The Historicity Of Jesus

Hey there. I’m Ryan McDermott and I don’t think I need any introduction. However, I think my blog does. Basically every week I will write a skeptic’s column about the misguided beliefs people have. These will most likely include everything from why violence in videogames is supposedly bad to New Age Spiritualism. So without further ado, here is the first misguided belief I will tackle: the belief in Jesus Christ

Some of the non-religious people’s beliefs boggle my mind more than the religious people’s ones. Most of the time the non-religious tout themselves as being skeptical and freethinking yet many claim to believe Jesus actually walked the earth. Effectively what they are saying is that they believe that a man named Yĕhōšuă Christós, Jesus’ name sans transliteration, actually died on a cross and three days later rose from the dead, actually performed acts that are tantamount to magic, and was actually born to a virgin mother. Now, I can understand religious people believing this, but why do supposed rational atheists, non-theists, and the like have this idea?

When you present them with these ascriptions of Jesus they usually say something to the effect of “Well, I don’t believe in that but I believe he walked the earth.” To me this sounds a lot like the logical paradox called the Ship of Theseus, or George Washington’s axe as it’s called in modern parlance. Saying Jesus existed in spite of a disbelief in his acts of magic makes about as much sense as saying that you believe that there was a man named Peter Parker who worked for Daily Bugle as a photographer, married a woman named Mary Jane, and dressed up as Spiderman but never actually was bitten by a spider or had magical powers. Is that version of Peter Parker that you are talking about really the same version of Peter Parker from the Marvel Comics stories? I wouldn’t think so.

Aside from the implausibility of Jesus’ acts and his life altogether, there are overwhelmingly similar stories of gods, prophets, and messiahs that were all throughout the supposed time of Jesus’ life. As Alan Dundes mentions in his study of popular folklore, the entire character of Jesus fits a hero cycle archetype commonly seen in stories throughout all human cultures. The persecution of Jesus as a baby and his messianic struggle against the forces of evil is a tale told about Moses, Zoroaster and Krishna. The trial of Jesus before the Roman procurators is a retelling of the trial Apollonius faced. And the rising from the dead after three days is a direct appropriation of a pagan myth regarding the sun’s rising over the Eastern Cross during December 25th that marked the end of the winter solstice and the return to warmer weather. The sun, one of God I guess you could say, is reborn on December 25th.

What’s more, the character of Jesus is a direct copy, or transmogrification at best, of Apollonius, Mithra, and Adonis. All these gods share the virgin birth, being born upon the night of an appearance of three stars, helping the poor, being crucified and rising from the dead. These gods were floating around during violent religious upheavals and integrations of culture all over Asia Minor that brought many mythologies together with the major religion of the time, that being Judaism. And a small sect of these Jews, most likely discontent with their religion, used an amalgamation of popular mythology at the time that most likely everyone knew about to create one of the best characters in fiction of all time: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

What it all comes down to and where it all started from was that primitive people needed an explanation for why the sun came up every morning. Jesus, as Thomas Pained pointed out, is nothing more than a sun god — a mythic pagan deity that is a vestige of Gnosticism and primeval superstition. The fact that there are so many similar stories, similar gods, and similar myths all around at the same time is more than coincidental.

But does it really matter that Jesus never existed? Aside from the fact that it completely debunks an entire religion, I don’t think it really does. The fact remains there are some wise words to be had. Loving your neighbor, taking care of the poor, and showing kindness to others are all great things we should all try to aspire to. So what if we don’t get to go to heaven because a bearded hippie wasn’t actually around to save us from our sins? At least somebody was kind enough to write down some wise words to live by.

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3 Responses to The Historicity Of Jesus

  1. Lane Hill says:

    Ryan – tags and thumbnail.

  2. Lexie says:

    I am torn between feeling slightly offended or validated. Good job, McDermott.

  3. Chucky says:

    I think you’re missing something important here: those who posit that there was a man named Jesus but that there was nothing supernatural about him (i.e. most historians) believe that the deification of the teacher was brought about by a revisionist history when the gospels were written one hundred years-or-so after his death. Thus a real, living man was ‘transmogrified’ (great word lol) to fit messianic archetypes. This is a particularly strong viewpoint when you consider the fact that there were many disparate sects of Christianity, some which did not consider Christ a deity, until the Roman Empire took Christianity as its state religion and began to unify it into one hegemonic belief system.

    This is very similar to how we believe that a man named Socrates did once ‘walk the earth’, yet the only teachings of his that survive come to us in Plato’s stylized form. Other than some not-so-veiled Christianity-bashing I’m not so sure of the point of this article.

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