Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

The Historical Unreliability of Jesus: A Review of Robert VanVoorst’s Jesus Outside The New Testament

The Historical Unreliability of Jesus: A Review of Robert VanVoorst’s Jesus Outside The New Testament

by Sarah Schoonmaker

Robert VanVoorst’s Jesus Outside the New Testament claims to provide evidence for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from non-Christian historians and Jewish writings. Jesus Outside the New Testament refers to the following classical writers in order to defend the historical reliability of Jesus: Thallos, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus. The purpose of this review is to address the historical writers that remain lauded as evidence for the historical Jesus and demonstrate how they all fail to bolster any historical support for Christianity.

Thallos:

VanVoorst points to Thallos as the earliest reference to Jesus set in the middle of the first century 55 C.E. Most of Thallos’ works perished, but was quoted by Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian writer in his History of the World.  This book was eventually lost, but the quote originating with Thallos was also mentioned by Byzantine historian, Georgius Syncellus. According to Syncellus, when Julius Africanus writes about the darkness of the death of Jesus, he mentions that, “Thallos calls this an eclipse of the sun, which seems to be wrong.”[i] Julius claims that the darkness was miraculous, “a darkness induced by God.” Even though Thallos could have mentioned the eclipse with no reference to Jesus, VanVoorst claims that it is more likely that Julius who had access to the context of Thallos’ quotation was correcting Thallos as a “hostile reference to Jesus’ death.”[ii] For instance, VanVoorst concludes, “if Thallos was simply writing about an eclipse, Julius Africanus would not have cared to say that Thallos was mistaken.”[iii]

In logic, when an argument against a particular view is offered, one mentions the claim under refutation, followed by premises and a conclusion. If Thallos were arguing against the claim that the eclipse was associated with the death of Jesus, he would have mentioned this event. However, there is no reference to Jesus, so therefore, one cannot conclude that it is even likely that Thallos was responding to a Christian claim about the “darkness induced by God” surrounding Jesus’ death. VanVoorst’s conclusion is a straw man fallacy because he creates an argument that Thallos does not claim to make. At best one may only infer that Thallos wrote about Jesus in his lost writings, but this is a massive assumption.

Pliny the Younger

As a prominent lawyer and senator in Rome, Pliny published nine books of letters between 100 and 109.[iv] He writes about punishment of Christians specifically by the Roman governor Trajan. Pliny also records that Christians would “sing hymns to Christ before dawn on a determined day and took oaths to refrain from theft, robbery, and adultery, not to break any promises, and not to withhold a deposit when reclaimed.”[v]

Pliny also tells Trajan that, “many people of all classes, ages, and regions of his province are infected by this contagious superstition.”[vi] VanVoorst credits this source fairly by claiming that Pliny’s writings do not bear independent witness to Jesus independent of Christianity. “What is related about Christ confirms two points made in the New Testament: first, Christians worship Christ in their songs (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-20; Rev. 5:11,13), and second, no Christian reviles or curses Christ (1 Cor. 12:3). Pliny, however, shows no knowledge of Christian writings in his letter.”[vii]

Pliny bears witness to the practices of Christianity and the persecution from the government. However, he offers no contribution to the historical Jesus.  As a result, he is equivalent to any other historian writing about Greek mythology. Just because a historian writes about a certain group worshipping a god or gods, this does not validate the existence of their god or gods.

Suetonius

The Roman writer Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 70-ca. 140) practiced law in Rome and was a friend of Pliny the Younger. He published a book Lives of the Caesars, which covers the lives and careers of the first twelve emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian.[viii] In the fifth section of Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius reports how emperor Claudius treated several people during his reign. The quote claimed to support Jesus Christ is as follows, “He (Claudius) expelled the Jews from Rome, since they were always making disturbances because of the instigator Chrestus.”[ix]

VanVoorst claims that “Christus” often found confusion with “Chrestus,” by non-Christians. Furthermore, the Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) spells Christian with an -“eta” in all three New Testament occurrences of the word (Acts 11:26, 26:8; 1 Pet 4:16).[x] In particular, “Christians” were also referred to as “Chrestians.” I find VanVoorst most convincing for the possibility of the connection to Jesus Christ when he claims that ‘Chrestus’ “does not appear among the hundreds of names of Jews recorded by the Roman catacomb inscriptions and other sources, yet was a familiar Gentile name. He concludes that this opens the door to the possibility that Suetonius may have confused Christus for Chrestus.”[xi] On the contrary, Bart Ehrman notes that Suetonius is probably referencing an individual “Chrestus” and Jesus’ followers, since Jesus of the Gospels was executed twenty years prior to the riots.[xii] My conclusion rests on the possibility of a reference to Jesus Christ here, however advances no farther than speculative evidence.

Tacitus

As a Roman historian, Tacitus is most famously known for the Annals, which covers the Roman Empire from 14-68 C.E. and includes information about the reign of Nero. He records Nero’s probable arson of Rome in order to implement his own architectural designs and how he passed the blame to Christians as a ready scapegoat. As a result of this blame, Nero heatedly persecuted Christians and Tacitus wrote the following about this, “But neither human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts, whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”[xiii]

Indeed, emperor Nero used Christians as a scapegoat to explain the fire, which broke out in Rome (64 A.D.). Tacitus mentions that the Christians were likely not the cause of the fire, but used the fire as an excuse to persecute Christians. The Annals do not prove that Jesus Christ existed but merely that Christians existed in the First Century A.D., which no scholar has ever disputed. Since Tacitus recorded The Annals one hundred years after Jesus’ proposed existence, this lacks historical reliability. It is important to remember that the negative evidence cited above is not “absence of evidence,” but rather “evidence of absence.” In science, negative evidence is often as important as positive evidence.

Josephus:

As a Jewish historian, Josephus briefly mentions Jesus two times in the Antiquities. Josephus mentions James “the brother of Jesus who is called Messiah” (Ant. 20.9.1). While Josephus does discuss many individuals with the name Jesus in the Antiquities, he does not refer to any of them as “Messiah.” I believe this is a reference to the Jesus of the Gospels since no other Jesus was associated with “Messiah” or called by its definition, “the anointed one.” While I grant this as a reference to Jesus of the Gospels, the credibility of this reference remains highly contestable.

For instance, Josephus’ other reference has him professing faith in Jesus, calling him Messiah when Josephus never became a Christian in the first place. “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Since Christian scribes copied Josephus’ writings through the Middle Ages, it is controversial whether his references to Jesus were altered or not. While Christians quote this passage as reliable evidence to Jesus’ existence, teachings, and resurrection, these references did not show up in the writings of Josephus until centuries after his death, at the beginning of the fourth century. Thoroughly dishonest church historian Eusebius is credited as the real author. The passage is out of context, which points to text alteration. All scholars agree that Josephus, a Jew who never converted to Christianity, would not have called Jesus “the Christ” or “the truth,” so the passage must have been doctored by a later Christian–evidence, by the way, that some early believers were in the habit of altering texts to the advantage of their theological agenda. The phrase “to this day” reveals it was written at a later time. Everyone agrees there was no “tribe of Christians” during the time of Josephus–Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.

If Jesus were truly important to history, then Josephus should have told us something about him. Yet he is completely silent about the supposed miracles and deeds of Jesus. He adds nothing to the Gospel narratives and tells us nothing that would not have been known by Christians in either the first or fourth centuries. The paragraph mentions that the divine prophets foretold Jesus, but Josephus does not tell what they said or us who those prophets were. If Jesus had truly been the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, then Josephus would have been the exact person to confirm it.


[i] VanVoorst, Robert. 2000. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, (Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans), 20

[ii] Ilbid, 21

[iii] Ilbid, 21

[iv] Ilbid, 23

[v] Ilbid, 25

[vi] Ilbid, 26

[vii] Ilbid, 29

[viii] Ilbid, 29

[ix] Ilbid, 30

[x] Ilbid, 31

[xi] Ilbid, 33

[xii] Ehrman, Bart. 2001. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 58

[xiii] VanVoorst, Robert. 2000. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans, 41

(Sarah Schoonmaker is completing her second BA in philosophy at the University of Colorado–Denver after receiving a BSBA in Finance from the University of Denver and an M.Div from Denver Seminary. She plans to begin a Ph.D program in the fall of 2010 to study philosophy of science, philosophy of language, logic, and epistemology. In the meantime, she researches and writes on a variety of topics covering religion, science, culture, and philosophy. For more information see: www.schoonmaker.wordpress.com.)

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July 20, 2009 Posted by | Books, Christianity, First Century, Guest Bloggers, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Metro State Atheists, New Testament, religion, Rome, Sarah Schoonmaker, The Holy Bible | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Jesus Fraud-3 Arguments (Preliminary Work-Want Feedback)

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The Jesus Fraud

Summary

By Joel Guttormson

Introduction

The Jesus Fraud is a book I am in the process of writing. In it, I intend to show, quite definitively, that the New Testament character of Jesus Christ is a composite character that most probably did not exist in the flesh, and thus, not a historical person. I use the term “most probably” because I am open to new evidences and findings, as rational and scientifically minded people should be. Therefore, I encourage all who read this, and the eventual volume to follow, to challenge me on my points, and to check my facts and evidence. It should be observed, that if no objection or refutation can be brought against my arguments, points, and evidence that would cause such a degree of reasonable doubt as to reconsider the position completely, then it should stand as the most likely account of the character of Jesus Christ. I intend to take into consideration those objections that deal merely with faith, and faith alone. Further, I intend to take into consideration the evidence that is claimed to exist for Jesus Christ’s historicity. I then intend to show the evidence against the historicity of Jesus Christ and that this evidence is not only abundant but also compelling. The intention of this abstract and info table is to engage in discussion those that disagree with me and to find further objections to my position as part of the research for this volume. Thus, herein my contact information has been made available at the conclusion of this abstract.

Argument 1: Jesus is a composite

It can be demonstrated that the myth and accompanying story of a dying-rising savior demigod is abundant in ancient societies throughout history and that Jesus fits the subsequent archetype of those stories that preceded ‘him’. Some of the civilizations that had this type of god included in their myths include, the Egyptians, Persians/Romans, Greeks, and Indians (India). From Egypt, we have Horus. The story of Horus is the oldest recorded story of a dying-rising savior, dating to around 3000BC. A summary of the Horus story is as follows: “Horus was born on December 25th of the virgin Isis-Meri . His birth was accompanied by a star in the east, which in turn, three kings followed to locate and adorn the new-born savior. At the age of 12, he was a prodigal child teacher, and at the age of 30, he was baptized by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry. Horus had 12 disciples he traveled about with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. Horus was known by many gestural names such as The Truth, The Light, God’s Anointed Son, The Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God, and many others. After being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for 3 days, and thus, resurrected1 ”. From Persia, and later taken up by the Romans, we have Mithras (Mythra) dating to 1200BC. The story of Mithras is as follows: born of a virgin on December 25th, he had 12 disciples and performed miracles, and upon his death was buried for 3 days and thus resurrected, he was also referred to as “The Truth,” “The Light,” and many others. Interestingly, the sacred day of worship of Mithras was Sunday1”. From Greece we have Dionysus dating to 500BC, whose story is as follows: “born of a virgin on December 25th, was a traveling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine, he was referred to as the “King of Kings,” “God’s Only Begotten Son,” “The Alpha and Omega,” and many others, and upon his death, he was resurrected1”. Finally, from India, we have Krishna dated to 900BC, but the legend may be older, whose story is as follows: “born of the virgin Devaki with a star in the east signaling his coming, performed miracles with his disciples, and upon his death was resurrected1”. One will be quick to notice a few themes or details that run through all of these characters. Let us now compare these to the story of Jesus, first written no earlier than 70AD: “Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary on December 25th in Bethlehem, his birth was announced by a star in the east, which three kings or magi followed to locate and adorn the new savior. He was a child teacher at 12, at the age of 30 he was baptized by John the Baptist, and thus began his ministry. Jesus had 12 disciples which he traveled about with performing miracles such as healing the sick, walking on water, raising the dead, he was also known as the “King of Kings,” the “Son of God,” the “Light of the World,” the “Alpha and Omega,” the “Lamb of God,” and many others. After being betrayed by his disciple Judas and sold for 30 pieces of silver, he was crucified, placed in a tomb and after 3 days was resurrected and ascended into Heaven1”. There is something in literature that is referred to as Lord Raglan’s Hero Pattern. It is a list of attributes, taken from the story of Oedipus, and is as follows: “1. Hero’s mother is a royal virgin; 2. His father is a king, and 3. Often a near relative of his mother, but 4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and 5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god. 6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal grandfather to kill him, but 7. He is spirited away, and 8. Reared by foster -parents in a far country. 9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but 10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future Kingdom. 11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast, 12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
13. And becomes king. 14. For a time he reigns uneventfully and 15. Prescribes laws, but
16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and 17. Is driven from the throne and city, after which 18. He meets with a mysterious death, 19. Often at the top of a hill, 20. His children, if any do not succeed him. 21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless 22. He has one or more holy sepulchres2”. Jesus gets 18/223 or 81%. Here it is sufficient to suspect this section by adding only that it is obvious that character of Jesus was not unique but may have originated independently, even by first century standards and thus, it is more likely that these characteristics were not inspired by a figure named Jesus.

Argument 2: Jesus is the SUN of god

From above, and from experience with Christianity, Jesus Christ is the supposed Son of God. The reality however, may be that he is not the Son of God but rather the Sun of God. I shall elaborate. “The cross of the Zodiac [is] one of the oldest conceptual images in human history. It reflects the sun as it figuratively passes through the 12 major constellations over the course of a year. It also reflects the 12 months of the year, the 4 seasons, and the solstices and equinoxes. The term Zodiac relates to the fact that constellations were anthropomorphized, or personified, as figures, or animals1.” The sun, in the cross of the Zodiac is in the middle of the cross, and as it travels with the 12 constellations through the months of the year, something strange happens around the time of the Winter Solstice. The shortening of the days and the expiration of the crops when approaching the winter solstice symbolized the process of death to the ancients. It was the death of the Sun. By December 22nd, the Sun’s demise was fully realized, for the Sun, having moved south continually for 6 months, makes it to its lowest point in the sky. Here a curious thing occurs: the Sun stops moving south, at least perceivably, for 3 days. During this 3-day pause, the Sun resides in the vicinity of the Southern Cross, or Crux, constellation. In addition, after this time on December 25th, the Sun moves 1 degree, this time north, foreshadowing longer days, warmth, and Spring. And thus it was said: the Sun died on the cross, was dead for 3 days, only to be resurrected or born again1”. Here I would like to comment about the Southern Cross constellation. During this time the sun was cruxified, thus giving us, crucified. After which the sun dies, and rises after 3 days. Furthermore, it can be shown that the birth sequence is entirely due to astrology. Let us look at the main attributes of the Jesus story. First, we have Mary, the Virgin; next, we have the three kings or Magi that follow the Star in the East to locate and adorn the newborn savior. The astrology of this story is as follows: Mary is the constellation Virgo, alternatively known as Virgo the Virgin, Virgo in Latin means Virgin. Virgo is often referred to as the House of Bread, depicted by a Virgin holding a sheaf of wheat. Bethlehem in Hebrew literally translates to “House of Bread”. Thus, “Bethlehem is a reference to a place in the sky, not on Earth1. Now, the three bright stars that comprise Orion’s Belt are called the Three Kings; the star in the east is Sirius, the brightest eastern star. On December 24th, the three stars of Orion’s Belt line up with the brightest star in the east, Sirius[TW11] . However, stars never change their position relative to one another, this arrangement results in the line-up of stars pointing to the site of the sunrise on December 25th. This is why the three kings follow the star in the east to find the sunrise, or, the birth of the sun. This is the reason that all the savior gods enumerated in Argument 1 have identical birth sequences. Now, what about the rising part? “[T]hey did not celebrate the resurrection of the Sun until the spring equinox, or Easter. This is because at the spring equinox, the Sun officially overpowers the evil darkness, as daytime thereafter becomes longer in duration than night, and the revitalizing conditions of spring emerge1”. Finally, there are things said, by Jesus, and elements in stories in the New Testament which point, not to a begotten Son of God, but rather an allegorical, anthropomorphized figure. For instance, when Jesus is said to feed the multitudes in Matt 14:17, he supposedly does so using two fish. The symbolism of the two fish is taken directly from the Zodiac. Pisces, or Pisces the Two Fish, is the age in which Jesus was supposed to have been born. To show this, we need only look to the New Testament again. Luke 22:8-10 “Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you3”. Jesus, supposedly, is referring to the Age of Aquarius, represented as “The Water Bearer”, and as it happens, the Age of Aquarius immediately follows the Age of Pisces, starting around the year 2150AD1. Thus, it is easy to see that Jesus may be the Sun, but not the Son.

Argument 3: Lack of contemporary evidence

The final argument I shall present herein deals with the yet undeniable fact that there is not a shred of convincing documented evidence outside of the New Testament of the existence of Jesus Christ. Specifically, I am speaking of the Romans, who recorded nearly everything during their time in power. They were systematic and meticulous. Among the things that the Bible mentions that the Roman historians do not, is the slaughter of the innocence, also known as the flight to Egypt. It should also be noted about that particular tale, this it is taken directly from the book of Exodus. I shall now furnish a list to the reader of just the Roman historians that had an opportunity to write down an account of Jesus, if he existed. (The dates and number of historians is larger than it should be because I am giving the other side the benefit of the doubt.) Alus Perseus (60AD), Columella (1st Cent. AD), Dior Chrysostom (c. 40-c.112AD), Justus of Tiberius (c. 80AD), Livy (59BC-17AD), Lucan us (63AD), Locus Flours (1st-2nd Cent. AD), Petronius (d. 66AD), Phaedrus (20BC-50AD), Philemon (1st Cent. AD), Pliny the Elder (23?-69AD), Plutarch (c. 46-c.119AD), Pomponius Mela (40AD), Rufus Curtius (1st Cent. AD), Quintilian (c.35-c.100AD), Quintus Curtius (1st Cent. AD), Seneca (46?BC-65AD), Sillies Italics (c.25-101AD), Statius Calicoes (1st Cent. AD), Then of Smyrna (c.70-c.135AD), Galerius Floccus (1st Cent. AD), Galerius Maximums (c.20AD ). Again, the above make only the vaguest references Christ. Since Christ is nothing more than a title, in Greek Christ means “the anointed one”, and does not necessarily refer to Jesus. This brings us to the highly touted, Josephus Flavius. This Jewish historian was not even born until 37AD. Like some of the historians above, he lived when he could have recorded heresy, but did not. Josephus recorded events, many events, which are verifiable and verified. The passage that is cited by Christians as being written by him has in doubt and appears to be interpolation by later Christians such as Eusebius4”. Thus, there is most likely, no verifiable evidence of Jesus’ existence.

Conclusion of Summary

To conclude this summary, I need only offer the opportunity for those claiming Jesus to exist to falsify the information contained within this summary. As I continue my research on this topic, opposing theories and views can only help me, as it will expand my view and perspective on the subject. My contact info is listed below so you may continue to share your views with me if you wish. I would like to thank you for reading this and taking the time to engage in conversation on this topic. (As a matter of completeness, the bibliography contained herein does not reflect the totality of sources I shall be utilizing for the volume to follow.)

Contact Information

Joel Guttormson

Email: metroatheists@hotmail.com

Bibliography

4. “Eusebian fabrications: the Testimonium Flavianum” Ken Olson. July 29, 2000.

3. International Bible Society. Bible Gateway. 27 April 2008. 27 April 2008 <http://www.biblegateway.com/&gt;.

2. Sienkewicz, Professor Thomas J. Lord Raglan’s Hero Pattern. 31 August 2008 <http://department.monm.edu/classics/courses/clas230/mythdocuments/heropattern/default.htm&gt;.

1. The Zeitgeist Movie. n.d

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Astrology, atheism, Bible, Christianity, First Century, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, New Testament, religion, Rome, science, Sirius, The Holy Bible | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

2012: Apocalypse Not

Written by Joel

THE WORLD IS GOING TO END DECEMEBER 21, 2012!!

Well, no, probably not. There is a good chance this is wrong. This 2012 Apocalypse hysteria is not a small nutjob movement based on fuzzy thinking and very little compelling evidence, it is in fact a very large nutjob movement based on a fuzzy thinking and very little compelling evidence. Need proof of that? An Amazon.com book search for “2012” generated 91,450 results. So one can conclude that there exists a market for this crackpot idea, a large market. Most intelligent people (most people reading this blog) understand, without me having to explain it to them, that this idea of a 2012 apocalypse is as wrong as the prediction that the world was going to end in the year 2000…oh no wait, the prophecy was ignorant to the fact that the Gregorian/Julian calendar started with the year 1, so actually the world was going to end in 2001, but that didn’t happen either. If you need proof that the world did NOT end in 2000 or 2001, you need only notice that we are still here talking about the fact that it didn’t happen. The 2012 apocalypse hysteria is based on, what proponents of the idea call several “key pieces of evidence”. Let us now examine this “evidence”, to see if the claims stand up to skeptical examination. However, it must be pointed out, that the “evidence” the proponents claim to be evidence, imply their own claims, which we shall examine.

Key piece of “evidence” #1: The Mayan Calendar

The Mayan Calendar may be the most popular, but by no means compelling, piece of “evidence” the proponents of ancient prophecy use to bolster their claims of Apocalyptic fantasies. The main claim using the Mayan calendar is that “on December 21, 2012, for the first time in approximately 26,000 years, the Sun will rise to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way (eye, heart, center) and the ecliptic plane. The sun aligning with the galactic center, is referred to as the Cosmic Cross. According to the ancient Maya, this date will mark the end of one world as we know it and the beginning of another”(4). With the wonders of the Internet it possible to learn about a great many things from the comfort of one’s own home. So here, I shall demystify the Mayan Calendar. First, let us acknowledge what a calendar, any calendar, or any time keeping device or system for that matter, truly is. Any time-keeping device is merely an arbitrary, and altogether human invention, not more necessary, in the cosmic scheme, than our inventions of anything else. These devices and systems are important only to us, for our own selfish means of prosperity and survival. Most calendars, of every culture and age, have a few features in common which tells us something both about the regularity of the cosmos and about human nature and observation. These features include a set, 20-30 day months based on the phases of the moon, woven into a longer count of a 365-day year based on how long it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun, and set within all of this days that the people consider scared or at least somehow different from other days for various cultural reasons. The Mayan calendar, as well as our own Gregorian/Julian calendar, have exactly these features. Although culturally different and separated by a vast amount of time, our calendar and that of the Mayan’s are quite similar. Not for any trivial, pseudo-scientific reason but because we are all humans observing the same cosmos. The Mayan calendar is arranged thusly: it is composed of “a ritual cycle of 260 named days and a year of 365 days. Taken together, they form a longer cycle of 18,980 days, or 52 years of 365 days, called a ‘Calendar Round'”(1). Further, the calendar can be broken down even farther. The 260-day ritual calendar, is composed of “two smaller cycles of days numbered from 1 to 13 and an ordered series of 20 named days”(1). The names of these days varied greatly among the the peoples and cultures that unitized it, however, “the names for the ritual days differed throughout Mesoamerica, scholars believe that the various calendars were synchronized based on their use in divination. In particular, each named day was thought to have certain fateful characteristics, but most of the details have been lost”(1). The Mayan calendar, just like all other systems of time keeping was extraordinarily arbitrary. This is proven by the fact that “the start of the 365-day year varied”(1). Also, “the 365-day year was divided into 18 named months (uinals) of 20 days” and, coupled with a religious superstition about the world, “one month of 5 “nameless” days, called Uayeb. The nameless days were considered extremely unlucky, causing the Maya to observe them with fasting and sacrifices to deities”(1). The Mayan’s also had a system in place in order to designated their calendar days, like we do today. “Each ordinary day had a fourfold designation—in order, day number and day name in the 260-day cycle and day number within the month and month name in the 365-day cycle. Thus, each of the 18,980 days in the Calendar Round had a unique designation (e.g., 12 Caban 15 Ceh)”(1). By now, 2012 Apocalypse advocates are jumping up and down about something called the Long Count’; “a continuous marking of time from a base date”(1), which was put in place by the Mayan’s to “describe a given date more accurately”.(1) The most crushing blow to the 2012 myth, may be the fact, in fact a theme throughout this blog, that even the start of the ‘Long Count’ is inherently arbitrary; “Ahau 8 Cumku (3113 BC) was the base date used by the Maya for the start of the present era”(1). Not only that, but even more astonishingly, the calendar isn’t set to end on December 21st of the year a.d. 2012, it is in fact “due to end in AD 2011″(1).

We have our own “ritual calendar” composed of “named days” ourselves. We need only observe that we engage in festival celebration and relax the necessity for labor on a great many days during the year, i.e. The Fourth of July, Christmas, Hanukkah, Labor Day, Memorial Day etc. We also have our share of superstitious “unlucky” days”, namely any number of Friday’s that happen to be the 13th of any given month, Halloween, and, in the recent past, June 6, 2006 due to the way we numerically represent the date, 6/6/06. Our calendar lacks a “Long count” but that would be about the only real difference between the two in terms of features. However, no one alive today claims that our Gregorian/Julian calendar predicts any apocalypse or end-times scenario.

Key piece of “evidence” #2: The I-Ching

Believers in the 2012 apocalypse myth refute this objection by claiming that there is independent, corroborating evidence in the form of an ancient Chinese book known as, The I Ching. Let us now investigate this so-called “evidence”. The I-Ching, or Book of Change, is “an ancient Chinese system of divination, based on a book of Taoist philosophy and expressed in hexagrams chosen at random and interpreted to answer questions and give advice”(2). This system is “a set of predictions represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called hexagrams (卦 guà). Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines (爻 yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin broken, an open line with a gap in the center). With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented.”(3). The system was supposed inspired or given supernaturally, the date ranges from 2800 BCE-2737 BCE (3). The fundamental augment the 2012 myth proponents point out is its age and extraordinary precision of it’s predictions. The way the I-Ching supposedly predicts future events, for an individual or global, has its own dubious history. “The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, using yarrow stalks, is a biased random number generator, so the possible answers are not equiprobable. While the probability of getting either yin or yang is equal, the probability of getting old yang is three times greater than old yin. The yarrow stalk method was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method. Using this method, the imbalance in generating old yin and old yang was eliminated. However, there is no theoretical basis for indicating what should be the optimal probability basis of the old lines versus the young lines. Of course, the whole idea behind this system of divination is that the oracle will select the appropriate answer anyway, regardless of the probabilities.”(3) So here we have a system which itself has changed its method of prediction, starting out as very biased and then changed to a seemingly more random system to give the impression that if a prophetic prediction appears to come true that the “randomness” can be explained away by the invocation of the supernatural. However, the predictions of the I-Ching work on the same principles as that of Astrology, a phenomenon known as The Forer Effect which is “tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people”(5). This was discovered by Psychologist Bertram R. Forer, who “found that people tend to accept vague and general personality descriptions as uniquely applicable to themselves without realizing that the same description could be applied to just about anyone” (5). This is how the I-Ching’s so called predictions work and thus cannot be considered genuine predictions. This includes the doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Key piece of “evidence” #3: The Bible

Yes. I know. You’re probably tired of this argument too, as it has been conclusively found to have not predicted anything and wasn’t written for predictive purposes. Here, I will not focus on the whole Bible but only that book which has be touted as the great predictor of the apocalypse, The Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation was written towards the end of the 1st century AD by a man, known only as John. This is not the same John that wrote the Gospel of John, conclusively shown to be the case after a thorough statistical analysis of the two texts, but is someone very different. He is known as John of Patmos. This is due to his references to himself as “John” in Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8 (6,7). He refers to his exile to the island of Patmos, of the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), in Rev 1:9 (6,7), where he wrote the Book of Revelation. During the time John wrote Revelation, what is now modern-day Turkey, was under the control of the extremely powerful Roman Empire. This fact alone is enough to derive the true, non-prophetic meaning from Revelation. I will not go into lucid detail here but two symbols should be clarified. The seven headed demon or beast is an allegorical reference to the seven Roman Emperors that had ruled till John’s time. Although scholars can’t agree on which specific seven emperors John was referring it is at least clear that it is a reference to Roman imperial power. John goes on further to associate the beast with seven hills. Rome is known as the city of seven hills, as then as is today, because it is build on seven hills (7). Not terribly inventive. The other is that of the now infamous, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mention in Rev 6:1-8. The four horsemen in the order they appear in the Book of Revelation , with associated color and meaning, are: White (Conquest), Red (war), Black (Famine), Pale (Death)(7,8). This imagery harkens back to the mythical story of the Jews fleeing Egypt in the Old Testament book of Exodus and the imagery of the the ten plagues. Since John was writing about the Roman Empire and Roman persecution of the Christians of the day, he was doing the same kind of writing the Jews did when writing Exodus. John was saying that God will intervene, exact justice for his downtrodden people, in the same sort of way that is written about in Exodus, via plagues. In other words, John wasn’t necessarily being completely original here. Now, to the point. How does this connect to the 2012 myth? Believers in the 2012 myth claim that because The Book of Revelation predicts the end of the world, it MUST mean December 21, 2012. This commits two fallacies. The most obvious of which is confirmation bias. The second, to a lesser degree, is post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means “After this, therefore because of this”(9). Thus, this piece of evidence is more flimsy the preceding and as flimsy as the next, and last that shall be presented.

Key piece of “evidence” #4: Terence McKenna/Timewave Graph

This piece of “evidence” has its basis on the Mayan calendar, so I will not recount that bit. However, this addition to the Mayan part must be mention, lest I be lambasted by the believers in the myth for not being “complete”. Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was a writer, philosopher, and ethnobotanist. He is noted for his many speculations on the use of psychedelic, plant-based hallucinogens, and subjects ranging from shamanism, the development of human consciousness, and the Novelty Theory – Time Wave: Zero Point”(4). He is also responsible for the Timewave graph. First, we must understand Novelty Theory, which isn’t a true scientific theory at all; “The theory proposes that the universe is an engine designed for the production and conservation of novelty. Novelty, in this context, can be thought of as newness, or extropy (a term coined by Max More meaning the opposite of entropy) (4)”. No scientific evidence for this so called “theory” has been found, ever. Thus one can conclude that it most probably bunk and that McKenna was just a little affected by the psychedelic hallucinogens. However, this “theory” isn’t going away yet. Further, “According to McKenna, when novelty is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as ‘timewave zero’ or simply the ‘timewave’ results. The graph shows at what time periods, but never at what locations, novelty increases or decreases. Considered by some to represent a model of history’s most important events, the universal algorithm has also been extrapolated to be a model for future events. McKenna admitted to the expectation of a “singularity of novelty”, and that he and his colleagues projected many hundreds of years into the future to find when this singularity (runaway “newness” or extropy) could occur. The graph of extropy had many enormous fluctuations over the last 25,000 years, but amazingly, it hit an asymptote at exactly December 21, 2012. In other words, entropy (or habituation) no longer exists after that date. It is impossible to define that state. The technological singularity concept parallels this, only at a date roughly three decades later. According to leading expert Ray Kurzweil), another concept called cultural singularity (essentially cultural dissolution, or language dissolution), parallels this as well. McKenna claimed to have no knowledge of the Mayan calendar, which ends exactly the same day that the Timewave graph does: December 21, 2012 (4)”. This is a long quote and requires some dissection. The graph argument is worthless precisely because there is no objectivity in it. McKenna could easy, and probably did, fix the placement of the “Timewave Graph” such that it did end on December 21, 2012. The pseudo-science regarding “newness” and so forth is so laughable as to be unworthy of further discussion. Lastly, the idea that McKenna knew and researched things such as the I-Ching and wasn’t aware of the December 21, 2012 date is so unlikely as to be nearly impossible. Lining up a graph with a timeline doesn’t prove or predict anything because doing such is riddled with subjectivity and thus is not science.

Conclusion

December 21, 2012 is most certainly not the date that the world is going to end. Above, I have conclusively set forth why the 2012 myth is bunkum and should not be taken seriously. It should also be pointed out that every last Apocalyptic/End Times prediction has failed to come true. We know this because we are still here, mocking those predictions and those who made them. Yes the Mayan’s and Chinese were an advanced and successful ancient peoples. However, we’ve learned much since their time and has rendered their superstitions not only false, but out-dated and unnecessary. So, don’t worry about 2012. There will be a Christmas and a Happy New Year party in New York for 2013 and we’ll all be exactly 4 years older.

Resources

1 Encyclopedia Britannica(http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/370868/Mayan-calendar)
2 Encarta Online Dictionary (http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861619882/I_Ching.html)
3 Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching#History)
4 Crystal Links (http://www.crystalinks.com/2012.html)
5 The Skeptic Dictionary (http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html)
6 Ancient Evidence, Discovery Times Channel
7 Bible Gateway (www.biblegateway.com)
8 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
http://www.apocalipsis.org/fourhorsemen.htm
9 How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (Paperback) (Third Edition), Authors: Schick, Theodore, Jr., Vaughn, Lewis.2002:McGraw Hill ISBN: 0-7674-2048-9

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments