Bronze-level articleJesus myth theory

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The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally paid to the sun.
Thomas Paine, An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry[1]

Jesus myth theory (also the Christ myth theory, Jesus mythicism, and the nonexistence hypothesis) refers to several theories that hold that the New Testament account of the life of Jesus is so filled with myth and legend as well as internal contradictions and historical irregularities that at best no meaningful historical verification regarding Jesus of Nazareth (including his very existence) can be extracted from them.[2] It has been accepted by some academics.[3][4][5]

However, as Archibald Robertson stated in his 1946 book, Jesus: Myth Or History, at least as far as John M. Robertson was concerned, the myth theory was not concerned with denying the possibility of a flesh and blood Jesus being involved in the Gospel account, but rather, "What the myth theory denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded."[6]

Proponents point to early beliefs in a non-corporeal Jesus (docetism, as condemned in 2 John 1:7), which would help explain the lack of historical evidence for a human seed, and close correspondence of the Jesus story to many other myths of the time (a correspondence first noted by early apologist and saint Justin Martyr). The present-day Jesus mythicist position originated with Constantin-François Volney and Charles François Dupuis around the 1790s.

In fact, as the John Frum cargo cult shows that the cult version of 1957 (literate white US serviceman that appeared to the village elders in a vision on February 15, late 1930s) and historical version (illiterate native named Manehivi who caused trouble using that name from 1940 to 1941 and was exiled from the island as a result) of religion's "founder" can become effectively two different people in as short as 17 years.[7][8]

The theory in its broadest definition can be traced as far back as the concept of Docetism and Celsus (around 180 CE) and there is a possible hint of it in Justin Martyr's "Dialogue with Trypho"[9], though its modern revival goes back only to the 1790's with the ideas of Constantin-François Volney and Charles François Dupuis.

However, Volney and Dupuis did not agree on what the Christ myth was. Dupuis held that there was no human being involved in the New Testament account which he saw as an intentional extended allegory of solar myths while Volney allowed for confused memories of an obscure historical figure to be integrated in a mythology that compiled organically.[10] So from nearly the get go the modern Christ Myth theory had two parallel lines of thought: There was no human being being behind the New Testament and confused memories of an obscure historical figure were woven into the mythology. For the most part the 'no human being being behind the New Testamen't version is presented as the Christ myth theory ignoring Volney's confused memories of an obscure historical figure version.

The theory has been supported by a number of influential thinkers and Bertrand Russell expressed some doubt about the existence of Jesus, though he did not fully embrace the myth theory.[11] The idea seems to have gained a considerable amount of popularity among the secular community in recent years.

In June 2014, Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-909697-49-2 became "the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review".[12]


[edit] Inherent problems in the debate

The biggest problem with the arguments both for and against is that the meaning of the words "myth", "historical", and "fiction" are rarely clarified.

[edit] Meaning of "myth"

Citing David Strauss and John Fiske, John Remsburg stated in his 1909 book The Christ that there were three kinds of myths: Historical, Philosophical, and Poetical.

A Historical myth is "a real event colored by the light of antiquity, which confounded the human and divine, the natural and the supernatural. The event may be but slightly colored and the narrative essentially true, or it may be distorted and numberless legends attached until but a small residuum of truth remains and the narrative is essentially false. A large portion of ancient history, including the Biblical narratives, is historical myth. The earliest records of all nations and of all religions are more or less mythical."

"A Philosophical myth is an idea clothed in the caress of historical narrative. When a mere idea is personified and presented in the form of a man or a god it is called a pure myth. Many of the gods and heroes of antiquity are pure myths."

"A Poetical myth is a blending of the historical and philosophical, embellished by the creations of the imagination. The poems of Homer and Hesiod, which were the religious text books of the ancient Greeks, and the poetical writings of the Bible, which helped to form and foster the Semitic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, belong to this class."

Remsburg stated that "(i)t is often difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish a historical from a philosophical myth. Hence the non-agreement of Freethinkers in regard to the nature of the Christ myth. Is Christ a historical or a philosophical myth? Does an analysis of his alleged history disclose the deification of a man, or merely the personification of an idea?"

While he doesn't break down myths as Remsburg did, Biblical studies professor J. W. Rogerson covers much the same ground in his paper "Slippery words: Myth"[13] which shows just how complex the word "myth" really is.

[edit] Meaning of "historical Jesus"

The biggest problem with talking about a "historical Jesus" is that there are two "historical" Jesus Christs forming the ends of a huge spectrum of hypothesis Touched on by Remsberg in 1909[14] classified by Rudolf Bultmann in 1941 (and used by Richard Carrier in 2014)[15], and reiterated by Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall in 2004[16], these two ends (the italicized clarifiers are from Marshall) are:

  1. Reductive theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Nazareth): "Jesus was an ordinary but obscure individual who inspired a religious movement and copious legends about him" rather than being a totally fictitious creation like King Lear or Doctor Who
  2. Triumphalist theory (Remsburg's Jesus of Bethlehem): "The Gospels are totally or almost totally true" rather than being works of imagination like those of King Arthur.

Marshall warns "We shall land in considerable confusion if we embark on an inquiry about the historical Jesus if we do not pause to ask ourselves exactly what we are talking about."[17]

However, as Carrier notes, "Either side of the historicity debate will at time engage in a fallacy here, citing evidence supporting the reductive theory in defense of the triumphalist theory (as if that was valid), or citing the absurdity of the triumphalist theory as if this refuted the reductive theory (as if that were valid)"[18]

Too many times when apologists talk about a historical Jesus they are actually talking about the Jesus of Bethlehem and too many times Christ Mythers are trying to disprove the Jesus of Bethlehem rather than a possible Jesus of Nazareth.

[edit] Meaning of "fiction"

In the Jesus: Fact or Fiction? debate between Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin, Price states "there are four senses in which Jesus Christ may be said to be a 'fiction:'"

  1. "the central figure of the gospels is not based on any historical individual", i.e. the Jesus of the Gospels is little more than "a synthetic construct of theologians, a symbolic 'Uncle Sam' figure."[19]
  2. "the "historical Jesus" reconstructed by New Testament scholars is always a reflection of the individual scholars who reconstruct him" to the point that "even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn't one any more."
  3. "Jesus as the personal savior, with whom people claim, as I used to, to have a 'personal relationship' is in the nature of the case a fiction, essentially a psychological projection, an 'imaginary playmate.'"
  4. "Christ is a fiction in that Christ functions, in an unnoticed and equivocal way, as shorthand for a vast system of beliefs and institutions on whose behalf he is invoked."

Again many apologists either forget or ignore the more moderate definitions in favor of those that turn the Jesus Myth theory into a strawman.

[edit] Meaning of "Jesus myth theory"

As mentioned before Volney and Dupuis had different views regarding the Christ myth which resulted in a large number of ideas beings called "Jesus myth theory" or "Christ Myth theory" (going from totally imaginary to partly historical):

  • Jesus is an entirely fictional or mythological character created by the Early Christian community. (Effectively Dupuis position)
  • Jesus Agnosticism: The Gospel story is so filled with myth and legend that nothing about it including the very existence of the Jesus described can be shown to be historical.[21]
  • Jesus began as a myth with historical trappings possibly including "reports of an obscure Jewish Holy man bearing this name" being added later.[22][23] (Effectively Volney's position)
  • The Gospel Jesus is in essence a composite character (that is, an amalgamation of several actual individuals whose stories have been melded into one character, such as is the case with Robin Hood), and therefore non-historical by definition.[24]
  • Jesus was historical but lived around 100 BCE.[25][26]
  • The Gospel Jesus didn't exist and GA Wells' Jesus Myth (1999) is an example of this.[27] Note that from Jesus Legend (1996) on Wells has accepted there was a historical Jesus behind the hypothetical Q Gospel and that both Jesus Legend and Jesus Myth have been presented as examples of the Christ Myth theory by Robert Price and Eddy-Boyd.[28] while Richard Carrier has used them as examples of an ahistorical Jesus.[29]
  • Christianity cannot "be traced to a personal founder as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded."[30]A Jesus who died of old age or only preached 'End of the World is nigh' speeches to small groups would qualify.
  • (The Christ myth is) "the theory that no historical Jesus worthy of the name existed, that Christianity began with a belief in a spiritual, mythical figure, that the Gospels are essentially allegory and fiction, and that no single identifiable person lay at the root of the Galilean preaching tradition.[31] "In simpler terms, the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity" [32]
  • "This view (Christ Myth theory) states that the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology, possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes..."[33] There are modern examples of stories of known historical people "possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes"--George Washington and the Cherry Tree; Davy Crockett and the Frozen Dawn; Jesse James and the Widow to mention a few. King Arthur and Robin Hood are two more examples of suspected historical people whose stories are most likely fictional in nature.
  • Christ-myth theories are part of the "theories that regard Jesus as an historical but insignificant figure."[34]

[edit] Examples of the confusion regarding the meaning of "Mythist" and "Christ Myth theory"

[edit] David Strauss

"The gist of his position was in a large measure like the mythical theory of David Strauss, which created a sensation fifty years ago. Strauss held that there was verily a historic Christ, but that a vast mass of miracle and supernatural wonders had been woven like wreaths around the head of Jesus. Drews goes further. He alleges that there never was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth."[35]

[edit] Arthur Drews, John M. Robertson, and James George Frazer

"My theory assumes the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth"(Frazer, Sir James George (1913) The golden bough: a study in magic and religion, Volume 9 pg 412)

"In wide circles the doubt grows as to the historical character of the picture of Christ given in the Gospels. (...) If in spite of this any one thinks that besides the latter a Jesus also cannot be dispensed with; but we know nothing of Jesus. Even in the representations of historical theology, he is scarcely more than the shadow of a shadow. Consequently it is self-deceit to make the figure of this 'unique' and 'mighty' personality, to which a man may believe he must on historical grounds hold fast, the central point of religious consciousness." (Drews, Arthur (1910) The Christ Myth)

"I especially wanted to explain late Jewish eschatology more thoroughly and to discuss the works of John M. Robertson, William Benjamin Smith, James George Frazer, Arthur Drews, and others, who contested the historical existence of Jesus. It is not difficult to pretend that Jesus never lived. The attempt to prove it, however, invariably produces the opposite conclusion." [36]

"(John) Robertson is prepared to concede the possibility of an historical Jesus, perhaps more than one, having contributed something to the Gospel story. "A teacher or teachers named Jesus, or several differently named teachers called Messiahs " (of whom many are on record) may have uttered some of the sayings in the Gospels.

1 The Jesus of the Talmud, who was stoned and hanged over a century before the traditional date of the crucifixion, may really have existed and have contributed something to the tradition.

2 An historical Jesus may have "preached a political doctrine subversive of the Roman rule, and . . . thereby met his death "; and Christian writers concerned to conciliate the Romans may have suppressed the facts.

3 Or a Galilean faith-healer with a local reputation may have been slain as a human sacrifice at some time of social tumult; and his story may have got mixed up with the myth.

4 The myth theory is not concerned to deny such a possibility. What the myth theory denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded" [37]

[edit] G. A. Wells

Wells accepted that there was a 1st century Jesus in both Jesus Myth (1996) and Jesus Legend (1999)--yet these books were labeled as examples of the Mythical Jesus Thesis (defined as the idea of "Jesus tradition is virtually--perhaps entirely--fictional in nature" (sic)) in Eddy and Boyd's 2007 The Jesus Legend Baker Academic on pp. 24.

Other people on both sides of the issue have similarly labeled these books as Christ Myth books:

"The year 1999 saw the publication of at least five books which concluded that the Gospel Jesus did not exist. One of these was the latest book (The Jesus Myth) by G. A. Wells, the current and longstanding doyen of modern Jesus mythicists."[38]

"Christ-myth theorists like George A. Wells have argued that, if we ignore the Gospels, which were not yet written at the time of the Epistles of Paul, we can detect in the latter a prior, more transparently mythic concept of Jesus... [39]

"In recent years the existence of Jesus has been debated heatedly on the Internet. The most thoroughgoing and sophisticated statement of this theory has been set out in five books by G. A Wells; the most recent is the Jesus Legend (1996)"[40]

"Books by Contemporary Scholars Defending Ahistoricity: (...) George Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (1988); Who Was Jesus? (1989); The Jesus Legend (1993); The Jesus Myth (1998); Can We Trust the New Testament? (2005)" (handout for Richard Carrier's 2006 Stanford University lecture "Did Jesus Even Exist?")

This sampling over the course of 100 years shows the problem with defining the terms "mythist" and "Christ Myth theory"--the terms have been used with people have accepted the existence of a flesh and blood Jesus in the 1st century but do not accept the Gospels as an accurate description of the life of that man as well as those who say there is no flesh and blood Jesus to be found.

[edit] The Historical Jesus spectrum or color me completely confused

Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall writes that there are "two views of the historical Jesus which stand at the opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion about him." At one extreme is the view that Jesus never existed, and that the gospels describe an essentially fictional person. At the other extreme is the view that the gospels portray events exactly as they happened, and each event depicted in the New Testament is the literal truth. [41]

As with any spectrum there are "colors" (or categories) and over the course of a century at least three people (Remsburg, Barker, and Eddy-Boyd) have taken a stab as what those colors are. However, as Eddy-Boyd points out these the categories are "admittedly over simplistic", "ideal-typical", and a "useful heuristic" they should not be taken as absolute definitions.

In fact, if you look at the definitions provided by these three authors as well as some others you will notice that the four categories don't always match up which in turn means the boundaries between the definitions are not sharp and clear...even to scholars and experts. This is why one needs to nail down just what what one means when talking about the "Jesus myth theory" or the "historical Jesus."

The four "colors" of the historical Jesus spectrum (and their current status with the academic community) are:

[edit] Christ Myth theory (Philosophical myth) (Fringe)

"Jesus Christ is a pure myth—that he never had an existence, except as a Messianic idea, or an imaginary solar deity."[42]

Jesus began as at a Myth with historical trappings possibly including "reports of an obscure Jewish Holy man bearing this name" being being added later. [43][44]

"Jesus never existed at all and that the myth came into being through a literary process." [45]

All trace of a historical person, if there was ever one was to begin with, has been lost. (Jesus agnosticism)[46]

[edit] Christ Myth theory (Historical myth via the narrative is essentially false), ahistorical, or Reductive (Fringe)

"Many radical Freethinkers believe that Christ is a myth, of which Jesus of Nazareth is the basis, but that these narratives are so legendary and contradictory as to be almost if not wholly, unworthy of credit."[47]

"Other skeptics deny that the Jesus character portrayed in the New Testament existed, but that there could have been a first century personality after whom the exaggerated myth was pattered."[48]

There is just enough to show there was a first century teacher called Jesus and little else.[49]

[edit] Moderate Historical (mainstream)

"Jesus of Nazareth is a historical character and that these narratives, eliminating the supernatural elements, which they regard as myths, give a fairly authentic account of his life."[50]

"Jesus did exist, and that some parts of the New Testament are accurate, although the miracles and the claim to deity are due to later editing of the original story."[51]

A historical Jesus did exist but was very different from the gospel Jesus.[52]

[edit] Triumphalist theory/Extreme Historical (Fringe)

"Christ is a historical character, supernatural and divine; and that the New Testament narratives, which purport to give a record of his life and teachings, contain nothing but infallible truth."[53]

"The New Testament is basically true in all of its accounts except that there are natural explanations for the miracle stories."[54]

[edit] Arguing the wrong Jesus

Richard Carrier in his 2014 peer reviewed On the Historicity of Jesus by Sheffield Phoenix Press using Rudolf Bultmann of 1941 as his baseline gave two levels by which Jesus can be "historical":

  1. Reductive theory: "Jesus was an ordinary but obscure individual who inspired a religious movement and copious legends about him"
  2. Triumphalist theory: "The Gospels are totally or almost totally true."

Carrier notes, "Either side of the historicity debate will at times engage in a fallacy here, citing evidence supporting the reductive theory in defense of the triumphalist theory (as if that was valid), or citing the absurdity of the triumphalist theory as if this refuted the reductive theory (as if that were valid)"[55]

Additionally the Jesus story has picked up many oral traditions that are not in the Bible at all and there are clues that the versions of the Gospels we have are not what were originally written.

[edit] Born on December 25

The December 25 date was by Emperor decree to compete with the popular Sol Invictus worship and first appears on a Roman calendar in 334 CE. Luke tells us that shepherds were tending their sheep in the fields when Jesus was born, something that shepherds did June until November.

In fact, before the decree there was much debate regarding when Jesus was born. Tertullian (c 160–220 CE) and Hippolytus (c 170-235 CE) said March 25; Clement (c 150-215 CE) said May 20, some were saying January 6 (the birthday of Osiris), and still others pointed to the Essenes whose couples had sex in December so their child would be born September (the holy month of Atonement). [56]

This means any argument that Jesus was a myth based on the December 25 date is doomed from the start because that part of the story isn't even in the Bible and didn't appear until well into the 4th century.

[edit] Virgin Birth

While it is true the our versions of Matthew and Luke have virgin birth stories there are hints that these are late comers to the Jesus myth story.

Paul in Romans 1:1-3 states that Jesus came "from the seed of David, according to the flesh" (the belief at the time was that women were the earth into which men planted their seed so here Paul expressly states that Jesus link to David is through the male line ie Joseph) and in Galatians 4:4 stated “God sent his Son, born of a woman” using the word gune (woman) rather than parthenos (virgin).[57] Both these points show that Paul not only did not know of a virgin birth but expressly denied it.

When Marcion of Sinope put together the first Christian bible c140 CE his Luke (Evangelikon) had no birth story. While his critics claimed he removed this portion it is more likely that the Luke as we know it today was written in response to Marcion's Luke.[58][59]

This means that the virgin birth was added sometime between Paul's letters and whenever Matthew was written (some time before c180 CE)

In fact, it has been suggested that being born of a virgin was the ancient equivalent of being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth and signified the "extraordinary personal qualities exhibited by an individual"[60] as well as being an "attempt to explain an individual's superiority to other mortals. Generally Mediterranean peoples looked at one's birth or parent-age to explain one's character and behavior" and "veneration of a benefactor." [61] Caesar Augustus, Alexander the Great, Plato were all stated as being born of virgins and we know they were actual historical people; so the term 'born of a virgin' was never meant to be taken literally.

[edit] The correct Jesus to argue about and the gray area between historical and mythical (the Ahistorical realm)

Because of the huge variance of what constitutes a historical Jesus Carrier set three criteria for the minimal historical Jesus:

1) An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death

2) This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his follower to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities

3) This is the same Jesus some of whose follower soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod)

"If any one of these premises is false, it can fairly be said there was no historical Jesus in any pertinent sense, And at least one of them must be false for any Jesus Myth theory to be true."[62]

"But notice that now we don't even require that is considered essential in many church creeds. For instance, it is not necessary that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Maybe he was, But even if we proved he wasn't that still does not vindicate mysticism. Because the 'real' Jesus may have been executed by Herod Antipas (as the Gospel of Peter in fact claims) or by Roman authorities in an earlier or later decade then Pilate (as some early Christians really did think) Some scholars even argue for an earlier century (and have some real evidence to cite)[63] ... My point at present is that even if we proved proved the founder of Christianity was executed by Herod the Great (not even by Romans, much less Pilate, and a whole forty years before the Gospels claim), as long as his name or nickname (whether assigned before or after his death) really was Jesus and his execution is the very thing spoken of as leading him to the status of the divine Christ venerated in the Epistles, I think it would be fair to say the mythicists are then simply wrong. I would say this even if Jesus was never really executed but only believed to have been Because even then it's still the same historical man being spoken of and worshiped."[64]

Carrier give a lot of leeway with his criteria but there are a lot of ways one can fail the criteria and still have a flesh and blood Jesus:

  • John Robertson's 1900 idea that the Gospel Jesus was a composite character or that a person inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, tried to preach his own version of Paul's teachings, and got killed for his troubles fails the criteria.
  • The idea expressed by Remsberg that there was a Jesus but his following wasn't an identifiable movement until Paul and later the writers of the Gospels got a hold of it also fails Carrier's criteria: "Jesus, if he existed, was a Jew, and his religion, with a few innovations, was Judaism. With his death, probably, his apotheosis began. During the first century the transformation was slow; but during the succeeding centuries rapid. The Judaic elements of his religion were, in time, nearly all eliminated, and the Pagan elements, one by one, were incorporated into the new faith."
  • G. A. Wells' Jesus Legend (1996) on with its mythical Paul Jesus + 1st century teacher who was not executed fails point 2 (they are not the same Jesus) so by Carrier's criteria is NOT a "historical Jesus in any pertinent sense" (This does explain Carrier's classification of this work as 'ahistoricitical')
  • Dan Barker's "Other skeptics deny that the Jesus character portrayed in the New Testament existed, but that there could have been a first century personality after whom the exaggerated myth was pattered." (2006 Losing Faith in Faith pg 372) would also fail Carrier's criteria as Baker's first century personality need not be named "Jesus" or if he did his movement was not identifiable until much later.

Similarly Carrier sets forth five criteria for a minimal mythical Jesus:

1) At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.

2) Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspi­ration (such as prophecy, past and present).

3) Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.

4) As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.

5) Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only 'additionally' allegorical).

"That all five propositions are true shall be my minimal Jesus myth theory."[65]

Note that all the examples above do not meet these criteria either so you have a hypothetical Jesus who is neither historical or mythical by Carrier's standard but who can be both by other people's criteria!

[edit] Arguments in favor of the case

[edit] The usual evidence

See the Non-Biblical evidence section of the Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ article on this topic.

The main issue is that of all the "evidence" for a historical Jesus only the writings of Paul (Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon) can be said to be of a true possible contemporary to a Jesus who supposedly lived c 6 BCE to 36 CE. And Paul is emphatic that all his knowledge is coming from visions and revelation not from human sources.[66][67]

The Gospels are anonymous documents with dates that are "arbitrary ballpark figures with don't really have much basis in facts." The only thing that can be said with certainty is the Gospels have a range that ends in the mid to late 140s.[68] Even if the usually accepted dates of c70 CE for Mark, c80 CE for Matthew, c90 for Luke-Acts, and c100 for John are correct it can be shown there is a strong correlation between the Jesus of Mark regarding the Passover and the actions of a would be messiah named Jesus ben Ananias (66-70 CE) written about in Josephus' Jewish Wars (c. 75) [69] meaning that Mark (and therefore Matthew, Luke, and John) could be in reality a Robin Hood like stories with Jesus ben Ananias being one of the elements used to flesh out Paul's earlier writings of a visionary Jesus.

All Non-Biblical evidence is from non contemporaries and therefore at best might be simply the repeating of urban myth rather than history.

It can be shown that the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus has been tampered with and given Josephus was supposedly physically in Rome from 64 to 66 CE to petition emperor Nero for the release of some Jewish priest that Gessius Florus sent there in chains.[70] and make no mention of the movement in Rome it is likely the whole thing is a fake.

Origen's comments regarding the passage of James in Josephus he is referencing shows that it also had Josephus directly connected the death of James with the "fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple"[71] raises doubt about the reliably of the "the brother of Jesus, him called Christ, whose name was James" passage.

Similarly it has been proven via ultraviolet light that in our oldest copy of Tacitus he originally wrote about Chrestians which may have been followers of the pagan god Osiris.[72] or followers of another would be messiah named Chrestos[73]. Also there are strong indications that the reference to Christ in Tacitus is an interpolation[74][75]

Given neither Josephus or Pliny the Elder mention Christians in Rome during the time of Nero there are serious questions about Suetonius' account. Carrier suggests that like Tacitus Suetonius was actually writing about Chrestians and "corrected" by a later Christian scribe[76] Even if the passage Suetonius is genuine it only shows the existence of the Christian movement and that their punishment was part of a general housecleaning of Rome by Nero. As John Frum cargo cult (below) a movement need not have an actual founder.

Given after c. 120 CE "the quantity of bogus literature about Jesus and early Christianity exploded to an immense scope, making the task of sorting truth from fiction effectively impossible"[77] everything after that rough date by the Christians (like the Letters to King Abgarus of Edessa (4th century) and Toledot Yeshu (6th century)) is useless as evidence for a historical Jesus (but is can and sometimes is excellent evidence against a historical Jesus).

[edit] The other timelines and their problems

While the conflict between the births dates (10 years apart) presented in Matthew and Luke is generally well known, what is less known is that there were other accounts that placed Jesus life in other times which have been provided by Robert M. Price. In one piece Price points out that the Talmud has Jesus crucified under Alexander Jannaeus c. 83 BCE and that Irenaeus had him crucified under Claudius Caesar (41-54 CE)[78][79]

If Jesus did really exist c 83 BCE then the Gospel account is a total fiction to make Jesus appear as a more reason personage. Similarly if Jesus was crucified in the 42-44 CE period as Irenaeus claimed in Demonstration (74) then again the Gospel account is a total fiction to make Jesus actions happen before Paul's vision.

[edit] Jesus Frum; John Christ

See also: John Frum

The real world examples of Melanesian cargo cults (and other examples, such as Ned Ludd) show that it is not an inherently crazy that a major movement's "leader" is originally entirely mythical but is then quickly (in a matter of decades) placed into a historical framework.[80] Richard Carrier goes into detail on why such things happen in his peer reviewed On the Historicity of Jesus as Element 29 of his examples.[81]

Thanks to the wealth of material available one can use the particular example of the John Frum cargo cult on how the Jesus myth theory has validity because everything the Christian apologists claim couldn't have happened in the development of Christianity appears to have happened with the John Frum cargo cult: It evolved from pre-existing beliefs without a clear and definitive founder and one variant even connect the mythical John Frum to real living people (Prince Philip is the brother of John Frum in this variant even though Prince Philip has no brothers)

Carrier states regarding the plugging of a mythical person into history "the same thing happened in Melanesian Cargo Cults, which still revere completely mythical heroes who were nevertheless quite rapidly placed in history and believed to be real (most famously 'Tom Navy' and 'John Frum'), again within decades of their supposed appearance." [82]

"Further supporting the previous element is the fact that what are now called 'Cargo Cults' are the modern movement most culturally and socially similar to earliest Christianity, so much so that Christianity is best understood in light of them."[83]

"Unlike the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, we can see the whole course of events laid out before our eyes (and even here, as we shall see, some details are now lost). It is fascinating to guess that the cult of Christianity almost certainly began in very much the same way, and spread initially at the same high speed. [...] John Frum, if he existed at all, did so within living memory. Yet, even for so recent a possibility, it is not certain whether he lived at all."[84]

However, if you examine the John Frum cargo cult in detail one can see possibly of one or more inspired believers deciding to become Jesus even if Jesus originally started out as nothing more than a celestial being. So it is well within reason as John Robertson implied in 1900 that one or more people inspired by Paul's writings took up the name Jesus, preached their own view of Paul's message, and possibly got killed for it. It is one way to read Paul's 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 warning of minds being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by "another Jesus, whom we have not preached," "another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted"

Guiart's 1952 Oceania paper also shows the complexity involved regarding determining if Jesus was a man or a celestial being.[85]

We are told that "A man named Manehevi had posed as a supernatural being by means of ingenious stage management." But later we are also told "From elsewhere rail the rumour that, in spite of the Administration statement, Manehevi was not John Frum, and that the latter was still at liberty."

Here we are told John Frum was a "supernatural being" while the believers are saying he is an actual man who "was still at liberty"

If that isn't enough we are also told "John Frum, alias Karaperamun, is always the god of Mount Tukosmoru, which will shelter the planes, then the soldiers."

Here we are told that John Frum is Karaperamun (who is a long existing volcano god) but we were also told that Manehevi was (or pretended to be) John Frum and that John Frum was another person who was still at liberty.

As you can see from Guiart's 1952 article, a mere 11 years after the John Frum movement become noticeable by nonbelievers it is not clear if John Frum is simply another name for Karaperamun (the High god of the region), a name that various actual people use as leader of the religious cult, or the name of some other person who inspired the cult perhaps as much as 30 years previously. If to confuse things further it has been suggested that Tom Navy is based on a real person: Tom Beatty of Mississippi, who served in the New Hebrides both as a missionary, and as a Navy Seabee during the war.[86]

[edit] Raglan's Hero Pattern

Every so often Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is presented as "evidence" that Jesus is a philosophical myth. The flaw here is it can be shown that known historical people can score high on Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern and known fictional characters come in on par with known historical figures of antiquity. For example, Tsar Nicholas II comes in at 14[87] or higher than the Jesus described in Mark (11) or John (13) or even Apollo (11). Similarly, Anakin Skywalker gets a 10.5[88] or roughly on par with Augustus Caesar (10). For reference, King Arthur and Robin Hood whose historical existence is debated scored 19 and 13 respectively.

So the Lord Raglan's Hero Pattern is not definitive proof of a character being a philosophical myth.

[edit] Fictional Paul

See the Paul of Tarsus article on this topic.

Some versions of the Christ Myth theory (such as Kenneth Humphreys'[89]) suggest that Paul was a fictional person. To put it bluntly this is one of the places where parts of the Christ Myth go of the rail and enters tin foil hat land.

Saying Paul was fictional would make sense if he provided a "smoking gun" to the pro historical Jesus debate but the fact is he brings nothing to the table; his Jesus is a being only seen via visions. Paul supposedly talks with people who based on the Gospels should have known the living Jesus and yet Paul doesn't give one actual detail regarding Jesus activities on Earth. Also, someone wrote the authentic/early Pauline epistles, and calling that author Ed, Bill or RamaLamaDingDong doesn't change the fact that these letters were an important influence on Christianity. You don't have to accept the clearly embroidered version in Acts to find the Pauline authorship of these early epistles historically plausible. Contrast Jesus, from whom we have no letters or other writings and who is portrayed through and through in the supernatural light seen in other myths and legends, with Paul, who, in his own letters, doesn't claim any supernatural powers, except for his opinion that he has some sort of mental hotline to God and Jesus.

From an Occam's Razor standpoint a fictional Paul doesn't make any sense; it just add an unneeded level of complexity to the Christ Myth. More over what actual purpose does such an idea even serve? If anything, claiming Paul is a fictional creation smacks of the kind of Illuminati level conspiracy theory nonsense seen in Joseph Wheless' 1930 Forgery In Christianity that only convinces most people that the Christ Myth theory does belong in the same land of crazy as those who deny the Holocaust or Moon Landings happened.

[edit] How did the myth of Jesus start?

There are several natural explanations, some more valid than the others.

1) One of the views, held by J. M. Robertson and others, is that the Jesus myth patterned after a story found in the Jewish Talmudic literature about the illegitimate son of a woman named Miriam (Mary) and a Roman soldier named Pandera, sometimes called Joseph Pandera. In Christianity and Mythology, Robertson writes: “…we see cause to suspect that the movement really originated with the Talmudic Jesus Ben Pandera, who was stoned to death and hanged on a tree, for blasphemy or heresy, on the eve of a Passover in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (106-79 B.C.E.).”) Dr. Low, an accomplished Hebraist, is satisfied that this Jesus was the founder of the Essene sect, whose resemblance to the legendary early Christian has so greatly exercised Christian speculation.

2) Another view is that the Jesus myth grew out of a pre-Christian cult of Joshua. Some suggest that the New Testament story about swapping Jesus for Barabbas (meaning “son of the father”) arose from the tension between Joshua factions. Origen mentioned a “Jesus Barabbas.” The name “Jesus” is the Greek for Joshua (“Yeshua” in Hebrew). In Mark 9:38 the disciples of Jesus saw another man who was casting out devils in the name of Jesus (Joshua). The Sibyllene Oracles identify Jesus with Joshua, regarding the sun standing still.

3) W. B. Smith thinks there was a pre-Christian Jesus cult of Gnosticism. There is an ancient papyrus that has these words: “I adjure thee by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus.” The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God? Makes a compelling case that the original Christians were indeed Gnostics and that the story of Jesus was invented by Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria as a mystery play patterned after the Osiris/Dionysus mystery cults, and was not to be taken literally. The play depicted a god-man who died and came back to life. It was only after Constantine in the fourth century that the life of Jesus became suddenly “historical.”

4) Randall Helms in the article “Fiction in the Gospels” in Jesus in History and myth presents another view. Helms notices that there are many literary parallels between Old Testament and New Testament stories. He calls this “self-reflexive fiction.” It is if there are some skeletal templates into which the Jews placed their stories. One example is the comparison between the raising of the son of the window of Nain in Luke 7:11-16 and the raising of the son of a widow of Zarephath in I kings 17. Not only is the content similar, but the structure of the tale is almost identical. Other examples are the storm series in Psalms and Jonah compared with the New Testament storm story in Mark 4:37-41, and the story of Elijah’s food multiplication with that of Jesus. The first-century Jews were simply rewriting old stories, like a movie remake. This view, in and of itself, does not completely account for the entire Jesus myth, but it does show how literary parallels can play a part in the elaboration of a fable.

5) John Allegro suggested that the Jesus character was patterned after the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, who was crucified in 88 B.C.E. He wrote that the Dead Sea Scrolls prove that the Essenes interpreted the Old Testament in a way to make it fit their own messiah. Allegro writes: “When Josephus speaks of the Essene’s reverence for their ‘Lawgiver’…we may assume reasonably that he speaks of their Teacher, the ‘Joshua/Jesus’ of the Last Days. By the first century, therefore, it seems that he was being accorded semi-divine status, and that his role of Messiah, or Christ, was fully appreciated.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth)

6) R.G. Price argues that Jesus was originally constructed as a spiritual concept by Hellenistic Jews, which later eventually turned Jesus into "historical" and was sure that Jesus was "of the flesh" for theological reasons. Christians had to construct Jesus to be made of the flesh for two reasons: 1) Suffering and a flesh and blood sacrifice were required to create a new covenant and 2) The resurrection of a flesh and blood Jesus proved that resurrection of the flesh was possible.[90] To achieve the completion of the mythical Jesus, the following steps had to be taken:

  1. Development of apocalyptic and Messianic traditions in Judaism from the 6th century BCE to the 1st century CE
  2. Fusion of apocalyptic and Messianic Judaism with Hellenistic culture
  3. Emergence of "Jesus Christ" mystery religion among Hellenistic Jews
  4. Development of "flesh" based Christ theology within the mystery religion
  5. Writing of allegorical Christ narrative(s?)
  6. Writing of pseudo-historical Christ narratives
  7. Development and defense of historical Christ theology
  8. Development of post-canon dogma
  9. Elimination of remaining non-historical Christ theologies

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Shai Afsai, "Thomas Paine's Masonic Essay and the Question of His Membership in the Fraternity". Philalethes 63:4 (Fall 2010), 140–141.
  2. Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Baker Academic, 2007, pp. 24–27.
  3. Holding, J. P. Shattering the Christ Myth, 277
  4. Houlden, J. L. Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia, Volume 1, 660
  6. Robertson, Archibald (1946) Jesus: Myth Or History
  7. Worsley, Peter (1957) The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" Cults in Melanesia London: Macgibbon & Kee pp. 153–9.
  8. Lal, Brij V.; Kate Fortune (2000) The Pacific Islands: an encyclopedia; University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 978-0824822651; Pg 303
  9. "But Christ--if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere--is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing."--Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 350
  10. Wells, G. A. "Stages of New Testament Criticism," Journal of the History of Ideas, volume 30, issue 2, 1969.
  11. Russell, B. Why I am not a Christian at
  12. Richard Carrier (July 17, 2013) Update on Historicity of Jesus
  13. Dundes, Alan (ed.) (1984) Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth University of California Press ISBN: 9780520051928 62-71
  14. "Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist." Remsburg then clarifies this position by stating "That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written."
  15. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 26-30
  16. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  17. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  18. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 30
  19. An interesting comparison, given that Uncle Sam is purported to be based on a real person but there was a 'Uncle Sam' reference in the original 1775 "Yankee Doodle" lyrics (Benson J. Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, Volume II, Supplement XIV (1850)).
  20. Grant, Michael. Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels. Scribner, 1995; first published 1977, p. 199
  21. Eddy, Paul R. and Boyd, Gregory A. The Jesus Legend Baker Academic, 2007. pg 24-25
  22. Walsh, George (1998) The Role of Religion in History Transaction Publishers pg 58
  23. Dodd, C.H. (1938) History and the Gospel under the heading Christ Myth Theory Manchester University Press pg 17
  24. Price, Robert M. (2000) Deconstructing Jesus Prometheus Books, pg 85
  25. Mead, G. R. S. The Talmum 100 Years B.C. Story of Jesus", "Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?", 1903.
  26. Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 65
  27. Doherty, Earl "Book And Article Reviews: The Case For The Jesus Myth: "Jesus — One Hundred Years Before Christ by Alvar Ellegard" review
  28. Eddy and Boyd (2007), The Jesus Legend pp. 24
  29. Carrier, Richard (2006) Did Jesus Even Exist? Stanford University presentation May 30, 2006
  30. Robertson, Archibald (1946) Jesus: Myth Or History
  31. Doherty, Earl ( 2009)[I]Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Age of Reason[/I],, pp. vii-viii
  32. Ehrman, Bart (2012) Did Jesus Exist? Harper Collins, p. 12
  33. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (ed) (1982, 1995) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J Eerdmans Pub Co; Revised edition ISBN-13: 978-0802837820; ISBN-13: 978-0802837851
  34. Wood, Herbert George (1934) Christianity and the nature of history MacMillan (New York, Cambridge, [Eng.]: The University Press pg 40
  35. (February 06, 1910) "JESUS NEVER LIVED, ASSERTS PROF. DREWS; Stirs Germany Deeply by Publicly Attacking Basis of the Christian Religion." The Times
  36. Schweitzer, Albert (1931)Out of my life and thought: an autobiography pg 125
  37. Robertson, Archibald. (1946) Jesus: Myth or History?
  38. Doherty, Earl "Book And Article Reviews: The Case For The Jesus Myth: "Jesus — One Hundred Years Before Christ by Alvar Ellegard" review
  39. Price, Robert M (1999) "Of Myth and Men A closer look at the originators of the major religions-what did they really say and do?" Volume 20, Number 1 (Winter, 1999/2000') Free Inquiry magazine
  40. Stanton, Graham (2002) The Gospels and Jesus. Oxford University Press, p. 143.
  41. Marshall, Ian Howard. I Believe in the Historical Jesus. Regent College Publishing, 2004, p. 27-29.
  42. Remsburg, John (1909) The Christ
  43. Walsh, George (1998) The Role of Religion in History Transaction Publishers pg 58
  44. Dodd, C.H. (1938) History and the Gospel under the heading Christ Myth Theory Manchester University Press pg 17
  45. Barker, Dan 2006) Losing Faith in Faith pg 372
  46. Boyd-Eddy (2007), The Jesus Legend: a Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 24-25
  47. Remsburg, John (1909) The Christ
  48. Barker, Dan 2006) Losing Faith in Faith pg 372
  49. Boyd-Eddy (2007), The Jesus Legend: a Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 24-25
  50. Remsburg, John (1909) The Christ
  51. Barker, Dan 2006) Losing Faith in Faith pg 372
  52. Boyd-Eddy (2007), The Jesus Legend: a Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 24-25
  53. Remsburg, John (1909) The Christ
  54. Barker, Dan 2006) Losing Faith in Faith pg 372
  55. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 30
  56. "Born on December 25th" Jesus Police (Internet Archive)
  57. "Mary Was a Virgin" Jesus Police (Internet Archive)
  58. Waite, Charles B. (1881) History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred
  59. Tyson, Joseph B (2006) Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle University of South Carolina Press; annotated edition ISBN-13: 978-1570036507
  60. Tucker, Bob (2009) "Was Jesus Virgin Born?" Foundation of Contemporary Theology- Internet archive
  61. Talbert, Charles H. (2006) “Miraculous Conceptions and Births in Mediterranean Antiquity.” Pp. 79-86 in A.J. Levine, D.C. Allison and J. D. Crossan (eds.), The Historical Jesus in Context. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press
  62. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 34
  63. Price, Robert (2012) The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems pg 387-8
  64. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 33
  65. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 53
  66. Galatians 1:11-12
  67. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 515
  68. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 264-270, 387-509
  69. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 427-433
  70. When Gessius Florus sent some priests that Josephus knew in chains to Rome (64 CE), he followed to petition the emperor [Nero] to release them. The emperor's consort, Poppea, introduced the 26 year old Jewish aristocrat to the imperial court & supported his cause. This successful mission left Josephus favorably impressed by the grandeur & power of Rome & with a first-hand familiarity with imperial circles that few of his contemporary Jews could match. By the time he returned to Jerusalem, however, the Jewish revolt had already begun (66 CE). (Josephus [37-ca 100 CE])
  71. Against Celsus 1.47, 2.13
  72. Hadrian to Servianus, 134 CE (Quoted by Giles, Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. II, p86, 1877
  73. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 344
  74. Carrier, Richard "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44" Vigiliae Christianae, Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 264 – 283 with an earlier and more detailed version appears in Hitler Homer Bible Christ (2014))
  75. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 344
  76. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 349
  77. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 259
  78. Irenaeus (c180 CE)Demonstration (74)
  79. See Robert M Price. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point," in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 80-81.
  80. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 9-11
  81. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 159-163
  82. Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 9-10
  83. Carrier, Richard (2014) Element 29 On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 159
  84. Dawkins, Richard (2006) The God Delusion pgs 202-203
  85. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177
  86. Brian Dunning (March 30, 2010) Cargo Cults Skeptoid #199
  87. Nicholas II, Tsar of All the Russias (14 points)
  88. List of Lord Raglan evaluations from Beacon Library
  89. St Paul the Apostle – Could it all be a fabrication?

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