Hebrew Voices #13 – The Truth About Christmas and Tammuz (Rebroadcast)

Mithra slaying the bull in a scene known as the Tauroctony. This image appears in every temple of Mithra, but the story behind it is a matter of conjecture (=guesswork). In this episode of Hebrew Voices, The Truth about Christmas and Tammuz, Bible Scholar Nehemia Gordon connects with Dr. Richard Carrier, an expert in ancient religions who reads Greek and Roman texts the way Nehemia reads ancient Hebrew. Dr. Carrier uses his expertise to help Nehemia sort out the genuine pagan influences on Christmas from modern-day myths projected back in time by "dodgy" scholarship. They discuss Tammuz, Inanna (Ishtar), Mithra, Isis, Osiris, and other pagan deities with reference to the writings of Philo, Justin Martyr, Plutarch, Euhemerus, Plato and the Rambam. In closing, Gordon encourages listeners not to be afraid to check out ancient sources and to approach them with discernment and a prayer for understanding.

I look forward to reading your comments!

Download The Truth About Christmas and Tammuz


Hebrew Voices #13 - The Truth About Christmas and Tammuz (Rebroadcast)

You are listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon with Hebrew Voices, and I am coming to you today with a very special guest, Dr. Richard Carrier. I’m in Israel, he’s in California. Today we’re going to talk about the pagan background of Christmas and parallels that existed in the pagan world. Let me just tell you a little bit about Dr. Carrier.

He’s really an amazing guy. Richard Carrier has a PhD in the History of Philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, religion and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Senses and Goodness Without God - guys, I’ll be honest: I’m probably not going to read that book - another book called On the Historicity of Jesus, which I’ve read part of - it’s an amazing book, even though I don’t agree with a lot of it - and another book called Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work, he’s got a website, www.richardcarrier.info. I’m going to post a link to that website on my website, nehemiaswall.com.

Hello, Dr. Carrier. How are you doing over there in California?

Richard: Hello. I’m doing well.

Nehemia: I feel like I’ve got to give the audience a little bit of a disclaimer, which is Dr. Carrier is an atheist. You guys know I’m a Karaite Jew, I believe in the Hebrew Bible. I’ve interviewed other academic scholars, and I honestly don’t know if those scholars were atheists or not. Why is it that I even mention this about Dr. Carrier? I look at him as an advocate for atheism, or humanism, and naturalism.

Richard: Yeah.

Nehemia: Is that a fair description?

Richard: Yeah, and accurate. I’m a well-known atheist activist, so it is well-fitting to mention that fact.

Nehemia: If people want to turn off the program, I think it’s a big mistake, but you’ve been warned. We’re going to talk about Christianity, but Dr. Carrier could do a whole program talking about Judaism. He doesn’t believe Moses existed. I believe he existed. Dr. Carrier doesn’t believe Jesus existed. I’m not a Christian, but I do believe he existed, that there was a historical man named Yeshua. What I really want to focus on today is this topic of Christmas.

I’ve never celebrated Christmas in my life, and it’s my understanding Dr. Carrier, you as an atheist actually do celebrate Christmas, is that right?

Richard: Yeah, I do. In reality, pretty much everything that we think is distinctive of Christmas is actually pagan. [laughing]

Nehemia: Guys, you heard it there from the atheist.

Richard: We don’t believe in the pagan gods, but we still celebrate the fun festival. Christmas has become a secular tradition in many ways.

Nehemia: Here’s why I invited Dr. Carrier on the program. Whatever you guys think about his personal faith – or I guess, lack thereof – he really is an impressive scholar. I come from the world of academia, and I have had conversations with PhDs and tenured professors who just take at face value what other scholars say. They build these piles and piles of, “We’re saying this because other scholars have said it.” When you try to dig down, “What are the actual sources? You’re quoting some scholar who’s quoting another scholar, who’s quoting another scholar. What do the sources say?”

That’s what I was really impressed with. I was reading, or I heard maybe, I don’t remember if it was a podcast or something. You were describing, Dr. Carrier, these claims by…I don’t even know who was making the claim.

Richard: Oh, we were talking about Freke and Gandy.

Nehemia: Yeah, so Freke and Gandy were saying that the Christian sacrament – which is, for my Jewish listeners, that’s eating the wafer and drinking the wine which is the body and blood of Jesus – that comes from the religion of Mithraism, which was an ancient paganism that was competing with Christianity. I think many atheists would have jumped on that bandwagon and used it to slam Christianity. You did something really radical. You said, “Let’s go check if this is true.” What did you find?

Richard: It’s very important to me to make sure that we can ground any claim we make in actual evidence, so I’ve been very critical of other Jesus mythicists who don’t do that. There is a lot of really bad stuff.

Nehemia: What is the Jesus mythicists, for those who don’t know?

Richard: People who think Jesus didn’t exist as a person, that the Gospel of Jesus is a myth. Or actually, Jesus in general is a myth that was invented for the Gospels.

Nehemia: In other words, I believe there a historical man, a Jewish man 2,000 years ago named Yeshua Ha-Notzri, Jesus of Nazareth, and you don’t.

Richard: Right.

Nehemia: You were an atheist before you came to that conclusion.

Richard: Correct.

Nehemia: Which is what I really respect. In other words, this doesn’t advance your atheist agenda, because whether Jesus existed or not, you’re still an atheist, right?

Richard: Yeah. In fact, for years as an atheist historian I actually attacked the mythicists. I was defending the historicity of Jesus. So I was on the other side of that camp. For me, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other… My reasons for rejecting Christianity have nothing to do with whether Jesus existed or not. But that’s a whole separate question.

Nehemia: So, Freke and Gandy, and you were critical of mythicists…

Richard: Yeah, their book, The Jesus Mysteries, everybody was praising this book – not everybody, but a lot of people were saying, “Oh, wow. This book has some amazing claims.” I go, “Okay, well I’ll look into that.” First of all, I skimmed through it and I said, “I don’t know. A lot of this looks dodgy.” But I said, “Okay, I’ll try vetting it.” I don’t know if it’s the first page, but very nearly in the first page in the book they come right out saying something like this, I’m not doing an exact quote…

Nehemia: Paraphrasing.

Richard: There’s this document in Mithraism and they quote it, supposedly. It has Mithra basically doing the exact same Eucharist thing that we have in 1 Corinthians 11, where it says, “This bread is my body, this wine is my blood.” I was looking at that and I was like, “Holy cow! All the research I’ve done, I’ve never run into this. This is an amazing find.”

Nehemia: It’s like a new text you’ve never heard of.

Richard: Yeah, yeah. How can this be true? Where did they find this? The first thing I do is I go to their footnotes, which they’re not very good at, assembling footnotes, so I say, “Where did they find this?” So they quote some historian, I don’t remember if he was early 20th century or 19th century, some old historian. “Oh, this isn’t looking good,” [laughing] rather than the primary source.

Nehemia: Let’s explain that for the audience. What would you like them to quote?

Richard: The actual source document that they’re quoting.

Nehemia: In other words, something written from a Mithraist manuscript or from an ancient Christian who quote a Mithraist, or something? Is that what you’re looking for?

Richard: Exactly, yeah. It should be something in the first 300 years of the Common Era, right?

Nehemia: Instead, they’re quoting some guy from 100 years ago. [laughing] How does he know?

Richard: Yeah, right. But I knew going in, and I’ve written an article about Kersey Graves, those who want to look into that. He did the Sixteen Crucified Saviors.

Nehemia: Tell the story.

Richard: Most of that is bogus. That’s a typical example of 19th century scholarship – there’s a lot of crap scholarship from then. So whenever I see somebody citing someone from then, a scholar from then, I’m very suspicious right away.

I said, “All right, I’ll go down this rabbit hole. Let’s find out.” I dug up, found that really super obscure book, and I think it even quoted another one, and so I went and found that one. Then finally, I get all the way back to a scholar who actually discusses the source, and it explodes the whole thing. When I look at that actual analysis, what it turned out to be was, this was a quotation from a late medieval document by a Christian, writing ignorantly about Zoroastrianism. In fact, he was claiming that Zoroaster, not Mithra, had said this. But we have no evidence that that was ever the case, that the Zoroastrian scriptures that survived don’t have this. There’s no ancient evidence of this being the case.

We have something similar happening when Christians, the Spaniards who went into Mesoamerica, when they report the Mesoamerican native beliefs, they report them as if they’re just like Christian beliefs. So a lot of it is being distorted through this filter - they just take whatever the natives say and then throw on layers of Christianity.

Nehemia: Why do you think they’re doing that? Are they just interpreting it through their own filter?

Richard: I don’t know, and that’s something I haven’t investigated. All I know is that that is a problem.

Nehemia: That’s really interesting. Basically, the guy makes the claim that the Mithraists have the same exact Eucharist…

Richard: Freke and Gandy are implying that it’s pre-Christian.

Nehemia: It’s some source talking about Zoroaster, and we have a lot of writings of Zoroastrianism. I don’t think we have very much about Mithraism, from what I’ve read.

Richard: No.

Nehemia: We have all these… you call them “comic books” I think, in your writing – meaning we have these graphics in their temples, but what the story is behind those graphics isn’t entirely clear. It’s like Mithra killing a bull…

Richard: We have some hints in a variety of texts, like people will reference it. But we have no actual writings of Mithraists. We don’t have the gospels of Mithraists.

Nehemia: These guys quote something as being a Mithraic source, and it’s just not true!

Richard: It’s not verifiable. I find it…

Nehemia: It’s not verifiable. That’s important distinction.

Richard: It’s almost certainly not true.

Nehemia: We can’t prove that it’s true, that’s for sure.

Richard: Yeah, but I think if it were true, there would be ancient sources discussing this. I think it’s highly unlikely that no one noticed this. There are Christians who talk about the similarities between Mithraism and their religion, and they don’t mention this. I’m sure they would have if that was an issue. They have their own theories as to how certain things preceded their religion. That is, the devil was emulating…

Nehemia: We’re going to talk about that. I want to spend a whole section talking about that. The reason I brought this topic up is a lot of my listeners are people who did celebrate Christmas at one time, and then they found out that there are pagan origins of Christmas, which I think most Christian scholars don’t deny. There was that movie with Kirk Cameron, where he did deny it. But most Christian scholars don’t deny it, serious scholars.

But what they then do is they start piling on paganism and start identifying all the paganism throughout all history. This goes back to Alexander Hislop, who was this guy in the 19th century who wrote a book called The Two Babylons. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

Richard: No, but this is a familiar story. But go on, yeah. [laughing]

Nehemia: Basically, it’s a guy in the 19th century who said that the Roman Catholic Church is sun-worship, and it goes back to the sun worship of the Tower of Babel; that Semiramis was married to Nimrod. When I first encountered this, I’m like, “Wow, this is pretty cool stuff.” I did the exact same thing you did. I read Greek, but I don’t read ancient Latin. I was looking at these sources, trying to find it, and I keep going back to this guy in the 1800s who’s writing this. I’m like, “Where are the Assyrian sources about Semiramis?” Okay, so she was a queen regent of a Syrian empire. Where does this go back to Nimrod? Nimrod is a character from the Bible who some kind of hunter. He had nothing to do with the Tower of Babel, according to the Bible. That’s later Rabbinical legend. It has nothing to do with Semiramis.

I’m like, “Where does this stuff come from?” That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of, if Christmas is pagan – and we’re not talking about the Christmas tree – I’m talking about basically the early background of Christmas, if we can talk about that. What are those parallels? Are those parallels everything that’s been made out that Semiramis’ husband Nimrod was killed and then reborn as the baby Tammuz, according to Alexander Hislop? I studied the Tammuz myths as far as I can access the sources, and I haven’t seen anything like that.

Richard: No, no. I’ve never even heard that theory, that’s ridiculous. There are possible connections to the Inanna-Tammuz myth when you get to the level of the crucifixion and the crucifixion theologies.

Nehemia: Talk to us about Inanna and Tammuz. Let’s start with that.

Richard: I haven’t studied the birth narratives of Inanna and Tammuz. I have studied the death narratives. We have one for Inanna, the Tammuz part is broken off, but we have an ancient tablet, a Sumerian tablet, that has this story of Inanna. What we have in the fragment that we have, is that Inanna, for some reason – and the part that has the reason is missing – but for some reason she decides to descend from heaven past earth into the underworld, and she goes through seven gates, and at each gate part of her clothing is mandated to be taken off. By the time she gets to the core of the underworld she’s completely naked. Then she’s captured and she’s tried in a kangaroo court and she’s killed by a death spell by the Lord of the Underworld. Her naked body is nailed up. So she’s basically crucified. Then three days later, her minions come down, feed her the food and water of life, and she resurrects and ascends to glory in heaven.

Nehemia: So this is an ancient Sumerian Goddess that we have, give us a millennium - what are we talking about, the second millennium BC?

Richard: The tablets are about 1700 BC.

Nehemia: 1700 BC, okay.

Richard: We have hints that there was a similar story told of Tammuz, and that this was like an annual cycle between Inanna and Tammuz. But we don’t have the actual narrative for Tammuz. We only have the narrative for Inanna.

Nehemia: You mean from the Sumerian sources, from the actual original pagan sources…

Richard: Yes.

Nehemia: …who believed in Inanna. We don’t have the story about Tammuz dying and resurrecting.

Richard: Yeah.

Nehemia: Okay, that’s important.

Richard: We have references to that being the case, but we don’t have the actual story. This is an actual manuscript. The manuscript itself is pre-Christian, not just the story.

Nehemia: It’s actually a clay tablet, isn’t it? It’s like a cuneiform clay tablet.

Richard: That’s right. Samuel Noah Kramer has it reproduced in his book, History Begins at Sumer, for those who want to look this up.

Nehemia: This is what I love. You can actually go and look at this source and you can say, “You know what? This has nothing to do with anything whatsoever. It is important or it’s not important.” But you can’t deny that this source exists.

Richard: Yeah.

Nehemia: The source is there, and if there are parallels, you’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Why is it that there was this ancient pagan deity before the time of Jesus, who was crucified and resurrected?” The ancient Christians dealt with this. It’s really interesting, I’ve seen a lot of Christians who, when somebody brings this up, they’ll want to avoid it.

I was reading yesterday in preparation for this, in the writings of Justin Martyr, in the dialogues of Trypho. The Jew Trypho brings this up - not Inanna, but other parallels. He says, “How can you believe these things like the pagans believe?” And Justin’s response is, “These actually strengthen my faith. These don’t shake my faith. They strengthen my faith.”

I say, “If you’re a Christian who believes in Jesus, you should know at least what Justin was talking about. At least know what your own sources say.”

What are some of the responses that you’ve found in the Christian literature to this type of thing? You started talking about that before. I guess, one of them is Justin.

Richard: First of all, they acknowledge and don’t deny that there are these dying and raising gods before Christianity. Justin’s argument is that the devil was trying to guess at what God was going to do to create Christianity, so he made all these fake Christianities to try to discredit it in advance. That’s called “diabolic mimicry argument”.

Nehemia: So “Satan imitates the ways of the Church” is the way I’ve heard it described.

Richard: Right, but in advance - before the Church even exists, to try and create this discrediting thing. It’s similar to how the Young Earth creationists claim that the devil planted all the fossils in the ground to trick people into believing in evolution.

Nehemia: Okay, I’m a Young Earth creationist and don’t believe that particular version of it. But anyway, let’s move on. [laughing]

Richard: [laughing] It’s a similar kind of reasoning.

Nehemia: In other words, that Satan planted dinosaur bones to make us… Which I don’t believe, personally.

Richard: Right, but there are Christians who use that argument. Justin’s kind of doing the same thing. But the reality is, that isn’t what convinces Justin. For Justin, I think that’s just his rationalization to explain away that evidence. For him, the reason he believes in the Christian version versus the other ones is that he has these other more standard arguments of, “Well, the Scriptures were so powerful. They were so affecting. I feel the presence of Jesus.” His reasons are much more like the standard direct phenomenological reasons that most Christians even today would say is the reason that they believe in the…

Nehemia: Translate for my listeners into plain English, “the standard phenomenological reasons”. What does that mean, in plain English?

Richard: Feeling the Holy Spirit. The common argument - you see this in a lot of Christian apologetic literature as well, Christian authors defending Christianity today - is the idea that if you invite Christ into your heart, you feel Christ in there and therefore, He must exist. Therefore, that must be the one true religion. This is problematic in the sense that there are other religions that have the exact same experience.

Nonetheless, this is one of the reasons that Justin gives. Also, the fact that he found the Scriptures so miraculously brilliant, or they emotionally affected him. So he thought that the Scriptures were better than the pagan scriptures, because there were aspects of it. One part of that was that he found the Scriptures more fitting his particular moral sensibilities. He thought that some of the pagan literature was immoral from his perspective, and the Bible was moral from his perspective. Therefore, that must come from God.

Obviously, there are problems with that kind of reasoning as well, but nonetheless, these were the kinds of things that were really convincing Justin to prefer Christianity to the pagan myths. But he doesn’t deny that the pagan myths did precede Christianity.

Nehemia: I’ve got to go back to the phenomenological issue that you brought up. Look, I’ll tell people, “I believe in the God of Israel,” because I’ve had personal experiences. What you’re saying is, “Well, Nehemia, that’s not valid because people who believe in Krishna or some other deity that I don’t acknowledge, they’ve also had similar experiences.” Is that basically what you’re saying?

Richard: Yeah. I myself had similar experiences, convincing me that the Dao existed and governed the universe, and I was a Daoist. It was the only religion that I was a true believer in, that I actually had faith in. I was a Daoist for many years. I tell that story in my book, Sense and Goodness Without God. That comes up early in the book.

Nehemia: Now I’ve got to read it. I don’t make fun of that. If somebody says, “I believe in Jesus because I had a Jesus experience,” my response to that is, “Okay. I haven’t had that Jesus experience, but I can respect that that’s been your experience.” Maybe some of my response is, “If Jesus wants to give me that experience He can, but I haven’t had that experience,” and as a Jew that’s not really where I’m coming from.

Richard: I was going to recommend, there’s a website called Simple to Remember. It’s actually part of Judaism Online, simpletoremember.com. They have a page on the history of Christmas, so people who want to see where all the specific things, like December 25th, where does mistletoe come from, gift-giving and all of these things, where they come from. It’s written from the perspective of a Jewish scholar.

Nehemia: Let’s talk about December 25th. One of the things you say in your book is that… And you talk about this guy who wrote the book, what is it, The Sixteen…

Richard: Oh, Kersey Graves, yeah.

Nehemia: Yeah. Tell us about that book, and what you discovered about it. You have a whole article about that that I’ll post the link to on my website, nehemiaswall.com. Tell us a little bit about that.

Richard: This is another example of this 19th century scholarship. This is why you just can’t be citing people in the 19th century. This is so commonly the case. Kersey Graves wrote this book called The Sixteen Crucified Saviors, in which he claims that the entire Jesus story existed 16 different times, including even in Mesoamerica, even Krishna, I think Buddha is in there. He has a whole bunch of these gods that he claims the exact same story is told over and over again. But it’s just horrible scholarship, because he doesn’t go back to primary sources.

Some of his claims are just untraceable. He doesn’t even cite anything, and I have no idea where he’s getting his information. Other ones, when you go and look, it doesn’t back up what he’s claiming.

Nehemia: He might be just making it up.

Richard: What I suspect is, someone made it up, and he’s citing them. He’s culling the scholarship of his era…

Nehemia: He’s saying, “This is what the scholars say, so it must be true,” without going to the original sources, okay. “This is the scholarly consensus.” Now, 200 years later or 150 years later, the consensus has changed. [laughing]

Richard: It’s more like a telephone game. It’s similar to the thing we were talking about with Mithra, where someone wrote a book about this medieval Christian manuscript about Zoroastrianism. Someone wrote about that and made the inference that Zoroaster must by Mithras, and this must be a Mithraism. Then someone after that said, “Oh, okay. There’s this Mithraic text that says…” Someone is making a mistake at each step, and when you accumulate the mistakes the story becomes completely transformed.

Nehemia: You gave the example of Krishna, who is the god from Hinduism, that the sources we have about Krishna being crucified and rising from the dead are from the Christian era, and I think you suggest could have been influenced by Christianity. Is that right?

Richard: Yeah, this is a big problem. A better example would be the Mesoamericans, where…

Nehemia: For us who don’t know the terminology, that’s the native Americans of Central America.

Richard: Right, Central America, yeah.

Nehemia: Like the Maya, or whoever.

Richard: Right, Aztecs, Incas, Mayans. Yeah, so the Spaniards reported their crucified God narrative. It’s almost certainly the case that that wasn’t what their religion actually taught. It’s being filtered through medieval Christian sources – or not medieval, in this case, age of exploration Christians – it’s being filtered through Christian sources in that case.

In the Krishna case, there could be texts from the late medieval period in India, for example, or from India, that have incorporated the Christian teaching onto Krishna. We’re not really sure. But we have to be careful of the importation of ideas from Christianity into pagan beliefs. That’s why it’s very important to look for sources or texts that we can trace to be pre-Christian. Those are the only ones that claim to be uninfluenced.

There are some exceptions like Plutarch, for instance, who writes technically after Christianity. He writes at the end of the 1st century. But it’s extremely unlikely that he would have been influenced by Christianity so early, so quickly. There are a variety of reasons why that would be. What he says probably does pre-date Christianity, even though he himself as a source is not.

Nehemia: Can I read what Plutarch wrote? This is in his book on The Historicity of Jesus.

Richard: Go for it.

Nehemia: The basic thesis is that Jesus wasn’t a real historical person, that there was a belief in Jewish angelology and this angel named Yeshua, and that he was then transformed into a flesh and blood person in a later period. Then you bring this example from Plutarch which is absolutely fascinating. Plutarch is a Roman historian, and he’s writing to this woman who worships Isis – I think she’s a woman, Clea.

Richard: Yeah. She’s a priestess of Isis, so she’s actaully a ranking member of the cult.

Nehemia: Right. He writes to Clea. He says, “Whenever you hear the mythical stories told by the Egyptians about their gods, of their wanderings, dismemberments and many experiences like these, you must remember what I said earlier and not think that any of these is being said to have actually happened like that, or to have actually come to pass.”

In other words, the Egyptians according to Plutarch, were telling these stories about Isis and Osiris, but the Egyptian intellectuals or Priests knew that these stories didn’t take place, but they had deeper symbolical meaning. Is that what Plutarch is saying?

Richard: Yeah. It’s a little bit in-between, because Plutarch himself says that the death and resurrection of Osiris does take place, but it takes place in outer space.

Nehemia: When you say outer space in Judeo-Christian terms, that means in heaven, right?

Richard: It’s more complicated than that, because heaven has many levels in ancient cosmology.

Nehemia: All right, the lower heavens.

Richard: Yeah, the lower heavens.

Nehemia: Dr. Carrier, I think when you call it “outer space” you’re poking a little fun.

Richard: [laughing] No.

Nehemia: I’m going to call it the “lower heavens”. It takes place in the lower heavens.

Richard: Yeah, okay, sure. I find that problematic because there are so many prejudices and assumptions about what heaven means today.

Nehemia: But there are prejudice and assumptions about outer space, like we’re thinking of little green men.

Richard: But see, that’s the thing. That’s actually closer to what they’re talking about.

Nehemia: All right. So what you call outer space is what I call these lower heavens. What happened in the outer space or lower heavens?

Richard: Every year, according to the true doctrine that the priests teach to the upper-ranking members…

Nehemia: These are the Priests of Osiris or of Isis?

Richard: It’s the same religion.

Nehemia: The Egyptian Priests, okay.

Richard: They preach that Osiris descends, becomes incarnate, is killed by an evil power who’s similar to Satan, and then resurrects and ascends back to power. And he does this every year. But this all takes place near the moon. It’s way up there. But the actual tales that are told of Osiris being a pharaoh and being dismembered and Isis looking for his body parts and all of this taking place on earth - that story is a myth, and it represents symbolically the teachings of the religion, which included moral teachings, but also cosmological, social and political teachings.

Nehemia: I think we need to clarify here, because I’m not that familiar with ancient Egyptian religion, and I’m sure my listeners aren’t. Basically, they believed in Isis and Osiris as gods, but then they also told stories that there was an actual Pharaoh named Osiris. Is that…?

Richard: Correct.

Nehemia: Is that what Plutarch is saying?

Richard: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. There are even “historians” of the time, historians of Egypt, who tried to fit Osiris into the chronology of pharaohs. Now, we have the full chronology of the pharaohs, it’s written in stone on the pyramids, and there’s no Osiris. We can’t fit him in. So we can confirm that he’s fictional, but of course, we know from Plutarch that the priests also knew that it was fictional. But they did create these stories of this historical king who was deified through this process. He was born of a god, so he was still a demigod in the same way that Hercules and so on were.

Nehemia: So there are really two historical processes that take place. I want to try to break this down in an overview. You call this a “hemerization” I might be mispronouncing that.

Richard: It’s “euhemerization”.

Nehemia: Euhemerization, where there’s an actual historical king who’s turned into a god, is that right?

Richard: No, it’s the other way around.

Nehemia: Oh, it’s the other way around, okay.

Richard: To show how this works, it’s named after Euhemerus, who was an author of the 3rd century BC. He wrote a book called The Sacred Scriptures in which he basically told, as if he was a historian, that he had discovered that in fact Zeus and Uranus were past kings, actual historical people, who were deified later.

Nehemia: Zeus is the main god of the Greeks, for those who don’t know.

Richard: He’s the Mount Olympus Zeus. We know for a fact that this is not true. There was no historical Zeus. There was no…

Nehemia: How do we know that for a fact?

Richard: We have more than sufficient records to know that there’s no way Euhemerus could have known had there been such a god.

Nehemia: Ah. Okay. In other words, maybe in 2000 BC there was a Greek king of some village, his name was Zeus, and the people loved him so much that they turned him to a God. But you’re saying Euhemerus couldn’t have known that.

Richard: There’s no way Euhemerus could know that. Certainly, there’s no way Euhemerus could know any of the things that he claims in this book. So, it’s bogus. We know it’s bogus.

Nehemia: When did he live again, Euhemerus?

Richard: 3rd century BC.

Nehemia: 3rd century BC, and he was a Greek, writing about the Greek god.

Richard: Yeah, absolutely. That then became a fashion, where there were these gods who were never really clearly placed in history. They were usually just placed in supernatural realms or mythic realms, sometimes explicitly cosmic realms. Over time, people said, “Let’s do the same thing. Let’s explain these gods by saying that they were once historical people,” so they started creating biographies about them.

Nehemia: Actually, Plutarch talked about why they did that.

Richard: Yeah, Plutarch has his own theories as to why they did that. Why they actually did that is a different question.

Nehemia: In other words, Plutarch says they did that because the common people couldn’t handle believing in this abstract idea.

Richard: That might be true. There is a hint of that in Plato, and in Plato’s Republic, where Plato recommends this tactic to control the masses, by creating religious myths and controlling them, and only the guardians - the people who are the elite who know the real truth - they’ll be the only ones who know the real truth, but they’re going to use the myth…

Nehemia: The real truth is some cosmic mystical idea.

Richard: Yeah. It’s a lot like scientology in that way, if any of you have studied that. They do the same thing, which is kind of weird, that after 2,000 years the same trick is being used on the public.

Nehemia: It’s interesting. You’re saying the priests know better, that these stories aren’t literal. As I was reading your book, one of the things that came to mind from my Jewish background was the stories that are told by these rabbis. Many Jews will say, “Of course, that didn’t really happen. It’s a parable being told to express an ethical idea.” I’ll just bring one example that my listeners will know, the oven of Akhnai, where a voice calls out from heaven and rebukes the rabbis for not listening to this one rabbi. Most Orthodox Jews I know today will say, “No, of course there wasn’t a voice from heaven. It’s trying to express this idea and this principle, and the principle is binding. You’ve got to accept it, but you don’t have to accept that this literally happened.”

But then, I know other Jews who will say, “If you don’t accept this literally happened, you are a blasphemer.” No, really. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew and I once got in trouble for calling into question one of these stories that every soul of every Jew was at Mount Sinai. I said, “Where does it say that? That’s just made up.” I was told that this was heresy.

I want to quote a 12th century Rabbi, I’m paraphrasing what he said. He basically said, “Anybody who believes all of the legends of the Jews…” This was a rabbi. He says, “Anyone who believes all of the legends is insane, and anybody who denies them all is a heretic.” His point was that some of them are literally true and some of them aren’t, and you have to, I guess, have the discernment to know the difference.

Richard: This goes all the way back. We have Philo of Alexandria, the greatest Jewish scholar of his era, that’s 1st century, just before the dawn of Christianity. He was making the same point - that some of the stories in the Bible are literal, some of them are figurative, and you only know the truth if you know which is which.

Nehemia: You see, I’ve got to say, I need to go back and read more of Philo. But what I read of Philo that you quoted in your book, he seems to me to be saying in a sense, the opposite of Plutarch, in that he’s saying the masses know that there are deeper spiritual things here, and it’s only the stupid people - and I think he means the intellectuals – who take these things literally. But the masses, they know there are deeper spiritual, allegorical symbols here. I think he’s talking about me, because I’m one of these literalists, but whatever. [laughing] Philo definitely is an allegorist.

Richard: That’s an interesting take. Philo is speaking from the perspective of an insider as a Jew, versus outsiders who are non-Jews.

Nehemia: I’m not so sure. I think there may have been an internal Jewish dialog there.

Richard: Yeah, there certainly is, and he’s taking the side that you’re stupid if you’re Jewish and think these things are literal. But we have in the Talmud an example of one of these debates. It’s one of my favorite ones, where in the Book of Ezekiel – of course, Ezekiel has the Valley of Dry Bones parable, where he talks about seeing all these people, these bones rise up and the flesh goes on them, and they’re all resurrected. The Talmud records a Rabbinical debate where some rabbis were saying that this really happened, and then other rabbis were saying, “No, no, no. It’s just a metaphor for the resurrection of Israel as a nation.” The rabbis who said it was literal say, “No, no, no. Some of us, actually we claim descent from some of these resurrected people from the Valley of Dry Bones.”

Nehemia: The version I learned when I was a child said that it was four-fifths, or 80% of the Jewish people, the People of Israel at the time, who misinterpreted the prophesy of when Moses would release them, and they left early and they were wiped out. Matisyahu, the famous rap singer, has a song about how only four-fifths of Israel left Egypt. Probably, most people hear that and they have no idea what he’s talking about. I heard that I’m like, “Oh, yeah. He’s talking about the Valley of Dry Bones,” which are the Israelites who left Egypt and died in the desert, and they’ll be resurrected in the final… That’s that Talmudic discussion.

Richard: Sure.

Nehemia: That’s a really good example, and I’ll bring a Hebrew Bible, Old Testament example. Some rabbis, and some Jewish scholars beyond Rabbis, will say that the Book of Job never actually literally took place, that it’s just an allegory. Others who are literalists like me will say, “Yeah, of course there’s a deeper message. But also, Job happened.” Here’s one of the issues I was struggling with when I read Plutarch, and he’s talking about the pagan gods, right? Nothing that I have any stake in.

But I wonder if the other Egyptian Priests would have heard that and said, “Yeah, Plutarch’s that liberal theologian, that’s why he says that.” Or, “Clea is a liberal theologian, and she says these things weren’t literally true, but that’s because she doesn’t have a strong enough faith, or her faith isn’t right.” Or, “She doesn’t have the right discernment.”

It sounds to me from what Plutarch is saying to Clea is that there’s this dialog within the Egyptian paganism about whether these things are literally true or not, and some people are saying, “Well, kind of like in Judaism you have Maimonides, or Rambam, who lived in the 12th century, who was very similar to Plutarch, who said, ‘The masses can’t handle these things, so we’re not going to tell them exactly what’s going on.’”

They burned Rambam’s books for this, meaning other great intellectuals, not just the ignorant masses. Wow, are we going to get to Christmas, Dr. Carrier? [laughing]

Richard: I don’t know. We’re running out of time.

Nehemia: I think this is a very important background, because then when we jump to Christmas it’s interesting. First of all, in the New Testament it doesn’t ever say that Jesus was born on December 25th. I’m stating the obvious here.

Richard: Yeah. Nor is it even plausible that He was.

Nehemia: Assuming He existed, why isn’t it plausible?

Richard: Assuming you believe that the Gospel of Luke’s nativity story is true, it’s extremely unlikely that a census would be conducted in December, which would be the worst month for travel and other activity like that. So almost certainly the census would have occurred in a different month, and therefore the birth of Jesus would have occurred in a different month.

In fact, early Christians were on board with this idea, and so they were actually trying to place His birth somewhere in spring.

Nehemia: Really? Why in spring, do you have any idea why they thought it was in spring? Maybe because He died in the spring?

Richard: They had theological reasons. I don’t know entirely what their reasoning was. They didn’t have any documentation. There wasn’t any…

Nehemia: They were speculating when He was born, and I know a lot of my listeners believe He was born over the Feast of Tabernacles, and they can give you a whole long, complex reason for why that is.

Richard: That’s an example of what I mean by theological reasons. At most, they could have maybe found the month of the census, because that would be in historical records, theoretically, and they could have argued from there. They don’t actually say, so we don’t actually have that. But the idea of it being December 25th came much later, hundreds of years later. December 25th was the birth of all sun gods, not Mithra particularly.

Nehemia: Do we know that from the ancient sources? This is what I want to verify. Do we actually know that from the pre-Christian sources?

Richard: It’s hard to say specifically. For example, December 25th is the last day of Saturnalia. We know that from pre-Christian sources. Saturnalia is the festival of the God Saturn, but it’s also related to the rebirth of the sun, and it goes from the 17th to the 25th, and the 8-day week for the Romans is a bow to the resurrection of the sun kind of thing.

Nehemia: Incidentally, that is mentioned in the Talmud in the Tractate of Avoda Zara, and the Feast of Saturnalia is mentioned as a pagan holiday, but then another Rabbi comes along and says, “Actually, the pagans got it from Adam.” It originally was a Hebrew holiday, if you will.

Richard: That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that one. I do know that Christmas trees are condemned as pagan in the Old Testament. The idea of cutting down a tree, bringing it into your house and decorating it with silver and things like that - you’re not supposed to do that, that’s the behavior of the pagans, according to the Old Testament. But we have a Christian calendar mid-4th century. It’s a Christian calendar, but it’s really a calendar of all holidays, not just Christian ones. It has on there that December 25th is the birthday of Sol Invictus, which is the sun god.

Nehemia: The invincible sun, right?

Richard: Right, exactly. It’s the main sun god. There was a rise of Sol Invictus cult in the 3rd century AD, so it was very popular in that 100-year span. According to this Christian source – and this is a fairly early Christian source, close enough to the actual events of the 3rd century, for example, to know that this was the case. They’re not making it up. Then the idea of porting the birth of Jesus to the 25th came later.

Nehemia: It’s interesting you say “porting”, meaning they believed He was born and they had one date, and they transferred it to this other day.

Richard: Right, “Let’s move it.” I think that was political. The reality is, they wanted their celebration to overwhelm the pagan celebration. That’s their way of erasing the pagan holiday - just make it a Christian holiday, and then the more people who worshipped the Christian version of it, the less popular the pagan version of it will be. Eventually, the pagan one will wither away like a vestigial organ, and what you have left is this Christian celebration.

Nehemia: How much of that is speculation? In other words, how much do we know for sure that’s… Do we have Christians who come out and say, “We’re going to make the birthday of Jesus December 25th to get the sun worshippers to join us?” Do we have sources like that?

Richard: I’m not sure. Insofar as we have them discussing it, it’s early Middle Ages, so you can’t always be sure that’s what they’re saying... Because they’ll have their own historical hypotheses as to how this happened. Whether their hypotheses are true or not is yet another question.

I think that by and large it’s our inference, because we can see the sequence of events. It started as a pagan holiday, now the Christians are making it their holiday; why would they do that? There are logical reasons to say that maybe the medieval historians who are saying this might have hit onto something on that.

Nehemia: However, if I were a Christian apologist who really loved Christmas, I could come along and say, “Yeah, you’ve got a 4th century source, that’s 300 years after Jesus, and the pagans were competing with Christianity and put the birth day of their sun to get the Christians…” I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s possible.

Richard: Yeah, but it’s not likely, and the reason is because December 25th was associated with… like we have the Saturnalia, it was associated with the actual solar cycle. So the 21st, of course, is the winter solstice. The days start getting longer again, so it’s the resurrection of the sun in the sense that the sun starts waxing rather than waning.

Nehemia: In other words, for those who live in offices like me and don’t go outside, the days get longer and longer and longer until the summer solstice, and then they start to get shorter and shorter and shorter, until the winter solstice. Then it’s around December 22nd you’re saying, or 21st, when the days start to get longer again?

Richard: Yeah, exactly. That’s it.

Nehemia: That’s just an observable fact - if you bother to go outside, you’ll see. [laughing]

Richard: Yes, it’s an astronomical fact, and it was a well-known astronomical fact, and a disturbing one from the perspective of primitive peoples, “The days are getting shorter. Oh, crap. Eventually, there’s not going to be any day left and the sun is going to go out.”

Nehemia: Now you’ve forced me to quote what it says in the Talmud about Saturnalia. It says, “When the first Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, ‘Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion. This then, is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from heaven.’” In other words, he didn’t know that they would stop getting shorter, the days. Obviously, this was written thousands of years - I believe Adam existed [laughing] - it’s written thousands of years after Adam, or even after the Torah.

Richard: From that perspective right, yeah. Go on.

Nehemia: “He began keeping an eight-days fast. But as he observed the winter equinox and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, ‘This is the nature of the world,’ and he set forth to keep an eight-days festivity. In the following year he appointed both as festivals.” This is how they’re explaining that the Romans have an eight-day period of mourning before the equinox, and they actually mention the Romans Kalenda and Saturnalia by name here. Then the eight days up until the equinox was Saturnalia, and afterwards it was Kalenda. Basically, according to these rabbis, this was echoing what the first Adam did.

When I read this, I ask the question, “Why would the Rabbis associate this pagan festival of the Romans with Adam?” This is my hypothesis, I’m guessing: they must have seen this in many different cultures and said, “It can’t just be a Roman thing.”

Richard: Oh, that’s entirely plausible, yeah. I haven’t confirmed that, but you would expect. Certainly, the Roman Saturnalia probably was not invented by the Romans. It may have been adapted from the Etruscans, and we know the Etruscans have ties to Turkey, to what used to be the region of Troy, and that’s Anatolia, and that ties you into the Persians and the Assyrians. You can trace a pathway there.

Nehemia: So the Rabbis might not have been far off. In other words, primitive man, maybe not the first Adam, the early human beings may have looked up in the sky and said, “We’d better light some fires because the sun needs some help.” [laughing]

Richard: You’re right.

Nehemia: That’s probably what happened.

Richard: That’s entirely plausible, yes. I think that’s why the 25th came to be so associated with sun cults in general, and long had done so before Christianity came along.

Nehemia: Wow! This is some amazing stuff, and there’s so much more to talk about, but I think this is a lot for the people to chew on. Are there any other final things you’d like to share, any final thoughts or ideas?

Richard: I would recommend people look up the Saturnalia and the resources online to see what the holiday was like. It’s not entirely like our Christmas holiday, but there are a lot of similarities, like the gift-giving, the caroling.

Nehemia: Really? That was part of Saturnalia, the gift-giving and the caroling?

Richard: Oh yeah, yeah. Ribaldly getting drunk and going around town singing. And wreaths on the doors, candles in the window. There’s a lot of aspects to it. Mistletoe came much later, I think. That, I think, is an adaptation from Celtic religion. But you can see all of these things being adopted and brought in and given new meaning into the new Christmas holiday.

Of course, then the whole idea of St. Nicholas got transformed into some sort of mythology of this North Pole elf. [laughing]

Nehemia: What you’re basically saying is that the Christians took pre-existing elements and adapted them to their religion. As a naturalist or a humanist, an atheist, when you celebrate Christmas, what is the significance of it for you?

Richard: Oh, to me it’s just tradition and an opportunity to celebrate certain values of Christmas.

Nehemia: What are those values?

Richard: This ties back to what a lot of times the ancients, the elite Priests were saying about their religion, that the myths symbolize certain moral ideas, certain ideas about human values and things. I think those things can still be true. They could also be false, but you could say that there are certain values that are good, like the idea of the Christmas spirit. All of the principles really well-captured by “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens, is a really good example of showing a secular take on what the values of Christmas are, and those values are humanist values. We do cherish those values.

So to create a kind of mythic story that we don’t really believe in literally, but we do take seriously as a kind of representation of the values – and Christians even do this, too – for the Christians who use the Santa Claus myth, they don’t believe there’s a literal Santa Claus and that he literally does the things that are said to be done by him. But many of them, not all of them, accept the whole Santa Claus mythology because of the things that it symbolizes about the values of Christmas. That’s how we look at the whole thing.

Nehemia: Meaning, you secular humanists…

Richard: Yeah, us secular humanists see that in the same way. There are secular humanists who abhor all religion and therefore won’t celebrate Christmas, but most of us do, the reality is, because we take it as that sort of secular mythology that has humanist values embedded in it, that we value.

Nehemia: I see. Wow. My father was an Orthodox Rabbi, and whenever people would say to him, “Merry Christmas,” his response was, “Bah, humbug!” [laughing] This has been a fascinating discussion. Thank you very much. You’ve been listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. We were speaking to Dr. Richard Carrier, and you can find his information at richardcarrier.info. I’m going to post the link on nehemiaswall.com. Shalom.

Nehemia: As an epilogue, I want to encourage those who are coming from the New Testament perspective to have a look at your own ancient sources. Justin Martyr, as his name implies, was murdered by the Romans for his faith. Around the year 150 CE he wrote a book that we mentioned in the interview. It’s called Dialogues with Trypho. Now, Justin was a pagan Greek from Nablus, or Shechem. It was called Neapolis at the time, in northern Israel. He converted to Christianity in Greece.

Although he came from Israel - it’s crazy - the first Jew he ever met was this Trypho, who we’re told was fleeing from the Bar Kochba War. It’s mentioned in the book that he was fleeing from the war, which is the Bar Kochba War between the years 132 and 135. Some people say this Trypho is the famous Rabbi Tarphon mentioned in the Mishna. It’s not clear whether these dialogues were fiction, whether they took place or not.

But I find it fascinating, because as far as I know this is the earliest recorded dialog between a Christian and a Jew. Of course, we’re only hearing the Christian side and the words that Justin puts in the mouth of Trypho.

But a lot of what Trypho says sounds like what you would expect a Jew to say back then, and much of what a Jew would say today. So I think it’s a really interesting book. In chapters 69 and 70 of this Justin Martyr, he tackles this whole issue of the pagan parallels between Christianity and the pagan religion. He takes it head on. He actually proclaims that rather than undermining his faith, this issue strengthens his faith. Now, you may not agree with his reasons and conclusions, but at least he’s dealing with the reality of the situation. There were many religions in the Roman Empire that sounded uncomfortably, to many people, similar to the accounts of Yeshua of Nazareth.

Justin says he doesn’t feel uncomfortable with the parallels. On the contrary, he embraces these parallels and develops an important aspect of his theology about what they teach him about how Satan operates in the world. Again, you may disagree with Justin. The guy died for his faith, so at least have a look at what he said. Rather than ignoring these parallels to the pagan religions, they’re key to Justin’s understanding of the divine plan.

So, this Christmas, as you sit in front of your yule log or whatever it is that you do, have a look at Justin Martyr’s Dialogues with Trypho, chapters 69 and 70, and think about these things. Maybe pray about them.

My Jewish listeners were really quick to demonize Christmas. I kind of like what Dr. Carrier had to say about the moral lessons that he believes Christmas embodies. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, those are good things to think about – being good to one another, and good cheer for men, all that stuff.

What we as Jews should do is, we should be looking at our ancient sources. I’m going to post a link to the Babylonian Talmud Avoda Zara 8a on nehemiaswall.com and see what it says about Kalenda and Saturnalia, which the Rabbis believe went back to adam harishon, to the first Adam. I don’t believe it really goes back to the first Adam, [laughing] but maybe it does go back to the generation of the Tower of Babel. Maybe they looked up in the sky in that first year after the flood and tried to make sense of the seasons. Remember in Genesis it talks about how after the flood there would always from that time on, be regular seasons? It says, choref vekayitz, winter and summer. Some people take that to mean that before that there weren’t seasons. I don’t know. Maybe there were, maybe there weren’t. Anyway, maybe that generation after the flood looked up at the sky as the days were getting shorter and shorter, and they started to get nervous. They had heard God’s promise not to destroy mankind with a flood, so maybe now He was going to do it by extinguishing the sun. It might be what they thought.

That’s what the Rabbis seem to think they thought. Maybe that’s why we have the celebration in cultures throughout the world, in which people light fires. It’s interesting, you’ve got the Christmas candles on the Christmas tree, and the Christmas lights, and in many of the ancient pagan religions you seem to have these people lighting fires, often large bonfires, and the thinking behind what they’re doing – not Christians today, but some of these primitive cultures – is that “the sun is dying, and we’ve got to help out the sun by lighting a fire!”

We find this in many ancient cultures, which is what the Rabbis in the Talmud are trying to make sense of when they say, “It goes back to the first Adam.” Think about that this December 25th, and what ancient humans were going through after the flood, or might have been going through, as they saw the days getting shorter, and the jubilation they must have felt when the days started to get longer again around the time of December 25th.

I’m still not going to be celebrating Christmas, [laughing] not even as a secular holiday. I’ll be honest with you, my association I have with Christmas is not a positive one. What comes to mind for me when I think about Christmas is how the Jews were often persecuted this time of year, how the Gentile multitudes were whipped up into a frenzy, and often it was directed at the Jews. It was the birthday of Christ, and the ones who killed Christ needed to be hurt.

One example is the Jews of Rome – I don’t mean ancient Rome, I mean the city of Rome, when it was ruled by the Popes. They used to force the Jews to run naked through the streets of Rome, on Christmas, as entertainment for the Christians. I’m going to post a link to the study this Rabbi did about that. That’s the association I have with Christmas. There’s a lot of pain there, I’ll be honest with you.

Now to everyone, whether you’re a Jew, a Christian, or an atheist, open up the books of the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Carrier, an avowed atheist, made reference to a passage in the Hebrew Bible about the pagan precursor of the Christmas tree, and I’m pretty sure he’s talking about Jeremiah chapter 10. It’s something I’ve talked about in the Prophet Pearls. I’ve always read this as referring to “wooden idols”. But if an atheist historian like Dr. Carrier tells me that it’s talking about Christmas trees, it’s at least worth a second look, worth some prayer and reading.

So this Christmas, I will be reading Jeremiah 10 and praying for understanding of its true meaning. Shalom.

You have been listening to Hebrew Voices with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

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Easter Miracle of the Holy Fire
Don't Call it Tammuz
Tammuz and the Lunar Sabbath

Show Notes:

Guest Bio - Richard Carrier has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see www.richardcarrier.info.

The image at the top of this page is of Mithra slaying the bull in a scene known as the Tauroctony. This scene appears in every temple of Mithra, but the story behind it is a matter of conjecture (=guesswork).

The Greek deity Dionysus, known to the Romans as Bacchus and identified with the Phoenician god Tammuz. This statue is on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

The Greek deity Dionysus, known to the Romans as Bacchus and sometimes identified with the Phoenician god Tammuz. This statue is on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Verses Mentioned:

Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8a

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 92b (Rabbis on the Valley of Dry Bones)

Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 15a (debate about whether Job existed or was just a parable).

Justin Martyr, Dialogues with Trypho, Chapters 69-70

Justin Martyr, Apology 1, Chapters 20-22

Roman festival of Saturnalia

Chronograph of 354 (On December 25: "N·INVICTI·CM·XXX" - "Birthday of the unconquered, games ordered, thirty races.")

Kersey Graves, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors

Dr. Carrier's Critique of The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors

Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons

Philo, On the Giants, Sections 58-60

Origen, Contra Celsus, Book IV, Sections 50-52

Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 11.355b: "Clea, whenever you hear the mythical stories told by the Egyptians about their gods—of their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences like these—you must remember what I said earlier and not think that any of these things is being said to have actually happened like that or to have actually come to pass..." (Quoted in Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Element 14)

Plutarch, Moralia, 9.388f-389a: "Now we hear the [pagan] theologians affirming... that God is deathless and eternal in his nature, but due to some predestined design and reason, he undergoes transformations of his person, and at one time enkindles his nature into fire... The more enlightened, however, concealing from the masses this transformation into fire... speak in a deceptive way of what he suffers in his transformation as a tearing apart, as it were, and a dismemberment... and they narrate deaths and vanishings, followed by returns to life and resurrections— riddles and myths quite in keeping with his transformations." (Quoted in Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Element 31)

The History of Christmas

History Begins at Sumer

  • Jeffrey Manresa says:

    As we enter a time of deep fakes it will be hard to prove anyting. Mass book burnings has always been the way of the enemy. Remember the Springfield Revival. Yehovah always provides a way out of the lie.

  • Erin McFarlin says:

    What a great topic of discussion.
    Nehemia, I feel with you on this and pray also for expounding from YHVH for Jeremiah 10.
    Stay as you are I know I am blessed by the journey you present to us.
    My heart since childhood had felt for the persecution of the long historicness if the chosen people.
    Many blessings to you!

  • LG says:

    I’ve listened to this podcast twice in the past I believe. It’s very good. Quickly I’d like to point out that December 25 as Jesus’ birth was accepted before Constantine. Julius Africanus (160-240) said,”For the Jews,… have handed down to us, by their extant Hebrew histories, the number
    of 5500 years as the period up to the advent of the Word of salvation…”(Chronographiae 1.) This would place the Creation at A.M. 5001 and Jesus’ conception 5500 years later at around March 22-25 and thus his birth at December 25 (see also Clement’s Stromata [150-215], 21for Jesus conceived [lit. “genesis”] at “the twenty-fifth day of Pachon” i.e. March 25.)
    I hope this will add some good information.

  • Jamie Caldwell says:

    I’m not a Christian. I identify most closely with Judaism if I had to slap a label on myself, but I find these parallels to other supposed crucified/resurrected god messiahs extremely weak and almost laughable. It’s not enough for me personally to just throw my hands in the air and say, “Well, that proves it. Yeshua could not possibly be the/a Jewish messiah. Case closed.”
    I’m curious…..where is the great church of Tammuz, or of Inanna? How about the churches of these other, supposedly many, pagan messiahs who died and rose again? Surely their numbers are in the millions? No? They were “one hit wonders” then?
    Why did this particular rabbi/messiah/son of God named Yeshua manage to last over the centuries and gain billions of followers worldwide? I’m truly curious about this.
    Now, I know that number of followers don’t always equate with being correct or having the truth, because Islam is right behind Christianity in numbers. However, the fact remains that Yeshua has lived on, the New Testament documents have lived on, and those other pagan imposters didn’t. Why?
    As far as Christmas goes, I’ll leave that one alone. Thank you for this topic, Nehemia! I really enjoyed it and appreciate the work you do. I pray our Father will bless you abundantly.

    • UKJ says:

      *However, the fact remains that Yeshua has lived on, the New Testament documents have lived on, and those other pagan imposters didn’t. Why?* —

      Hello Jamie,

      I hope the following sheds some light on your question!

      Acts 5:35 He said to them, “You men of Israel, be careful concerning these men, what you are about to do.

      Acts 5:38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
      Acts 5:39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

      I would also like to add that the first followers of Yeshua were eye witnesses of his life, death and resurrection! Most of them were martyred because of their witness! Would anyone want to die such cruel deaths for a lie or a fake?

  • Leo Geronimo says:

    Yehovah is my Elohim!