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Alexander the Great and Jesus

Skepticalone
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5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?
This thread is like eavesdropping on a conversation in a mental asylum. - Bulproof

You can call your invisible friends whatever you like. - Desmac

What the hell kind of coked up sideshow has this thread turned into. - Casten
tstor
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5/11/2016 10:26:18 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?
I am reading this in the morning, so I will give my thoughts on it after school.
"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide." (John Steinbeck; Tortilla Flat, 1935)
tstor
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5/11/2016 9:03:26 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
[Post #1]

I have been thinking about this for the majority of the school day. (italicized quotes are from the original article):

"The comparison of Alexander the Great in the Romance with Jesus Christ in the Gospels is especially enlightening, since both Alexander and Jesus were historical persons, who had fabulous accounts written about their lives within only a couple generations after their deaths."

I cannot comment on the case of Alexander the Great, as I have not read much about him other than what is covered in history class and a slim biography in my school library. However, I believe that I am well versed enough when it comes the Bible, Christianity, and Christian history to say that this statement about Jesus is wrong. Specifically, Jesus did not have "fabulous accounts" (assuming this is in reference to his virgin birth, miracles, and resurrection) written about his life a "couple of generations" after his death. They were written right after his death, not several generations in the future. Consider the following articles for when the Gospels were written:
https://carm.org...
https://www.blueletterbible.org...

Luke - before 64 C.E.; before Acts
Acts - before 64 C.E.
Matthew - after 41 C.E.; before 115 C.E.
Mark - between 55 C.E. and 70 C.E.
John - before 70 C.E.

"Both were likewise called 'Son of God'"

For clarification, Alexander the Great was not the only person in history to claim to be a demi-god of sorts. Wikipedia states: "Throughout history, emperors and rulers ranging from the Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1000 BC) in China to Alexander the Great (c. 360 BC) to the Emperor of Japan (c. 600 AD) have assumed titles that reflect a filial relationship with deities." It goes on to clarify that "[i]n Greek mythology, Heracles (son of Zeus) and many other figures were considered to be sons of gods through union with mortal women. From around 360 BC onwards Alexander the Great may have implied he was a demigod by using the title 'Son of Ammon - Zeus.'" We know that this was not the truth, however, as it is recorded that his father was Phillip II. You can read more about his birth here:
http://www.livius.org...

"Both Alexander and Jesus were also considered to be 'king of kings.'"

This is a rather worthless comparison, is it not? After all, the term "king of kings" was a title used by various empires. Consider what Wikipedia says on the topic: "The Persian title of a king of kings is shahanshah, associated especially with Zoroastrian Persian Achaemenid Empire, where it referred to the monarch ruling over other monarchs who had a vassal, tributary or protectorate position." It goes on to say that "Alexander the Great had the title: 'Basileus ton Basilion' meaning king of kings. This title was likely given to him to imply that he was a successor of the Persian kings who had the same title." This understanding is upheld in the Bible. For example, Ezra 7:12 calls Artaxerxes the "king of kings." The title was also used in reference to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:37 and Ezekiel 26:7. So it is in reference to a powerful king, monarch, or ruler. This is why it is applied to Jesus in 1 Timothy and Revelation.

"The Gospels likewise show similar disregard for chronological order. [...] Part of why these discrepancies and embellishments occur is because ancient audiences did not take these texts literally."

The author rightly states that the "chronology" in the Synoptic Gospels are different. However, there is a reason for this. To quote carm.org, "Matthew wrote thematically and not chronologically, and Luke and Mark wrote far more chronologically than did Matthew." As for the "audiences" not taking the writings literally, I am not sure where they are pulling this from. Naturally, the author fails to provide a citation (other than a reference to a $200 200 page book written by Richard Miller). The Bible makes it clear that the Gospels are literal in 2 Peter 1:20, 21, which tells us: "For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man's will, but men spoke from God as they were moved by holy spirit." We can also consider some non-Christian texts that confirm the Christian belief in literal Gospels:
"About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he [...] wrought surprising feats. [...] He was the Christ. When Pilate [...] condemned him to be crucified, those who had [...] come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared [...] restored to life. [...] And the tribe of Christians [...] has [...] not disappeared." (Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64)

One publication speaks of the early Christian beliefs of a resurrection:
"Almost all early Christians known to us believed that their ultimate hope was the resurrection of the body. There is no spectrum such as in Judaism. Some in Corinth denied the future resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.12), but Paul put them straight; they were most likely reverting to pagan views, not opting for an over-realized Jewish eschatology. Two named individuals in 2 Timothy 2.18 say the resurrection has already happened, but they stand out by their oddity, and they too bear witness to the fact that mainstream early Christianity did indeed hope for resurrection, even if by the end of the first generation some were using that language in a new way, to refer simply to a new present identity or spiritual experience -- marking the road to the gnostic views of, for instance, the Epistle to Rheginos. [...] As with their beliefs about resurrection, they redefined Messiahship itself, and with it their whole view of the problem that Israel and the world faced and the solution that they believed God had provided. [...] If we assume, as is often done, that talking of Jesus' resurrection is simply a flowery, perhaps Jewish, way of talking about him 'going to heaven when he died', so that his death and his 'exaltation' were actually the same thing, and together constitute him as divine, where did the notion of an interval come from? I have often heard it said, sometimes by people who should know better, that Jesus died and was 'resurrected to heaven', but that is precisely not what the early Christians said. Raised from the dead, yes; exalted to heaven, yes; but resurrection never did mean 'going to heaven when you die', and it certainly did not mean that when people used it to talk about Jesus. No: if the early Christians had been merely 'deducing' Jesus' resurrection from some other belief about something he had become through dying, the talk of an interval between death and resurrection would never have arisen -- unless we are to postulate yet another cycle of improbable development of tradition, moving from exaltation to resurrection to a three-day gap. Jews, after all, had well-developed ways of talking about martyrs being honoured and respected, and they believed that they would be raised in the future. If the early Christians thought Jesus, upon his death, had gone to a special place of honour with God, that would have been the obvious language for them to use." (Gregorianum)

Some people have taken the time to try and construct the chronology of Jesus' ministry. One example is here:
http://www.lifeofchrist.com...
"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide." (John Steinbeck; Tortilla Flat, 1935)
tstor
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5/11/2016 9:03:29 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
[Post #2]

"Both the Alexander Romance and the Gospels are accounts of historical figures, to be sure, but these accounts functioned more as symbolic histories rather than the critical histories of Greco-Roman historians and biographers."

The only note I would like to make is that Luke (the author of Luke and Acts) was a historian. The archeologist Sir William Samsay stated that "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy [...] [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." E.M. Blaiklock, who is the Professor of Classics at Auckland University, wrote: "For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record [...] it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth."

"[W]ith Jesus -- we have no independent historical source by which we can evaluate the ways in which the legend varies from what really happened. In the Alexander Romance we see see history becoming saga before our very eyes."

While I will agree there are not a whole lot of trustworthy documents regarding Jesus' early life, there are several non-Biblical texts that deal with his ministry and death.

Regarding his death:
"Nero fastened the guilt [...] on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of [...] Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome..." (Tacitus, Annals 15.44)

"On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald [...] cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.'" (The Babylonian Talmud, translated by I. Epstein, vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, 281)

"The Christians [...] worship a man to this day -- the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. [...] [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws." (Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, translated by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, vol. 4)

Regarding his baptism:
Quoting Wikipedia: "The existence of John the Baptist within the same time frame as Jesus, and his eventual execution by Herod Antipas is attested to by 1st-century historian Josephus and the overwhelming majority of modern scholars view Josephus' accounts of the activities of John the Baptist as authentic."

Other aspects:
"An approximate chronology of Jesus can be estimated from non-Christian sources, and confirmed by correlating them with New Testament accounts."
"Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born between 7 and 2 BC and died 30-36 AD."
"Jesus lived only in Galilee and Judea, and never travelled or studied outside Galilee and Judea."
"Jesus spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek. James D. G. Dunn states that there is 'substantial consensus' that Jesus gave his teachings in Aramaic, although the Galilean dialect of Aramaic was clearly distinguishable from the Judean dialect."
https://en.wikipedia.org...

"The first point of comparison between the Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation is that Revelation is also written as a letter in the first-person. Revelation (1:4) starts with John of Patmos addressing his account to seven church in the province of Asia, and he discusses issues facing each church in chapter 2 and chapter 3. Like Alexander, John is taken on a marvelous journey, but rather than going to the spatial ends of the Earth, he is instead taken up into Heaven, where he witnesses a prophecy about the temporal end of the Earth."

I am not quite sure I understand the significance of this comparison. There are many ancient texts that are told in first person. For example, Catherine Parke, Professor Emerita of English and Women's Studies at the University of Missouri, stated: "In ancient Egypt the formulaic accounts of Pharaoh's lives praised the continuity of dynastic power. Although typically written in the first person, these pronouncements are public, general testimonials, not personal utterances."

In regard to them both going somewhere, I do not find any significance either. One is going somewhere physical, the other is not. If you walk to the store and twenty years later I walk to the park, I am not mimicking your lifestyle.

"As I discuss above, both the Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation contain marvelous and symbolic imagery. Some of this includes fantastical descriptions of human-like creatures and animals. For example, the Alexander Romance (2.32) describes the following location that Alexander arrived at during his journey [2]:

'[W]e came to an even more desolate place. Here, we found a great forest of trees called anaphanda, with a strange and unfamiliar fruit: they were like apples, but of the size of melons. There were also people in the wood, called Phytoi, who were 36 feet tall, their necks alone being 2 feet in length, and their feet of equally enormous size. Their forearms and hands were like saws.'

When John is taken up to Heaven in Revelation, he sees similar bizarre creatures. As Revelation (4:6-8) describes in one scene:

'In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.'

Those are both some spectacular marvels to behold!"


It appears that the author is reading into what John said in Revelation. The Letter to Olympias specifically states that there "were also people in the wood" and then goes on to describe their human features. You should note that the people described are not given super-human features. John describes four creatures that have different appearances, one has the face of a man. John does not say that the creature is a person, human, or man. He simply states that it has the face of a man. All of the creatures have six wings (not human-like) and eyes all over (also not human-like).
"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide." (John Steinbeck; Tortilla Flat, 1935)
tstor
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5/11/2016 9:03:31 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
[Post #3]

"Another point of similarity between the Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation is the theme of light and darkness. The hero depicted in each account is described as a figure who will bring light to the world, and the people and places that are not under him will be left in darkness. As Alexander travels further to the East, he reaches lands that are so far that they will never fall under his empire. As the Alexander Romance (2.38) describes his journey:

'We set off again and made for the sea through the desert. On the way we saw nothing -- no bird or beast, nothing but sky and earth. We could not even see the sun, and the sky remained black for a period of ten days. Then we came to a place by the sea and pitched our tents; we stayed in camp here for several days.'

Amitay notes that the theme of light and darkness is also used in the Gospel of John. For example, John (1:4-5) describes Jesus in the following manner:

'In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.'

Similar imagery of light and darkness is likewise used in the Book of Revelation. When seven angels pour out the 'seven bowls of God's wrath' in chapter 16, the following description is given of the fifth angel (16:10-11):

'The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.'"


So we have a concept of light and darkness. This is not an odd concept at all. If you are enlightened, then you are in the light. Otherwise, you are in the darkness. It might be worth noting, however, that Proverbs (written before the Letter to Olympias) already speaks of this comparison. Consider Proverbs 2:13, which reads: "To walk in the ways of darkness..." Light is described in Exodus 10:23 (also written before the Letter to Olympias): "They did not see one another, and none of them got up from where they were for three days; but all the Israelites had light in their dwellings."

"On his journey to the furthest boundaries of the world, Alexander seeks not only the end of land, but even the ends of the sea and sky. As such, at one point of the journey, Alexander invents a contraption in order to descend into the depths of the ocean. Here is how the Alexander Romance (2.38) describes his descent:

'So I then made a large iron cage, and inside the cage I placed a large glass jar, 2 feet wide, and I ordered a hole to be made in the bottom of the jar, big enough for a man's hand to go through. My idea was to descend and find out what was on the floor of this sea.'

To fly into the air, Alexander needs the aid of giant birds. Once again, Alexander invents a contraption that allows him to ascend into the sky (2.41):

'Then I began to ask myself again if this place was really the end of the world, where the sky touched the earth. I wanted to discover the truth, and so I gave orders to capture two of the birds that lived there -- On the third day I had something like a yoke constructed from wood, and had this tied to their throats. Then I had an ox-skin made into a large bag -- and climbed in, holding two spears, each about 10 feet long and with a horse's liver fixed to the point. At once the birds soared up to seize the livers, and I rose up with them into the air, until I thought I must be close to the sky. I shivered all over because of the extreme coldness of the air, caused by the beating of the birds' wings.'"

What is signified in these passages is that Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world, also had to traverse every part of the Earth. In this way he is very much like the mythical figure Hercules, who is also the "Son of God," namely the Roman god Jupiter. On his journey, Alexander has to go where no human has gone before, so that he even descends into the ocean and ascends into the sky. Once more, Alexander is similar to Jesus' depiction in Revelation. As is declared at the end of Revelation (22:13):

'I am the Alpha and the Omega,the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.'


This, once again, is quite a stretch. Alexander is claiming to go to the bottom of the sea, and to the heights of the sky. He conquered the known world, so the author can rightly argue that he has gone "where no human has gone before..." However, it is not appropriate to draw a comparison between this understanding and Revelation 22:13. The title "Alpha and Omega" does not deal with travels. It deals with the being having an eternal nature. It is also worth noting that Revelation 22:13 is not speaking of Jesus, but the Father. The original Bible writers did not use punctuation, which is reflected in some Bible translations such as the King James Version. Unfortunately, this results in the words of one speaker flowing right into another person's words. Eerdman's 1978 edition of Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible states: "The language of the messenger frequently glides into that of the sender [...] [and] what a servant says or does is ascribed to the master." Now, if we examine Revelation 22:8, we see that John is identified as the speaker: "I, John..." The angel begins to speak in verse 9 ("But he tells me...") and appears to continue speaking in verse 10 ("He also tells me..."). Verse 11 does not make it clear who is speaking. It could be the angel speaking, John, or even someone who is not named. So the question is this: Who is speaking in verse 12? Is it Jesus, John, the angel, God, or someone else? It is typically thought that the person speaking in verse 12 is also speaking in verse 13. Jesus is introduced in verse 16 ("I, Jesus..."), so it would not make much sense to assume it was him. I could go on to explain why I believe it to be God speaking, but that would not pertain strictly to the topic at hand.

I hope this is what you were looking for when you asked for some thoughts on the article.
"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide." (John Steinbeck; Tortilla Flat, 1935)
Geogeer
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5/13/2016 5:31:53 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?

I'm sorry once I saw it referencing John Crossan, I couldn't take it seriously.
Skepticalone
Posts: 6,135
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5/13/2016 6:16:37 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/13/2016 5:31:53 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?

I'm sorry once I saw it referencing John Crossan, I couldn't take it seriously.

John Crossan is a New Testament scholar and dismissing the entire article because of references to him is not valid.
This thread is like eavesdropping on a conversation in a mental asylum. - Bulproof

You can call your invisible friends whatever you like. - Desmac

What the hell kind of coked up sideshow has this thread turned into. - Casten
Geogeer
Posts: 4,286
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5/13/2016 6:28:12 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/13/2016 6:16:37 PM, Skepticalone wrote:
At 5/13/2016 5:31:53 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?

I'm sorry once I saw it referencing John Crossan, I couldn't take it seriously.

John Crossan is a New Testament scholar and dismissing the entire article because of references to him is not valid.

Possibly, however to use him as a quote, just shows a mindset of the article.
Skepticalone
Posts: 6,135
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5/13/2016 6:54:52 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/13/2016 6:28:12 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/13/2016 6:16:37 PM, Skepticalone wrote:
At 5/13/2016 5:31:53 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?

I'm sorry once I saw it referencing John Crossan, I couldn't take it seriously.

John Crossan is a New Testament scholar and dismissing the entire article because of references to him is not valid.

Possibly, however to use him as a quote, just shows a mindset of the article.

What does dismissing the entire article (and many other references) based on a single source show about mindset, G? I don't expect you to agree, but at least express something substantive if you're going to go to the trouble at all. :-)
This thread is like eavesdropping on a conversation in a mental asylum. - Bulproof

You can call your invisible friends whatever you like. - Desmac

What the hell kind of coked up sideshow has this thread turned into. - Casten
Geogeer
Posts: 4,286
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5/13/2016 7:01:40 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 5/13/2016 6:54:52 PM, Skepticalone wrote:
At 5/13/2016 6:28:12 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/13/2016 6:16:37 PM, Skepticalone wrote:
At 5/13/2016 5:31:53 PM, Geogeer wrote:
At 5/11/2016 4:57:54 AM, Skepticalone wrote:
More specifically, an eschatological comparison of Alexander"s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation. Here is the link:

https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com...

Thoughts?

I'm sorry once I saw it referencing John Crossan, I couldn't take it seriously.

John Crossan is a New Testament scholar and dismissing the entire article because of references to him is not valid.

Possibly, however to use him as a quote, just shows a mindset of the article.


What does dismissing the entire article (and many other references) based on a single source show about mindset, G? I don't expect you to agree, but at least express something substantive if you're going to go to the trouble at all. :-)

I didn't dismiss the article as having no worth. I simply have no interest in reading an article who quotes from an organization like the Jesus Seminar like it is a credible organization that adds weight to the article. Sorry. Personal bias.