Some questions for readers…

This is an experiment… I just received an awfully long comment (below) from one Peter Koerber, an informed reader who presents with a host of good questions that, unfortunately, I simply don’t have the time to answer. But they do deserve answers, and so I’m passing Peter’s questions on to readers—you.

Please help us all out by responding to one or more of Peter’s queries, which I’ve numbered 1–7 below. Send your comment to this blog and please put the number of the question/paragraph that you’re addressing in your comment. That will help orient us readers.

This might be quite informative…

And thanks in advance!–René

I don’t know exactly where I should put this, but thank you for your insights into the origins of Christianity. My quest of the last 50 years is finally taking shape. A few things are not clear to me and I make here a mixed bag of some observations and questions for you to deal with as you consider appropriate.

1] Even though dying and rising gods were a feature in the mythologies of many forms of ancient religions, and perhaps only figuratively in mystery religions, it has always puzzled me why Christianity (Catholics?) introduced this as the central feature of a new religion, and were able to do so successfully.

2] Mythicists commonly suggest that there was belief in a heavenly Jesus that died and rose (wherever and whenever that was) before that belief morphed into a belief of that having happened in a literal sense to Jesus of Nazareth. The constant references to the crucified one in the Pauline Epistles, including the Philippians Hymn, plus the nature of other works, such as the Ascension of Isaiah, are considered to be the foundation for the later Gospel versions, the latter perhaps originally created as an allegory. But is this so? Have the mythicists got that wrong? Undoubtedly there was an earlier belief in a spiritual Jesus, but was there also a belief in the death and resurrection of that figure before Jesus of Nazareth was invented? Is all of this material in the Epistles as a result of massive Catholic editing, yet somehow they still managed to not take the opportunity to introduce any references to Jesus of Nazareth?

3] I suppose that when the Catholics promoted a historical Jesus of Nazareth it became an important part of their Gospel to emphasize a literal death and resurrection of the God/Man Jesus as the primary example proving that such was also available to ordinary human believers (rather than a spiritual re-birth, whether in this world or the next).

4] It has also puzzled me why the Catholics involved the Romans in the responsibility for the death of Jesus. Why not blame Herod as in the Gospel of Peter? If the Catholics were so concerned to counter persecution, they were apparently taking a great risk involving the Romans in their Passion stories. Elsewhere they were only too happy to blame the “Jews” for whatever they could.

5] The Pauline Epistles also include references to the Father (higher) God, which has generally been attributed to Marcion. If Marcion did not invent this concept, or if he even did not exist, who was responsible for generating this concept? And when?

6] The canonical gospels are preoccupied by the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, e.g., the parallel Nativity stories in Luke. I am assuming that this is a result of the Stage III era of Christianity, when there were still many followers of Yeshu ha-Notsri (or Jonathon) in competition with the the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This was something that could not be ignored by the Catholics, and hence the construction of these mythical stories depicting John’s role as only preparing the way and being superseded by the understanding of the role of Jesus of Nazareth, the “true” figure of significance. [This description represents my view quite well.—R.S.]

7] Could it be that, in like fashion, Simon Magus was a cipher for the “John” understanding of Christianity of Stage II, and Paul was a cipher for the Jesus of Nazareth understanding of the Catholics (ignoring for the moment the puzzle referred to above concerning a dying and rising figure in the Pauline Epistles)?

If you were to write a book summarizing your massive research, and bringing everything together, I would very much look forward to reading that book.—Peter K.

About René Salm

René Salm is the author of two books on New Testament archeology and manages the companion website


Some questions for readers… — 1 Comment

  1. 1. one common explanation of why the Catholics integrated the resurrection plot, was that various resurrected gods (Isis, Dionysis, Hercules, Krishna, Buddha; and even Caesar) were already popular with the masses, and it was precisely because the Catholics integrated them into Christianity that made it popular with the masses.
    However, I believe the true reason was because the resurrection myth is a sun myth (spring/summer’s triumph over winter, an analogy of the triumph life over death), and Catholicism is a sun (and star) cult. In fact, the whole Christ narrative follows the sun myth very closely.

    2. If we accept the concept that all religions, including Buddhism and Gnosticism, arise from earlier traditions/myths, i.e. the sun myth, then the concept of resurrection (the cyclical triumph of life over/after death; spiritually this refers to the return to the Source) is an important concept.

    4. Perhaps it was based on historical fact?

    5. I believe the concept of a higher God is present in Hinduism/Zen Buddhism – everything is one and the same – Atman; while the personified God is the Prakriti, or the Holy Spirit, or one’s ‘Soul’.

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