Friday, November 30, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Further Evidence of a Fraud

This chapter per se seems superfluous in the book, at least for the non-believing reader. Christian believers may be a bit more affected by it, and thus it does serve a role as provocation for Christian readers. The provocation mainly consists of some relatively reasonable points, but also some direct fabrications and distortions. I will,  naturally, focus on the fabrications and distortions.
Other Christians were more blunt in their confessions as to the nature and purpose of the Christian tale, making no pretense to being believers in higher realms of spirituality, but demonstrating more practical reasons for fanatically adhering to their incredible doctrines. For example, Pope Leo X, privy to the truth because of his high rank, made this curious declaration, "What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!" [1, p. 58]
This claim can first be found in a protestant, explicitly anti-catholic source, viz. John Bale's The Pageant of the Popes, contayninge the lyues of all the Bishops of Rome, from the beginninge of them to the yeare of grace 1555 (originally published as Acta Romanorum Pontificum in Latin). A highly credible source, wouldn't you think?
Again, critical thinking eludes Acharya. And how!

She further shows just how great she is at reasoning a few pages down by accepting Massey's argument:
We are told in the Book of Acts that the name of the Christiani was first given at Antioch; but so late as the year 200 A.D. no canonical New Testament was known at Antioch, the alleged birth-place of the Christian name. There was no special reason why "the disciples" should have been named as Christians at Antioch, except that this was a great centre of the Gnostic Christians, who were previously identified with the teachings and works of the mage Simon of Samaria.
These Antiochan Gnostic-Christians were followers of "Simon the Magus," who was impuged as the "heresiarch" or originator of all Christian heresies. Yet, this Simon Magus appears to have been a mythical character derived from two mystical entities, Saman and Maga, esteemed by the Syrians prior to the Christian era. [1, p. 59]
It is never explained why the non-presence of a canonical New Testament in Antioch prior to 200A.D. is a problem for the presence of Christians there - Massey assumes Christianity can only exist with Christian Scripture. Seems the notion of Sola Scriptura was something he took for granted even more strongly than the most devout protestant even though he did not believe in it, essentially thinking that no one can ever have been a Christian without christian scripture. And such illogic, a thing Acharya rants about repeatedly when others commit it, she accepts and quotes. The claimed mystical entities by the names Saman and Maga would benefit from a source or something backing their existence up. The book is not written for an audience of scholars of ancient Middle East religion, and this makes any assumption that the reader knows who these beings were or their position in the religion of Syrian antiquity rather unwarranted. I have even been unable to verify whether Saman and Maga existed in the relevant religions, as no sources except Murdocks' 19th century theosophy authors will mention these gods.
Yet, as stated, Gnosticism was eclectic, gathering together virtually all religious and cultic ideologies of the time, and constituting a combination of "the philosophies of Plato and Philo, the Avesta and the Kabbala, the mysteries of Samothrace, Eleusis and of Orphism." Buddhism and Osirianism were major influences as well. [1, p 59]
Kabbala is the name of medieval and more recent Jewish mysticism, of course. It is possible it derives some content from earlier Jewish mysticism, but it quite clearly mostly derives from mystical traditions that are far later than gnosticism, and in fact gnosticism may have (indirectly?) contributed to Kabbala. Now, some authors undoubtedly have used Kabbala as a designation for earlier forms of Jewish mysticism as well, but I find there to be a more likely explanation for this slip-up here: Acharya's 19th century sources were ignorant of the extent to which the now-extant Jewish mysticism is medieval or later. In serious scholarly literature, few sources from the 20th century conflate pre-medieval Jewish mysticism with kabbalah.
The older elements reflect Gnosticism, which, as noted, preceded orthodox, historicizing Christianity and which emanated out of Syria, in particular Antioch, where Ignatius was alleged to have been a bishop. For example, the gnosticizing Ignatius makes reference to the delusion-inducing "prince of this world," such as in Ephesians, in which he says, "So you must never let yourselves be anointed with the malodorous chrism of the prince of this world's doctrines..." The "malodorous chrism" of which Ignatius speaks is apparently the mystery of the lingam or phallus, practiced in a variety of mystery schools for centuries prior to the Christian era, including by Old Testament characters. By the term "malodorous," Ignatius is also evidently addressing the highly esoteric chrism or anointing that used semen. [1, p. 66]
Lest someone say this is just speculation presented as speculation - which one of her fans is contending in response to some of my criticisms elsewhere - evidently is a rather strong word to use for speculation. Does this not also seem a bit euhemeristic - that the chrism of which Ignatius spoke must be a real thing and not a rhetorical device by which he calls their doctrines - basically a strongly worded insult?
To repeat, the Gnostic texts were non-historicizing, allegorical and mythological. In other words, they did not tell the story of a "historical" Jewish master. As a further example, regarding the Gnostic texts dating from the fourth century and found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, Frank Muccie exclaims, "Still another interesting fact recorded in this same Coptic collection of Gospel fragments is that the disciples did not refer to themselves as Jews, but were from other nations - and that Jesus was also not a Jew!"[1, p. 69]
I actually read through the entire Nag Hammadi library in translation after coming across this claim. (And so can you! They mostly are boring. You can also obtain them by getting James M. Robinson's The Nag Hammadi Library, 1990) Turns out Frank Muccie either has not read them, or is a liar, or something else (well, as I said, I found them boring so maybe I zoned out for a while and missed the relevant text). All information I can find about him suggests he was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, who thought he got his hands on genuine scrolls with teachings deriving directly from Jesus, and formed his own splinter group - the Edenite society - whose main distinction from the regular JW church was that they preached vegetarianism.[2] The scroll he claims to have had is no longer to be found anywhere, and no one knows where it is [3]. A lot like the plates the Book of Mormon was translated from.

Here, I guess it is time for a small rant. It is a well-justified rant, and one that I hope Acharya S reads, which is why I address it to her. If people find it too critical or patronizing, rest well assured it is justified and deserved.

IMPORTANT POINT: D.M. Murdock, please provide genuine primary sources. In this case, regarding a thing found no earlier than the 1940s, you are referring to a book originally published in the late 19th century. Yes, the relevant claim is in a foreword written by a modern author, so that is not genuinely a problem, and your text does make it clear it is Frank Muccie, not Notovitch who wrote that bit. Most editions of Notovitch's The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ do not come with that foreword, of course, and in the foreword, he signs it by the name The Edenite Society, which is very confidence-inspiring indeed. 

However, the relevant bit: It would be a billion times easier for the reader that wants to check your sources if you actually pointed to, say, the relevant BOOKS IN THE NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY, but I guess this is an inconceivable idea for you? You do realize, do you not, that having to trace down a long chain of references is tedious? That sometimes, some of these books genuinely are difficult to get hold of, and thus it is genuinely impossible to reach the end of the chain of references? Do you not realize that this is a problem? At least provide an extra, direct reference to the relevant Nag Hammadi book, or whatever. Do you even realize why the way you go about it seems utterly suspicious?

As for references to the Nag Hammadi books, have you even read them so you know where the claimed bit is (hint: the claimed bit seems not to exist at all!)? The forewords and prefaces imply that you are oh so meticulous about your research, reading ancient languages and all, such a fancy scholar indeed. Is it possible this is just for appearances? That you never actually read the ancient sources, but second- and third-hand accounts of them? The number of times I have seen a reference to an actual *ancient* source is negligible, even when you speak of them. It seems all you know about the church fathers, the Talmud, Toldoth Yeshu, etc, comes from second or even third-hand sources. How about that?

Getting on with the relevant chapter, we run into this bit:
In fact, the Christians were not just mocked, they were considered criminals. As Pagels relates:
In an open letter addressed to "rulers of the Roman Empire," Tertullian acknowledges that pagan critics detest the movement: "You think that a Christian is a man of every crime, an enemy of the gods, of the emperor, of the law, of good morals, of all nature." 
The early Christians were thus accused of heinous behavior, including infanticide and orgies, imputations that Christians themselves later used against their enemies.[1, p. 73]
So, the Romans used the blood-libel against Christianity.  Blood-libel is of course a good indicator of a thriving religious tolerance, which Acharya has claimed the ancients and especially Romans had in spades. Why Acharya even mentions this bit is left unclear, as it does not really contribute anything to her thesis - it just seems to be there to smear the early church. (An organization that does not deserve much in ways of admiration, granted, but still.)

She goes on to discuss the stance of the Jews of Antiquity visavis the historicity of Jesus, mainly by an excerpt from Justin Martyr and his Dialogue with Trypho:
In his debate with Trypho the Jew, Justin depicts Trypho as saying:
If, then, you are willing to listen to me (for I have already considered you a friend), first be circumcised, then observe what ordinances have been enacted with respect to the Sabbath, and the feasts, and the new moons of God; and, in a word, do all things which have been written in the law: and then perhaps you shall obtain mercy from God. But Christ - if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere - is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.
Trypho's argument reveals not only that the Jews did not accept Christ as a historical person but also Christ's true nature, as his "anointer," Elias, is not only a title for John the Baptist but also Helios, the sun. [1, p 74]
A way more reasonable reading, and fitting with the ways the Talmud and other Jewish writings of the time speak of the Messiah (as a pre-existent being waiting to be born), would be to read this as but the Messiah, if he has indeed been born and exists anywhere is unknown and he doesn't even know his own identity, and has no power until Elias comes and anoints him ... But Acharya assumes Christ is used to refer to Jesus by both Trypho and Justin - as if Trypho was expecting a Messiah exactly like the one depicted by Christianity and only failed to believe in Christianity because he did not think this Jesusoid Messiah had yet arrived. Trypho's statement that the Christians invent a Christ for themselves could just as well - and just as reasonably - be interpreted as him stating that the claims the Christians are making regarding an individual are exaggerated, that Jesus was no messiah, and that the Christian idea about what the Messiah is going to be like is mistaken - exactly the kind of notions we find in Jewish descriptions of Christian doctrines. Further, Elias, Helios, John the Baptist - sure sure. That's about all one can say at this point (Elias, in the original Hebrew, was Elijah, quite a bit less impressively similar to Helios). Acharya seems incapable of analyzing a single statement in context without introducing a bunch of details irrelevant to the context.

Of course, the idea that Elijah is to return and anoint the Messiah is well known in Jewish lore, and is a rather natural later development of the narrative of his life (which ends with him being taken away by God, rather than dying). How this has any clear relevance to astrotheology evades me.

What little I have been able to find on the issue, it seems scholars these days think Trypho never existed[4], but is an amalgamation of several Jewish characters Justin interacted with at various points, as well as Jewish arguments he may have heard second-hand. Surprisingly euhemerist again, no? This kind of euhemerist-but-only-when-it-suits-her thing should get a designation so I can refer to it whenever I run into it, really.

[1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy, 1999
[4] Here, I must admit to wikipedia.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: Summary of Chapters 1-8

The Christ Conspiracy, Chapters 1-8: A Summary

Looking at details in the manner I have done may give off the impression that I fail to see the greater argument. Therefore, I will here present a summary of the arguments presented by the first seven chapters of the Christ Conspiracy. 

The Introduction is a clear statement of intent. She does take a simplistic view of religion at this point: 
Although many people believe religion to be a good and necessary thing, no ideology is more divisive than religions, which rends humanity in a number of ways through extreme racism, sexism and even speciesism. Religion, in fact, is dependent on division, because it requires an enemy, whether it be earthly or in another dimension. ... The result is that, over the centuries, humankind has become utterly divided among itself and disconnected from nature and life around it, such that it stands on the verge of chaos.
I suspect a more even-handed comparative study of a sufficient sample of religions would find this to be too strong a generalization, although it does seem fairly accurate for some of the major religions of the world. Minority religions live under a different set of environmental pressures, which selects for different traits to evolve over time.

What the verge of chaos is that she talks of I have a hard time imagining, considering that bloodshed between humans is at an all-time low, and pretty much every century has been an all-time low compared to the previous century for the last thousand years or so. (See, for instance, Stephen Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature for an intriguing perspective on this issue.) To the extent we stand at the verge of chaos, it results from unimpeded increase of the consumption of resources, more so than from religious conflict. Whether religion is a driving force in increasing consumption is not a question I will get deeper into.

With what seems to be some slight exaggeration, the first chapter does sum up rather well that religions have caused a lot of destruction. From a point of view that purely looks at the logic of the argument, this does not, of course, help establish that there is no historical evemeric Jesus behind the NT narratives.

The second chapter points out problems with the quest for the Historical Jesus, although I find her criticism of historical-Jesus research somewhat too strong; her own approach suffers from much the same drawbacks as does the historical-Jesus research, viz. researchers tend to find exactly that which they are looking for.

Chapter three, The Holy Forgery Mill, presents some practices of early Christianity when it comes to writing new scripture, editing scripture, etc. For a religious Christian, the claims made here about forgery and so on would probably feel rather offensive, downright, but for atheists and other non-Christians, it is not shocking or much of a surprise. For non-Christians, she is kicking in open doors.

Some minor details seem unjustified though, and would require some kind of credible source. There is a tendency in her books that minor details grow in importance later on, and once the reader has accepted them at face value, they will be used to prop up rather major details. A minor mistake is acceptable when it is but a minor mistake, it no longer is acceptable when it is part of a major claim.

Chapter four goes on to describe the new testament sources for the life of Jesus, and points out problems with them. Why she keeps talking about the process of canonization of the New Testament is relevant to the value of the books in it. The fact that the Old Testament canons of the Protestant and Catholic churches differ is also pointed out as though it were somehow a problem for the New Testament's value - which it clearly is not. She makes a big point out of New Testaments in different churches having the books in different orders, as if that is somehow relevant - does presenting two volumes with the same papers in different orders invalidate the content of the papers? By the logic of Acharya's screed, yes.

There are more weird things - some kind of elitist stance where words like "dregs of society" are used to designate early Christian groups, for instance. Why them being the dregs of society is relevant is never quite explained. This kind of dismissiveness really does not contribute to the actual argument.

The basic argument of chapter four can be found in other works, with much more convincing sources and arguments presented, and way less in ways of emotional plead and exaggerations. She does present some good things, some of which she also contradicts later on or ignores when convenient.

Chapter five looks into non-biblical sources. The problems she points out with the various historians of antiquity that directly or indirectly mention Jesus are correct - their value is overestimated by those who argue in favor of them being evidence for a historical Jesus. What is weird, though, is she occasionally beats a dead horse: first she claims the relevant passage is a later fabrication, but the entire work is also probably a fabrication. She also presents problems with the text - demonstrating that it is unlikely it refers to Jesus and Christianity in the first place, then going on to claim the entire text is a fabrication in the first place. Why would Christians go to the length of fabricating a text about Jesus, and then do it so half-assedly that it cannot even refer to Jesus? Somewhere, there's an odd problem in here:
Christian defenders also like to hold up as evidence of their godman the minuscule and possibly interpolated passage from the ROman historian Suetonius referring to someone named "Chrestus" or "Chrestos" at Rome. Obviously, Christ was not alleged to have been at Rome, so this passage is not applicable to him. Furthermore, while some have speculated that there was a Roman man of that name at that time, the title "Chrestus" or "Chrestos," meaning "good" and "useful," was frequently held by freed salves, among others, including various gods.[1, ch 4]
Why do we have to assume it is interpolated if we already know it cannot be about Jesus? She seems to be so used to thinking of things as interpolations and fabrications that even if it being genuine does not help her opponents, she'll go for accusing of fabrication anyway. I guess constant accusation is the way to go.

Regarding the Talmudic data-points, she provides the following explanation:
Of the Pandira/Pandera story, Larson states, "Throughout the middle ages, the legend of Pandera and Yeshu, considered by most scholars a Jewish invention, continued to persist." This Jewish invention may have been created in order to capitulate to the Christian authorities, who were persecuting "unbelievers." Thus we find the tale in the Talmud, written after the Christ myth already existed.

Yet we find more of it in the Talmud Bavli, written in a country where the authorities were Zoroastrian, than we  find in the Talmud Yerushalmi, written in a country under Roman Christian rule. We find hints of it in the Tosefta and Mishna, written during times when Christians had no official power, and the rabbinate were quite willing to oppose Christianity.

I assume Larson refers to the Toldot Yeshu narratives, a bunch of parodies, essentially, of the gospels, which were common in some parts of Judaism of the time. These accuse Jesus of being a magician, who had learned his craft in Egypt. He is presented as a villain. The Toldot Yeshu narratives are an interesting glimpse into Jewish reactions to Christian claims, but it can be agreed they are no evidence of the existence of an historical Jesus. Why Christian authorities would pressure Jews into making up such narratives is quite contrary to reason, but fits the usual accusatory tone of Acharya's works.

I will agree with the final clause, though:
As it is said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof"; yet, no proof of any kind for the historicity of Jesus has ever existed or is forthcoming. 
Indeed, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Further on in the book, Acharya will make extraordinary claims without offering extraordinary evidence. The least extraordinary claim that can be made in regard to the origin of Christianity is the evemerist stance - ordinary humans introduced extraordinary stories and ideas onto less significant and way less* magical events of their day.
* by 'way less', I of course mean 'not at all'.
Chapter six goes by the title "Further Evidence of a Fraud". There may be some quote-mines in it that I currently am investigating, which takes time; I am fairly certain Acharya has not read them in the Latin, as the sources she provides are second- (or third-) hand quotes, which may remove the quoted passages from their context and thus misrepresent the actual intent of the stated bit.

She further assumes Trypho of Dialogue with Trypho to have been an actual person. Most scholars disagree with this, but even so, the statements of Trypho are given a rather absolute interpretation even then; the phrasing he uses may just as well be construed rather naturally to signify his disbelief that the claimed Messiah, Jesus, was the real deal. The stance Trypho does adopt is one of a pre-existing Messiah that will be sent to earth at some point. Such a stance does pop up in Judaism from time to time, but this is not per se evidence that Trypho ever uttered this particular argument, or even existed. He may as well be a literary construct which was made up so as to provide a single voice for various Jewish objections to Christianity.

The content of Dialogue with Trypho more generally fits such an interpretation. More on that later, though.

After that, the chapter investigates Gnosticism a bit, rightly rejects the relics as evidence regarding the existence of Jesus, and finally goes on to state that the Old Testament exaggerates the history of the Jewish people - a claim that indeed is correct, but she uses terribly shoddy evidence for it, and evidence that further contradicts other evidence provided in the same book - viz. yet another etymology for the name Solomon.

Chapter eight, finally, deals with the evolution of Israelite monotheism, and again, it gets the large picture fairly right, although some of the arguments seem rather exaggerated and in need of substantiation. I have one particular favorite, which I will discuss in greater detail later. She argues that Yahweh is a Volcano-god, which is reasonable, I guess, but with arguments such as these, who can take the argumentation seriously:
Furthermore, a representation of the Jewish "Feast of the giving of the law" has an image of an erupting volcano - Mt. Sinai - with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments above it. As Jordan Maxwell points out, the benediction or blessing sign of the Feast is the same as the split-fingered, "live long and prosper" salutation of the Vulcan character Spock on "Star Trek." Vulcan, of course, is the same word as volcano and the Roman god Vulcan was also a lightning and volcano god.[1, ch. 8, subheading "Yahweh"]

This far, the argumentation generally defends rather reasonable stances. The main conclusions are actually fairly valid to a point, even if the evidence presented in their favour at times is of rather questionable quality. Of course, not all the evidence is bad, but one could hope that she would reduce the number of 19th century theosophists, the third-hand quotations of church fathers, the use of paranoid conspiracy lunatics like Jordan Maxwell and so on.

* By this, I do not mean that we should believe what they say as such. I am convinced there is a lot of exaggerations and fabrications in it.

Acharya S/D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: The Holy Forgery Mill (addendum)

The Christ Conspiracy: The Holy Forgery Mill, pt 2

In the chapter "The Holy Forgery Mill", the following claim is made:

The truth is that very few early Christian texts exist because the autographs, or originals, were destroyed after the council of Nicea and the "retouching" of 506 CE under Emperor Anastasius, which included "revision" of the Church fathers' worksl, catastrophic acts that would be inconceivable if these "documents" were truly the precious testaments of the very Apostles themselves regarding the "Lord and Savior," whose alleged advent was so significant that it sparked profound fanaticism and endless wars.[1]
The entry l in the references is: l. Higgins, I, 680. Since I have not been able to obtain the edition of Anacalypsis she uses, I cannot be entirely sure of this, but I assume it corresponds to 682 in the edition I have been using. For this claim, he presents the following argument:
[...] this is not the only correction the Gospels are said to have undergone. Lardner says,

Victor Tununensis, an African Bishop, who flourished about the sixth century and wrote a Chronicle, ending at the year 566, says, When Messala was Consul (that is, in the year of Christ 506) at Constantinople, by order of the Emperor Anastasius, the holy Gospels being written by illiterate Evangelists are censured and corrected.
As may be expected, great pains have been taken to run down and depreciate this piece of evidence to a dry fact, the truth or falsity of which the narrator must have known. Victor was a Christian Orthodox Bishop. It is not credible that he would in his Chronicle record a fact like this if it were false. [2, p 682]
 In fact, it turns out Victor Tunnunensis was not in a good standing in the church, and had in fact been imprisoned in 544 (22 years before his chronicle was finished) for his support of the Three Chapters [3], a weird little conflict in church history (but are they not all?). Could including such a detail be a way of getting back at the church?

Even then, he does nowhere support the contention that the autographs were destroyed. I have not been able to find the relevant bits in his Chronicle, and my Latin reading is slow, so whether this further is a quote-mine by Lardner is a thing I am working toward checking, and will do at some point later in time. I still have not found Lardner's book, and chances are I will not get around to it. Even then, we're still dealing with a third-hand quote here.

Repeating what would appear to be utter blasphemy, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the "infallible Word of God" was "corrected" again by a variety of church officials. In addition to these major "revisions" have been many others, including copying and translation mistakes and deliberate mutilation and obfuscation of meaning.[1]
This bit is even further removed from its original source, a source I am not confident I can obtain, and which I am not confident says what it is made out to say. The source closest in the chain is Higgins - who I find less credible than I would find an admitted liar -, who quotes a French writer named Beausobre, who quotes a Mister Simon, who quotes (some) Benedictine monk. The more direct quotes of Beausobre in Anacalypsis make it clear he is speculating.

The learned Beausobre has the following passage: "Il se peut faire, dit M. Simon, que cette histoire ait été prise de quelque ancien livre Apocryphe, ou elle étoit commune dans les premiers siècles du Christianisme, et peut-être croyoit-on, qu'elle venoit des Apôtres, ou de leurs disciples. C'est pourquoi ceux qui ont osé retoucher en tant d'endroits les premiers exemplaires du Nouveau Testament, dans la seule vue de le rendre intelligible à tout le mond,e n'auront fait aucune difficulté d'y ajouter cdes sortes d'histoires, qu'ils croyoient être véritables. Je mets au bas de la page le jugement d'un autre savant moderne, me contentant de remarquer, que si les Hérétiques ôtent un mot du texte Sacré, ou s'ils en ajoutent un, ce sont de sacrilégés violateurs de la sainteté des écritures. Mais, si les Catholiques le font, cela s'appelle RETOUCHER les premiers exemplaires, les réformer pour les rende plus intelligibles. M. Simon fait l'honneur aux Bénédictins d'avoir réformé de même les ouvrages des Pères, afin de les accomoder à la foi de l'église. Mettons le passage de M. Simon, Dissert p. 51. Nous lisons dans la vie de Lanfranc, Moine Bénédictin, et nesuite Archévêque de Cantorbéri, qui a été publiée par les Bénédictins de la congrégation de St. Maur, avec les ouvrages de cet archévêque, qu'ayant trouvé les livres de l'écriture beaucoup corrumpus par ceux qui les avoient copies, il s'étoit appliqué à les CORRIGER; AUSSI-BIEN QUE LES LIVRES DES SAINTS PÈRES SELON LA FOI ORTHODOXE-SECUNDUM FIDEM ORTHODOXAM." [2, p 680]
(Translation, courtesy of a friend): It could be, says Mr Simon, that this story was taken from some ancient apocryphal book, or was a commonplace story in the first centuries of Christianity, and it may have been believed to have come from the apostles or their disciples. This is why those who dared to falsify the first editions of the New Testament in so many places, in the sole intent of making it intelligible to everyone, would have no problem adding this kind of stories, which they considered true. I put at the bottom of the page the judgement of another modern scholar, and will only remark that, if heretics take a word out of the sacred text, or if they add one, this is a sacrilegious violation of the sanctity of the scripture, but if Catholics do it, this is called falsifying the first edition, reforming it to make it more intelligible. Mr Simon argues that the Benedictines reformed in a similar way the books of the fathers, to make them more conform to the faith of the church. Let us take this exceprt from Mr. Simon, Dissert. p. 51. We read in The Life of Lanfranc, Benedictine Monk and then archbishop of Canterbury, which was published by the Benedictines of the Congregation of St. Maur, with the books of this archbishopric, that having found the books of Writing quite corrupted by those who had copied them, he made his best to correct them, as well as the books of the Holy Fathers according to the Orthodoxy-Secundum faith.
Very speculative sources, and sources now in their fourth generation - quoted and quoted and quoted in such ways that tracing the original work is near impossible. I suspect quote-mines here as well, but in this particular instance, I will not hunt down the entire chain of sources, it gets too tedious, and I will never make any progress in writing this blog that way. Considering the time depth of the sources, as well, it is possible the intended meaning has been misinterpreted; further, an archbishop of Canterbury in the tenth century is unlikely to have affected the writings used in the Greek church, the Syriac church, the Coptic church, or the Russian church - especially as the Great Schism happened only four years later than she claims these alterations occured.

We can see that a data-point restricted to Canterbury is exaggerated to cover all of Christianity. Very scholarly.

We can definitely see that there are great problems with these claims and I would wager a guess here, that if we read more closely - and in context - the protestant argument presented here, that it expresses reasons for why the protestants should try and obtain texts from the greek orthodox Christians in order to possibly get rid of potential Roman distortions?

Finally, third-hand references are not good scholarly praxis.

[1] Acharya S/D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy
[2] Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis vol 1
[3] Catholic Encyclopedia,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Godfrey Higgins, The Celtic Druids vol I., ch 1 pt.2

Chapter 1, pt 2

98. I think it very probable that from the use of leaves as letters, the hieroglyphics may have taken their rise. Suppose letters in the shape of the leaves of trees to have been made of thin laminae of gold or tin, and strung on a cord, something like the tripods of the ancient Peruvians, a magical letter would thus be invented which could be deciphered by none but those who understood the secret; and it might be made extremely complicated by the addition of leaves not in the alphabet, or by the forms of other things, between the words or real letters, which would not, to the initiated, increase the difficulty of reading it, but rather the contrary, and at the same time would render it perfectly unintelligible to those not initiated. After some time these leaf letters would be drawn on plain surfaces, and again; with a little more experience, all other kinds of objects would be added to increase the difficulty and mystery, until the leaves would be lost sight of altogether, and the hieroglyphics come to what we find them. [1, p. 17]
This reasoning seems to be nothing but speculation and assertion. He is trying to establish that hieroglyphs were invented later than alphabets, which no serious scholar today would claim or accept.

102. It has been observed by almost every philosopher who has visited the pyramids of Egypt, that they are placed exactly to face the four cardinal points of the compass, from which astronomers know that thier builders must have possessed a very considerable skill in the science of astronomy. This affords a strong presumption that the art of writing must have been known to their builders; they can scarcely be believed to have possessed so much science as the fact seems to require, without it. Now, in the next place, it may be observed that there is not on any one of the larger pyramids the least appearance of of any thing like a hieroglyphic. This fact, combined with the evident knowledge possessed by their builders of astronomy, justifies the presumption that they were built before hieroglyphical writing was known, though perhaps after our mode of writing was discovered. Though the two facts may not be considered to amount to a decisive proof, I maintain that taken together they afford strong presumptive evidence. On the subject of hieroglyphics,
103. Mr. Maurice says, "Before we quit the pyramids, I must be permitted to make one reflection. On no part of the great pyramids, internal or external, does there appear the least sign of those hieroglyphic sculptures which so conspicuously and so totally cover the temples, the obelisks, and colossal statues, of Upper Egypt. This exhibits demonstrative proof, that at the period of the construction of those masses, that kind of hieroglyphic decoration was not invented, for, had that sacerdotal character been then formed, they would undoubtedly not have been destitute of them. [1, p. 18]
Hieroglyphs are found in them, though, so this is pretty decisively debunked. Hieroglyphs are now known to predate the first Egyptian pyramid by a few centuries. We also know Sumerian writing was more hieroglyph-like at about that time than it was alphabet-like, and finally, we roughly do know when abjad writing systems appeared - and this is indeed later than the appearance of hieroglyphic systems.
105. After the celebrated Mr. Belzoni and Lieut.-Col. Fitzclarence had with great labour obtained admission to the inner chamber of the second in size of the pyramids, Mr. Belzoni discovered, from an inscription, that it had been opened before by one of the Califs. It appeared that the contents of the sarcophagus which he discovered had been thrown out, and were lying on the floor at its side. He preserved part of them, which were bones, and brought them to England, never letting them go out of his own possession. These were carefully and publicly examined by several of the first natural philosophers in London, who, to their great surprise, discovered that they were the reamins of an animal of the Beeve kind. Respecting these facts there never has been any dispute. They are perfectly notorious; and neither Mr. Belzoni, nor the natural philosophers, had any theory, interest, or system, to influence their judgments respecting them. Part of the bones may yet be seen, where I have seen them, at the house of Lieut.-Colonel Fitzclarence.
106. I suppose no one will doubt that these bones of an exemplar of the famous God Apis, on which some foolish and absurd priest-ridden king must have been weak enough to lavish such immense labour and treasure. This Bull Apis has been proved by many philosophers to have been the Bull of the Zodiac; in fact, the Sun, when he entered the sign of the Bull in the Zodiac, at the vernal equinox, concerning which I shall shortly make some observations, and of which I shall have much to say in the following work. This being, for the sake of argument, at the present moment admitted, it follows that the Zodiac must have been invented before one of its signs, the Bull, can have become the object of adoration. [1, p. 18]
In case beeve is an unfamiliar word, it basically signifies bovine creatures (an obsolete form of 'beef'). The argument then is that a bull has been, basically, worshipped. This worship can only have been bestowed on it after the Zodiac sign of Taurus had been established, since why would they otherwise adore it? This, to me, seems to be the fallacy of assuming the conclusion. We can just as well claim that veneration of bulls has to have predated the establishment of a constellation as representing a bull in the first place - why else would they place the animal in such a prominent part of the sky?

This post is quote-heavy, but that is basically the best way of showing how uninformed and illogical Higgins was, drawing unjustified conclusions from incomplete evidence.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy, ch. 3, 4

This is just a further documentation of slips in fact-checking. It basically follows the order in the book. Hence, there is no analysis of the more overarching lines of argument. Such an analysis will be given separately.

The writing, as Neil Godfrey as well has pointed out, is rather caustic throughout these chapters. Still, a relevant point is made: the evidence in favor of a historical Jesus is weaker than most Christians will admit, and the practices of the early church do make it difficult to say anything with certainty about the details of these early days.

For the parts she gets right, sources do exist that cover those things without incorporating a lot of misleading thinking in the mix.

3. The Holy Forgery Mill

The truth is that very few early Christian texts exist because the autographs, or originals, were destryed after the Council of Nicaea and the retouching of 506 CE under Emperor Anastasius, which included 'revision' of the Church fathers' work.[1, ch 3]
The source given is Higgins. Considering the quality of his work, I no longer will accept him as a valid source pending further investigation. I have a hard time imagining the Christians of that time even knew which particular early Christian texts were autographs or not, the forensic techniques of identifying such were, believe it or not, way less advanced at the time. Wear and tear could very well account for this as well.

Considering further that schisms had happened earlier, there were manuscripts that Emperor Anastasius had no access to in the eastern churches outside of Roman jurisdiction. As far as I can tell, no one has come up with such an accusation based on comparing Roman and non-Roman manuscripts.
Repeating what would be utter blasphemy, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the "infallible word of God" was "corrected" again by a variety of church officials.[1, ch. 3]
No source given. Considering that the Church already was split in several factions that did not get along, such a "correction" is rather unlikely to have spread throughout all of Christendom anyway, and thus comparative work between the scriptures in the different pre-reformation groups should suffice to restore a rather good 'pre-corrected' version. However, in my reading on matters like these, written by people very critical of the churches, I have not come across this claim anywhere else.

Forgery during the first centuries of the church's existence was thus admittedly rampant, so common in fact that this phrase, "pious fraud" was coined to describe it.[1, ch. 3]
In fact, pious fraud occurs in a Latin work already in 8CE, predating the Christian church by at the very least decades. This occurs in Ovid's Metamorphoses, book IX, although translated as "godly guile" in some translations as well.
Since Acharya dates the earliest Christian works rather late, this phrase predates Christianity by more than an entire century.
Out of these numerous gospels, the canonical gospels were chosen by Church father and Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 120-200), who claimed that the number four was based on the "four corners of the world." In reality, this comment is masonic and these texts represent the four books of magic of the Egyptian ritual. [1, ch3]
Right. A rather unfounded assertion, although it is given a source - yet another of the 19th century kooks she likes to quote, viz. Massey.
Christian forgers even went so far as to produce the "Acts of Pilate", which at one point was considered "canonical." [1, ch3]
I call for sources! When was this ever considered "canonical"? By whom? Where can we find out about this purported canonicity?

4. The Biblical Narrative

Furthermore, in the Gospels Jesus himself makes many illogical contradictions concerning some of his most important teachings. First he states that he is only sent "to the lost sheep of Israel" and forbids his disciples to preaches to the Gentiles. Then he's made to say, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..." [1, ch 4]
Two questions:
Is an indication that someone acted illogically or inconsistently evidence in favor of their non-existence? I do not think we can make such an argument at all!

Secondarily, the Biblical narrative itself accounts for this change, along this line:

  • God sends Jesus to save the lost sheep of Israel
  • the lost sheep of Israel by and large reject him
  • now God has a surplus of salvation that the Jews did not want, and distributes it elsewhere.
However, it is worth taking a look at various Jewish scenarios for the arrival of the Messiah; in general, he is expected to gain kingship over the Jews first, after which the rest of the world will follow/go to war against him/etc (it is not an altogether straightforward scenario). Christianity reinterprets this: he is king of the Jews (although they have not recognized his kingship), so now it is time for the world to follow (or go to war), and in some varieties the Jews will recognize his status as their king later on, etc. 

The particular contradiction present here is easily explained by looking at Jewish eschatology in general - it is a reinterpretation of it, but a reinterpretation that fits a situation where a group of adherents found themselves with a dead messiah that they would not let go of (and maybe had ecstatic visions of).

In fact the Gospel was not designed to be rational as the true meaning of the word "gospel" is "God's spell," as in magic, hypnosis and delusion.[1, ch 4.]
Gospel comes from Old English god spell, indeed. This did not mean the same as god's spell does today - due to sound changes, spelling changes and so on since OE, it corresponds to the phrase good spell. However, there has also happened a change in meaning - spell had a different meaning all the way up to the 15th century, signifying news, messages or even tales, and the word gospel is a calque of a Greek word that cannot be distorted this way. A calque is a literal translation, taking a word or a phrase and translating the elements thereof. Had polyglot been calqued, it would be manytongue(d) or somesuch, as an illustration of the concept. English was until rather recently among the very few modern languages to calque gospel instead of loaning it directly from Greek. (Icelandic apparently does use a calque as well - guðspjall; Old High German had gotspel. Latin too had a calque of the Greek, viz. bona annuntiatio. No spell or magic in there.

The Greek designation is εὐαγγέλιον, evangelion, a word still present in English as well, but only in derived words like evangelical or evangelist. Eu- signifies good, angelion signifies message. That is all there is to it. Distorting facts in this way is problematic and dishonest. Even so, figuring out the authors' intentions by using a designation for their books that appeared centuries later is rather problematic. A scholar of Greek should know this.

 [1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Suns of God: The Solar Pantheon, pt. 1

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for quite a while already, and I think its time has come now. Some of these may have popped up among the examples of misuse of linguistics. Some of these have not, yet are more examples of the same. There are also some claims I think need sources, and some that just seem confused. Finally, there is a parallel to Jordan Maxwell's works pointed out, a similarity I will write more about later on. Jordan Maxwell is a kook, and this will be established pretty solidly if needs be.

This post only serves to document problems in a chapter of The Suns of God, and doesn't look at the argument she presents, just the quality of the evidence she presents as part of the argument.

The Solar Pantheon

As a reaction to the theory that speakers of Indo-European entered India a few thousand years ago, she states an indication this early in the book as to her disbelief in the standard theory as accepted by pretty much every historical linguist in the relevant field, every archaeologist in the relevant field, etc:
Many scholars have claimed the spread of cultures occurred in the reverse direction, i.e., out of India. [1, p. 90]
These many scholars either lived more than one and a half century ago or support this claim because of (generally) Hindu nationalist sentiments, lack of understanding of the evidence regarding things, and so on. There is a reason such a stance is a very small minority position in Academia, as far as the spread of Indo-European culture goes.
In any event, Osiris's presence in India can be found in, among other deities, the god Iswara, while Isis is Isi. As British scholar and Indianist Sir William Jones states, "Iswara, or Isa, and Isani, or Isisis are ... unquestionable the Osiris and Isis of Egypt." Like Osiris, Iswara was "arghanautha" the lord of the argha or boat." From this boat myth comes the story of the "Ark of Noah" and Jason's Argo, which Plutarch (c. 45-125 CE) reports was commanded by Osiris. [1, p. 90]
The arghanautha-claim is of Theosophist origins and has no apparent ancient source. It turns out the Hebrew for the ark of Noah would be tevat noah, a phrase that never occurs in the Bible in the first place; the Bible talks of Noah building a תבה, and then in the Greek LXX translation, he built a κιβωτός, a kibotos. Only when it was translated into Latin did it become known as an ark, and only later on was the ark referred to as 'the ark of Noah'. But of course a story where a phrase sounding a lot like ark o' Noah sounds more convincing at first glance than would a similar piece of make-believe where some phrase along the lines of tevat noah was the origin - hearing such foreign phrases has no emotional content, they don't convince by hinting at coincidences that are too good to be true. Would someone like to bet that if the Theosophists who made this claim up had been Swedish-speakers, the ancient phrase they would have made up would have sounded more like Noas ark? If they were Russians, Ноев ковчег (noyef koftchek) is a likely candidate. But essentially, this is a fake etymology for an English phrase not even present in the Bible (ark of Noah), posited to explain the origin of the myth. More rational explanations can be hoped for.
The spread of the Egyptian culture included a purported migration to Mesopotamia, with the Egyptian priesthood supposedly becoming the famous "Chaldeans." Diodorus Siculus relates the Egyptians as maintaining that "a large number" of their colonies went "into the civilized world," with "Belus" taking his colonists to Babylon, where he "appointed priests [Chaldeans] who were exempt from taxes and free of all civic obligations, just like those of Egypt." Another colony went with Danaus to Argos, "nearly the oldest city in Greece." Diodous also writes that the Egyptians claimed the Athenians and the Colchians of Pontus as their own, and that "the Jews lying between Syria and Arabia, were also settled by certain expatriates from Egypt." This latter assertion explains why the male children of these ethnicities are circumcised, as circumcision is "age-old custom imported from Egypt." [1, p. 90]
Except the claim is that Greece also had Egyptian sources - and Greece has never to my knowledge practiced circumcision. Circumcision probably predates even Egyptian practices, though, as it is quite common in most afro-asiatic tribes.

Regarding this bit, duly notice she is only reporting the claimed achievements of Osiris, and not claiming there to be a historical man behind the name; however, it does seem she accepts that these narratives hide real facts regarding movements of ideas, tribes, doctrine and practices.
Osiris then returned to Egypt, ... Diodorus also describes the origin of certain rituals - e.g., the focus on wine and not cutting one's hair - practiced by a widespread brotherhood that in Palestine would become known as Nazarites or Nazarenes, major players in the creation of Christianity.[1, p. 91]
There seems to be some confusion as to who the Nazirites were. The Bible says any Jewish person - including females - could be a Nazirite. This would usually be for a limited time, during which they could not drink wine (or even eat grapes), or cut their hair. A person could also enter the status of being a nazir for life. This was clearly not a brotherhood, unless she is talking of some other movement with a similar name - which of course she is, but it seems she is conflating things rather badly.
 [after discussing the Egyptian god Seb] ... Seb is Osiris's earthly "father"; ... In addition, Seb is "Io-sef," or Joseph; hence, like Jesus, Horus is the "son of Joseph."
Suns of God is clearly not a book aimed at a specialist audience, not written for polyglots of ancient languages. If it were written for a specialist audience, it would be quite different - having a chapter early on describing and justifying the method used, somewhere mentioning what transliteration of words from languages written in other scripts is utilized, etc. Using no such standardized orthography, it is difficult to know where to look this up in Egyptian dictionaries and such. A meaning for the prefix could also help. This way, there is no reasonable way of looking the claim up.
Furthermore, Osiris is "O-Sur-is," Sur meaning sun in sanskrit and bull in Hebrew. As the Bull, Osiris is the sun in the Age of Taurus.

Except, Osiris was likely ASAR in Ancient Egyptian [Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary vol. 1]. I am not denying that ASAR and Hebrew Sur may be cognates - however, it is clearly unlikely ASAR would be picked for its similarity to Sanskrit Surya. Acharya tops this off by making even more confused and unsupportable contentions: Drews, who by and large stands for a theory similar to that of Acharya, came up with another etymology: JES-IRIS or HES-IRIS [197, drews witness to the historicity of Christ].
By what method has she obtained this etymology? Etymologies cannot just be pulled out of a hat. I would like to see some kind of methodology to this, not just assertion - assertion suggests to me that this is just wishful thinking and the looking for similar words in languages around the middle east.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt says Osiris etymology is unknown, but wsir - mighty - is one of the more likely options. the sun in the Age of Taurus (4400-2250) which would make him date to at least that period, although it is claimed that he is 10,000 years old or more.
A very very very reliable argument indeed.
The Passion and Resurrection of Osiris have been major mythical motifs that made their way into Christianity: "That the Passion - as it was distinctly called - and Resurrection of Osiris were yearly and openly celebrated by the worshippers of the Alexandrian gods with alternate demonstrations of grief and joy, ..."
Of course it was not called a passion, as this word is of Latin etymology, from Latin passio. This particular word means suffering originally. It is not that weird that someone who was tortured to death in some manner would have his death described as a suffering. Using capitals for Passion is even more misleading, as capital letters are a fairly recent invention (medieval, really), definitely not shared by the ancient Egyptians, hence, they did not in written form distinguish suffering and Suffering the way we can distinguish passion and Passion. Of course, it could be distinguished by some other means - lexical, perchance (the use of a synonym with different connotations) - but even then, explaining how it was done would be quite called for, rather than just reusing modern conventions for distinguish Passion and passion.

At page 95 she claims Osiris had twelve disciples, and offers Bonwick as a source - we have already seen that her 19th century sources are often not trustworthy; an actual reference to some more trustworthy source would be called for at this point. I will not run down a labyrinth of secondary, tertiary, and n-ary references again.

She accepts claims that some gods of antiquity have a history dating back 17000 years with no doubt as to the accuracy of this statement, yet the acceptance of this is based on evidence that goes back 3300 years.

The great Roman tolerance of religion earlier lauded by Acharya is denied by Acharya:
These mysteries became so extreme in their debauchery that they were banned in 186 BCE by the Romans, ... At the time the mysteries were prohibited, thousands of initiates were slaughtered, ..." [p. 96]
"As we can see, Dionysus is Zeus is the Sun is Iao is Yahweh." [p. 97]
I do not think we can see that just yet, as she has not provided sufficient evidence thereof. However, this phrasing occurs a lot in the work of one Jordan Maxwell and the presence of it here is no surprise. Reading (or watching) works of his provides a great sample of bad fact-checking, fabrications and general bullshit. Jordan Maxwell also thinks courts are called courts because tennis is played on a court, and it is all just a racket, and that is why legal proceedings take place at courts. No seriously, that is the level of argumentation he presents.

On page 97, she claims Paulus/Saulus was just another evemerized sun-deity, on account of his name being similar to the Latvian word for sun, saule. In what way is that a sensible argument at all?
Another of the motifs that Dionysus and Jesus share is the virgin mother. In one version of the Dionysian myth, his mortal mother, fecundated by Zeus Pateras, or "God the Father," is consumed at the god's birth by the attendant blaze, which is appropriate for a sun god. Because in the one version the mother does not survive the birth, and the baby is born from Zeus's thigh, it is claimed that Dionysus was not "born of a virgin." Oddly enough, despite his numerous paramours Zeus himself was called "the virgin"; [p 101]
I call Marcus Varro on this. Certainly, it is possible Zeus was called a Virgin, but I find none of them. I have not looked too carefully, but it is not up to me to look carefully - it is up to Acharya to provide backup that I can find and evaluate.
In addition to the various other correspondences between the Dionysian and Christian myths, both Dionysus and Jesus were said to have been carried in their mothers' wombs for seven months, per Siculus and the Gospel of the Hebrews, respectively. [p. 101]
Why is the source Freke and Gandy, and not, say Cyril of Jerusalem, Discourse on Mary Theotokos? A scholar of greek who reads primary sources - as she purports to be - would, I presume, be a scholar of greek who reads primary sources on account of actually reading primary, greek-language sources? (Yes, Cyril of Jerusalem does say exactly that, though, but ... still.)
Additionally, Christ was not depicted as crucified until the 6th-7th centuries, so there is no scientific reason to conclude that the Orpheus image was copied from Christianity. [p 102]
I agree with the conclusion - yet, I do think sources for the claim regarding when crucifixions appear in Christian art should be substantiated, as there are sources placing it about two centuries earlier. 
Jes Chrishna was the name of the ninth incarnation of Jesnu, or Vishnu, whose animal is the fish, as in the case of Joshua, the son of the fish Nun... Jes is a title of the sun. Jesse was the name of the sun-god of the southern Slavs.[1, p. 103]
This is quoted from Drews' Witness to the Historicity of Christ. He provides no further source for the name of the sun-god of the southern slavs. As he was not a scholar of slavic religion (or even languages), taking his claim at face value is not quite justified. Jasnyj is indeed a word for 'bright' in Russian (with similar words appearing in quite many of the Slavic languages), however, Slavic of the relevant time-period did not permit geminate consonants, and closed syllables were not permitted either. I find no reference to a Slavic sun-god by that name anywhere. 

As both Jesnu and Joshua are symbolized by the fish, so too is Jesus: all three are solar avatars and essentially the same.  [1, p. 103]
This claim that Joshua is symbolized by the fish requires backup.
More from this chapter will be posted during the weekend.


Some of the things I point out may rightly be dismissed as nitpicking.

An example would be the claim regarding the origin of cretin, although the source is correctly identified - the French word, indeed, for Christian, the route by which Murdock claims this came to signify idiot is with great likelihood wrong. No evidence whatsoever connects this change of meaning with pagan disdain for Christianity, and some evidence connects it with an entirely different development:
English cretin is borrowed from French crétin 'stupid', which comes to the surprise and delight of etymology-lovers, ultimately from Latin christianum* 'Christian'. In Romance languages, the term for 'Christian' was used also for 'human being' to distinguish people from beasts; the semantic shift which gives the modern sense of cretin 'a stupid person' apparently came about in Swiss French dialects especially in reference to a class of dwarves and physically deformed idiots in certain valleys of the Alps, used euphemistically to mean that even these beings were human, and from this came the semantic shift from 'Christian' to 'idiot'. [1, pp. 254, 255]
The first attestation of crétin signifying 'idiot' is from the 18th century[2], which places it about or more than a millennium after the area had been converted to Christianity. We would expect earlier evidence of crétin with that meaning were it the case that pagan Savoyards already in late antiquity or early medieval times used the noun/adjective Christian as a word denoting stupid people. An 800-year lack of attestation is quite sufficient here, even in the face of the claims of evidence having been destroyed - Murdock's favorite excuse for lack of evidence. If the destruction of evidence were that complete - in this case even destruction of evidence that would support the Christian contention of there having been persecution of Christians in antiquity and so on - we would expect to know nothing about antiquity whatsoever.

A positive claim of this kind needs some supporting evidence. The theory it props up cannot itself serve as evidence of the claim being correct. But why care about tiny details such as this? I can present a rather good reason, and in the words of Acharya S herself:
Moreover, when doing investigative research into religion, dating back thousands of years, one must use a variety of sources, ancient and modern. ... This "deep archaeology," or detailed reconstruction of the past, is difficult and time-consuming, requiring painstaking investigative and detective work, as well as innovative thinking. It is not the plopping of a spade into the ground and finding a magnificent, intact building with a plaque identifying it, the year in which it was built, and the builders, as well as the era's politics, religions, mores, etc. The restoration of the past is nitty-gritty, down-in-the-dirt, up-to-the-elbows, under-the-microscope, hard labor, not cursory or casual scanning. The reconstruction of literary evidence likewise requires extensive digging, brushing and piecing together. It is not a simple process of miraculously discovering a "primary document" in pristine shape that spells out everything. This reconstruction is not found neatly laid out in a single volume in a central library, on a CD, compiled in an orderly organized fashion. If it were, it would already be known, and there would be no point to digging. ... In excavating the truth, then, many sources must be used, many sciences consulted. ... Around the world are strange artifacts, icons, idols and edifices that require our scrutiny and decipherement, as they do not possess identification tags and instruction manuals. And where there is writing, it must be translated, with a mind to capturing the nuances and idioms of the time, place and people. Such an extraordinary ability to think "like a native" of hundreds and thousands of years ago cannot be fully grasped, especially if the data is fragmentary, if the entire culture is not well understood, from the language spoken, the food eaten, the clothes worn, [...] and so on. [3, pp. 9, 11 and 12; this quote is somewhat stitched together, but does not misrepresent the point being made.]
It stands to reason that with such ambitions, any minor error that creeps in will be problematic. Yes, we can come up with models where several errors to some extent cancel out. If one method dates something as 5000 +/- 250 years old and another method to 4500 +/- 200 years, both cannot be right, however, we can have a good idea about the precision the methods have, and the likelihood of errors creeping in, and we can figure out some reasonable idea about the likelihoods as to what its age is. Even then, the precision the further back we go does decrease, for obvious reasons. Of course, the errors need not cancel out, but there's a reasonably good chance they will. The confidence in a result should be directly proportional to the likelihood that errors in the data cancel out.

However, if we decide to ignore evidence that does not support our thesis and do not at the very least account for why that evidence is to be ignored (other than it not supporting the thesis), it is much less likely the errors will cancel out, and increasingly likely they will in fact accumulate. We can see in Acharya's books how all the mistaken factoids are of the kind that support her thesis - every single one of them contributes to the error. An error that grows and grows and grows.

Secondarily, the quoted text implies that Acharya S thinks of herself as a person whose abilities at least approach being able to interpret the literature and remains of ancient cultures as well as a native would. With the kind of sloppiness when it comes to details that I already have documented several rather glaring instances of, it is hard to think the accuracy in her work to be satisfactory.

Finally, I find it interesting how her reliance on just a few sources - Higgins, Drews and a small handful of others - contradicts this stance:
This reconstruction is not found neatly laid out in a single volume in a central library, on a CD, compiled in an orderly organized fashion. If it were, it would already be known, and there would be no point to digging. [3, p. 11]
It seems she does think such a thing already exists to a great extent - excepting just a few tiny details - in Anacalypsis. (Which, to be honest, is two volumes.) Despite there being more than a thousand references in The Christ Conspiracy, five authors account for more than a third of those. A lot of it is identical to the stuff presented by Jordan Maxwell in his videos (compare, for instance, his rather paranoid The Naked Truth-documentary to her books. The parallels are uncanny, yet she only credits him a few times throughout The Christ Conspiracy, and even fewer times in Suns of God. His documentary definitely was published earlier than any of her books.)

With the ambition that The Suns of God and The Christ Conspiracy are results of, we must demand precision or at least reasonable fact-checking. The preponderance of mistakes, the occasional quote-mine, and even downright fabrication (although I have not come across more than maybe one single fabrication by her hand - most iffy claims are all well enough beyond the firewall of earlier sources, so the culprits guilty of these fabrications are generally already dead - she only perpetuates their fabrications) is sufficient evidence that her thesis is not sufficiently well backed up.

Acharya herself has stated even in her books that only a lie needs to be propped up by lies: "nothing needs to be shored up by a forgery unless it's forgery" [4][5, p. 29]. Should not the same standard be applied to her works?

Interestingly, her fans do not seem to even think that this has any relevance even if she were guilty of these charges. I maintain that she is - but what use is maintaining that and even demonstrating it if that has no impact on the perception of the quality of her work?

There is a final, even worse problem. The reasoning she presents is weak, and in believing her reasoning to be valid, this reinforces bad reasoning skills, and her fans thus learn mistaken ways of assessing what is true or not. If their great idol reasons this way, clearly these ways of reasoning must be correct!

Another rather strange thing is it seems some of her fans do not realize why quote-mining is misleading. But writing a post explaining that feels like explaining the obvious - and I am quite certain the absolute majority of readers here already realize why quote-mining is wrong. Is writing such a post really necessary? Well, some people seem so ignorant of reasoning that it might just be. A thing that I suspect is kind or related to the previous point: learning from Acharya is learning shoddy thinking.

[1] Campbell, Lyle. Historical Linguistics an introduction, 1999
[3] Acharya S, The Suns of God, 2004
[4] Robert M. Price, Acharya S, Point of Inquiry, Specifically 5:45 onwards.,
[5] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy, 1999

Quality of Sources: Godfrey Higgins, pt 3

Higgins, pt 3: Anacalypsis: Preface, Preliminary Observations

Higgins lived during a pre-neogrammarian age, and hence at the time, comparative linguistics had not reached the point where it could be called a science. 

For a very long time, and during the writing of the greater part of my work, I abstained from the practice of many etymologists, of exchanging one letter for another, that is, the letter of one organ for another of the same organ; such, for instance, as Pada for Vada, or Beda for Veda, in order that I might not give an opportunity to captious objectors to say of me, as they have said of others, that by this means I could make out what I pleased. From a thorough conviction that this has operated as a very great obstacle to the discovery of truth, I have used it rather more freely in the latter part of the work, but by no means so much as the cause of truth required of me. The practice of confining the use of a language while in its infancy to the strict rules to which it became tied when in its maturity, is perfectly absurd, and can only tend to the secreting of truth. The practice of indiscriminately changing ad libitum a letter of one organ for another of the same organ, under the sanction of a grammatical rule, - for instance, that B and V are permutable, cannot be justified. It cannot, however, be denied that they are often so changed; but every case must stand upon its own merits. [1, preface]
At the time of his writing, historical linguistics did indeed operate a bit along these lines - although some basic idea of regular sound change had occurred to the scholars of the time. It was this kind of completely ad hoc approach to historical linguistics that lead the neo-grammarians to come up with less ad hoc reasoning.

The idea that languages go from infancy to maturity is not generally taken seriously by anyone these days. Certainly, languages change over time, and assuming that the same rules apply now as a thousand years ago in some language would be misguided.

In a somewhat better speculation on how language may have come about, he expounds:
4. After he [early mankind] had arrived at the art of speaking with a tolerable degree of ease and fluency, without being conscious that he was reasoning about it, he would probably begin to turn his thoughts to a mode of recording or perpetuating some few of the observations which he would make on surrounding objects, for the want of which he would find himself put to inconvenience. This I think was the origin of Arithmetic. He would probably very early make an attempt to count a few of the things around him, which interested him the most, perhaps his children; and his ten fingers would be his first reckoners; and thus by them he would be led to the decimal instead of the more useful octagonal calculation which he might have adopted; that is, stopping at 8 instead of 10. ... There is nothing natural in the decimal arithmetic; it is all artificial, and must have arisen from the number of the fingers; which, indeed, supply an easy solution to the whole enigma. Man would begin by taking a few little stones, at first in number five, the number of fingers on one hand. This would produce the first idea of numbers. After a little time he would increase them to ten. ... To these heaps or parcels of stones, and operations by means of them, he would give names; and I suppose that he called each of the stones a calculus, and the operation a calculation. [1, p. 1]
Indeed, it is generally agreed by all linguists today that the preponderance of the decimal system is closely related to our ten fingers - however, it is also noted that there is a preponderance of vigesimal systems (base-20), with sub-bases of 5 or 10. It is unclear whether Higgins genuinely meant that the early humans called these stones (or pebbles or fingers or whatever) and the act of counting calculation and calculus, or whether he is just giving a name to these things so as to be able to talk of them later on.

5. The ancient Etruscans have been allowed by most writers on the anitquities of nations, to have been among the oldest civilized people of whom we have any information. In my Essay on the Celtic Druids, I have shewn that their language, or that of the Latins, which was in fact their language in a later time, was the same as the Sanscrit of India. This I have proved not merely by the uncertain mode of shewing that their words are similar, but by the construction of the language. The absolute identity of the modes of comparison of the adjective, and of the verb impersonal, which in my proof I have made use of, cannot have been the effect of accident.  [1, p. 2]
As it turns out, precious little is known of the Etruscan language. One entire book is extant - liber linteus zagrabiensis. Scholars have not been able to read it - despite knowing the alphabet. If it were (closely) related to Latin, it would undoubtedly be possible to read by recourse to Proto-Indo-European or somesuch. Robert Ellis' The Armenian Origin of the Etruscans listed about 200 words - other sources give about the same amount even 150 years later. Some of these words have been obtained through Greek and Latin sources. It is generally agreed that it is not an Indo-European language [2].

Its grammar is rather different from Indo-European languages of the time as well [3]. It shares the rather notable feature of suffixaufnahme with a bunch of other languages, including Old Georgian, Hurrian, Urartian and Lycian - of which only Lycian is Indo-European. 

Suffixaufnahme, for those who are interested, is a generalized congruence phenomenon. Normally, a noun (and maybe its adjectives and other determiners) are marked for a case - e.g. Latin meo antiquo malleo - my(dative, masculine) ancient(dative, masculine) hammer(dative, masculine). In languages with suffixaufnahme, such case markings can be stacked, obtaining things like - and this is fake Latin - artificiso antiquo malleo. "the builder(masc,genitive)(masc, dative) ancient(masc,dative) hammer(masc,dative)".

Considering how successful Indo-Europeanists have been with both Hittite and Tocharian, basically showing what regular sound changes and other changes needed to take place to derive those languages, the failure to do so with Etruscan - for which evidence has been available for a much longer time - indicates something about the problem.

Considering how ignorant Higgins has proven to be already about linguistics, I will not ascribe any credibility whatsoever to his claim to have shown Etruscan to be identical to Sanskrit; he seems unaware it is not even related to Latin.

7. A very careful inquiry was made by Dr. Parsons some years ago into the arithmetical systems of the different nations of America, which in these matters might be said to be yet in a state of infancy, and a result was found which confirms my theory in a very remarkable manner. It appears, from his information, that they must either have brought the system with them when they arrived in America from the Old World, or have been led to adopt it by the same natural impulse and process which I have pointed out. [1, p. 2]
Today, we know there are numeral systems of varying complexity in the Americas, with some especially simple ones in Brazil, for instance the Pirãha language. Other bases than 10 do occur - Higgins does point out 5, but he fails to point out the vigesimal systems. [4]

8. The ten fingers with one nation must have operated the same as with the other. They all, acccording to their several languages, give names to each unit, from one to ten, which is their determinate number, and proceed to add an unit to the ten, thus ten one, ten two, then three, &c., till they amount to two tens, to which sum they give a peculiar name, and so on to three tens, four tens and till it comes to ten times ten, or to any number of tens. This is also practised among the Malays, and indeed all over the East: but to this among the Americans there is one curious exception, and that is, the practice of the Caribbeans.
Exceptions also occur in Papua New Guinea, where various strange systems obtain in languages, even ones where it does not make great sense to talk of bases. Bases of size 4,5,6,8,10, 12, 20 (subbases 5 or 10), 24 (subbase 6), 32, 60 (subbase 10) and 80 (subbases 20, 10 and 5) are attested. Some both in the Americas and the Old World, some exclusively in the Old World, etc.
They make their determinate period at five, and add one to the name of each of these fives, till they complete ten, and they then add two fives, which bring them to twenty, beyond which they do not go. They have no words to express ten or twenty, but a periphrasis is made use of. From this account of Dr. Parsons', it seems pretty clear that these Americans cannot have brought their figure and system of notation with them from the Old World, but must have invented them; because if they had brought it, they would have all brought the decimal system, and some of them would not have stopped at the quinquennial, as it appears the Caribbees did. If they had come away after the invention of letters, they would have brought letters with them: if after the invention of figures, but before letters, they would all have had the decimal notation.
Although he is probably somewhat right about counting not having developed very far at the time the Americas first were settled, the logic here still is terrible. Certainly there could have been tribes with more advanced counting systems in parts of Eurasia at the time the first tribes had passed into America without the numbers being taken along. Ultimately, he presents a theory of convergent evolution for the numeral systems. Now, it seems today this evolution is more one of assimilation into the predominant systems of the big languages of the world - small languages in Latin America adopt it from Spanish and Portuguese, Aborigines from English, Africans from English, French and Arabic, and so on. Comrie even apparently noted that unusual numeral bases are going extinct faster than the languages that have them!

From that point on, the numbered paragraphs go on for a few pages elaborating on things about the development of astrological things, such as the zodiac and lunar mansions and so on. In paragraph 16 he claims that "the science of the Babylonians and Egyptians was but the débris of former systems, lost at that time by them, as it is known to have been in later times lost by the Hindoos" [1, p. 4]. I think this seems to be a strawman argument - he assumes they were more advanced than they were, their achievements were entirely achievable with the tools we know them to have used, and so on. At the very least in order to make the claim that they had lost some knowledge, he should provide some actual argument that shows they knew of things or had calculated things they should not be capable of with their tools.

22. A traveller of the ancients, of the name of Jambulus, who visited Palibothra, and who resided seven years in one of the oriental islands, supposed to be Sumatra, states, that thei nhabitants of it had an alphabet consisting of twenty-eight letters, divided into seven classes, each of four letters. There were seven original characters which, after undergoing four different variations each, constituted these seven classes. I think it is very difficult not to believe that the origin of the Chinese Lunar Zodiac and of these twenty-eight letters was the same, namely, the supposed length of the Lunar revolution. The island of Sumatra was, for many reasons, probably peopled from China.
Took me a while to find anything on Jambulus, since his name apparently normally is written Iambulos. His works are considered absurd and mere fiction [5].
I guess the reason for the probable Chinese origin of the Sumatran population has to do with both the Chinese and the Sumatrans being Asian? Now, the source he quotes to support this entire thing - Asiatick Researches vol X, says:
The two alphabets of the Sumatrans consist only, one of twenty-three, and the other of nineteen letters: but it is probably that there were two sorts of them formerly, as in India, and which were originally the same. One was used by the more civilized and learned classes, and at court, the other was current among the lower classes, whose poor and barren dialect had fewer sounds to express. 
Speculation instead of fact. What makes this even less easy to figure out is that on Sumatra, over 50 languages are spoken, none of which goes by the name Sumatran. At this point, it is basically unfalsifiable - sure, some group might very well entirely by accident have had 28 letters. Until I know which one, it is impossible to check the reason - maybe they just so happened to distinguish 28 sounds.

One interesting thing regarding "fewer sounds" and so on, is how until fairly recently - and even to this day in some pseudo-scientific circles - Sanskritists and Hindu nationalists were so certain about the perfection of the Sanskrit language, that they denied the existence of speech sounds that were not distinguished in Sanskrit. Thus, if a language derived from Sanskrit had increased the amount of sounds it distinguished, this was denied - the new sounds were really just versions of the same sound, since it was inconceivable that sounds unavailable in Sanskrit even existed. Therefore, many of the orthographies of the languages of India mark fewer distinctions than the spoken languages do, in this charade to make Sanskrit seem superior.

Generally, though, languages' alphabets do not tend to have a specific number of letters due to doctrine or dogma, but due to either tradition (which changes over time, of course), or due to functional concerns: these are the sound-units we need to distinguish, let us make up letters to distinguish them.

29. About the time this was going on [dividing of time into smaller units, development of astrology], it would be found that the Moon made thirteen lunations in a year, of twenty-eight days each, instead of twelve only of thirty: from this they would get their Lunar year much nearer the truth than their Solar one. They would have thirteen months of four weeks each. They would also soon discover that the planetary bodies were seven; and after they had become versed in the science of astrology, they allotted one to each of the days of the week; a practice which we know prevailed over the whole of the Old World.
Except we know it did not. Weeks of every conceivable length are attested, and the spread of seven-day weeks is ultimately rather recent - starting out at about 2000 years ago.

After arguing that the wide spread of "X" as a symbol for ten - and ad hoc explanations as to why it is absent as such in some places (not even honestly mentioning multiple places where X was not used to denote ten, which is the majority of places). This goes on to
32. General Vallancey observes, That from the X all nations began a new reckoning, because it is the number of fingers on both hands, which were the original instruments of numbering: hence יד (id) iod in Hebrew means both the hand and the number ten. [1, p. 7]
Except this is not the case! יד adds up to 14, although י itself does signify ten, and has for its name iod. However, the name of the number is עֶשֶׂר , 'eser.

He further claims to have proven that the alphabet of the Hebrews, Samaritans, Phœnicians, Greeks and so on all had sixteen letters. This sounds like so much bull, but the actual argument is in The Celtic Druids and I will not read that book just yet.

84. There have been authors who have wasted their time in inquiries into the modei n which the inventor of the alphabet proceeded to divide the letters into dentals, labials and palatines. There surely never was any such proceeding. The invention was the effect of unforeseen circumstance - what we call accident; and when I consider the proofs, so numerous and clear, of the existence of the oldest people of whom we have any records, the Indian Buddhists in Ireland, and that in that country their oldest alphabet has the names of trees, I cannot be shaken in my opinion that the trees first gave names to letters, and that the theory I have pointed out is the most probable. [1, p. 15]
The bolded part is not bolded in the book. I think the bolded part needs no actual further debunking, it quite sufficiently debunks itself. There are no such records. We have no earlier attestation of the Ogham alphabet than a few hundred years CE. There is some internal evidence that requires the Ogham alphabet to be maybe a couple hundred years older than the earliest attestation.

Generally, Higgins seldom provides sources for his claims. His writing is dense, boring and so full of misconceived notions that pointing out any starting point where he first went wrong is near impossible. It seems the lack of quality research of his time, a wild imagination, and even further lack of any kind of requisite education on how to understand linguistic evidence conspired to create some very wild claims. I have only reached paragraph #100 at this point, and I know there's a few between #84 and #100 I should explain why they are wrong; I have omitted quite a few earlier ones as well, since they repeat previous assertions or hinge upon ones I have noted already. The times he gives sources, the reference is often not to a particular page in a book, but to the book in its entirety. 

This must be among the most frustrating stuff I have ever read.

[1] Higgins, Anacalypsis, vol 1 1.