Ideas that add up #140

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.”  In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

Valerie Tarico, “5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed”, Salon, September 1st, 2014

In other words, the first Christians either dreamed up a fictional founder for their nascent sect, by an act of “historicized mythology”, or attached pre-existing stories to the life of a real person, as “mythologized history”.

I haven’t got a dog in this race. But it’s surprising to learn that there’s no third-party record of Jesus dating from his lifetime, whereas there is, on the other hand, evidence that essential biographical details were added decades after his death. As if a sect of Superman-worshippers were to decide, mid-21st century, to furnish Clark Kent and Lois Lane with true-life backstories. 

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