Discussion in 'Graeco-Roman' started by juantoo3, Mar 28, 2008.
Many thanks to everybody!
That is a lot to digest, but it does help shed some light!
I posted excerpts from Tacitus's perceptions of Judaism in a far older thread here, along with a few other points of information that stood out when I originally read it:
Tacitus also seemed to think it was perfectly normal for Divine Intervention in Roman affairs - good decisions were always accompanied by divine omens, and that great men could heal the sick:
The real point being, this was all an acceptable part of the system of Roman belief.
It's interesting to compare this account (and similar ancient literature) to the Gospels, because it underlines the point that - in retrospect - great people commonly had miracles attributed to them. Conversely, for someone to be regarded as great, they had to have miracles attributed to them. It's a system of belief we can follow in some form or another from the Iliad of the ancient Greeks, until well into the Mediaeval at least.
Thank you very much Avi.
I appreciate that. I have long enjoyed the "ask 5 rabbis and get 6 answers" train of thought. I think Christians actually do this too, but are afraid to admit to it. I think it is crucial to understanding to be able to step outside of the comfort zone in order to look back and get an overall view, and that overall view is essential to comprehending historical truth.
When we get too close to our cherished mythos and become comfortable in that closeness, we have a tendency to forego historic truth in exchange for philosophical and mythological truth. Not necessarily a bad thing, but decidedly different truths.
OK, this raises a question I believe is relevent. If Jews believe in resurrection, but not in heaven or afterlife, where do those who resurrect go?
That sounds about right. Let's see: Hebrew Sheol - the grave. Greek Hades - the grave, Gehenna - the trash pit, and Tartaros - the prison for the fallen angels (only used once). I could expand, but the subject has been covered repeatedly before, so I will spare the readers.
BB and Dauer both have brought this "prosecuting attorney" idea forward (nothing Freudian about Jews and Attorneys now, is there?), so I think I have a basic handle on the idea. Interesting, the "red dressed fellow with the nasty pitch fork" was a foreign concept to Christianity until Dante writing around 1300 AD. It was a political satire intended as a sublime joke, but at a time when few could read and trusted the pulpit to steer them straight, I can't help but think some took advantage of the situation, deemed Dante's satire "inspired," and used it from then on to bully parishoners into submission.
Dante Alighieri - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I missed the thread, and as I have little formal experience with Judaism, I wouldn't have anything of value to offer. Perhaps I could learn though. It sounds like you and I are on similar paths conceptually, although I am looking at deconstructing Christianity. While I haven't given your path much consideration, I am tempted to believe that my path should be the more difficult because of the deliberate convolution that has taken place over time. Judaism seems to me to have retained its cultural sense of identity in exile, persecution seems to have served to strengthen Judaism. I cannot make the same statement about Christianity without some serious caveats. Even during the Roman persecutions I think Christianity likely morphed into some clever permutations in an effort to blend in while simultaneously trying to "separate from the world."
I realize the Roman persecutions were fickle, and it is common knowledge of throwing Christians to the lions, for example...was this done to the Jews as well? Don't get me wrong, I understand the Romans booted the Jews from their homeland circa Bar Kochba, the razing of the Temple what?, 60 or so years earlier. So I am not trying to make this a comparison, but I am wondering what role the Roman government had in distinguishing the Christians from the Jews early on? As far as I know, Nero persecuted the Christians for the burning of Rome, not the Jews. Please correct me if I have missed something.
I think like so much in our preferred mythologies that heaven, hell and Satan have become stylized and idealized. They are representative, images or idols if you will, that we have symbolically given weight to. That weight is ostensibly ethical and moral, but I think after how many thousand years (almost two for Christians, certainly more for Jews) that weight has also taken on some additional considerations...what was meant as allegory and metaphor has become a distinct literal promise of mansions within mansions. Certainly Satan may well be a prosecuting attorney, just another angel with a dirty job no one else really wants (but hey! somebody's got to do it!). Hell may well be no more than a hole in the dirt.
I don't know. There seems to be a balance required. Even in my search for the historic truth, my own personal crusade to find the real man Jesus (Yashua), I understand that I cannot view everything literally. Unless the soul ends definitively at death, the soul must go somewhere. Reincarnation, or rebirth? I am not opposed to the idea conceptually, but I also haven't seen anything to back it up either. Besides, at what point does the metaphysical well run dry? 6 billion individual souls alive now and counting...even if every one of them has been here several times before, at some point the metaphysical well of souls has got to run dry...
Heaven, as I imagine it, isn't so much a place as being "back home" with the Heavenly Father. Yeah, I know I'm stuck on that old patristic paternal nomenclature, it is what I grew up with and am comfortable with. Yes, I refer to G-d as "He" out of respect and tradition, but in my heart He isn't male or female, He is both and yet neither. How's that for a non-traditional Christian deconstruction?
Hell, I don't know. Maybe there is just enough previous indoctrination that I am scared to let go of. Maybe I still find value in guilt and shame as deterrents. I don't know what hell is, but I'm not anxious to go there.
As for Satan, again I don't know. I have seen a few things in my life to make me think there are evil entities in the metaphysical world. I don't think they hide behind every bush or try to trick us at every turn, but I also do not think they should be taken lightly. But this is based on my personal experiences and my feeble attempt to translate through my referential religious symbols. I suppose if I had a different set of referential religious symbols, I might try to frame what I am trying to say in a somewhat different manner. Is Satan evil? Maybe the Jewish outlook is correct, maybe he is an angel following albeit unpleasant orders. Maybe the Mithraic / Christian duality is more correct, and Satan is the leader of a gang of rebel angels that attempted to overthrow G-d and were cast out for their insolence. Maybe another consideration is the factual truth, ethical truth, and philosophical truth.
I think you hit the high note here: "we need to be well read in ethics, morality, and justice." I would add we need to put these things into practice. The rest will resolve itself as the universe deems appropriate.
agreed, but we mustn't get sucked into thinking that historical truth is the same as, for example, scientific truth. often, historical hypotheses are presented as if they are factual, when in fact they are simply the results of conjecture based on circumstantial evidence. all you can really say in the case of much of it is that it represents the "best guess" or "the hypothesis that best fits the data we have available" - and, philosophically, that is far from being "truth".
resurrection or reincarnation? reincarnation is as you would expect, albeit there are multiple opinions as to the precise details. resurrection again depends on whether you are talking about the "iminent return of of the messiah" or "the messianic age". the opinions vary from "no more death" to "one more life and then off to heaven", but basically it is down to how you interpret the term "the world to come".
the issue here is basically that christianity is a universalist evangelising religion, whereas judaism has dropped the evangelising, settling for particularism, so has found it easier to stay close to its core values; it's not had to embrace a hugely different influx of influences like christianity has, at least not often and not continuously.
i think the issue was more that christians were seen to be a subversive sect whereas jews, like greeks, were a distinct national/religious component around the territories of the roman empire. i seem to remember that at one point around 20% of the population (outside italy proper) identified as jewish. before the "jewish war" and, later, the bar kokhba revolt, it was more a matter of keeping an eye on political sedition and potential trouble. as the christians were perceived as "stirring the jews up with their end-of-the-world nonsense", they were both a useful scapegoat and a useful stick to beat the jews with, i dare say.
you're assuming that a soul stays in one piece. we would say that the different sections recombine rather like hereditary features.
in short, as micah says, what does G!D Ask of us? only to act justly, be honest and walk humbly with the Divine.
Hello, folks. This is a difficult as well as enjoyable thread.
There is an indicator that there some change in the RC's unifying mechanism, and this could also represent a Rome that is still in transition. The Church has historically shown a great deal of flexibility in successfully coexisting with & unifying Pagan religious groups and countries but not so much anymore. It appears to me that lately it has shown some disinterest in modern post-Protestant congregations. Could it be that the little train that could is getting a little pooped?
If not, I wonder what compromises would the church make towards unification? In the past, various images were added to buildings, paintings, clothes etc. as a compromise to cause Pagans to see themselves as full church members: Halos, for instance. Are we going to see a sort of 'Protestantization' of the church's image to reunite the fold? I guess what I'm wondering is how far will the Church go towards this end? A longtime criticism of Rome among post-Protestants has been objection to priestly garb and titles such as 'Pope' or 'Priest'. These, to me, seem like they are just symbolic trinkets in the real mission of the church. Perhaps getting rid of them will be on the bargaining table someday. Of course I've no idea whether the church will ever be able or willing to unify.
Juan, you have an inherent intuition which contributes very nicely to interfaith discussion.
The path to deconstruction which you refered to is one which is proposed by R. Zalman in his book, Integral Halachah, which is on a long thread in the Judaism sub-forum. The idea reasonated with me.
Although I think your observation about the challenges which Christianity has faced while Judaism has retained its cultural sense are historically true, it seems that these ideas are rapidly changing in Judaism today as well. Many Jews are struggling with the relevance of Judiasm in their lives and hence the Reform movements are the fastest growing.
I have to give some additional thought to your other responses. These concepts are complex and take time to process .
BB, your observations are very interesting too and I am thinking more about them as well.
Well, yes, I think I understand. Historical truth *can* have an element of "situation" and / or "relevence," whereas scientific truth ostensibly retains its "truthfulness" regardless of situation or relevence. Even so, historic truth *properly conducted* (without political bias, or as little as possible) leans much closer in my opinion to scientific truth than does philosophical or religious truth. Historical truth also serves as a powerful "second witness."
Well, OK, but then that is about as situational as it gets, no? I know what I *want* to be true -the promise of Isaiah- but I also know that is my want, and I can separate my want from my desire to try to see what is...at least to the extent that what is can actually be seen. It remains that what can be seen may not be quite enough to ascertain what actually *is,* but that is a chance I am willing to take.
OK, this makes sense.
True, there is that essential presumption on my part, but it is premised on two things: even if "reincarnated" souls were recombined, it would still imply that the metaphysical well of "potentially recombined" souls would eventually run dry. That well may have enough for 10 billion souls, or 100 billion souls, or who knows how big it could be?, but if all souls that could be created were created, what then? The second thing is, how could we know those who we love(d) on the other side when we get there if their "soul stuff" was scrambled? How would mom or dad or our beloved spouse or best friend come to greet us as we made our way into the next plane of existance? I suppose one could argue wishful thinking on my part, but case after case exists of people on their deathbed noting that some influential person has come to meet them and guide them to the next plane...
Yes! And as Solomon tells us, "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
I think an expansion on this here would be a welcome addition, if you care to and have the time.
Again, I think this would be a welcome addition. Unfortunately from my perspective I am largely limited to the typical western "encyclopedia" view, which usually fails to note the Jewish perspective. Sad, in my opinion, considering the Jews had an acknowledged participatory role to play in the matter. Sometimes it is difficult though to sort through the Jewish jargon, and "interpreters" are few and far between.
That's the occupational hazard one must take into account with any historian.
OK, my bad. I have learned more about the parallel teachings of Judaism from you here at Interfaith than I ever learned elsewhere, and it is my goof to fail to take that into account. Even so, I like to think I consider Jesus' inherent Jewishness far more than the typical Christian.
Historically, that seems the occupational hazard endemic to politics. "(S)aying controversial things" can take a lot into account...seemingly innocuous statements like "Son of G-d" can have attached political inference that can elicit unrelated presumptions (at best) or evoke strong emotive reactions (at worst). We are still guilty of this today, evidenced in a number of threads here on this site, so I presume it is a psychological hazard that just has to be kept in consisderation.
I believe that is the most complimentary comment I have heard of Jesus coming from a Jew!
Yet I think it serves as a pointer to some of the conflict that the intergration of the two competing disciplines (Judaism and Mithraism) poses. If Jesus were "merely" a Jewish messianic figure, or less for that matter, a paternal geneology wouldn't be unusual...the Jews are well noted for their sense of familial history. However, from a Mithraic perspective where a man had to be Divinely sired to justify his Divinity, human-becomes-G!d, then the Matthean genealogy becomes an odd vestigial alliteration.
I doubt it was uncommon in that time to marry across tribal boundaries, but Luke is pretty definite in tying Mary to the Levitical tribe. I have also heard what you mention, but I have heard many "apologetic reaches" in attempts to validate and justify a lot of different theological arguments.
Ooooooh, OK. I had heard something in this regard concerning the trial of Jesus and how there were inconsistencies and inappropriateness in how it was conducted (in the middle of the night, etc.) This makes a lot more sense now, thanks.
I agree. And I think it is an almost uniquely American presumption that peoples generally are monolingual, that somehow we are a special case when we are required to include Spanish with our English. But it would seem to me a necessary fact of life, particularly in business and political matters, to be as multi-lingual as possible. In that day and age, so near to the major trade cross roads, in an already cosmopolitan empire, multiple languages would seem normative to me.
Well, OK. There is always the possibility I have not given enough weight in my consideration. I had been thinking that the Roman *conceit of supremacy* (drawing from the aforementioned American example) might preclude any other culture as inferior. But I neglected to consider Greek curiousity, in that you are most correct.
I look forward to having you expand on this.
As always, your insight is profound and thorough. Thank you profusely.
I think this also further highlights the complexities of convoluting Paganism and Judaism into Christianity, from the Pagan side of the equation.
I am finding more and more of the "divine attributes" ascribed to Jesus as having direct correspondence with Pagan / Mithraic characteristics, attributes ranging from virgin birth and being Divinely sired to the many and varied miracles. With one glaring exception, and that exception is fundamental to the entire Christian mythos: resurrection from the dead. There is no direct Pagan equivolence to raising from the tomb after three days. I find ascent to heaven, I find descent to hell, I find renewed or restored life...but no corresponding resurrection story as conveyed in the Christian tradition.
I think for resurrection you may find a commonality in agricultural deities - these commonly died in the winter, to be resurrected in the spring, with bread and wine their principle symbols.
Reading around figures such as Dionysus and Persephone could make for an interesting start here.
Happy to be of service. We heretics are known for getting people to think for themselves, just before we get burned at the stake...
I think it's about political expediency. When considering Empire, you can't kill everybody that disagrees or you end up with nobody to rule over. Quite the conundrum...
So, if you want somebody to "Lord yourself over" (pardon the pun), certain concessions have to be made. Yet, to exert authority, those concessions have to be carefully chosen.
I think initially Protestism wasn't concerned with matters of Empire and rulership. That changed of course with Henry VIII and the COE, but by and large I hear a certain hesitancy among the Protestant denominations to even involve themselves with any serious depth in matters of secular policy. Politics is seen as too closely affiliated with "the world" from which the Protestant laity are taught to dissociate from. "In the world, but not of the world," and "greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world" kind of reasoning.
From what I can determine I think the RC church has been borrowing heavily from Paul's "cultural chameleon" way of going about things. I think Protestism was more concerned about conflict with proceedure, which then grew into a factionalized isolation fed by cliquish snobbery. Catholism has from inception been about Empire by inclusion so to speak, where Protestism has been more concerned with proceedural idealism and protectionism. Ironically, both do hold evangelism as a core value. Catholism seems to me more comfortable with form over substance, Protestism with substance over form. Ever the caveats, there are subtle exceptions to my generalized comments.
Well, yes, but...it is a stretch to try to associate the rebirth of the Corn god, so to speak, with the Christian "triumph over death." It may be a subtle distinction for some, but from my perspective it is as distinct as apples and oranges. I can't think of any agricultural gods that resurrect after *only* three days in the ground, not to die again.
But you do raise an interesting consideration, and there may indeed be more to this than meets the eye at first blush...
Indeed, but isn't it interest to read reports that the earliest version of Mark did not include the resurrection account?
There does linger a nagging doubt about even this seminal event to Christianity, and it does suggest once again a vestigial literary artifact.
Of course, it also remains that once the resurrection is dismissed, Christianity as a discipline then has no reason for existing. Christianity can exist quite happily in its own little cocoon with its unique blend of wisdom teachings if it can retain the resurrection as a reason for being at the expense of all of the "mysterious miracles," but without the resurrection -miracles or not- Christianity is a hollow shell. (Not to mention a superb con game)
Thieves on crosses
Let us back up. Thomas has left us some very informative posts, and there is something important that should be coming across. Focus some attention to posts 100 - 103. These were all very informative, honest and scholarly, and they show that 1. Thomas knows his subject and 2. he believes what he says. Everything Thomas has said is summed up in 'Its sacred'. What is sacred to him must contain something of value to us.
In p102 he points out "we have never put forward Christianity as pristine ... more a case of 'warts 'n' all' ... I agree, there is no such thing as pristine culture, but that does not mean there is no such things as an authentic rising of a culture." This weighs in, because the entire history of the Church is a struggle to preserve that which is sacred. It is not so simple to just preserve something over 1000's of years though. Over time there is a struggle between those who value it and those who do not, and the goal is to teach each generation to value and to discern sacred from non-sacred. The method of the church actually is a fantastic success at this. The value of the sacred (both of truth and of the greater truth) this is the main lesson of the church.
Just as Thomas said 'Warts n all' the sacred is preserved and venerated. It is placed beyond the reach of folk that just don't care and made dis-interesting to those who would erase or deface it. (Dumb-ass kings for example) I actually do not understand the explanation of the trinity, but its opaqueness tells me it is there that I could learn immortal truths. As Thomas hints in post 115 "Arian theology was a dead end." I am also inclined to think the reason Arius was called heretical is not that he disagreed with the trinity but that he truly was a schismatic in his demeanor. This would have been apparent to the emperor Constantine who made the 'Big' decision about what would be called Nicene. So the main thing was to avoid schismatic types who undervalued the sacred, and this is consistent with everything I have seen in this thread.
Now I am not saying it is fair that you or I have had to crawl from A to B just to find out this basic information. It is totally unfair, and I think that some of the veils in Catholicism are a little thick for the times we live in, but maybe not. I think its ridiculous that some people are being reared in 'Churches' with symbols and mists that they will never understand and which can deprive them of the very things the church has intentionally preserved. This has caused me plenty of trouble! At this point however, the place where I come from is moot. I must honor that which is eternal and that which has preserved it.
Pardon the side track here. For -> me <- I could not tell if there was more to Thomas than just official RCC teaching. It's the warts and all that's lead me and others to scrutinize the teachings. Although there is agreement that the warts do exist, it never changes the official church underlying view that somehow the RCC has a lock on truth. For me it's kinda an emperor has no clothes kind of thing.
I've enjoyed juantoo3's research here, trying to undercover history and not just taking the official RCC byline as reality.
Re: Thieves on crosses
I agree Thomas has left some important things to consider. Every scholar and every person who looks at any matter to consider must distinguish how they will go about that consideration. Sincerity has a value, belief in what is being said has a value, and sacredness has a value. But are these values alone sufficient in delineating what is truth?
We end up back at the age old philosophical argument: "what is truth?" If truth to a person is limited to what is sacred alone; then nothing profane, nothing secular and nothing external to that sacredness will serve to validate nor refute.
I have known people to whom the absolute indisputable truth is that Adam was created 6 thousand years ago, and nothing will serve to sway them from that truth. Such people are nothing if they are not sincere, they obviously believe what they have to say, and such reasoning to them is sacred. I will go so far as to say that to them such reasoning is a kind of truth. But it is not *the truth* in the sense I am attempting to pursue here. I suppose it could be argued it is not "my" truth. But then, I have always seen truth and reality as synonymous. It was actually quite a shock to me to learn that philosophically "truth" can hold a wide variety of meanings, little of which actually has anything to do with reality.
Which is my long winded way of saying, because Thomas views something as sacred, is that enough to validate that view as truth? I think the answer lies in how much weight one chooses to grant the sacred, and how much reality one is willing to forgo to maintain that sacredness...
To Thomas' credit, he has gone where I have not seen any other Catholic dare to go before. The typical Catholic of my experience is either blissfully ignorant of church history, or they feel a compulsion to tactfully dance around and dismiss the subject. So I have taken Thomas' comment here with a grain of salt, and considered it in the light of his comments alone, and which to his credit he has attempted to be as forthright as he knows to be, "warts and all." I am simply not prepared to make that a blanket presumption across the typical Catholic teaching because it just isn't there in my experience. As for an "authentic rising of a culture," that to me seems an historic given. Many cultures can be shown to have arisen, and many cultures can be shown to have fallen. That is the nature of historic anthropology.
Yes, but is sacred and truth the same thing? There is a crucial distinction to be made here, and I really don't think most people get it at first glance.
For instance, is the Bible literal? Wholly and totally literal? Or is there metaphor and allegory, parable and association? Was the world created in seven literal days, or is this a poetic metaphor to describe certain aspects of the creation as it relates to metaphysics and morality? Is it live, or is it Memorex? For our purposes, is it truth, or is it real? As Thomas said, it can't be both ways.
Fair enough, I suppose in some sense there are those who may see me in a manner like the dumb-ass kings. Let me clarify, it is not my interest to denegrate or dismantle or otherwise deface Christianity. That is the reason this thread has been built on the history board and not the Christianity board. Christianity is my chosen path. I have the mental freedom to walk away at any time, but have no desire to do so. I find a sacred value in Christianity, but that sacred value to my way of reasoning is outside the remit of pursuit of historical reality, what I view as truth. The sacred to me is a faithful hope that what I am holding on to has a value that transcends writing on some pages in a book. But there is a distinction to be made between a faithful hope and an educated guess based on historical evidences. The one is a very personal and intimate pursuit, the other is a very public and broad scoped verifiable (or at least substantiated) look at a point in the historic past...in this case the formative years and particularly the transitional years of the Christian institution.
Well, see, here's the thing: Constantine was nothing if he was not a consummate politician. He lived his life as a nominal Pagan while simultaneously living his life as a nominal Christian. He gave just enough lip service to both to be appreciated by both constituencies. When he finally got around to getting baptised as a Christian, on his deathbed, it was as an Arian Christian. The part Thomas managed to leave out is that Arius was pardoned by the ecclesiastical authority just prior, only he died before he made it to receive the official pardon. Arianism was OK'd to "co-exist" within the Empire for some time after Constantine died, and it was under one of the later "Christian" Roman Emperors that Arianism was dealt the death blow.
Maybe as a Protestant I am comfortable with the idea of schism, I don't know, but I think Constantine was only too happy to play the ends against the middle. I know Thomas belittles the political implications, and it is a fair and reasonable argument that perhaps I give the political implications too much weight. But I also think the political implications are more of a player in the historic reality than the institution is comfortable acknowledging. There is an historic correlation between the Emperorship and the Papacy that is the reality, as opposed to the "sacred" truth of the Papacy being descended from Peter, and that conflict between the sacred and the secular is a great source of strife...and I suspect a huge part of the reason that typically Catholic teaching avoids this period of history like the plague.
BTW, I am not anti-Catholic either, I have known and respect many Catholic persons in my life, and continue to do so.
I have also known many people of various religious persuasions whose minds for some reason shut off when historic reality impinges on their sacred territory. That is their perogitive, but it is one I do not share.
That is well and good, I would not overtly try to dissuade you.
In my own way I am doing the same. I am attempting to honor the eternal by showing its reality. That which preserves it, to my way of thinking, has done much to conceal it, and that troubles me. But that is my burden, it is not my intent to place that burden on any others.
Thank you for joining in the conversation.
Thomas' position is that I expect, and it is also not to be dismissed lightly. There are points of value, but as you noted there are also points that do seem questionable upon further review.
I'm not so sure I'm ready to equate with "the Emperor's new clothes." There is substance. And Thomas is evidently well versed in some of the related and associated writings of the era. It is to be expected that his interpretation of that material will coincide with his preferred religious paradigm. I have no issue with his "right" to have a POV. I have learned much from Thomas, and there are matters with which he and I disagree. He disputes my interpretation of the history, and I dispute his interpretation. That's the nature of scholarship.
You are quite welcome, but I have always told others not to "just take" me at my word either. I do make mistakes, I do have erroneous opinions from time to time, I am human. This is just a long time "meditation" of sorts for me in my search for the real man Jesus.
I'm not yet prepared to say Jesus was "just" a man, but I almost believe he isn't quite up to the hype either... (that alone is enough to get a person burned at the stake...BBQ, anyone?)
l know arius had enough supporters at the time for this issue to take so long to supposedly resolve; coming from the antioch tradition which emphasised the rational and literal [aristotelian as well as a more 'jewish' slant] than the egyptian school, influenced by the more neo platonic and allegorical expositions of origen.
thought this article may interest in early apologists writing on the incarnation/divinity of jesus.
The Incarnation: Christian Writers of the Second Century
Thank you for that, it is a welcome addition!
Second that thanks.
Separate names with a comma.