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237 of 274 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Provocative, February 21, 2000
This review is from: The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold (Paperback)
The further one goes into this book, the more one recognizes how vast is the mythological background of the ancient world that the modern era has completely lost sight of. Those who imagine that the Gospel story represents singular historical events are in for a shock when they realize the degree to which the Christian myth of Jesus of Nazareth was a reflection of mythical motifs and traditions which saturated ancient and even prehistoric cultures. There is barely an original or virgin bone in Christ's body, and Christians in the early centuries were regularly assailed by pagan detractors who accused them of reworking old ideas and copying from a host of predecessors.
The other thing the reader comes to recognize is that Acharya S has done a superb job in bringing together this rich panoply of ancient world mythology and culture, and presenting it in a comprehensive and compelling fashion. Moreover, she grabs the reader from the first page and doesn't let go. Her style is colorful, bold, occasionally (and justifiably) indignant, even a touch reckless at times, but never off the track--a little like an exciting roller coaster ride. It may take a fair amount of concentration to absorb all this material, but even if you don't integrate everything on first reading, the broader strokes will leave you convinced that the story of Jesus is simply an imaginative refashioning of the mythological heritage of centuries and that no such man ever existed.
She covers a wide range of interesting and provocative topics, with plenty of stimulating insights. Especially effective is her attention to elements of the Old Testament that one doesn't usually encounter in biblical studies: astrology in the bible, the mythological nature of much of the Old Testament material, the falsity of the idea that the Hebrews were monotheistic, even a chapter on Sex and Drugs. She delves into Egyptian and Indian precedents for the possible derivation of many of the bible's traditions. When she ranges even further afield and notes the astonishingly widespread commonality of certain religious and cultural motifs from one end of the planet to the other, extending back into very ancient times, we are on intriguing if speculative ground, but for the most part the author simply lets the data speak for itself, and readers can draw what conclusions their own adventurous spirits might wish.
As for her detailed picture of how Gospel elements closely conform to astrological and mythological symbols in the atmosphere of the time, or how the story of Jesus parallels the features of other savior gods: if even half of these things were in the minds of the Gospel writers when they fashioned their symbolic tale (to which one could add the midrashic borrowing of passages from the Hebrew scriptures to provide so much of the Gospel structure, its `events' and even their wording), there can be no doubt that such writers were well aware that their work had nothing to do with history.
There are those who have expressed some uncertainty about the scholarship which originally presented some of the subject matter dealt with in this book, since much of it comes from the 19th and early 20th centuries. But there is a prominent reason why today's researcher is inevitably thrown back on this early period of investigation. The so-called History of Religions School was a feature of that period, represented by such luminaries as Reitzenstein, Bousset and Cumont, and other, less famous scholars. Its conclusions about the relation of Christianity to the thought and religious expression of the time, especially in regard to the mystery cults and even solar mythology, proved very unpalatable to mainstream New Testament study. That was also the period of intense examination of the idea that no Jesus had existed at all (J. M. Robertson, Arthur Drews, the Dutch Radical School, etc.). The result was a backlash and a circling of the wagons, creating a fortress mentality against such scholarship for the latter three-quarters of the 20th century. As a result, there has been little recent investigation of that History of Religions material, especially sympathetic investigation. Acharya may draw to some degree on that older scholarship, but while certain aspects of it are necessarily a little dated, one of the things which struck me in her quotations from it (and more and more of it is now being reprinted) is how perceptive and compelling most of it continues to be. We sorely need a new History of Religions School for the 21st century, to apply modern techniques to this important ancient material. Perhaps this book will help bring that about.
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 1, 2009 8:53:32 AM PDT
Ciao Gurkha says:
Excellent review. I was saddened to read of the passage of Earl to the other side last April. We will miss his wit, charm, and morbid sense of irony (and odd way of spelling the word "bathyscape"

ciao // gurkha

Posted on May 1, 2009 8:54:22 AM PDT
Ciao Gurkha says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Dec 31, 2009 9:06:04 PM PST
I had to come & read Earl's review after reading that mental spew from some "atheist" guy named Todd. Phew! Earl is a real breath of SANITY. He actually knows what he's talking about, unlike these other KOOKS.

Posted on Feb 4, 2010 3:23:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 4, 2010 4:13:48 PM PST
Readers interested in the question of pagan influence on early Christianity may enjoy 'The Jesus Legend' by Boyd and Eddy. The authors (Christian academics) offer a detailed analysis of this issue that is well researched and accessible to the general reader. While they do not directly respond to Ms Murduck (I am not aware of any scholars that do), they interact with Doherty, Wells, Mack and other contemporary skeptical commentators. Readers interested in a scholarly approach to the skeptical argument may enjoy writers such Wells, Mack, Funk or Crossan.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2010 2:31:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2010 2:32:06 PM PST
Savanthar says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2010 6:32:08 AM PST
Reader says:

Are you aware of any detailed scholarly responses to Ms Murdock's work? I would appreciate any sources you can recommend, I have seen a few brief on-line responses but, am not aware of any journal articles or books from mainstream academics that deal with her work. Thanks in advance.

Posted on Jan 18, 2011 11:25:03 PM PST
Earl Doherty did not pass "to the other side" last April. He's alive and well ... unless someone else is running his website and answering my e-mails to him ... and someone has wiped out all trace on the Web of his obituary. Cheer up.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2011 2:31:05 PM PDT
Murdock is not in the academic mainstream, obviously. Those who are, such as Crossan and (less so) Jack Miles, are lauded, but their conclusions are silly compared to Murdock's. Institutionalized thought is incapable of coming to "incorrect" conclusions about established
religions, evidently.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2011 7:59:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 25, 2011 8:58:09 AM PDT
Reader says:
Mr Raymond;

I came across an on-line critic of Ms Murdoch's work by the Christian apologist/historian Mike Licona entitled `A Refutation of Acharya S's book, The Christ Conspiracy". I believe there is a response by Ms Murdoch and a further response by Licona also available (I have not read the entire thread in detail). While it is critical of Murdoch's work you may find it interesting if you have not already seen it. Cheers

Posted on Apr 17, 2012 4:39:37 AM PDT
Murdoch's book is motivated by anger rather than scholarly inquiry, but uses pseudo-academic style to pass itself off as legit. It is a heated attack on Christianity and just about anything she can connect to it. Most Amazon comments and reviews above seem to be chosen to dress it up as a serious book. It's not; there are holes everywhere. By any academic standard it's a fraudulent propagandist book; in the same way that Gavin Menzies's 1421 book on China fooled non-academics people for a time into taking it as scholarly (but not sinologists).

I challenge anyone to find Murdoch's name in any serious discussion of comparative religion.

As far as religious belief goes, Neither Doherty, nor Murdoch, nor most others of their ilk seem to realize that "proof" is simply not an issue for religious believers. For any well-formed believing Christian, a book proving Jesus didn't (or doesn't) exist (historically or otherwise) is a curiosity that is entirely beside the religious point. Christians believe Jesus (both in him and in what he says) because we love him. Kierkegaard said it well: "God does not 'exist': He is eternal." People like Murdoch are trying to use epistemology to "solve" ontological questions; but these are questions of entirely different orders.
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