The researcher Gunner Samuelsson has studied in depth the descriptions of the crucification of jesus. It would appear that there is no description that fits neatly with contemporary myths in this regard. We cannot say much more than that he hung from a pole. I find it fascinating that the whole christian story in this regard could be wide of the mark.
With regard to the bible as a whole, I have read a proposal that there is no need for us to disprove anything that is written there, but merely to show how it came into being. (sorry, I have forgotten the source). I posit that the christian church did not spring spontaneously into being by its revelation. The christian will readily accept that it owes a large debt to the jews little tribal totem sky god. Unfortunately they tend not go further back than that, so that there is only a thin oversight of the evolution of Yahweh and the enormous debt that He owes to all the pagan gods and goddesses growing up around Him. It is enormously instructive for anyone to deepen their knowledge of contemporaneous deities and even more instructive to examine earlier accounts of these strange memetic creatures. Unfortunately christians appear to be quite naive with regard to history of their deity. It is as if they have totally ignored the back story. I shall try to make partial amends:
Early pagans around the world where utterly fascinated by trees. Trees where holy (reserved for the gods) or gods in themselves. Getafix the druid in all those wonderful tales of Asterix would go out gathering mistletoe from the sacred oaks in the forests of Gaul. The mistletoe, we now think, is a parasitic plant that grows on oak trees (amongst others). Getafix however would know that mistletoe are actually the sexual organs of oak trees, and the sap that he gathered is the sperm of the might oak. His magic potion would then literally imbue the user with all the characteristics of the tree.
The various deities each had their own tree, for example Yahweh and his willow. A pagan cycling along the dikes of Holland and observing the geknotte wilgen would come to realise the profound truth that these trees have the ability to “die” in winter and be reborn to spring. This sympathetic magic might soon find its way into his ceremonies which are needed to ensure the return of the summer sun and fertility of the earth.
Early religions where very much based around a triune deity, specifically the supreme goddess (she would be usurped later by the male) in her three aspects. Why three? Simple. As everyone knows there are three seasons and these are represented by the three aspects of nymph, maiden and crone. (We know with certainty that the goddess Hera exists because she has this triune nature – a necessary indication of her divinity.) The high priestess would take on the mantel of this goddess and be married to a sacred king. This king would be sacrificed at the winter solstice and replaced by his tannist who would then marry the priestess, only to be sacrificed in turn at the summer solstice. Hera would marry the sacred king Zeus, Yahweh would be married to Asherah. In both these examples, the female would later become supplanted by the male deity and the priestess by the king.
In later times the life of the king extended to more than the original six month reign and took up longer and longer cycles before the inevitable sacrifice. At yet a later stage the place of the king would be taken by someone who would rule for three days (sometimes one day) , while the king was “buried” underground. This allowed the “king” to be put to death, only for the “real” king to arise again at the commencement of spring. The sacred kingship could live an eternal life even as his personifying agents came and went with the seasons. (“De koning is dood, lang leve de koning!”)
It is important to note that the high priestess, taking on the mantel, literally became the goddess in order to perform these ceremonies. The same was true for the king becoming the god . In this way a king might be seen as a god in human form. The Greek pagans, for example, would see Zeus personified in the king.
The ceremonies undertaken at the solstice, and other important religious days where conducted according to well choreographed rituals. With the Greeks this would take the form of mimes. The instructions given to the players would be given by the priestly choreographer. This is the real nature of “prophecy”. It is not the prediction of a future event, but an instruction by a director of a religious ceremony. (The verbal account of the mime -the aid memoir to ensure that the ceremony went smoothly in the precise order and manner required – is the proper use of the word “myth”.)
The ceremony of sacrifice to bring about the rebirth of nature and kingship took on different forms in different parts of the world. However, earlier ceremonies would all culminate in a form of human sacrifice either of the god-king himself or of a stand in. Popular ways to die, where to get killed in a staged horse race, thrown off a cliff or murdered by a tannist. Another common early practice around the Mediterranean (and kept going by the Spartans) is for us the most interesting. The king would be tied to a sacred wooden stump by willow-thongs (full of moon mojo) and flogged until he ejaculated in order to fructify the earth with blood and sperm. If you watch the christian fap flick “Passion of Christ” by Mel Gibson you can imagine an excellent harvest for the first believers.
Aside: Mohamed claimed the jews swapped out Jesus for an alternative victim. This is certainly quite consistent with a lot of the pagan ceremonies. Jesus as the ceremonial stand in for Yahweh, who in turn has his stand in, so that he might rise again like a real sky god after a few days chilling underground. In the real world the statement that Jesus died there would by his lights be false. In a religious sense though it can still be true, because it would be perfectly legitimate in such a ceremony to swap out the actors without impinging on the efficacy of the ritual.
This is a simple response, not a tract, so I shan’t go into a detailed bibliography of sources. It is highly informative to read up on ancient religions to put the monotheisms (plural!) into some kind of historical perspective. To draw out the numerous parallels and plagiarisms of the multitudinous religions as they evolve is a long and tedious process, though extremely enlightening. Aside from the obvious books like the bible, koran etc that everyone should read (Ok, perhaps not most christians) it is critical to brush up on the evolution of god’s family tree through the works of people like Robert Graves, Edith Hamilton, etc. It is only by taking up this task that one can break free of crass literalism or hermetical thinking, of focusing on religion as the revelation of an unchanging god. Rather one can understand god as a work in progress, its long evolution driven by and in parallel with mankind’s own development.
[This post is a response to the Carlo’s post on CES: Jesus was een paalhanger (Link: Part une)]