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Old 05-23-2001, 11:47 PM   #1
Toto
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Post John the Baptist - is he also a myth?

I picked up Joseph Campbell's Occidental Mythology to see what he said about Jesus. He doesn't say anything explicit, but he treats every aspect of Jesus as myth. (But then that's his thing, and when your only tool is a hammer. . .)

However, this caught my eye, on p. 349 of the trade paperback edition:

"John, however, was no Essene, as we know both from his garb and from his diet. He was in the line, rather, of Elijah, who is described in the Book of Kings as a man who wore 'a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins.' And the rite of baptism that he preached, whatever its meaning at that time may have been, was an ancient rite coming down from the old Sumerian temple city Eridu, of the water god Ea, 'God of the House of Water,' whose symbol is the tenth signe of the zodiac, Capricorn (a composit beast with the foreparts of a goat and the body of a fish), which is the sign into which the sun enters at the winter solstice for his rebirth. In the Hellenistic period, Ea was called Oannes, which is Greek Ioannes, Latin Johannes, Hebrew Yohanan, English John. Several scholars have suggested, therefore, that there was never either a John or Jesus, but only a water-god and a sun-god. The chronicle of Josephus seems to guarantee John, however, and I shall leave it to the reader to imagine how he came both by the god's name and his rite."

(footnote refers to a bibliography contained in Charles Guignebert, Jesus, translated from the French by S.H.Hooke, 1956.)

Well, I can imagine that Josephus was merely passing along a story that he had heard about John the Baptist, and that there are mythic elements in the story, or that the entire story is fictional. I don't know if this passage in Josephus has received the attention that the reference to Jesus has. And it is interesting that Campbell says that scholars have labeled both John and Jesus as myths, then sticks up for the historicity of John only.


[This message has been edited by Toto (edited May 24, 2001).]
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Old 05-24-2001, 12:21 AM   #2
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Joe CAmpbell: Several scholars have suggested, therefore, that there was never either a John or Jesus, but only a water-god and a sun-god.

SWL: Which scholars are those? Anyone still alive suggesting this?

Toto: And it is interesting that Campbell says that scholars have labeled both John and Jesus as myths, then sticks up for the historicity of John only.

SWL: Not really, as his treatment in that section was just focused on the work of other scholars of myth concerning John - whose historicity he accepts.

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Old 05-24-2001, 02:30 AM   #3
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In my opinion, John the Baptist was not a myth. I agree with Campbell that he was not an Essene because his characteristics as described in the Bible are different from the Essenes. I think he is not a myth primarily because his one time baptism of repetance for the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God was original. Nothing like that had ever been done before in Israel. The Jews had the ritual washings but nothing like a one time baptism.

Jesus picked up on John's theme of the Kingdom of God and gave it his own spin. The Christian movement also picked up the one time baptism idea.
 
Old 05-24-2001, 09:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
I picked up Joseph Campbell's Occidental Mythology to see what he said about Jesus. He doesn't say anything explicit, but he treats every aspect of Jesus as myth. (But then that's his thing, and when your only tool is a hammer. . .)

However, this caught my eye, on p. 349 of the trade paperback edition:

"John, however, was no Essene, as we know both from his garb and from his diet. He was in the line, rather, of Elijah, who is described in the Book of Kings as a man who wore 'a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins.' And the rite of baptism that he preached, whatever its meaning at that time may have been, was an ancient rite coming down from the old Sumerian temple city Eridu, of the water god Ea, 'God of the House of Water,' whose symbol is the tenth signe of the zodiac, Capricorn (a composit beast with the foreparts of a goat and the body of a fish), which is the sign into which the sun enters at the winter solstice for his rebirth. In the Hellenistic period, Ea was called Oannes, which is Greek [i]Ioannes[/], Latin [i]Johannes[/], Hebrew [i]Yohanan[/], English [i]John[/]. Several scholars have suggested, therefore, that there was never either a John or Jesus, but only a water-god and a sun-god. The chronicle of Josephus seems to guarantee John, however, and I shall leave it to the reader to imagine how he came both by the god's name and his rite."

(footnote refers to a bibliography contained in Charles Guignebert, Jesus, translated from the French by S.H.Hooke, 1956.)

Well, I can imagine that Josephus was merely passing along a story that he had heard about John the Baptist, and that there are mythic elements in the story, or that the entire story is fictional. I don't know if this passage in Josephus has received the attention that the reference to Jesus has. And it is interesting that Campbell says that scholars have labeled both John and Jesus as myths, then sticks up for the historicity of John only.
</font>
Is this supposed to support Turton's assertion that Campbell doesn't believe that Jesus existed? Or are you seriously entertaining the notion that John the Baptist didn't exist?
 
Old 05-24-2001, 10:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Is this supposed to support Turton's assertion that Campbell doesn't believe that Jesus existed? Or are you seriously entertaining the notion that John the Baptist didn't exist?</font>
Why shouldn't I seriously entertain the idea? The evidence for his existence is an ancient document that has been edited and falsified in other places.

Evidently some scholar did seriously propose the idea (it would take some library research to find out who, or how strong their arguments are.) Or an alternative scenario - John the B. was a real person who deliberately chose the name of a pagan water god and adapted the pagan purification ritual for his own purposes.

And I can't tell if Campbell thought Jesus was real, but it is clear that he thought that the Gospels are totally mythological.
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Old 05-24-2001, 11:03 AM   #6
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
Why shouldn't I seriously entertain the idea? The evidence for his existence is an ancient document that has been edited and falsified in other places.

Evidently some scholar did seriously propose the idea (it would take some library research to find out who, or how strong their arguments are.) Or an alternative scenario - John the B. was a real person who deliberately chose the name of a pagan water god and adapted the pagan purification ritual for his own purposes.

And I can't tell if Campbell thought Jesus was real, but it is clear that he thought that the Gospels are totally mythological.
</font>
Feel free to doubt John the Baptist's existence all you want, I actually admire the consistency, if not the methodology.

The fact that Campbell considers the gospels to be mythological does not mean he considers them to be completely false. As Turton keeps reminding us, in Campbell's lingo, mythical does not mean false.
 
Old 05-24-2001, 11:52 AM   #7
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Feel free to doubt John the Baptist's existence all you want, I actually admire the consistency, if not the methodology.
. . .
</font>
So do you have anything substantive to say on the issue? Are you going to argue that J the B must have existed because it was so embarrassing to have him baptize Jesus?

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Old 05-24-2001, 11:59 AM   #8
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
So do you have anything substantive to say on the issue? Are you going to argue that J the B must have existed because it was so embarrassing to have him baptize Jesus?
</font>
I made no such argument. My disagreement with your methodology is that the only rationale for your skepticism is that "[t]he evidence for his existence is an ancient document that has been edited and falsified in other places."

Yes, I suppose Josephus has been "falsified in other places." Perhaps you could point to a significant amount of other works of history that have not been "falsified in other places." Are they inerrant?
 
Old 05-24-2001, 12:06 PM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
I made no such argument. My disagreement with your methodology is that the only rationale for your skepticism is that "[t]he evidence for his existence is an ancient document that has been edited and falsified in other places."

Yes, I suppose Josephus has been "falsified in other places." Perhaps you could point to a significant amount of other works of history that have not been "falsified in other places." Are they inerrant?
</font>
Any why exactly is this not a cause for skepticism?? And, no, other altered historical documents are not inerrant, so I don't think the Bible is.
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Old 05-24-2001, 12:12 PM   #10
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
Any why exactly is this not a cause for skepticism?? And, no, other altered historical documents are not inerrant, so I don't think the Bible is.</font>
You are aware that Josephus refers to John the Baptist aren't you? We aren't only talking about the New Testament here.

As for the Bible. John the Baptist appears in Mark, Q, and John. With Josephus that's at least 4 different sources. Even if you think John is completely dependent on Mark, that leaves at least 3.
 
 

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