Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Christ Conspiracy: Therapeuts, Bad References, Bad Sources and Really Bad Reasoning (Chapter 20, pt 3)

[Post under construction]

Murdock goes on a bit about the history of the Therapeutans, mostly in the form of assertions regading their significance as a part of a network spanning from Europe to China. Since her identification of Christianity with this movement has been demonstrated to be a very weak link, weaknesses in her description of the movement need not be pointed out all that carefully. However, investigating them is informative regarding the scholarly practices that have gone into writing The Christ Conspiracy.

Murdock goes on telling us about the Therapeutans being part of a network of brotherhoods stretching from Europe to China, and makes a number of statements about them that I think would require some kind of backing up, here exemplified by three passages sources would be called for:
The Therapeuts were, in fact, a major part of the brotherhood network that stretched from Egypt to China and up into Europe.[1]
Nevertheless, the Therapeutan ideology left its mark on the New Testament. In addition to the white-robed monkishness already discussed, the statements about the mysteries and the “kingdom of heaven” are references to initiation into the Therapeutan mystery school and doctrine. The Therapeutan network also included the Palestinian Nazarenes, which is why they are mentioned and why Jesus was claimed to be one of them, although the meaning was obfuscated to “Jesus of Nazareth” so that, again, the pre-existence of the brotherhood would not be known.[1]
These Nazarenes were also Mandaeans and Gnostics; thus, they were Syrians and Samaritans, enemies of the Judeans. Furthermore, in addition to being a Nazarene, Paul calls himself a deacon, which was already a low-level office of the Therapeutan brotherhood. [1]

This is not a big argument here nor there, but the utterly ignorant argumentation present requires pointing out:
The evangelist Luke was also made to be a physician, or Therapeut. In the gospel story, Jesus is also depicted in the temple as making fools of the elders and doctors, i.e., Therapeuts. The early Christians called the Lord himself a “devoted physician,” or Therapeut.[1]

The Greek text describes the 'doctors' as nomodidaskaloi (teachers of law, c.f. antinomian, those who are against the law, and cf. didactics, methodology of teaching), not as medical doctors. Although doctor as a synonym of healer did exist when the KJV was translated, its primary meaning was a holder of the highest degree bestowed by universities. As Murdock likes etymology very much, she may be interested to know that doctor derives from the Latin verb for teaching - 'doceo', (whence we also get 'doctrine'). Thus, we can know for certain that the translators of the KJV did not mean 'doctors' in any medical sense, and even more so that the author of the Gospel did not intend for the word to signify any medical professionals whatever, as he used a word that clearly related to those learned in the law. This is embarrassingly bad scholarship from someone repeatedly labeling themselves a 'linguist'.

Christian father Epiphanius confirms the association between Christianity and the Therapeutan brotherhood when he says, “Jesus, in the Hebrew, signifies a healer or physician. However that may be, this is the name by which they were known before they were called Christians.”cmiv He is in fact referring to the “Jesseans” or “Essenes,” i.e., “Therapeuts.”[1]
Epiphanius knowledge of Hebrew seems spotty, as can be seen by his thinking that "li" means "it is", see this [2] . He probably was only trying to make a theological point, and did so using incorrect arguments. James R. Edwards [3, p. 27], however, only states that we do not know how well Epiphanius knew Hebrew, which to me sounds like an attempt at downplaying the likelihood that Epiphanius Hebrew was pretty bad.

Again, one needs to look at what point Epiphanius was making - and funny enough, Murdock does not tell us where in Epiphanius works this can be found, but where in Charles Waite's History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred it can be found, giving the diligent verifier yet another superfluous hurdle to jump. Further, Murdock's edition of Waite's History [...] apparently has this on page 510, whereas the edition I found has it on page 75. I find it unlikely that she has the right page even if the editions were to differ wildly.

What Epiphanius actually says, in translation, is:
4:9 And there is much to say about this. But in any case, since I have come to the topic of the reason why those who had come to faith in Christ were called Jessaeans before they were called Christians, we said that Jesse was the father of David. And they had been named Jessaeans, either because of this Jesse; or from the name or our Lord Jesus since, being his disciples, they were derived from Jesus; or because of the etymology of the Lord's name. For in Hebrew Jesus means 'healer' or 'physician,'25 and 'saviour.'[4, 29.4]
For the record, I have not been able to find a single Hebrew dictionary that list 'physician' or 'healer' as meanings that occur with the root יָשַׁע, nor have I been able to find any such meanings associated with such a root throughout the Bible. Naturally, the Bible is not the be-all end-all as to the nature of the Hebrew language in antiquity, but it is a good start, and with a claim such as this I am pretty sure I do not need to luck any further.

Murdock goes on making claims left and right, and supports a few of them with her favourite source, viz. Higgins.
Higgins says:
The Essenians were called physicians of the soul or Therapeutae; being resident of both Judaea and Egypt, they probably spoke or had their sacred books in Chaldee. They were Pythagoreans, as is proved by all their forms, ceremonies, and doctrines, and they called themselves sons of Jesse . . . If the Pythagoreans or Coenobitae, as they were called by Jamblicus, were Buddhists, the Essenians were Buddhists. The Essenians . . . lived in Egypt on the lake of Parembole or Maria, in monasteries. These are the very places in which we formerly found the Gymnosophists or Samaneans or Buddhist priests to have lived, which Gymnosophists are placed also by Ptolemy in North-eastern India.cmv
We know precious little about the 'forms, ceremonies and doctrines' of the Essenes. We do not know whether they called themselves sons of Jesse, as far as I have been able to find in serious sources, nor do we know whether they had any direct connections to the Pythagoreans. All of this is Higgins speculating wildly.

Higgins continues:
If the opinion be well founded, that their Scriptures were the originals of the Gospel histories, then it will follow almost certainly, that they must have been the same as the Samaneans or Gymnosophists of Porphyry and Clemen Alexandrinus, and their books, which they were bound by such solemn oaths to keep secret, must have been the Vedas of India; or some Indian books containing the mythoses of Moses and Jesus Christ . . . cmvii
Why does this follow? Higgins was pretty terrible at reasoning, and often phrased unsubstantiated assertions as though "it will follow almost certainly". Why did those books have to have been the Vedas of India? 
Of the gospel account, Taylor states that “the travelling Egyptian Therapeuts brought the whole story from India to their monasteries in Egypt, where, some time after the commencement of the Roman monarchy, it was transmuted in Christianity.”cmviii These books were from either the northeast of India or the coast of Malabar, or both, and were evidently first taken to Antioch and then to Egypt, by Apollonius, Marcion and/or others.
Essentially, Murdock's assertions that these books originated in Malabar or the northeast of India are entirely unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, just naked assertions. Taylor's book is not much better at providing evidence for his assertions either. To make things even better, Murdock's list of references gives this reference as:
cmviii. Taylor. [1]
With such a helpful reference, it is no wonder I have been unable to find whether Taylor by chance had any evidence this time, or whether something he said elsewhere nearby could be construed as supporting what Murdock asserts right after it.

[1] D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy
[3] James R. Edwards, The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition, 2009
[4] Epiphanius of Salamis, the Panarion, available in translation at Based on the translation of Frank Williams.

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