Sunday, September 19, 2010

There is something fishy about John

Mythicists (people who claim Jesus is a mythical character) are regularly derided for relying on parallelism for explaining the Jesus story. They compare the Jesus story to myths of other similar pagan gods and find parallels between the tales. Most scholars, who are not mythicists, focus on the Jewish origins of the faith. Yet, the scholars who focus on the Jewish aspects of Early Christianity are also using parallels between Christianity and Judaism in their descriptions. Christianity was not Judaism. The first Christians rejected Judaism, as defined by the Pharisees, the forerunners of Rabbinic Judaism. In the New Testament stories, the Pharisees were the enemies of the Christians. Sure, there are many, many Jewish aspects to Early Christianity; but, Judaism was far from being the only religion in Palestine during the 1st century CE. Judaism gets too much blame for Christianity and those other traditions deserve far more credit in creating the Jesus story. The influence of those other traditions can even be found in the stories about Early Christian characters, commonly accepted as real people.

John the Baptist is usually described as a real, historical person. The Wikipedia article about John even gives him a birthday between 6-2 BCE and death in 36 CE. Baptism and ritual bathing were quite the fashion in several religious traditions of the time; so, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to question the existence of a guy named John, preaching baptism, when the evidence for him is taken at face value. But, the face value description lacks the cultural backdrop needed for understanding his story.

Ritual bathing was a fashion during the Greco-Roman period in the neighborhood of John. Its popularity in Judaism is evidenced by a number of ritual bathing pools found in the region, dating to the Greco-Roman period. But, ritual bathing was also a feature of pagan cults in the Levant. The temple of Eshmun in Sidon was famous for the healing powers of its sacred stream and the priests sold their services as baptizers. Eshmun was one of the several boy-god cults that sprang up during the early Iron Age, as the royal cults of Canaanite/Phoenician city states. All of the boy-gods shared similar myths about a boy who was killed and became the savior god of their respective cities. The boy-gods were local; but, all associated with the great goddess of West Asia, called Dea Syria or Atargatis by the Greco-Roman period. And, she was very popular in all the areas associated with Early Christianity. She was worshipped all along the Jordan River, as evidenced primarily in Nabetaean art. A Hellenistic period Atargatis temple was located in the Gilead, east of the Jordan. She was also worshipped in Gaza and had a temple in Ashkelon. The whole of the Levant was permeated with Dea Syria worship. Her cult sites included ritual fish pools and she was often portrayed as a mermaid during the Greco-Roman period. She became an increasingly fishy character after the 5th century BCE, when the Pisces constellation was redefined. The earlier Babylonian constellation of the goddess as Anunitum with her dove was changed to feature primarily fish in the river of Pisces. Anunitum was one of the many epithets for the goddess best known as Ishtar. Ishtar was a gender bending goddess, represented by the planet, Venus. She changed from female to male, as the morning and evening star. So, she had a male alter-ego.

The origins of ritual fish pools goes back to Mesopotamia, with archaeological evidence of pools decorated with fish and healers portrayed as mermen. Berossos retold myths about the fishy healers in the character of Oannes. Oannes was fish-tailed prophet, who taught alongside waterways and did not eat meat. Oannes showed up in the Levant, where he was conflated with the Canaanite god, Dagan. He also shows up in the Old Testament under a few guises, with Jonah being the most obvious. Oannes and Jonah are the same name and Jonah was a prophet with a fish tale. Oannes is also the same name as John, who taught alongside the river and did not eat meat.

Josephus is credited with providing the proof of a real John because he tells the story of Herod executing John the Baptist. However, it is certain that Josephus was familiar with Berossos’ stories, because Josephus cited Berossos a few times in his books. And, using myths to tell stories about kings was extremely common in ancient history writing. Ancient historians regularly took the “fly on the wall” perspective in telling tall tales about kings. There are many examples of historians using myths as the basis for stories about kings, even about kings who lived near the same time as the historian. So, assuming that Josephus was telling a true story is a very simplistic understanding of ancient history books. There could have been a real person called John executed by Herod. But, the reason he was called John was because of his type of ministry. He was a prophet of John, rather than being the John. It is also possible that the John the Baptist story is yet another example of an ancient historian using myths to make up history. Some critics think that Josephus’ tale about John the Baptist was a later interpolation by a Sabian, which takes the story right back to the Mesopotamian Oannes. No matter how you look at it, the story of John demonstrates the pagan origins of Christianity.

You can learn more about the pagan origins of Christianity in my book:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Travel the stars with Noah

An illustrated version is here:
It would be really strange if the Old Testament didn’t contain any astrology. For a modern reader to appreciate ancient books, it is necessary to put oneself in an ancient person’s environment. West Asia is very much “big sky” country. Also, without electricity, ancient people had no light pollution obscuring their view of the sky. During the warm season (which is most of the year) it was customary to sleep on the flat roof of the home. The stars were ancient people’s nightly TV before bedtime. Everyone was far more familiar with the patterns of the stars than modern people. And, priests were astrology specialists. So, a collection of religious books, like the Old Testament, should contain star lore.

Also, astrologers were the only compilers of “historical” records in West Asia, before the Greek fashion of history writing arrived in the Hellenistic Period. Astrologers were responsible for keeping the calendar and creating omens, based on astronomical events. Mesopotamian astrologers, called “Chaldeans” kept records of the travels of the planets, eclipses, comets, etc. Ancient myths were also composed as star stories, explaining the concept of “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” The myths alluded to changes in the natural environment with the change of seasons, agricultural activities, and religious rituals performed at different times of the year.

The story of Noah was illustrated by the constellations of The Babylonian Star Chart. The stars near the center of the chart were always visible; but, those around the edges only appeared in their season. The myths were composed following the changes in the appearance of the night sky, with the constellations around the edge of the star chart rising and disappearing with the seasons. Genesis Chapter 6 begins around the autumn equinox with the sacred marriage akitu festival, represented by the sons of God having sex with the daughters of men. The constellation Virgo was visible in the sky during the autumn akitu festival and represented mythical female fertility characters. The giants mention in verse 4 were represented by the giant Wild Boar, underneath Virgo “God” overlooked the season as Enlil, represented by the constellation, Supa, standing above Virgo. God then passes judgment on the Earth by threatening a flood as the Scales represented by Libra rising, as the story moves into the next zodiac sign. Verse 11 notes the Earth as corrupt and full of violence, as represented by Zababa and the scorpion of Scorpio. God then tells Noah to build an ark, represented by the Cargo Boat constellation underneath Pabilsag, now known as Sagittarius. The flood begins at the winter solstice, which was the death of the sun, which was the violent character, Zababa. The death caused by the flood was also represented by the Eagle and Dead Man constellation of winter. The Goatfish (Capricorn) and Aquarius represented Enki, the great god of the Abyss. Noah’s flood was lasted 40 days, because the magic number of Enki was 40. Noah releases a raven that could not find a resting place until the flood dried up. This describes the raven in flight until the rising of Leo, when the Raven lands on the tail of the Leviathan constellation. But, the story remains in the spring. The raven only foreshadows the approaching dryness of summer. The dove released by Noah is found on the long arm of Pisces. The ark lands on a mountain after the flood because the Babylonian cosmos was described with a mountain in the center of the star chart. Noah makes a burnt offering, represented by the Hired Man, or Aries, the ram. God’s covenant with Noah was represented by the Rainbow constellation, above Pisces and Aries.
The story then goes back a bit on the star chart to describe the spring akitu festival. The springtime was loaded with religious rituals and myths often concentrate around Aquarius and Pisces. Notably, all characters have a sleepy time, after encountering Enki of Aquarius at this point in the star chart. Gilgamesh was unable to stay awake, as he was challenged by Utnapushtim, in this region of the stars. Noah, the Utnapushtim of Genesis, gets drunk and falls asleep at this point along the star chart. There are many springtime stories occurring in Aquarius of drunkenness and sex. The oldest story is Inanna getting Enki drunk in Aquarius and stealing his me. As the god of wisdom, Enki’s me was wisdom, including the wise acts of sex. His wisdom included the art of fellatio and prostitution. In Genesis 9:21, Noah’s son, Ham, “saw his nakedness” and received a curse for what he did to the drunken old man. The autumn akitu festival always described heterosexual rituals; but, spring sex was often homosexual, and over time associated specifically with man-boy action.

It is not surprising to discover that the Noah story follows the Babylonian Star Chart because that story has long been understood as deriving from Mesopotamian myths. However, it is clear that the author of Genesis knew that he was telling star stories. It is clear because the stories immediately before and after Noah are in sequence with the rotation of the zodiac and refer to rituals that were unique to Canaanite/Phoenician religion, not Mesopotamian. The stories of Cain killing Abel and the birth of Seth are told just before the flood story. The Cain and Abel story illustrated the summer solstice period and the uniquely Canaanite/Phoenician ritual of child sacrifice. It was associated with the Adonai festival, marked in the stars by the Arrow constellation, appearing prior to the zodiac sign of Cancer. The birth of Seth represented the return of the storm god in the autumn, just before Noah’s story begins with the autumn akitu festival. The tower of Babel story follows after Noah, representing the early summer harvest festival of Shavuot. Canaanites (Phoenicians) and Syrians in particular celebrated the holiday by building “Baal’s house” and setting it on fire. The destruction of the tower of Babel represented the bonfire party.
Once you learn the method of following myths through the stars, you will discover that most of the stories in the Bible are illustrated in the Babylonian Star Chart, including the story of Jesus. I describe several Bible stories and other ancient myths as star stories in my book: Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New review of Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity: "Fabulous read, masterfully written"

Review by: Brian Bigelow on Sep. 11, 2010 :

"Sex Rites" is a must read for anyone interested in the origins of Christianity. Diana goes to great lengths to separate fact from myth, using archeological evidence as oppose to theories and conjecture. Included are her personal journeys of discovery while seeking the truth behind the stories, her passion of which appears obvious through her writing. I was personally taken aback while reading, a whole plethora of emotions & ideas swirled through my head, all of which just pushed me to learn more. I am hesitantly ashamed to call her work a revelation, as it appears much of the evidence has been here all along. Her compounding knowledge of the ancient world is staggering; she makes it easy for you to put the missing pieces together. I must warn the reader that some of the information contained may be difficult to hear, but you owe it to yourself to "know the truth from whence you came" so to say. Fabulous read, masterfully written, "Sex Rites" will keep you enthralled till the end.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review of Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity

by Michael R. Schultheiss (posted on Amazon on September 5th, 2010)

Fantastic: Will Change Everything You Thought You Knew About the Bible

Diana Agorio's Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity is a masterful tour-de-force into the realms of ancient culture, astrology and religion, one that offers a revelation of truly Biblical proportions. Agorio's thesis is that Christianity and Judaism have their roots in the ancient cultures of West Asia (Mesopotamia, the Levant and Anatolia), Egypt, and the influence of the Greeks during the Hellenistic (the period of the successor kingdoms to Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire). The book traces the evolution of key religious ideas and practices in the ancient world, from their Bronze Age roots through the Iron Age, the Persian Period, and the Hellenistic, illuminating how they changed and why.

The myths of the ancient world are central to this story, and Agorio brings them alive with consummate skill. The myths were represented in the star patterns of the zodiac, and priestly knowledge of the stars was an important source of their power from the days of ancient Sumer on. Just as the myths were written in the stars, so too they were dramatized in ritual, with sacred temple prostitution and drug use. In the Levant, the region of West Asia which includes Palestine, the Iron Age brought another, far more disturbing practice: child sacrifice.

The sexual practices of the ancient world come alive too: Agorio explains how the institution of the `sacred marriage' became commoditized, particularly in the Persian period, when the power of the priesthoods of West Asia was at an all-time low. Particularly shocking to modern sensibilities is the ancient practice of pedophilia, which was correlated with the rise of the storm gods and chariot warfare in the mid-second millennium BCE. Much later, Plato's idea of `Platonic love' celebrated man-boy sexual relationships--and these practices, when combined with the idea of sacred sex, exerted a seminal influence on Christianity.

Contrary to Biblical myth, the Hebrews emerged in the land of `Canaan' (Palestine) as an indigenous people, scarcely different from their other Semitic cousins in the Levant. Agorio explains that ethnic identities did not exist in West Asia until the Persian period, and West Asia as a whole was characterized by remarkable cultural similarities, with relatively minor regional differences. Like other Levantine peoples, the Iron Age Hebrews worshipped Baal Hadad and Anat/Ishtar/Astarte, the great Goddess, as well as Yahweh, a more local deity. Indeed, the myths of Baal later formed the template for the Biblical myths of Abraham. And throughout the Old Testament, the influence of the Star Chart casts a very long shadow, as Biblical heroes and prophets ranging from Moses and Joshua to Jonah prove to be modeled on `pagan' gods and heroes.

Agorio's deconstruction of the Biblical myths places the writing of most of the Old Testament solidly in the Hellenistic, a time of resurgent priestly power after the relatively secular government of the Persians. Whilst this late dating of the Biblical texts, known as `minimalism', is controversial to religionists who ardently insist on ludicrously-old dates and equally-ludicrous literal interpretations of the myths, the truth is that the literary styles and the contents of the texts themselves clearly mark them as Hellenistic.

But if Agorio's conclusions about the Old Testament seem revolutionary, her treatment of the New Testament is earth-shaking. Even readers who are familiar with the `mythicist' hypothesis that there never was a historical Jesus are in for a shock. Agorio explains that Jesus was essentially a Palestinian, Semitic version of the savior-god Adonis. Inasmuch as Jesus' story in the Gospel of Mark perfectly follows the Babylonian Star Chart, from baptism to death and resurrection, it reveals a profoundly disturbing theology of child sacrifice and ritual drug use articulated in opposition to emergent Judaism. The apostle Paul, in turn, is revealed to be another sacred-drug-user and boy-lover, and a eunuch to boot, a member of a despised and radical Roman subculture who engaged in these practices. Paul's own letters (the authentic ones) take on a whole new light: Paul, like Leviticus before him, condemned homosexual relations between freeborn adult males which were outside the confines of the `sacred marriage' practice in his cult. His supposed condemnations of homosexuality in Romans chapter 1 were in fact condemnations of "lustful" same-sex liaisons. The letter to Philemon proves to be a sordid and chilling request for Paul to keep the slave Onesimus as his personal boy-toy.

A bold challenge to entrenched religious obfuscation, Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity strips away the facades of faith to reveal the Bible's true and sordid origins. If you read no other book on the origins of Christianity and Judaism, read this one. Meet the gods who became men, and the boys who became gods. 5 stars.
Sex Rites: The Origins of Christianity moves up to #9 on Think Atheist's list of recommended books!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Stellar Method for Understanding Bible Stories

Here is an overview of my methods in composing a description of the religious background of Christianity.

It is well accepted in the scholarly community that West Asian myths were primarily star stories, with the characters traveling through the Babylonian zodiac. I explain a few Mesopotamian and Canaanite myth cycles, with events in the stories illustrated by constellations in sequence around the star chart. There is nothing radical about this method of understanding myths. Gavin White, a prominent expert on Babylonian star lore, and others, recognize the zodiac as providing the outline for myths, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh. Greek myths have also successfully been described as star stories. The most obvious Greek star story is the Twelve Labors of Hercules.

It is also well accepted amongst scholars that Bible stories, such as Noah’s Flood, were based on older Mesopotamian myths. I discovered that many Bible stories follow the same path through the zodiac as other West Asian myth cycles. I explain some of the Bible myths as star stories in my book; but, there are others. Once you learn the method, you too can decipher Bible stories as star stories. Far from being far-fetched, this is the most rational method for interpreting ancient mythology. By contrast, it is extremely far-fetched to go in search of an actual flood as the inspiration for Noah’s Flood.

There is consensus within the scholarly community that sex rituals, drug use, and human sacrifice were features of Canaanite/Phoenician religion. Most scholars no longer believe that the Israelites migrated to Canaan; but, were in fact indigenous to the region and were also Canaanites. And, the Bible is full of references to rituals including sex, drugs, and human sacrifice. In fact, the reason archaeological sites containing the remains of Canaanite/Phoenician human sacrifice are called “tophets” is because of the Old Testament usage of the word

Absolutely no one denies that the Old Testament is relevant to the story of Jesus. But, I illustrate that the book of Mark was a star story and also contains references to sex rituals, drug use, and human sacrifice. And, it is clear that the author of Mark knew that he was telling a star story with references to those rituals. It is also the consensus that Mark is the oldest of the gospel stories; so, represents the oldest beliefs of the Early Christians. I also describe Paul in the context of 1st century CE Roman culture and he is the oldest Christian who spoke for himself with his letters. His letters expose the origins of Christianity in the pagan traditions of Palestine

Where I do depart from the majority of American scholars is in stating that the Old Testament was written primarily during the Hellenistic Period, rather than compiled during the Persian Period. The difference of opinion amounts to about 100-200 years. There are a number of scholars, primarily European, who share my view. No one denies that the stories in the Old Testament were based on very old tales, many originating during the Iron Age. Particularly the stories of human sacrifice were based on Iron Age practices in the Levant, because that ritual began sometime around 1000 BCE. But, I explain that the way the stories were told reflect cultural and political changes that were unique to the Hellenistic Period. Even those who claim that there was a compilation of the stories during the Persian Period agree that the stories were edited during Hellenistic Period. So, the biggest difference of opinion is just how much the Hellenistic Period editing affected the theological message of the stories.

However, the reason the dating of the Old Testament is such a hotly debated topic is firmly footed in modern religious belief and Zionism. (Not all Zionists find the Biblical narrative as essential to their claim to the land of Israel. Particularly Sabras (native-born Israelis) find legitimacy in the description of the early Israelites as an indigenous people of Palestine.) Religious believers and many Zionists do not want the culture of ancient Judeans described as polytheistic (pagan) until well into the Greco-Roman Period. But, they simply have no archaeological evidence to support their claims and there is a lot of evidence challenging their position. In this sense, I represent the conservative view, basing my opinion on evidence rather than tradition. My book is radical in that it does not agree with the Christian and Jewish religious traditions that evolved over the last 2000 years. However, those traditional interpretations were composed by people who took the Bible as a literal history book, and believed many wrong things about the ancient world, including that the Noah’s Flood story was absolutely true. Many modern well-intentioned scholars fall into the tradition trap when they accept Bible stories as essentially true without supporting archaeological evidence. They tend to assume that the stories are based on legends rather than myths and think that real historical events inspired the heroic tales. Just because the majority of American scholars fall into that category does not make their view superior to mine. And, I clearly demonstrate that Bible stories were based on star lore mythology and refer to rituals including sex, drugs, and human sacrifice.