Defending the Theistic View

Posts tagged “skeptics

Jesus, the brother of James, son of Damneus

Recently, I have posted a defence of the partial authenticity of Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum and the complete authenticity of the so-called “James passage.” — Even though, at least to my knowledge, I dealt with the relevant objections to their authenticity there is at least one more objection which I decided to cover here. — It has to do with the James passage.

It is an indesputable fact that the majority of scholarly opinion supports the authenticity of the clause “Jesus, who was called Christ” in the James passage. But there is one more objection that, all though I have never taken it seriously except for this blog post, should be cleared up.

Kenneth Humphreys, while mentioning this passage, mentions in passing that in the same paragraph there is another man named Jesus, the son of Damneus and then indicates that this man is James’ brother, not the Jesus of the Bible. (Antiquities 20: 200) Though Humphreys does not go into much detail on this, one other Atheist I communicated with did.

Metro State Atheist, an Atheist blog I occasionally visit, refers to this objection and makes some points that should be answered. — After quoting the entire paragraph in which James and the two Jesuses are mentioned Joel Guttormson the webmaster of the blog goes on to say,

James mentioned in the line in question, which is italicized and underlined in the text above, is the bother of the Jesus mentioned in the bolded line.  Context dictates this since they are not separated explicitly (ie Josephus didn’t say that Jesus, the son of Damneus is not the same as Jesus brother of James who they called Christ).  Also, there exists no break in the story such that anyone could assert they are different people in the context.

The argument of context needs to be addressed. He saying that because there is “no break in the story” that the brother of James and the son of Damneus are therefore likely the same person. This is not necessarily true. Jesus was an extremely common name, so common that in order to prevent confusion for the readers of his history it would only be logical to identify two different men with the same name with differing means of Identification. This would only become all the more necessary if these two men were mentioned within only a few sentences of eachother and if the context did not change.

The reason why there is no break in the context is that the execution of James lead to all the events that followed in the paragraph (i.e., the deposition of the High Priest Ananus and his replacement by “the son of Damneus.”) This does not prove or even indicate that the brother of James and the son of Damneus are the same person.

Also, even though Joel is correct that Josephus does not say point blank that Jesus and James were not Damnes’ sons, Josephus’ own writing style dictates that they be positively identified as such. Usually, when Josephus first introduced a historical person he gave him the proper introduction the first time that he is mentioned by naming the person’s father (or known relative), hometown or their office.

Here are some examples of Josephus’ first time introductions:

  • Antiquities 17: 271: “There was also Judas, the son of that Ezekias who had been head of the robbers.”
  • Antiquities 17: 273: “There was also Simon, who had been a slave of Herod the king.”
  • Antiquities 18: 4: “Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala.”
  • Wars 5: 335: “They intended to have Zacharias the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain.”

The list of examples of Josephus’ goes on. When he first names a new person, this is how he he introduced them, the first time he mentions them. This isn’t to say that he never re-introduces anyone in the same manner a second time, but it is characteristic for him to do it the first time as did many other ancient writers. Normally Josephus would not have procrastinated only to give the customary introduction later on.

Assuming that James’ brother and the son of Damneus are the same person, and taking into account Josephus’ normal writing style, by all rights the James passage should say “James, brother of Jesus, the son of Damneus.”But this is not the case. — Josephus usually gave this identification without delay, and yet he does not follow up in this passage. If Josephus indeed meant that James’ brother and the son of Damneus were the same person, then it’s pretty odd that he didn’t follow the norm of identification. That he did not certainly makes sense if they are not the same person.

Another argument that Joe makes that I think deserves to be examined is his claim that the son of Damneus can also be called “Christ,”

Furthermore, Christ is Greek  means nothing more than “the anointed one”.  Literally, this means that one would be blessed with or covered in [holy] oil. It wouldn’t be out of the question, as far I know, that a “high priest” such as “Jesus, the son Damneus” was, would be called a Christ, an anointed one.

Actually, it would be out of the question because “Christ” had huge political implications, and it is unlikely the Romans would have allowed him to have been seated as high preist if he bore such a title. But let’s not even consider that fact as part of the evidence. — It is accurate to say that the Greek word “Χριστος” is translated as “anointed.” And considering that the son of Damneus would have been “annointed” when he was appointed as High Priest, Joe’s argument does seem plausable.  But there is one major problem with this assumption:

Josephus indicates that Jesus already was known as “Christ” during the early High Priesthood of Ananus, that is to say before the anointment of the son of Damneus to be the next High Priest. Because every High Priest was logically “anointed” at his appointment to the High-Priesthood, it is highly unlikely that the son of Damneus would have been known as the “anointed anything” until after Ananus’ term.

Furthermore, as mentioned in my previous post on this subject, the Greek term “λεγόμενος” which Josephus uses for the clause “Was called Christ” is being used neutrally by neither affirming or denying Jesus’ Messiaship, which is a reason why it is widely accepted as authentic.

This neutrality would be understandable if Josephus wanted to at least avoid bashing Christianity. However, if he indeed has the son of Damneus in mind then it would have definitely been pretty odd and un-called-for because the appointment (or anointment) of  the son of Damnues was not in doubt at all. It would have been like saying “Some people call him the high priest, but I don’t want to take sides.” Such reasoning, however, would have been considered absurd by a dedicated Jew like Josephus.

 — So as it turns out, a major basis for accepting the authenticity of the “James Passage” (i.e., the neutrality of Josephus’ terminology) can also be used to argue against the identification of Jesus, James’ brother with the son of Damneus.

After this, Joe seems to imply that Josephus was probably the source used by Christians to determine that Jesus had a brother named James. But to be fair,  probably means that this could have been Mark’s own personal knowledge of Jesus son of Demneus. —  He then goes on to say,

Although the earliest possible date for the first Gospel, of what would become the New Testament, is 70ad; the earliest, physical, dated Gospel of Mark dates, approximately, to around the year 90ad.  This would give ample time to the author of the Gospel of Mark to construct his Jesus character based on the high priest, Jesus, the son of Damneus.

I’m bringing this up because Mark, the first Gospel which mentions James, is usually dated in the 70s AD which is contemperary with Josephus’ Wars of the Jews and also pre-dates his Antiquities of the Jews by around twenty to thirty years. But Joe places it in a date which apparently is to make all of Josephus’ works pre-date Mark, thus making it unusable to show as a pre-Josephus. — This part Joe’s argument here, like the rest of the Jesus-Damneus argument only presupposes what it sets out to prove. There is no evidence given that Mark should be dated later than the usual date it is thought to be written.

As a matter of fact, most scholarship disagrees with dating Mark so late in 90 AD. — What my impartial sources show is that,

“Most scholars [ . . . ] would be hesitant to assign a date later than 70-73 CE, the latter being when Jerusalem was finally and fully sacked.”

So the fact is that the latest accepted date for Mark is much earlier than the date that Joe is proposing. — Now here is the interesting detail: Even if he were right that Mark should be dated to 90 AD, this would still pre-date the completion of Josephus’ twentieth (and last book) which mentions James and the son of  Damneus. Josephus completed his twenty books of the Antiquities in 93 AD,  after the alleged late date of Mark. (Source)

 — This is enough to refute the implication that Josephus was probably what Christians used Josephus to conclude Jesus had a brother named James because, apparently which ever composition date you prefer for Mark’s gospel, Mark’s mention of James still came first (Mark 6: 3 )

The bottom line is that even though I have known about the skeptic argument that Jesus, the brother of  James is the same as the other Jesus who was the son of Damneus, with the exception of this blog response to the argument, I don’t take it seriously. My problem with it is that it starts with a foregone conclusion and then works off of it assuring that the desired conclusion will be reached. It then presupposes that because Josephus mentions a Jesus a few sentences before another that they therefore have to be the same person even though they are identified by different means.

As said before, to assume that the brother of James is the same as the son of Damneus is to assume that Josephus broke with the methodology of identifying a person by his father, relative, hometown, or position the first timehe introduced them, not waiting until later which is what would have to be assumed if the two Jesuses are the same person. — The suggestion that Josephus called the son of Damneus “Christ” because of his  “anointment” to the office of High Priest doesn’t work when one realizes that Josephus indicates that this was Jesus’ title during the High Priesthood of Ananus because the son of Damneus wasn’t anointed until after Ananus’ term in office.

Also, Josephus’ usage of the clause “Was called Christ” is agreed to be a completely neutral way of using the title “Christ” without either confirming or denying Jesus’ messiaship. — As said before, this wold make complete sense if Josephus wanted to avoid Christian-bashing while at the same time not accept Jesus as the Messiah. But it certainly wouldn’t make sense to use such a neutral clause with the High Priest. Using this neutral clause with Jesus, son of Damnues would make no sense, unless Josephus neither wanted to confirm or deny his priesthood because it was never in doubt from anyone.

In conclusion, to make a long story short, there is no credible evidence to conclusively say that the “Christ” mentioned by Josephus is the same as Jesus-Damneus, and there are enough arguments to the contrary because it opens the door to inconsistencies.

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The Parallels Between Jesus and Horus — A Refutation of Acharya S

The Egyptian god Horus was the sky god and the son of Isis and Osiris. Accorging to Egyptian mythology, his father was murdered by Seth who was his “perpetual antagonist” and was cut into 14 pieces which were scattered all over Egypt. Later Horus, who was raised by his mother in the swamps of the Nile Delta, when he grew to manhood took it upon himself to take revenge on Seth for the murder of his father and after killing him he bacame the king of the unified Egypt.

In ancient Egypt he was was often represented as a falcon and considered the prince of the gods, the patron of young men as well as the protector of the Pharaoh who was believed to be his avatar on earth while alive. Horus is also said to continue his battle with Seth on a daily basis to ensure the world’s safety.

After making claims that Buddha is basically a prototype of Jesus (which are refuted here) D.M. Murdock goes on to claim that there are similar parallels between Jesus and Horus which have been widely repeated by many “Jesus-Mythers” such as the filmakers of Zeitgeist as well as others. — Ms. Murdock’s claims are in bold while my answers are in regular font.

horus13The first claim she makes is that,

Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th in a cave/manger, with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men.

The idea that Horus’ mother was a virgin at the time of his birth is not found in Egyptian mythology. — What happened was that after Osiris was murdered an cut into pieces by Seth, the goddess Isis traveled though Egypt and was able to find his pieces she then impregnated herself with her husbands phallus (or penis) after which she conceived her son Horus.

The fact that she was Osiris’ wife argues against the idea that Isis was a virgin and undoubtedly their marriage would have been consummated. Also, even if that were not the case, the description of Horus’ conception is miraculous, but it is definitely sexual and therefore does not qualify as a virgin birth.

As for the claim of Horus being born in a manger or a cave, the Encyclopedia Mythica points out that after Isis impregnated herself on her husband’s dead body and conceived her son, she then “gave birth to Horus in the swamps of Khemnis in the Nile Delta,” showing that Ms. Murdock’s claim is completely false.

Not only is the date of December 25th of no importance to Christianity, it so happens that Horus was not even born on that date. His birth was on the second of the five “Epagomenal Days which actually corresponds from July 31st to August 24th.

There is no Egyptian reference confirming that Horus’ mother “Isis-Meri.” She is simply called Isis. — Also, there is no evidence that Horus’ birth was “announced by a star” or that three wise-men attended his birth. Besides in the gospel of Matthew the wise men are not numbered, so even if this were true about Horus it certainly would be irrelevant about Jesus.

He was a child teacher in the Temple and was baptized when he was 30 years old.

I cannot find any confirmation that Horus ever was depicted as a child teacher or that he was even baptized. For this claim in her footnotes Ms. Murdock does not cite any primary or credible source. She qoutes Massey and Mead who have no credibility.

Horus was also baptized by “Anup the Baptizer,” who becomes “John the Baptist.”

I have just mentioned that there is no evidence that Horus was ever baptized. — Besides this fact, “Anup” was just another name for god Anubis who was an embalmer, not a Baptizer like John the Baptist.

He had 12 disciples.

No he didn’t, at least, not as far as any evidence from Egyptian sources indicate. The Egyptologists apparantly have no knowledge of Horus having twelve disciples, so if anyone knows of any evidence that he did then they should contact them right away. — Ms. Murdock just simply throws out this allegation without giving any reference to support this claim in her footnotes.

He performed miracles and raised one man, El-Azar-us, from the dead.

Miracles are an expectation from most gods so even if Horus did perform any miraculous deeds this would not indicate any causation of Christian theology. Besides, I cannot find any reference to any figure named Al-Azar-us in Egyptian mythology.

He walked on water.

Again, there is no evidence of this from any Egyptian or Encyclopedic sources.

Horus was transfigured on the Mount.

No supporting evidence for this claim. Ms. Murdock cites no sources in her footnotes for this supposed claim, whether it be reliable or unreliable.

He was killed, buried in a tomb and resurrected.

The one reference that I could find that describes his death is seeminly unrelated to the Passion of Jesus. Horus was stung him to death by a scorpion. When Isis found him dead she is said to have become “distraught and frantic with grief, and was inconsolable.” – Thoth, who had helped her to revive her husband Osiris, heard her and came down to answer her. Isis was then supplied with incantations and then was able to revive her son. (See: The Cippi of Horus)

In short, even in  this account, Horus’ death way to different from Jesus’ to insist that one account influenced the other. Besides Horus was not said to have been buried in a tomb.

He was also the “Way, the Truth, the Light, the Messiah, God’s Anointed Son, the Son of Man, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Word” etc.

Besides the fact that Ms. Murdock does not cite any sources for this claim the term “Messiah” as one of Horus’ titles is suspicious because it is rooted in Hebrew, not the Egyptian language. The title “God’s Anointed Son” is basically a translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” which means “The Annointed” so Ms. Murdock is using two titles for the price of one. — The title “Son of Man” is also suspect because Horus, unlike Jesus, didn’t have an earthly father.

He was “the Fisher,” and was associated with the Lamb, Lion and Fish (“Ichthys”).

Murdock’s source for this claim is Massey cited in a footnote. Massey himself does not even show his own sources and I have not been able to confirm these titles. There is also no Biblical passage with Jesus ever being called “the fisher” or “Lion and fish” so even if these titles were associated with Horus (which they are not) it would still be irrelevant to Christianity. — Besides, “Ichtys” is Greek, not Egyptian.

Horus’s personal epithet was “Iusa,” the “ever-becoming son” of “Ptah,” the “Father.”

There is no evidence of these claims either. — Besides the fact that Jesus Christ is never spoken about as having a “personal epithet,” the term “Iusa” isn’t even a real word. Perhaps it is a mispronunciation of the Greek “Iesous” which is the Greek transliteration for Jesus’ own name. Considering that it is Greek, not Egyptian, this only makes this claim all the more suspect.

Horus (or Osiris) was called “the KRST,” long before the Christians duplicated the story.

Not only it “KRST” not an Egyptian title, the attempt to compare it to Jesus’ title as “the Christ” is only based on word games because “Christ” (or Kristos) is Greek which is not closely related (if at all) to the Egyptian language. Anyone who has studied a foreign language realizes that from time to time one finds words that are similar to those of their native languages which have completely different meanings. — In Greek, “the Christ” means “the anointed” while “KRST” is the Egyptian word for “burial.” (Text Link)

Before listing her main claims, Ms. Murdock claims that Osiris and Horus (father and son) were ever seen as interchangeable and then implies that Christians see Jesus and his Father in the same way. — Not only have I been unable to confirm that Egyptian mythology taught this, but also Ms. Murdock, by implying that this would be a relevant parallel to Jesus the Son and God the father, shows her ignorance and misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity which is that the one God is made up by three separate persons who are not interchangeable.

The bottom line is that the claims that Ms. Murdock advances to show parallels between Jesus and Horus are only rehashings of unreliable and easily refuted Bull-crap. So until any reliable evidence comes to light that can confirm these alleged parallels between Horus and Jesus, it has to be assumed that they do not exist.

A look at  her footnotes shows that she does not cite one reliable  reputable source. Her only sources are fellow “Jesus-Mythers” whose claims she uncritically repeats. — As I have pointed out in a previous post, it is unusual for someone like Murdock who claims to be a well trained expert of comparative religion and mythology to resort to such tactics to prove her point.


The Parallels Between Jesus and Buddha — A Refutation of Acharya S

Between the years 563 to 483 BC, there was a man in India named Siddhārtha Gautama better known as the Buddha. He was a man who taught principles for peace, harmony as well as love. He was raised in luxury by his father Shuddodana who was determined to not allow his son to see anything unpleasant. This was to keep the fact that there was ugliness and suffering in the world away from him.

One day when Siddhārtha was twenty-nine, he asked his father if he could visit a neighboring city. His father decided to allow him, but also attempted to have the entire city cleaned before his son should arrive. This tactic worked at first, but Siddhārtha strayed away from the rout that his father was counting on him taking and then he saw four different men on which the “four signs” were based: One was old, one was ill, one was dead and the fourth was a beggar. And frm this he came to the realization that even he would grow old and die and he began wondering what was the point of life if one was going to die. From then on he renounced his life of ease to begin a life of begging on the streets.

— By the age of 35, he had supposedly gained great insight of the causes of pain and suffering and how to eliminate it and later he ban to teach. Among his teachings, he taught the “four noble truths” which claim that 1) all life is suffering, 2) that desire causes suffering, 3) one can overcome suffering, and 4) that is would be overcome by following the Eight Fold Path.

buddhaSeveral in the “Jesus Myth” crowd have attempted to tie the Buddha to Jesus Christ by mentioning several apparent similarities between the two. — D.M. Murdock, otherwise known as Acharya S, has been one of many of the mythers that do this. Following, her claims are placed in bold while my responses are in regular font.

Buddha was born of the virgin Maya, who was considered the “Queen of Heaven.”

It is certainly true that the birth of Siddhārtha Gautama was miraculous in itself, however the claim that his mother Maya was a virgin is unsubstantiated and isn’t found in Buddhist writings. The fact is that Buddhist tradition points out that Maya and her husband King Suddhodhana were already married for twenty years before their son was born which argues all out against Queen Maya’s virginity. Most certainly, their marraige would have been consumated long before Siddhārtha Gautama’s birth. (Text link)

If Ms. Murdock’s mention of Maya being the “Queen of Heaven” is an attempt to link her to the virgin Mary, then it should also be mentioned that the idea of such a title for Mary is purely Roman Catholic and has no Biblical basis. Protestant Christianity, which is more based on the Bible than Catholicism does not recognize Mary in any such way.

He was of royal descent.

This is true for both Jesus and Buddha, however it is also incidental with absolutely no relevance at all. Arguing that this is a relevant parallel is like saying that since Queen Elizabeth I of England and Nero, the Roman Emperor were both of royal descent that they are therefore connected. Such reasoning just doesn’t work.

He crushed a serpent’s head.

I cannot find any evidence that this was said about Buddha. Even if it was, it certainly is not said about Jesus in any of the four Gospels or (as far as I know) in the New Testament at all.  — The crushing of the serpent’s head (which is considered a Messianic prophesy) actually comes from Genesis 3: 15 which was written is at least 1397 BC over 800 before the Buddha was born. This pretty much means that even if such a thing was ever said about Buddha the Hebrew Bible had the saying many centuries before Buddhism ever had existed and therefore Jesus being a Jew would not have had to imitate Buddhism for this one detail.

The fact of the matter is that “crushing a serpent’s head” is actually out of the Buddha’s character because he had resolved not to harm a single creature. As a matter of fact there is a story of him protecting a serpent. (The Story of Buddha, page 7)

Sakyamuni Buddha had 12 disciples.

This is most definitely not true. — At first the Buddha, after his renunciation, had five companions (The Story of Buddha, Pages 40 & 41). Later on, not counting the Buddha’s immediate family or royal patrons, he had a total of eleven male disciples, nine female disciples, and five lay disciples making a total of twenty-five, more than double. (Click here)

In her footnotes Ms. Murdock cites a  Travel Guide page as proof  of  “the motif of Buddha and the 12.” The page she refers to mentions a large statue of Buddha accompanied by twelve smaller Buddhas. — The problem here is that this imagery comes from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty which is dated from the 13th and 14th centuries AD. So even if this was a reflection of Jesus’ twelve disciples, it’s from a period way too late to have affected Christianity. Buddhist tradition shows, however, that the Buddha had more than twelve followers.

Besides, her source suggests that this particular scene is the “Nirvana.” If this interpretation is correct then I must point out that Buddhist tradition says that the Buddha at the time was surrounded by 500 arachants who committed to memory his teachings. (The Story of Buddha, Page 93) If this is the case then the only reason that the Buddhist relief she refers to shows twelve men is because it is much easier than depicting 500.

He performed miracles and wonders, healed the sick, fed 500 men from a “small basket of cakes,” and walked on water.

It is true that the Buddha is associated with miracles. But this hardly proves anything because it goes without saying that miracle-workers are an expectation in any religion and therefore this alone does not imply any imitation on Jesus’ part.

Even though it is true that the Buddha did care for the sick, he used a much different method than Jesus who healed with a touch and even over long distances. Buddha would treat his patients with hot water and would bathe them. There were various patients that Buddha treated that didn’t regain their health and even died, which is not the case with Jesus. (Text Link)

I can’t find any Buddhist or Encyclopedic sources that show that Buddha fed 500 people with a “small basket of cakes.” Besides, it should be mentioned that Jesus didn’t use cakes, but rather five loaves of bread and two fish. — And as for the last claim of walking on water, this one is true. But it is also true that this parallel has its differences because the Buddha is said to have accomplished this by “levitating over a stream” to convert a non-believer to Buddhism. Jesus didn’t levitate, he just walked. And he didn’t do it to convert anyone. (Text Link)

 

He abolished idolatry, was a “sower of the word,” and preached “the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness.”

It would be a true statement to say that Buddha “asked his followers not to create images of him when he died,” though this doesn’t seem to be an actual command. But this really is not an issue because Buddhism is a “Non-Theistic” religion. (Click here)  Buddhist do bow to Buddha which, at least from a Christian perspective, is defined as Idolatry. — It should be mentioned that Jesus did not “abolish Idolatry,” nor did he need to because it was already legally prohibited by Jewish law. (Exodus 20: 4)

As for the last two claims that Buddha was a “sower of the word” and preached “the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness” — I can find absolutely no reference to them.

He taught chastity, temperance, tolerance, compassion, love, and the equality of all.

Okay, and so did Gandhi, Seneca and many others. These are very common ideas,  way too common to just assume that Jesus copied them from Buddha. Though these ideas are held in common between both Christianity and Buddhism, the truth is that there are differences between the two. The philosophical foundations of the two religions are actually quite different. (Text Link)

He was transfigured on a mount.

This is not true. He was transformed into the Buddha while he sat under a tree in a region in Northern India known as Bodhgaya. (Text Link) — I have been informed in an E-Mail correspondance by Eyal Aviv of George Washington University that this area is not even a mountain region.

Sakya Buddha was crucified in a sin-atonement, suffered for three days in hell, and was resurrected.

Again, this is completely false. Buddha did not die of crucifixion or even as a “sin-atonement.” He became ill and died at age eighty after eating a large meal of  “soft pork” which, according to a diagnosis of his sickness, was too large for his digestive system. (Click here) Also, he was not raised from the dead, rather his body was cremated after death. (Source)

As for suffering in hell for three days in hell, this is not true of either Buddha or Jesus.

He ascended to Nirvana or “heaven.”

Here, Ms. Murdock is showing blatant ignorance of the concept of “Nirvana.” — Nirvana is not a place, and it certainly isn’t “heaven.” It is to live on earth in a state of enlightenment which ends the cursed cycle of reincarnation for a Buddhist. (Click here)

Buddha was considered the “Good Shepherd”, the “Carpenter”, the “Infinite and Everlasting.”

There is no evidence that Buddha was ever called the “good Shepherd or even the “Carpenter.” — It is true that one sect of Buddhism (Mahayana) contains the idea of an everlasting Buddha.” But this is virtually a meaningless parallel between Jesus and Buddha considering the number of debunked parallel claims between the two made by Ms. Murdock.

He was called the “Savior of the World” and the “Light of the World.”

For once, there is truth to this. After Siddhārtha was born, a sage names Asita told his parents that if he renounced a life of luxury at the court he would indeed become the “savior of the world.” (Text Link) I cannot find a mention of Buddha being “the light of the world.” But even if it exists, it would not prove anyone did any copying.

After making these debunked claims, Ms. Murdock cites  Dr. Christian Lindtner to further prove her point that Jesus was copied from Buddhism. — Even though Dr. Lindtner is recognized in the field, he is also a noted “Jesus-Myther.” Many of the claims Ms. Murdock quotes him as saying have already been debunked such as the alleged “crucifixion” of Buddha and the “twelve disciples,” so I’m not going into too much detail. The fact that he is willing to make such easily refuted claims shows blatant dishonesty on his part.

Interestingly, he lists the “last supper” as a parallel between Jesus and Buddha. Though it is true that they had a “last supper,” the details of the two are completely different. Buddha simply ate his meal, got sick and died. — In Jesus’ case, the event was used to declare that he would be betrayed, killed and resurrected. This is way too different to assume that one account influenced the other.

He then repeats the claim that Buddha was resurrected but he leaves out the fact that if this were true then that would mean he never attained “Nirvana,” the  point of which was to prevent resurrection or reincarnation. But no dedicated Buddhist would accept this because this would mean that Buddha was not actually a Buddha. Considering that he is recognized in this field and that his claims are so easily disproved, I unfortunately have to question his honesty.

As I was researching for this blog post, I e-mailed Ms. Murdock’s claims of Jesus-Buddha parallels to several professors of Buddhism and I received a response from Eyal Aviv, Assistant Professor of the Department of Religion at George Washington University who said,

Generally, the claims made in the website you read are historically so problematic that I can simply say that they are not true [ . . . ] I would recommend you to be cautious with Web sources and rely on authoritative scholars or  religious writers from within the respective traditions you are interested in.

The truth is that even though there is what could be construed as evidence of Buddhist influence on Christianity, it is basically inconclusive. And just because there are certain similarities, this does not indicate beyond doubt that the similarities between them are a result of Buddhist influence on Christianity. (Text Link)

— So in conclusion, the claims that are made by Ms. Murdock (a.k.a., Acharya S) about parallels between Jesus and Buddha are mostly untrue. The claims that are true are so few in number and therefore can be assumed to be coincidence. Not to mention, in her list of parallels, she jumps to certain conclusions that lead her to misunderstand basic teachings of Buddhism. Considering the fact that Ms. Murdock claims to be an expert in comparative religion, this is pretty odd.


Josephus and Jesus “who was called Christ” — Refuting Acharya S

Joseph ben Matthias, better known as Flavius Josephus, was the son of a priest born in the year 37 AD. — During the first part of the  Jewish revolt he was a reluctant military commander that fought the Romans. Later in 67 AD, when many of his allies had committed suicide rather than surrender he surrendered to the Romans for uncertain reasons and provided them with information and then was released two years later in  69 AD. As a result, he has been called a traitor and a pro-Roman propagandist, though he tried to fix the Jewish image in Rome’s point of view.

The works of Flavius Josephus are an important compilation of history that, in many cases, would be otherwise unknown to us had he not written it. He is the basic source from which we learn about many important historical figures and events. He wrote extensively about King Herod the Great, the Jewish revolt of 66 AD which lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and about the census of Quirinius of 6 AD which caused the rebellion of Judas of Galilee. — These are all mentioned in the New Testament, but not to the great detail that Josephus had described them.

Many Christians have appealed to this Jewish historian for confirmation of several biblical events and personalities such as  the existence of the historical Jesus.  One of the most secular historical references is known as the Testimonium Flavianum which is attributed to him. The other is usually called “the James Passage” which only mentions Jesus in passing.

This passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum occurs when Josephus is giving a historical account of the Roman Prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate,

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18: 63-64)

flavius-josephus2The passage not only acknowledges that Jesus had indeed existed, it also affirms that “he was the Christ” and was resurrected after the third day of his death, there in lies the problem. Josephus was a devout Jew, not a Christian. It is practically impossible that Josephus had acknowledged Jesus as the true Messiah (or Christ). Therefore he would not have believed that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified.

Not surprisingly the “Jesus Myth” crowd calls the authenticity of the Josephus passages into question calling the passage into question, Acharya S (a.k.a. Dorthy M. Murdock), being very prominent among them.

Ms. Murdock, in her statements about the Testimonium, in an attempt to prove that it is a forgery  mentions that early Christians such as Justin Martyr and Theophilus don’t cite it and therefore this silence indicates that they did not know anything about it. The problem with her argument is that her logic only leads her to a conclusion that was already presupposed.

— She is assuming that early Christian apologists, to defend their faith, would have cited theTestimonium to show that  Jesus existed if indeed they knew about it. The fact is that citing the Testimonium would have been practically pointless because it only would have only served to confirm Jesus’ existence which was actually never questioned by early skeptics of Christianity.

Another argument that Ms. Murdock uses is that if Josephus truly knew about Jesus he would have written more about him,

Josephus goes into long detail about the lives of numerous personages of relatively little import, including several Jesuses. It is inconceivable that he would devote only a few sentences to someone even remotely resembling the character found in the New Testament. If the gospel tale constituted “history.” [ . . . ] Moreover, the TF refers to Jesus as a “wise man”–this phrase is used by Josephus in regard to only two other people, out of hundreds, i.e., the patriarchs Joseph and Solomon. If Josephus had thought so highly of an historical Jesus, he surely would have written more extensively about him. Yet, he does not.

This argument proves nothing except that Acharya S has likely not read a lot of Josephus’ works. Josephus mentions others that were well-known in first century Judea and yet wrote little about them. His mention of John the Baptist is only a paragraph long. Josephus calls him “a good man” who taught righteousness (Antiquities 18: 116) — Also, there was another holy man which he mentions (again in only a single paragraph) called Zacharias, son of Baruch who was murdered without just cause. (Wars of the Jews 4: 334-344)

These two men were well known at the time of Josephus and yet he only dedicates a single paragraph to each. So in my opinion this refutes the assumption that just because Josephus didn’t write more extensively about Jesus that therefore he wasn’t known to him.

Also, as mentioned, Josephus speaks in high regard about John the Baptist and Zacharias but does not go into greater detail about them. — This in itself can be used to show that Ms. Murdock’s argument that if Josephus thought highly of Jesus then he would necessarily have written a longer history about Jesus is incorrect. As a matter of fact, her two arguments here can be turned around to argue for the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum because it follows the pattern of the one paragraph accounts of well-known good (or holy) men that Josephus both wrote about and respected.

Ms. Murdock complains that the Testimonium “interrupts the flow of the primary material” meaning that it is out of context. Even if it was out of context this wouldn’t indicate it is an interpolation because such digressions were much more common in Greek and Roman writings than in modern literature. Today, we would place such breaks in footnotes which wasn’t done 2,000 years ago. (Greek and Roman Historians, page 53)

She makes the claim that the consensus among scholars is that the passage is a complete forgery. To back her up she quotes several writters from the 19th century. — Interestingly enough, one of her experts that she cites is Gordon Stein who she quotes as saying that most scholars since the late 1800’s  believe the Testimonium to be  a forgery. However, on his paper (which is found here) which she cites there is a disclaimer inserted by an editor before the text which says that things have changed since Stein wrote his essay in 1982,

While there is no doubt among the majority of scholars that the Testimonium has been tampered with (and thus the entire passage cannot be authentic), a decent number of scholars believe the Testimonium is based upon an authentic core. In other words, on their view, Josephus really did write a passage referring to Jesus. (Italics mine)

I do not know if this disclaimer was already added to Gordon Stein’s paper by Infidels.org by the time Acharya S decided to use it as a source, but it certainly is enough to refute her claim that the Testimonium is seen as a fake by the scholarly community.

The indication (from the disclaimer) is that even though it is true that at one point (at least until 1982) the Testimonium was seen as a forgery, this is no longer the case. — The vast majority of Acharya S’ sources come from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. These facts mean that she is using outdated sources to prove her case because the scholarly opinion has shifted.

The late David Flusser, Professor of early Christianity and Judaism and Orthodox Jew, while commenting on the Testimonium says,

Although it is generally recognized that the passage concerning Jesus in the extant Greek manuscripts of his Jewish Antiquities (18:63-64) was distorted by later Christian hands “the most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote,but that some alterations have been made by a Christian interpolator.” (The Sage from Galilee – Rediscovering Jesus Genius, page 12)

So basically, Ms. Murdock’s claims that the vast majority of scholars believe the Testimonium is a Christian forgery is not only out dated. It is completely wrong. It is true that there are certain statements in it that more than likely were not written by Josephus such as “if it be lawful to call him a man” and “he was the Christ,” but that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is a complete forgery “in toto” as Murdock puts it.

The second Josephus passage that mentions Jesus is not quite as lengthy as the Testimonium. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even about Jesus,

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still upon the road. So Ananus assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of that Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some of his companions. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.  (Antiquities 20, 200)

The basic objection that the “Jesus Myth” crowd brings up is that Josephus uses the term “was called Christ” in association with Jesus. — Ms. Murdock on her page only mentions this passage in passing and doesn’t go into detail about it. One of her listed sources on her page is the 19th century Christ-Myther John E. Remsberg who claims,

This passage is probably genuine with the exception of the clause, “who was called Christ,” which is undoubtedly an interpolation, and is generally regarded as such.

He goes on to claim that believing that the James mentioned in the passage is in fact Jesus Christ’s brother “accepted history of the primitive church” which says he was killed in 69 AD, not in 62 AD. To this point all I can say is that one should not confuse folklorewith true history.

As for his claim that the entire passage except for the clause “was called Christ” is authentic — Considering that the names Jesus and James were very common in the first century AD, if the means of identification were to be erased, as Remsberg apparently believed should be done, then the passage would become pretty unclear and ambiguous. It would simply be a mention of a “Jesus, brother of James.” Anyone reading the passage in the first century would likely have thought “Ok. Which ones? I know a million of them.”

Also, near the end of the paragraph, Josephus mentions another Jesus called the son of Damneus who became the high priest. (Antiquities 20: 203) This is all the more reason for Josephus to identify Jesus Christ in order to distinguish the two to avoid confusion.

Also, it is not true that the clause “was called Christ” is “generally regarded” as an interpolation. — Leading Josephus Scholar Louis Feldman says,

That, indeed, Josephus did say something about Jesus is indicated, above all, by the passage — the authenticity of which has been almost universally acknowledged — about James, who is termed (A XX, 200) the brother of the “aforementioned Christ.” (Josephus, Judaism and Christianity, page 56)

Feldman on the same page goes on to answer a charge that the passage was interpolated because of an apparent contradiction between this passage and another mention of the priest Ananus in Wars of the Jews,

As to the recent suggestion Tessa Rajak that the passage about James is a Christian interpolation because it has a derogatory view of Ananus the high priest (Josephus elsewhere praises him), we may remark that there are a number of instances in the Antiquities where Josephus contradicts what he says in the War. In any case, it would seem more likely that a forger would have been more careful than to contradict outright what Josephus says elsewhere.

Other scholars point out that the “James Passage” fits the context and that a Christian interpolator would have used “laudatory language” different than what Josephus used to describe James and especially Jesus. -A Christian would have called James “the brother of the Lord” much like the Apostle Paul does.

They also point out that the term  “λεγόμενος” (pronounced as “legomenos”) used by Josephus for the clause “was called Christ” is way too neutral for any Christian interpolator to have inserted. A Christian would have used the term in a more absolute way leaving no room for doubt that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Josephus’ language, however, neither denies or affirms Jesus’ Messiaship. (Jesus Outside the New Testament, pages 83, 84)

Finally, Ms. Murdock claims that,

Even if the Josephus passage were authentic [ . . . ], it nevertheless would represent not an eyewitness account but rather a tradition passed along for at least six decades, long after the purported events. Hence, the TF would possess little if any value in establishing an “historical” Jesus.

She claims, basically, that even if the Testimonium were indeed authentic it would not prove anything because it is not a first hand account due to the fact that Josephus was born a few short years after the death of Jesus. — This is a popular argument among the “Jesus-Myth” crowd, but it is one that makes absolutely no sense.

Josephus wrote about many people decades and even centuries after they existed. — He wrote extensively on the life of King Herod the Great, the Deposition of Archelaus from Judea, and even on the Census of 6 AD. He even wrote about the invasion of of Jerusalem by the Roman General Pompey over a century after the fact. The fact is that Josephus’ life was much further removed from these historical accounts he wrote about then he was from the life of Jesus. So if these “Jesus-Mythers” were to hold these historical accounts to the same standard that they do with the Testimonium then we would end up throwing out most of Josephus’ valuable works. But no prominent scholar or historian would ever even consider such a thing.

The same goes for several other historians such as Tacitus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, and others who wrote several decades or centuries after the events the report on and are still believed useful by modern historians and scholars. So the fact is that a historian writing about an event decades after the fact does not invalidate the historicity of what he reports. It does not have to be a first hand eyewitness account to be historically relevant.

Another fact is that though Josephus was born in 37 AD, about six years after the death of Jesus, he was alive when the event he covers in his “James passage” was happening. He was writing about the stoning of James which historians believe happened in 62 AD, when Josephus would have been twenty-five years of age. (After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, page 53) There is therefore no reason why Josephus wouldn’t have had good first hand information about this event about a man known as the brother of Jesus. – If the name and family of the man was known, then almost certainly so was the man himself.

Before I conclude, a word should be said about Ms. Murdock’s sources. — As mentioned before, most of her sources which she uses to back up the claim that the Testimonium Flavianum is a complete forgery come from the late 19th century and considering that the scholarly opinion has completely shifted since then they are therefore outdated and irrelevant.

Also, several of her listed sources who she doesn’t necessarily quote outright are early “Jesus-Mythers” such as Hayyim ben Yehoshua and John Remsburg. Neither of these 19th century “Jesus-Mythers” even had the qualifications of a scholar in the necessary field. Ms. Murdock also lists a paper among her sources from Infidels.org contributed by Scott Orser. But a quick look at his bio once again shows that he is not an expert in this particular field either.

It really strikes me as odd that someone who claims to be an expert in the fields of history, religion and archaeology like Ms. Murdock would resort to citing non-experts in order to prove her point. If I may say so, many amateurs have been known to use much better tactics than her in their own personal research. — I’m not trying to demean her, but honestly —

In conclusion, the arguments that D.M. Murdock uses to prove her case for the Testimonium Flavianum being a complete forgery are mostly al moot. Many scholars, despite her claims to the contrary, do in fact believe that the Testimonium is partially authentic, though not entirely. Her claims that Josephus would have written much more of Jesus if he in fact knew about him are also irrelevant because there are other well-known men that he writes about and yet only gives them a paragraph each. Also the claim that the Testimonium is out of context is irrelevant because, even if true, it was common practice to insert such digressions 2,000 years ago. — It does not help matters for Ms. Murdock that her many of her authorities are outdated and, in many cases, not even authorities at all.

The James Passage is almost universally considered authentic so even if it were true the Testimonium was thought by experts to be a complete forgery, it would still be believed that Josephus indeed gives secular first century proof of Jesus’ existence. — Also, as for claims that he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of Jesus and therefore his short mentions of him are not relevant, this is to undermine Josephus’ known accuracy as a capable historian because it is unlikely that Josephus would have been fooled into writing about a man that was said to have lived so close to his time that did not exist.


Zeitgeist Challenge Exposes Acharya S and Zeitgeist

Recently I wrote a short refutation of AcharyaS’ defence of Zeitgeist. For anyone who would like a better refutation, I am posting a video refutation which was produced by the webmasters of Zeitgeist Challenge which goes into better detail that I do.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — The Conclusion

After making its list of unsubstantiated claims that Christianity was copied from other Pagan religions it Zeitgeist then accuses it of fraud and of demanding blind obedience,

Christianity, along with all other theistic belief systems, is the fraud of the age. It served to detach the species from the natural world, and likewise, each other. It supports blind submission to authority. It reduces human responsibility to the effect that “God” controls everything, and in turn awful crimes can be justified in the name of Divine Pursuit. And most importantly, it empowers those who know the truth but use the myth to manipulate and control societies.

These are very popular anti-Christian claims which are also completely false. — The claim that Christianity is “the fraud of the age” is a very daring statement, but one that Zeitgeist has been unable to prove. I cannot prove that Christianity is the one true religion, but since I have been able to refute virtually all of the claims made in Zeitgeist against the origins of Christianity here, there is a much stronger case against Zeitgeist as the real fraud.

The claim that Christianity “blind authority to authority” is a popular (but false) stereotype among Atheists and “Christ-Mythers.” — It is true that Jesus Christs want obedience, but it is by no means “blind submission.” In John 14: 15, Jesus himself says “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Since he told us why then by definition, submission to Christ is not “blind.” He wants obedience out of our love for him, not out of blindness. Zeitgeist is completely misrepresenting the definition of Christian submission.

Its claim that Christianity justifies crimes in the name of the name of “Divine Persuit” is disproven by the very obvious fact that Jesus and Paul taught love and not violence. There is no truly Christian justification for any crime against humanity.

Contrary to what it claims, the crucifixion of Jesus is unique to Christianity alone. Hardly any other gods that Zeitgeist mentions, with the exception of Attis, were born of virgins. Attis’ case, yet, is so different from Jesus’ that it is naive to claim a connection. Research in neutral sources is enough to disprove most (if not all) of Zeitgeist’s claims.

My final conclusion of Zeitgeist, the Movie, in its representation (or rather misrepresentation) of the origins of Christianity and of other religions makes it guilty of fraud and deliberate distortion of the facts in order to advance its anti-Religion agenda.


The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 14

After making the unsubtantiated as well as refutable claim that Jesus never existed (refuted here), Zeitgeist then repeats a very popular claim in the “Jesus Myth” crowd about the so-called Council of Nicea (or Nicaea),

It was the political establishment that sought to historize the Jesus figure for social control. By 325 a.d. in Rome, emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea. It was during this meeting that the politically motivated Christian Doctrines were established and thus began a long history of Christian bloodshed and spiritual fraud. And for the next 1600 years, the Vatican maintained a political stranglehold on all of Europe, leading to such joyous periods as the Dark Ages, along with enlightening events such as the Crusades, and the Inquisition.

nicaeaZeitgeist claims that the Council of Nicea was was convened for two reasons: 1) for social control and 2) to establish the Christian doctrines. The problem with the first claim is that there is little or no evidence to support the charge that the council was for social control. — And as for the second claim, there were no doctrines established at the council of Nicea.

The Encyclopedia of the Orient says that the main purpose for the Council was the concern caused by the Heretic Arius who questioned the already Christian belief that Jesus was equal to God the father. He believed that Jesus was more than a man, but that he was created by God therefore making him inferior to the Father God, not quite human or divine.

The Catholic Encyclopedia points out that the vast majority of Bishops present at the council were believers in the equality of Jesus to the father so this particular doctrine was not “established” at the council as Zeitgeist would have us believe. More accurately, it was affirmed.

Other than dealing with the deity of Jesus Christ, there were other less important issues that were dealt with such as the establishment of Easter and the prohibition of self castration. — None of these are “doctrines,” but rather side-issues. So it turns out that the assertions that Zeitgeist makes are just more examples of “garbage in, garbage out.”

Next, Zeitgeist blames the Vatican for the “Dark Ages” and dates the start of that period from the year of the council  of Nicea (325 AD) and claims it lasted for 1,600 years. — This claim shows how uninformed the film makers are. First of all, if the Dark Ages lasted for that long from 325 AD, then they would have ended in about 1925. Obviously this is not true.

The truth is the Dark Ages (or the Early Middle Ages) are actually dated from the 5th century to the late eleventh century, around 600 years . Zeitgeist is not even close. Also, contrary to the film’s claims, the Vatican cannot be blamed for the Dark Ages. — The History Channel  points out that,

No one definitive event marks the end of antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Neither the sack of Rome by the Goths under Alaric I in 410 nor the deposition in 476 of Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor in the West, impressed their contemporaries as epoch-making catastrophes.

It goes on to describe other causes such as the invasion of Rome by Germanic tribes, severe economic problems, and the 300 years of primitive culture in the European society. Christianity and the Vatican cannot be fully blamed for the Dark Ages, much less the Council of Nicea.

As for blaming Christianity itself for the Crusades, it should be emphasized that what happened then actually goes against Christian ethics. But a major and little known fact is that Christians do not deserve all (or even most) of the blame for the Crusades. — Thomas F. Madden, Associate Professor of History at Saint Louis University in his essay about the Crusades points out that there are a lot of misconceptions about what happened in the Crusades,

For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands. Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them.

Why doesn’t Zeitgeist mention this? Because it doesn’t fit with the film maker’s agenda to prove Christianity is evil. The fact is that neither Christianity or Catholicism can be completely blamed for the “Holy Crusades.” They certainly were innocent of the provocation, in the first place any way.

As for the Inquisition, it goes completely against Christian teaching. Jesus himself would never have condoned such a thing. There is no justification (or anything that can be construed as a justification) in the New Testament for the persecution of non-Christians and heretics. There is no question that the images of Jesus and the Cross have been abused in history, but that is no reason to judge Christianity in such a negative way.