none of the "evidence" for Jesus stands up to scrutiny - its all :
* corrupt, or
* not about Jesus.
Here is a brief essay showing how the Jesus Myth developed :
The Development of the Jesus Myth
The Jesus Myth theory can be seen in terms of the various stages that we see in the Christian record -
Stage one - spiritual Iesous Christos
* INITIALLY PAUL describes Iesous Christos as a purely spiritual being who exists on a higher plane, but who acts inside every human, perhaps somewhat
like what we might now call a "soul" (Christ in you, the hope of Glory.) Paul mentions no earthly Jesus of Nazareth, no miracles, no empty tomb, no
speeches, no dates, names, places, nor events - merely a few spiritual references. Paul is religious allegory - our soul (the Christos) is pinned
(crucified) to the body (the cross) by the passions of the flesh, and raised back to heaven after we die (we live Christ's death, Christ lives our
death.) Clement Alex. later discusses these very themes.
Notably Paul, (like all the 1st century writings), show NO mention of a historical Jesus of Nazareth as found in the Gospels - there is no 1st century
mention of any of these major elements of the Gospel story -
* Joseph and Mary and Bethlehem and Nazareth,
* the birth stories, the Magi, the Star, the flight to Egypt,
* Herod and the massacre of the infants,
* John the Baptist or the baptism in the Jordan,
* the trial before Pilate (and Herod?),
* the raising of Lazarus or any miracles of Jesus,
* the cleansing of the temple, the trumphal entry,
* the Sermon on the Mount or any teachings by Jesus,
* the passion of Jesus, or the transfiguration,
* Peter the rock and "the keys",
* the denial by Peter, or betrayal by Judas,
* the empty tomb !!
None of those key events or actors are mentioned even once by 1st century Christian writers.
You can see how the early Christians show no knowledge of Gospel stories in overview in my table here:
NONE of the Gospel stories are mentioned until the 2nd century, just like there is NO mention of the Gospels. But, from late 2nd century on, we see an
enormous explosion in writings by many Christian authors which explain, and exposit and exegise the Gospels - whole libraries of books endlessly
quoting and preaching from the Gospel and debating the finiest minutiae of every detail of every incident in Jesus' life.
The argument that these issues were NOT mentioned because they were so well-known does not make sense - these details were even MORE well known in
later centuries when we see them repeated endlessly at vast length. Every later writer (who obviously have heard of the Gospel Jesus) quotes and
argues from the Gospel stories frequently. The only possible explanation for the total silence of the 1st century Christian writers about the Gospel
stories that are the basis for Christianity now, is that they had NEVER HEARD of them.
For example there are MANY occasions in Paul where we WOULD EXPECT Paul to mention the live and teaching when the context is entirely appopriate for a
mention of Jesus or his teachings -
* 1 Thess 4:9 - Paul tells Christians to "love one another" WITHOUT a mention of Jesus! Even though Jesus supposedly taught exactly that.
* 2 Cor. 6:1 - Paul talks about the the "day of deliverance" (quoting Isaiah 49:8) without the slightest mention of what Jesus had said on this very
* Rom. 6:2 - Paul talks of Christian baptism - NO MENTION of the baptism in the Jordan.
* Rom. 133 - Paul encourages Paul to trust the authorities - yet those authorities allegedly just crucified his God!
* 1 Cor. 1:7 - Paul talks of the coming of Christ in the future tense - no hint he had recently been.
* Rom. 6:17 - Paul talks of Christian teaching being "handed on to you" - no mention here of Jesus' teachings.
* Gal 2:14 - Paul talks about the Jewish laws and the Gentiles - no mention of what Jesus had allegedly said on these very subjects.
See Earl Doherty's list of 200 silences in Paul for a detailed analysis of this problem -
(internal URL, pardon me :-)
The WAR, phase 1
* ~70CE - the Romans get fed up, the Temple is razed to the ground, Jerusalem is largely destroyed, many Jews killed or dispersed.
Stage two - early letters
THEN OTHER LETTERS began to appear (but before the Gospels arise) - these are either anonymous (Hebrews), forged in Paul's name, or forged in the
name of characters from Paul's letters. These early letters mostly date from between the wars, and are in the name of characters in Paul's letters -
modern scholars consider all of these letters pseudographs (i.e. not written by the person named as author.)
According to modern scholars, the Gospels were written approx. these dates :
* G.Mark : 65-80
* G.Matthew : 80-100
* G.Luke : 80-130
* G.John : 90-120
These dates are all deduced from internal evidence (such as references to the destruction of the Temple, relations with the Jews, use of special
terms.) What the external evidence shows is a little different - the Gospels do not become clearly known to Christians until early/mid 2nd century.
Some scholars (e.g. Herman Detering) argue that the Gospels should be dated to just after the SECOND part of the war - see the Journal of Higher
Criticism (not for newbies, top notch scholarly work here) :
Whatever the actual dates of the Gospels, I will argue from the documentary record and the dates generally agreed by consensus of scholars (if such
can be found.)
The WAR, phase 2
* 132-135CE - the Romans call up to 10 legions in to squash the widespread massive rebellion - the rest of Jerusalem is destroyed (some say the whole
city was reduced to knee-high rubble), the remaining outposts are wiped out (e.g. Masada), Judea is literally wiped from the map, and mostly from the
earth. Only AFTER all this destruction, after one or two cataclysms of war with the Romans, nearly a century after the alleged events - only then do
we see the Gospel stories become widely known in the Christian record.
Stage three - the Gospel appears
* the GOSPEL (of Mark) appears, anonymous (while perhaps written shortly after the first war, Christians writers only began to show knowledge of the
Gospels in early-mid 2nd century.)
G.Mark is a masterpiece of spiritual literature, synthesizing a grand new version of the heroic son-of-god story so well known to so many cultures
through Osiris, Dionysius, Attis, Adonis, Iasius but now cast into a Jewish milieu by melding key elements from the ancient Jewish writings. We know
how the religious impulse in humans just loves to find old books to mine for their cherished beliefs - so in those times the Jewish scriptures
represented a newly discovered, yet ancient deep and rich spiritual literature to peoples bored with crude Homer and jaded with Rome's silly
superstitions. Mark's story was set in the perfect heroic past - not long ago, just before the wars, yet cast in the epic ancient context of the
Jewish scriptures. Mark uses the figures mentioned in Paul as the actors in his story - Peter, John, James.
G.Mark is a work of literary genius, it creates entire speeches and characters and events from the whole cloth of the Jewish writings AS WELL as
elements of Paul's letters - he merges the classic pagan myth with the suffering servant and messianic figures and the Iesous Christos of Paul to
craft a new son-of-god who transcends the older figures by expressing the myth with a new sense of depth, by capturing many of the spiritual issues
and themes which were important to seekers of the day.
Furthermore, G.Mark is built from the warp of paganism and the weft of Judaism with clear structures of LITERATURE - we see literary structures called
chiasms (called after X in Greek) in the form : ABCDC'B'A', we see the classic challenge and response of pagan works, called chriea, amongst many
other examples of structure showing its a work of literature. G.Mark may also echo Homer by episodes in which Jesus mimics the actions of Odysseus but
is found to be superior in the climax (see Denis McDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.)
See Michael Turton's magnum opus on G.Mark for details about these literary structures :
G.Mark is a great work of literature - but note that it is not at all clear what the intended GENRE of the document really was in the unknown
author's mind. This is still a matter of considerable debate.
Stage four - OTHER Gospels appear,
the 2nd century battle for Spiritual vs Literal Jesus
After G.Mark other Gospels appeared - many (dozens) and varied - some later become our accepted four, some are gnostic works, and some are of even
other types and quality and authorship. Some are accepted as genuine before before later rejected for doctrinal reasons (e.g. the Gospel of Peter.)
Some counts of how many Gospels were produced in the early period run as high as 50.
During the formative period we see two totallly opposite poles of belief appear -
1 - the early gnostic and/or esoteric camp - who argue Iesous Christos was a spiritual being, or a phantom, or something not physical and historical
(Paul and Paul2, Basilides, Valentinus etc.)
2 - the later literalist who argue that Jesus was "truly" crucified under Pontius Pilate etc. as a historical event - starting with the suspect
letters of "Ignatius" probably around the time of Papias.
Fierce battles of dogma raged between the two camps over the 2nd century, critics disagreeing with even the core elements of the Christian stories
* 2 John, Polycarp, mention Christians who did not accept Jesus Christ came "in the flesh",
* Timothy warning against the fables of genealogies,
* Marcion denied Jesus was born of Mary,
* gnostics such as Basilides and Bardesanes claimed Jesus was a phantom or spritual being,
* the docetae argue Jesus was an illusion,
* Barnabas denies Christ was "son of David",
We also see a very odd case - church father Minucius Felix explicitly claims Christians do NOT worship a man crucified, ridiculing the whole thing
along with the idea that gods could become men. This appears to be a Christian who has heard of the Gospels stories and is EXPLICITLY DENYING they are
Christian beliefs. A church father explicitly denying the Gospel stories !
His writing is as clear as mud to a blind man with his eyes closed at midnight during an eclipse, probably why it escaped the church censors :
Felix : "he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the
cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men ... when you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross you
wander far from the truth", and also: "Men who have died cannot become gods, because a god cannot die; nor can men who are born (become gods) ...
Why, I pray, are gods not born today, if such have ever been born?"
We also see examples of 2nd century Christian writers who discuss Christian beliefs at length but conspicuously FAIL to mention Jesus, as mentioned
* Mathetes to Diognetus
* Tatian wrote Address to the Greeks
* Athenagoras of Athens
* Theophilus (of Antioch)
Such examples are clear and present evidence of 2nd century Christians who do NOT believe the Gospel stories are part of their beliefs, either because
they think them new and spurious, or perhaps because they had not even heard the Gospels yet.
Stage five - Literalists win the battle
By late 2nd century the battle is all over bar the shouting -
* the Gospels are chosen and named,
* the hierarchy is formed, the literal Gospel Jesus is dogma,
* the Gnostic and esoteric writers are consigned to the flames,
* the shouting continues for a couple of centuries - Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, Augustine...
The clear pattern to be seen from this chronology is that the original Jesus was a spiritual figure, and the historical Jesus was a later belief that
developed after the war(s), when everybody was dead and Jerusalem was in ashes.
The evidence of the 2nd century batttles of dogma emphasizes this - even then there were sceptics and critics who denied that Jesus and his actions
were physical and historical.
Early refutations of Christianity
We can see how Christianity was received in the early days by how it was described, such as :
"fables" "lie" "myths" "superstition" "empty rumour"
"alter the originals over and over" "invented"
"base and ignorant creed making fishermen"
"blasphemy" "spurious" "counterfeit" "contradicts"
"refuted because they disagree"
This is not the sign of a new truth being accepted - it is obviously the EXACT OPPOSITE - a wacky new cult, initially mostly ignored, sometimes
ridiculed and rejected with dismissive comments.
Jewish responses to Christianity
The Jewish response is just what we would expect of a wacky new cult - initially they ignore it. But late in the 1st century, as more Jews leave for
Christianity, the Jews formally BAN the Christians from their synagogues and curse them as "minim". And lets not forget the Gospels arose sometime
after the war, the Jews had a LOT more to worry about than refuting some a new cult.
Later, of course, when Christianity is rising to power, and the Jews have recovered from the Roman destructions, they DO try to discredit Jesus with
all sorts of horrible stories being told -
* Jesus is a bastard (a mamzer) born from Mary's adultery with a Roman soldier,
* Jesus is a child conceived in the "time of separation" (during menstruation),
* Jesus was a evil magician who tried to lead people astray,
This is not the sign of the Jews unable to refute Christianity - on the contrary - it's the sign of a new cult which is at first ignored, then
ridiculed and attacked when it starts to become a threat.
Variant Christian views
In the formative period of Christianity, the 2nd century, we see all sorts of disagreement about specific Christian claims :
The epistles of John mention other Christians who do not believe in a son of God, and attack Christians who do not believe Jesus came in the flesh.
The epistle of Polycarp also describes those who do not accept that Jesus came in the flesh.
Consider the astonishing case of Minucius Felix - he explicitly rejected the worship of a man on a cross as a Christian belief, he explicitly
denied that God could become man. That's a 2nd century church father who explicitly rejected the incarnation and the crucifixion - 2 central beliefs
Many other disagreements are expressed in the 2nd century :
* Timothy warning against the fables of genealogies,
* Marcion denied Jesus was born of Mary,
* gnostics such as Basilides and Bardesanes claimed Jesus was a phantom or spiritual being,
* the docetae argue Jesus was an illusion,
* Barnabas denies Christ was "son of David",
* forged letters warning about forgeries and "other christs"
We also see examples of 2nd century Christian writers who discuss Christian beliefs at length but conspicuously FAIL to mention Jesus
* Mathetes to Diognetus - responded to 'close and careful inquiries' and preaches in Neo-Platonic tones of the Logos, his Son, but no time, place,
or identity for this incarnation are provided. The name Jesus never appears.
* Tatian wrote Address to the Greeks - Esoteric Christianity at its finest - neither Christ nor Jesus not Son is mentioned anywhere - the Logos is the
emphasis. In Ch.21, Tatian compared Christianity with pagan mythology and wrote: "Compare you own stories with our narratives. Take a look at your
own records and accept us merely on the grounds that we too tell stories".
* Athenagoras of Athens wrote a detailed esoteric Christian treatise On The Resurrection Of The Dead arguing that resurrection is possible (in a
non-fleshly body), but without once mentioning the resurrection of Jesus, or even using the words Jesus or Christ ! He also composed In Defense of the
Christians - no Jesus nor Christ is mentioned, but the Logos is directly equated with the Son of God.
* Theophilus (of Antioch) wrote To Autolycus which does NOT mention Christ, nor Jesus.
In short - the 2nd century is full of refutations and rebuttals as the varying Christian sub-sects argued about what was "really true" about
This is not the sign of a historical event which was not refuted - its a clear sign of the exact opposite - religious mythology being argued over.
Pagan responses to Christianity
Initially, the new cult is largely ignored, but ridiculed by a few writers -
* Tacitus - "a class hated for their abominations", "a most mischievous superstition"
* Pliny - "this mad sect"
* Lucian - "misguided creatures"
This is not the sign of a grand new truth being accepted - it is the sign of a wacky new cult which barely rated a dismissive mention at first.
Later on, when Christianity and the Gospels first rose to prominence, they DID receive detailed rebuttals.
Celsus specifically attacked the Gospels as "fiction" based on myths, and he claimed the Gospels were changed over and over to deflect criticism.
Hoffman's reconstruction has quotes such as these :
"Clearly the Christians have used...myths... in fabricating the story of Jesus' birth...It is clear to me that the writings of the Christians are
a lie and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction"
Celsus' attack was so damaging to the church, that they attempted to erase it from history, we only have quotes of it because of angry Christians who
answered his critique.
This is not the sign of external agreement on Christian claims - it is demonstrably the exact opposite - a specific attack that the Gospels were
FICTION, an attack so damaging the church tried to burn every copy of it.
A few generations later, as the church is consolidating its power, a pagan historian Porphyry wrote another critique of Christian beliefs "Against
the Christians", including such criticism such as :
"The evangelists were fiction writers-- not observers or eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. Each of the four contradicts the other in writing his
account of the events of his suffering and crucifixion"
"Anyone will recognize that the [gospels] are really fairy tales if he takes the time to read further into this nonsense of a story..."
"Another section in the gospel deserves comment, for it is likewise devoid Of sense and full of implausibility; I mean that absurd story about
Jesus sending his apostles across the sea ahead of him after a banquet, then walking across to them 'at the fourth watch of the night'...Those who
know the region well tell us that, in fact, there is no 'sea' in the locality but only a tiny lake which springs from a river that flows through the
hills of Galilee near Tiberias... Mark seems to be stretching a point to extremities when he writes that Jesus-- after nine hours had passed-- decided
in the tenth to walk across to his disciples who had been floating about on the pond for the duration... It is fables like this one that we judge the
gospel to be a cleverly woven curtain, each thread of which requires careful scrutiny"
Then, just as Christianity had come to be the state religion, the Roman emperor Julian rejected the faith and wrote his own refutation of
Christianity, "Against the Galileans", including comments such as :
".. why do you worship this spurious son of his whom has never been recognised as his own", and "You however, I know not why, foist on him a
Note this telling criticism of Julian, the educated Roman emperor :
"But if you can show me that one of these men is mentioned by the well-known writers of that time - the events happened in the reign of Tiberius
or Claudius - then you may consider that I speak falsely on all matters"
Here we see Julian explicitly state that Jesus is UNKNOWN TO HISTORY.
There is no doubt from this that early Christianity was dismissed as a cult based on lies and myths.