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Old 06-09-2013, 05:35 PM   #1
ApostateAbe
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Default Abe's Case for the Historical Jesus (Part 1: Patterns of Cults)

This is the first in a series of threads, in which I present the most relevant arguments for the case that Jesus existed as a human being. For evidence I will use primarily the New Testament, as those documents tend to be the earliest evidence, but I must emphasize: it is NOT about trusting the New Testament. Instead, it is about making probable sense of the documents. Their claims do not necessarily reflect ancient facts, except facts of ancient beliefs. So, how do we best explain those beliefs? I defend my explanation as having the greatest historical plausibility and greater explanatory power. It is the explanation that Jesus was a doomsday cult leader. The scholars use the phrase, "apocalyptic prophet," but I am not as diplomatic. I contrast this theory with the theory that Jesus was merely myth. I disregard other hypotheses, though I am open to discussing them.

Patterns of Cults

This is the point that establishes the historical plausibility of the theory. A "cult" is not just a way to insult a strange religious group, but it is a sociological pattern widespread across cultures. They are somewhat spectral and fluid, but the primary defining element of a "cult" is: "The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law." It is not the only defining element: fifteen total are given in "Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised" by Janja Lalich and Michael Langone of the International Cultic Studies Journal. Many more items in the checklist are plainly applicable to early Christianity per the early Christian writings, some less plain, but the defining element is plainest of all.

Whether or not Jesus was a human being, we all agree that the information about him is sourced from the myths of the cult. In all cults with a myth of their alleged human founder, the human founder actually existed, as far as we are aware. In absolutely no cases that we know about, there was a cult with a myth of their human founder who never actually existed. This follows directly from the cult pattern of human leaders founding cults and focusing the authority on their own selves, so the esteem of the cult is maintained even after the founder dies. Was early Christianity the special exception? If not, I challenge anyone to find any other cult that breaks the pattern. The International Cultic Studies Association maintains a database of over 1200 cults and cult-like groups. Are there any cults in which the claimed human founder never existed? Was there ever some guy who founded a cult and who claimed that some other guy founded the cult? If so, please present that example, because it would give mythicism the first flyspeck of plausibility.

To be clear, just because it has never happened in any other cult doesn't mean it couldn't have happened with Christianity. But, it means the mythicist hypothesis from the outset has a strong plausibility problem. Very strong explanatory power (arguments based on the direct evidence) would be necessary to compensate for it. But, I don't think the mythicists has strong explanatory power, either, as I explain in threads to come.

Next thread: Abe's Case for the Historical Jesus (Part 2: Nazareth)
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Old 06-09-2013, 06:45 PM   #2
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In absolutely no cases that we know about, there was a cult with a myth of their human founder who never actually existed.

But we have numerous accounts of cults which grew up around mythic figures.
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:38 PM   #3
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Judaism was so wide and diverse and multicultural, it would be safe to say it was very dynamic during this period.

Can we use our modern definition of a cult here, when at that time it was more of a minor difference in a dynamic religion?

Did we call Hellenistic Gentiles a cult?
Were God-Fearers a cult?
Keepers of the Gate a cult?


Sadducees a cult?
Essenes
Pharisees
Zealots


My point, is while Jesus was alive, I wouldn't call his movement a cult. I don't think his movement was outside Jewish norms or even looked down up. He was working a minor change in a dynamic religion in which the many different established sects had more bizarre practices.

I would agree after his death when the movement started in the Diaspora and Hellenism from the mythology after Passover, Hellenist looked at these people as a cult.


Its my opinion the cult status started after Jesus was gone.



This probably falls into how we personally define the original way Jesus taught and defined the "Kingdom of god" as far as I know there are a few different schools of thought on this.

In cultural context I personally view Jesus as someone using some amount of common sense living a Zealots life, knowing at any moment complete Roman destruction was at hand at any given moment. Growing up he would have been all too familiar with how the Romans came in and leveled Sepphoris quickly over people who took a hand to their oppressors.

This is a topic that would have never made it through the Hellenistic version who played too the Romans, instead of against them.


There was more to Jesus legends and mythology then just simple theology.
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:43 PM   #4
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Quote:
In absolutely no cases that we know about, there was a cult with a myth of their human founder who never actually existed.
But we have numerous accounts of cults which grew up around mythic figures.
Sure, but any allegedly-human mythic figures?
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Old 06-09-2013, 08:01 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by outhouse View Post
Judaism was so wide and diverse and multicultural, it would be safe to say it was very dynamic during this period.

Can we use our modern definition of a cult here, when at that time it was more of a minor difference in a dynamic religion?

Did we call Hellenistic Gentiles a cult?
Were God-Fearers a cult?
Keepers of the Gate a cult?


Sadducees a cult?
Essenes
Pharisees
Zealots


My point, is while Jesus was alive, I wouldn't call his movement a cult. I don't think his movement was outside Jewish norms or even looked down up. He was working a minor change in a dynamic religion in which the many different established sects had more bizarre practices.

I would agree after his death when the movement started in the Diaspora and Hellenism from the mythology after Passover, Hellenist looked at these people as a cult.


Its my opinion the cult status started after Jesus was gone.



This probably falls into how we personally define the original way Jesus taught and defined the "Kingdom of god" as far as I know there are a few different schools of thought on this.

In cultural context I personally view Jesus as someone using some amount of common sense living a Zealots life, knowing at any moment complete Roman destruction was at hand at any given moment. Growing up he would have been all too familiar with how the Romans came in and leveled Sepphoris quickly over people who took a hand to their oppressors.

This is a topic that would have never made it through the Hellenistic version who played too the Romans, instead of against them.


There was more to Jesus legends and mythology then just simple theology.
Yeah, "cult" is a tricky word. I defined a "cult" like so: "The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law."

This means not every political movement or religious group is a cult. When you have one human being commanding absolute authority at the expense of the authorities shared by the larger culture, then that is a cult. Jesus' group was exactly that, on the face of the gospel accounts. You can read between the lines and find plenty of possibilities, but I think the most probable explanations follow most from what is on the surface of the evidence. Not only that, but it follows very much from those embarrassing passages that later Christians would prefer not to believe. Like Jesus promising the twelve disciples including Judas a seat to rule the twelve tribes. Or Jesus rebuking and estranging his own family for their disbelief in him. Or Jesus predicting the imminent downfall of all nations as though a vision from God.
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Old 06-09-2013, 08:09 PM   #6
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Reality does not follow the face of the gospel accounts though.

I view the 12 as fiction

3 brothers [inner circle] and Jesus makes more sense for a possibility of survival when traveling village to village healing and teaching for dinner scraps in poor peasant villages, already stretched due to oppression.

Not only that the bible is almost silent on the rest. We hear a lot about John, James and Peter and get details about them that are for the most part silent on the rest.


Commanded absolute authority? I don't see that in reality.

Were really talking about a small time teacher/healer who traveled around teaching his view of the world and his politics.

Fame only came after his death.
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Old 06-09-2013, 08:46 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by outhouse View Post
Reality does not follow the face of the gospel accounts though.

I view the 12 as fiction

3 brothers [inner circle] and Jesus makes more sense for a possibility of survival when traveling village to village healing and teaching for dinner scraps in poor peasant villages, already stretched due to oppression.

Not only that the bible is almost silent on the rest. We hear a lot about John, James and Peter and get details about them that are for the most part silent on the rest.


Commanded absolute authority? I don't see that in reality.

Were really talking about a small time teacher/healer who traveled around teaching his view of the world and his politics.

Fame only came after his death.
I think to get the best estimation of what happened in reality is by making the best sense of the related accounts. Mark, Q and Paul are clear that Jesus was an absolute authority. Those authors all belonged to the cult of Jesus. It is therefore probable that Jesus commanded the same authority to his immediate followers. It is possible but not probable that something drastically changed between Jesus and all of his succeeding followings, unless of course we have good reason to think so.
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Old 06-09-2013, 09:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ApostateAbe View Post
unless of course we have good reason to think so.
I think when we try and recreate a man, its better to recreate his environment, more so then using later theology from another culture not associated with the original sect at all, living in a different geographic location far removed from any actual event.

These are unknown authors, and Paul had nothing to do with the original movements theology or philosophy, they were Jews, real Hebrews.

Not later Hellenist who found importance in the mythology that grew after his death.


This original movement didn't evolve from Judaism to the Hellenistic version were left with. It failed in Judaism with his death.

Did a few members try and keep it alive? sure.

But it wasn't the Hellenistic movement in the Diaspora.

I am not convinced the real original members, John, Peter and James didn't high tail it back to Galilee after Passover in fear for their lives. They surely did not instantly switch faith and go out to gentiles and Hellenistic Proselytes and try and reel in friends of their oppressors while changing Judaism.
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Old 06-09-2013, 09:31 PM   #9
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Not saying I'm correct as much as providing different viewpoints of the same point in history.
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Old 06-09-2013, 09:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ApostateAbe View Post
For evidence I will use primarily the New Testament, as those documents tend to be the earliest evidence, but I must emphasize: it is NOT about trusting the New Testament. Instead, it is about making probable sense of the documents.
Using the New Testament is circular "reasoning" - it "begs-the-question - a logical fallacy.

How can one try to make sense of documents without establishing some 'trust' in them???!!

Especially documents infused in theology and promoted because of that theology??!

The NT does not meet criteria as reliable [trustworthy] historical sources.

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Originally Posted by ApostateAbe View Post
Their claims do not necessarily reflect ancient facts, except facts of ancient beliefs. So, how do we best explain those beliefs? I defend my explanation as having the greatest historical plausibility and greater explanatory power.
This is equivocation - merely a bait 'n' switch - belief is NOT fact!!!

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Originally Posted by ApostateAbe View Post
It is the explanation that Jesus was a doomsday cult leader. The scholars use the phrase, "apocalyptic prophet," but I am not as diplomatic.
"diplomatic" ?? your reference to diplomcy is a red-herring to the failure to establish Jesus historicity, let alone the right to claim he can be descrived as anything.

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Originally Posted by ApostateAbe View Post
I contrast this theory with the theory that Jesus was merely myth. I disregard other hypotheses, though I am open to discussing them.
Your waffle about cults and the Jesus-cult having a real Jesus leader is unsound.
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