Monday, May 08, 2006

The Flemming-Turk Debate, A Quick Look Back

Winners do not, it seems, always write the history. I’m speaking, of course, of the debate between Centuri0n (notice I got the spelling correct) and Brian Flemming here:

http://q-and-a-blog.blogspot.com/

Now that the debate is over, Brian has claimed “victory.” He writes:

But I'm not leaving the DebateBlog bitter about the experience. I won the debate. I made claims and supported them. I heard your arguments for what they were and answered them as best I could. When you asked for evidence I could not provide, I clearly admitted that I could not provide it and explained why I thought my conclusions did not require that evidence.


Let’s see if this is true, shall we?

This is actually one of my favorite bits from the debate:

Cent asked:

" Can you demonstrate that any other cultic literature written (or formulated) between 300 BC and 100 AD attempted to imitate historical narrative for the purpose of expressing religious truths -- specifically, that the "savior" in question interacted with particular contemporary political figures that were known to the writers and readers of those works (for example, in Mark, Jesus plainly interacts with Pilate and Herod)?savior" in question interacted with particular contemporary political figures that were known to the writers and readers of those works (for example, in Mark, Jesus plainly interacts with Pilate and Herod)?


Brian first replies:
I was wondering when you would raise the standard of evidence to incredible heights.
Then notes the following:

You want me to produce the following work:

--Cultic literature
--Written between 300 BC and 100 AD
--Imitated historical narrative
--To express religious truths
--Protagonist interacts with contemporary political figures

How is this an "incredible height?" The mythicists do claim cultic literature exists and they do name the myths. What are their sources? Let's see the specifics. The time period is the same period that mythcists allege too. So these two standards are the standards that the mythicists actually claim for their own argument. The last 3 are facets of the gospels themselves (if we go with the mythicists own criticism of the gospels by way of internal critique), and the fourth is also a claim made by standard comparative mythologists about these myths and the gospels.

No, the problem here is that Brian lets intellectual laziness pass for intellectual rigor.

Worth noting:

1. No accounts of Jesus from the time, despite the noteworthy actions attributed to him in the "biographies" that appeared later

Not enough to sustain the argument. Based on this standard, we have to rule out any ancient biography written after the person lived.

2. Christianity appears to have begun without a human/historical Jesus as part of the religion; it was a "savior cult" similar to other religions of the time.

Where is the supporting argument for this? Where is the historical evidence for it in particular?

3. The first "biography" of Jesus appears on the scene very late and in the most suspicious way--in material that could easily be allegory, written and circulated by fervent believers within a young cult.

This is an assertion bereft of an argument. Where and what are the allegories, what do the figures represent, and who gets to decide which parts are allegory and which are not?


4. New pieces of the biography are "remembered" over time (i.e., as of 70 CE Jesus still has not been born)


This assumes a particular dating scheme without argument. It also assumes a dating scheme in which that which has the most miraculous and a great many details (place names, people, etc.) Not every story grows. On the typical liberal scheme Mark is first, John is last. Mark's alone names Bartimaeus, the disciples on the Mt. of Olives, Jesus' vocation, the young man who ran from the Garden. In addition, this theory includes the idea that more "miraculous" (i.e. supernatural) details accreted over time, but John, the latest in the scheme has the least, not the most details in that respect. Does Brian ever think about these basic details?

5. These pieces of "biography" that trickle in over time just so happen to fit the Hero Pattern, and have parallels in the Old Testament as well as the stories of competing savior gods who were popular at the time.


Doesn't this assume that there is a uniform "Hero Pattern?" I presume he is referring to Greek, Persian, Egyptian mythology. On the contrary, this imposes a particular literary theory on the text that the text does not recognize and assumes parallels exist without benefit of argument...classic comparative mythology. This is facile, even for Brian. Notice that Brian acknowledges that these have parallels in the OT, but those whom he cites as scholars (Carrier, et.al.) make a case in the opposite direction on a regular basis, so which are we to believe? In addition, as believers we affirm that there are obvious OT parallels. Indeed, there are direct, genetic parallels, so this hardly scores points against us.

In addition, he mentions “competing savior gods popular at the time.” Which ones? What time? He's making a claim about what existed at the time and claiming that a request for evidence from that time is an "extraordinary standard of evidence." Well, he made the claim about the time, so let's see him him substantiate the claim. What evidence do we have from the time of composition of the gospels for those cults? More on this later.

With regard to Socrates, I think you make the case for a real Socrates over a real Jesus quite well in your question: From Plato, we have a detailed written account of Socrates from someone who actually knew him. There is nothing even approaching this kind of evidence in Christian literature.


This assumes a particular theory of authorship and dating without argument. I’d add that, while it is true that we know the authors by way of tradition, it is also true that there is no evidence whatsoever that they attributions were added later and not attributable to who the authors named. In short, the evidence here isn’t merely by way of tradition, rather it is textual. It is therefore completely incumbent on the critic, Brian in this case, to give us an argument against the traditional authorship that has some evidence for it. This is particularly important for a skeptic who is claiming “there is no evidence” for our claims. Where is his evidence with respect to the authorship of these gospels? On the one hand, they demand evidence, evidence, evidence of us, then offer up theories of authorship with no textual evidence or historical evidence whatsoever.

Compared to the textual evidence, it is Plato that comes up far shorter. We have something like 7 copies of Plato on this dating from around 425 to 325 AD, but the original would have been written ca. 500 BC. Compare this to the NT.

At the end of this, Cent, rephrased the question for Brian and even made it easier by giving him a pass on the word limit. Cent, asked:

It is interesting that the best example you could find of parallel in previous literature was from the Old Testament. But your complaint is that I have asked for too much – evidence too specific.

Fair enough. Let me ask the question a different way.

It is my opinion that Mithra (as one example) and Jesus are similar only in the broadest terms. However, if Jesus is the result of conflation of pre-existing religious stories, please produce any of those sources, without regard to genre or date – with the minor qualification that the sources predate the authorship of Mark as you have agreed to it in 70 AD. I’d be willing to give you a blank check in word count to cut-and-paste those stories here in translation, side-by-side with the passages of the NT you think use them for source material.


Brian still felt this was unreasonable.

He writes:

The Scientologist and the Christian, when confronted by challenges to the core dogmas of their religions, defensively and irrationally respond by raising the bar. They win the argument ahead of time by demanding that all challenges compete with certainty.


This is patently false. We want an argument that shows the links that are claimed. We want you to show us where the borrowing occurred. We aren’t asking for absolute certainty, we are asking for you to show us the links in the chain you allege exist.

Brian then tells us what he believes the argument from his side of the aisle amounts to:

For the disinterested nonbeliever, it is clearly enough to arouse suspicion that the Jesus story is similar to prior god stories.


Then he spends the rest of his answer mounting this argument, without actually answering Cent’s question. Furthermore, Brian just doesn’t get it at all. It is not enough to say x is similar to y, therefore y came from x, particularly if there is literary link and a chronological link.

To do that, Brian needs to do some legwork.


Here's his problem:

He can't produce the standard of evidence that his own mythicists allege. He's the one that doesn't understand the thesis. The parallels are alleged to be genetic. It's not enough to say "there is a parallel here." This line of argument simply creates an artificial generic "Savior motif" and then reads whatever it wishes into it, classic aprioristic methodology. On top of this, there are a number of mythopoetic theories, why choose Price and the one he favors?

For example, he argued:

I have made the claim that the Jesus story contains similarities to many sources, including the Old Testament, previous non-Jewish myths, and the competing religions that were present at the time that Christianity was conceived and developed.


A Jew would be highly offended by a pagan myth. Why would the gospel writers therefore include pagan myths? What myths? How are they parallel? Name them. Do the legwork. Brian substitutes descriptions for arguments.

He says:
Also, to claim that Jesus is a god in the "dying and rising savior" genre is not to claim that Jesus is identical to every single god in that genre.


So, to which gods in that genre is Jesus identical? Nobody has ever stated we believe them to be saying that Jesus is identical to every single one of them. Rather, we object to the pagan parallels they allege, because they don't fit the description offered. Which ones rose from the dead, were virgin born,crucified, etc?


Notice here:

It should be obvious that the Jesus story is a synthesis of previous myths. To take just one example, the slaughter of the innocents more likely is "derived right out of the book of Exodus" than it is an accurate account of an amazingly coincidental historical event.


Notice also that Brian is making a subtle category mistake. Earlier he states that the gospels "could just as well be allegory," but this would be typology, not allegory. They are not synonymous categories. On top of this the Bible has its own theology of myth, and it also admits to the typological imagery between the OT and gospels, so to make this "stick," Brian must assume the OT is also myth in order to say that the NT gospels are making a new myth out of the old. For example:

Moreover, what in Exodus is parallel to the slaughter of the innocents? Where is the literary trail from Exodus to Matt.? In Exodus, Pharaoh kills the children in order for the men to marry all the women and absorb the people (standard pagan practice), not prevent the rise of rival king, as Herod did. Christ is born a year or two or so prior to the order of Herod. Moses is born during the events Exodus describes. Moreover, Pharaoh demands the midwives kill the babies and then the people do it themselves; he does not send soldiers to do his dirty work. Later, the angel of death repays Egypt for this at the first Passover. The only text in Matt. even close to an Exodus parallel is 2:15, where Matt. calls on Ex. 4:22,23, where Israel is called out of Egypt as God's firstborn son, along with a promise to take vengeance on Egypt by way of the killing a Pharaoh's firstborn son. Brian substitutes assertion for argument yet again.

Notice also that he assumes that the slaughter of the innocents is a "myth." How does he know that it is a myth? This is circular logic at its best...assume what you need to prove to make your point. A is myth, B is fiction, therefore A is also myth. Where is the argument for A and the argument for B independent of this linking argument? At a minimum, we need the self-understanding of the text itself. What genre is Exodus? What is the self-understanding of the texts of Exodus and Matt with relationship to these events?

What's more, Brian doesn't understand the theories of the men that he extols like Carrier, et.al. The theory isn't that the stories are similar and that pre-modern historians may have left out details and that is enough, as he said in his last post. The theory is that there was borrowing between those stories and the NT. In other words, the links alleged are direct, not indirect.

How do you handle the claim that all the relevant facts were left out?

One way is by examining the claim. If there are "relevant facts" that were left out, what were they? The copycat theory is a prime example of a theory that seeks to impeach the text of NT by making the allegation that "relevant facts" were excised. It's like saying "Nobody wrote about the secret meetings they held." Well, if that's really true, then, pray tell, how does the interlocutor know there were secret meetings.

We affirm what we affirm based on what we have in evidence. This is why is is not enough to say that a (mth)is similar to b, therefore b (the gospels) originated with a. This is fallacious, especially when the evidence describing a (the myth) comes from a time after b (the gospels).

For example, Brian cites the "dying and rising Savior gpd motif." Others will go with the "virgin birth motif."

Okay:

A. How many and which "Savior gods" were crucified?

B. How many and which actually rose from the dead?

C. How many and which were actually born of a virgin.

D. How many of those stories are about historical people, places, and events from a time contemporary to the original recipients?

To do that, Brian needed to provide the spatial and temporal coordinates for the myth story in relation to the NT and document the development of the myth story and show the parallel and where it exists. Then there is all the info you need to know where the parallels are disanalogous. It's not enough to say, "Aha" a happened on the Monday and b happened on Monday too. So what. Where is the evidence that b came from a and that they are linked, particularly if the evidence you have for a is from a period after b was composed, not before!

Just in case there is a question about whether or not the issue at hand is simply a is similar to b and that is enough as Brian says and whether or not actual borrowing occurred, here is Richard Carrier in his very own words (The Empty Tomb, 181):

At the end of his life, amidst rumors he [Romulus] was murdered…and dismembered, just like the resurrected deities Osiris and Bacchus), a darkness covered the earth, thunder and wind struck, and Romulus vanished, leaving no part of his body or clothes behind; the people wanted to search for him but the Senate told them not to, “for he had been taken up to the gods”; most people then went away happy…but “some doubted”; later, Proculus…reported that he met him “on the road,” and asked him “Why have you abandoned us?” to which Romulus replied that he had been a god all along, but had come down to earth to establish a great kingdom and now had to return to his home in heaven…a scene so obviously a parallel to Mark’s ending of his Gospel that nearly anyone would have noticed —and gotten the point. Indeed, Livy’s account, just like Mark’s emphasizes that “fear and bereavement” kept the people “silent for a long time,” and only later did they proclaim Romulus “God, Son of God, King,and Father.”

Already, the Romulan celebration looks astonishingly like a skeletal model of the passion narrative…It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is a deliberate transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their founding savior’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.


--And there, I shall leave this brief critique of Brian’s proclamation of victory, for it doesn’t sound like he answered the questions put to him at all. I would, however, like to close with Cent’s concluding post on his blog, since it does ask a question for the skeptics that did not garner a response.


I have two texts that I’d like the readers of this blog to compare, just for their own peace of mind. The first comes from a fellow names Livy, who wrote this around 10 AD:

After these immortal achievements, Romulus held a review of his army at the `Caprae Palus' in the Campus Martius. A violent thunder storm suddenly arose and enveloped the king in so dense a cloud that he was quite invisible to the assembly. From that hour Romulus was no longer seen on earth. When the fears of the Roman youth were allayed by the return of bright, calm sun-shine after such fearful weather, they saw that the royal seat was vacant. Whilst they fully believed the assertion of the Senators, who had been standing close to him, that he had been snatched away to heaven by a whirlwind, still, like men suddenly bereaved, fear and grief kept them for some time speechless. At length, after a few had taken the initiative, the whole of those present hailed Romulus as ` a god, the son of a god, the King and Father of the City of Rome.' They put up supplications for his grace and favour, and prayed that he would be propitious to his children and save and protect them.

I believe, however, that even then there were some who secretly hinted that he had been torn limb from limb by the senators-a tradition to this effect, though certainly a very dim one, has filtered down to us. The other, which I follow, has been the prevailing one, due, no doubt, to the admiration felt for the man and the apprehensions excited by his disappearance. This generally accepted belief was strengthened by one man's clever device. The tradition runs that Proculus Julius, a man whose authority had weight in matters of even the gravest importance, seeing how deeply the community felt the loss of the king, and how incensed they were against the senators, came forward into the assembly and said: `Quirites! at break of dawn, to-day, the Father of this City suddenly descended from heaven and appeared to me. Whilst, thrilled with awe, I stood rapt before him in deepest reverence, praying that I might be pardoned for gazing upon him, `Go,' said he, `tell the Romans that it is the will of heaven that my Rome should be the head of all the world. Let them henceforth cultivate the arts of war, and let them know assuredly, and hand down the knowledge to posterity, that no human might can withstand the arms of Rome.'' It is marvellous what credit was given to this man's story, and how the grief of the people and the army was soothed by the belief which had been created in the immortality of Romulus.
You can read the entire text of Livy’s work here.

Now, in contrast to that story, here’s another by a fellow about 60 years later, give or take a few years. The writer is called “Mark” by history, and his composition looks like this:
[Mark 15] And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, "Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you." But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, "Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?" And they cried out again, "Crucify him." And Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify him." So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

[Mark 16] When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back--it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The reason I provide this comparison is that it is the assertion of Richard Carrier – one of Brian Flemming’s panel of experts – that:

At the end of his life, amidst rumors he [Romulus] was murdered…and dismembered, just like the resurrected deities Osiris and Bacchus), a darkness covered the earth, thunder and wind struck, and Romulus vanished, leaving no part of his body or clothes behind; the people wanted to search for him but the Senate told them not to, “for he had been taken up to the gods”; most people then went away happy…but “some doubted”; later, Proculus…reported that he met him “on the road,” and asked him “Why have you abandoned us?” to which Romulus replied that he had been a god all along, but had come down to earth to establish a great kingdom and now had to return to his home in heaven…a scene so obviously a parallel to Mark’s ending of his Gospel that nearly anyone would have noticed —and gotten the point. Indeed, Livy’s account, just like Mark’s emphasizes that “fear and bereavement” kept the people “silent for a long time,” and only later did they proclaim Romulus “God, Son of God, King,and Father.”


Already, the Romulan celebration looks astonishingly like a skeletal model of the passion narrative…It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is a deliberate transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their founding savior’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. (Empty Tomb, 181)


I think it is interesting how this particular assertion fares when you compare the texts for yourself. Not only does Carrier’s description of, for example, Livy’s narrative leave something to be desired, the claim that the account of Romulus’ end and the “end” of Christ are “astonishingly alike” needs some fleshing out.

By anyone. Anyone who can make the generalization stick after viewing the two works side by side ought to do so here. These works are only alike in that they are literature at all..

So, those skeptics reading this, can you answer Cent's request? Here it is one more time:


It is my opinion that Mithra (as one example) and Jesus are similar only in the broadest terms. However, if Jesus is the result of conflation of pre-existing religious stories, please produce any of those sources, without regard to genre or date – with the minor qualification that the sources predate the authorship of Mark as you have agreed to it in 70 AD. I’d be willing to give you a blank check in word count to cut-and-paste those stories here in translation, side-by-side with the passages of the NT you think use them for source material.


I’m sure, with Archaya S. on your side, you can at least attempt an answer. I’ll be retiring from blogging for the next couple of weeks, as I have a journal article to write for the folks at Founders Ministries. It's for publication, so it has to be "just so." The less time I spend online, the more quickly I'll be able to finish it. It requires some research, so I'm going to post maybe one article over on Strange Baptistfire this week, plus I have text of a booklet on 19th century Baptist history to place on a webhost this week in preparation for the SBC meeting, so I'm kinda swamped. Until then, perhaps you all will come up with a response to which Steve, Jason, Evan, Paul, and I can examine that actually makes the connections requested.

2 comments:

  1. J.P. Holding has an article commenting on the debate:

    http://www.tektonics.org/af/flemmingflushing.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Annoyed Pinoy4/18/2007 4:47 AM

    Standard Answers (summarized from memory):
    First, it must be noted that MOST of those myths alluded to sprang up after the time of Christ. In which case, if there was any borrowing, then it was taken from Christianity, not vice versa.

    Secondly, the similarities often alluded to are often not as similar as claimed.

    Thirdly, Also, often they were not meant to be genuinely historical events, while Chistianity claims the events happened in space and time.

    Fourthly, they were often related to harvest cycles of the particular agregarian society. This can account for the apparent "resurrection" (or revivification, or re-constitution) themes in those alledged parallels.

    Fifthly, those myths are often 1. read with the spectacles of and 2. translated using Christian terms, phrases, and concepts. In which case, the similarities are actually (unconsciously) inserted into those myths.

    (a good introduction that delves deeper into these things is Josh McDowell's section on this topic in his book _He Walked Among Us_






    Possible additional, supplemental, and alternative solutions:
    (The following may or may not have some truth to them)

    1. Genesis 6 refers to "giants" and "mighty men of old, men of renown". These individuals might be the source of some of the seeming parallels between Christianity and pagan myths. The story of Hercules might have some similiarities between Samson and Jesus, but that's no wonder if Samon was a type of Jesus, and if legends of these giants were passed on, retold, and re-packaged over and over again.

    2. C.S. Lewis (among others) thought that Christianity as myth come true in space and time (real history).

    3. The "Gospel in the Stars" theory suggests that there was ancient knowledge revealed to the earliest humans which may have been passed down to latter generations with varying degrees of corruption; of which seeds/grains of the truth remained. This can account for how there are similarities between Jesus and pagan savior-gods. They retold afresh, with corruption, the story of the gospel pre-presented and prophesied by the original meaning of the Zodiac.
    _The Witness of the Stars_ by E.W. Bullinger http://www.levendwater.org/books/witness/frameset.htm?index.html&inhoudsopgave.htm

    _The Witness of the Stars_ by E.W. Bullinger http://philologos.org/__eb-tws/

    _MAZZAROTH_ by Frances Rolleston http://philologos.org/%5F%5Feb%2Dmazzaroth/


    4. Don Richardson's book _Eternity in Their Hearts_ has a theory that God uses both the original remnants of the truth that have been passed down to the present generation, along with the myths of (and generated from within) those pre-existing cultures to prepare those cultures for the future proclamation of the true Gospel in the future to them (see number 5).

    5. God sometimes uses or alludes to the pre-existing religious concept to declare that He (and His religion) is the true one, and the ultimate fulfillment.

    Examples: 1. the 10 plagues that God sent to Egypt before the Exodus seem to have been chosen because they were reminiscent of Egyptian gods. The point in God using those plagues was to show that He was the true God who had (the real) power over their other (false) gods. If the God of the Israelites can control those things that are associated with their gods, then maybe the God of the Hebrews is greater than their Egyptian gods. Of course their gods were false and probably demonic. But they couldn't deny that even if they did exist, their gods weren't able to keep the God of the Jews from judging them by the use of those highly symbolic means.

    2. Jonah being swallowed up by a great fish was probably not arbitrary. If the Ninevites (sp?) saw Jonah come out of the great fish, they would have considered this as a possible divine omen because their god Moloch was a fish-god. By arriving on land via a large fish, Jonah's credibility would be further enhanced as being a prophet of some God, even the true God. They might have wrongly believed that Moloch was the true God, but they were right in thinking there was some real God. Thus Jonah's prophecy that in 40 days Nineveh would be destroyed would be seriously taken. This has been noted by various authors and commentators.

    3. This can account for other parallels between Jesus and "savior-god" myths like Romulus. Jesus may have consciously copied Romulus' alledged appearance or apparition "on the road" in order to say to the Roman culture, He is the founder of the true eternal empire (i.e. the Kingdom of God). Thus, what can be seen by unbelievers as borrowing by Christians from pagan myths in order to make Christianity more appealing and relatable, and thus proving Christianity a fraud and false; is actually something that God did, rather than man. God doesn't always do things the way we expect. We might expect that God would make sure that no religious belief system would ever be comprable to Christianity's belief system, lest think what modern skeptics actually do think. But God is in the habit of "...tak[ing] the wise in their own craftiness." (1 Cor. 3:19). And "...the deceived and the deceiver are His." (Job 12:16).


    Btw,
    1. Here are some other supposed examples of parallels
    Romulus, Osiris, Bacchus/Dionysus, Mithra
    Romulus, Bacchus/Dionysus, Mithra, Herakles, Asklepios, the Dioscuri, Dionysos, The Babylonian Tammuz, the Syrian Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the Egyptian Osiris, the Thracian Dionysos, Apollonius/Apollonios of Tyana often called "the pagan Christ"

    2. none of the suggested "unorthodox" answers or solutions mentioned above necessarily contradicts Reformation Theology.

    ReplyDelete