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Old 02-19-2001, 11:47 PM   #11
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Are you the same person as Layman? It sounds like you couldn't get anyone to take you seriously here, so you invented some reinforcement.

I gather from your last post that you have not read McDonald's book, or did not understand it. McDonald's argument rests on what is known of the culture of the Greek speaking world of the first century as well as the cumulative weight of many parallels between Mark and Homer.

I found it very persuasive that so many details in Mark do not make sense in terms of Mark's narrative, but suddenly make sense when viewed as part of a mimesis of Homer. People on this board wondered where those pigs came from - and now we know.

Of course, nothing in McDonald's book absolutely proves that Jesus is a myth. But the book does undercut the idea that Mark is based on eyewitness material (which anyone but a fundamentalist Christian would find a preposterous idea to start off with.)

I am a life second generation secularist. I do not understand why people believe, but I accept that some people get emotional or spiritual sustenance out of religion, and I have no quarrel with that. But it corrupts scholarship and logic to claim that there is some factual basis to Christianity as you have, based on the flimsy evidence of a few ancient documents. Is there no room for faith in your religion? If it is based on the pseudo-history that you have constructed, will you lose your religion when new documents turn up?
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Old 02-20-2001, 12:29 AM   #12
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MacDonald's book complements Doherty's "Jesus Puzzle" nicely. Doherty makes a strong case for Paul's Jesus being a mythical savior living and dying in the spiritual realms similar to those found in mystery religions. Paul receives his knowledge through visions and scripture, not through the teaching and life of a historical Jesus. He discusses Mark reworking Old Testament stories but he says nothing about the possible influence of the Homer Epics on Mark. I think his analysis could improve greatly by integrating MacDonald's work.

We will never know for sure why Mark wrote exactly what he wrote. The name of the game is not proof but comparison of different hypotheses. I recommend both MacDonald's and Doherty's book for a fascinating insight into the Jesus as myth hypothesis.
Old 02-20-2001, 05:06 AM   #13
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Well, I like to think of it as using Homer as a skeleton, and then incorporating various other influences, such as his own creativity, Jewish myth and legend, oral tradition if extant, etc.</font>
I don't see how Homer can be the skeleton as the strategy is not close enough. I can be convinced by the specific motifs but not the broad outline. To say Mark took the wandering and then going home in disguise etc from Homer is too much. Besides the triumphal entry into Jerusalem isn't in disguise and Jerusalm isn't Jesus's home.

Reverse symbolism and transmutation of ideas and other long words do stink of deconstructionism and other silly continental ideas. That said, I must read the book and finding it in the UK will be a challenge!

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I knew you guys would say this! That's why I didn't want to post just one. You have to read the whole argument.</font>
But the point is valid. They are both in boats. So what?!? The order of events is swapped and changed around etc. While I accept the use of some Homeric motifs, MacDonald is here trying to squeeze everything into a pattern into which it won't all fit.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Well, yes, but then building on Homer would explain the same thing, wouldn't it? I mean, he had the master right there in front of him. As MacDonald points out, some of the differences between Mt and Mk are in areas where Mt has eliminated the odd stuff introduced as a result of Mk's use of Homer.</font>
The Homeric influences are more likely to be grafted onto a pre-existant story because that's how it was done in those days. The exercise was re tell 'x' in the manner of Homer, not tell a new fiction as a sort of anti-Homer. I've yet to see any evidence that Mark was a literary genius who could have done this. His crap style isn't conclusive but strong evidence against. He was clearly well educated and had an in depth knowledge of the supreme piece of Greek literature. Yet still he produced bad work. Doesn't sound like a brilliant mind to me.

Someone should (and will) revisit the question of Markan priority in all this. If the specific Homeric motifs are missing from Luke and Matthew it is more likely that Mark added them because it is less likely that Luke and Matthew both decided the ditch the same thing. As no early Christian writer (including very many highly educated Greeks who would have known Homer backwards) never mentioned this stuff in Mark, why on earth do you think that Luke and Matthew both should?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Assuming for the moment that Mark is a fiction produced from Homer, then by what coincidence does John wind up with the same stories that are produced from Homer in Mark?</font>
Come on, you know very well this is completely invalid. John is de facto independent and you can't assume it isn't. There is no coincidence as Mark got the story not from Homer but from the same source as John - historical fact.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for Paul, references to details are quite thin. In the seven epistles considered authentic, what details are copied in Mark?</font>
See Layman's thread below this one on Paul and the Historical Jesus. Paul reproduces as much on Jesus as I would expect a sceptical historian to accept as unquestionably factual - a Jew, preacher, brother called James, crucified in Jerusalem at Passover by Romans after Jewish intervention, burial, belief in resurrection appearances.



Bede's Library - faith and reason

[This message has been edited by Bede (edited February 20, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Bede (edited February 20, 2001).]
Old 02-20-2001, 05:09 AM   #14
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:
Polycarp, are you the same one as used to post on SDMB?</font>
I'm not sure what SDMB is, so it probably wasn't me. I've never run across another "Polycarp" on the internet yet, but anything's possible.



Old 02-20-2001, 05:22 AM   #15
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
I'll open with a quote of his, that sums up his position equally well:

"Not being a biblical scholar,....."


For the Paul issue, see my remarks to Bede.


McDonald also is not a biblical scholar, so why should his opinion be any more valid than the reviewer? But I think we'll get off track if we simply appeal to arguments from authority. I'd like to focus on the issue of Paul since its an area of common ground that we can use. So lets take the seven undisputed letters of Paul and examine the information which pre-dates Mark. As Bede mentioned, Layman has a list of information that Paul provides about Jesus. A few of these items appear in the disputed letters so you could disregard those for our purpose.

However, in order to believe your theory, Mark would have had to be aware of all of the information in Paul's letters and then try to fit all of that information into the outline of Homer's works. Why? Because there are no clear contradictions betweeen Mark and Paul. Add to that the fact that you're not talking about only one of Homer's writings, but several. The whole argument is too ad hoc. It seems far more likely that there was an existing body of tradition already in place when Mark wrote his gospel (as demonstrated by Paul's letters), and that he used the pre-existing traditions in writing his gospel. Perhaps you could address a few of the items from Layman's list on Paul and how they relate to the Mark/Homer theory.



Old 02-20-2001, 06:16 AM   #16
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:

Perhaps you could address a few of the items from Layman's list on Paul and how they relate to the Mark/Homer theory.


Where is Layman's list? I like this thread, it seems lots of apologists have piled into it.

Where did the swine come from? Now we know.
How 'bout them figs? The last parallel of a long sequence of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem:

Odyssey 7
"he entered the city [of Nausicaa] late
in the day."

Mark 1-14

"On entering the temple late in the day."

"and there Odysseus stood, gazing at all this bounty of glorious architecture and vegetation, including the fig trees that bore out of season."

Jesus "looked around at everything"
The next day, he cursed a fig tree even "though it was not the season for figs."

It also accounts for Jesus' peculiar insults, like calling people "devourers of widows' houses....." which is a little odd, unless you recall the situation of Penelope.

As per your request Nomad, I'll put up one more of these parallels in a little while, but that will be all. We're swimming in dangerous copyright waters. You'll just have to challenge your faith, and read the book.

I can' really respond to your "LOL" comments about those parallels. It just so happens that there are lots of similar constructions in Mark's gospel. Note that it retains distinctive elements of Homer's story, the asking of a name, the presence of livestock, the monster in the cave, and in the almost exactly the same order. Jesus and Odysseus
are both addressed while sailing away, and they come and go in ships. Why? Of the infinity of events Mark could have chosen, why do these follow almost exactly the sequence in Homer?

You are right, Jesus is on a lake. But to Mark, the "lake" is a metaphorical ocean, with great storms. It functions as an ocean whether or not it actually is one.

Ok, the new one is up. It's at

Old 02-20-2001, 07:34 AM   #17
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I found the references in Paul that Layman
posted, and all from the undisputed letters, too. Good work, Layman.

It's a thin soup that consists of a last supper, betrayal, crucifixion story, resurrection and a couple of other items.

I don't see any raising of the dead, the walk on water, and many other things. The vast majority of the things Mark fictionalizes using Homer are not present in Paul. Only the crucifixion is, and Mark's story has a lot more detail than Paul!

let's look at Layman's points:
Paul argues that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, but there is no "rose again on the third day prophecy" in the OT. Hosea 6:2? is a reference to something else. Is there another one?

Romans 1:4 refers to a resurrection, but not on any particular day (at least in my KJV).

Romans 3:23-24 makes no reference to an "atoning death for the sins of the world."
It refers to redemption that is in Christ Jesus, but says nothing about the "how."

Romans 6:4 uses "burial" in a metaphorical sense -- "buried by baptism"

"For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" in 1 Cor 5:7. Jesus, as far as I can see, is metaphorically related to Passover by the concept of sacrifice. Where does it say here Jesus was killed over the Passover celebration?

1 Cor 15:6-7 refers to James, but does not name him as Jesus' brother. But since Galatians does, we'll allow that one.

Paul does say that the Jews killed Jesus, but my Bible says the Romans executed him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 refers to the "princes of the age" or "spirits of the age" depending on your translation, and seems to refer to a spiritual rather than secular event, at least according to some commentators. In any case, the princes of the age did not kill Jesus, a local Roman authority did. Of course, this would also contradict Paul's assertion in other letters that the Jews killed Jesus. Not much in this reference, either.

Other references are quite vague.
Romans 14:3 does quote a psalm, but "reproaches" is a weak word for physical humiliation. Why didn't Paul make a clearer reference? There's no hint that anything physical is going on.

Actual, solid references are few, and refer only to the things I noted above. Now, if Paul was cognizant of a Jesus tradition that included the stories that Mark would later write down, why didn't he mention any of them? Doherty (and others) have assembled a long list of such silences......

In short, I don't see how these make a case against Mark's fictionalization. I've already said Mark built on earlier tradition, so have no quarrel with the few overlaps here.
Old 02-20-2001, 07:43 AM   #18
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I have to say this theory is interesting and I'd like to see the book for myself.

If I get the time, perhaps I may try comparing Mark to another novel and see if I can find parallels that have been ingeniously "reordered" by Mark.

The parallels that have been presented seem tenous to me at best...


Old 02-20-2001, 07:59 AM   #19
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I am not sure you are getting the central issues here. MacDonald has a theory. He thinks that Mark used Homer as his outline for his Gospel. In order to prove his point, he then looks for every similarity he can find, no matter how mundane, and gives readings that often require at least a well developed imagination in order to make them fit.

Let's assume for the moment, for example, that Jesus lived in Galilee (a reasonable assumption I think you would agree). The Sea of Galilee is the dominent body of water in this region, and huge numbers of people live all the way around it. If you want to get to the other side, you either walk around the lake, or take a boat across it (or walk over it, but that is a separate issue I suppose, since Homer doesn't talk about that much). As a result, saying that Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat is a clear parallel to Homer's Odyssey strains credulity to the breaking point.

Ancients did travel by boat you know.

Also, the society was overwhelmingly agrarian in both cultures, so the presence of goats and or pigs is not going to be a huge surprise, and the same goes for the attending sheppards and swinekeepers.

Personally, if I was going to really go after motifs that showed Jesus being portrayed as another historical figure, I would go with the Gospel of Matthew and his use of Moses and Elijah. There the parallels are open and clear cut, and Matthew clearly wants his readers to see these parallels, and even points to them openly.

Then, if you want to argue that Homer used Moses too, well, that would be interesting. But saying that Jesus is simply another version of a Homeric hero figure is really reaching, and going further to call him a complete invention borders on the absurd.

I strongly recommend that you don't go too deeply into the arguments from silence and coincidence thing Michael, or before you know it, you will begin to sound like a conspiracy theorist just to make your theories work.

Here is the real challenge: show how the life events of Jesus as given in the Gospel of Mark are highly implausible (and by this, I mean the mundane stuff of his life, trial, death and burial). If you can do that, then claiming total fiction becomes much more credible.

Old 02-20-2001, 09:03 AM   #20
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This was directed at Nomad:

"Are you the same person as Layman? It sounds like you couldn't get anyone to take you seriously here, so you invented some reinforcement."

I'll answer this one. No. Nomad is not the same person as I am. Should he be so lucky.


Thank you for addressing the list of Pauline references. You are the first skeptic to do so. Congratulations. You seem to be right about the "third" day reference. I apologize, but will look into it more.

Despite your claim that "[a]ctual, solid references are few, and refer only to the things I noted above", there were several points you did NOT touch that I take as admissions. I'll run down the list of things you did not dispute, and my rebuttal on a couple of points that you did dispute:

1. Jesus was divine and preexistent.
2. Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews.
3. Jesus was referred to as "Son of God."
4. Jesus was descended from King David.
5. The use of the term "abba."
6. Jesus forbid divorce.
7. Jesus teaching regarding paying preachers.
8. Jesus had an eschatological focus.
9. Jesus' lead disciple, Peter (cephras)
10. Jesus had a brother named James, who, as Luke records, became the leader of the Jerusalem Church.
-I'm not sure why you chose to quibble with this one. I included the reference to Galatians.
11. Jesus initiated the "Last Supper," referring to the bread and the cup.
12. Jesus was delivered to authorities on the night of the Last Supper.
13. Jesus died by crucifixion.

Now I want to address your creation of an supposed "contradiction." I think if you had given it just a little more thought you would see that what Paul says matches up perfectly with the gospel tradition. That is, both Jewish and Roman authorities were involved with Jesus' death. The Jewish authorities brought the charges and conducted the trial and the Roman authorities did the actual executing. How is this a contradiction? At no point does Paul deny Roman involvement or deny Jewish involvement. His references match the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

Moreover, I believe my characterization of Romans 2:7-8 is reasonable. Even allowing, however, that it does not refer to Rome, the manner of Jesus' death confirms that his execution was at the hand of Roman authorities.

14. Jesus was physically buried.

Since you don't discuss 1 Cor. 15:4-7, I am assuming that you really aren't disputing that Jesus' physical death and burial were parts of the pre-Markan Jesus tradition. I don't see how quibbling with Romans 6:3-4 by isolating it from its context makes any point for you. The discussed death is metaphorical to Christians. But Paul is clear that it is a metaphor for the reality of what Jesus passed through. "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore he were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness in life." Romans 6:3-4.

15. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers.

16. Atoning death.

Paul specifically states that "all of sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." Romans 3:23-24. You may see some sort of theological chasm between Paul's belief that Jesus died to save us form our sin because "all" have fallen short and Jesus' death being an atoning death for the sins of the world, but I don't share that your perspective.

I'll also repeat an earlier point I made:

"As others have pointed out, the Homer theory fails to account for the independence of other Jesus traditions, such as the Gospel of John, Q, "M," and especially, "L." All recounting similar miracles and teachings of Jesus independent of the Gospel of Mark.

In fact, you could eliminate the Gospel of Mark altogether, including the copying of it by Matthew and Luke, and still have the orthodox picture of Jesus we know and love today from the Paulines, "M," "L," and John."

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