Christ docetisc myth theory

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Christ docetisc myth theory claims that Jesus was a spiritual (docetisc) being who some experienced in visions, or people pretended to have visions of Jesus. The gospels were an allegory of the spiritual person on Earth (i.e. Jesus was euhemerized). These myths were when taught as if they were true. Advocates for the theory include Richard Carrier and Earl Doherty. [1] It is one of several Christ myth theories.

Contents

Argument from silence is a weak argument

There is little evidence that supports the existence of Jesus but to conclude Jesus did not exist is a relatively weak argument. Just because the documentary evidence is weak does not mean Jesus didn't exist because of the poor records and their loss over time. For this reason, historians have searched for prior beliefs that evolved into Christianity.

Why did the myth of Jesus arise?

Carrier points to the similarity with Islam and Mormonism, in which a teacher experiences visions of a divine being which is then recorded in a holy book.

Common trends in the Hellenistic period [2] fit early Christianity very closely: [1]

  • Hellenizing foreign deities. Mystery religious elements would be fused with a local religion to form a hybrid religious belief system. Christianity is a fusion of Hellenistic ideas with a Jewish/Palestinian cult, the Nazarenes.
  • Monotheism and henotheism.
  • Changing fertility and agricultural gods into personal salvation god, while retaining the original myths and stories. This often features the passion (or struggle), death and resurrection of a god, such as Romulus, Osiris and Zalmoxis. They were generally euhemerized but never had an Earthly existence. Osiris had euhemerized stories for non-initiates, but the members of the religion told of Oriris' death and resurrection just below the moon. The same seems to have been believed of Jesus.
  • Race and nationality were de-emphasized as it was believed that anyone could be initiated into a religion.

Osiris had euhemerized stories for non-initiates, but the members of the religion told of Oriris' death and resurrection just below the moon. The same seems to have been believed of Jesus.

With many similar religions emerging at the same time as Christianity, we need a convincing argument that Christianity is somehow valid while the other religions are not.

Early sources

As the Christian church began to formulate its orthodox belief, the writings that contradicted their view were not preserved because they had little interest in them. However, a few pieces of evidence survive.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria wrote of a celestial being that is the firstborn son of God, a high priest of God and an agent of creation. Richard Carrier argues that this is evidence of a belief in a celestial Jesus. The earliest Christian texts seem to be taking about the same Jesus, with the same theology.

"I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: "Behold, a man whose name is the East!" [referencing Zech. 6:12 Bible-icon.png] A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity. For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns.[3]"

Ascension of Isaiah

The Ascension of Isaiah tells of the prophet Isaiah receives a vision of God sending Jesus to save mankind from the Devil, which involves Jesus's death and resurrection - however, this happens in outer space but not on Earth.

Epistles genuinely written by Paul

Only seven of the epistles attributed to Paul the Apostle were actually written by him. Paul wrote that he received his knowledge by revelation "from the Lord" and/or Jesus, but not from man. There is no mention of the appearance of Jesus before his death. There is no mention of an Earthly mission. Jesus only appears in a revelation to people. The only narrative he recorded, of the Last Support was also from revelation but doesn't mention any disciples. No eye witnesses are mentioned or oral testimony. There is no historical specifics regarding the life of Jesus.

Apologists point to Jesus being crucified by "the rules of the age". This is a common reference to demons. Paul's point that Jesus's identity was hidden to allow the salvation of mankind only makes sense if it refers to demons rather than groups that would stand to benefit.

Some sections seem to been later additions to the original text 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 Bible-icon.png 1 Timothy 6:13 Bible-icon.png 2 Peter Bible-icon.png.

Paul seems to mention the Earthy family of Jesus. However, being "brothers of the Lord" is probably a religious concept and not biological siblings.

Paul refers to Jesus being "made" rather than "born".

Hebrews

Hebrews, very likely an early text but not by Paul, also speaks of a celestial Jesus. It cites revelation and scripture, not eyewitnesses as its source of information. There is no knowledge of the gospel narratives.

"If he were on earth, he would not be a priest...But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry"

— Hebrews 8:4-6

This argument only works if Jesus was not on Earth.

1 Clement

No clear mention of an Earthly Jesus. No knowledge of the Gospel narratives. Cites scripture no eye witnesses.

Later sources

Gospels

The gospels are fictitious and not reliable historical sources. The Gospel of Mark may be an allegory with separate interpretations for both outsiders and initiates.

Acts

Acts is also historically unreliable. [4]

Jesus's family and disciples suddenly disappear from the story after Acts 1 Bible-icon.png, implying they never existed.

Other sources are not independent

Other sources either rely on the Gospels as their source, or are fabricated.

Thallus and Josephus are not reliable.

Counter arguments

Jesus historically existed? Galatians 1:19 Bible-icon.png

Argument from uniqueness

Many historical figures are not attested to until generations after.

You can't invent a whole man in a generation.

"One of the many problematic aspects of mythicism is that it makes much of vague parallels to non-Jewish religions, while failing to do justice to the unambiguous evidence that what we now refer to as Christianity arose in a Jewish context that was committed to monotheism, observant of the Jewish Law, and unlikely to create a fictional Messiah based on pagan myths. [5]"

To Do

Earl Doherty Jesus Puzzle - Richard Carrier's review [3].

Robert Price, The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems

Stephen Laws, "Evidence Miracles and the Existence of Jesus"

[4]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Richard Carrier, Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind
  2. Petra Pakkanen, Interpreting Early Hellenistic Religion, 1996
  3. [1]
  4. Richard I. Pervo, The Mystery of Acts
  5. [2]
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