Q&A on the evidence-based history of Chrestianity

Here I answer some of the questions asked within the G+, Blogger and Twitter community which has built up over the years. Most of my earlier answers are comments within posts of other members and so not easily found.

First, the method:

Q1. On what basis is this history "evidence-based"?
A1: Broadly, this means contemporaneous and artefactual, i.e. based on artefacts (of any medium) belonging to the time period addressed. Conversely, it is independent of artefacts belonging to later periods and more especially those of monastic production claiming, with no evidentiary support, to be true copies of earlier manuscripts which were somehow then "lost".

Q2. Doesn't this approach eliminate many characters who are generally assumed to be historical?
A2. Historical characters of note tend to be mentioned by their contemporaries, to have produced texts (books, correspondence etc.) of their own, to figure in inscriptions or coins, and so on - that is, to have left their mark, or footprint in the historical record. My method is to look at the period of their existence and see what is there (rather than rely on manuscripts of a later period). Also, I take a prosopographical approach:
In historical studies, prosopography is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis. Prosopographical research has the goal of learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography; it collects and analyses statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals. This makes it a valuable technique for studying many pre-modern societies.
Julius Caesar as pontiff
Q3: On what basis do you ignore ancient texts and people?
A3: "Ancient" does not necessarily mean contemporary to the people and artefacts being studied. Archaeology deals with cultural layers, which are studied layer by layer, so more recent objects may not be inserted into an older layer. Proper historiography also sets similar rules of evidence, to avoid falsification of the historical record.
I treat only evidence within the cultural layer, or if later, that which can be demonstrated with reasonable certitude to refer to the layer being studied.

Q4: So who have you eliminated?
Emperor Augustus as pontiff
A4: I have demonstrated a total lack of Christianity during the early centuries of this modern era and maybe further. The Christian histories claimed to belong to Antiquity are nothing of the sort: they were written centuries later, mostly by unknown monks claiming - with no support - to be making copies of earlier works. Though we have these copies, all the manuscripts they claimed to copy have disappeared, from monastic scriptoria across Europe, North Africa and the Near East, so there is no evidence for what they claimed. This eliminates Eusebius of Caesarea and many of the Christians he describes, Lactantius. Augustine of Hippo and, in fact, virtually all the Christian textual tradition.

Q5: What does "textual tradition" mean? Isn't that history?
A5: The term describes the claims made by Christian writers long after the event, with no evidence to support them and also, little or no evidence for either the characters they describe, or even the identity of the monk who claimed to have made a copy. That is, the copyist is unknown, there is no other evidence for the existence of the character purported to have existed in the earlier times, no context and no provenance. The textual tradition is self-referencing and is not historical; it is a mythology.

Q6: Are you claiming that these Christian lied? That Eusebius, for example, is a liar?
A6: Some Christians lied - the monks who forged the textual tradition by either inventing earlier Christians, or altering actual histories, then hiding (or destroying the earlier manuscripts). I am not claiming the fictional characters such as Eusebius lied: they never existed.

Next: authority.

Q7: Who are you to contradict eminent historians?
A7: Just a basic, field archaeologist, following the rules of evidence within both archaeology and historiography. I show the artefacts I interpret, reference my sources and present the best reasoning of which I am able. I attempt to let the evidence speak for itself as far as is possible, then it is up to you.

Q8: But don't you claim to know better than everyone else?
A8: I did not start out knowing better. It has taken years of hard work and some hard thinking. Yes, now I do know better, but this comes, not from being extra bright, but simply by following the rules. Science begins with observation and when I observe a cultural layer and see something other than Christianity, I say so and try to analyse and interpret what is there to observe. Others inserted later and weak evidence, which is an improper method, no matter how distinguished the scholar.

Q9: Why should I trust you? I'd rather trust my parents/priest/teacher.
A9: Trusting me, or not, is immaterial to the arguments I make, for they should be capable of standing on their own. Gather the facts and arguments, then trust your own, informed opinion. I trust you in this.


Q10: Where did Chrestianity originate?
A10: The short answer is Cleopatra VII and her relationships with first, Julius Caesar and his adopted son, who became the first Roman Emperor (Augustus), and Mark Antony. She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty ruling Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great and was the first to learn Egyptian. The Ptolemies syncretised their Greek faith with that of the more ancient pharaohs and she declared herself the resurrected goddess Isis; the cult Isis Chrest appears. Her faith entered the newly-formed empire as Chrestianity - the first named Chrestian is Antonia Minor (a daughter of Mark Antony and his wife Octavia, sister of emperor Augustus), her husband Drusus and the Pompeii banker Jucundus.

Q11: What does Chrest mean?
A11: I think that changes with time and culture. It's a Greek word:
Transliteration: chrēstos
Root Word (Etymology): From χράομαι
Outline of Biblical Usage:
 fit, fit for use, useful
   virtuous, good
   mild, pleasant (as opp. to harsh, hard sharp, bitter)
   of things: more pleasant, of people, kind, benevolent

However, it is also associated with the Greek Chi Rho (XP), which I think descends from the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of resurrection. Belief is not static, so as with things cultural, is dynamic, and in the case of Cleopatra, then Antonia Minor and later Chrestians, the meaning, the theology, developed (in stages, over centuries).

Q12: Is there a difference between Chrest and Christ, and between Chrestianity and Christianity?
Emperor Hadrian as pontiff
A12: Chrestianity begins as a cult in the early-first century; its primary aim appears to be to support the royal hostage children of Antonia Minor (and her mother) as they return to their provinces as rulers; as part of this support, they opposed messianic Judaism, which they saw as a threat to both the Herodian dynasty in Judaea, and other Roman clients in the Levant.
There is no mention of Jesus Christ for a number of centuries into the modern era; the principal divine man of the early texts has his name abbreviated, or "Is Chrest" is used. There is no contemporaneous explanation for either, so we can only speculate. Chrestianity, however, began without this divine man, so whatever it was, we can say that likely it begins as as a Greco-Egyptian-Roman-Jewish syncretism, based on the Isis Myth of death and resurrection. Philo, the philosopher of Alexandria, provided the theology; his brother became the estate manager of Antonia Minor and the official (alabarch) in charge of trade out of that port.

Antinous as Osiris
Fragments of the gospel story can be found at Dura Europos, the Roman trading post on its eastern border with Mesopotamia: a fragment containing phrases later to appear in the gospels, and a baptistery with frescoes also portraying elements of the gospel story. They date to the first half of the 3rd century and the divine man is named as Is Chrest. The many evidences of the period point strongly to this being a magician, using a wand to perform his magic. In sum, we may say with confidence that Chrestianity in the early centuries is overtly magical, with its primary concern being resurrection through baptism; this is how it differs from the Egyptian rites in The Book of the Dead, which is concerned with guiding the soul of the dead to an afterlife. In 130, the emperor Hadrian sacrificially drowned Antinous in the Nile, in imitation of the Isis Myth, then resurrected him as a deity, which tells us how the theology is yet to reach the stage found in the gospel story, where the man is born divine, sacrificed and physically resurrected.

The original New Testament, produced probably in the 4th century, still features Is Chrest. The emperor Constantine the Great wears the Chi-Rho, overtly Chrestian.

The first bishop appears to be Julia Crispina, daughter of the last heir to the Herodian throne; she is named as such in legal documents of the early-2nd century. Women are typically the leading Chrestians.

Lastly, Christianity:

Q13: When does Christianity first appear?
A13: This has been the single most difficult question and the answer is more suggestive than definitive; the primary reason for this difficulty is that none of the early texts have been dated scientifically and reliably. Moving forward, century by century through the artefactual evidences, the most likely scenario is that the idea was to recreate the unity of the Roman Empire, in part at least to resist the Arab Conquests (in the 8th century); the originator of this concept appears to be Alquin of York, persuading Charles I to form the Holy Roman Empire; at this time, the Eastern Empire (now known as Byzantium) and the Holy Roman Empire was able to impose its will on the East.

Q14: What is the Roman Church and what is its history?
A15: Since Augustus formed the Roman Empire (though this was a step perhaps determined by Julius Caesar), there has been a centralised religion in Rome; the emperors took the office of Ponitfex Maximus, "pontiff". The Church today largely follows the institutions and rituals of empire;  when Constatine adopted the Chi-Rho, this was more overtly Chrestian and much later, Christian.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

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