A book on first and second century Christian communism using David Graeber's work

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potrokin
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May 2 2017 07:30
Khawaga wrote:
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If you're not willing to actually try and understand theology or the text, that's fine. But if you try and then criticize it you're gonna end up looking silly, since you'd be taking our of complete ignorance.

And that's precisely how s/he looks especially when compared to the erudition of you and Dave B. To his/her defence, however, I think potrokin is relatively young and did come out of what seems to be a pretty horrible christian-fundamentalist family.

Had I not had bad experiences with religion/religious people, I would still be of the opinion that christian anarchism/gnostic christianity, indeed christianity and religion of any sort was a crock of mystical shit and nothing to do with real revolutionary politics- and when I am more mature I will continue to be of such an opinion. Thats all I have to say.

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Khawaga
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May 2 2017 15:55

Sure, but that comment was not about you being atheist or not, but how you argue (rather poorly when it come to religion, although on other topics you often make excellent arguments).

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Steven.
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May 2 2017 16:18

This is a really interesting topic, thanks for posting about your book here.

Dave, have really enjoyed your posts as well. What would you think of getting a review copy of this book and reviewing it for libcom? I think lots of people would find that very interesting!

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Auld-bod
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May 2 2017 16:32

I second that Steven. One does not need to ‘believe’ to be interested in the history of ideas.

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Steven.
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May 2 2017 16:37
Auld-bod wrote:
I second that Steven. One does not need to ‘believe’ to be interested in the history of ideas.

exactly. I'm an atheist but anyone has to acknowledge that the Bible is one of the world's most influential texts, up there only with the Koran and Capital. And prior to modern times in the West, all radical political movements had an essentially theological basis

Dave B
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May 2 2017 19:04

I will think about it after I have read it.

I have to be a bit careful as my SPGB friends don’t like my moralism, human nature and social instinct ideology anymore than my JC was a commie stuff.

I read the gospels late in life whilst in the party and posted on it about 10 years ago and they went ballisitic.

Hence I started my journey.

I discovered the Kautsky and Engels material later.

I have loads of sympathy with people who hate modern Christianity; not just because I do as well.

My first girlfriend was brought up in one of these mad sects and was disowned, kicked out and abandoned at the age of 16, before I met her.

It is ironic in a way in that modern Christianity is what it started out attacking.

They are the modern Pharisees and Sadducees performing the same socio-economic function with the only differences being the theological paraphernalia.

In fact when I first read it which was just pamphlet of one of the gospels given to me by a Christian for free.

I thought I might have had a joke copy with all this stuff about self righteous hypocrites dressed up in fancy costumes and funny hats etc.

I mean that is what I thought Christians were all about.

Has anything happened recently over the dead sea scroll material?

Last time I looked at it they were bickering about copyright law and the Roman Catholics who ended up with it were dragging their feet releasing stuff.

Allegedly because they didn’t like the idea of a pre messiah revelation proto Christian antecedents.

What’s the latest gossip on this, book pending, first century fragment of Mark extracted from a paper Mache ‘Egyptian’ middle class funeral mask?

Can you give me the run down on the ruling class/late christianity ‘classical’ Greek, not very good Greek, and pidgeon, I am a member of the lower class, Greek ancillary new testament material.

The Greek thing is quite important for several reasons.

There are apparently some quite clever alliterative puns in the gospel stuff that only work and are quite brilliant in Greek.

I seem to remember the born again one is one of them?

Bart seems to think that JC wouldn’t have been able to speak Greek therefore it was later fake.

But there are begging street kids in Calcutta who can speak English as part of tapping into the rich tourist trade.

I have given up trying to catch Rommon out and he will have this as well.

Quote:
……….It claims that differences in class and the ownership of property are unnatural, and argues for property and women to be held in common……

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpocrates

It is funny about what goes around comes around.

The Whinstanley leveller people were accused of having women as common property.

You believe in common property.

Women are property.

Ergo women are common property.

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May 2 2017 19:47
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Has anything happened recently over the dead sea scroll material?

Last time I looked at it they were bickering about copyright law and the Roman Catholics who ended up with it were dragging their feet releasing stuff.

As far as I know they've all been released ... I use Geza Vermes's translation.

Quote:
What’s the latest gossip on this, book pending, first century fragment of Mark extracted from a paper Mache ‘Egyptian’ middle class funeral mask?

I wouldn't hold your breath, Daniel Wallace brought it up years ago during a debate (in a very dishonest way if you ask me), and so far I haven't heard any news about it, if there was a fragment of Mark there we would have heard about it.

To be honest I don't know what the whole fuss was about, very little of the actual text of the NT is in question, there are varients here and there, but its basically set.

The dating debates have little to do with manuscript data anyway.

Quote:
Can you give me the run down on the ruling class/late christianity ‘classical’ Greek, not very good Greek, and pidgeon, I am a member of the lower class, Greek ancillary new testament material.

The Greek thing is quite important for several reasons.

There are apparently some quite clever alliterative puns in the gospel stuff that only work and are quite brilliant in Greek.

I seem to remember the born again one is one of them?

Bart seems to think that JC wouldn’t have been able to speak Greek therefore it was later fake.

Classical greek is what you'll find in plato, socrates, and so on.

Greek in the NT is koine or "common" greek, it's not so much "lower class" greek as much as just normal everyday greek during that time, not literary greek. That being said the quality of the greek varies in the texts.

James, Luke-Acts and some of the Pauline epistles show a very high level of greek; the Johanian material and Mark have very simply greek, Revelation bad greek.

Although you can't always tell on the greek level, we know scribes were used by some people, for example there is no way James the brother of Jesus actually wrote the epistle of James (James was not educated, and probably could speak very little if any greek); rather the epistle of James is probably a speech James gave that was translated, or something like that, James reads very much like typical Jewish wisdom literature and actually follows VERY closely much of what we find in Matthew (mainly the Q portion of Matthew) from Jesus, which indicates that it may have infact originated from James the brother of Jesus but was certainly not written by him.

As for the puns and the such, yeah there are a lot of little wordplay things and the such in the text, there are even little wordplay things that only work when you translate it from the greek to 1rst century Aramaic, so the pun is even lost in the original writing of the text.

The example you're talking about is where "Born Again" can Also mean "born from above" in John 3:3 (Gennethei Anothen, where Annothen can mean from above or again), it works in greek, not in Aramaic.

I think it is likely that Jesus actually spoke some Greek, he likely worked as a Day Laborer in Sepphoris (where there were large construction projects going on), and would probably have to speak some Greek.

That being said I dont' think the episode of Jesus with Nicodemus can be shown to be historical, for various reasons beyond that, it may have happened, but we don't know from the text. Much of John is not so much history as it is theological reflections on Jesus in narrative form.

Quote:
I have given up trying to catch Rommon out and he will have this as well.

I don't know why you're trying to catch me out tongue, I'm sure you'll find something I'm wrong about.

Quote:
It is funny about what goes around comes around.

The Whinstanley leveller people were accused of having women as common property.

You believe in common property.

Women are property.

Ergo women are common property.

Tertullian literally and directly addresses this in his second century Apologia .... apparently some educated upper class greeks reasoned this way taking the "friends have all things in common principle" to apply to wives; Tertullian argues against it. smile.

Don't try and idealize the early Christians though, there were many things that they did and believed that I'm sure many here would object to.

ajjohnstone
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May 2 2017 21:14
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I have to be a bit careful as my SPGB friends don’t like my moralism, human nature and social instinct ideology anymore than my JC was a commie stuff.

Not every member, Dave, although i do doubt that we have sufficient source material to determine Jesus social ideas, much less religious, unless the Q is accurate. And Ebonites and such, only passing secondary mentions to go by.

I go for the standard continuance of a John the Baptist follower becoming more of an eschatologist old-time prophet and a vehicle for all sorts of Jewish movements after the trauma of the 70AD Revolt

I just submitted an article (still to be approved but i think it will be) on common ownership for the Socialist Standard referring to the medieval communist religious movements such as the Taborites but it begins with the quotes of early church fathers (which i think i stole from you off our forum). A lot more could have been written as you and Rommon demonstrate of this strand of religion that never quite disappears but keeps re-surfacing.

I acquired quite a few books on the gospels before i donated them all to ACE, Vermes trilology on Jesus, for example. My interest was why the growth and expansion of Christianity as a religious poitical force. I found for an overview of how the persecuted became the persecutors Paul Johnson's history was good. Intriguing how many treated the Christian movement as "atheists" when they denounced the local city gods. But later there were many more old gods "martyrs" than those acclaimed Christian Martyrs. The "atheist" roles being reversed

All your references to the Greeks and to translations is interesting since there are a few books on how the bible was written. And regards the OT, the "authors" defined by usage of the Hebrew names for go.

The danger for you and Rommon is, there is no stop to your studies, the more you read, the more questions that arise.

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May 3 2017 08:44
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although i do doubt that we have sufficient source material to determine Jesus social ideas, much less religious, unless the Q is accurate. And Ebonites and such, only passing secondary mentions to go by.

I think we have plenty of information about Jesus from the synoptics, as well as the Cultural context that we have learned about, I think many of the super "skeptical" scholars who doubt everything just don't know how history works, yes People exagerate and and embellish, but that doesn't mean a good historian can't find the history behind it, we do it With People all the time With whome we have MUCH less information than Jesus.

Quote:
I go for the standard continuance of a John the Baptist follower becoming more of an eschatologist old-time prophet and a vehicle for all sorts of Jewish movements after the trauma of the 70AD Revolt

That's basically the consensus, but With a lot of caviots, Jesus was different than the standard revolutionaries, but he still was in the same line of the escatalogical apocalyptic prophet.

I do think however that post 70 was when Pauline Christianity started to take shape in a way that made it a serious condender for the Legacy of the Jesus movement.

Quote:
The danger for you and Rommon is, there is no stop to your studies, the more you read, the more questions that arise.

I have no problem With that tongue, this is an extremely deep subject.

jaycee
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May 3 2017 12:25

I'm really interested in this topic too. I'm currently reading Robert Eisenman's 'James the Brother of Jesus' which I think is good so far; although I think he stretches some points to support his thesis of James being the 'righteous teacher' of the dead sea scrolls. If you've read this book I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it.

Also I'd be interested to know if any of you know of a good general history of the idea/practice of communism.

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May 3 2017 12:38
Quote:
I'm really interested in this topic too. I'm currently reading Robert Eisenman's 'James the Brother of Jesus' which I think is good so far; although I think he stretches some points to support his thesis of James being the 'righteous teacher' of the dead sea scrolls. If you've read this book I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it.

Robert Eisenman is a great scholar ... But he's wrong about the DDS being early Christian documents, and about ... that isn't a diss, most scholars are wrong about different things (I'm sure I am wrong about many Things), but you can learn a lot from People doing Research even if they come from a wrong conclusion, InFact often them coming to a wrong conclusion gives you a Whole lot of Insight into the issue.

I'm not going to go into right now the problem's With his theories, it would take to long, but I have looked into his work a bit, and I find it fascinating, even if I dont' agree With his conclusions.

Quote:
Also I'd be interested to know if any of you know of a good general history of the idea/practice of communism.

among the early Christians? Yeah ... here tongue
http://wipfandstock.com/all-things-in-common.html

Dave B
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May 3 2017 18:14

There is some material in this.

Boundaries of Utopia - Imagining Communism from Plato to Stalin
By Erik van Ree

This link might be useful?

http://listverse.com/2014/10/03/10-communist-societies-that-predated-the...

Engels did the shakers here.

http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1844/10/15.htm

And a bit different there are some Marcion “anarchists” here.

Marcionism hung around for quite some time in various forms.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogomilism

jaycee
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May 3 2017 18:40

cheers.

I think I will purchase a copy of your book Rommon but I was thinking more of a general history of communism. Dave B, I looked at that website article (not bad) but was looking for something more in depth. it seems like a really global history of communism is quite difficult to find but will take a look at the 'plato to Stalin' book.

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May 3 2017 19:09

To be honest I think it will be difficult, most communism In history wasn't written about, it was just tribal societies doing what they do, they didn't need an ideology behind it and it wasn't really remarkable, the times it got written about was when it popped up in the context of empire, market societies or something like that; then it was out of the ordinary, or when someone from an imperial or market society came across a tribal or village society.

Anthropology would (in my opinion) be the place to look.

I also think medieval village communities would be a place to look as well, since we know more about them and many of them functioned very much as pre-state village societies usually do, I.e communistically.

jaycee
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May 4 2017 11:15

I agree with your point about most communism and tribal society, although I would say that they still needed an 'ideology' in some sense to maintain this egalitarianism and social feelings in general.

It seems like something very worthwhile to look into but like you say its an enormous topic.

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May 4 2017 11:24
jaycee wrote:
I agree with your point about most communism and tribal society, although I would say that they still needed an 'ideology' in some sense to maintain this egalitarianism and social feelings in general.

It seems like something very worthwhile to look into but like you say its an enormous topic.

I don't really think they did, all they needed was just the reality on the ground, i.e. they need each other to survive and thrive, and they want to be in community. I mean of course there were mythologies and such that had ideologies ... but I think communism is basically Natural, look wat what happens after a Natural disaster, usually People resort to communism to get things done.

The only time it needs an ideology (in my opinion) is if there is a structure preventing it which itself is defended by an overarching ideology.

One example of this is in feudalism; most village communities had one form of communism or another as the basic organizing principle, land was Distributed more or less democratically, Food and Resources were basically shared, and People had Natural obligations to one another.

In order for feudalism to take hold an ideology was necessary, for a long time feudalism was compatible With village communism, but once it started to impinge on it a Counter ideology poped up.

The guy in my Avatar is John Ball, a priest who led a peasant revolution against the king who was trying to Close up the commons and charge fees and taxes for what was formally shared and freed, his speaches used Christianity as the Counter ideology, however that was only necessary because kings and lords had created systems of domination and used their own ideology (part Christian, part Warrior culture, part Roman Law, part nobility ideology) to justify their systems.

Although I'm sure if you look in anthropological studies on tribal mythologies and so on you'll find ideological data, I'd be very interested to know if you find anything.

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May 4 2017 14:42

I agree with jaycee that in primitive communist societies there is a connection between 'ideology' (in this case, mythology in the precise sense) and the production/distribution of the social product; that it's not just something people did without thinking about it. An important effort to analyse this is contained in Rosa Luxemburg's Introduction to Political Economy, particularly in chapter III, section 3, where she looks at the Australian Aborigine totem system as a kind of 'frozen' ideological form based on the need to ensure an egalitarian distribution. The anthropologist Alain Testart wrote a long book, Le communisme primitif (unfortunately not available in English) where he again looks at the relationship between ideology and the mode of production in the Australian tribal system.

Dave B
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May 4 2017 20:55

I think I am more inclined to agree with Rommon.

Primitive communist societies that still exist and those that have been recently reported on.

Had there various mythologies/idologies but I think that was ‘more’ about trying to make sense of the natural forces that they were interfacing with.

Skipping forward a bit to say Greco-Roman and maybe even Judiac stuff it changes somewhat as a reflection of different socio economic realities.

Then the God’s become narcissistic and vindictive authoritarians who need to be sucked up to in a sycophantic way and even bribed and payed off with bribes, rent money and surplus value.

This is orthodox Marxism hate it or like it; “Fuerbach And the End of Classical German Philosophy’, ‘pursuit of wealth in life being mirrored in ideology and theology’.

Yes, I hear horseshit and intellectual bollocks.

So let’s switch to something that doesn’t pretend to be intellectual bollocks at all; but which is quite brilliant, sci-fi and star trek the next generation and the Ferengi.

Quote:
Like most of their culture, their religion is also based on the principles of capitalism: they offer prayers and monetary offerings to a "Blessed Exchequer" in hopes of entering the "Divine Treasury" upon death, and fear an afterlife spent in the "Vault of Eternal Destitution".

The Ferengi concepts of the afterlife are a mirror of their pursuit of wealth in life. When a Ferengi dies, he is said to meet the Blessed Exchequer, who reviews the financial statements of that Ferengi's entire life. If he earned a profit, he is ushered into Ferengi heaven: the Divine Treasury, where the Celestial Auctioneers allow him to bid on a new life. Ferengi who were not financially successful in life are damned to the Vault of Eternal Destitution.

When a Ferengi prays or bows in reverence, he holds his hands in a bowl shape with his wrists together. A typical Ferengi prayer begins with this phrase: "Blessed Exchequer, whose greed is eternal, allow this bribe to open your ears and hear this plea from your most humble debtor." As is typical, this is accompanied by placing a slip of latinum into a small statue made in the Exchequer's likeness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferengi

You see I have ‘innocently’ run this past Trekies; I have been to their Cons where they get pissed up and dress up as Klingons etc.

[There is a lively fringe Trekie thing on futuristic communism, which many of them understand, star trek the next generation is catergorically a communistic system, they understand that as well albeit in an incidental way]

What I got from many of them that they understood supposedly high brow Marxist economic base ideological superstructure theory excellently.

But I am not an intellectual snob.

Sci-fi in general is I think is an interesting free arena to ‘discuss’ politics, ideology and whatever.

Skipping back again onto primitive communism etc we have this from Kautsky when he was a proper communist in 1903, putting a bit of historical flesh on Karl’s primitive communism in Kautsky’s Das capital for dummies.

Quote:
Let us now turn to another and higher type of a social mode of production, for example, the Indian village community based on agriculture. Of the primitive communism which once prevailed there only a few scanty traces may now be found in India. But, according to Strabo. xv, 1, 66, Nearchus, Alexander the Great’s admiral, described countries in India where the land was common property, commonly tilled, and after the harvest the produce of the soil was divided among the villagers. According to Elphinstone, these communities were still in existence in some parts of India at the beginning of the last century.

In Java village communism continued to exist in the form of a periodical re-distribution of the arable land among the villagers, who did not receive their share as private property, but merely enjoyed the usufruct thereof for a definite period. In India the arable land has mostly become the private property of the village communes. Woods, pasture land, and uncultivated land, however, are in many cases still common property, over which all the members of the community have a right of usage.

What interests us in such a village community, which has not yet succumbed to the disintegrating influence of English rule, especially of the fiscal system, is the character which the division of labour assumes therein. As we have already noted such a division of labour among the American Indians, but a much higher type is presented by the Indian village communities.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/economic/ch01.htm

Elphinstone was a true born capitalist Victorian Britton who went a bit ‘native’ occasionally as some of them did, like Lockhart in the Russian revolution.

jaycee
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May 5 2017 11:23

surely Rommon though even in primitive communism the community needed social mores and a mythology to reinforce these mores. In particular this reminds me of Christopher Boehm's 'hierachy in the forest' which shows how hierarchy is consciously avoided and kept in check by social practice; in particular things like mocking and shunning/ostracizing (if mocking doesn't work) those who 'get too full of themselves' or threaten to put themselves above others.

The trickster myth is also closely tied in with this need to instill an opposition to greed/egotism etc.

I think it's a mistake to only see the naturalness of communism; it's certainly true but not the whole story, as human history clearly shows. Humanity is by nature both communistic/social and greedy/egoistic and this dualism will probably never be completely overcome even in an advanced communist society.

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May 5 2017 12:00
jaycee wrote:
surely Rommon though even in primitive communism the community needed social mores and a mythology to reinforce these mores. In particular this reminds me of Christopher Boehm's 'hierachy in the forest' which shows how hierarchy is consciously avoided and kept in check by social practice; in particular things like mocking and shunning/ostracizing (if mocking doesn't work) those who 'get too full of themselves' or threaten to put themselves above others.

The trickster myth is also closely tied in with this need to instill an opposition to greed/egotism etc.

I think it's a mistake to only see the naturalness of communism; it's certainly true but not the whole story, as human history clearly shows. Humanity is by nature both communistic/social and greedy/egoistic and this dualism will probably never be completely overcome even in an advanced communist society.

Oh I think you're right, which is why I think anthropology is where to look, not history (which really only deals With written Sources, archeology and reconstructs narratives).

If we are talking about pre-literary cultures, i.e. mostly oral cultures, there is very little to work With.

I think you're right about humanity being greedy as well as social; I just think that in situations without large institutionalized systems of violence, more and more of life moves over to the communistic side of Things, of course not everything and there are other problems. It's simply becuase communism is the easiest way to actually have a society when no one has recourse to violence.

I'm not idealist though, human beings are "naturally" capable of Extreme horror and evil as well as Extreme love.

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May 9 2017 06:51

That little article I wrote for Libcom seems to be blowing up ... I originally wrote the book for more conservative Christians, but it might end up being more popular With anarchists and socialists ... which is fine; but I do hope some conservative Christians.

Just as a disclaimer to those who read the article and are knowledgable in the Field of early Christianity; I know that what I wrote is over simplistic ... and that there are contentious issues there (some People argue it was a mostly proletarian/peasant movement, I tend to think the evidence Points to the idea that it was a mixed class movement very early on, but this is not settled).

I've also entirely left out the gnostics and the proto-gnostics for one reason, it's my position that they were not an offshoot of Christianity but rather a psudo-Neo-Platonic mystery religion that originally borrowed off Jewish mysticism and eventually borrowed from Christian narratives (if you look at some of the Nag Hammadi texts you'll find the older ones are either gnosticized jewish stories, or gosnticized pagan myths, eventually Christian narratives get in there). This is by no means the scholarly consensus, but it is my position and the position of many scholars.

Another thing, if you do buy the book, there are some parts that get a little technical, just fair warning smile.

Dave B
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May 9 2017 18:19

By the way there was this really interesting article on this kind of stuff ie theology of primitive communism including the early Christian communism thing from a Marxist perspective.

It is especially interesting as it was written in the 1940’s when the early 20th century Marxist revival of early Christian communism had started to fade out a bit.

I think the Marxist analysis is technically ok even though I have my problems with some of it.

For those here who are wailing and gnashing their teeth and feel that they are having their eyes plucked out by terrible ‘Christian apologist’ beasts and want a drop of water to cool their burning tongues etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_man_and_Lazarus

More class conscious anti rich shit.

There is a standard ‘nasty and justified’ attack on modern Christianity at the end.

https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/ridley/religion.htm

What Rommon appears to have done is really important and was a book that was begging to be written etc.

It looks like it is going to be a comprehensive treatise on the subject and is going to be valuable for data; even if we might not all end up agreeing on the interpretation.

People in general eg Bart can be amazingly stupid when it comes to ‘something’ eg early Christianity is not this or not that eg Essene because of this or that etc.

New systems of belief or ideology are invariably a fusion of pre existing systems often triggered by changes in socio economic circumstances.

There was, as Marxists anyway socio-ecomomic turmoil in Judea at the time and it is exceptionally well documented in ‘more secular contemporary’ histories of the time.

And that area then was a melting pot of cultures and ideologies as well.

For instance I think I can see Buddhist modes of analysis in the gospel material and Greek Cynicism.

The or a Greek Cynic commune or school was present in JC’s neighbourhood.

The Cynics were a little bit like CrimethInc and Punk overturning and attacking cultural norms.

Although JC was by the standards of the time ‘liberal’ when it came to sex and again, avoiding the trap, of endorsing the stoning of female adultressess (probably a prostitute).

He would probably have not endorsed copulating in the street to make a political point; like punks and the cynics would.

Rommon and myself obviously have a disagreement about Marcionism and its importance re early Christianity.

I think it is more important.

If you start off with a theological premise that the ruling class, state and whole system etc is run by Satan or an evil demiurge etc.

You are at hazard of ending up an anarchist like Bogomilism.

Unless of course, putting the horse in front of the cart, Marcionism is a theological expression of Anarchism.

Quelle surprise Rommon knows about the Gnostic Nag Hammadi texts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library

These were discovered in 1945 dated to 350AD ish, probably buried to save them from a Christian purge of heretical material.

I am winging this a bit and Rommon is probably going to cream me over some of it.

But the theological content of some of it was similar to what some of the early church fathers were attacking in the 2nd century eg Tertullian.

Before 1945 some people suspected that this kind of AD 150 Tertullian stuff was straw man and bogey man material.

So now it looks like Tertullian was attacking something that really existed, later and in hard copy.

Some of this Gnostic stuff gets a bit wild but I think that was just an attempt theologically rationalise the evil god running the show and the hands off good god stuff being not ‘responsible’ for everything.

Which is political.

As Ridley points out, I seem to remember, this idea of a good god being in control of a load of shit is an Epicurean paradox.

It is also a philosophical paradox for the good christians eg why is their suffering; there is no answer.

We are living in interesting times.

The Marcionites eg the Cathars thought that we were living in a matrix like simulated reality created by Satan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulation_hypothesis

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May 10 2017 08:25

It's so rare to get a discussion partner who is open minded and knowledgable, to be honest Libcom was not the place I would expect to have a discussion on early Christianity, but hey, here it is.

BTW, the book is now out on kindle.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Things-Common-Practices-Christians-ebook/dp...
https://www.amazon.com/All-Things-Common-Practices-Christians-ebook/dp/B...

Dave B wrote:
By the way there was this really interesting article on this kind of stuff ie theology of primitive communism including the early Christian communism thing from a Marxist perspective.

It is especially interesting as it was written in the 1940’s when the early 20th century Marxist revival of early Christian communism had started to fade out a bit.

I think the Marxist analysis is technically ok even though I have my problems with some of it.

My relationship to Marxism is complex, I like how Yanis Varufakis put it (although since being Finance minister he has somehow turned into a left wing neo-liberal apologist) when he said "i'm an erratic marxist".

I think Marx did an amazing job of analyzing Capitalism and I think his critiques have NEVER been actually dealt With by the libertarians/neo-liberal Economists, all I've ever seen from them were strawmen, circular reasonings, and question begging. Marx did something amazing, he granted everything the Liberals wanted, and then proved that even Perfect capitalism would fail.

On the other hand I think his philosophy and historical analysis was flawed, and his attempt at making an alternative to Capitalism was abismal.

People who Call themselves marxists see him as the second coming of Christ, others see him as the Devil; I see him as an amazingly good Economist, and a not-so-good philosopher and not-so-good political theorist.

I think using Marxist categories on pre-Capitalist culture can be done but must be done EXTREMELY carefully; you can't just use terms like proletarian and so on, you can't talk about the ruling class, a pure materialist Method won't work for an enchanted world. Case in point:

This falls short for that very reason, ancient Mythology and religion was NOT pre-Scientific science, it was not an attempt to understand the Natural world. This is why Aristotle's physics didn't threaten traditional Hellenistic Mythology one bit, Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age" is a great book to understand the change of mindset post enlightenment.

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For those here who are wailing and gnashing their teeth and feel that they are having their eyes plucked out by terrible ‘Christian apologist’ beasts and want a drop of water to cool their burning tongues etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_man_and_Lazarus

So many Christians use that story as an argument for eternal conscious torment (forgetting that Jesus was using it as a parable and taking from folk stories, many of which had non-jewish Zoroastrian roots) and they ignore the entire point of the story.

I consider myself an apologist of sorts; I used to (I don't have the patience any more) argue With atheists all the time, but to be honest I've given up arguing; I just don't think it's the way to Reach People.

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What Rommon appears to have done is really important and was a book that was begging to be written etc.

It looks like it is going to be a comprehensive treatise on the subject and is going to be valuable for data; even if we might not all end up agreeing on the interpretation.

Thank you very much, I'm amazing something like my book hasn't been done before me ... I have no idea why.

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There was, as Marxists anyway socio-ecomomic turmoil in Judea at the time and it is exceptionally well documented in ‘more secular contemporary’ histories of the time.

And that area then was a melting pot of cultures and ideologies as well.

Definately, there coudln't hvae been a better time for a guy like Jesus to show up, there was no way Judea or Galilee was going to simply Submit to Rome, not With their history, remember the Hasmoneans revolted against the greeks, it was a bloody revolt; and then Judea just kind of got sucked into Rome (through political meneuvering) without a fight ... People were not happy about it.

And there was a huge difference between Roman Rule and, say, Persian rule, the latter was tolerable, the former was not; at least not for Jews.

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For instance I think I can see Buddhist modes of analysis in the gospel material and Greek Cynicism.

The or a Greek Cynic commune or school was present in JC’s neighbourhood.

The Cynics were a little bit like CrimethInc and Punk overturning and attacking cultural norms.

Although JC was by the standards of the time ‘liberal’ when it came to sex and again, avoiding the trap, of endorsing the stoning of female adultressess (probably a prostitute).

He would probably have not endorsed copulating in the street to make a political point; like punks and the cynics would.

That's the John Dominic Crossan theory, it has merit the problem is historical ... the Cynics were not a force in early 1rst Century Galilee ... and the cynic ideas that parallel With Jesus' ideas can also be grounded in Hebrew Tradition (especially the pre-exilic prophetic tradition).

I dissagree that Jesus was liberal, the story of the stoning of the adulteress was not in John, it's a later textual interpolation. Jesus was kind of liberal on somethings, but also super strict on others (he was completely anti-divorce; although if you understand how divorce worked in those days, it was more of a proto-feminist stance), he was strict on piety and righteousness; but liberal on other Things.

But I don't think liberal/conservative categories really work ... I mean it's just a different time.

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Rommon and myself obviously have a disagreement about Marcionism and its importance re early Christianity.

I think it is more important.

If you start off with a theological premise that the ruling class, state and whole system etc is run by Satan or an evil demiurge etc.

You are at hazard of ending up an anarchist like Bogomilism.

Unless of course, putting the horse in front of the cart, Marcionism is a theological expression of Anarchism.

I actually think the idea that the world, the system, is run by Satanis what the early Christians believed, no doubt.

You get away from that emphasis once (in the west at least) Augustinian thought became THE way to do theology, If I was going to make a holy Trinity of those who ruined Christianity it would be Augustine/Calvin/Schleimacher ... those Three (the last one for different reasons) basically poinsoned the well of Christian theology.

So if we ignore Augustinian theology, you don't need marcionism, you still have the fall as a cosmic coup.

THe problem With Marcionism was that he made the creator that Satan, which is just incoherant (theologically), and that once you rid NT theology from the Jewish hermenuitical framework you basically nolonger have NT theology, it's impossible, everything becomes Ad Hoc because the entire NT is grounded in Jewish tradition.

If marcion read Philo and some of the wisdom traditions, or if he read and understood Job, or if he was born after Origin; he probably wouldn't have come up With his bizzare kind of gnosticism.

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So now it looks like Tertullian was attacking something that really existed, later and in hard copy.

Some of this Gnostic stuff gets a bit wild but I think that was just an attempt theologically rationalise the evil god running the show and the hands off good god stuff being not ‘responsible’ for everything.

Not only did it really exist, but the Church Fathers represented them correctly ... which is quite suprising.

Quote:
[/As Ridley points out, I seem to remember, this idea of a good god being in control of a load of shit is an Epicurean paradox.

It is also a philosophical paradox for the good christians eg why is their suffering; there is no answer.
quote]

Which is why I reject the Augustinian God smile.

Dave B
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May 10 2017 17:41

I think I might disagree that the Greek cynics were not in the region?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oenomaus_of_Gadara

I will have to run through your other stuff later; there is a lot in it.

As Marxists we would disagree with the idea of someone like JC just turning up as a Asimov type mule.

Eg;

Quote:
This gives the Mule the capacity to disrupt Seldon's plan by invalidating Seldon's assumption that no single individual could have a measurable effect on galactic socio-historical trends on their own, due to the plan relying on the predictability of the actions of very large numbers of people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mule_(Foundation)

[it’s the Marxist/Hegelian 'idea' of historical materialism that is important]

As opposed to 'populist materialism' and the great men of history idea.

It ‘wouldn’t be’ so much about JC as the individual but about the concerns of his audience and constituency.

If it hadn’t been for them we would never of heard of him.

I was really impressed when reading ‘some’ of these early Christian father intellectuals eg Origen and Tertullian.

The Celsus-Origen debate thing was fantastic.

It has to be the most important late 2nd early third century documents around; even if you are not concerned with the topic as such.

They came across as quite modern sounding intellectuals making reasoned arguments quoting their adversaries in full with context and addressing the argument.

A lot like the kind of debates we are having here.

They could even be a bit scientific; like it couldn’t have been a solar eclipse because that can’t happen when you have just had a new moon.

I am sure that there are people here now don’t understand why not.

Although there was one a hundred miles or so away from Jerusalem in November 29AD, so NASA tells us.

I have this as a link for others, can’t remember exactly what is in it, did a couple of years ago, I seem to remember it was a bit forced.

http://mailstar.net/downing.html

The Christians who tend to deal with this kind of thing are real shits.

I have read translations of the epistle of Barnabas were they decided to leave out the commie stuff whilst retaining the stuff about not eating weasels because the indulge in oral sex.

I will be back on the other stuff later!

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Rommon
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May 11 2017 11:03
Dave B wrote:
I think I might disagree that the Greek cynics were not in the region?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oenomaus_of_Gadara

Second Century Palestine was a COMPLETELY different world than first Century palestine, especially pre 70 CE. After 70 the Whole region changed, afte 130 the Whole region changed again.

The relevant time line for influence on Jesus would be 1 Century BCE and early 1st Century CE. Post 70 doesn't have much relevance (unless of course it's recording pre-70 thought/writings).

Quote:
[it’s the Marxist/Hegelian 'idea' of historical materialism that is important]

As opposed to 'populist materialism' and the great men of history idea.

It ‘wouldn’t be’ so much about JC as the individual but about the concerns of his audience and constituency.

If it hadn’t been for them we would never of heard of him.

I both Agree and dissagree.
I agree that Jesus CANNOT be read in a vacuum, he had all kinds of influences and the material conditions were necessary for his ministry, but I think the best historical context to understand what Jesus was doing is firmly in the Jewish tradition, the Jewish prophetic tradition (especially With Isaiah), the Jewish revolutionary tradition (starting With the Macabees), and the Jewish Halakha and Midrash.

You also need to know the world he and his audience lived in.

But I do think Jesus was, in many ways, completely unique, especially in his turning the idea of the Messiah on its head, and the resistence through Peace and embrace of the rejected, this was NOT typical Zealot ideology.

But of course I focus entirely on the historical context, and that comes first, then the ideology.

Quote:
The Celsus-Origen debate thing was fantastic.

It has to be the most important late 2nd early third century documents around; even if you are not concerned with the topic as such.

They came across as quite modern sounding intellectuals making reasoned arguments quoting their adversaries in full with context and addressing the argument.

A lot like the kind of debates we are having here.

They could even be a bit scientific; like it couldn’t have been a solar eclipse because that can’t happen when you have just had a new moon.

Yeah, it was great, there were many debates by the early Church fathers, Justin Martyr had a few, and there were more in later centuries.

Even in epistles you see debates if you read between the lines.

I like Celsus and how he argues, I'll take a Celsus over a Richard Dawkins as an anti-Christian any day of the week.

Quote:
I have read translations of the epistle of Barnabas were they decided to leave out the commie stuff whilst retaining the stuff about not eating weasels because the indulge in oral sex.

https://www.amazon.com/Apostolic-Fathers-English-Michael-Holmes/dp/08010... Is a Good translation, but of course it's always better to go back to the Greek wink. I have noticed that some translations have tried to make the commie passages a little bit obscure, usually it's through the translation of the term κοινωνήσεις, which is pretty straight forward, it means share, or hold as common, but sometimes translators get a little fancy ... I dont' think it's intended to obscure anything, I think it's just scholars being fancy tongue.

Btw, you know that Barnabas' interpretation of the Food laws are allegorical right? His point wasn't that we shouldn't eat Weasel BECAUSE they do Oral sex. The Christians at that point were probably not following the Food laws (at least not the Pauline ones), the point was the Torah is the Word of God, so can we learn something if we allegorize them ... yes we can, here is a feature about a forbiden animal (scientifically true or not is besides the point) and here's how we can apply it to the New Covenant through allegory.

It's a hermenuitical Method that was well known. Philo was probably the most well known Allegorizer.

Dave B
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May 11 2017 18:52

I think I will do the cynic thing.

It might be of more interest to our libertarian communist friends and as we are their guests here I think we should to avoid turning it to much towards a Sunday school bible class.

Although would be happy to do that somewhere else.

The Cynics have been interpreted by others as having an anti rich, anti decadent consumerism, anti money, anti state (yes), anti ruling class moral norms, pro poor and even ‘workerist’ ideology.

That interpretation is patchy and not helped by bourgeois intelligentsia academics at Harvard etc having a monopoly interest in the subject.

And like the conservative Christians, who tend to monopolise the study of early Christian documents they choose what to focus on and even how to translate the Greek in subtle ways.

Like they use the English/translation word communicate instead of ‘share’.

Although I seem to remember re the etymology of the word communicate is related to communism and sharing.

And I think there has been some interesting separate discussions as to communication being the sharing of information.

I think I got onto the cynics from the anti Christian Lucian, bloody communists, thing; there is some kind of Cynic connection there I have forgotten what it was for the moment.

I seem to remember that the Lucian thing on Christians was in a ‘Penguin’ book on the Greek cynics; although it wasn’t plugging that angle.

That translation so happened to be a more overt or palpable description of Christian communism than they ones I was previously more familiar with.

For the others, as I am not going to teach Rommon much, Lucians scoffing at the Christians looks like a plagiarism of the communist and Christian Didache.

Didache was a manifesto about living in anarcho communist like communes etc.

But it had in it what to do with freeloaders.

Turning up, agreeing with the faith and taking in the more intellectual challenged members with convincing Bolshevik I can be your leader trust and pamper me stuff.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passing_of_Peregrinus

Actually, bollocks to Christianity etc, it is in fact a good read an quite entertaining as a piece of literature in it own right if you are interested in 2nd century shit.

It tends to be dismissed as just entertaining political satire.

Although I think political satire has a powerful historical potency if you are prepared to interpret it within its context.

You don’t satirise stuff that doesn’t matter.

Back to the cynics as a flower power, punk, OWS, and anti establishment subculture type thing.

What appears to be the case is that the Greek cynics seemed to have had an impact but at the end of the day we don’t know much about them.

There is about 10 of them documented.

Two of them came from JC’s neighbourhood one around 300BC and another around 100AD.

So 20% of the Greek cynics we know about, over 400 years or so came from a town a days walk from JC’s home town.

That would be like 20 noble laureates in physics coming from Kentucky.

I am a scientist with a grade A’level in statistics and know about all that kind of shit etc; but it is not a, or fits well, with a thin on the ground in Judea hypothesis.

I think I understand where Rommon is going with this.

For Rommon we have the misogynist Judaic communist Essenes and the Saint James Judaic party of the poor Ebonite’s as the ideological origin of early Christianity.

I am not accusing Rommon of misogynism; in fact he had himself recognised proto feminism in the gospel stuff.

By the standards of the time there is a lot of kick ass sisterhood stuff in it.

So all this shit in the gospel of John about live and let live who gives too much of shit about sex and multiple partners etc.

Doesn’t fit in to Rommon’s conclusion I suspect; I have not read it yet as I don’t do Kindle as I am a technophobe.

JC as a fusion Judaic Greek cynic is a good fit for me.

I mean I did the Buddhist thing but I think Buddhism or general Gymnosophists thing, as the Greeks referred to it, probably entered into it from Greek cynicism.

It was a totally different way of thinking about stuff.

About truth coming from paradoxes and ‘metaphorical irony’.

‘Metaphorical irony’, as a thing, is commonly employed by political dissident comedians under state oppression to dodge the bullet.

It is an interesting thing in itself and it is all over the place in the gospel material.

As to bollock brained mythologist not being concerned with the material world etc.

The Sun did travel across the sky and well so what.

But that is not good enough for me, I want to know why.

I like the idea of it being transported across the heavens by the most up date technology I know about; a chariot what eslse?

But an invisible or ‘Dark’ chariots.

Like modern scientist don’t believe in dark chariots; there are two of them now.

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Khawaga
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May 11 2017 20:04

Sunday Bible school class, IMO, is kinda necessary if you actually want to critique Christianty beyond making just superficial statements like the new atheists do. It's nice to see that at least someone appreciating theology and it's history.

So I say, continue the Bible School. I find it interesting and it seems others do too.

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Noa Rodman
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May 11 2017 20:53

Not sure how Graeber fits into this, but it seems Michael Hudson was his influence or at least looked into the history of debt before. Anyway, the anthropologist (and Narodnaya Volya revolutionary) Vladimir Bogoraz in 1928 wrote a book called 'Christianity in light of ethnography', online here:

http://az.lib.ru/t/tanbogoraz_w_g/text_1928_hristianstvo.shtml

Though it was panned in a review in Marxist-Historian journal, the table of contents looks interesting.

--

Strangely enough Marx at one point (in 1847) believed Daumer's claims that Christians practiced human sacrifice:

Quote:
We know that the supreme thing in Christianity is human sacrifice. Daumer now proves in a recently published work that Christians really slaughtered men and at the Holy Supper ate human flesh and drank human blood. He finds here the explanation why the Romans, who tolerated all religious sects, persecuted the Christians, and why the Christians later destroyed the entire pagan literature directed against Christianity.

etc.

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Rommon
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May 12 2017 06:58
Noa Rodman wrote:
Not sure how Graeber fits into this, but it seems Michael Hudson was his influence or at least looked into the history of debt before. Anyway, the anthropologist (and Narodnaya Volya revolutionary) Vladimir Bogoraz in 1928 wrote a book called 'Christianity in light of ethnography', online here:

Strangely enough Marx at one point (in 1847) believed Daumer's claims that Christians practiced human sacrifice:

Thanks for the tip. I used Graeber mainly for his analysis of social-relationships and their Place in different kinds of enviroments.

That Whole thing With human sacrifice and canlibalism was a pagan slander against the Christians, you find it in some pagan literature, but it's absolutely obvious that they didn't and if you actually study the issue you'll see it's pretty Clear that it was pagan polemics ... pagans didn't like christians back then (by the way, when I say pagans I mean almost entirely upper class pagans, the poor were not really considered in the Roman world).

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Rommon
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May 12 2017 07:35
Dave B wrote:
I think I will do the cynic thing.

It might be of more interest to our libertarian communist friends and as we are their guests here I think we should to avoid turning it to much towards a Sunday school bible class.

Although would be happy to do that somewhere else.

The Cynics have been interpreted by others as having an anti rich, anti decadent consumerism, anti money, anti state (yes), anti ruling class moral norms, pro poor and even ‘workerist’ ideology.

It's not about doing a "sunday School" thing it's about doing proper history ... if the Cynics were not in Galilee 1st Century BCE and early 1st CE they couldn't have been an influence on Jesus ... and if his entire ministry was saturated With Jewish tradition then that would seem like a better framework.

I don't care if they were the most left-wing Group of all history ... that doesn't mean we get to change actual history. I Care about actual scholarship and history not what interpretation of history fits my political Instincts.

Quote:
And like the conservative Christians, who tend to monopolise the study of early Christian documents they choose what to focus on and even how to translate the Greek in subtle ways.

Like they use the English/translation word communicate instead of ‘share’.

Although I seem to remember re the etymology of the word communicate is related to communism and sharing.

It goes back and forth, from the 60s to the 90s it was all very liberal scholarship in Christian scholarship, now it's turning more conservative.

But the way you fix bad right wing scholarship is not With left With sholarship ... it's With GOOD scholarship, careful scholarship.

That Whole "communicate" vrs "share" thing is really just a linguistic issue. Koine is "common" all kinds of Words derive from that, but context and the time period influence how you translate the Words, translation is complicated. I don't think it was a political move With the early translators, I think they just didn't have the linguistic data we have today, but who knows, I do know however, that share is the correct translation.

Quote:
I think I got onto the cynics from the anti Christian Lucian, bloody communists, thing; there is some kind of Cynic connection there I have forgotten what it was for the moment.

I seem to remember that the Lucian thing on Christians was in a ‘Penguin’ book on the Greek cynics; although it wasn’t plugging that angle.

That translation so happened to be a more overt or palpable description of Christian communism than they ones I was previously more familiar with.

For the others, as I am not going to teach Rommon much, Lucians scoffing at the Christians looks like a plagiarism of the communist and Christian Didache.

Oh that makes Complete sense, Peregnius was portrayed as a kind of cynic by Lucian .. and Cynics would have found common cause With Christians and it totally makes sense how a cynic could take advantage of the Christians.

It had already been happened in cynicism itself, People preying on spiritually hungry upper class People who wanted to use their Money on gurus (much like modern day New Age hucksters), Lucian pointed out that the Christians were a good target for a New age cynic huckster luke Peregnius. (Btw I Write a lot about him in the book).

Lucian was saterizing the CHristians becuase he didn't like them, the ruling class hated Christians.

But that's the late second Century, you can't read that back into pre-70 CE, Herodian Judea and Galilee, 1st Century pre-70 CE Judea and Galilee, where Jesus got his start, was a different world to the post 130 CE Hellenized Roman world where little Pockets of CHristianity were found all over the Place.

Quote:
What appears to be the case is that the Greek cynics seemed to have had an impact but at the end of the day we don’t know much about them.

There is about 10 of them documented.

Two of them came from JC’s neighbourhood one around 300BC and another around 100AD.

So 20% of the Greek cynics we know about, over 400 years or so came from a town a days walk from JC’s home town.

That would be like 20 noble laureates in physics coming from Kentucky.

I am a scientist with a grade A’level in statistics and know about all that kind of shit etc; but it is not a, or fits well, with a thin on the ground in Judea hypothesis.

it's not around 100AD it was about 20 or so years later, and that's 100 years to late, and again a completely different world post 70 C.E. and just because you have very little actual cynic writing you have cynic thought elsewhere and you have proto-cynicism ... you can also see the Level of hellenistic philosophical influence in Judea and Galilee and different times ... and it just wasn't there in the late 1 BCE or the early 1 CE in Galilee.

And it simply is not reflected in Jesus's teachings when taken as a Whole, you have to ingore huge chunks of it, but they DO make sense within the Jewish propehtic traidition.

Quote:
For Rommon we have the misogynist Judaic communist Essenes and the Saint James Judaic party of the poor Ebonite’s as the ideological origin of early Christianity.

I am not accusing Rommon of misogynism; in fact he had himself recognised proto feminism in the gospel stuff.

I'm just trying to do good history, whether it fits With one or another political idoelogy is besides the point.

I do think the Essenes are part of the ideological origin of early Christianity, at least Jesus, as well as the prophetic tradition.

Hellenism does come in but not With Jesus, it comes in With Paul and the Johanian literature, Paul was clearly philosophically trained, he clearly unerstood both stoicism and epicurianism, and John clearly understood the neo-platonic tradition.

But the historical Jesus didn't know anything about Greek philosophy, he knew the exodus stories, he New the prophetic traditions, and he knew the torah ideals.

Quote:
The Sun did travel across the sky and well so what.

But that is not good enough for me, I want to know why.

I like the idea of it being transported across the heavens by the most up date technology I know about; a chariot what eslse?

But an invisible or ‘Dark’ chariots.

Like modern scientist don’t believe in dark chariots; there are two of them now.

I HIGHLY suggest you look into Charle's Taylor's work. It's not that simple. Mythology served many functions, but it wasn't science, Aristotle was proto-science, Homer was not.