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Old 02-17-2001, 04:11 PM   #11
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Actually, I did some more research, and found a minor foul-up. Wei po-yang is not found in government records from his time, it is one of his disciples.

Michael
 
Old 02-17-2001, 06:14 PM   #12
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I wonder what "layman" thinks about the miracles of other religions. And also the miracles related by various Greco-Roman historians, as Richard Carrier has noted. Would he be able to give any reasons for considering them to be fictional?
 
Old 02-17-2001, 06:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lpetrich:

I wonder what "layman" thinks about the miracles of other religions. And also the miracles related by various Greco-Roman historians, as Richard Carrier has noted. Would he be able to give any reasons for considering them to be fictional?</font>
The problem with your question, lpetrich, is if you think the Gospel writers copied the other sources or if it was the other way around, or if no copying took place at all.

Clearly, in the case of Chinese examples (as well as Mayan, Japanese, Indian, ect.) the evidence that anybody copied anyone else is pretty flimsy or worse.

On the other hand, in the case of Appolonios, we have a 2nd Century figure acting a lot like Jesus. Of course, by this time, Christianity was getting pretty well known, and a number of Christian themes appear to have been stolen by others. Of course, we get examples of this being tried even as early as Acts, so this is no great surprise.

As for the rest of your argument, or any others on this thread regarding copying, present a case for any specific example, and let's take a look at it. Personally, I think that the case can be made that some of the miracles were borrowed from Hebrew Scripture (the OT), and possibly borrowed for theological purposes. But the idea that Jesus was simply a copy of other mythic figures outside of Jewish tradition is weak at best.

What is your evidence please?

Nomad
 
Old 02-17-2001, 06:59 PM   #14
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Clearly, in the case of Chinese examples (as well as Mayan, Japanese, Indian, ect.) the evidence that anybody copied anyone else is pretty flimsy or worse.

Yes, and that's the problem. They are independent traditions. Since the amount of "evidence" for miraculous behavior in Chinese sources is TONS greater than that for any Greco-Roman miracle-worker, you'd have to concede that they actually existed.

Michael


 
Old 02-17-2001, 09:04 PM   #15
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The Chronicles of Master Li is a collection of fantasy novels set in medieval China; sort of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and The Last Unicorn, with a dash of good Chinese pornographic and scatalogical humor thrown in.

I have the collection, which I can't find at Amazon, but the individual novels are:

Bridge of Birds

The Story of the Stone (now out of print )

Eight Skilled Gentlemen
 
Old 02-17-2001, 09:54 PM   #16
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Being copied off of Christianity is certainly a possibility as it spread and got better-known, but there is not much evidence that it had been well-known in its first few centuries -- the main references to it generally picture it as some flaky cult.

According to Lucian of Samosata, Alexander of Abonutichus had been known to exhort his audience to get rid of such atheists as Epicureans and Christians. For him, Christianity was atheism because it denies the deities of Mt. Olympus. Similarly, in Apuleius's _Golden Ass_, Christianity is referred to obliquely as the Cult of the Only God.

So it might not have been thought worth ripping off.
 
Old 02-17-2001, 10:04 PM   #17
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And I think that a strong case can be made for the virgin birth being a sign of pagan influence. Also, "divine men" were common in pagan folklore; Pythagoras had supposedly claimed that there were men, that there were gods, and that there were beings like Pythagoras. Apollonius of Tyana had allegedly been a being like Pythagoras, it would seem.

Divine impregnations are lacking from the Old Testament / Tanakh, with the only support offered being some severe stretching of Isaiah's prophecy about a certain young woman, stretching that makes the pagan Croesus/Medes and Marcus-Aurelius/Marcomanni prophecies look like great insight.

However, they are common in pagan mythology; consider all the offspring that Zeus had supposedly fathered, giving additional meaning to his title "Father Zeus". And as Justin Martyr had pointed out, if you believe in various pagan virgin births, it should be no trouble to believe in JC's virgin birth.

 
Old 02-18-2001, 03:06 AM   #18
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lpetrich:
Being copied off of Christianity is certainly a possibility as it spread and got better-known, but there is not much evidence that it had been well-known in its first few centuries -- the main references to it generally picture it as some flaky cult.

SecWebLurker: Actually, in the case of Apollonius, which is what Nomad referred to, Philostratus was writing in the early third century in Cappadocia, where Christianity had already been for quite a while.

lpetrich: And I think that a strong case can be made for the virgin birth being a sign of pagan influence.

SecWebLurker: In Raymond E. Brown's highly respected work on the Birth Narratives of Jesus, he evaluates these non- Christian "examples" of virgin births and his conclusions are as follows:

"Among the parallels offered for the virginal conception of Jesus have been the conceptions of figures in world religions (the Buddha, Krishna, and the son of Zoroaster), in Greco-Roman mythology (Perseus, Romulus), in Egyptian and Classical History (the Pharaohs, Alexander, Augustus), and among famous philosophers or religious thinkers (Plato, Apollonius of Tyana), to name only a few.

"Are any of these divinely engendered births really parallel to the non-sexual virginal conception of Jesus described in the NT, where Mary is not impregnated by a male deity or element, but the child is begotten through the creative power of the Holy Spirit? These "parallels" consistently involve a type of hieros gamos (note: "holy seed" or "divine semen") where a divine male, in human or other form, impregnates a woman, either through normal sexual intercourse or through some substitute form of penetration. In short, there is no clear example of virginal conception in world or pagan religions that plausibly could have given first-century Jewish Christians the idea of the virginal conception of Jesus."[The Birth of the Messiah, by Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday: 1993: 522-523]

The history-of-religions scholar David Adams Leeming (writing in Encyclopedia of Religions, s.v. "Virgin Birth") begins his article by pointing out that all 'virgin births' are NOT necessarily such:

"A virgin is someone who has not experienced sexual intercourse, and a virgin birth, or parthenogenesis (Gr., parthenos, "virgin"; genesis, "birth"), is one in which a virgin gives birth. According to this definition, the story of the birth of Jesus is a virgin birth story whereas the birth of the Buddha and of Orphic Dionysos are not. Technically what is at issue is the loss or the preservation of virginity during the process of conception. The Virgin Mary was simply "found with child of the Holy Ghost" before she was married and before she had "known" a man. So, too, did the preexistent Buddha enter the womb of his mother, but since she was already a married woman, there is no reason to suppose she was a virgin at the time. In the Orphic story of Dionysos, Zeus came to Persephone in the form of a serpent and impregnated her, so that the maiden's virginity was technically lost."

Let's examine a few of these alleged virgin births...

Perseus-

Perseus falls into the category of gods having INTERCOURSE with women, and it is not comparable to the V.B. in Christianity. Here's Apollodorius on the birth of Perseus:

"IV. When Acrisius inquired of the oracle how he should get male children, the god said that his daughter would give birth to a son who would kill him.1 Fearing that, Acrisius built a brazen chamber [p. 155] under ground and there guarded Danae.2 However, she was seduced, as some say, by Proetus, whence arose the quarrel between them;3 but some say that Zeus had INTERCOURSE with her in the shape of a stream of gold which poured through the roof into Danae's lap. When Acrisius afterwards learned that she had got a child Perseus, he would not believe that she had been seduced by Zeus, and putting his daughter with the child in a chest, he cast it into the sea. The chest was washed ashore on Seriphus, and Dictys took up the boy and reared him."[http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Texts/apollod.summ.html]

Buddha--

The first biography of the Buddha, written by Ashvaghosha in the 1st century, called the Buddhacarita indicates Maya's non-virgin status in canto 1: "He [the king of the Shakyas] had a wife, splendid, beautiful, and steadfast, who was called the Great Maya, from her resemblance to Maya the Goddess. These two tasted of love's delights, and one day she conceived the fruit of her womb, but without any defilement, in the same way in which knowledge joined to trance bears fruit. Just before her conception she had a dream." (Buddhist Scriptures, Edward Conze, Penguin,1959. p. 35).]

Horus-

Horus wasn't born of a virgin. Egyptian reliefs depict this conception by showing his mother Isis in a falcon form, hovering over an erect phallus of a dead and prone Osiris in the Underworld.

Krishna-

Not born of a virgin either.

"In India a like tale is told of the beloved savior Krishna, whose terrible uncle, Kansa, was, in that case, the tyrant-king. The savior's mother, Devaki, was of royal lineage, the tyrant's niece, and at the time when she was married the wicked monarch heard a voice, mysteriously, which let him know that her eighth child would be his slayer. He therefore confined both her and her husband, the saintly nobleman Vasudeva, in a closely guarded prison, where he murdered their first six infants as they came."[ Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology, p. 342]

The mom gave birth to six normal children before conceiving Krishna.

Romulus and Remus-

Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, is physically impregnated by the god Mars.

Most of these tales have a god assume a human or animal form and impregnate a woman with a divine seed, often raping them.

New Testament Historian Ben Witherington III summarizes the problem well:

"Any comparison of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 to pagan divine birth stories leads to the conclusion that the Gospel stories cannot be explained simply on the basis of such comparisons….For what we find in Matthew and Luke is not the story of …a divine being descending to earth and, in the guise of a man, mating with a human woman, but rather the story of miraculous conception without the aid of any man, divine or otherwise. As such, this story is without precedent either in Jewish or pagan literature."[Ben Witherington III, "Birth of Jesus," in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, Ill. InterVarsity, 1992), p. 70]

lpetrich: Also, "divine men" were common in pagan folklore; Pythagoras had supposedly claimed that there were men, that there were gods, and that there were beings like Pythagoras. Apollonius of Tyana had allegedly been a being like Pythagoras, it would seem.

SecWebLurker: Apollonius' biography wasn't written until 100 years after the Gospels.

lpetrich: Divine impregnations are lacking from the Old Testament / Tanakh, with the only support offered being some severe stretching of Isaiah's prophecy about a certain young woman, stretching that makes the pagan Croesus/Medes and Marcus-Aurelius/Marcomanni prophecies look like great insight.

SecWebLurker: The idea of a miraculous birth isn't at all foreign to Judaism. Isaac himself was the result of a miraculous birth, and an intervention in the normal natural cycle. This was the start of the Jewish people. So it's not too off-the-wall to imagine that if, after all, a messiah figure was to be born, that he, too, might be marked out with some sort of special birth. There is an intended parallel here. When Sarah asks (Genesis 18:13,14) if she is not too old to have a child, she is told that nothing is too hard for God. Likewise, when Mary asks how she can have a child, since she is a virgin, she is told, simply, that with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Crossan writes of this: "There is here a double miracle, not only over infertility but over age as well."[Crossan, John D., "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography"(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994) p. 6.]

There are other miraculous births in the OT. Again, Crossan:

"Another example, but only over infertility, is that of the prophet Samuel's parents in 1 Samuel 1-2, where God hears the prayer and promise of Hannah and grants her and Elkanah a son. In both cases, of course, the son born of such divine intervention is thereby destined for greatness. It was through Isaac that the Jews would become the children of Abraham, and it was through Samuel that they would receive the monarchy in which David would be the ideal king."[Crossan, John D., "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography"(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994) p. 6.]

Alfred Edershiem discusses the concept in the rabbinics:

“It is not without hesitation, that we make reference to Jewish allusions to the miraculous birth of the Saviour. Yet there are two expressions, which convey the idea, if not of superhuman origin, yet of some great mystery attaching to His birth. The first occurs in connection with the birth of Seth. 'Rabbi Tanchuma said, in the name of Rabbi Samuel: Eve had respect [had regard, looked forward] to that Seed which is to come from another place. And who is this? This is Messiah the King.' [Ber. R. 23, ed Warsh p. 45 b] The second appears in the narrative of the crime of Lot's daughters: [Gen. 19:32] 'It is not written "that we may preserve a son from our father," but "seed from our father." This is that seed which is coming from another place. And who is this? This is the King Messiah.' [Ber. R. 51 ed. Warsh. p. 95 a][35]”[Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (MacDonald Publishing Co., 1883)]

“Even more distinct are the statements in the so-called 'Book of Enoch.' Critics are substantially agreed, that the oldest part of it [ch. i.- xxxvi. and lxxii.-cv. dates from between 150 and 130 B.C….Not to speak, therefore, of such peculiar designations of the Messiah as 'the Woman's Son,' [lxii. 5.] 'the Son of Man, [For ex. xlviii. 2: lxii. 7; lxix 29.] 'the Elect,' and 'the Just One,' we mark that the Messiah is expressly designed in the oldest portion as 'the Son of God' ('I and My Son'). [cv. 2.]” [Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (MacDonald Publishing Co., 1883)]

lpetrich: However, they are common in pagan mythology; consider all the offspring that Zeus had supposedly fathered, giving additional meaning to his title "Father Zeus". And as Justin Martyr had pointed out, if you believe in various pagan virgin births, it should be no trouble to believe in JC's virgin birth.

SecWebLurker: The fact that there were great heroes of old that were the product of intercourse between "gods" and mortals fits in quite well with Genesis 6. If such a thing occured, it would also explain the fact that these accounts are always associated with physical impregnation by the "gods" as opposed to a virgin being found with child, withOUT intercourse in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.

SecWebLurker



[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited February 18, 2001).]
 
Old 02-18-2001, 06:50 AM   #19
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Nomad: ...in the case of Appolonios, we have a 2nd Century figure acting a lot like Jesus. Of course, by this time, Christianity was getting pretty well known, and a number of Christian themes appear to have been stolen by others. Of course, we get examples of this being tried even as early as Acts, so this is no great surprise.

Where is evidence demonstrating Apollonius lived during the second century? My evidence indicates he was a Greek philosopher/sage/miracle worker of the early part of the first century CE. Also, according to the editors of the Loeb Classical Library, Apollonius "traveled through Asia to India absorbing much eastern mystic religion; and, during and after subsequent travels in Europe was revered as a saintly man with miraculous powers, though he claimed only to forsee the future. He founded a school in Ephesus and may have lived to be a hundred years old, though Philostratus often suggests that he never died." If he did live in the early first century, then he obviously is a contemporary of Jesus.

 
Old 02-18-2001, 07:05 AM   #20
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SecWebLurker: The fact that there were great heroes of old that were the product of intercourse between "gods" and mortals fits in quite well with Genesis 6. If such a thing occured, it would also explain the fact that these accounts are always associated with physical impregnation by the "gods" as opposed to a virgin being found with child, withOUT intercourse in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.

Are you arguing that because there is a technical difference in how various mythical sons of gods were conceived, one technique is somehow superior to all others? Isn't it absurd to think that a human being could be impregnated by a god or by a spirit? Isn't one concept just as ludicrous as the other?

[This message has been edited by penatis (edited February 18, 2001).]
 
 

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