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Feb 20 2012

That Luxor Thing

Parallelomania is the particular disease of Jesus myth advocates who see “parallels” everywhere between early Christianity and all manner of pagan religions. Many of those parallels are real; don’t get me wrong. Some are even causal (Christianity really is a syncretism of Judaism and paganism, which point I will soundly prove in my coming book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ). But most parallels are not real, or are not causally related (remember that basic rule in science: correlation is not causation). Some don’t even exist (and here bad scholarship becomes the disease: see my cautionary review of Kersey Graves’ Sixteen Crucified Saviors).

One important example of a “non-parallel” is the Egyptian nativity narrative at Luxor. I reviewed this claim years ago (Brunner’s Gottkoenigs & the Nativity of Jesus: A Brief Communication). Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock) responded to that by claiming I was reading the wrong text (and also not reading it right), but she’s mistaken. She also claimed that the meaning of “immaculate conception” is up for debate; it is not. She simply cites other people making the same mistake she did, as if a mistake many people make ceases to be a mistake, which is a non sequitur. It would have been better if she had not doubled down on her error and just corrected herself. But that’s her own look out. What concerns me more is her poor treatment of the details of Egyptian history and the texts in the Luxor case.

I just pulled this blog topic out of my random collection of things to do when I found time, so here goes. On the matter of the translation, she’s just wrong. There is sex in the scene and plenty of lurid details, pillow talk, and everything I say, couched in the coy terms of ancient writers (this isn’t Vivid Video). Of course one should not obsess on whether Egyptian iconography depicts beds the way you see them at a Sears showroom, or whether pillow talk actually involves pillows. That’s just silly. It’s the words that describe what is going on. And the words say in effect just what I said they do. That I relate them into modern analogs is besides the point. Anyone who reads German and wants to check this for themselves, email me and I’ll send you scans of the key texts (although it should be enough to note that Brunner himself agrees with me in concluding that the narrative depicts sex, and he’s an actual Egyptologist and a leading expert on the Luxor inscriptions).

More important is that Acharya/Murdock says the bulk of my details come from the “D” text and not the one at Luxor. The D text she refers to is the narrative accompanying the panels at the Deir el-Bahri Temple Complex built by Queen Hatshepsut in the 15th century BC. When I originally posted this blog, I reported that the Luxor Temple was built at the same time by the same queen, but that is incorrect, the Luxor inscription was commissioned almost a century later by another pharaoh, and Murdock’s argument is that he stripped all the sex out of it and made it into a virginal conception. That does not follow, but I was wrong on the original point (on other points she raised, see That Luxor Thing Again). The visual panels at Deir el-Bahri are still in essentials identical to those at Luxor (with a few minor variances Murdock speculates from). But it still appears to me that the D text simply expands the abbreviated text at Luxor. To claim that the shorter text at Luxor doesn’t simply abbreviate the full narrative provided at Deir el-Bahri is perhaps not nonsense as I had thought, but it is speculation. I do not see sufficient evidence that the two stories are intended to be completely different.

As Brunner himself concluded, the myth being depicted at both temples is the exact same myth understood the exact same way. Thus the full narrative at Deir el-Bahri does indeed describe what is going on in the Luxor scenes. I doubt Acharya/Murdock can find any living Egyptologist who would say otherwise, or indeed endorse any of her convoluted efforts to reinterpret the text to say the opposite of what it says and what the accompanying images show. The Luxor text even borrows verbatim phrases from the Deir el-Bahri text, e.g. the god “did everything he wanted with her,” which if you wonder what that means, the expanded text at Deir el-Bahri tells you, in some sexy detail. Likewise, even the Luxor text says (for panel 4; Brunner, p. 45):

“She awoke because of the god smell and laughed at its majesty. He went to her immediately, he was inflamed in love for her. He let her see his god-shape, after he had come before her, so that she rejoiced at the sight of his perfection, and his love went into her body. The palace was then flooded with god smell, and everything smelled like the land of Punt.” … “The queen said to him, ‘My, how large your power is! … Your smell is gorgeous in every way!’ Then the majesty of this God did everything it wanted with her.”

The expanded text at Deir el-Bahri elaborates on what these coy phrases mean, very clearly explaining that giant god penises are going into the female places they were intended to and the queen enjoys the hell out of it and is especially impressed by how big his member is (ah, I can see the Onion’s headlines now, “Queen Hatshepsut: First Woman Eroticist Carves Her Sexual Preferences in Stone; Rules Empire”). That, plus the other details, rule out any meaningful parallels between Luxor cult and Christianity. The only parallels that remain are paralleled in all Ancient Near Eastern religions of the time and Roman and Hellenistic religions afterward, and thus are not uniquely Egyptian at all.

This is a common mistake too many make. They get stuck on one way of seeing the evidence that fits their preconceptions, then they go “Aha!” and claim causal influence (Why, surely the Christians just borrowed the nativity scene of Horus from Luxor!). But when their interpretation of the evidence is shown to be wholly wrong, they don’t abandon the idea but double down and refuse to let go of what they felt was so attractive that it “must” be true. But more importantly, they don’t try to figure out what the causal channel was or to find evidence of causal relation (because correlation is not enough, even when there is correlation). If they did, they would find that there is often no direct connection at all with what they were obsessing over originally; or that we must be agnostic about it, and not tout it as established.

The nativity stories in Matthew and Luke look like a combination of Jewish nativity apocrypha (e.g., extant and lost Moses haggadot in Matthew; and Isaac haggadot in Luke) and Hellenistic king nativities and their influence on Roman imperial nativities (e.g., tales told of the births of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the Roman Emperors), structured in specific ways unique to Christian needs. For example, there are magi in Matthew’s story because Matthew is deliberately reversing the Daniel narrative of the Jewish exile among the Magi (Daniel being the only book in the Bible that mentions magi). In fact, Matthew doesn’t just ape Daniel at the beginning, he also apes him at the end, turning the empty tomb story into an update of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (as I show in The Empty Tomb, pp. 360-64, and Proving History, pp. 199-204). Thus, Matthew is not copying Egyptian religion, much less the story at Luxor, where there are in fact no magi … which is not an irrelevant point, since we have to explain why magi are in Matthew’s story, and “he copied Luxor” simply doesn’t explain that, whereas “he is constructing a midrashic haggadah on Daniel” does (magi being specifically Persian priests, not Egyptian).

In the Daniel narrative, kings are troubled by omens and summon their wise men to explain them, including the magi and a foreigner, a Jew named Daniel (whom Christians regarded as among their principal prophets, having predicted the messiah would die to atone for the sins of Israel in Dan. 9:24-26; see my discussion of the Dying Messiah). In Matthew, a king is again troubled by an omen and summons his wise men to explain it, including the magi, who this time are the foreigners, and (in reversal of type) are the ones who get the omen right, and have come, in obedience to the decree of their ancestral king (Darius the Great, or so we’re to believe), to worship the one true God, as all nations ought, thus fulfilling Daniel’s message in Dan. 6:25-28, thus confirming Jesus is the Son of God, the very same God who rescued Daniel from the lions (and who will thus rescue Jesus).

Other elements of the story are just commonplaces in divine king nativities (even in real life, not just stories), and thus do not connect directly to Egyptian mythology at all. By analogy, the elements of the nativity of Moses that Matthew borrowed also match elements of the Akkadian Sargon narratives, but Matthew is not borrowing from the Akkadian myths (he probably had never even heard of them), he is borrowing from the Jewish myths. That those myths just happen to be adaptations of earlier Akkadian myths is something we now know, but is not likely anything the early Christians knew. Likewise, possibly Egyptian god-king nativities influenced Hellenistic god-king nativity stories (or possibly they were both separately influenced by earlier Babylonian and Sumerian god-king nativities, or by actual royal ceremonies common to all kingdoms of the time), but it was the Hellenistic stories and practices that most likely influenced Matthew and Luke, not the earlier Egyptian material. They probably never heard the story told at Luxor, and would have been repulsed by it if they had. (See Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 76-78.)

More importantly than all this is the fact that the nativity stories of Jesus are later add ons.  They were not part of the origin of the religion. Thus you cannot explain the origins of Christianity by saying they just revamped a godking narrative about Horus-Osiris (which was really a narrative applied to the Pharaohs). The godking narratives of the Gospels were never a part of Christianity until the Gospels were formed many decades later. There may have been an original nativity story, but we don’t know what it said, so we can’t make claims about what its influences were (although see Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 247-57). The earliest version we have is Matthew’s, and we can see he invented it to suit his own literary aims; Luke’s version is (in my opinion) a deliberate rewrite of Matthew (what we call a redaction); in fact Luke is really trying to argue against Matthew, by changing every key element of his narrative (which reflects how these kinds of religious narratives get written: they are propaganda built to the occasion; although I did not make this argument there, I did list some of the evidence from which one can construct that argument in my work on the Date of Christ’s Birth; as for Luke being a rewrite of Matthew, and not writing independently of him, see The Case Against Q). Egyptian religion is wholly irrelevant to all of this.

The fact is, we can fully explain every element of the Gospel nativities by appealing to (1) their Jewish background (thus Christians, “pesher style,” constructed a narrative out of various Old Testament passages, such as reinterpreting a prophecy in Isaiah as being about a virgin born messiah; although most Jews disagreed with them, we know fringe groups of Jews treated scripture the same bizarre way Christians often did, so their doing such a thing in this case is not contextually implausible, even if it was linguistically specious: see The Problem with the Virgin Birth Prophecy); (2) their Hellenistic background (conceptions of sons of gods being announced by omens and prophecies, and achieved by spiritual rather than sexual means, were all common ideas in Greco-Roman religion, and virgin born gods were a known fad at the time; and all this could be made to agree with popular Jewish theology regarding the capabilities of the Holy Spirit); and (3) their immediate inter-community context (the Gentile Luke arguing against the Judaizer Matthew arguing against the adoptionist Mark). That leaves nothing for Luxor to explain, nor any evidence of any knowledge of the specific narrative we now find there.

60 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    …I really don’t know much about history, but I’m always up for some ancient erotica! Thanks.

  2. 2
    jerthebarbarian

    Likewise, possibly Egyptian god-king nativities influenced Hellenistic god-king nativity stories … but it was the Hellenistic stories and practices that most likely influenced Matthew and Luke, not the earlier Egyptian material.

    As a complete layman who is just interested in this stuff, this is where it seems to me at least that a lot of these kinds of theories seem to go wrong. People looking for single root causes and a single mastermind or trigger event behind some phenomenon, when it’s just as easily (or most often even more easily) explained by multiple threads coming together, with multiple influences. It shows up in a lot of “conspiracy theories” as well, which is what many of these kinds of origins of Christianity seem to boil down to. Some small group of people get together to fabricate a religion for some purpose, and they pull together material from a lot of different sources to do it.

    It just seems much more compatible with the way human beings behave to see this kind of “borrowing” as a slow process, where people pull things in from their neighbors and incorporate it into their worldview. People clearly did it with technology, and with “social technology” like the organization of states and economic systems. The idea that this kind of borrowing wouldn’t go on in religions, and that a new religion would need to form fully-formed as some kind of conspiracy, seems to run counter to how humans act.

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Now that is entertainment. I didn’t even know this purported parallel was a thing.

  4. 4
    Floyd

    Well, here’s the response I see so far:

    “Parallelophobia is the particular disease of people who haven’t been paying close attention. Richard’s blog is just another attack on Acharya S (without ever having actually read a single book by her) for his fanboys who consider him their “hero” (rook hawkins/tom verena). Of course, he brings up Kersey Graves who has nothing to do with it at all.

    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=4770#p4770

    Carrier is maintaining the panels are “in all essentials identical” – they are not, as she demonstrated in her book,

    Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection
    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/luxor.html

    , which Carrier has obviously never read. And the details are important. Apparently, Carrier skimmed Acharya’s response (which includes highly respected Egyptologists) about as well as he skimmed through Brunner’s book:

    “…However, in “skimming” Brunner’s text, as he puts it, Carrier has mistakenly dealt with the substantially different Hatshepsut text (Brunner’s “IV D”), demonstrating an egregious error in garbling the cycles, when in fact we are specifically interested in the Luxor narrative (IV L)…”
    http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/luxor.html

    Carrier needs to find something else to do rather than to attack fellow mythicists, especially those who prove him wrong – is that really the most constructive thing Carrier can do with his time?

    Here’s a review of Christ in Egypt by Dr. Robert Price:
    http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/reviews/murdock_christ_egypt.htm

    From: http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=24905#p24905

    1. 4.1
      Richard Carrier

      Floyd: All those attacks on me are just handwaving. And easily disproved, if anyone wants to receive scans of the relevant texts. Just let me know. Nothing I actually said in my blog is incorrect. How they describe what I said, however, is.

  5. 5
    Steve

    Wow, that is really great information clarifying some of my misconceptions I had after reading Acharya’s info. THANKS!

  6. 6
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Thanks. As someone with a BA in History and an MA in Medieval Studies, I find the amateur revisionist history some people pull out of their crevices to be rather annoying. It’s like it’s not good enough that we can trace mythic elements of the biblical texts to real sources–that’s just not extreme enough. Jesus must not have existed at all* and it’s all just a rehash of Horus, evidence to the contrary be damned.

    You know, it reminds me of the revisionists of neo-Paganism. It’s not enough to say, “We want a new religion which draws on some elements of pre-Christian religions, such as thinking that divinity doesn’t always have to be thought of as male and that nature can be viewed as holy or sacred.” Oh no, we have to say that people were practising Wicca in secret all these centuries and Gardner just brought it back out in the open.

    *I see that you argue that he “probably never existed” in your new book, but I’m not sure if you mean “there never was a preacher of some sort around the beginning of the first century around whom a bunch of stories and propaganda got built up” or “there probably was such a figure but most of what’s reported about him and attributed to him is made up, so there’s hardly a point in calling that person ‘the historical Jesus’”. I think you’d have a difficult time of convincing me of the former.

    1. 6.1
      Richard Carrier

      Ibis3: I find the amateur revisionist history some people pull out of their crevices to be rather annoying.

      It’s doubly annoying for me, because it slimes over the genuine parallels and influences: the more the bad parallels get argued, the more scholars reject all parallels as being more of the same, and in consequence they don’t even read legitimate work that truly does establish parallels. Bad myth arguments thus prevent scholars from ever reading good myth arguments, making my job ten times harder. It’s why the position is often deemed lunatic fringe: people simply associate it with the flood of nonsense, and don’t know there is a small cadre of good work in the midst of it.

      One example I still have to constantly rebut (it even gets repeated by secular scholars who ought to know better) is that the “dying and rising god” mytheme was post-Christian; we can conclusively prove it was not. But when people go around claiming Mithras was resurrected (there is zero evidence of this; the Mithras passion narrative clearly involved some other struggle), scholars know this is bullshit, and so they dismiss all resurrected god claims as bullshit. That’s a baby-with-the-bathwater fallacy. But the “risen Mithras” nonsense is so ubiquitous it literally drowns out the real examples (like Inanna, Zalmoxis, and Romulus; whom most people had never heard of and who rarely ended up on the commonplace dying-and-rising god lists, at least until I started popularizing these cases a few years ago as being in fact among the most important; in the meantime Mettinger and a few other scholars have been rehabilitating other examples, like Baal and Marduk).

      A second problem is that bad arguments make my job harder even when they’re right. For example, you get folks like Freke & Gandy arguing tons of things in their books, half of which is false or incorrectly presented, and the other half is true, but they almost never cite evidence and their citation of scholarship is for shit. No serious scholar wants to waste his time reading something that’s full of claims he can’t even check because they won’t even properly source them. Again, scholars will assume from the sloppy citation that the scholarship is unreliable, therefore the claims are bogus. So when those claims are not bogus, they’ve done damage again to good myth scholarship, by essentially making all the good stuff seem bad.

      It’s frustrating.

      *I see that you argue that he “probably never existed” in your new book, but I’m not sure if you mean “there never was a preacher of some sort around the beginning of the first century around whom a bunch of stories and propaganda got built up” or “there probably was such a figure but most of what’s reported about him and attributed to him is made up, so there’s hardly a point in calling that person ‘the historical Jesus’”. I think you’d have a difficult time of convincing me of the former.

      I can make a strong case that the first “preacher” was Peter, and the only Jesus then known was a celestial being seen and heard only in revelations. There was no Jesus at all. The Gospels are complete fiction, representing allegorically the message of the church in the character of Jesus, much like biographies of Romulus and Osiris, which place them in history, even though in fact they were originally celestial deities. The Christians of the second century whose texts were predominately preserved by medieval scribes had bought the Gospels gullibly as being historical accounts (mostly; they still clung to a lot of it being allegory, depending on how conservative they were). But we can’t show that all Christians even in the second century thought that way, and even if they did, that was an evolution from first century thinking as we find in Paul.

      Anyway, that’s the theory. How to prove it (or, that is, prove it’s at least somewhat probable) is a whole other ball of wax, and requires understanding a tremendous amount of background knowledge. Which my book will provide (not Proving History, but the next one, which doesn’t have a release date yet)

  7. 7
    Steve

    I always cringe when I see the “Jesus is just Horus sans falcon head” meme that shows up all over the place, such as in Bill Maher’s film “Religulous.”

    What about iconography, though? Would you grant that Christians consciously adopted images of Isis suckling Horus as a model for Mary holding the baby Jesus, or do you see that as simply an outcome of the fact that there are only so many ways to depict any mother holding any infant?

    1. 7.1
      Richard Carrier

      Steve: What about iconography, though? Would you grant that Christians consciously adopted images of Isis suckling Horus as a model for Mary holding the baby Jesus, or do you see that as simply an outcome of the fact that there are only so many ways to depict any mother holding any infant?

      If you read my original article (my assessment of the Brunner book, linked in the post) you’ll know the answer is yes; that is, later in Christian history, not just pagan iconography, but the actual statues themselves were coopted (some Jesus and Mary statues are in fact Isis and Horus statues, just relabeled), just as Mithras’ birthday (25 December) was coopted, and a great deal else (even the Pope’s hat is a pagan rip off, as is the concept of the nun, which simply revamps the Vestal Virgin). But none of that has anything to do with the origins of Christianity. That all occurred centuries later.

      It’s important to keep these chronological issues distinct. Jesus was never born on December 25 until centuries after the religion began; so no theory based on his birthday being December 25 can explain the origin of Christianity. Just for example.

    2. 7.2
      Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

      In one of my graduate Christian art history classes there was a whole section on the co-opting of Roman Imperial iconography (which itself used religious imagery of the cult of Sol Invictus and previously popular solar gods) in depictions of Christ. Very fascinating stuff (and centuries after the origin too–I believe the focus was on 4th to 7th centuries).

  8. 8
    Sili

    The nativity stories in Matthew and Luke look like a combination of Jewish nativity apocrypha (e.g., extant and lost Moses haggadot in Matthew; and Isaac haggadot in Luke)

    Could you expand a bit on what this means?

    I’ve read your thesis that Luke is taking his style from Josephus, and it would seem that his primary source is Matthew. And I’ve just finished MacDonald’s book about how Homer seems to have delivered most of the structure of Mark.

    So that leaves Matthew. Does The Case Against Q (which I’ve just ordered) suggest a source for Matthew in place of Q? An inspiration for the structure in the manner of Homer and Jospehus, I mean.

    1. 8.1
      Richard Carrier

      Sili: [That "The nativity stories in Matthew and Luke look like a combination of Jewish nativity apocrypha"] Could you expand a bit on what this means?

      The nativity stories are (in part) constructed out of Old Testament passages and apocryphal material about Moses (in Matthew’s case) and Isaac (in Luke’s case), among other biblical and post-biblical elements. See, for example, the analysis in Raymond Brown, Birth of the Messiah.

      I’ve read your thesis that Luke is taking his style from Josephus, and it would seem that his primary source is Matthew. And I’ve just finished MacDonald’s book about how Homer seems to have delivered most of the structure of Mark.

      All true. And more. This is an example of what I mean by combining Jewish elements (from OT and other Judaica) and Gentile elements (such as, but not only, Homer).

      So that leaves Matthew. Does The Case Against Q (which I’ve just ordered) suggest a source for Matthew in place of Q? An inspiration for the structure in the manner of Homer and Jospehus, I mean.

      There are too many possibilities to rule any in or out conclusively enough (this is one of the last things I’m trying to sort out for On the Historicity of Jesus Christ). Lots of interesting theories in print, and others on the way–such as Dennis MacDonald’s theory that Matthew and Mark are both working from a previous Deuteronomy Gospel, which essentially just rewrote Deuteronomy and cast Jesus in the role of Moses. I’ve seen MacDonald’s structural argument (he still hasn’t published to my knowledge, but he lays out a skeleton of it in Sources of the Jesus Tradition) and I suspect he might be right; indeed, even if Matthew is inventing all his additions, it could still be that Matthew is getting his structure ultimately from Deutronomy, and its content from disparate Christian morals tradition. But all that’s still not nailed down yet. Later apocryphal Gospels and church authors constantly assume Jesus was born in a cave, for example, so one wonders if in fact there was an even earlier nativity Gospel that Matthew is redacting. Who knows.

  9. 9
    C.J.

    I’ve often wondered about the parallel between the story of Moses parting the sea and the Egyptian tale where the woman drops her amulet in the lake, a man folds the water so that the amulet is retrieved, then folds the water back. It’s one of the stories found on the Westcar Papyrus.

  10. 10
    Elle

    “the actual statues themselves were coopted (some Jesus and Mary statues are in fact Isis and Horus statues, just relabeled), just as Mithras’ birthday (25 December) was coopted”

    Are you talking about the syncretic Mithra-Helios cult which was transformed into the figure Mithras during the 2nd century BC and then taken to Rome around the 1st century BC? I’ve always thought that was a kind of “parallelomania”, but I could be simply uninformed.

    One of the most known parallels is the connection between the birth of Jesus and the Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (which, if I’m not mistaken, is connected with the Mithras cult, and this could be why you cite the birth of said god being on the 25th of December?)

    The point is, as far as I know we can’t be sure the Sol Invictus
    festival was celebrated on the day Christianity acknowledges as the birth of Christ (even though I believe that Jesus, if he existed at all, was most certainly not born on that fourth century established date).

    See what you think: http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com/2011/12/whose-christmas-is-it-anyway.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FlMnZ+%28Zenobia%3A+Empress+of+the+East%29

    P.S. Excuse me for my probably bad English, I’m Italian.

    1. 10.1
      Richard Carrier

      Elle: Don’t get too bogged down as to which festival was being coopted (particularly as Christianity was merging them; Christmas is as much Saturnalia revamped, too). The birthday of the sun and all solar deities (like Mithras) was December 25 in the Roman (Julian) calendar (that calendar tracks off of the solar stations by a few minutes every year, so by the time of the Gregorian reform the Solstice got locked in at December 21, where it is now). There is no doubt that (a) December 25 (or even Winter) was never imagined as the birthday of Jesus before the 3rd century and (b) December 25 was the public birthday of several solar deities and had been since even before the Christian era and (c) in the 4th century suddenly Jesus’ birthday is being talked about as December 25 (although hints of placing it in Winter can be found already in the 3rd century, but not that specific day). That Constantine (the first Christian emperor) was a devotee of both solar cult and Christianity (he had both Christian and Mithraist entourages) may have had something to do with it. But at any rate, Christians did steal this from pagans; but only long after Christianity began.

  11. 11
    Eric Sweeney

    Glad to see the expose of Acharya S and Graves. Strangely, Robert Price seems to support her; of course some of his recent stuff has gone off the deep end.

    1. 11.1
      Richard Carrier

      Eric Sweeney: Glad to see the expose of Acharya S and Graves. Strangely, Robert Price seems to support her; of course some of his recent stuff has gone off the deep end.

      You seem to be prone to the fallacy of false generalization. Just becomes someone is sometimes wrong, doesn’t mean they are always wrong. And just because Price might agree with Murdock on one thing, doesn’t mean he agrees with her on everything (or that he “supports her,” whatever that means).

      And the fallacy of conflation. Murdock is not Graves.

  12. 12
    lpetrich

    That’s something that I like about Lord Raglan’s Mythic-Hero profile and similar efforts. They do not demand exact identity but broad similarity.

    To see how this works, consider that Lord Raglan’s profile includes the mytheme of someone who tries to kill the baby hero. But the would-be hero killer varies:

    Father: Kronos vs. Zeus, Tantalus vs. Pelops, King Laius vs. Oedipus

    Father’s wife: Hera vs. Hercules, Dionysus, Apollo

    Father’s mother’s son: Pelias vs. Jason

    Mother’s brother: King Kamsa vs. Krishna

    Mother’s father: King Acrisius vs. Perseus

    Mother’s father’s brother: King Amulius vs. Romulus

    Unrelated king: Pharaoh vs. Moses, King Herod vs. Jesus Christ

  13. 13
    Manoj Joseph

    Carrier said:One example I still have to constantly rebut (it even gets repeated by secular scholars who ought to know better) is that the “dying and rising god” mytheme was post-Christian; we can conclusively prove it was not.

    Richard, could you provide references to the “dying and rising god” mytheme? I know Earl Doherty talks about this. Could you cite some authoritative references?

    1. 13.1
      Richard Carrier

      Manoj Joseph: Richard, could you provide references to the “dying and rising god” mytheme? I know Earl Doherty talks about this. Could you cite some authoritative references?

      See my discussion (with sources in the endnotes) in Not the Impossible Faith, chapter 3.

    2. 13.2
      Roo Bookaroo

      The concept of “dying-and-rising” gods was first developed by James Frazer in “The Golden Bough” (1890, 1922), and later amplified in the case of Christianity by John MacKinnon Robertson in “Christianity and Mythology” (1900). Good reviews in Wikipedia.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Roo Bookaroo: Note that it is not important who first came up with the concept (technically, that was Sumerians 3000 years ago, not Frazer, but I assume you mean the scholarly proposal of a common trope; whether Frazer was in fact the first to suggest this might be questionable, but I haven’t looked into it, since I’m not concerned about the history of the idea). And in fact, works that old should be regarded as unreliable–even when they get things right, they often don’t do so correctly, and often mix in things that are wrong. See History before 1950.

  14. 14
    Matthew

    Richard,

    After publishing On The Historicity of Jesus Christ, might you be interested in another volume, say, on the historicity of St. Paul? I’d be interested in knowing what your opinion of St. Paul is, what you believe he was, and what his beliefs were. I’d also be interested in knowing your opinion of, say, the “New Perspective” on St. Paul. Is this something you might be interested in if you received enough support for your research?

    1. 14.1
      Richard Carrier

      Matthew: After publishing On The Historicity of Jesus Christ, might you be interested in another volume, say, on the historicity of St. Paul?

      There’s no evidence to support that. It’s an analytical speculation only. Which is boring to write about. So, no. I have more important books to tackle.

      I’d be interested in knowing what your opinion of who St. Paul is, what you believe he was, and what his beliefs were. I’d also be interested in knowing your opinion of, say, the “New Perspective” on St. Paul.

      My opinion is that the “New Perspective” is correct. As to the rest, I’m sorry to say that’s too boring for me. I don’t really want to become a “Paul specialist.” I have other things I want to do. I only deal with Paul when I am analyzing a specific issue that does interest me (like what the original Christian resurrection belief was, or what epistemology was considered normative to Paul and his congregations), and that already takes a lot of work. Doing every issue about Paul would require a whole dedicated lifetime.

      So you’ll have to settle for what I’ve already done: in The Empty Tomb, my chapter on the “Spiritual Body of Christ” extensively discusses what I think Paul’s actual afterlife beliefs were and why; and in chapter 17 of Not the Impossible Faith I discuss his (and his community’s) epistemological views.

  15. 15
    Jackson

    Richard Carrier, I’m curious to find out what books by Acharya S/Murdock have you actually read? Did you actually read her book Christ in Egypt or no?

    1. 15.1
      Richard Carrier

      Jackson: I’m curious to find out what books by Acharya S/Murdock have you actually read? Did you actually read her book Christ in Egypt or no?

      I have read her section on Luxor there, yes (which, BTW, does not say some of the things her defenders claim it says, so they are doing her no favors by misrepresenting her claims and arguments). Note that I am reporting what Brunner says (an actual Egyptologist), and choosing my words carefully. Make sure you actually have right what I have in fact said, before comparing it to what she said (and not just what you think she said).

      But if you are reading her book, then take note of how my blog post is designed to expose her tortuous logic there. For example, note that she agrees Amun appears to the queen in the disguise of her husband at Luxor; but doesn’t explain why that makes sense unless he planned to have sex with her. Otherwise, why pretend to be her husband? Likewise, both temples were constructed by the same person and thus cannot plausibly be telling two completely different religious stories, yet one of them (the longer redaction) is sexual, as even Murdock admits. So she has to hope you don’t notice that, in effect, the same author told two radically different versions of the same story at the same time for no reason. And so on. So it’s important to notice what she avoids talking about, as much as what she attempts to argue.

  16. 16
    Marella

    I hate to open another can of worms, but what about John the Baptist, did he exist at all do you think?

    1. 16.1
      Richard Carrier

      Marella: I hate to open another can of worms, but what about John the Baptist, did he exist at all do you think?

      Probably. The reference to him in Josephus is certainly authentic (it contains a Christian interpolation that attempts to “correct” something Josephus said, which proves he said it; it’s also in his style and fits in his narrative perfectly and is just the sort of story he tells; and finally, it proves John was a major player involved at the highest levels of Jewish politics, explaining why Josephus took notice of him).

  17. 17
    Elle

    “The reference to him in Josephus is certainly authentic (it contains a Christian interpolation that attempts to “correct” something Josephus said, which proves he said it; it’s also in his style and fits in his narrative perfectly and is just the sort of story he tells; and finally, it proves John was a major player involved at the highest levels of Jewish politics, explaining why Josephus took notice of him).”

    Speaking of Josephus, what about the Testimonium Flavianum? I’ve heard the most common interpretation is that it is only partially (although quite heavily) interpolated, so the same could basically be said about Jesus, I presume.

    1. 17.1
      Richard Carrier

      Elle: Speaking of Josephus, what about the Testimonium Flavianum?

      I have an article coming out this year in an academic journal that answers that. I’ll blog it when it’s available. Basically, the TF is not analogous to the passage about J the B, because the former differs in exactly all the ways that argue the latter is (in bulk) authentic.

  18. 18
    Devan Evans

    Very interesting peace of work, but I see little to no evidence of what your stating here Carrier. You give assertion that you are right after assertion as if your credentials and reputation make you trust worthy to take these things on face value. I always laugh when I hear the term parallelomania because for one the term was created by a Christian Apologist who denied any and all parallels to Jesus’ life in pre-Christian pagan religions. I also find it interesting that you assert a series of facts about Luxor and Deir el-Bahri without providing a single bit of information on authors or other academics who agree with you.

    Also, Brunner agrees with you? He’s been dead for 15 years; how would he agree with you?

    1. 18.1
      Richard Carrier

      Devan Evans: Very interesting peace of work, but I see little to no evidence of what your stating here Carrier. You give assertion that you are right after assertion as if your credentials and reputation make you trust worthy to take these things on face value. I always laugh when I hear the term parallelomania because for one the term was created by a Christian Apologist who denied any and all parallels to Jesus’ life in pre-Christian pagan religions. I also find it interesting that you assert a series of facts about Luxor and Deir el-Bahri without providing a single bit of information on authors or other academics who agree with you. Also, Brunner agrees with you? He’s been dead for 15 years; how would he agree with you?

      His book doesn’t vanish from existence because he died. As far as the Luxor material goes, my blog is based entirely on his book and what he, an Egyptologist, says in it. That’s the authority. And that’s the book you can go check for yourself.

      I have yet to see any living Egyptologist cited who disagrees with anything I actually said. If you can find one, let me know.

  19. 19
    Will

    Richard, thanks for that scrutiny of Acharya.. I’ve found her irritating.. my own knowledge of Christian origins and antiquity is very slight, but i found her making ad hoc asserions about priesthood conspiracies to create christianity that jumped out to me and screamed “red flag!!”. here are some quotes from Christ in Egypt that bothered me:

    “Many of the elements of the tale, however, could have existed within the walls of the massive Library of Alexandria, Egypt, where undoubtedly much of the most serious work in creating Christianity, the gospel story and the character of Jesus Christ was committed.”

    How does she know that “much of the most serious work in creating Christianity” was done in the Library of Alexandria? She actually uses the word “undoubtedly”. That evinces a level of certainty that doesn’t seem justified.

    “..when priests went about to create a new, empire-unifying religion that came to be called christianity.”

    “..there are many scattered sources used by the priesthood which created this tale…”

    Maybe you can correct me on this Richard, but it seems anachronistic to me to associate the CREATION of Christianity with efforts of “empire-unifying”. To my knowledge Christianity is the product of the first and second centuries CE. And anything like efforts of unifying the empire under the umbrella of Christianity didn’t occur until the fourth century with Constantine and the church councils. So her chronology seems somewhat confused to me; unless she intends to radically reconstruct the christian timeline. If that is the case, she needs to martial quite a mountain of evidence, which she hasn’t.
    Is it an unfair criticism to suggest that this “priesthood”, she continually evokes as the manufacturers of the Jesus myth, is nothing but an ad hoc invention by Ms. Murdock, herself? In all fairness, she does admit that “..there is no one concrete source for the complete story as found in the New Testament…”. But she then immediately refers to the “priesthood which created this tale…” as if she has specific knowledge that their was such an organized association of religious authorities already in place at the onset. One gets the image of a group of elderly robed gentleman sitting around a big table drawing up the design for their new religion. I suppose it is not impossible, but it seems like an entity such as a priesthood is a feature which arises later in the evolution of a religion….although maybe im wrong about that. Of course the problem is that she does not tell us where she obtained this information. Nor does she refer to any information on the basis of which she could have infered the existence of such a pre-extant priesthood. This is why I tend to think that she has overstepped the evidence with this ad hoc assertion.

    Anyway, feel free to correct me here, Richard. She just seems blatantly wrong to me. I would appreciate any comments, qualifications or corrections to my above complaints about Acharya’s positions. Thanks for your time! :-)

    1. 19.1
      Richard Carrier

      Will: Maybe you can correct me on this Richard, but it seems anachronistic to me to associate the CREATION of Christianity with efforts of “empire-unifying”.

      Yes, in those terms, you are right. It’s plausible to hypothesize that unifying the Gentile and Jewish worlds (and thus “the empire”) was an aim of the original founders of Christianity, or at least of Paul (whose sect became what she means by “Christianity”), but that’s not quite what she means or the way she puts it.

      A better way to put it would be that the Jewish and Gentile worlds were in increasingly violent collision and heading in a direction many could see was not going to end well for the Jews, whereas creating a hybrid Jewish-pagan religion with broader appeal that was fundamentally nonviolent could have been seen by some as a way forward that would save Judaism and end its conflicts with Gentility. They would have been wrong. But the question is only whether they would have thought it was a good idea (same as Marx thought communism was a good idea; never having anticipated Stalin, Castro, or Mao).

      And again, this would only be a hypothesis, not something we can be “certain” of.

      You are likewise right that she chooses words poorly. “Priesthood” evokes entirely the wrong image.

  20. 20
    roberttulip

    Dear Richard,
    I read your comments here with interest after seeing them discussed at Acharya’s freethoughtnation site. I led a discussion on her book Christ In Egypt at booktalk.org, where this theme of Egyptian parallels was discussed in depth.
    There is a pervasive prejudice against discussion of Egyptian mythic sources for Christianity due to cultural factors and associations that are not readily recognised. These factors, seen in the history of Egyptian studies going back at least to the Renaissance, have led to an academic bias that endangers the reputation of anyone who studies this material. Yet parallels such as Osiris=Lazarus, Isis=Mary, Horus=Jesus, Set=Satan and Anubis=John have abundant evidence to support them.
    The Jesus Myth Theory addresses deep cultural problems in Western civilization. Egyptian parallels are at the center of these problems. Lightly dismissing them distorts the analysis of the theological basis of the Gospels.
    Acharya has investigated this material with integrity, courage, depth and rigour. She has uncovered some intriguing material on the history of suppression of evidence, explained in detail in Christ in Egypt. I’m glad to see you have opened this dialogue, however circumspectly. I hope your engagement will lead to broader scholarly discussion of Egyptian sources in Christianity.

    Robert Tulip

    1. 20.1
      Richard Carrier

      roberttulip: Yet parallels such as Osiris=Lazarus, Isis=Mary, Horus=Jesus, Set=Satan and Anubis=John have abundant evidence to support them.

      These claims of parallels all conflate different historical periods and ignore Jewish history, even when they have any validity (and many of them don’t).

      For example:

      Mary was only associated with Isis centuries after the origin of Christianity. And Satan was originally an angel in God’s court about whom no hostility or evil was associated and who didn’t have any role at all similar to Set. Only after influence from Zoroastrianism (Persian religion, not Egyptian) did this figure evolve into an enemy of God and stories were invented about his fall and that associated him with the serpent of Eden (an association that did not originally exist). This is the “Satan” that Christianity inherited; it is a product of syncretism between Judaism and Persian religion. And so on.

      There are a number of methodological (i.e. logical) flaws made in trying to draw parallels. A rigorous method of controlling for base rate fallacies and other statistical errors must be deployed to prevent seeing “parallels everywhere” and then touting that as “evidence” of anything other than coincidence (or even parallel influence from a third source). That does not mean some parallels aren’t genuine, but you need a sound methodology to find which ones are and which ones aren’t; and then to find out what the causal significance of that is.

      Your attempt to make this about “fear” of taking an unpopular position is especially ridiculous here, as I am on record as taking the “terrifyingly” unpopular position that Jesus is a myth and never existed as a historical person. So you can’t claim I am being influenced by any emotional hostility to that idea. I am simply making sound observations of fact and methodology as a qualified expert with a Ph.D. in ancient history.

    2. 20.2
      roberttulip

      Richard Carrier said “These claims of parallels all conflate different historical periods”

      Hi Richard
      Are you familiar with scholarly work on Egyptian mythical sources for Christianity? For example Tom Harpur in The Pagan Christ summarizes research on the parallels between Isis and Mary, and between Osiris and Lazarus. He shows that John 11 is an obvious lift from Egyptian myth in the hieroglyphic record. The etymology and the symbolic roles have such strong parallels that cultural connection is the only explanation. You should check out pp128-136 in Harpur’s book.

      RC: “Your attempt to make this about “fear” of taking an unpopular position is especially ridiculous.”

      You misquote me as talking about fear. I never mentioned fear, but I did observe there is systemic avoidance of the Egypt material, which is derided as ridiculous by people who have not even read the research. It is not a sound rebuttal to say Christians ignore this material so you can too.

      You are to be congratulated for contributing to the debate on the existence of Jesus. The issue here is that the syncretism in the production of the Christ story drew from all the main cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, of which Egypt was possibly the biggest and oldest. The evidence for Egyptian parallels is compelling, while ignoring Egypt leads to a very partial and unpersuasive account. Please don’t follow the line of the apologists by rejecting the findings on Egypt without studying them.

      Regards
      Robert Tulip

    3. Richard Carrier

      roberttulip: Are you familiar with scholarly work on Egyptian mythical sources for Christianity? For example Tom Harpur…

      Let me stop you there. Harpur in my opinion is not a reliable scholar. I don’t recommend anyone read him.

      He shows that John 11 is an obvious lift from Egyptian myth in the hieroglyphic record.

      I don’t trust Harpur to get the details right, but the gist of this is otherwise partly true (see, for an account I trust, Helms, Gospel Fictions, pp. 94-100). However, John 11 is actually a rebuttal (using the literary device of reification) to Luke 16:19-31. He thus adapted an Egyptian parable to accomplish that. But this is late, long after the origin of Christianity (John wrote 100-140 A.D.), responding to an original story in Luke that showed no Egyptian influence (apart from connections to an otherwise unrelated parable). So as you can see, attention to chronology is crucial.

    4. Robert Tulip

      Richard, as you would know, Harpur is among those who have sought to rehabilitate the reputations of forgotten amateur Egyptologists such as G Massey and A Kuhn. It seems to me that there is a circularity in the exclusion of this material from academia – the Classics establishment did not like what these scholars had to say, and so excluded them from tenure and preferment, and then used that exclusion as an excuse to ignore them as unreliable. This prejudicial process is quite well documented on the broader question of bias in Classics by Martin Bernal, Cornell Professor Emeritus of Government and Near Eastern Studies, in his book Black Athena.

      I’m not endorsing everything in Massey and Kuhn, but I would caution against the tendency to find some error, say in K Graves who you mentioned above, and then using that to dismiss other research.

      Be that as it may, you seem to accept that John 11, the story of Christ’s miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, identifies Isis with Mary. That is far earlier than the “centuries after the origin of Christianity” you previously suggested. And it is hard to imagine that the inclusion of this parallel in John emerged suddenly, so it is reasonable to postulate an older secret oral tradition, for example involving Serapis, serving as a bridge between Egyptian myth and Christianity.

      Regards, Robert Tulip

    5. Richard Carrier

      Robert Tulip: It seems to me that there is a circularity in the exclusion of this material from academia – the Classics establishment did not like what these scholars had to say, and so excluded them from tenure and preferment, and then used that exclusion as an excuse to ignore them as unreliable.

      I’m not excluding him on any such grounds. I’m excluding him because his methods suck. Which I can ascertain myself from reading how he argues and cites sources and evidence.

      Be that as it may, you seem to accept that John 11, the story of Christ’s miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, identifies Isis with Mary.

      Not Jesus’ mother, though. See the problem? Likewise, Lazarus in that story is the analog to Horus-Osiris, not Jesus. This is therefore wholly unconnected to the later attribution of the Virgin Mary with Isis (and Jesus with Horus).

      Likewise, John is not saying “Lazarus was Osiris and Mary was Isis.” Rather, he is saying Lazarus and Mary are real and Osiris and Isis are not, so you’d better start worshiping Jesus and not Osiris, because unlike Osiris or Isis, Jesus can actually raise the dead. It’s called transvaluation. It’s the same thing Mark did with Homer.

  21. 21
    Devan Evans

    “His book doesn’t vanish from existence because he died. As far as the Luxor material goes, my blog is based entirely on his book and what he, an Egyptologist, says in it. That’s the authority. And that’s the book you can go check for yourself.

    I have yet to see any living Egyptologist cited who disagrees with anything I actually said. If you can find one, let me know.”

    1. No, you asserted what you said is true without any indication of sources, no references to any periodicals on the subject, no references to other up-to-date sources on the subject and nothing regarding a single other Egyptologist than you just simply aserting your right while the other camp is wrong. That is what you effectively did there… You give no evidence that the

    2. Murdock gives quotation of Brunner’s work and the other pieces of work she cites which describe the Luxor reference. You also make a statement of assertion as if fact about Deir el-Bahri without providing a single reference outside your own translation and your own word. What Egyptologists have you looked into about this? Can you give me their names and their works they have made so I can read them myself, you seem to be of the view that I am going to take your word on it just cause you have a PhD… you showed no evidence while Murdock showed plenty more and all you’re just doing is hand waving; for shame.

    1. 21.1
      Richard Carrier

      Devan Evans: No, you asserted what you said is true without any indication of sources

      Like what? Give me an example of a fact-claim I made that is not in Brunner (a relevant example; not something Acharya already agrees with).

  22. 22
    tat tvam asi

    Hi Richard, I was wondering about your accessment of Zoroastrianism. Now to my knowledge there is no known Hebrew OT (if you will) which predates the Alexandrian Septuagint. Indeed, all that we read through concerning the Jewish scriptures comes to us from a Post Babylonian Captivity, Post Persian release from Babylonian Captivity, and pre-Christian. So the entire influence present in such works as the oldest Jewish scriptures on record is Babylonian, Persian, and Alexandrian-Egyptian. I struggle to see how the biblical Satan is NOT the product of Zoroastrian and Egyptian influences combined?

    1. 22.1
      Richard Carrier

      tat tvam asi:

      First, it is fallacious to argue that because all manuscripts post date the Persian exile, that therefore all texts reflect Persian influence. To the contrary, experts have demonstrated which parts show such influence, and which parts record material inherited from previous centuries (and which parts we’re not sure of). The book of Job, for example, was probably written around that time, yet in it Satan has not become the Fallen One, but remains in God’s court as his right-hand-man. It thus still retains the older Jewish belief (reflected in Numbers 22:31-34, which was probably written before the Persian exile).

      Second, it is a complete non sequitur to argue that “the Jews were influenced by their Egyptian neighbors, therefore every one of their beliefs is a product of influence from their Egyptian neighbors.” The evidence has to be looked at. And in this particular case all we find are Persian connections, no Egyptian ones. Maybe in some other instances the evidence will show the reverse. And maybe in some Jewish apocrypha Satan is altered to model Set (I haven’t seen that, but who knows). But either way, one has to actually demonstrate this causal influence. It cannot simply be presumed.

  23. 23
    tat tvam asi

    Richard, Murdock has written a very detailed and specific response to your blog, which can be found here:

    http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1461&p=25012#p25012

    I’d appreciate if you would find the time to acknowledge and respond. And I’d like to invite you to join Murdocks forum as well because there are alot of issues that I think we can all (opposing mythicist views) hash out given the opportunity to do so.

    Thanks.

    1. 23.1
      Richard Carrier

      I’ll check it out next week. I won’t have time to examine it until then.

  24. 24
    tat tvam asi

    Thank you for acknowledging Murdock’s response to this blog page.

    I get the feeling that all she really wants to do is try and come to some mutual understanding with you on the issues. Now there are some sore feelings going around with Murdocks fans over the whole ordeal, but all that aside I think that if you look this over very carefully and feel that some errors were made on your part and apologize, some of those feelings circulating around the web will begin to subside.

    1. 24.1
      Will

      I’m very eager to read Dr. Carrier’s response to Acharya’s rebuttal… I did find it odd, however, that Acharya is inferring all manner of insidious and petty motives on Carrier. My impression of him, from reading alot of his blog posts and listening to his debates, is that he is only interested in the quality of the scholarship…. he doesn’t seem to put much ego into it. And i’ve heard him own up to mistakes and make corrections on multiple occasions. he really seems to maintain a high level of scholarly objectivity….. which is a big reason i find his opinions interesting.. i never feel like there’s irrational axe-grinding going on. also he seems to adhere to very logical methodology. so i don’t think Acharya’s emotionally charged characterisation of his allegedly self-serving motives are justified.
      Having said that, I have not looked into the issues being disputed so i am refraining from judgement about who is right until i see how this conversation plays out.

  25. 25
    tat tvam asi

    This is something that I found very confusing about your blog right from the beginning of reading it:
    Richard Carrier wrote: “More important is that Acharya/Murdock says the bulk of my details come from the “D” text and not the one at Luxor. The D text she refers to is the narrative accompanying the panels at the Deir el-Bahri Temple Complex built by Queen Hatshepsut in the 15th century BC. The Luxor Temple was built at the same time by the same queen.

    …The visual panels at Deir el-Bahri are in all essentials identical to those at Luxor (with a few minor variances in the section after the nativity sequence, which are thus not relevant here). The D text simply expands the abbreviated text at Luxor. To claim that the shorter text at Luxor doesn’t simply abbreviate the full narrative provided at Deir el-Bahri is thus nonsense. To claim that the two stories are somehow intended to be completely different (despite being visually identical and inscribed in the same decades by the same queen) is even more nonsense.”

    There’s a few very clear and open error’s here in the above response. First of all, the assertion that both temples were inscribed by the ‘same queen in the same decades’. These temples are nearly a century apart and Luxor’s inscription has to do with Amenhotep III’s efforts.

    DM Murdock wrote: From Hatshepsut to the gospels

    “The outline of the “Out of Egypt Theory” as concerns the gospel nativity cycle is quite simple:

    1. Hateshepsut (d. 1458 BCE) created a nativity scene, with an inscription that included some “sexy” bits.

    2. Amenhotep III (fl. 1386/8 to 1351/49 BCE) copied the nativity scene and parts of the inscription, leaving out the bulk of the “sexy” parts.

    3. Birth houses or mammisis were built for numerous pharaohs and Greco-Roman rulers right into the common era, including scenes of a similar nature as the earlier nativities, without the “sexy” inscriptions.

    4. These mammisis – as well as the earlier Amenhotep birth cycle at the popular tourist spot of Luxor – could have served as inspirations for the gospel writers, whose efforts, the evidence indicates, occurred significantly at Alexandria, Egypt.

    The bottom line is that we have in the Egyptian birth-cycle imagery up to and into the common era some very suggestive parallels to the gospel birth narrative, and ignoring these facts in a comparative religion study itself ranks as poor scholarship.”

    The details of this progression are in the response I’ve asked you to read and consider. There’s clearly a direct line of evolution where the birth sequence becomes more and more virginized over time leading down into the common era.

    I really do wonder why you’ve written this blog the way that you have Richard. It would appear that you never even bothered to read either Christ in Egypt or at the minimum just the 20 pages dedicated to this “Luxor Thing.” Everything Murdock wrote in her response to this blog page had already been addressed in the 20 page long investigation in Christ in Egypt and other places.

    If that’s the case then ok, whatever, you just brushed it off thinking that you already knew better and responded without in-depth research and analysis. But apparently this topic is worthy of more attention than a mere wave of the hand dismall. I don’t know if you’re feeling a little embarrased at this point Richard, but come on, don’t you think that an apology is in order for these glaring errors in your criticism? You people leading the forefront of mythicism ought to be working together and not against each other don’t you think?

    1. 25.1
      Richard Carrier

      tat tvam asi: These temples are nearly a century apart and Luxor’s inscription has to do with Amenhotep III’s efforts.

      That may be correct. I’m looking into it and will revise accordingly.

      Birth houses or mammisis were built for numerous pharaohs and Greco-Roman rulers right into the common era, including scenes of a similar nature as the earlier nativities, without the “sexy” inscriptions.

      If there are other scenes that prove a virgin birth concept more in line with the Gospels, then why is she arguing from Luxor? Shouldn’t she be arguing from those scenes, which would even be nearer in time to the Gospels?

      Certainly, if she can show an annunciation-virgin-birth-adoration cycle that is closer to the Gospels than what we have at Luxor, then she should do that. Then we can talk about what parallels might exist between the Gospels and those inscriptions and whether they are causal or coincidental or inevitable.

      These mammisis – as well as the earlier Amenhotep birth cycle at the popular tourist spot of Luxor – could have served as inspirations for the gospel writers, whose efforts, the evidence indicates, occurred significantly at Alexandria, Egypt.

      “Could have served” is a vastly weaker argument than “did serve.” As to “the Gospel writers” working in Alexandria, there is no reliable evidence of that. Indeed, experts on Matthew place its composition in Syria or Turkey; Luke-Acts never mentions any Alexandrian or Egyptian affairs but knows a great deal about the Aegean, which places him most likely in Greece or thereabouts. Either of them “might” have composed in Egypt, but “possibly, therefore probably” is a fallacy. That is not how valid historical arguments are made.

      By contrast, we can already explain all the elements of the nativities in Matthew and Luke without recourse to any Egyptian influence, and those explanations (which derive from the OT and inter-Christian polemic) make more sense of the evidence and have greater prior probabilities (as I explain in my blog here).

      Finally, I have read her “20 page” reply (which I found rambling and confused and based on a series of conjectures and speculations), and it simply doesn’t respond to my points made here.

      Don’t you think that an apology is in order for these glaring errors in your criticism?

      What errors? (You mean the dating of the temples, or something else?)

      You people leading the forefront of mythicism ought to be working together and not against each other don’t you think?

      No. I don’t think that. Bad mythicists (e.g. Atwill, to pick an example of someone who is very much arguing a thesis Murdock must reject) are doing good mythicists no favors. In fact, they are making it worse for us, by communicating to the scholarly community that “mythicism” is based on sloppy methodology, dubious speculations, and ignorance of the arguments and evidence discussed by the actual experts in these matters. So when I try to present at a conference or publish a paper, I have to explain at length how my methodology is valid and that I do not endorse all the nonsense that people like Atwill argue, and even then academics are suspicious, because all they have seen is Freke & Gandy crap. Mythicists can’t even agree on what happened (is it Murdock’s explanation? Or Atwill’s? One of them is wrong…which one? What method do they have to answer that question with?). There is therefore no benefit in “not criticizing” each other. Because, by all disagreeing with each other, most mythicists must be wrong. And the cornerstone of valid, professional methodology is pursuing and rooting out error and determining who of any collection of disagreeing parties is wrong. We therefore must do that. To say we shouldn’t do that, in some sort of political solidarity to the abstract “idea” of mythicism is precisely the kind of dogmatic, political, emotional bullshit that is screwing over serious myth research. That behavior is the surest way to never be taken seriously by anyone who matters.

  26. 26
    Roo Bookaroo

    Bravo to Richard Carrier for maintaining the importance of critical thinking concerning any fanciful expressions of the Christ Myth theory. The idea that mythicists should show “solidarity” by tampering their criticisms of other mythicists is ridiculous and self-destroying. Preaching a general removal of thinking caps for the sake of the “mythicism cause” is not in the interest of serious scholarship. There is no such cause nor such “movement”. Exponents of the Christ Myth theory are as diverse, contradictory as historicists themselves are, for all kinds of different reasons.
    None, including Carrier, is beyond critical examination. And Carrier knows how to take criticisms in good spirit and respond to them when appropriate. That is a thing that Murdock does not seem to have ever learnt or be capable of doing. She seems to take every criticism as a personal attack rather than a discussion of scholarship, and can tolerate only compliments and “followers”.
    Carrier didn’t mince his words, and must be applauded for his firm stance.
    And the suggestion that he tries to build a group of fanboys and followers, as Murdock actually does, is also ridiculous. Carrier has no desire to be mistaken for a sect or cult leader.

  27. 27
    Michael Macrossan

    I think the argument over the meaning of “immaculate conception” is a bit of a silly distraction, particularly where you say there could be no immaculate conception in Egyptian culture because the idea is foreign to that culture, when you know she never meant the Mary-free-from-sin idea. You could merely say something like `I will assume by “immaculate Conception” she means spiritual conception of the son of god and will use the term “spiritual conception” myself, rather than the technically incorrect “immaculate conception”‘ (And if you must display your superior knowledge, you could add a footnote explaining the correct meaning and perhaps add that it is a dogma of the Catholic church which is not accepted by Protestants).

    1. 27.1
      Richard Carrier

      Michael Macrossan: You could merely say something like `I will assume by “immaculate Conception” she means spiritual conception of the son of god and will use the term “spiritual conception” myself, rather than the technically incorrect “immaculate conception”‘

      I disagree. Professionals ought to use terminology correctly, and not in ignorance (what did she think the word “immaculate” means? That it didn’t even occur to her to ask is evidence that she is not fully informed on the very concepts she is discussing). There is room for colloquialism and similar deviations from strict terminology, but this misuse of a term fundamental to what she claims to be studying (the origins and development of Christianity), and that is not excusable and must be corrected. If she had subsequently corrected herself, all would be fine (since everyone makes mistakes from time to time, although this one is particularly hard to explain). Yet she didn’t even do that.

      What is wrong to do is what she did: not even admit she made an error, but insist she is right because other people make the same error. Thus yet again not even caring that the word “immaculate” makes no sense at all in her usage. Her uncorrectability is again evidence of the very problem I am pointing to.

  28. 28
    Korey

    How does your understanding that the reference to John the Baptist is authentic fit into the “Christ myth Theory”?? Are you saying the gospel writers added the unrelated John into their stories without his approval, or that John thought of Jesus as a pagan godman, or something else altogether?? Maybe a dumb question.

    1. 28.1
      Richard Carrier

      They didn’t need his approval. By the time Mark (and it was most likely Mark, but if not him, someone shortly before him) made that up, John the Baptist was long dead. They just used a known historical character to create a meaningful scene for Jesus, the same thing they did with Pilate and Caiaphas. That’s how all historical fiction gets made. As to what they intended by doing that, that may be debated.

      In Luke, it’s clear the author wants his readers (or his lower ranking ones at least) to believe it literally happened. In some way Luke believed this would further his agenda (which by then had become political, over struggles to control or unify the church). In Mark, it’s possible the author meant only to convey a symbolic point (about Jesus taking the torch from John), or he is reifying something that (as you suggest) actually happened, e.g. Mk. 1:9-11 might originally have been a vision of the Jesus figure reported or recorded by John the Baptist, which Mark converts into an earthly encounter (this is how myth often came to be reified, e.g. the cosmic Osiris had events in his life in outer space translated into events on earth at a particular historical time; thus, in a similar way, Luke’s parable about Lazarus is reified by John into an actual Lazarus; and so on). Some scholars suggest the earliest Christian sources were in fact books about John, not Jesus, e.g. Luke 1 appears to be a nativity story about John, which has been adapted mostly to Jesus. But I have no opinion on that.

  29. 29
    Ben Schuldt

    in a similar way, Luke’s parable about Lazarus is reified by John into an actual Lazarus; and so on).

    Is it possible that the name “Lazarus” was inserted back into Luke after John’s gospel was well known to half-assedly harmonize them?

    1. 29.1
      Richard Carrier

      That would be a much less probable hypothesis. Whereas John’s story makes sense as a rebuttal to Luke’s, that explanation dissolves if Luke never used Lazarus; and there would then be no reason for anyone to link the two stories, so as to insert Lazarus in Luke’s, unless they saw one as a rebuttal to the other, which would not be obvious. One could perhaps imagine Luke’s is (or was transformed into) a rebuttal to John’s, but that requires a very elaborate system of ad hoc assumptions (an almost keystone cops sequence of events and coincidences). Moreover, it goes against natural probability (mythmakers reify parables, not usually the other way around) and precedent (much of John is explicable as a rebuttal to or improvement on Luke). So I don’t consider it at all likely.

  30. 30
    Ben Schuldt

    Oh okay. So you are saying there’s no way to recognize a connection without the name Lazarus? I thought perhaps even in generic terms it would be obvious enough, but perhaps not. The only reason I say this is because this is like the *only* parable that actually has a proper name on it which makes it suspicious. So I considered it plausible that John reified a parable in Luke he wanted to respond to (as you say), gave a character a name, and then other Christians recognized the generic link, but not the bitch slap and could only haphazardly mesh the two by retconning in the name (since they didn’t want to destroy the parable set up). I don’t know all the arguments surrounding this, so it was just a suggestion.

    1. 30.1
      Richard Carrier

      n.b. Lazarus is a pun (the name, Eleazar, means “God is my help” or “God has helped” etc.); it’s kind of obvious why it was chosen for the parable.

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