Sunday, December 13, 2015

Aslan and Ehrman make asses of themselves

In his work debunking the supposed parallel between Apollonius and Jesus, Eusebius says that while Apollonius may have been a genuine philosopher of sorts, if anyone takes Philostratus' work The Life of Apollonius of Tyana seriously as historical writing, he mistakes an ass for a lion: 
"We shall have an ass instead concealed in a lion's skin; and we shall detect in him a sophist in the truest sense, cadging for alms among the cities, and a wizard, if there ever was one, instead of a philosopher."
Perhaps this was a common metaphor of the day.  Or maybe these very words of Eusebius' are the origin of the plot of C. S. Lewis' prize-winning finale to the Chronicles of Narnia, in which an evil ape dresses up a gentle donkey named Puzzle in a lion's skin.  Dressed up to look like Aslan, the noble lion, Puzzle is paraded before the crowd of Narnians in the twilight (when he is hard to see clearly) by a cynical, often-drunk ape and his Calormene masters who wish to enslave Narnia. 
Ironically, in Zealot, Reza Aslan falls for this original trick of the fake Aslan, and compares Jesus (the lion) to an ass (a fitting description of Apollonius of Tyana, as I began to show in my last post.) 
Bart Ehrman does the same thing, in egregious and phony detail (again, see last post), in his recent book How Jesus Became God.
And so Eusebius was wiser than the present crop of NT scholars -- not just Erhman and Aslan, but the whole Jesus Seminar, Richard Carrier, Paula Fredriksen, the lot.  C. S. Lewis had their number  sixty years ago. All these scholars who are enamored of Apollonius are making asses of themselves, all over again. Because Eusebius was on the money: no one who looks at Apollonius in the light of day, can honestly make the mistake these "scholars" want us to all make.
So are they honestly "puzzled," or trying to fool people?  I am beginning to suspect the latter.  How could Bart Ehrman not know how stretched many of his analogies are?   Why else would he take his "lion" out in the darkness, by obscuring so many details, covering others up, as he does?  Are these sorts of scholars playing the role of honestly fooled Narnians, or the more pernicious role of the Calormenes or the drunk ape?  (Or perhaps the overly-clever cat, Ginger?)
But how fitting, that Reza Aslan should be caught mistaking his Aslans, while Eusebius called him out for such foolishness, 1700 years ago.   


Unknown said...

Excellent article and a reminder that history can have important lessons to teach us. Many thanks.

Unknown said...

Definitely interesting to think about CS Lewis incorporating Eusebius' work into his parable. The Chronicles of Narnia are such powerful tales, both as fables and theological parables. It's also interesting that so many see Ehrman and others like him as serious scholars when their agenda is so evident in almost everything they say (they advance the agenda at the cost of truth many times). Christ divinity is not just a sidenote of the New Testament or the Gospels. I follow the lion, not the ass!