Archive for July, 2015

Jesus Dance 1

As someone who has diligently studied biblical criticism and comparative religion, I am no fan of the kind of misinformation that is promulgated by conspiracy films like Zeitgeist and popular novels like The Da Vinci Code. So, I was pleased to come across a critical review of Valerie Tarico’s 9 Things You Think You Know About Jesus That Are Probably Wrong, written by Ben Stanhope of the blog Remythologized.

In it, Stanhope rightly skewers Tarico for her Da Vinci-esque claims, e.g., that no Jewish men from Jesus’ time were celibate, that Jesus might have been gay, that Gnostic sources like the Gospel of Philip are historically reliable, and so on. But, about midway through, he completely derails into the kind of dubious apologetics you’d expect to find in Lee Strobel’s egregiously awful The Case for Christ. Which makes him no better than Tarico. To top it all off, he does so with the shameless arrogance of a Cracked.com writer. And that disgusts me.

hypocrisy

So, let’s dive right in and see where this dude goes off track.

Stanhope lambasts Tarico for chalking the Gospels up to a “hopeless historical mess,” quoting apologist Craig Evans to the effect that the Gospels are “essentially reliable.” Uh huh. From Herod’s infamous slaughter of the innocents (confirmed by no historian ever) to Caesar Augustus’ worldwide census (confirmed by no historian ever) to the earthquake and risen saints that accompanied Christ’s crucifixion (confirmed by no historian ever), the Gospels are just scary fucking accurate.

Oh, you were so close.

Oh, you were so close.

He attempts to back up this claim with the “history-bursting creed in 1 Corinthians 15,” trotting out a list of scholars who date it to the “mid-to-late 30’s [CE].”

We have a written record of a crucified, risen, messianic figure who was believed to have appeared to great numbers after his death within less than a decade after his execution.

Whoopee. Miraculous tales about the 17th century messiah-figure Sabbatai Zevi were spawned within mere weeks of his public appearances in Palestine. Letters from that same year relate that he commanded a fire to appear and walked through it unaffected. [1] The same year. Talk about “history-bursting.” It must have really happened!

My Weed 2

Not to mention, the mid-to-late 30’s date for 1 Corinthians 15 is spurious. Scholars infer this from the notion that Paul received and delivered the creed; ipso facto, it must predate Paul. But we have to ask what Paul is doing passing on an early creedal statement as fundamental to the gospel he preached (15:1-3), when, in Galatians 1:11-12, he states unequivocally, “…the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Bottom line: 1 Corinthians 15 is very likely a post-Pauline interpolation, i.e., a passage inserted by later scribes. [2] Which would explain why the whole business of Jesus’ appearance to over five-hundred brethren appears nowhere in the later Gospels. So much for bursting history.

Hadouken

Then there’s this tasty morsel:

Tarico says the gospel story about the women at the tomb is believed by most scholars to be a mythological fiction based in earlier myths.  In reality, this element of the gospel sources is considered one of our most reliable according to Gary Habermas who surveyed more than 1,400 scholarly publications on the historical Jesus in German, French and English. (The testimony of women was so repudiated in the first century that this embarrassing element in the sources wouldn’t have been contrived by Christians.) [20]

Christian apologist Gary Habermas surveyed more than 1,400 scholarly publications and somehow failed to discover that his claim about women’s testimony in the ancient world is, in fact, completely false. (Did I mention that he’s a Christian apologist? Yeah, that would explain why.) Though women did not take on traditional male roles, such as that of a lawyer, their testimony was indeed trusted, even in a court of law. [3]

And it still is.

And it still is.

Stanhope continues:

Modern scholars don’t interpret the mystery religions into the gospels because there was little footing for them in 1st century Judea unlike Alexandrian Judaism.

The relevance of this statement is that the mystery religions constitute those “earlier myths” from which the Gospels may have derived their story about women grieving at the tomb. They featured dying and rising godmen, such as Osiris and Adonis, whose deaths were bewailed by female consorts. Stanhope would have us believe that no one in 1st century Judea had ever heard of such a thing. Even though Ezekiel 8:14 attests to women bemoaning the slain Tammuz at the very gates of the Temple, and Osiris had long been known in Palestine. [4]

But not as long as T-Rex.

But not as long as T-Rex.

Besides, what evidence does Stanhope have that the Gospels were actually written in Judea? They may likely have been produced by Hellenized Jews in the Diaspora, where mystery religion motifs would have been quite familiar. Stanhope, like most apologists, conflates the setting of the Gospels with their place of composition.

And if concepts from the mystery religions had not been known to the New Testament authors, then Stanhope has a long way to go toward explaining why the ritual assimilation of the believer to Christ (Ro. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12) and the consumption of his flesh in the form of bread (Jn. 6:53-58) have no basis whatsoever in Judaism, but fit beautifully in the context of the Osirian mortuary cult. [5] [6]

There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we're naught but humble pirates.

There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates.

All in all, Stanhope is just another spin-doctoring windbag, attempting to foist his trite apologetics upon an ill-informed public–one that he hopes will be just as credulous of his claims as they are Tarico’s. More importantly, anyone who would rip off Cracked.com should be ferociously dick-punched and forced to traverse the earth collecting elephant shit in a bag for the rest of their pitiful lives.

And so it is.

Off I go. Man, my dick hurts.

Works Cited:

[1] Robert M. Price. “Is There a Place for Historical Criticism?” Official Home Page of Robert M. Price. http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_place.htm (2007).

[2] Robert M. Price. “Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation.” The Secular Web. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/apocrypha.html (1997).

[3] Richard Carrier. “Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?” The Secular Web. http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/women.html (2006).

[4] “Osiris, according to the brilliant conjecture of Lagarde, is perhaps named in Isaiah 10:4. In any case, he is known in Palestine much earlier, according to the excavations there” (Alfred Bertholet, “The Pre-Christian Belief in the Resurrection of the Body,” The American Journal of Theology, 20:1 [1916]: 10).

[5] S.G.F. Brandon. The Ritual Technique of Salvation in the Ancient Near East. In “The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation,” ed. Edwin Oliver James (Manchester University Press, 1963), 32-33.

[6] “It so happens that scented loaves of bread accompany the Sokar figure in the Osirian mysteries described at Dendera. Called kfn-loaves, they are baked in special molds that mark them as representations of Osiris’ body parts…” (Joseph D. Reed, “Arsinoe’s Adonis and the Poetics of Ptolemaic Imperialism,” [American Philological Association: First Edition, 2000], 331).

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