Proto-On the Soul

During the past week I have had the occasion to have to endure Christian preaching at two separate funeral services. Having been a ministerial candidate myself many years ago I can actually sympathize with a preacher who really does not know the deceased and, yet, has to come up with something to say. Even so, my endurance was early tested when  this particular minister began, lightly, articulating the concept of the tripartite (human) being. Yes, he confidently stated, we are creatures of three distinct parts; body, soul and spirit, mirroring “God’s” nature of a trinitarian being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Never mind that this is patently illogical, this is what is widely taught in Christian circles. This concept is most directly taken from the New Testament passage of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 which reads “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). Thus, an entire Christian doctrine is based on this verse almost exclusively.

I have entitled this “Proto-On the Soul” for the simple reason that I do not wish to delve extensively, in any detail, with the concept of the soul. I may well do that at some later point. After all, it has already been done multiple times by other authors before me, including ancient ones. One excellent treatise can be found on-line at This article, entitled “Ancient Theories of Soul”, authored by Hendrik Lorenz, lays out in excellent detail the basic understandings of the concept of soul held by the most important ancient writers, most especially Platon (Plato), in Phaedo and Republic. Needless to say (or, perhaps, it is necessary to say), nowhere is the idea of the tripartite being postulated among these ancient intellectuals although it is postulated that the soul itself can be divided into three parts, but not separate, independent, parts. In essence, if we read the New Testament passage literally, as those who hold to the Christian tripartite concept do, we are actually reading a (perhaps deliberate) corruption of Platonic understanding.

To make things even more clear, it is patently illogical to posit that both a soul and a spirit inhabit a living human body, but this is what the tripartite concept stipulates. First of all, definitions provide the detail necessary to make this clear. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, for example, “spirit” is defined as “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms” while “soul” is defined as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life”. Not much difference, right? In fact, there is NO difference. So, to posit that there is a difference between spirit and soul is illogical. But this is what Christians generally do in order to always place their beliefs above anything else; logic, reason, science, evidence – anything. After all, the Bible has to be infallible or their faith is in vain. That would be like us Pagans accepting Thale’s belief that magnets were alive because they moved on their own when coming into contact with one another as “gospel” and an infallible belief that we MUST accept or be damned. Just because something is animate does not mean that it is alive. if that were the case then we would have to say that machines or robots are alive. What an idiotic concept that would be! The concept of the tripartite human being is equally idiotic.

Inherent in Platon’s writings here runs a distinct train of thought, although it is not easy to notice if one does not pay attention. Platon makes a point that I will put into my own words. Beliefs are a symptom of a polluted soul, a soul that has not risen to excellence. This, because beliefs are beneath the aspirations of the good soul. Belief, therefore, is a far lower level of cognition than understanding. Humans have a more advanced soul than other living things. Base beliefs and emotions come mainly from the flesh (Phaedo). And beliefs are basically synonymous with baser desires, such as the desire for sex or the desire to accumulate money (Republic).

But, Christianity is a religion based almost entirely on “belief”. It is your belief and your child-like faith that matters, not your logic or reason. THIS, in fact, is where Christianity goes wrong and turns every ancient concept upside-down. As a Pagan who has an understanding of logic and reason and who does not place belief above evidence I sometimes feel sorry for the Christian and other monotheist who has to hold to vain belief, because they literally have nothing else. When death comes, would you rather understand or believe? For me, understanding is far better.

Yes, Jesus Was Real

Hard to believe, I know, but apparently this just has to be flatly stated so there can be no mistake made here. Jesus WAS real (although he was not quite the person depicted in the gospels). I know that I just made almost every atheist on the planet mad now by saying that because they have this peculiar penchant for believing that he could not have been real (and think they can prove it), but I don’t care. So, anyone who wishes to argue with me about it, don’t bother because, again, I don’t care. It does not bother me for one solid minute whether you (that means anyone) believe he was a real person or not. I am not here to convince you. So you can stomp around and hiss and squeal and cry about it all you want. Go sit in your little safe corner and dispense with the idea that you are going to argue me into submission. You won’t.

Now that I have got that out of the way (and got your attention), the logical question in any reader’s mind here has to be just what provoked that little diatribe. Well, you see, it all started when I posted something on Facebook about being tired of every Tom, Dick, and Harry writing books proposing to answer questions like this when they clearly do not have the training to properly evaluate the evidence that exists. Case in point, the relatively new book “No Meek Messiah” by Michael Paulkovich. Here is the statement I posted with reference to his book:

“So very tired of just anyone and everyone coming up with their own “theories” on this subject – the author, Paulkovich, is neither a theologian nor a real scholar in the field of theology (he is an aerospace engineer of something….). His analysis is deeply flawed because his method is not based on sound understanding of the documentation. He begins with an assumption, something always to be avoided if utilizing logic or reason, that just because we don’t see references to Jesus written by an astounding number of authors, then Jesus must not have really been real. In actuality, as I have read the reviews of this book, this part of his thesis is only a small part of his overall book and, therefore, it is unfair to characterize his book as emphasizing this, as is done here [in the article I posted along with my statement]. Be that as it may, this analysis is still deeply flawed for the above reasons. Frankly, some of the so-called “authors” listed are believed to have, perhaps, been fictional too – Apollonius of Tyana being, perhaps, most notable among them. The entire thing is an argument from absence, a logical fallacy. As I have heard it said “Should’a, would’a, could’a”. Such an argument is meaningless. If you want to know who the historical Jesus really may have been (for he really did exist) there are a number of scholarly books that can be consulted, including my own “Apocalypse and Armageddon”. Such “research” as this should be left to real theologians and historical scholars, not to those who have no background concerning whatever they might read.”

Now, to be even more fair, I don’t really like to counter another author’s hard work (for writing books can be quite taxing) unless he/she really merits it. The fact of the matter is that Paulkovich actually asks a good question in that he wonders why there are so few first-hand accounts of Jesus. BUT, the real truth is that he would not be asking the question in the first place if he had proper theological and historical training. Otherwise, he would already know the answer. To sum up what the answer would be, basically, it’s because; (1) we have so few records still extant from that time period so that, even if Jesus had been written about more, we would never know it because so much has been destroyed. (2) historians write about what they want to write about. They focus on what THEY want to focus on. No historian writes about everything and everybody even if they do know about them. Just because I know who Jimmy Carter is does not require me to write something about him. And (3) good historians utilize source material. They don’t just start writing willy-nilly off the cuff making stuff up without a reference. This means that they get their materials from either first hand sources or each other, i.e., other historians. And even then one historian will not utilize all of the material from another one. if they did history would be boring indeed. It would be endlessly repeated. SO, the answer as to why any number of people would not have written about Jesus even if they knew something about him is basically “because they either did and the material has been lost or because they didn’t want to”. It’s really that simple.

If you read that which had been written about him, and also about Christianity, during the earliest two centuries CE you will find that, frankly, he, and it, did not really attract much attention during those about two-hundred years. Nobody cared about Jesus or Christianity. And when they did write about him/it the remarks were usually quite disparaging, again showing that they simply did not care about the subject. The Roman mind simply believed it was a fad and that it would soon just go away on its own. Only when they began to see that it wasn’t going away did they start to take real notice of it and begin to write very much about it.

By now the reader should be already saying, quietly in his/her mind, “but you are off subject. Wasn’t the question whether Jesus was real or not?” Correct. Having pointed out that the above question as to why so many had not written about Jesus was actually a genuinely good question – for a novice with little or no training in history and/or theology, it is indeed time to move on to the primary question of whether Jesus was a real person or not. That, however, is actually NOT a good question. In fact, it is an unfathomably idiotic question. Here is the reason why. In reading any given history (and I am speaking to the novice as well as the seasoned scholar) one does not question the reality of those mentioned in said history unless one has an agenda for so doing. If you read about the exploits of Alexander the Great, for example, you don’t suddenly stop somewhere along the way and think, “Hey, this guy is unbelievable. I’m not sure he was really real. Nobody could have done all these things. In fact, I’m sure he wasn’t real and I am going to base my entire outlook on that ‘fact'”. When we read the Q’uran, as another example, we don’t stop and say “Hey, this Muhammad guy just doesn’t seem real. I don’t believe he was. I think I will base my entire outlook on that”. No, this simply does not happen. So the real truth is that if one does not question the reality of people like Alexander or Muhammad then there is simply no good reason to question the reality of Jesus – none! There is actually just as much evidence for one as there is for another. And even if there might conceivably be more evidence for the life of, say, Alexander, than the other two, it doesn’t matter. One does not reject the existence of a person in history just because you don’t see “enough” evidence from historical writings. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I’m sorry atheists (and others), your thesis that Jesus was not a real person is simply incorrect because there is more than enough evidence (and I don’t have to go into all of it because I already have in “Apocalypse and Armageddon”) to show this.

The actual question to be asked is not whether Jesus existed as a person or not, but who Jesus really was (and, if you are among the faithful, who is he to you personally). And the fact of the matter is that there are any number of books out there by wonderful scholars proposing to answer this very question in one way or another. As scholars, theologians, and historians, these authors look at the question from various viewpoints. These books, for the most part, are well worth reading. I utilized several of them in writing my own previously referenced book (remember, that’s part of what historians do).

So, please forgive me if I seem a bit annoyed whenever anyone asks the question as to whether Jesus existed as a real person or not and, sometimes on top of that, they won’t even bother to accept my direction to read scholarly books on the subject (the horror of having to read an actual book!!!). I’m sorry for those who have to have everything handed to them and explained to them individually while they try to argue every single point. I am simply not going to engage in that. But I am most sorry for the atheist who has this as his/her foundation – that there was no person named Jesus that the Christian religion was built around (some even maintaining that the Romans deliberately made up Christianity as a way to control the masses) – because as long as they maintain this as foundational then their entire world-view is subject to destruction. They are even more to be pitied than the Christian who builds his/her entire theology on the existence of an esoteric Christ who could not have existed at all. THAT is the Jesus who never really was, although the real one tried to be that person to an extent (Yes, you can see the progression). But one would have to have read much more about history than I am willing to provide in this blog post in order to understand what I mean here. Suffice it to say (again), there are any number of books out there that can be consulted on the matter, including my own “Apocalypse and Armageddon”. So, if you really want to KNOW, then read some of them. But, please, above all things, don’t argue from a position of ignorance.

END NOTE: Just to make this a little more clear, it should be noted that Paulkovich lists 126 persons who, apparently, did not write anything about Jesus but whom he thinks should have. That’s a lot of people. But the frank fact of the matter is that, outside of Christian sources, including the New Testament and other books not included in the canon, there were at least thirteen ancient sources that can be listed. They are Josephus (although, as I showed in “Apocalypse and Armageddon”, most scholars today believe the reference to him and Pilate are later interpolations, and I concur with this), Tacitus, the philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, Suetonius (always a Christian favorite), The Babylonian Talmud, Pliny the Younger, the emperor Trajan (indirectly), Thallus, Phlegon of Tralles, Lucian of Samosata, and, most important of all in my view, Porphyry, Celsus and the emperor Julian (the Apostate). Conversely, for the sake of emphasis, the number of ancient sources for Pontius Pilate (whom no one argues did not exist) are much fewer – four in all. They are Josephus (again, in an apparent later interpolation), Tacitus, Philo of Alexandria and the Babylonian Talmud (and perhaps others). AND, if this is not enough, it is well known that Pilate corresponded with the philosopher Seneca (whom Paulkovich also thinks should have written something about Jesus) because we have letters from Pilate to Seneca. However, we have no mention of Pilate in anything written by Seneca even though they clearly knew one another. Case closed.