5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed

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Question EVERYTHING!” ~ George Carlin

Valerie Tarico, AlterNet

A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against whether Jesus lived.

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at AllFor centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

More academic arguments in support of the Jesus Myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast, writes from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest debunkers of fringe Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who tries to argue that the Romans invented Jesus) are from serious Mythicists like Fitzgerald, Carrier and Price.

The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.

In the words of Bart Ehrman:

“What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (How Jesus Became God pp. 56-57)

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.

Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.

We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine.  But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.

If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.

They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage.  But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”

For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a soon-to-be-released follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in ActionFitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.

We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell.

About the Author

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

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Random Notes On The Jesus Myth – Part One

last-supper-astrotheology

Connecting the dots concerning the fabricated “history” of Jesus has been eye opening to me. There’s overwhelming evidence the whole story of Jesus was invented by the political powers of Rome. Since so many people assume there was an historical Jesus, fear of the truth overcomes their reason, and they immediately defend their ego based false beliefs. I don’t want to convince anyone of what I’ve learned as the truth. My mother was indoctrinated into believing Jesus was a real person. I don’t want to kick her crutch out from under her. I have no reason to convince anyone who believes in Constantine’s cult that they are wrong. Their defenses range from childish to downright dangerous. Many immediately assume that if Jesus wasn’t real then there’s no God. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason there have been so many god-man heroes based on Astrotheology is because mankind is obviously attracted to it. Even if in it’s ignorance (ignore-ance) mankind blindly follows the saga of the Sun, the planets and other signs in the cosmos as historical events taking place in history, it is the opposite of Spiritual. Myth is a way of teaching ever deeper meanings. An historical superman is a dead end. It’s blind faith (requires no critical thinking), it is ignorance that goes nowhere. The shock of learning that this story is untrue historically is a slap in the face of one’s completely brainwashed stupidity, and it’s not pleasant at first. But it does wake one up! But it’s not my job to awake anyone but myself. If a person finds comfort in a lie, who am I to interfere? I’m interested in truth no matter where it leads. I have found the truth will absolutely set us free, and also enlighten us in a way the church doesn’t want. They have their agenda and it has nothing to do with what’s in our best interest. The Gnostics were destroyed, but amazingly some of their writings have been found, and at a time in history where they wouldn’t be burned again. And I’m living in a time where I won’t be burned at the stake  for speaking the truth. The mystical side of various religions I find quite beautiful. The fundamental and literal part is 100% worthless hogwash. It’s embarrassing to me to be a part of such an ignorant and easily tricked group of zombie-like sheeple. If they use fake history to prove their point, they are fake people, living in a fake reality, and are as if already dead. The truth is hidden but can be discovered by anyone open minded enough to look for it. Yes, much of history has been altered for this myth, you do have to dig a bit. You cannot look up an early Church Father and quote them, because early pro-Christian quotes were interpolated centuries later. Hisorians have proven this. Hey, the built the town of Nazareth just to make the gospels literally true! They’ll stoop very low for this lie, because it is the lie upon which all other lies have been built upon. Rome lives on, trust me. Our laws and banks are made from Roman legalisms and Vatican maxims. They learned long ago to never inform or educate slaves.

“Osiris’s coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris’s star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth.”

Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (749)

“So this was the harbinger of the annual inundation of the Nile through her appearance with the rising sun at the time when the inundation was due to begin. The bright star would therefore naturally become, together with the conjoined constellation of Orion, the sign and symbol of new vegetation which the Year then beginning would infallibly bring with it.”

Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult (157)

The three stars in the middle of the constellation form an asterism known as The Three Kings, or Orion’s Belt.

Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Killed and Resurrected after Three Days

The goddesses have stories to tell. One such story—far too long ignored—is that, in their original, unadulterated form, they were parthenogenetic. The word parthenogenesis comes from the Greek parthenos, ‘virgin’ more or less, and gignesthai, ‘to be born.’ It means, essentially, to be born of a virgin—that is, without the participation of a male. For a goddess to be ‘parthenogenetic’ thus means that she stands as a primordial creatrix, who requires no male partner to produce the cosmos, earth, life, matter and even other gods out of her own essence. Plentiful evidence shows that in their earliest cults, before they were subsumed under patriarchal pantheons as the wives, sisters and daughters of male gods, various female deities of the ancient Mediterranean world were indeed considered self-generating, virgin creatrixes.”

Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso, Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity (1)

“Let our Christian readers bear in mind that the worship of the virgin and her child was common in the East, ages before the generally received account of Christ’s appearance in the flesh.”

Existence of Christ Disproved

“Crishna was born of a chaste virgin, called Devaki, who, on account of her purity, was selected to become the ‘mother of God.'”

Doane, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions

The Virgin Mary is called not only the Mother of God, but the Queen of Heaven. This connects her directly with astronomic lore. The ornamentation of many continental churches often includes a representation of the Sun and Moon “in conjunction,” the Moon being therein emblematical of the Virgin and Child.

As the Moon is the symbol of Mary, Queen of Heaven, so also a bright Star sometimes symbolizes him whose star was seen over Jerusalem by the Wise Men from the East.

Regarding the astrotheological nature of the gospel story, including the virgin birth/immaculate conception, the famous Christian theologian and saint Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, (1193?-1280) admitted:

“We know that the sign of the celestial Virgin did come to the horizon at the moment where we have fixed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the mysteries of the incarnation of our Saviour Christ; and all the circumstances of his marvellous life, from his conception to his ascension, are to be traced out in the constellations, and are figured in the stars.” – Hackwood

Again, the Christian virgin birth is no more historical or believable than that of these numerous other gods. Moreover, as Robertson says, “The idea of a Virgin-Mother-Goddess is practically universal.” The list of Pagan virgin mothers includes the following:

Alcmene, mother of Hercules who gave birth on December 25th

Alitta, Babylonian Madonna and Child

Anat, Syrian wife of “the earlier Supreme God El,” called “Virgin Goddess”

Cavillaca, Peruvian huaca (divine spirit) impregnated by the “son of the sun god” through eating his semen in the shape of a fruit

Chimalman, mother of Kukulcan

Chinese mother of Foe (Buddha)

Coatlicue, mother of the Mexican god Huitzilopochtli

Cybele, “Queen of Heaven and Mother of God”

Danae, mother of Perseus

Demeter/Ceres, “Holy Virgin” mother of Persephone/Kore and Dionysus

Devaki, mother of Krishna

Frigga, mother of the Scandinavian god Balder

Hera, mother of Zeus’s children

Hertha, Teutonic goddess

Isis, who gave birth to Horus on December 25th

Juno, mother of Mars/Ares, called “Matrona” and “Virginalis,” the Mother and Virgin

Mandana, mother of Cyrus/Koresh

Maya, mother of Buddha

Mother of Lao-kiun, “Chinese philosopher and teacher, born in 604 B.C.”

Mother of the Indian solar god Rudra

Nana, mother of Attis

Neith, mother of Osiris, who was “worshipped as the Holy Virgin, the Great Mother, yet an Immaculate Virgin.”

Nutria, mother of an Etruscan Son of God

Ostara, the German goddess

Rohini, mother of Indian “son of God”

Semele, mother of Dionysus/Bacchus, who was born on December 25th

Shin-Moo, Chinese Holy Mother

Siamese mother of Somonocodom (Buddha)

Sochiquetzal, mother of Quetzalcoatl

Vari, Polynesian “First Mother,” who created her children “by plucking pieces out of her sides.”

Venus, the “Virgo Coelestis” depicted as carrying a child

“Both Mithras and Christ were described variously as ‘the Way,’ ‘the Truth,’ ‘the Light,’ ‘the Life,’ ‘the Word,’ ‘the Son of God,’ ‘the Good Shepherd.’ The Christian litany to Jesus could easily be an allegorical litany to the sun-god. Mithras is often represented as carrying a lamb on his shoulders, just as Jesus is. Midnight services were found in both religions. The virgin mother…was easily merged with the virgin mother Mary. Petra, the sacred rock of Mithraism, became Peter, the foundation of the Christian Church.”

Gerald Berry, Religions of the World

“Mithra or Mitra is…worshipped as Itu (Mitra-Mitu-Itu) in every house of the Hindus in India. Itu (derivative of Mitu or Mitra) is considered as the Vegetation-deity. This Mithra or Mitra (Sun-God) is believed to be a Mediator between God and man, between the Sky and the Earth. It is said that Mithra or [the] Sun took birth in the Cave on December 25th. It is also the belief of the Christian world that Mithra or the Sun-God was born of [a] Virgin. He travelled far and wide. He has twelve satellites, which are taken as the Sun’s disciples…. [The Sun’s] great festivals are observed in the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox—Christmas and Easter. His symbol is the Lamb….”

Swami Prajnanananda, Christ the Saviour and Christ Myth

Mithra has the following in common with the Jesus character:

Mithra was born on December 25th of the virgin Anahita.

The babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and attended by shepherds.

He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.

He had 12 companions or “disciples.”

He performed miracles.

As the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.

He ascended to heaven.

Mithra was viewed as the Good Shepherd, the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah.

Mithra is omniscient, as he “hears all, sees all, knows all: none can deceive him.”

He was identified with both the Lion and the Lamb.

His sacred day was Sunday, “the Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.

His religion had a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper.”

Mithra “sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers.”

Mithraism emphasized baptism.

“In the ancient world there was a very widespread belief in the sufferings and deaths of gods as being beneficial to man. Adonis, Attis, Dionysos, Herakles, Mithra, Osiris, and other deities, were all saviour-gods whose deaths were regarded as sacrifices made on behalf of mankind; and it is to be noticed that in almost every case there is clear evidence that the god sacrificed himself to himself.”

Sir Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity

“Osiris…was successively god of the Nile, a life-giver, a sun-god, god of justice and love, and finally a resurrected god who ruled in the afterlife…. The most popular legend about Osiris is one of a resurrected god. He was killed by Set, the god of darkness… Osiris was then resurrected and went to live on high. Osiris became the first of a long line of resurrected deities—Tammuz, Mithras, Balder, Christ. Every spring the life of Osiris was re-enacted at Abydos in a stirring passion play, dating back to the eighteenth or nineteenth century before Christ. This play is the earliest record in history of drama.”

Gerald L. Berry, Religions of the World

“Osiris or the sun was now worshipped throughout the whole world, though under different names. He was the Mithra of the Persians, the Brahma of India, the Baal or Adonis of the Phoenicians, the Apollo of the Greeks, the Odin Of Scandinavia, the Hu of the Britons, and the Baiwe of the Laplanders.”

W. Winwood Reade, The Veil of Isis; Or, Mysteries of the Druids