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Republican
I Saw Three Shipments


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This site claims that Jesus never even existed as a real person. Instead he was based on pagan mythology. Jesus never existed

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I'm a rumour weed.

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Steelmage
The Red and the Green Stamps


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There are plenty of sites on the web that prove Jesus does not exist. This is just one more.
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Egg Note
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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And plenty of those sites are designed much better than this one.

I'm not entirely too sure about a site that has "Christianity is the worst disaster in human history." Granted, a lot of stupid things have happen as a result of someone doing it "for the good of Christianity" but it wouldn't necessarily be the worst disaster.

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Okay, just to make it clear, there is a real world out there. No really, there is. I checked.

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Nonny Mouse, on Santa's laptop
Once in Royal Circuit City


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I'm more of the opinion that various common mythological elements got themselves postumously attached to an actual Jewish guy who preached religious reform, myself.

Stripped of the mythos, Jesus' life and death reads a lot like that of Michael Servetus. Both challenged the prevailing religious orthodoxy of the time and place in which they lived, both got themselves nastily killed for it.

There have been many others, before and since, though most, like Servetus, didn't get deified for their troubles.

Nonny

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When there isn't anything else worth analyzing, we examine our collective navel. I found thirty-six cents in change in mine the other day. Let no one say that there is no profit in philosophy. -- Silas Sparkhammer

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TrishDaDish
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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My brother used to say that there's nothing wrong with what Jesus had to say, except that he wasn't original with it; Confucius said the same sort of things before him. Be good, treat others as you want to be treat yourself, don't be an evil doodyhead...

However, I know nothing about Confucius, so don't quote me.

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I would prefer not to.
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Joe Bentley
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I am of the opinion that Jesus of Nazarath never existed, at least in any form as described in the Bible. It is possible a person named Jesus existed about the time described and was believed to be a saviour, but to actually attribute many of the stories to him is almost completely implausible given a wider view of history.

Crucified saviours are extremely common in religions, Jesus of Nazarath being one of dozens of stories what share very similar characters including but not limited to virgin births, being raised a carpenter or other lowely laborer, many of the same miracles such as raising then dead, creating food for many, or walking on water, crucifiction, and resurrection.

The consumate work on this subject was the 1875 Kersey Grave's book "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours: Christianity Before Christ" which breaks down the similarities between the the biblical account of Jesus and other accounts of saviours and heros in other historical works.

Like most of the Christian mythos the story of Jesus was told in dozens of other versions long, long before the first Christian walked the earth.

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"Existence has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long." - Rorschach, The Watchmen

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Bill
The Red and the Green Stamps


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When I was in high school in the 1970s one of my teachers told me about a work of fiction in which someone proved that Jesus Christ never existed, and the point of the book was apparently to demonstrate the effect a revelation like that would have on the world.

Thanks.

Bill

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Egg Note
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Actually, I know I saw a post here about a movie coming out in 2006 about a girl who finds out everything about Christianity is all lie of something along those lines...

...here we go. You'd think this movie would've gotten more attention by now.

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Okay, just to make it clear, there is a real world out there. No really, there is. I checked.

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First of Two
The Bills of St. Mary's


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Ask Cartaphilus, because I'm not telling. [Wink]

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"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide." - Jerry Pournelle

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callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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That Jesus the person existed as a first century Jew is documented well enough, and is really not up for debate, unless of course you are the same calibre of historian who would debate things like whether napoleon existed, or if 911 really occurred.

That Jesus is the God-man saviour of the world as described in the 4 gospel accounts is, however, a matter of faith.

I personally hold to such a faith, but I would not think that I could present documented indisputable facts that would demand such a faith from another person. Such would not be faith then anyway. (though I would qualify, however, that properly investigated historical facts could be presented that would prove the leap of faith I make to be not unreasonable, i.e. in a good trajectory of reason)

I am ofcourse aware of the cultural millieu from which Jesus sprang. Yes, parallels to his moral teaching can be found in other ancient writers both before and after Jesus; I have read, and own copies, of many of them (though I will confess I have only ever read about Confucious). And yes, there are even plenty enough parallels to the divine claims that exist about him (virgin birth, resurrection, etc...), and I have read and own copies of many of them as well. None of that, to my mind, creates an obstacle for my Christ faith.

For one, there was still a unique element to Jesus, in that while many of the individual components to his "package" can be paralleled in the ancient world, Jesus does present, I believe, a unique synthesis.

More importantly, however, is that I do not see uniqueness as a criterion for truth. Like most Christians, I believe that all truth is God's truth (hence, for example, the Catholic church's acceptance of evolutionary theory b/c 'no two truths can ultimately conflict') and thus have no surprise or objection to truth being copied or repeated.

This, I have found, is an important point. Many times I have seen people come to me or to others having found some strikingly similar parallel to something in Christianity, and present it as if it is self-authenticating evidence needing no further explanation that said element of Christianity is therefore illegitimate; as if the mere existence of simulacra proves falsehood. And yet the bible itself reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun, and I am reminded of that every time another pop movie or pulp fiction code book comes out that does litle but rehash the same criticisms that have been made for centuries.

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a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. - John Carroll

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Joe Bentley
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by callee:
That Jesus the person existed as a first century Jew is documented well enough, and is really not up for debate

"Documented well enough?" Is there any reference to Jesus of Nazarath outside of the New Testament or works directly derived from the New Testament, such as non-canon gospels? Are we counting things like the Shroud of Turin or artifacts?

That and I don't think the Bible or any other religious work actually counts as documentation. Hell I have over 50 comic books that reference the Punisher, published over a period of 25 years from a dozen different authors, but that doesn't mean Frank Castle exists. So one book from an anonymous author with zero outside documetation isn't exactly going to sway me.

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"Existence has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long." - Rorschach, The Watchmen

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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I think there's a big difference between Yeshua ben Yusef, some anonymous prophet that lived two thousand years ago, and Jesus Christ, the 'saviour of mankind' that Paul wrote about. All Paul seemed to be interested in was that some guy had lived, was crucified and resurrected, thus, in his view, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. He didn't seem interested in any other biographical aspects of Jesus' life (except maybe his heredity) as a basis for faith.

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No man has a right in America to treat any other man "tolerantly" for tolerance is the assumption of superiority. -Wendell L. Willkie

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callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Joe Bentley:
quote:
Originally posted by callee:
That Jesus the person existed as a first century Jew is documented well enough, and is really not up for debate

"Documented well enough?" Is there any reference to Jesus of Nazarath outside of the New Testament or works directly derived from the New Testament, such as non-canon gospels? Are we counting things like the Shroud of Turin or artifacts?

That and I don't think the Bible or any other religious work actually counts as documentation. Hell I have over 50 comic books that reference the Punisher, published over a period of 25 years from a dozen different authors, but that doesn't mean Frank Castle exists. So one book from an anonymous author with zero outside documetation isn't exactly going to sway me.

Sure, I'd have to look the references up, but there are references in secular historians, such as tacitus, hellenistic Jewish historians, such as Josephus, proper rabbinic Jews (very negative references, describing Jesus as "the great deciever"), and of course all those other non-canonical gospels, which have more of a voice than you allow, since they disagree with the canonical gospels and were for that reason suppressed. In other words, they are truly an independent testimony of the church. I can look such references up if you'd like, but, and not to sound snarky, I am pretty sure they are readily available online somewhere, since every Pcm with internet access surely refers to them in the course of their "proving christianity" arguments; don't let pCm usage throw you off, though, they are legit historical references that proove the basic point -- the existence of a first century Jewish prophet figure named Jesus -- well enough. Everything else, saviour of mankind etc..., is, as we all seem to agree here, a matter of faith, but you should trust me on this one, only wacko pseudo-historians question the basic existence. See, for example, the voluminous work of robert funk and the Jesus seminar, a mainline/liberal group that seeks to sort out historical fact from christian fiction re the person of Jesus.

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a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. - John Carroll

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Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Note:
Actually, I know I saw a post here about a movie coming out in 2006 about a girl who finds out everything about Christianity is all lie of something along those lines...

...here we go. You'd think this movie would've gotten more attention by now.

Yeah, The Beast . What I want to know is...what does the giant squid have to do with anything?
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Lady L
Squall of Me


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quote:
Originally posted by Bela Lugosi's Dead:
Yeah, The Beast . What I want to know is...what does the giant squid have to do with anything?

Don't you get it Bela?! The Giant Squid is actually Jesus!

Actually, I think it is kind of bold to say that Jesus never existed. I can't offer up any proof right now that I know of that he existed, but I can never shake the feeling that I think God did give his Son up for sacrifice for all of our sins and such. Also, why would it still be so well known today? This goes for Buddhism, Islam, and other religions as well. Obviously, there was something great that did change the way the world followed religion.

I also read the book 'The Da Vinci Code', and it was a great book, but I call BS on the ideas that it presents.

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The Snopester formerly known as RooBug

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Note:
I'm not entirely too sure about a site that has "Christianity is the worst disaster in human history."

Agreed. How can he forget Catwoman?

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"Well, it looks we're on our own ... again."--Rev. Lovejoy

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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quote:
Documented well enough...
I can speak to the Tacitus reference. It is: "[The Christians'] originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate."

This reference (the only extant reference to Pilate's action in pagan Latin), written some sixty or seventy years after the incident it's describing is hardly definitive proof. There's nothing to say that Tacitus didn't learn this fact from the circulated teachings of the Christians themselves -- if it corroborates anything, it's the strong likelihood that there was, indeed, a Roman governor of Judea named Pontius Pilate, since that's information that Tacitus could have verified.

But that bit of skepticism aside, the sheer fact that you have very clear references (both Roman and Jewish) to the Christian cult well within a single generation of 33 A.D., indicates that there should have been plenty of contemporaries of Christ still around. It would be somewhat difficult to establish a religion around a fictional person (especially when there are so many other living Messianic prophets standing around on every corner to choose from) when people in living memory who would have remembered the presence (or lack thereof) of Jesus and his followers in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. If Christianity had only picked up around the time most believe the canonical gospels to have been written (roughly 100 A.D.), then sure, claiming it was all based on a mythological figure would hold more water.

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Midgard_Dragon
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Note:
Actually, I know I saw a post here about a movie coming out in 2006 about a girl who finds out everything about Christianity is all lie of something along those lines...

...here we go. You'd think this movie would've gotten more attention by now.

That must have been a short movie. [Razz] What I mean is, if Jesus was "proven" to have never existed, Christians would only deny the "proof" and say that they don't care, they have faith. Many of them anyways.

My personal opinion for quite some time now has been that someone who the stories of Jesus were attributed to did at one time exist. His name may or may not have been "Jesus". He may or may not have been considered the savior at that time. It's possible some of the miracles that were attributed to him did occur, in one way or another. I guess the pagan-ish side of me does believe that some people do have "gifts" and the rational side of me just says "I really don't know, maybe there's some logical explanation for those 'miracles'." Crucified for his beliefs? Sure. People get "crucified" for there beliefs all the time. Ressurected? Maybe, maybe more like his followers saw a vision of him or saw what we would refer to as a "ghost." The only thing I don't believe is that he was the son of God, at least not anymore so than the rest of us are the sons and daughters of God (or the Universe, the Life Force, the All, whatever you prefer.)

To conclude on a totally unrelated topic: Logboros, your sig line rocks. ^^

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Midgard Dragon
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cynicgal
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I am a Christian. More importantly, I am a Christian who will happily talk about their faith, but not tell someone that they're wrong for theirs. (Wouldn't that be really disrespectful and *against* what Christianity teaches? Just a thought.) This being the case, the first book I went to was the Bible. I didn't think trying to find Scripture proving the exsistence of Jesus Christ would be right. I thought some more, and decided that finding Scripture to say that God just wants us to acknowledge his prescence and power was the right thing. The first bit I found was John 14:1-2 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."

Reading it in context with everything around these verses, I believe it may say that each person finds own their way to Him (whatever you call Him) in a manner appropriate to the individual. i.e., Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Yeah, there's a lot in these verses that is open to interpretation. I try really hard to interpret Scripture in a way that comes from a forgiving, loving, understanding, always-there God.

Okay, I've rambled enough for tonight. I should get to bed; I need all the energy I can get because my mother-in-law is visiting with us until Wednesday. (Read that, "I am gonna lose my mind by Monday afternoon!")

Take care, y'all. G'night!
cynicgal

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gnosys
The Red and the Green Stamps


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It's not such a bad thing, really, that the very existence of Jesus is historically dubious. After all, his divinity and resurrection from the dead are purely matters of faith anyway. It's good that we're free to accept or reject whatever else we choose about Jesus, without being constrained by pesky tidbits of historical data (which, if they existed, would surely be used either to bolster or undercut the authority of the Gospels. At the risk of being schmalzy -- for each of us, the real Jesus is the one living within us.

(Thank God we live in a free society in which we all have respect for each other's religious beliefs, and no one tries to impose his faith on anyone else. "Judge not lest ye be judged," Jesus is supposed to have said, and on that one point at least there is universal agreement. Indeed, if Christianity has given us nothing else, it has spread its message of love and tolerance to believers and non-believers alike.)

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Crono
Deck the Malls


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Cecil has a couple of Straight Dope articles on this topic here and here. (In the latter article, pay the most attention to the section titled "External Sources.") There were a few other authors who wrote about Jesus (or, more accurately, a figure similar to Jesus). The most famous was Josephus, although his writings are unreliable, and we do not have any of his original works.

There is something I'm confused about. Why isn't the New Testament permitted as evidence for Jesus's existence? Granted, they are biased sources, and they certainly don't "prove" His existence, but saying they aren't evidence at all seems a little extreme. They don't seem to be written as purely works of fiction, and while their authorship is disputed (Cecil has an article on that as well), they do seem to be the product of multiple sources.

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Disclaimer: I might know something about everything, but I don't know much about anything.

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Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Crono:

There is something I'm confused about. Why isn't the New Testament permitted as evidence for Jesus's existence? Granted, they are biased sources, and they certainly don't "prove" His existence, but saying they aren't evidence at all seems a little extreme. They don't seem to be written as purely works of fiction, and while their authorship is disputed (Cecil has an article on that as well), they do seem to be the product of multiple sources.

It isn't that they aren't accepted as evidence, its just that they make extraordinary claims and as such, require extraordinary proof. Someone's miraculous account of how a faith healer cured them of severe burns might be impressive, but without another account to back it up, or some other evidence, it falls rather short. Likewise, when people are telling you that you will go to hell if you don't believe this stuff (not that anyone here has said anything like that) some of us just need a little more proof.
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Nonny Mouse, on Santa's laptop
Once in Royal Circuit City


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quote:
Originally posted by gnosys:
(Thank God we live in a free society in which we all have respect for each other's religious beliefs, and no one tries to impose his faith on anyone else. "Judge not lest ye be judged," Jesus is supposed to have said, and on that one point at least there is universal agreement. Indeed, if Christianity has given us nothing else, it has spread its message of love and tolerance to believers and non-believers alike.)

Two words.

Fred Phelps.

It would be nice if all those professing belief in Jesus' teachings embraced love, tolerance, and non-judgmentalism, but sadly enough, many just don't get it.

Nonny

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When there isn't anything else worth analyzing, we examine our collective navel. I found thirty-six cents in change in mine the other day. Let no one say that there is no profit in philosophy. -- Silas Sparkhammer

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Joe Bentley:
quote:
Originally posted by callee:
That Jesus the person existed as a first century Jew is documented well enough, and is really not up for debate

"Documented well enough?" Is there any reference to Jesus of Nazarath outside of the New Testament or works directly derived from the New Testament, such as non-canon gospels? Are we counting things like the Shroud of Turin or artifacts?
Tacitus and Josephus come to mind.

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"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."--Iris Murdoch

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by callee:
This, I have found, is an important point. Many times I have seen people come to me or to others having found some strikingly similar parallel to something in Christianity, and present it as if it is self-authenticating evidence needing no further explanation that said element of Christianity is therefore illegitimate; as if the mere existence of simulacra proves falsehood. And yet the bible itself reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun . . .

Just to take the sun as one example: the earliest "monotheism" we know of was that Egyptian Pharoah who tried to expunge all the other deities -- Ra, Horus, Bast, etc. -- and institute a monotheism based on worship of the Sun.

Now, *maybe* Moses was influenced by this. Maybe not. But suppose, just for argument's sake, that it could be proven that Moses *was* influenced by this and that it helped him create monotheistic Judaism...

How would that "invalidate" Judaism in any way? How would it impugn or undermine the faith of the "peoples of the book" who adore the God of Moses?

Sure, Lilith, and Adam & Eve, and Noah were all *borrowed* from the Babylonians. So what? What does it prove?

(In the same vein, if one were disposed to worship Jupiter, how would it invalidate that faith to learn that many of his attributes were inspired by the Greek Zeus? Does that really make Jupiter any less divine?)

Silas

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Unusual Elfin Lights
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Nonny Mouse, Seedling Hugger:
Two words.

Fred Phelps.

It would be nice if all those professing belief in Jesus' teachings embraced love, tolerance, and non-judgmentalism, but sadly enough, many just don't get it.

Nonny

Except Fred's teachings are about as Christian as OBL's are Islamic. Both have scratched out a message of hatred from a book(s) of love.

If you want to look at the epitome of a human being teaching love, tolerance and non-judgementalism, look at the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. He espoused many characteristics of a Christian.

(MLK chosen because he is a Christian advocate, much like Fred.)

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Rufus T. Firefly
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Silas, there's a huge difference between seeing similarities in two religions, and saying that one religion "inspired" the other.

Logically, there should be similarities in religions, at least in the ones that teach love and compassion. And, for example, even if it were to be discovered that Jesus never gave the Sermon on the Mount, that wouldn't invalidate the message, or mean that it's perverse or non-Christian.

But to assert that Egyptian religion "inspired" Judaism does indeed undermine the Jewish faith. A Jew/Christian/Muslim probably does not believe in anything from Egyptian relgion; to do so would be sacreligious. So how could that person then accept that his or her beliefs are "derived" from something they believe to be wrong?

Not to mention that part of the Judeo-Christian belief is that the Bible is God's word as he revealed it to his chosen people. To assert that this "word" is actually just an adaptation of the "word" of another god (which, by monotheism, shouldn't exist in the first place) is blasphemous.

The matter would be even more complicated if you believe that the Bible is the literal truth. If you're a fundamentalist, then it certainly does matter whether Adam and Eve were actually "borrowed" from the Babylonians, or whether Noah is actually Gilgamesh, or whether Jesus had a different name or lived 100 years earlier or never really existed at all.

To assert that a deity was "inspired" by another would necessarily mean that we created god, and not the other way around, and that's not going to sit well with a lot of people.

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Elkhound
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Rufus T. Firefly:

But to assert that Egyptian religion "inspired" Judaism does indeed undermine the Jewish faith. A Jew/Christian/Muslim probably does not believe in anything from Egyptian relgion; to do so would be sacreligious. So how could that person then accept that his or her beliefs are "derived" from something they believe to be wrong?

Not to mention that part of the Judeo-Christian belief is that the Bible is God's word as he revealed it to his chosen people. To assert that this "word" is actually just an adaptation of the "word" of another god (which, by monotheism, shouldn't exist in the first place) is blasphemous.

Not necessarily. Have you ever read Akhnaten's "Hymn to the Sun"? It sounds a lot like Psalm 118. One could easily conclude that Aten was YHWH under another name, and that, although Atenism was no longer the official religion of Egypt after the time of Akhnaten, it may have continued as an underground stream of Egyptian thought, and formed part of the 'wisdom of Egypt' in which Moses was instructed as the foster-son of an Egyptian princess.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism once printed a poster with a photograph of one of the Atenist reliefs with the caption EGYPT: CRADLE OF MONOTHEISM; this idea was not considered offensive by the Muslims, and there is no reason why Christians or Jews would find it so. Indeed, CS Lewis plays with this idea in REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS; one can hardly say that he's not a mainstream Christian writer.

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callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Rufus T. Firefly:
The matter would be even more complicated if you believe that the Bible is the literal truth. If you're a fundamentalist, then it certainly does matter whether Adam and Eve were actually "borrowed" from the Babylonians, or whether Noah is actually Gilgamesh, or whether Jesus had a different name or lived 100 years earlier or never really existed at all.

To assert that a deity was "inspired" by another would necessarily mean that we created god, and not the other way around, and that's not going to sit well with a lot of people.

But, I beg to differ! I am a fundamentalist in that sense, in that personaly I really do believe that the bible is literaly true in that which it literaly asserts, and furthermore that this is so because the bible was inspired by God. And yet at the same time I am forced by evidence to confess the historical reality that many elements of the hebrew scriptures, for example, were shamelessly borrowed from other ANE religious documents, egyptian religion being just one example.

This does not create a theological problem for me, however, for at the risk of sounding condescending, my God is much bigger than that! And thus my doctrine of inspiration is much bigger and more robust than that!

When I say "God inspired the bible" what do I mean? Does such a claim necessitate some mystical situation where an individual specific author becomes overcome by the holy ghost and as if like a machine writes out words not his own which represent a truth never before revealed in humanity?

Or, can I simply believe that whatever happened, God was behind it; whether he inspired the "authors" to be composers or collectors, editors or poets, conflationists or creators, whatever they did, they did it under divine guidance. And if that is the case, why would the source matter? As I have said many times before, if all truth is God's truth, and egyptian religion happened to preserve some portion of truth, why wouldn't God guide an author to take that up and incorporate it? Wouldn't doing so make it easier, for example, for native egyptians to receive God's truth?

Truth cannot contradict truth, and thus if we construct a theology that can be endangered by the truth of historical or scientific inquiry, then I think we need to confess that we have constructed nothing but a theological house of cards, and should therefore remind ourselves that any God who is God would have to be much stronger than that.

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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by Rufus T. Firefly:
Silas, there's a huge difference between seeing similarities in two religions, and saying that one religion "inspired" the other.


Two very good answers followed...

quote:

Logically, there should be similarities in religions, at least in the ones that teach love and compassion. And, for example, even if it were to be discovered that Jesus never gave the Sermon on the Mount, that wouldn't invalidate the message, or mean that it's perverse or non-Christian.



Agreed and agreed...

quote:

But to assert that Egyptian religion "inspired" Judaism does indeed undermine the Jewish faith. A Jew/Christian/Muslim probably does not believe in anything from Egyptian relgion; to do so would be sacreligious. So how could that person then accept that his or her beliefs are "derived" from something they believe to be wrong?



Only if you're an absolute literalist. Most of us aren't...

The literalist believes that God actually said to Moses, word for word, how to build the Ark and Tabernacle and how to weave the Priest's Robe, etc.

Most of us, instead, believe that Moses wrote these things. Perhaps he was *inspired* by the spirit of God. Perhaps he was simply doing his very best, as a human, to create a system of worship that he felt would please God.

quote:

Not to mention that part of the Judeo-Christian belief is that the Bible is God's word as he revealed it to his chosen people. To assert that this "word" is actually just an adaptation of the "word" of another god (which, by monotheism, shouldn't exist in the first place) is blasphemous.



Alas, most modern Christians would be "blasphemous" by this definition. Those who are not strict literalists are not in the least threatened by the story of Ut-Napishtim, just as they are not threatened by the true origin of the Book of Daniel.

Jesus spoke in parables; the entire Bible pretty much does the same. Do we have to believe the Book of Job *literally* for it to be meaningful?

quote:

The matter would be even more complicated if you believe that the Bible is the literal truth. If you're a fundamentalist, then it certainly does matter whether Adam and Eve were actually "borrowed" from the Babylonians, or whether Noah is actually Gilgamesh, or whether Jesus had a different name or lived 100 years earlier or never really existed at all.



In my opinion, the matter only becomes problematic if one is a literalist. Otherwise, it isn't a "problem" at all.

For instance, there are many Christians who believe that Jesus existed (re the OP) but wonder if he really raised Lazarus from the dead. I, personally, don't get the bit where he causes the fig tree to wither; that just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Many Christians take that as a parable that was either garbled or merely awkward.

quote:

To assert that a deity was "inspired" by another would necessarily mean that we created god, and not the other way around, and that's not going to sit well with a lot of people.

Of course, as an atheist, I believe exactly that... But many, many Christians would acknowledge that, to some degree, we *do* "invent" God, all the time. When Michaelangelo painted the magnificent Sistine Chapel frescoes, no one would deny that he was "inventing" an image of God. No one in their right mind would say that God actually looks like that: a bearded bloke with a crooked nose wearing a scanty cotton t-shirt and surrounded by flappy-winged fairies! What M. was doing was exactly what Moses was doing when he designed the Ark and Tabernacle: giving glory to God by the act of "subcreation," making something up that, in his belief, honored an unknowable God.

Taking the Bible absolutely literally leads to a lot of REAL problems! But even taking it "too seriously" -- without accepting that some of the stories are of human origin -- can lead to logical dissonances...such as the origin of the story of Noah.

Silas

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I'mNotDedalus
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Just to take the sun as one example: the earliest "monotheism" we know of was that Egyptian Pharoah who tried to expunge all the other deities -- Ra, Horus, Bast, etc. -- and institute a monotheism based on worship of the Sun.

Now, *maybe* Moses was influenced by this. Maybe not. But suppose, just for argument's sake, that it could be proven that Moses *was* influenced by this and that it helped him create monotheistic Judaism...

It can be argued that the Abrahamic tradition has a more sustainable root. It is wise to mention the pharaoh Amenhotep (changing his name to Ikhnaton/Akhenaten) and his solar monotheism devoted to Aten/Amon-Re at Thebes--but this branch of monotheism did not endure. Look to Iran: throughout the entire history of Occidental *ethical* religiosity--very much in contrast to the *metaphysical* religiosity of the Orient--the themes first introduced in the Gathic dialogues of the God of Truth (Ahura Mazda) with his prophet Zoroaster (c. 660 B.C.E.) can be heard echoed in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaean, Arabic, and every language of the West. This is when the ultimate nature of humanity and the world was first treated in purely ethical terms. I can go on and on about other symbolic roots first introduced by Zoroaster, but this post would soon become a thesis...

quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
How would that "invalidate" Judaism in any way? How would it impugn or undermine the faith of the "peoples of the book" who adore the God of Moses?

Sure, Lilith, and Adam & Eve, and Noah were all *borrowed* from the Babylonians. So what? What does it prove?

(In the same vein, if one were disposed to worship Jupiter, how would it invalidate that faith to learn that many of his attributes were inspired by the Greek Zeus? Does that really make Jupiter any less divine?)

You are just and wise, Sage Sparkhammer. I completely agree. "Extension" or "evolution" is not an ethically negating force. The question of "devotion" is what makes this conversation difficult, especially when one believes their mythological symbols to be fact/literal (ahem...the Abrahamic tradition).

Can Notre Dame de Chartres be the same as Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe? Catholics wouldn’t falter in kneeling and praying before either image. However, for the faithful, an anthropologists’ theories of diffusion are anathema and all cross-cultural comparisons methodologically beneath contempt. Under such theories, one image is treating of a local French, the other of a local Mexican goddess, functionally serving two entirely different social orders; Our Lady of Chartres, furthermore, showing the influence of a Gallo-Roman Venus shrine, of which evidence appears in the cult of the Black Madonna observed in the crypt of the present (12th to 16th century) cathedral, whereas Our Lady of Guadalupe is clearly of Amerindian origin, having appeared in vision (or so it is alleged by all native informants) hardly a decade after the overthrow of Montezuma, on the site of a native shrine, probably of the great serpent-goddess Coatlicue. All of which, of course, would be true, and yet, not true enough.

Let us press the question further: Can the Virgin Mary be the same as Venus-Aphrodite, or as Cybele, Hathor, Ishtar, and the rest? No good Catholic would kneel before an image of Isis if he knew that it was she. Yet every one of the mythic motifs now dogmatically attributed to Mary as a historic human being belongs also--and belonged in the period and place of the development of her cult--to that goddess mother of all things, of whom both Mary and Isis were local manifestations: the mother-bride of the dead and resurrected god, whose earliest known representations now must be assigned to a date as early, at least, as c. 5500 B.C.E.

It is often customary in devotional cults to limit the view of the devotee to a single local manifestation, which then is honored either as unique or as the primary, "truest," form of the divinity represented. Even in India, from the lips of a leading teacher of the unity of religions, Ramakrishna (1836-1886), we read the following words of advice to a devotee: "You should undoubtedly bow before all views. But there is a thing called unswerving devotion to one ideal. True, you should salute everyone. But you must love one ideal with your whole soul. That is unswerving devotion."

However, one has to recognize a distinction between the ends and means of devotion and of science; and in relation to the latter there is no reason to fear a demonstration of the derivation of local from more general forms. It is simply fact--deal with it how you will--that the mythology of the mother and the dead and resurrected god has been known for millenniums to the Neolithic and post-Neolithic Levant. Its relation to the earlier, Paleolithic cult of the naked goddess of the age of the mammoth hunt is unclear but there is no question concerning the obvious continuity from the nuclear Near East c. 5500 B.C.E., to Guadalupe, 1531 C.E.

--see Joseph Campbell and his remarkable 4 volume set The Masks of God, Vol. 3, Occidental Mythology, pgs 42-5.

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Elkhound
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quote:
Originally posted by callee:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Rufus T. Firefly:
[qb] When I say "God inspired the bible" what do I mean? Does such a claim necessitate some mystical situation where an individual specific author becomes overcome by the holy ghost and as if like a machine writes out words not his own which represent a truth never before revealed in humanity?

Or, can I simply believe that whatever happened, God was behind it; whether he inspired the "authors" to be composers or collectors, editors or poets, conflationists or creators, whatever they did, they did it under divine guidance. And if that is the case, why would the source matter? As I have said many times before, if all truth is God's truth, and egyptian religion happened to preserve some portion of truth, why wouldn't God guide an author to take that up and incorporate it? Wouldn't doing so make it easier, for example, for native egyptians to receive God's truth?

Truth cannot contradict truth, and thus if we construct a theology that can be endangered by the truth of historical or scientific inquiry, then I think we need to confess that we have constructed nothing but a theological house of cards, and should therefore remind ourselves that any God who is God would have to be much stronger than that.

Very good. Also, to say that the Bible was inspired does NOT mean that the Biblical authors would have had scientific knowledge in advance of their cultures. It also does not mean that all of the stories in the Bible are meant to be taken as historical records. The parables of Jesus are one example, of course; it is not necessary to imagine that the Prodigal Son and Dives & Lazarus were real people--that isn't the point, the point is the moral lesson Jesus was drawing from the story. Even in the OT, there is no reason to think that Job and Jonah, for example, were not intended to be works of edifying fiction, for example.

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Rufus T. Firefly
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When I was in college, I took a course on the Epistles of Paul. It was taught by a minister, and the goal of the course was to analyze the text from historical, literary, and theological perspectives. One of the first things we discussed was that, based on writing analysis and other clues, we can conclude that at least one of the letters was not, in fact, written by Paul, but that the contents and message of the epistle made it no less valid than any of the others. Still, this didn't stop three students from resigning the class because, as they put it, "The Bible says it was written by Paul, so it was written by Paul."

Callee, it's great that you can reconcile your faith with historical evidence, and that you can recognize that theological truth should not be threatened by historical truth. But there are plenty of people out there who don't see things that way. You and I can look at the Torah and believe that the truth contained in it is not dependent on whether it was in fact written by Moses. But there are those for whom Moses' authorship is an integral part of the text's credibility, and thus to challenge this is to challenge their faith. Or even to assert that Moses borrowed some of the material from other faiths and cultures, while fine for some of us, directly contradicts others' belief that the Torah came directly from God.

This is all I was trying to say: it's naive to assert that for all people, the message is independent of the messenger.

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Communication Attempt
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I always imagined Jesus as a normal guy.My guess is he was a regular guy who wanted to help people around him.He was very good at it and became known for his good deeds.Now add a spoonful of devoted apostles,a drop of poetic texts relating his exploits and a pinch of good old exageration and voila!The recipe for the perfect messiah.

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by Communication Attempt:
I always imagined Jesus as a normal guy.

Which is probably what he looked like. Judas had to point him out to the Roman and Jewish authorities who came to arrest him.

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