In this episode of Hebrew Voices, The Truth about Christmas and Tammuz, 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.
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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).
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).
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)