Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Christ Conspiracy, chapter 23: Out of Egypt or India? Pt 1

Chapter 23, "Out of Egypt or India" serves mainly to set the stage for the following chapter - the one about Evidence of an Ancient Global Civilization of which I previously have written an in depth review. Ostensibly, the chapter sets out to answer the question whether (the main bulk of) western culture originates in Egypt or in India - she dismisses Mesopotamia and the Middle East for no other reason than " first developed in Africa; hence, despite the current inclination towards Mesopotamia and Sumer, Egypt would seem to be the logical place to look for the origins of human culture". It is of course possible that culture originates elsewhere - we may trivially note that there are probably at least two cultures that developed without any influence from Mesopotamia, viz. the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations (depending of course on what we include in the term 'culture' we could possibly stretch ourselves as far as to add some additional areas as independent cultures - different scholars use different definitions, and Murdock almost never cares to define her terms).
The current orthodox paradigm places a significant part of cultural origins in Sumeria, starting around 4500 BCE. Nevertheless, there are other “Old World” archaeological sites worthy of note older than those of Sumeria, such as Catal Huyuk in Turkey, which is at least 9,000 years old; Jericho, the pre-Hebraic foundation of which goes back to around 9000 BCE; Lepinski Vir in the former Yugoslavia, which is 7,000 years old; and remains on Malta estimated to be 8,000 years old. In addition, a number of researchers have averred that the site of Stonehenge in England is much older than the orthodoxy allows for. Furthermore, as noted, there is evidence that some Egyptian temples may be thousands of years older than presently hypothesized, and the date of the Indian culture continues to be pushed back as well.[1, p. 378]
These remains do not posit any great problem for the notion that western culture has inherited a great deal from Mesopotamia. Noteworthy are of course the claims of great antiquity for Egyptian temples, Stonehenge, etc. Who these scholars that have averred that the site of Stonehenge in England is much older than the orthodoxy allows for is not stated. Is it possibly, again, scholars that worked before modern methods were invented? Finally, regardless of the age of the remains at Lepinski Vir, Catal Huyuk, Malta, there seem to be little to modern civilization that can be reliably traced to those places.

The present anthropological/evolutionary paradigm dictates that man first developed in Africa; hence, despite the current inclination towards Mesopotamia and Sumer, Egypt would seem to be the logical place to look for the origins of human culture. [1, p. 378] 
Why Egypt? Africa is a big continent! Man first developed in sub-Saharan Africa, would not the Great Zimbabwe be a better bet if this manner of reasoning was taken to its logical conclusion? Why is the location of where mankind first developed even relevant to the question of where the roots of western culture lie? The roots of, say, Inca culture clearly lie somewhere close to the west coast of South America, regardless of where mankind originally evolved. It stands to reason though that it is not per se wrong to go looking in new places - but if the search provides no evidence, one should be honest enough to point that out.

Yet, India also keeps beckoning for a closer look. Indeed, we have seen that the bulk of the Christian mythos and ritual was found in both India and Egypt millennia before the Christian era, and it is to these two nations that most research has pointed as the source of Christian origins. This fact has been recognized over the centuries, but the debate as to which came first has not been resolved, with erudite proponents and solid evidence on both sides, leaving the mystery intact. A number of these scholars were without modern archaeological knowledge; however, they made their assessments using sound scientific inquiry and methodology. [1, p. 378]
"Most research"? Maybe most of the research Murdock is referring to was carried out by theosophists, but that's not exactly quality research. Whether indeed the bulk of the Christian mythos and ritual can be traced to India and Egypt seems to depend on whether we take Murdock's claims at face value. In The Christ Conspiracy, this claim is mainly built on bad sources and assertion, but Murdock does claim that her newer books - especially Christ in Egypt have significantly better sources. That a number of these scholars were without modern archaeological knowledge should be pretty important when it comes to determining whether their arguments have any validity. Whether their assessments were made using sound scientific inquiry and methodology is difficult to establish - from what I have seen of her sources - and I have seen a lot by now - most of them would not recognize sound scientific inquiry and methodology if they saw it. (Still, a significant part of Christian evolution indeed did happen in Egypt. Few serious scholars, however, seem to posit any great Indian influence on Christianity.)

In upcoming posts, I will dig deep into this chapter and give it just as thorough a treatment as chapter 24 got.

[1] D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy, 1999. Adventures Unlimited.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Miekko!

    I'm sorry if this is a poor place to make a general comment. I looked all over for a way to PM you and couldn't find one.

    I only recently stumbled upon this blog, and I just want to say that I'm quite impressed with what you've done here. What strikes me specifically is:

    1) Your tenacity. Month after month, you just keep plugging away at this thing. As someone who often finds it difficult even to *start* a project, let alone see it through over the course of several years, I have nothing but admiration for the work you've put into critiquing this awful book.

    2) You're Finnish! I didn't even notice the .fi when I first found this place. I started reading, and remarked to myself that for something so obviously put together by someone with an education, there are some grammar, usage, word choice, and phrasing quirks that don't quite fit with the level of the work itself. Then I read where you identified yourself as Finnish. I looked at the URL, did a facepalm, and my perception of the writing changed instantly to one of admiration. I've always known that you guys learn English, but I've only recently come to appreciate just how thorough that training must be. I'm starting to get the impression that Finland is a country full of English speakers united by their will to preserve the Finnish language for posterity. It's rare in the U.S. to find someone so well trained in a language other than English (excluding the natively bilingual, of course). And please don't misunderstand: your writing isn't at all "bad," even from the standpoint of a native speaker. In fact, it's miles ahead of a lot of stuff I see even from people who grew up here. I can be a harsh critic in this area, but as soon as I realized you were Finnish, I was nothing but impressed.

    I'm a former Christian who has maintained an intense interest in biblical scholarship. (In fact I'm probably more interested now than when I was a Christian.) I've enjoyed reading several of Bart Ehrman's books, as well as some of Elaine Pagels' work. I came across The Christ Conspiracy several years ago when I was looking into secular information about the "historical Jesus." My first thought, though admittedly one of prejudice, was "What kind of serious author on a topic like this goes by a name like Acharya S?" It was like a warning label that said "Don't take this book seriously."

    I tried to take it seriously, though. At first, though I was skeptical of what seemed like leaps of logic, and of claims about ancient history and mythology I'd never heard before, I found the reading interesting. As I progressed through the book, though, I became increasingly annoyed by the bad scholarship. I eventually put it down when the Goropism, as you've identified it here, reached what even to an untrained reader seemed like absurd levels. I was actually glad to see your post on that topic here, as I had no idea that what I'd observed had not only been recognized and criticized by others, but that it also had a name!

    So anyway, I've only just started going through your posts, and it'll probably take me some time to read them all, but I will indeed do so. I just wanted to stop and thank you for doing the work you did, and for making it available for people to read. Nice job!