Tag Archives: Christian Origins

Why Is Christmas on the 25th of December?

The Catholic Liturgical Year

While researching this post, I came upon an item from 2015 about the sad and untimely death of Acharya S. on Christmas Day. Readers of Vridar may have noticed that I’ve avoided writing about Acharya’s theories or writings, mainly because they did not and do not interest me, but secondarily, because I’d rather not tangle with her fans, many of whom take any critique of her brand of mythicism as a personal attack.

I must decrease

Recently, however, I recalled something I heard on a podcast featuring Robert M. Price and Acharya. I suppose we’re allowed to call her Dorothy Murdock now. Murdock was explaining to Price that the role of the Forerunner helped to determine when in the liturgical calendar to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist. She reminded Price that in the Fourth Gospel, John the Baptist is confronted by his disciples about what to do concerning this upstart Jesus fellow. He says:

[28] “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ [29] The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. [30] He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:28-30, ESV)

A typical reader would look at that last sentence and take it at face value. In other words, John the Baptist realizes his role must diminish as Jesus takes on the mantle of Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Savior of the World. The Baptist is signaling the winding down of his business, having fulfilled his purpose.

But Murdock said it was a mysterious thing to say, and that it had to do with the days getting shorter after the solstice. And this is precisely why John’s birth was commemorated near the first day of summer, while Jesus’ was celebrated near the winter solstice. When Christ is “rising,” I am “falling.” Hence, the notion that John was born on 24 June, six months away from Christmas.

The virgin . . . tomb?

At the time I did a little research, which fell by the wayside as other subjects took my attention. I recall coming across some early discussions about the incarnation and how some early Christians believed it had to have occurred on the same calendar date as the death of Jesus. For example, Augustine wrote: read more »

Some reasons to think there was no historical Jesus

My interest is finding the most satisfactory explanation for the origin or origins of Christianity, and it is that search that leads me to lay aside the likelihood that there was a historical Jesus behind it all.

  1. It is easier to understand how such “riotous diversity” of Christianities appear in the earliest layers of evidence if Christianity grew out of a worlds of ideas and beliefs of many thinkers in dialogue (creative or conflicting) with each other. A historical Jesus being the focus of a group of followers could more reasonably be expected to leave evidence in the earliest layers of monolithic (or nothing more complex than a two-branch) movement that over time branched out into various sects. The evidence suggests the reverse of this: early is associated with diversity; later we see fewer sects until one emerges the victor.
  2. Christian conversion, ecstasy, mysticism, do not need a historical Jesus at the start. Engberg-Pedersen has shown what I think is a strong case for understanding Paul’s theology and the experience of conversion and Christ-devotion and community-cohesion etc is very similar to the experiences of those who were attracted to Reason (=Logos) and Stoicism. I have posted on this once or twice to illustrate his model. Similarly there is evidence for mystical and visionary experiences, not unlike those apparently associated with mysteries, among the apostles and members. None of these needs a historical founder in the sense we think of Jesus as being. These sorts of things are more usually explained in terms of cultural happenings. read more »

Origins of the Jesus myth (Thoughts)

Crucifixion
Image via Wikipedia

If the gospel narratives have no basis in historical reality then from where might the basic story idea have originated?

Do certain modern studies in the origins of the Old Testament narratives point towards possible explanations for the origins of the gospel narratives?

An explanation for the OT stories

The certain studies of OT origins I have in mind are those of scholars like Thomas L. Thompson and other “minimalists”. They have looked for historical circumstances and events that might explain some of the themes running through the various narratives found in Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges and the books of Samuel and Kings. This search was triggered by archaeological finds that indicate there was no patriarchal migration from Mesopotamia to Canaan of the type suggested in the Genesis stories of Abraham, no great exodus of Israelites from Egypt, and no united Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon. And rather than there having been a “divided kingdom” with Israel in the north competing with Judah in the south as we read through much of the books of Kings and Chronicles, the kingdom of Judah did not emerge until after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians.

So if the archaeological evidence led to the conclusions that there was no Abraham, no Moses, no David or Solomon as per the biblical story, what can explain the origins of such stories?

First, look at the stories to see what they are about.

The stories of Abraham and Exodus are both about divinely commanded and divinely led migrations from gentile lands to a land of “Canaan” in which dwell peoples of a different religion and race. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the Joshua led tribes, must negotiate with these neighbours to work out settlement arrangements with them, although the Israelites under Joshua do so only after the failure of Plan A which was to kill them all. The stories of Judges, Saul, David and Solomon also carry the themes of relationships with these neighbours: finishing off subjugating them, enlisting them as cheap labour, the importance of keeping God’s elect people “pure” and separate from them.

What sort of society can explain stories like these? read more »

Why did opponents of Christianity not declare Jesus was a myth?

Starting to catch up here with a few comments or queries that have bypassed the blog because they don’t quite fit to a post of mine. Here’s one:

But I want to ask a question from the opposite angle, but one that also concerns a conspicuous absence.  We have to at least admit that Christianity was growing rapidly in the first three centuries CE, and after the first few generations of conspirators (that constructed a would-be Christ myth), we know that the growing movement in the 2nd and 3rd centuries believed in the historicity and resurrection account of Jesus.

So if at least that much is true…

WHY didn’t numerous 2nd and 3rd century Jews debunk the gospel/resurrection story in writing?  I can find no evidence of such writings from the Jews…rather the writings that we do see argue against Jesus being the Messiah on theological grounds, not historical or forensic ones.  If in fact the lack of historicity was so clear (and I dare say it would have been clearer then than now, since the mythology hadn’t had time to snowball down the hill of history and gain momentum), why not point it out with volumes of refutation?

The dates we assign to the canonical gospels and epistles attributed to Paul lay outside the purview of this question.  The only critical element we need to raise the question is the known growth of the Christian movement, not the dates of individual texts within that movement.

If there’s a complete lack of historicity, why didn’t the non-adherents snuff out the Jesus fire before it got too large to be challenged by straightforward historical evidence?

I’ve seen a cogent answer to this question by Earl Doherty somewhere but I cannot locate it at the moment.

C. J. O’Brien recently gave his take on the question. Here is mine. . . . read more »