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How Christianity Became Pagan

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by godnotgod, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    I asked for citations. Not a re-assertion of the same claim. The last time you cited primary texts on Mithras, you included a discription of a Persian Aphrodite as one of these. Now you state:
    But whence comes this quote? What evidence do we have for Mithraic practices before Christianity?
     
  2. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    There are reasons for the absence of textual material, primarily because Mithraism was a secret cult, and outsiders were shunned. But there are other evidences to indicate the pre-eminence of Mithraism. You will need to spend some time here to see why:

    Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras | Mithraism | Ancient Religion

    But as far as any writings are concerned, we do have this as proof of Mithraism's existence in the 1st century BCE:


    "That Mithraism was a part of far older periods can be seen in the mummy funerary inscription of the priest of Mithras."

    [​IMG]

    MS in Greek on linen cloth, Egypt, late 1st c. BCE, 1 cloth complete -
    14×39 cm, single column, 9×21 cm -
    6 lines in Greek half-uncial -
    Provenance: 1. H.P. Kraus, New York

    12 Apostles: Constellations, Numerology, &Theology in the world’s religions: Quest to Understand Origins; a study of textual criticism, translation, interpretation and linguistics | Arthur Frederick Ide's Blog

    (According to the author of this blog, we have over 600 papyri as well.)
     
    #42 godnotgod, Oct 14, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  3. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    I own Ulansey's book. Guess what he says about the dating of Mithraism in the Roman empire? "Mithraism began to spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first century C.E." p. 4.

    Now where does he get that date? He guessed. Because we don't have evidence that Mithraism was really around in the 1st century. Our evidence begins at best during the late first, and perhaps early 2nd century.

    But even if we posit a mid-1st century date, that's only a little earlier than Paul's death and the composition of Mark.



    We don't. Here's the information on the scrap from the the official website of one of the largest collections of manuscripts in the world: MS 247:
    "Commentary: Apart from this MS, no documents or scriptures seem to be extant on Mithra. Scholars have been able to analyze the cult based on fragmentary references, short stone inscriptions, bas-reliefs and sculptures. Mithra was an ancient Indo-Aryan god of the Persians and Indians, identified with the sun, cattle, agriculture, war, truth and immortality. Introduced into the Roman Empire in the 1st c. BC, Mithraism became the most popular and widespread of the foreign religions adopted by the Romans. It lasted until Christianity was adopted by Constantine the Great in 311."

    Now, this commentary isn't exactly accurate, in that it reflects the view of the competition between Christianity and Mithras which was the consensus until rather recently. For example, we find in the published lectures (The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife: The 1995 Read-Tuckwell Lectures at the University of Bristol published by Routledge in 2002) of the noted specialist in Greco-Roman and early Christian religion, Dr. Jan Bremmer, the following:
    "It seems, then, that early Christianity had inspired early Mithraism. In light of the most recent insights into the origin of Mithraism this conclusion is less suprising than it might seem at first." (p. 54).

    As the death grip of Cumont's groundbreaking but thoroughly dated work was gradually released, along with the increasing realization that Christianity had influenced Greco-Roman religious practice as much as it had been influenced by it, studies of Mithraism in the Roman empire began to note that the figures about the cults membership almost entirely a matter of educated guesses. Additionally, the idea that perceived similarities were the result of Christianity borrowing from Mithraism became increasingly hard to defend. Beck's contribution to the edited volume Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity (vol. 18 of the edited monograph series Studies in Christianity and Judaism; 2006) is informative here: "There is, incidentally, no evidence for the existence of typical Roman Mithraism prior to the very late first century CE. Most accounts of Mithraism place its genesis in the mid-first century CE. My late foundation scenario avoids the awkward evidential silence over the interval." (p. 182).

    As the date of the origins of Roman/Hellenistic Mithraism gets pushed back further and further, and the lack of any evidence that it represented a significant "challenge" to Christianity becomes more recognized, the idea that it was Mithraism influencing Christianity, rather than the reverse, becomes harder and harder to defend. The mere fact than the Persian Mithra, who bears no real resemblance either to the risen Christ or the Roman/Hellenistic Mithras, pre-dates Christianity by quite a bit says nothing about the relationship between the savior deity of the Roman empire.








    You didn't read carefully enough. That scrap comes from a collection of 677 papyri which were formerly owned by one individual and have since been distributed to different collections. They tell us nothing about the cult of Mithras.
     
  4. Shermana

    Shermana Heretic

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    Christianity became pagan when the majority of its adherents dropped its Jewish roots (to the point of being anti-judaizing) and adopted the gentile antinomian position as well as the Trinity.
     
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  5. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    Did I miss something? Here is a direct quote regarding the 667 papyri from the site in question:

    "There are more than 677 papyri, mainly originating in Middle Egypt, including Oxyrhynchus and Fayum, that are in the collection of the renowned papyrologist Prof. Atiyah."


    12 Apostles: Constellations, Numerology, &Theology in the world’s religions: Quest to Understand Origins; a study of textual criticism, translation, interpretation and linguistics | Arthur Frederick Ide's Blog


    That is all it says about them that I can see. According to this statement, all 667 papyri are in the hands of one collector.
     
  6. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    However, what Ulansey says on his blog which I referenced is this:

    "Our earliest evidence for the Mithraic mysteries places their appearance in the middle of the first century B.C.: the historian Plutarch says that in 67 B.C. a large band of pirates based in Cilicia (a province on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing "secret rites" of Mithras.* The earliest physical remains of the cult date from around the end of the first century A.D."


    *"They also offered strange sacrifices of their own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites, among which those of Mithras continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them."


    Plutarch, 'The Parallel Lives'/ 'The Life of Pompey', p175, ch24

    Plutarch ? Life of Pompey
     
  7. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    Well for starters, Professor Aziz Suryal Atiya isn't alive. So it would be rather difficult for him to have a collection of anything. Furthermore, if you had visted the link I posted on the scrap in question (to the Schøyen Collection) , in addition to what I quoted you would have found the following:
    "The collection of the renowned papyrologist Prof. Atiyah consisted of more than 677 papyri, mainly originating in Middle Egypt, including Oxyrhynchus and Fayum. The first part of 140 papyri (H.P. Kraus cat. 105(1961)), is now in Yale, Beinecke Library, while 242 Greek papyri is MS 244 and 295 Coptic papyri is MS 245 in The Schøyen Collection, see also MS 108. "

    There are thousands upon thousands of recovered papyri, and in addition to the collection linked to above, you can search through papyri.info or the HGV. So massive is our collection of papyri that in addition to the numerous reference grammars on both ancient Greek in general and various dialects or periods in particular (e.g., New Testament greek, patristic greek, Homeric greek, etc.), there are specific resources and studies on the language of the papyri. A good place to start is The Language of the Papyri, an edited volume published by Oxford University Press in 2010. The papers in this volume give a comprehensive introduction to the wide-ranging issues associated with linguistic and literary analyses of the papyri.



    Again, rather difficult for a dead person to have much of a collection. But see above.
    Yes, I've read Plutarch. The problem here is that "earliest evidence" doesn't mean "earliest reliable evidence". The issues associated with ancient historiography are too vast to delve into here without getting far off track, but I think it is enough to say that for the majority of historians whose expertise is in some way related to early Christianity or Jesus, the gospels qualify as works of "history". In fact, they are as similar to various "lives" (a sort of ancient biography) written by authors like Plutarch as they are too one another, and they are frequently included among the "lives" written by ancient historians. Ancient historians used story-telling and myth not only as sources, but as models. This doesn't make them worthless, but it does make them problematic.

    How would somebody like Plutarch know about secret rites which pirates "first instituted" (καταδειχθεῖσα πρῶτον) some hundred years before he was born?
     
  8. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    ...which points to the idea that Yeshu was a mystic Nazarene Jew speaking out against the established order, openly opposing the theology, doctrines, and the spiritual integrity of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

    While the charge of antinomianism can and often does apply to those who reject the keeping of any codified moral laws, antinomian theology... usually implies emphasis on the inner working of the Holy Spirit as the primary source of ethical guidance. (which is mysticism in a nutshell; ie; 'the kingdom of God is within you')

    Wikipedia

    But it was not at that point that they became pagan; the pagan doctrines of flesh/blood consumption and sacrifice as sin redemption, bodily resurrection, and virgin birth came from Rome. Initially, the Nazarenes were a sect influenced by Eastern thought, where the breath, not the blood, was the life-force.
     
  9. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    Yes, I also came across this notation, but whether the entire collection is in the hands of one collector or several (there are now only 3), the point that Ide is making on his blog is that they are papyri which point to Mithraism originating prior to Christianity, if I am reading the flow of words correctly.

    (Now, if I were an heir to the estate of a dead man in possession of such treasures, I would have made it a point to photograph the entire collection prior to any estate sale or auction, would'nt you?)


    Moot point. See above.


    Yes, I've read Plutarch. The problem here is that "earliest evidence" doesn't mean "earliest reliable evidence". The issues associated with ancient historiography are too vast to delve into here without getting far off track, but I think it is enough to say that for the majority of historians whose expertise is in some way related to early Christianity or Jesus, the gospels qualify as works of "history". In fact, they are as similar to various "lives" (a sort of ancient biography) written by authors like Plutarch as they are too one another, and they are frequently included among the "lives" written by ancient historians. Ancient historians used story-telling and myth not only as sources, but as models. This doesn't make them worthless, but it does make them problematic.

    How would somebody like Plutarch know about secret rites which pirates "first instituted" (καταδειχθεῖσα πρῶτον) some hundred years before he was born?[/quote]

    Well, for starters, and in reference to the idea that early historians sometimes employed Biblical 'information' into their histories, I would say we should look to see if there are any Biblical references to these pirates of Cilicia and/or the Mithridatic War. If not, then we can at least exclude any Biblical distortions about them in Plutarch's notation to their historicity.
     
  10. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    Of those 600+ papyri, and in fact of any collection anywhere, there is no inscription, papyri, manuscript, scroll, or anything else which indicates that the Mithras mystery cult predates the gospels (with the possible exception of John). That scrap, as the commentary demonstrates (as well as the literature on Mithras), could mean just about anything, and therefore nothing.

    Once again, the persian Mithra and the savior deity worshipped during the period of the Roman empire are quite distinct. And once again:




    I gave you a link to where both photographs and part of the collection, including that piece, is stored. The collection DID NOT consist of 667 papyri scraps/texts which said anything about MIthras.
    There was only the one, vague scrap which tells us next to nothing. After all, as you pointed out (without realizing it) Herodotus mentions a "mithra" who is a goddess akin to Aphrodite. There is nothing in that single piece of the collection (the only one to reference some priest of "mithra(s)") which gives us anything to go on.

    I didn't say anything about "early historians" employing "biblical" anything. I said that modern historians of the ancient near-east, rome, hellenism, early Christianity, etc. categorize the gospels as belonging to the same genre Plutarch's Lives belongs to: ancient biography/history.
     
  11. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    I assume by 'that scrap' you mean to indicate MS247, which the descriptions date as late 1st century BC. Are you saying that the dating is erroneous?
    ...or so it seems on the surface. The Mazdean and Magian connection seem to be the keys here, but the process of syncretism in this case turns out to be a fairly complex one:

    GRS Mead: The Mysteries of Mithra

    ...and yet, Ide is implying that they most definitely do:

    "That Mithraism was a part of far older periods can be seen in the mummy funerary inscription of the priest of Mithras (MS in Greek on linen cloth, Egypt, late 1st c. BCE....[Then] There are more than 677 papyri, mainly originating in Middle Egypt... We find confirmation [of Mithraism pre-dating Christianity] in Porphyry, etc......"


    ...except for it's having been dated to late 1st century BC.



    I didn't say anything about "early historians" employing "biblical" anything. I said that modern historians of the ancient near-east, rome, hellenism, early Christianity, etc. categorize the gospels as belonging to the same genre Plutarch's Lives belongs to: ancient biography/history.[/quote]


    Even so, we can source the Bible to see if it contains any allusion to the pirates of Cilicia as a possible erroneous source for Plutarch's notation of them. I have not found any.
     
    #51 godnotgod, Oct 15, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  12. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    Not at all. I'm saying that what it says is meaningless as far as either the mystery cult of Mithras or Christianity is concerned. It's about as useful as the section of Herodotus you indirectly cited earlier is.


    So, rather than examine modern scholarship (such as the references I've provided), you would rely on Mead? Why? He was dead before most of the relevant information was around.




    I've referred you to sites available to the public where you can look at the other papyri in that collection. None of them even mention anything which could be mistaken for "Mithra(s)".

    Your source spoke of this collection in the present tense, implying that 1) it was still a collection and 2) it was still owned by the same individual, when it fact neither was true. I referred you to a site containing part of the collection which specifically states that we have no other information about Mithras here. But rather than perform some basic fact checks, let alone go beyond the Da Vinci Code sensationalism which is so easy to find on the internet, you keep referring to a collection which no longer exists as if it ever did exist in the form you seem to think: hundreds of papyri on Mithras.

    Tell me: have you read a single work written by a specialist in a relevant field and published by an academic press on Mithras?





    Herodotus is much earlier than this. And he mentions "Mithra". And you used a source which cited Herodotus here. Tell me: can you determine why we should understand that this piece of papyrus refers not to the goddess in the Herodotus, nor to some other deity, but to the hellenistic Mithras?




    What on earth are you talking about? What is this "biblical sources" bit? And why are you searching for something on it?

    Let me try to be as clear as possible:

    Modern historians whose field concerns, or is related to, early Christianity and/or the Roman empire have to rely extensively on various written works, such as those by Plutarch or Aristophanes. One important concern, before using a particular source, is to know what genre it belongs to. For example, although the Iliad contains some historical elements, it was not intended to be what even ancient authors considered "history". However, even works that were intended to be some sort of historical account are plagued with difficulties. Plutarch's works are considered to be historiography, in that his "lives" and so forth were attempts to record historical details of the past, and specifically the past of some individual. This is true of the gospels as well. They are generally considered to belong to the same genre that Plutarch's "lives" belong to: some form of ancient "biography" and therefore historiography.

    You have put forth some assertions about Mithras and Christianity which, it appears, you got from various online sensationalist websites. I have referred you to a number of specialist sources. You have ignored them. Which is more important to you: accuracy and historicity, or dogmatic reliance on populist and sensationalist claims about Greco-roman/Hellenistic religions and christianity?
     
  13. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    He stated:

    They also offered strange sacrifices of their own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites, among which those of Mithras continue to the present time...
     
  14. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    Does the 'relevant information' you allude to negate Mead's basic outline and connections between Mitra and Mithra?
     
  15. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    That's what's known as a foundational myth. Both Greco-Roman myth and history are filled with them. The main difference is that ancient historians tried to "rationalize" myth. A modern day equivalent would by the now-throughly discredited origin-story of Gardnerian wicca.

    In the gospels, the authors tried to do the same: make Jesus' actions fit into Jewish prophecy. And the gospels, like Plutarch's Lives, are a form of ancient biography. Among the differences, however, is that in this instance Plutarch is talking about pirates and their secret cultic practices which began a century before he was born. So, again, how on earth would he know about these? It's easy to take current practices and place them in some sort of constructed pseudo-historical framework. Gardner did that for Wicca. The gospel authors did that to some extent for Jesus.

    But to rely on Plutarch's account of some foundation myth a century before his birth which was supposed to involve not only secret rites, but a secret and criminal group (pirates) is to grasp at straws (and I have no idea why one would here).


    Absolutely, completely, utterly, and in all other ways yes. Mead was an amateur historian and involved in occult/esoteric/ceremonial magic practices. Even if he were an accomplished, professional, and trained historian, like Cumont or Nock or countless others, he would still be so dated as to be useful only to put the trajectories of scholarship in perspective. But as he was not such an individual, his work has served only to further misinformation, alongside such notables as Murdoch, Freke & Gandy, Arthur Drews, and a number of others who would have been long forgotten were it not for their sensationalist claims and the lack of actual scholarship supporting these.
     
  16. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    Thank you for the discussion and for updating me on this issue. Been too busy lately to respond, and will add more to this reply later. :)
     
  17. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    Blood sacrifice has very little to do with Xy, though.
     
  18. Shermana

    Shermana Heretic

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    Right, because the whole "Sacrifice as redemption for our sins" never had anything much to do with historical mainstream Christian Theology.
     
  19. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    Sacrifice, sure. But the blood has relatively little to do with it -- other than to make the metaphorical transition from Temple Judaism to Christianity. The position has always been that no blood sacrifice is any longer necessary, because of Christ's self-giving. Refer to Hebrews 4.
     
  20. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    I strongly disagree. Divine blood is thought to possess magical cleansing power. It holds the key to redemption and thus, salvation itself. Of course blood sacrifice is 'no longer necessary'; that is because the blood sacrifice of Jesus, the 'Lamb of God', in a single stroke, wiped out man's sins for all time. All man has to do is to 'accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior', and he is man's Savior because of the shedding of divine blood. This central doctrine of redemption/salvation is found in Jesus's own words:


    "Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins."

    In other words, the actual sacrifice of blood is no longer necessary, but the symbolic sacrifice of blood and belief in its power is. In effect, it matters not whether the sacrifice is actual or symbolic; what matters is the belief in its power.

    There is no difference, as far as I can see, between Jewish animal sacrifice and the blood sacrifice of Jesus, in terms of what they allegedly accomplish psychologically. In both cases, the guilt and sin are transferred onto a sacrificial host, the scapegoat, who then carries it off or is destroyed. This is known as projection and transference:


    The ritualized transference and expulsion of evil is a familiar theme across centuries and cultures.~[SIZE=-2]4[/SIZE] In western culture the term "scapegoat" can be traced to an early Judaic ritual described in the book of Leviticus in the Bible. As Gordon W. Allport explains:
    [SIZE=-1] "On the Day of Atonement a live goat was chosen by lot. The high priest, robed in linen garments, laid both his hands on the goat's head, and confessed over it the iniquities of the children of Israel. The sins of the people thus symbolically transferred to the beast, it was taken out into the wilderness and let go. The people felt purged, and for the time being, guiltless."~5 [/SIZE]
    The term scapegoat, however, has evolved to mean "anyone who must bear the responsibility symbolically or concretely for the sins of others," Richard Landes explains. "Psychologically, the tendency to find scapegoats is a result of the common defense mechanism of denial through projection."~[SIZE=-2]6[/SIZE] This mechanism is a powerful and effective psychic defense despite its destructive effects on a society.~[SIZE=-2]7

    PublicEye.org - The Website of Political Research Associates

    This idea of scapegoating is closely tied to the Jungian concepts of Persona and Shadow, and the constant interplay between them.

    Many see the Resurrection as the centerpiece of Christianity, but it is the Crucifixion that is the underlying key event, for without the sacrificial shedding of divine blood, there is no Redemption or Salvation. The Resurrection is just a showpiece to demonstrate that Jesus was who he claimed to be.


    [/SIZE]
     
    #60 godnotgod, Oct 23, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2012
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