Myth of an Historical Jesus

Evangelical Christians (like Pat Robertson, the Moody Institute, Sarah Palin, et al) have argued for generations that the Jesus of the Christian Bible was a real man who was from a hamlet named Nazareth (that is not mentioned in any pre-Christian texts; the earliest non-scriptural reference to this town, is a casual citation by Sextus Julius Africanus dated about 200 CE. The first non-Christian reference to Nazareth is an inscription on a marble fragment, that dates no earlier than 300 CE, from a synagogue found in Caesarea Maritima in 1962; however the naming of a person and including the place he would come from, such as redactions of Scripture and Patrology that uses “Jesus (the Latin Iesus, of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), itself a Hellenisation of the Hebrew יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yĕhōšuă‘, Joshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšûă‘), meaning “Yahweh (or Jehovah) delivers or rescues”)of Nazareth”, is strictly an Arabic invention: (Arabic: يسوع‎‎, Yasū` or Arabic: عيسى‎, `Īsā) and “of Nazareth” (Hebrew: נָצְרַת‎, Natzrat or Natzeret; Arabic: الناصرة‎ al-Nāṣira or al-Naseriyye) has no equal in any early Jewish or Christian record and is a much later invention, no earlier than 400 CE, and most likely c. 600 CE)  lived and died (allegedly of being crucified on a “cross”–a word that is not found in any of the original texts; cf. https://arthuride.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jesus-did-not-die-on-a-cross/) in the first 40 years of the current era (CE).  Their citations are usually focused on such famous writers as Josephus and Tacitus–but these citations are out of context and contrived.

The main quote used by Christian apologists is from Tacitus Annals (15.44) in which we find this quote: “But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.” There are numerous problems with this: (1) the name Jesus is nowhere to be found; (2) “Christus” was a common title for anyone who was either anointed or a magi(cian) from Egypt  where there have been numerous bowls or cups dug up with a unique carving that reads “DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS,” which can be translated either as “by Christ the magician” or “the magician by Christ.” These bowls date back to no less than 200 BCE to 3000 BCE (before Jesus–a Greek translation of the name Joshua). Professor of classical archeology and art at Oxford University, Bert Smith, says that the carving might have been an offering or a dedication from a “Chrestos”, who was part of a certain religious group called Ogoistais, worshiping Hermes, Athena, Isis or other early Greek and Egyptian gods. Pausanias and Strabon were among the historians of those times who provide references to a god named “Osogo” or “Ogoa”, which may lead to yet another approach by name association. (3) Tacitus calls the christians (of which there were no less than two separate groups) a pernicious superstition and it was this superstition that caused unsettlement among the citizens of Rome that, allegedly (based on faulty scholarship by Christians who struggle to define and defend martyrdoms that were not required by Roman law or lore) Nero used as an excuse to accuse them of setting the fire. (4) Matthew acknowledges that there were “magi[cians]” (who, prior to Jesus were learned men or scribes [הסופרים] who knew how to write: chartummim in transliterated Hebrew; see: Genesis 41:8 and 24, Exodus 7:11, 22 and 8: 7, 18-19, and 9:11–all in Egypt; while Matthew’s “wise men” were Persian astronomers in Matthew 2:1: μάγος) at the time that this Christ lived.  (5) The gospels use of “christ” is strictly a person anointed with oil (xριστός) while in the epistles it is a “servant of a [unspecified] lord” (υπάλληλος του Λόρδου). (6) Even fervent Christian advocates of the Jesus story doubt that Tacitus’ account can be accurate; eg: R. T. France, (1986). The Evidence for Jesus. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 23. (7) Edward Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, details how the christians were great enough in number to merit being singled out for “crimes” leading to the burning of Rome. Gibbon concluded that the fall of the Roman Empire was due to the supplanting of the classical tradition of the Roman community with Christian beliefs.  As Gibbon wrote: “The Imperial gardens were thrown open to the distressed multitude, temporary buildings were erected for their accommodation, and a plentiful supply of corn and provisions was distributed at a very moderate price.  [It must be noted that The price of wheat (probably of the modius,) was reduced as low as terni Nummi; which would be equivalent to about fifteen shillings the English quarter.]  The most generous policy seemed to have dictated the edicts which regulated the disposition of the streets and the construction of private houses; and as it usually happens, in an age of prosperity, the conflagration of Rome, in the course of a few years, produced a new city, more regular and more beautiful than the former. But all the prudence and humanity affected by Nero on this occasion were insufficient to preserve him from the popular suspicion. Every crime might be imputed to the assassin of his wife and mother; nor could the prince who prostituted his person and dignity on the theatre be deemed incapable of the most extravagant folly. The voice of rumor accused the emperor as the incendiary of his own capital; and as the most incredible stories are the best adapted to the genius of an enraged people, it was gravely reported, and firmly believed, that Nero, enjoying the calamity which he had occasioned, amused himself with singing to his lyre the destruction of ancient Troy.”  As for the charges against Nero, Gibbon noted strongly: “The total disregard of truth and probability in the representation of these primitive martyrdoms was occasioned by a very natural mistake. The ecclesiastical writers of the fourth or fifth centuries ascribed to the magistrates of Rome the same degree of implacable and unrelenting zeal which filled their own breasts against the heretics or the idolaters of their own times. It is not improbable that some of those persons who were raised to the dignities of the empire, might have imbibed the prejudices of the populace, and that the cruel disposition of others might occasionally be stimulated by motives of avarice or of personal resentment.” (emphasis added; See: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/02/daf02003.htm)  Gibbon closed his discussion of the fall of the Roman Empire and subsequent history of Saeculum Obscurum and Middle Ages with the words: “I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion,” which led to his book being banned in numerous nations where Christianity controlled the government. (Cf. http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/02/daf02002.htm) (8) The greatest problem with Tacitus is when he reflects on the christians persecuted under Nero (allegedly), for he, allegedly, writes: “Auctor nominis ejus Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat.” It does  not have the grammatical construction or vocabulary use derived from some official Roman record (for example: “Tiberio imperitante” is entirely opposed to all Tacitean usage; cf. Hochart, Polydore (1885). Études au Sujet de la Persécution des Chrétiens sous Néron.  Paris; E. Leroux. Hochart, Polydore (1890). De l’authenticité des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite / par P. Hochart ; ouvrage accompagné des photographies de cinq pages des manuscrits de Florence et de 68 lettres de Poggio Bracciolini. Paris: Ernest Thorin, p. 320, which reprints all the authenticated copies of Tacitus; and Hochart, Polydore, Nouvelles Considérations au Sujet des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite. Paris: Ernest Thorin, p. 293; ref. Hochart, Polydore (1885). Etudes sur la vie de Sénèque. Paris, E. Leroux, especially for his study of Nero), but, on the contrary it has all the appearance of being part of a Christian formula.   In an official record we should not have the name of Pilate introduced with no further qualification than simply that of Procurator. Procurator of what? “In the reign of Tiberius under Pilate the Governor” would mean something definite to a Christian, for he would know that the whole story of Christus had to do with Judaea, but to a Roman the phrase would convey nothing of a very precise nature. It was written subsequent to 117 A.D., a date when the Pilate formula was indubitably firmly established among Christian circles. It is also to be noticed that Tacitus seems to know nothing of the name of Jesus. Furthermore, it is exceedingly improbable that in any official record the proper name of the person would be omitted, and a name used that officials familiar with Palestinian affairs must have known to be a general title that was at that time being claimed by many. Moreover, Jesus was not, according to the canonical tradition, accused of being a claimant to Messiahship, a matter that did not concern the Roman magistrates, but with the political offence of claiming to be King of the Jews. It is then far more probable that Tacitus derived his information from hearsay, and imagined that Christus was the actual and only name of the founder of the Christian sect.   (Cp. Bauer, Bruno (1879).  Christus und die Caesaren: Der Ursprung des Christenthums aus dem römischen Griechenthum. Berlin; 2nd ed.).  (9) History shows that Tacitus’ claim that the christians were persecuted on the charge of “hatred for mankind” to not only be false but an argument that the christian communities (of all christian sects) were propagandizin. Indeed there was no general persecution of christians of any cult before 250 CE, and then the charges brought against the christians were based on the christians being atheists (not accepting the gods of the state) and anarchists (not agreeing to fight in state battles or deserting on battlefields) as detailed by Justin, Apologia, 5, 6; 11, 12; rejecting emperor-worship that was equivalent to refusing to salute the flag of a nation and thus an act of treason (cf. Martyrdom of Polycarp, 3, 8-10), being arrogant and holding themselves aloof from ordinary civil society, being cannibals (they would leave a house claiming that they “ate the body and drank the blood” of Jesus (without stating that this man was their god), and talked loudly about secret celebrations of “great love feasts” which the unbelievers thought were references to gross licentiousness (cf. Justin, Dialogue, 10) while many refused marriage “to avail ourselves of community love”, which were illustrated with the exchange of “kisses of peace” between all people of both genders and all ages, for while the christians claimed that they were “breathing the spirit into one another” Romans saw it as prolonged kissing.

The canonical gospels talk only of communities of faithful. The gospels of the Nag Hammadi do not talk of a crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, neither does St Paul in any of his letters. Some Gnostics believe it was someone else, someone called Simon, who was killed on that occasion, and the various “Lost Books of the Bible” make no mention of a Jesus who has any relationship to the Jesus of the New Testament. In like fashion, there is no reference to a cross, to a crown of thorns, to Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, no nails being driven into any man’s hands and feet or anywhere else on the body that was never pierced. But to cover these omissions, evangelical Christians use citations from one of the least reliable of all the ancient chroniclers: Flavius Joseph (also Yosef Ben Matityahu (Joseph son of Matthias) and Titus Flavius Josephus 37-100 CE) who was an observant Jew who worked for Rome and becoming a Roman citizen in 71 CE.

Jesus is mentioned twice in Josephus” Antiquities (a work written in the first century CE). The first account is Antiquities 20.9.1, which reads: But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned. Jesus was to be stoned–not to be crucified on a cross, tree, etc. Second, Jesus was “so-called [legomenos: or alleged, not proven] Christ” noting that Josephus had no record of Jesus ever being anointed or being a magician who could change water into wine or multiply bread or fish.

The second reference in Josephus is in Antiquities 18.3.3, reading: Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man [magi(cian)], if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works [magic tricks], a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross [the actual means according to the Bible is “tree” (in Egyptian accounts) or “stake” (in the Greek accounts: σταυρός)], those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.  Noted theologian and research James H. Charlesworth notes that the second phrase is questionable. It is sometimes rendered, “if indeed one ought to call him a man.” Like the rest of the suspected interpolations, it is “parenthetically connected to the narrative” and “grammatically free and could easily have been inserted by a Christian.”   (Cf. Charlesworth, James H. (1988). Jesus within Judaism : new light from exciting archaeological discoveries. New York: Doubleday, p. 93.  Furthermore, the passage is also not found in an Arabic citation of Josephus from the 10th century work Book of the Title, which was analyzed in 1971 by Hebrew University scholar Schlomo Pines (cf.  Pines, Scholomo, An Arabic version of the Testimonium Flavianum and its implications. Jerusalem, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities) may represent a “more moderate attempt at Christianization of the original text.”  Reputable scholars now see this inclusion as a flagrant forgery. (See, for instance, F. Kaulen’s German translation, Flavius Josephus’ jüdische Alterthümer. Koln; 1892, 3rd ed., p. 620, n. (cf. Des Flavius Josephus Jüdische Altertümer. I.Band – Buch I bis X / II. Band – Buch XI bis XX nebst Namenregister. Übersetzt und mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen versehen von Dr. Heinrich Clementz.  Berlin/Harz: Verlag Benjamin Harz, 1923); and Benedikt Niese’s critical text, Flavii Josephi Opera. Berlin: Berolini : Apud Wiedmannos; 1890, iv. pp. 151,152.)   The most significant argument against this passage actually comes from within the emerging church, with Origen coming out boldly and stating that Josephus had no belief in Jesus as being “the Christ” (see: Origen, Contra Celsum, I, 47).

To understand the myth of Jesus and christianity, one has to go further back into time. Christianity has its roots in the Alexandrian Cult of Serapis. The doctrine of the cult of Serapis established an unprecedented belief that its followers could obtain the right to eternal life without the need for mummification. What the cult of Serapis did was to instruct a person that all he or she had to do was confess love and admiration for the cult’s deity who was a senior magi who could change water into wine, multiply loafs of bread and fish, and ritually raise the dead from tombs and restore to them life–and go through an initiation ritual including the rite of baptism. If all this was done immortality was assured. By 105 BCE, the cult of Serapis surpassed the official state religion in Rome, had spread throughout the Middle East, impregnated what was known as Judea and won adherents among those the Bible refers to as Jews. 

The Christian Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, author of the first History of the [Christian] Church did not fully accept Jesus as the Christ. Instead he theorized that Jesus was at least two different men: once in the persona of Joshua the son of Nun (a “pre-existence,”) then in the persona of Jesus the Christ, the son of Mary–but neither time a “man in the flesh.”

There is an obscure reference to a Jewish leader called “Chrestus” in Suetonius. According to Suetonius, chapter 25, there occurred in Rome, during the reign of emperor Claudius (circa 50 CE), “persistent disturbances … at the instigation of Chrestus”. (See Smilda, H. (1896), “C. Suetonii Tranquilli Vita Divi Claudii“. Groningen, p. 124, n.; also Schiller H. (1883), Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit. Gotha, i. 447, n. 6. Cp. Mead, George Robert Stow (1968). Did Jesus live 100 B.C.? An enquiry into the Talmud Jesus stories, the Toldoth Jeschu, and some curious statements of Epiphanius, being a contribution to the study of Christian origins. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, pp. 50–51). The most ancient dated Christian inscription (Oct. 1, 318 A.D.) runs “The Lord and Saviour Jesus the Good”—Chrestos, not Christos. This was the legend over the door of a Marcionite Church, and the Marcionites were Anti-Jewish Gnostics, and did not confound their Chrestos with the Jewish Christos (Messiah). The christian communities were at least two in name and nature: chrestos and christos–both claiming that they had a leader by the name of Jesus, but both men with this name were uniquely different. Christos is simply the Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, the “anointed,” and at this period there were many claiming to be this ”anointed.” As the Christos was believed to be a man who would lead warriors into battle, the common consideration was that Jesus the Christ was eager to engage in war against Rome as a Messiah or leader (מנהיג משיח) or battlefield general (הקרב מנהיג). Interestingly, the “anointed” leader appears only once in the Old Testament–and then from the Babylonian account of Daniel (9:25-26: משוח) that has nothing in common with the only time that Messiah is used in the New Testament in the Gospel of John (1:41 and 4:25: Μεσσίας). It is προηγείται έχρισε (preceding the anointing). Yet in both New Testament cases, this Messiah is not yet “anointed”.  The Jews who followed this Messiah (Jesus) believed he would cause a riot, not bring peace, as Jesus promised to bring a sword (Matthew 10:34; Romans 13:4; Revelation 6:4, 13:10: μαχαίρι) a fighting weapon (καταπολέμηση όπλο) that is meant to spill blood — not a battle of words. (See: See Schiller, H., (1872). Geschichte des römischen mischen Kaiserreichs under der Begierung des Nero. Berlin, p. 434.)

What evangelical Christians elect to forget is that nothing can be proved by citing one book, and that it is impossible to use a book to prove its own contents. What little is known about the “man Jesus” is found only in the Christian Bible, and that is a volume saturated with errors, contradictions, and plagiarisms from far older sources.

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2 Comments

Filed under Church history, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Myth of an Historical Jesus

  1. Thanks for this handy overview of evidence for the historical Jesus. I’m inclined to agree with you. I like the work being done on “Chrestus” vs “Christus” and Hadrian’s created cult.

  2. Pingback: Apocalypse: 150,000 years of myths of End Times | Arthur Frederick Ide's Blog

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