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Acharya S - The History of Mythicism

Acharya S - The History of Mythicism

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07/29/2013

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by
D.M. Murdock/Acharya S
September 1, 2009fromStellarHousePublishingWEbsite
 
In our quest to determine what is "mythicism," we discover that this movement was epitomized by Dr.
David F. Strauss
, who had come out in 1835 with
The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined 
, a book highlycritical of Christianity that pointedly identified as myth much of the gospel story regarding
Christ 
.
 
Strauss was not an atheist or skeptical mythicist, however, as he did not dismiss the gospel story as"mere" fairytales. Rather, being a Christian minister, he attempted to imbue the Christian mythos withspiritual, if not allegorical, meaning. This perspective represents one plank of the mythicist position, asmythicism in its totality does not dismiss myth simply as something fabricated but instead recognizes theancient wellspring of profundity and comprehension from which it draws.
 
It appears that Strauss was encouraged in his efforts by the success of German biblical criticism - mostwidely known through the group called the "Tübingen School," as established by Dr. Ferdinand ChristianBaur (1792-1860), whose own work in comparative religion was considered "revolutionary."Such doubt was evidently not enough for Dr. Wilhelm Traugott Krug (1770-1842), heir to the seat of famedphilosopher Dr.
Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804), who called for an even stronger declaration of Christianity'smythical nature. Krug's solicitation was answered by another German scholar and theologian, Dr.
BrunoBauer 
(1809-1882), who published his first
mythicist work 
in 1840.
 
This book,
Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes
, took the perspective that
Christ was amythical character 
based on Jewish, Greek and Roman religious ideas and mythology, created during thesecond century, with the
gospel of John
, for instance, being a product of the Jewish community out of thelarge and important Egyptian city of Alexandria.
 
These Jews represented a sort of "third party" in addition to the "first party" stricter followers of Judaism,who depicted
God 
as "wholly other," separate and apart from humanity, while the "second party" is that of the Pagans, who "leant towards the union of 
God 
and Man."
 
Bauer's perspective vis-a-vis this third party is summarized by christian apologist Rev.
George Matheson
:"It consisted of those Jews at Alexandria who, after the conquest of their country by Alexander, had chosen to forget the land of their fathers, and had sought as much aspossible to amalgamate their manners and religion with the religion and manners of thesurrounding Gentile nations."
(Matheson, 149)
 Although they brought forth novel notions, Baur, Strauss and Bauer were preceded in fact by many otherswho stepped out from the shadows of the Inquisition to voice unpopular ideas that had doubtlesslycirculated surreptiously for centuries.
 
Indeed, prior to this seemingly sudden burst of mythicism appeared the voluminous writings published in1795 by Professor Charles François Dupuis (1742-1809), as well as those of Count Volney (1757-1820)and Rev. Dr. Robert Taylor (1784-1844), who spent three years in prison in the late 1820's and early 1830's
2009/10/03 The History of Mythicismbibliotecapleyades.net//mythicism021/4
 
for two convictions of "blasphemy," based on his popular lectures asserting that
Christ was a myth.
 
This punishment did not deter Taylor from publishing a number of books on the subject, including
TheSyntagma
(1828),
The Diegesis
(1829), and
The Devil's Chaplain
(1831).
 
Yet, his ordeal was so horrifying that it haunted evolutionistCharles Darwin, who feared his own writingswould land him a similar fate. Following this brouhaha, in 1840 an individual wisely maintaining hisanonymity by calling himself merely a "German Jew" (J.C. Blumenfeld?) published a series of pamphlets ina volume entitled,
The Existence of Christ Disproved by Irresistible Evidence
.Strauss and Bauer were also succeeded by the publication in 1841 of 
The Christian Mythology Unveiled 
,whose anonymous author later published under the name of Logan Mitchell. Mitchell was followed by layEgyptologist Gerald Massey (1828-1907), whose monumental works highlighted the comparisons betweenChristianity and the Egyptian religion.
 
 Another earlier scholar who extensively dipped into mythicism was Sir Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833),although he was not a
mythicist 
per se but an
evemerist 
who believed that under all of the mythicalattributes of various godmen lay a "real person."
 
This
evemerist 
or 
euhemerist 
perspective, named for the Greek philosopher 
Euhemerus
(4th cent. BCE),who posited that the gods of old were in reality kings and assorted other heroes who were deified, remainsone of the most commonly held opinions regarding
Jesus Christ 
, along with the believing and
mythicist 
perspectives.The
evemerist 
position has been popular enough for a definition to be widely available in dictionaries andencyclopedias, while the
mythicist 
position does not likewise enjoy such a widespread recognition.Considering that
mythicism
was the major thrust of many well respected scholars for centuries in Europe,this oversight would seem to be both contrived and egregious. We hope that this article will help toestablish this previously marginalized and ignored position as a viable option worthy of respect andscientific study.Much of today's mythicism is traceable in reality to the French scholar Dupuis, although earlier inferencesmay be found, for example, in the comparisons of the Hebrew prophet
Moses
with the Greek god
Dionysus/Bacchus
- also known as
Mises
.
 
 As I relate in
The Gospel According to Acharya S
(71-72):In the writings of... French scholar Voltaire [1694-1778] we find the same basic information:"The ancient poets have placed the birth of Bacchus in Egypt; he is exposedon the Nile and it is from that event that he is named Mises by the firstOrpheus, which in Egyptian, signifies 'saved from the waters'... He is broughtup near a mountain of Arabia called Nisa, which is believed to be Mount Sinai.
 
It is pretended that a goddess ordered him to go and destroy a barbarousnation and that he passed through the Red Sea on foot, with a multitude of men, women, and children. Another time the river Orontes suspended itswaters right and left to let him pass, and the Hydaspes did the same. Hecommanded the sun to stand still; two luminous rays proceeded from his head.
 
He made a fountain of wine spout up by striking the ground with his thyrsus,and engraved his laws on two tables of marble. He wanted only to have afflictedEgypt with ten plagues, to be the perfect copy of Moses."
 
Voltaire likewise names others preceding him who had made this comparisonbetween Moses and Dionysus/Bacchus, such as the Dutch theologian GerhardJohann Voss/Vossius (1577-1649), whose massive study of mythology hasnever been translated from the Latin, and Pierre Daniel Huet (1630-1721), theBishop of Avranches.
2009/10/03 The History of Mythicismbibliotecapleyades.net//mythicism022/4
 
 
 Another commentator was French novelist Charles-Antoine-Guillaume Pigault-Lebrun or "Le Brun" (1753-1835)...In
The Gospel 
, I further discuss the use of the word "Mises" or "Mise" in ancient Orphic hymn pertaining toDionysus/Bacchus, as well as relating the analysis of such by Bishop Dr. Simon/Symon Patrick in the17th century.
 
Unlike Voltaire, Dupuis, Volney or Taylor, however, these earlier individuals could not be deemed"mythicists" in the sense that they believed the biblical figures to have been myths; rather, they wereattempting to trace the derivation of the Greek and Roman myths to the Hebrew religion, which theybelieved to be "historical."In
Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence
 
of Isaac Newton's Theology 
(26),
James E. Force
and
Richard H. Popkin
trace this blossoming of mythicist thinking to the intellectual crisis brought about bythe discovery of,"polygenetic evidence concerning the origin of the first men and the polytheistic evidenceconcerning the nature of man's first religion."Explaining further, Force and Popkin remark:"The data indicating that the varieties of mankind could not be encompassed within Biblicalhistory, chronologically or geographically, and that the varieties of human belief could not besquared with the Biblical account raised most serious problems about the then generallyaccepted Jewish and Christian framework."This "skeptical crisis" led to the publication of much scholarship addressing ancient mythology andpolytheistic religions, including the massive work by the liberal "Christian apologist" Vossius, published in1641, which, again, sought to salvage the Judeo-Christian tradition by making the ancient Greek andRoman myths, etc., derivative of the Bible's "history," rather than the Judeo-Christian "history" in factrepresenting myths based on these other religions.The goal of Vossius's tremendous effort may be, as described by Force and Popkin, to depict,"various pagan mythologies as picturesque descriptions of historical events, of naturalphenomena, or of social conditions clothed in remnants of Judaism and Christianity."
(29)
While this position constitutes the recognition of important comparisons between Judeo-Christianity andthe Pagan religions,
mythicism
turns this perspective on its ear and asserts that the former represents ahistoricized and Judaized version of the latter.
 
This form of true
mythicism
, in fact, followed on the heels of this Vossian scholarship, to the degree that itbecame an all-consuming occupation for a generation of scholars throughout Europe and in the U.S. The
mythicist 
position today largely revolves around this latter premise, which was significantly developed alsoin the multivolume work by Dupuis at the end of the 18th century.
 
The French scholar's influence included many of the European elite, such as not only Volney but alsoNapoleon Bonaparte, who, following his personal tutoring by Dupuis and Volney, is said to have remarkedthat the question of 
Jesus's historicity 
was a good one.
 
Certainly after Dupuis
mythicism
was no longer confined to viewing only non-biblical characters as beinglargely or wholly mythical, as in a German work from 1815, we find reference to "biblische Mythicismus" or "biblical mythicism." (Jenaische, 383)In addition, many centuries before any of this
mythicist 
scholarship - which appeared in a variety of languages and which remains widely unknown - we find in the earliest times of formalized Christianityvoices of dissent who doubted the historicity of various biblical tales, whether from a
mythicist 
or 
evemerist 
position.
2009/10/03 The History of Mythicismbibliotecapleyades.net//mythicism023/4

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