Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Santa capers

Building on the groundbreaking work of Richard Carrier and Robert Price, who definitively proved that Jesus never existed, scholars have applied the same rigorous historical methodology to demonstrate that Nicholas of Myra never existed. Indeed, there are many exciting theories to account for the legend. 

Erich von Däniken, in his instant classic Sleigh of the Gods, explains how Santa Claus is a garbled legend about First Contact. Santa and the elves were really extraterrestrials. But because ancient, prescientific observers lacked the vocabulary and conceptual scheme to accurately describe their encounters, they recast the flying saucer and its occupants in the mythopoetic categories of elves and magic reindeer. 

By contrast, Michael Heiser, in his pathmaking study Santa and the Divine Council, provides extensive documentation to show that Santa and his elves recontextualize the Canaanite pantheon. Santa's location in the North Pole goes back to Mt. Zaphon ("north"), legendary home of the gods, which Nordic-Teutonic redactors of the Santa mythos adapted for their Northern European audience. 

That background also accounts for Santa's godlike omniscience: "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good". 

Conversely, Israel Finkelstein theorizes that Santa is a variation on Helios, the Greek sungod. Filtered through Nordic-Teutonic mythology, the horse-drawn chariot becomes a sleigh, drawn by flying reindeer.

For his part, Robert Alter classifies Santa is a specimen of the mythic superhero archetype. Santa, like Superman and Green Arrow, offsets his lack of innate superhero powers by using technology. "Any sufficiently advanced theology is indistinguishable from magic." By the same token, his reindeer possess an X-gene, enabling them to mutate into flying ungulates. 

Despite the variety of theories, all are united in their conviction that Nicholas of Myra is a historicizied legend, as a fictional backstory to ground the Santa of faith. 

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