Posts Tagged ‘Christ-Myth’

The Brother of the Lord

May 21, 2013

Is James really a brother to a historical figure? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote about the problem of internet atheists and gave the Christ-myth as an example. I can anticipate that someone will ask me about the claims of Richard Carrier. I figured it would be good to look at some of the claims that are made against Jesus being a real historical figure and for a start, thought that I’d look at the passage that talks about James being the brother of the Lord.

Now if James is a brother to someone, it would be self-evident that that person either now exists or at one time did exist. You can still be the sibling of someone who is dead after all. If it is the case that Jesus now existed or even at one time did exist (Perhaps for the sake of argument, he never rose from the dead), then the Christ-myth theory is false.

There can be no doubt that the NT often uses the term “brother” and “brethren” in a spiritual sense. This is still used today of course. The question we have to ask is “Does this mean that every time the text identifies someone as a brother, it means in a spiritual sense?” This would be a highly problematic feature since it would mean no one could positively be identified as someone’s brother in the text.

Could there be any way to make a stronger case? Yes. I think there is. I would like to start with the Galatians passage that’s usually brought up. This text is Galatians 1:19 and reads as follows:

“But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.”

Now this is often dismissed since we know about the case of spiritual brothers. Yes. We certainly do. However, to state that it can often refer to spiritual brethren in the NT is not to argue that in this case, it means a spiritual brother. Here are some reasons I think it does not.

First off, we have a specific identifier remark. James is a brother. A brother of who? A brother of Jesus. This is to set him apart from numerous other people named James. Keep in mind James was an extremely common name in the time of the NT. How do you know which James, it’s the one who is an apostle and more importantly, the brother of the Lord.

Note also that to identify someone by their brother is something extraordinary. Most people would have been identified by their father. This James is identified by the person he is a brother of. This indicates that the person he is a brother of would have been well-known in the church.

Second, James is set apart from others. Would not John and Peter have also been considered brothers of the Lord in a spiritual sense? Yet this is not said of John or Peter. Some have speculated a group called “the brothers of the Lord” and that James belonged to this and none others. Unfortunately, we have no mention of such a group. It is created wholesale to fit the theory. We do, instead, have references to brothers in the NT, even physical brothers, and thus no ad hoc creation is needed.

Third, this reference shows up in Josephus. In there, we find a reference to James, the brother of Jesus. This occurs in Antiquities 20.9.1. The whole reads as follows:

“Antiquities 20.9.1. “And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.” ”

A Christian inserting such a passage would not say Jesus was called Christ. They would say Jesus was the Christ. (Especially if such a person had inserted the earlier reference in Josephus entirely) Josephus scholars have no problem accepting this passage. Some think the final Jesus is the one being talked about, but there is no evidence that this Jesus was ever called the Christ and if so, there’s no reason why he would have been made high priest. In fact, if the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah, it is most certain a high priest could not be Messiah. (Hebrews explains Jesus being one from a Christian perspective)

There are other references in the NT that I think lend support to the idea of brothers not having to be a spiritual term.

1 Cor. 9:5 “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”

Again, why should I create an ad hoc group when instead I could just say these are the brothers of the Lord. Why would apostles not be included in such a group? Why would Cephas not be included in such a group?

Jude 1:1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

Once again, why should I think this is referring to something spiritual. Jude would be identifying himself by a famous marker. He does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus, likely so as not to draw attention to himself and be seeking to steal honor from others. He instead goes with the brother of James, which would be a famous one, and why not the one who is a brother of Jesus. Could Jude be saying James is a spiritual brother, but no one else? The more natural reading fits best.

It is for reasons like this that I do not think the brother of the Lord claim of Carrier being a spiritual brother really holds waters. To argue otherwise is to adjust the evidence to fit the theory and vice-versa.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

If anyone is interested, a friend of Deeper Waters also translated this post into Spanish.

El Hermano del Señor
¿Es Santiago en verdad el hermano de una figura histórica? Hablemos de esto en Aguas Profundas.

Ayer escribí sobre el problema de los ateos de internet y puse como ejemplo al Cristo mítico. Puedo anticipar que alguno me preguntará por las afirmaciones de Richard Carrier. Se me ocurrió que sería bueno dar un vistazo a algunos de los reclamos que se hacen en contra de que Jesús sea una figura histórica, y para empezar pensé en el pasaje que habla sobre Santiago como el hermano del Señor.

Ahora, si Santiago es hermano de alguien, sería obvio que esa persona o bien existe ahora o existió alguna vez. Después de todo uno todavía puede ser hermano de alguien que está muerto. Si es el caso que Jesús existiera ahora o que alguna vez existió (quizá, para propósitos de argumentación, nunca resucitó de los muertos), entonces la teoría del Cristo mítico es falsa.

No puede haber duda de que el NT a menudo usa el término “hermano” y “hermanos” en un sentido espiritual. Esto por supuesto todavía se usa hoy. La pregunta que hay que hacer es “¿Quiere decir esto que cada vez que el texto identifica a alguien como un hermano, significa en un sentido espiritual?” Esa sería una característica altamente problemática, ya que significaría que nadie podría ser identificado positivamente como hermano de alguien en el texto.
¿Podríamos decir algo más contundente al respecto? Sí. Creo que podemos. Me gustaría empezar con el pasaje de Gálatas que usualmente se toma como ilustración. El texto es Gálatas 1:19 y dice como sigue:

“No vi a ningún otro de los apóstoles; sólo vi a Santiago, el hermano del Señor.”

Ahora, a menudo se descarta este versículo puesto que sabemos del caso de los hermanos espirituales. Sí. Ciertamente sabemos. Sin embargo, decir que a menudo puede referirse a hermanos espirituales en el NT, no es argumento de que en este caso significa un hermano espiritual. Aquí hay algunas razones por las que pienso que no:

Primero, tenemos una marca de identificación específica. Santiago es un hermano. ¿Hermano de quién? Hermano de Jesús. Con esto se lo distingue de otras numerosas personas llamadas Santiago. Hay que recordar que Santiago era un nombre extremadamente común en el tiempo del NT. “¿De qué Santiago hablas?” “El que es un apóstol y, más importante, el hermano del Señor.”

Note además que identificar a alguien por su hermano es algo extraordinario. La mayoría de personas eran identificadas por su padre. Este Santiago es identificado por la persona de quien es hermano. Esto indica que la persona de quien él es hermano habría sido bien conocida en la Iglesia.

Segundo, Santiago es distinguido de otros. ¿No habrían también Juan y Pedro sido considerados hermanos del Señor en un sentido espiritual? Aun así, esto no se dice de Juan y Pedro. Algunos han especulado sobre un grupo llamado “los hermanos del Señor” y que Santiago pertenecía a este grupo y los otros no.

Desafortunadamente, no tenemos mención de tal grupo. Es inventado por completo para ajustarse a la teoría. Sí tenemos, en cambio, referencias a hermanos en el NT, incluso hermanos de carne, y por tanto no se necesita una creación ad hoc.

Tercero, esta referencia aparece en Josefo. Allí, encontramos una referencia a Santiago, el hermano del Señor. Esto ocurre en Antigüedades 20.9.1. El pasaje entero reza así:

Antigüedades 20.9.1 “Y ahora César, después de enterarse de la muerte de Festo, envió a Albino a Judea como procurador. Pero el rey removió a José del sumo sacerdocio, y confirió la sucesión a esa dignidad sobre el hijo de Ananías, llamado también Ananías. Ahora según se dice, este Ananías mayor probó ser muy afortunado; porque tenía cinco hijos los cuales habían todos ejercido el oficio de sumo sacerdotes delante de Dios, y él mismo había ostentado esa dignidad mucho tiempo antes, algo que nunca había ocurrido a ninguno de nuestros sumo sacerdotes. Pero éste Ananías más joven, quien como ya hemos dicho tomó el sumo sacerdocio, era un hombre de temperamento osado, y muy insolente; el cual así mismo era de la secta de los Saduceos, los cuales son muy rígidos para juzgar ofensores, por encima del resto de los judíos, como ya hemos observado; cuando, por lo tanto, siendo que era esa clase de hombre, y creía que se le ofrecía, como Festo estaba ahora muerto, y Albino estaba de camino, convocó al Sanedrín de jueces, y trajo delante de ellos al hermano de Jesús, llamado el Cristo, cuyo nombre era Santiago, y a algunos otros; y cuando hubo formado acusación contra ellos como infractores de la ley, los entregó par ser apedreados: pero los ciudadanos más moderados y afectos a la ley, se indignaron; y enviaron mensajeros al rey, pidiéndole que por carta exhortara a Ananías a que, en adelante, no hiciera tales cosas, pues lo realizado no estaba bien. Algunos de ellos fueron al encuentro de Albino, que venía de Alejandría; le pidieron que no permitiera que Ananías, sin su consentimiento, convocara al sanedrín. Albino, convencido, envió una carta a Ananías, en la cual lleno de indignación le anunciaba que tomaría venganza contra él. Luego el rey Agripa le quitó el sumo sacerdocio, el cual ejerció por tres meses, y puso en su lugar a Jesús, hijo de Dameo.” Un cristiano que insertara tal pasaje no diría que Jesús era llamado el Cristo. Ellos dirían que Jesús era el Cristo. (Especialmente si tal persona había insertado la referencia anterior en Josefo en su totalidad) Los eruditos en Josefo no tienen problemas para aceptar este pasaje. Algunos piensan que el Jesús que se menciona de último es al que Josefo se refiere, pero no hay evidencia de que este Jesús era llamado el Cristo, y si fuera así, no hay razón para que lo hubieran hecho sumo sacerdote. De hecho, si el Mesías era de la tribu de Judá, es muy seguro que un sumo sacerdote no podía ser Mesías. (Hebreos explica que Jesús lo es, desde una perspectiva cristiana) Hay otras referencias en el NT que pienso dan apoyo a la idea de que “hermanos” no tiene que ser un término espiritual.

1 Cor. 9:5 “¿No tenemos derecho de traer con nosotros una hermana por mujer como también los otros apóstoles, y los hermanos del Señor, y Cefas?” De nuevo, ¿Por qué tendría alguien que crear un grupo ad hoc cuando en su lugar podría decir “estos son los hermanos del Señor”? ¿Por qué no estarían incluidos los apóstoles en tal grupo? ¿Por qué Cefas no estaría incluido en ese grupo? Judas 1:1 “Judas, siervo de Jesucristo y hermano de Santiago” Una vez más, ¿Por qué deberíamos pensar que esto se refiere a algo espiritual? Judas se estaría identificando con un marcador famoso. Él no se identifica como hermano de Jesús, probablemente para no llamar la atención sobre sí mismo ni robar el honor de otros. En su lugar, se identifica como el hermano de Santiago, y no como el hermano de Jesús. ¿Acaso dice Judas que Santiago es un hermano espiritual, pero nadie más? La lectura más natural encaja mejor.
Es por razones como ésta que no creo que la afirmación de Carrier de que el “hermano del Señor” es algo espiritual quede en pie. Argumentar lo contrario es ajustar la evidencia para que encaje en la teoría y vice-versa.

En Cristo,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Did Jesus Exist?

September 10, 2012

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve had this one sitting for awhile meaning to read it but some of you may know how it is. You find one more book that you want to order at the library and you do so and that becomes another and then another and then another and those books you have at home that you’re meaning to read never seem to get there. Encouragement from others on this book finally got me to sit down and go through it and I do agree, it is a good book.

A great advantage that we have in this book is that this is someone that normally the atheist community respects, although there has been quite a backlash against Ehrman since he wrote it. It is quite amazing that atheists who often say Christians go against all of scholarship in being against evolution can often themselves do the same in going against all of scholarship in being Christ-mythers and yet they think that this is a respectable position. It is not. It never has been. It never will be.

Not only this, Ehrman gives plenty of evidences that the Christian can use in dating the evidences. For instance, Ehrman says within a couple of decades of Jesus’s death, we have numerous accounts of his life in a wide geographical area. He notes that there are at least eleven sources. (82-83) He makes it clear that there are possibly more. On page 108 we read “The Other is that the Acts account gives clear evidence of being very early and Palestinian in origin.”

Also, Ehrman does not hold back when he speaks about people like Acharya S. and Freke and Gandy in “The Jesus Mysteries.” He repeats a number of statements that he refers to as howlers that can be found in them. He will also throughout the book deal with other Mythicists like Richard Carrier, G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, and Robert Price. I do know Price has recently responded to Ehrman’s appearance on Unbelievable? talking about this and Carrier was quite vehement in his reply to Ehrman.

Ehrman also includes a basic historiography and tells us about how we can establish someone’s existence in the ancient world. He lays myth to the idea that the Romans kept excessive records and points out that there is hardly mention of many people whose existence we do not doubt in the ancient sources. Josephus is not mentioned for instance. Ehrman also thinks it’s implausible to point out that Caesar is mentioned, as if the person who rules the Roman Empire could be compared with any person living in the Empire. (Nevertheless, Jesus does get an impressive number of mentions)

I do think his responses to why Jesus isn’t mentioned in other sources are weak. I would answer that the reason Jesus isn’t mentioned is the same as it would be today. Suppose you hear about someone halfway around the world who is working miracles. Are you really going to investigate it? Even if you get on your computer, you’ll find one site that explains it away and that can be enough. Most of us don’t take that claim seriously, even if we believe in miracles!

Now transplant that to the Roman Empire. Suppose you’re in Rome. You hear about this Jewish rabbi in the backwater area of Palestine who is doing miracles. What are you going to say? Simple. “What a bunch of ignorant superstitious people.” You’re not going to bother because you’re predisposed to be against miracles, especially if you hear about a resurrection. After all, who wants to come back to life anyway? Finally, if you hear he has been crucified, well that clinches it. No great ruler would be crucified.

In fact, this is something Ehrman states repeatedly with regards to crucifixion. Jesus’s crucifixion is not something the early Christians would have made up. They would have done anything to avoid it, but the reason that they preached it is that they could not avoid it. It was an undeniable fact and they not only had to share it, but they even saw the basis for it in the Scriptures. If this was the wisdom of God, they were to find it.

Also, Ehrman does a number on the position that because something is in the Bible, we should not accept it as evidence. Ehrman believes the atheist is as wrong as the fundamentalist Christian. It is neither fair nor scholarly. Something does not fall outside the realm of historical inquiry just because the word “Scripture” is given to it. He also says there is no God-given hermeneutic for reading them and they are human and historical. Christians can agree by and large. While we think there is a divine origin, it is also through human authors.

In looking at a response to Mythicist themselves, Ehrman repeatedly points out that the whole of scholarship is in disagreement. The book gives an impression of one Ehrman is disappointed he has to write. The idea is that this theory is so absurd that it does not even, as he says, get a toe-hold in the academy. This also includes even the claim that Nazareth didn’t exist of Rene Salm and Ehrman frequently quotes scholars on the subject, seeing as archaeology is not his area, who make it clear how shoddy they think Salm’s approach is.

He also goes after Kersey Graves, who is a regular source for mythicists, and says that not one of his claims is footnoted with any scholarly evidence. Where does Graves get his information from? We don’t know. We do know that numerous mythicists online are still quick to point to his material about 16 crucified saviors. It is always important to ask people who make the claims about Jesus being a copycat Messiah to back their claims with primary sources.

When it comes to those pagan beliefs, Ehrman says that they did not have a foothold in Palestine and that while there are similiarities, there is no basis to say copying was going on. This brings up a point some readers might wonder about. What do I think about this book in comparison with J.P. Holding’s “Shattering the Christ-Myth.” After all, Holding spends much more time on the matter of copycats then Ehrman.

Overall, I do think Holding’s work is more thorough and better at dealing with the copycat theory and every other aspect. This could also be because Holding’s material is written by a group of individuals. One wonders how long one could write individually on the Christ-myth before one thinks they were repeating themselves. One can find much more in Holding’s book on Mithras, the Testimonium Flavianum, and Remsberg’s list. (I don’t think Remsberg is even mentioned in Ehrman’s.)

Many Christians find disappointment with Ehrman’s book at the end when he describes Jesus as a failed apocalyptic prophet. Coming from a Preterist perspective, I did not find this section disappointing but rather confirming. After all, I see Ehrman as reading the predictions of Jesus with the same fundamentalist thinking he condemns elsewhere. I can easily look at the text and say “Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet and He was right!”

While I do think Holding’s material is superior for the reasons given, I still think this is an important one as the skeptic is more prone to listen to someone like Ehrman. I will still be including links to both resources.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Shattering the Christ Myth can be found [url=http://www.amazon.com/Shattering-Christ-James-Patrick-Holding/dp/1606472712/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347303077&sr=1-1&keywords=shattering+the+christ+myth]here[/url]

Did Jesus Exist? can be found [url=http://www.amazon.com/Did-Jesus-Exist-Historical-Argument/dp/0062204602/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347303116&sr=1-1&keywords=did+jesus+exist]here[/url]

Abraham Lincoln Never Existed!

June 29, 2012

Did the 16th president really exist? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve been going through J.P. Holding’s “Shattering the Christ Myth” which was published in 2008. I’m on the section talking about Lord Raglan’s study of the Mythic Hero and how Francis Utley wrote a work on how Abraham Lincoln fulfilled the criteria as well for being a Mythic Hero. One aspect of the hero mentioned was how the hero had victory over a king, giant, dragon, or wild beast. Now normally, this was seen as referring to slavery or his political opponents, but reading it today, I realized that here in 2012, the truth had come out!

Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter! He regularly slew evil creatures then!

Now already I know your objections, but the reasons you have these objections is that you’re uninformed. It could be worse. It could be your mind has been closed by the so-called “scholars” of history who are wanting to keep alive a tradition of a great hero who let his people go.

“After all,” you say, “This is just a movie you’re talking about.” So what? James Cameron had his movies as well and these were readily accepted by audiences. Why should it be that James Cameron can do that, why not Timur Bekmambetov? Are we going to discount the information in a source based solely on the medium from which it is given?

In fact, since this is a movie, this lends more credibility seeing as that in the ancient world, the legends were told often through the medium of the plays. We do not have just plays today but we have movies and now we see that myths are being reborn and adapted for the time, as all myths are. Of course, we all know that with the recent book tour of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln”, that the historical fundamentalists are hard at work to make sure we all realize that Abraham Lincoln really was a historical figure. We see right through their claims however!

“But how come scholars haven’t noticed this?” Pssh. Isn’t it obvious? They just haven’t studied enough. Scholars have not spent sufficient time checking the real sources that they should check. They’re just far too ingrained in their historical fundamentalism. If they simply studied the sources that were used for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” they would see the truth.

The reason this was not held widely was because vampires were held to not exist. Obviously, this was part of a huge cover-up by historical fundamentalists to make sure the truth was never uncovered. Why would they do this? To protect their reputation in academia! If word got out to other fundamentalists that they believed in vampires, then they would be shunned. In order to avoid that, they simply buried the evidence as far as they could. It’s no shock then that the evidence can only be found in those works scholars have neglected. Don’t give me this nonsense about the works not being scholarly and properly evidenced! There is just obviously a conspiracy!

The best aspect of this is that the historical fundamentalists will likely claim that we’re adding details that would be considered legendary to a real historical figure. Oh please. Let’s just make it all easier. The real historical figure himself never even existed. He was made up at a time of peril to the people and the idea of slavery was turned to vampires. After all, if you are a vampire, you are a slave to wicked desires within you! The vampire motif had to be turned into the slavery motif to make it believable. Let’s not forget that we know little of Lincoln’s childhood and he was supposedly slain on Good Friday as well. Our supposed savior from slavery and vampires died on the same day that the supposed Jesus died!

Fortunately, the truth is coming out to the people these days and we can free ourselves from the historical myths of supposed presidents that freed the slaves. Now we know that what happened was that the story of a vampire hunter was made into the story of a great hero and this great hero embodied what the people wanted in a president and when they wanted to accredit someone with freeing the slaves, they chose Lincoln.

If someone wants to argue against this, well that will just show how closed-minded they are and how much scorn they want to reap on everyone who just differs from the ” majority” opinion. We can rest assured that those of us who are Lincoln mythicists know the real truth about this great figure and everyone else is just ignorant.

In Christ,
Nick Peters