Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Noble Lie In Faith Traditions


1.  THE NOBLE LIE IN THE JUDEO CHRISTIAN  SCRIPTURES

I find instances of “noble lies” or “pious frauds” in the bible fascinating.  For example, the Skeptics Annotated Bible points out:
1.  God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh.
And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. Exodus 1:18-20
2.  Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies.
And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax. Joshua 2:4-6Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. James 2:25
3.  David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.
David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business…. 1 Samuel 21:2
4.  Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die.
Benhadad the king of Syria was sick … And the king said unto Hazael … go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. 2 Kings 8:8-10
5.  In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.”
Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias. Tobit 5:16-18
6.  Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.”
[Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10
7.  Even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets.
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22
Dr. James McGrath said in a blog post last August that : “I found myself wondering whether Jesus might have been viewed by the Gospel author as, like God, above such ethical matters just as God could be depicted as sending a lying spirit to deceive a king (1 Kings 22:22). I also wonder whether Jesus might be an example of the appropriateness of deception in order to preserve oneself in a context of persecution.” see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2016/08/snts-third-main-paper-and-simultaneous-short-papers.html
After lunch, Risto Uro spoke about the use of cognitive science in the study of early Christianity. He began by paying hommage to his own Doktorvater …

Blogger John MacDonald responded to Dr. McGrath that:

This sounds right. “Truth” doesn’t just mean honesty and correctness, but also “exemplary,” like when we call someone a “true friend”. Jesus may be depicted in the Gospel of John as an exemplary way to behave when facing persecution – The societal norm of honesty may need to be bracketed for a while. This is echoed in the New Testament when the author of James says: “Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. (James 2:25 )”

On the other hand, suspending the rule of honesty when it is needed or inconvenient, opens up a slippery slope. For instance, maybe the original Christians felt God was commanding them to be deceptive to sell Jesus to the masses in order to ultimately realize God’s plan.  It is not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the miracle/resurrection tales about Jesus started as Noble Lies to assist in selling Jesus’ ethical teaching of “love your enemy and neighbor,” a cause the disciples may have been willing to die for.

2. The New Testament And The Greeks as a Noble Lie:
Aside from the presence of the Noble Lie or Pious Fraud in Plato and Euripides, Seneca famously said “Religion is true to the masses, false to the wise, and useful to the rulers.” For example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was cleverly instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was strategically introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.

So the noble lie was part of the culture at the time.

Plato presented the Noble Lie (γενναῖον ψεῦδος, gennaion pseudos, literally – “a lie or wrong opinion about origin”) in a fictional tale, wherein Socrates provides the origin of the three social classes who compose the republic proposed by Plato; Socrates speaks of a socially stratified society, wherein the populace are told “a sort of Phoenician tale”:
…the earth, as being their mother, delivered them, and now, as if their land were their mother and their nurse, they ought to take thought for her and defend her against any attack, and regard the other citizens as their brothers and children of the self-same earth…While all of you, in the city, are brothers, we will say in our tale, yet god, in fashioning those of you who are fitted to hold rule, mingled gold in their generation, for which reason they are the most precious — but in the helpers, silver, and iron and brass in the farmers and other craftsmen. And, as you are all akin, though for the most part you will breed after your kinds, it may sometimes happen that a golden father would beget a silver son, and that a golden offspring would come from a silver sire, and that the rest would, in like manner, be born of one another. So that the first and chief injunction that the god lays upon the rulers is that of nothing else are they to be such careful guardians, and so intently observant as of the intermixture of these metals in the souls of their offspring, and if sons are born to them with an infusion of brass or iron they shall by no means give way to pity in their treatment of them, but shall assign to each the status due to his nature and thrust them out among the artisans or the farmers. And again, if from these there is born a son with unexpected gold or silver in his composition they shall honor such and bid them go up higher, some to the office of guardian, some to the assistanceship, alleging that there is an oracle that the city shall then be overthrown when the man of iron or brass is its guardian.
Socrates proposes and claims that if the people believed “this myth…[it] would have a good effect, making them more inclined to care for the state and one another.” This is his noble lie: “a contrivance for one of those falsehoods that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now talking, some noble one…”

Similarly, in Euripides’ Bacchae, Cadmus says “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you think, still say that he is.  Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele, for this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race.”
People have long suspected that Euripides’ Bacchae influenced the New Testament.  It’s interesting to ponder the relationship between the Bible and the Greeks.

To take even one example, the parallels between Jesus and the dying-rising Greek god born of a god and a mortal woman, Dionysus, have long been posited, either in traditional myth or in places like Euripides’ ancient play ‘The Bacchae,’ with work ranging from scholars like Bultmann and others in the 19th century, to the more recent studies of scholars like Martin Hengel, Barrie Powell, Dennis MacDonald, Robert M. Price, and even popular writers like Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.  Parallels, for example, in the play ‘The Bacchae’ can be drawn as to general overarching themes, as well as to specific details of the New Testament Narratives.  In Freke and Gandy’s ‘The Jesus Mysteries,’ several striking parallels are drawn out between The New Testament and the ‘Bacchae,’ the latter being a much earlier work.  To begin with, Freke and Gandy in Jesus Mysteries write:
According to the gospels, Jesus is an innocent and just man who, at the instigation of the Jewish high priests, is hauled before the Roman Governor Pilate and condemned to die on spurious charges.  Exactly the same mythological motif is found five centuries earlier in Euripides’ play The Bacchae, about Dionysus.  Like Jesus in Jerusalem, Dionysus is a quiet stranger with long hair and a beard who brings a new religion.  In the gospels, the Jewish high priests don’t believe in Jesus and allege that ‘His teachings are causing disaffections amongst the people.’  They plot to bring about his death.  In The Bacchae, King Pentheus is a tyrannical ruler who does not believe in Dionysus.  He berates him for bringing ‘this new disease to the land’ and sends out his men to capture the innocent godman …
Like the Jewish high priests who are appalled at Jesus’ blasphemous claim to be the Son of God, King Pentheus rants in anger at stories of Dionysus’ divine parentage … Like Jesus, Dionysus passively allows himself to be caught and imprisoned …
The guard relates the wondrous things he had witnessed Dionysus perform and warns King Pentheus: ‘Master, this man has come here with a load of miracles.’  The king, however, proceeds to interrogate Dionysus who, like Jesus before Pilate, will not bow to his authority.  When Pilate reminds Jesus that he has the power to crucify him, Jesus replies, ‘You would have no authority at all over me, had it not been granted you from above.’  Likewise Dionysus answers the threats of Pentheus with: ‘Nothing can touch me that is not ordained.’  Like Jesus, who said of his persecutors, ‘They know not what they are doing,’ Dionysus tells Pentheus, ‘You know not what you are doing, nor what you are saying, nor who you are.’ …
As Jesus is led away to crucifixion, he warns the crowd not to weep for him, but for themselves and their children, who will suffer for the crime of his execution (cf. Luke 23 v 28-30) … As he is led away, Dionysus, likewise, threatens divine vengeance. (pp. 45-46)
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Before his death, Jesus celebrates a symbolic ‘Last supper’ of bread and wine. . . . In The Bacchae, Euripides calls bread and wine the ‘two powers which are supreme in human affairs,’ the one substantial and preserving the body, the other liquid and intoxicating the mind.  The ancients credited the Mystery godman with bringing to humanity the arts of cultivating grain and the vine to produce bread and wine. (p. 48)
.
As [Joseph Campbell] writes, ‘To drink wine in the rites of Dionysus is to commune with the god and take his power and physical presence into one’s body.’  In the Christian rites of the Eucharist Jesus is said to symbolically become the wine drunk by the participant in the ritual.  Likewise, Euripides tells us that Dionysus becomes the wine and is himself ‘poured out’ as an offering.  In some vase representations, bread and wine are shown before the idol of Dionysus.  Just as in the Eucharist a Christian is given ‘redemption’ in the symbolic form of a wafer biscuit, in the Mysteries of Dionysus the initiate was presented with makaria (‘blessedness’) in the form of a cake. (p. 50)
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In Euripides’ The Bacchae, King Pentheus tries to insult Dionysus by describing him as ‘the god who frees his worshipers from every law [cf. St. Paul],’ but Dionysus replies, ‘Your insult to Dionysus is a compliment.’ (p. 107)
.
A Letter To Philip explains that although from the time of the incarnation Jesus suffered, yet he suffered as one who was ‘a stanger to this suffering.’  This teaches that the incarnate Higher Self (represented by Jesus) seems to suffer when the eidolon suffers, but in reality is always the untouched witness.  In The Acts of John Jesus explains
‘You heard that I suffered, but I suffered not.
An unsuffering one was I, yet suffered.
One pierced was I, yet I was not abused.
One hanged was I, yet not hanged.
Blood flowed from me, yet did not flow.’ …  (p. 119)
.
Five hundred years previously Euripides portrayed King Pentheus as binding Dionysus, while actually he was not.  As Dionysus says: …
‘He thought he was binding me; But he neither held nor touched me, save in his deluded mind.’ (p. 120)

.We also find striking parallels to ‘The Bacchae’ indicated in Robert Price’s article New Testament Narrative As Old Testament Midrash (2004).  In terms of Dionysus in general, we read from Price
Water into Wine (John 2:1-11)
Though the central feature of this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX. The widow of Zarephath, whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi, 17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples to put their faith in him (v. 11).
In terms of The Bacchae, Price writes
Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4ff)
The whole scene comes, obviously, from the descent of the Mosaic spirit upon the seventy elders in Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25, with an assist from Euripides’ The Bacchae, where we read “Flames flickered in their curls and did not burn them” (757-758), just as tongues of fire blazed harmlessly above the heads of the apostles (Acts 2:3). Ecstatic speech caused some bystanders to question the sobriety of the disciples, but Peter defends them (“These are not drunk as you suppose” Acts 2:15a), as does Pentheus’ messenger: “Not, as you think, drunk with wine” (686-687).
Paul’s Conversion (Acts 9:1-21)
As the great Tübingen critics already saw, the story of Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles but has been derived by Luke more or less directly from 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus. In it one Benjaminite named Simon (3:4) tells Apollonius of Tarsus, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia (3:5), that the Jerusalem Temple houses unimaginable wealth that the Seleucid king might want to appropriate for himself. 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, lest the people be held responsible for his condition. The angels reappear to Heliodorus, in answer to these prayers, and they announce God’s grace to him: Heliodorus will live and must henceforth proclaim the majesty of the true God. Heliodorus offers sacrifice to his Saviour (3:35) and departs again for Syria, where he reports all this to the king. In Acts the plunder of the Temple has become the persecution of the church by Saul (also called Paulus, an abbreviated form of Apollonius), a Benjaminite from Tarsus. Heliodorus’ appointed journey to Jerusalem from Syria has become Saul’s journey from Jerusalem to Syria. Saul is stopped in his tracks by a heavenly visitant, goes blind and must be taken into the city, where the prayers of his former enemies avail to raise him up. Just as Heliodorus offers sacrifice, Saul undergoes baptism. Then he is told henceforth to proclaim the risen Christ, which he does.
Luke has again added details from Euripides. In The Bacchae, in a sequence Luke has elsewhere rewritten into the story of Paul in Philippi, Dionysus has appeared in Thebes as an apparently mortal missionary for his own sect. He runs afoul of his cousin, King Pentheus who wants the licentious cult (as he views it) to be driven out of the country. He arrests and threatens Dionysus, only to find him freed from prison by an earthquake. Dionysus determines revenge against the proud and foolish king by magically compelling Pentheus to undergo conversion to faith in him (“Though hostile formerly, he now declares a truce and goes with us. You see what you could not when you were blind,” 922-924) and sending Pentheus, in woman’s guise, to spy upon the Maenads, his female revelers. He does so, is discovered, and is torn limb from limb by the women, led by his own mother. As the hapless Pentheus leaves, unwittingly, to meet his doom, Dionysus comments, “Punish this man. But first distract his wits; bewilder him with madness… After those threats with which he was so fierce, I want him made the laughingstock of Thebes” (850-851, 854-855). “He shall come to know Dionysus, son of Zeus, consummate god, most terrible, and yet most gentle, to mankind” (859-861). Pentheus must be made an example, as must poor Saul, despite himself. His conversion is a punishment, meting out to the persecutor his own medicine. Do we not detect a hint of ironic malice in Christ’s words to Ananias about Saul? “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).
So, some have concluded that the noble lie of Cadmus in the Bacchae of Euripides may have influenced the miracle stories about Jesus.


Similarly, we see the permission of lying in Islam. In the Pro-Muslim book ‘The Spirit of Islam,’ Afif A. Tabbarah writes, concerning the mandates of Muhammed, “Lying is not always bad, to be sure; there are times when telling a lie is more profitable and better for the general welfare, and for the settlement of conciliation among people, than telling the truth. To this effect, the Prophet says: ‘He is not a false person who (through lies) settles conciliation among people, supports good or says what is good.’”

3.  The Case Of Paul

As Eisenman has pointed out, I don’t know if it is as helpful as most people think to turn to the writings of Paul to learn about Jesus. Paul was quite clear that he was "something like" an accomplished liar, modifying his message about Jesus to cast Jesus in the most “sellable” light possible, depending on whether Paul was presenting the message to Jews, or to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). Since Paul was modifying the message depending on whether it was going to Jews or Gentiles, and he was trying to present the most tempting Christ possible to win the most converts, who knows what he thought about the actual historical Jesus?

And there is good reason to suspect that Paul was lying, since he was constantly protesting that he wasn’t lying (a sure sign of guilt). Paul wrote:
1. “I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie (Galatians 1:20)”
2. “I speak the truth in Christ; I am not lying, as confirmed by my conscience in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).”
3. “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:23).”
4. ” The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is forever worthy of praise, knows that I am not lying (2 Corinthians 11:31).”

As Shakespeare wrote, methinks Paul “doth protest too much.” Paul clearly seems to present himself as a liar who is worrying about getting caught.

Eisenman is right.  There is no reason to trust Paul.  Paul obviously “lies” to support his arguments.  For instance, Paul claims the risen Christ appeared to “500 of the brothers AT ONCE (1 Corinthians 15:6).”  That’s ridiculous!  Paul is obviously making stuff up to persuade his readers that Christ really rose.

In any case, you can picture Jesus and his followers running around the ancient world threatening and scaring people with the lie that “The World Is About To End, so you better get right with God and start loving one another!”  A healthy dose of made-up miracle stories and a resurrection story would have helped to sell the ethical message of loving one another, especially decades after Jesus was gone and it became apparent that the world wasn’t ending any time soon. 
Anyway, there is no way to determine if the motives of the original Christians were honest or dishonest, so it is equally impossible to say whether the original Christians were scamming people, or if they were actually devoted to a man they believed was responsible for a plethora of miracles and a resurrection. 

So, the long and the short of it is we can’t argue the original Christians were “honest” in their motives (because of the antinomy of undecideability between the “honest” theory and the “dishonest” theory), so contemporary Christian faith cannot be “rational” in its ground.  It requires a leap of faith to believe that the original Christians didn’t have dishonest motives.  There is simply no way to access the motives of the original Christians. 


CONCLUSION Questions:

What is a secular person to think when encountering the myriad of miracle stories in the New Testament except that they were lies to sell Jesus’ ethical philosophy?  The secular person doesn’t believe in miracles, so what are they to think?
Do you have any ideas about the issues raised here?

****************I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS BLOG POST !

23 comments:

  1. Sometimes a lie is allegory or symbolic.

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    1. Yes. On the other hand:

      "After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands (Nietzsche)."

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  2. Sometimes a lie is allegory or symbolic.

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  3. Reading over the post again, I am reminded of Nietzsche in the "Anti-Christ" saying:

    "Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that whole life to a place behind this existence in the LIE of the 'risen' Jesus (Nietzsche, Anti Christ, Chapter 42)."

    I imagine if the Anti Christ ever does show up he'll have his pick of all the gorgeous secular women out there! lol

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    1. One more thought. Nietzsche also clearly saw the connection between Dionysus and Jesus that I outlined in my Blog post. Recall how Nietzsche ended Ecce Homo:

      "Have you understood me?  Dionysus against the Crucified." (Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Why I am a Destiny)  

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  4. Good stuff. Somewhere Carrier has a brief resume of the quacks and kooks of those halyceon times! Nietzsche says somewhere, importantly, that in those days people had no other way of naming startling events and experiences than to baptize them with the word, 'true'. He also said that "truth--'the Truth'--is a kind of lie without which a certain species could not endure life." Something to bear in mind when we remember that when Pilate asked Jesus what 'truth' actually was, he was met by a numbing silence....

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    1. Good Point!

      I always liked how Nietzsche introduced "perspective" into his discussions about truth. So, to take one example, he talked about "slave morality," not just "morality:" some ancient religious peoples valued things like "meekness" and "poverty," not because these were objectively "moral," but because these were the actual financial and political situations they found themselves in. We see Nietzsche's concept of truth unfolding, for instance, in the Supreme Court where justices don't vote objectively (if there is such a thing), but according to their liberal or conservative
      biases. There are such things as mathematical truths, logical truths, psychological truths, etc, but in other areas it is mostly perspective (You also see this in the Star Wars movies.)

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  5. Including the resurrection, the Gospels record that Jesus did a whopping 34 miracles. The question for a secular person like myself is: If I don't believe there are such things as miracles, how am I to understand the presence of this massive amount of miracle stories in the Gospels? C.S. Lewis concluded that Jesus was either Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. I take Lewis seriously on this point.

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    2. Dr. James McGrath adds the possibility of "legend." He says:

      "Lewis missed a fourth possibility: legend, i.e. that Jesus, like other famous figures, became more miraculous in the eyes and perception of others over time, including after his death as stories continued to be created, embellished, and exaggerated."

      This is absolutely possible. However, on the other hand, some say that the miracle story about the resurrection, as described in the pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed (1 Cor 15), is perhaps too early to be the result of "legendary development." I think the more reasonable explanation is that it was a lie.

      Carrier argues that the resurrection appearance stories recorded in the pre Pauline Corinthian creed were hallucinations, but I find it unconvincing that such a large and diverse groups as Cephas and the twelve ALL had resurrection appearance hallucination experiences. That's one of the reasons I think it was a lie.

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    3. Well, let's think about it with an analogy. Let's say in a family of 4, two parents and two children, one of the children dies. Now, out of extreme grief, the father starts to hallucinate, seeing his child's ghost from time to time. That's fair. But it would be highly idiosyncratic if both 2 remaining family members also start hallucinating right along with the father. To believe Carrier and the hallucination theory of the risen Jesus, we have to imagine that 13 people, Cephas and the 12, all independently hallucinated experiences of the risen Jesus. I don't find that credible. The simpler explanation is that they were lying about it.

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  6. Who wants to hear Jesus' them song? lol
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-zEtAuKuUY&list=PLJLnHEqwnGMZeVIX06S3SfC-65yR25bEU&index=16

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  7. I think it originated by the disciples stealing Jesus' body and making up the resurrection story. It's like Joseph Smith and the lie that he found golden plates from heaven.

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    1. Although, even if Cephas and the twelve simply fled to Galilee after Jesus' arrest, you can still picture them, devastated by the loss of their beloved Master Jesus, inventing Jesus resurrection appearance stories in hopes of carrying on, and lending divine authority to, Jesus' ethical mandate of loving your neighbor and enemy - a cause they may been willing to die for.

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    2. Just some final thoughts on Method: Historians try to establish what "probably" happened in the past. An historian would never claim a miracle "probably happened," because a miracle is the "most improbable" thing that could happen, by definition. Only an apologist would fallaciously try to establish the historicity of a miracle, because sound historical reasoning rules out the "miraculous explanation" a priori. Take this example: The pre Pauline Corinthian Creed claims something like the idea that the risen Jesus appeared to Cephas and the Twelve three days after Jesus died. This creed is very early and so the story may not be the result of legendary embellishment. So what happened? (a) Maybe the disciples were hallucinating out of grief. (b) Maybe Cephas and the twelve were inventing stories of the risen Jesus in hopes of lending divine clout to, and carrying on, Jesus' ethical mandate of loving your neighbor and your enemy - an ethical cause they may have been willing to die for (like Socrates). Whatever the case, any reasonable secular explanation is historically preferable to a miraculous one. In his debate with William Lane Craig, Bart Ehrman points out that even if we don't accept a particular mundane explanation, it is still more probable than the miraculous explanation. In fact, in the case of an apparent miracle, even if we don't know of any Aliens having cloaked ships and transporters that are doing "apparent" miracles on our planet (like in Star Trek: The Next Generation - Devil's Due), this naturalistic explanation is still a more reasonable explanation than a secular historian claiming a miracle happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7-FbZj9kPY

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  9. I don’t know why it is problematic to figure out why Christianity succeeded. From beginning to end the purpose of the movement was to sell the new religion to the world:
    (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)
    (B) The Great Commission
    16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
    (C) Sending out Emissaries
    Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be “conquered,” so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously).
    (D) For Paul, Paul was selling the story that Jesus resurrection is understood as the “first fruits” of the general resurrection, and so was a selling point for the new religion: “The end of the world is at hand, so you better join the winning team.”
    Christianity was all about winning converts and spreading the word, so it is no surprise that they succeeded doing just that.

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  10. Wow, you guys reached back 2000 years with your short arms of Internet searches and pulled out of your ass that everything about Jesus is a lie.

    Where is the real proof that the New Testament writers were writing a fictional narrative that got extremely lucky and changed the world?

    Where are the references to the first century writers who followed the New Testament writers? Were they writing fiction, too?

    All you, John, are doing is jumping through hoops to appease ideas off the top of your head that Jesus could not have been who he is said to be because "miracles" don't jive with your morning coffee.

    And your research sucks the big one. Carrier? Please. Another fool who sat in a classroom looking to support his secular beliefs with credentials that any person who can read and write can get.

    Do more research.

    Look in the mirror and see the emptiness staring back at you as a perfect vessel for fools like Carrier to fill with the real lies.

    And ask yourself a simple question: Where is the proof that all the New Testament writers got together in a writers forum to concoct a scheme to make a dead preacher the Son of the Living God?

    A scheme, by the way, that made them hide from town to town, or get arrested, or beaten, or killed.

    My comment here will no doubt tickle your fancy when you first discover you got one. This, too, is a sign that your true intentions to make your limited and lazy and bigoted research something important is just a personal desire for becoming important yourself.

    You're not important because your thinking and intentions are completely bogus.

    You have nothing to offer anyone.

    Jesus does. And he has provided humanity with 2000 years of a faith, hope, and love that continues today.

    And you think that sitting on a toilet coming up with ideas in your head is a greater reality.

    What a rube.

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  11. Wow, you guys reached back 2000 years with your short arms of Internet searches and pulled out of your ass that everything about Jesus is a lie.

    Where is the real proof that the New Testament writers were writing a fictional narrative that got extremely lucky and changed the world?

    Where are the references to the first century writers who followed the New Testament writers? Were they writing fiction, too?

    All you, John, are doing is jumping through hoops to appease ideas off the top of your head that Jesus could not have been who he is said to be because "miracles" don't jive with your morning coffee.

    And your research sucks the big one. Carrier? Please. Another fool who sat in a classroom looking to support his secular beliefs with credentials that any person who can read and write can get.

    Do more research.

    Look in the mirror and see the emptiness staring back at you as a perfect vessel for fools like Carrier to fill with the real lies.

    And ask yourself a simple question: Where is the proof that all the New Testament writers got together in a writers forum to concoct a scheme to make a dead preacher the Son of the Living God?

    A scheme, by the way, that made them hide from town to town, or get arrested, or beaten, or killed.

    My comment here will no doubt tickle your fancy when you first discover you got one. This, too, is a sign that your true intentions to make your limited and lazy and bigoted research something important is just a personal desire for becoming important yourself.

    You're not important because your thinking and intentions are completely bogus.

    You have nothing to offer anyone.

    Jesus does. And he has provided humanity with 2000 years of a faith, hope, and love that continues today.

    And you think that sitting on a toilet coming up with ideas in your head is a greater reality.

    What a rube.

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  12. Imagine a historian of antiquity trying to establish the historicity of one of the miracles of Apollonius of Tyana! They would be laughed out of the Academy. Only with Christian apologists do we see the rules of historical inquiry thrown out the window in trying to establish the historicity of a miracle story about Jesus.

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  14. I’m trying to put together the big picture for the idea that the Jesus story was a noble lie:

    1) Love seems to be a central theme of early Christianity.
    Paul wrote

    – 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not give false testimony, You shall not covet,” and if there are any other commandments, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love works no evil to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

    Mark seems to echo the commandment of love as we find it in Paul:

    – The Great Commandment: 28 One of the scribes came and heard them reasoning together. Perceiving that Jesus had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

    (2) The problem of trying to create a benevolent, just society was that the Christians believed the central feature of that society, the Temple, was corrupt. Mark has Jesus say: “17Then He began to teach them and declare, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17). Jesus and his atoning death that effectively rendered useless the temple cult “coincidentally” emerged at just the time in history when a big problem for the Jews was, as Lataster says, the “inaccessibility caused by the temple being controlled by the Roman-loving Temple cult. One noteworthy example would be the more ‘progressive’ Pharisees, what with their synagogues and Old Torah, who had less need for the Temple; likewise the Essenes who thought the Temple leadership so corrupt that they developed and performed their own religious rituals elsewhere. (Lataster, Jesus Did Not Exist, 223-224).”

    (3) To rectify this problem, the first Christians invented a story of an atoning Christ, keeping the philosophy of love paramount, but substituting the temple cult with, to use Paul’s words, a simple and pure (2 Cor 11:3-5) faith in Christ.

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  15. Dr. Richard Carrier referred me to this brief analysis of his as to why Eusebius thought Lying was important for the Christians, and I wanted to share it. Carrier writes:

    Eusebius is also infamous for saying that it was necessary to lie for the cause of Christianity. In his Praeparatio Evangelica 12.31, listing the ideas Plato supposedly got from Moses, he includes the idea:

    That it is necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a medicine for those who need such an approach. [As said in Plato's Laws 663e by the Athenian:] 'And even the lawmaker who is of little use, if even this is not as he considered it, and as just now the application of logic held it, if he dared lie to young men for a good reason, then can't he lie? For falsehood is something even more useful than the above, and sometimes even more able to bring it about that everyone willingly keeps to all justice.' [then by Clinias:] 'Truth is beautiful, stranger, and steadfast. But to persuade people of it is not easy.' You would find many things of this sort being used even in the Hebrew scriptures, such as concerning God being jealous or falling asleep or getting angry or being subject to some other human passions, for the benefit of those who need such an approach.

    To understand what Eusebius means, it is important to know how the Platonic dialogue he quotes continues (John Burnet's 1903 translation, 663e-664b):

    Athenian: Be it so; yet it proved easy to persuade men of the Sidonian fairy-tale, incredible though it was, and of numberless others. Clinias: What tales? Athenian: The tale of the teeth that were sown, and how armed men sprang out of them. Here, indeed, the lawgiver has a notable example of how one can, if he tries, persuade the souls of the young of anything, so that the only question he has to consider in his inventing is what would do most good to the State, if it were believed; and then he must devise all possible means to ensure that the whole of the community constantly, so long as they live, use exactly the same language, so far as possible, about these matters, alike in their songs, their tales, and their discourses. If you, however, think otherwise, I have no objection to your arguing in the opposite sense. Clinias: Neither of us, I think, could possibly argue against your view.

    Plato had already had the Athenian argue that justice is the only real road to happiness, and therefore by this argument people can be persuaded to be good. But he then addresses the possibility that the truth will not suffice, or that justice is not in fact the only real road to happiness, by arguing that lying is acceptable, and even more effective in bringing about what is desired, that the people will be good, and thus the government's teachers should employ lies for the benefit of the state.

    Regarding Eusebius' use of this and other passages in book 12, Edwin Hamilton Gifford says "In Books X-XII Eusebius argues that the Greeks had borrowed from the older theology and philosophy of the Hebrews, dwelling especially on the supposed dependence of Plato upon Moses." (Introduction, Preparation for the Gospel, 1903). So in a book where Eusebius is proving that the pagans got all their good ideas from the Jews, he lists as one of those good ideas Plato's argument that lying, indeed telling completely false tales, for the benefit of the state is good and even necessary. Eusebius then notes quite casually how the Hebrews did this, telling lies about their God, and he even compares such lies with medicine, a healthy and even necessary thing. Someone who can accept this as a "good idea" worth both taking credit for and following is not the sort of person to be trusted.

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