Die storie van Jesus en ander mitiese stories

Hierdie artikel is deel 9 van ‘n 11-deel gesprek – sien die volgende:

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Die storie van Jesus en ander mitiese stories

’n Laaste saak wat vrae laat ontstaan oor die egtheid van die storie oor Jesus, is die beweerde parallelle in elemente van die storie oor Jesus en in elemente oor allerlei heidense gode in die antieke wêreld. Is dit dan nie redelik om te dink dat as daar sulke parallelle bestaan en as hierdie stories van die gode ouer is as die storie oor Jesus, dan is die storie van die Goddelike Jesus waarskynlik ook maar net ‘n mitiese storie wat grotendeels deur die ouer stories beïnvloed is nie?

In antwoord op hierdie vraag kan dit egter in geen duideliker terme gestel word nie dat wat hier vir soetkoek deur kritici aangebied word, by nadere ondersoek ongegrond is. Die bewerings van parallelle en beïnvloeding is meestal desperate teorieë wat deur byna geen navorsing ondersteun word nie. Hier is wat Wallace en kie hieroor te sê het:

“The alleged parallels between pagan gods and Jesus Christ do not argue that the Christian proclamation was based on fiction. That some modern authors continue to suggest that the gospel is based on myth is irresponsible at best and intentionally deceptive at worst. When Nash wrote his book, The Gospel and the Greeks (first pub­lished in 1992; second edition, 2003), he had to justify flogging a horse that was already mortally wounded. He gave the reason that, “even though specialists in biblical and classical studies know how weak the old case for Christian dependence was, these old argu­ments continue to circulate in the publications of scholars in such other fields as history and philosophy.” Remarkably, the ancient statements about the mystery religions were systematically exam­ined by Christian August Lobeck in 1829. Bruce Metzger does not mince words in assessing Lobeck’s accomplishment of revealing the real nature of the mystery religions: “A great deal of rubbish and pseudo-learning was swept aside, and it became possible to discuss intelligently the rites and teachings of the Mysteries.” Perhaps it is time to get out the broom again.”

In die slotwoorde van sy artikel, Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions? kan ‘n mens die teoloog, Ronald Nash (waarna in die vorige aanhaling verwys is) se ergerlikheid hoor:

“Liberal efforts to undermine the uniqueness of the Christian revelation via claims of a pagan religious influence collapse quickly once a full account of the information is available. It is clear that the liberal arguments exhibit astoundingly bad scholarship. Indeed, this conclusion may be too generous. According to one writer, a more accurate account of these bad arguments would describe them as “prejudiced irresponsibility.”But in order to become completely informed on these matters, wise readers will work through material cited in the brief bibliography.”

Boyd en Eddy lys vier aspekte wat hulle tot die gevolgtrekking bring dat die mites van ‘n sogenaamde “sterwende en opgewekte god” min verband hou met die storie oor Jesus of dat die beweerde parallelle die historisiteit van Jesus op enige manier in twyfel trek:

“1. To begin, the very category of ancient “dying and rising gods” has been called into question by most contemporary scholars. In short, when each of these myths is analyzed in detail, it turns out that either there is no actual death, no actual resurrection, or no actual “god” in the first place. As J. Z. Smith notes, “The category of dying and rising gods, once a major topic of scholarly investigation, must now be understood to have been largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and ex­ceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts.”

2. Even if we grant that certain pagan myths parallel the story of Jesus’s resurrection in some respects, this doesn’t itself mean that the story of Jesus’s resurrection is not historical. Indeed … if it’s true that God is a God who loves, who became a human, and who died for our salvation, and if it’s true that we are made in his image, then we should expect that an intuition pointing in this direction, expressed through legend and myth, would be found among people at different times and places.

3. The presence of pagan parallels might negatively affect our estima­tion of the historicity of the Jesus story if it could be demonstrated that there was a line of historical influence flowing from one or more of the pagan myths to the early followers of Jesus. The vast majority of scholars agree that this is entirely implausible, however, and for good reason.

For one thing, there is simply no evidence for a line of influence from pagan stories to the early Christians. Indeed, with the exception of Osiris, all the written accounts of these myths date after the birth of Christianity. Moreover … we have no reason to suppose that monotheistic Galilean Jews in the first century would have found anything attractive about these sorts of pagan stories. To the contrary, the evidence suggests that their revulsion toward these sorts of stories made them more, not less, staunch in their monotheistic Judaism.

4. Scholars agree that ancient myths surrounding the ostensive death and resuscitation of a god were associated with seasonal vegetation cycles. They express the wonder of the death-rebirth cycle of fall and winter by telling of things that happened “once upon a time” in the mythic past. The Jesus story, however, could hardly be more different from this. Jesus’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection are located not in a “once upon a time” mythic past but in recent history – i.e., when Augustus was em­peror of Rome, Quirinius was governor of Syria, Pilate was governor of Palestine, Herod was king of the Jews, and Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin (see, e.g., Matt. 2:1; 27:2; Mark 15:1; 15:43; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:38.) There is no precedent for telling a story of a supposedly dying and rising god in identifiable history, let alone in recent identifiable history, let alone in a Jewish environment that was intrinsically hostile to such stories.”

Aansluitend by die laaste punt, sê die skrywers van Reinventing Jesus die volgende:

What is often overlooked when one considers parallels and de­pendence is whether Palestinian Jews of the first century A.D. would have borrowed essential beliefs from pagan cults. Remember that the church was at first composed almost entirely of Jews. Two factors need to be considered. First, there is so far no archaeological evi­dence today of mystery religions in Palestine in the early part of the first century. Norman Anderson asserted, “If borrowing there was by one religion from another, it seems clear which way it went. There is no evidence whatever, that I know of, that the mystery religions had any influence in Palestine in the early decades of the first century.” Second, the first-century Jewish mind-set loathed syncretism. Un­like the Gentiles of this era, Jews refused to blend their religion with other religions. Gentile religions were not exclusive; one could be a follower of several different gods at one time. But Judaism was strict­ly monotheistic, as was Christianity. As the gospel spread beyond the borders of Israel, the apostles not only found themselves introduc­ing people to the strange idea of a man risen from the dead; they also came face-to-face with a polytheistic culture. But they made no accommodation on this front. Instead, John instructed his readers, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21), and Paul commended the Thessalonian church because they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). This was the Jewish and Christian mind-set.

Om te beklemtoon dat die kritici se aansprake geen werklike gronde het nie, haal ek weer vir Ronald Nash aan:

“I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.

(1) Arguments offered to “prove” a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.

(2) Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a “Last Supper” in Mithraism or a “baptism” in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word “savior” with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.

(3) The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.

(4) Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).

(5) Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. “A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ….Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone.” This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.

(6) Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ’s death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.

(7) What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influ­ence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, “It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction.” It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363.

Soos met die Gnostiese evangelies (ander stories oor Jesus wat deur die vroeë kerk verwerp is as oneg) kan dit iemand net goed doen om self te gaan nalees oor presies wat hierdie Griekse, Romeinse en Egiptiese mites werklik sê en of dit werklik met die storie van Jesus vergelyk kan word.

Hier is ook ‘n paar skakels na artikels rakende die kwessie van die mitiese gode wat jy mag sinvol vind:

Sien ook: Jesus: one of many myths?

 

Gevolgtrekking

Kan ek dus met sekerheid bo redelike twyfel sê dat die storie oor Jesus werklik gebeur het? Ja, volgens die getuienis kan ek en doen ek. Het ek daaroor intellektuele sekerheid bo alle twyfel? Nee, ek het nie, maar dis omdat die aard van ‘n historiese ondersoek ‘n mens nie daartoe kan dwing nie. Dit is egter waar in byna enige navorsingsveld, en nie net die geskiedenis nie, dat dit onderworpe is aan kritiek. Maar, net soos by die geval met die getuienis oor God se bestaan, het ek a.g.v. my verhouding met hierdie Jesus wat uit die dood opgestaan het, eksistensiële sekerheid wat my intellektuele sekerheid vêr oorskadu.

Hoe beïnvloed my oortuiging dat die Nuwe Testament histories betroubaar is my siening dat dit ook as die Woord van God beskou kan word. Wel, as Jesus werklik is wie hy gesê het hy was en wat ander gesê het hy was, en as Jesus gedoen het wat die skrywers in die Nuwe Testament oor hom geskryf het, dan was Jesus werklik God se openbaring van Homself (‘n persoon met beide ‘n menslike en Goddelike natuur deelagtig). In daardie geval maak dit sin om te redeneer dat die Nuwe Testament geïnspireer om as ‘n onfeilbare (betroubare en gesagvolle) getuienis daarvan te dien en daarom aanvaar ek dit as die Woord van God.

Ek dink daarom glad nie dat enige van bogenoemde kritiek die Christelike wêreldbeskouing in gedrang bring dat God Homself spesifiek aan die mens geopenbaar het nie. Al die getuienis in die storie oor Jesus laat my dink dat die beste verduidelik daarvoor in hierdie openbaring van God van Homself gevind kan word.

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