ROB WILLIAMS - THURSDAY 10 OCTOBER 2013 - Independent.co.uk
A controversial American biblical scholar is set to make his first appearance in London next week to present a discovery that he claims proves the story of Jesus Christ was invented as a system of mind control to enslave the poor.
Joseph Atwill, who is the author of a book entitled 'Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus', asserts that Christianity did not begin as a religion, but was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.
At the 'Covert Messiah' conference, to be held at the Conway Hall in Holborn a week on Saturday, Mr Atwill will present his theory that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they entirely fabricated the story of Jesus Christ.
Outlining his ideas in a blog posting on his website Mr Atwill writes: "Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery."
Mr Atwill says that acts of insurrection by Jewish sects, who were awaiting the arrival of a so-called 'warrior Messiah' in Palestine, were a perpetual problem for the Roman Empire and that after the Empire had exhausted all traditional means of dealing with the problem they resorted to psychological warfare.
"They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system," Atwill told PRWeb.com
"That's when the 'peaceful' Messiah story was invented.
"Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give onto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome."
Mr Atwill continues: "Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.
To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East."
Elsewhere, Mr Atwill also writes: “In fact he [Jesus] may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”
Atwill says he made his discovery when while studying the New Testament alongside the 'War of the Jews' by Josephus - the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea.
Mr Atwill claims that he began to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts.
"What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus," Atwill claims.
"This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern", he continues.
"The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar."
Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and author, well known for his anti-religion views, yesterday tweeted a link to the press release advertising the event in London.
However, he later tweeted: "RT doesn't imply endorsement. I'm not qualified to judge Atwill's thesis. Just thought it might be worth a look."
Mr Atwill's theory is simply one of a number of what are known as Bible conspiracy theories.
These theories commonly include the suggestion that secret societies, mystery schools and other religions used the fictional story of Christ to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion.
Ancient Confession Found: 'We Invented Jesus Christ'
Biblical scholars will be appearing at the 'Covert Messiah' Conference at Conway Hall in London on the 19th of October to present this controversial discovery to the British public.
London (PRWEB UK) 8 October 2013
American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill will be appearing before the British public for the first time in London on the 19th of October to present a controversial new discovery: ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ. His presentation will be part of a one-day symposium entitled "Covert Messiah" at Conway Hall in Holborn (full details can be found at http://www.covertmessiah.com).
Although to many scholars his theory seems outlandish, and is sure to upset some believers, Atwill regards his evidence as conclusive and is confident its acceptance is only a matter of time. "I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm," he acknowledges, "but this is important for our culture. Alert citizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods. They often do it to obtain a social order that is against the best interests of the common people."
Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire. "Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century," he explains. "When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That's when the 'peaceful' Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give onto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome."
Was Jesus based on a real person from history? "The short answer is no," Atwill insists, "in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there's simply nothing left."
Atwill's most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying "Wars of the Jews" by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament. "I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts," he recounts. "Although it's been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus. This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar."
How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinised books of all time? "Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren't all immediately obvious. After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alert reader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognised the literary game being played." Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that "the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is 'We invented Jesus Christ, and we're proud of it.'"
Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity? "Probably not," grants Atwill, "but what my work has done is give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break. We've got the evidence now to show exactly where the story of Jesus came from. Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East."
Atwill encourages skeptics to challenge him at Conway Hall, where after the presentations there is likely to be a lively Q&A session. Joining Mr.Atwill will be fellow scholar Kenneth Humphreys, author of the book "Jesus Never Existed."
Further information can be found at http://www.covertmessiah.com.
About Joseph Atwill: Joseph Atwill is the author of the best-selling book "Caesar's Messiah" and its upcoming sequel "The Single Strand."
Did Jesus Christ Really Live?
by Jim Walker Originated: 12 June 1997 / additions: 22 Apr. 2011
by Jim Walker Originated: 12 June 1997 / additions: 22 Apr. 2011
Amazingly, the question of an actual historical Jesus rarely confronts the religious believer. The power of faith has so forcefully driven the minds of most believers, and even apologetic scholars, that the question of reliable evidence gets obscured by tradition, religious subterfuge, and outrageous claims. The following gives a brief outlook about the claims of a historical Jesus and why the evidence the Christians present us cannot serve as justification for reliable evidence for a historical Jesus.
ALL CLAIMS OF JESUS DERIVE FROM HEARSAY ACCOUNTS
No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.
Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.
Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay does not provide good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.
If you do not understand this, imagine yourself confronted with a charge for a crime which you know you did not commit. You feel confident that no one can prove guilt because you know that there exists no evidence whatsoever for the charge against you. Now imagine that you stand present in a court of law that allows hearsay as evidence. When the prosecution presents its case, everyone who takes the stand against you claims that you committed the crime, not as a witness themselves, but solely because they claim other people said so. None of these other people, mind you, ever show up in court, nor can anyone find them.
Hearsay does not work as evidence because we have no way of knowing whether the person lied, or simply based his or her information on wrongful belief or bias. We know from history about witchcraft trials and kangaroo courts that hearsay provides neither reliable nor fair statements of evidence. We know that mythology can arise out of no good information whatsoever. We live in a world where many people believe in demons, UFOs, ghosts, or monsters, and an innumerable number of fantasies believed as fact taken from nothing but belief and hearsay. It derives from these reasons why hearsay cannot serves as good evidence, and the same reasoning must go against the claims of a historical Jesus or any other historical person.
Authors of ancient history today, of course, can only write from indirect observation in a time far removed from their aim. But a valid historian's own writing gets cited with sources that trace to the subject themselves, or to eyewitnesses and artifacts. For example, a historian today who writes about the life of George Washington, of course, can not serve as an eyewitness, but he can provide citations to documents which give personal or eyewitness accounts. None of the historians about Jesus give reliable sources to eyewitnesses, therefore all we have remains as hearsay.
THE BIBLE GOSPELS
The most "authoritative" accounts of a historical Jesus come from the four canonical Gospels of the Bible. Note that these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of early church fathers, especially the most influential of them all: Irenaeus of Lyon who lived in the middle of the second century. Many heretical gospels existed by that time, but Irenaeus considered only some of them for mystical reasons. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, "like the four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man's estate, and the four forms of the first living creatures-- the lion of Mark, the calf of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John (see Against the Heresies). The four gospels then became Church cannon for the orthodox faith. Most of the other claimed gospel writings were burned, destroyed, or lost." [Romer]
Elaine Pagels writes: "Although the gospels of the New Testament-- like those discovered at Nag Hammadi-- are attributed to Jesus' followers, no one knows who actually wrote any of them." [Pagels, 1995]
Not only do we not know who wrote them, consider that none of the Gospels existed during the alleged life of Jesus, nor do the unknown authors make the claim to have met an earthly Jesus. Add to this that none of the original gospel manuscripts exist; we only have copies of copies.
The consensus of many biblical historians put the dating of the earliest Gospel, that of Mark, at sometime after 70 C.E., and the last Gospel, John after 90 C.E. [Pagels, 1995; Helms]. This would make it some 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus that we have any Gospel writings that mention him! Elaine Pagels writes that "the first Christian gospel was probably written during the last year of the war, or the year it ended. Where it was written and by whom we do not know; the work is anonymous, although tradition attributes it to Mark..." [Pagels, 1995]
The traditional Church has portrayed the authors as the apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, & John, but scholars know from critical textural research that there simply occurs no evidence that the gospel authors could have served as the apostles described in the Gospel stories. Yet even today, we hear priests and ministers describing these authors as the actual disciples of Christ. Many Bibles still continue to label the stories as "The Gospel according to St. Matthew," "St. Mark," "St. Luke," St. John." No apostle would have announced his own sainthood before the Church's establishment of sainthood. But one need not refer to scholars to determine the lack of evidence for authorship. As an experiment, imagine the Gospels without their titles. See if you can find out from the texts who wrote them; try to find their names.
Even if the texts supported the notion that the apostles wrote them, consider the low life expectancy of humans in the first century. According to the religious scholar, J.D. Crossan, "the life expectancy of Jewish males in the Jewish state was then twenty-nine years." [Crossan] Some people think this age appears deceptive because of the high infant mortally rates at birth. However, at birth the inhabitants of the Roman Empire had an even lower life expectancy of around twenty-five years. [source] According to Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the early third century C.E., the average life expectancy at birth came even lower to around twenty-one. [Potter] Of course these ages represent averages and some people lived after the age of 30, but how many? According to the historian Richard Carrier: "We have reason to believe that only 4% of the population at any given time was over 50 years old; over age 70, less than 2%. And that is under normal circumstances. But the Gospels were written after two very devastating abnormal events: the Jewish War and the Neronian Persecution, both of which would have, combined, greatly reduced the life expectancy of exactly those people who were eye-witnesses to the teachings of Jesus. And it just so happens that these sorts of people are curiously missing from the historical record precisely when the Gospels began to be circulated." [Carrier] Even if they lived to those unlikely ages, consider the mental and physical toll (especially during the 1st century) which would have likely reduced their memory and capability to write. Moreover, those small percentages of people who lived past 50 years were usually wealthy people (aristocrats, politicians, land and slave owners, etc.). However, the Gospels suggest that the followers of Jesus lived poorly, and this would further reduce the chances for a long life span. Although the New Testament does not provide the ages of the disciples, most Christians think their ages came to around 20-30 years old. Jesus' birth would have to have occurred before Herod's death at 4 B.C.E. So if Jesus' birth occurred in the year 4 B.C.E., that would put the age of the disciples, at the time of the writing of the first gospel, at around age 60-70 and the last gospel at around age 90-100! Based on just life expectancies alone, that would make the probability unlikely they lived during the writing of the first gospel, and extremely unlikely any of them lived during the writing of the last gospel (and I have used only the most conservative numbers).
The gospel of Mark describes the first written Bible gospel. And although Mark appears deceptively after the Matthew gospel, the gospel of Mark got written at least a generation before Matthew. From its own words, one can deduce that the author of Mark had neither heard Jesus nor served as his personal follower. Whoever wrote the gospel simply accepted the story of Jesus without question and wrote a crude an ungrammatical account of the popular story at the time. Historians tell us of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Mark served as the common element between Matthew and Luke and provided the main source for both of them. Of Mark's 666* verses, some 600 appear in Matthew, some 300 in Luke. According to Randel Helms, the author of Mark, stands at least a third remove from Jesus and more likely at the fourth remove. [Helms]
* Most Bibles show 678 verses for Mark, not 666, but many Biblical scholars think the last 12 verses came later from interpolation. The earliest manuscripts and other ancient sources do not have Mark 16: 9-20. Moreover the text style does not match and the transition between verse 8 and 9 appears awkward. Even some of today's Bibles such as the NIV exclude the last 12 verses.
The author of Matthew had obviously gotten his information from Mark's gospel and used them for his own needs. He fashioned his narrative to appeal to Jewish tradition and Scripture. He improved the grammar of Mark's Gospel, corrected what he felt theologically important, and heightened the miracles and magic.
The author of Luke admits himself as an interpreter of earlier material and not an eyewitness (Luke 1:1-4). Many scholars think the author of Luke lived as a gentile, or at the very least, a Hellenized Jew. Many modern scholars think that the Gospel of Matthew and Luke came from the Mark gospel and a hypothetical document called "Q" .(German Quelle, which means "source"). [Helms; Wilson] . However, since we have no manuscript from Q, no one could possibly determine its author or where or how he got his information or the date of its authorship. Moreover, some scholars challenge its existence and those who do think that Q existed have problems explaining it. Again we get faced with unreliable methodology and obscure sources.
John, the last appearing Bible Gospel, presents us with long theological discourses from Jesus and could not possibly have come as literal words from a historical Jesus. The Gospel of John disagrees with events described in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Moreover the unknown author(s) of this gospel wrote it in Greek near the end of the first century, and according to Bishop Shelby Spong, the book "carried within it a very obvious reference to the death of John Zebedee (John 21:23)." [Spong]
Please understand that the stories themselves cannot serve as examples of eyewitness accounts since they came as products of the minds of the unknown authors, and not from the characters themselves. The Gospels describe narrative stories, written almost virtually in the third person. People who wish to portray themselves as eyewitnesses will write in the first person, not in the third person. Moreover, many of the passages attributed to Jesus could only have come from the invention of its authors. For example, many of the statements of Jesus claim to have come from him while allegedly alone. If so, who heard him? It becomes even more marked when the evangelists report about what Jesus thought. To whom did Jesus confide his thoughts? Clearly, the Gospels employ techniques that fictional writers use. In any case the Gospels can only serve, at best, as hearsay, and at worst, as fictional, mythological, or falsified stories.
OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS
Even in antiquity people like Origen and Eusebius raised doubts about the authenticity of other books in the New Testament such as Hebrews, James, John 2 & 3, Peter 2, Jude, and Revelation. Martin Luther rejected the Epistle of James calling it worthless and an "epistle of straw" and questioned Jude, Hebrews and the Apocalypse in Revelation. Nevertheless, all New Testament writings came well after the alleged death of Jesus from unknown authors (with the possible exception of Paul, although still after the alleged death).
Epistles of Paul: Paul's biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. Of the thirteen epistles, bible scholars think he wrote only eight of them, and even here, there occurs interpolations. Not a single instance in any of Paul's writings claims that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does Paul give any reference to Jesus' life on earth (except for a few well known interpolations). Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. Hearsay.
Epistle to the Galatians: In this letter Paul describes a meeting with Peter and James, the Lord's brother (Gal: 1:18-20). The problem here involves the meaning of "Lord's brother." Some scholars think this means the biological brother of the Lord while others think it means brother in a communal spiritual sense, as all Christians are the Lord's brothers and sisters. Note, never does any epistle refer to the brother of Jesus. In all cases, Paul uses the word "Lord," consistent with the spiritual sense. In any case, even if this phrase did mean a biological brother, Paul could not have known that James had a brother. At best he could only have believed it because his information could only have come from another person, most likely James himself. That makes this letter hearsay.
Epistle of James: Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? Many claim him as the gospel disciple but the gospels mention several different James. Which one? Or maybe this James has nothing to do with any of the gospel James. Perhaps this writer comes from any one of innumerable James outside the gospels. James served as a common name in the first centuries and Biblical scholars simply have no way to tell who this James refers to. More to the point, the Epistle of James mentions Jesus only once as an introduction to his belief. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from an historical account. 
Epistles of John: Scholars tell us the epistles of John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation appear so different in style and content that they could hardly have the same author. Some suggest that these writings of John come from the work of a group of scholars in Asia Minor who followed a "John" or they came from the work of church fathers who aimed to further the interests of the Church. Or they could have simply come from people also named John (a very common name). No one knows. Also note that nowhere in the body of the three epistles of "John" does it mention a John. In any case, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. Not only do we not know who wrote these epistles, they can only serve as hearsay accounts. 
Epistles of Peter: Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery (for some examples, see the introduction to 2 Peter in the full edition of The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985). The unknown authors of the epistles of Peter wrote long after the life of the traditional Peter. Moreover, Peter lived (if he ever lived at all) as an ignorant and illiterate peasant (even Acts 4:13 attests to this). In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an author claiming himself to know what Peter said (hearsay), or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church. Encyclopedias usually describe a tradition that Saint Peter wrote them. However, whenever you see the word "tradition" it refers to a belief passed down within a society. In other words: hearsay. , 
Epistle of Jude: Even early Christians argued about its authenticity. It quotes an apocryphal book called Enoch as if it represented authorized Scripture. Biblical scholars do not think it possible for the alleged disciple Jude to have written it because whoever wrote it had to have written it during a period when the churches had long existed. Like the other alleged disciples, Jude would have lived as an illiterate peasant and unable to write (much less in Greek) but the author of Jude wrote in fluent high quality Greek.
Of the remaining books and letters in the Bible, there occurs no other stretched claims or eyewitness accounts for a historical Jesus and needs no mention of them here for this deliberation.
As for the existence of original New Testament documents, none exist. No book of the New Testament survives in the original autograph copy. What we have then come from copies, and copies of copies, of questionable originals (if the stories came piecemeal over time, as it appears it has, then there may never have existed an original). The earliest copies we have came more than a century later than the autographs, and these exist on fragments of papyrus. [Pritchard; Graham] According to Hugh Schonfield, "It would be impossible to find any manuscript of the New Testament older than the late third century, and we actually have copies from the fourth and fifth. [Schonfield]
LYING FOR THE CHURCH
The editing and formation of the Bible came from members of the early Christian Church. Since the fathers of the Church possessed the scriptoria and determined what would appear in the Bible, there occurred plenty of opportunity and motive to change, modify, or create texts that might bolster the position of the Church or the members of the Church themselves.
The orthodox Church also fought against competing Christian cults. Irenaeus, who determined the inclusion of the four (now canonical) gospels, wrote his infamous book, "Against the Heresies." According to Romer, "Irenaeus' great book not only became the yardstick of major heresies and their refutations, the starting-point of later inquisitions, but simply by saying what Christianity was not it also, in a curious inverted way, became a definition of the orthodox faith." [Romer] If a Jesus did exist, perhaps eyewitness writings got burnt along with them because of their heretical nature. We will never know.
In attempting to salvage the Bible the respected revisionist and scholar, Bruce Metzger has written extensively on the problems of the New Testament. In his book, "The Text of the New Testament-- Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Metzger addresses: Errors arising from faulty eyesight; Errors arising from faulty hearing; Errors of the mind; Errors of judgment; Clearing up historical and geographical difficulties; and Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations. [Metzger]
The Church had such power over people, that to question the Church could result in death. Regardless of what the Church claimed, most people simply believed what their priests told them.
In letter LII To Nepotian, Jerome writes about his teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus when he asked him to explain a phrase in Luke, Nazianzus evaded his request by saying “I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool." Jerome responds with, "There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation."In the 5th century, John Chrysostom in his "Treatise on the Priesthood, Book 1," wrote, "And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived."Ignatius Loyola of the 16th century wrote in his Spiritual Exercises: "To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it."
Martin Luther opined: "What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."
With such admission to accepting lies, the burning of heretical texts, Bible errors and alterations, how could any honest scholar take any book from the New Testament as absolute, much less using extraneous texts that support a Church's intransigent and biased position, as reliable evidence?
In 1945, an Arab made an archeological discovery in Upper Egypt of several ancient papyrus books. They have since referred to it as The Nag Hammadi texts. They contained fifty-two heretical books written in Coptic script which include gospels of Thomas, Philip, James, John, Thomas, and many others. Archeologists have dated them at around 350-400 C.E. They represent copies from previous copies. None of the original texts exist and scholars argue about a possible date of the originals. Some of them think that they can hardly have dates later than 120-150 C.E. Others have put it closer to 140 C.E. [Pagels, 1979]
Other Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Judas, found near the Egyptian site of the Nag Hammadi texts, shows a diverse pattern of story telling, always a mark of myth. The Judas gospel tells of Judas Iscariot as Jesus' most loyal disciple, just opposite that of the canonical gospel stories. Note that the text does not claim that Judas Iscariot wrote it. The Judas gospel, a copy written in Coptic, dates to around the third-to fourth-century. The original Greek version probably dates to between 130 and 170 C.E., around the same time as the Nag Hammadi texts. Irenaeus first mentions this gospel in Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) written around 180 C.E., so we know that this represented a heretical gospel.
Since these Gnostic texts could only have its unknown authors writing well after the alleged life of Jesus, they cannot serve as historical evidence of Jesus anymore than the canonical versions. Again, we only have "heretical" hearsay.
Virtually all other claims of Jesus come from sources outside of Christian writings. Devastating to the claims of Christians, however, comes from the fact that all of these accounts come from authors who lived after the alleged life of Jesus. Since they did not live during the time of the hypothetical Jesus, none of their accounts serve as eyewitness evidence.
Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius), Josephus' birth in 37 C.E. (well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus), puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay.
Pliny the Younger (born: 62 C.E.) His letter about the Christians only shows that he got his information from Christian believers themselves. Regardless, his birth date puts him out of range as an eyewitness account.
Tacitus, the Roman historian's birth year at 64 C.E., puts him well after the alleged life of Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a "Christus" in his Annals (Book XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 C.E. He gives no source for his material. Although many have disputed the authenticity of Tacitus' mention of Jesus, the very fact that his birth happened after the alleged Jesus and wrote the Annals during the formation of Christianity, shows that his writing can only provide us with hearsay accounts.
Suetonius, a Roman historian, born in 69 C.E., mentions a "Chrestus," a common name. Apologists assume that "Chrestus" means "Christ" (a disputable claim). But even if Seutonius had meant "Christ," it still says nothing about an earthly Jesus. Just like all the others, Suetonius' birth occurred well after the purported Jesus. Again, only hearsay.
Talmud: Amazingly some Christians use brief portions of the Talmud, (a collection of Jewish civil a religious law, including commentaries on the Torah), as evidence for Jesus. They claim that Yeshu in the Talmud refers to Jesus. However, this Yeshu, according to scholars depicts a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia at least a century before the alleged Christian Jesus or it may refer to Yeshu ben Pandera, a teacher of the 2nd centuy CE. Regardless of how one interprets this, the Palestinian Talmud didn't come into existence until the 3rd and 5th century C.E., and the Babylonian Talmud between the 3rd and 6th century C.E., at least two centuries after the alleged crucifixion. At best it can only serve as a controversial Christian or Jewish legend; it cannot possibly serve as evidence for a historical Jesus.
Christian apologists mostly use the above sources for their "evidence" of Jesus because they believe they represent the best outside sources. All other sources (Christian and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include: Mara Bar-Serapion (circa 73 C.E.), Ignatius (50 - 98? C.E.), Polycarp (69 - 155 C.E.), Clement of Rome (? - circa 160 C.E.), Justin Martyr (100 - 165 C.E.), Lucian (circa 125 - 180 C.E.), Tertullian (160 - ? C.E.), Clement of Alexandria (? - 215 C.E.), Origen (185 - 232 C.E.), Hippolytus (? - 236 C.E.), and Cyprian (? - 254 C.E.). As you can see, all these people lived well after the alleged death of Jesus. Not one of them provides an eyewitness account, all of them simply spout hearsay.
As you can see, apologist Christians embarrass themselves when they unwittingly or deceptively violate the rules of historiography by using after-the-event writings as evidence for the event itself. Not one of these writers gives a source or backs up his claims with evidential material about Jesus. Although we can provide numerous reasons why the Christian and non-Christian sources prove spurious, and argue endlessly about them, we can cut to the chase by simply determining the dates of the documents and the birth dates of the authors. It doesn't matter what these people wrote about Jesus, an author who writes after the alleged happening and gives no detectable sources for his material can only give example of hearsay. All of these anachronistic writings about Jesus could easily have come from the beliefs and stories from Christian believers themselves. And as we know from myth, superstition, and faith, beliefs do not require facts or evidence for their propagation and circulation. Thus we have only beliefs about Jesus' existence, and nothing more.
FAKES, FRAUDS, AND FICTIONS
Because the religious mind relies on belief and faith, the religious person can inherit a dependence on any information that supports a belief and that includes fraudulent stories, rumors, unreliable data, and fictions, without the need to check sources, or to investigate the reliability of the information. Although hundreds of fraudulent claims exist for the artifacts of Jesus, I will present only three examples which seem to have a life of their own and have spread through the religious community and especially on internet discussion groups.
The Shroud of Turin
Many faithful people believe the shroud represents the actual burial cloth of Jesus where they claim the image on the cloth represents an actual 'photographic' image left behind by the crucified body.
The first mention of the shroud comes from a treatise (written or dictated) by Geoffroi de Charny in 1356 and who claims to have owned the cloth (see The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny). Later, in the 16th century, it suddenly appeared in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. (Note that thousands of claimed Jesus relics appeared in cathedrals throughout Europe, including the wood from the cross, chalices, blood of Jesus, etc. These artifacts proved popular and served as a prosperous commercial device which filled the money coffers of the churches.) [See The Family Jewels for some examples.]
Sadly, many people of faith believe that there actually exists scientific evidence to support their beliefs in the shroud's authenticity. Considering how the Shroud's apologists use the words, "science," "fact," and "authentic," without actual scientific justification, and even include pseudo-scientists (without mentioning the 'pseudo') to testify to their conclusions, it should not come to any surprise why a faithful person would not question their information or their motives. Television specials have also appeared that purport the authenticity of the shroud. Science, however, does not operate though television specials who have a commercial interest and have no qualms about deceiving the public.
Experts around the world consider the 14-foot-long linen sheet, which has remained in a cathedral in Turin since 1578, a forgery because of carbon-dating tests performed in 1988. Three different independent radiocarbon dating laboratories in Zurich, Oxford and the University of Arizona yielded a date range of 1260-1390 C.E. (consistent with the time period of Charny's claimed ownership). Joe Zias of Hebrew University of Jerusalem calls the shroud indisputably a fake. "Not only is it a forgery, but it's a bad forgery." The shroud actually depicts a man whose front measures 2 inches taller than his back and whose elongated hands and arms would indicate that he had the affliction of gigantism if he actually lived. (Also read Joe Nickell's, Inquest On The Shroud Of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings)
Walter C. McCrone, et al, (see Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin) discovered red ochre (a pigment found in earth and widely used in Italy during the Middle Ages) on the cloth which formed the body image and vermilion paint, made from mercuric sulphide, used to represent blood. The actual scientific findings reveal the shroud as a 14th century painting, not a two-thousand year-old cloth with Christ's image. Revealingly, no Biblical scholar or scientist (with any credibility), cites the shroud of Turin as evidence for a historical Jesus.
The Burial box of James
Even many credible theologians bought this fraud, hook-line-and-sinker. The Nov./Dec. 2002, issue of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine announced a "world exclusive!" article about evidence of Jesus written in stone, claiming that they found the actual ossuary of "James, Brother of Jesus" in Jerusalem. This story exploded on the news and appeared widely on television and newspapers around the world.
Interestingly, they announced the find as the "earliest historical reference of Jesus yet found." Since they claimed the inscribing on the box occurred around 70 C.E., that agrees with everything claimed by this thesis (that no contemporary evidence exists for Jesus). Even if the box script proved authentic, it would not provide evidence for Jesus simply because no one knew who wrote the script or why. It would only show the first indirect mention of a Jesus and it could not serve as contemporary evidence simply because it didn't come into existence until long after the alleged death of Jesus.
The claim for authenticity of the burial box of James, however, proved particularly embarrassing for the Biblical Archaeology Review and for those who believed them without question. Just a few months later, archaeologists determined the inscription as a forgery (and an obvious one at that) and they found the perpetrator and had him arrested (see 'Jesus box' exposed as fake and A fake? James Ossuary dealer arrested, suspected of forgery).
Regrettably, the news about the fraud never matched the euphoria of the numerous stories of the find and many people today still believe the story as true.
Letters of Pontius Pilate
This would appear hilarious if not for the tragic results that can occur from believing in fiction: many faithful (especially on the internet) have a strong belief that Pontius Pilate actually wrote letters to Seneca in Rome where he mentions Jesus and his reported healing miracles.
Considering the lack of investigational temper of the religious mind, it might prove interesting to the critical reader that the main source for the letters of Pilate come from W. P. Crozier's 1928 book titled, "Letters of Pontius Pilate: Written During His Governorship of Judea to His Friend Seneca in Rome." The book cites Crozier as the editor as if he represented a scholar who edited Pilate's letters. Well, from the title, it certainly seems to indicate that Pilate wrote some letters doesn't it? However, unbeknownst or ignored by the uncritical faithful, this book represents Crozier's first novel, a fictionalized account of what he thought Pilate would have written.
During the first publication, no one believed this novel represented fact and reviews of the day reveal it as a work of fiction.
Crozier, a newspaper editor, went to Oxford University and retained an interest in Latin, Greek and the Bible. He wrote this novel as if it represented the actual letters of Pilate. Of course no scholar would cite this as evidence because no letters exist of Pilate to Seneca, and Seneca never mentions Jesus in any of his writings.
The belief in Pilate's letters represents one of the more amusing fad beliefs in evidential Jesus, however, it also reveals just how myths, fakes, and fictions can leak into religious thought. Hundreds of years from now, Crozier's fictionalized account may very well end up just as 'reliable' as the gospels.
WHAT ABOUT WRITINGS DURING THE LIFE OF JESUS?
What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what people later wrote about Jesus but what people did not write about him. Consider that not a single historian, philosopher, scribe or follower who lived before or during the alleged time of Jesus ever mentions him!
If, indeed, the Gospels portray a historical look at the life of Jesus, then the one feature that stands out prominently within the stories shows that people claimed to know Jesus far and wide, not only by a great multitude of followers but by the great priests, the Roman governor Pilate, and Herod who claims that he had heard "of the fame of Jesus" (Matt 14:1)". One need only read Matt: 4:25 where it claims that "there followed him [Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." The gospels mention, countless times, the great multitude that followed Jesus and crowds of people who congregated to hear him. So crowded had some of these gatherings grown, that Luke 12:1 alleges that an "innumerable multitude of people... trode one upon another." Luke 5:15 says that there grew "a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear..." The persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem drew so much attention that all the chief priests and scribes, including the high priest Caiaphas, not only knew about him but helped in his alleged crucifixion. (see Matt 21:15-23, 26:3, Luke 19:47, 23:13). The multitude of people thought of Jesus, not only as a teacher and a miracle healer, but a prophet (see Matt:14:5).
So here we have the gospels portraying Jesus as famous far and wide, a prophet and healer, with great multitudes of people who knew about him, including the greatest Jewish high priests and the Roman authorities of the area, and not one person records his existence during his lifetime? If the poor, the rich, the rulers, the highest priests, and the scribes knew about Jesus, who would not have heard of him?
Then we have a particular astronomical event that would have attracted the attention of anyone interested in the "heavens." According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Yet not a single mention of such a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone, including the astronomers and astrologers, anywhere in the world, including Pliny the Elder and Seneca who both recorded eclipses from other dates. Note also that, for obvious reasons, solar eclipses can't occur during a full moon (passovers always occur during full moons), Nor does a single contemporary person write about the earthquake described in Matthew 27:51-54 where the earth shook, rocks ripped apart (rent), and graves opened.
Matthew 2 describes Herod and all of Jerusalem as troubled by the worship of the infant Jesus. Herod then had all of the children of Bethlehem slain. If such extraordinary infanticides of this magnitude had occurred, why didn't anyone write about it?
Some apologists attempt to dig themselves out of this problem by claiming that there lived no capable historians during that period, or due to the lack of education of the people with a writing capacity, or even sillier, the scarcity of paper gave reason why no one recorded their "savior." But the area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records. Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And as for historians, there lived plenty at the time who had the capacity and capability to record, not only insignificant gossip, but significant events, especially from a religious sect who drew so much popular attention through an allegedly famous and infamous Jesus.
Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus whose birth occurred in 20 B.C.E. and died 50 C.E. He lived as the greatest Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the Jewish events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus "the Christ." Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca's (4? B.C.E. - 65 C.E.) writings, nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? - 79 C.E.).
If, indeed, such a well known Jesus existed, as the gospels allege, does any reader here think it reasonable that, at the very least, the fame of Jesus would not have reached the ears of one of these men?
Amazingly, we have not one Jewish, Greek, or Roman writer, even those who lived in the Middle East, much less anywhere else on the earth, who ever mention him during his supposed life time. This appears quite extraordinary, and you will find few Christian apologists who dare mention this embarrassing fact.
To illustrate this extraordinary absence of Jesus Christ literature, just imagine going through nineteenth century literature looking for an Abraham Lincoln but unable to find a single mention of him in any writing on earth until the 20th century. Yet straight-faced Christian apologists and historians want you to buy a factual Jesus out of a dearth void of evidence, and rely on nothing but hearsay written well after his purported life. Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus lived as God on earth, the Almighty gives an embarrassing example for explaining his existence. You'd think a Creator might at least have the ability to bark up some good solid evidence.
Many problems occur with the reliability of the accounts from ancient historians. Most of them did not provide sources for their claims, as they rarely included bibliographic listings, or supporting claims. They did not have access to modern scholarly techniques, and many times would include hearsay as evidence. No one today would take a modern scholar seriously who used the standards of ancient historians, yet this proves as the only kind of source that Christology comes from. Couple this with the fact that many historians believed as Christians themselves, sometimes members of the Church, and you have a built-in prejudice towards supporting a "real" Jesus.
In modern scholarship, even the best historians and Christian apologists play the historian game. They can only use what documents they have available to them. If they only have hearsay accounts then they have to play the cards that history deals them. Many historians feel compelled to use interpolation or guesses from hearsay, and yet this very dubious information sometimes ends up in encyclopedias and history books as fact.
In other words, Biblical scholarship gets forced into a lower standard by the very sources they examine. A renowned Biblical scholar illustrated this clearly in an interview when asked about Biblical interpretation. David Noel Freeman (the General editor of the Anchor Bible Series and many other works) responded with:
"We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything."The implications appear obvious. If one wishes to believe in a historical Jesus, he or she must accept this based on loose standards. Couple this with the fact that all of the claims come from hearsay, and we have a foundation made of sand, and a castle of information built of cards.
-David Noel Freedman (in Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)
CITING GEOGRAPHY, AND KNOWN HISTORICAL FIGURES AS "EVIDENCE"
Although the New Testament mentions various cities, geological sites, kings and people that existed or lived during the alleged life of Jesus, these descriptions cannot serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus anymore than works of fiction that include recognizable locations, and make mention of actual people.
Homer's Odyssey, for example, describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. The authors of mythical stories, fictions, and novels almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories. The authors of the Greek tragedies not only put their stories in plausible settings as happening in the real world but their supernatural characters took on the desires, flaws and failures of mortal human beings. Consider that fictions such as King Kong, Superman, and Star Trek include recognizable cities, planets, and landmarks, with their protagonists and antagonists miming human emotions.
Likewise, just because the Gospels mention cities and locations in Judea, and known historical people, with Jesus behaving like an actual human being (with the added dimension of supernatural curses, miracles, etc.) but this says nothing about the actuality of the characters portrayed in the stories. However, when a story uses impossible historical locations, or geographical errors, we may question the authority of the claims.
For example, in Matt 4:8, the author describes the devil taking Jesus into an exceedingly high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world. Since there exists no spot on the spheroid earth to view "all the kingdoms," we know that the Bible errs here.
John 12:21 says, "The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee. . . ." Bethsaida resided in Gaulonitis (Golan region), east of the Jordan river, not Galilee, which resided west of the river.
John 3:23 says, "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . ." Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.
No one has evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus's writings (even though he provides a list of cities in Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles appeared before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn't come into existence until about 40 years after the alleged death of Jesus. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as established history. Many historians do not agree with this of course. Some think Nazareth existed, some don't think it existed, and some remain skeptical, but the fact that historians still debate it should tell you that that we should not use this uncertainly as a certainty. Moreover, some scholars think it as a moot point because they believe "Nazareth" refers to a Christian movement, not a city. For one example, Acts 24:5 refers to a sect of the Nazarenes. The Gospel writers then might have confused the term to mean the city (which by the time they wrote the gospels, a city did exist with that name). We have a lot of educated guesses by scholars, but no certainity.
Many more kinds of errors and uncertainties like this appear in the New Testament. And although one cannot use these as evidence against a historical Jesus, we can certainly question the reliability of the texts. If the scriptures make so many factual errors about geology, science, and contain so many contradictions, falsehoods could occur any in area.
If we have a coupling with historical people and locations, then we should also have some historical reference of a Jesus to these locations and people. But just the opposite proves the case. The Bible depicts Herod, the Ruler of Jewish Palestine under Rome as sending out men to search and kill the infant Jesus, yet nothing in history supports such a story. Pontius Pilate supposedly performed as judge in the trial and execution of Jesus, yet no Roman record mentions such a trial. The gospels portray a multitude of believers throughout the land spreading tales of a teacher, prophet, and healer, yet nobody in Jesus' life time or years after, ever records such a human figure. The lack of a historical Jesus in the known historical record speaks for itself.
COMPARING JESUS TO OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURES
Many Christian apologists attempt to extricate themselves from their lack of evidence by claiming that if we cannot rely on the post chronicle exegesis of Jesus, then we cannot establish a historical foundation for other figures such as Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, etc. However, there sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing.
Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E. For Augustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more. Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters. We can establish some historicity to these people because we have evidence that occurred during their life times. Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people. For example, some of the stories of Alexander's conquests, or Nero starting the fire in Rome always gets questioned or doubted because they contain inconsistencies or come from authors who wrote years after the alleged facts. In qualifying the history of Alexander, Pierre Briant writes, "Although more than twenty of his contemporaries chronicled Alexander's life and campaigns, none of these texts survive in original form. Many letters and speeches attributed to Alexander are ancient forgeries or reconstructions inspired by imagination or political motives. The little solid documentation we possess from Alexander's own time is mainly to be found in stone inscriptions from the Greek cities of Europe and Asia." [Briant]
Inventing histories out of whole cloth or embellished from a seed of an actual historical event appears common throughout the chronicle of human thought. Robert Price observes, "Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Cyrus, King Arthur, and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle." [Price, pp. 260-261]
Interestingly, almost all important historical people have descriptions of what they looked like. We have the image of Augustus Caesar cast on denarius coins, busts of Greek and Roman aristocrats, artwork of Napoleon, etc. We have descriptions of facial qualities, height, weight, hair length & color, age and even portraits of most important historical figures. But for Jesus, we have nothing. Nowhere in the Bible do we have a description of the human shape of Jesus. How can we rely on the Gospels as the word of Jesus when no one even describes what he looked like? How odd that none of the disciple characters record what he looked like, yet believers attribute them to know exactly what he said. Indeed, this gives us a clue that Jesus came to the gospel writers and indirect and through myth. Not until hundreds of years after the alleged Jesus did pictures emerge as to what he looked like from cult Christians, and these widely differed from a blond clean shaven, curly haired Apollonian youth (found in the Roman catacombs) to a long-bearded Italian as depicted to this day. This mimics the pattern of Greek mythological figures as their believers constructed various images of what their gods looked like according to their own cultural image.
Historical people leave us with contemporary evidence, but for Jesus we have nothing. If we wanted to present a fair comparison of the type of information about Jesus to another example of equal historical value, we could do no better than to compare Jesus with the mythical figure of Hercules.
IF JESUS, THEN WHY NOT HERCULES?
If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then shouldn't they act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?
To take one example, examine the evidence for Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the "historicity" of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus.
Note that Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. The mortal and chaste Alcmene, the mother of Hercules, gave birth to him from a union with God (Zeus). Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Similar to Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules gives example of perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.
Likewise the "evidence" of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mention Hercules in their writings. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have a brief mention of Jesus by Joesphus in his Antiquities, Joesphus also mentions Hercules (more times than Jesus), in the very same work (see: 1.15; 8.5.3; 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Christus, so does he also mention Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him? Of course not, and the same must apply to Jesus if we wish to hold any consistency to historicity.
Some critics doubt that a historicized Jesus could develop from myth because they think there never occurred any precedence for it. We have many examples of myth from history but what about the other way around? This doubt fails in the light of the most obvious example-- the Greek mythologies where Greek and Roman writers including Diodorus, Cicero, Livy, etc., assumed that there must have existed a historical root for figures such as Hercules, Theseus, Odysseus, Minos, Dionysus, etc. These writers put their mythological heroes into an invented historical time chart. Herodotus, for example, tried to determine when Hercules lived. As Robert M. Price revealed, "The whole approach earned the name of Euhemerism, from Euhemerus who originated it." [Price, p. 250] Even today, we see many examples of seedling historicized mythologies: UFO adherents whose beliefs began as a dream of alien bodily invasion, and then expressed as actually having occurred (some of which have formed religious cults); beliefs of urban legends which started as pure fiction or hoaxes; propaganda spread by politicians which stem from fiction but believed by their constituents.
People consider Hercules and other Greek gods as myth because people no longer believe in the Greek and Roman stories. When a civilization dies, so do their gods. Christianity and its church authorities, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations or fear embarrassment against their Christian friends. Christianitydepends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources. The faithful want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical "experts" around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic. The establishment of history should never reside with the "experts" words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian. Historical review has yet to achieve the reliability of scientific investigation, (and in fact, many times ignores it). If a scholar makes a historical claim, his assertion should depend primarily with the evidence itself and not just because he or she says so. Facts do not require belief. And whereas beliefs can live comfortably without evidence at all, facts depend on evidence.
THEN WHY THE MYTH OF JESUS?
Some people actually believe that just because so much voice and ink has spread the word of a character named Jesus throughout history, that this must mean that he actually lived. This argument simply does not hold. The number of people who believe or write about something or the professional degrees they hold say nothing at all about fact. Facts derive out of evidence, not from hearsay, not from hubris scholars, and certainly not from faithful believers. Regardless of the position or admiration held by a scholar, believer, or priest, if he or she cannot support a hypothesis with good evidence, then it can only remain a hypothesis.
While a likely possibility exists that an actual Jesus lived, another likely possibility reveals that a mythology could have derived out of earlier mythologies or possibly independent archetypal hero worship. Although we have no evidence for a historical Jesus, we certainly have many accounts of mythologies from the Middle East during the first century and before. Many of these stories appear similar to the Christ saviour story.
Just before and during the first century, the Jews had prophesied about an upcoming Messiah based on Jewish scripture. Their beliefs influenced many of their followers. We know that powerful beliefs can create self-fulfilling prophesies, and surely this proved just as true in ancient times. It served as a popular dream expressed in Hebrew Scripture for the promise of an "end-time" with a savior to lead them to the promised land. Indeed, Roman records show executions of several would-be Messiahs, (but not a single record mentions a Jesus). Many ancients believed that there could come a final war against the "Sons of Darkness"-- the Romans.
This then could very well have served as the ignition and flame for the future growth of Christianity. Biblical scholars tell us that the early Christians lived within pagan communities. Jewish scriptural beliefs coupled with the pagan myths of the time give sufficient information about how such a religion could have formed. Many of the Hellenistic and pagan myths parallel so closely to the alleged Jesus that to ignore its similarities means to ignore the mythological beliefs of history. Dozens of similar savior stories propagated the minds of humans long before the alleged life of Jesus. Virtually nothing about Jesus "the Christ" came to the Christians as original or new.
For example, the religion of Zoroaster, founded circa 628-551 B.C.E. in ancient Persia, roused mankind in the need for hating a devil, the belief of a paradise, last judgment and resurrection of the dead. Mithraism, an offshoot of Zoroastrianism probably influenced early Christianity. The Magi described in the New Testament appears as Zoroastrian priests. Note the word "paradise" came from the Persian pairidaeza.
Osiris, Hercules, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus, Romulus, and others compare to the Christian myth. According to Patrick Campbell of The Mythical Jesus, all served as pre-Christian sun gods, yet all allegedly had gods for fathers, virgins for mothers; had their births announced by stars; got born on the solstice around December 25th; had tyrants who tried to kill them in their infancy; met violent deaths; rose from the dead; and nearly all got worshiped by "wise men" and had allegedly fasted for forty days. [McKinsey, Chapter 5]
Even Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. To the Pagans, he wrote: "When we say that the Word, who is first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus)." [First Apology, ch. xxi]
Virtually all of the mythical accounts of a savior Jesus have parallels to past pagan mythologies which existed long before Christianity and from the Jewish scriptures that we now call the Old Testament. The accounts of these myths say nothing about historical reality, but they do say a lot about believers, how they believed, and how their beliefs spread.
In the book The Jesus Puzzle, the biblical scholar, Earl Doherty, presents not only a challenge to the existence of an historical Jesus but reveals that early pre-Gospel Christian documents show that the concept of Jesus sprang from non-historical spiritual beliefs of a Christ derived from Jewish scripture and Hellenized myths of savior gods. Nowhere do any of the New Testament epistle writers describe a human Jesus, including Paul. None of the epistles mention a Jesus from Nazareth, an earthly teacher, or as a human miracle worker. Nowhere do we find these writers quoting Jesus. Nowhere do we find them describing any details of Jesus' life on earth or his followers. Nowhere do we find the epistle writers even using the word "disciple" (they of course use the term "apostle" but the word simply means messenger, as Paul saw himself). Except for a few well known interpolations, Jesus always gets presented as a spiritual being that existed before all time with God, and that knowledge of Christ came directly from God or as a revelation from the word of scripture. Doherty writes, "Christian documents outside the Gospels, even at the end of the first century and beyond, show no evidence that any tradition about an earthly life and ministry of Jesus were in circulation."
Furthermore, the epistle to the Hebrews (8:4), makes it explicitly clear that the epistle writer did not believe in a historical Jesus: "If He [Jesus] had been on earth, He would not be a priest."
Did the Christians copy (or steal) the pagan ideas directly into their own faith? Not necessarily. They may have gotten many of their beliefs through syncretism or through independent hero archetype worship, innate to human story telling. If gotten through syncretism, Jews and pagans could very well have influenced the first Christians, especially the ideas of salvation and beliefs about good and evil. Later, at the time of the gospels, other myths may entered Christian beliefs such a the virgin birth and miracles. In the 4th century, we know that Christians derived the birthday of Jesus from the pagans. If gotten through independent means, it still says nothing about Christian originality because we know that pagans had beliefs about incarnated gods, long before Christianity existed. The hero archetypes still exist in our story telling today. As one personal example, as a boy I used to read and collect Superman comics. It never occurred to me at the time to see Superman as a Christ-figure. Yet, if you analyze Superman and Jesus stories, they have uncanny similarities. In fact the movie Superman Returns explicitly tells the Superman story through a savior's point of view without once mentioning Jesus, yet Christians would innately know the connection. Other movies like Star Wars, Phenomenon, K-PAX, The Matrix, etc. also covertly tell savior stories. So whether the first Christians borrowed or independently came up with a savior story makes no difference whatsoever. The point here only aims to illustrate that Christians did not originate the savior story.
The early historical documents can prove nothing about an actual Jesus but they do show an evolution of belief derived from varied and diverse concepts of Christianity, starting from a purely spiritual form of Christ to a human figure who embodied that spirit, as portrayed in the Gospels. The New Testament stories appears as an eclectic hodgepodge of Jewish, Hellenized and pagan stories compiled by pietistic believers to appeal to an audience for their particular religious times.
A NOTE ABOUT DATING:
The A.D. (Anno Domini, or "year of our Lord") dating method derived from a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little), in the sixth-century who used it in his Easter tables. Oddly, some people seem to think this has relevance to a historical Jesus. But of course it has nothing at all to do with it. In the time before and during the 6th century, people used various other dating methods. The Romans used A.U.C. (anno urbis conditae, "year of the founded city," that being Rome). The Jews had their own dating system. Not until the tenth century did most churches accept the new dating system. The A.D. system simply reset the time of January 1, 754 A.U.C. to January 1, of year one A.D., which Dionysius obliquely derived from the belief of the date of "incarnation" of Jesus. The date, if one uses the Bible as history, can't possibly hold true. *
Instead of B.C. and A.D., I have used the convention of B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) as often used in scholarly literature. They correspond to the same dates as B.C. and A.D., but without alluding to the birth or death of an alleged Christ.
* Dionysius believed that the conception (incarnation) of Jesus occurred on March 25. This meant that the conception must have occurred nine months later on December 25, probably not coincidentally, the very same date that the Emperor Aurelian, in 274 C.E., declared December 25 a holiday in celebration of the birth of Mithras, the sun god. By 336 C.E., Christians replaced Mithras with Jesus' birth on the same date. Dionysius then declared the new year several days later on January 1, probably to coincide with the traditional Roman year starting on January 1st. Dionysius probably never read the gospel account of the birth of Jesus because the Matthew gospel says his birth occurred while Herod served as King. That meant that if he did exist, his birth would have to occur in 4 B.C.E. or earlier. He made another 'mistake' by assigning the first year as 1 instead of 0 (everyone's birthday starts at year 0, not 1). The concept of zero (invented from Arabia and India) didn't come into Europe until about two hundred years later.
QUOTES FROM A FEW SCHOLARS:Although the majority of scholars today believe that a Jesus lived on earth, the reasons for this appear suspicious once you consider the history and evolution of Jesus scholarship. Hundreds of years ago all Biblical scholars believed in God. Considering their Christian beliefs, they would, of course, believe in a historical Jesus. In the last two centuries, the school has loosened up a bit, and today they even allow atheists into their study rooms. But even today you had better allude to a historical Jesus even if you question the reliability of the sources, otherwise, you may not have a job. If, indeed, Bible scholars did allow skeptics of a historical Jesus into their studies, and they presented a convincing case, that could threaten the very branch of Jesus scholarship that studied a historical Jesus. It could very well disappear like that of euhermerism.
Although some secular freethinkers and atheists accept a historical Jesus (minus the miracles), they, like most Christians, simply accept the traditional view without question. As time goes on, more and more scholars have begun to open the way to a more honest look at the evidence, or should I say, the lack of evidence. So for those who wish to rely on scholarly opinion, I will give a few quotes from Biblical researchers and scholars, past and present:
When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up.
-Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)
- The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus... The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information -- not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.
- -Moncure D. Conway [1832 - 1907] (Modern Thought)
It is only in comparatively modern times that the possibility was considered that Jesus does not belong to history at all.
-J.M. Robertson (Pagan Christs)
Many people-- then and now-- have assumed that these letters [of Paul] are genuine, and five of them were in fact incorporated into the New Testament as "letters of Paul." Even today, scholars dispute which are authentic and which are not. Most scholars, however, agree that Paul actually wrote only eight of the thirteen "Pauline" letters now included in the New Testament. collection: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul himself did not write 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus-- letters written in a style different from Paul's and reflecting situations and viewpoints in a style different from those in Paul's own letters. About the authorship of Ephesias, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, debate continues; but the majority of scholars include these, too, among the "deutero-Pauline"-- literally, secondarily Pauline-- letters."
-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent)
We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)
Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the "historical Jesus". . . and that sorting out "authentic" material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence."
-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University
The gospels are so anonymous that their titles, all second-century guesses, are all four wrong.
-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
Did Jesus Christ Really Live? (ca. 1922)
by Marshall J. Gauvin
Scientific inquiry into the origins of Christianity begins today with the question: "Did Jesus Christ really live?" Was there a man named Jesus, who was called the Christ, living in Palestine nineteen centuries ago, of whose life and teachings we have a correct account in the New Testament? The orthodox idea that Christ was the son of God—God himself in human form—that he was the creator of the countless millions of glowing suns and wheeling worlds that strew the infinite expanse of the universe; that the forces of nature were the servants of his will and changed their courses at his command—such an idea has been abandoned by every independent thinker in the world—by every thinker who relies on reason and experience rather than mere faith—by every man of science who places the integrity of nature above the challenge of ancient religious tales.
Not only has the divinity of Christ been given up, but his existence as a man is being more and more seriously questioned. Some of the ablest scholars of the world deny that he ever lived at all. A commanding literature dealing with the inquiry, intense in its seriousness and profound and thorough in its research, is growing up in all countries, and spreading the conviction that Christ is a myth. The question is one of tremendous importance. For the Freethinker, as well as for the Christian, it is of the weightiest significance. The Christian religion has been and is a mighty fact in the world. For good or for ill, it has absorbed for many centuries the best energies of mankind. It has stayed the march of civilization, and made martyrs of some of the noblest men and women of the race: and it is today the greatest enemy of knowledge, of freedom, of social and industrial improvement, and of the genuine brotherhood of mankind. The progressive forces of the world are at war with this Asiatic superstition, and this war will continue until the triumph of truth and freedom is complete. The question, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live?" goes to the very root of the conflict between reason and faith; and upon its determination depends, to some degree, the decision as to whether religion or humanity shall rule the world.
Whether Christ did, or did not live, has nothing at all to do with what the churches teach, or with what we believe, It is wholly a matter of evidence. It is a question of science. The question is—what does history say? And that question must be settled in the court of historical criticism. If the thinking world is to hold to the position that Christ was a real character, there must be sufficient evidence to warrant that belief. If no evidence for his existence can be found; if history returns the verdict that his name is not inscribed upon her scroll, if it be found that his story was created by art and ingenuity, like the stories of fictitious heroes, he will have to take his place with the host of other demigods whose fancied lives and deeds make up the mythology of the world.
What, then, is the evidence that Jesus Christ lived in this world as a man? The authorities relied upon to prove the reality of Christ are the four Gospels of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These Gospels, and these alone, tell the story of his life. Now we know absolutely nothing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, apart from what is said of them in the Gospels. Moreover, the Gospels themselves do not claim to have been written by these men. They are not called "The Gospel of Matthew," or "The Gospel of Mark," but "The Gospel According to Matthew," "The Gospel According to Mark," "The Gospel According to Luke," and "The Gospel According to John." No human being knows who wrote a single line in one of these Gospels. No human being knows when they were written, or where. Biblical scholarship has established the fact that the Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the four. The chief reasons for this conclusion are that this Gospel is shorter, simpler, and more natural, than any of the other three. It is shown that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were enlarged from the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark knows nothing of the virgin birth, of the Sermon on the Mount, of the Lord's prayer, or of other important facts of the supposed life of Christ. These features were added by Matthew and Luke.
But the Gospel of Mark, as we have it, is not the original Mark. In the same way that the writers of Matthew and Luke copied and enlarged the Gospel of Mark, Mark copied and enlarged an earlier document which is called the "original Mark." This original source perished in the early age of the Church. What it was, who wrote it, where it was written, nobody knows. The Gospel of John is admitted by Christian scholars to be an unhistorical document. They acknowledge that it is not a life of Christ, but an interpretation of him; that it gives us an idealized and spiritualized picture of what Christ is supposed to have been, and that it is largely composed of the speculations of Greek philosophy. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are called the "Synoptic Gospels," on the one hand, and the Gospel of John, on the other, stand at opposite extremes of thought. So complete is the difference between the teaching of the first three Gospels and that of the fourth, that every critic admits that if Jesus taught as the Synoptics relate, he could not possibly have taught as John declares. Indeed, in the first three Gospels and in the fourth, we meet with two entirely different Christs. Did I say two? It should be three; for, according to Mark, Christ was a man; according to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod; while John insists that he was God himself.
There is not the smallest fragment of trustworthy evidence showing any of the Gospels were in existence, in their present form, earlier than a hundred years after the time at which Christ is supposed to have died. Christian scholars, having no reliable means by which to fix the date of their composition, assign them to as early an age as their calculations and their guesses will allow; but the dates thus arrived at are far removed from the age of Christ or his apostles. We are told that Mark was written some time after the year 70, Luke about 110, Matthew about 130, and John not earlier than 140 A.D. Let me impress upon you that these dates are conjectural, and that they are made as early as possible. The first historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D. The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D.
There is absolutely nothing to show that these Gospels—the only sources of authority as to the existence of Christ—were written until a hundred and fifty years after the events they pretend to describe. Walter R. Cassels, the learned author of "Supernatural Religion," one of the greatest works ever written on the origins of Christianity, says: "After having exhausted the literature and the testimony bearing on the point, we have not found a single distinct trace of any of those Gospels during the first century and a half after the death of Christ." How can Gospels which were not written until a hundred and fifty years after Christ is supposed to have died, and which do not rest on any trustworthy testimony, have the slightest value as evidence that he really lived? History must be founded upon genuine documents or on living proof. Were a man of today to attempt to write the life of a supposed character of a hundred and fifty years ago, without any historical documents upon which to base his narrative, his work would not be a history, it would be a romance. Not a single statement in it could be relied upon.
Christ is supposed to have been a Jew, and his disciples are said to have been Jewish fishermen. His language, and the language of his followers must, therefore, have been Aramaic—the popular language of Palestine in that age. But the Gospels are written in Greek—every one of them. Nor were they translated from some other language. Every leading Christian scholar since Erasmus, four hundred years ago, has maintained that they were originally written in Greek. This proves that they were not written by Christ's disciples, or by any of the early Christians. Foreign Gospels, written by unknown men, in a foreign tongue, several generations after the death of those who are supposed to have known the facts—such is the evidence relied upon to prove that Jesus lived.
But while the Gospels were written several generations too late to be of authority, the original documents, such as they were, were not preserved. The Gospels that were written in the second century no longer exist. They have been lost or destroyed. The oldest Gospels that we have are supposed to be copies of copies of copies that were made from those Gospels. We do not know who made these copies; we do not know when they were made; nor do we know whether they were honestly made. Between the earliest Gospels and the oldest existing manuscripts of the New Testament, there is a blank gulf of three hundred years. It is, therefore, impossible to say what the original Gospels contained.
There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a large number of them were forgeries. Among these were the "Gospel of Paul," the Gospel of Bartholomew," the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot," the "Gospel of the Egyptians," the "Gospel or Recollections of Peter," the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ," and scores of other pious productions, a collection of which may still be read in "The Apocryphal New Testament." Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them the appearance of importance. Works were forged in the names of the apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie for the glory of the faith. Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian, says: "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed." The Rev. Dr. Giles writes: "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then written with no other view than to deceive." Professor Robertson Smith says: "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views." The early church was flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no certainty that they were not. But let me ask: If Christ was an historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived? The early Christian forgeries are a tremendous testimony to the weakness of the Christian cause.
Spurious or genuine, let us see what the Gospels can tell us about the life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke give us the story of his genealogy. How do they agree? Matthew says there were forty-one generations from Abraham to Jesus. Luke says there were fifty-six. Yet both pretend to give the genealogy of Joseph, and both count the generations! Nor is this all. The Evangelists disagree on all but two names between David and Christ. These worthless genealogies show how much the New Testament writers knew about the ancestors of their hero.
If Jesus lived, he must have been born. When was he born? Matthew says he was born when Herod was King of Judea. Luke says he was born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria. He could not have been born during the administration of these two rulers for Herod died in the year 4 B.C., and Cyrenius, who, in Roman history is Quirinius, did not become Governor of Syria until ten years later. Herod and Quirinius are separated by the whole reign of Archelaus, Herod's son. Between Matthew and Luke, there is, therefore, a contradiction of at least ten years, as to the time of Christ's birth. The fact is that the early Christians had absolutely no knowledge as to when Christ was born. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: "Christians count one hundred and thirty-three contrary opinions of different authorities concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth." Think of it—one hundred and thirty-three different years, each one of which is held to be the year in which Christ came into the world. What magnificent certainty!
Towards the close of the eighteenth century, Antonmaria Lupi, a learned Jesuit, wrote a work to show that the nativity of Christ has been assigned to every month in the year, at one time or another.
Where was Christ born? According to the Gospels, he was habitually called "Jesus of Nazareth." The New Testament writers have endeavored to leave the impression that Nazareth of Galilee was his home town. The Synoptic Gospels represent that thirty years of his life were spent there. Notwithstanding this, Matthew declares that he was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of a prophecy in the Book of Micah. But the prophecy of Micah has nothing whatever to do with Jesus; it prophesies the coming of a military leader, not a divine teacher. Matthew's application of this prophecy to Christ strengthens the suspicion that his Gospel is not history, but romance. Luke has it that his birth occurred at Bethlehem, where his mother had gone with her husband, to make the enrollment called for by Augustus Caesar. Of the general census mentioned by Luke, nothing is known in Roman history. But suppose such a census was taken. The Roman custom, when an enrollment was made, was that every man was to report at his place of residence. The head of the family alone made report. In no case was his wife, or any dependent, required to be with him. In the face of this established custom, Luke declares that Joseph left his home in Nazareth and crossed two provinces to go Bethlehem for the enrollment; and not only this, but that he had to be accompanied by his wife, Mary, who was on the very eve of becoming a mother. This surely is not history, but fable. The story that Christ was born at Bethlehem was a necessary part of the program which made him the Messiah, and the descendant of King David. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David; and by what Renan calls a roundabout way, his birth was made to take place there. The story of his birth in the royal city is plainly fictitious.
His home was Nazareth. He was called "Jesus of Nazareth"; and there he is said to have lived until the closing years of his life. Now comes the question—Was there a city of Nazareth in that age? The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, the greatest biblical reference work in the English language, says: "We cannot perhaps venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus' time." No certainty that there was a city of Nazareth! Not only are the supposed facts of the life of Christ imaginary, but the city of his birth and youth and manhood existed, so far as we know, only on the map of mythology. What amazing evidence to prove the reality of a Divine man! Absolute ignorance as to his ancestry; nothing whatever known of the time of his birth, and even the existence of the city where he is said to have been born, a matter of grave question!
After his birth, Christ, as it were, vanishes out of existence, and with the exception of a single incident recorded in Luke, we hear absolutely nothing of him until he has reached the age of thirty years. The account of his being found discussing with the doctors in the Temple at Jerusalem when he was but twelve years old, is told by Luke alone. The other Gospels are utterly ignorant of this discussion; and, this single incident excepted, the four Gospels maintain an unbroken silence with regard to thirty years of the life of their hero. What is the meaning of this silence? If the writers of the Gospels knew the facts of the life of Christ, why is it that they tell us absolutely nothing of thirty years of that life? What historical character can be named whose life for thirty years is an absolute blank to the world? If Christ was the incarnation of God, if he was the greatest teacher the world has known, if he came to save mankind from everlasting pain—was there nothing worth remembering in the first thirty years of his existence among men? The fact is that the Evangelists knew nothing of the life of Jesus, before his ministry; and they refrained from inventing a childhood, youth and early manhood for him because it was not necessary to their purpose.
Luke, however, deviated from the rule of silence long enough to write the Temple incident. The story of the discussion with the doctors in the Temple is proved to be mythical by all the circumstances that surround it. The statement that his mother and father left Jerusalem, believing that he was with them; that they went a day's journey before discovering that he was not in their company; and that after searching for three days, they found him in the Temple asking and answering questions of the learned Doctors, involves a series of tremendous improbabilities. Add to this the fact that the incident stands alone in Luke, surrounded by a period of silence covering thirty years; add further that none of the other writers have said a word of the child Jesus discussing with the scholars of their nation; and add again the unlikelihood that a child would appear before serious-minded men in the role of an intellectual champion and the fabulous character of the story becomes perfectly clear.
The Gospels know nothing of thirty years of Christ's life. What do they know of the last years of that life? How long did the ministry, the public career of Christ, continue? According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the public life of Christ lasted about a year. If John's Gospel is to be believed, his ministry covered about three years. The Synoptics teach that Christ's public work was confined almost entirely to Galilee, and that he went to Jerusalem only once, not long before his death. John is in hopeless disagreement with the other Evangelists as to the scene of Christ's labors. He maintains that most of the public life of Christ was spent in Judea, and that Christ was many times in Jerusalem. Now, between Galilee and Judea there was the province of Samaria. If all but the last few weeks of Christ's ministry was carried on in his native province of Galilee, it is certain that the greater part of that ministry was not spent in Judea, two provinces away.
John tells us that the driving of the money-changers from the Temple occurred at the beginning of Christ's ministry; and nothing is said of any serious consequences following it. But Matthew, Mark and Luke declare that the purification of the Temple took place at the close of his career, and that this act brought upon him the wrath of the priests, who sought to destroy him. Because of these facts, the Encyclopedia Biblica assures us that the order of events in the life of Christ, as given by the Evangelists, is contradictory and untrustworthy; that the chronological framework of the Gospels is worthless; and that the facts "show only too clearly with what lack of concern for historical precision the Evangelists write." In other words, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote, not what they knew, but what they imagined.
Christ is said to have been many times in Jerusalem. It is said that he preached daily in the Temple. He was followed by his twelve disciples, and by multitudes of enthusiastic men and women. On the one hand, the people shouted hosannas in his honor, and on the other, priests engaged him in discussion and sought to take his life. All this shows that he must have been well known to the authorities. Indeed, he must have been one of the best known men in Jerusalem. Why, then, was it necessary for the priests to bribe one of his disciples to betray him? Only an obscure man, whose identity was uncertain, or a man who was in hiding, would need to be betrayed. A man who appeared daily in the streets, who preached daily in the Temple, a man who was continually before the public eye, could have been arrested at any moment. The priests would not have bribed a man to betray a teacher whom everybody knew. If the accounts of Christ's betrayal are true, all the declarations about his public appearances in Jerusalem must be false.
Nothing could be more improbable than the story of Christ's crucifixion. The civilization of Rome was the highest in the world. The Romans were the greatest lawyers the world had ever known. Their courts were models of order and fairness. A man was not condemned without a trial; he was not handed to the executioner before being found guilty. And yet we are asked to believe that an innocent man was brought before a Roman court, where Pontius Pilate was Judge; that no charge of wrongdoing having been brought against him, the Judge declared that he found him innocent; that the mob shouted, "Crucify him, crucify him!" and that to please the rabble, Pilate commanded that the man who had done no wrong and whom he had found innocent, should be scourged, and then delivered him to the executioners to be crucified! Is it thinkable that the master of a Roman court in the days of Tiberius Caesar, having found a man innocent and declared him so, and having made efforts to save his life, tortured him of his own accord, and then handed him over to a howling mob to be nailed to a cross? A Roman court finding a man innocent and then crucifying him? Is that a picture of civilized Rome? Is that the Rome to which the world owes its laws? In reading the story of the Crucifixion, are we reading history or religious fiction? Surely not history.
On the theory that Christ was crucified, how shall we explain the fact that during the first eight centuries of the evolution of Christianity, Christian art represented a lamb, and not a man, as suffering on the cross for the salvation of the world? Neither the paintings in the Catacombs nor the sculptures on Christian tombs pictured a human figure on the cross. Everywhere a lamb was shown as the Christian symbol—a lamb carrying a cross, a lamb at the foot of a cross, a lamb on a cross. Some figures showed the lamb with a human head, shoulders and arms, holding a cross in his hands—the lamb of God in process of assuming the human form—the crucifixion myth becoming realistic. At the close of the eighth century, Pope Hadrian I, confirming the decree of the sixth Synod of Constantinople, commanded that thereafter the figure of a man should take the place of a lamb on the cross. It took Christianity eight hundred years to develop the symbol of its suffering Savior. For eight hundred years, the Christ on the cross was a lamb. But if Christ was actually crucified, why was his place on the cross so long usurped by a lamb? In the light of history and reason, and in view of a lamb on the cross, why should we believe in the Crucifixion?
And let us ask, if Christ performed the miracles the New Testament describes, if he gave sight to blind men's eyes, if his magic touch brought youthful vigor to the palsied frame, if the putrefying dead at his command returned to life and love again—why did the people want him crucified? Is it not amazing that a civilized people—for the Jews of that age were civilized—were so filled with murderous hate towards a kind and loving man who went about doing good, who preached forgiveness, cleansed the leprous, and raised the dead—that they could not be appeased until they had crucified the noblest benefactor of mankind? Again I ask—is this history, or is it fiction?
From the standpoint of the supposed facts, the account of the Crucifixion of Christ is as impossible as is the raising of Lazarus from the standpoint of nature. The simple truth is, that the four Gospels are historically worthless. They abound in contradictions, in the unreasonable, the miraculous and the monstrous. There is not a thing in them that can be depended upon as true, while there is much in them that we certainly know to be false.
The accounts of the virgin birth of Christ, of his feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, of his cleansing the leprous, of his walking on the water, of his raising the dead, and of his own resurrection after his life had been destroyed, are as untrue as any stories that were ever told in this world. The miraculous element in the Gospels is proof that they were written by men, who did not know how to write history, or who were not particular as to the truth of what they wrote. The miracles of the Gospels were invented by credulity or cunning, and if the miracles were invented, how can we know that the whole history of Christ was not woven of the warp and woof of the imagination? Dr. Paul W. Schmiedel, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Zurich, Switzerland, one of the foremost theologians of Europe, tells us in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, that there are only nine passages in the Gospels that we can depend upon as being the sayings of Jesus; and Professor Arthur Drews, Germany's greatest exponent of the doctrine that Christ is a myth, analyzes these passages and shows that there is nothing in them that could not easily have been invented. That these passages are as unhistorical as the rest is also the contention of John M. Robertson, the eminent English scholar, who holds that Jesus never lived.
Let me make a startling disclosure. Let me tell you that the New Testament itself contains the strongest possible proof that the Christ of the Gospels was not a real character. The testimony of the Epistles of Paul demonstrates that the life story of Jesus is an invention. Of course, there is no certainty that Paul really lived. Let me quote a passage from the Encyclopaedia Biblica, relative to Paul: "It is true that the picture of Paul drawn by later times differs utterly in more or fewer of its details from the original. Legend has made itself master of his person. The simple truth has been mixed up with invention; Paul has become the hero of an admiring band of the more highly developed Christians." Thus Christian authority admits that invention has done its work in manufacturing at least in part, the life of Paul. In truth, the ablest Christian scholars reject all but four of the Pauline Epistles as spurious. Some maintain that Paul was not the author of any of them. The very existence of Paul is questionable.
But for the purpose of my argument, I am going to admit that Paul really lived; that he was a zealous apostle; and, that all the Epistles are from his pen. There are thirteen of these Epistles. Some of them are lengthy and they are acknowledged to be the oldest Christian writings. They were written long before the Gospels. If Paul really wrote them, they were written by a man who lived in Jerusalem when Christ is supposed to have been teaching there. Now, if the facts of the life of Christ were known in the first century of Christianity, Paul was one of the men who should have known them fully. Yet Paul acknowledges that he never saw Jesus; and his Epistles prove that he knew nothing about his life, his works, or his teachings.
In all the Epistles of Paul, there is not one word about Christ's virgin birth. The apostle is absolutely ignorant of the marvelous manner in which Jesus is said to have come into the world. For this silence, there can be only one honest explanation—the story of the virgin birth had not yet been invented when Paul wrote. A large portion of the Gospels is devoted to accounts of the miracles Christ is said to have wrought. But you will look in vain through the thirteen Epistles of Paul for the slightest hint that Christ ever performed any miracles. Is it conceivable that Paul was acquainted with the miracles of Christ—that he knew that Christ had cleansed the leprous, cast out devils that could talk, restored sight to the blind and speech to the dumb, and even raised the dead—is it conceivable that Paul was aware of these wonderful things and yet failed to write a single line about them? Again, the only solution is that the accounts of the miracles wrought by Jesus had not yet been invented when Paul's Epistles were written.
Not only is Paul silent about the virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus, he is without the slightest knowledge of the teaching of Jesus. The Christ of the Gospels preached a famous sermon on a mountain; Paul knows nothing of it. Christ delivered a prayer now recited by the Christian world; Paul never heard of it. Christ taught in parables; Paul is utterly unacquainted with any of them. Is not this astonishing? Paul, the greatest writer of early Christianity, the man who did more than any other to establish the Christian religion in the world—that is, if the Epistles may be trusted—is absolutely ignorant of the teaching of Christ. In all of his thirteen Epistles he does not quote a single saying of Jesus.
Paul was a missionary. He was out for converts. Is it thinkable that if the teachings of Christ had been known to him, he would not have made use of them in his propaganda? Can you believe that a Christian missionary would go to China and labor for many years to win converts to the religion of Christ, and never once mention the Sermon on the Mount, never whisper a word about the Lord's Prayer, never tell the story of one of the parables, and remain as silent as the grave about the precepts of his master? What have the churches been teaching throughout the Christian centuries if not these very things? Are not the churches of today continually preaching about the virgin birth, the miracles, the parables, and the precepts of Jesus? And do not these features constitute Christianity? Is there any life of Christ, apart from these things? Why, then, does Paul know nothing of them? There is but one answer: The virgin-born, miracle-working, preaching Christ was unknown to the world in Paul's day. That is to say, he had not yet been invented!
The Christ of Paul and the Jesus of the Gospels are two entirely different beings. The Christ of Paul is little more than an idea. He has no life story. He was not followed by the multitude. He performed no miracles. He did no preaching. The Christ Paul knew was the Christ he saw in a vision while on his way to Damascus—an apparition, a phantom, and not a living, human being, who preached and worked among men. This vision-Christ, this ghostly word, was afterward brought to the earth by those who wrote the Gospels. He was given a Holy Ghost for a father and a virgin for a mother. He was made to preach, to perform astounding miracles, to die a violent death though innocent, and to rise in triumph from the grave and ascend again to heaven. Such is the Christ of the New Testament—first a spirit, and later a miraculously born, miracle working man, who is master of death and whom death cannot subdue.
A large body of opinion in the early church denied the reality of Christ's physical existence. In his "History of Christianity," Dean Milman writes: "The Gnostic sects denied that Christ was born at all, or that he died," and Mosheim, Germany's great ecclesiastical historian, says: "The Christ of early Christianity was not a human being, but an "appearance," an illusion, a character in miracle, not in reality—a myth.
Miracles do not happen. Stories of miracles are untrue. Therefore, documents in which miraculous accounts are interwoven with reputed facts, are untrustworthy, for those who invented the miraculous element might easily have invented the part that was natural. Men are common, Gods are rare; therefore, it is at least as easy to invent the biography of a man as the history of a God. For this reason, the whole story of Christ—the human element as well as the divine—is without valid claim to be regarded as true. If miracles are fictions, Christ is a myth. Said Dean Farrar: "If miracles be incredible, Christianity is false." Bishop Westcott wrote: "The essence of Christianity lies in a miracle; and if it can be shown that a miracle is either impossible or incredible, all further inquiry into the details of its history is superfluous." Not only are miracles incredible, but the uniformity of nature declares them to be impossible. Miracles have gone: the miraculous Christ cannot remain.
If Christ lived, if he was a reformer, if he performed wonderful works that attracted the attention of the multitude, if he came in conflict with the authorities and was crucified—how shall we explain the fact that history has not even recorded his name? The age in which he is said to have lived was an age of scholars and thinkers. In Greece, Rome and Palestine, there were philosophers, historians, poets, orators, jurists and statesmen. Every fact of importance was noted by interested and inquiring minds. Some of the greatest writers the Jewish race has produced lived in that age. And yet, in all the writings of that period, there is not one line, not one word, not one letter, about Jesus. Great writers wrote extensively of events of minor importance, but not one of them wrote a word about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on earth—a man at whose command the leprous were made clean, a man who fed five thousand people with a satchel full of bread, a man whose word defied the grave and gave life to the dead.
John E. Remsburg, in his scholarly work on "The Christ," compiled a list of forty-two writers who lived and wrote during the time or within a century after the time of Christ and not one of whom ever mentioned him.
Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified, and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with Herod's massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ's heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed Savior of the world.
In the closing years of the first century, Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, wrote his famous work on "The Antiquities of the Jews." In this work, the historian made no mention of Christ, and for two hundred years after the death of Josephus, the name of Christ did not appear in his history. There were no printing presses in those days. Books were multiplied by being copied. It was, therefore, easy to add to or change what an author had written. The church felt that Josephus ought to recognize Christ, and the dead historian was made to do it. In the fourth century, a copy of "The Antiquities of the Jews" appeared, in which occurred this passage: "Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
Such is the celebrated reference to Christ in Josephus. A more brazen forgery was never perpetrated. For more than two hundred years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist. Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed Josephus had not acknowledged Christ. This passage first appeared in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is know to have tampered with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers, introduces this passage in his "Evangelical Demonstration," (Book III., p.124), in these words: "Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness."
Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage. It is written in the style of Eusebius, and not in the style of Josephus. Josephus was a voluminous writer. He wrote extensively about men of minor importance. The brevity of this reference to Christ is, therefore, a strong argument for its falsity. This passage interrupts the narrative. It has nothing to do with what precedes or what follows it; and its position clearly shows that the text of the historian has been separated by a later hand to give it room. Josephus was a Jew—a priest of the religion of Moses. This passage makes him acknowledge the divinity, the miracles, and the resurrection of Christ—that is to say, it makes an orthodox Jew talk like a believing Christian! Josephus could not possibly have written these words without being logically compelled to embrace Christianity. All the arguments of history and of reason unite in the conclusive proof that the passage is an unblushing forgery.
For these reasons every honest Christian scholar has abandoned it as an interpolation. Dean Milman says: "It is interpolated with many additional clauses." Dean Farrar, writing in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says: "That Josephus wrote the whole passage as it now stands no sane critic can believe." Bishop Warburton denounced it as "a rank forgery and a very stupid one, too." Chambers' Encyclopaedia says: "The famous passage of Josephus is generally conceded to be an interpolation."
In the "Annals" of Tacitus, the Roman historian, there is another short passage which speaks of "Christus" as being the founder of a party called Christians—a body of people "who were abhorred for their crimes." These words occur in Tacitus' account of the burning of Rome. The evidence for this passage is not much stronger than that for the passage in Josephus. It was not quoted by any writer before the fifteenth century; and when it was quoted, there was only one copy of the "Annals" in the world; and that copy was supposed to have been made in the eighth century—six hundred years after Tacitus' death. The "Annals" were published between 115 and 117 A.D., nearly a century after Jesus' time—so the passage, even if genuine, would not prove anything as to Jesus.
The name "Jesus" was as common among the Jews as is William or George with us. In the writings of Josephus, we find accounts of a number of Jesuses. One was Jesus, the son of Sapphias, the founder of a seditious band of mariners; another was Jesus, the captain of the robbers whose followers fled when they heard of his arrest; still another Jesus was a monomaniac who for seven years went about Jerusalem, crying, "Woe, woe, woe unto Jerusalem!" who was bruised and beaten many times, but offered no resistance; and who was finally killed with a stone at the siege of Jerusalem.
The word "Christ," the Greek equivalent of the Jewish word "Messiah," was not a personal name; it was a title; it meant "the Anointed One."
The Jews were looking for a Messiah, a successful political leader, who would restore the independence of their nation. Josephus tells us of many men who posed as Messiahs, who obtained a following among the people, and who were put to death by the Romans for political reasons. One of these Messiahs, or Christs, a Samaritan prophet, was executed under Pontius Pilate; and so great was the indignation of the Jews that Pilate had to be recalled by the Roman government.
These facts are of tremendous significance. While the Jesus Christ of Christianity is unknown to history, the age in which he is said to have lived was an age in which many men bore the name of "Jesus" and many political leaders assumed the title of "Christ." All the materials necessary for the manufacture of the story of Christ existed in that age. In all the ancient countries, divine Saviors were believed to have been born of virgins, to have preached a new religion, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified as atonements for the sins of mankind, and to have risen from the grave and ascended into heaven. All that Jesus is supposed to have taught was in the literature of the time. In the story of Christ there is not a new idea, as Joseph McCabe has shown in his "Sources of the Morality of the Gospels," and John M. Robertson in his "Pagan Christs."
"But," says the Christian, "Christ is so perfect a character that he could not have been invented." This is a mistake. The Gospels do not portray a perfect character. The Christ of the Gospels is shown to be artificial by the numerous contradictions in his character and teachings. He was in favor of the sword, and he was not; he told men to love their enemies, and advised them to hate their friends; he preached the doctrine of forgiveness, and called men a generation of vipers; he announced himself as the judge of the world, and declared that he would judge no man; he taught that he was possessed of all power, but was unable to work miracles where the people did not believe; he was represented as God and did not shrink from avowing, "I and my Father are one," but in the pain and gloom of the cross, he is made to cry out in his anguish: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" And how singular it is that these words, reputed as the dying utterance of the disillusioned Christ, should be not only contradicted by two Evangelists, but should be a quotation from the twenty-second Psalm!
If there is a moment when a man's speech is original, it is when, amid agony and despair, while his heart is breaking beneath its burden of defeat and disappointment, he utters a cry of grief from the depth of his wounded soul with the last breath that remains before the chill waves of death engulf his wasted life forever. But on the lips of the expiring Christ are placed, not the heart-felt words of a dying man, but a quotation from the literature of his race!
A being with these contradictions, these transparent unrealities in his character, could scarcely have been real.
And if Christ, with all that is miraculous and impossible in his nature, could not have been in vented, what shall we say of Othello, of Hamlet, of Romeo? Do not Shakespeare's wondrous characters live upon the stage? Does not their naturalness, their consistency, their human grandeur, challenge our admiration? And is it not with difficulty that we believe them to be children of the imagination? Laying aside the miraculous, in the story of the Jewish hero, is not the character of Jean Valjean as deep, as lofty, as broad, as rich in its humanity, as tender in its pathos, as sublime in its heroism, and as touchingly resigned to the cruelties of fate as the character of Jesus? Who has read the story of that marvelous man without being thrilled? And who has followed him through his last days with dry eyes? And yet Jean Valjean never lived and never died; he was not a real man, but the personification of suffering virtue born in the effulgent brain of Victor Hugo. Have you not wept when you have seen Sydney Carton disguise himself and lay his neck beneath the blood-stained knife of the guillotine, to save the life of Evremonde? But Sydney Carton was not an actual human being; he is the heroic, self-sacrificing spirit of humanity clothed in human form by the genius of Charles Dickens.
Yes, the character of Christ could have been invented! The literature of the world is filled with invented characters; and the imaginary lives of the splendid men and women of fiction will forever arrest the interest of the mind and hold the heart enthralled. But how account for Christianity if Christ did not live? Let me ask another question. How account for the Renaissance, for the Reformation, for the French Revolution, or for Socialism? Not one of these movements was created by an individual. They grew. Christianity grew. The Christian church is older than the oldest Christian writings. Christ did not produce the church. The church produced the story of Christ.
The Jesus Christ of the Gospels could not possibly have been a real person. He is a combination of impossible elements. There may have lived in Palestine, nineteen centuries ago, a man whose name was Jesus, who went about doing good, who was followed by admiring associates, and who in the end met a violent death. But of this possible person, not a line was written when he lived, and of his life and character the world of today knows absolutely nothing. This Jesus, if he lived, was a man; and, if he was a reformer, he was but one of many that have lived and died in every age of the world. When the world shall have learned that the Christ of the Gospels is a myth, that Christianity is untrue, it will turn its attention from the religious fictions of the past to the vital problems of today, and endeavor to solve them for the improvement of the well-being of the real men and women whom we know, and whom we ought to help and love.