Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: Introduction and The Quest for the Historical Christ

The Christ Conspiracy: Introduction

The Christ Conspiracy is riddled with mistaken claims, misrepresentation of facts and other sundry problems. I trudge along through it, making notes of every major misrepresentation or mistake made. These are legio, and so many in fact, that it makes any sensible reader have to wonder as to why she repeats such an amount of distortions and fabrications. These are ordered as I came across them, plodding onward through the book.

Let us look at a sample.

To deflect the horrible guilt off the shoulders of their own faith, religionists have pointed to supposedly secular ideologies such as Communism and Nazism as oppressors and murders of the people. However, few realize or acknowledge that the originators of communism were Jewish (Marx, Lenin, Hess, Trotsky) [1, p. 2]
Well, it is true that Marx, Lenin, Hess and Trotsky all had Jewish roots. By Jewish halakha, they were also recognized as Jews. However, this has no bearing on whether they were religious or not, and we have strong reasons to believe not a single one of them were. Marx was brought up in a family that had converted to Christianity in order to obtain better jobs - not exactly a sign of any strong loyalty to a religion, Lenin's parents (and as far as I can tell also grandparents) had intermarried, a thing forbidden by orthodox Judaism, and thus not indicating any strong loyalty to the doctrines and rules of the religion. In addition, Lenin was baptized as a child, an obvious mark of Judaism indeed. Trotsky's family was Jewish but not religious, and in the case of all these four men, we find in their life-choices clear indifference to the Jewish rules on marriage and other things. In Marx's writings, we even find severe criticism of the Jewish religion, represented for instance as hucksterism in his On the Jewish Question. If this is what it takes to be a representative of a religion, no wonder every great oppressor is religious - there's no way not to be considered religious in Acharya S's classification of people.

Talking about Christianity and more specifically Paul, she quotes Wheless' Forgery in Christianity.
And [Paul] the tergiversant slaughter-breathing persecutor for pay of the early Christians, now turned their chief apostle of persecution, pronounces time and again the anathema of the new dispensation against all dissenters from his superstitions, tortuous dogmas, all such "whom I have delivered unto Satan" (1 Tim, i,20)  [...] He flings at the scoffing Hebrews this questions: "He that despised Moses's law died without mercy...: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the son of God?" (Heb. x, 28,29) All such "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7); "that they may all be damned that believe not the truth" (2 Thess. ii, 12); and even "he that doubteth is damned." (Rom. xiv, 23) ... "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb x,31). [1, p. 4]
Although it is clear to the modern reader of any sense that these are indeed terrible sentiments, it is also interesting to wonder as to why things from epistles that do not even pretend to be written by Paul (Jude) are attributed to him by this hack of an author (Wheless, if anyone wonders which author I am calling a hack). Further, already during Wheless' time, the letters to Timothy were not considered to have been authored by Paul by any large number of scholars, and many scholars consider Hebrews as well to have been written by someone else - in fact, Hebrews itself never states who wrote it [4]. In fact, out of these six quotes, only two are likely to originate with Paul. Any serious scholar of the NT would know this.
It should never be forgotten, that miraculously rapid as we are sometimes told the propagation of the gospel was, it was first preached in England by Austin, the monk, under comission of Pope Gregory, towards the end of the seventh century. So that the good news of salvation can be calculated as having posted at a rate of almost an inch a fortnight. [1]
I do recognize hyperbole when I see it, and the purely arithmetic error is not really a point I will contend over (but if you do plug in the distance from Jerusalem to Dover, and divide by 700*26.07, her number is off by two orders of magnitude. However, Austin worked in England at the end of the sixth century. And even then, he was not the first to spread Christianity in England - however, he was the first to do so after the arrival of the Angles. Before that, however, Christianity had been preached to the Celtic inhabitants of England much earlier, so much so that Gildas has left works witnessing to the existence of Christianity in England even more than 200 years prior to Acharya's claim as to its arrival in England. Such sloppiness would not pass in a doctor's thesis.)

I guess she somewhere has come across a claim that Augustine of of Canterbury was the first to preach to the Angles. She may have misinterpreted this as to signify him being the first to preach in England. That is pure ignorance.
The pagan Savoyards called Christians "idiots," hence crétin, "idiot," descended from Chrétian, "Christian." [1]
Weird enough, this word with that meaning is not attested until the 18th century[2], and this use seems to have been reinforced by Christianity. Cretin as a term for a kind of 'idiot' originates with a development whereby it first turned into a term used for those who suffered a specific kind of developmental disorder, viz. cretinism, which was common in some Swiss valleys due to the paucity of a certain mineral in the drinking water. It seems this usage was condoned in order to drive home the point that these 'idiots' were, in fact, Christians just like every other Christian, and therefore deserving of compassion.[3, p. 255]

The entire chapter does reek of screedy writing - she does not waste any opportunity to lash out at Christianity. I do agree that Christianity often has been - and still is - a factor that sometimes and even often causes destruction and suffering. These sometimes minor, sometimes major problems seem mostly to serve the purpose of inciting a dislike for Christianity in the reader, preferrably one strong enough to make the reader ignore logic and go on raw emotion.

The Christ Conspiracy: The Quest for the Historical Jesus

This is a needlessly large heading for a short review of a chapter, but ... it is in fact fairly good, with occasional minor problems that I will let go and not mention at all. The only major logical problem that occurs is this:
She notes how the quest for the historical Jesus has lead to all kinds of inconsistent conclusions, and people often find what they want in their Jesus - scholars of apocalyptical movements find an apocalyptic Jesus, socialists find a socialist Jesus, etc. She goes on to declare this a failure - and I agree it is a failure of method and ability to see beyond one's own desires. However, this does not make Mythical Jesus the correct theory either. We can observe how mythicists also have come up with different theories of Jesus-less origins of Christianity: Acharya S posits astrotheology and a whole world-encompassing conspiracy of freemasons, Ellegård posits an earlier martyred Jewish sect leader, etc.

I think we can conclude that mythicists too find what they want to find in a Christianity without a Jesus in it - is then any hypotheis regarding Jesus flawed? Well, some hypothesis has to be right, of course, the fact that there can be hypotheses that differ from the correct one is not sufficient evidence that there is no right one or that the right one is impossible to find.

Of course, it is difficult to reach a conclusion as to how Christianity really began, since so little evidence remains. But ... If we did apply Acharya's reasoning, we should reject mythicism just as much as the explanations of historicist scholars. The reason mythicist theories are somewhat less varied simply is a question of population: mythicist scholars still are few, and a similar paucity of scholars would lead to little variation in theories in other fields as well.

[1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy. I don't provide pages for all claims here, simply because ... meh, bother, and it's my way of getting back at her shoddy sources.
[3] Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics an Introduction, 1999
[4] Epistle to the Hebrews, especially relevant are chapters 1 and 13, but the lack of "Paul" in every other verse throughout the work should be sufficient to establish this.

1 comment:

  1. The Judeo-Bolsheviks are coming!!!!

    Didn't expect Acharya to use this bit of stereotyping.