Asclepius & the appeal of Jesus to Gentiles

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by salishan, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. salishan

    salishan freesoul

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0

    in an era (Hellenistic) when the high gods
    seem increasingly far-away & impersonal
    (relevant only to the rich & powerful
    who can afford to sacrifice at their temples)
    Asclepius garners a strong appeal to the average Jenny & Joe

    not a god of strength or speed or beauty or authority , (but merely)
    a hero turned into a god , a deified-human
    (one of the lower Greek gods) , Asclepius is a great healer
    (often running afoul of some high god , by healing a god-cursed human
    even bringing a handful of humans back from the dead)
    Asclepius feels close-at-hand , a kindly personable god
    a caring friend , with a bowl of soup at u'r bedside

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    the Hellenistic & Imperial Roman eras are anxious times
    for individuals (family & tribal bonds are breaking down) , so
    even when Christianity is making huge inroads in the Roman Empire
    (old Temples shutting down for lack of patronage)
    the cult of Asclepius remains strong (well into post-Constantine times)
    & remains (religiously) the last strong Greek competitor to the Jesus-cult

    both of these deified-humans (Jesus & Asclepius) are savior figures
    each capable of overcoming Fate , of subduing Dread
    & each are close & comforting , a caring hand caressing u'r tired soul

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    is the power of the new Christian faith , this personal appeal of Jesus ?
    is this what large masses of people , during the Roman Imperial era
    yearn for ? , a caring deity who feels like he is attending to u personally ?

    giving u hope , close-at-hand ?

     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    There is a common error of assumption:
    A is a myth;
    B reads like A;
    Therefore B is a myth.

    Put another way ... perhaps the signs are that both Hellenes and Hebrews were reaching towards something which, when the time was right, was made known.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  3. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    2
    Salishan, beloved of Gyd.

    I believe I would add that a slave or common-man yearning for a belonging like that of the Cult of Mithras could be another influence.

    I am not stating Asclepius or Mithras were the templates for Christianity, only that they,as mythic representations, and their followers, as a structure for worship, could have influenced the Early non-Judean-Galilean followers of the Disciples.

    Kinda like Bon influenced Vajrayana or Shamanistic Magic influence Daoism or possilble pre-Vedic religions influenced the Upanishads.

    Shucks we see that today, just go to a Pueblo (please do they need the money) on a feast day and you see the katsina influence in the peaceful people's Catholicism (make no mistake that they are not very Catholic).
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    Hi Radarmark —

    But Christianity 'out-does' Mithraism, in that the latter was a men-only cult.

    The evidence, with regard to Mithraism, points to the contrary.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  5. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    2
    Please forward links, I have read just the opposite.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
  7. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    2
    Now I see what I did, I paid too much heed to Justin Martyr and Tertullian and by early followers, I meant those that followed after the Three Roman-Jewish Wars, not those Paul and John converted. My bad, thanks for the help.

    If one looks at 100-300 as the critical period ofcdhurch history, it corresponds to the height of the Mithra-Sol Invictus popularity and their popularity dwindles as the church's raises the possibility of a linkage (will read the sources for both the link (thanks) and the wiki article).
     
  8. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercuræn

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,439
    Likes Received:
    1
    Funny, I don't see any female clergy?
    Seems like a men only cult to me also.
     
  9. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    2
    Not all christians, EM!
     
  10. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercuræn

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,439
    Likes Received:
    1
    Dat true . . .
     
  11. salishan

    salishan freesoul

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thomas
    exquisite creature

    medicine in the Hellenistic era is extremely primitive

    but even today , even in 21st century medicine
    scientific studies demonstrate that for certain diseases
    a placebo is just as effective as the normally-prescribed narcotic

    hope (hope for a magic cure) is one of a doctor's
    most effective tools in her or his doctor's-bag
    the patient's (own) belief that they can be cured

    in hunter-gatherer societies , (aside from a few herbal folk-remedies)
    every tribal shaman is a charlatan
    all they have to offer to their patient is their "putting on a good show"
    a flashy spectacle of expelling the "demons which sicken this patient"

    if the "show" is convincing enough (instills confidence) , the patient
    might believe themselves cured , & this is half the battle

    & even by ("rationalistic") Hellenistic times , medicine has
    advanced little beyond the shamanistic "magic"-show

    hope is still the best medicine any healer has to offer

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Thomas , i like to imagine faces

    (i don't entirely trust language
    it tends to abstract me from
    the immediacy of reality , &
    i miss too many pertinent things)

    i like to imagine the faces of people
    (say , during the Axial Age)
    at Ishtar's temple in Babylon
    or Zeus's temple in Ephesus
    elements of awe , trepidation
    but also , of a deal-being-struck
    (devotee's loud-praise plus a blood-sacrifice in exchange for
    granting of a request , for more-wealth or many-children or long-life)

    fear but expectation
    i see it in their faces

    but by the Hellenistic era
    i see (in people's faces) less fear
    & also less expectation from the majority of the high-gods

    many persons continue to "do the rituals"
    but i see more "civic duty" (in their faces) than deep devotion
    but as time goes on , fewer & fewer even bother just-going-thru-the-motions

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    most of the gods (by the late-Hellenistic era) are too impersonal
    & people will (more & more) seek divinity which touches their heart

    cult of Isis or forest Mysteries have a trendy appeal
    the faces of devotees are needy , people still searching for something

    but at the health-sanctuaries (hot-springs/spas) of Asclepius
    i see concrete-hope on the faces of devotees
    hope because Asclepius appears to personally care about
    the person's individual well-being , & that he is granting this person
    not (an impersonally) bartered-expectation of being cured
    but a confident-hope of health & vigor returning , hope of improvement

    early Christians continue to practice Jesus' hands-on
    style of healing practices , the frequent-success of which
    brings many converts to the nascent-religion of Christianity
    & , Thomas

    it is this same confident-hope of cure
    the hope i see on new Christian faces
    which i see (also) on the faces of devotees at Asclepius' sanctuaries

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    in the Hellenistic era , the sense of a personal individual self
    is becoming more significant than a person's civic or tribal (group) role

    & , Thomas
    i can't help thinking , that this caring personal appeal
    to a person's individual-self & not to their group-role
    is a major part of the "popular" appeal of both Asclepius & Jesus
    within the popular imagination of people of the late-Hellenistic era

    each's appeal not as a "healer" so much , but as a "caring presence"

    look at their faces , Thomas
    look at their faces

     
  12. salishan

    salishan freesoul

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thomas
    exquisite creature

    John Dominic Crossan has written another thin little book , one which
    greatly influences how i read scripture
    The Dark Interval : towards a theology of story (1988)

    once u get beyond the book's attempt to sound academically systematic
    the text has a very simple message
    a "story" is not culturally neutral , it warps how a listener sees reality
    storytelling has 2 extreme faces
    1. myth (a big ideological agenda , hidden within a story)
    2. parable (undercutting society's prevailing cultural myth)

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    if u "buy-into a story" , what u are often "buying-into"
    is the mythic amplification of somebody's sociopolitical agenda

    actual myth's are truly dangerous things , ideological weapons
    being spun by pundits & politicians (& theologians) in every era
    to focus people's attention in one specific direction (& no other)

    & the more the myth gets repeated
    the more people begin to believe
    that the picture which this myth paints is actual reality

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    "myth" is (like) a contagious disease

    where (instead) , choosing to read a story as a "parable"
    becomes a kind of cure
    (an antibody to the viral power of the myth/disease)

    a parable is remarkably simple (on the surface) , but
    highly paradoxical (underneath) , undercutting the
    foundations supporting a prominent cultural myth

    (to me) the mythic-Moses or the mythic-Jesus
    (a mythic reading of scripture) is
    not just a counterproductive practice
    (regarding how scripture was actually originally produced)
    but a dangerous (& amoral) practice (as well)
    (a mythic-reading of scripture is inherently anti-religious , pro-sectarian)

    (of note , that
    the J-author's prose in the Torah
    consistently takes the antonymous-structure of a parable
    as do Jesus' most reliably-authentic remarks in the Gospels)

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    the older (classical) sense of the word "myth"
    (meaning "not historically factual , unreal")
    is a useless "straw-man" word in our scientific age
    (unless u are Joseph Campbell or Carl Jung)
    i hardly-ever use the word "myth" in its pre-modern meaning

    so the 1st (& 2nd) time i read u'r remarks , Thomas
    i haven't a clue what u are talking about
    3rd time (days later) , i think i get it
    1. Asclepius is a mythic (read "not historically real") person
    2. Asclepius is a healer
    3. Jesus is a healer
    4. Jesus must be a mythic (read "not historically real") person , too


    not sure where (in my original essay) u get this idea
    because i believe just the opposite

    Jesus probably is "historically real"
    (in no small part) because he is a renowned healer

    my curiosity (in my thread-starter) regards Jesus appeal to common-people
    (his appeal , long after he is dead)
    what is it that makes a "healer" (rather than , say a "warrior") become
    so appealing to common-people during the Hellenistic era ?


    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    the "story" on Asclepius , is that
    he is a hero elevated to divine status

    & like the heroes of many Greek folk-legends
    Asclepius may derive from an actual historic figure
    a luminary from some city or island in Mycenaean Greece
    (before the local bards' storytelling gets so out-of-hand that
    next-to-nothing factual remains of the original human
    who inspired the tales)

    so , Thomas
    to dismiss Asclepius as "myth" (not real)
    is perhaps a tad insulting upon ancient Greece
    ("Moses is real but Helen of Troy is just a myth")

    in the 3rd century-ce , what u can accurately say
    about both Asclepius & Jesus
    is that each are remembered via folk-legend

    there is a lot of fiction & probably a few solid (if buried) facts
    permeating the popular "memory" surrounding each figure
    (if only u can find a means to dig-out these rare facts)

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    this is why i like all the recent scholarship upon
    both the Hebrew Bible & the Christian New Testament

    when i read scripture , i no longer see (nor have to struggle against)
    the shamelessly mythic interpretations of scripture which i grew-up with
    (which stupefied me , which chilled me & angered me)

    Thomas , the whole meaning & purpose of religion
    (its hard deep reality , its parabolic temperament)
    now
    comes remarkably alive , to me

     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    Women can belong to the Church, and despite the male interest, have performed great works – saints, mystics, abbesses - but I take that one on the chin, EM, how can I do otherwise.

    Women were not allowed in Mithraism at all.

    Mithraism spread from Rome because it appealed to elements in the army. Christianity no doubt did likewise, but it's appeal spread beyond social structures, so that its membership could count senators and slaves (well, maybe senator's wives) who stood as equals in the Mysteries.

    (Something that was soon, sadly, eclipsed.)

    Christianity also adopted a strong social element from Judaism, which without doubt added to its popularity ... by the close of the first century, the Church in Rome had some 1,500 widows and orphans on its books, and a Roman senator declared in the Senate that (and I can't for the life of me find the reference) 'even the Christians look after their people better than we do!'

    My point be, it was faith and grass-roots social justice that powered the spread of the religion, not philosophy.

    (Sadly, that social justice element has also been somewhat eclipsed.)

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  14. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercuræn

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,439
    Likes Received:
    1
    No doubt Mithraism played an important role in the mythology of Christianity. Abrahamic religions for the most part are very unbalanced when it comes to the sexes. There is no doubt in my mind that the Roman Church deliberately set out to extinguish the Pagan Goddess cults and would end up oppressing the Female Aspect in religion for centuries.
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    Hi Salishan —

    That's quite an 'exoteric' view of mythology.

    I do not refute such a negative view, there's always those who will bend anything to their own advantage. But neither do I assume that to be the case universally. In fact quite the opposite — myths and parables are far more sophisticated than you perhaps allow.

    Myths also encompass truths and realities which are too big or too profound for simple comprehension ... or put another way, they make the obscure accessible. The Greek myths, for example, are more than just stories.

    The same, by the way, goes for 'faery stories' which only in recent history have been wasted on the young!

    It depends whether one's language is mythopoeic, or logoic ... ideally, the two should work together.

    Modernity is almost entirely blind to the language of mythpoeia. The radical inability to read symbols for example, leaves the modern mind disabled when trying to comprehend the mind of antiquity, in which such things were luminously transparent, whereas today they are opaque.

    A huge assumption there.

    Bultmann was a famous proponent of the 'mythic Jesus' long before the Jesus Seminar, and will still be a theologian to contend with long after. I think Albert Schweitzer, a supporter of an earlier 'Quest for the historical Jesus' gace up on the basis that one, the quest served the polemical agenda of the questors, and two, it was a futile pursuit.

    The Jesus of Scripture is the Jesus of history.

    Bultmann's premise was accepterd for a long time without argument, but when the argument came, it struck the premise a fatal blow.

    A is a myth
    B reads like A
    Therefore B is a myth.

    The assumption — line three — does not necessarily follow from line two, and the assertion founders.

    His appeal was neither as 'healer', nor 'warrior, so I'm not sure the question is even valid?

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    Actually, all the evidence shows that Mithraism copied Christian motifs.

    Much of the writing presenting the parallels between the two is spurious. In fact I think the only place where Christian symbols are present in a Mithraic context is in and around Rome, where Christianity had taken root.

    The link to radarmark above covers that off as well.

    There's enough in Scripture to turn that on its head, unfortunately, it did not. It's just another case of culture asserting itself.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  17. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    2
    Yep. Post #6 on this thread is really good reference (I think that is the one Thomas meant).
     
  18. Etu Malku

    Etu Malku Mercuræn

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,439
    Likes Received:
    1
    David Ulansey considers the bull-slaying Mithras to be a new god who began to be worshiped in the 1st century BC, this would make it 200-300 years before Christianity really took off.

    There's enough in Scripture to turn that on its head, unfortunately, it did not. It's just another case of culture asserting itself.

    I see quite a lot of women bashing in scripture. All three major Abrahamic religions (particularly Judaism and Islam) are male predominant. Just because Christianity throws the girl a bone and makes her a saint now and then to look good, doesn't make up for all the oppression.

    I'll change my tune when I see a woman wearing one of those goofy Bishop hats! ;)
     
  19. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,549
    Likes Received:
    26
    ROFLMAO! [​IMG]
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,262
    Likes Received:
    1,347
    I don't dispute that Mithraism is older. My point is, Mithraism is not saying anything like what Christianity says, although it seems impossible to determine just what Mithraism is saying at all. I think those who see Christianity as adopting Mithraic iconography are seeing what they want to see.

    From the evidence and scholarship, according to the sources I elect to back, it seems that Christian iconography appears to influence later Mithraism, rather than Mithraic iconography influencing Christianity.

    What religions aren't?

    But that same attitude of 'throwing a bone' to the feminine is what allows exegetes to push the feminine into the background. I would argue that certain NT texts are absolutely bringing the feminine to the fore — the annunciation to Mary directly, and Joseph's being informed only indirectly; the risen Christ appears to the Magdalene first, and gives her a message to take to the apostles; His mother's words at Cana ...

    I think women will have something to say about those goofy hats before they put one on!

    God bless,

    Thomas
     

Share This Page