The Jesus story

From New York Times today:

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Of course, the Jesus story has parallels with not only Jewish myths, but also myths from other earlier traditions of that time and region.

Some examples are given in The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandi where they outline the following parallels of the Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus stories:

  • Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and “Son of God.”
  • His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.
  • He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds.
  • He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.
  • He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.
  • He dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  • After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.
  • His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.
  • His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.

Why is it so? The obvious answer is that the Jesus myth picked up elements of existing myths to make it more familiar to the people of the time.

But another answer, as Freke and Gandi points out, is that these stories are about an inner truth more than an outer – historic – truth. They reflect an inner process of growing and waking up.

And that is why similar story elements not only appear in traditions of that place and time, but around the world in many different cultures, and also in dreams and visions of people today.

None of this really touch whether Jesus was a historic figure or not. He may well have been, and the specific events of his life may or may not have followed the lines of the Jesus story as we know it today.

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Michael Dowd in Oregon!

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Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow are back in Oregon, giving a string of presentations in early April.

They will be in Roseburg April 9, Eugene April 10, Portland April 12 and 13, and Salem on the 16th.

If you happen to live around here, it is well worth attending. They are both amazing speakers in the area of evolution and spirituality, and Michael often uses the aqal framework to organize his presentations.

If you live somewhere else in the US, you can find their schedule on the Thank God for Evolution website, where you will also find audio and video snippets.

A more fearless theology

The Vatican is hosting an astronomy gathering, within the view that the world is one, and the truth of spirituality (or here, religion) and science must be aligned.

Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, a member of Father Funes’s team and curator of one of the world’s most important collections of meteorites, kept at Castelgandolfo (the Pope’s summer residence), explains.

They want the world to know that the Church isn’t afraid of science,” he said.

This is our way of seeing how God created the universe and they want to make as strong a statement as possible that truth doesn’t contradict truth; that if you have faith, then you’re never going to be afraid of what science is going to come up with.

Pretty smart people, those monks.

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