Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'


Almost fifty years ago, in the early 1970s a French philosopher named Jean-Pierre Lyotard began what was callled post-modern thinking. Post-modern thinking in its rudimentary form involved the deconstruction of all the major meta-narratives of modernity, particularly western modernity. This included a deconstruction of the Christian meta-narrative in whatever form it took. The main thing to be understood about Lyotard is his oppositions to all meta-narratives, including the one being constructed in the nearly two hour movie (one hour and 56 minutes) which is available on the internet through Google video. It's popularity is shown not only by the number of hits on the sight where you can access it, but by the fact that it is available with all sorts of language subtitles.

Various people have been referring to this as a post-modern post-Christian movie, and it certainly is the latter, one could just as easily call it an anti-Christian movie, calling Christianity a myth which has led to all sorts of wicked and destructive behavior, and explaining Christianity on the basis of a 'religions geschichte' sort of argument, which is to say a history of religions argument (this religion derived from that religion which derived from that religion, and it all is a bunch of myths and falsehoods). My point in mentioning post-modernism is that this movie is not post-modern in any sense, since the author is trying to construct a new meta-narrative to replace the older and Christian one. Post-Christian and anti-Christian yes, post-modern no.

Here is what the Zeitgeist movie (first released in June 2007), website presents the matter:
"Zeitgeist, produced by Peter Joseph, was created as a nonprofit filmiac expression to
inspire people to start looking at the world from a more critical perspective and to understand that very often things are not what the population at large think they are. The information in Zeitgeist was established over a year long period of research and the current Source page on
this site lists the basic sources used / referenced and the Interactive Transcript includes
exact source references and further information."

In other words it attempts to claim to take the intellectual high ground of critical thinking, calling for more of it, and claims to be based in careful and solid historical research, providing a list of its sources. It also attempts to appear humble saying at the bottom of the first webpage of the site urging that people not take what is found in the movie as the truth, but as a prompt to seek out the truth for "truth is not told, it is realized", whatever that might be supposed to mean. But lets be clear, despite this disclaimer, this film has a clear pejorative point of view and is attempting to replace one sort of truth claims with another.

Notice as well the word 'inspire' in the above quote from the website. Actually this 'filmiac' (as they call it-- a non-word as far as I can tell) is all about the politics of fear and distortion. You can see this from the wordless introduction to the movie which provides not so subtle linking of Christian images with American images with war images with 911 images, and then the not so subtle interweaving of images of evolution. The idea is implanted--- the evolutionary story of origins needs to supplant the Christian myth of origins, once and for all. One could call this Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens makes a movie.

It is always good to look at the sources of a particular claim whether made in this movie or somewhere else, and so here is the list of sources used in this particular film as provided by the author.

S1] - Singh, Madanjeet: 'The Sun- Symbol of Power and Life, UNESCO Pub., 1993
[S2] - Krupp, Edwin: In Search of Ancient Astronomies, Mcgraw-Hill, 1979
[S3] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, Chaper III: "The Symbolism of the Zodiac
[S4] - Hall, Manly P.: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. Page 53-56 [Chapter: "The Zodiac and Its Signs]
[S5] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan & Christian Creeds, 1920. Page 36-53 [Chaper III: "The Symbolism of the Zodiac]
[S6] - Acharya S.: Suns of God, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Page 60-85 [Chaper III: "The Sun God"]
[S7] - Hazelrigg, John.: The Sun Book, Health Research, 1971. Page 43
[S8] - Acharya S.: Suns of God, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Page 86-95
[S9] - Olcott, William Tyler : Suns Lore of All Ages, The Book Tree, 1914. Page 157
[S10] - Mackenzie, Donald: Egyption Myth and Legend, 1907 Page 163
[S11] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, Page 48, 51
[S12] - Acharya S.: Suns of God, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Page 92, 113

[S13] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Page 257-259
[S14] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Page 39-40
[S15] - Septehenses, Clerk De.: Religions. of the Ancient. Greeks, p. 214.
[S16] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 327-328
[S17] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Page 40
[S18] - Hall, Manly P.: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. Page 53-56 [Chapter 7: "Isis, the Virgin of the World"]
[S19] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Page 12-13
[S20] - Jackson, John: Christianity before Christ, AAP, p111-113
[S21] -Walker, Barbara: Women's Encyplodia of Myths and Secrets, p. 748-754
[S22] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 56-61
[S23] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Pages 613-620
[S24] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Pages 614
[S25] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Pages 600-607
[S26] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 256, 273
[S27] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Pages 623-661
[S28] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Page 626
[S29] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 74-75
[S30] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Page 115
[S31] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 43-47
[S32] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Page 93
[S33] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, Page 135
[S34] - Bonswick, James: Egyption Belief and Modern Thought, p. 157
[S35] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Page 628-629
[S36] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 222- 223
[S37] - Bonswick, James: Egyption Belief and Modern Thought, p. 150-155, 178
[S38] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Page 107-108
[S39] - Frazer, James.: The Golden Bough, Touchstone, 1963. Page 403-409
[S40] - Jackson, John: Christianity before Christ, AAP, p. 67
[S41] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 190-191
[S42] - Berry, Gerald: Religions of the World, B&N, p.20
[S43] - Weigall, Arthur: The Paganism in our Christianity, Thames & Hudson, 1999 p115-116
[S44] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, p 12
[S45] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Chapter 7
[S46] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 113-115
[S47] - Wilkes, Charles (translator): Bhagavat-Geeta, 1785 p 52
[S48] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 278-288
[S49] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, p. 29, 33, 38, 48, 56
[S50] - Frazer, James.: The Golden Bough, Touchstone, 1963. Page 451-452, 543
[S51] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Page 111-113
[S52] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 193
[S53] - Weigall, Arthur: The Paganism in our Christianity, Thames & Hudson, 1999 p220-224
[S54] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, p10
[S55] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, p. 33, 42
[S56] - Frazer, James.: The Golden Bough, Touchstone, 1963. Page 415-420
[S57] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 223
[S58] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Page 118-120
[S59] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman
[S60] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, p16-17
[S61] - Charles F. Dupuis : Origine de Tous les Cultes, Paris, 1822
[S62] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 12-13
[S63] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 140-146
[S64] - Irvin & Rutajit: Astrotheology and Shamanism, The Book Tree, Pages 25-26
[S65] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, p 17-18
[S66] - Frazer, James.: The Golden Bough, Touchstone, 1963. Page 391
[S67] - Moor, Edward, The Hindu Pantheon, Simpson, p154
[S68] - Maxwell, Tice, Snow: That Old-Time Religion,The Book Tree, p43
[S69] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, p. 33
[S70] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 27
[S71] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Pages 189-190
[S72] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. p199,220-221,352-353
[S73] - Frazer, James.: The Golden Bough, Touchstone, 1963. Page 415-417
[S74] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Pages 154-155
[S75] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 10, 98
[S76] - Maxwell, Tice, Snow: That Old-Time Religion,The Book Tree, p41
[S77] - Roy, S.B: Prehistoric Lunar Astronomy, Institute of Chronology, New Delhi, 1976 p.114
[S78] - Bonswick, James: Egyption Belief and Modern Thought, p. 174
[S79] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 495-508
[S80] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 483-492
[S81] - Olcott, William Tyler : Suns Lore of All Ages, The Book Tree, 1914. chapter IX
[S82] - Hall, Manly P.: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. Page 183
[S83] - Doane, Thomas: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 496
[S84] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. Pages 166-183
[S85] - Higgins, Godfrey: Anacalypsis, A&B Books. Pages 781-782
[S86] - Anderson, Karl: Astrology of the Old Testamate, Health Re. p18
[S87] - Jackson, John: Christianity before Christ, AAP, p. 185
[S88] - Campbell, Jospeh: Creative Mytholigy- The Masks of God, Penguin, p 24-25
[S89] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, p 363
[S90] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.218
[S91] - Maxwell, Tice, Snow: That Old-Time Religion,The Book Tree, p41
[S92] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, John 9:5
[S93] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matthew 28:6
[S94] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman John 14:3
[S95] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, 2 Corinthians 4:6
[S96] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Romans 13:12
[S97] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, John 3:3
[S98] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Mark 13:26
[S99] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, John 3:13
[S100] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, John 19:5
[S101] - Hall, Manly P.: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. Page 53-54
[S102] - A.L. Berger; Obliquity & Precession for the last 5 million years; Astronomy & astrophysics (1976), p127
[S103] - Campion, Nicholas: The Great Year: Astrology, Millenarianism, and History in the Western Tradition, Penguin
[S104] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precession_of_the_equinoxes
[S105] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Aquarius
[S106] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Exodus 32-34
[S107] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Exodus 32:27
[S108] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_calf#The_Sin_of_Idolatry
[S109] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.146
[S110] -Wagner, Leopold: Manners, Customs, and Observances; Jewish Fasts and Festivals 1894 # 403
[S111] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, p16-17
[S112] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. p 127
[S113] - Hall, Manly P.: The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. P 55
[S114] - Dowling, Eva S. A, Ph.D: Scribe to the Messenger, p 6
[S115] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, p 30
[S116] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, John 6:9-11
[S117] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matthew 4:19
[S118] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.146
[S119] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.146-147
[S120] - Leedom, Tim.: The Book your Church Doesnt Want You to Read, Truth Seeker,. p.25
[S121] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matthew 28:20
[S122] - Maxwell, Tice, Snow: That Old-Time Religion,The Book Tree, p44
[S123] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, p 282, 366
[S124] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 1-10
[S125] - Massey, Gerald.: Lectures, A & B, p 7-8
[S126] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.265-274
[S127] - Wells, G.A.: Who was Jesus?, Open Court 1991 p179
[S128] - Jackson, John: Christianity before Christ, AAP, p. 109-118
[S129] - Budge. Sir. E.A. Wallis: The Gods of the Egyptions Vol I, Methuen and Co. p566-599
[S130] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, p 394-403
[S131] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 122,190,213,222,256,327,363,476,484
[S132] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.115-116
[S133] - Jackson, John: Christianity before Christ, AAP, p. 110-112
[S134] - Massey, Gerald.: The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, The Book Tree, . Pages 32-35
[S135] - Massey, Gerald.: Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Page 663-671
[S136] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.237-239
[S137]
-Walker, Barbara: Women's Encyplodia of Myths and Secrets, p. 315
[S138]
-Thompson, R. Campbell (tr. by ): The Epic of Gilgamish, 1928
[S139]
- Budge. Sir. E.A. Wallis: The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish, 1929
[S140]
- Teeple, Howard M.: The Noah's Ark Nonsense, Religion and Ethics Institute, 1978
[S141] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Exodus 2:1-10
[S142] - Blavatsky, H. P.: The Secret Doctrine Vol 1, p 319-320
[S143] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.241-243
[S144] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Exodus 20:2-17
[S145] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 55-61
[S146] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.241
[S147] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 60
[S148] - Graham, Lloyd, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, Citidel, 1991, p. 147
[S149] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Pages 526-528
[S150] - Budge. Sir. E.A. Wallis: The Book of the Dead, Gramercy, Chapter CXXV
[S151] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 319-321
[S152] - Budge. Sir. E.A. Wallis: The Book of the Dead, Gramercy, p66
[S153] - Budge. Sir. E.A. Wallis: The Book of the Dead, Gramercy, Chapter CXXV
[S154] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p99-148
[S155] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p84, 197-198,200, 202, 213, 215
[S155] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p888-893
[S156] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 181-205
[S157] - Maxwell, Tice, Snow: That Old-Time Religion,The Book Tree, p51-53
[S158] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p942, 951-952
[S159] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 85-87
[S160] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, Book 4, p149-196
[S161] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics , p92 180, 192, 26-266
[S162] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.237-239
[S163] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World , Cosimo, p130, 228, 274, 584-585, 859, 870, 880
[S164] - Olcott, William Tyler : Suns Lore of All Ages, The Book Tree, 1914. chapter IX
[S165] - Bonwick, James: Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, C. Kegan, 1878, p.237
[S166] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p888, 797 [* also see S163]
[S167] - Martyr, Justin: First Apology / The Apostolic Fathers: Martyr and Irenaeus by Philip Schaff. Eerdmans Pub.
[S168] - Martyr, Justin: I Apol., chs. xxi, xxii; ANF. i, 170; cf. Add. ad Grace. ch. lxix; Ib. 233.
[S169] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, Chapter 3 -"Diabolical Mimicry"
[S170] - Doane, Thomas.: Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 466-507
[S171] - Churchward, Albert: The Origin & Evolution of Religion, p 404-409
[S172] - Carpenter, Edward: Pagan and Christian Creeds, DODO Press, Chaper II & III
[S173] - Massey, Gerald. :Ancient Egypt The Light of The World ,Cosimo Classics, p563-622
[S174] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. Chapters II, III, IV
[S175] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Gen. 30:22-24
[S176] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matt. 1:18-23
[S177] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Gen. 42:13
[S178] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matt. 10-1
[S179] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Gen. 37:28
[S180] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matt. 26:15
[S181] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Gen. 37:26-27
[S182] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matthew 26:14-15
[S183] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Gen. 37:28
[S184] - King James Version, The Holy Bible, Holman, Matthew 26:15
[S185] - Murdock, D.M. - Who was Jesus?, Steller House Publishing, Chapter "Extrabiblical Testimony"
[S186] - Remsburg, John E.: The Christ Myth, Nuvision Pub, p 17-30
[S187] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, p. 133-139
[S188] - Doherty, Earl: The Jesus Puzzle, A&R,p78

[S189] - Acharya S.: Suns of God , Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004. p381-388
[S190] - Doherty, Earl: The Jesus Puzzle, A&R, Chapter 2
[S191] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, Chapter 7
[S192] - Murdock, D.M. - Who was Jesus?, Steller House Publishing, 2005
[S193] - Remsburg, John E.: The Christ Myth, Nuvision Pub, Chapter 1
[S194] - Allegro, John - The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, Prometheus Books, 190-203
[S195] - Massey, Gerald. : Lectures- Gnostic amd Historic Christianity,Cosimo Classics, p. 73-104
[S196] - Freke & Gandy: The Jesus Mysteries, Three Rivers Press, p 89-110, 253-256
[S197] - Acharya S.: The Christ Conspiracy, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999. p.340-342



What do we notice about this list of sources? Not a single one of these authors and sources are experts in the Bible, Biblical history, the Ancient Near East, Egyptology, or any of the cognate fields. Many of these sources are quite old, and the arguments they present have long since been shown to be weak. Frazer's venerable work The Golden Bough will perhaps be the most familiar of all the sources cited, and some of you may have heard of poor John Allegro, who tried to argue that the Christian movement arose out of an early mushroom cult. His work was laughed out of the guild along time ago, and this is sad since he did do some interesting work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which by the way, do not comment on, nor have anything to do with the origins of the Jesus movement itself,l except very tangentially if (and it is an if) John the Baptizer may have been connected with the Essenes.

The point of my listing these sources is that they are not reliable sources of information about the origins of Christianity, Judaism, or much of anything else of relevance to this discussion. 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, still, in a syncretistic argument one must posit the origins of the Jewish ideas on the basis of some other religion, which is equally mythological. And in such an argument it is important which is the chicken and which the egg.

Zoroastrianism also comes into play here in these sources, as the supposed origins of Judaism or Christianity. Of course the problem with this is, we have no ancient sources on Zoroaster that pre-date Christian sources, much less that pre-date Jewish sources like the Dead Sea Scrolls. None. It is an open question historically whether and what can be known at all about Zoroaster and the origins of the religion named after him. What we can say is, there is no hint of any direct influence of either that religion or Egyptian religion per se, in the Old Testament or New Testament. You will not be finding seminars at the national SBL meeting on how Zoroastrian religion and Egyptian religion explains all we need to know about the origins of Biblical religion.
Indeed, what you can find in the Bible is the deconstruction of other culture's myths, or better said the demythologizing of such material, by Biblical writers doing polemics. George Earnest Wright, from whom I learned much at Harvard used to stress that Jews were not on the whole a myth-making people. He was right about this. They grounded their stories in history, particularly what has come to be called salvation history. And when they used mythological images (like e.g. the image of the great sea monster Leviathan) they used them in historical ways. A good example of this sort of practice is some of the material we find in the book of Revelation. Rev. 12 tells the tale about a woman, representing an historical group people, with a dragon on her tale, trying to destroy her son, and when that failed, then her. Mythological images are certainly being used here, from the old combat myths (see my Revelation commentary). But what is interesting about the usage is that the mythological images are used to serve historical purposes-- the author believes not only there is a historical people of God, he believes there is a real spiritual being called Satan, and he uses the most gnarly mythological images he can find to describe him. This is called demythologizing mythological images and using them for other and historical purposes.

Finally, you will notice as well that Mr. Joseph has not bothered to consult any expert commentators on the Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible. He simply cites the King James Version when he wants to talk about the Bible.

Of course Peter Joseph is that increasingly popular kind of writer and movie producer-- the conspiracy theory specialist (think Dan Brown on steroids). His essential argument is that the truth about the mythological origins of all religions has been suppressed for oh so long. His argument is that all savior figures are anthropological projections, creating a religious myth. He also wants to see them all whether Mithra or Jesus or someone else as all fictional creations. He is especially angry about elitism-- his view is that the myth of Judaism and Christianity was imposed on the world from the top down, and we are still suffering from this sort of elitist thinking. So, in his view Jesus did not exist and we have all been lied to about this matter.
So of course Peter Joseph is also regaling us with the theory that his theories have been suppressed, and his film black-listed. If you go on Youtube and look up comments on the Zeitgeist movie, including a radio interview with Joseph, and a brief comment by that true pundit, Keith Olbermann, you will see that not only is this movie about conspiracies, this movie is seen as the victim of a suppression 'conspiracy'.

Never mind it is a bad movie based on shabby 'research' ( I use the term loosely) and actually no historical understanding about Jesus and the origins of Christianity. Never mind that Mr. Joseph can't tell the difference between arguments about the myth of the Easter bunny and arguments about Jesus Christ. He's got his knickers all in a knot because his 'truth' is being suppressed. It has not occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, thoughtful people who know far more than he does about this subject are very kindly letting his bad movie die a slow death, as it did not deserve worldwide attention and fame and fortune. The problem with syncretistic thinking like Joseph's is that you put all sorts of disparate sources and information into your mental blender and blend them all together. Thus the Jesus myth and conspiracy is likened by him to the cover up of 911 conspiracy and so on. The sad part about this is that it is just emoting and anger masked as and pretending to be historical research and scientific evidence. The sad part he believes that he is the victim of the suppression of free speech.

But back to the movie itself. An unknown voice at the beginning of the film tells us that religious institutions of this world are at the bottom of the conspiracy to suppress humankind in order to support the rich elite establishment'. This at the heart of the argument of this film. Government is being accused of taking authority as the truth, rather than truth as their authority, and using religion as the tool to support repressive regimes and false ideologies and myths. Religion is seen as the ultimate source of b.s. in our world, and of course particularly the Christian religion.

About ten minutes into the film we get the 'lowdown' on 'The Greatest Story (aka fib) ever told'. This is the part of the film I am concerned with, and the rest of the post will deal with it. The story begins by informing us that cultures have always personified and anthropomorphized the sun and stars, depicting them as people. This is partially true, but it certainly isn't an explanation for the origins of Hebrew religion, which kept critiquing sun and moon god worship, denied there were multiple deities in the heavens, and ridiculed the notion that stars were gods who controlled one's fate. If one reads the OT carefully, you will notice that the sun and moon are seen as controlled by Yahweh. And when the subject of sons of God, the one true God does come up the phrase in Gen. 5 refers to fallen angels who mate with human women, and later in the OT it refers to the king, and finally to the last great king-- the messiah. There is nothing whatsoever in any of this that is remotely close to the idea of sun worship, or seeing the sun itself as a deity. And while we are at it-- there is no reason to associate the word sun with the word son, and simply blend together all ideas about both in antiquity. But this sort of syncretistic thinking is at the heart of this film, and it leads to massive distortions of religious history.
The analysis of Egyptian mythology in the film has a very few things right, fortunately about Horus and Set, the sun god and his antithesis. Unfortunately it gets most of the story of Horus wrong. He claims the Horus myth says he was born on Dec. 25th, born of a virgin, star in the east, worshipped by kings, and was a teacher by 12. This he claims was the original form of the myth in 3000 B.C. It would be nice to know how Mr. Joseph learned this, since we don't have any ancient Egyptians texts that go back that far on this matter. Furthermore this disinformation he gives in the film is refuted by numerous analysis of the proper sources. See for example the entry in Wikipedia, part of which I give you below. Notice in particular the section on the conception of Horus by Isis. There is no virginal conception, but again not only is Mr. Joseph guilty of falsely blending together various different religions which developed largely regionally and independently of each other, he is actually guilty of falsifying some of the claims made in the Egyptian myths (see below). What follows between the dash lines is the Wiki info and it is basically correct, Mr. Joseph's polemic--- not so much. Ironically he does a disservice to all the religions he discusses.

-------------

Sky god

This is thought to be the original form of Horus.[3] His name meaning 'high' or 'distant' reflects his sky nature. He was seen as a great falcon with outstretched wings whose right eye was the sun and the left one was the moon. One of the sky-god forms of Horus was 'Nekheny' (meaning 'he of Nekhen' or Hierakonopolis).

[edit] Sun god

ḥr.w "Horus"

in hieroglyphs
H Hr
r

Since Horus was said to be the sky, it was natural that he soon was considered also to contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was one of his eyes and the moon the other, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Thus he became known as Harmerty - Horus of two eyes.[4] and Heru-khuti (in Egyptian) seem to be none other than Horus Later, the reason that the moon was not so bright as the sun was explained by a new tale, known as the contestings of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 B.C. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually the deities sided with Horus.

A painting of the god Ra-Horakhty wearing the symbol for Wadjet, the cobra sun deity, as a crown - typically the symbol remains, but the names of the deities performing the function change as new cults arise
A painting of the god Ra-Horakhty wearing the symbol for Wadjet, the cobra sun deity, as a crown - typically the symbol remains, but the names of the deities performing the function change as new cults arise

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr 'Horus the Great'), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus' left eye also had been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun. It also was said that during a new-moon, Horus had become blinded and was titled Mekhenty-er-irty (mḫnty r ỉr.ty 'He who has no eyes'), while when the moon became visible again, he was re-titled Khenty-er-irty (ḫnty r ỉr.ty 'He who has eyes'). While blind, it was considered that Horus was quite dangerous, sometimes attacking his friends after mistaking them for enemies.

rˁ-ˁḫr-3iḫṯ "
Re-Harachte"

in hieroglyphs
G9

Ultimately, as another sun god, Horus became identified with Ra as Ra-Herakhty rˁ-ˁḫr-3iḫṯ, literally Ra, who is Horus of the two horizons. However, this identification proved to be awkward, for it made Ra the son of Hathor, and therefore a created being rather than the creator. And, even worse, it made Ra into Horus, who was the son of Ra, i.e. it made Ra his own son and father, in a standard sexually-reproductive manner, an idea that would not be considered comprehensible to the Egyptians until the Hellenic era. Consequently Ra and Horus never completely merged into a single falcon-headed sun god.

Nevertheless the idea of making the identification persisted as with most of the symbols used in ancient Egyptian religion, and Ra continued to be depicted as falcon-headed. Likewise, as Ra-Herakhty, in an allusion to the Ogdoad creation myth, Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother, Hathor. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephoros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning 'The Good Horus'.

In an attempt to resolve the conflict in the myths, Ra-Herakhty was occasionally said to be married to Iusaaset, which was said to be his shadow, having previously been Atum's shadow, before Atum was identified as Ra, in the form Atum-Ra, and thus of Ra-Herakhty when Ra was also identified as a form of Horus. In much earlier myths Iusaaset, meaning: (the) great (one who) comes forth, was seen as the mother and grandmother of all of the deities. In the version of the Ogdoad creation myth used by the Thoth cult, Thoth created Ra-Herakhty, via an egg, and so was said to be the father of Neferhor.

[edit] Conception

Horus, (Louvre Museum), 'Shen rings' in his grasp
Horus, (Louvre Museum), 'Shen rings' in his grasp

Isis had Osiris' body returned to Egypt after his death; Set had retrieved the body of Osiris and dismembered it into 14 pieces which he scattered all over Egypt. Thus Isis went out to search for each piece which she then buried. This is why there are many tombs to Osiris. The only part she did not find in her search was the genitals of Osiris which were thrown into a river by Set. She fashioned a substitute penis after seeing the condition it was in once she had found it and proceeded to have intercourse with the dead Osiris which resulted in the conception of Horus the child.[5]

[edit] Conflict between Horus and Set

By the Nineteenth dynasty, the previous brief enmity between Set and Horus, in which Horus had ripped off one of Set's testicles, was revitalised as a separate tale. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, Set was considered to have been homosexual and is depicted as trying to prove his dominance by seducing Horus and then having intercourse with him. However, Horus places his hand between his thighs and catches Set's semen, then subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Set. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set's favorite food (the Egyptians thought that lettuce was phallic). After Set has eaten the lettuce, they go to the deities to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The deities first listen to Set's claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answers from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the deities listen to Horus' claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answers from inside Set.[6] In consequence, Horus is declared the ruler of Egypt.

[edit] Brother of Isis

Horus

When Ra assimilated Atum into Atum-Ra, Horus became considered part of what had been the Ennead. Since in this version Atum had no wife and produced his children by masturbating de facto, Hathor was easily inserted as the mother of the previously "motherless" subsequent generation of children. However, Horus did not fit in so easily, since if he was identified as the son of Hathor and Atum-Ra in the Ennead, he would then be the brother of the primordial air and moisture, and the uncle of the sky and earth, between which there was initially nothing, which was not very consistent with his being the sun. Instead, he was made the brother of Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys, as this was the only plausible level at which he could meaningfully rule over the sun and the pharaoh's kingdom. It was in this form that he was worshipped at Behdet as Har-Behedti (also abbreviated Bebti).

Since Horus had become more and more identified with the sun since his identification as Ra, his identification as also being the moon suffered, so it was possible for the rise of other moon deities, without complicating the system of belief too much. Consequently, Chons became a new moon god. Thoth, who also had been a moon god, became much more associated with secondary mythological aspects of the moon, such as wisdom, healing, and peace making. When the cult of Thoth arose in power, Thoth was inserted into new versions of the earlier myths, making Thoth the one whose magic caused the semen of Set and Horus to respond--in the tale of the contestings of Set and Horus, for example.

Thoth's priests went on to explain how it could be possible that in older myths there were five children of Geb and Nut. They said that Thoth had prophesied the birth of a great king of the gods and so Ra, afraid of being usurped, had cursed Nut with not being able to give birth on any day in the year. In order to remove this curse, Thoth proceeded to gamble with Chons, winning 1/72nd of moonlight from him. Prior to this time in Egyptian history, the calendar had 360 days. The Egyptian calendar was reformed around this time and gained five extra days, so a new version of the myth was used to explain the five children of Nut. 1/72 portion of moonlight for each day corresponded to five extra days, and so the new tale states that Nut was able to give birth to her five children again, one on each of these extra days.

[edit] Mystery religion

Since recognition of Horus as the son of Osiris was only in existence after Osiris's death, and because Horus, in an earlier guise, was the husband of Isis, in later traditions, it came to be said that Horus was the resurrected form of Osiris.[citation needed] Likewise, as the form of Horus before his death and resurrection, Osiris, who had already become considered a form of creator when belief about Osiris assimilated that about Ptah-Seker, also became considered to be the only creator, since Horus had gained these aspects of Ra.

Eventually, in the Hellenic period, Horus was, in some locations, identified completely as Osiris, and became his own Father, since this concept was not so disturbing to Greek philosophy as it had been to that of ancient Egypt. In this form, Horus was sometimes known as Heru-sema-tawy (ḥr.w smȝ tȝ.wy 'Horus, Uniter of Two Lands').

Part of a menat necklace said to depict Hariesis (Horus) extending a sistrum in front of the goddess Sekhmet
Part of a menat necklace said to depict Hariesis (Horus) extending a sistrum in front of the goddess Sekhmet

By assimilating Hathor—who had herself assimilated Bat, who was associated with music and in particular, the sistrum—Isis was likewise, thought of in some areas in the same manner. This particularly happened amongst the groups who thought of Horus as his own father, and so Horus, in the form of the son, amongst these groups often became known as Ihy (alternately: Ihi, Ehi, Ahi, Ihu), meaning "sistrum player", which allowed the confusion between the father and son to be side-stepped. A supplicant depicted on an Egyptian menat necklace is said to depict Hariesis (Horus) extending a sistrum in front of the goddess Sekhmet, an earlier sun deity who also was seen as an aspect of Hathor.

The combination of this, now rather esoteric new mythology, with the philosophy of Plato, which was becoming popular on the Mediterranean shores, lead to the tale becoming the basis of a mystery religion. Many Greeks, and those of other nations, who encountered the faith, thought it so profound that they sought to create their own, modelled upon it, but using their own deities. This led to the creation of what was effectively one religion, which was, in many places, adjusted to reflect, albeit superficially, the local mythology although it substantially adjusted them. The new religion is known to modern scholars as that of Osiris-Dionysus.

-------------------------

I could go on about the egregious errors in his presentation of Horus, who was not called the lamb of God, and was not crucified and resurrected, even in the myth. The story of Horus is of course the story of the rebirth of the sun in east, and it is based on the cycles of nature, not on any sort of historical claims at all, unlike the story of Jesus. But more to the point the story of Horus does not include many of the elements that Joseph claims it does--- shame on him for not doing his homework properly even on Egyptology. I could go through Mithraism and Dionysius worship and Attis worship, and Krishan. but you can get to the bottom of these on your own time, even just by using Wikipedia and the sources it cites. Suffice it to say that it is not true that it was believed all these deities were born on Dec. 25th, and in any case the Bible never claims or suggests Jesus was born on such a date. This was a much later guess by church fathers, and is irrelvant to this discussion of Biblical origins. Nor is it true to say that all these stories have basically the same elements and pattern. One thing you can say about Mr. Joseph's film-- he is an equal opportunity distorter of world religions in general, its just that Christianity is the particular object of his ire.

HERE'S THE BIG POINT--- JOSEPH READS THE STORY OF JESUS BACK INTO THESE OTHER MYTHOLOGICAL STORIES, AND THEN CLAIMS-- SHAZAM-- THE STORY OF JESUS COMES FROM THESE OTHER STORIES, WHICH HE HAS ANACHRONISTICALLY READ IN LIGHT OF THE JESUS STORY. THIS IS BOTH BAD HISTORY AND BAD RELIGIOUS ANALYSIS. TO MY KNOWLEDGE THERE IS NO STORY THAT DATES FROM BEFORE THE TIME OF JESUS THAT HAS MOST OF THE SPECIFIC ELEMENTS LISTED IN THE FILM AS DISTINGUISHING THE JESUS STORY--- FOR EXAMPLE THE STORY OF A VIRGINAL CONCEPTION, CRUCIFIXION, OR BODILY RESURRECTION OF A DIVINE SON OF GOD. AND AGAIN, THE BIBLE SAYS NOTHING ABOUT THE SPECIFIC DATE OR TIME OF JESUS' BIRTH. MOST SCHOLARS THINK IT WAS IN THE SPRING DUE TO THE DESCRIPTION OF THE SHEPHERDS BEING IN THE FIELDS WITH THEIR SHEEP. AND ONE MORE THING. BOTH JEWISH HISTORIANS LIKE JOSEPHUS, AND ROMAN ONES LIKE TACTITUS AND LATER SUETONIUS ARE PERFECTLY CLEAR JESUS ACTUALLY EXISTED, AND TACITUS TELLS US HE DIED ON A CROSS, BEING EXECUTED UNDER PILATE. APPARENTLY MR. JOSEPH COULDN'T EVEN GIVE THIS ONE FACT STRAIGHT. THERE IS MORE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS THAN THERE IS FOR THE HISTORICAL EXISTENCE OF JULIUS CAESAR FOR EXAMPLE.

One of the things the Zeitgeist movie does not tell you is that the Hebrews already long since had a religion when they went to Egypt both in the time of Joseph and in the time of Moses. And those who are experts in ancient Hebrew religion will tell you that the differences between a monotheistic or henotheistic religion that grounded in historical persons and actions, and the Egyptian mythology which is grounded in the cycles of nature, the rising and setting of the sun, the motions of the stars, etc. are considerable. Consider for example the ancient poem in the Psalms-- Ps. 8. The sun, the moon and the stars are all seen by the psalmist as but the works of God's fingers, like a child molding things out of playdough. The Biblical God is a God of creation, one who has made all things that exist. In that same psalm we see that human beings are the crown of God's creation, created in God's image. Notice the anti-anthropomorphic theology here. God is not the sun, he does not have a son that is the sun, indeed creation is simply something that the one God has made. Now the important part about this is that it desacralizes nature. Nature is not a god or gods, it is not divine, and neither are human beings as human beings. What 'Zeitgeist' of course does not tell you is that this sort of Judaeo-Christian idea about the world and its creatures is the basis of modern science, which assumes that creation is not God, and therefore is not defiled by inquiry, scientific examination and the like. The attempt to portray Biblical religion as anti-science, knows neither the origins of Biblical religion nor the origins of modern science. Let me add to this that we must not make the mistake of assuming that just because some churches or Christians along the way have been anti-intellectual and indeed have suppressed truth about various matters, including scientific ones (a fact which cannot be denied, sadly), this has nothing whatsoever to do with the prior question of the origins of Biblical religion or for that matter the origins of modern science. Those questions need to be assessed on their own merits. Conspiracies and suppressions by Popes tell us nothing about the truth of Biblical religion or science. It's just a case of Christian behaving badly.

A few more of the messes on aisle three of this film need to be cleared up. The scholarly work on the star in the east, if it is historical, and most scholars think it may be, centers on the conjunction of planets, specifically Jupiter and Venus (see e.g. the movie the Nativity which actually gets this bit right). It does not center on Sirius, the dog star. Bethlehem certainly does mean the house of bread. It has nothing to do with the constellation Virgo, which indeed is short for virgin. It has to do with this region being fertile enough to support both grass and wheat- hence shepherds and farmers. And while we are at it-- Jesus' mother's name is Miryam-- from the OT sister of Moses, Miriam. Maria or Mary is simply our anglicized way of referring to that name. The attempt to explain the origins of the story of the death and resurrrection of Jesus on the basis of the winter solstice and what happens on Dec. 22-25 would be laughable if Mr. Joseph wasn't serious. First of all, the Gospels are clear that Jesus was not in the tomb for three whole days, only parts of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Were there an attempt by the Evangelists to conform this to some astrological phenomena or pattern, this is inexplicable.

Secondly, as I have said, there is no association in the NT of either the death or the resurrection of Jesus with the winter solstice or what happens then. The story of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection are not told in light of such thinking about the winter solstice at all. Indeed the notion of resurrection had long existed in Judaism before the time of Jesus (see e.g. Dan. 12.1-2), and was not concocted in light of astrology or any other nature religion. This is a key point-- nature religions are indeed grounded in the cycle of the seasons, and focus on fertility gods etc. This is very different from religions based on history and revelation or prophecy. But the syncretism of Mr. Joseph will not allow that there are different types of world religions, and differing origins for them as well.

What about the claim that the twelve disciples represent the 12 constellations of the Zodiac? Well once again, Mr. Joseph has not bothered to do his homework. There was this little entity called the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to Jacob and his 12 sons. Those stories in Genesis are not astrological in character at all, but rather are explanations of a historical origins of a people. The 12 disciples are chosen by Jesus, not because he was a stargazer, but because he was attempting to reform, and indeed re-form Israel. The twelve disciples represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and you will remember that Jesus promised that at the eschaton they will be sitting on 12 thrones, judging those 12 tribes. Once more, this is a sort of historical and eschatological thinking, not a sort of astrological thinking, and the claim that the Bible has more to do with astrology than anything else, can only be called a category mistake. Clearly, Mr. Joseph has done no work whatsoever in the study of the various genre of Biblical literature which he could hjave gotten from any standard introduction to the Bible, even those written by agnostics and skeptics. The moral here is-- don't make a movie of this ilk, unless you have first carefully done fact check-- he hasn't!!


The origins of the symbol of the cross. Here again Mr. Joseph thinks it derives from the cross in the Zodiac imposed on the circle of the 12 astrological signs of the Zodiac. There are various problems with this theory. First of all consider the most basic ancient zodiac pattern we have-- for example in the floor of the synagogue at Sepphoris. Jews, like ever other group of agrarian peoples were interested in the weather and the seasons. Do we find a cross pattern? No. See the picture of the Zodiac posted at the top of this blog entry. My point is symbol. Mr. Joseph has done no first hand historical work on ancient Zodiac symbols, he has simply believed the pablum he has imbibed from various of his out-dated, and inaccurate sources. The origin of the symbol of the cross of course derives from the Roman practice of crucifixion, not from some supposed astrological pattern. Jesus died in 30 A.D. on a cross outside of Jerusalem, a victim of Roman injustice as even the Romans admitted.

What about the date of the turn of the era? Much is made by Mr. Joseph about how in 1 A.D. a new 'age' or astrological cycle begins, after the age of the Ram. Unfortunately for Mr. Joseph, Jesus was born somewhere between 2-6 B.C. He was not born in 1 A.D. How do we know this? Because Jesus was born whilst Herod the Great was still king of the Holy land, and the records are clear that Herod died about 2 B.C. ergo Jesus had to be born before then (see my articles on these matters in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels). How then do we have our modern calendar? Well it was set by a gentleman named Dionysius the short, or as I like to call him Denny the dwarf, who had to much time on his hands, and estimated the turn of the era to be at the juncture we now have it, based on when he thought Jesus was born. he was off by four or so years. In any case, the birth of Jesus transpires before the supposed turn of the ages in the astrological schema touted by Mr. Joseph. Jesus's birth certainly did not usher in the age of Pisces or the fish. The fish symbol comes into Christianity from the gematric value of the Greek word ICHTHUS-- with each letter standing for a word, in this case Insous, Christos, theos, uios and soter-- Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior. It would be nice as well if at least he could get the astrology and symbology part right-- but alas, abandon hope, he hasn't even properly done his homework on that subject either.

Does Moses represent the new age of Ares? Nope. Was the golden calf an attempt to worship Taurus the bull constellation? Probably not. Do Jews blow a ram's horn because Moses threw his tablets down in disgust at the worship of Taurus and inaugurated the age of the Ram? I am sure Moses would be surprised to hear it. And one more thing. We really do not have ancient sources on Mithra, comparable to what we have on Moses and the Israelites. Most of what we know about Mithraism comes from the NT era and later. There is no good historical reason to think Mithraism is the origins of either Judaism or Christianity.

I could go on, and on, but this post is more than long enough. There is only one possible conclusion about the Zeitgeist movie. Mr. Joseph himself has drunk deeply from the increasingly pagan zeitgeist of our age, and unfortunately he has believed what he has consumed. He has believed and now propagated numerous historical, philosophical, and ideological falsehoods. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he is not just a prankster, but one who is simply angry with religion in general. The fact is of course that many people agree with him, and so the popularity of his video.

My word to the viewers of such a film in a Jesus haunted culture which is Biblically illiterate is the advice of my grandmother long ago--- "don't be so open minded that your brains fall out." Check everything carefully, especially outlandish historical claims, even if you can't do more than read Wikipedia entries. You will discover that Mr. Joseph is like that ancient emperor--- he may have thought he was wearing the latest fashion, and was intellectually well clothed in the robes of truth, but in fact, this imperialistic film maker has no clothes. His myths are easy to deconstruct.

57 comments:

Israel said...

Interesting.

In the movie it is claimed the works of Josephus are knowingly fraudulent and yet still being used today when scholars know they are a fraud.

Any comments on this?

Matt said...

Ben,

Thanks for these comments. I've felt many of the same frustrations you articulate when interacting with atheist friends, whether in private conversations, on internet discussion forums, or in debates. Especially vexing is the problem of using reliable, up-to-date scholarship, because it frequently leaves interaction at a frustratingly low level--i.e. whether or not Jesus ever existed.

The nature of authority is really the question here, isn't it? If you're convinced Jesus never existed, then the vast majority of serious scholarly work published in the past quarter-century or longer will just be "part of the conspiracy," and arguments involving mushrooms will begin to look pretty appealing.

Incidentally, not to split hairs, but Lyotard is a Jean-Francois, not a Jean-Pierre, isn't he? Though Jean-Pierre does have a bit nicer ring to it.

Nehemias said...

Dr. Witherington,

The main "sources" of the zeitgest movie:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Massey
Gerald Massey (1828-1907), quoted 29 times in the movie.
Books:
The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ (1887)
Ancient Egypt The Light of The World (1907)

http://www.archive.org/details/biblemythsandthe00doanuoft
Thomas W Doane (1852-1885), quoted 19 times.
Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions (1882)

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author:Edward_Carpenter
Edward Carpenter (1844-1920), quoted 9 times
Pagan and Christian Creeds (1920).

And also Charles Dupois (1742-1809), Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833), James Bonwick (1817-1906), Thomas Paine.

Ms. D.M Murdock (aka Acharya S) was the consultant of this part of the movie. She was cited 24 times. Another important "sources" were Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Jordan Maxwell, and Manly P. Hall.

They forget Dan Brown...

Nehemias

Ben Witherington said...

The works of Josephus are certainly not fraudulent. As is typical of Mr. Joseph he may have heard there are probably some Christian interpolations in the later editions of Josephus, since Christians loved and used the work, but all of the Josephus scholars I know in the gild, and there are some good ones (Greg Sterling and Steve Mason come to mind) are quite clear that these are genuine works from Josephus. The important point for our purposes is that no Josephus scholar, known to me, including Jewish ones, thinks that the passages in his works about John the Baptizer and Jesus are all later interpolations.

BW3

Shea Cole said...

um.. are they serious...hahaha... i watched the video.. uh.. i feel like i just traveled to planet Zargon and went to their local McDonald's for an ice cream cone.. random I know, but so was that weird video.. ben help us

Philip said...

Recently, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) aired a documentary called "The Pagan Christ", based on a book by Tom Harpur. The central theses of the book are that Jesus did not exist and the stories about him were based on Egyptian myths. Many people are falling for this, much like they did with The Da Vinci Code.

http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/paganchrist.html
http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/discussion/2007/11/the_pagan_christ.html#more

Stanley E. Porter and Stephen J. Bedard wrote a book refuting Harpur's book. It's called "Unmasking the Pagan Christ."

Matt said...

Thank you for talking about this.

Someone forwarded this link to me a while back but I couldn't stomach my way through the whole film. I will pass this on. God bless and keep up the good work.

Joel Joslin said...

I think early anti-Christian also polemics are a pretty strong argument against the "Christianity was ripped off from pagan religions" theory. If that were true, after all, Celsus would probably have found the Christian doctrines to be familiar rather than unnatural, alien, and offensive. The fact that he found Christianity so repugnant for these reasons show that a lot of it was new to pagans.

Steve Bedard said...

Thanks for posting on this. Stan Porter and I have worked against this theory as well. It is frustrating that people accept these bizarre ideas. However, in the end it does not matter to some people what the facts are, some people find conspiracy theories and attacks on authority too appealing.

Ben Witherington said...

A good way to look at this movie in perspective is with the aid of the old adage--'he who marries the spirit of the age (the zeitgeist) will soon find himself a widower'. There is nothing so temporary as 'relevance'.
This too will pass.

BW3

bethel said...

Dear Ben,

Thanks for this - our 'post-modern' culture is wont to spew out nonsensical or barely (and badly) researched pieces that are widely publicized by the media, and the onus is on Christians to answer the charge. We are blessed to have you and others to cut through the chaff and reinforce the sound basis of our faith.

Just like what you did for NT history, what do you recommend for a socio-political introduction to OT history in its various phases? (i.e. conquest, kingdom, exile, etc) What got me interested in the subject was the political and military context that shaped Isaiah’s prophetic ministry to a very troubled Israel – sandwitched as she was between the machinations of the surrounding great powers. In this instance, having some insight to the underlying context of great power maneuverings certainly made passages such as Isaiah 40-41 more poignant.

Agape & Blessings,
Keith

Ben Witherington said...

Keith I think you have me stumped on that one. Ask my colleague Bill_Arnold@asburyseminary.edu. He will surely know.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Chris said...

Dr. Witherington,

You wrote, "The important point for our purposes is that no Josephus scholar, known to me, including Jewish ones, thinks that the passages in his works about John the Baptizer and Jesus are all later interpolations."

On John the Baptist I agree. But my impression is almost all non-fundamentalist scholars believe that Jesus passages are interpolations. Am I wrong?

Thanks, -Chris

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Chris:

You are absolutely wrong. For instance, all my friends who are Jewish Bible scholars (e.g. A.J. Levine) certainly believe Josephus spoke of Jesus.

Blessings,

BW3

Richard said...

the fact that the arabic translations of antiquities mention Jesus, without some of the theological additions made by christian editiors (ie some copies of antiquites that say he was the messiah), i think shows that its more than likely genuine. the question is more what jospehus thought about Jesus and what might seem to be added to latter editions.

Ben Witherington said...

Yes, Josephus was not a Christian, and he calls Jesus a wise man who did miracles, which is about what one would expect him to say.

Nick said...

Excellently said. Excellent. I have heard so many people shouting this movie. My roommate and I just laughed endlessly at it. It's sadly seen as the strongest evidence that the Jesus story is a myth.

Nick said...

My roommate and I laughed so much at this one. Great work. We need more people high-up who know about this to comment. I'm seeing too many people cite this movie as evidence against Christianity and it needs to be addressed.

I apologize if I posted twice. I don't think it took my first time.

ArgentinaDixit said...

I'm sorry Ben. What an old and fool tricky way to critic the other sources and not offer arguments at all. Start by give us Evidence (yes, evidence) of what zeitgeist say is wrong.

Carl Sagan (yes, an atheist but a brilliant mind too) said: "You can't convince a believer of nothing at all, because his believe is not based on Evidence, just based on a deep need to believe".

People can believe anything they want. But the fact, evidence and truth is a completely different thing sometimes from what people need to believe.

Have you ever reduce your entirely universe of thinking to a minimal point?
Did you find that the only thing that remains after that is your faith?
Did you ever analized your faith?
Did you check your faith in terms of truth and lie?

You have to find and seek the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Need a little bit more than attack other sources to convice people.
Need evidences.

Cheers.
Diego.
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ben Witherington said...

Hola Diego:
What I have done in this limited post is shown the fradulent nature of this movie, and what poor and indeed distorted evidence it is based on. I quite agree with you that positive evidence is needed to present a case for a different worldview, but that was not the point of this post. I have provided many such evidences in my some 30 books, so now it is your turn to go and assess them. I would suggest you start with my book New Testament History, and when you finish that, we can talk again, and I will commend more sources to you.

In the meantime, lets please not cite Carl Sagan as a supporter of theories of this movie, because he would have repudiated them as based on bad and unscientific evidence frankly. Sagan also knew better than to say that believers only have their faith to hang on to, not empirical evidence. This would be a complete caricature of the Christian faith. You might enjoy reading Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ.

Felice Navidad to you and yours in Argentina,

Ben Witherington

Tom said...

I was curious about the "man with the pitcher of water". Do you know what Jesus meant by saying this?


Great blog by the way.

Tom said...

Disregard my last comment, I failed to read the whole passage, and now I understand.

Ron Pavellas said...

I was getting very depressed while watching this video. A few things occurred to be along the way:
1. Why was it necessary to deconstruct Jesus, or Jesus as The Christ, in order to make the points about the Federal Reserve and the other alleged conspiracies? (I am not a Christian, nor do I profess any particular faith). I found the history of the various religions interesting, but irrelevant.
2. The makers of this video are using the very same means in their attempt to convince us as those whom they charge with manipulating us, the gullible public.
3. The comments about the physics of the collapse of the World Trade Towers were impressive, but I am not qualified to evaluate them. Does anyone here have opinions based in their own knowledge and experience in physics and related engineering disciplines?
4. I did a Google search on "Peter Joseph Zeitgeist" in order to see if I could get a thread on the source of financing for this film and supporting organization. Everyone has a bias, and I want to evaluate this presentation in terms of the bias of the organization and its leaders, hence the need to know the source of financing. I haven't found a thread or link this info, but maybe I haven't tried hard enough. If one is to believe some of the high-minded phrases uttered here, there should be complete transparency as to the names of the leaders and the source of financing.
5. I agree with the soulful appeal to each of us as humans connected to all others, but this does not negate the primal influences of our genetic heritage to survive, and to gain sufficient power to get a mate, procreate and successfully nurture progeny--and to do what is deemed necessary to accomplish these ends. We have only recently discovered, as a species, the nature and power of rational/linear thought processes; we are still trying to reconcile this power with what is best for the survival of the species. Perhaps we will never know how to balance these. Perhaps the answer, if any, really is in the realm of Nature, or in a Supreme and unknowable Entity? I don't trust human organizations that claim to have all knowledge (or better knowledge) or goodness (or more goodness) on their side. Perhaps the "Zeitgeist" organization does not and will not claim such things and I am being unfair. Perhaps they are merely trying to wake us up, as many teachers in past have tried: G.I.Gurdjieff, Gautama Buddha, M.L. King, Jr. (I just read his marvelous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"), others that perhaps you here will name.
6. There, I'm feeling better now.
Ron Pavellas
http://pavellas.blogspot.com

Ryah said...

Ben,
I have two questions for you if you have the time to respond I would be very appreciative.
I am at this moment watching the film and I know that when I am finished I will be asked HUNDREDS of questions from my friends. I spent HOURS researching Da Vinci Code and am happy to say stomped that myth BUT this one has given me much more trouble and worry.
According to my friends I am the ONLY Christian they can talk to. I stand firm in my belief of Jesus Christ and don't feel that this movie makes me slip.

I keep researching apologetics (many) in search of finding historical documentation on the existence of Jesus written before his death. In almost all of the apologetics I have read the author states (something to the effect of) as stated in yours “THERE IS MORE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS THAN THERE IS FOR THE HISTORICAL EXISTENCE OF JULIUS CAESAR FOR EXAMPLE.” But then all the “historical” evidence posted is either from the bible or random documents from individuals none of these writings pre date Jesus. Some of the apologetics agree that there is a historical gap of 40 years where there is no documentation. Documentation begins after His death. I have heard many of the documentation arguments and have come to the personal conclusion that there is NO historical documentation that predates the death of Christ. This doesn’t shake my faith, hence the concept of faith.

Bringing me to question one:

1. Is there any actual historical documentation that predates the death of Jesus to acknowledge his existence?

I agree with you that there are many “facts” in this movie that are wrong as some of the loose translations of biblical text can be perceived as factually changed or wrong. Hence I agree with your suggestion that the original language rather than just King James should have been referenced when creating Zeitgeist. However, many of the ties that bind together these stories do fit, or at least at my ignorant stage of understanding they do. There ARE documented stories of “other” messiah’s; the bible later warns us against them. These little arguments of whether or not there have been Christ like stories keep us going round and round in a circle. With no other option, I have conceded that there are other documented Christ like stories. I have made the weak argument (no research to back it up) that perhaps the “Egyptians” were just reflecting prophecies of the Jews. Please don’t think that I am being confrontational I just don’t have the resources to find the answer. I have read your whole article and would just like a deeper understanding. I am sure I will read it at least two more times and many other apologetics about this movie. I know this seems like the chicken before the egg but in this case it matters. Who got the idea from whom?

Bringing me to question two:

2. Does Hebrew (Jewish) faith predate or coincide that of polytheistic worship? More specifically is there any documentation (outside of the bible) that predates hieroglyphics and other Egyptian works that reflects the prophecies of the coming Messiah?

All this said I am a believer in Christ and my foundation is solid. I know much about my faith and have a deep love for discussing all aspects of what I believe. BUT in this age of “proof” faith seems to appear ignorant so I search for documentation and answers that may never be found. On faith I stand on principal I continue to seek the documented face of God.
Thank you for your time. M

goeatpaiste said...

Not that I am the most knowledgeable about the subjects of religion, history, the fed, and 9/11, but I am pretty sure that anyone who says "I searched on the internet and could not find..." is a moron. If you are looking for facts, the internet is certainly not the place to find them due to the anonymity of posts. That said, this movie was 2 hours of my life I am not getting back. If you want to refute or affirm any of the accusations in the movie, go to your local college and talk to professors of physics, egyptology (which is very researched), and business. They will help you quickly realize that this movie is made up of mostly false assumptions and parallels. Like the movie would have you "search for your own truth", perhaps you should start by actually searching (bookstores, college professors, historians, clergy, etc.) rather than typing "www.google.com" into your shiny new propoganda device called computer.

Lycan21 said...

Dr Witherington,

I'd love to see you do a blog like this on a piece of literature called The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. He also argues for the non-existence of Jesus. His theory is mostly that of G.A. Wells with a little bit of a twist. Instead of the Apostle Paul viewing Jesus as a savior in the ancient past, he argues that Paul never even believed Jesus was a human man. Rather that Paul believed Jesus was killed in a Platonic "lower heaven". Were he was crucified by "the rulers of this age". He takes this to mean Satan and his demons, not Herod or Pilate. Then moving on to the second century, Jesus became associated with history for no apparent reason. Dr. Darrel Bock did something similar over on his blog at bible.org. If you have time, I'd actually like to know if you already know of this book, and if so, what did you think of it?

God Bless,
Tai

Jonis Graawe said...

What do you mean by the term "nature religions" ?

Does christianity, judaism, etc, have nothing to do with nature?
(both as a metaphor, but also empirical nature)

This is a typical christian way of seeing other religions, as a mere "primitive" way of "worshipping nature" even though, further studies shows that they are not worshipping "the nature" in it self, but gods, spirits, etc, living in the nature. (Like, when christians are not worshipping the cross....)

Moderador said...

Ben,

sorry for my english.It´s not my primary language.

You wrote: "I could go on about the egregious errors in his presentation of Horus, who was not called the lamb of God, and was not crucified and resurrected, even in the myth"

But the text you copied from wikipedia says "Likewise, as the form of Horus before his death and resurrection"

Isn´t Wikipedia contradicting what you wrote? Or did I miss something?

Thanks!

Ben Witherington said...

Moderator:

There was not such thing as the concept of bodily resurrection in Egyptian religion, and certainly not of a mythological deity, Horus, was not believed to have a human body. Sometimes commentators will use the term resurrection to speak loosely about an afterlife in another world, not a bodily return to this world. This is the case in the Wikipedia article

Ben W.

Evan said...

Mr. Witherington, you have no right criticizing the sources or the credibility of Mr. Joseph's sources while you go ahead and cite WIKIPEDIA! Not for nothing, I am a student in the UK, and I admittedly look at wikipedia from time to time, but if I ever cited wikipedia as a source for an argument, I am quite certain I would receive a severe penalty from any Professor, and the work would most certainly NOT be publishable! Anyway, I would just like to add my "two cents" and say that I am not necessarily anti-religious or atheistic, quite the contrary. I believe that it is just as difficult, if not MORE difficult to prove that "god" does NOT exist, however I am "skeptical of all attempts at mind control (J. Terra)." There are so many definitions and interpretations of "god" and it means so many different things to so many people, its useless squabbling and bickering about whether or not Jesus Christ actually existed because its beside the point. The point (in my humble opinion) is that Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. represent ENLIGHTENED human beings. What difference does it make whether he actually existed or not? Does he not still have something to teach us, like love, tolerance, forgiveness? It is unfortunate that religions claim exclusive rights to "god" and that they claim "Truth" or absolute Truth. I am going to have to agree with Nietzsche on that issue, who wrote that there is no such thing as "Truth" but "truths" or various interpretations of Truth. This is quite evident historically as there are many interpretations of historical events, record, myths, and even the bible itself. It is my opinion that people like Mr. Joseph are no different from the people they criticize, and all parties are guilty of claiming to know the Truth.

Billdo said...

Israel, Josephus wrote about 13 different people named "Jesus."

If you want to read a good book about Christianity go read the book by the researcher John Marco Allegro who was on the small team that deciphered The Dead Sea Scrolls which Christians claim proves the existance of their Jesus (Age Of Pisces) Sun God.. The book is called "The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross."

The Dead Sea Scrolls only prove that Christianity is a hoax like any other religion on earth. The Essenes had the same stories some 3,500 years before the Jesus myth (Age of Pisces.)

You see the Church has hijacked the concept of time itself. Time isn't based on the supposed appearance of a fictional character. Our system of time is derived from the Zodiac, which is based upon astronomy, the revolutions of the earth, the revolutions of the earth around the sun, and the revolutions of the sun around the milky way.

It takes some 25,800 years for the Sun to go completely around the Milky Way and align with its galactic center. During these 25,800 years it goes through the 12 ages of of the zodiac which goes backwards during this procession of the Equinoxes.

This point in time they refer to as "AD" is merely the beginning of the Age of Pisces, the two fish... they replaced it with the fisher of men that fed everyone with two fish. The Sun of God.

Pisces is the last age of the zodiac before it starts all over again in the Age Of Aquarius, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and The Omega. And what's he bringing according to the bible.. Water.. the water of life.. Aqua or Aquarius.

The bible is nothing but a fantastical tale about basic astrology and eating magic mushrooms once it's demystified. These ancient people had to hide this knowledge inside these tales because of people like the Church that came along and insisted that the Sun and planets revolved around the earth for 1600 years.

Ben Witherington said...

Mr. Bildo:

You seem to have read none of the appropriate sources on any of these subjects, sources that even at a secular university would be required reading.

Mr. John Allegro believed that Christianity arose out of a mushroom cult. His work on the Dead Sea Scrolls was completely discredited by 99% of all the other scholars of some or no religion, and is considered a bad joke in the world of Dead Sea scholarship today.

Moslems, Jews, and Christians certainly have never worshipped any planets or stars. Theirs are not astrological religions, which distinguishes monotheism from Zoroastrianism.

The only persons who doubt the existence of Jesus of Nazareth are those who either hate Christianity and so want it to disappear, or those who have not bothered to do the proper historical homework.

In short, you need much better sources on the character of ancient Biblical religions.


Ben Witherington

Troy Crider said...

Dr. Witherington,

I too would like to see you do a series on the Jesus Puzzle as propagated by Earl Doherty and His followers. There are many who have followed in the steps of G.A. Wells and Earl Doherty, that claim a historical Jesus never existed. Today's evangelical scholars may laugh at this, but I'm afraid that while they aren't taking this seriously, the skeptics, atheists, and those who are on the fence so to speak see this as a dodging of the truth, and it in turn just presents a reason to them to doubt the historical Jesus' existence even more. I really hope you'll consider the claims made by Doherty and give at least a decent treatment on them. Doherty's twelve thesis are as follows

Piece No. 1: A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

The Gospel story, with its figure of Jesus of Nazareth, cannot be found before the Gospels. In Christian writings earlier than Mark, including almost all of the New Testament epistles, as well as in many writings from the second century, the object of Christian faith is never spoken of as a human man who had recently lived, taught, performed miracles, suffered and died at the hands of human authorities, or rose from a tomb outside Jerusalem. There is no sign in the epistles of Mary or Joseph, Judas or John the Baptist, no birth story, teaching or appointment of apostles by Jesus, no mention of holy places or sites of Jesus’ career, not even the hill of Calvary or the empty tomb. This silence is so pervasive and so perplexing that attempted explanations for it have proven inadequate.

Piece No. 2: A MUTE RECORD WORLD WIDE

The first clear non-Christian reference to Jesus as a human man in recent history is made by the Roman historian Tacitus around 115 CE, but he may simply be repeating newly-developed Christian belief in an historical Jesus in the Rome of his day. Several earlier Jewish and pagan writers are notably silent. The Antiquities of the Jews by the Jewish historian Josephus, published in the 90s, contains two famous references to Jesus, but these are inconclusive. The first passage, as it stands, is universally acknowledged to be a later Christian insertion, and attempts have failed to prove some form of authentic original; the second also shows signs of later Christian tampering. References to Jesus in the Jewish Talmud are garbled and come from traditions which were only recorded in the third century and later.

Piece No. 3: REVEALING THE SECRET OF CHRIST

Paul and other early writers speak of the divine Son of their faith entirely in terms of a spiritual, heavenly figure; they never identify this entity called "Christ Jesus" (literally, "Anointed Savior" or "Savior Messiah") as a man who had lived and died in recent history. Instead, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God has revealed the existence of his Son and the role he has played in the divine plan for salvation. These early writers talk of long-hidden secrets being disclosed for the first time to apostles like Paul, with no mention of an historical Jesus who played any part in revealing himself, thus leaving no room for a human man at the beginning of the Christian movement. Paul makes it clear that his knowledge and message about the Christ is derived from scripture under God’s inspiration.

Piece No. 4: A SACRIFICE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM

Paul does not locate the death and resurrection of Christ on earth or in history. According to him, the crucifixion took place in the spiritual world, in a supernatural dimension above the earth, at the hands of the demon spirits (which many scholars agree is the meaning of "rulers of this age" in 1 Corinthians 2:8). The Epistle to the Hebrews locates Christ’s sacrifice in a heavenly sanctuary (ch. 8, 9). The Ascension of Isaiah, a composite Jewish-Christian work of the late first century, describes (9:13-15) Christ’s crucifixion by Satan and his demons in the firmament (the heavenly sphere between earth and moon). Knowledge of these events was derived from visionary experiences and from scripture, which was seen as a ‘window’ onto the higher spiritual world of God and his workings.

Piece No. 5: SALVATION IN A LAYERED UNIVERSE

The activities of gods in the spiritual realm were part of ancient views (Greek and Jewish) of a multi-layered universe, which extended from the base world of matter where humans lived, through several spheres of heaven populated by various divine beings, angels and demons, to the highest level of pure spirit where the ultimate God dwelled. In Platonic philosophy (which influenced Jewish thought), the upper spiritual world was timeless and perfect, serving as a model for the imperfect and transient material world below; the former was the "genuine" reality, accessible to the intellect. Spiritual processes took place there, with their effects, including salvation, on humanity below. Certain "human characteristics" given to Christ (e.g., Romans 1:3) were aspects of his spirit world nature, higher counterparts to material world equivalents, and were often dependent on readings of scripture.

Piece No. 6: A WORLD OF SAVIOR DEITIES

Christ’s features and myths are in many ways similar to those of the Greco-Roman salvation cults of the time known as "mystery religions", each having its own savior god or goddess. Most of these (e.g., Dionysos, Mithras, Attis, Isis, Osiris) were part of myths in which the deity had overcome death in some way, or performed some act which conferred benefits and salvation on their devotees. Such activities were viewed as taking place in the upper spirit realm, not on earth or in history. Most of these cults had sacred meals (like Paul’s Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23f) and envisioned mystical relationships between the believer and the god similar to what Paul speaks of with Christ. Early Christianity was a Jewish sectarian version of this widespread type of belief system, though with its own strong Jewish features and background.

Piece No. 7: THE INTERMEDIARY SON

The Christian "Son" is also an expression of the overriding religious concept of the Hellenistic age, that the ultimate God is transcendent and can have no direct contact with the world of matter. He must reveal himself and deal with humanity through an intermediary force, such as the "Logos" of Platonic (Greek) philosophy or the figure of "personified Wisdom" of Jewish thinking; the latter is found in documents like Proverbs, Baruch and the Wisdom of Solomon. This force was viewed as an emanation of God, his outward image, an agency which had helped create and sustain the universe and now served as a channel of knowledge and communion between God and the world. All these features are part of the language used by early Christian writers about their spiritual "Christ Jesus", a heavenly figure who was a Jewish sectarian version of these prevailing myths and thought patterns.

Piece No. 8: A SINGLE STORY OF JESUS

All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from a single source: whoever produced the first version of Mark. That Matthew and Luke are reworkings of Mark with extra, mostly teaching, material added is now an almost universal scholarly conclusion, while many also consider that John has drawn his framework for Jesus’ ministry and death from a Synoptic source as well. We thus have a Christian movement spanning half the empire and a full century which nevertheless has managed to produce only one version of the events that are supposed to lie at its inception. Acts, as an historical witness to Jesus and the beginnings of the Christian movement, cannot be relied upon, since it is a tendentious creation of the second century, dependent on the Gospels and designed to create a picture of Christian origins traceable to a unified body of apostles in Jerusalem who were followers of an historical Jesus. Many scholars now admit that much of Acts is sheer fabrication.

Piece No. 9: THE GOSPELS AS (FICTIONAL) "MIDRASH"

Not only do the Gospels contain basic and irreconcilable differences in their accounts of Jesus, they have been put together according to a traditional Jewish practice known as "midrash", which involved reworking and enlarging on scripture. This could entail the retelling of older biblical stories in new settings. Thus, Mark’s Jesus of Nazareth was portrayed as a new Moses, with features that paralleled the stories of Moses. Many details were fashioned out of specific passages in scripture. The Passion story itself is a pastiche of verses from the Psalms, Isaiah and other prophets, and as a whole it retells a common tale found throughout ancient Jewish writings, that of the Suffering and Vindication of the Innocent Righteous One. It is quite possible that Mark, at least, did not intend his Gospel to represent an historical figure or historical events, and designed it to provide liturgical readings for Christian services on the Jewish model. Liberal scholars now regard the Gospels as "faith documents" and not accurate historical accounts.

Piece No. 10: THE COMMUNITY OF "Q"

In Galilean circles distinct from those of the evangelists (who were probably all located in Syria), a Jewish movement of the mid-first century preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God put together over time a collection of sayings, ethical and prophetic, now known as Q. The Q community eventually invented for itself a human founder figure who was regarded as the originator of the sayings. In ways not yet fully understood, this figure fed into the creation of the Gospel Jesus, and the sayings document was used by Matthew and Luke to flesh out their reworking of Mark’s Gospel. Some modern scholars believe they have located the "genuine" Jesus at the roots of Q, but Q’s details and pattern of evolution suggest that no Jesus was present in its earlier phases, and those roots point to a Greek style of teaching known as Cynicism, one unlikely to belong to any individual, let alone a Jewish preacher of the Kingdom.

Piece No. 11: A RIOTOUS DIVERSITY

The documentary record reveals an early Christian landscape dotted with a bewildering variety of communities and sects, rituals and beliefs about a Christ/Jesus entity, most of which show little common ground and no central authority. Also missing is any idea of apostolic tradition tracing back to a human man and his circle of disciples. Scholars like to style this situation as a multiplicity of different responses to the historical Jesus, but such a phenomenon is not only incredible, it is nowhere attested to in the evidence itself. Instead, all this diversity reflects independent expressions of the wider religious trends of the day, based on expectation of God’s Kingdom, and on belief in an intermediary divine force which provided knowledge of God and a path to salvation. Only with the Gospels, which began to appear probably toward the end of the first century, were many of these elements brought together to produce the composite figure of Jesus of Nazareth, set in a midrashic story about a life, ministry and death located in the time of Herod and Pontius Pilate.

Piece No. 12: JESUS BECOMES HISTORY

As the midrashic nature of the Gospels was lost sight of by later generations of gentile Christians, the second century saw the gradual adoption of the Gospel Jesus as an historical figure, motivated by political considerations in the struggle to establish orthodoxy and a central power amid the profusion of early Christian sects and beliefs. Only with Ignatius of Antioch, just after the start of the second century, do we see the first expression in Christian (non-Gospel) writings of a belief that Jesus had lived and died under Pilate, and only toward the middle of that century do we find any familiarity in the wider Christian world with written Gospels and their acceptance as historical accounts. Many Christian apologists, however, even in the latter part of the century, ignore the existence of a human founder in their picture and defense of the faith. By the year 200, a canon of authoritative documents had been formed, reinterpreted to apply to the Jesus of the Gospels, now regarded as a real historical man. Christianity entered a new future founded on a monumental misunderstanding of its own past.

Lechartre said...

Dear Dr. Witherington,

thank you so much for this most valuable work on the Zeitgeist film!

This is to ask your permission to use passages of your article - of course citing your complete internet address and name - in my efforts to refute the assertions of Part 1 of the Zeitgeist Movie which unfortunately arrived in Germany - including my German translation. Of course I will be glad to give you more details by mail.

Happy Eastern holidays

Lechartre

Ben Witherington said...

Yes Lechartre, you may use my materials.

BW3

Lechartre said...

Happy Easter holidays

Lechartre

12:29 PM


Ben Witherington said...
Yes Lechartre, you may use my materials.

BW3

1:04 PM

------

Saturday, 22nd March, 2008

Thanks a lot!

God bless you.

Lechartre

NF said...

Sorry Mr. Ben, but there are lots of mistakes on you refutation either.

You both (includind the movie's author) forgot about Abrahan. A Sumerian priest from Ur. The Sumerian religion (the very first monotheist cult) are way older than Judaism and keep an astounding relation. And Moses spent much of his life in Egypt... The Egyptian Book of Death X 10 commandments relation are OBVIOUS and undeniable.

Long story short: there's NO historical evidence of Jesus. ALL we know about this figure comes from NT, written from abstract oral stories at least 40 years after the so-called facts! And let's not forget Nicea and Trento Councils that edited those post-writtens even more. And the Bible itself is a collection writtens encrypted and edited all way through long and different periods of times. So why bother arguing from something so fragile?

Ben Witherington said...

Sorry NF but you have no idea what you're talking about. Firstly, there is no evidence Abraham was a Sumerian priest of any kind. Ur was in the Chaldees, not ancient Sumeria any way. Secondly, I have read the Book of the Dead, and the ten commandments are nowhere mentioned in there, so someone has been lying to you about that. Thirdly, you are quite wrong about Jesus. He is mentioned by both Jewish and Roman historians of the first and second centuries A.D. Try and get your facts straight.

BW3

Duke of Earl said...

Wow Ben, this essay showing that the Zeitgeist movie is poorly researched seems to have brought the crazies out of the woodwork. In answer to you they present... poor research.

Sad, very sad.

wolf_scion said...

Dr W,

I'm sorry, but I couldn't post on the original thread for this argument. It wouldn't open the page on my web-browser for some reason. No matter, this post is similar to the one I wanted.

When you gave the Jesus Puzzle the punishin' it deserved, you commented that there is clear manuscript evidence that Acts is a first century document. I have ordered your commentary and expect it any day now, but I could not wait. i've been studying Acts for some time now and had never heard of these early copies. I was wondering if you might clarify something for me. I asked Dr Daniel Wallace if he had ever heard of these manuscripts and he responded that he contacted MacQuarie in Sydney and they only have one NT manuscript in the country! It is indeed a copy of Acts, but it is dated to the third century. I think maybe I misunderstood your original post. But I can't open it so I can't go back to find out. Just wondering if you might comment.

Wayne

Troy Crider said...

Ben,

I see that you have responded to my questions from the Jesus Puzzle that I submitted not too long ago. Thanks Dr. Witherington! For those who are interested in his thoughts on that, here is the link:

http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2008/03/earl-dohertys-jesus-puzzle-exercise-in.html

EPFehr said...

Dr. Witherington,

Thanks for your post on this film. Zeitgeist is a slick, well-edited production of misinformation and propaganda of one who has a severe dislike of Christianity. My chiropractor (a practioner of Ba'hai and who is a motivational speaker about 'The Secret' suggested I watch this film and tell him what I think). It's too bad that he probably believes the credibility of the film without doing the serious research required to discern the truthfullness of what is presented. Misquote sources, insert some sound-bites and haunting musical score, and throw in some rants against Christianity and like magic - truth disappears out the window. I especially like the etymologically incorrect transformation of 'Sun' in 'Son' to relate to Jesus (or most of the producers use of phrases, etc.) That was quite ingenious.

Licht2202 said...

I'm glad to see another blog that brings notice to the ridiculous attack on Christianity brought on by the Zeitgeist movie. Pretty much everything in the first part of the movie is completely made up. I've also started a blog outlining some obvious errors in the film.

zeitgeistmoviepart1.blogspot.com

The Dane said...

This is just typical reactions from the citizens of Gods country. I think It would be fare to say that many of you are blinded by the indoctrination, that have been forced upon you from birth. Not only Americans all believers.
Religion:Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc. all these "accepted" religions are basically a tool to control the masses. they are no different from any new-age religions or cults.
butt still even if all of it from my point of view is absolutely bullshit! I can see why some people choose to believe. life can be hard sometimes and it is much easier to go with the flow and let Gods devine plan take it course. but why not choose to think for yourself take responsiblity, live your life, instead of being dictated by ancient myths!

Licht2202 said...

Not all Christians believe just because someone told them it was true. I for one am not so blind and ignorant to simply believe something because someone told me it was true. I am the type of person that wants real raw facts to back up everything I believe in. I wont settle for someones word, because that's pretty much worthless.

Soulless said...

What about the rest of the movie?

Adam said...

Religion is the mind's best attempt to explain self. So long as the mind is functional, religion will continue. Regarding the movie Zeitgeist, it is successful at provoking thought. Unfortunately, it should have left out the religious arguments so that we might focus on some of the more important issues. Religious debate is futile given the nature and origin of it. Ironically this arguement has us wasting time. We really should be discussing brutal politics that keeps entire nations impoverished (watch Zeitgeist - Addendum). Thanks for listening. ~ Adam

naskais said...

hi,
just reading you all arguing and coming up with your own ideas that proves or disproves each other's theories.
the truth is simple-this movie shaked this pathetical world order, thanks to all religious fanatics who brought nothing good to this world with your evil religion.
religion is dead-you like it or not. religion is dying with or without this movie. here is the time when people are start waking up to new reality, new ideas, new era.
the real freedom is here

RioHeroes League said...

Alright people... here is my opinion, my perspective, take it only in that way... think for yourself... draw your own conclusions...

Enough with trying to debunk 911 - which is now a conspiracy. Conspiracies are events that have such diluted, contorted, conflicting facts that no agreeable judgment or ratification can be concluded because our system of proof relies on factual basis. Everyone is searching and comparing facts, running in circles of he said she said. Facts can't successfully prove truth, truth is actually felt. Can we prove Jesus or other religious icons are real? Can we prove there are souls or spirits? Can we actually prove gravity (we really can't, even though you think we can)? (For religious people, this might go against your beliefs and inner agreement system... but that's ok, theres a time...) - So with all of that said, the only point I will draw is if there is one item that is not correct in the whole 911 situation, then the entire event is extremely questionable. A building that never suffered an impact or severe structural impact nicely (and almost planned) compacts to the ground... how does that happen? Theres your one thread of disbelief... the rest is history.

As for proving religious topics... Have you met jesus? Have you talked to horus. Forget about religion. For those of us that can think outside the box, religion is already debunked and has been for a long time. Sorry fellow religious people, please do not take this as any sort of personal attack. Don't try to contest my opinion, as it is only a misuse of your energy and won't have the effect you desire. :-/

Zeitgeist's point was to show the profit driven world we live in. We are acting on a "separated" mentality and not acting as a species. We are a part of nature. We are an organism (not going into depth). We need to act as one and for the benefit of one. Yes, these philosophies are Utopian, and to those who haven't been "awakened" believe this concept is very unattainable. However, all I can say is it's a matter of time. Go on with your beliefs and inner agreement systems, but life will unfold, things will happen, events will occur, and life will as nature does, change.

I write this only with the intent that maybe one person questions them self. I hope to reach one person. As long as I've done that, this was complete success of my time.

For the record, I live in a mountain and donate my time and energy towards helping humanity in this pivotal time we are entering. Learn to survive, get back to the basics... One day you might need it. My love goes out to everyone. If you let any of my message effect you negatively, my love and sorrow reaches out to you.

Peace. :-)

Tony Johnson said...

Ben, quite a bit of information in the Zeitgeist movie. Since you chose to focus on the religion/Christianity segment, a question about Christian scholarship. What are your thoughts on the published works of Christian scholars like Gerd Ludemann and Bart Erhman?

Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0664220851/ref%3Dpd_sim_books/002-8142252-7792035

The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament: http://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Corruption-Scripture-Christological-Controversies/dp/0195102797/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1227023169&sr=1-12

John 14.12

yashua1970 said...

Ben States:

""Mr. John Allegro believed that Christianity arose out of a mushroom cult. His work on the Dead Sea Scrolls was completely discredited by 99% of all the other scholars of some or no religion, and is considered a bad joke in the world of Dead Sea scholarship today.

Moslems, Jews, and Christians certainly have never worshipped any planets or stars. Theirs are not astrological religions, which distinguishes monotheism from Zoroastrianism.

The only persons who doubt the existence of Jesus of Nazareth are those who either hate Christianity and so want it to disappear, or those who have not bothered to do the proper historical homework.""


Hello Ben.
John Allegro believed that Judaism/Christianity was a fertility religion/mushroom cult, and That Jesus was a anthropomorphism of the mushroom, which is far more reasonable than the accepted version of Christian and Jewish mythology, as If his hypothesis were more ridiculous than believing, for example that a human being created the universe, revived from a horrible death, and floated bodily up to heaven.

Good news for those that like to try and discredit John Allegro.

The Holy Mushroom by Jan Irving has just been released which will vindicate John Allegro.
The Holy Mushroom:
Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity
A critical re-evaluation of the schism between John M. Allegro
and R. Gordon Wasson over the theory on the entheogenic origins of Christianity
Jan is also the co author (with Andrew Rutajit) of Astrotheology and Shamanism
Have you ever read The Sacred mushroom and the cross.
Have you checked the cross references for the book?
Have you ever read Astrotheology and Shamanism?

Another wonderful book that agrees with John Allegro just came out as well.
Failed God by John A. Rush Ph.D.
On a 2001 trip to the cathedrals of Europe, anthropologist John Rush and his wife entered St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and encountered a mosaic depicting Jesus surrounded by mushrooms with an Amanita muscaria cap in his hand. Examining the space with new eyes, they discovered images of mushrooms and mind-altering plants all over the Basilica. Intrigued, Dr. Rush spent seven years researching and reflecting on the profound effects hallucinogens had on the founding of all three major Western religions. He concluded that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are political constructions evolving out of the use of not only Amanita muscaria, but a plethora of mind-altering substances.

You also state that Muslims, Jews, and Christians have never worshiped planets or stars.
Their religion is not an astrological religion.

Whenever you get a chance to read any number of works on astrotheology you might want to reconsider your statements, which are by the way outright lies.

Start of with Suns of God and see If maybe you can debunk that book, which by the way has yet to be touched by any credible scholar.
check out Astrotheology and Shamanism and tell me that all three major religions are not influenced by planets or stars.

Did you know the Sun feeds five thousand (and more)?
Is the light of the world.
Brings health and healing to all nations.
Can walk or dance upon the water.
Can rise and descend with the clouds.
The Sun overcomes the darkness.

I'm sorry, all these things have been applied to Jesus.

Lechartre said...

Dear Ben,

some time ago you allowed me to use parts of your most valuable article in a German translation on my blog.

Thanks again, and with my best wishes

Lechartre

http://zeitgeist-widerlegt.blogspot.com/

Xama said...

You all see the truth that you want to see. Be happy in the ignorance of your dogmatic faith

Accidental Hippie said...

I wonder why you and your "religious" friends insinuate that people are crazy if they question organized religion.

"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.

Ghandi

Benoit Vecetti de Marco said...

Those who call themselves Christians, or believe in a humanoid God who sits in the clouds will always find potholes in this film to criticize and to claim that this film, and the 'Christianity myth' is all fake...It just shows clearly how un-intelligent most of us have become, and that the power of religion...well...obviously works.
Progress is about thinking beyond your four walls and to view the world critically, as to find the empty voids only to replace them with the truth. I cannot 100% say that this film is full of truth, what I can say, is I was raised religiously, only to open my eyes as I matured to see it for the farce it truly is. Those who are religiously inclined will deny the fact of this film, as they find whatever sanctuary they need in their religion, and hence close their mind off to progress, and reality. The fact of the matter is, religion does not run smoothly with the scientific evidence on this Earth and it's true history, and those who cannot see that, are naive, and blind by their empty and controlling faith.
If religion simply is about spiritual comfort, and divine serenity, then one does have to wonder, why is it that the churches have legal immunity, why is it that they do not need to pay taxes and yet the receive billions in funds every year, for what? I do not believe in control, I simply believe in the truth, and whatever the truth is; it's not any religion that has been created here on Earth by us.
benoitdemarco@aol.com
www.bividium.350.com

Matt said...

Dr. Witherington-

Thanks so much for your ministry. How you balance your life I'll never know but I do appreciate well-thought and developed posts like this one.

-Matt

don_luigi17 said...

Dr. Witherington,

I would very much like to hear your thoughts on a certain fragment of Zeitgeist. They quote Matt 28:20, wherein Jesus says: "I will be with you even to the end of the world." Peter Joseph states that in the King James version, "world" is a mistranslation. The actual word being used is "aeon", which means "age". Is this true? If so, doesn't this shed a a whole new light about Armageddon? This then, wouldn't be the end of the world, but just the end of an age.

Hope this doesn't get posted twice. If so, my apologies.

Regards,

Lou van Liebergen
The Netherlands