Talk:Second-god (Christ)

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This Christianity related article has been assessed as SIGNIFICANTLY PROBLEMATIC in one or more ways. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.

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This article requires attention for the following reason(s):

Excessive reliance on Richard Carrier, a source which has been deemed questionable.

Worthless article[edit]

This may be the worst article on RationalWiki. Name one reputable scholar (who isn't Carrier) who has come to the same conclusion about Philo and Zechariah without just piggybacking off of Carrier. Friedman (talk) 16:17, 10 December 2021 (UTC)

Changed rating to significantly problematic as a result. --Andrew5 (talk) 22:05, 11 December 2021 (UTC)
I don't foresee much being done on this article. The only reason Philo's idea of a "Second-god" is supposedly notable enough to merit an article is because of its use to support the idea of a non-historical Jesus by mythicists. Any improvements will simply result in an article covering an obscure topic that's only talked about among Biblical scholars. Friedman (talk) 14:22, 27 December 2021 (UTC)

Carrier's use of Philo[edit]

I'll be looking into other claims brought up in the article later, but I've looked through some sources to get a grip on the Philo issue, and this seems to be what I found. Forgive the length, but I felt it was necessary.

The problem is that, among scholars, Carrier's view (based on his interpretation of both Philo of Alexandria and the Book of Zechariah) is really only held by Carrier himself.

A little background: the consensus view (that virtually all scholars agree with) is that there was Jewish man named Yeshua, who was baptized, became a preacher, and was later crucified by Roman leaders. The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and his crucifixion by the Romans are the two events that virtually all scholars agree on. They are so solidly proven that Biblical scholars see them as sort of a starting point for Biblical studies.

I bring this all up, so I can contrast Carrier's viewpoint. Carrier posits that Jesus was never a historical being, only ever a mythic character. He believes that early Jews and Christians knew this, but over time, things got twisted, mixed up, whatever, and they eventually believed he was a real person. This is an extremely fringe viewpoint. That all needs to be said to understand Carrier's reading of Philo, and therefore, this article.

Philo wrote a somewhat contemporaneous book called "de Confusione Linguarum" ("On the Confusion of Tongues"). There's a passage in it which goes like this:

"(62) I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: "Behold, a man whose name is the East!" A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity.

(63) For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns."

Most scholars, including Carrier, take Philo's quote "Behold, a man whose name is East!" to be a reference to Zechariah 6:11-12 in which God is speaking directly to Zechariah, saying (using King James' Version, as version changes don't alter the argument in any fundamental way):

"11: Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

12: And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:"

To make the connection between the two, you need to know that the word for "branch" (also "sprout", as it is in some translations) in Biblical Hebrew (the language of Zechariah) is the same as the word for "east" in Ancient Greek (the language of Philo).

Now, we finally get to understand what Carrier is saying when he claims that this passage supports what he calls a "celestial Jesus". He claims that the Zechariah passage establishes that a man named Joshua would be seen as God's "first-born" son (thus, second-God), as well as a king of the Jews. He believes that Philo's interpretation of Zechariah solidifies this interpretation into the historical record, that even before the alleged historical birth of Jesus around AD 0, early Jews considered Jesus to be a mythical, angelic being rather than a flesh-and-blood one.

This argument (which makes up much of the foundation of Carrier's "celestial Jesus" theory) depends on three things though:

1) Carrier must be reading Zechariah right.
2) Carrier must be reading Philo right.
3) Philo's view must have been the common interpretation at the time.

Let's look at these one at a time.

1) Carrier's reading of Zechariah.

It's pretty clear that Carrier grossly misread the relevant passage in Zechariah. Looking at more of the surrounding passage shows this:

"11: Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

12: And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:

13: Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."

Just from the text, it's clear that Joshua and "The Branch" are two different people. But digging further makes a greater case. The Joshua mentioned in the passage is clearly not meant to be Jesus, nor an angel. He is a man: Joshua, son of Jozadak. Joshua, son of Jozadak, was a High Priest of Israel, and appears elsewhere in the Bible, always introduced as "Joshua, son of Jozadak." Joshua was, in fact, a very common name at the time, being one of the top six names for Jewish males. There are at least three other men named Joshua in the Bible (in 1 Samuel 6:14, 2 Kings 23:8, and Luke 3:29), and that's not including the Joshua who served as Moses' assistant and, later, successor, for whom the Old Testament Book of Joshua is named. Why, if Jesus was thought to be an angel, would he get such a common name? Further speaking of names, Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus, etc. doesn't match with the names of other angels from this period, which generally end in 'el' (meaning "of God"). Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc.

2) Carrier's reading of Philo.

It should be noted that scholars aren't unanimous in their interpretation of Philo's passage. That being said, Carrier is the only one who holds his viewpoint; other scholars find it absurd.

Like Zechariah, it's worth looking at a wider section of Philo as well:

"(60) But those who conspired to commit injustice, he says, "having come from the east, found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt There;" speaking most strictly in accordance with nature. For there is a twofold kind of dawning in the soul, the one of a better sort, the other of a worse. That is the better sort, when the light of the virtues shines forth like the beams of the sun; and that is the worse kind, when they are overshadowed, and the vices show forth.

(61) Now, the following is an example of the former kind: "And God planted a paradise in Eden, toward the East," not of terrestrial but of celestial plants, which the planter caused to spring up from the incorporeal light which exists around him, in such a way as to be for ever inextinguishable.

(62) I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: "Behold, a man whose name is the East!" A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity.

(63) For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns."

Some scholars believe that the "first-born" more logically refers to Adam. Some believe Philo is making a cross between allegory and pun, using the words "rising" and "east." Either way, I fail to see how Carrier's interpretation fits into this, and find both of those interpretations far more likely than Carrier's.

3) Philo's view being the popular one

Even if we grant Carrier the other two, there's no evidence whatsoever that Philo's view (per Carrier) was the dominant one.

Conclusion: I believe I have shown here that Carrier's interpretations are not viable. Even if they were viable, they'd have to contend with the much more logical interpretations of Zechariah and Philo put forth by other scholars, and the fact that Philo's interpretation (per Carrier) has nothing to suggest it was a dominant or popular viewpoint. — Unsigned, by: Friedman / talk / contribs

Thanks for that. Friedman (talk) 00:36, 13 December 2021 (UTC)