I am today twenty-five hundred years old. I have been dead for
nearly as many years. My place of birth was Athens; my grave was not
far from those of Xenophon and Plato, within view of the white glory
of Athens and the shimmering waters of the Aegean sea.
After sleeping in my grave for many centuries I awoke suddenly - I cannot tell how nor why
- and was transported by a force beyond my
control to this new day and this new city. I arrived here at
daybreak, when the sky was still dull and drowsy. As I approached
the city I heard bells ringing, and a little later I found the
streets astir with throngs of well dressed people in family groups
wending their way hither and thither. Evidently they were not going
to work, for they were accompanied by their children in their best
clothes, and a pleasant expression was upon their faces.
“This must be a day of festival and worship, devoted to one of
their Gods,” I murmured to myself
Looking about me I saw a gentleman in a neat black dress,
smiling, and his hand extended to me with great cordiality. He must
have realized I was a stranger and wished to tender his hospitality
to me. I accepted it gratefully. I clasped his hand. He pressed
mine. We gazed for a moment into each other’s eyes.
He understood my
bewilderment amid my novel surroundings, and offered to enlighten
me. He explained to me the ringing of the bells and meaning of the
holiday crowds moving in the streets.
It was Sunday -- Sunday before
Christmas, and the people were going to “the House of God.”
“Of course you are going there, too,” I said to my friendly guide.
“Yes,” he answered, “I conduct the worship. I am a priest.”
“A priest of Apollo?” I interrogated.
“No, no,” he replied, raising his hand to command silence, “Apollo
is not a God; he was only an idol.”
“Am idol?” I whispered, taken by surprise.
“I perceive you are a Greek,” he said to me, “and the Greeks,” he
continued, “notwithstanding their distinguished accomplishments,
were an idolatrous people. They worshipped Gods that did not exist.
They built temples to divinities which were merely empty names—
empty names,” he repeated. “Apollo and Athene—and the entire
Olympian lot were no more than inventions of the fancy.”
“But the Greeks loved their Gods,” I protested, my heart clamoring
in my breast.
“They were not Gods, they were idols, and the difference between a
God and an idol is this: an idol is a thing; God is a living being.
When you cannot prove the existence of your God, when you have never
seen him, nor heard his voice, nor touched him— when you have
nothing provable about him, he is an idol. Have you seen Apollo?
Have you heard him? Have you touched him?”
“No,” I said, in a low voice.
“Do you know of any one who has?”
I had to admit that I did not.
“He was an idol, then, and not a God.”
“But many of us Greeks,” I said, “have felt Apollo in our hearts and
have been inspired by him.”
“You imagine you have,” returned my guide. “If he were really divine
be would be living to this day.
“Is he, then, dead?” I asked.
“He never lived; and for the last two thousand years or more his
temple has been a heap of ruins.”
I wept to hear that Apollo, the God of light and music, was no
more—that his fair temple had fallen into ruins and the fire
upon his altar had been extinguished; then, wiping a tear from my
eyes, I said,
“Oh, but our Gods were fair and beautiful; our
religion was rich and picturesque. It made the Greeks a nation of
poets, orators, artists, warriors, thinkers. It made Athens a city
of light; it created the beautiful, the true, the good—yes, our
religion was divine.”
“It had only one fault”’ interrupted my guide.
“What was that?” I inquired, without knowing what his answer would
“It was not true.”
“But I still believe in Apollo,” I exclaimed; “he is not dead, I
know he is alive.”
“Prove it,” he said to me; then, pausing for a moment, “if you
produce him,” he said, “we shall all fall down and worship him.
Produce Apollo and be shall be our God.”
“Produce him!” I whispered to myself. “What blasphemy!” Then, taking
heart, I told my guide how more than once I had felt Apollo’s
radiant presence in my heart, and told him of the immortal lines of
Homer concerning the divine Apollo.
“Do you doubt Homer?” I said to
him; “Homer, the inspired bard? Homer, whose ink-well was as big as
the sea; whose imperishable page was Time? Homer, whose every word
was a drop of light?”
Then I proceeded to quote from Homer’s Iliad,
the Greek Bible, worshipped by all the Hellenes as the rarest
Manuscript between heaven and earth. I quoted his description of
Apollo, than whose lyre nothing is more musical, than whose speech
even honey is not sweeter. I recited how his mother went from town
to town to select a worthy place to give birth to the young God, son
of Zeus, the Supreme Being, and how he was born and cradled amid the
ministrations of all the Goddesses, who bathed him in the running
stream and fed him with nectar and ambrosia from Olympus.
recited the lines which picture Apollo bursting his bands, leaping
forth from his cradle, and spreading his wings like a swan, soaring
sun-ward, declaring that he had come to announce to mortals the will
“Is it possible,” I asked, “that all this is pure
fabrication, a fantasy of the brain, as unsubstantial as the air?
No, no, Apollo is not an idol. He is a God, and the son of a God.
The whole Greek world will bear me witness that I am telling the
Then I looked at my guide to see what impression this
outburst of sincere enthusiasm had produced upon him, and I saw a
cold smile upon his lips that cut me to the heart. It seemed as if
he wished to say to me,
“You poor deluded pagan! You are not
intelligent enough to know that Homer was only a mortal after all,
and that he was writing a play in which he manufactured the Gods of
whom he sang—that these Gods existed only in his imagination, and
that today they are as dead as is their inventer—the poet.”
By this time we stood at the entrance of a large edifice which
my guide said was “the House of God.” As we walked in I saw
innumerable little lights blinking and winking all over the
spacious interior. There were, besides, pictures, altars and images
all around me. The air was heavy with incense; a number of men in
gorgeous vestments were passing to and fro, bowing and kneeling
before the various lights and images. The audience was upon its
knees enveloped in silence—a silence so solemn that it awed me.
Observing my anxiety to understand the meaning of all this, my guide
took me aside and in a whisper told me that the people were
celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of their beautiful
Savior—Jesus, the Son of God.
“So was Apollo the son of God,” I replied, thinking perhaps that
after all we might find ourselves in agreement with one another.
“Forget Apollo,” he said, with a suggestion of severity in his
voice. “There is no such person. He was only an idol. If you were to
search for Apollo in all the universe you would never find any one
answering to his name or description. Jesus,” he resumed, “is the
Son of God. He came to our earth and was born of a virgin.”
Again I was tempted to tell my guide that that was how Apollo became
incarnate; but I restrained myself.
“Then Jesus grew up to be a man,” continued my guide, “performing
unheard-of wonders, such as treading the seas, giving sight, hearing
and speech to the blind, the deaf and the dumb, converting water
into wine, feeding the multitudes miraculously, predicting coming
events and resurrecting the dead.”
“Of course, of your Gods, too,” he added, “it is claimed that they
performed miracles, and of your oracles that they foretold the
future, but there is this difference—the things related of your Gods
are a fiction, the things told of Jesus are a fact, and the
difference between Paganism and Christianity is the difference
between fiction and fact.”
Just then I heard a wave of murmur, like the rustling of leaves in a
forest, sweep over the bowed audience. I turned about and
unconsciously, my Greek curiosity impelling me, I pushed forward
toward where the greater candle lights were blazing. I felt that
perhaps the commotion in the house was the announcement that the God
Jesus was about to make his appearance, and I wanted to see him. I
wanted to touch him, or, if the crowd were too large to allow me
that privilege, I wanted, at least, to hear his voice. I, who had
never seen a God, never touched one, never heard one speak, I who
had believed in Apollo without ever having known anything provable
about him, I wanted to see the real God, Jesus.
But my guide placed his hand quickly upon my shoulder, and held me
“I want to see Jesus,” I hastened, turning toward him. I said this
reverently and in good faith. “Will he not be here this morning?
Will he not speak to his worshippers?” I asked again. “Will he not
permit them to touch him, to caress his hand, to clasp his divine
feet, to inhale the ambrosial fragrance of his breath, to bask in
the golden light of his eyes, to hear the music of his immaculate
accents? Let me, too, see Jesus,” I pleaded.
“You cannot see him,” answered my guide, with a trace of
embarrassment in his voice. “He does not show himself any more.”
I was too much surprised at this to make any immediate reply.
“For the last two thousand years,” my guide continued, “it has not
pleased Jesus to show himself to any one; neither has he been heard
from for the same number of years.”
“For two thousand years no one has either seen or heard Jesus?” I
asked, my eyes filled with wonder and my voice quivering with
“No,” he answered.
“Would not that, then,” I ventured to ask, impatiently, “make Jesus
as much of an idol as Apollo? And are not these people on their
knees before a God of whose existence they are as much in the dark
as were the Greeks of fair Apollo, and of whose past they have only
rumors such as Homer reports of our Olympian Gods—as idolatrous as
the Athenians? What would you say,” I asked my guide, “if I were to
demand that you should produce Jesus and prove him to my eyes and
ears as you have asked me to produce and prove Apollo?
What is the
difference between a ceremony performed in honor of Apollo and one
performed in honor of Jesus, since it is as impossible to give
oracular demonstration of the existence of the one as of the other?
If Jesus is alive and a God, and Apollo is an idol and dead, what is
the evidence, since the one is as invisible, as inaccessible, and as unproducible as the other? And, if faith that Jesus is a God proves
him a God, why will not faith in Apollo make him a God?
worshipping Jesus, whom for the best part of the last two thousand
years no man has seen, heard or touched; if building temples to him,
burning incense upon his altars, bowing at his shrine and calling
him “God,” is not idolatry, neither is it idolatry to kindle fire
upon the luminous altars of the Greek Apollo, -- God of the dawn,
master of the enchanted lyre—he with the bow and arrow tipped with
fire! I am not denying,” I said, “that Jesus ever lived.
He may have
been alive two thousand years ago, but if he has not been heard from
since, if the same thing that happened to the people living at the
time he lived has happened to him, namely—if he is dead, then you
are worshipping the dead, which fact stamps your religion as
And, then, remembering what he had said to me about the Greek
mythology being beautiful but not true, I said to him:
are indeed gorgeous and costly; your music is grand your altars are
superb; your litany is exquisite; your chants are melting; your
incense, and bells and flowers, your gold and silver vessels are all
in rare taste, and I dare say your dogmas are subtle and your
preachers eloquent, but your religion has one fault -- it is not
I shall speak in a straightforward way, and shall say today what
perhaps I should say tomorrow, or ten years from now, -- but shall
say it today, because I cannot keep it back, because I have nothing
better to say than the truth, or what I hold to be the truth. But
why seek truths that are not pleasant? We cannot help it. No man can
suppress the truth. Truth finds a crack or crevice to crop out of;
it bobs up to the surface and all the volume and weight of waters
can not keep it down. Truth prevails!
Life, death, truth—behold,
these three no power can keep back. And since we are doomed to know
the truth, let us cultivate a love for it. It is of no avail to cry
over lost illusions, to long for vanished dreams, or to call to the
departing Gods to come back. It may be pleasant to play with toys
and dolls all our life, but evidently we are not meant to remain
The time comes when we must put away childish
things and obey the summons of truth, stern and high. A people who
fear the truth can never be a free people. If what I will say is the
truth, do you know of any good reason why I should not say it? And
if for prudential reasons I should sometimes hold back the truth,
how would you know when I am telling what I believe to be the truth,
and when I am holding it back for reasons of policy?
The truth, however unwelcome, is not injurious; it is error which
raises false hopes, which destroys, degrades and pollutes, and
which, sooner or later, must be abandoned. Was it not Spencer, whom
Darwin called “our great philosopher,” who said, “Repulsive as is
its aspect, the hard fact which dissipates a cherished illusion is
presently found to contain the germ of a more salutary belief?”
Spain is decaying today because her teachers, for policy’s sake, are
withholding the disagreeable truth from the people. Holy water and
sainted bones can give a nation illusions and dreams, but never, --
A difficult subject is in the nature of a challenge to the mind. One
difficult task attempted is worth a thousand commonplace efforts
completed. The majority of people avoid the difficult and fear
danger. But he who would progress must even court danger. Political
and religious liberty were discovered through peril and struggle.
The world owes its emancipation to human daring. Had Columbus feared
danger, America might have slept for another thousand years.
I have a difficult subject in hand. It is also a delicate one. But I
am determined not only to know, if it is possible, the whole truth
about Jesus, but also to communicate that truth to others. Some
people can keep their minds shut. I cannot; I must share my
intellectual life with the world. If I lived a thousand years ago, I
might have collapsed at the sight of the burning stake, but I feel
sure I would have deserved the stake.
People say to me, sometimes, Why do you not confine yourself to
moral and religious exhortation, such as, ‘Be kind, do good, love
one another, etc.’?” But there is more of a moral tonic in the open
and candid discussion of a subject like the one in hand, than in a
multitude of platitudes. We feel our moral fiber stiffen into force
and purpose under the inspiration of a peril dared for the
advancement of truth.
“Tell us what you believe,” is one of the requests frequently
addressed to me. I never deliver a lecture in which I do not, either
directly or indirectly, give full and free expression to my faith in
everything that is worthy of faith. If I do not believe in dogma, it
is because I believe in freedom.
If I do not believe in one inspired
book, it is because I believe that all truth and only truth is
inspired. If I do not ask the Gods to help us, it is because I
believe in human help, so much more real than supernatural help. If
I do not believe in standing still, it is because I believe in
progress. If I am not attracted by the vision of a distant heaven,
it is because I believe in human happiness, now and here. If I do
not say “Lord, Lord!” to Jesus, it is because I bow my head to a
greater Power than Jesus, to a more efficient Savior than he has
“Oh, he tears down, but does not build up,” is another criticism
about my work. it is not true. No preacher or priest is more
constructive. To build up their churches and maintain their creeds
the priests pulled down and destroyed the magnificent civilization
of Greece and Rome, plunging Europe into the dark and sterile ages
which lasted over a thousand years. When Galileo waved his hands for
joy because he believed be had enriched humanity with a new truth
and extended the sphere of knowledge, what did the church do to him?
It conspired to destroy him. It shut him up in a dungeon!
truth into jail; gagging the mouth of the student -- is that
building up or tearing down? When Bruno lighted a new torch to
increase the light of the world what was his reward? The stake!
During all the ages that the church had the power to police the
world, every time a thinker raised his head he was clubbed to death.
Do you think it is kind of us—does it square with our sense of
justice to call the priest constructive, and the scientists and
philosophers who have helped people to their feet— helped them to
self-government in politics, and to self-help in life, --
destructive? Count your rights—political, religious, social,
intellectual—and tell me which of them was conquered for you by the
“He is irreverent,” is still another hasty criticism I have heard
advanced against the rationalist. I wish to tell you something. But
first let us be impersonal. The epithets “irreverent,” “blasphemer,”
“atheist,” and “infidel,” are flung at a man, not from pity, but
from envy. Not having the courage or the industry of our neighbor
who works like a busy bee in the world of men and books, searching
with the sweat of his brow for the real bread of life, wetting the
open page before him with his tears, pushing into the “wee” hours of
the night his quest, animated by the fairest of all loves, the love
of truth, -- we ease our own indolent conscience by calling him
We pretend that it is not because we are too lazy or too
selfish to work as hard or think as freely as he does, but because
we do not want to be as irreverent as he is that we keep the windows
of our minds shut. To excuse our own mediocrity we call the man who
tries to get out of the rut a “blasphemer.” And so we ask the world
to praise our indifference as a great virtue, and to denounce the
conscientious toil and thought of another, as “blasphemy.”
IS Jesus A MYTH?
What is a myth? A myth is a fanciful explanation of a given
phenomenon. Observing the sun, the moon, and the stars overhead, the
primitive man wished to account for them. This was natural. The mind
craves for knowledge. The child asks questions because of an inborn
desire to know. Man feels ill at ease with a sense of a mental
vacuum, until his questions are answered. Before the days of
science, a fanciful answer was all that could be given to man’s
questions about the physical world. The primitive man guessed where
knowledge failed him—what else could he do? A myth, then, is a
guess, a story, a speculation, or a fanciful explanation of a
phenomenon, in the absence of accurate information.
Many are the myths about the heavenly bodies, which, while we call
them myths, because we know better, were to the ancients truths. The
Sun and Moon were once brother and sister, thought the child-man;
but there arose a dispute between them; the woman ran away, and the
man ran after her, until they came to the end of the earth where
land and sky met.
The woman jumped into the sky, and the man after
her, where they kept chasing each other forever, as Sun and Moon.
Now and then they came close enough to snap at each other. That was
their explanation of an eclipse. [Childhood of the World, by
Edward Clodd.] With this myth, the primitive man was satisfied, until his
developing intelligence realized its inadequacy. Science was born of
During the middle ages it was believed by Europeans that in certain
parts of the World, in India, for instance, there were people who
had only one eye in the middle of their foreheads, and were more
like monsters than humans. This was imaginary knowledge, which
travel and research have corrected. The myth of a one-eyed people
living in India has been replaced by accurate information concerning
Likewise, before the science of ancient languages was
perfected—before archaeology had dug up buried cities and deciphered
the hieroglyphics on the monuments of antiquity, most of our
knowledge concerning the earlier ages was mythical, that is to say,
it was knowledge not based on investigation, but made to order. Just
as the theologians still speculate about the other world, primitive
man speculated about this world.
Even we moderns, not very long ago,
believed, for instance, that the land of Egypt was visited by ten
fantastic plagues; that in one bloody night every first born in the
land was slain; that the angel of a tribal-God dipped his hand in
blood and printed a red mark upon the doors of the houses of the
Jews to protect them from harm; that Pharaoh and his armies were
drowned in the Red Sea; that the children of Israel wandered for
forty years around Mourit Sinai; and so forth, and so forth. But now
that we can read the inscriptions on the stone ages dug out of
ancient ruins; now that we can compel a buried world to reveal its
secret and to tell us its story, we do not have to go on making
myths about the ancients. Myths die when history is born.
It will be seen from these examples that there is no harm in
myth-making if the myth is called a myth. It is when we use our
fanciful knowledge to deny or to shut out real and scientific
knowledge that the myth becomes a stumbling block. And this is
precisely the use to which myths have been put. The king with his
sword and the priest with his curses, have supported the myth
against science. When a man pretends to believe that the Santa Claus
of his childhood is real, and tries to compel also others to play a
part, he becomes positively immoral. There is no harm in believing
in Santa Claus as a myth, but there is in pretending that he is
real, because such an attitude of mind makes truth unnecessary and
not at all vital.
Is Jesus a myth?
There is in man a faculty for fiction. Before
history was born, there was myth; before men could think, they
dreamed. It was with the human race in its infancy as it is with the
child. The child’s imagination is more active than its reason. It is
easier for it to fancy even than to see. It thinks less than it
guesses. This wild flight of fancy is checked only by experience. It
is reflection which introduces a bit into the mouth of imagination,
curbing its pace and subduing its restless spirit. It is, then, as
we grow older, and, if I may use the word, riper, that we learn to
distinguish between fact and fiction, between history and myth.
In childhood we need playthings, and the more fantastic and bizarre
they are, the better we are pleased with them. We dream, for
instance, of castles in the air—gorgeous and clothed with the azure
hue of the skies. We fill the space about and over us with spirits,
fairies, Gods, and other invisible and airy beings. We covet the
rainbow. We reach out for the moon. Our feet do not really begin to
touch the firm ground until we have reached the years of discretion.
I know there are those who wish they could always remain children,
-- living in dreamland. But even if this were desirable, it is not
possible. Evolution is our destiny; of what use is it, then, to take
up arms against destiny?
Let it be borne in mind that all the religions of the world were
born in the childhood of the race.
Science was not born until man had matured. There is in this thought
a world of meaning.
Children make religions.
Grown up people create science.
The cradle is the womb of all the fairies and faiths of mankind.
The school is the birthplace of science.
Religion is the science of the child.
Science is the religion of the matured man.
In the discussion of this subject, I appeal to the mature, not
to the child mind. I appeal to those who have cultivated a taste
for truth—who are not easily scared, but who can “screw their
courage to the sticking point” and follow to the end truth’s
leading. The multitude is ever joined to its idols; let them alone.
I speak to the discerning few.
There is an important difference between a lecturer and an ordained
preacher. The latter can command a hearing in the name of God, or in
the name of the Bible. He does not have to satisfy his hearers about
the reasonableness of what he preaches. He is God’s mouthpiece, and
no one may disagree with him. He can also invoke the authority of
the church and of the Christian world to enforce acceptance of his
The only way I may command your respect is to be
reasonable. You will not listen to me for God’s sake, nor for the
Bible’s sake, nor yet for the love of heaven, or the fear of hell.
My only protection is to be rational—to be truthful. In other words,
the preacher can afford to ignore common sense in the name of
Revelation. But if I depart from it in the least, or am caught once
playing fast and loose with the facts, I will irretrievably lose my
Our answer to the question, Is Jesus a Myth? must depend more or
less upon original research, as there is very little written on the
subject. The majority of writers assume that a person answering to
the description of Jesus lived some two thousand years ago. Even the
few who entertain doubts on the subject, seem to hold that while
there is a large mythical element in the Jesus story, nevertheless
there is a historical nucleus round which has clustered the
elaborate legend of the Christ. In all probability, they argue,
there was a man called Jesus, who said many helpful things, and led
an exemplary life, and all the miracles and wonders represent the
accretions of fond and pious ages.
Let us place ourselves entirely in the hands of the evidence. As far
as possible, let us, be passive, showing no predisposition one way
or another. We can afford to be independent. If the evidence proves
the historicity of Jesus, well and good; if the evidence is not
sufficient to prove it, there is no reason why we should fear to say
so; besides, it is our duty to inform ourselves on this question.
intelligent beings we desire to know whether this Jesus, whose
worship is not only costing the world millions of the people’s
money, but which is also drawing to his service the time, the
energies, the affection, the devotion, and the labor of humanity, --
is a myth, or a reality. We believe that an religious persecutions,
all sectarian wars, hatreds and intolerance, which still cramp and
embitter our humanity, would be replaced by love and brotherhood, if
the sects could be made to see that the God-Jesus they are
quarreling over is a myth, a shadow to which credulity alone gives
Like people who have been fighting in the dark, fearing
some danger, the sects, once relieved of the thralldom of a tradition
which has been handed down to them by a childish age and country,
will turn around and embrace one another. In every sense, the
subject is an all-absorbing one. It goes to the root of things; it
touches the vital parts, and it means life or death to the Christian
THE PROBLEM STATED
Let me now give an idea of the method I propose to follow in the
study of this subject. Let us suppose that a student living in the
year 3000 desired to make sure that such a man as Abraham Lincoln
really lived and did the things attributed to him. How would he go
A man must have a birthplace and a birthday. All the records
agree as to where and when Lincoln was born. This is not enough to
prove his historicity but it is an important link in the chain.
Neither the place nor the time of Jesus’ birth is known. There has
never been any unanimity about this matter. There has been
considerable confusion and contradiction about it. It cannot be
proved that the twenty-fifth of December is his birthday. A number
of other dates were observed by the Christian church at various
times as the birthday of Jesus. The Gospels give no date, and appear
to be quite uncertain - really ignorant about it. When it is
remembered that the Gospels purport to have been written by Jesus’
intimate companions, and during the lifetime of his brothers and
mother, their silence on this matter becomes significant.
selection of the twenty-fifth of December as his birthday is not
only an arbitrary one, but that date, having been from time
immemorial dedicated to the Sun, the inference is that the Son of
God and the Sun of heaven enjoying the same birthday, were at one
time identical beings. The fact that Jesus’ death was accompanied
with the darkening of the Sun, and that the date of his resurrection
is also associated with the position of the Sun at the time of the
vernal equinox, is a further intimation that we have in the story of
the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, an ancient and nearly
universal Sun-myth, instead of verifiable historical events.
story of Jesus for three days in the heart of the earth; of Jonah,
three days in the belly of a fish; of Hercules, three days in the
belly of a whale, and of Little Red Riding Hood, sleeping in the
belly of a great black wolf, represent the attempt of primitive man
to explain the phenomenon of Day and Night. The Sun is swallowed by
a dragon, a wolf, or a whale, which plunges the world into darkness;
but the dragon is killed, and the Sun rises triumphant to make
another Day. This ancient Sun myth is the starting point of nearly
an miraculous religions, from the days of Egypt to the twentieth
The story which Matthew relates about a remarkable star, which
sailing in the air pointed out to some unnamed magicians the cradle
or cave in which the wonder-child was born, helps further to
identify Jesus with the Sun. What became of this “Performing” star,
or of the magicians, and their costly gifts, the records do not say.
It is more likely that it was the astrological predilections of the
gospel writer which led him to assign to his God-child a star in the
The belief that the stars determine human destinies is a
very ancient one. Such expressions in our language as “ill starred,”
“a lucky star,” “disaster,” “lunacy,” and so on, indicate the hold
which astrology once enjoyed upon the human mind. We still call a
melancholy man, Saturnine; a cheerful man, Jovial; a quick-tempered
man, Mercurial; Showing how closely our ancestors associated the
movements of celestial bodies with human affairs.
[Childhood of the World.—Edward Clodd.] The prominence, therefore,
of the sun and stars in the Gospel story tends to show that Jesus is
an astrological rather than a historical character.
That the time of his birth, his death, and supposed resurrection is
not verifiable is generally admitted.
This uncertainty robs the story of Jesus, to an extent at least, of
the atmosphere of reality.
The twenty-fifth of December is celebrated as his birthday. Yet
there is no evidence that he was born on that day. Although the
Gospels are silent as to the date on which Jesus was born, there is
circumstantial evidence in the accounts given of the event to show
that the twenty-fifth of December could not have been his birthday.
It snows in Palestine, though a warmer country, and we know that in
December there are no shepherds tending their flocks in the night
time in that country.
Often at this time of the year the fields and
hills are covered with snow. Hence, if the shepherds sleeping in the
fields really saw the heavens open and heard the. angel-song, in all
probability it was in some other month of the year, and not late in
December. We know, also, that early in the history of Christianity
the months of May and June enjoyed the honor of containing the day
of Jesus’ birth.
Of course, it is immaterial on which day Jesus was born, but why is
it not known? Yet not only is the date of his birth a matter of
conjecture, but also the year in which he was born. Matthew, one of
the Evangelists, suggests that Jesus was born in King Herod’s time,
for it was this king who, hearing from the Magi that a King of the
Jews was born, decided to destroy him; but Luke, another Evangelist,
intimates that Jesus was born when Quirinus was ruler of Judea,
which makes the date of Jesus’ birth about fourteen years later than
the date given by Matthew.
Why this discrepancy in a historical
document, to say nothing about inspiration? The theologian might say
that this little difficulty was introduced purposely into the
scriptures to establish its infallibility, but it is only religious
books that are pronounced infallible on the strength of the
contradictions they contain.
Again, Matthew says that to escape the evil designs of Herod, Mary
and Joseph, with the infant Jesus, fled into Egypt, Luke says
nothing about this hurried flight, nor of Herod’s intention to kill
the infant Messiah. On the contrary he tells us that after the forty
days of purification were over Jesus was publicly presented at the
temple, where Herod, if he really, as Matthew relates, wished to
seize him, could have done so without difficulty. It is impossible
to reconcile the flight to Egypt with the presentation in the
temple, and this inconsistency is certainly insurmountable and makes
it look as if the narrative had no value whatever as history.
When we come to the more important chapters about Jesus, we
meet with greater difficulties. Have you ever noticed that the day
on which Jesus is supposed to have died falls invariably on a
Friday? What is the reason for this? It is evident that nobody
knows, and nobody ever knew the date on which the Crucifixion took
place, if it ever took place. It is so obscure and so mythical that
an artificial day has been fixed by the Ecclesiastical councils.
While it is always on a Friday that the Crucifixion is commemorated,
the week in which the day occurs varies from year to year.
Friday” falls not before the spring equinox, but as soon after the
spring equinox as the full moon allows, thus making the calculation
to depend upon the position of the sun in the Zodiac and the phases
of the moon. But that was precisely the way the day for the festival
of the pagan Goddess Oestera was determined. The Pagan Oestera has
become the Christian Easter. Does not this fact, as well as those
already touched upon, make the story of Jesus to read very much like
the stories of the Pagan deities.
The early Christians, Origin, for instance, in his reply to the
rationalist Celsus who questioned the reality of Jesus, instead of
producing evidence of a historical nature, appealed to the mythology
of the pagans to prove that the story of Jesus was no more
incredible than those of the Greek and Roman Gods. This is so
important that we refer our readers to Origin’s own words on the
“Before replying to Celsus, it is necessary to admit that
in the matter of history, however true it might be,” writes this
Christian Father, “it is often very difficult and sometimes quite
impossible to establish its truth by evidence which shall be
[Origin Contre Celsus. 1. 58 et Suiv.]
is a plain admission that, as early as the second and third
centuries the claims put forth about Jesus did not admit of positive
historical demonstration. But in the absence of evidence Origin
offers the following metaphysical arguments against the skeptical Celsus: 1. Such stories as are told of Jesus are admitted to be true
when told of pagan divinities, why can they not also be true when
told of the Christian Messiah? 2.
They must be true because they are
the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies [Ibid.] In other words,
the only proofs Origin can bring forth against the rationalistic
criticism of Celsus is, that to deny Jesus would be equivalent to
denying both the Pagan and Jewish mythologies. If Jesus is not real,
says Origin, then Apollo was not real, and the Old Testament
prophecies have not been fulfilled. If we are to have any mythology
at all, he seems to argue, why object to adding to it the myths of
Jesus? There could not be a more damaging admission than this from
one of the most conspicuous defenders of Jesus’ story against early
Justin Martyr, another early Father, offers the following
argument against unbelievers in the Christian legend:
“When we say
also that the Word, which is the first birth of God, was produced
without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was
crucified, died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we
propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those
whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.”
[First Apology, Chapter xxi (Anti-Niacin Library.]
Which is another
way of saying that the Christian myths is very similar to the
pagan, and should therefore be equally true. Pressing his argument
further, this interesting Father discovers many resemblances
between what he himself is preaching and the pagans have always
“For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribe
to Jupiter. Mercury, the interpreting word (he spells this word
with small w, while in the above quotation he uses w to denote the
Christian incarnation) and teacher of all; Aesculapius ... to
heaven; one Hercules ... and Perseus; ... and Bellerophon, who, from
mortals, rose to heaven on the horses of Pegasus.”
Jupiter can have, Justin Martyr seems to reason, half a dozen divine
sons, why cannot
Jehovah have at least one?
Instead of producing historical evidence or appealing to creditable
documents, as one would to prove the existence of a Caesar or an
Alexander, Justin Martyr draws upon pagan mythology in his reply to
the critics of Christianity. All he seems to ask for is that Jesus
be given a higher place among the divinities of the ancient world.
To help their cause the Christian apologists not infrequently also
changed the sense of certain Old Testament passages to make them
support the miraculous stories in the New Testament. For example,
having borrowed from Oriental books the story of the God in a
manger, surrounded by staring animals, the Christian fathers
introduced a prediction of this event into the following text from
the book of Habakkuk in the Bible:
“Accomplish thy work in the midst
of the years, in the midst of the years make known, etc.”
This Old Testament text appeared in the Greek translation as
follows: “Thou shalt manifest thyself in the midst of two animals,”
which was fulfilled of course when Jesus was born in a stable. How
weak must be one’s case to resort to such tactics in order to
command a following! And when it is remembered that these follies
were deemed necessary to prove the reality of what has been claimed
as the most stupendous event in all history, one can readily see
upon how fragile a foundation is built the story of the Christian
Let us continue: Abraham Lincoln’s associates and contemporaries are
all known to history. The immediate companions of Jesus appear to
be, on the other hand, as mythical as he is himself. Who was
Matthew? Who was Mark? Who were John, Peter, Judas, and Mary? There
is absolutely no evidence that they ever existed. They are not
mentioned except in the New Testament books, which, as we shall see,
are “supposed” copies of “supposed” originals.
If Peter ever went to
Rome with a new doctrine, how is it that no historian has taken note
of him? If Paul visited Athens and preached from Mars Hill, how is
it that there is no mention of him or of his strange Gospel in the
Athenian chronicles? For all we know, both Peter and Paul may have
really existed, but it is only a guess, as we have no means of
ascertaining. The uncertainty about the apostles of Jesus is quite
in keeping with the uncertainty about Jesus himself.
The report that Jesus had twelve apostles seems also mythical.
The number twelve, like the number seven, or three, or forty, plays
an important role in all Sun-myths, and points to the twelve signs
of the Zodiac. Jacob had twelve sons; there were twelve tribes of
Israel; twelve months in the year; twelve gates or pillars of
heaven, etc. In many of the religions of the world, the number
twelve is sacred. There have been few God-saviors who did not have
twelve apostles or messengers. In one or two places, in the New
Testament, Jesus is made to send out “the seventy” to evangelize
Here again we see the presence of a myth. It was believed
that there were seventy different nations in the world— to each
nation an apostle. Seventy wise men are supposed to have translated
the Old Testament, sitting in seventy different cells. That is why
their translation is called “the Septuagint.” But it is all a
legend, as there is no evidence of seventy scholars working in
seventy individual cells on the Hebrew Bible. One of the Church
Fathers declares that he saw these seventy cells with his own eyes.
He was the only one who saw them.
That the “Twelve Apostles” are fanciful may be inferred from the
obscurity in which the greater number of them have remained. Peter,
Paul, John, James, Judas, occupy the stage almost exclusively. If
Paul was an apostle, we have fourteen, instead of twelve. Leaving
out Judas, and counting Matthias, who was elected in his place, we
have thirteen apostles.
The number forty figures also in many primitive myths.
The Jews were
in the wilderness for forty years; Jesus fasted for forty days; from
the resurrection to the ascension were forty days; Moses was on the
mountain with God for forty days. An account in which such
scrupulous attention is shown to supposed sacred numbers is apt to
be more artificial than real. The biographers of Lincoln or of
Socrates do not seem to be interested in numbers. They write
history, not stories.
Again, many of the contemporaries of Lincoln bear written witness to
his existence. The historians of the time, the statesmen, the
publicists, the chroniclers—all seem to be acquainted with him, or to
have heard of him. It is impossible to explain why the
contemporaries of Jesus, the authors and historians of his time, do
not take notice of him.
If Abraham Lincoln was important enough to
have attracted the attention of his contemporaries, how much more
Jesus.—Is it reasonable to suppose that these Pagan and Jewish
writers knew of Jesus, -- had heard of his incomparably great works
and sayings, -- but omitted to give him a page or a line? Could they
have been in a conspiracy against him? How else is this unanimous
silence to be accounted for? Is it not more likely that the
wonder-working Jesus was unknown to them? And he was unknown to them
because no such Jesus existed in their day.
Should the student, looking into Abraham Lincoln’s history, discover
that no one of his biographers knew positively just when he lived or
where he was born, he would have reason to conclude that because of
this uncertainty on the part of the biographers, he must be more
exacting than he otherwise would have been. That is precisely our
position. Of course, there are in history great men of whose
birthplaces or birthdays we are equally uncertain.
But we believe in
their existence, not because no one seems to know exactly when and
where they were born, but because there is overwhelming evidence
corroborating the other reports about them, and which is sufficient
to remove the suspicion suggested by the darkness hanging over their
nativity. Is there any evidence strong enough to prove the
historicity of Jesus, in spite of the fact that not even his
supposed companions, writing during the lifetime of Jesus’ mother,
have any definite information to give.
But let us continue. The reports current about a man like Lincoln
are verifiable, while many of those about Jesus are of a nature that
no amount of evidence can confirm. That Lincoln was President of
these United States, that he signed the Emancipation Proclamation,
and that he was assassinated, can be readily authenticated.
But how can any amount of evidence satisfy one’s self that Jesus was
born of a virgin, for instance? Such a report or rumor can never
even be examined; it does not lend itself to evidence; it is beyond
the sphere of history; it is not a legitimate question for
investigation. It belongs to mythology. Indeed, to put forth a
report of that nature is to forbid the use of evidence, and to
command forcible acquiescence, which, to say the least, is a very
suspicious circumstance, calculated to hurt rather than to help the
The report that Jesus was God is equally impossible of verification.
How are we to prove whether or not a certain person was God? Jesus
may have been a wonderful man, but is every wonderful man a God?
Jesus may have claimed to have been a God, but is every one who puts
forth such a claim a God? How, then, are we to decide which of the
numerous candidates for divine honors should be given our votes? And
can we by voting for Jesus make him a God? Observe to what confusion
the mere attempt to follow such a report leads us.
A human Jesus may or may not have existed, but we are as sure as we
can be of anything, that a virgin-born God, named Jesus, such as we
must believe in or be eternally lost, is an impossibility— except to
credulity. But credulity is no evidence at all, even when it is
dignified by the name of FAITH.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect: The final argument for the
existence of the miraculous Jesus, preached in church and
Sunday-school, these two thousand years, as the sole savior of the
world, is an appeal to faith—the same to which Mohammed resorts to
establish his claims, and Joseph Smith, to prove his revelation.
There is no other possible way by which the virgin-birth or the
Godhood of a man can be established. And such a faith is never free,
it is always maintained by the sword now, and by hell-fire
Once more, if it had been reported of Abraham Lincoln that he
predicted his own assassination; that be promised some of his
friends they would not die until they saw him coming again upon the clouds of heaven; that he would give them thrones to sit upon; that
they could safely drink deadly poisons in his name, or that he
would grant them any request which they might make, provided they
asked it for his sake, we would be justified in concluding that
such a Lincoln never existed. Yet the most impossible utterances
are put in Jesus’ mouth. He is made to say:
“Whatsoever ye shall
ask in my name that will I do.”
No man who makes such a promise can
keep it. It is not sayings like the above that can prove a man a
God. Has Jesus kept his promise? Does he give his people
everything, or “whatsoever” they ask of him? But, it is answered,
“Jesus only meant to say that he would give whatever he himself
considered good for his friends to have.”
Indeed! Is that the way to
crawl out of a contract? If that is what he meant, why did he say
something else? Could he not have said just what he meant, in the
first place? Would it not have been fairer not to have given his
friends any occasion for false expectations? Better to promise a
little and do more, than to promise everything and do nothing. But
to say that Jesus really entered into any such agreement is to throw
doubt upon his existence.
Such a character is too wild to be real.
Only a mythical Jesus could virtually hand over the government of
the universe to courtier who have petitions to press upon his
attention. Moreover, if Jesus could keep his promise, there would be
today no misery in the world, no orphans, no childless mothers no
shipwrecks, no floods, no famines, no disease, no crippled children,
no insanity, no wars, no crime, no wrong! Have not a thousand,
thousand prayers been offered in Jesus’ name against every evil
which has ploughed the face of our earth? Have these prayers been
Then why is there discontent in the world? Can the
followers of Jesus move mountains, drink deadly poisons, touch
serpents, or work greater miracles than are ascribed to Jesus, as it
was promised that they would do? How many self-deluded prophets
these extravagant claims have produced! And who can number the
bitter disappointments caused by such impossible promises?
George Jacob Holyoake, of England, tells how in the days of utter
poverty, his believing mother asked the Lord, again and again -- on
her knees, with tears streaming from her eyes, and with absolute
faith in Jesus’ ability to keep His promise, -- to give her starving
children their daily bread. But the more fervently she prayed the
heavier grew the burden of her life. A stone or wooden idol could
not have been more indifferent to a mother’s tears.
“My mind aches
as I think of those days,” writes Mr. Holyoake. One day he went to
see the Rev. Mr. Cribbace, who had invited inquirers to his house.
“Do you really believe,” asked young Holyoake to the clergyman,
“that what we ask in faith we shall receive?”
“It never struck me,”
continues Mr. Holyoake, “that the preacher’s threadbare dress, his
half-famished look, and necessity of taking up a collection the
previous night to pay expense’s showed that faith was not a source
of income to him. It never struck me that if help could be obtained
by prayer no church would be needy, no believer would be poor.”
answer did the preacher give to Holyoake’s earnest question? The
same which the preachers of today give:
“He parried his answer with
many words, and at length said that the promise was to be taken with
the provision that what we asked for would be given, if God thought
it for our good.”
Why then, did not Jesus explain that
proviso when he made the promise? Was Jesus only making a half
statement, the other half of which he would reveal later to protect
himself against disappointed petitioners. But he said:
“If ye ask
anything in my name, I will do it,” and “If it were not so, I would
have told you.”
Did he not mean just what be said? The truth is that
no historical person in his senses ever made such extraordinary,
such impossible promises, and the report that Jesus made them only
goes to confirm that their author is only a legendary being.
When this truth dawned upon Mr. Holyoake he ceased to petition
Heaven, which was like “dropping a bucket into an empty well,” and
began to look elsewhere for help. [Bygones Worth Remembering.—George Jacob Holyoake.] The world owes its advancement to the fact
that men no longer look to Heaven for help, but help themselves.
Self-effort, and not prayer, is the remedy against ignorance,
slavery, poverty, and moral degradation. Fortunately, by bolding up
before us an impossible Jesus, with his impossible promises, the
churches have succeeded only in postponing, but not in preventing,
the progress of man. This is a compliment to human nature, and it
is well earned. It is also a promise that in time humanity will be
completely emancipated from every phantom which in the past has
scared it into silence or submission, and
“A loftier race than e’er the world
Hath known shall rise
With flame of liberty in their souls,
And light of science in their eyes.”
The documents containing the story of Jesus are so unlike those
about Lincoln or any other historical character, that we must be
doubly vigilant in our investigation.
The Christians rely mainly on the four Gospels for the historicity
of Jesus. But the original documents of which the books in the New
Testament are claimed to be faithful copies are not in existence.
There is absolutely no evidence that they ever were in existence.
This is a statement which can not be controverted. Is it conceivable
that the early believers lost through carelessness or purposely
every document written by an apostle, while guarding with all
protecting jealousy and zeal the writings of anonymous persons? Is
there any valid reason why the contributions to Christian literature
of an inspired apostle should perish while those of a nameless
scribe are preserved, why the original Gospel of Matthew should drop
quietly out of sight, no one knows how, while a supposed copy of it
in an alien language is preserved for many centuries?
it is admitted, did not write a single line. He bad come, according
to popular belief, to reveal the will of God—a most important
mission indeed, and yet he not only did not put this revelation in
writing during his lifetime, and with his own hand, which it is
natural to suppose that a divine teacher, expressly come from
heaven, would have done, but he left this all-important duty to
anonymous chroniclers, who, naturally, made enough mistakes to split
up Christendom into innumerable factions.
It is worth a moment’s
pause to think of the persecutions, the cruel wars, and the
centuries of hatred and bitterness which would have been spared our
unfortunate humanity, if Jesus himself had written down his message
in the clearest and plainest manner, instead of leaving it to his
supposed disciples to publish it to the world, when he could no
longer correct their mistakes.
Moreover, not only did Jesus not write himself, but he has not
even taken any pains to preserve the writings of his “apostles.” It
is well known that the original manuscripts, if there were any, are
nowhere to be found. This is a grave matter. We have only supposed
copies of supposed original manuscripts. Who copied them? When were
they copied? How can we be sure that these copies are reliable? And
why are there thousands upon thousands of various readings in these
numerous supposed copies?
What means have we of deciding which
version or reading to accept? Is it possible that as the result of
Jesus’ advent into our world, we have only a basketful of nameless
and dateless copies and documents? Is it conceivable, I ask, that a
God would send his Son to us, and then leave us to wander through a
pile of dusty manuscripts to find out why He sent His Son, and what
He taught when on earth?
The only answer the Christian church can give to this question is
that the original writings were purposely allowed to perish. When a
precious document containing the testament of Almighty God, and
inscribed for an eternal purpose by the Holy Ghost, disappears
altogether there is absolutely no other way of accounting for its
disappearance than by saying, as we have suggested, that its divine
author must have intentionally withdrawn it from circulation.
moves in a mysterious way” is the last resort of the believer. This
is the one argument which is left to theology to fight science with.
Unfortunately it is an argument which would prove every cult and
“ism” under the heavens true. The Mohammedan, the Mazdaian, and the
Pagan may also fall back upon faith. There is nothing which faith
can not cover up from the light. But if a faith which ignores
evidence be not a superstition, what then is superstition?
I wonder if
the Catholic Church, which pretends to believe— and
which derives quite an income from the belief—that God has
miraculously preserved the wood of the cross, the Holy Sepulcher, in
Jerusalem, the coat of Jesus, and quite a number of other mementos,
can explain why the original manuscripts were lost. I have a
suspicion that there were no “original” manuscripts. I am not sure
of this, of course, but if nails, bones and holy places could be
miraculously preserved, why not also manuscripts? It is reasonable
to suppose that the Deity would not have permitted the most
important documents containing His Revelation to drop into some hole
and disappear, or to be gnawed into dust by the insects, after
having had them written by special inspiration.
Again, when these documents, such as we find them, are examined, it
will be observed that, even in the most elementary intelligence
which they pretend to furnish, they are hopelessly at variance with
one another. It is, for example, utterly impossible to reconcile
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus with the one given by Luke.
the names of the supposed ancestors of Jesus they tamper with the
list as given in book of Chronicles, in the Old Testament, and
thereby justly expose themselves to the charge of bad faith. One
evangelist says Jesus was descended from Solomon, born of “her that
had been the wife of Urias.” It will be remembered that David
ordered Urias killed in a cowardly manner, that may marry his widow,
whom he coveted. According to Matthew, Jesus is one of the offspring
of this adulterous relation.
According to Luke, it is not through Solomon, but through Nathan,
that Jesus is connected with the house of David.
Again, Luke tells us that the name of the father of Joseph was Heli;
Matthew says it was Jacob. If the writers of the gospels were
contemporaries of Joseph they could have easily learned the exact
name of his father.
Again, why do these biographers of Jesus give us the genealogy of
Joseph if he was not the father of Jesus? It is the genealogy of
Mary which they should have given to prove the descent of Jesus from
the house of David, and not that of Joseph. These irreconcilable
differences between Luke, Matthew and the other evangelists, go to
prove that these authors possessed no reliable information
concerning the subjects they were writing about. For if Jesus is a
historical character, and these biographers were really his
immediate associates, and were inspired besides, how are we to
explain their blunders and contradictions about his genealogy?
A good illustration of the mythical or unhistorical character of the
New Testament is furnished by the story of John the Baptist. He is
first represented as confessing publicly that Jesus is the Christ;
that he himself is not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes;
and that Jesus is the Lamb of God, “who taketh away the sins of the.
world.” John was also present, the gospels say, when the heavens
opened and a dove descended on Jesus’ head, and he heard the voice
from the skies, crying: “He is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
Is it possible that, a few chapters later, this same John forgets
his public confession, -- the dove and the voice from heaven, -- and
actually sends two of his disciples to find out who this Jesus is.
[Matthew xi.] The only way we can account for such strange conduct
is that the compiler or editor in question had two different myths
or stories before him, and he wished to use them both.
A further proof of the loose and extravagant style of the Gospel
writers is furnished by the concluding verse of the Fourth Gospel:
“There are also many other things which
Jesus did, the which, if
they should be written, every one, I Suppose that even the world
itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
more like the language of a myth-maker than of a historian. How much
reliance can we put in a reporter who is given to such exaggeration?
To say that the world itself would be too small to contain the
unreported sayings and doings of a teacher whose public life
possibly did not last longer than a year, and whose reported words
and deeds fill only a few pages, is to prove one’s statements
unworthy of serious consideration.
And it is worth oar while to note also that the documents
which have come down to our time and which purport to be the
biographies of Jesus, are not only written in an alien language,
that is to say, in a language which was not that of Jesus and his
disciples, but neither are they dated or signed. Jesus and his
twelve apostles were Jews; why are all the four Gospels written in
Greek? If they were originally written in Hebrew, how can we tell
that the Greek translation is accurate, since we can not compare it
with the originals? And why are these Gospels anonymous? Why are
they not dated?
But as we shall say something more on this subject in the present volume, we confine ourselves at this point to
reproducing a fragment of the manuscript pages from which our Greek
Translations have been made. It is admitted by scholars that owing
to the difficulty of reading these ancient and imperfect and also
conflicting texts, an accurate translation is impossible. But this
is another way of saying that what the churches call the Word of God
is not only the word of man, but a very imperfect word, at that.
The belief in Jesus, then, is founded on secondary documents,
altered and edited by various hands; on lost originals, and on
anonymous manuscripts of an age considerably later than the events
therein related—manuscripts which contradict each other as well as
themselves. Such is clearly and undeniably the basis for the belief
in a historical Jesus. It was this sense of the insufficiency of the
evidence which drove the missionaries of Christianity to commit
If there was ample evidence for the historicity of Jesus, why did
his biographers resort to forgery? The following admissions by
Christian writers themselves show the helplessness of the early
preachers in the presence of inquirers who asked for proofs. The
church historian, Mosheim, writes that,
“The Christian Fathers
deemed it a pious act to employ deception and fraud.”
[Ecclesiastical Hist., Vol. I, p. 347.]
Again, he says:
greatest and most pious teachers were nearly all of them infected
with this leprosy.”
Will not some believer tell us why forgery and
fraud were necessary to prove the historicity of Jesus.
Another historian, Milman, writes that, “Pious fraud was admitted
and avowed” by the early missionaries of Jesus. “It was an age of
literary frauds,” writes Bishop Ellicott, speaking of the times
the alleged crucifixion of
Jesus. Dr. Giles
declares that, “There can be no doubt that great numbers of books
were written with no other purpose than to deceive.” And it is the
opinion of Dr. Robertson Smith that, “There was an enormous floating
mass of spurious literature created to suit party views.”
which are now rejected as apocryphal were at one time received as
inspired, and books which are now believed to be infallible were at
one tune regarded as of no authority in the Christian world. It
certainly is puzzling that there should be a whole literature of
fraud and forgery in the name of a historical person. But if Jesus
was a myth, we can easily explain the legends and traditions
springing up in his name.
The early followers of Jesus, then, realizing the force of this
objection, did actually resort to interpolation and forgery in order
to prove that Jesus was a historical character.
One of the oldest critics of the Christian religion was a
Pagan, known to history under the name of Porphyry; yet, the early
Fathers did not hesitate to tamper even with the writings of an
avowed opponent of their religion. After issuing an edict to
destroy, among others, the writings of this philosopher, a work,
called Philosophy of Oracles, was produced, in which the author is
made to write almost as a Christian; and the name of Porphyry was
signed to it as its author. St. Augustine was one of the first to reject it as a
forgery. [Geo. W. Foote. Crimes of Christianity.]
more astounding invention than this alleged work of a heathen
bearing witness to Christ is difficult to produce. Do these
forgeries, these apocryphal writings, these interpolations, freely
admitted to have been the prevailing practice of the early
Christians, help to prove the existence of Jesus? And when to this
wholesale manufacture of doubtful evidence is added the terrible
vandalism which nearly destroyed every great Pagan classic, we can
form an idea of the desperate means to which the early Christians
resorted to prove that Jesus was not a myth. It all goes to show how
difficult it is to make a man out of a myth.
Stories of Gods born of virgins are to be found in nearly every age
and country. There have been many virgin mothers, and Mary with her
child is but a recent version of a very old and universal myth. In
China and India, in Babylonia and Egypt, in Greece and Rome,
“divine” beings selected from among the daughters of men the purest
and most beautiful to serve them as a means of entrance into the
world of mortals. Wishing to take upon themselves the human form,
while retaining at the same time their “divinity,” this
compromise—of an earthly mother with a “divine” father— was
effected. In the form of a swan Jupiter approached Leda, as in the
guise of a dove, or a Paracletug, Jehovah “overshadowed”
A nymph bathing in a river in China is touched by a lotus plant, and
the divine Fohi is born.
In Siam, a wandering sunbeam caresses a girl in her teens, and the
great and wonderful deliverer, Codom, is born. In the life of Buddha
we read that he descended on his mother Maya, “in likeness as the
heavenly queen, and entered her womb,” and was born from her right
side, to save the world.” [Stories of Virgin Births. Reference:
Lord Macartney. Voyage dans ‘interview de la Chine et en Tartarie. Vol. I
p. 48. See also Les Vierges Meres et les Naissance Miraculeuse.
P. Saintyves. p. 19, etc.]
In Greece, the young God Apollo visits a
fair maid of Athens, and a Plato is ushered into the world.
In ancient Mexico, as well as in Babylonia, and in modern Corea, as
in modern Palestine, as in the legends of all lands, virgins gave
birth and became divine mothers. But the real home of virgin births
is the land of the Nile.
Eighteen hundred years before Christ, we
find carved on one of the walls of the great temple of Luxor a
picture of the annunciation, conception and birth of King Amunothph
III, an almost exact copy of the annunciation, conception and birth
of the Christian God. Of course no one will think of maintaining
that the Egyptians borrowed the idea from the Catholics nearly two
thousand years before the Christian era.
“The story in the Gospel of
Luke, the first and second chapters is,” says Malvert, “a
reproduction, ‘point by point,’ of the story in stone of the
miraculous birth of Amunothph.”
[Science and Religion. p. 96.]
Sharpe in his Egyptian Mythology, page 19, gives the following
description of the, Luxor picture, quoted by G.W. Foote in his
‘Bible Romances,’ page 126:
“In this picture we have the
annunciation, the conception, the birth and the adoration, as
described in the first and second chapters of Luke’s Gospel.”
gives a more minute description of the Luxor picture.
scene on the left hand shows the God Taht, the divine World or
Loges, in the act of hailing the virgin queen, announcing to her
that she is to give birth to a son. In the second scene the God
Kneph (assisted by Hathor) gives life to her. This is the Holy
Ghost, or Spirit that causes conception. ... Next the mother is
seated on the midwife’s stool, and the child is supported in the
hands of one of the nurses. The fourth scene is that of the
adoration. Here the child is enthroned, receiving homage from the
Gods and gifts from men.”
[Natural Geneses. Massey, Vol. II, p.
The picture on the wall of the Luxor temple, then, is one of
the sources to which the anonymous writers of the Gospels went for
their miraculous story. It is no wonder they suppressed their own
identity as well as the source from which they borrowed their
Not only the idea of a virgin mother, but all the other miraculous
events, such as the stable cradle, the guiding star, the massacre of
the children, the flight to Egypt, and the resurrection and bodily
ascension toward the clouds, have not only been borrowed, but are
even scarcely altered in the New Testament story of Jesus.
That the early Christians borrowed the legend of Jesus from earthly
sources is too evident to be even questioned. Gerald Massey in his
great work on Egyptian origins demonstrates the identity of Mary,
the mother of Jesus, with Isis, the mother of Horus. He says:
“The most ancient, gold-bedizened, smoke-stained Byzantine pictures
of the virgin and child represent the mythical mother as Isis, and
not as a human mother of Nazareth."
[Vol. II, p. 487.]
research have made this fact so certain that, on the one hand
ignorance, and on the other interest only, can continue to claim
inspiration for the authors of the undated and unsigned fragmentary
documents which pass for the Word of God. If, then, Jesus is
stripped of all the borrowed legends and miracles of which he is the
subject; and if we also take away from him all the teachings which
collected from Jewish and Pagan sources have been attributed to
him—what will be left of him? That the ideas put in his mouth have
been culled and compiled from other sources is as demonstrable as
the Pagan origin of the legends related of him.
Nearly every one of the dogmas and ceremonies in the Christian cult
were borrowed from other and older religions. The resurrection myth,
the ascension, the eucharist, baptism, worship by kneeling or
prostration, the folding of the hands on the breast, the ringing of
bells and the burning of incense, the vestments and vessels used in
church, the candles, “holy” water, -- even the word Mass, were all
adopted and adapted by the Christians from the religions of the
ancients. The Trinity is as much Pagan, as much Indian or Buddhist,
as it is Christian. The idea of a Son of God is as old as ‘the
oldest cult. The sun is the son of heaven in all primitive faiths.
The physical sun becomes in the course of evolution, the Son of
Righteousness, or the Son of God, and heaven is personified as the
Father on High. The halo around the head of Jesus, the horns of the
older deities, the rays of light radiating from the heads of Hindu
and Pagan Gods are incontrovertible evidence that all Gods were at
one time—the sun in heaven.