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The Real ZEITGEIST Challenge

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

the real zeitgeist challenge image

The following article is a response to the purported "debunking" of the first part of the original "ZEITGEIST" film. Because of its length, it is divided into several pages. I have also provided a free ebook containing the entire article, linked at the bottom of each page as well. Please also listen to my appearance on Peter Joseph's "Zeitgeist Undebunked" radio show.

Listen to internet radio with Peter Joseph on Blog Talk Radio

"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter."

Early Church Father and Saint Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD/CE)

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Primary Source Destruction

In this regard, the loud shrieking of the debunkers for "primary sources" in fact serves to remind us of the historical treachery of religious fanatics in the willful and deliberate destruction of human culture-mankind's very past. The scale of this censorial sin is so vast and appalling that it takes the breath away. Who will answer for this heinous crime against humanity, about which we are reminded every time someone raises the issue of primary sources?

The reality is that there would be much more evidence of ancient religion and mythology had not so much been destroyed, largely by fanatics spawned by the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, in antiquity there existed multiple volumes about ancient religions specifically mentioned by the early Church fathers; yet, these important treatises do not survive, while the Christian apologies and polemics against them do. These works on religion obviously were around when the fathers wrote their commentaries, criticisms and diatribes against them-the latter were preserved but the original bases of these apologies and polemics have been "lost" or deliberately destroyed. Why? These lost/destroyed works include the voluminous writings of the Roman statesman and soldier Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BCE)-called "the most learned of the Romans"-especially his work on religion (Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum), which no doubt would have been eye-opening, had it survived. Although Varro's works were burned in his day after he was outlawed by Marc Anthony, based on commentaries upon him by St. Augustine (354-430), enough must have survived until that time at least.

In a number of instances, where so much primary-source material has been destroyed wantonly and willfully, we simply must rely on secondary sources such as the historians of the past, who took the time to chronicle painstakingly whatever they could find within their limited resources of the era. In many cases, these sources are more accurate than scholars of the modern era because they were closer to the events or material in question.

Even if a story, myth, tradition or motif is not recorded in a pristine primary source of the impossible kind required by the "debunkers," if it does appear in the works of a historian, regardless of whether he represents a source secondary, tertiary or otherwise, prior to the Christian era-such as is the case with Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-27 BCE), for example-the information presented therein could likewise have served as an inspiration for the creation of the Christ myth. No one is contending that only primary sources were used in the creation of Christianity, as such a proposition is ludicrous.

And where are the inerrant primary sources written by the very hands of the apostles themselves that prove Christianity's extraordinary claims?  Millions give a pass to these supernatural claims, because they have been conditioned by them since an early age, while making unreasonable and impossible demands of proof for rational and logical contentions that Christianity is in significant part a rehash of earlier religions and myths.

If the works of ancient historians such as Diodorus, Plutarch and Macrobius do not represent reliable sources, then neither does the New Testament. In addition, if we cannot rely on the works of historians for corroboration of comparative religion, then we may also throw out the purported testimony of Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, Thallus, Phlegon and all the rest as having no value in "proving" the historicity of Jesus. In this regard, a "Jesus Challenge" is issued and unlikely to be met any time soon.

If the Christian faith can rely largely upon the secondary-source testimony of non-eyewitnesses as "proof" of extraordinary, supernatural events-there being no textual autographs or concrete and relevant archaeological evidence for gospel claims concerning Jesus-then so too may we turn on occasion to secondary sources when it comes to chronicling one of the most important and fascinating subjects of human culture, i.e., religion and mythology. To ignore this wealth of information because it is considered secondary not only constitutes an egregious waste of a massive human effort but also is utterly unscientific and derived from a need to shore up the faith no matter what the cost. Indeed, the dishonesty in ignoring this body of work can only be deemed appalling and negligent.

The mockery concerning primary sources-many of which were obliterated long ago by Christian fanatics attempting to stamp out all signs of Paganism-reminds one of the taunting by a criminal who believes the law will never catch up with him because he is too clever and has destroyed all the evidence. It is obvious from the caution with which they proceed and the commentaries and polemics they eventually produce that this evidence was extant during the bulk of the period when the early Church fathers were creating Christianity, but began to disappear sometime after they finally procured the power to destroy it.

Happily, despite the desperate and endless widespread criminal acts of destruction, the evidence of our collective human past is so vast and obvious that enough of it remains regarding many aspects of human culture-including various artifacts we take for granted today, such as the  names of the days of the week and the months-that we can piece together a reasonably accurate picture of our ancient religious and mythological heritage, using both whatever primary sources remain, as well as secondary sources deemed to be accurate and factually sound. We are fortunate, for example, that so much of the massive and long-lived Egyptian culture also survived the numerous assaults by religious fanatics. Despite all of the frantic evidence-burying criminal activity, we possess an enormous amount of primary-source material from ancient Egypt, clearly pre-Christian, which is why my response to the various would-be ZG1.1 debunkers, including a nearly 600-page scholarly book, Christ in Egypt, with almost 2,400 citations from over 900 sources, including abundant primary-source material in a variety of languages, both ancient and modern, as well as the works of highly credentialed individuals in relevant fields.

What is "pre-Christian?"

In this debate, it is necessary to define what is meant by "pre-Christian." Requiring only "primary source" evidence "before the time of Christ," as debunkers are wont to do, is utterly unreasonable and shows a real lack of scholarship in the subject. When Christ was supposedly born-around 1 AD/CE, 4 BCE, 6 BCE or some other undocumented date that cannot be found in any pristine primary source-the whole world did not suddenly take notice and start following him and his new cult. Indeed, Christianity itself remained largely unheard of until the second century, with the bulk of the earliest Christian efforts taking place at the end of that century. In this same regard, the AD/BC dating, representing "Anno Domini" or the "Year of Our Lord" and "Before Christ" (or some other notation in another language meaning the same), was not even established until the 6th century, with the efforts of the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, (c. 470-c. 540).

In Europe, the country of Lithuania did not become Christianized until the 14th century, meaning that until that time it too was pre-Christian. In some parts of the world to this day Jesus Christ and Christianity remain completely unknown, making those places pre-Christian. Just because something entered the historical record after the year 1 AD/CE does not mean that it is not pre-Christian and was therefore influenced by Christianity. In fact, it could be very well pre-Christian and completely uninfluenced by Christianity.

Raising the Bar

The ZG "debunking" over the years has changed, with the bar being raised every time it is answered. First it was claimed that ZG1.1 and its sources simply fabricated the facts. When this assertion was shown to be false-and a reflection of the lack of expertise in the subject by the would-be debunkers-it was admitted that there were plenty of people making these contentions long prior to ZG but that they were evidently seized by some peculiar madness with no basis in fact. For example, in setting up his "requirements" one ZG "challenger" remarks:

Let me be very clear, Im [sic] not looking for what people SAY it says in the ancient literature. There is an abundance of that available. I want to know where these people are getting their information because I can find no historical record of these claims myself.

First of all, this person should be thanked for acknowledging that there is an "abundance" of people making these comparisons, because too many individuals on the internet repeat the falsehoods that I and others are "just making it all up." Secondly, when he admits he cannot find something, he is reflecting not that it isn't there but that he is not a qualified and capable researcher.

Thus, the first admission of ignorance of the subject matter-which did not stop "debunkers" initially from making one wrong claim after another, as if they were experts-was that the information was simply fabricated a few years ago by modern writers. The next claim was that it was fabricated by ne'er-do-wells years earlier, up to perhaps a couple of centuries.

When that widespread contention of reliance upon "19th century writers" was shown to be false, by bringing up far more ancient sources used by these earlier scholars, such as Philo, Plutarch, Justin, Macrobius and so on, the debunkers raised the bar again by claiming that these ancient sources are "worthless" and apparently likewise fabricated data. No matter how far back we go in time, therefore, the bar will be raised and the cry will be "fabrication."

Of course, no admission of the previous errors and oversights indicating the lack of real knowledge and expertise in the subject-or any apology for essentially calling the modern proponents of Jesus mythicism "liars" and "frauds"-has ever been forthcoming from this "debunking" crowd, as such honest admissions are not their strong points. And, naturally, in order to keep up the faith, regardless of how dishonest and lacking in integrity have been the previous efforts, the bar was raised again, this time by requiring pristine "primary sources" only approvable by the debunkers themselves. But what else can we expect from those who believe that a book-and that book alone-was written by the very hand of God? Any source we can dig up will not suffice, therefore, because all will be dismissed as "hearsay" written by men, not by God. To ignore ancient sources simply because their information was not recorded by the very finger of God constitutes poor scholarship, to say the least. Meanwhile, without any proof at all--not even any earthly corroboration--these same individuals willingly believe that the Bible was written by the very finger of God.

The bottom line is not whether or not Zeus himself left behind documentation of having impregnated the virgin Danae with a golden shower to produce Perseus, or a certificate proving Dionysus's mother Semele's virginity, but whether or not these precedents existed in the pre-Christian world and could have been drawn upon by the creators of Christianity. Most assuredly, the major motifs in question that supposedly distinguish Jesus Christ and prove his divinity were in fact religious and mythological concepts long before his purported advent, regardless of whether or not they can be found in an authorized ancient encyclopedia guarded by Cerberus the three-headed dog for the past 2,500 years.

Encyclopedia Surfing

While clamoring for primary-source proof of the logical claim that supernatural events in the New Testament and other parts of the Bible represent not "history" but myth, detractors rely on very little evidence for their own beliefs and convictions to the contrary.

For example, as part of the supposed "debunking" come remarks such as the following: "It only took me 15 minutes on the internet to debunk Zeitgeist." Well, if it only took you 15 minutes, and you used websites such as Wikipedia or those of Christian apologists, you have not studied the subject sufficiently by any stretch of the imagination. It takes years-decades-of serious study and research both in and out of a formal academic setting to master this subject, provided you even possess the appropriate skills to do such study and research in the first place. Just knowing how to study and research requires scholastic training.

Thus, scanning internet or other encyclopedias-"encyclopedia surfing"-or net forums and chat rooms will not suffice to make an expert of anyone, particularly when the petty efforts at "debunking" are plastered all over the net and are easily accessible to even the most illiterate and uneducated among us. The deeper research, however, is often buried under layers of fear and loathing, revealing a shameful record of censorship based, once again, on religious fanaticism-the same fanaticism that today wants to censor this information again with shrill cries, personal attacks and fallacious claims of "debunking." Such shallow dismissals do not constitute "credible research," and the truth about this matter is much more profound and interesting than a 15-minute perusal of the net will ever reveal.

Bibliography/Links

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