Carrier's Background Elements from OHJ


Here are the topic sentences from each of Carrier's elements. A few are copied entire (follow the links).


Element 1.

The earliest form of Christianity definitely known to us originated as a Jewish sect in the region of Syria-Palestine.


Element 2.

When Christianity began, Judaism was highly sectarian and diverse.


Element 3.

When Christianity began, many Jews were expecting a Messiah.


Element 4.

Palestine in early 1st C. CE was experiencing a rash of messianism.


Element 5.

Even before Christianity arose, some Jews expected one of their messiahs heralding the end times would actually be killed.


Element 6.

The suffering-and-dying servant of Isaiah 52-53 and the messiah of Daniel 9 (which may have been seen as the same person) have numerous logical connections with a man in Zechariah 3 and 6 named 'Jesus Rising' who is confronted by Satan in God's abode in heaven and there crowned king, given all of God's authority, holds the office of high priest, and will build up 'God's house'.


Element 7.

The pre-Christian book of Daniel was a key messianic text, predicting the messiah's arrival in early 1st C., even 30 CE.


Element 8.

Many messianic sects were searching the scriptures and extra-canonical texts for secret messages about the messiah.


Element 9.

In the early 1st C. CE, scripture consists of more than what is now the OT.


Element 10.

Christianity began as a Jewish messianic cult preaching a spiritually victorius messiah.


Element 11.

The earliest definitely known for of Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion.


Element 12.

From as early as we can ascertain, Christians belioeved they became 'brothers' of the Lord Jesus Christ through baptism.


Element 13.

Like all mystery cults, Christianity had secret doctrines, that initiates were sworn never to reveal, and that would be talked about and written about in symbols, myths and allegories to disguise their true meaning.


Element 14.

Mystery cults spoke of their beliefs in public through myths and allegory, which symbolised a more secret doctrine that was usually rooted in a more esoteric astral or metaphysical theology.


Element 15.

Christianity began as a charismatic cult in which many of it's leaders and members displayed evidence of schizotypal personalities.


Element 16.

The earliest Christians claimed they knew at least some, if not all, facts and teachings of Jesus from revelation and scripture - rather than from witnesses.


Element 17.

The fundamental features of the Gospel story of Jesus can be read out of the Jewish scriptures.


Element 18.

Jesus Christ was regarded as having fulfilled by his death (and thereby replacing) the two greatest Jewish religious sacrifices - Yom Kippur and Passover.


Element 19.

The apostle Paul is the earliest known Christian writer, yet he did not know a living Jesus.


Element 20.

The earliest known Christians proselytized Gentiles bu required them to convert to Judaism.


Element 21.

Paul and other NT authors attest that there were many rival Christian sects and factions teching different gospels throughout the 1st century.


Element 22.

We have no credible or explicit record of what happened within the Christian movement between 64 and 95 CE (or possibly even as late as 110 CE), and the leadership of the Christian church had been catastrophically decimated by the beginning of that period.


Element 23 :

The Roamns annexed Judea to the imperial province of Syria in 6 CE bringing the center of the holy land under direct control of the Roman government, ending sovereignity over Jerusalem and the temple of the Most High God, along with most of the Holy Land that had been promised by God to the Jews.


Element 24 :

(a) Owing to their vastly greater resources ( in minerals, money and manpower) and superior technical ability (in the training, equipping and supplying of their armies) the Romans were effectively invincible and could never be expelled from Judea by force or diplomacy.


Element 25 :

The corruption and moral decay of the Jewish civil and temple elite (regardless of to what extent it was actual or merely perceived) was a widespread target of condemnation and ften a cause of factionalising among Jewish sects.


Element 26 :

For many Jews in the early first century (in accord with the previous element) the Jewish elite became the scapegoats for God's failed promises (in accord with elements 23 and 24): the reason God withheld their fulfillment (and instead allowed the Romans to rule) was imagined to be the Jewish elite's failure to keep God's commandments and govern justly (already a common theme throughout the OT, e.g. Jeremiah 23 and 25, the latter being the very prophecy whose 'mystery' is decoded in Daniel to produce the timetable that was now indicating the messiah would arrive in the early first century: Element 7).


Element 27 :

(a) The temple at Jerusalem most the central focus of most Jewish messianic hope (as, for the Samaritans, was Mount Gerizim), which entailed that as long as the 'corrupt' Jewish elite controlled it, God would continue Israel's 'punishment' (in accord with Elements 25 and 26), and as long as the Romans remained in power, the would maintain the corrupt Jewish elite's control of the temple. Accordingly (b) Jewish religious violence often aimed at siezing physical control of the temple and it's personnel.


Element 28 :

A spiritual solution to the physical conundrum to the Jews would have been a natural and easy thing to conceive at the time.


Element 29 :

Further, what are now called 'Cargo Cults' are the modern movements most culturally and socially similar to ealiest Christianity, so much so that Christnaiity best understood in light of them.


Element 30 :

Early-first-century Judea was at the nexus of countless influences, not onlt from dozens of innovating and interecting Jewish sects (Elements 2 and 33) but also pagan religions and philosopies (Elements 31 and 32)


Element 31 :

Incarnate sons (or daughters) of a god who died and then rose from their deaths to become living gods granting salvation to their worshippers were a common and peculiar feature of pagan religion when Christianity arose, so much so that influence from paganism is the only plausible explanation for how a Jewish sect such as Christianity came to adopt the idea (again, Element 11).


Element 32 :

By whatever route, popular philosophy (especially Cynicism and to some extent Stoicism and Platonism and perhaps Aristotelianism) influenced Christian teachings.


Element 33 :

In addition to its pagan influences, Christianity was also (obviously) influenced by several Jewish sects (see, in general, Elements 1-5), and can be understood only in this context too.


Element 34 :

Popular cosmology at the dawn of the Common Era in the Middle East held that the universe was geocentric and spherical and divided into many layers (see Chapter3, Section 1), with the first layer of 'heaven' often called the 'firmament' (being the foundation holding up all the others) and consisting of all the air beneath the earth and the moon (or sometimes the same term only meant the topmost part of this: the sphere travelled by the moon).


Element 35 :

Popular cosmology of the time also held that the sub-heaven, the firmament, was a region of corruption and change and decay, while the heavens above were pure, incorruptible and changeless.


Element 36 :

Because of this division between the perfect unchanging heavens and the corrupted sub-lunar world, most religious cosmologies required intercessory beings, who bridge the gap between those worlds, so God need no descend and mingle with corruption.


Element 37 :

The lowest heaven, the firmament, the region of corruption and change was popularly thought to be teeming with invisible spirits (pneuma or psychai) and demons (daimones, or daimonia), throughout the whole space, who controlled thd elements and powers of the universe there, meddle in ther affairs of man, and do battle with one another.


Element 38 :

(a) In this same popular cosmology, the heavens, including the firmament, were not empty expanses but filled with all manner of things, including palaces and gardens, and it was possible to be burried there.


Element 39 :

(a) In this cosmology there were also two Adams: one perfect celestial version, of which the earthly version (who fathered the human race) is just a copy.


Element 40 :

In fact, the Christian idea of a pre-existent spiritual son-of God called the Logos, who was God's true high priest in heaven, was also not a novel idea but already held by some pre-Christian Jews; and this preexistent spiritual son of God had already been explicitly connected with a clestail Jesus figure in the OT (discussed in Element 6), and therfore some Jews already beloeved there was a supernatural son of God named Jesus - because Paul's contemporary Philo interprets the messianic prophecy of Zech. 6.12 in just such a way.


Element 41 :

(a) The 'Son of Man' (an apocalyptic title Jesus is given in the Gospels) was another being foreseen in the visions of Enoch to be a preexistent celestial superman whom God will one day put in charge of the universe, overthrowing all demonic power, and in a text that we know the first Christians used as scripture (1 Enoch)


Element 42 :

There is a parallel tradition of a perfect and eternal celestial High Priest named Melchizidek, which means in Hebrew 'Righteous King'. We have already seen that a celestial Jesus was already called Righteous and King by some pre-Christian Jews.


Element 43 :

(a) Voluntary human sacrifice was widle regarded (by both pagans and Jews) as the most powerful salvation and atonement magic available.


Element 44 :

In Jewish and pagan antiquity, in matters of religious persuasion, fabricating stories was the norm, not the exception, even in the production of narratives purporting to be true.


Element 45 :

A popular version of this phenomenom in ancient faith literature was the practice of euhemerization: the taking of a cosmic god and placing him at a definitie point in history as an actual person who was later deified.


Element 46 :

Ancient literature also proliferated a variety of model 'hero' narratives, some of which the Gospel Jesus conforms to as well; and one of these hero-types was widely revered among pagans: the pre-Christian narratives of the life and death of Socrates and Aesop.


Element 47 :

Another model hero narrative, which pagsn also revered and to which the Gospel Jesus conforms, is the apotheosis, or 'ascension to godhood' tale, and of these the one to which the Gospels (and Acts) most conform is that of the Roman national hero Romulus.


Element 48 :

Finally, the most ubiquitous model 'hero' narrative, which pagans also revered and to which the Gospel Jesus also conforms, is the fable of the 'divine king', what I call the Rank-Raglan hero-type.


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