RE: [XTalk] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (See Notice Below)
>>Who are these guys? What is their reputation?<<Two authors who like controversial subjects. Freke seems to be the
idea man, and I imagine that Gandy is the guy who does the composing.
As one of the reviews linked to their web page says, the idea is not
new. The parallels with Dionysius were apparent to pagans as early as
the mid 2nd century (Celsus draws attention to it, and possibly Pliny
the Younger ca. 117). Earlier than that I am not so sure, and this is
where many biblical scholars will no doubt disagree with them.
In the past I have noted that Jewish tradition seems to confuse the
Jesus of the Christians with a figure who lived about 100 years
earlier in the reign of Alexander Janneus. The parallels with Pagan
religious traditions have been seriously studied since the 19th
century, especially among those associated with the "History of
Religions" school of thought. I'm sure you'll find something about the
19th and very early 20th century works on the subject in A.
Schweitzer's _Quest_. In more recent times I have read _Religious
Syncretism in Antiquity_ (AAR Series on Formative Contemporary
Thinkers, vol 1, ed. Birger Pearson, Scholars Press, 1975) which is a
collection of essays concerned with how and why one tradition gets
combined with another. In between these extremes I am a little fuzzy
However, there has been widespread resistance to the idea that Jesus
is an entirely mythical figure, as it seems too much other evidence
exists that he once existed. Where everyone differs in opinion is in
defining what kind of person the historical figure actually was, and
what kinds of things he would have likely done. There are minimalists
(and I confess to being one) and maximalists (by far the majority).
How much of that evidence is historical and how much is legend or myth
is the question, and perhaps the authors in question can expand some
of our perspectives.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
I was able to buy a copy of this book a couple days ago. According to
the dust jacket, Timothy Freke has a BA in philosophy and Peter Gandy
has a MA in classical civilizations, and have co-authored three
previous books, _The Complete Guide to World Mysticism_, _Hermetica:
The Lost Wisdom of the Pharoahs_ and _The Wisdom of the Pagan
Philosophers_. Pretty much popular level stuff, it seems.
Usually when I check out a new book I look first at the critical
notes. These take up about 64 pages out of a total of 343 (18% of the
book), and it appears they want this book to be taken seriously. These
cite all sorts of authorities, including primary sources, but rely
heavily on secondary sources even for points that are seminal to their
thesis. They also have a bibliography (7 pages with roughly 220 works
cited), which features authors who are all over the map as far as
orientation. I noticed J. Allegro, G. R. S. Mead, G. A. Wells, and
Carl Jung mixed in with specialists on the Greek mysteries and
translations of the classics (no LCL editions, only Penguin editions).
Another technique I like to employ is to look at the final chapter
first, as this usually tells you the most about the authors'
orientation and/or agendas. They appear to believe that "[m]ystics of
all spiritual traditions have taught that there is only one Truth,
ever present and never changing" (pg 255). To them, Christian
mythology was created to serve the purposes of a mystery religion and
is not based in any way on a real Jesus, but rather is synthesized
from the common myths of mystery religions in general. This truth has
been hijacked in the interests of "Literalist Christianity," which
"has ... been the cause of deep divisions". They hope that their Jesus
Mysteries Thesis (it's official, I guess) will offer an "opportunity
to heal the wounds left in the Western soul by these dreadful schisms"
Reading through several chapters, I found them using generalities
quite a bit more than made me comfortable. The portions on the
mysteries themselves are less tedious than those on Christianity,
which almost come across as a lecture (in the negative sense). They
come across as people who "know" exactly what has going on in ancient
minds, and all things seem to be interpreted from their perspective
that a universal mystical truth existed (and exists).
As for the parallels between Christian traditions and the myths of the
mystery religions, which on the face of things do make me scratch my
head and ponder, I would think that the reader would derive most
benefit by tracing back the footnotes to the primary source documents
and creating a database of parallels as well as devising a means to
grade their similarities and differences. The worse that could happen
would be that the reader would know a whole lot more about such
parallels than s/he did before. I am very probably going to do just
this at some point in the future, solely due to the prompting of this
Cleveland, Ohio, USA