The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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A Critic!

January 26th, 2011 · No Comments · christianity, history, intentional communities, metaphysics

I recently received a comment to this site that I deleted, due to a fake email address. The comment was to my State Cult Hypothesis post from two years ago. The entire comment read as follows:

“This has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever read. I would like to leave a detailed list of all the history that had to be read backwards in order for the author to arrive at his hideously absurd conclusions, but it is not worth my time.”

I was disappointed that he was not more specific. His comment was so general, it could apply to any and all parts of it. So I reviewed my post.

The first paragraph is a summary of my hypothesis. Except for this point, Christianity isn’t brought up again until the fifth paragraph from the end of the piece. Otherwise, the vast majority of this thousand word essay is pretty standard Roman history. (Even my hypothesis has its origins with no less than the pagan Emperor Julian.) Everyone agrees that was the hero of Christianity. Everyone says that Constantine invoked the Council of Nicea, and thereby codified the hierarchical authority of the Church.

The thing I would expect he is troubled by is the insistence that Christianity began with Constantine, and not in Jerusalem three centuries before. The problem is that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at all that history and I must insist that this is the most reasonable, probable origin theory I’ve yet come across.

I’m convinced that the only reason to go looking prior to Constantine for the origins of Christianity is to hunt for the origins of the Jesus myth. The Jesus myth literally is the Holy Grail: it’s always in view but out of reach to the seekers, and completely unseen by the non-believers. I can understand how incomprehensible it sounds to a modern believer that the Jesus story isn’t history: it’s a core element of the Western mythology and isn’t lightly abandoned.

The problem is that it’s difficult to trust the motives of folks who need to find an historical Jesus. Whether it’s authority or fame or cash, people who have a driving need to establish an historical Jesus almost always have some motive other than discovering transcendental origins for Christianity. Very often, it’s some flavor of Protestant who needs to find a “purer” form of the faith, from before a time when the Roman Empire held it in its grasp, so that they might become the new Moses.

That being said, I should make the point – for the record – that my State Cult Hypothesis does not specifically exclude the possibility that some form of early Jesus worship may have predated Constantine. For what it’s worth, several forms of early Jesus worship may have existed. However, whatever system was put in place by Constantine became Christianity, and as such was certain to have looked a lot more like Roman National Cult than a Jewish revolutionary cult. (In other places, I am more specific that there could not have been a successful underground, revolutionary Syrian cult operating within the Roman empire in the first or second centuries CE.)

I’m also a little surprised that someone would have bothered to comment to such an old post, but I never turn it off, so I guess that kind of thing can happen. Well, if my commenter happens upon my site again, I hope he accepts my invitation to take whatever time he needs to point out where my understanding of history is flawed.

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