Response to a Defense of Zeitgeist: Apostles and the Zodiac

Our next topic on D. M. Murdock’s list of ten “myths” about the religion section of the film Zeitgeist is that the twelve zodiac signs are not the 12 disciples. She claims this is false and uses as evidence the work of Tim Hegedus. Well, actually her evidence is a misrepresentation of Tim Hegedus.

As part of her evidence for the Apostles=Zodiac association, she related a quote from Hegedus as follows:

As theologian Rev. Dr. Tim Hegedus remarks in Early Christianity and Ancient Astrology (343): “[The] twelve apostles have taken over the role of guardian…of the zodiacal signs that had traditionally been held by the twelve [Olympian] gods.”

Thus Murdock certainly is giving the impression that Dr. Hegedus stated the twelve apostles were a replacement for the zodiac. But did he?

One common type of quotemine is to remove a qualifier from a statement. For example, if someone quoted me stating “Jesus had no physical body” but I actually wrote “The Docetists believed Jesus had no physical body”, then that would be a misrepresentation of my views. The qualifier “The Docetists believed” makes all the difference as it restricts what follows to a particular group rather than presenting it as my opinion. Thus it is dishonest (or incompetent) to quote a qualified statement as something the author himself believed.

This is exactly what Murdock did with the Hegedus quote as what he actually wrote was:

Moreover, in effect for both Theodotus and the Priscillianists, the twelve Apostles have taken over the role of guardian (tutela) of the zodiacal signs that had traditionally been held by the twelve gods of the Olympian pantheon.

Astonishingly, she left off the qualifier that makes clear that Dr. Hegedus was referring to the beliefs of specific Gnostic groups and not his own opinion. Theodotus was a late second century Gnostic. The Priscillianists were a quasi-Gnostic group in the Iberian peninsula in the fourth and fifth centuries. Both are far too late to have anything to do with the founding of Christianity.

Furthermore, neither Theodotus nor the Priscillianists believed the Apostles were the signs of the zodiac and not real people. For example, Theodotus wrote:

By reason of great humility the Lord did not appear as an angel but as a man, and when he appeared in glory to the apostles on the Mount he did not do it for his own sake when he showed himself, but for the sake of the Church which is “the elect race,” that it might learn his advancement after his departure from the flesh.

Thus it is pretty clear that he believed they were real people. However, some gnostics, Theodotus included, believed the Apostles’ role in the afterlife was as guardians of the zodiac. It was all rather ridiculous and an obvious blending of Christianity and pagan ideas but it had nothing to do with the Apostles being the signs of the zodiac and not real people.

This is typical of Murdock. Take an isolated phrase or sentence without actually reading the context and run with it to make a point the author never intended.

Having Fun with Mythicist Milwaukee: How Not to Do Textual Criticism

It just seems that Mythicist Milwaukee can’t win for losing. The Wisconsin based regurgitator of bottom feeder atheist websites has a habit of releasing graphics illustrating their ignorance. While many are merely items recycling claims from Zeitgeist and thus the same drivel we have been getting from that end of the mythicist spectrum for years, occasionally they come up with a new twist and thus it allows for further illustrations of why some people should read a few books before making sensationalistic claims.

Consider, for example, one of MM’s recent graphic posts:


Astonishingly, they managed to get through all of that without making a single cogent point. As we shall see, every “point” was either factually wrong or simply irrelevant.

It does not help that MM begins their little screed with something that is not only irrelevant but factually incorrect:

The King James Version of the New Testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the Church of England.

At this point, MM is trying to make this sound scandalous but, due to their own ignorance and incompetence, have simply fouled up the whole thing. First of all, it is not the number of translators but their quality that matters. I would rather have a translation by eight experts than fifty less than competent translators. Yet even in number they got it all wrong as there were far more than eight of them! The Gospels, Acts, and Revelation were translated by Thomas Ravis, George Abbot, Richard Eedes, Giles Tomson, Sir Henry Savile, John Peryn, Ralph Ravens, John Harmar, John Aglionby, and Leonard Hutten. The Epistles were translated by William Barlow, John Spenser, Roger Fenton, Ralph Hutchinson, William Dakins, Michael Rabbet, and Thomas Sanderson. If you cannot even take the time to get your lead statement correct (available online in many places), you simply have no business commenting. And, by the way, these groups included among them the top Greek scholars then residing in England. As for their being in the Church of England, if you are translating a Bible for English speakers who, at that early date, primarily resided in England, it does make sense that they be members of the Church of England.

There were (and still are) no original texts to translate.

So?? Are MM really so stupid as to think we have any originals of any ancient writings?!? Where, do tell, may I find the original of any other texts from the first century AD? Or the second? Or the third? Here we find the typical double standards of Jesus mythicists who apply one standard to the New Testament and another to everything else. There is a reason why historians consider mythicists to be largely conspiracy theorist crackpots.

The oldest manuscripts we have were written down hundreds of years after the last apostle died.

Excuse me?? Where exactly is MM getting their information? Certainly not from anyone who has a clue about the state of the manuscript evidence. Even if we exclude fragments and just concentrate on manuscripts with a sizable chunk of one or more books, it is still wrong. For example, P75 contains the majority of the Gospels of Luke and John. P46 contains the large majority of the Pauline epistles, and P66 contains most of John. All of these date from about 200 AD which is likely 100-125 years after the last apostle died – not “centuries” later. Compared to other works of antiquity, this is astoundingly good. For example, our earliest example of Plato’s Republic is from the 9th century AD – about 1300 years after it was written. Does MM ever do research before they post this stuff??

There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts, with no two alike.

First of all, considering that many of the manuscripts are of different books (early in the Church’s history there were collections of the Gospels, Paul’s letters, etc., rather than single copies of the New Testament), we would not expect a copy of one to match the other. Even when we consider copies of the same books, we don’t expect complete agreement in handwritten texts. Of the differences, over 95% are misspellings, alternate spellings, and other factors that are of no importance. Even when we get alternate readings, the earliest manuscripts generally settle the issue. For example, an alternate reading that first appears in the eighth century AD may be eliminated from serious consideration. In terms of variant readings that might be considered in dispute, this makes up a miniscule portion of the New Testament and does not affect any major points of Christian belief.

The King James translators used none of these, anyway. Instead, they edited previous translations to create a version their king and Parliament would approve.

The above is an example of the fallacy of the red herring. While it is true that the KJV translators did not use the manuscripts, there is no reason for them to have done so. That is not how translations are done with texts that have significant numbers of handwritten manuscripts. Instead, you use a critical edition of the text in its original language. This is what the KJV translators did as they used editions of the Greek text by Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza that were then available. Of course, these editions could not take advantage of the much earlier manuscripts discovered since then, but they did the best they could with limited resources.

The claim that they merely edited previous versions is patently false as anyone who had cracked open a book now and then on the subject could have told them. What they were instructed to do is use the style of previous translations unless they were inaccurate. One can translate a passage many ways to convey the same meaning and the idea was not to make the translation seem foreign to their ears.

So, 21st century Christians believe the “word of god” is a book edited in the 17th century from 16th century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st century.

First of all, most 21st century Christians do not use the KJV. They will usually rely upon a translation using the 26th or 27th edition of the Nestle/Aland text. This would include the ESV, NIV, NASB, and many others. Since the majority of the New Testament in that edition relies upon 2nd and 3rd century texts, the fourth century scrolls bit is nonsense. In fact, any mention of scrolls is nonsense as the Christian texts were written in codices – not scrolls. The remainder of the idiocy in that statement has been dealt with already.

That’s not faith, it is insanity.

Given what these folks posted, that’s not scholarship – it’s crackpot drivel.

Seriously …. does this bunch ever research anything???

Having Fun with Mythicist Milwaukee: Introduction

Having been introduced to some group known as Mythicist Milwaukee at Nick Peters’ blog, I have recently been noting the images they like to post on their Facebook page. These supposedly are evidence that Jesus was mythical but the arguments presented in them are too funny not to share. Thus, every so often, I will take one of their graphic memes and subject it to a thorough critique. Cheers.

Updating E-Book Series

Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing the book series as published thus far. This will include both correcting some typos and adding some new information. As they have been sold on Kindle, those who have purchased the books already will have their copy updated automatically by setting their preferences to update (I believe this is usually the default). As I update each book, I will announce it here on the blog. If there is any problem updating already purchased Kindle books, please let me know.

Response to a Defense of Zeitgeist: The Sun/Son Canard

Next in D. M. Murdock’s list of ten “myths” about the religion section of the film Zeitgeist is the claim that the words “sun” and “son” aren’t cognate in English. This immediately strikes one as odd since the statement is true – they are not cognate in English. What she actually intended to state as a myth is that the film ever claimed the sun/son connection (as in “Sun of God” vs. “Son of God”) was significant. As we shall see, in this she is also wrong.

This dispute centers on critics of Zeitgeist pointing out that the film used the term “God’s Sun” to make a connection to Jesus as “God’s Son.” The reason for laughter was obvious: the film drew upon the existence of the homophones “sun” and “son” for such a connection but this correspondence only existed in modern English – a language that did not exist in antiquity. This particular example quickly became “Exhibit A” for Christian apologists that the film was ridiculous.

This was a point where the film’s defenders simply could not possibly mount any defense for the claim itself – the absurdity of it was obvious, once explained, to even novices on the subject. Thus, rather than defend ir, backers of the film began making excuses. The most common of these is that the whole thing was only used as a pun and was not meant to be taken seriously. This is the defense supplied in the source guide released after the embarrassing criticism and this remains by far the prevalent response by the film’s supporters. However, when the earliest version of the film and its sources are examined, this evasion collapses on all fronts.

When Zeitgeist was first released, Peter Joseph credited the conspiracy theorist Jordan Maxwell as its primary inspiration. Maxwell is notorious for his laughable etymologies that attempt to make connections between pagan and Biblical terms using words in modern English. Some of these, including connecting “Horus” to “hours”, “Set” to “Sunset”, and “God’s Sun” to “God’s Son” made it to the original version of Zeitgeist. While most of this sort of nonsense was scrubbed from later versions of the film, the “God’s Sun” expression appeared at numerous key junctures and would have required a complete reworking. Thus, instead the film had some minor tweaking (e.g., changing the explicit “it was called God’s Sun” to the more ambiguous “God’s Sun”) and the excuse mentioned above was issued.

It is also interesting to note that Joseph was not alone in such silliness. In the 1990s, Jordan Maxwell cast a large shadow until even most Jesus mythicists realized that his “research” was dubious at best. Murdock, in her early books, was far more dependent upon the material, such as that of Maxwell, circulating in conspiracy theorist circles. In fact, much of what appears in The Christ Conspiracy overlaps with Maxwell’s brand of nonsense from the same period. It appears that the “God’s Sun” debacle was among them.

For example, while the recent source guide eschewed any connection between “God’s Sun” and “God’s Son”:

Concerning the “son-sun” play on words – which is not a cognate but a mere happy coincidence in English …

her comments years before in Suns of God reflected the opposite view:

Thus the English word “son” is not a false cognate with “sun,” and it is truthfully said that the “son of god” is the “sun of god.”

Hence, while today she states that “son” and “sun” is not a cognate, she earlier stated the truthfulness of the cognate. So it appears Peter Joseph is not the only one who backpedaled on this issue.

In the older quote by Murdock, her source was someone named Jacob Bryant. Mr. Bryant was considered a fine scholar in his day, but his day was the latter half of the eighteenth century. Citing a contemporary of George Washington is questionable enough, but it gets stranger when you read Bryant’s argument.

Bryant claimed Noah’s son Ham was worshiped as, among others, the Greek Zeus and the Egyptian Amun. Constructing etymologies that would make even Jordan Maxwell blush, he argued that Egyptian priests had the title “sonchin” or “son-cohen” or “priests of the sun.” He derived this via a tradition of Pythagoras being a pupil of an Egyptian priest named Sonches. He then assumed what was clearly a proper name to be a title, conjugated from it the form sonchin, assumed this was a compound of two words “son” and “chin,” assumed “chin” had an etymological connection to the Hebrew “cohen” (priest), assumed the Egyptians were part of a pan-Aryan ruling culture spread throughout the ancient world, and then concluded “son” had an etymological connection to the English “sun” through this Aryan connection. Needless to say, this imaginative exercise carried little weight with anyone aside from Bryant and Murdock. That is, until she changed her mind and decided “sun” and “son” were not really cognate after all.

One can perhaps forgive Bryant for his wild etymological explorations at a time when such silliness was far more common than today. However, since someone writing before the Rosetta Stone was deciphered was not in any position to know what the Egyptians called anything, Murdock’s odd willingness to use such obviously questionable material to support her thesis further undermines her credibility in conducting proper research.

Perhaps Murdock can argue that she was ignorant of the film’s earlier faults. As I stated before, she is not responsible for Peter Joseph’s blunders. However, once she has gone on record with Joseph as stating neither ever held the connection as significant, then both must be called on the carpet as engaging once more in historical revisionism to cover up past errors. Thus, the pattern continues …