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#1 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 09:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What do Christians (and anyone else, really) make of the similiarities between Jesus and other mythical figures, such as Horas, Mithras, Osiris-Dionysus, etc.?

It was brought up yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner and I'm interested in what other people think about it.
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#2 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 10:00 PM
 
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Subbing. I am a non-Christian and find it all extremely fascinating. I see all the stories (including Jesus, Moses, Noah) as mythological and archetypal.

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#3 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 10:07 PM
 
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This was the reason the young C.S Lewis became an atheist. The reason the older C.S. Lewis converted back to Christianity was that his friend J.R.R. Tolkien told him that Christianity was indeed a a myth like all the others but with the one difference, that it really happened.
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#4 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 10:18 PM
 
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This was the reason the young C.S Lewis became an atheist. The reason the older C.S. Lewis converted back to Christianity was that his friend J.R.R. Tolkien told him that Christianity was indeed a a myth like all the others but with the one difference, that it really happened.

were's your proof ?

What do Christians (and anyone else, really) make of the similiarities between Jesus and other mythical figures, such as Horas, Mithras, Osiris-Dionysis, etc.?



What similarities?
I have not heard of any of these except Jesus.
Yes I am a Christian and I don't need proof that Jesus is not a myth.
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#5 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 10:41 PM
 
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[QUOTE=graymom;12697967]were's your proof ?

My proof? That they said these things? Well, the anecdote is in A. N. Wilson's biography of C.S. Lewis, I believe.

"Myth" is this sense is not the opposite of fact, but rather a story that seeks to explain the nature of things, such as the universe, humanity, etc. A myth could therefore also be something that really happened. The word "myth" has several definitions and can be confusing.
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#6 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 11:04 PM
 
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were's your proof ?

What do Christians (and anyone else, really) make of the similiarities between Jesus and other mythical figures, such as Horas, Mithras, Osiris-Dionysis, etc.?



What similarities?
I have not heard of any of these except Jesus.
Yes I am a Christian and I don't need proof that Jesus is not a myth.
There is interesting information regarding similarities between Jesus and Pagan myths, Jesus and Mithra, and the Jesus Myth hypothesis.

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#7 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 11:06 PM
 
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I'm a Christian and an Ancient History buff and I find it all fascinating. The story of Noah and the Ark is so similar to the story of Utnapishtim in the Gilgamesh Epic. The relationship/story of Mary and Jesus is very much like Isis in Egypt.

Personally, I think there is much to be said for familiarity. As new ideas and religions spread from place to place the stories and ideas that were, even vaguely similar, would be assimilated so as to build bridges between two cultures.

I believe that the stories, from the Bible or other texts, are reflective of the time and culture that they were written in, and the authors weren't living solitary lives. They had many influences on them that influenced the tone of their writing.

(not very cohesive and certainly won't earn me a masters, but I hope it got my ideas out there!)

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#8 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 11:09 PM
 
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In my church we believe that all religions have at least some portion of what we believe to be the truth, iykwim. So I guess that's why similarities don't bother me. :
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#9 of 56 Old 11-28-2008, 11:21 PM
 
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[QUOTE=Murihiku;12698065]
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Originally Posted by graymom View Post
were's your proof ?

My proof? That they said these things? Well, the anecdote is in A. N. Wilson's biography of C.S. Lewis, I believe.

.
thanks I was curious were you heard this. Sorry if I sounded argumentative.
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#10 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 01:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just for the record:

myth   /mɪθ/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [mith] Show IPA Pronunciation

–noun 1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
2. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.
3. any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.
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#11 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 01:52 AM
 
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I'm not Christian (atheist), but I was raised Roman Catholic.

I'm fascinated by these same thoughts! I love to study different cultures, religions, and philosophies. I'm also fascinated by what draws people to one religion over another.

I, too, see it all as various myths in various cultures. I remember when I first read about the pagan goddess, and the cycle in terms of the goddess giving birth to the god, him growing up, becoming her lover, dying, but the goddess is already pregnant with him again. I found that utterly fascinating, because I immediately thought of Mary and Jesus.

I think that was when I was in high school, and I just thought, "wow, it's all the same." Which started my research, and my interest in seeing all the parallels and similarities in various religions.

Anyway, I digress. In short, I'm also interested in the OP's question. I've always wondered how believers felt about it. My perspective has always been too "outside" ... even being raised Catholic, I just never really believed. Even as a kid.

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#12 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 02:20 AM
 
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i think it has at least a little bit to do with the powerful people throughout history (constantine for instance) tweaking (or completely fabricating) dates, times, events, etc. to make Christianity resemble other dominant religions of that time period (paganism anyone?) so that it is easier to mush them all together under one religion. If Jesus is more like their primary male god and the holidays just happen to fall around the same time as other religions it is far easier to convert people.

thats not so much my opinion as it is just kind of the way they did things then.. dont know if that answers your question at all though lol

ETA- sailor i think the reason Mary was played up so much was just for that reason..they needed a prominent important female that resembled the pagan goddess.
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#13 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 05:44 PM
 
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[QUOTE=graymom;12698243]
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thanks I was curious were you heard this. Sorry if I sounded argumentative.
No worries! My fault for assuming everyone is familiar with the life story of C. S. Lewis! I brought up Lewis and Tolkien since they both believed in Jesus as Christians and as scholars and inventors of mythology.
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#14 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 06:45 PM
 
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Whatever the similarities, most mythical figures were not meant to be taken as actual, literal beings, existing in time and space, not even by devotees.

The most important quality Jesus possessed, in the eyes of his followers, was reality: he was an actual human being who lived at a particular point in history, in a specific place. That is one reason accounts of his life contain references to historical events taking place at the same time, like "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea."

I think some similarities exist because mythology deals with issues that are most significant to human beings, in ways that resolve or explain them. Others are coincidental. I do not find them as overwhelmingly important as some people do, because I don't think the similarities tell us all that much, and because there are always people who will find similarities if they look for them. Two equally intelligent people can look at a series of myths or mythic figures, and one of them can conclude, "It's all the same!" and the other conclude, "They are so completely different!" Both may be right; it is a very subjective thing.

I think the finding of elements of other mythic figures in Jesus, or of other belief systems in Christianity, is often done in a rather arbitrary way. Finding elements of Jesus/Christianity in Paganism is not the same as comparing, for example, Jesus with Buddha. "Paganism" is actually a general term for some thousands of different religions from every region of the world. If you find even one element of Christianity in pagan religion #10,497, another element in pagan religion #8,966, and yet another in pagan religion #11,022, and so forth, you will eventually be able to say, "Look at all the similarities between Christianity and Paganism!" It is a completely misleading conclusion.
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#15 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 07:44 PM
 
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From the "what similarities?" perspective: Was the NT Influenced by Pagan Religions? (very theologically and socially conservative evangelical site --you have been warned )
From the article:
Quote:
1) None of the so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity.13

(2) Only Jesus died for sin. As Gnter Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods has the intention of helping men been attributed. The sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting accident, self-emasculation, etc.).14

(3) Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14). In contrast, the mystery gods were vegetation deities whose repeated deaths and resuscitations depict the annual cycle of nature.

(4) Jesus death was an actual event in history. The death of the mystery god appears in a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus death and resurrection was grounded in an actual historical event makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, nonhistorical stories of the pagan cults.15

(5) Unlike the mystery gods, Jesus died voluntarily. Nothing like this appears even implicitly in the mysteries.

(6) And finally, Jesus death was not a defeat but a triumph. Christianity stands entirely apart from the pagan mysteries in that its report of Jesus death is a message of triumph. Even as Jesus was experiencing the pain and humiliation of the cross, He was the victor. The New Testaments mood of exultation contrasts sharply with that of the mystery religions, whose followers wept and mourned for the terrible fate that overtook their gods.16
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#16 of 56 Old 11-29-2008, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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From the "what similarities?" perspective: Was the NT Influenced by Pagan Religions? (very theologically and socially conservative evangelical site --you have been warned )
From the article:
Interesting, although, number 4 is debatable.
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#17 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 01:46 PM
 
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I think that Christianity is just another version of the myths that have been around all along. The only difference is that people are convinced that it's literally true. I think that makes for a loss of appreciation for the metaphors and meaning of the story in many ways, and the most obvious destructive element is the division it creates. I think if people could realize that the Jesus story and the biblical stories are myths like all the rest with great meaning, significance and insight, the world would be far more unified and understanding of one another. I think it's sad that the true meaning of myth has been lost to misunderstanding and that so many people need something to be literally and historically true in order to have any significance. I think the loss of understanding of myth is one of the most significant losses of humankind...my heart truly aches at the thought.

And I agree that number 4 is quite debatable. IMO, it'd be just too much of a coincidence that these stories (of his birth, life, death and resurrection) were being told for so many centuries and then all the sudden it magically actually happened....

I'd also like to hear if there are arguments against the other items in that post, although I don't have the information myself. I do, however, have a hunch they're not altogether completely true. For instance, the general archetype of the Horned God (meaning the general figure and not a specific one from a specific branch of Paganism) died exactly so that life may go on. His sacrifice was a death to nurture the life cycle and so that a new cycle could begin--be reborn....think of the harvest for example. The crops are cut to feed/nurture/sustain life, and new crops are then planted only to be sacrificed again at maturity to repeat the cycle. That is the Horned God/Christ figure.
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#18 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 02:00 PM
 
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The most important quality Jesus possessed, in the eyes of his followers, was reality:
I don't think the story needs to be literally true to be significant and meaningful. I think that requirement takes away from the purpose of the story itself. What if it were proved untrue? Just humor me here. Does that then mean that all the messages of the story mean nothing and should be just tossed out with yesterday's celebrity rumors? The meaning is in the story, IMO, not in it's literal occurance.

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I think some similarities exist because mythology deals with issues that are most significant to human beings, in ways that resolve or explain them. Others are coincidental. I do not find them as overwhelmingly important as some people do, because I don't think the similarities tell us all that much, and because there are always people who will find similarities if they look for them. Two equally intelligent people can look at a series of myths or mythic figures, and one of them can conclude, "It's all the same!" and the other conclude, "They are so completely different!" Both may be right; it is a very subjective thing.
It's not just about the similarities of details, but overall sameness of the themes and how they're expressed through story. Sure you can pick apart how the Christ figure was born to a virgin Mary in a different location or some other detail, but the fact remains that that virgin birth (and all the rest) is a recurring theme and had been for a LONG time across the world. The framework is the same, the intentions are the same, the messages are the same--at least extremely close to sameness. The details vary from culture to culture, but that is just it--those are the cultures' different ways of expressing the same ideas and ideals from their specific perspective.

In the same way you can always find similarities if you look for them, you can always find differences if you look for those as well--especially if you talking about different cultures and different times in history. But IMO, it's the jist of the story that matters.
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#19 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 02:12 PM
 
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not gonna go there

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#20 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 02:31 PM
 
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there is no record of jesus's execution... and they keep pretty good execution records at that time.
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#21 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 05:27 PM
 
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Just for the record:

myth   /mɪθ/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [mith] Show IPA Pronunciation

–noun 1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
2. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.
3. any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.
Thank you for this. The Jesus story is a myth because it is, at best, unproved. No amount of belief or faith can make the Jesus story "true." In that same vein, god is also a myth. That doesn't make it not true, or true, just unproven. I think we can safely use the term "myth" in reference to Jesus and god.

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#22 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 05:36 PM
 
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I also think it worthy of mention that the Christian religion and Christian church saw it's greatest growth during the time of Constantine, who was a life-long devoted follower of the cult of Mithras (according to legend he was baptized a Christian on his death-bed). I think that Christians incorporated, or conformed to, customs and ideas prevalent in the cult of Mithras, as they have done in many instances and places throughout history.

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#23 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 06:03 PM
 
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makes people more unified and easier to govern if the vast majority shares the same religion
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#24 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I also think it worthy of mention that the Christian religion and Christian church saw it's greatest growth during the time of Constantine, who was a life-long devoted follower of the cult of Mithras (according to legend he was baptized a Christian on his death-bed). I think that Christians incorporated, or conformed to, customs and ideas prevalent in the cult of Mithras, as they have done in many instances and places throughout history.
Wow, very interesting! I never read that about Constantine. I really do need to do some more reading on this stuff.
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#25 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 08:03 PM
 
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I'm an apostate now; however, during the days I spent my head wedged in theology books and apologetic material I would have brushed off any and all forms of skepticism. When I was a literalist and inerrantist the 66 books of the Protestant Bible was the infallible and unadulterated "word of God." I didn't have a clue about ancient belief systems and Christ legends and myths. I was oblivious to anything that wasn't found in the Christian scriptures. Part of that has to do with an indoctrination of a certain brand of belief or way of thinking -- that the New Testament scriptures are Absolute and pure and that the Hebrew god is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and all of Man. Secular text and reading is looked down upon in certain brands of theology because it "taints" the mind and invites "Satan" in and entices the flesh and carnal nature. Once you begin reading extrabiblical material one's worldview starts to shift and the premise one was fed that the Christian text is Absolute Truth and all others false, becomes transparent.

I had a huge passion for theology and Biblical studies. I loved apologetics and debated fervently against skeptics. All of that changed when I began questioning my church's doctrine. I studied certain doctrines and dissected them and when I found it lacking I started to study and dissect sophisticated doctrines. That led me to esoteric faiths and ancient belief systems and their similarities to the Christ myth or Gospel Jesus.

My views varied widely from being a mythicist and viewing all ancient belief systems pose a certain truth or universal message to having a more naturalistic view that isn't so esoteric and plainly tells of ancient civilizations forming beliefs that centered around the hope of an afterlife due to fear of the unknown -- death. As Man evolved and became aware of his mortality it makes sense that afterlives become part of civilizations and cultures and overtime they become more and more elaborate as Man evolves and adopts new understandings of his surroundings and environment.

After studying some of the ancient belief systems and faiths it became very apparent to me that the motifs, themes, elements, characters and story lines are all very similar. They all contain fantastic themes and some of them share similarities in their man-god characters. It's not like ancient belief systems were all that unique. Cultures would borrow themes from other belief systems and rework them to fit in their respective belief system. It's not as if the general themes of ancient mythos weren't already circulating in the air ready and waiting to get plucked and fashioned into a new faith system at any given time. As civilizations, cultures and their belief systems die new ones emerge and by domination and conquer much of the time. All while keeping some of the elements and themes of previous ones.

Anywho, whether Roman, Norse, Chinese, Japanese, Mayan, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Judean, Aztec, African, Christian, etc., it's all the same to me. They're all on the same plane as they all contain fantastic claims and stories about the supernatural and come equipped with deities that only exist in said belief system and are not external of it.

Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in his biographies is nothing but a hero figure in a Christ myth. Similar to other Christ myths. Christians don't go around thinking other Christ figures are real just because a theology or story surrounds them.

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#26 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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Thank you for this. The Jesus story is a myth because it is, at best, unproved. No amount of belief or faith can make the Jesus story "true." In that same vein, god is also a myth. That doesn't make it not true, or true, just unproven. I think we can safely use the term "myth" in reference to Jesus and god.
Yep and all of the above can be said about fanciful and mythical characters of all kinds. When the word "myth" is applied by theists in reference to other belief systems (whether current or ancient) it is not taken to mean that it's neither true or untrue. It's taken to mean in a rather condescending way that the old faiths are outdated and Absolutely Wrong because Christian theism (according to certain brands of theology) is considered Absolute Truth. That "myth" means old bedtime stories and nothing more than legends and tall tales. That is often how "myth" is regarded concerning other belief systems.

Depending on the theist and I'd gather most theists would crap a brick at the notion of their theology being likened to ancient belief systems and throwing it in the same basket as classical theism has done to other belief systems for 2000 years.

I can safely use the term "myth" when it comes to any and all claims of the supernatural and mythological text certainly counts. That goes for Zeus, Odin, Ra, Neptune, Yahweh, Jesus, Isis, Apsu and the thousands of deities said to exist throughout recorded history.

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#27 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 10:04 PM
 
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As a believer in a faith full of non-Christian Jesus followers ....... well, we strip away a lot of his traditionally Christian-told story, so it is not a stretch to agree that there has been considerable "outside" influence on the story's content. That this occurs is a quite explicit point of our doctrine. We retain elements though ... the virgin birth (if not as a literal child of god), the performing of miracles. So, insofar as all of that goes for us ...

We believe in themes among prophets -- similarities in their lives and characters. They are, after all, all chosen by one god to, in our system of beliefs, present one message to one -- diverse but not wholly dissimilar -- humanity. We also believe that all peoples in the entire history of humanity have had access to reasonably, if not wholly, uncorrupted prophecy. Given both the scope of history and our belief that prophecy and the stories of prophets have inevitably been corrupted, in practice that means countless -- unnamed in our own texts -- prophets, reaching literally all communities, likely bearing similarities to one another, and eventually having their stories changed and culturally cross-pollinated with elements of human invention.

That death and resurrection might be a theme, for example, would not surprise us, and as it is not a part of our account of Jesus we would likely agree that his story has been changed to include things that probably had more to do with concepts of seasonal gods. That the virgin birth, for another example, might be a theme would also not surprise us, and we could suppose the possibility that there have been other god-given virgin births, the stories of which worked their way into other, not god-given, belief systems. (Or that they too have simply been made up. Some of the things occasionally given as examples bearing similarities to the birth of Jesus -- the birth of Dionysus for example -- are more than a bit of a stretch themselves.)

In the end though, the similarities, for Muslims, can work to support, rather than challenge, several points of our beliefs regarding how religions have come to and functioned among humans, without requiring any particular mental gymnastics or a diversion from orthodoxy to do so.
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#28 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 11:05 PM
 
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I'm not sure why Jesus' existence, apart from any miraculous events, is considered so unlikely. There are references to his existence, death, and/or teachings in many non-Christian sources: the Roman historian Tacitus (who specified Jesus' death took place under Pilate and during the reign of Tiberius), one of the Emperor Hadrian's scribes, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and many others referred to Jesus and the beliefs and actions of his followers.
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I don't think the story needs to be literally true to be significant and meaningful. I think that requirement takes away from the purpose of the story itself.
That presumes the purpose of the story is something other than the relating of facts. It seems to me that the reason the Gospel writers were so specific about dates and places was to indicate that this was not just a story, but actual events which took place.
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What if it were proved untrue? Just humor me here. Does that then mean that all the messages of the story mean nothing and should be just tossed out with yesterday's celebrity rumors? The meaning is in the story, IMO, not in it's literal occurance.
What meaning or message is found in "the story," assuming everything it says is untrue? Very little, as far as I can see.

Aesop's fables were written to illustrate a point. The point is very clear and obvious, and is just as valid even if the story illustrating it is a nonsense tale about talking animals. Yes, in this case, it is the story that matters.

In the written Gospels, however, the whole point is that certain things, very significant things, actually took place, and that these things affected us and the universe profoundly. If these things did not take place, the "story" is worthless. Worse than worthless, because we are called on to live our lives based on fiction.
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#29 of 56 Old 11-30-2008, 11:13 PM
 
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I'm not sure why Jesus' existence, apart from any miraculous events, is considered so unlikely.
It didn't seem (to me) that anyone was questioning his existence, but rather the miraculous events especially as they relate to similarities in other culture's stories/histories/myths/whatever you wanna call them.

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In the written Gospels, however, the whole point is that certain things, very significant things, actually took place, and that these things affected us and the universe profoundly. If these things did not take place, the "story" is worthless. Worse than worthless, because we are called on to live our lives based on fiction.
Well, I see your point. Though I don't think the story would be worthless...it would be the vehicle for teachings that are more obvious (like Aesop's fables) such as all the parables.

(Don't get me wrong, I personally happen to believe it's more than a story.)
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#30 of 56 Old 12-01-2008, 01:44 AM
 
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I'm not sure why Jesus' existence, apart from any miraculous events, is considered so unlikely. There are references to his existence, death, and/or teachings in many non-Christian sources: the Roman historian Tacitus (who specified Jesus' death took place under Pilate and during the reign of Tiberius), one of the Emperor Hadrian's scribes, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and many others referred to Jesus and the beliefs and actions of his followers.

That presumes the purpose of the story is something other than the relating of facts. It seems to me that the reason the Gospel writers were so specific about dates and places was to indicate that this was not just a story, but actual events which took place.

What meaning or message is found in "the story," assuming everything it says is untrue? Very little, as far as I can see.

Aesop's fables were written to illustrate a point. The point is very clear and obvious, and is just as valid even if the story illustrating it is a nonsense tale about talking animals. Yes, in this case, it is the story that matters.

In the written Gospels, however, the whole point is that certain things, very significant things, actually took place, and that these things affected us and the universe profoundly. If these things did not take place, the "story" is worthless. Worse than worthless, because we are called on to live our lives based on fiction.
Personally, I do question the historical accounts of Jesus. (See, for instance, the book The Jesus Mysteries.) But, I know I am in the minority. That said, I find much wisdom in the stories bound in the Bible, as well as much wisdom in other holy books as well. Truth or not does not negate what can be gleamed from a story.

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