Jump to content

Jesus - Real or Myth? - What does evidence show?


Javelin
 Share

Recommended Posts

My religious beliefs have changed dramatically in the past few months based on my personal study and research of the birth and evolvement of Christianity, second temple Judaism, and ancient pagan religions.

 

I discovered, some time ago, it has been well established there is no historical evidence that a human being known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. The Jesus story and the Pagan God Mithras story are remarkably similar, some might even say eerily similar, and the Mithras legend existed for hundreds of years before Jesus. At the very least it appears much of the Mithras story was written into the Jesus story. It has been well established the bible has been edited and redacted numerous times

 

There is also evidence that Paul believed Jesus was a spiritual messiah not an earthly one, and that his supposed encounters with the risen Christ were really mystic visions. Earl Doherty in his book, The Jesus Puzzle, makes a case for that possibility.

 

If a man named Jesus actually did exist he has most likely been lost in history. The evidence indicates the biblical picture of Jesus has been polluted with hyperbole, exaggerations, and probably even complete fabrications that present him as something he most likely was not.

 

I have no issues with the supposed teachings of Jesus and I can find no reason not to follow those teaching, at least for the most part. I am no longer, due to the evidence, able to accept Jesus has having been in any way divine. He very well many have been a unique Jewish mystic and prophet, but the evidence would seem to indicate that is all he was, if he ever actually existed..

 

My religious beliefs, due to the evidence I’ve encountered, fall more along the lines of Deism now. I choose to believe a divine presence, many identify as God, does exist. I am unfortunately unable to find any supporting evidence that would convince me that Jesus was in any way Divine assuming he actually did exist as a human being.

 

At one time I could accept Jesus as the Divine Son of God on faith, but after studying this issue in some detail, and for some extended period of time, I am no longer able to ignore the evidence which strikes me as substantial and convincing. I would never disparage those who continue to believe Jesus is the literal incarnation of God because my understanding of Jesus could be wrong and I acknowledge that. I am always open to examining new evidence as I become aware of it though.

 

I apologize if my thoughts are interpreted as offensive to anyone. That is certainly not my intent. I was a Christian fundamentalist for 46 years which encompassed most of my adult life. About ten years ago I had to admit that much of the bible simply didn’t make sense to me as written. It was also often clearly inconsistent and contradictory. The intent of my original research was to find out why, but things snowballed and I ended up uncovering things that now, frankly, I wish I hadn’t but that genie is out of bottle now and I can’t put him back in there again

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Javelin,

 

 

I discovered, some time ago, it has been well established there is no historical evidence that a human being known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. The Jesus story and the Pagan God Mithras story are remarkably similar, some might even say eerily similar, and the Mithras legend existed for hundreds of years before Jesus. At the very least it appears much of the Mithras story was written into the Jesus story. It has been well established the bible has been edited and redacted numerous times

 

Like I noted before, I'm wary of such claims. Though some are convinced there's no evidence Jesus of Nazareth even existed, this seems to represent an overt minority within biblical scholarship. Likewise with Mithra, Krishna, etc., though there are similarities, people tend to fudge the data, which is very unfortunate. The Jesus story may have adopted then existing religious themes, but such cultural influences I would think would be generalized and belong to the contours of the thought at that time and place, not merely a matter of copying down and switching the names. I would think that Christianity's beginnings were a little bit more organic than that.

 

However, that's my take on it, and ultimately it probably doesn't matter. I agree with your general sentiments on the issue. Historically I doubt Jesus was 'divine' - perhaps a mystic, a prophet, as you said. But Jesus really became divine in the experience of the church. Jesus is one way that people have come to relate to the divine presence.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Javelin,

 

 

Like I noted before, I'm wary of such claims. Though some are convinced there's no evidence Jesus of Nazareth even existed, this seems to represent an overt minority within biblical scholarship. Likewise with Mithra, Krishna, etc., though there are similarities, people tend to fudge the data, which is very unfortunate. The Jesus story may have adopted then existing religious themes, but such cultural influences I would think would be generalized and belong to the contours of the thought at that time and place, not merely a matter of copying down and switching the names. I would think that Christianity's beginnings were a little bit more organic than that.

 

However, that's my take on it, and ultimately it probably doesn't matter. I agree with your general sentiments on the issue. Historically I doubt Jesus was 'divine' - perhaps a mystic, a prophet, as you said. But Jesus really became divine in the experience of the church. Jesus is one way that people have come to relate to the divine presence.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

 

In a metaphorical context I can accept Jesus being all the bible says he was. Before reading a book I like to read the negative reviews. I first eliminate the emotional based comments from the ones that are critiquing the author’s scholarship, interpretations, and data sources.

 

Only when I’m satisfied the book is based on scholarship, rather than subjective opinion, will I purchase and read it. Based on my experience I would have to disagree with your belief that the data, or the conclusions of the scholar, are often fudged. I have occasionally found that does appear to be the case, but that is usually not difficult to detect. Most authors have an agenda, but that is also usually easy to detect, and equally easy to filter out.

 

I’ve spend some time and effort exploring the ancient pagan religions. The link between Mithras and Jesus, IMO, is so obvious that I can see no way that it could have been fudged. Even the early leaders of the emerging Christian movement were aware of it and attempted to explain it away, but their explanations were so feeble and ridiculous they lacked any semblance of creditability. Based on the strength of the evidence it seems pretty clear,at least to me, that much of the Jesus story was based on the Mithras myth. That was probably done to intentionally strengthen the perception that Jesus was Divine.

 

The fact that this sort of religious scholarship is in the minority doesn’t nullify its creditability. The nature of religion makes it an emotional issue. The majority of religious scholarship seems to come from apologist. Theologians, or historians, and apologists approach to scripture and religion is obviously very different. Apologists are attempting to determine the meaning of scripture whereas historians are attempting to determine the historical accuracy of scripture. One is often at odds with the other.

 

I have gravitated towards the historical approach because that has shed far more light on the subject than apologetics ever did. I suppose I could still identify myself as a Christian at least metaphorically. I have no ax to grind with Christians or Christianity. I simply want to know what most likely really happened back in the first century when all this was taking place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Javelin,

 

I don't know which scholars, and which specific claims, you are referring to, but it has been my experience that many of those I have encountered who make much of the Mithra/Christ parallels do so on what seems to be dubious grounds, at worst owing to sheer fabrication. My estimation of the consensus of biblical scholarship is a bit higher than it simply representing a form of apologetics; if that were really true I think its current state would look dramatically different than it does. Mainstream biblical scholarship is not particularly favorable to traditional claims, so I have to disagree there.

 

Your average reference entry for Mithraism looks dramatically different than one would expect, were the evidence as unambiguous as a few individuals who assert such strong parallels between Mithra and Jesus claim it is.

 

For instance, religionfacts.com has an essay on Mithraism.

 

 

Mithraism is a Roman mystery religion that flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Much is still unknown about this secretive sect, but scholars have generally been able to determine that it involved the worship of the ancient Persian god Mithras in caves, a communal meal and initiation through seven stages of an astrologically-themed hierarchy.

 

 

 

Mithraism is frequently said to have been a great rival to early Christianity, especially in popular books written by non-specialists. According to most academic sources, however, the archaeological evidence does not support this claim.

 

It is also worth noting that two faiths developing in the same area of the world at the same time are likely to have similar ideas and practices, regardless of their level of interaction. Ritual communal meals and the theme of sacrifice for salvation, for instance, were common not only to Mithraism and Christianity but much of the ancient world.

 

 

Besides this central icon, there are other episodes of Mithraic myth depicted as well. These include MiIthras' birth from a rock, the hunt and capture of the bull, and a banquet celebrated with Sol (who is shown as a separate being on monuments despite Mithras' own designation as a sun god). The divine meal is laid on the hide of the bull killed by Mithras. The banquet scene is sometimes shown on the reverse of the bull-killing reliefs, as an apparent result of the sacrificial act.

 

I've pretty well derailed this topic by responding further about this subject matter. If you're interested we can continue this conversation in a new thread. :D

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
typo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know which scholars, and which specific claims, you are referring to, but it has been my experience that many of those I have encountered who make much of the Mithra/Christ parallels do so on what seems to be dubious grounds, at worst owing to sheer fabrication. My estimation of the consensus of biblical scholarship is a bit higher than it simply representing a form of apologetics; if that were really true I think its current state would look dramatically different than it does. Mainstream biblical scholarship is not particularly favorable to traditional claims, so I have to disagree there.

Mike,

 

Your point is consistent with the response to a letter to the editor in the latest issue of The Fourth R (hardly a publication by or for apologists). The writer, Susan Elliot, had done a review of a book titled "The Jesus Mysteries." Apparently, this book is about the role of mystery cults in the development of early Christianity. She describes book as "the amateurish muddle of the data that these authors made and the inaccurate portrayal of the religious milieu of early Christianity that they present." She does not refute the fact that there was some influence by mystery cults, but does say that much of the data and interpretation of the data is inaccurate and exaggerated.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

While it is certainly agreeable with me for an individual to believe either way (that there is or there is not historical evidence that a human being known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed) , it seems to me, that it is a stretch to say it is well established that there is no evidence. To say something is well established is to say by those words it is most certain. To say such as this is to simply mock the the majority of scholars and others who say otherwise. Perhaps it is not well established either way?

 

Personally, i was not around at that time. I side with the evidence that there was a historical Jesus. Yet frankly, i do not know for certain and may never know. What i do know is that regardless, it is not important to me or my faith. It is the teachings that were reported to have been by this Jesus that were instrumental in finding my approach to God. Once that approach is found, what need is there for a man or partition whether real or myth?

 

Just my 2 cents on the issue,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While it is certainly agreeable with me for an individual to believe either way (that there is or there is not historical evidence that a human being known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed) , it seems to me, that it is a stretch to say it is well established that there is no evidence. To say something is well established is to say by those words it is most certain. To say such as this is to simply mock the the majority of scholars and others who say otherwise.

Agreed. There certainly is evidence that he existed. Yes, there is no absolute proof; DNA, film, recordings or the like. But, there is evidence. As an example, we have Paul writing about him a decade or so after his death. Paul writes of meetings with James and others who knew him personally. And, even years earlier Paul had attempted to suppress groups of his followers. Complete myths are rare and even more rarely arise so soon after of the mythological event or person.

 

One might argue that Paul made it all up. But, that is nonsensical as well. Why make up a hero who was humiliatingly executed by the Romans with the complicity of his own people? Why invent a hero who is a god but baptised by a mortal man? Then, how do we explain away the writings of James, Peter, et al? Further there is a strong case that the Gospel writers had access to eye witnesses (see Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham).

 

Of course, there is some mythology involved in the Gospel accounts. But, the notion that there is "no evidence" is, IMO, as weak as the claim that they are total, literal history. The truth, IMO, is they are some of both.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am aware that scholars, whatever their discipline, love to argue and debate the interpretations and conclusions of their fellow scholars. Religious groups also seemingly love to argue and debate the beliefs and teaching of other groups. Apparently that is just part of our nature as human beings.

 

Those that seek validation for their beliefs will almost certainly, at some point, find information that resonates with them. It is also likely that their new found enlightenment will ruffle someone else’s feathers.Those who believe Jesus was a real person, who performed miracles, healed the sick, was miraculously created, and was also miraculously raised from death there is no amount of evidence that would ever convince them any of that was not literally true. I understand that, and they may be right, but I have been unable to find any historical evidence that would lead me to believe they are.

 

The evidence I’ve been exposed to have convinced me that Jesus, if he ever existed, was a charismatic Jewish Prophet and mystic that developed a small following of disciples. His followers claim he was ultimately crucified by Roman authorities and on the third day God resurrected him. There is no objective evidence; at least that I am aware of, that even circumstantially validates that.

 

It has become evident to me that I have to accept the Jesus story on faith alone because I have been unable to find any objective evidence that supports it. I have reached the point in my life where logic and reason has supplanted the faith I once had. I find that I now require, at the very minimum, some believable circumstantial evidence that will support the Jesus story. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find such evidence.

 

I am now faced with the reality that traditional Christianity, the religion I have embraced for the last 45 years, no longer resonates with me. I have found a substantial amount of scholarship that debunks the Jesus story and the literal factuality of the bible, or at least creates such a high level of doubt that I can no longer embrace any of it.

 

It is not simply that there is no creditable evidence that supports the Jesus story, it is the fact there is substantial volumes of evidence that debunk the Jesus story as well as the bible itself. At some point a person has to look reality squarely in the face and accept it for what it is. I am at that point now. I apologize if my POV offends anyone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

It is not necessary to accept every word of the NT as historical fact in order to accept that a historical Jesus existed. In fact, the true scholars with whom I am aware (such as Bart Ehrman), do not accept the NT as literal fact yet they do think that the evidence supports a historical person named Jesus.

 

One must be very cautious in reading material about sensitive subjects such as religion. Often, there is an agenda and a bias. But, this exists on both sides of the issue. Christian apologists are out to prove their case with selective evidence. Debunkers and conspiracy theorists are often motivated to sell sensational books, also with selective evidence. Then, there are real scholars who have the training and objectivity to evaluate the evidence and determine what most is likely to be true and untrue. These are the one's that are most reliable and credible.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

It is not necessary to accept every word of the NT as historical fact in order to accept that a historical Jesus existed. In fact, the true scholars with whom I am aware (such as Bart Ehrman), do not accept the NT as literal fact yet they do think that the evidence supports a historical person named Jesus.....

 

Then, there are real scholars who have the training and objectivity to evaluate the evidence and determine what most is likely to be true and untrue. These are the one's that are most reliable and credible.

 

George

 

I understand that, and I can accept that a historical Jesus existed. A historical Jesus but not a Divine Jesus.

 

I've read a number of "creditable" scholars including Borg, Ehrman, Pagels, Crossan, etc. They have pretty much convinced me the bible isn't literally true. If read as metaphor, allegory, and narrative parable the bible is theology but it certainly isn't accurate history. If Paul is read from the POV that he sees Jesus as a Spiritual messiah rather than as a human messiah his epistles make more sense, at least for me. That is the point the author of the Jesus Puzzle is making and I think his theory has merit.

 

May I ask for you to reference some of these real objective scholars for me so that I might read some of their works?

 

 

I have just recently become aware of Christian Deism. I've been reading about that line of thinking and it seems to reflect more closely where I am now than traditional Christianity does. I am not, however, ready to declare myself a Christian Deist just yet though. What I've read about their beliefs about God and Jesus would appear to be compatible with my revised understanding of the Divine. I am searching for something that will allow me to retain some element of the faith I once had.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

I don't think you have offended anyone here with your view. I believe (imo) it is not out of line for one to hold such a view among progressive Christians. It is certainly very easy to swing to either extreme in ones belief.

 

I think George makes good points and i see you are willing to read other views as evidenced by your question to him. As i said in my other post, i don't know the truth either way. What i do know for myself is that much of the teachings that are recorded as the teachings of Jesus, i have personally experienced as true for me and not because the NT said so but because of my own experience being in agreement. Therefor my faith in God through Christ is not affected either way. My only disagreement, if any, to your words is that when you express yourself other than as an opinion or personal view by a statement such as you did as if something is a well established fact when it may not be, you are probably going to be called out for it by someone. :) , PC, as you may know is not about dogmatic certainty (point 6).

 

I am most happy to sense that you are now more comfortable with your present beliefs than in the past and hope you will spend time with us in this community that we may all progress together in love. Thanks for sharing your view concerning Jesus as Real or Myth.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph

 

PS. Here is just one of a number of other related threads located on this site to your first post.

Here is another titled "The Historical Jesus" , a book discussion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've read a number of "creditable" scholars including Borg, Ehrman, Pagels, Crossan, etc. [. . .] May I ask for you to reference some of these real objective scholars for me so that I might read some of their works?

To begin with I have been referring to the historical Jesus, not the divine Jesus. The "divine Jesus" is an issue of faith, not scholarship.

 

The list you have read certainly would be on my list of credible scholars. I would also include Rodney Stark and Richard Bauckham. I recently finished The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. His academic credentials would not be the same, but I thought his book was sound and well researched.

 

I don't think any of these deny the historical Jesus although I have not read Crossan. Maybe you could correct me if he does deny the historical Jesus or suggest other credible scholars who do.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Javelin,

 

...... What i do know for myself is that much of the teachings that are recorded as the teachings of Jesus, i have personally experienced as true for me and not because the NT said so but because of my own experience being in agreement. Therefor my faith in God through Christ is not affected either way. My only disagreement, if any, to your words is that when you express yourself other than as an opinion or personal view by a statement such as you did as if something is a well established fact when it may not be,

 

Sincerely,

Joseph

 

PS. Here is just one of a number of other related threads located on this site to your first post.

Here is another titled "The Historical Jesus" , a book discussion.

 

Joseph, you are correct I should not state my personal beliefs and interpretations as established fact. I assumed, which is never a good thing, that it would be recognized that I was stating a person belief and interpretation based on information that I’d obtained from other sources. In retrospect, that was an inappropriate assumption.

 

I am not personally certain of much of anything when it comes to the Divine. I have opinions and I’ve formed some malleable beliefs that are subject to change as I encounter new evidence. I am far more certain of what I don’t believe that what I do at this point in my life.

 

When I became convinced the bible isn’t literally true or factually accurate that was admittedly a traumatic realization. That reality initiated a chain reaction of sorts that snowballed. If the bible isn’t literally true then what else isn’t true? That lead to the ultimate question. Can any of it be true?

 

There is no conclusive evidence, at least that I’m aware of, that either proves or disproves God, in some form, exists. That places the existence of God, at least for me, as a faith issue. No evidence, from my POV, is significantly different than having a stack of evidence this disproves, or seems to, that something isn’t true.

 

I am less concerned about proving Jesus existed than I am with ignoring or outright rejecting the scholarship that indicates he either never existed, or he wasn’t in any way divine. It is one thing to accept an evidentiary unsupportable supposition as potentially being true than it is to accept such a supposition in light of creditable evidence that disproves it, or at least makes its reality unlikely.

 

I have found much wisdom in your thoughts Joseph, as well as the other responding posters, and all of them are worthy of further contemplation. In any event this is a personal dilemma that will only be resolved by more study and research.

 

I apologize for hijacking the original thread. I thought I was making a relevant post but in retrospect I see now that I wasn’t.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Javelin,

 

I just want to emphasize that your thoughts here weren't in any way inappropriate or offensive. Your views have always been very much welcome. Also, I think we hijacked the thread. :)

 

Like I noted before I'm not really very concerned about the historical questions of Jesus -- ultimately it doesn't make much difference. My theologizing tends to center on more pressing and practical matters. From your recent post together with some past ones, I noticed that the Mithra/Jesus parallels seems to have been a sizable cause of concern for you. I wanted to point out that the "copy-cat" scenario, though popular in some circles, is not something that the vast majority of scholarship would endorse.

 

Of course, this would not then restore the NT to the status of objective history. That much has long been deconstructed.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm hestitant to interrupt this marvelous exchange of ideas but....

 

I don't recall of it was Morwood or Borg or another author, but one of them reminds us that a thing can be true without being literally factual. I remind myself of that a lot when reading the bible.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is extra-biblical evidence for the historical Jesus found in the writings of Tacitius and Josephus. As pointed out earlier in the thread, most of the supposed similarities between Jesus and Mithras have largely been exaggerated by sensationalist writers and conspiracy theorists. For example, Mithras was born from a rock, not a virgin and there is no evidence that he was born on December 25th. Also, many of the elements in Christianity which critics point to as being taken from Mithraism are later additions not found in the bible itself. Like the bible never says Jesus was born on December 25th and in fact the bible points more to a possible spring date. The belief Jesus was born on December 25th was made up later on by the Catholic church when they adopted Saturnalia as Christmas but it isn't found in the bible itself. And it doesn't make sense to me that the followers of Jesus would purposely invent a messiah that failed to meet any of the prophecies of Judaism and was crucified as a criminal. It seems more likely to me that a historical Jesus existed who didn't plan on getting killed originally but was executed for preaching against social injustice and all the later Christian mythological elements were tacked on after his death to try and force a historical Jesus to fit the Jewish prophecies rather than being a completely fictional creation.

 

Paul also does in fact mention a historical Jesus contrary to popular belief. He refers to Jesus as being born of a woman and he even quotes Jesus giving the communion with his apostles in one letter. But the reason why Paul doesn't focus as much on the historical Jesus is because Paul is not writing a gospel narrative. Paul is writing epistles to encourage the early Christians and to teach church doctrine to his followers. If Paul's goal was to teach the historicity of Jesus, we would have The Gospel According to Paul, but that wasn't Paul's goal; his goal was to teach church doctrine. I also don't think it's fair to cast all bible scholars as Christian apologists. While some Christian scholars may be biased, most do follow a standard criteria and most of them accept that the bible is not the literal word of God and many of them are even willing to question the existence of a historical Moses. Also, not all bible scholars are Christians. Bart D Ehrman is an agnostic and he's a bible scholar who believes in the historical Jesus. On the flip side, many Jesus Mythicists are also guilty of bias and most often their goal is to advance an anti-Christian agenda like in the documentary The God Who Wasn't There, so you should be equally careful of bias and sensationalism in the Jesus Myth camp as you are with mainstream scholarship.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neon,

 

You make some good points (i.e, ones that I agree with :)).

 

I would also point out the wide diversity of beliefs about Jesus in early Christianity. It is hard to imagine a myth involving one fictional person that takes on so many different concepts: God but not man; Man but not god; Both god and man.

 

Also, there are many other early gospel writings in addition to those in the canon. Ehrman, in Lost Christianities, lists 16 others that are known about, primarily through orthodox denunciations.

 

In addition there is 'Q.' Although there is no known hard document and it is a construct, many scholars are convinced there was such a compendium of Jesus' sayings.

 

This wide diversity of thought and writings, to me, provides strong evidence of a historical and influential person.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I am a devout Christian believer but my faith in the Spirit of Christ and God never hinged on believing the Gospels were true stories of a real person Jesus Christ. For me it has always been the fact that Something came down to earth in the Holy Land, some Great Spirit somewhere around 100 BC to 200 AD wrapped up in a god-man story and his unique teachings which inspired a whole bunch of people then, some of them writers of the Gospels in the NT collection and some of them writers of gospels outside the NT collection. But it wasn't belief in inerrant words in these texts that made me "Christian" but the fact that I had personally experienced the Spirit of Christ, it came to me "out of nowhere" and completely overwhelmed my prior atheistic unconcern for spiritual matters which I took to be bogus imaginings of men seeking control over their societies via religion. My Christian outlook is then Gnostic relying on direct spiritual experience of God rather than blind faith in words about God written by ancient men none of us knows who they were.

 

Through the years God has guided me very true through the growing complexity within Christian intellectual circles trying to explain the Gospels and Jesus. I never was a fan of the current crop of Christian origin scholars as they were basing their beliefs on intellectual efforts rather than my own which were formed from direct spiritual experiences and God-guided research trying to figure out where my personal experiences and the tradition storyline came together and where they parted company.

 

Also, my research led me to believe the closest anyone now is going to get to an historical Jesus are the oblique and slanderous passages in the Talmud about a "Yeishu ben Pantera" who's biography reads very similar to Jesus Christ's. Whatever the reasons the Gospel's Jesus Christ though is not a historical being but a mythical being being promoted by the earliest Jewish Christian writers in order to create a new type of Jewish religion, a Jewish Egyptian Mystery Religion.

 

I knew about the Mithra correspondences to Jesus for a long time which dovetailed with my own conclusions that Jesus Christ was another dying/resurrection god-man but Mithra's differences didn't go far enough to make me accept Jesus Christ as a Jewish Mithra. Then starting around 2007 I started getting more Egyptian connection information finding its way to me, e.g. the news of the Christ the Magician prayer bowl found in the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt, and then in 2010 finding D.M. Murdock's Christ in Egypt book and realizing God had put me on the Egyptian connection way back in 1964 when my wife to be and I visited a Christian psychic reader who told me that "Egypt was going to be very important in my life". Then when I went through my three day religious conversion experience at Easter of 1979 God again had stuck in the Egyptian connection but I didn't realize it at the time. What I'm saying is that for me Christianity can now be thought of as a Jewish Egyptian Mystery Religion where the central characters in the Egyptian religion have been transposed into the Jewish messianic epic, e.g. Jesus is Horus, God the Father is Osiris, Mary is Isis, John the Baptist is Anubis. Now one can find the Egyptian astro-theology system embedded within the Gospels and when Jesus becomes one with his Father he duplicates the unity of Horus who is one with his father, Osiris, both representing the Sun.

 

Now the really big intriguing question for Christians is Why did the Jewish authors of the Gospels deliberately create an overthrow of Judaism's Saturn worship ("EL" was the Canaanite name for the planet Saturn as EL Elyon, God Most High, ruled from the "highest" of the seven heavenly concentric shells above an earth-centered universe). This is why the Jewish holy day is Saturn's Day, ("Sabbath" is derived from Saturn) that planet being the slowest one in the ancient's seven planetary ruler system taking some 30 years for its orbit around the sun, hence the "day of rest" mythologies for God Most High religionists. As a Jewish Christian I believe I know the answer: the Jewish Gospel writers wanted to save Jewish souls. It seems you only get resurrection theology with sun worship where the sun symbolizes rebirth, daily and yearly. Egypt's whole society was centered around resurrection to eternal life whereas the Jewish rebellion against Egypt's religion and culture created the Jewish Sheol, a very poor substitute for an afterlife for any soul wanting something more than a shadowy existence if any at all. Christianity gave Jews resurrection theology and this was its primary purpose--to save Jewish souls.

 

Does mythology mean Christianity is not real, contains no real spiritual truth? Not for me as God has independently shown to me that these "as above, so below" mythologies can have real influence in our here and now lives. Archetypes are moving through us, acting out eternal dramas through our lives and thus the atheist option is only another way of hiding your head in the sand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on my studies, I think there is evidence for the historical Jesus, but evidence is not proof. :)

 

Getting at that "real" historical Jesus is quite a challenge. Though I have little doubt that the accounts of him and his life were exaggerated upon and shaped by the early Jewish Christian communities, I still find the human Jesus under the layers of mythology to be convincing and compelling. His inclusive message, his compassionate actions, and his way of relating to God are meaningful to me. The historical Jesus is, for me, a lense, a way to see God and ourselves in relationship to God. But a lense is meant to be seen through, not to be deified or worshipped or, as I tried to do as a kid, used to fry another creature. :D The historical Jesus shows me, imo, a good way to relate to God and others. Maybe this is why his earliest followers were called "followers of the Way."

 

The mythical Jesus mystifies me. In the first place, I find him to be "unbelievable." He isn't human. He does things that we cannot do (miracles, signs, etc.). He has no sin. He isn't of this earth. Like Superman, he may have looked human on the outside, but he had powers and abilities that far exceeded those of normal human beings. This is, imo, the Jesus of the Gospel of John. The focus of the life and teachings of the mythical Jesus was on himself, upon believing in him. I find him to be unbelievably ego-centric (remember the "I am" statements?) and not someone that I could or would follow.

 

Yet, ironically, it is the mythological Jesus (or the Christ) that has survived to this day and which dominates Christianity. There are, I'm sure, a plethora of reasons for this. But my suspicion for this is that while the historical Jesus generally called people to focus on others for their spirituality, the mythological Jesus (or the Christ of faith) serves as a tool for one's own super-ego. The Christ of faith is an authority figure that can be used by any Christian to shore up his or her ego and religious views and, thereby, enforce them upon others. This is what the apostle Paul did. This is what orthodoxy did. This is what Christianity and Christians do today. Relatively few in Christianity are interested in the search for the historical Jesus whose message seemed to be about self-sacrifice for the good of others. Most favor the mythological Jesus who serves as a sort of genie to get them what they want in life and to get them into heaven after they die.

 

We can find both the historical Jesus and the mythological Jesus in the scriptures. Granted, it is often difficult to say where one leaves off and the other begins. But I suspect we find what we are looking for. It is the mythological Jesus which is the center-piece of the Christian religion, perhaps because this Jesus asks nothing of us except for belief and once-a-week worship. In a time when we want instant gratification, it is easier and quicker to believe in an unbelievable Christ that has been molded and package by the Church than it is to dig deep into who Jesus may have really been and the counter-culture and counter-ego-centric message that seems to be at the heart of his kingdom of God teachings.

 

The thoughts of a seeker,

sbnr1

Edited by sbnr1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’ve enjoyed reading the various viewpoints that have been expressed. In spite of all the challenging information I’ve become familiar with I continue to believe in the existence of a Divine Presence. Reluctantly, the evidence I've encountered has forced me to accept the fact that the biblical Jesus was more than likely a myth. I agree with the poster who noted that such a possibly does not nullify the message of Jesus though.I do not, however, completely reject the possibility that Jesus was a real person, but was not anything like the person presented in the Gospels.

 

My search for truth has lead me to Deism as the most reasonable and logical way to approach the Divine. I found this definition of Deism on one of their web sites:

 

Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature. The designs presuppose a Designer. Deism is therefore a natural religion and is not a "revealed" religion. The natural religion/philosophy of Deism frees those who embrace it from the inconsistencies of superstition and the negativity of fear that are so strongly represented in all of the "revealed" religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (These religions are called revealed religions because they all make claim to having received a special revelation from God which they pretend, and many of their sincere followers actually believe, their various and conflicting holy books are based on.) When enough people become Deists, reason will be elevated over fear and myth and its positive qualities will become a part of society as a whole.

 

As this point in my life Deism more accurately reflects my understanding of the Divine. Deism offers many alternatives. Christian Deism is but one of them. From a Christian Deist web site: What Is A Christian Deist?

 

Deism is a religion based primarily on nature and reasoning, in contrast to other religions that are based on alleged "revelations" that come through some "supernatural" means. Deists believe that human beings have "free will" and have responsibility for choosing how they live in relation to natural laws that govern the world.

 

Christian Deists believe that God does take an ongoing interest in the world and humanity but God does not control the world or humanity. Human beings are "free agents in a free world." A "free agent" is someone who has authority and ability to choose his/her actions and who may make mistakes. A "free world" is one which ordinarily operates as it is designed to operate but failures and accidents may occur.

 

Christian deism is opposed to the doctrine of predestination in which everything that happens is thought to be "the will of God." John Calvin was a proponent of the theory of predestination in which God allegedly determines everything that happens, whether good or bad. For example, this theory is heard when a person is killed in an automobile accident and someone says, "God must have a purpose in this." Christian Deists believe that it is never "God's will" for anyone to be sick or injured.

 

Christian Deists do not worship Jesus as God and do not believe in the theory of atonement that claims that Jesus had to die as a sacrifice to pay the "death penalty" for humankind and save them from the "wrath" of God. Christian Deists do not view God as a whimsical tyrant who sends plagues and pestilence to punish people on earth and who plans to torture people in "hell" in the future. Christian Deists reject these superstitious ideas as products of human hatred and a failure to recognize God's natural laws of love for others.

 

Christian Deists consider themselves to be disciples (students) of Jesus because Jesus taught the natural laws of God. But Christian Deists recognize that Jesus was only human. Jesus had to struggle with his own times of disappointment, sorrow, anger, prejudice, impatience, and despair, just as other human beings struggle with these experiences. Jesus never claimed to be perfect but he was committed to following God's natural laws of love.

 

Christian Deism seems to be the approach to religion that is most compatible with my present state of mind.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

My search for truth has lead me to Deism as the most reasonable and logical way to approach the Divine. I found this definition of Deism on one of their web sites:

 

Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature. The designs presuppose a Designer. Deism is therefore a natural religion and is not a "revealed" religion. The natural religion/philosophy of Deism frees those who embrace it from the inconsistencies of superstition and the negativity of fear that are so strongly represented in all of the "revealed" religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (These religions are called revealed religions because they all make claim to having received a special revelation from God which they pretend, and many of their sincere followers actually believe, their various and conflicting holy books are based on.) When enough people become Deists, reason will be elevated over fear and myth and its positive qualities will become a part of society as a whole...

 

Christian Deists consider themselves to be disciples (students) of Jesus because Jesus taught the natural laws of God. But Christian Deists recognize that Jesus was only human. Jesus had to struggle with his own times of disappointment, sorrow, anger, prejudice, impatience, and despair, just as other human beings struggle with these experiences. Jesus never claimed to be perfect but he was committed to following God's natural laws of love.

 

Ditto!

 

Thanks for the post. I agree wholeheartedly. Color me Christian Deist!

 

NORM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I, too, am a Christian Deist. Many deists (though not all) believe that that which we call God is not involved in the world, that God metaphorically wound up the world and then walked away, leaving it to its own development and devices.

 

As a "Christian" deist, I believe that God is still involved in our world, but that God primarily influences our world through us. Christian deism is, imo, somewhat incarnational. When God "acts" in our world, God does so through us, through all those aware of and led by the Spirit, regardless of whether they are conscious of it or not.

 

This goes back to the consideration of Jesus as a real person or as a myth. From my research, I would say that, as has been stated, most deists see Jesus as a human being, although perhaps a prophet or an enlightened person. This in no way denies the view that "God was in Christ" or that Jesus was a "Spirit-person" (one of Borg's favorite descriptions). But it is to say that Jesus did not have a leg up on the rest of us and that we can be (and maybe should be) just as led by the Spirit as he was. This view stands in contradistinction to the mythological Christ who was "unique", not truly one of us, who was God himself, who calls us to be like him while, all the while, knows that because he is full deity, we can never be what he was/is.

 

There are, of course, different kinds of Christian Deists. But they tend to hold to a deistic view of God while recognizing/revering Jesus as a great teacher whose teachings could possibly transform us personally and socially if we truly gave ear and heart to what he taught. I find that appealing.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hope you all don’t mind a few more of my personal reflections on this “Jesus – real or myth” topic even though I am not tackling the subject from a strictly evidentiary approach.

 

I believe in the person of Jesus as divine, but not as deity. Of course, at first blush this sounds like a contradiction, so I have to unpack the statement a bit.

 

Deities in the ancient world were gods, superhuman beings (more than human, above human) that had all kinds of supernatural powers and abilities that humans simply did not inherently possess. Because they had these extraordinary powers, the role of humanity was to worship and serve the gods in such a way that the gods might bless or protect the followers of these gods in order to have some influence or control over what happened in their lives. Though this is an ancient notion, modern popular Christianity is not that different. Jesus is worshipped as a deity who will bless or protect or answer prayers in order that some Christians might feel like they have some control over their lives. For many reasons that I won’t go into here, I cannot accept this view of Jesus as deity. Jesus, imo, is not God or even a second person of the Trinity.

 

However, I find much resonance with the old Bible story that humans were created in the image of God. We were not created ex nihilo – out of nothing – but by God, out of God, and in God. Through this lens, humanity, at its best, is the image of God, icons of God, visible manifestations of an invisible God. When this happens, when we live our lives in such a way that God can be seen and in through us, we are divine, we manifest the attributes, the character of God. So in an odd twist, we are most divine when we are most human, when we are most the way that God intended for us to be, reflections of God in and to our world.

 

Understood this way, I have no trouble seeing Jesus as divine. Jesus’ life so reflected God that his followers considered him to be divine or the son of God. I can accept that and even follow that kind of Jesus because I know that I, too, am created in the image of God and can be “divine” at times when I remove self from the center of my life and place God and others there.

 

But it is my belief that as the church moved more and more into Greek culture with its notions of gods and demigods, that Jesus eventually came to be understood as deity, as God himself. And though I am no longer a literalist, I can’t help but wonder if the church unwittingly fell into idolatry when it began worshipping Jesus as God. A reflection of God? Yes. The image of God, as the apostle Paul asserts? Yes. But God himself? I just can’t swallow that pill, despite being raised in that kind of Christianity.

 

So I can fully assert the divinity of Jesus, but I don’t assert the deity of Jesus. I know that many Christians (if not most) do. But I find the scriptures that point to Jesus as the second Adam (the Adam who did reflect God’s glory) or the firstborn of a new creation where all humans could and should be icons of God to be much more reasonable and convincing than that a human being gave birth to God or that God died on a cross. And I find it ironically interesting that we are most godly, most divine, when we are the kind of compassionate, self-less humans beings that God designed us to be.

 

But then, this is only my point of view and my human, fallible attempt to wrestle with the unending and seeming unsolvable question of who Jesus was/is.

 

Edited by sbnr1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that there is an interesting discussion to be had on the razor thin differences regarding when something is an image of God vs. when it actually embodies God. Sadly, that conversation is way out of my league. Personally, and this is one of my more heterodox stances, I see it as a matter of degree rather than qualitative distinction. That said, I think the Chalcedon formula of fully human and fully divine works well as a mystery, an impossible contradiction that forces one to think differently about things. It has more in common with a Zen koan than it does with the logical argument.

 

Calvin had an interesting argument, partly borrowed from Athanasius: The Incarnation (Jesus) is not equal to the second person of the Trinity (The Son), and the Son was not fully contained in the human form of Jesus. Thus, while Jesus was fully human and fully divine, the second person of the trinity is not fully human. He didn't use the language of divinity vs. deity, but it sounds like you are making a similar point in some ways. Lutherans of Calvin's time balked at the "Extra Calvinisticum", some accusing him of being Nestorian (A very naughty thing indeed). I like this formulation a lot, though the theologians I generally like seem to reject it, and I'm trying to figure out what they're seeing I'm not.

 

The other side of your argument is a very different but still interesting question: under what conditions is it good and right to give praise and thanks and offerings to... something (Jesus, God, God the father, Zeus, etc.). I also think that is an interesting question, but I think it deserves its own thread. IMO.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that the essential question is, Was Jesus fundamentally different from all other humans? Was he 'in,' 'of,' 'part of,' 'by,' God in a way that no one else has been, is or will be? I think not (but have no objection to those who do).

 

Further, as a human, like all of us, for me he serves as better exemplar of what we can be than were he a god.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service