Written By Thomas Perez. November 5, 2019 at 8:45PM. Copyright 2019.
One of Many Concepts:
“The events of Jesus’ life were based on a Roman military campaign, his supposed second coming refers to an event that already occurred, and the Gospels were written by a family of Caesars who left us documents to prove it” – Joseph Atwell.
The concept surrounding the historicity of Jesus Christ is nothing new. It is old. However, there have been spinoffs of it. It is like a television series that refuses to die. Like a good television show, even when it has had its run in good audience captivation, it spawns a spinoff of the same thing. ‘All in the Family’ gave birth to other similar shows called ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘Maude.’ Three’s a Company gave birth to the Ropers and Three’s a Crowd, and so forth. And like a good television show that has captured the hearts of millions, the show continues its course on late night television through repeated syndication.
This is the skepticism that we are dealing with in reference to the historicity of Jesus Christ and the claims cited about Him in the Gospels and the epistles located in the New Testament (NT). The spawn of repeated rhetoric that you may see or read about against the Christ is nothing more than repeated television, video and radio nonsense made to look scholarly.
It never ceases to amaze me how these so-called scholars seem to only focus primarily on their preconceived premise of argumentative presuppositions, rather than giving the audience, now held captive by their soothsaying, all the facts surrounding their argument. Arguments that are as old as the television shows mentioned above, now running in syndication and silly spinoffs that usually die due to bad ratings, non-interest, or as in this case, bad scholarship. I would venture to say that this rhetoric, along with their various spinoffs, are the oldest syndicated television programs and books on the air and in the market today. They seem to be everywhere; in bookstores, on YouTube and Amazon.
Its original run had its beginnings in the late 1800’s. Quite frankly, many “things” had its original beginnings in the 19th century; Darwinism, the new age movement, occultism, atheism, agnosticism, general liberalism, liberal theology, pseudoscience in reference to “historical geology,” and a new prevailing spirit, if you will, in reference to the out right denial of orthodoxy and the person of Jesus Christ. Curious, wouldn’t you say? But then again this shouldn’t surprise you, such were the conditions of the age – as one concept spawned another.
The 1800’s, the 19th Century
“The argument that Jesus never existed, but was invented by the Christian movement around the year 100, goes back to Enlightenment times, when the historical-critical study of the past was born,” and may have originated with Lord Bolingbroke, an English deist.” Soon to follow suite was Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf de Volney and Charles-Francois Dupuis.
Van Voorst, p. 568.
Weaver 1999, pp. 45-50
Schweitzer 2001, pp. 355ff.
The findings according to these men was that the character of Jesus was based upon fictitious pagan myths of the past. Dupuis argued that ancient rituals in Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India had influenced the Christian story which was allegorized as the histories of solar deities, such as Sol Invictus. Dupuis also said that the resurrection of Jesus was an allegory for the growth of the sun’s strength in the sign of Aries at the spring equinox. Volney argued that Abraham and Sarah were derived from Brahma and his wife Saraswati, whereas Christ was related to Krishna.
English gentleman Godfrey Higgins said the same thing, that “the mythos of the Hindus, the mythos of the Jews and the mythos of the Greeks are the same; and are contrivances under the appearance of histories to perpetuate doctrines.”
Graves, in his 1875 book The Worlds Sixteen Crucified Saviors, said the same thing. American Kersey Graves said that many demigods from different countries shared similar stories, traits or quotes as Jesus and he used Higgins as the main source for his arguments.
Harpur 2004. p. 30.
Then came the German theologian David Friedrich Strauss. Strauss did not deny Jesus’ existence, he claimed, just like Reza Aslan did in his book entitled “Zealot,” (2013) that the Jesus miracles depicted in the NT were mythical editions. According to Strauss, the early Church developed these stories in order to present Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish prophecies.
David Friedrich Strauss (2010), The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined, pp. 39–43, 87–91
James A. Herrick (2003), The Making of the New Spirituality, pp. 58–65
Michael J. McClymond (2004), Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth,
Bruno Bauer who was the first to state the case of Jesus’ non-existence by systematically presenting his arguments, claimed Jesus to be a literary person. However, he left open the question of whether a historical Jesus existed at all.
Van Voorst 2000, pp. 7–11.
Beilby, James K. and Eddy, Paul Rhodes. “The Quest for the Historical Jesus,” James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.). The Historical Jesus: Five Views. Intervarsity, 2009,
In the 1870s, English poet and author Gerald Massey said the same thing. Massey equated Jesus to that of the Egyptian sun god Horus. His assertions have influenced various later writers such as Alvin Boyd Kuhn and Tom Harpur.
Another group, this time it was a university group, got together and rejected the authenticity of the Pauline epistles and took a generally negative view of the Bible’s historical value. In 1881 they stated that all New Testament writings belonged to the 2nd century and doubted that Jesus was a historical figure, but later said the core of the gospels was genuine. This is similar to Bart Ehrman today – though he continues to deny the Gospels authenticity. Other Christ myth proponents include; English historian Edwin Johnson, Swiss skeptic Rudolf Steck, English radical Rev. Robert Taylor and his associate Richard Carlile.
Van Voorst 2000, p. 10.
Schweitzer 2001, pp. 356–361, 527 n. 4.
Edwin Johnson (1887). Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins. Trübner.
Arthur Drew, 1926, The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present
Gray, Patrick (April 19, 2016). Paul as a Problem in History and Culture: The Apostle and His Critics Through the Centuries (in German). Baker Academic. p. 85.
Lockley, Philip (2013). Visionary Religion and Radicalism in Early Industrial England: From Southcott to Socialism. OUP Oxford. p. 168
The 1900’s. The 20th Century
In the 20th century a new way of looking at the Gospels became prevalent; the hypothetical “Q” source became a 4th synoptic hidden Gospel, if you will. Excluding the Gospel of John, proponents of the hypothetical Q document claim that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are based upon various stories (myths) and sayings collected in the Q source and hence distributed into the two aforementioned Gospels; with the Gospel of Mark being the historical catalyst. Because of this, some scholars limit their attention to Mark and Q. According to this hypothesis, Q was drawn from the early Church’s oral traditions. See picture below…
Sir James George Frazer. Frazer believed Jesus existed. However, he believed that elements of the story surrounding Jesus’ diivinity was shared by other religious beliefs. His work The Golden Bough, emphasized this school of thought. Others were quick to pick up on this and later followed suit – all claiming an historical Jesus who was no different than other shared Messiahs.
Others, like Scottish Member of Parliament John MacKinnon Robertson believed Jesus to be a concoction based upon an individual solar deity named Joshua of the 1st Cent – a messianic cult. George Robert Stowe Meade said the Jesus of the 1st and 2nd Cent did not exist, but that the real Jesus existed c. 100BC. Meade based this argument on the Talmud.
In 1909, school teacher John Eleazer Remsburg published The Christ, which made a distinction between a possible historical Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth) and the Jesus of the Gospels (Jesus of Bethlehem). Remsburg thought that there was good reason to believe that the historical Jesus existed, but that the “Christ of Christianity” was a mythological creation.
The Christ by John Remsburg 1909, Chapter 1: “Christ’s Real Existence Impossible.”
Later, in 1909, German philosophy Professor Christian Heinrich Arthur Drews wrote The Christ Myth to argue that Christianity had been a Jewish Gnostic cult that spread by appropriating aspects of Greek philosophy and life-death-rebirth deities. He also wrote The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus (1912) and The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present (1926).
These “things” were short lived.
Revival of the Concept: The 1970’s to the Present
Although George Albert Wells is often attributed with the revival of the Christ myth, Paul-Louis Couchaud’s (1879 – 1959) Jesus is not a “myth,” publication saw Jesus as a “religious conception. Jesus was given to the Christ after his torturous death, implying that there cannot have been a ministry by a teacher called Jesus.
James Campbell, author of book The Power of Myth. The book is a compendium of various myths conducted in interview form; with even one such interview being conducted at George Lucus’ Skywalker Ranch, in which the hero Luke Skywalker is seen as a derivative, consisting of saviour like hero messianic qualities. This concept became more prominent in its prequels in which Luke’s father Anakin, who later becomes the evil Darth Vader – who is ultimately reconciled to the light and saves the day in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ is said to have been born without the means of copulation in fulfillment of Jedi prophecies. Campell cites many societal mythologies and their histories claiming that they, including Christianity, are all based upon various religious myths and folklore.
George Albert Wells (1926 – 2017) revived the Jesus myth in 1975 with his publication of the book Did Jesus Exist? Wells claims, like Bart D. Ehrman does and other do, that the Gospels and the entire NT for that matter were written decades after Jesus’ death. In his book, The Jesus Myth wells claims that two Jesus narratives fused into one, namely Paul’s mythical Jesus, and a minimally historical Jesus from a Galilean preaching tradition, whose teachings were preserved in the “Q” document.
Wells 1971, Wells 1975, Wells, 1982.
Martin, Michael (1993). The case against Christianity. Temple University Press. p. 38.
Wells 2013, p. 16.
This was refuted in 2000 by Van Voorst and other scholars alike. The general consensus of his (Wells) work is that it was “not considered to be original, and all his main points were thought to have been refuted long time ago, for reasons which were very well known”
Earl Doherty (1941 – Present). Doherty, a follower of Wells, but disagrees with some minor issues concerning the historicity of Jesus. Doherty cites that Paul’s Christ/Son lived and acted in the spiritual realm as other saviours did. However, according to Doherty, this particular Christ was devised from Platonism and Jewish mysticism. According to Doherty, the nucleus of the historical Jesus of the Gospels can be found in the Jesus-movement which wrote the Q source, hence combining the Q source with Paul’s and Mark’s Jesus.
And then we have Richard Carrier. Carrier, who favored Doherty, states in his book that Jesus was a spiritual mythical figure who was later incorporated into the Gospels with a narrative; complete with Cynic like teachings, which later came to be perceived as historical biography. This is found in his book, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt (2014).
Robert M. Price – Spokesman for The Jesus Seminar, Liberal Theologian. Price hss written books on the topic, some of which include; Deconstructing Jesus (2000), The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003), Jesus Is Dead (2007), and The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems (2011). Price uses similarities between Christianity and Middle Eastern myths. To Price, it is a flowing of many Jesus’, some of them possibly based on “a historical Jesus” the Nazorean.
Thomas L. Thompson. Thompson, in his 2007 book, The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David, Thompson argues that the Biblical accounts of both King David and Jesus of Nazareth are not historical accounts, but are mythical in nature and based on Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Babylonian and Greek and Roman literature.
Thomas L. Brodie, an Irish Dominican priest and theologian, in his book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery (2012), cites the Gospels as a rewriting of the stories of Elijah and Elisha. According to Brodie, since the Gospel narratives are really based upon a synergistic view of Elijah and Elisha, then the historical Jesus is nothing more than a myth.
Other modern proponents of the Jesus myth include; John M. Allegro – who wrote that Christianity originated in a shamanistic Essene clandestine cult centered around the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Alvar Ellegard, in The Myth of Jesus (1992), and Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ. A Study in Creative Mythology (1999), argued that Jesus lived 100 years before the accepted dates, and was a teacher of the Essenes. According to Ellegard, Paul was connected with the Essenes, and had a vision of this Jesus.
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, both collaborated to write another Jesus myth book. The book is entitled, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? (1999). The book states that Jesus is a myth, and that this myth is based upon synergistic re-interpretations of the gnostic god-man.
And then we have Tom Harper, whose works are based upon Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880 – 1963) – an American Theosophist. Harper’s book The Pagan Christ (2004) cites the similarities among the stories of Jesus, Horus, Mithras, Buddha and others and as being one and the same. According to Harpur, in the 2nd and/or 3rd centuries the early Church created the fictional impression of a literal and historic Jesus and then used forgery and violence to cover up the evidence.
We also have Robert W. Funk (1926 – 2005) who was an American biblical scholar, founder of the Jesus Seminar, whose advocates often appear on The History Channel. The Jesus Seminar was a group of about 50 critical biblical scholars and 100 laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk that originated under the auspices of the Westar Institute. The seminar was very active through the 1980s and 1990s, and into the early 21st century. Robert Funk died in 2005, Marcus Borg in 2015, Stephen L. Harris in 2019, but notable surviving fellows of the Jesus Seminar include John Dominic Crossan, Robert M. Price and Burton Mack. And last but not least, we have Bart D. Erhman.
We also have Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus (2005). Caesar’s Messiah is a 2005 book by Joseph Atwill, which argues that the New Testament Gospels were written as wartime propaganda by scholars connected to the Roman imperial court of the Flavian emperors: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Atwill maintains that Titus Flavius Josephus, author of The War of the Jews (75AD), Antiquities of the Jews (94AD), Against Apion or Against the Greeks (94AD), and the autobiography of Flavius Josephus (99AD), contain many stories that are similar to our synoptic Gospel narratives. Atwill claims that the Gospel writers were from the courts of Caesar.
According to Atwill, their primary purpose in creating the religion was to control the spread of Judaism and moderate its political virulence. The Jewish nationalist Zealots had been defeated in the First Jewish-Roman War of 70 AD, but Judaism remained an influential movement throughout the Mediterranean region. Atwill argues that the Biblical character of Jesus Christ is a topological representation of the Roman Emperor Titus.
But if we were to look at the dates when the works of Josephus was written, with the earliest being 75AD, you will immediately remember that James the Great was executed by the sword on orders from king Agrippa in 44AD. James the brother of Jesus was executed in 62 or 69AD. Emperor Nero had Peter martyred in 63AD and Paul in 63 or 67AD. Nero also started persecuting Christians by having them crucified, and fed to the colosseum lions. He also had them burned, using them as torches at night in order to light the colosseum and his palace. While John was exiled to the island of Patmos in 95AD or 63 to 70AD as believed among Preterists.
Simply put, you don’t kill followers of a movement that you yourself are trying to create in order to stop the spread of Judaism. Why would the Roman imperial court create a Jesus character from scratch and then persecute its followers to the death? And hence by doing so indirectly help the Jews who they are trying to get rid of. Why would the imperial courts indirectly help the Jews in their quest to preserve the religion of Judaism by eradicating through constant persecutions a new competing faith, namely Christianity?
Moreover, the NT is quoted at least 36,000 times, by the early Church fathers. Church fathers such as; Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, etc. Furthermore, they were also quoted by secular Roman sources. Roman Secular sources validate the lives of the early Church fathers in their documents, often in a belittling and persecuting manner. Moreover, the books of the NT were being circulated in the 1st cent before rampant persecutions began – they were often quoted from in times of needed courage, comfort and faith.
Despite what Bart Erhman says and others like him, many scholars date the NT books from 51AD to 66-68AD, with the Gospel of Mark dating from 60-65AD, Luke 66-68AD, and Matthew 66-68AD. It is extremely important for proponents of the Jesus myth to date these books as being written during the 3rd or 4th centuries, especially if their criteria is based upon eradicating the divinity of Jesus Christ prior to 325AD as Erhman, the Jesus Seminar, the Ziegiest Movement, and the DaVinci Code film suggests.
For others, like Atwill and his particular opinion, the earlier the better, since his assumption is that Emperor Titus and Jesus are one and the same. But again, the dates and persecutions refute this. For others of the Jesus myth narrative, the dates can range anywhere from early to late centuries, since they claim the character, story and miracles of Jesus are based upon earlier pagan myths and Eastern religions. But again, this too is an error as the links, written by your truly, below prove. The movies, The DaVinci Code (2006) and Angels and Demons (2009) all borrow from the aforementioned mentioned proponents of this ideology.
Let it be known that I am against sloppy prepositional conclusions based on “hand-me downs” and syndicated reruns. These claims are bogus, scrupulous and un-scholary. This type of rhetoric has been fully dealt with in the links below. The articles clearly exposes their errors…