-10-21 09:17:58 GMT+0000 - 09:17 | Permalink

            Scot, yes something like that, but not quite in my opinion.

            http://tinyurl.com/mmg28yt

            http://tinyurl.com/ky6cow5

            • Neil Godfrey
              2013-10-21 13:27:48 GMT+0000 - 13:27 | Permalink

              It’s a good idea to convert longer urls to tiny ones — the longer ones cause display problems for some browsers and systems. (More than half the width of a screen might be nothing but one long url.)

              • richard
                2013-10-21 21:09:22 GMT+0000 - 21:09 | Permalink

                Ok I’ll make sure that I do that next time.

                Anyway as is obvious here we have the exactly the same story, from the starving of the citizens of the city being sieged, to the escape of the King and his eventual capture and then the killing of his children before his eyes and finally his blinding so that the last thing he would see is his children being murdered.

                This is also the same story as that told by Euripides in Hecuba. Supposedly Herodotus predates Euripides (Hecuba was written around 423 BCE) but I’m not sure if that’s the case in reality. What is certain though is that they both predate the Biblical version.

              • Scot Griffin
                2013-10-24 02:04:18 GMT+0000 - 02:04 | Permalink

                @Richard,

                Thanks. There are a couple of scholars out there who have spent a fair amount of time identifying what they see as Greek origins of the Primary History as a whole. First, there is Philippe Wajdenbaum’s Argonauts of the Desert, which I discovered via Vridar. Second, there is Jan Wim Wesselius’ The Origins of the History of Israel, which specifically argues that the Primary History is patterned after Herodotus’ work. My theory is more holistic than theirs in that I’m trying to identify the “whys” and the “whens”, and my “whos” are the Greeks not the “Jews”, as we have come to use that term (according to Shaye Cohen and his The Beginnings of Jewishness the term Jewish start to take on its current meaning until the second century B.C.E.

              • richard
                2013-10-24 06:14:06 GMT+0000 - 06:14 | Permalink

                Scot, yes I’m aware of those works although I’ve read neither. I’ve also just noticed that Zedikiah is a combination of Herodotus and Hecuba as on a re-read of Herodotus I noticed that his eyes were not blinded as they were in Hecuba.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2013-10-24 07:31:02 GMT+0000 - 07:31 | Permalink

                What controls and criteria do you have for these parallels? I’m wondering if we could find, say, stories in Chinese myths that yield similar echoes.

              • richard
                2013-10-24 19:03:32 GMT+0000 - 19:03 | Permalink

                If there were as many parallels in some Chinese literature I’d assume a connection as well.

              • 2013-10-24 20:30:01 GMT+0000 - 20:30 | Permalink

                Then your argument truly is classic parallelomania. The term was invented for such a grab-bag of anything that fits. It is unscholarly and makes the same logical fallacies as arguments for, say, astrology.

              • rich
                2013-10-25 06:21:19 GMT+0000 - 06:21 | Permalink

                This “parallelomania”, has it been applied to any other discipline? Maybe genetics for example, so that if someone claimed that I shared the same gene as a mouse I could claim that could not be the case.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2013-10-25 11:29:08 GMT+0000 - 11:29 | Permalink

                Genomes are not like words or human ideas or mental images. They are not subject to (or products of) the same types of laws or systems. Your analogy is a false one.

              • richard
                2013-10-26 06:49:02 GMT+0000 - 06:49 | Permalink

                Well as I said on a previous reply before you deleted it ‘Parallelomania’ is used exclusively in relation to Biblical studies. If it was a valid concept it would be used in other disciplines as well.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2013-10-26 08:25:35 GMT+0000 - 08:25 | Permalink

                The term is nothing more than another label for a form of the logical fallacy of drawing invalid relationships between correlations. X appears before Y, X is in some ways similar to Y, therefore someone used X to create Y. That is a logical fallacy because it ignores other possible explanations for the common elements between the two correlating points of data. Have you read Sandmel’s original article that (if I recall correctly) first coined the word? I have attempted to direct readers to it from here.

              • richard
                2013-10-26 12:05:20 GMT+0000 - 12:05 | Permalink

                This is the same Sandmel that claimed that he got the concept for ‘Parallelomania’ from a French book of 1830 but then couldn’t cite the book or the author? I’m sure there’s some irony in there somewhere..

                Here’s a take pretty close to mine on this ‘concept’;

                http://dunedinschool.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/parallelomania-parallels/

                I have no interest in discussing ‘parallelomania’. As I said in my deleted post the reason (I think) it exists is to deter comparisons which from an historical point of view are pretty interesting. Should I care if they’re considered heresy?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2013-10-26 13:17:27 GMT+0000 - 13:17 | Permalink

                Bull dust. Now you’re into selective reading. Have you actually read Sandmel’s article? Obviously not. And you have no need to because you have read something else that serves your interest on condition that you, too, like McGrath, ignore nuance. Okay. Play it your way. I’ll toss out the term “parallelomania” and stick to the logical fallacy itself. Your posts are logically fallacious. The reason? They ignore other possible explanations for the parallels. If you can’t think of any other possible explanations you need to do a lot more reading in the field.

              • Mark Erickson
                2013-10-31 05:08:21 GMT+0000 - 05:08 | Permalink

                On the long URL display problem, there is a CSS property, word-wrap that you can set to “break-word” to make the long text break onto a new line. http://webdesignerwall.com/tutorials/word-wrap-force-text-to-wrap

    • 2013-10-19 06:20:56 GMT+0000 - 06:20 | Permalink

      ‘Spending a little more time on the “takedowns” of Atwill, they bear striking similarities to how the Academics treat the serious mythicists. For example, it is clear that Carrier has either not actually read Atwill’s book or at least has not comprehended it.’

      That’s true,

      If you correspond with the author and ask him to give you his best evidences from his forthcoming book, and his chosen selections from his book turn out to be totally unconvincing, it is your job to then go through the book and try to find out what evidence in the author’s favour, the author himself overlooked when you asked him about his book.

    • 2013-10-19 06:39:21 GMT+0000 - 06:39 | Permalink

      ‘A more striking parallel between the Academy’s treatment of mythicists and the serious mythicists’ treatment of Atwill is that they pick on multiple, small details and arguments to dismiss the big idea. ‘

      Disgusting.

      Carrier picked on Atwill’s arguments and details (going so far as to examine them in small detail)!

      What was wrong with plain old-fashioned insults, instead of going multiple times through the small details, and examining Atwill’s arguments?

      The ‘big idea’ is that the Romans invented Christianity , carefully writing four contradictory Gospels of Jesus, so that Jews would follow Jesus and not go to war with Rome .

      How did that work out again?

      • Scot Griffin
        2013-10-20 19:49:42 GMT+0000 - 19:49 | Permalink

        “The ‘big idea’ is that the Romans invented Christianity , carefully writing four contradictory Gospels of Jesus, so that Jews would follow Jesus and not go to war with Rome “ (Your statement of the big idea found in Atwill’s theory.)

        versus “did Rome create Christianity?” (My statement of the big idea found in Atwill’s theory.)

        Which is the bigger idea? And are they really identical, as you seem to assert?

        One of Atwill’s biggest problems, and what invites a curt dismissal of his ideas, is that he imputes some pretty specific (and sinister) motives to the “inventors” of Christianity. And it doesn’t help that his intertextual reading of the texts is often accompanied by similar breathless commentary about things like “cruel satier,” etc.

        The fact that you seem compelled to bolt those additional details onto my much simpler statement of the “big idea” just proves my earlier point.

  • 2013-10-19 07:11:56 GMT+0000 - 07:11 | Permalink

    Here is a recent interview with Atwill

    http://www.vice.com/read/jesus-was-a-roman-hoax-to-trick-the-jews

    ATWILL
    For example, Jesus says to his followers, “Follow me and you’ll fish for men.” In the war, a Roman general says to his troops “Don’t be afraid. Follow me” and then he sends them out into the Sea of Galilee where they sink the Jewish fishing boats. The Jews try to swim to safety and then the Romans “fished them” with spears, according to Flavius’s account…..Flavius was the basis for Jesus’s ministry.

    CARR
    That seems like unadulterated gibberish to me.

    The Romans thought that the Jews (who probably hadn’t even heard what Roman generals say to their troops) would read a story of Jesus saying ‘You’ll fish for men’ and rush off to be baptised because they knew that the Romans had killed Jews with spears.

    And that was something Atwill put forward in a short interview as one of his best shots!

    ATWILL
    The authors would have been the Jewish intellectuals and the Roman caesars. The Romans had the top Jewish intellectuals in the world on their payroll.

    CARR
    It’s always the Jews isn’t it, working behind the scenes, fooling people, scheming and deceiving…..

    • Scot Griffin
      2013-10-20 21:53:26 GMT+0000 - 21:53 | Permalink

      My favorite question from the interview: “Are you saying that Jesus, a man who most scholars agree walked the Earth, didn’t exist at all?”

      Atwill clearly doesn’t help himself with that interview, so I can understand better why so many people reject everything he has to say. This is the same reason why mainstream mythicists distance themselves from him.

      But let’s not give up on the big question: did Rome create Christianity in the first century CE? To be clear, I am not asking “did Rome create Christianity in the first century CE for the reasons Atwill gives?” I recognize, however, that the credibility of the ultimate answer to that question will depend largely on the plausibility of an important related question: why? The “why” of it is where Atwill really falls down, and the why of his theory is the primary point of attack from the mainstream mythicists (when they aren’t falsely accusing him of a “Bible Code”-like reading of the Gospels or not having read the original Greek text of Josephus).

      While Atwill has not constructed a plausible theory of why Rome would have created Christianity in the first century CE, does that mean there can be no plausible theory?

      • SolsticeV
        2013-10-21 00:07:27 GMT+0000 - 00:07 | Permalink

        What I’d like to know is…. did Rome create the Petrine (Jewish supercession) version of Christianity that competed with the Gnostic/Marcionite version of Christianity?

  • Doug Shaver
    2013-10-20 22:35:09 GMT+0000 - 22:35 | Permalink

    “But let’s not give up on the big question: did Rome create Christianity in the first century CE?”

    I’m not giving up. I’m not even starting to work on it until I see more than zero evidence to think the answer is yes.

    • Scot Griffin
      2013-10-21 00:04:49 GMT+0000 - 00:04 | Permalink

      Then give me your theory of how Christianity came about and your evidence for it.

      Are you relying on the assumed (and convenient) “oral tradition”? How does this Old Testament literary concept even work with the New Testament, particularly when the Catholic Church was founded (in Rome, by the way) in less than 50 years after Jesus’ purported death? How does the oral tradition have any traction in New Testament studies when so little time passed between the events and the orthodoxy of the Roman Christian cult? Are you relying on the New Testament then, even though it is at least as likely as not that the Synoptic Gospels themselves were written after Josephus’s The Wars of the Jews and with reference, thereto? How would the historicity of the Gospels be affected if they were based in part on a book that ostensibly has nothing to do with Jesus?

      Seriously, I have no idea how you came to your present beliefs, whatever they may be, but if you choose to refuse to question, it would seem that you think you already know. So please explain why you believe your truth is the Truth. Thanks.

      • Doug Shaver
        2013-10-27 04:01:53 GMT+0000 - 04:01 | Permalink

        Scot:

        “Then give me your theory of how Christianity came about and your evidence for it.”

        Do I need my own theory before rejecting someone else’s, when they have no evidence for theirs?

        “Are you relying on the assumed (and convenient) ‘oral tradition’?”

        No. I don’t believe there was any oral tradition.

        “How does this Old Testament literary concept even work with the New Testament, particularly when the Catholic Church was founded (in Rome, by the way) in less than 50 years after Jesus’ purported death?”

        I am aware of no evidence that the religion we know as Roman Catholicism existed before the second century.

        “Are you relying on the New Testament then”
        No, not entirely. I am relying on all the extant documents that have something to say about Christianity’s origins.

        “How would the historicity of the Gospels be affected if they were based in part on a book that ostensibly has nothing to do with Jesus?”

        I’m not sure of your intended meaning of “historicity” here. Do you mean historical reliability? I don’t believe the gospels are historically reliable. I believe they are works of fiction.

        “So please explain why you believe your truth is the Truth.”

        I don’t, so there is nothing I need to explain on that point.

        • Scot Griffin
          2013-10-27 21:30:28 GMT+0000 - 21:30 | Permalink

          @Doug,

          You did not reject my “theory” because I did not offer one. I asked a question, which you quoted: ““But let’s not give up on the big question: did Rome create Christianity in the first century CE?”

          You rejected my question out of hand, stating: “I’m not even starting to work on it until I see more than zero evidence to think the answer is yes.”

          A question is not a theory, Doug, and if you refuse entertain a question, that seems to indicate you know what actually happened. Not a theory. Truth. What is it?

          Thanks.

  • richard
    2013-10-26 20:48:20 GMT+0000 - 20:48 | Permalink

    That’s ok, Neil I can add 1+1 to get 2.

    Dionysus is ok as applied to Jesus (that’s you). Atrahasis is ok as applied to Noah (that’s you). But Herodotus is not ok as applied to Zedikiah (not you), even if the parallels are considerably stronger than the previous two.

    ‘Bull dust’ indeed (a peculiar terminology)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2013-10-27 00:25:45 GMT+0000 - 00:25 | Permalink

      Richard, you are overlooking the point I am making. Similarities and parallels do not mean one was copied or adapted from the other. We need to evaluate all possible explanations and see if we can eliminate the borrowing idea as the most decisive option. That is why I said earlier I’d be interested to look into one of your Herodotus-Bible parallels. Mere similarity is not enough to establish a borrowing.

      Remember fundamentals like confirmation bias and the correlation-causation fallacies. These are the same sorts of fallacies at the heart of astrotheology and a host of conspiracy theories.

      Among Australian aboriginal tribes there is a legend/myth of a tribe threatened with death through drought. A stick was used to strike a rock, if I recall, to cause water to gush out and save them. When I first heard of that I immediately thought of the similar story about Moses. At the time I was associated with a religion that speculated some of the “mixed multitude” that came out with the Israelites eventually broke away and migrated to Australia. Hence the similarity of the myth. But once one stops to think about (or investigate and learn about) how aboriginal peoples did find water in the desert then the cultural connection is ruled out as baseless and we find coincidence is the best explanation.

      There are stories of universal floods world-wide. Did they all borrow from one another or do they all suggest some ancient common sets of experiences? Researchers have pieced together the geological and paleontological and anthropological evidence to believe that among Aboriginal tribes in southern and central Australia that the myth of a great flood that changed the world could well be 16,000 years old (literally quite possibly the oldest story in the world today) — handed down from the time of the rising waters in the last great climate change. I have heard of similar events in the filling of the Black Sea from waters overlflowing and gushing in from the Mediterranean within a relatively very quick time. My point is that we need to look for all possible explanations and test them for probabilities.

      It is a logical fallacy to routinely infer “borrowing” or “adaptation” of one story by another to explain similarities.

  • richard
    2013-10-27 02:03:20 GMT+0000 - 02:03 | Permalink

    Re your story about Aboriginal Australian myths I didn’t think Moses, I thought Poseidon. Here;

    http://plato-dialogues.org/tools/loc/athens.htm

    “Athens was coveted by both Athena and Poseidon. Poseidon came to Attica and had sea water spring from the Acropolis by stricking the rock with his trident while Athena grew the first olive-tree on its slopes”

    And good to see my post back again, it had previously disappeared for some reason.

    • 2013-10-27 04:40:18 GMT+0000 - 04:40 | Permalink

      Richard, you offer no indication whatever that you are registering the point of my comments. You appear to be determined to keep pointing to similarities as if their connection should be obvious. These sorts of comments are not welcome. I have had to but a brake on similar ones from others.

      You will see many posts about parallels here, but their approach, their rationale, their justification, is quite different from anything you seem to be even aware of. If you want future comments on such things published here you will need to demonstrate or argue some methodology behind your conclusions.

      Your reply here, given the context of your earlier comments, leads me to think you really do believe there is a cultural connection between Greek and aboriginal myths. Do check our comments and moderation policy.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2013-10-28 22:28:00 GMT+0000 - 22:28 | Permalink

        For the sake of the record Richard has since posted his insistence that he does not believe “that Australian Aboriginal myth is related to either, if indeed there is an Aboriginal myth to that effect as [he] only [has my] word for it.”

        Richard, your posts are still on moderation since they do not conform to our comments and moderation policy that we do try to apply to all with as much leeway as we can — and that I have asked you to read.

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