Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did

Photograph of a marble statue depicting Euhemerus as a bearded toga wearing bare shouldered man in thoughtful pose.Just a quickie today. Several people have asked this question in one form or another:

I’ve read a number of people who claim that your use of the term “euhemerization” is incorrect. These typically give definitions along the lines of the following in Wikipedia: “Euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages.” This is consistent with what you say about Euhemerus in Element 14 [of On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 114-24], but in Element 45 [Ibid., p. 222] you use the term in the inverted sense, [whereby] people were invented based on gods, rather than gods being invented based on people.

I do wonder where the confusion arose among people (and I’ve seen a lot of them online) thinking euhemerization means turning a real person into a god. That’s not euhemerization. That’s deification. Julius Caesar was deified. He was not euhemerized. Euhemerized gods are always historically non-existent.

Obviously the word “euhemerize” means doing what Euhemerus did. That’s what the word means. Even just in its grammar (the -ize suffix in Greek and English means “to do like,” hence “to do like Euhemerus did”). But also in how it originated and why. Euhemerus took celestial (ahistorical) gods (Zeus and Uranus) and then turned them into historical men. Not the other way around. Therefore, anyone who does that is doing what Euhemerus did. They are therefore euhemerizing a god. Just as Euhemerus “euhemerized” Zeus and Uranus.

I don’t know why anyone thinks otherwise. Or how it would even make sense to think otherwise. But maybe this is what’s confusing people…

It has been asked, “Didn’t Plutarch discuss the theory of Euhemerus that all such tales are the mythification of past kings into current gods,” and therefore attest that “Euhemerus thought that earthly kings were the basis for mythical gods”? Not exactly. In On Isis and Osiris Plutarch surveys several competing theories as to who Isis and Osiris were or are, and in turn he describes each one and then rejects it, until he gets around to saying he supports the demonological theory (that they were never on earth but always celestial deities who began as lower ranking sky spirits later elevated to full godhood by their deeds).

One of the theories Plutarch describes and rejects is what we call the euhemerization theory. So context is key here: he is explaining why euhemerization is not believable. His reason? Because anyone who tries to claim celestial gods were once deified historical persons is doing exactly what Euhemerus did: making a fake history out of a supernatural story. Plutarch is not saying that euhemerizers are correct. He is saying they aren’t. So insofar as he would call them euhemerizers, that would mean precisely what Plutarch is saying is wrong with people who try to spin earthly histories for sky gods: euhemerizing is always fiction.

This is ironic, of course, because Plutarch himself gullibly accepts the euhemerization of Romulus and Hercules. He never realizes that he is doing for them what he condemns in On Isis and Osiris. Because he doesn’t know they were euhemerized (and never says they were; to do so would be to condemn their stories as fake). He thinks they were simply deified. This is because Plutarch didn’t euhemerize them. Someone else did. And Plutarch just gullibly believed them. He saw through what Euhemerus did. He saw through several enough other examples of other people doing what Euhemerus did. But he didn’t see through them all. Some of them successfully punked him.

Euhemerus himself of course did not believe what he claimed. He pretended that that’s how the gods Zeus and Uranus began. He well knew that. Because he completely made up their history himself. Before that, they had no such history (they had always resided in faraway supernatural realms, e.g. above the clouds of Mount Olympus or deep in the caverns of Hades or faraway in outer space). Plutarch likewise knew that was pretense. What Plutarch then critiques are people who buy the pretense and think it’s real. Who aren’t themselves the euhemerizers. They are just the dupes who believed the euhemerization. Amusingly including Plutarch in some cases. Unbeknownst to him.

Notably, however, Plutarch does think euhemerizing is respectable: he explains in detail that the priests of Osiris, who in fact teach the demonological theory to initiates of sufficient rank (the in-group—and we must remember he wrote this book for a high ranking priestess of the cult), created the euhemerized story and sold it to the uninitiated masses (the out-group) to hide the cosmic truths within a system of allegories, all to help keep the public from learning the sacred mysteries without adequate preparation and dedication. I point out in OHJ (Element 14) that the Jewish theologian Philo had even adopted this idea to explain parts of the Old Testament he didn’t like to take literally. Paul did as well (Gal. 4:24). And the Christian theologian Origen fully approved of it, especially the part about duping lower ranking members of the church with fake histories presented literally but secretly intended allegorically.

Separating the Izer from the Audience

So we must not confuse the “-izer” with the audience. The euhemer-IZER is the one faking a story (obviously: the story isn’t real, and never existed before their creating of it, so they definitely know they are making it up). How people react to that euhemerization is an entirely different story.

So maybe people have become confused because they turned the attitude of duped recipients of euhemerization into the euhemerizers. That makes no sense. Except insofar as you want to say Euhemerus wasn’t lying. But then that process would be called Deification, not Euhemerization. And it would mean Zeus and Uranus really did exist as historical men. And Euhemerus somehow knew this. And so on. We can tell from his storytelling and the preceding evidence that that is not what happened. Euhemerus was a bullshitter. And many scholars like Plutarch knew he was a bullshitter.

But his manner of bullshit caught on. Lots of bullshitters after Euhemerus did what he did. But to be fair, he didn’t really invent this kind of bullshit. He was just the most famous and identifiable culprit, and the one who made the trend popular again. So doing what he did came to be named after him. In actual fact what he did had been done before. Most famously Dionysus and Hercules, who began as shrine-celebrated skygods, but later were given historical backgrounds on earth. We see this already in Homer, even though we know from Mycenaean writings that Dionysus began as a worshipped skygod and not a man, and the clues in the astrotheology of Hercules cult and the variances of his worship across the West suggest the same of him (certainly none of the histories of him match archaeological evidence enough to be believed).

Even sincerely attempting to explain a God by postulating a historical man as origin is still the same thing: making up a historical man. It’s just a more honest process. That I suppose could still be called euhemerization. Yet it’s still a non-existent man being inserted into history. Not a real man who was actually deified.

Lastly, in modern times (e.g. the 19th century) some scholars (e.g. religious rationalists) liked the idea so much that they voluntarily swallowed the dupery pill, celebrating euhemerizing as “discovering” the real history of skygods, when in actual fact they well knew they, too, were making it all up. Only they used “speculation is as good as fact” as their excuse, rather than winkingly just outright bullshitting everyone as Euhemerus himself originally did. But even then, they were still making it up. And indeed, doing so more in the tradition of Frankfurt-style bullshittery: they didn’t even care whether what they were saying was true. It just worked for them. So why not?

But the bottom line is, none of their euhemerized gods existed either.


  1. Giuseppe August 1, 2015, 12:31 am

    Beautiful article, thanks.

    A necessary requisite for the euhemerizer is to have already as pre-existing material the info about the celestial god (that then he will historicize on terra firma). But were there cases where the euhemerizer historicized a previous celestial god X but only not calling ‘X’ his fabricated human hero but renaming him Y ? The question arises from the possibility (but, alas, it’s only a remote possibility) that the first evangelist created his Gospel Jesus having in mind the euhemerization not of a previous deity named ‘Jesus’ but rather of the general pattern of a mediterranean dying and rising god (the titles ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ being part only of the his literary product) in a Jewish context.

    1. Yes, euhemerization is related to aetiological mythmaking, i.e. inventing a historical event to explain a current ritual or doctrine or practice or belief (even though that invented event isn’t what really started it). Jesus could have been contrived in just such a way (Moses most likely was).

      However, the letters of Paul connect us with the originating events of the sect, and they involve inspiring visions of Jesus, and discoveries about him in scripture. It’s clear that Paul and the first apostles believed Jesus was a real person who existed…just, in heaven, as with all other archangels. So Jesus was not an aetiological myth. The Gospel Jesus could be (and for many details probably is). But that’s still a layering on top of the original worshipped deity of the sect. We also have evidence that this deity pre-existed Christianity in Jewish angelology (OHJ, Element 40).

      Hybrids are possible, too. For instance, the vision Paul had of Jesus inaugurating the Eucharist ritual (1 Cor. 11:23-26) is agreed by many scholars (e.g. Gerd Lüdemann) to be an aetiological myth (I explain why in OHJ, pp. 557ff.), yet is at the same time (at least claimed to be) a vision, and thus not a contrivance. Paul’s subconscious did the authoring, and he then believed what it presented really happened as revealed. Unless of course Paul is inventing, or borrowing a previous invention of the sect, and only claiming it was a vision just to authenticate it—which entails if it was invented before him, as is most likely, it was originally also claimed to be learned by revelation, which is why for Paul only a revelation can authenticate it, rather than an assurance of having learned it from eyewitnesses.

  2. Bruce August 1, 2015, 2:07 am

    This is a great post. But it seems as if you don’t want to drop any spoilers regarding the specifics in your book, “On the Historicity of Jesus.” Well, if you won’t, I will.

    To be blunt about the implications in OHJ, if I understand you, all this makes it quite plausible that Jesus was Euhemerized very much as Osiris was. That is to say, the original Jesus was some sort of angel or good-sky-demon, who wasn’t born of a virgin or anyone else, but simply lived where he was created, in outer space near the moon and below where the dome of the sky holds up all the rain. It was there that he “lived”, was crucified by bad demons, died, and was resurrected back to a new sky-body, as equally non-fleshy as Jesus’s original body. And it is possible that this is the only concept of Jesus that had ever existed through the lifetime of Paul.

    The real kicker of your blog post is the further implication that some time after Paul and before Mark, or possibly the author of “Mark” itself, he did as they did with Osiris. That is, the Christian leader(s) took a sky God and created a Euhemerized Jesus man, set in the Jewish homelands. And this “human Jesus” may have been deliberately created to fool the masses, while the core inner group was allowed to know the secret. The secret was that the real Jesus had never been a man, but was always a pure sky God. Unfortunately, at some point, either the core inner group died off without passing on their secret, or else the fake story became so popular that nobody would accept the “true” sky God story. So by 120 or 150 a.d., nobody was left who knew that Jesus had been Euhemerized from a sky story.

    We may never know which of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John’s authors “knew the truth”, and which ones literally believed that a fleshy Jesus once existed. But clearly all four authors wanted their lay readers to believe that Jesus was a real dude.

    The key to Jesus as being Euhemerized is found everywhere in the New Testament where it says it happened “according to the scriptures”. To modern readers, this sounds as if it refers to the four gospels. But to first century people, it clearly meant Old Testament books such as Daniel and Isaiah. Many people speculated about a source book Q (quelle), but I think Q effectively was whatever people could pull out of their ass while reading Daniel and Isaiah. So they read the old books, imagined a sky Jesus, then pretended he was a dude to fool the commoners, then got overridden by the commoner tea party types of the day. So everyone who knew Jesus was really just a sky God got condemned for heresy by the first-century tea party Euhemerization-dupes, and now the fake story is the only history permitted. Just, Wow!

    Prove me wrong.

    1. Yep.

      You have sussed every point correctly, IMO.

      Readers should read Elements 13, 14, 15, 29, and 31 in OHJ to see why this is all likely in context. And Chapter 12.3 has the best complete summary.

      So by 120 or 150 a.d., nobody was left who knew that Jesus had been Euhemerized from a sky story.

      Or, as you also suggest, many were left, but had been marginalized as “heretics” (by the “Tea Party” faction who believed the David Barton lies…to extend your excellent metaphor). Although by then, they would have no way of “knowing for sure” they were correct, and the euhemerizers wrong, since everyone who could tell them was long dead.

      This seems clear from 2 Peter and Irenaeus, both of whom give hints of Christians existing who were insisting the Gospels were just allegories for the cosmic reality (see OHJ, index), but both the forger of 2 Peter and Irenaeus are condemning them as heretics and thus kicking them out and shunning them. This split then became politically dominant through various happenstances, including having the ear of Constantine when he lucked out and won the empire and chose that sect as a vector for his governance.

    2. Mr Horse August 3, 2015, 5:20 pm

      Besides Osiris, other Egyptians gods were also euhemerized: Isis, and Serapis were.

      The imagery of Serapis is similar to that of Jesus.

  3. Bruce August 1, 2015, 2:30 am

    By the way, my comment above also may provide an explanation for something else. Several people, from Apologists to even the late Christopher Hitchens, have felt tempted to give the gospels some credence because the story is in some ways clumsy or inconsistent or inartful in their eyes. Maybe so, but maybe not. It sounds clever to say it can’t be a work of fiction because a fictionally composed story would be smoother, so the rough edges are evidence of reality. But maybe those rough edges are just artifacts of one piece of fiction being turned into a fictionalized version of the original fiction. And this second fiction was never good, in part because it was intended as a Euhemerized allegory for the masses, and not as the sacred true story itself. The four gospels do have a somewhat elegantly composed internal structure, in a mirror pattern that was in style 2000 years ago but no longer. But it didn’t need to be literally perfect, if it was just a fictionalized folk fiction.
    So if the gospels weren’t originally intended as being real Gospels, then we can’t make anything of what we might see as rough edges. So Hitch was just bending over being too nice to the believers.

  4. Gakusei Don August 1, 2015, 3:32 am


    Richard, I’m one of those who claim that your use of the term “euhemerization” is incorrect. The thing is that Euhemerus turned them into **mortal** men. The story is that those mortal men — usually kings — were so beloved that later generations deified them. I’m not aware of the term being used to take celestial gods to create stories of (apparently historical) godmen who performed miracles and ascended to heaven.

    That does seem to be different to how you describe it even in your post here: Euhemerus “turned them into historical **men**.” Not godmen, just ordinary men. No miracles, no ascension to heaven. Under that scenario, aren’t the Gospels then the god equivalent, and the euhemerized equivalent then becomes a (non-god) minimal historical Jesus? In other words, a Euhemerus would look at the Gospels, and then ‘derive’ a non-Son of God historical Jesus from those stories?

    1. Um, dude, are you claiming Zeus and Uranus were never worshipped before Euhemerus as celestial gods?

      Because, if you aren’t, you aren’t making any relevant point here. And if you are, you need to hit the books and catch up on history.

      The fact is that Zeus and Uranus were worshipped as celestial deities for centuries. Then Euhemerus took those gods and turned them into men.

      That is the order of events. And it is repeated again and again (e.g. Dionysus, Osiris, etc.).

      If instead you only mean that Jesus was more “miracled up” in his euhemerization than Zeus and Uranus were in Euhemerus, that’s a moot point. Euhemerus was a rationalist who didn’t believe in miracles. The euhemerizers of Jesus were not. That’s all there is to explain that difference in how they carried out their euhemerizing. If Euhemerus saw the Gospels, he wouldn’t need to euhemerize Jesus, he would just give rational explanations for his miracles or claim they were (like the miracles attributed to Alexander the Great) false legendary accretions. He wouldn’t know Jesus didn’t even exist. Unlike Zeus and Uranus: he well did know they were never historical men.

      You seem to be confusing Euhemerus creating a historical man out of a celestial god (the actual thing Euhemerus notably did) and Euhemerus doing so without making that historical man magical. Those aren’t the same thing. And the latter is not what euhemerizing is. The latter in fact can be and was done to actual historical people (e.g. Alexander the Great). No one thus says Alexander the Great was “euhemerized” because he had miracles added on by aggrandizers, or later subtracted by rationalists.

      Not all euhemerizers were rationalists like Euhemerus, BTW. Romulus and Osiris were euhemerized, but they were miracled up a bit. So was Dionysus. And Hercules. And Isis. Etc.

  5. Stephen Byrne August 1, 2015, 4:22 am

    I believe that because of the movies and TV shows about him there are a lot of people who think Hercules (Herakles) was a real person magnified roughly the same way Bart Ehrman presents his historical JC. Alexander The Great certainly thought he was a real person. Ye gods! One of the highest rated shows on the “history” channel is “Ancient Aliens”. Do you believe Origen was bullshitting people in the same way as Euhemerus?

    1. Origen technically outright says so (I have the quotes in OHJ, Element 14).

      Of course, he would balk at it being called bullshit. He would call it a morally acceptable expediency to save the many souls too uneducated to be rescued with the whole truth of the matter.

    2. Stephen Byrne August 1, 2015, 7:12 pm

      What would you say to the proposition that Alexander The Great believed differently about the reality of Herakles vs. the reality of Zeus Ammon? I would suggest that he “knew” Herakles as a flesh and blood ancestor on Olympias” side but to him Zeus-Ammon was a otherworldly deity that he pragmatically used politically similar to the way Constantine used JC. I believe this sort of thinking was common then but its hard for most modern people to understand it.

  6. Giuseppe August 1, 2015, 8:14 am

    I find very curious that Christian apologists (Augustine, Eusebius, Tertullian, etc) did refer to the lost Latin translation of Euhemerus book in order to prove the falsity of paganism, because in this criticism they are very similar to pagan Celsus when the latter based only on gospel to denigrate the man Jesus. This confirms that it was more easy for ancient people to criticize mythical men, when the case, by assuming gratis their existence and only very rarely denying explicitly it.

    Assuming the indipendence (from Gospel tradition) of thr talmudic anti-Jesus polemic ttadition, I wonder if were just the Jews, in conflict against earliest Christians like Paul, the first in History to euhemerize Jesus in order to better denigrate him.

    1. Well, gym training was considered a standard part of Greek education at the time.

      But, the carving could be an idealization.

      We know men often had their sculpted portraits muscled up, just as women had their sculpted portraits younged up. Not always. But it happened.

  7. latveriandiplomat August 1, 2015, 3:58 pm

    Was Euhemerus trying to deceive people, or was he proposing a theoretical explanation? (i.e., The idea of this Zeus guy must have come from somewhere, maybe there was an ancient powerful king of. oh say Crete that inspired it). However, shoddy or useless one might find such theorizing, it need not be considered dishonest per se.

    And I don’t know his writing or if that’s even a question that makes sense for ancient authors, since the practice of introduced conditional language like “possibly”, “theoretically” , etc. for this kind of proposal is perhaps a thoroughly modern one. So, forgive me if this is a silly question.

    1. Obviously deceive. He did not write a treatise arguing for a theory. He faked an entire biography (and a fake discovery of it written on a wall, a la Joseph Smith) as if it happened and he had actual sources for it.

  8. DavidC August 1, 2015, 5:10 pm

    One reason for the confusion may be the level of abstraction: euhemerization is a kind of meta-deification – it is the claim that a mythical/supernatural figure is the deification of an historical one. The mythicist case goes one step further: it is meta-euhemerization, i.e., the claim that a historical figure is the euhemerization of a mythical/supernatural one… or to put it another way… meta-meta-deification.

    1. No, not meta, just effect to cause. If Zeus was celestial and then historicized by Euhemerus (and he was), then the claim that the “historical” Zeus thus produced is the euhemerization of a supernatural Zeus is precisely what euhemerizing is. That is not meta-euhemerizing. It’s just euhemerizing. Zeus was not meta-euhemerized by Euhemerus. He was euhemerized. Likewise Jesus. (Only by someone else, and not, of course, by Euhemerus.)

  9. DavidC August 1, 2015, 5:42 pm

    I think you misunderstood what I said. Of course I agree that what Euhemerus did was euhemerization, not meta-euhemerization. I also find the theory that the historical Jesus was euhemerized rather compelling. However, those advocating such a theory (including yourself) are not engaging in euhemerization, but meta-euhemerization. So we could also call it carrierization!

    1. Mr Horse August 3, 2015, 7:03 pm

      Yes, “those advocating such a theory (including Richard) are not engaging in euhemerization”, they are either discussing euhemeriation, and particularly it’s application.

  10. Gakusei Don August 1, 2015, 9:16 pm

    Richard, thanks for your response. You wrote:
    “Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did” and
    “Euhemerus took those gods and turned them into men” and
    “Euhemerus was a rationalist who didn’t believe in miracles.”

    If ‘Euhemerization’ means doing what Euhemerus did, then if we look at Euhemerus, we see he took gods and said that they were ordinary men, kings in fact, whom were so revered that after their deaths their subjects deified them. That to me fits the definition of “Euhemerism”. As you note, Euhemerus was a rationalist. He didn’t claim that the men became gods. He claimed that they lived and died as mortal men. No ascension to heaven. (Second Century Christians later pointed to the examples of Euhemerus and others to claim that even the pagans thought that their gods were just ordinary men, and not gods at all. Certainly no ascension to heaven.)

    You wrote, “Not all euhemerizers were rationalists like Euhemerus, BTW. Romulus and Osiris were euhemerized, but they were miracled up a bit. So was Dionysus. And Hercules. And Isis. Etc.”.

    If the story has the person becoming a god by ascending to heaven, then IIUC that wouldn’t fit the definition of “Euhemerism”. I would be interested in any such examples (a celestial god is given the biography of an earthly god) that fit the description of “euhemerizer”.

    Anyway, I don’t think that affects your mythicist theory. There is nothing to stop ancient people from taking a celestial god and creating a story about a man on earth who becomes a god. But that doesn’t fit any definition of “Euhemerism” that I know. Thus the Gospel Jesus cannot be considered a product of Euhemerization.

    I think you will continue to receive flak on this because your definition is not consistent with the mainstream one. You keep correctly pointing out that Euhemerus turned the gods into men, but you don’t seem to realize the implication: they were just men. To paraphrase the Soup Nazi: “No ascension for you!” 🙂

    1. You don’t seem to understand how words originate.

      People mean euhemerizing is historicizing because that is the only distinctive thing Euhemerus did. They don’t mean euhemerizing is rationalizing. Rationalizing is called rationalizing. It isn’t distinct to Euhemerus. Rationalizing the gods was already a popular thing before he came along (it was fundamental to the presocratic allegorists for example; the Epicureans even full on atomized them and turned them into ordinary space aliens). So atomizing gods wasn’t named after Euhemerus any more than rationalizing them was.

      What Euhemerus did that is distinctive to him and thus his name is how he rationalized the gods: not by allegorizing them (one of the other theories Plutarch rejects) nor by atomizing them, but by historicizing them. Consequently any historicizing of a God is doing what Euhemeris did. It does not matter how magical you make the historicizing. It’s still doing what Euhemerus did that was different from most everyone else enough to get attached to his name. And what his doing inspired others to do after him, some more magically than him, but that’s their own spin on the idea that came to be named after him. And it’s thus what was done to Romulus and Osiris, for example. Ahistorical deities, turned into historical ascended godmen. Jesus is just one more instance of that trend.

      There is no “mainstream” use of the term that excludes magically historicized gods like Romulus and Osiris. That’s something you are just making up out of nowhere, based on a linguistic convention that doesn’t exist, by selectively choosing which uses of the word to look at and which to ignore. Such anachronistic and over-fastidious use of language is a common Christian apologetics tactic, playing games with words to try and deny things they don’t want to be true, that I expose in OHJ (e.g. hyper-defining messiah so messianism didn’t exist before Christianity; hyper-defining resurrection so resurrection didn’t exist outside Judaism; and so on).

      There is no utility in that tactic. Semantics cannot change reality. And you need to deal with reality. Not fuss uselessly over what it is called.

    2. Simen August 2, 2015, 2:17 pm

      Hi Gakusei Don!

      I suspect that you (and perhaps others) may be mixing or confusing the chronology of the narrative itself and the chronology of the changes to that narrative.

      It is the latter which is key to Euhemerization. Euhemerus changed a narrative by inventing a human.

      This is how I understand Richard:
      Consider the below numbered items to represent the chronological order in which the narrative changed:
      1) There exists belief in a god called Zevs. The Zevs narrative is that “he was always just a deity”.
      2) There appears a man called Euhemerus. He creates a new Zevs narrative which is that “Zevs was originally a King who was only later deified after his death”.

      What did Euhemerus in the transition from step 1) to step 2) by introducing his new narrative? Did he deify a human king to create a god? No, because the Zevs narrative and the deity was already there. Did he invent a human being retro-fitting him into pre-existing Zevs narrative. Yes, indeed, because the King was never there before Euhemerus! That was his invention.

      It doesn’t really matter if you invent a human restricted by the laws of nature or a human with miracle powers, but when you are doing your Euhemerization you better come up with a narratve which includes a concept for incarnation and/or deification (or both) in order to properly connect your human character to the deity that you have now Euhemerized.

  11. Alif. August 2, 2015, 2:08 pm

    Perhaps this is like the word ‘substitute’.

    We substituted ‘butter’ for ‘dripping’ ie the dripping went and butter came.

    This paper [link below] deals with euhemerism as a theory that has been (mis-) treated in various ways by both ancient and modern writers. This theory, formulated by Euhemerus of Messene (late fourth century B.C.E.), maintained that Zeus and the other Olympian gods were but mere kings that were deified due to their good deeds.

    1. maryhelena August 3, 2015, 12:43 am

      The article referenced above is available to download on this link.


      Another article by Nickolas P. Roubekas is available to view in digitized form at this link.

      What is Euhemerism? A Brief History of Research and Some Persisting Questions

      Nickolas Roubekas: PhD thesis was on Euhemerus of Messene and his theory of religion and myth (which was published in Greece by Vanias Publishers in 2011)

    1. Interesting, but to be fair:

      McGrath only says a historical Moses is consistent with the evidence but unknown to be true. That’s valid.

      McGrath also says if we had a contemporary letter by someone claiming to have met his brother (e.g. Aaron) then Moses would probably have been historical. That’s also valid.

      (As stated. He is of course alluding to the assumption that that is what Paul says in Galatians. But like the historicity of Moses, that that is what Paul meant is unknown to be true, given the data we actually have (e.g. Element 12 in OHJ; and Chapters 8.8, 9.3, and 11.10), which McGrath persistently ignores.)

      And McGrath says it is “not implausible” that some people migrated out of Egypt to influence Jewish lore at some ancient time, thereby explaining why Moses has an Egyptian name. That is also valid, although unsound, because he incorrectly states as a fact that Moses is an Egyptian name, when in fact that is only a speculation. The name is explicitly Hebrew in the OT. It also matches possible Egyptian words, but not any that match what the OT says the name means, whereas what the OT says the word means matches more or less what in fact that word does mean in Hebrew. So trying to make it Egyptian might be a holdover from the days when bible scholars were trying to argue the Exodus was real, and their speculations simply remained enduringly popular even after that goal was abandoned by secular scholars. A lot of assumptions in biblical studies have this origin and inertia.

  12. Simen August 2, 2015, 5:26 pm

    I just finished reading OHJ. I’ve also read most of the counter-arguments presented by negative reviewers as well as your responses here and I think I’m now pretty firmly on board with mythisism.

    I have one question: Did you explain anywhere why it is correct to use the “Vanishing family of Jesus” consequent probability with regards to Acts while at the same time counting Rank-Raglan criteria no. 17 (“His children, if any, do not succeed him”) towards his non-historicity in the prior.
    Is the answer
    a) that it’s Acts vs Matthew (separate pieces of evidence)
    b) that it’s two totally different arguments.
    c) that you already answered this in a footnote or in Proving History (which I haven’t read yet).
    d) or all of the above 🙂

    1. a) and b).

      Re: b) Acts is different from Luke (the Gospels) in the respects explained in Chapter 9.7. Acts is presumably based on real history. So on h there really was a James his brother who really did lead the church for a major period etc. And there really was a mother and father and other brothers who were involved and would have been causally entangled with the history of the early church. But on ~h there wasn’t.

      Also, the children of Jesus don’t disappear in Acts. His brothers and mother (and sisters and father) do. That’s not an RR criterion.

      a) Finally, the RR criterion only produces a factor in conjunction (e.g. if Jesus met that criterion and only five others, he would not be in the RR class in the first place). But more importantly, the data for the RR assessment extracted into b comes from the Gospels, not Acts. I have separated Acts and the Gospels in e.

  13. Mr Horse August 3, 2015, 4:12 am

    Euhemerizing is essentially changing the narrative about an entity by ‘anthropomorphizing’ it

    ie. giving that entity human attributes

  14. Giuseppe August 4, 2015, 9:30 am

    Gakusei Don objects against your definition of euhemerism (as invention of a historical man from a previous celestial god) by claiming that the end product of a true euhemerist should be ALWAYS a mere man removed by all “miraculed up” features (making any euhemerist simply a denier of the divinity of his hero): not precisely the Gospel Jesus.

    I would bear a strong counter-example against “atheistic” definition of euhemerism claimed by GakuseiDon, confuting it in support of your definition:

    Because of the following two reasons:
    1) the PRIESTS of Osiris historicized Osiris
    2) but not to dismiss or to deny any his previous deity, but at contrary in order to reiterate implicitly his deity, making the “historical” Osiris basically a sacre allegory of the true celestial Osiris as didactic introduction for the initiates to the inner mistery. An ALLEGORY just like the allegorical simbolic Jesus of the first gospel.

    As my logic goes, the GakuseiDon’s definition of euhemerism cannot include my counter-example, but your definition yes.

    What do you think? Am I correct?

    Very thanks,

    1. Yes. People who want only atheists to make use of euhemerization are inexplicably annoyed by the fact that theists can euhemerize their gods, too. They are further annoyed (just as inexplicably) by the fact that euhemerization can be a ploy (to conceal a cosmic truth under a historicized allegory) rather than a sincere maneuver. I have no idea why they are annoyed by these things or so desperate to insist they can’t happen or don’t reflect adaptive uses of what Euhemerus did. But alas.

  15. Note: Someone suggested off-blog that the confusion stems from conflating Euhemerism as the actual process, with Euhemerism as the “school of interpretation,” the latter meaning the 19th century rationalist movement (as I mentioned), which is obsolete now, and was weird then. These are the guys who insisted all miracles happened but were natural phenomena, like that Jesus only looked like he was walking on water because of a surprise shallows. Things like that. That has nothing really to do with Euhemerus or antiquity. But even then, the same thing happened: they made up historical persons out of non-historical ones. The only difference was: the rationalists believed their own bullshit. But apart from that, it’s still non-existent persons being turned into historical ones.

  16. Richard Johnson January 25, 2018, 4:12 pm

    How do you explain that many dictionaries seem to define this word as the exact opposite from how it should be defined? For example (“Euhemerism”): (often initial capital letter) the theory of
    Euhemerus that the mythologies of various gods arose out of the deification of dead heroes.

    Merriam-Webster: interpretation of myths as traditional accounts of historical persons and events

    The definition should be more like:

    The creation of a fictional human origin for a mythological character. The opposite of “Deification”.

    1. “the theory of Euhemerus that the mythologies of various gods arose out of the deification of dead heroes” and “interpretation of myths as traditional accounts of historical persons and events” = Yes. Heroes that didn’t exist but are “theorized” to (e.g. Zeus and Uranus in Euhemerus). That’s Euhemerism. Inventing fake past heroes to explain current gods. As opposed to just deification, which is actual past heroes who actually became worshiped as gods (e.g. Julius Caesar). So, you’re right; these sources just don’t explain further that that’s what they mean.


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