To disprove the existence of a single, distinctive Historical Jesus is to blur the single Jesus, analyzing him and dissolving him into the constituent elements, so that we have a whole array of various men and myths, at various times, on various crosses or equivalents, giving the problem of "too many genuine historical Jesuses". *That* is what it means to refute the Historical Jesus in favor of the composite mythic Jesus.
The Historical Jesus story is basically a simplifying, generalizing summary of many events and many men.
We have a complete and satisfying explanatory framework or interpretive paradigm that fully disproves the conventional assertion that the Jesus figure must be based on an actual, single crucified man more or less along the lines of the Gospel storyline.
The received view is that Christianity started suddenly and spread like wildfire, and to explain this sudden shockingly unique Big Bang of Christianity, the easiest explanation is a single crucified founding figure. The main thing keeping people in the received view is the ignorance of a more satisfying alternative.
We now have an Integral (multi-disciplinary), full, complete, satisfying, plausible explanation of where the composite Jesus figure came from, that explains the political and religious, mythic and mystic-experiencing sources for assembling the Jesus figure. There is no explanatory need whatsoever for a single founder figure, the Historical Jesus.
This Integral explanation must include elements of religious experiencing proper, but without asserting that this religious experiencing was highly distinctive in its era.
There was a gradual coalescence of a somewhat new combination of familiar elements, driven by a process of competition among social-political-religious supersystems, particularly the system of Caesar (a hierarchy of honor and shame) against the system of the cross that was both an inversion of the system of Caesar and a straight amplification of it, including competing types of cross.
We can't prove there was no single Historical Jesus, but we have conclusively proven that there is no *need* for a single Historical Jesus to explain the origins and rise and popularity of the gradually converging movements that over some centuries came to be focused into a single religion, Christianity, with a single, reified and back-projected Historical Jesus figure, a composite figure that, like the Caesar cosmos-ruler figure, drew upon all possible empowering sources.
Jesus was a gradually converging composite cloud of elements who drew together his single image or persona by deliberately and competitively drawing from the figures of Socrates, Caesar, the hundred historical Jesus-like men, and many mythic godmen and heroes.
When was Jesus born, and when was his cross put together, and when did Christianity start? Gradually, between 100 BCE and 500 CE -- not between 30 and 110 as the Bible-derived history would have it.
The Bible's history and timeframe exaggerates how focused the locale and timeframe and persona was; it says "just these years", "just these locations", "just this direction of travel", "just this doctrine", and "just this man", when in reality, the time span was much greater, the locations were much farther apart and widespread, the directions of travel were several and largely opposite, the doctrines were much more varied, and the Jesus-like men and sources were much more multitudinous.
The history of the Christian origins according to the Bible is artificially focused into a single point; the conventional Bible-based history of Christian origins serves as a lens to artificially focus the multiple into the illusion of singularity -- such artificial focusing was strategically motivated.
The job of the mythic-only Jesus researchers is to show how this singularizing lens works and dissolve these elements back into the constituent wide-ranging blur of contributing elements and timeframes.
>I tend to believe Jesus was a actual person....although historical evidence for this is very obscure, unless one accepts the Dead Sea scrolls "Wicked Priest" was in fact Jesus
Summarizing the sense in which I reject the existence of such founder-figures of religion:
There were 100 genuine historical Jesuses -- that is easy. What is more or less impossible is that there was only a single, individual genuine historical Jesus. That is the most precise, definite, and close-able meaning of "Jesus didn't exist".
From what little I've read, I tentatively assume the same about Buddha -- it's a no-brainer that there in fact 100 genuine Buddhas or more who actually walked around, literally. That's basically a fact, not up for debate (being instead essentially a matter of interpretation). What is probably impossible, after some critical thinking and investigation, is that there was only a single, distinct, individual, unique, lone historical Buddha, exclusively deserving of the title "the Buddha".
If you pull out some particular historical man, your same reasoning necessarily forces many more actual men to be put forth as well. That is exactly what I mean by "there was no single, distinct historical Buddha" -- no one man who towers far above all other candidates. In conjunction with this view, I also insist that the only sort of Buddha that really matters at all is the spiritual, psychological archetype in all minds.
Similarly, there were 100 Jesus-like men, some named Jesus, but no one of them vastly towers over the rest enough to be the lone deserving recipient of the exclusive title of "the" historical Jesus. In conjunction with this, I insist that the only sort of Jesus that is really important, the *real essence* of Jesus, is not any historical man or men, but rather, the mythic man.
It comes down to the word "essentially". As far as ultimate religious experiencing and transcendent truth and insight is concerned, the Jesus figure is *essentially* mythic, *not* essentially a historical individual or a set of individuals. The Jesus figure is essentially a composite figure; the Jesus figure is *not* essentially any single man that existed.
Historically, we can identify many specific men and many mythic and heroic and emperor figures that contributed to the composite Jesus figure. By the standard of religious experiencing and insight, there can be no justifiable reason for singling out any one particular man as "the" historical Jesus -- to single out one man is to sin, to utterly miss the point of the mythic figure.
Myth is not really about historical literal events; it is a technique that sometimes uses stereotyped events to comment upon the real concern, which is to reflect intense entheogenic mystic experiencing, mystic ego death and rebirth. It is impossible in principle to uncover the grave of "the" historical Jesus or Buddha because in principle, myth is about the idea of particular incarnation, but emphatically not about any one incarnation.
Did Ford, the car maker, exist? Yes, but that hasn't anything to do with the real purpose and function of myth. However, I am not as comfortable making assertions about the historical Mohammed -- I don't know enough about Islamic history -- false, literalized, official, or mystic -- to even delineate what a radical theory of his nonexistence might entail.
The existence of a historical Jesus is impossible in that it is meaningless and incoherent. By my definition, if you dug up a grave that matched every attribute of the Jesus story, I'd still say he has no right to be called "the historical Jesus", because too many other people and saviors and emperors and teachers and healers were too Jesus-like to allow him the lone ownership of the single "historical Jesus" placard.
>>Christianity is not based on knowledge or on the historical Jesus; it is based on the Jesus of Myth.
Official Christianity attempts to be based both on the historical Jesus and on myth. There is a spectrum of emphasis, with interesting combinations:
Christianity is based 100% on the historical Jesus and 0% on myth.
Christianity is based 80% on the historical Jesus and 20% on myth.
Christianity is based 50% on the historical Jesus and 50% on myth.
Christianity is based 20% on the historical Jesus and 80% on myth.
Christianity is based 0% on the historical Jesus and 100% on myth.
Words are tricky: "based on" and "myth" and "historical Jesus" are all variable wildcards that can be uttered in isolation yet have opposite meanings within a network of word-meanings. I argue for the mythic-only Jesus, with the existence of 100 historical Jesus-like individuals who were used as the partial basis for the evolving Jesus figure, but no single lone man upon whom the Jesus figure was ever dependent like a necessary kernel.
Would-be "radical" thinkers such as Annie Besant (or Blavatsky?) are so bold as to propose that the Jesus figure is 80% myth and only 20% historical. I could agree with that mix depending on how it's defined, but as a rule, such thinkers as Besant clarify that (unlike us true absolute "Jesus-myth'ers") they still assume there was a single, lone, distinct figure serving as a necessary kernel, an assumption I consider to be completely disproven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The "lone Jesus necessary kernel" hypothesis is now unreasonable, since Doherty et al.
The hardest task for mythic-only Jesus proponents is to distance themselves from the tepid, fence-sitting commonplace, relatively conservative stance of "The Jesus figure as we know him today is essentially mythic, having practically nothing to do with the historical individual, Jesus." I absolutely reject that quoted position; the Jesus figure is purely and essentially, down to the bottom, entirely a composite fabrication based on no one single kernel-like individual.
Historical Jesuses did exist in spades, but no one of them warrants, by a long shot, the label of "the" historical Jesus.
Instead, the Jesus figure was a composite representation of experiences and insights that were and are available in the intense mystic altered state after ingesting sacred visionary food and drink, as patterned repeatedly in the theme of Jesus' handing people food to open their eyes, and is also based on counter-Ruler Cult -- a creative modification such as is typical of the times -- and on astrological metaphor, and other domains of thought.
Scholars must show all possible indications that Jesus was *not* essentially historical, but they also have to show that myth is jam-packed with compelling meaning and experiencing; Jesus certainly was myth, in the most substantial, positive sense, where myth is allegorical expression of specific mystic altered-state experiences such as were clearly available on tap in the Greco-Roman era, and that specifically define the difference between the modern and classic eras: unawareness vs. intimate familiarity with the intense mystic altered state and the sacred meals that produce it, as are metaphorically described inside and outside the official Christian canon of religious-philosophical writings.
The entire issue is whether there was a *single* historical individual serving distinctly as *the* kernel. There were 100 historical kernel individuals, not one outstanding one. Words are inherently ambiguous when in isolation: there was "a" real Jesus kernel, in that there were 100 of them -- not one outstanding, distinct, unique one.
Show that there were 100 kernels, to show that there was not just a single outstanding kernel -- the "lone kernel" is the conservative assumption that the mythic-only Jesus advocate must refute. If you want a kernel, there is one, but rather, many: start with Julius Caesar. The problem is now resting on the historical Jesus advocates: demonstrate why it is reasonable to assume that there was only a single, lone kernel of a single historical individual, rather than 100 such kernels.
For a plethora of historical Jesus kernels that effectively dissolves the idea of "the" historical Jesus, see the thread
Definition of an HJ and the Time Machine
The Jesus deconstruction project will lead to my "81 historical Jesuses" problem. (An overabundance of historical Jesuses http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JesusMysteries/message/3099) There were 5 historical healers, 3 esoteric Teachers, 4 magicians, 8 rebel leaders -- so the only question becomes, was any one of these so towering that he deserves to be considered *the* historical Jesus?
Suppose there was 1 famous healer, 1 famous Teacher, and 1 famous rebel leader. How can you christen one and only one of these saying "This one is the one", and thus declare that the other Jesuses are *not* "the" historical Jesus? We have a spread of historical (in addition to purely mythical) Jesuses: this healer has 6 degrees of influence and fame; this other healer had 4 degrees of influence and fame; this rebel leader had 7 degrees of influence and fame; this other, historical magician Jesus had 5 degrees of fame.
We have here a beauty and talent contest among a spread of 83 historical contestants. How can we justify crowning one and only one of these men "the real Jesus" and withhold the crown from the others? It is thus equivalent to say that there were 83 historical Jesuses or 0 historical Jesuses, but not 1 historical Jesus.
The quest for "the" historical Jesus amounts to the quest for some absolutely compelling criteria for designating one and only one of these 81 historical Jesuses as "the 1" that vastly towers over all the others. Think literally here. There really were actual men crucified, there really were actual men who were magicians, there really were actual men who were teachers.
Using a time machine, physically retrieve and bring these men on stage in a conference hall. Now there are 81 men on this stage. In the left back are clustered the 7 actual healers. In the front right are gathered the rebel leaders, and so on. What criteria can we judges possibly use to say that one and only one of these men is obviously and toweringly deserving of the single crown that we have?
We are committed to crowning one man "King of the Historical Jesuses". What could possibly force us to pick one and only one of these fine men standing before us on the stage, and reject all the others? The conservative answer is surely "the one that died on a cross and was bodily resurrected".
Suppose such a man, is on the stage and he wasn't a healer or teacher or exorcist or magician, just someone crucified under the charge of being a rebel against Caesar -- does he still deserve the crown of "King of the Historical Jesuses", or not?
Suppose none of these men, standing on the stage before us, were resurrected -- can we still meaningfully assign the crown; does any one of these men stand out in such a way that we are forced to give him the crown and deny it to all these other men standing before us now on the stage?
The question becomes not "Was there any historical towering single person buried under the mountain of figures?", but rather, "Which views were actually dominant or most important for the popularity of early Christianity?" By early Christianity I mean pre- Constantine/Eusebius, 313 CE.
I completely support Doherty's work, the Jesus deconstruction project, the discussion group moderators, and the Jesus Mysteries discussion group. I also completely support Freke & Gandy, and Acharya S. I try to constructively criticize and look for ways to improve.
>The Jesus deconstruction project will lead to my "81 historical Jesuses" problem. (An overabundance of historical Jesuses
>There were 5 historical healers, 3 esoteric Teachers, 4 magicians, 8 rebel leaders -- so the only question becomes, was any one of these so towering that he deserves to be considered *the* historical Jesus?
>>I would like to be clear that we are making categories for texts, not saying anything about historical Jesus(es).
I understand the project now. I fully support the project. My posting sounded critical or obstructive, but clarifying and bracketing off the project will help. I meant, and should have written:
*If* anyone carelessly assumes that the Jesus deconstruction project is intent on finding "the" historical Jesus, be forewarned that undertaking the project with that motive will lead to my "81 historical Jesuses" problem. An example of such a mistaken approach is the book:
Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ
Ellegard's discovery of a "the" historical Jesus initially seems like a solution, having found one candidate that fulfills several requirements for the Jesus figure. I haven't read the book. If it's any good, it should firmly demonstrate that *only* this historical person fits so many of the Jesus attributes.
I suspect that it is possible to write many equivalent books demonstrating that *other* actual men existed who just as well fulfill several requirements for the Jesus figure. The problem then becomes a debate about which criteria to use in selecting among these various actual men, each of whom fulfills various requirements of the Jesus figure.
Grigg's book, which I have but haven't read, would probably address that problem of criteria for selecting among multiple actual men who are candidates for Christ or Jesus.
Imaginary Christs: The Challenge of Christological Pluralism
Porter's book, which I have access to at a library, also may focus on identifying the criteria for selecting among multiple candidates:
The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (Journal for the Study of the New Testament)
Stanley E. Porter
Burton Mack is helping to lead "the seminar on Ancient Myths and Modern Theories of Christian Origins". The seminar's project, or one of their projects, is "The Christian Origins Project".
Mack's new book, The Christian Myth (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0826413552), in practice asserts the incoherent Bultmann view: all the information we have about Jesus is mythical, and, the only thing we can know about Jesus is *that* ("Dass") he existed. I firmly reject that combination as insincere nonsense and bluffing. If *everything* we know about Jesus is mythical, then *how* can we know "that" he existed? Mack himself criticizes researchers who proceed through the gospel storyline showing how each episode is only mythical, yet they retain the Jesus character nonetheless.
Such a Jesus figure is like a man who lost an arm, leg, arm, leg, head, and torso, and yet who we still talk about as a man who exists though there is nothing left. Mack himself talks about Jesus using expressions that clearly imply that there was a historical Jesus -- where he could have used wordings that remain agnostic about whether there was any such single, towering man.
Max Rieser (1973, 1979) is consistent: like Acharya S, he asserts that Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles are all mythic-only. Mack is currently half-baked, a mixture of conventional Christian thinking and would-be independent mythic thinking. His wording unnecessarily asserts that there was a historical Jesus, even while he calls to suspend conventional assumptions.
Mack fails, unjustifiably, to set a good example for other researchers. Even more than Mack, Rieser emphasizes that Christianity did not start in Jerusalem and expand from there; it was invented in cities such as Alexandria, Byzantium, and Rome and actually took a long time to reach Jerusalem. Mack may possibly emphasize the diversity of myth schools more than Rieser -- Rieser does emphasize the continuous transformation of the Christian myth.
The True Founder of Christianity and the Hellenistic Philosophy
There is a bad theory of religion implicit in the typical historical-founder assumption.
When someone affirms that "the historical Buddha existed" or "the historical Jesus existed", what is actually being asserted? An entire questionable theory is implicitly asserted about where religions come from, how religions work, what religions are about, how religions propagate, how they are concentrated in certain influential individuals who then transform and focus and re-propagate the religion.
It is true that select, particular individuals do serve to focus and define religions. Consider the theorist Ken Wilber, for example. He is an actual person who has worked hard to clarify and make viable the perennial philosophy. The perennial philosophy is an essentially religious philosophy -- a theory about what occurs as the psyche develops to a fully developed state and what the ultimate relationship is between the individual and world or transcendent cosmos.
Does Christianity "come from" a single man, Jesus? What role does the "historical Jesus" scenario assign to the postulated single man, Jesus? Conversely, what role do the historical-Jesus deniers assign to, say, the twenty most Jesus-like actual individuals? It is more subtle than even I thought to distinguish between the historical Jesus theory and the no-historical-Jesus theory.
It turns out that both scenarios are actually quite intricate and potentially are highly qualified, to the point of actually overlapping. The historical Jesus theory potentially has a surprisingly wide range of different scenarios, and the no-historical-Jesus theory also potentially has a surprisingly wide range, not a narrow range, of different scenarios.
I am coming to respect more fully the conclusion of some researchers in the Jesus Mysteries discussion group, that the theory-categories of "historical Jesus" and "no historical Jesus" are totally useless and contribute nothing but harmful confusion. Everything hinges on what a researcher *means* by "historical Jesus" or "no historical Jesus".
We can only debate these scenarios if we establish an absolutely clear definition of what we mean by those two labels, and I am finding that there is a disarmingly wide range of discussion and debate involved in defining those two labels. It is very difficult to form a good definition of what the "historical Jesus" scenario essentially amounts to. It is very difficult to form a good definition of what the "no-historical-Jesus" scenario essentially amounts to.
Both scenarios potentially cover a vast range of different scenarios. There is certainly not a single definitive historical Jesus scenario, nor a single definitive no-historical-Jesus scenario. Both labels are totally meaningless without an extended, subtle, and debatable definition. Yes, it is possible to define an Exhibit A and an Exhibit B, to represent a reference point for the prototypical historical-Jesus and no-historical-Jesus scenario.
The prototypical historical-Jesus scenario holds that there was only one man who fit most of the important parts of the New Testament version of history. Christianity is importantly dependent on that man, and unthinkable without him; Christianity doesn't make sense as religion or history without him.
The prototypical no-historical-Jesus scenario holds that there was only one man who fit most of the important parts of the New Testament version of history. Christianity is not dependent on any one man, and makes more sense (as religion and history) without the complicating postulate of such a man.
According to "no-historical-founder" theories of the development of religions, certain individuals do play an important role in some important but limited sense. Here is where it immediately becomes very complicated, subtle, and intractible. The development, origin, and spread of a religion does importantly depend on the actions of some select, distinctive individuals.
Conventional thinking assumes Paul to have existed as such an individual; on more solid ground, we should use Constantine as an example. The development of Christianity is largely focused in the actual man, Constantine, as well as Luther, for example. Is the development of Christianity largely focused in a single man, who we may label "Jesus", or in five or twenty more or less Jesus-like men, such as rebel leaders (would-be military messiahs) or spiritual teachers or hierophants?
We need a new theoretic construct such as "degree of dependent focus". The prototypical historical Jesus or historical Buddha theory implicitly asserts a very high degree of dependent focus: the development and spread of the religion is very importantly and significantly focused in just a single man whose life and role was like that portrayed for the central founder-figure in the scriptures.
In contrast, the prototypical no-historical-founder theory implicitly asserts a very *low* degree of dependent focus: the development and spread of the religion is *not* very importantly and significantly focused in just a single man whose life and role was like that portrayed for the central founder-figure in the scriptures. A problem I have found in surveying all possible permutations of historical-founder and no-historical-founder scenarios is the possibility of gradual degrees of shading from one scenario to its opposite.
The origin of Christianity could involve anywhere from one to an innumerable number of actual Jesus-like men, with the role of a Jesus-like man ranging anywhere from fitting all of the traditional story elements to only a single story element, with any number of Jesus-like men fitting any number of the Jesus story elements. We have an n-dimensional potential space of scenarios.
How helpful is it, really, to frame the search for true history in the simplistic and inarticulate terms of "historical Jesus" versus "no-historical-Jesus"? Many scholars now have unearthed some pathetic actual man who fits a fraction of the Jesus story requirements, and absurdly, have proudly pronounced that they have found at last "the genuine historical Jesus".
Readers then read the work and have to choose whether or not they feel this scenario's man qualifies as "the genuine historical Jesus". When ten other such books are considered, we see how utterly useless and purely confusing the whole concept of "the historical Jesus" is.
It is profitable to discuss the merits of particular scenarios, but framing the range of scenarios in terms of "historical Jesus" has proven problematic and vague beyond redemption -- however, it has led to finding that there is an embarrassing overabundance of partially Jesus-like men, with no one single Jesus-like man towering over the rest. Thus I see no alternative to ultimately ending up with the construct, "degree of dependent focus".
The problem with the prototypical historical Jesus theory is that it asserts a very high degree of dependent focus that starkly contradicts the available evidence, which indicates actually a *low* degree of dependent focus. Instead of debating in terms of "historical Jesus" vs. "no historical Jesus", it would be far more useful and relevant to debate "high degree of dependent focus" vs. "low degree of dependent focus".
We can thus usefully and precisely characterize scholars who assert a "historical Jesus" even though each scholar picks a different man, with a different combination of classic Jesus attributes: those scholars really do have something definite and distinctive in common: they all are characterized by asserting a very high degree of dependent focus on a single central Jesus-like man for the development and formation of the Christian religion.
Similarly, you can usefully and precisely characterize scholars who assert "no historical Jesus" -- what they actually all have in common, across their highly divergent scenarios, is that they all are characterized by asserting a very *low* degree of dependent focus on a single central Jesus-like man for the development and formation of the Christian religion.
This construct of "high vs. low degree of dependent focus" concisely and elegantly encapsulates, expresses, and implies everything that I have written about the problem of the plethora of genuine historical Jesuses and about the Jesus figure being "essentially and really" a *composite* drawn from a deliberately extreme and all-encompassing *multitude* of actual men and mythical figures.
That construct really hits the essence of the difference in thinking style between the typical historical-Jesus asserters and the typical no-HJ asserters, overcoming the difficult blurring fact that both camps admit the existence of multiple (more or less numerous) actual Jesus-like men who were more or less important. We need a sliding scale and a relevant polar axis.
The most powerful, relevant, useful, and general way of sorting out the scholars is in terms of what degree they propose Christianity was dependent on and focused in a single Jesus-like man. Thus in the end the most useful way to define what we mean by "HJ vs. no-HJ", or "historical Buddha vs. no-historical-Buddha", is in terms of degree of dependent focus.
What is the most essential implication someone makes when they say "there was a historical Jesus" or "there was no historical Jesus"? How can we usefully get to the essence of what kind of history that person is asserting? By understanding the alternatives to be a high versus low degree of dependent focus.
This reframing of the debate is highly useful even though it still leaves us with a subtle debate about what it means for the formation of Christianity to have been highly dependent on and focused in a single Jesus-like man.
I consider myth, correctly understood, to be the same thing as the highest aspect of religion -- this is what I mean by "myth-religion": it is really, most meaningfully and profoundly, allegory/metaphor for the intense mystic altered state such as is triggered by sacred consumption of entheogens. The elements of this view can all be wrapped up into the construct "myth-religion-mysticism".
The official, dominant, low theory of religion holds that religions have a very high degree of dependent focus on a single historical central founder figure to whom is attributed the origin of the religion; the religion is based on the figure and comes from the figure; he is "the central founder figure" upon whom the religion focuses and to whom the start of the religion is attributed.
The religion is focused on him as founder; he is a personification of all that the religion stands for. I here mean to shut out the Paul figure, who is portrayed as a pillar of the Church, who propagated the religion, but Paul is not the central figure upon whom the Christian religion is mainly focused. The Christian is supposed to be somewhat Paul-like, but more importantly Jesus-like.
The conventional view of Buddhism fits this definition too: while allowing for previous and later Buddha-type historical men, Buddha is held to be a single outstanding man upon whom Buddhism is highly dependent and on whom Buddhism is highly focused. The theory of religious origins I dub "low" is that a religion proceeds from its central founder figure.
The Christian religion came from Jesus; it is based on the life, teachings, and actions of the man Jesus. Such a theory of where religion comes from and what it's about applies to the theory that the Isis and Osiris religion is "based on" an actual historical Osiris; according to this way of thinking, for the origin of the ancient Egyptian religion, there is a high degree of dependent focus on the life and actions of the man Osiris.
The historical Jesus theory or historical Buddhism theory is not just incorrect about facts of history; it is a bad theory of where myth-religion comes from and what myth-religion is really about. Myth-religion in essence has nothing to do with historical founding-figures, even when it is styled as emphatically literal. Buddhism and Christianity have often been hyper-literalized.
Religion really does have some literal elements; for example, the ancients deliberately modelled actual politics and religion on myth-religion-mysticism, and they deliberately formed mythic allegory in terms of actual politics and religion. So yes, actual politics and religion *do* "match" the mythic histories, but what is the nature of this "match"?
For example, I propose that not only was Christian myth-religion allegorically based on actual crucifixion, but, in the spirit of ancient thinking, crucifixion as a form of punishment was also deliberately based on mythic allegory. The ancient mind deliberately strove to make myth and reality closely match and comment upon each other, but this is not to be confused with a "match" in the sense of the mythic history being historically factual.
Their myth and history were *mystically* the same, but not *literally* the same. This is true for many near eastern religions, or religio-political regimes, but particularly true in Jewish religion, which took the deliberate conflation of national history and mythic allegory to as far an extreme as in any religion. It is not a one-way arrow -- that would be against the ancient way of thinking.
It was a two-way arrow between mythic-mystic allegory and literal politics and history: as above, so below. How should we think politically and historically? Look to mystic-myth (archetypes encountered in the entheogenic intense mystic altered state) for the answer. How should we think mythically, mystically, and allegorically, in religion? Look to the realm of politics and history for the answer.
The domains of mystic myth and actual history and politics were used to inform and guide and justify each other. This interaction of two domains is the only possible way to fully account for both the literal historical style and elements in, say, Revelation, as well as the mystic-mythic allegory-domain. Literalism, or perhaps quasi-literalism, is essential and basic in the Jewish scriptures, but so is mystic-mythic thinking.
Certainly both domains are present, but we take literalism much too literally and need a better understanding of how these two domains work together and interpenetrate even while remaining distinct. Yes, the Jewish scriptures are full of literalism, in several senses, but they are not simply literalism -- more like a quasi-literalistic way of writing, reporting on quasi-literalistic practices -- a subtle but all-important difference from plain and simple literalist writing about literalist practice.
The Jewish writings are an integrated historical-styled and mystical-styled mode of writing about a integrated historical-styled and mystical-styled religion -- full of literalism, and yet, not literalist, just literalist-styled. Same with Christianity: it was largely created as a literalist styled religion; that was perhaps the main contribution from the Jewish religion, that hyper-literalist yet still just ironically *quasi-* literalist mode of writing and practice.
Christianity was the offspring formed by fusing many god-man Hellenistic elements with the quasi-literalist styling of Jewish religion. Yes, many Jews and Christians were literalists, but many of the most important were not.
Even our category of "literalism versus mythic allegory" may be a poor fit with that character of ancient thinking, which operated more in the mythic realm because it was highly informed by the entheogenic intense mystic altered state.
Literalism was used as a style of religion, and surely most people were sober and rational and could hardly deny the concrete reality they had to constantly deal with, but compared to moderns with our various combinations of modern mundane reality and absurd supernaturalism, the ancients instead drew from the realms of a mundane world that was considered in light of mystic-state allegory, and from mystic-state allegory that was based on the mundane world.
The ancients saw the world in terms of two mirrors that reflected each other: the sociopolitical world and the mystic-state allegory realm. Moderns instead view the world by an unrelated pair of frames: the mundane, lacking any input from the mystic allegory realm, and the free-floating magical-supernatural realm, without a feel for mystic-experiencing allegory.
When modern supernaturalists say that Jesus existed, they are combining non-mystical supernaturalist thinking which the ancient mystic mythmakers didn't use, together with an isolated mundane view of the world which the ancients didn't use. Our modern categories of thought don't fit with the ancient categories of thought, because our mundane world isn't informed by mythic mystic-state allegory understood as such.
For those who assert a low degree of dependent focus of a religion on the historical existence of its central founder figure, there can be in principle no evidence that is simple evidence for the existence of the founding figure, because evidence for the existence of a man who is like the founder figure is not evidence for a high degree of dependence on that particular man.
Thus people who assert a low or high degree of dependent focus hold two different models of how religions rise and spread, and these two models handle historical evidence in two different ways.
To assert a low degree of dependence of a religion on a historical central founder is to assert that religions rise and spread based on the lives and actions of many people whose lives are somewhat like the idealized central founder figure, with no one man being exclusively important as the central, towering person -- and therefore, any evidence that may be found, literary or archaological, for a man who is like the founder figure, will be interpreted as merely evidence for one among many men whose lives are like that of the idealized central founder figure.
A key question for debaters to consider is, what sort of evidence can cause a scholar to change their adherence from one framework of interpretation to the other? In this case, we must ask what sort of evidence can cause a scholar who asserts a low degree of dependence of Christianity on a single historical man to change their mind and assert a high degree of dependence?
What would compel me to say "I change my mind: this new discovery is strong evidence that Christianity was, it turns out, highly dependent on a single, central, Jesus-like man"? It would have to be evidence not only that a man existed who fit the Jesus life story elements, but that *only a single* man fit the story so well; evidence that one man fit the story much better than anyone else and that the formation of Christianity is importantly dependent on this single man and only on this single man.
What would compel a historical-Jesus asserter to say "I change my mind: this new discovery is strong evidence that Christianity wasn't, it turns out, highly dependent on a single, central, Jesus-like man"? It would have to be evidence that no one man existed who fit the Jesus life story elements far more than any other man. It would have to be evidence that the formation of Christianity was *not* importantly dependent on any single man.
The evidence from the no-HJ books, and even from the conventional HJ-asserting scholars, adds up to just such a demonstration: it is clear by now that the formation of Christianity was not importantly dependent on a single man who was Jesus-like and who was far more Jesus-like than any other man. Scholars now have found a hundred good reasons why Christianity started, but many of the reasons and scenarios don't depend on the existence of just one lone man with a uniquely Jesus-like life.
The current evidence supports the hypothesis of a *low* degreee of dependent focus of Christian origins on a single man, not a *high* degree of focal dependence. Yes, the *claim* of originating from a single man has often been a powerful advantage for some Christian officials, and we could say that the success of Christianity sometimes depended on the *claim* of originating from a single historical central founder-figure.
But an important dependence on the *claim* of literal historicity is quite different than important dependence on the *actuality* of literal historicity. Some weak thinkers have said that "Christianity wasn't a Hellenistic mystery-religion, because Hellenistic mystery-religions don't literalize their mythic founder-figures."
That's true, but considering the Jewish religion as being an unusually literalist-styled, historical/political-styled myth-religion, we can now recognize Christianity as a powerful fusion of the Hellenistic godman mystery-religion with the Jewish literalist-styled, historical/political-styled myth-religion. Christianity took the godman and initiation themes and techniques of Hellenistic religion and added the quasi-literalist, historical/political-styled techniques and themes from Jewish religion.
Christianity was a new Hellenistic mystery-religion that *did* literalize its mythic founder-figures -- that literalization, that breaking the rule against literalization, was precisely what gave this Jewish-Hellenistic hybrid a competitive advantage over the purely mythic-styled Hellenistic religions.
According to the Church officials, Christianity was superior to Hellenistic religion because Christianity had *literally as well as* mythically/mystically, what the Hellenistic religions had *only* mythically/mystically. Christianity won because it was based on a literal godman -- but to clarify, it won because it was based on the *claim of* being founded by and founded on a literal godman.
In actuality, Jewish religion provided various combinations of literal and allegorical messiahs; in this sense, there really was a historical God-ordained Jesus or twenty of them. We must also remember the similarity of the emperor cult, divine kings, apotheosis of heroes, and the battle between King Pentheus and the godman Dionysus -- all providing various combinations of themes about kings, godmen, saviors, historical individuals, and mythic figures.
The figure of Jesus was designed to strategically fuse all of these into a single figure who wrapped up into one all the value of historical men such as Alexander and Caesars, with all the value of the dying-and-rising mythic godmen, with all the value of the quasi-historical Jewish priest and prophets and the actual Jewish would-be messiahs. The problem was how to fabricate a figure even more potent than Caesar, even more potent and universal than the calculated and synthetic figure of Sarapis.
It was a no-holds-barred utimate battle of extreme competitive hyper-apotheosis, practically an arms race to create the ultimate nuclear weapon of cosmic hyper-transcendent divinity combined with all the most venerated attributes of all historical figures -- *many* historical figures and Jesus-like men and Alexander-like men and heroic warriors, wrapped up into one figure, who was later only threatened, I surmise, by the counter-venerated eternal cosmic goddess figure of Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
We should consider Jesus as a universal infinitely flexible composite figure that can weave together an unlimited number of elements from any noteworthy people, legendary people, wished-for people, or mythic figures. That's what the State Church Corporate Franchise needed, so that is exactly what they engineered.
No matter how well a particular historical man is like the Jesus figure, I would say nevertheless that man is not "the historical Jesus", who is essentially independent of any particular man. Would the Church want the Jesus figure to be dependent upon a particular man? No, that would pose a risk. They want a safely abstracted and independent Jesus figure that they can completely define and control.
Where did the Jesus mythic figure come from? The only answer that can be right is "as many sources as the Church wanted and needed". Sometimes I have portrayed the Jesus figure as coming primarily from entheogenic mystic experiencing, but that earlier theory of mine is just as wrong as the people who think they have found "the historical man upon whom the Jesus figure is based".
I reject the usual notion that the Jesus figure is "based on" a small number of sources. Rather, he/it is a systematic construct that by definition is able to draw from an unlimited number of sources of any type. So my hypothesis of the entheogenic mystic-experiencing "basis" of the Jesus figure has to be just as misguided as the hypothesis of the Essene teacher "basis" for the Jesus figure.
The researchers who identify historical Jesus-like individuals are contributing valuable knowledge but are distorting its relevance. They need to make one adjustment: don't say you have found "the historical basis" for the Jesus figure; rather, say you have found "one of the major elements that was used to assemble the composite Jesus figure".
In entheogenic mystic experiencing, I have found not "the mystic basis for the Jesus figure". Rather, I have identified one of the major mystic element that was used to assemble the composite Jesus figure.
Acharya S. is slightly off-base if she claims to have found "the basis" for the Jesus figure in astrological worship. What she has actually found is that the astrological religion is *one* of the elements that was used to assemble the composite Jesus figure.
If James Arthur or Clark Heinrich or John Allegro claims to have found "the basis" for the Jesus figure in the entheogenic plant and the experience it brings, they have made the same classic mistake of thinking that the Jesus figure essentially needs a single primary basis.
Even if the Jesus figure *happens* to have an identifiable primary basis, such as a main Jesus-like noteworthy individual, or a desperate entheogenic mystic-experience need for which Jesus fits perfectly, a single primary basis is not what the Jesus figure is really about; is not how the figure works as designed by the State Church. They needed a figure that is independent of all "bases".
Any primary basis is only *incidentally* primary. There may be a primary source for the Jesus composite figure, but still the figure is not dependent on that primary source -- another could as well have been chosen, if convenient.
Ultimately, the Essence teacher is just one more source that the Church used to construct the Jesus figure. Astrological religion was just one more source for the figure. Entheogenic mystery-religion experiencing, the dying/rising mythic godman savior, was just one more source the State Church used to construct the Jesus figure.
The crucified rebel against Rome, or hundreds of rebels, and the wished-for military leader? These are not "the real basis for the Jesus figure, identified at last". Rather, these are all just one more source the State Church used to construct the Jesus figure.
Did Jesus exist?
It all comes down to a distribution curve of Jesus-like men, or of Jesus-like attributes among men. This "distribution curve" idea neatly summarizes ideas I have posted at length about what it means to say that some "Jesus" existed historically.
To assert that there was an HJ is to essentially assert a *narrow* distribution curve of Jesus-type attributes among the men of Jesus' time and place.
To assert that there was no HJ is to essentially assert a *wide* distribution curve of Jesus-type attributes among the men of Jesus' time and place.
Everyone acknowledges that Jesus-type traits were present to some extent in many men, but what the HJ scholars assert is that these traits were prominently concentrated in one particular person. These traits include one or more of: rebel leader, spiritual teacher, healer, sage, wonder worker, and so on.
The scholar who asserts no HJ says that the curve is wide, so that the most Jesus-like man that existed was not *much* more Jesus-like than some other man. If you travel back in time you will find *many* partially Jesus-like men, many proto-Jesuses, many mini-Jesuses, but no one of them will in any sense "tower" over the others in influence, specialness, timely positioning, or reknown.
The orthodox distribution curve has one man who fills the Jesus criteria so much, he is a towering peak above an otherwise low level of background noise. By "towering" I don't mean "great"; I only mean, more abstractly, that he *fits* the definition of Jesus traits -- "distinctive" is a good word. According to the no-HJ view, the curve is wide so that there is no one *distinctively* outstanding Jesus candidate.
Many rebel Jews were crucified. Some of them were rescued from the cross. Perhaps some of them were thought dead, were rescued from the cross, and were discovered to be alive. Perhaps one or more literally died on the cross, yet became alive again. There were many spiritual teachers, many healers, and many sages.
Maybe one man happened to belong to the set of men who was a rebel leader and a teacher and was alive after crucifixion -- that man would have a pretty high coefficient of Jesus traits -- but would he or would he not have a tough competition from the *other* men who fulfilled several Jesus requirements, such as the men who were sages and spiritual teachers?
The no-HJ position amounts to saying that no one man stands so far above the rest, when measured in terms of Jesus traits and qualifications, that we can say there was "the" HJ in the singular. My position is the broad-curve position: multiple HJs, multiple half-HJs, multiple semi-HJs.
The HJ scholars are all proposing some form of the narrow-curve scenario: they say there were many men who fulfilled one or two Jesus traits to a moderate degree, and there was one many who fulfilled many Jesus traits to a high degree, and there were a handful of men who fulfilled a handful of Jesus traits to a moderately high degree but certainly not as high as the leading man who leads the field by a great amount.
I first picture this as a centered bell curve, but better is a sorted curve: on the right side, place the man with the highest coefficient of Jesus traits. Next to him, place the runner up: how great is the difference? How steep is such a curve?
o Conservatives draw an infinitely steep curve
o HJ scholars draw a very steep curve (something or other about "the" HJ they pick gives him a much higher rating than practically all other candidates)
o No-HJ theorists draw a relatively gentle curve: compared to the highest-rated Jesus-like man, there are a good number of other men who are almost as Jesus-like, or who are sufficiently Jesus-like to render the whole notion of singling out one man problematic.
Although this distribution curve width approach isn't a thorough analysis of all Jesus candidates, it shows an end game or final state of putting forth candidates for "the" HJ. The singleness, the distinctiveness of Jesus is the entire problem, the issue. Today's criteria for HJ are a failure because they are too easy to meet: there are too many men who, by these measures, can be called "Jesus".
There is no set of criteria that can fairly *reject* all but one man; either many men make it through such filters, or no man, but it's impossible to define a set of filters that will permit only a *single* HJ candidate to make it through. The singleness of HJ is the entire problem at the end of such HJ questing. We can easily have 0 or 100 Jesuses, but 1? If Jesus doesn't distinctly stand out in an essentially conservative manner as an obviously and manifestly lone figure, we cannot but end up with a whole mob of Jesuses.
The more we learn, the more we learn there are *too many* HJs but not enough *distinctiveness*. The first loss of distinctiveness happens the moment we reject supernaturalist thinking and the resurrection. Given a field of men, how does the conservative identify the HJ in a game of "Where's Waldo?"
It's easy: Jesus is the one who does miracles and is in the line of David and had a virgin birth and healed and had mobs of people around him and threw out the money changers in that famous incident and was controversial among the Jewish leaders and was crucified by Pilate and died yet came back to life and then ascended. And no one else did those things, certainly not all of those things.
This is how the conservative establishes a narrow distribution curve; Jesus is a very high bar at the right side of the graph and although some other men are more Jesus-like than others, no one else comes even *close* to fulfilling so many Jesus traits; we have a low ramp and then an explosion up to Jesus as a lone figure.
The advocates of a particular HJ have the hardest scenario to establish: when they reject the miracles and determine that there were many crucified rebels and many healers and many sages, their hardest problem becomes the distinctiveness problem: their HJ is significantly lower in the chart than the conservatives say, and, the other men score significantly higher in the chart than the conservatives say -- the distinctiveness of the Jesus figure is put in jeopardy.
The conservatives have a long list of qualifications and requirements that Jesus must fulfill, so it's easy for the conservatives to point to one *and only one* man who makes it through these superhuman qualification filters. In this version of "Where's Waldo?", there are many figures, but one of them is very obviously Waldo-looking, and none of the other figures look at all like Waldo.
Non-supernaturalist HJ scholars have a much shorter list of qualifications and requirements for Jesus candidates, so the looming problem for scientific HJ scholars is how to let *only* one man through these filters. Their Jesus starts to lose his lead; the other contenders start to catch up. This version of "Where's Waldo?" becomes a game of "which of these many Waldo-like figures fit *all* of the requirements posed for the Waldo figure, and why is he so much more Waldo-like than the rest?" and according to these scholars, there are some fairly Waldo-like figures but still, one of them is somehow obviously much more Waldo-like than all the other somewhat Waldo-like figures.
The no-HJ scholar says we should give up; the race is effectively an even spread, so that the winner isn't *extremely* far ahead of the other contenders. Many men were named Jesus and were crucified and were rebel leaders and were sages; how then can we say "this one but not that one"? We really can't. In this version of "Where's Waldo?", there is an even spectrum with perhaps one figure technically being *slightly* more Waldo-like than the next five runner-ups, but the scene is filled with a good *hundred* or more figures that are definitely Waldo-like to a greater or lesser extent.
This is what you'd see time travelling -- an overabundance of more or less Jesus-like figures, with no way to pick one as "the" HJ. There were lots of more or less Jesus-like figures. This view makes sense, and the conservative supernaturalist view is clear (we can easily imagine what the conservative imagines one would see), but the scenario that is most hard to picture is the liberal HJ view: just what kind of scene does the typical HJ scholar claim we'd see if time travelling?
They have to somehow indicate and highlight one man as being clearly outstandingly Jesus-like, while supressing all the other healers, rebels, crucified men, resuscitated men, sages, wonder-workers, hierophants of Jewish Mysteries, spiritual teachers, and so on. The more we know about the place, the more problematic it becomes to pick only *one* HJ, to say "this one but not all those ones".
>>One of the most ludicrous theories ever was the "Jesus was a mushroom" assertion of John Allegro. Some things are just too preposterous to bother debunking.
What part of Allegro's theory seems ludicrous -- that there was no historical Jesus, or that the Jesus figure is partly a personification of entheogenic plants, as was Dionysus?
Allegro's theory still stands and is worth serious consideration in conjunction with other scholarship and puzzle-pieces. One book in response maintained that there is a historical Jesus and that he did not administer visionary plants or represent them. I don't know if you buy into that worldview. The Jesus figure was based on various things, possibly including one or more historical individuals, visionary plants, legends, mythic figures, Ruler Cult, and so on.
It is tempting to state that Jesus was either a personified visionary plant, or a historical individual, but that choice depends on too many hidden assumptions about the formation of the Jesus figure. Given that the Jesus figure drew from an amazingly wide array of sources, it's that much less controversial to include visionary plants as *one* of the sources -- one among many.
If Allegro holds that the Jesus figure was *only* a personification of the Amanita, that's clearly misguided -- the Jesus figure obviously drew from other sources as well; it was in the interest of many to integrate as many themes as possible into this universal figure, including astrotheology themes.
Acharya's portrayal of Jesus as essentially astrotheological, and my theory of his being essentially about cybernetic self-control (representing the experiential revelation of no-free-will) runs the same risk of focusing on one source to the exclusion of others. The first principle of understanding the Jesus figure is the principle of composite construction, rather than single-source construction.
The Jesus figure was not essentially astrotheology, nor essentially cybernetic (no-free-will), nor essentially visionary plants. The Jesus figure was essentially a complex composite construction drawing from all possible domains to create, in a highly competitive era, the most broadly potent and powerful figure possible, in a kind of arms race of extreme divinization.
A worthwhile approach is to affirm all possible sources for construction of the Jesus figure, and study the relationship between them -- for example, which aspects of the Jesus figure were most important to the ancients, and which aspects are most relevant today? The Greco-Roman era was highly interested in astrotheology, and may have heavily used visionary plants.
It is too early in the study of ancient use of visionary plants to reach a sure conclusion; this is the time to try to formulate plausible and powerful hypotheses, such as supposing that 'wine' normally meant a visionary-plant mixture rather than modern 'wine'. If there is a strong case that ancient 'wine' was normally or ideally a visionary-plant mixture, then the "Jesus is wine" idea lends credibility to Allegro's "Jesus as mushroom".
However, along with such a Jesus, we must also retain "Jesus as astrotheological principle" and "Jesus as counter Ruler Cult". And I would argue that "Jesus as no-free-will" remains important for all eras. The Jesus figure and the true history of Christianity cannot be understood by considering only one source for the Jesus figure.
Survey: Who or what was Christ, really?
>My vote is for the mythical/composite. ... there existed an insightful man whose reputation grew to legend. ... it has become much more than it ever was.
>John A. De Vito
>Author, The Devil's Apocrypha
The Apocrypha: There Are Two Sides to Every Story --
The Devil's Apocrypha: There are two sides to every story --
Your paragraphs contradict each other. You say you believe the mythical/composite scenario (as I firmly do), and then you say there was *an* (one) insightful man upon whom the Jesus figure is ultimately based.
I think the definition of "mythical/composite" must be protected and carefully reserved to mean that the Jesus figure is *loosely* based on *many* historical people (and many mythical figures) -- *not* importantly or dependently, crucially based on just a *single* historical person.
The historical Jesus fallacy is the single-Jesus fallacy. There definitely were many closely Jesus-like men, with no one of them uniquely deserving the single designation of "the" historical Jesus. There were 100 historical Jesuses, which is tantamount to saying that there were zero historical Jesuses. The one scenario that doesn't stand up is that there was 1, a single, historical Jesus.
You misvoted. If you think there was *an* insightful man upon whom the Jesus myth is dependently founded, you should have selected "Myth based on Historical Kernel" rather than "Mythical/composite figure". According to the "Mythical/composite figure" scenario, there were *many* (multiple) insightful men upon whom the Jesus myth is loosely based; if you remove any one of those men, the Jesus figure is not significantly affected.
A statistical distribution curve or bar chart of Jesus-likeness of actual men visually portrays this distinction well:
According to the uneducated Christian view, the bar chart only has a single bar -- there was only one man who was at all Jesus-like. The only man that was crucified was Jesus, the only man who taught wisdom was Jesus, the only man who healed magically was Jesus, the only wandering prophet of the coming kingdom and judgment was Jesus.
According to official literalism, the bar chart shows Jesus uniquely towering far above the other Jesus-like men. There is no doubt which man deserves the title *the* historical Jesus. Some other men are slightly Jesus-like, but nowhere close to Jesus. This bar chart has a low background curve and a distinct lone spike for Jesus.
According to the "mythical/composite" scenario, there is a man who wins the contest of "most Jesus-like man", but there are many other close contenders, and it is nonsensical to assign the title of *the* historical Jesus to any one man. This bar chart forms a smooth curve with the most Jesus-like man closely bracketed by many very nearly as Jesus-like men.
>>According to the "mythical/composite" scenario, there is a man who wins the contest of "most Jesus-like man",
But because the contest is so close, which man is selected as "the world's most Jesus-like man" changes depending on which criteria you use and how you weight them or on the hotly debated and uncertain weighting criteria collectively settled on by a committee of judges. If you think being an apocalyptic prophet was the most important criterion for identifying the most Jesus-like man, you will choose one candidate, but if you think being a wisdom teacher was the most important criterion for identifying the most Jesus-like man, you will choose a different candidate.
>>but there are many other close contenders, and it is nonsensical to assign the title of *the* historical Jesus to any one man. This bar chart forms a smooth curve with the most Jesus-like man closely bracketed by many very nearly as Jesus-like men.
Below is my summary response to the seemingly sound assertion that Jesus either did or didn't exist. From the [Christ_Conspiracy] Yahoo group. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/christ_conspiracy
I mentioned Bible Review (sister of Bible Archchaeology magazine) before. Bible Review is the coolest Christianity magazine. It's not devotional and not overly scholarly, and not amateurish; it's like the better Historical Jesus books. It's in the skeptical spirit of Kenneth C. Davis' book Don't Know Much About the Bible, which I'm listening to on audio CD.
They had a giant Amanita table for the Last Supper on the cover, and in the same issue, a centerfold of the Last Supper showing the female John so clearly, my Christian friends were finally forced to admit that the unofficial tradition maintains that the Beloved Disciple is female. I have a nice collection now of female Beloved Disciples. I'm in love with John, he's so pretty and delicate and feminine.
havrylak is probably referring to the article
http://www.bib-arch.org/bswb_BR/bswbBRFeature2.html -- The Four -> 34 Gospels
>Either there was a real historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth or there wasn't.
That's incorrect and insufficiently clear for debate. The entire issue and debate depends on what each person means by "a real historical figure". The debate and answer can't be in terms of "yes" or "no" as to "whether Jesus existed", because the yes or no answer depends entirely on what you mean by "Jesus" and how you define Jesus -- what your assumptions are about the minimum qualifications for Jesus.
Jesus existed: in fact a hundred Jesuses existed; our Jesus figure is a composite based on many men. The real problem, the hard position to defend, is that there was *only one* historical Jesus. As soon as you let go of a single point of orthodoxy about the historical Jesus, all bets are off; it becomes a giant definition game and it becomes utterly meaningless what you intend by "Jesus of Nazareth" until you define exactly what your requirements for a "real historical Jesus" are and are not.
When you define what qualities and requirements you hold for a man to qualify as "the historical Jesus", then you'll find that too many men fit those qualifications. The challenge then becomes to invent a set of criteria that will let one and only one man through, letting one man definitely pass through while definitely blocking other men. You won't find one uniquely outstanding Jesus; what you'll find is a large number of semi-Jesuses, lots of mini-Jesuses but no *one single* outstanding historical Jesus.
So did Jesus exist or not? The question is meaningless unless paired with a definition of "Jesus". We can only answer whether a particularly defined Jesus existed. I can only guess at what you mean by "a real historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth". Sure, there were Jesuses in Nazareth; how do you single out just one of them as "the" historical "Jesus of Nazareth"?
>As I understand it, the contention of The Christ Conspiracy book upon which this forum is based is that Jesus never existed and the Christian Gospels were conspiratorially manufactured by professional myth-makers and delivered to the political apparatus of Rome for the purpose of "pacifying the masses" as it were.
There were *many* hands and motives at work in the formation of the Jesus figure.
>I think with respect to the final version of the New Testament there is "some" truth to that. What I'm saying is that most scholars of biblical literature--not pre- opinionated bible-thumping believers, as Kat inferred, but objective literary scholars with no religious axe to grind—that most of these literary scholars think there likely was a historical Jesus(never mind whether he was a miracle-worker or not), and that the early Christian literature spontaneously arose from a grassroots level by people who were inspired by his story. Eventually many of these biographical variations were culled and edited and dressed up etc etc until at some point the political organization of the early Christian movement decided to ordain a certain set of them "official".
>There is an interesting article on the evolution of the early gospels currently online at the Biblical Archeology Review ( http://www.bib-arch.org ) I mentioned in an earlier post which makes it clearly evident many many anonymous and forgotten individuals wanted to have a say on this matter. There has to be a good reason for that kind of inspired devotion and I seriously doubt that constructing a conspiratorial invention for Rome was at the heart of it. Indeed, it is much more likely the stories were originally intended as part of a rebellion against Roman rule in the Middle East but were later appropriated and shaped by the Powers That Be who saw in them a charismatic potential which could be harnessed for furthering their hold on power. I myself have no allegiance to any "organized" religion for I'm too well acquainted with the abuses of which they are is capable. On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is something unmistakably profound about the story of Jesus. Indeed there is something profound to many of the archetypal figures who preceded him in history. Who's to say he wasn't
Who wasn't? Here you seem to pull the assumption out of thin air that there was a single, distinctive, unique man, "the historical Jesus". Lots of men exemplified the Jesus ideal in certain ways, we can assume. The problem with your word "he" is that it points to one and only one person -- an unjustified move, a move too fast.
>the greatest exemplar of a very ancient tradition that focused on healing and enlightenment. One doesn't have to be "brainwashed" or even "religious" to appreciate that concept. Let's not forget, his gospel
Whose gospel? Again you pull out of thin air the assumption that there was a lone distinctive towering figure. Fine, but you should be very self-conscious of what you are doing when you mentally construct this figure and project him onto the screen. Just because you say "his" and imagine a lone distinctive figure doesn't necessarily mean that that matches reality. Be cautious when pointing to "him" and "his" -- you may very well be pointing to an abstraction of your own creation.
>was that the Kingdom of Heaven is within and around us. We shouldn't confuse that with the gospel of the apostles and Church fathers who eventually transformed him into just another "emperor-god" to be worshipped as the Roman Caesars before him were.
>I think this forum is founded upon a very important subject which is why I believe it shouldn't be agenda driven. I'm interested in the truth whatever that "truth" turns out to be. I do think however think that it lies somewhere between the Faithful of the Christ Mythos and the Faithful of Inerrant Scripture.
I think that the two biggest questions that can sort out the positions of the discussion participants here are:
1. Is there a single actual person involved in the Jesus figure, or multiple actual persons? This is answerable in the form of a bar chart of comparative stature of various actual persons, and in terms of matching component mythemes with actual persons (the magician aspect of the Jesus figure corresponds with actual person A, the crucified aspect of the Jesus figure corresponds with actual person B, the spiritual teacher aspect of the Jesus figure corresponds with actual person C).
2. What is the dominant, motivating origin: the actual person (or people), or the myth? Which came first in influence: the mythic figure, or the influential stature of the actual person (or people)? Did the mythic figure come first and give rise to attribution to actual people, or did the actual person (or actual persons) come first and give rise to the Jesus figure?
Or, did the influence work equally in both directions, so that the mythic reified Jesus figure was built up by abstracting from actual persons *at the same time* as the already existing (but not yet detailed) mythic Jesus figure was being attributed to whatever actual persons could be found who were in some ways similar to the mythic figure?
I like the phrase "loosely based on". The Jesus figure is loosely based on a several noteworthy actual people, combined with several different myths. If you eliminate any one actual person, the Jesus figure still remains. If you eliminate one mythic sub-figure, the overall Jesus figure remains.
There is no single actual person upon whom the Jesus figure is dependent -- thus there is no Historical Jesus in the sense expected by liberal theologians. They expect one actual person upon whom the Jesus figure depends, but the dynamics of the originating motive didn't work like that.
Picture a solid line coming from the sky and then splitting into various dotted lines of various width that touch the heads of various actual people. The dotted lines imply that the divine Jesus is independent of any particular actual people, and that the Jesus figure is only loosely based on, or connected with, or dependent on, particular actual people.
Did certain actual Jesus-like persons, through strength of influence and personality, give rise to the Jesus figure? That is essentially the Historical Jesus view. The most common HJ view assumes there was a single outstanding actual person. A more pluralist HJ view assumes there were multiple actual persons from whom the mythic Jesus figure arose.
Did the Jesus figure come from the mythic realm and become associated with certain actual persons? That is essentially the Christ Myth view (or "No HJ" view). A slightly more conservative version, closer to the standard HJ view, is that the mythic Jesus figure came down from the mythic realm and touched-down on a single actual person.
Did the figure of Jesus first arise through the stature of particular people, and then become deified? That's in the spirit of the HJ view, but with multiple actual people instead of just one remarkable person.
Did the figure of Jesus first come from heaven and then become associated with particular people? That's in the spirit of the Christ Myth view, with the addition that there *were* some noteworthy Jesus- like actual people.
I have some sympathy for the arrows pointing both ways. To express this, I say the Jesus figure was "loosely based on" multiple actual persons. He is abstracted out from them but not simply created by merging the actual people.
The abstract figure starts from the mythic realm and comes down, and he goes up by abstracting from several actual people, but only with a dotted-line arrow that represents the independence of the Jesus figure from any particular actual persons.
I am proposing two distinctions that this discussion group should pay more attention to. Single versus multiple actual people, and the direction of influence. Here are four clear, distinct positions that the scenarios suggest as a most efficient way of defining the proposed scenarios.
The mythic figure and the actual people should not be too separated into earlier and later, with a 1-directional arrow from the earlier to the later. I think the reified myth *gradually* came into focus and *gradually* became associated with previous actual people.
For questions 1, 1b, and 2 below, I list the conservative (or Historical Jesus) answer followed by the radical (or Christ Myth) answer. Then I list the 4 combinations of answers.
Putting aside placement in time and looking only at the direction of influence between mythic (archetypal) and worldly realms, did the actual noteworthy people give rise to the Jesus figure? Or did the Jesus figure originate on its own, being then attributed to the actual people? Another way of asking this: Was the Jesus figure abstracted from noteworthy people, or did the abstraction exist on its own and then look for noteworthy people on whom to project itself?
Conservative/ Historical Jesus answer: The arrow of influence is from actual people (or person) to the mythic figure. The mythic figure resulted from the immense influence of the actual people (or person). If the actual people had not existed, the mythic Jesus figure would not have come about.
Radical/ Christ Myth answer: The arrow of influence is from mythic to actual people. The attribution and looking-about for actual people resulted from the immense influence of the mythic figure. Even if the actual people had not existed, the mythic Jesus figure would have come about.
Which came first in time: the actual people, or the mythic Jesus figure?
Conservative/ Historical Jesus answer: The actual people (or person) came first in time, and the myth arose afterward. A mystery-religion Jesus figure may have had a shadowy existence early on, but it only became an intense image after the noteworthy actual people (or person) came along to give it substantiality.
Radical/ Christ Myth answer: The mythic Jesus figure came first in time, and was attributed to the actual people (or person) afterward. The mythic figure looms so large, is so superhuman, it overflowed itself and was bound to be arbitrarily attributed to the best-fitting actual people that could be found.
Were the noteworthy actual people singular or multiple?
Conservative/ Historical Jesus answer: There was a single noteworthy actual person. He was most noteworthy as a rebel -- or as a moral teacher -- or as a magician -- or as a healer (but not really as all of these many roles).
Radical/ Christ Myth answer: There were multiple noteworthy actual people -- one or more magicians, and one or more crucified rebel Jews, and one or more spiritual teachers, and one or more healers.
The 4 combinations of answers to Questions 1 and 2 are listed below, with some repetition and with labels for each position.
A. An actual person was the predominant cause, engendering the mythic figure. A single person fit the role.
First, a single actual noteworthy person existed. Later, his stature and influence gave rise to the mythic Jesus figure.
The Classic HJ view: Direction of influence: from actual person to mythic figure. Single actual person. Person existed earlier than the reified mythic figure.
First, the mythic Jesus figure existed explicitly as a vague mythic figure, and at the same time, a single actual noteworthy person existed. Over 100 years later, due to the stature and influence of the original figure or the strategy of his promoters, this all came together into a distinct mythic Jesus figure who was back-projected into the not-too-distant past -- a composite of various mythic figures, one actual person, and various legendary persons.
B. Actual persons were the predominant cause, engendering the mythic figure. Multiple persons fit the role.
First, multiple actual noteworthy people existed. Later, their stature and influence gave rise to the mythic Jesus figure. The Composite HJ view: Direction of influence: from actual persons to mythic figure. Multiple actual persons. Persons existed earlier than the reified mythic figure.
C. The mythic-figure was the predominant cause, engendering attribution to an actual person. A single actual person fit the role.
First, the mythic Jesus figure existed, explicitly as a mythic figure. Later, that mythic figure was attributed to an earlier single actually existing noteworthy person.
The Myth-First HJ view, or the dominant-person Christ Myth view: Direction of influence: from mythic figure to actual person. Single actual person. The reified mythic figure existed earlier than the attribution to the actual person.
This scenario is close to complex plausibility, because it proposes variety and multiplicity for building the composite from myths and legends, but then, inconsistently, assumes only a single actual person involved in the composite.
D. The mythic-figure was the predominant cause, engendering attribution to a person who was a composite of actual persons. Multiple persons fit the role.
First, the mythic Jesus figure existed, explicitly as a mythic figure. Later, that mythic figure was attributed to a single earlier person but that proposed person was actually an abstraction based on a composite of multiple actually existing noteworthy persons.
The mythic Jesus figure existed early, explicitly as a mythic figure, before the reified Jesus figure was created. In that same early period, various multiple actual noteworthy persons existed. Over 100 years later, this all came together into a distinct singular Jesus figure who was back-projected into the recent past.
A composite of multiple mythic figures, multiple actual persons, and multiple legendary persons was back-projected as though onto an actual person, but there was no single actual person that matched, just a variety of actual people that each matched the Jesus figure in one or two aspects.
Christ Myth view with realistic back-attribution: Direction of influence: from mythic figure to actual persons. Multiple actual persons. The reified mythic figure existed earlier than the attribution to actual persons.
This is a gradual fade-in, with a two-way arrow between singular mythic and multiple actual persons.
How can we convert more people to the no-Jesus belief?
Will people actually be persuaded by an astrotheological interpretation of the New Testament that Jesus is mythic-only? The popularity of books such as Christ Conspiracy shows that many people are considering the no-Jesus proposal seriously, and this demonstrates that there is some rate of conversion from the default assumption of the historicity of the New Testament characters.
I'm skeptical about the persuasiveness of an astrotheological interpretation of the New Testament, Revelation, or other apocalypses in refuting literalist Christianity. However, I some people do change from one view to another. Many people have gone through some transformation of worldview from casually taking for granted the historicity of the New Testament characters.
But my own case might be making me skeptical about people's ability to change. I saw a book equivalent to Christ Conspiracy, and dismissed the "mythic-only Jesus" hypothesis as smugly and unthinkingly self-certain as entheogenists do, such as Clark Heinrich used to.
Heinrich is Exhibit A, a recent convert to no-Jesus; I pray that his faith grows strong -- he will probably find it as emancipating as I did, to abandon the heavy weight of trying to double-explain Jesus as being *both* an allegorical personification of entheogenic experiential insight *and*, in addition, a historical individual. One you have enjoyed high-performance and sleek theorizing without the burden of the complicating historical-Jesus assumption, it is hard to go back to that old life of having to double-explain everything.
This popular book evidently postulates a Jesus who was a historical individual in addition to being an anthropomorphized astrotheological principle:
Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism
It is so easy to dismiss "mythic-only Jesus" as not even worth considering, when you've been used to taking him for granted for years, and all of the established worldview takes his historicity for granted so that mythic-only Jesus is practically an unthinkable hypothesis. I should write about my case (as previously in this thread or group) because it is probably a rarer path into adopting the mythic-only Jesus scenario. There are varieties of "Jesus is a myth" views.
The character of Doherty's "no Jesus" is opposite, in ways, from Timothy Freke's, having no positive divine realm to take the place of the removed Jesus character.
Here is my trajectory, recalled offhand. I could look in my Sent mailbox to trace my trajectory better.
The first book I came across leading me to no-Jesus was the refutation of Allegro's book The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross -- that library didn't have his book itself. My card-catalog search was "jesus and mushroom".
I immediately ordered a used copy of Allegro's book from a bookstore and read it for the mushrooms-in-Christianity component. I dismissed the no-Jesus component of John Allegro's book offhand as unworthy of consideration.
I was still close to Clark Heinrich's view in Strange Fruit, thinking that it only stands to reason that Mr. Jesus *must* have used entheogens, acting as a hierophant. The insight of the day here was that if Mr. Jesus turns out to be a drug proponent, prohibitionists will have to stoop so low as to take sides opposite of Christianity. These days I can word it better, as a conflict between the prohibitionists and low Christianity on one side, with drug policy reformers and entheogenists and high Christianity on the other side.
Later, I considered how Jesus rescues a person during control-seizure when doom and destruction looms large like an inescapable deja-vu tractor beam: the rescue is a purely mental operation, relying on the saviing *idea* of a divine savior who already was brought to demonstrate and represent full self-cancellation of personal will-power -- the divine idea was the active thing, and therefore also having a literal historical Jesus was entirely superfluous, as far as this type of salvation goes.
Salvation from the throes of control-seizure is met by a divine *idea* or *thought* of a savior, and is not met by a *literal* savior whose salvation is applied to the regenerated person supernaturally and mysteriously. At that point, my historical Jesus started fading as an extra, superfluous, complicating hypothesis.
Somehow I found Doherty's Jesus Puzzle book. By the time I discovered the books about no-Jesus, my own assumption of a historical Jesus had largely faded. My website has quite a lot that clearly was written under the delusion of a historical Jesus. The no-Jesus argument there and in the other books served to merely confirm what was mainly dreamed up in the mystic state independently of the no-Jesus books.
By the time I discovered the books, I had developed such a strongly mystical emphasis in my understanding of the Cross that I had no resistance to removing Jesus, and removing Jesus was a positively strengthening and enabling move to formulate the simplest theory of mystic experiencing and the Christian scriptures.
Other people fall into other sets of trajectories. Don't we all picture some "typical stupid Christian" who has to be forcefully convinced? But so many individuals don't follow that stereotyped and *possibly self-defeating* conception of the trajectory. Are the Amazon book reviews a reliable measure? That bothers me: the whole mode of debate in the Amazon reviews makes it seem like the whole debate about no-Jesus is so shallow, so vulgarly unmystical and wholly uninspired, like the book Jesus Puzzle.
Such atheist debunkers are right, but they are wrong, remaining entirely ignorant of mystic experiencing, that they fail to really recognize that myth-religion is a fascinating and pattern-coherent expression of particular experiential phenomena that are our heritage. It is somewhat like people who haven't had sexual climax discussing that subject.
The revised worldmodel from these atheist debunkers is so hollow -- but few are so hollow, so stereotypically atheist as Doherty, so he contributes a valuable flavor. Doherty clears away the old content, Freke and Gandy bring in the new content, and I think of Acharya S as somewhere in between, with her astrotheology -- an immensely important and popular version of the Hellenistic religion.
We ought to catalog the trajectories. What are the top 10 ways people are converted to the no-Jesus view -- the mythic-only Jesus view? But there may be more than one no-Jesus view: from Doherty, who replaces Jesus with nothing, in stereotypical atheist fashion, to Freke and Gandy, who replace Jesus with a best-case New Age style of mythic-only Jesus.
It's remarkable how successfully Freke and Gandy are able to redeem the New Age approach, infusing the New Age sphere with so many key truths (no-free-will, no historical Jesus, entheogen-positive, respect for Reason). So really, people have different starting points, different trajectories, and different end-states.
One might start as an athiest who (needless to say) originally assumed Jesus was historical, ready Doherty's book, and end up as an atheist (wholly alienated from the mystical mode of mental phenomena) who doesn't believe Jesus existed.
Another person may start as a supernaturalist literalist Christian, read the spiritual New Age books by Freke & Gandy, and end up a New Ager who doesn't believe Jesus existed.
Or one may start as an entheogenic mystic (of course assuming Jesus existed), and read Allegro and James Arthur, and convert into an entheogenic mystic who doesn't believe Jesus existed.
Those are three different starting points, three different trajectories, and three different end-states, even though the three people have in common *a* conversion from the Jesus assumption to the no-Jesus assumption. The unmystical atheist remained that, the devotional religionist remained that, and the entheogenist mystic remained that.
So there is not one trajectory, but a collection of trajectories, and though the endpoints and startpoints have *something* in common, moving from some Jesus-existed to some form of no-Jesus, much still is different, even in their respective characterizations of the Jesus figure.
Hanging out in Amazon, it is easy to fall into overgeneralization, which we must avoid. Not everyone starts out as the stereotypical halfbaked semi-Christian, and then due to the rational arguments in the books by Doherty, Acharya, and Freke, converts to some uniformly styled disbeliever in the historicity of Jesus. There is *not* a single trajectory.
People are persuaded to convert through diverse means, and they start off from diverse starting points, and they end up at diverse starting point. There is no one-size-fits-all trajectory of conversion from the Jesus assumption to the no-Jesus belief -- and there is no one "the Jesus assumption" and "the no-Jesus belief".
Neither Freke nor Doherty believes there was a historical Jesus, yet they continue to hold opposed views about the Jesus figure. Doherty thinks the Jesus figure is sheer folly, with only negative worth; Freke takes the Jesus figure as transcendently valuable.
I am going to specialize in promoting a certain range of conversion-trajectories. I want to convert people from the standard view of religious enlightenment, which entails these key assumptions: free will; historicity of religious founder-figures; elevation of meditation over entheogens; and the non-rationality of mystic insight.
I want to convert people to this other view of religious enlightenment. I don't have a useful label for it yet -- "the ego-death view of religious enlightenment". This view is: no-free-will; ahistoricity of religious founder figures (anti-euhemerism); elevation of entheogens over meditation; and the essential rationality of mystic insight.
My strategy is to avoid the usual mode of striving to convince people about any one of these points in isolation, such as the ahistoricity of religious founder figures, and instead, lecture for those scholars who are already converted on one or more of these four points. Every scholar I talk to already believes in one or more of my key points: they believe already in no-free-will, ahistoricity, superior efficacy and pedegree of entheogens, or rationality of mysticism, or a combination of these.
My focus needs to be on tightening up these four areas as a set, similar to the Microsoft .NET project of rearchitecting various established technologies to work together coherently in the Web-centric paradigm. What is needed is to rearchitect each of these four areas as a coherent, integrated set of "technologies".
I have to show, "Hey, the ordinary conception of the no-free-will position is fairly sound, but if you like that, you really should check out this version of no-free-will that I have fitted together coherently into a broader system, together with adjusted versions of entheogen mysticism theory, anti-euhemerism, and rational spirituality." The Valentinians had a version of this wholesale comparison of their set of beliefs against the beliefs of low Christianity or "the standard view".
I seek to convert people from the standard state of assuming a historical Jesus & crew, to some state of believing no-Jesus -- however, I seek to do this *always* and explicitly not as an isolated project like Doherty, but as part of a whole system, similar to Freke & Gandy. I am intent on doing four conversions at once, which could be easier in some respects than attempting to retain 3/4 of the standard view while changing just one isolated component.
It is interesting to contrast the different no-Jesus scholars. *Which* no-Jesus worldview do each of them proffer?