[Marxism] Which prophets really existed ?

Shane Mage shmage at pipeline.com
Thu Sep 27 13:05:59 MDT 2012


On Sep 27, 2012, at 2:16 PM, dan wrote:

> Apart from Mormonism and Bahaism, the founders of all major world  
> religions are really extremely hazy figures, whose exact words and  
> deeds, let alone existence, is beyond our ken.

The Jewish tradition has always the historical existence of Jesus.
Dan accepts the existence of John the Baptizer even though the only  
(non-Gospel) ancient source for his existence, the Jewish historian  
Josephus, also mentions the historical Jesus (with a Christianizing  
forgery added).
The Johannine text of the charge against Jesus--"Claiming to be  
Messiah, a King"--rings absolutely true.  INRI.
The vast array of religious groups--especially the Ebionites--claiming  
to be continuers of Jesus is quite difficult to explain if no such  
person existed.
All sources agree that the immediate followers of Jesus were led by  
his brother, James the Just.
"Christianity" as we know it is based on the writings of Saul (aka  
Paul) of Tarsus, a Roman police agent ("civis romanus sum!").  It has  
nothing at all to do with the historical Jesus, a Jew among Jews.

The best historical accounts are "Revolution in Judaea" by Hyam  
Maccoby and "The Jesus Dynasty" by Robert Tabor. Though both have  
weaknesses (Maccoby on John and Tabor on Judas) they combine to form a  
coherent and entirely persuasive account.

Shane Mage


  This cosmos did none of gods or men make, but it
  always was and is and shall be: an everlasting fire,
  kindling in measures and going out in measures.


  Herakleitos of Ephesos



>
> After the death of the founder, schisms inevitably break out as  
> different factions vie with each other to take up the undisputed  
> leadership of the movement.
>
> IT is clear that early Christians were divided between competing  
> claims regarding apostolic successorship, the "12  
> Disciples" (whoever they were) being, according to the book of Acts,  
> initially quite hostile to St Paul's mission to the gentiles. Paul  
> refers to James as "Jesus' brother", but this is probably a later  
> interpolation, an echo of an ancient feud.
> And according to the Gospels, John the Baptist was a figure who  
> commanded much loyalty and thus needed to be "brought down a peg".  
> "Some say your are Elijah, others that you are John the Baptist" the  
> Disciples tell Jesus. And then there is the incredible editing of  
> the story of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. In Mark,  
> Jesus is simply baptized by John, in the other gospels, later  
> editors feel the need to introduce a white dove and a booming voice  
> from heaven declaring : "This is my beloved son".  The earliest  
> Christian community was obviously trying to assimilate the followers  
> of John the Baptist and his "voice in the desert" predication (The  
> followers of John the Baptist, known as "Mandaeans" still exist in  
> Iraq although their numbers have dwindled due to Islamic  
> persecution). During the three centuries in which the NT was put  
> together, some scribes felt it necessary to make Jesus John's cousin  
> and have the pregnant mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, declare  
> to Mary that "she felt her baby move in her womb when he was near  
> Mary's son".
> The incredible confusion surrounding who first saw Christ  
> resurrected and where, is part of the same attempt to make different  
> sectarian sources coincide. Did he simply reappear as a mighty  
> spectre to the crowds of wailing devotees ? Did he come back in the  
> flesh and instruct the Disciples for a period of several weeks ? Did  
> he appear as a vision to St Paul who apparently did not have much  
> truck in what the "Disciples" knew (he spent less than a week with  
> them after his conversion, and even this meeting with the Disciples  
> is probably a later interpolation) ?
> Did a historical Jesus exist ? Yes and no. Yes as there were many  
> wandering mystics at the time ("Leave your Father and Mother and  
> follow me", "If someone strikes you on the left cheek, turn the  
> right, and if someone steals your coat, give him your shirt", "let  
> the little children come to me", "blessed are the meek", "do not  
> seek treasures on earth where thieves and rust will take it away",  
> "do not worry about tomorrow, the birds do not sow or reap", "love  
> thine neighbour as yourself". As I do not have the KJV at hand my  
> rendering of these famous biblical passages is ungainly, but no  
> matter.) All these central sayings are certainly an amalgamation of  
> the words of wise men in the fashion of John the Baptist and other  
> hermits and wandering ascetics. Did God become Man and die on the  
> cross for the salvation of Mankind, no. The whole Jesus narrative  
> was constructed over a period of several generations, encapsulating  
> an important Middle-Eastern concept : the dying and resurrecting God  
> of Vegetation in whose honour mysteries were performed and who could  
> lead his devotees to eternal life having himself been resurrected  
> ( Attis, Dionysos, Cybele, Osiris, Mithras, etc., etc.) On top of  
> this was added a Hellenistic, or rather Jewish-Hellenistic, concern  
> with Logos and Sophia, with God needing to become incarnate in order  
> to restore the creation to a state of perfection because of the  
> separation between God and the material world.
> All the 19th century rationalizations of "Jesus as a Revolutionary  
> Zealot crucified by Rome" or "Jesus as a Sage who was transformed  
> into a God by his followers" are just that, 19th century  
> rationalizations. They bear the mark of 19th century Positivism,  
> betray the need to fit the Christian narrative into a Liberal or  
> Socialist framework. The claims that there exists "documentary  
> evidence for the existence of Christ" is quite simply false, and  
> this has been known since the publications of the Tübingen School's  
> "Hoch Kriticismus" scholarship in the late 19th century. Not a  
> single contemporary author of the 1st century AD records the  
> existence of Christ, and the three exceptions have been proven to be  
> very late Byzantine forgeries. The Christ as Myth position, on the  
> other hand, is the most satisfactory explanation given the social  
> dynamics of the -100 to +300 era. The Virgin Birth is a familiar  
> mytheme (and a late addition, given that the gospels have to go to  
> great lengths to reconcile Christ's birth at Bethleem with his  
> Nazarene origin, introducing the incredible story of the "Roman  
> census", the visitation by the Magii from the East, the massacre of  
> the Innocents by Herod and the flight to Egypt, etc. none of which  
> have any historical basis).
>
> The succession to Muhammad's prophethood was equally troubled and  
> bloody. Would it be his descendants, those of his tribe, or his most  
> trusted disciples who would become the leaders of the Ummah ?
>
> Buddha's succession was initially similarly uncertain, according to  
> murky reminescenses of a conflict between his cousin and his "most  
> trusted disciples". In later Buddhist hagiography, Buddha's cousin  
> would become a symbol of evil and corruption.
>
> In Mormonism, Joseph Smith was succeeded by his son, but prophet  
> Young took over the leadership of the faithful and created a schism  
> that persists to this day in Mormonism.
>
> In Bahaism, the Bahai was succeeded by his son, but  his eldest  
> grandson, Shoghi Effendi <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ 
> Shoghi_Effendi>, took over, producing a will superseeding the  
> Bahai's original will in which he entrusted the movement to his son.
>
> In comparison, the struggle to succeed Hubbard at the head of  
> Scientology was less open, even though scores of believers left the  
> official Church of Scientology and set up smaller sects "in the true  
> spirit of LHR".
>
> So it seems much of the content of a religion is attributable, not  
> only to the founder's teachings, but to the manner in which his  
> earthly succession is resolved. Indeed, his successors will be the  
> ones setting down the founder's words into scripture and they will  
> be the ones tasked with organizing the faithful into a coherent  
> community. Only after his death will important matters both  
> theological and eminently practical be set in stone, and the  
> subsequent movement, having survived its charismatic founder, become  
> a world religion ready to influence the destiny of millions of people.
>
> From the perspective of Sociology of Religions, it is the founder's  
> death which severs the direct link with God, and brings a religious  
> movement into the realm of fallible mortals. Various groups and  
> individuals will have to work hard to prove that they are the heirs  
> to the original teaching and can indeed interpret these revelations  
> through their own divinely-inspired understanding of what the  
> founder meant.
>
> A world religion is thus a complex construction, encorporating many  
> divergent views and notions. The need for a scriptural base means  
> that many different texts and narratives will slowly coalesce while  
> redactors attempt to forge a coherent whole by sidelining aspects of  
> the founder's teachings that are difficult to reconcile with the  
> newborn religion's immediate goals.
>
> This is the only way Historical Materialists can view any religion,  
> as a product of its time and as the result of conflicting interests  
> leading to the emergence of an authority figure who takes on the  
> role of an "Ideal, All-Knowing Father". Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha,  
> Smith, Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri et al., all acknowledged that they were  
> both divinely inspired and yet subject to human desires. One can  
> always find a passage from the holy books of all these religions  
> pointing to the fact that the Individual must exercise his own  
> powers of reason in order to find the truth.
>
> The wisdom and the Law laid out by the Father Figure become an  
> ideological weapon in the hands of those seeking political  
> dominance. All the more reason to directly confront the central  
> authority figure within any given religion as the ability to  
> distance oneself from Religion goes hand in hand with the ability to  
> distance oneself from a given social order and social hierarchy.
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