Saturday 3 March 2012

Bob and Bart

March promises to be an interesting month with the release of Bart Ehrman's defence of the historical Jesus, Did Jesus Exist? His position: "The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to meet—but he did exist, whether we like it or not."  Sounds like compulsory reading to me.

Getting in ahead of him has been Bob Price with The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems.  You might think from the title that this too is a book demonstrating how the mythic position doesn't hold up, but of course it takes the opposite tack.  Bob's position: "we must view the gospels and Acts as analogous with the Book of Mormon, an inspiring pastiche of stories derived creatively from previous scriptures by a means of literary extrapolation."

I already have Price's book to hand, courtesy of an instant Kindle download, while we're all going to have to wait till the 20th of the month for Did Jesus Exist?  In hardback format it runs to some 430 pages, though it'd shrink considerably if the in-full Bible passages were relegated to references.

One parallel Price draws, which came as news to me, was between the story of Paul's 'conversion' in Acts 9 and the tale of Heliodorus in the deuterocanonical book of 2 Maccabees, chapter 3.  You can read the chapter in full here.  The following is Price's summary.
In it one Benjaminite named Simon (3:5) tells Apollonius of Tarsus, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia (3:5), that the Jerusalem Temple houses unimaginable wealth...  Once the king learns of this, he sends his agent Heliodorus to confiscate the loot.  The prospect of such a violation of the Temple causes universal wailing and praying among the Jews.  But Heliodorus is miraculously turned back when a shining warrior angel appears on horseback.  The stallion's hooves knock Heliodorus to the ground, where two more angels lash him with whips (25-26).  He is blinded and is unable to help himself, carried to safety on a stretcher.  Pious Jews pray for his recovery...  The angels reappear to Heliodorus, in answer to these prayers, and they announce [that he]... will live and must henceforth proclaim the majesty of the true God.
It doesn't require much imagination to see the connection; Benjaminite, Tarsus, knocked down by a vision, blindness, prayer, recovery, and reorientation.  Add to this that the New Testament story, as it stands in Acts, has remarkably little corroboration in Paul's own letters.  Coincidence?

Food for thought...


  1. Interesting parallels. Really interesting differences also. Which reads more like an account of an actual event in the world we live in?

  2. Neither reads like a account of an actual event in the world we live in. They both read as if they're written to convince the credulous.

  3. About as much as a coincidence as Revelation 4:1-6..

    there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it..... 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.... 5 ... In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
    In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back."

    not being the Throne of God in the "sides of North" not being the circumpolar stars and constellations.

    Throne=Casseopiea the Throne

    The Sea of Glass=The Milky Way which passes directly in front of it.

    The Seven Lamps and Spirit of God=The Big Dipper of seven stars opposite Casseopiea.

    The 24 Elders and thrones=24 Hours it takes for one circumpolar revolution.

    Four living Creatures=Cherubim=

    Face of a man---Aquarius/Winter
    Face of a Bull--Taurus/Spring in first century
    Face of Lion'...Leo/Summer
    Face of Eagle...Aquila/ Fall

    "As below"

    Or an amazing concidence too.

  4. Are you suggesting that nothing is as it appears to be?

  5. I'm going thru Hoffmann's Celsus compilation for a very early reliable secular view of the Christian cultus.

    I'm trying to judge if Celsus (Ca.185)regarded Jesus as an historical figure [HJ] close in generational memory like for example Captain Bligh would be to us today.

    Celsus seems to affirm, or accept as a premise, an historical "magician" named Jesus, though strips him miraculous attributes:

    "..the fable of Jesus' birth
    from a virgin or the stories
    of his crucifixion & Resurrection"

    Celsus adds:

    "..far from being born in
    ..Bethlehem,you were born
    in a poor country town and
    of a woman who earned her
    living by spinning..pregnant
    by a Roman soldier named Panthera
    ..(and)driven away by her husband
    the carpenter"

    So perhaps best to keep an open mind on the puzzling HJ question.

  6. Jesus is the representative of a man and not the man himself - even though there is a possibility that there was an actual man who inspired the idea of personification of scripture in the form of a man.

    In Daniel (and 1 Enoch) there is this same personification - one "like unto" the son of man. Not really a son of man but "like unto". It was the "like unto" that was brought before "the ancient of days" and not a son of man. In other words, a personification of a son of man and not the man himself.

    Too complicated? Well, that's why Jesus is a flesh and blood man that non-Jewish people can understand.