Friday, November 30, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Further Evidence of a Fraud

This chapter per se seems superfluous in the book, at least for the non-believing reader. Christian believers may be a bit more affected by it, and thus it does serve a role as provocation for Christian readers. The provocation mainly consists of some relatively reasonable points, but also some direct fabrications and distortions. I will,  naturally, focus on the fabrications and distortions.
Other Christians were more blunt in their confessions as to the nature and purpose of the Christian tale, making no pretense to being believers in higher realms of spirituality, but demonstrating more practical reasons for fanatically adhering to their incredible doctrines. For example, Pope Leo X, privy to the truth because of his high rank, made this curious declaration, "What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!" [1, p. 58]
This claim can first be found in a protestant, explicitly anti-catholic source, viz. John Bale's The Pageant of the Popes, contayninge the lyues of all the Bishops of Rome, from the beginninge of them to the yeare of grace 1555 (originally published as Acta Romanorum Pontificum in Latin). A highly credible source, wouldn't you think?
Again, critical thinking eludes Acharya. And how!

She further shows just how great she is at reasoning a few pages down by accepting Massey's argument:
We are told in the Book of Acts that the name of the Christiani was first given at Antioch; but so late as the year 200 A.D. no canonical New Testament was known at Antioch, the alleged birth-place of the Christian name. There was no special reason why "the disciples" should have been named as Christians at Antioch, except that this was a great centre of the Gnostic Christians, who were previously identified with the teachings and works of the mage Simon of Samaria.
These Antiochan Gnostic-Christians were followers of "Simon the Magus," who was impuged as the "heresiarch" or originator of all Christian heresies. Yet, this Simon Magus appears to have been a mythical character derived from two mystical entities, Saman and Maga, esteemed by the Syrians prior to the Christian era. [1, p. 59]
It is never explained why the non-presence of a canonical New Testament in Antioch prior to 200A.D. is a problem for the presence of Christians there - Massey assumes Christianity can only exist with Christian Scripture. Seems the notion of Sola Scriptura was something he took for granted even more strongly than the most devout protestant even though he did not believe in it, essentially thinking that no one can ever have been a Christian without christian scripture. And such illogic, a thing Acharya rants about repeatedly when others commit it, she accepts and quotes. The claimed mystical entities by the names Saman and Maga would benefit from a source or something backing their existence up. The book is not written for an audience of scholars of ancient Middle East religion, and this makes any assumption that the reader knows who these beings were or their position in the religion of Syrian antiquity rather unwarranted. I have even been unable to verify whether Saman and Maga existed in the relevant religions, as no sources except Murdocks' 19th century theosophy authors will mention these gods.
Yet, as stated, Gnosticism was eclectic, gathering together virtually all religious and cultic ideologies of the time, and constituting a combination of "the philosophies of Plato and Philo, the Avesta and the Kabbala, the mysteries of Samothrace, Eleusis and of Orphism." Buddhism and Osirianism were major influences as well. [1, p 59]
Kabbala is the name of medieval and more recent Jewish mysticism, of course. It is possible it derives some content from earlier Jewish mysticism, but it quite clearly mostly derives from mystical traditions that are far later than gnosticism, and in fact gnosticism may have (indirectly?) contributed to Kabbala. Now, some authors undoubtedly have used Kabbala as a designation for earlier forms of Jewish mysticism as well, but I find there to be a more likely explanation for this slip-up here: Acharya's 19th century sources were ignorant of the extent to which the now-extant Jewish mysticism is medieval or later. In serious scholarly literature, few sources from the 20th century conflate pre-medieval Jewish mysticism with kabbalah.
The older elements reflect Gnosticism, which, as noted, preceded orthodox, historicizing Christianity and which emanated out of Syria, in particular Antioch, where Ignatius was alleged to have been a bishop. For example, the gnosticizing Ignatius makes reference to the delusion-inducing "prince of this world," such as in Ephesians, in which he says, "So you must never let yourselves be anointed with the malodorous chrism of the prince of this world's doctrines..." The "malodorous chrism" of which Ignatius speaks is apparently the mystery of the lingam or phallus, practiced in a variety of mystery schools for centuries prior to the Christian era, including by Old Testament characters. By the term "malodorous," Ignatius is also evidently addressing the highly esoteric chrism or anointing that used semen. [1, p. 66]
Lest someone say this is just speculation presented as speculation - which one of her fans is contending in response to some of my criticisms elsewhere - evidently is a rather strong word to use for speculation. Does this not also seem a bit euhemeristic - that the chrism of which Ignatius spoke must be a real thing and not a rhetorical device by which he calls their doctrines - basically a strongly worded insult?
To repeat, the Gnostic texts were non-historicizing, allegorical and mythological. In other words, they did not tell the story of a "historical" Jewish master. As a further example, regarding the Gnostic texts dating from the fourth century and found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, Frank Muccie exclaims, "Still another interesting fact recorded in this same Coptic collection of Gospel fragments is that the disciples did not refer to themselves as Jews, but were from other nations - and that Jesus was also not a Jew!"[1, p. 69]
I actually read through the entire Nag Hammadi library in translation after coming across this claim. (And so can you! They mostly are boring. You can also obtain them by getting James M. Robinson's The Nag Hammadi Library, 1990) Turns out Frank Muccie either has not read them, or is a liar, or something else (well, as I said, I found them boring so maybe I zoned out for a while and missed the relevant text). All information I can find about him suggests he was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, who thought he got his hands on genuine scrolls with teachings deriving directly from Jesus, and formed his own splinter group - the Edenite society - whose main distinction from the regular JW church was that they preached vegetarianism.[2] The scroll he claims to have had is no longer to be found anywhere, and no one knows where it is [3]. A lot like the plates the Book of Mormon was translated from.

Here, I guess it is time for a small rant. It is a well-justified rant, and one that I hope Acharya S reads, which is why I address it to her. If people find it too critical or patronizing, rest well assured it is justified and deserved.

IMPORTANT POINT: D.M. Murdock, please provide genuine primary sources. In this case, regarding a thing found no earlier than the 1940s, you are referring to a book originally published in the late 19th century. Yes, the relevant claim is in a foreword written by a modern author, so that is not genuinely a problem, and your text does make it clear it is Frank Muccie, not Notovitch who wrote that bit. Most editions of Notovitch's The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ do not come with that foreword, of course, and in the foreword, he signs it by the name The Edenite Society, which is very confidence-inspiring indeed. 

However, the relevant bit: It would be a billion times easier for the reader that wants to check your sources if you actually pointed to, say, the relevant BOOKS IN THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, but I guess this is an inconceivable idea for you? You do realize, do you not, that having to trace down a long chain of references is tedious? That sometimes, some of these books genuinely are difficult to get hold of, and thus it is genuinely impossible to reach the end of the chain of references? Do you not realize that this is a problem? At least provide an extra, direct reference to the relevant Nag Hammadi book, or whatever. Do you even realize why the way you go about it seems utterly suspicious?

As for references to the Nag Hammadi books, have you even read them so you know where the claimed bit is (hint: the claimed bit seems not to exist at all!)? The forewords and prefaces imply that you are oh so meticulous about your research, reading ancient languages and all, such a fancy scholar indeed. Is it possible this is just for appearances? That you never actually read the ancient sources, but second- and third-hand accounts of them? The number of times I have seen a reference to an actual *ancient* source is negligible, even when you speak of them. It seems all you know about the church fathers, the Talmud, Toldoth Yeshu, etc, comes from second or even third-hand sources. How about that?

Getting on with the relevant chapter, we run into this bit:
In fact, the Christians were not just mocked, they were considered criminals. As Pagels relates:
In an open letter addressed to "rulers of the Roman Empire," Tertullian acknowledges that pagan critics detest the movement: "You think that a Christian is a man of every crime, an enemy of the gods, of the emperor, of the law, of good morals, of all nature." 
The early Christians were thus accused of heinous behavior, including infanticide and orgies, imputations that Christians themselves later used against their enemies.[1, p. 73]
So, the Romans used the blood-libel against Christianity.  Blood-libel is of course a good indicator of a thriving religious tolerance, which Acharya has claimed the ancients and especially Romans had in spades. Why Acharya even mentions this bit is left unclear, as it does not really contribute anything to her thesis - it just seems to be there to smear the early church. (An organization that does not deserve much in ways of admiration, granted, but still.)

She goes on to discuss the stance of the Jews of Antiquity visavis the historicity of Jesus, mainly by an excerpt from Justin Martyr and his Dialogue with Trypho:
In his debate with Trypho the Jew, Justin depicts Trypho as saying:
If, then, you are willing to listen to me (for I have already considered you a friend), first be circumcised, then observe what ordinances have been enacted with respect to the Sabbath, and the feasts, and the new moons of God; and, in a word, do all things which have been written in the law: and then perhaps you shall obtain mercy from God. But Christ - if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere - is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.
Trypho's argument reveals not only that the Jews did not accept Christ as a historical person but also Christ's true nature, as his "anointer," Elias, is not only a title for John the Baptist but also Helios, the sun. [1, p 74]
A way more reasonable reading, and fitting with the ways the Talmud and other Jewish writings of the time speak of the Messiah (as a pre-existent being waiting to be born), would be to read this as but the Messiah, if he has indeed been born and exists anywhere is unknown and he doesn't even know his own identity, and has no power until Elias comes and anoints him ... But Acharya assumes Christ is used to refer to Jesus by both Trypho and Justin - as if Trypho was expecting a Messiah exactly like the one depicted by Christianity and only failed to believe in Christianity because he did not think this Jesusoid Messiah had yet arrived. Trypho's statement that the Christians invent a Christ for themselves could just as well - and just as reasonably - be interpreted as him stating that the claims the Christians are making regarding an individual are exaggerated, that Jesus was no messiah, and that the Christian idea about what the Messiah is going to be like is mistaken - exactly the kind of notions we find in Jewish descriptions of Christian doctrines. Further, Elias, Helios, John the Baptist - sure sure. That's about all one can say at this point (Elias, in the original Hebrew, was Elijah, quite a bit less impressively similar to Helios). Acharya seems incapable of analyzing a single statement in context without introducing a bunch of details irrelevant to the context.

Of course, the idea that Elijah is to return and anoint the Messiah is well known in Jewish lore, and is a rather natural later development of the narrative of his life (which ends with him being taken away by God, rather than dying). How this has any clear relevance to astrotheology evades me.

What little I have been able to find on the issue, it seems scholars these days think Trypho never existed[4], but is an amalgamation of several Jewish characters Justin interacted with at various points, as well as Jewish arguments he may have heard second-hand. Surprisingly euhemerist again, no? This kind of euhemerist-but-only-when-it-suits-her thing should get a designation so I can refer to it whenever I run into it, really.

[1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy, 1999
[4] Here, I must admit to wikipedia.

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