While I think the "History of Religion" school has some interesting things to say (mainly the process of syncretism), I am not impressed by their attempts to explain how these myths evolved. I accept that some myths are just ad-hoc "explanations" for the quirks of the nature of things (weather, flash floods, lightening strikes, out of control fires, who runs the gov'ment, etc.). They are attempts to explain what is beyond their comprehensions (they knew almost nothing about science or chemistry, etc.) by using human models (family relationships, rule as exercised by various kings, etc.).MrMacSon wrote: ↑Fri Dec 29, 2017 4:28 pmComments from elsewhere -
1. 'Thomas Brodie argues that Jesus is a creation of (Christian) scribes working from the Hebrew Bible.'
2. 'Robert M Price thinks Jesus was a divine figure inferred or developed from Jewish scripture who was historicized along the same pattern as other pagan gods, with the quasi-historical Gospel stories consisting largely of reworked narratives and themes from the Tanakh (like Brodie).'
- (responding to person 1's comment that ''Price, on the other hand [ie. cf. Brodie], is from the history of religion school and argues that Jesus is a 'Christianization' of pagan myths").
But what the authorities cited above seem to be saying is that some very complex redeemer myth(s) had been "humanized" by symbolically placing them in the known stream of history. I don't know if that is reasonable. It would not be easily explained as part of the process of syncretism. One authority on the subject is Birger Pearson, also known for his advocacy of the position that Gnosticism as practiced in 2nd-3rd century CE was fueled by Judean sages escaping the wars in Judea in the 1st century, whose view of their national God suffered by the repeated defeats of the Judean rebels, developed "Sethian" style Gnosticism. He thinks they synthesized their Gnostic world view by exposure to a pre-existing non-Judean/non-Christian redeemer myth (i.e., via the process of syncretism), to which a modified Judean worldview was blended.
For those interested in Syncretism I'd recommend this book, Religious syncretism in antiquity: essays in conversation with Geo Widengren / edited by Birger A. Pearson 1975. While I have it, it is a photocopy sitting with about 20 others on top of my bookshelves so I have not looked for it. IIRC, this was a collection of English translations of Pearson's essays on Syncretism from his days in Scandinavia. It is actually a typed and offset printed book, but that's how you self-published things in the 1970s.
Other works of his that may be worth chasing down:
*Philo and the gnostics on man and salvation: protocol of the twenty-ninth colloquy, 17 April, 1977 ed. Birger Pearson 1977. [I don't have this one, but probably also a typed and offset printed selection of papers presented by various participants in the conference.]
*The Roots of Egyptian Christianity / Birger A. Pearson & James E. Goehring, editors 1986. [Have this one, very interesting.]
*"Eusebius and Gnosticism" in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism / edited by Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata 1992. [Haven't read this one ... yet.]
*"Theurgic Tendencies in Gnosticism and Iamblichus's Conception of Theurgy" in Neoplatonism and gnosticism / Richard T. Wallis, editor, Jay Bregman, associate editor 1992. [Again, this sounds very interesting. Andrew C. would also like it, if he hasn't already read it.]
*Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt / Birger A. Pearson 2004. [Got this one, again very interesting.]
*"Gnosticism as a religion" in Was there a gnostic religion? / edited by Antti Marjanen 2005. [Don't have this one either ... yet.]
One thing you will not see there, is any treatment of the idea that cosmic myths were humanized. Euhemerus had proposed the idea that the myths about many of the commonly worshipped gods were symbolic deifications of human heroes of old. These folks thus became the nucleuses around which accreted those cosmic explanations of why things happen. However, this is not the same as explaining how cosmic myths can become humanized. The human man deified as Zeus was not a god, nor was he - as a deified man - really a cosmic God, as Jesus was imagined by Christians to have been from the start.