As it is about two weeks before Christmas day, I thought it would be a good idea to write up an article about Christ. I wrote this about three months ago for an essay I had to do for college, although it was in much less detail as I was limited by a word count. So I have adapted it and added more to it for my blog. It was originally called " Why Christ is a mythological character", but since adding more detail to it, I have changed its title to a more fitting one appropriate for this time of the year, with the meaning of becoming apparent at the end of the article.
Before we look at the reasons for why Christ should be perceived as a mythological personage, we need to see what evidence there is to prove he was a real living person. Believe it or not, there are only six sources of so called evidence that are used to prove his real existence! We shall take a brief look at each of these next in their chronological order.
The Jewish historian named Josephus Flavius, who lived from 37 – 100 CE, makes reference to Jesus Christ in two passages of his work entitled: Antiquities of the Jews.
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, 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 amongst us, had condemned him to the cross,[ 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.” (93-94 CE, Book 18, Chapter 3)
“and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others”. (93-94 CE Book 20, Chapter 9)
The next piece of evidence is from the Roman historian, Pliny the Younger who lived from 61-113 CE. All this piece of evidence consists of is a letter from Pliny to the Emperor Trajan, mentioning some of the Christian's practices and asking for his advice on how to deal with the Christians (112 CE, Letters, 10.96-97). There are another two Roman historians who mention Christ in their writings. Tacitus, who lived from 56-117 CE, briefly mentions the crucifixion in his Annals:“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus” (116 CE, Book 15, Chapter 44).
Suetonius, from 69-122 CE, whose two references are very scanty at best. One not even mentioning Christ at all, while the other mentions a Chrestos figure during the reign of an Emperor who ruled after the supposed date of the crucifixion! (110 CE, cited Murdock / Acharya, 2004)
Outside of the so called historical references there are only two other sources which are excepted as evidence. The apocryphal gospels not being excepted as evidence because the Church made out they were false, in particular the Infancy gospels which tell part of Jesus' life that is not mentioned in the canonical gospels.
The first is a collection of Jewish writings dating back no further than 2nd century AD, called the Talmud, with there being a lot of academic debate over which of the passages actually refer to Jesus. The other source is none other than the Gospels themselves, which are also written after the time of Christ and by unknown authors. Although, there is some compelling evidence that suggests they were written before the birth of Jesus! As one of the early Christian historians suggest when talking about the Essenes or Therapeutae:
“These things seem to have been stated by a man who had heard them expounding their sacred writings. But it is highly probable that the works of the ancients, which he says they had, were the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, and probably some expositions of the ancient prophets, such as are contained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many others of Paul's Epistles.” (Eusebius, Book ii, Chapter XVII. 324 B.C.E).
The common problem with the evidence for Jesus’ historicity is that it was all written down sixty to two hundred years after the so called life of Christ. Because of this and the fact that none of these authors give any references via sources to back up their claims about Jesus, the evidence can only really be claimed as hearsay and cannot be taken as historical proof for the physical existence of Jesus Christ. Taking this into account with there being no archaeological evidence to date, and no written records left by the Romans (who were renown for meticulously making records of their events) for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, all implies that there must be another meaning to Christ’s story other than as a historical event.
The evidence we have at hand to show why Christ is a mythological character is plenty more forthcoming than the evidence for his historicity. For a start, the story of Christ is found to have the same parallels with certain other pagan deities which preceded his apparent birth by hundreds of years. For example; the Hindu god Krishna was born of a virgin, was the son of God, (incarnation of Vishnu) was a shepherd, performed miracles, was resurrected and ascended to heaven. In Greek mythology there is Dionysus, the god of wine. He was also born of a virgin, son of god (Zeus), was celebrated with a communion of bread and wine, was crucified by being ripped apart by the Titans and was resurrected by being restored back to life. Even earlier than Greek mythology in the ancient land of Khem, there can be found:
“The Story of the annunciation, the miraculous conception (or incarnation), the birth and the adoration of the Messianic infant had already been engraved in stone and represented in four consecutive scenes upon the innermost walls of the holy of holies (Meshkhen) in the temple of Luxor, which was built by Amen-hetep III, about 1700 B.C., or some seventeen centuries before the events depicted are commonly supposed to have taken place.” (Massey. Page 757, 1907)
Surprisingly, even the early church fathers noticed the similarities between their Christ and other pagan deities. As Justin Martyr confirms in his First Apology. Chapter. 21
“And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.” (Anon, 2006, Page 15, lines 47-50)
Justin Martyr’s answer to this was that the devil knowing the coming of Christ, came before and taught people pre-copies of Christianity!
In the historic writings of Israel by Philo of Alexandria (25 BCE – 47 CE) there is no mention of Jesus whatsoever! Now considering Philo was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher and lived at the supposed time of Christ, then surely he would of included into his writings such an important figure as Jesus, especially as he was causing such a stir among the priests of the Jewish religion at that time. Philo, afterall;
“did write extensive apologetics on the Jewish religion and commentaries on contemporary politics. Not once does he say anything at all about Jesus” (Humphreys, 21,11,2011).
One of the best examples to help sway us in the direction of favouring the mythological meaning for Christ comes from the New Testament itself. Here in black and white the Bible categorically states that the crucifixion is nothing more than a spiritual transaction!
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation. 11.8.)
As Revelation blatantly suggests the Crucifixion is a spiritual allegory, surely the other books of the New Testament should also be treated as allegorical interpretations too. Especially as they were chosen by the early church Fathers from a long list of other books known as the apocrypha which they dismissed as false and heretical, even though they were written in the same context and style as the books that were chosen to form the canonical Gospels. This context and style is the magical language of mythology which is used to impart the spiritual nature of things to the mind of man. Just as it was claimed by Philo of Alexandria, as Eusebius tells us:
“And after some other matters he says: The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures”. (Eusebius, Book ii, Chapter XVII. 324 B.C.E).
Once the ancient writings are interpreted in the allegorical way in which they were written, they will shed much light upon our understanding of them and ourselves spirituallly, as A.B. Kuhn explains:
“The Mysteries solve the great mystery of the Gospels. In whole or in part, the Gospels were just the written transcript of the great religious ritual-drama that had been almost the ancient world’s sole theme of sacred literature” (Kuhn, p.321, 1948).
What does this leave us with at this time of the year then, when people are celebrating in the name of someone who probably never really existed! False hope, confusion and empty meaning! No, not at all. To bring clarity of thought to what has been written about Christ, it has to be seen as allegory. In this way all of his stories can be understood in a logical way, without the need of reverting to supernatural explanations. For Allegory, metaphor and analogy was the esoteric method used in the ancient writings through the process of story telling to teach spiritual truths.
If we apply the esoteric interpretation to the story of the birth of Jesus, it reveals much more insight into mystical thought than does an actual supposed physical birth of a divine child. For example; the place where Jesus was said to be born is a stable. What is a stable, but a place where animals come in at night to usually "stand still" in stalls, hence the word "stable" also means stabilization, a cessation of activity. In evolutionary terms this is where animal evolution comes to stand still, in order to allow the the divine soul to be incarnated into the animal body of the natural man. This is beautifully explained in one of those apocryphal books, called the Protevangelium of St. James:
leaving her (Mary) and his sons in the cave, Joseph went forth to
seek a Hebrew midwife in the village of Bethlehem. But as I was going
(said Joseph) I looked up into the air, and I saw the clouds
astonished, and the fowls of the air stopping in the midst of their
flight. And I looked down towards the earth, and I saw a table
spread, and working people sitting around it, but their hands were
upon the table and they did not move to eat. They who had meat in
their mouths did not eat. They who had lifted their hands up to their
heads did not draw them back; And they who lifted them up to their
mouths did not put anything in; But all their faces were fixed
upwards. And I beheld the sheep dispersed, and yet the sheep stood
still. And the shepherd lifted up his hand to smite them, and his
hand continued up. And I looked into a river, and saw the goats with
their mouths close to the water, and touching it, but they did not
drink" (Anon. 125 C.E. Chapter 13)
This is the
same reason why Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still
because it is with this stabilization of spirit and matter, here
symbolised as the sun and the moon, that the Christ consciousness can
be born. It shall come as no surprise that this time of the year is
called the “solstice” which means “to stand still.” This is
precisely what happens at this time of the year, when all nature
appears to be still with no gain of light or darkness. It is as if
there is a battle with neither side winning. That is, until, the
darkness gives way to the light, which starts to make a come back by
battling against the darkness and gaining in strength everyday, when
it finally supersedes the darkness of matter's inertia at the spring
equinox and arises in full glory of its resurrection.
In order for the animal nature to make this alchemical transformation, it must feed upon the divine sustenance of the soul. It is no wonder that the divine child is said to lay in a “manger”, because “manger” is the French word “to eat.” This is where the animals eat. This is where the Christ was laid to become the sacrificial offering. (Kuhn, 1936. page 190.)
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26).
“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:33-35)
As bread is the symbol of divine sustenance, it is no wonder that Jesus was said to be born in Bethlehem, which means the house of bread! So at this time of the year when celebrating the winter solstice with Eucharistic rites, why not invoke Christ into your circle even if you like to call yourself a pagan because, if his story is interpreted in the ancient mythological way, then he is just as pagan as any other solar deity you may invoke today!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who read this!
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Anon, 125 C.E. Protevangelium of St. James. Available from: http://www.orthodox.cn/patristics/apostolicfathers/protevan.htm [Accessed 10 – December - 2012]
Anon, 2006, Shema, Martyr: Is Jesus Pagan? Available from: http://shemaantimissuonary.tripod.com [Accessed – 15 - October - 2012]
Eusebius. 324, B.C.E. The Church History (Book II), Available from: http:www.newadvent.org/fathers/ [Accessed 10 – December - 2012]
Flavius. J. 93-94 CE. Jewish Antiquities. Available from: http://www.theistic-evolution.com [Accessed 15 – October – 2012]
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Kuhn. A. B. 1936. Alvin Boyd Kuhn's Collection. 2011, U.S.A. ZuuBooks.
Massey. G. 1907. Ancient Egypt The Light of the World. London. T. Fisher Unwin.
Pliny. 112 CE. Letters. 10.96-97. Available from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com [Accessed 15 – October - 2012]
Tacitus. C. 116 CE. Annals. Available from: http:www.jesusneverexisted.com [Accessed 15 – October - 2012]