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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Disclaimer: The Gospel Story is Fiction

There has been much talk about putting a "disclaimer" on the Da Vinci Code movie stating that it is fiction. In fact, India has evidently done just that. The writer of the article linked below makes several good points in regard to this Indian deed, including and especially that, as many others have likewise opined, the Bible itself should have such a disclaimer.

In this article, the Indian writer Venkat hits the bull's eye several other times in regard to the gospel tale, as found in the New Testament. For example, that the gospel writers are not familiar with Palestine and not expert in the Hebrew language is factual--and highly significant in that it demonstrates that the gospel writers were not "eyewitnesses" to the purported events. Venkat's timeline of biblical chronology placing the emergence of the gospels at the end of the second century is surprisingly accurate and goes firmly against the tide, even with my fellow Jesus mythicists, despite the fact that all the evidence points to such an assertion. Without having read my books The Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God, Venkat has managed to put together several of the most germane points found therein, which demonstrates that the picture painted of the New Testament representing fiction is both obvious and reasonably factual.

Now, here's where knowing my work would come in handy: The part about the flowing locks of Jesus being a later addition to the Christian tradition. Early images do depict Jesus with short, light hair, much like a Greek god. That the locks were not fashionable until Hadrian is useful information, as is knowing comparative mythology, in that the pre-Christian Greek healing god Aesclepius--called "Iasios," "Iesios," or Jason/Jesus, which means "savior"--had long, curly black hair, as did the very popular Greco-Egyptian god Serapis. As we also know, the "Jewish hero" Samson, in reality a sun god, also had long locks, which were shorn by the moon goddess Delilah. Importantly, I do not concur with Venkat that Christ is the first god who was created in the image of man, as all personified gods and goddesses are made in the image of their creator, i.e., man.

As concerns Venkat's remarks designed to disprove that the crucifixion account was an early theme in Christian mythology, the early Christian writer Minucius Felix's comments could be understood that Christians do not worship a criminal, not that they do not worship a man on a cross. The fact that Felix is addressing the crucifixion image at all--by saying that Romans themselves worship a god on a cross--would indicate that it was fashionable, in oral and literary tradition at least, to depict Jesus has having been crucified. That the human sacrifice/scapegoat ritual was popular and certainly being emulated in the gospel tale is true, as is that the Gnostic writings depict a crucifixion in the clouds that is purely symbolic. Whether or not the Gnostics actually practiced such a crucifixion on earth I do not know, but certainly proxies of God or a god were killed all over the Mediterranean and elsewhere for centuries and millennia in such scapegoat rituals.

In attempting to date the emergence of the Gnostic literature, Venkat cites the New Testament villain "Simon Magus" as having lived during the reign of Claudius. It is my contention that Simon Magus is not a "historical" person either but a composite of either the ancient Samaritan gods "Saman" and "Maga" or of the epithets of the one "Canaanite" god. It is my further contention that the reason the story was told by "Christians" (Gnostics) was in order to demote this popular Samaritan god under the new Christos.

Moreover, the motif of the woman wiping the feet of the anointed god is straight out of Egyptian mythology--and here is also where my work (and especially that of Massey) would have been useful. In Egyptian mythology, the soli-lunar god Osiris's feet are wiped with the hair of a goddess, Hathor-Meri. This is an important point, as it seems to be the linchpin of the claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were "married."

The god having sex with one or more priestess or proxy for the goddess is likewise a common theme, so I am not surprised to see it within Christianity, although I did not know about this specific text Genna Marias that Venkat mentions. It was common in ancient times for priests to tell the tall tale when a sacred harlot got knocked up that the fecundation had been by a god. Thus, there were many such "immaculate conceptions." (And an appalling amount of babies tossed into ponds near nunneries, in the Christian era as well.)

All in all, well done. And the point is well taken that the Gospel fable is no less fictional than the Da Vinci Code and hence deserves a similar disclaimer.

Silencing The Da Vinci Code
By Kalavai Venkat

Christian groups want The Da Vinci Code banned. A pliant Censor Board of India insists on a disclaimer at the beginning and end saying the film is "a work of pure fiction and has no correspondence to historical facts of the Christian religion." The Censor Board did not insist on any such disclaimer when Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, with its vividly anti-Semitic libels, was released. So, the Censor Board considers the story the Christian Bible peddles as historically accurate, and Dan Brown's story as a fiction. For either version of the Jesus story to be true or false, there must be historical evidence that Jesus existed. As Professor G. A. Wells demonstrates, there is none. Historians of that period have recorded events in detail, yet they are unaware of Jesus Christ, who remains an elusive and shadowy figure.


James DeMeo said...

Dear Acharya,

Thanks for this item, but be aware that much of the anti-Christian stuff coming out of India is from radical Hindus. Christianity in India is growing, especially among the "lower castes" and women, given that Christians don't follow a caste system. This upsets the Hindu fundamentalists, and there has been a lot of violence between them as a consequence. Yeah, there is little of hard history in the Bible, but far less in the Hindu scripts, with its warring gods with elephant heads and multiple arms, flying carpets and such.

So I would ask if Venkat tries to root Christian mythology into earlier Hindu writings merely as a device by which to proclaim Hinduism as the "mother religion" which ought to be followed instead of Christianity. In a sense, one might consider Christianity in India as a kind of "reformist" movement, where the caste-system is eroded and status of women elevated at least a bit. Certainly among Muslims this is clearly the case, and all across Islamic Saharasia, Muslim converts to Christianity are either put to death, or forced to flee.

All the best,

James DeMeo
Author of Saharasia

Balu said...

Good Article. However, I think everyone here in India has missed the real picture on why the church in India wants a ban on the film. Most of the Indians think that Christianity is a religion that is involved with running orphanages and hospitals. Not even a tiny fraction of Indians (including the Indian christians) are aware of the Crusades, Inquisitions and the violent manner in which the religion was spread all over the world. It is no secret that in India, Christianity is adorned with some qualities which it never possessed. These things are discussed in the book. In my opinion the church in India is more worried about the facts mentioned in the book/film than the fiction.Since it has always held itself as a compassionate and egalitarian religion and concealed its violent past to win converts from Hinduism, this sudden disclosure of its accepted history is going to be inconvenient. The fictional marriage of Jesus can always be denied or dismissed but the facts cannot be. Thats why despite the initial noise, the church has suddenly found it satisfactory with a mere disclaimer that everything in the film is a fiction. Well, the crusades and the burning of women on the stakes are no fiction.

And here are a few questions to Mr. James Demeo

Anyone who points out to the drawbacks of Christianity is immediately dubbed a right wing Hindu fundie who has a saffron face and who is intolerant to other religions. Never mind the fact that the very act of trying to convert a man is grounded on intolerance to another man’s ideas about God!!!

For the last four centuries, it has been one of the fond thinking of the Christian world that the Dalits and the lower castes in India are opposed to Hinduism and they are prevented by upper castes from converting to Christianity; otherwise they would welcome it with open arms. There are many Brahmins who send their children to Christian schools and most of the hooligans who go around throwing stones at churches are from the lower castes. It is people like me who are somewhat irreligious. Contrary to what you think the Dalits are more devout and religious. The reasons are a complex amalgam of socio-economic factors on which I had once posted a message in Ms Acharya’s yahoo group.

It is very nice to talk about equality and upliftng the society and draw a halo around ourselves. But the real question what is the record of Christianity and Christians in this respect?

In the history of mankind India is the only country, which never had the concept of slavery in its society. However low of caste a man was, he was nevertheless always free individually. How is it that your egalitarian religion never had anything to say while all countries indulged in slave trade till the mid nineteenth century? The Red Indians who were forced to live in reservations in their own land, the Aztecs, Mayans, the aborigines of Australia who were lined up and systematically butchered were not entitled for a peaceful living, I suppose.
In South Africa, this egalitarian religion had nothing to say when a young man called Mohandas Gandhi was bodily thrown out of a moving train because his skin was darker than that of his fellow passengers. And this religion learnt nothing from the Mahatma even after he brought down an empire without even throwing a pebble at them. That’s why, while languishing in jail Nelson Mandela could only have Gandhi and the Indians for inspiration and support while your church was busy looking the other way.

And how is it that in 2000 years, there has never been a dark skinned pope? Funny,when the pope is elected, even the holy smoke from the chimey in Vatican that elected him on behalf of God is white.

Talking of women's rights, did all those women and children who were dragged and burnt on the stakes during the Inquisitions and Crusades get the benefit of respectability?
And 35 years ago, when another “equality” religion like Islam unleashed terror and genocide on its own people of Bangladesh and an estimated half million women were raped and killed, it was left to India to send its army and liberate them. (My father was one of those army officers who risked his neck to save one set of Muslims from another). And thereafter, for almost three years, while every adult in India skipped a meal once in a week to feed 10 million refugees from East Pakistan, your church with its billions could not spare even a rusted coin for them. And why? Because the minds of those people were already captured by another equally ruthless religion and there was no profit in feeding them. After all, the fable of Christ has to bring profit isn’t it?

Looks like your idea of a casteless society is to eliminate all the unwanted people and less than equal castes and then claim all are equal.

Arevette Avon said...

It looks as though the DaVinci Code is stirring up quite a bit of unrest in the Christian world. Hopefully, people who see the movie will be prompted to research the whole matter of the Jesus Myth even more.
Have you seen any correlational increase in the sales of your books, Acharya?

Dr. W. Sumner Davis said...

Humanity loves to be able to frame it's myriad hatreds with religion. The idea of God allows people to behave in manners that hardly fit an evolved species. History shows this in a number of ways, perhaps none more telling than the world before Paul began his church. Hundreds of years before the birth of Christianity (circa 47AD) we knew that the world was not only round, but how large it was (Erotothsenes); that everything was comprised of Atoms (Democritus); how far it was to the moon (Empedocles); and the brain was the seat of intelligence (Galen) rather than the heart. It was known that humanity was but one of myriad creatures all having evolved from the same basic life forms (Heraclitus); and that matter and energy were the same thing (Democritus).

500 years later, the earth was flat, the stars were “pin-holes” in a crystal sphere pushed around by angelic beings, and humans were separate from nature. Thus began a period of 1700 years where past discoveries were persecuted and forgotten, and where all forward knowledge ceased. The Christian church wants the rest of the world to forget its tyranny, torture and murder for 20 nearly centuries. We cannot. For once we do, we are bound to repeat it.

Author of HERETICS