"The Foundations of Christianity" by Quentin David Jones
>There is no mention of "The Jesus Mysteries" on my site. Anyway, the book is well-known and covers the main ground, it deserves a mention ... Did you have any suggestions on how it might be fitted in?
The book The Jesus Mysteries is only half a book; the other half is Jesus and the Lost Goddess. To understand and characterize the first, one should understand the second as well. The first book focuses on explaining what the Jesus figure *wasn't* originally about, and the second focuses on explaining or proposing what the Jesus figure actually *was* originally about.
I have characterized these as negative and positive coverage of mythic-only Jesus research. Together the books imply that an accurate understanding about Jesus requires a full understanding of both aspects; not just discarding the Literalist man Jesus but replacing the Literalist understanding of Jesus by a robust understanding of the Jesus figure as a mythic figure. The requires a far deeper understanding of what "myth" is really all about.
Like other religious myths, the Jesus figure is a mythically allegorized metaphor describing primary religious experience as was commonplace and universally available in the mystery religions. The greatest thing propping up the dominance of the received, Literalist view of Jesus is the modern inability to appreciate how routinely commonplace religious experiencing was in late antiquity and thus how vivid the presence of the mythic Jesus was.
This robust positive understanding (as I call it) of the Jesus figure finally enables a suitably compelling possible *alternative* explanation as an alternative to the overly familiar and entrenched received view. Today is the era of striving to formulate plausible alternative candidate positive explanations of what the Jesus figure *did* mean and how Christianity actually *did* spread.
There is too much emphasis on the negative: the Literalists, as always, assert that Jesus did exist, and the mythic-only Jesus researchers deny he did, but we need a more intense focus on a positive alternative to the received view, not merely a more intense denial and disproof of our grounds for assuming a Historical Jesus. To many researchers leave us hanging.
A stack of typical mythic-only Jesus books proves beyond a reasonable doubt that we have no more grounds for postulating a Historical Jesus than we have for postulating a Historical Dionysus -- but there we are left dangling without resolution, and may say that Jesus is a myth, but still fail to know anything about what a myth amounts to. For late antiquity, myth expressed psyche-overthrowing intensity of primary religious experience that deeply transformed the mind's way of thinking about personhood (including self, time, and control).
Myth was not only something more than empty falsehood; myth was more present and full of meaning than tangible reality. Moderns stand within the nonmythic realm and peer into the mythic; the Hellenists stood within the mythic realm and peered out into the non-mythic realm.
Modernity completely misunderstands what myth is for and what it is doing, so it completely misses the point when saying Jesus was mythic, and modernity only comes a little closer when saying that the Jesus myth was spiritually meaningful.
Myth remains essentially a mysterious black box with a question mark, for moderns, so even if we say that Jesus was a spiritually meaningful mythic figure, we still fail to understand Jesus: we now merely know that instead of Jesus being a man, he was something else, which we don't understand and can only label as somehow meaningful in some sort of spiritual way.
Such a vague kind of understanding of Jesus fails to provide an alternative possibility that can seriously threaten the hegemony of the entrenched Literalist way of thinking about Jesus.
I see the purpose of the JesusMysteries discussion group as being centered in what I call the negative project: textual proof of whether Jesus did or did not exist. Serious brainstorming on the positive project of formulating candidate alternative paradigms for consideration remains for another discussion group. The JesusMysteries discussion group can lean toward the latter project, in a way consistent with the group's history and method, by rigorous yet open-ended approaches such as the Deconstructing Jesus project.
I imagine that the JesusMysteries moderators have the world's hardest job, shaping and guiding postings constructively for substantial results that make progress in the investigation. I am especially hopeful that the structured DJ project approach can make tangible progress by organizing the interpretations of the Jesus figure and asking what exactly each kind of Jesus character is really all about. This provides an open-ended approach enabling positive discovery of meaning, rather than just a simple refutation of the received view.
Earl Doherty's work has a weakness that also may be a strength relative to Christian Literalists. I've read about 50% of his published work, and skimmed more, and the coverage of mystic experiencing seems vanishingly small, as I would expect from such a "scientific"-styled researcher. Scientific demythologizers throw out the baby with the bathwater: when Christianity is discovered to be myth, it vanishes altogether for them. But this lack of coverage of Christ-shaped religious experiencing, of oneself experienced as crucified with and as Jesus, enables Doherty to focus on scientific refutation of the Historical Jesus and do an effective job of this for an audience that is accustomed to placing their Literalist Christology on a scientific footing.
It is harder for such Literalists to dismiss Doherty than to dismiss Acharya S (The Christ Conspiracy) or Freke & Gandy (The Jesus Mysteries, Jesus and the Lost Goddess), who in addition to scientifically refuting the Historical Jesus also put forth a theory of astrotheology and Gnostic mystic experiencing, respectively.
All three -- the Jesus-myth work of Acharya, Freke & Gandy, and Doherty -- provide uniquely valuable and urgently needed work, in different ways. The more I read of mainstream Christian scholarship, the more I realize that Doherty's work stands in most intense contrast and contradiction with almost the whole of it. Practically *every* mainstream scholar assumes that Jesus existed -- that point is out of bounds as an investigation for them; for them, the only question is about the details. The mythic Jesus books by Acharya and Freke & Gandy may be more radical and more relevant in the long run, into the era that will be familiar with the no-HJ alternative.
But at the moment, Doherty seems to be the most relevant, the most glaringly opposite of the wave of recent Historical Jesus and Early Christianity studies. The more mystical mythic-only Jesus scholars are "opposite" of mainstream scholars, and Doherty is also "opposite" of mainstream scholars, but in different ways.
In some respects, the most forceful alternative to the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption is not just negative (disproving HJ) but also positive (providing a full, rich alternative picture of Christianity as mystic initiation, which I happen to portray as initiation into the mystic altered state of deterministic ego sacrifice). However, such a twofold move, of negation of the conventional paradigm together with a positive alternative paradigm, is too complex for scientific-minded Christian scholars, whether they are supernaturalists (Literalists), atheists, antisupernaturalist ethicists (Liberal Christians), or antisupernaturalist spiritualists (Spiritual Christians).
Not even a New Age Christian is likely to readily follow the move of both discarding the accustomed assumption of the Historical Jesus (assumed by them to be a perfect spirituality expert) *and* retaining Christ as a vivid, profoundly meaningful myth that describes their own mystic experiencing.
To make the proposed positive, mystic-experiencing alternative even more complicated, I additionally ask people to also accept a certain kind of frozen-future cosmic determinism -- yet not the reigning standard conception of determinism -- together with entheogens as flesh of this now entirely mythic, yet also molecular and physical, Christ.
And, as I have vividly found, such positive speculation about the meaning of the Christ figure, when the anchor of the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption is discarded, can explode with richness, becoming a confusing entire *realm* of overloaded, multiple mythic meanings (just as it was designed to do, as a way of encapsulating any and all central religious mythemes). Christologies are problematically multiple now, but after discarding the anchor of the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption, many additional viable meanings of the Christ figure are revealed.
Doherty's method and proposition is easier to follow. How many people, at this time, feel it is relevant for them to engage in dispute with Doherty?
How many people, at this time, feel it is relevant for them to engage in dispute with Acharya S' Christ Conspiracy and her forthcoming book Suns of God? http://www.truthbeknown.com/introduction.htm
How many people, at this time, feel it is relevant for them to engage in dispute with The Jesus Mysteries & Jesus and the Lost Goddess?
When I read any recent book about Christianity, a frequently occurring thought is "Doherty has refuted this Historical Jesus assumption this author thoughtlessly buys into, and thus has rendered this entire book deeply problematic." The most glaring contrast is between scientific Christian historical scholarship, which adheres to the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption, and Doherty's similarly scientific-style scholarship. Acharya and Freke & Gandy are obviously outsiders, obviously different than the Christian scholars, and are currently easy for Christian scholars to dismiss because they are so different in method, style, and overall concerns.
Doherty may have more of an immediate impact because his is *so similar* in his method and many aspects of his style, to the Christian scholars. Doherty has infiltrated the methodology, using the method and style of the Christian scholars to refute the unexamined foundation of their entire system.
Most books about Christianity are not mystic-experiencing oriented enough for me to think, "Freke & Gandy have refuted this Historical Jesus assumption this mystic author thoughtlessly buys into, and thus has rendered this entire book problematic." The most mystical books, such as The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision, by Andrew Welburn, seem to be completely unruffled by anything the mythic-only Jesus scholars can propose. Welburn, as normal, adheres to the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption, but that is already in contrast with his deeply mythical, mystic-experiencing portrayal of what proto-Christianity was all about. Perhaps there is no great contrast between mystical Christian writers who, as normal, adhere to the Historical Jesus unexamined-assumption, and those mythic-only Jesus scholars who positively assert that Christianity was essentially about initiation experiencing in which one was mystically crucified and resurrected.
Mystical mythic-Jesus scholars point the way past the Historical Jesus confusion, but for most Christian scholars today, Doherty's work is in the position to be more relevant and influential, because its style is limited to that of scientific scholarship about Christianity, and focused on that methodology. In the longer term, I would expect and hope that the positive mystic-experiencing hypotheses are influential. Of course Christianity has always been many things and has spread many ways. Rodney Stark provides some non-religious explanation of the rapid spread of the Christian religion, but as a sociologist, he does as the scientists do, omitting the mystic-experiencing initiation aspect at the same time as he abandons the assumption that people adopt Christianity for theological and religious reasons (he asserts that the real driving reasons are social and practical, even if the converted later assume they were motivated by religious/theological reasons).
The liberal Christians formed "religionless Christianity" meaning a system of ethics more than of religious experiencing; similarly, scientific scholars of Christian origins are inclined to consider early Christianity as a political and social movement without considering the mystic experiencing of Christ.
Using a Ken Wilberian "integral studies" approach, we may find that even if mystic Christian experiencing is the highest form of Christianity, and even if the history of Christian mystic experiencing is the most lofty kind of history of Christianity, other, non-mystical threads of Christian history (such as social or political) are even more important if we measure in terms of sheer quantity of influence. There's no way we can say "esoteric Christianity is real Christianity", any more than Theology and Creedalism is real Christianity. Christianity may be best thought of as a free-floating nexus of power and meaning, which any group with any goal may harness to their own end. We tend to assume people identify with Christ in order to secure eternal life, but that's just the simple official story.
Thus I do not quite go so far as to say that Doherty clears away false, Literalist Christianity so that the more mystic-initiation oriented mythic-Jesus scholars can at last present the real, mystic Christianity. Christianity is what Christianity is: predominantly exoteric, largely social and political, and at an elite level, a hidden tradition of esoteric initiation and mystic experiencing. I propose that Christianity should be considered a 2-level system of Literalist/exoteric and fully esoteric/mythic/mystic-experiencing, but the exoteric level may be considered as more than one thread:
3. Religious in the familiar sense. This familiar sense is exoteric religiosity, which solidified and justified the egoic moral self and guided that self by a promise of eternal temporal duration, on the one hand, and the moral ballast of punishment and reward, on the other.
Starks' theory of religion is that people adopted Christianity because it worked for them, but that theory only covers exoteric religion: it explains that Christianity "worked" successfully to give egoic people what they needed; that egoic, Literalist, exoteric Christianity served to effectively prop up the egoic, freewillist, morally culpable (and empowered) agent.
4. Christianity has also served, though as poorly as other religions, to provide esoteric religious experience of ego transcendence. I get the impression Start overlooks this dimension of ways in which "Christianity spread because it worked (socially and psychologically)".
Doherty refutes thread 3 above, which also affects or weakens thread 1 and 2 as we've known them, but doesn't affect thread 4 much if at all. The mystic mythic-Jesus scholars ultimately build up thread 4. In shifting from Literalist to mythic-only Jesus, we move from emphasizing exoteric to esoteric Christianity. Doherty focuses on reducing exoteric; others focus on increasing esoteric Christianity. But I'd hesitate to say that esoteric is "real" Christianity; rather, it's "higher". Portraying esoteric as "higher" Christianity is justified because esoteric happens after learning the exoteric. My further detailed portrayal of this 2-level system accords with Pagels' Gnostic Paul: exoteric naive freewill morality comes first, and esoteric determinism is discovered later (and is quasi-transcended), in mystic experiencing. Lower Christianity is not so much "false", as a needed, stage-appropriate fairy tale to prop up the miraculous delusion of independent egoic sovereignty; exoteric moral religion provides and nourishes our seeming ability to change what our own future will be (a sloppy, confused notion inherent in the initial, egoic worldmodel).
>Thanks, Michael, for such a good overview. Doherty does read much better than Acharya. He makes even me consider Jesus as a figment of Paul's imagination. I surfed a bunch of his web pages listed below, best ranking pages first.
Here is a near-final draft of my Amazon.com review of Doherty's Jesus Puzzle book. It is actually a general framework for categorizing *all* the Historical Jesus books. This framework is more valuable than a review of any single book in isolation.
If reading The Jesus Puzzle along with some other similar books doesn't convince you that we have no more evidence for a Historical Jesus than for a Historical Dionysus, then you cannot be convinced. There are at least some 20 books on the mythic-only Christ. I conclude that Jesus was originally a 2-layer mythical, allegorical figure loosely based on a variety of political, ethical, and religious figures of the era. Here is a framework for you to use to categorize Historical Jesus researchers, including Doherty.
The mythic-only Christ books can be evaluated in terms of how they describe Jesus on the exoteric level (was he first of all a healer, prophet, ethicist, exorcist, or rebeller against the power establishment?), on the esoteric level (did the mythic-allegorical Jesus figure represent a spirit-plane way-shower, a personified entheogen, one's own higher self, or one's own transcended lower sacrificed self?) and as an integrated combination of the two levels.
There are several distinct approaches taken by Historical Jesus researchers:
1. Supernaturalist esoteric Historical Jesus researchers -- Orthodox mystics. They do Historical Jesus studies as part of seeking direct mystical experiences of the supernatural Christ, which manifested as the actual Historical Jesus. They think Jesus was supernatural and also can be experienced mystically.
2. Supernaturalist non-esoteric Historical Jesus researchers -- Orthodox Literalists. These do some Historical Jesus studies as part of worshipping the Christ of Faith. The assume there was a real, single, towering supernatural Historical Jesus who performed miracles, was resurrected from death, and is God. Even if they let go of some or all miracles, they maintain that Jesus is holy, is uniquely God, and is the Savior.
3. Non-supernaturalist, esoteric Historical Jesus researchers -- Modernist mystics. Andrew Welburn's book The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision. He assumes that Jesus was a mystery-religion initiator who was unfortunately crucified. This approach so well explains mythic allegorical Christianity, Jesus tends to become irrelevant, though by habit of tradition, such theorists try to find something for the supposed Historical Jesus to do as part of the mystery religion -- he spent time with the Essenes as the Teacher of Righteousness or was an even more towering and ethically influential man.
4. Non-supernaturalist, non-esoteric Historical Jesus researchers -- Moderate demythicizers. These are today's mainstream Jesus scholars. These focus on Historical Jesus studies to regain a supposed liberal ethical teacher. They assume there was a real, single, towering but not supernatural Historical Jesus, upon whom many myths were piled. They treat Jesus as a largely unique figure, though not a unique holy savior.
5. Non-supernaturalist, non-esoteric mythic-only Christ researchers -- Radical humanist debunkers. Classic scientific humanists such as Doherty who neglect or dismissively belittle esoteric religious experiencing. They assume religion is all superstition and deceptive myth to manipulate weak and irrational minds. Doherty is against religion, doesn't feel that exoteric religious practice or esoteric religious experiencing has anything significant to offer. He doesn't seriously investigate original Christianity as an esoteric, experiential mystery-religion. He is a typical scientific debunker who sees the false aspect of Christianity and concludes that religion in general is false and harmful -- religion is only myth, in a purely negative sense of "myth". Doherty is purely a debunker with nothing truly positive to say about religion. He equates all religion with exoteric religion, and focuses on dismissing religion, without giving special coverage of esoteric religion and its claims to provide transcendent knowledge, insight, or wisdom beyond what scientific humanism provides. Doherty denies that religion conveys wisdom, and in doing so, he does not differentiate between exoteric and esoteric religion -- he does not focus on interpreting the Jesus figure as a mythic personification of esoteric initiation experience that reveals transcendent knowledge. The exoteric mythic-only Christ approach has a weakness that also may be a strength relative to Christian Literalists. As I would expect from a scientific historian-styled researcher, Doherty neglects mystic experiencing, . Scientific demythologizers throw out the esoteric (experiential insight) baby with the exoteric bathwater: when Christianity is discovered to be myth, Christianity vanishes altogether for such scorched-earth debunkers.
6. Non-supernaturalist, esoteric/allegorical mythic-only Christ researchers -- The complete allegorical mystics. They have a deep respect for esoteric religious experiencing. They consider religions at their best as providing valuable, transcendent enlightenment as well as sophisticated ethics. They consider exoteric religion as being a more or less necessary vehicle to lead the masses toward the true, esoteric, experiential core of religious insight and spiritual, mental, and ethical transformation. Freke and Gandy, authors of the book The Jesus Mysteries and the book Jesus & The Lost Goddess, propose a Gnostic esoteric allegorical mystic experiencing theory of the origin of Christianity. They are positive, committed promoters of religion: esoteric religion, sometimes conveyed appropriately by exoteric, surface myth. Acharya S, author of The Christ Conspiracy, seems to fit in between approaches 3 and 4. She proposes an astrotheology explanation for the origin of Christianity. I don't think she defines or glorifies esoteric religion, but she largely dismisses and criticizes popular exoteric religion. I think she respects esoteric religion but is only a moderate promoter of it as providing wisdom and transcendent knowledge. These positive esoteric theorists, in addition to scientifically refuting the Historical Jesus, also put forth a positive replacement theory, of Jesus as conveying wisdom about astrotheology or wisdom about Gnostic insight.
Mainstream scholarship is now predominantly using approach #4 (moderate demythicizing). Doherty, as a researcher using approach #5 (radical humanist debunking), may have more of an immediate impact because his is *so similar* in his method and many aspects of his style, to the Christian scholars. Doherty has infiltrated the methodology, using the method and style of the Christian scholars to refute the unexamined foundation of their entire system. Approach #6 (complete allegorical mysticism) is too great a jump for the mainstream at this point. The mainstream of Jesus researchers may need to slowly transition through Doherty's approach before proceeding forward to the fully allegorical esoteric approach.
It is harder for the moderate demythicizers to dismiss Doherty than to dismiss Acharya S or Freke & Gandy. They all provide uniquely valuable and urgently needed work, in different ways. Doherty's work stands in most immediate contradiction with mainstream scholarship, which simply takes it for granted that some single Jesus or another existed -- the question of *whether* such a single man existed is out of bounds as an investigation for them; for them, the only question is about the details.
The esoteric mythic-only Christ books may be more relevant in the long run, into the era that will be familiar with the no-Historical-Jesus alternative. But at the moment, Doherty seems to be the most relevant, the most glaringly opposite of the wave of recent Historical Jesus and Early Christianity studies.
Doherty has refuted this Historical Jesus assumption all mainstream authors thoughtlessly assume, thus he has rendered all mainstream books deeply problematic. Acharya and Freke & Gandy are obviously outsiders, obviously different than the Christian scholars, and are currently easy for Christian scholars to dismiss because they are so different in method, style, and overall concerns.
Doherty's lack of coverage of Christ-shaped esoteric religious experiencing, of oneself experienced as crucified with and as Jesus, enables him to focus on scientific refutation of the Historical Jesus and do an effective job of this for an audience that is accustomed to placing their Literalist Christology on a scientific footing.
I don't think Doherty clearly describes either level of the allegorical-only Jesus figure, or their integrated relationship. On the esoteric layer of religion, Jesus is a mythic allegorical figure serving the same purpose as the mythic dying/rising savior figure in other Hellenistic mystery-religions. Mystery-religions are entheogenic (see James Arthur's Mushrooms & Mankind, and Clark Heinrich's books), experiential (see Andrew Welburn's The Beginnings of Christianity), and determinism-transcending (see Luther Martin's Hellenistic Religions). The Jesus figure is distinctive among mythic savior figures in that his exoteric, surface dramatic story, instead of being set in the obviously mythic realm, is more or less reality- and history-based; his dramatic life story is about political rebellion against the power establishment that tried to use religion to justify the oppressive status quo. This theme of political liberation proved so popular, the power establishment took it over to defuse it by making it a supernaturalist exoteric-only religion rather than an esoteric religion conveyed through an exoteric allegory of socio-political rebellion and liberation.
For more books about the above themes, see my Amazon book lists: Mythic-only Christ theory; Christianity as political rebellion against "divine" Caesar; Original, experiential, mystical Christianity; Entheogen theory of the origin of religions; Block-universe determinism, Necessity, divine predestination."
>Two good books on the David/Solomon/OT myths are "The Mythic Past," by ThomasThompson and "The Bible Unearthed," by Finkelstein and Silberman.
The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel
Thomas L. Thompson
I snapped up the hardcover used because it appeared to be an Old Testament equivalent of the mythic-only Jesus studies. I was wondering if it is really worth putting near the top of my reading list, and have read about comparable books online. Although the reviews of The Mythic Past aren't all as favorable as of some fairly comparable book, I have concluded that it is more right-on in its approach than the others I've found. Another, old book I'm reading is:
Legends of the Bible
as part of my study of the identity of religion, myth, and mystic experiencing.
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts
Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman
The best and most insightful books often garner very negative reviews and very positive reviews. It would be interesting to see point spreads on reviews. Some books have a very split distribution of extreme positive and negative ratings, as opposed to less controversial books that have a narrow spread of fairly favorable and moderately reserved reviews -- especially in the field of the mythic study of religion.
Finishing my second reading of The Jesus Mysteries, I'm certain that this is one of the best, most important books ever written. The artificiality of its popular presentation is irrelevant and can be completely bracketed off, with no doubt about the insight and specific clarity of the substantial content that is delivered through the stiff, fake, artificial style of popular lens the authors happened to use.
If that writing style helped the authors attain the clarity which they certainly did, then the book has achieved the goal that matters. It has the best content, the clearest presentation, though a fake and stilted style of reporting the process of the authors' discovering their thesis. Excelling in two of these three aspects is a tremendous success.
A comparable book is Godel, Escher, Bach -- some people felt the style rubbed them the wrong way: it was light-hearted and whimsical, annoyingly silly playfulness, a playful style of intellectual work. But it seems dubious to criticize such a grand book for such an arbitrary and distinct aspect, the mere writing style.
Also on top of my reading list is this picture-book summarizing the Bible stories:
The DK Illustrated Family Bible
Claude-Bernard Costecalde (Editor), Peter Dennis (Illustrator)
because I need a *clear* and *fast* and memorable run-through of the Bible stories. This publisher has been excellent at providing a quick yet deep introduction to religion and philosophy.
I've been diving in far too advanced books while lacking the elementary foundation of the Bible stories -- it's a perfect characterization of me to say that I was by nature inclined to rush straight through levels 1 and 2 of Freke & Gandy's 3-level Gnostic Christianity and aim, from the start, directly at level 3, resulting in something like experiencing union into Christ before I've even heard the basic Gospel storyline.
I flunk Bible trivia, have no idea how many apostles Jesus had or who Paul is, don't know that there were several competing forms of Christianity called Gnostic, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant, don't know the difference between OT and NT, can't name the first or last book of the Bible, but I can rattle off esoteric and explicit theoretical explanations of the Christ unity experience.
So as happens often in my pursuits, I've arrived at a point where I need to stop post-graduate studies and enroll in grade school, learning the basic Bible stories. Also, it makes a certain amount of sense to study mythic, de-literalized Christian stories through a summarizing picture-book. It was a perfect project reading the DK picture-books about world religions, Christianity, and Philosophy.
It was easy to see the experiential-mythic nature of world religions when they were reduced, smartly simplified, and summarized into the form of pictures with text. Simplification done well, as DK usually does, *can* lead to enlightenment.
There are good simplifications and bad -- like The Jesus Mysteries, DK Publications is sometimes suspected of reducing subjects by so clarifying them and simply presenting them, but that is only a common prejudice: we assume that if a book is clear, it must not be profound; it's too easy. We assume that profundity has to be difficult to communicate -- but profundity correlates with some kind of simplicity.
The Jesus Mysteries is a much simpler explanation of the origin of Christianity than the convoluted unlikely histories, requiring endless "epicyclic corrections", pressed upon us by Literalism.
I have read some histories of Christianity and the history of Theology, but what struck me most of all was the unfathomable amount of authoritarianism in the history of Western, Christian culture where the Church and State colluded to oppress the commoners, justified by the need to retain social order.
What also struck me hard was the supposed theological debates in early Christianity, that are not told as simply power-politics scheming, yet don't make any sense unless they really were nothing but power-politics scheming. That is, I was surprised by the degree to which the history of early Christianity *is* the history of political power-struggles barely disguised as theological disputes.
Reading these conventional histories of Christianity convinced me of one thing: the history of early Christianity needs to be completely rewritten because the story we're told is distorted beyond redemption; the conventional received history of Christianity is entirely contrived and all the motives, locales, and players, and figures of early Christianity need to be completely rewritten in an entirely different framework or paradigm, as some of the most radical revisionists have been doing, such as Freke & Gandy, Michael Conley, and Max Rieser.
The Jesus Mysteries: How the Pagan Mysteries of Osiris-Dionysus Were Rewritten as the Gospel of Jesus Christ
by Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy
http://www.egodeath.com/jesusmysterieschapsumm.htm - study guide
http://thecosmiccontext.de/christianity.html - the tactical, power-politics, monopolistic, authoritarian takeover of original Gnostic Christianity via strategic Literalism. Whereas Freke & Gandy treat the Literalists as merely misguided, Conley has a better feel for the sinister, strategic, *deliberate* fabrication of Literalist dogma.
On the other side, much like Doherty, Conley has less of a feel for the experience of Gnosis, tending to reduce Christianity only to power-politics rather than grasping why the Gnostic Christianities were so popular that the authoritarians decided to forcibly co-opt them and crunch them down into a single, forcefully limited, Literalist religion -- Christianity in chains.
The True Founder of Christianity and the Hellenistic Philosophy
by Max Rieser
None of these individual framework-breaking scholars has a fully compelling alternative paradigm, but they easily add up to one. Combine:
o The hard-hitting tactical strategy of Conley
o The highly developed mysticism of Freke & Gandy
o The dry historical case made by Doherty
o The true-to-culture astrotheology emphasis of Acharya S, with her mythic-only Paul, David, and Solomon
o Rieser's sober and practical story of how Christianity was born among diaspora Hellenized Jews and went, transformed, through Hellenists to Rome, before finally (by the way) to Jerusalem
... and finally, truly a new alternative paradigm comes together.
There is a huge difference between assuming religion to be 50% mythical and essentially 100% mythical -- these really are two completely different paradigms, and the 50% mythical thinkers have much more in common with the fundamentalist Literalists than they realize. The 50% mythical framework of thinking is really just the fundamentalist Literalist paradigm with endless layers of corrective epicycles added on.
The move from 50% to 100% mythical is a true paradigm shift (from Literalist to Gnostic thinking), unlike the move from fundamentalist literalism to 50% mythical assumptions, whether the latter framework is considered "conservative" or "liberal".
Fundamentalist Literalism, Conservative Literalism, Liberal Literalism, and even World-Religion Literalism: in the end, they are all essentially just the same thing: Literalism -- as Ken Wilber says, that kind of conceptual framework is merely "translative", exoteric religion rather than "transformative", high, core, esoteric religion.
>How does the book "The Bible Fraud" by Tony Bushby compare with Acharya S' book "The Christ Conspiracy", Freke & Gandy's "The Jesus Mysteries", and others?
It should be routine for researchers of the true origins of Christianity to read many critical, skeptical, radical, or alternative books on the subject. I haven't found many books like this, but I imagine that it would be possible to put together a list of 25 comparable books. It's important to learn a great array of possibilities and speculative scenarios. Only then are you qualified and equipped to put together the puzzle pieces in a way that feels most right.
You need to absorb a hundred heresies before you can begin critical thinking.
Even an average alternative book is likely to present many facts that the official history suppresses. My strategy is to suppose that all the radical histories are correct and fit together after certain adjustments are made to each of them. The problem then becomes that of figuring out which adjustments to make to each theory to enable them all to fit together.
Most theories are largely correct and insightful, but somewhat off-base. For example, the sibling relationship of Judas and Jesus makes good sense, for mythic symmetry. In the Old Testament, it's always the last-born son, not the first-born son, who is blessed or preserved. The firstborn is negated, the lastborn is affirmed. Jesus is jarringly odd and unbiblical in the official Christian story, because he has no brothers.
We should look for, most likely an *older* brother. Candidates may be John the Baptist (half a year older) or Judas. A theory of Jesus as literal man with literal twin may be in error about the facts of mundane history, but may inadvertantly be on the right track for mythic-religious truth and for the most correct and symmetrical telling of the story of Jesus. *If* you are prepared to selectively process and modify the theories in radical books, they can lead to the true history of Christianity.
In some sense, esotericism often *does* come temporally after exotericism; first a person thinks exoterically and then esoterically; the child learns religious literalism, and then is initiated with a series of sessions with visionary plants, to reconceive religion as being purely allegorical of entheogenic experiential insights. However, there is a common fallacy that considers exotericism as the real and given and preexistent version of a religion, with mystics later inventing fantastic improvisations that deviate, and invent interpretations upon the literalist actual themes in the scriptures.
Against that fallacy, in some important sense it is actually mysticism/esotericism that comes first, temporally, with exotericism being a compromised, later, distorted, co-opted degeneration of the true, original allegorism. The result is yet more complex: religion comes to be a product of long-term ongoing tension between the forces of exotericism and esotericism, each coming first in some sense and second in some other sense.
Scholem attempts to detail the relationship; I immediately find objectionable assumptions of his (like many do) but the good thing is that Scholem is raising the right kinds of questions and is being critical of received views on the subject he smartly raises -- even if I reject certain key tendencies/assumptions of his. Reading scholars of myth-religion-mysticism critically is always like this: they generally all have a mixture of insight and erroneous assumptions.
On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism
Moving from a Theological to an integrated Esoteric and Historical conception of the foundation and origins of Christianity
The various approaches to studying the origins and meaning of Christianity and Jesus studies can be reduced to 3 main conceptions of the formation of Christianity: Theological, Historical, and Esoteric.
The 3 main conceptions of the formation of Christianity:
o Theological -- characterized by intellectual theology, apologetics, commentaries, justification through law vs. faith, liturgy, supernaturalist assumptions & explanations, emphasis on salvation from eternity in Hell, common exoteric religious moralism.
o Esoteric -- mystic-state experiential allegory including penetrating allegorical mapping of initiation experience to political and theological concepts; experiential, Hellenistic mystery- religions, initiation, entheogenic. A degraded but dominant subcategory is Mysticism, which includes personal devotional relationship, medieval mysticism, ecstatic, Pentacostal emotional hysteria.
o Historical -- characterized by social-political, Palestine & Roman Empire "backgrounds", Rodney Stark's explanation of sociological reasons Christianity spread, N.T. Wright (sans supernaturalist explanations) and Borg's explanation of the meaning of the Cross as symbol of rejecting Rome's accustomed assumption of divinity of military power, concern with social justice and ethics.
The Theological approach was dominant from about 600 to 1980. After the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hamadi discoveries, the Historical approach became dominant -- the Historical approach is where most of the change and novelty is. The Esoteric approach is also on the rise as Historical research progresses and people realize that the early Christians were not 16th-century dogmatic, confessional Calvinist theologians from the "Protestant scholasticism" era.
Although the canonical scriptures are not predominantly Theological, they have been interpreted and primarily studied that way.
Traditions of conceiving Christianity, and their blend of the 3 main conceptions:
o Catholic -- 75% Theological, 20% Esoteric, and 5% Historical.
o Protestant -- 80% Theological, 5% Esoteric, and 15% Historical.
o Eastern Orthodox -- 50% Theological, 35% Esoteric, and 15% Historical.
o Historical Jesus, Post-Scrolls studies -- 25% Theological, 10% Esoteric, and 65% Historical.
o Contemporary Mystical, Jungian, Steinerian, and entheogenic approaches -- 30% Theological, 55% Esoteric, and 15% Historical.
o Entheogenic cybernetic allegorical approach -- 15% Theological, 60% Esoteric, and 25% Historical.
The latter, my approach, puts a firm emphasis on esoteric experiential allegory, combined with an accurate contextual, historical, social-political understanding of the Jesus story and what that story meant to, not just the Palestianian Jews or diaspora Jews, but the Hellenistic world of the Roman Empire overall. Although the Historical approach is providing exciting new insight into what the idea of Jesus meant to the whole Hellenistic Roman Empire, by no means is this the main or complete understanding of the formation of Christianity.
The Historical approach is correct to lessen the Theological emphasis and increase the accurate socio-political, contextual, understanding. However, in doing so, when Historical thinkers remind themselves not to forget the religious aspect as such, their mistake is that they retain the Theological, exoteric religious aspects when they should instead emphasize the Esoteric allegorical aspect of religion.
Religious experience must have priority over Theological religion. The *main axis* in the formation of Christianity is a "vector" from esoteric experiencing to historical, socio-political events. Christianity's origin was not Theology, or turning politics into religion, but rather, esoteric religion expressed as socio-political allegory. The Historical background is of primary importance, and the Esoteric foundation of religious experiencing is of primary importance; what is *not* of primary importance is medieval-to- modernist era Theological conception of the "Christian Religion".
On the whole, our accustomed thinking about the origins of Christianity was predominantly Theological with only a weak grasp of the Historical and Esoteric origins, and instead we need to replace that by reducing such Theological conception of the origins of Christianity by a primary emphasis and firm grasp on the Historical *in combination with* the Esoteric conceptions. The first-century Roman Empire did not conceive of Christianity with our accustomed Theological conception, but rather, with an integrated combination of the Historical and Esoteric conceptions.
The Theological conception of the origins and formation of Christianity needs to be replaced by an integrated Esoteric/Historical conception, with a full grasp of the socio- political context and background, combined with a full grasp of Esoteric experiential allegory. The mistake of most recent attempts to reconceptualize the origins and formation of Christianity is that people either de-emphasize the Theological conception to propose an Esoteric conception, *or* de-emphasize the Theological conception to propose a Historical conception. What they don't do, but need to do, is de-emphasize the Theological conception to propose an Esoteric conception tightly integrated with a Historical conception.
Alexandrian Jews wanted and so created a Jewish-styled version of the Hellenistic godman mystery-religion, by gradually assembling and constructing the Jesus figure. Why would the creators of Jesus add details to the story that make the character less appealing to the intended audience -- the Jews?
We can't assume such a monolithic picture of "the Jews" as though they all felt the same way. "The intended audience" wasn't necessarily all Jews, given that Jews had many deep disagreements among themselves, it was clearly inherently impossible to craft a Jewish-styled godman-based mystery-religion that would meet the approval of all groups of Jews.
Many features of the Jesus story, which gradually developed from around 150 BC to 250 AD, were deliberately incorporated because of their resonance and equivalence to Hellenistic mythic godmen. Many mythic features are allegorized experiential reports of the intense mystic altered state that follows upon ingesting the sacred meal such as in the Seder and other sacred meals, the Eucharist, agape meal, and pagan sacred meals.
These classic mystic experiences include the temporary feeling of insanity, and the feeling of being frozen helplessly into the spacetime block -- a feeling of hanging and being pulled about in spacetime.
The undistinguished disciples represent the initiates of the Jesus mysteries and hearken back to the lame-o crew around Odysseus (if I have the right myth). Only after the apostles/disciples receive and ingest sacred food and drink from the Dionysus-like provider, do they get a clue, awaken, "recognize" Jesus, and become venerable.
From Will and Ariel Durant, _The Story of Civilization_:
>>Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity, the Last Judgment, and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed; there, too, Christian monasticism would find its exemplars and its source. From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother; from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god. From Persia came millenarianism, the "ages of the world," the "final conflagration," the dualism of Satan and God, of Darkness and Light; already in the Forth Gospel Christ is the "Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out." The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.
Generally, religions are made from elements of other religions and idea systems. This by itself does not imply fraud. If the Church lied about its origins, that lie is fraudulence, but the resulting religion might or might not have a great deal of legitimacy of some type. It is grossly simplistic to think that Christianity is totally legitimate or totally illegitimate and the moment we find some illegitimacy we can confidently and automatically pronounce the entirety to be illegitimate.
Like a nation, Christianity is a mix of good and bad. People want a simple, easy assessment of Christianity -- either accept it fully as totally good, or reject it fully as totally bad. It's just as lazy, irrational, and intellectually immature to consider Christianity, or religion in general, totally bad as to consider it totally good.
I'm not defending religion, but am defending what religion is ineptly pointing to -- what it is reflecting. Religious myth is severely distorted, garbled, inept, primitive, fumble-fingered expressions of higher philosophy.
We should have a balanced judgment on any topic. It's easy, lazy, and oversimplistic to characterize a person, country, or religion as entirely good or bad. Insofar as Christianity is harmful, much of that harm is a result of misunderstanding it and abusing it. Christianity might be more abusable than other religious systems.
The first step is for scholars to understand the real origin and the real esoteric meaning of Christianity -- I'm focusing entirely on that step, and completely differentiating that work from the issue of the harm that has been done by abusing the Christian myth-system or mythic initiation system. You could think of my strategy as demolishing Christianity by truly comprehending Christianity.
To demolish Christianity, there are two different main approaches among mythic-only Jesus researchers: the Doherty/Acharya approach and the Freke & Gandy approach which I use. The Doherty/Acharya approach, focused fully on demolishing, negating, and disproving Christianity, cannot be the final word -- an approach that affirms and understands the real initiatory or transcendent meaning behind all religions must be the final word. These two approaches partly overlap; partly support each other.
Ruler Cult, not Christianity, created the idea that the celebrated governor is superior to the gods because unlike them, he is here in the flesh. This honorary factor was just one more attribute to co-opt into the Jesus figure: Jesus has all the attributes of the other godmen but unlike them, he is here in the flesh.
Proving that Christianity was constructed by patching together existing components and claiming historicity, does not automatically demonstrate that Christianity as a whole is nothing but a fraud.
I can't get my hands around why Antiqua Mater is such a classic book of the Radical school of scholarship about Christianity. What does the book say?
Harvard's First Century History
COPYRIGHT 1987, 1992
"'HARVARD'S 1ST CENTURY HISTORY' is the most complete (overall), yet concise, reconstruction of the events that occurred in the 1st & 2nd century that is currently available to the public. The bulk of information on this disk is from a book by John Duran titled 'THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY'. However, this disk gets its title from 'the place' from which the bulk of 'source' material was obtained - the 'HARVARD' UNIVERSITY PRESS."
The Gospel of John has sometimes been characterized as simultaneously older and more recent than the synoptics.
Many scholars put John first, at least in some respects. John as the earliest Gospel is a minority view, yet it is one of the major positions, as highlighted even by the scholarly coverage in the NIV Study Bible, which generally expresses the traditional, even if somewhat critical, view.
NIV Study Bible 10th ed., 1995.
Kenneth Barker, general editor
Introduction to John, page 1588: My expanded clarifications are in square brackets. My critical comments are signed.
"In general, two views of the dating of this Gospel have been advocated:
1. The traditional view palaces it toward the end of the first century, c. A.D. 85 or later (see Introduction to 1 John: Date).
2. More recently, some scholars have suggested an earlier date, perhaps as early as the 50s and no later than 70.
"The first view may be supported by reference to the statement of Clement of Alexandria that John wrote to supplement the accounts found in the other Gospels (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.7), and thus his Gospel is later than the first three. It has also been argued that the seemingly more developed theology of the fourth Gospel indicates that it originated later.
"The second view has found favor because it has been felt more recently that John wrote independently of the other Gospels. This does not contradict the statement of Clement [according to the official proto-Catholic Church historian Eusebius -mh] referred to above. Also, those who hold this view point out that developed theology [the assertion that "John's highly developed theology is evidence for its being written later than the synoptics"] does not necessarily argue for a late origin. [... by the following comparison and argument:] The theology of Romans (written c. 57) [according to some scholars -mh] [even though earlier than the date of the synoptic writings according to those scholars] is every bit as developed as that in John [showing that the high degree of development of John's theology doesn't necessarily imply that John was written later than the synoptics]. ..."
Introduction to 1 John, page 1905:
"The letter is difficult to date with precision, but factors such as (1) evidence from early Christian writers (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), (2) the early [this claim implies a traditional dating framework -mh] form of Gnosticism reflected in the denunciations of the letter and (3) indications of the advanced age of John suggest the end of the first century. Since the author of 1 John seems to build on concepts and themes found in the fourth Gospel (see 1Jn 2:7-11) [shown below], it is reasonable [according to a traditional dating framework -mh] to date the letter somewhere between A.D. 85 and 95, after the writing of the Gospel, which may have been written c. 85 (see Introduction to John: Date)."
"Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him."
The Complete Bible Handbook: An Illustrated Companion
"DATE: It is thought by some to be the latest of the Gospels (written at the end of first century CE). … Yet … others … think of John's Gospel as an early way of telling the Gospel …
The theory that it must be a later reflection on a simpler story is an assumption. John 21:22 ['Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? ..."'; from the passage shown below] suggests that at least one of the early followers was still alive awaiting the return of Jesus.
"o Epilogue, chapter 21: this is thought by many to be a later addition [making a single date for the writing of John oversimplistic -mh] as it concerns an additional Resurrection appearance and the fate of Peter."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
John's narrative is close in its christology to that of the "authentic" Pauline letters. Can we assign a chronology such as: Pauline epistles, John, Mark, Matthew, Luke?
Christianity began both from Jewish thinking becoming more paganized (perhaps suggesting John's Gospel is earlier than the Pauline letters), and as a mystery cult in Roman house churches (eucharistic meal gatherings) that became Judaized while appropriating the legacy of the Hebrew scriptures (perhaps suggesting that the Pauline letters are earlier than John's Gospel).
If these books of the canon were repeatedly revised over the first few centuries, in some tug-of-war of rewriting based on politics, poetry, mystic allusion, or literary considerations, it becomes problematic to treat them as whole simple atoms each having a single date which can then be arranged in order.
The reality could be something along the lines of the following, which would make it necessary, if one is to speak accurately, to talk in terms more flexible and detailed than "A is older than B, having been written in the year X as opposed to the year Y".
20 CE - Roots of John
30 CE - Roots of Luke
40 CE - Roots of Mark
50 CE - Roots of Matthew
60 CE - Roots of Paulines
70 CE - Redaction 1 of Luke
80 CE - Redaction 1 of John
90 CE - Redaction 1 of Mark
100 CE - Redaction 1 of Paulines
110 CE - Redaction 1 of Matthew
120 CE - Redaction 2 of Mark
130 CE - Redaction 2 of Paulines
140 CE - Redaction 2 of Matthew
150 CE - Redaction 2 of John
160 CE - Redaction 2 of Luke
170 CE - Redaction 3 of Paulines
180 CE - Redaction 3 of Luke
190 CE - Redaction 3 of Mark
200 CE - Redaction 3 of Matthew
210 CE - Redaction 3 of John
220 CE - Redaction 4 of Matthew
230 CE - Redaction 4 of John
240 CE - Redaction 4 of Paulines
250 CE - Redaction 4 of Luke
260 CE - Redaction 4 of Mark
To account for the politics of dating, we have to ask "What group would benefit if John were officially held to have been written first? What group would benefit if John were officially held to have been written last?" If John is supposed to represent the Gnostic egalitarian view, while the synoptics are supposed to represent the proto-Catholic hierarchical church, we can immediately expect the Gnostics to claim John was written first, while naturally the proto-Catholic view would hold John to have been written last.
Either view is oversimplistic, shedding little accurate light on the sequence of writing, if all these books were heavily redacted over an extended period. Another related division of views could be that the anti-orthodox camp may assert that there was complicated gradual heavy redaction over time, while the orthodox camp asserts that each book was simply written at a particular point in time, in some simple sequence, with no significant redaction occurring.
Similarly, the gnostic-sensitive reading of the canon highlights the canon as clearly and explicitly portraying conflict such as between gnostic (docetic?) and orthodox (literalist?) churches, whereas the orthodox reading portrays the canon as reflecting a single united view.
Does a clear look at the canon show a loud argument and tug-of-war between two camps, such as some Mary/John vs. Peter camp -- or does it show a basically uniform, united view of what Jesus was about? The gnostic answer is that the canon clearly portrays a tug-of-war between two camps. The orthodox answer is that the canon portrays a basically united view.
Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority
Peter vs. Mary as a consistent opposition inside and outside the canon
The Gnostic Gospels
Ch. V: Whose Church Is the "True Church"?
Search for "whose church true"
Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Unfinished Gospel: Notes on the Quest for the Historical Jesus
Conflict between Peter vs. beloved disciple as reflected in Mark vs. John. "John 21 [the tacked-on, superfluous ending that may somewhat contradict the body of the Gospel of John] was originally written by the author of Mark as a conclusion to his gospel [the missing original ending of Mark; perhaps replaced by Mark 16:9-20] ... evidence that these two gospels were subsequently edited by the early church to bring them into harmony."