The Historical Jesus (Page 4)
ghostgeek: If demons aren't around to cause trouble in the twenty-first century, why should we think the Roman world was chock-a-block full of the buggers? And if it wasn't, what does that mean for the Gospel narrative?
Lumpenproletariat, once you admit that there could be a fictional element in the Gospels why stop there? Why not go the whole hog and concede that the Gospels could be pure fiction?
Because they contain facts in them which we know for sure, and many other facts that we can confirm with probability if not certainty. And "pure fiction" is very rare in ancient literature.
What's an example of "pure fiction"? It cannot be any literature containing facts about real people and events, such as the Gospels contain.
People, after all, don't normally walk on water or turn a few fish into a meal for thousands, though possible explanations for both those scenarios do exist.
Even if those 2 cases are fiction, it doesn't mean the Gospels are "pure fiction." The vast majority of the Jesus miracles are the healing acts and the Resurrection. These are the ones which are likely true, whereas the others are more doubtful, possibly in the fiction category.
The best explanation is that Jesus demonstrated the astonishing ability to heal, which amazed people, because it was unprecedented. There are no other cases of a healer to whom dozens or hundreds were brought and reportedly healed. No other such miracle-workers in all the ancient literature.
And then because of this he soon was mythologized into a divine figure of some kind, so rumors got started, and soon his reputation expanded to include other acts, like the nature miracles, calming the storm, multiplying the fish and loaves, etc., and changing water into wine at a wedding party, and so on.
We need an explanation why he became the only documented miracle-worker, reported in multiple accounts near his time. There are no other examples of this in all the ancient literature, despite the impression that many debunkers try to give that there are other cases, or "parallel" Jesus-type miracle-workers. There are no other cases for whom there is evidence, such as this one case of about 30 AD. Also he's the only case of someone made into a god (or "messiah" or "Son of God" or "Son of Man" etc.), other than the Caesars and certain other famous powerful rulers who got themselves placed alongside the gods along with priesthood and worship rituals etc. imposed onto their subject populations.
We need an explanation why a relative nobody became worshiped as a resurrected miracle-working god. He must have done something especially unique in order to achieve this unique one-of-a-kind status. Unless someone can come up with something else, the most obvious explanation is the one presented in the written accounts -- that he did the miracle healing acts, and that he rose back to life after having been executed. No one can come up with any other explanation.
Nor is it usual for people to heal others by the laying on of hands, though again the art is still practiced and reportedly can achieve results.
There are no other good cases of this for which there is evidence -- the vast majority of such claims are fiction. But there may be some cases of a limited power to heal, such as that of Rasputin "the Mad Monk" of the Russian Revolution period, who might have had some limited power similar to this, causing healing benefit to a victim. Of the many reported cases of healing miracles, maybe there's evidence of some limited power, but probably fewer than 1% of all the reported cases. Or less than .1%. The vast majority of reported miracles are fiction, delusions, fraud, etc.
But when we come to those pesky demons, that's where there's a real problem. Put simply, is there any evidence that talkative demons even exist?
Just because there's a fiction element doesn't mean a real "miracle" act did not happen. The "demons" are the fictional explanation for what happened which was misunderstood by the witnesses. Something real must have happened, and this probably is that a mentally ill person was healed. The ones described as possessed are clear cases of mental illness. The reports are too bizarre to be stories someone made up. Something real did happen, and the "demons" etc. are the resulting story to explain it.
If there isn't, and I know of none, then Jesus couldn't have cast them out as it's claimed he did in the Gospels.
The "demons" and their vocalizations are fiction. But not the healing of the mentally ill victim.
There has to be an explanation why there are no other accounts in all the ancient literature which narrate a demon-possessed victim being healed. Despite some claims about this, there are no other cases in the literature reporting anyone being healed of demon-possession.
What we do have are many prescribed treatments, rituals, religious procedures which were instituted, usually practiced by a priesthood, and in some cases a worshiper did recover from an illness, but usually not, like today there are such healing rituals or chanting or praying, etc., and if a victim recovers in some cases, the god is given credit for answering the prayers, etc.
If someone made up these Jesus exorcism stories, why did no one make up any similar stories about any other miracle-worker? There are no other cases of it. Which means Jesus must have done something unique which inspired these stories and explains how they got started.
This essay provides an introduction to the topic of demons and the means of opposing them in ancient Mesopotamia during the early third to late first millennia BCE. Demons and witchcraft were integrated aspects of the Mesopotamian world. They could threaten individuals, often causing illness or ill fortune, as well as target society as a whole, encroaching upon the protected and ordered world of the Mesopotamian city. There were a number of ways to counter such threats, such as protective amulets and incantations, but the foremost, particularly in the first millennium BCE, was the figure of the ašipu, or exorcist. A trained ritual professional, the ašipu had a range of tools at his disposal, as well as the protection and sanction of the gods. This article provides an introduction to the issue of demons and exorcism by presenting four key aspects of this complex topic: first, an overview of characteristics and role of demons in Mesopotamia; second, a summary of the two notable demonic figures known as Lamashtu and Pazuzu; third, the demonic and chaotic figure of the witch; and fourth, an overview of the ašipu and his methods.
[ https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:33220/datastreams/CONTENT/content ]
Sounds as if it might be interesting.
ghostgeek: One of the best-known exorcists is Apollonius of Tyana; he lived at the end of the first century A.D. and had a reputation for using magic as well as casting out demons. There are a number of stories that portray Apollonius’ encountering demons. One shows him relieving a young man of a torturing demon, who turned out to be a deceased soldier enchanted by the young man’s good looks. In another story Apollonius has the residents of Ephesus stone a demon disguised as a beggar, and after the stones were removed the body of a dog was found in its place. Among the stories about Apollonius, there is not a consistent demonology. It is important, as we look at this wonder-worker, to recognize that his biography was fashioned ( either by Philostratos or Apollonius ) to give a supernatural interpretation to the events of his life in order to portray Apollonius in a favorable light.
[ http://www.missiology.org/folkreligion/Howellarticle.pdf ]
ghostgeek: Then Apollonius looked up at him and said: “It is not yourself that perpetrates this insult, but the demon who drives you on without you knowing it.” And in fact the youth was, without knowing it possessed by a devil; for he would laugh at things that no one else laughed at, and then he would fall to weeping for no reason at all, and he would talk and sing to himself. Now most people thought that it was the boisterous humour of youth which led him into such excesses; but he was really the mouthpiece of a devil, though it only seemed a drunken frolic in which on that occasion he was indulging. Now when Apollonius gazed on him, the ghost in him began to utter cries of fear and rage, such as one hears from people who are being branded or racked; and the ghost swore that he would leave the young man alone and never take possession of any man again. But Apollonius addressed him with anger, as a master might a shifty rascally, and shameless slave and so on, and he ordered him to quit the young man and show by a visible sign that he had done so. “I will throw down yonder statue,“ said the devil, and pointed to one of the images that were in the king’s portico, for there it was that the scene took place. But when the statue began by moving gently, and then fell down, it would defy anyone to describe the hubbub which arose thereat and the way they clapped their hands with wonder. [The account concludes with the young man showing his freedom from the demon by giving up his old way of living and following after Apollonius’ way of life.]
[ http://www.missiology.org/folkreligion/Howellarticle.pdf ]
ghostgeek: Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana from the Roman province of Cappadocia who lived in the first century CE is often linked with Jesus Christ. His amazing story that parallels Jesus has raised controversy among historians and theologians for centuries.
Jesus Christ’s contemporary Apollonius of Tyana who lived circa 3 BC – c. 97 AD and who many people at the time believed was a divine figure who could save humanity is almost erased by history.
Apollonius of Tyana similarities to Jesus Christ are undeniable. They both are said to have ascended to Heaven. There are stories of both performing miracles. They were both spiritual teachers.
Bart Ehrman a well-known agnostic atheist and a professor of religion at UNC-Chapel Hill starts his class by sharing this description of a famous man from the ancient world:
Before he was born, his mother had a visitor from heaven who told her that her son would not be a mere mortal but in fact would be divine. His birth was accompanied by unusual divine signs in heaven. As an adult, he left his home to engage on an itinerant preaching ministry. He gathered a number of followers around him who became convinced that he was no ordinary human, but that he was the Son of God.
And he did miracles to confirm them in their beliefs: he could heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. At the end of his life, he aroused opposition among the ruling authorities of Rome and was put on trial. But they could not kill his soul. He ascended to heaven and continues to live there till this day.
To prove that he lived on after leaving his earthly orb, he appeared again to at least one of his doubting followers, who became convinced that in fact, he remains with us even now. Later, some of his followers wrote books about him, and we can still read about him today.
Ehrman, of course, wants everyone in his class to think he’s talking about Jesus Christ. But alas, he reveals the shocking news that he wasn’t talking about Jesus at all. Instead, he’s referring to Apollonius of Tyana.
[ https://greekreporter.com/2022/12/16/greek-jesus-christ-apollonius-tyana/ ]
ghostgeek: Today few are aware of the Greek from Cappadocia. In the Ancient World, however, the great philosopher had something like 16 temples built in his honor all over the Mediterranean world, and possibly down through Mesopotamia (Babylon-Iraq) and into India. He was a mythical hero during the time of the Roman Empire.
Apollonius was a charismatic teacher and miracle worker who became a follower of the religious teacher and mathematician Pythagoras and was heavily influenced by his philosophies.
It is the ancient Greek philosophical thought that separates his beliefs from Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ taught his followers that God answers prayers. Apollonius of Tyana believed in a God who was pure intellect and taught his followers that the only way to converse with God was through the intellect. He taught that prayers and sacrifice were useless and that God really did not want to converse with men.
“The gods do not need sacrifices, so what might one do to please them? Acquire wisdom, it seems to me, and do all the good in one’s power to those humans who deserve it,” he had said.
He traveled widely around the Mediterranean and into India as a preacher, speaking his message and healing the sick.
[ https://greekreporter.com/2022/12/16/greek-jesus-christ-apollonius-tyana/ ]
ghostgeek: The earliest and by far the most detailed source is the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, a lengthy, novelistic biography written by the Athenian sophist Philostratus which he completed long after his death, probably in the 220s or 230s AD.
Among the miracles that were attributed to him by Philostratus, was saving the city of Ephesus from a plague. It is also claimed that he brought the daughter of a Roman Senator back to life. In one case he stopped a follower from marrying a woman who turned out to be a “lamia”, a type of disguised demon, and in doing so saved his life.
Philostratus implies on one occasion that Apollonius had extra-sensory perception. When emperor Domitian was murdered on 18 September 96 AD, Apollonius was said to have witnessed the event in Ephesus “about midday” on the day it happened in Rome, and told those present “Take heart, gentlemen, for the tyrant has been slain this day …”.
Both Philostratus and renowned historian Cassius Dio report this incident, probably on the basis of an oral tradition.
[ https://greekreporter.com/2022/12/16/greek-jesus-christ-apollonius-tyana/ ]
So, Lumpenproletariat, can you, against the odds, show that demons exist?
Probably they don't exist. That's the fictional part in the Gospels, and also in Philostratus and other ancient literature, all of which contain fact and fiction.
But that doesn't mean everything in those writings is fiction, as you imagine. They report real historical events, making the writings also factual and historical.
The exorcism stories in the Gospels are about real events of a mentally-ill person being healed by Jesus. We know that an encounter takes place between Jesus and the victim, and the victim gets cured. This is by far the best explanation for the written account. It is ludicrous to think that any Christian simply made up these stories. Especially the case of the herd of swine which stampeded over a cliff.
There is nothing miraculous about pigs stampeding, if they're frightened, and running off a cliff. What's important is that the victim in the story becomes cured of his illness and returns to a normal life.
Are there some in a zoo near you? Do some regularly appear on YouTube? Is there one running a country somewhere? If demons prove to be rarer than hen's teeth, then your claim that the Gospels aren't fiction is looking mighty suspect.
The Jesus exorcism events are about mentally ill persons who were cured, which is the real event which happened. The "demons" are a fictional part of the story.
You're not responding to the point by just having an orgasm over the "demons" part of the story. You need to stop focusing on this obsession and instead ask what really happened, and where this story came from if the event described did not really happen. The "demon" word says nothing about what really happened.
What was actually witnessed by those who saw this? Or, if you believe someone simply made up this story, why did they make up a story about pigs stampeding over a cliff? What was their point? If you can't explain why anyone would make up such a nonsensical story, we have to assume some other explanation for the story.
The best explanation is that there was a crazy person there, like we see many on the streets today, he was cured or brought back to a normal state of mind, and in the process he screamed loud and frightened some of the pigs nearby which went off running.
The Sherlock Holmes stories contain plenty of factual material. London is there in all its grimy splendour, steam trains are puffing east, west, north and south, and hansom cabs rattle in the dingiest streets. Yet for all this these stories will be found in the fiction section of any library, thus proving that the inclusion of factual material doesn't in itself guarantee the bona fides of a narrative.
You're talking about the SETTING for the story, not the story itself being narrated, or the events happening which constitute the story told.
We have historical characters in the Gospel accounts, such as Herod Antipas, John the Baptizer, and Pontius Pilate, who are confirmed historical persons, who probably did some of what's reported in the Gospel accounts, and maybe some not, but still reported as real acts they did.
This means the accounts are not in the fiction-only category, but in the category of fact mixed with fiction, and are intended as factual or real, or to be believed by the reader as accounts of real events. Just as the histories of Herodotus and Josephus and other historians, whose writings are intended as reporting real events, even though the reality is that they contain some fiction mixed in with the fact.
So we must read the Gospel accounts also as containing fact, or reporting what the author claims happened, just as we read those historians, with the only difference being that we might be more skeptical of the accuracy in this or that case, regarding certain details that are more doubtful.
But we have as much reason to treat the Gospel accounts as reports of historical events as we have reason to read Herodotus or Josephus as reports of historical events. So if you throw out the Gospel accounts, because they contain some fiction, you must also throw out most or all of the historians, and assume that all our ancient history is fiction.
Why would Paul ignore the teachings of Jesus if he knew of them, or his supposed acts of healing?
Here again, for the 3rd time, is the answer. There are 2 main explanations why Paul ignored the Jesus miracle healing acts:
1) PAUL IGNORES EVERYTHING about Jesus, e.g., everything biographical, prior to the night when Jesus was arrested right at the end, just before the trial and crucifixion.
Paul does not care about anything Jesus did prior to that very late event. Why he doesn't care about it is conjecture, but it's not only the miracle acts which he ignores, but everything about what Jesus did in all that earlier time. Paul chooses to not report anything about all that.
Paul's only point is to explain the Resurrection and the Salvation message, or the Good News about Jesus who offers us eternal life. And this includes Paul's teaching about redemption in the traditional sense of Jewish atonement for sin, made possible by Christ, without the need to perform the works of the Law, or to perform the Commandments or the Torah, because Christ offers us eternal life by faith, believing in Christ, or in his sacrifice to save us. This is about the Risen Christ, and does not require the earlier biographical matter about Jesus.
2) PAUL IS ONLY ONE OF MANY (actually most) Christian theologians who ignore or downplay the miracle healing acts of Jesus. These are omitted altogether by many of the later Christian writers, and are downplayed by those who do mention them.
Even the major Church Fathers who mention the Jesus miracle acts give them very minor importance, and you have to search their writings, page after page, for hours, before finding any reference to Jesus doing the miracle healings.
Some early examples of these, who knew of the Jesus miracle acts, in the early 2nd century, were Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp and the author of 2 Peter. The miracles of Jesus are also omitted by the Christian writer(s) of "The Ascension of Isaiah" (except one brief mention of "signs and wonders" ), even though this 1st- and 2nd-century apocalyptic book outlines the life of Jesus, the nativity, the virgin birth, etc. And it also mentions many other miracles, including miracles to be performed by the Antichrist, giving far more emphasis to this miracle-worker than to Jesus as a miracle-worker.
So it was common for Christian writers/theologians/evangelists to ignore the miracles of Jesus, even though they were very familiar with them in the Gospel accounts circulating during their time after 100 AD.
So it was perfectly normal for Christian writers/theologians to ignore the Jesus healing miracles long after these were widely known by them all.
Such details would surely add substance to Jesus' story without in any way devaluing the resurrection, yet it is only from the Gospels that we hear of them?
Again you're disregarding the point that Paul ignores everything about Jesus prior to the night when he was arrested, because he apparently thought none of it added any substance, because only the Resurrection (or crucifixion and Resurrection) were what mattered to him.
Plus you're disregarding the point that ALL the Christian writers ignored or downplayed the miracles of Jesus, even though it's certain that they knew of these from the Gospel accounts circulating during their time.
The simplist answer that I can think of is that Paul knew nothing of this material.
The Gospels had not been written yet, so Paul likely was unaware of much that would eventually be in them.
But the evidence is that these events had happened, however much or little Paul may have known of it. But this doesn't mean Jesus did nothing at all prior to the part told by Paul. You're mistaken to assume from Paul's omissions that Jesus did not exist prior to the night of his arrest.
That can be simply explained by the material not existing, as I say is the case, or by some very convoluted process that I'm sure you'll try to provide.
Yes, you can assume that Jesus did not exist prior to the night of his arrest. You can believe he suddenly popped into existence that night. But if you think he must have existed earlier, because people don't just suddenly pop into existence out of nowhere, then you must explain why Paul omitted any mention of him, since you're assuming nothing earlier could have happened because it's not in Paul.
Just remember though, before you start, that Paul claims to have joined the Jesus Movement, so it's hard to see how this material could have failed to come to his notice if it existed.
The Gospel accounts of the Jesus miracles, as they were known by 100 AD and later, likely were not known entirely to those Christians Paul encountered.
The best guess is that Paul knew of at least some of the Jesus miracle healings, that he probably believed some of it, maybe not all, and in any case he thought it was not important to his theology.
There were probably many false stories about miracles here and there, routinely disbelieved by almost everyone, so those of Jesus also could be false, for all Paul knew. What persuaded Paul to believe was the Resurrection report, and perhaps not anything about the miracle healings. Even if Paul doubted some or most of it, that doesn't mean it did not happen. Or that he thought it was unimportant doesn't mean it was unimportant.
I see you didn't get round to talking about loquacious demons, Lumpenproletariat. I wonder why? Could it be the fact that the pesky critters don't exist, or have you taken a vow of silence where they're concerned?
Again, they don't and did not exist -- probably. That's the fiction part, just as all ancient writings are a mixture of fact and fiction. This includes the history writings, so if you reject as fiction anything containing some fiction, you must toss out all the ancient historians as sources for history, and thus you must disbelieve there were any Greeks or Romans etc.
You have much to say about Paul and what he chose to ignore but it doesn't convince. Why would the lad not tell his followers about Jesus' divine birth? It's certainly something that's much touted nowadays, so why not in the first century AD?
It's probably fiction. What is not fiction is the miracle power Jesus demonstrated in his miracle healing acts and also his Resurrection.
It's because of these real acts he performed that he became important and was made into a god, and also why additional stories were added to the true ones, which is normal. This is how miracle myths come about: Something real happens which is very important, and then fiction stories get invented, to add further to the real person who gets mythologized.
So the virgin birth is later myth, and to this might be added some of the miracle acts, like the walking on water, changing water into wine, and some other of the non-healing miracle stories. But for these later stories to get added to this one person who otherwise did nothing noteworthy, there had to be something originally done by the real historical person to make him important enough so that people would make up stories about him, and also put so many words into his mouth.
Without the truth of the basic miracle healings and also the Resurrection, we have no explanation why Jesus ever became important and an object of worship such as he became, and why we have the 4 extended written accounts ("Gospels" ) and other writings about him in the 1st century, such as we have for no other Jewish rabbi or anyone, labeled as "Messiah" and "Savior" and "Son of God" and many other titles.
There's no way to explain this unless he actually did perform the miracle acts we see described in the Gospel accounts.
ghostgeek: So a rare point of agreement between us where we both doubt the existence of demons, even thought the Gospels clearly think the little buggers exist. So why is it so hard to think that the miracles were also made up, and the healing too?
ghostgeek: Paul says that Jesus was seen after his death, which is remarkable until you remember that other people have likewise been seen after they've expired. So basically, Jesus' resurrection is an ancient ghost story that you believe or you don't. Do you believe that people still see Elvis walking around, or are they the victims of an overactive imagination?
As for what's in both Paul's Epistles and the Gospels, that's easy to explain. The later writers of the Gospels took what Paul had to offer, about the betrayal for example, and incorporated it into their own work.
Your theory is so ludicrous and contrary to all the scholarship, including Bart Ehrman and almost any expert you can name.
By your theory, all we know about Julius Caesar comes from Cicero only, who wrote a small amount about Caesar's life, and all the rest is fiction, made up by the later writers such as Tacitus and Suetonius and Plutarch, who took what Cicero wrote (possibly also Caesar himself) and "incorporated it into their own work." You need to stop making up stories, based on your ideological bias, and look at the facts. There is much which the Gospel writers tell us which was not known by Paul (or ignored by him), just as Cicero omitted many facts about Caesar, some which he knew and some he was ignorant of, which the later writers knew and recorded for us.
If you really know Bart Ehrman, you realize that he lectures on the Q Document, which probably was unknown to Paul and was written near the same time as Paul. (Nevermind that some scholars doubt Q's existence, because if this document did not exist, there still has to be an explanation where Matthew and Luke got their non-Mark material, which still disproves your nutty theory that the Gospels got their original content from Paul (and Mark) only and then added their own fiction to it.)
So, how did Matthew and Luke know something which both Paul and Mark did not know (or completely ignored)? This question disproves your goofy theory about Mt and Lk relying on Paul only and making up the rest themselves.
How did Paul not know of John the Baptizer, e.g.? He completely ignores this character contemporary to Jesus. He almost surely must have known something of him (possibly very little), and thought it unimportant, though all the Gospel writers present the Baptizer as very important in some way.
STORIES FROM THE Q SOURCE:
One important Baptizer story is that of John sending messengers to Jesus to inquire if he was "the one who is to come" (Mt 11:2-6 and Lk 7:18-23). Whether this precise event really happened or not, it reveals some factual matter, concerning John in prison and the other events happening. And it reveals that there were reported miracle acts of Jesus happening long before Mark's Gospel and probably contemporary to Paul's writings or even earlier.
There's no way you can claim Matthew and Luke got this information from Paul and then "incorporated it into their own work," as if they were dependent on Paul for it. Nor did they get it from Mark, because this is Q material not in Mark. So it is part of the additional earlier sources for Jesus which existed independently of Mark and Paul.
This is just one example to prove the existence of other sources than only Paul and Mark, which absolutely disproves your goofy theory that all of it is made up by Paul or by Mark. And, though there's no miracle narrative here, there is reference to the several Jesus miracles of healing the blind, the deaf, etc. So the popular notion that Q is a "Sayings Document" only is disproved here.
There are also 2 miracle narratives in Q, not included in Mark. These are the miracle of healing the Centurion's Servant (Mt 8:5-13 & Lk 7:1-10) and the healing of a demon-possessed deaf mute (Mt 12:22 & Lk 11:14). In this latter case the Q text gets combined also with a Mark text, but they are separate because the Lk and Mt versions have this cure of the deaf mute which is lacking in the Mk text. If this particular text is not Q, it must be some other non-Markan source used by both Mt and Lk. Separating the Q from the Mk and Mt and Lk gets complicated in some cases.
However one tries to trace a Gospel text to something earlier, either back to Mk or to the Q, or to ??, it becomes obvious that there are other sources than only Mk and Paul and even Q. There's no way to calculate how many earlier written or oral Sources there were, though obviously they existed, going back before 50 AD for sure and some probably back to the 30s when the events happened.
This is the same as with other historical events, from the mainline history sources everyone accepts. There's no essential difference with the Gospel accounts, other than the anonymity of them by comparison to other sources for history, where the final authors are named. Virtually all scholars agree that there were earlier sources than only Paul and the 4 Gospels. Even most agree there were probably more than these and Q, though a few like the simplicity of limiting it to Paul and the 4 Gospels and Q. But then also some put the Gospel of Thomas as partly derived from something else that early.
But there is no mainline scholar who says Paul and Mark are the only original sources. That idea goes in the nutcase category.
If demons aren't around to cause trouble in the twenty-first century, why should we think the Roman world was chock-a-block full of the buggers? And if it wasn't, what does that mean for the Gospel narrative?
Again, repeating for the 10th time (maybe only 9th), THERE IS FICTION in the Gospel accounts, just as in ALL the ancient literature, even the historical writings we believe generally. They all contain both fact and fiction, but that does not mean we toss out all the ancient history, does it? No, we still rely on these ancient writings to determine what happened back then.
The problem of the mentally-deranged on the streets was basically the same back then, 2000 years ago, as it is today. And the Gospel accounts report this as just another fact, like it's reported today. And even today there are still many who describe those victims as "demon-possessed" or needing to have the demons driven out of them.
But we can figure out, with a little common sense, what those Gospel narratives really described, or what really happened: those were mentally ill persons who became cured of their affliction by a power not understood at that time, and maybe just as much not known to modern mental health science, though there are theories and research going on to try to find the answers. We should keep an open mind about such things, respect the attempts of that time to report it, believe the evidence though doubting the popular superstitious interpretations. The rash knee-jerk impulse to poke fun at the ancient sources is not the way to figure out the truth.
Do you care about finding the truth, or do you just want to snaffle and snark and snarf at people of an earlier period whose education and science were less than .1% of our known science today? Rather, we should give credit to a few more educated ones who described or reported something good happening, maybe offering promise of something to cure suffering in the world, something optimistic and also real, empirical fact, witnessed by actual observers, though primitive, yet still sharing essentially a hope such we have today.
[ https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:33220/datastreams/CONTENT/content ]
This essay provides an introduction to the topic of demons and the means of opposing them in ancient Mesopotamia during the early third to late first millennia BCE. Demons and witchcraft were integrated aspects of the Mesopotamian world.
All the ancient cultures, and all today, and all in between have had practices to address health problems, including mental health. Though these were mostly in the "superstitious" category, there were also some treatments which probably produced benefits, or some form of healing or recovery experience. All they could do was to try things out, experiment with this or that in order to see if it produces any beneficial change.
But a common denominator in all the ancient practices is that no cure or healing ritual was ever proved to work reliably as observed by witnesses. There was much experimenting with this or that, and many prescribed cures, procedures, rituals, but nothing proved successful and reliable. There are no written accounts reporting successful cures, or narrating particular cases of victims being cured of their afflictions. (The inscriptions on the walls of the Asclepius temple might be cited as an exception, where real cures are reported. There could have been some genuine medical success in some of these, perhaps based on some legitimate use of herbs or other means of healing, or some legitimate therapies.) All we have are rare cases of sick persons sometimes recovering from whatever it was, though never in a way to show that the prescribed ritual or curing procedure really worked reliably in multiple cases rather than only an occasional random recovery which might have happened anyway without the prescribed healing practice.
As to the exorcism practices, there are no reported cases of an exorcist, similar to Jesus in the 1st century, actually curing a victim so that the account narrates the actual recovery of the victim, witnessed by observers. There are some cases of a victim, but no narration of an actual cure happening after the ritual is performed. There are extended texts outlining the ritual procedures to expel demons, but no account narrating a case of a victim being cured or recovering back to normal mental health, such as we have such cases described in the Gospel accounts.
They could threaten individuals, often causing illness or ill fortune, as well as target society as a whole, encroaching upon the protected and ordered world of the Mesopotamian city. There were a number of ways to counter such threats, such as protective amulets and incantations, but the foremost, particularly in the first millennium BCE, was the figure of the ašipu, or exorcist. A trained ritual professional, the ašipu had a range of tools at his disposal, as well as the protection and sanction of the gods. This article provides an introduction to the issue of demons and exorcism by presenting four key aspects of this complex topic: first, an overview of characteristics and role of demons in Mesopotamia; second, a summary of the two notable demonic figures known as Lamashtu and Pazuzu; third, the demonic and chaotic figure of the witch; and fourth, an overview of the ašipu and his methods.
[ https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:33220/datastreams/CONTENT/content ]
Sounds as if it might be interesting
Of course, but there are no narrative accounts of a victim being cured, as a result of the ritual procedure. Such as we have several reports of afflicted victims being cured by Jesus, in the Gospel accounts.
I scanned through your link on the Mesopotamian practices to see if there were reported cures, in narrative accounts, such as we have in the Gospel accounts, and there appears to be none. However, I scanned through only briefly, through the terminology, the different healing deities, descriptions of healing rituals, and could easily have missed the narrative accounts of actual reported victims being healed as a result of the rituals.
So, if there are such narrations reported, it would be helpful for you to highlight those, or separate them out from the rest, and post those particular quotes, to provide evidence or reported cases from the writings of the time showing that actual healing did occur, beyond just the ritual procedures which we know all cultures have within their religious practices/traditions.
Post anything you believe fits this request for quotes, but try to find something a bit more persuasive than your ridiculous example of Apollonius of Tyana, which is pathetic and which I will address in an upcoming post.
ghostgeek: Where might Matthew and Luke have got their non Mark material from? Well, could be they went down to the tavern, had a jar or two and then went back to their scribing. Such a silly question! Where does your typical novelist get his or her material from?
ghostgeek: Now about Jesus' resurrection. Did he return to his ripening body after three days? Mmm, yes, that must have been quite a treat for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, having a three day old corpse walking the streets. So how come no historian of the time recorded this singular event?
ghostgeek: Oh, and talking about finding the truth, can you say who the "Twelve" were?
1 Corinthians 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Seems they were a different group to the Apostles.
ghostgeek: And when Jesus first appeared to Paul, had the Saviour walked all the way from Jerusalem to Damascus? Sure would have been a smelly corpse if he had.
For now, about Apollonius of Tyana, check on the ancient source for him (his alleged miracle acts).
The lack of any credible source for this character refutes every claim about any "miracle" acts he performed. You should have been able to figure this out by just checking into it -- it's in Wikipedia e.g.
For now, I'll just say that a source for any unusual historical events (like miracle claims) should be dated some time near to when the event(s) happened, not 100+ years later, and there should be more than only one source.
But there's also much more that's wrong with this Apollonius example. Work on it. Find something more credible. If you can't, it proves my point that there are no credible examples of Jesus-parallel miracle-workers in the ancient world.