Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bart Ehrman Spanks Acharya S' Christ Conspiracy

I often target Acharya S’ cyber-teachings since she is responsible for popularizing so many of the types of claims it has been my personal labor to respond to.

What do we want?
Source critical conscientious historiography!
When do we want it?
After peer review!
In contrast to sensationalists like Acharya S--abusing history for money, writing books claiming gods from Egypt, Persia, Greece, India (that's right, India!) and Rome were stirred in a religious pot to invent Jesus soup--are the real scholars in the field like Bart D. Ehrman.  Unlike Murdock, Ehrman holds an academic chair at a major university and has a related PhD from Princeton.  (All the Acharya readers out in Remythologized land, you can read that last sentence as "kingpin in the uninformed academic mafia to suppress internet scholarship".)   He is likely the most famous American New Testament scholar alive for his lectures and publications.  I don't know how to put this, but he's kinda a big deal.  His home probably contains many leather bound books and the scent of mahogany.

Compare his CV with Murdock's errrr "resume"--which is really only a biographical story on her website since listing out qualifications would look far too meager.  I'll save you the read: She has only a BA in Classics [not New Testament] and dropped out one year into her MA...She was also an honor roll student in high school and has been mistaken for a Greek boy over the telephone before...That's relevant somehow.

Ehrman is not a believer.  He's self-described as an "agnostic leaning towards atheism" and has published books with titles and subtitles like, “The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics”; …"How the Bible Fails…”; “Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible”, and …”Who Changed the Bible and Why?”  In his recent book Did Jesus Exist? On pages 21-25, we find this delightful appraisal of Acharya by Ehrman:
Mythicists of [Acharya’s] ilk should not be surprised that their views are not taken seriously by real scholars…The book is filled with so many factual errors and outlandish assertions that it is hard to believe that the author is serious.  If she is serious, it is hard to believe that she has ever encountered anything resembling historical scholarship.  Her “research” appears to have involved reading a number of non-scholarly books that say the same thing she is about to say and then quoting them…One cannot help but wondering if [her arguments are] all a spoof done in good humor… Later we will see that all of Acharya’s major points are in fact wrong.  Jesus was not invented in Alexandria, Egypt, in the middle of the second Christian century.  He was known already in the 30s of the first century, in Jewish circles of Palestine.
Ehrman continues his critique of Acharya by listing, “a few of the howlers one encounters” in her book:

·         The second-century church father Justin never quotes or mentions any of the Gospels (25).  [This simply isn’t true: he mentions the Gospels on numerous occasions; typically he calls them “Memoirs of the Apostles” and quotes from them, especially from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.]

·         The Gospels were forged hundreds of years after the evens they narrate (26).  [In fact, the Gospels were written at the end of the first century, about thirty-five to sixty-five years after Jesus’s death, and we have physical proof: one fragment of a Gospel manuscript dates to the early second century.  How could it have been forged centuries after that?]

·         We have no manuscript of the New Testament that dates prior to the fourth century (26). [This is just plain wrong: we have numerous fragmentary manuscripts that date from the second and third centuries.]

·         The autographs “were destroyed after the Council of Nicaea” (26). [In point of fact, we have no knowledge of what happened to the original copies of the New Testament; they were probably simply used so much they wore out.  There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that they survived until Nicaea or that they were destroyed afterward; plenty of counterevidence indicates they did not survive until Nicaea.]

·         “It took well over a thousand years to canonize the New Testament,” and “many councils” were needed to differentiate the inspired from the spurious books (31). [Actually, the first author to list our canon of the New Testament was the church father Athanasius in the year 367 the comment about “many councils” is simply made up.]

·         Paul never quotes a saying of Jesus (33). [Acharya has evidently never read the writings of Paul.  As we will see, he does quote saying of Jesus.]

·         The Acts of Pilate, a legendary account of Jesus’ trial and execution, was once considered canonical (44). [None of our sparse references to the Acts of Pilate indicates, or even suggests, any such thing.]

·         The “true meaning of the word gospel is ‘God’s Spell,’ as in magic, hypnosis and delusion” (45). [No, the word gospel comes to us from the Old English term god spel, which means ”good news”—a fairly precise translation of the Greek word euaggelion. It has nothing to do with magic.]

·         The church father “Irenaeus was a Gnostic” (60). [In fact, he was one of the most virulent opponents of Gnostics in the early church.]

·         Augustine was “originally a Mandaean, i.e., a Gnostic, until after the Council of Nicaea” (60). [Augustine was not even born until nineteen years after the Council of Nicaea, and he certainly was no Gnostic.]

·         “'Peter’ is not only ‘the rock’ but also the cock,’ or [phallus--keep'n it medically esoteric for the children], as the word is used as slang to this day.”…[There is no [phallus]-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.]

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, (USA: HarperCollins, 2012).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Joseph Atwill's Blunder: Serapis and Jesus

I've come across this post by author Joseph Atwill at the Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus Blog which claims the following:
The Emperor Hadrian wrote a letter indicating that Serapis and Christ were the same god. From Hadrian – “There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ.“
Atwill uses this assumption to support his published claims that Christianity was synthesized by a Roman Imperial cult.  Considering his lengths at parsing Roman history and motives, it's quite funny he has made such a tremendous blunder.  If you have been following my last post, "Serapis and Jesus: Ray Hagins is Wrong," you will be aware that this "Hadrian" quotation is actually widely known to be a forgery dating just before the fifth-century.  Seriously, you can't read an introduction to the Historia Augusta (the source of Atwill's quotation) without immediately encountering the forged nature of the document.  Here is one by Glanwill W. Bowersock in a proceeding volume of the Genevan conference on the Historia Augusta in which he continues to discuss the late fourth-century dating of the source:
The presence of fiction in the Historia Augusta is by now an established fact.  The mischievous author of this work pretended, as we all know, to be writing historical biographies; but this pretense, though compelling the inclusion of genuine historical material, imposed no perceptible limits on his wit and invention.[1]

  Fooey!  Kinda makes you look askance at everything else Atwell has to say, doesn't it?

[1] “The Aethioica of Heliodorus and the Historia Augusta,” in Historia Augusta: Colloquium Genevense II., ed. Giorgio L. Bonamente (Italy: Edpuglia, 1994), 43.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Serapis and Jesus: Ray Hagins is Wrong

Ray Hagins
Those of you familiar with this blog know I have conversed with Hagins before and that several people have offered him thousands of dollars for a primary source regarding many of his key claims about ancient history (Hagins will no longer converse with me).  For example, his claims that the Hindu Krishna, Egyptian Horus and Persian Mithras were born of a virgin on December 25th and the whole nine-yards. You can watch yours truly flog that dead horse here.

I’d like to use this series to refute many of his key claims since they still get circulated heavily on the internet.  To kick off, we will start with an extremely popular howler of his: the Serapis letter.

In Hagin’s presentation on the council of Nicaea, he belabors the claim that Christianity is based in pre-Christian, Egyptian religion and that Jesus never really existed.  To start with, I challenge anyone reading this blog to name a single living scholar on earth holding a Bible or Classics related academic chair at any university who holds either of those positions. Here’s a hint: Big name New Testament scholars and researchers like Richard Carrier, Gary Habermas and Bart Ehrman have assessed those two extensively and there isn’t a single scholar holding a related university chair on earth who maintains either.

Serapis in all his
cup-headed glory
Hagins tries to show Christianity and Jesus evolved out of Egyptian religion by quoting the following correspondence “dated” to AD 134:

“Egypt, which you commended to me, my dearest Servianus, I have found to be wholly fickle and inconsistent, and continually wafted about by every breath of fame.  The worshipers of Serapis [here] are called Christians, and those who are devoted to the god Serapis [I find], call themselves Bishops of Christ.”

So what’s the big deal?  In short, this letter is a widely known forgery.  It’s a fake.

Despite the obvious fact that the letter (if it were authentic) would be a century too old to demonstrate any meaningful Christian etiology, it is part of a late 4th century forgery entitled Historia Augusta.  The Historia Augusta contains so many anachronisms that it is easily dated to AD 395.   The “Serapis letter” itself is full of anachronisms demonstrating this point. Hadrian was only in Egypt in 130, and the letter mentions his adopted son Lucius Aelius, who Hadrian did not adopt until six years after. Hadrian also salutes Servianus as consul, but Servianus did receive position as consul until 134. The letter also mentions the “Patriarch of Jewry,” a position that did exist until he created it after the Jewish Revolt in 132.

Glanwill W. Bowersock, in a proceeding volume of the Genevan conference on the Historiae Augusae gives a scholastic survey of the dating of the texts.  He writes:

“The presence of fiction in the Historia Augusta is by now an established fact.  The mischievous author of this work pretended, as we all know, to be writing historical biographies; but this pretense, though compelling the inclusion of genuine historical material, imposed no perceptible limits on his wit and invention.”[1]

Günter Stemberger (PhD Jewish studies, Innsbruck and Göttingen), commenting on the Serapis letter confirms, “We should hardly assume the existence of an actual event on which these remarks were based.”[2]

There you have it.  This source vaunted all over the web on Kemetic and free-thinking sites is a sham and everyone in the Classical field is aware of its dubious nature.  The text is centuries too old to be written by who Hagins says it is, and it is far too late to contain any meaningful historical data which the forgery pretends to relate.

[1] “The Aethioica of Heliodorus and the Historia Augusta,” in Historia Augusta: Colloquium Genevense II., ed. Giorgio L. Bonamente (Italy: Edpuglia, 1994), 43.

[2] Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 244-5.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Top 10 quotes from the “Did Abe Lincoln Really Exist?” Facebook group

A few days ago a Facebook group entitled “Did Abe Lincoln Really Exist?” was formed.  The page is a comical jest at internet age atheism.  Below, are a top ten list in my opinion of quotes from the page:

"Should slaves have been freed because Abe emancipated them?
Or did Abe emancipate them because they should have been freed? 

Euthyphro wins again."

"As you can clearly see, the development of the Lincoln tradition is evidence of a father complex on behalf of his followers. With each iteration, Lincoln inherits more masculine traits. Clear evidence that Lincoln is nothing more than a psychological crutch for Republicans. It's no coincidence that Lincoln (assuming he existed) was a Republican as well!"

"You are an Alincolnist toward the billions of people who have existed throughout history. We just believe in one less American president than you."

"Fundamentalist Lincolnists, like the fundamentalist Alincolnists with whom they match wits, have got the story all wrong. Abe Lincoln exists, but not out there somewhere; he exists in each of us. We create our own Lincoln. We are the Lincolns of our own universe.

I heard that on Oprah. Some guy named Deepfried Cobra."

Lincolnists claim that Lincoln was the president of the most powerful nation in the world and a good man. Yet one of the bloodiest wars in U.S. history occurred during his supposed presidency. Was Lincoln unable to prevent it? Then he could not have held a powerful office like the presidency. Was Lincoln unwilling to prevent it? Then he was not a good man. Was he both able and willing to prevent it? Then why did it occur?

Checkmate, Lincolnists.

Why do we simply write off "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" as a work of apocrypha? How is it we give Sandburg, Goodwin, or McPherson more credibility than Graeme-Smith? Could Lincolnists be suppressing the truth about Lincoln?

If Abe Lincoln emancipated the slaves, who emancipated the emancipator?

"No-one is born believing in Lincoln. Only when people are taught about Lincoln, and usually at a young age, do people become Lincolnists."

“Abe is dead. Abe remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was tallest and most epic bearded of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of freedom, what history months shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become presidents simply to appear worthy of it?”

"I think belief in Lincoln is just a crutch. I stopped believing in Lincoln while I was in Vietnam"