Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Great minds think alike

Since we're on the subject of invented histories, Chas Clifton has posted about Druidry and made-up history. He writes:
It is the "crisis of history" again. Can your religion get respect when it is based on non-existent "history"?
The subsequent discussion in the comments is interesting, too. Actually pretty much all religions have a mythical origin story, but some are more plausible than others. And since Pagans like to think of ourselves as reasonable people, having made-up histories is not consistent with our self-image. Religion doesn't need to have an ancient pedigree to be valid; it's your personal response to the great mystery of existence that matters, and how you live your life, and how you deal with the community (which includes other-than-human people, of course).


Bo said...

A high probability that Jesus never existed?! I think that very unlikely indeed, whilst certainly acknowledging that Jesus was clearly one of a large number of wandering ascetic hasidim on the go at the time. From the point of view of scholars of the 'historical Jesus'--a thankless task, as you know-- (eg Vermes) the possibility of Jesus' non-existence has always seemed the MOST unlikely possibility.

But do try and persuade me!

Yewtree said...

Well certainly the Jesus of the gospels is probably largely fictitious.

The problem is that most of the scholars trying to prove or disprove his existence have a vested interest one way or the other.

A chap called Richard Carrier is writing a book about it at the moment, in which he is attempting to survey all the scholarship and come up with a probability for the existence of Jesus. I found his arguments for the probable non-existence of the historical Jesus quite persuasive, actually. But he is trying to remain impartial and present both sides of the case.

Bo said...

I think the chances that a wandering wise-man and charismatic healer called Yeshua was born around 4BC, taught for a few years between 25 and 30AD, and was executed by the Romans are high personally. No, of course the Gospels aren't pellucidly neutral biography or historical evidence: but neither is any piece of ancient historiography. It's one thing to say that the texts describing the life of Jesus are problematic and indeologically freighted 'faction', and quyite another to say they formed around a non-existent person. After all, there's much more evidence for Jesus than there is for, say, Pythagoras, or even---given that we have no writings of his own and we know him only through Plato and Xenophon's fictional dialogues--Socrates. Yet no one doubts the historicity of those two.

Have you got Geza Vermes' latest?

Yewtree said...

I think there's a strong possibility they formed around a number of different wandering preachers, in the same way that the Robin Hood legends coalesced from the stories of a number of different outlaws. Stories of Ned Ludd were entirely fictitious; and the legend of King Arthur has grown out of all proportion to its humble origins.

To me, it is the liberal values of Yeshua that are important, not whether he actually existed historically (though if he didn't, it might be a useful lever for demolishing fundamentalism). He certainly exists as a very powerful idea.