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February 09, 2009


Zietgiest is fairly old if im not mistaken, is it just now "becoming popular" or something? Am I the only person who recognizes obviously bogus claims? Maybe im being haughty and shameful

I think this is a really helpful post. I appreciate how the atheist blog framed it as a conspiracy theory. In my experience most people who give this as a reason for non-Christian belief already presuppose naturalism in some way.

Well, let me jump in here...

There is more than meets the eye in zeitgeist, and you do have to do your own digging, to check the resources.

I would say that the author of zeitgiest, who is also the narrator, makes a few mistakes. Like his definition of "myth" for instance. But he says that the Latin romans "historicized" the dying god-man myth for political purposes and that is exactly right.

He defines "myth" as something that is "false, but must be believed to be true", in other words a "lie". That is not true to the greek definition of myth. Their "myths" expressed something deep about the human psyche and therefore were "truths", not "lies".

The author does say, using a quote from an interlocutor, that "myths" orient a community, and I wouldn't disagree with this statement.

So he gets it half right about his definition of "myth".

Nevertheless, the dying god-man myth was supposed to express something very deep about the human psyche, that it can be radically transformed. That transformation follows a certain process of purification, and requisite humiliation. Just as the god-man must humiliate himself, and let himself be killed as a mere mortal, so too must the followers of this "god of transformation" also humble themselves, and "die" and be "born again."

Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3 that unless someone is "born-again" he cannot "see the kingdom".

The Greeks gave this power of transformation, which is really going from one world to another, to Athena, who was the god that gave Odysseus the abilit to adapt to different worlds, or who "transformed" Telemekos from a "boy" to a "man."

But the greeks did have their dying-god man myth with Dionysus.

The real question over whether one had to believe in a "bodily christ" or deny a "christ in the flesh" was a debate that raged around the mediteranean from c.100AD-c.350AD. The term "anti-christ" which is only mentioned in John's Epistles, warn of those who don't need to think of Jesus as an embodied christ, who deny that Jesus ever came "in the flesh".

These people were also called "gnostics", but there were many different kinds of "gnostics" so don't lump them all together. But the most important Gnostics were Valentinius and Marcion (do your history). They claimed to be followers of Paul. A case can be made that a gnostic Paul existed and the Catholics destoyed his followers as heretics. They also engaged in a literary battle, must like a blog, taking sides against the "anti-christs". Meanwhile in Rome they set up their own "Bible" that included some writings of Paul.

Paul taught the disciples "how to preach Christ crucified." as he says in Galations.

Without Paul, nobody would have understood the gnostic experience of being "born-again", and having "christ in you" (the 'secret' in Colossians). Paul gives us a description of what it is like to be transformed. It is a very profound experience. If you have had it you cannot deny the existence of what you feel as an "outside force" come "into your heart" and "change you".

That is a very gnostic concept, one that does not require the god or "force", to be a historical person.

The gnostic experience lives on in christianity among evangelicals who place an emphasis on alter calls and conversion experiences.

The Catholics preferred their kind of christianity to be a continuation of the Neoplatonic Trinity. Their "canon" was a masterpiece, of combining OT religion with their creator god story, with mediteranean mystery religion, and've got an empire.

Then Constantine produced 50 bibles and sent them to the corners of his empire, called the council of Nicea, where "heresy" became a crime punishable by the state. Then Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

The copies of the "Bible" have been perfect ever since. Who knows what happened before c.250, we don't know. Only scraps remain before the catholics started mass producing their bibles. Since they edited it, the whole thing is suspicious, especially if they feel they have to take out Valentinius and Marcion. There was even a sect calling themselves Paulinists, who the Romans persecuted!

I suggest you educate yourselves on the "gnostic paul", and early roman history.

Interesting thoughts; I'll have to take some time to digest your post.

May I post a minor correction? I do not think Marcion was a gnostic, at least if the entry in the entry in Encyclopaedia Britannica is correct:

Ben Witherington does a good take down of Peter Joseph's Zeitgeist and the sources he uses here:

Scroll down a ways to get to the actual post on Zeitgeist. You can also go to Ben witherington's blog and just do a search for Zeitgeist.

Here is a taste: "The essential argument behind this sort of movie and polemic is an argument called 'syncretism'. That is, that there is nothing new under the sun religiously, and so of course we must explain the origins of things like the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of Egyptian notions of the afterlife. Never mind that Egyptian thought was polytheistic and despised by early Jews, and never mind that in fact what is discussed in the Book of Dead and elsewhere in Egyptian literature is an afterlife in another world, not a coming back to this one in the same body,"

Read the whole thing!

Are you asserting that the first council of Nicea was held to determine whether gnosticism is heresy, and ended in a proclamation that heresy is punishable by the state? Is this correct?

Also, I could be wrong, but I thought Nicea was about Arianism, not gnosticism.

Tom, one more comment, then I'll step out until you've had a chance to respond. Where do you get the idea that before 250 AD we only have trivial scraps of the NT? I'd like to see the evidence, if you wouldn't mind supporting your claim:

1) How many manuscript fragments do we have from that time period?

2) Can we get a feeling for the distribution of sizes of these fragments?

3) How does this compare to other historical documents we consider to be reliable?

John 18:31-33,37-38 (circa 125 A.D.)

Rom. 5:17-6:3,5-14; 8:15-25, 27-35, 37-9:32; 10:1-11, 22, 24-33, 35-14:8,9-15:9, 11-33; 16:1-23, 25-27; Heb.; 1 & 2 Cor., Eph., Gal., Phil., Col.; 1 Thess. 1:1,9-10; 2:1-3; 5:5-9, 23-28 (circa 200 A.D.)

John 1:1-6:11,35-14:26; fragment of 14:29-21:9 (circa 200 A.D.)

Matt. 3:9,15; 5:20-22, 25-28 (circa 200 A.D.)

Thank you Star. Where did you find this list?

So how does this compare with other writings? Since we're on the subject of gnosticism, how does this compare with, say, the writings of Valentinius?

And several similar lists can be found in other locations. Generally thats the common dating, give or take a few years. Tom's statement may have come from the fact that the oldest complete Bible that we have record of (Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus) is dated around 250, to 300 AD.

As for your question, are you asking when the discovered gnostic manuscripts are dated to? If thats the question im not actually sure, im a little familiar with when they are believed to have been written though*

Star, thanks for the links. I just want to be sure we're being fair here when comparing the Bible and the writings of Valentinius and Marcion, if we're to entertain Tom's criticisms.

Also, an apologist- Joel McDurmon wrote a book refuting the claims of Z- its called 'Zeitgeist Refuted: Is Jesus an Astrological Myth?'

Ohh I got it. Yes indeed.

There's a nice summary of scholarly responses to Zeitgeist here:

Zeitgeist was briefly popular awhile back and unfortunately seems to be making a comeback ...

It seemed to me that Zeitgeist's main purpose was not to attack Christianity, but to warn people about what they perceived as a move to a totalitarian society by the elite, using the Federal Reserve and such economical tools.

And I think they were right about many things in the second half of the movie. They simply had the wrong idea that the elite behind this effort were primarily using Christianity to further their cause.

So, they made a half baked effort at trying to make Christianity innocuous as a device, by making the argument that it was meant to be a religion with no religious authorities, but with the individual as king.

I saw intellectual laziness, not deception, as the root cause of all the embarrassing folly of the first half.

I greatly admire Greg as a Christian apologist who can present a compelling case for the Christian worldview. However, I think that Greg's way of arguing against the Zeitgeist-type pagan copycat thesis (as he presented it in the opening commentary of the STR broadcast) is quite weak. See my thoughts on the matter here: Greg Koukl's Failure -- How NOT to Argue Against the Pagan Copycat Thesis.

Good debate here nice read, I agree with Emmzee 'I saw intellectual laziness, not deception, as the root cause of all the embarrassing folly of the first half.', Religion aside the political/commercial issues in this movie which effect us all in our daily lives need to be reflected on.

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