Shocking as it may seem to the general populace, the most enduring and profound controversy in the subject of Christianity is whether or not a person named Jesus Christ ever really existed!
I pull no punches, beating the adversary to a bloody pulp, and quite obviously deriving great pleasure from the pummeling I dole out. What follows, this war of words, it seems, is a battle the author takes most seriously in her righteous quest to undo 2000 years of mental slavery inflicted upon humankind by the same sort of manipulators that have given us such popular mythologies as the Gulf War, Barbie and the Marlboro Man.
From the beginning of the Christian era there have been in each generation many persons who refused to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and many others who, after being educated in that belief, rejected it in maturer years. Perhaps some of these doubted or disbelieved the whole story; but the question of actuality was not, formerly, a subject of discussion in pulpit and in print.
Napoleon I, in his conversations with Wieland, expressed his disbelief in the historical existence of Christ; but that declaration seems to have made but little impression upon his hearer, and was, apparently received without comment by later readers of the statement, Napoleon not being considered an authority in such matters, although his logical faculty and mathematical genius were indisputable.
At present this question is vital and imperative. It lies at the basis of the whole structure of Biblical criticism, and the answer lurks between the lines in all the reports of modern investigation.
My own doubts were first awakened as far back as the year 1875, being the result of studies in a department of Christian doctrine having no connection with dogmas concerning the identity of Christ. At that time I did not know that his “historical existence” had been denied, although I had already, after a painful mental conflict, given up my early belief in the Trinitarian creed. Those persons who have not always regarded Christ as a mere man cannot imagine the shock experienced by a believer in his divinity when that faith gives way. Few have believed so firmly and entirely as I; not many, I trust, have suffered so intensely in renouncing that belief; and it is because I have found joy and peace in disbelieving, that I mention my personal experience in the hope of making the way easier for other souls tormented by doubt and goaded by the compelling power of Truth to be honest with themselves even at the sacrifice of what were once vital convictions, but which, through wider knowledge, have lost their meaning and influence.
Belief in Jesus, when analyzed, proves to be largely sentimental, and differs in kind and degree with the disposition of the individual….
The idea of a connecting link between Divinity and Man – a mediator – is common to all primitive cults, as is also the idea of a third Influence, a pervading Spirit, acting in harmony with the other two sources of Eternal Being. The whole idea is the conception of an age when the Universe was supposed to be governed by a God, or by gods, capable of being propitiated by sacrifices and moved by prayers; consequently it no longer applies to an age which has discovered that the Universe is governed by immutable law.
Among the ancient Egyptians the Sun, the earth fructified by the sun, and the young, rising sun, constituted the Divine Family, as represented by Osiris, Isis and Horus.
Osiris, the sun, disappearing every night and paling every winter, is raised every morning and every spring as Horus, who is at once the Son of God and God himself. Krishna among the East Indians; Bel among the Babylonians; Adonis, Hercules, Bacchus, among the Greeks, illustrate in like manner the changes of the seasons and personify the sovereignty of the Sun.
The same idea, that of a divine Son, born of the union of the Sun and the Earth, God and a woman, runs through all the myths which have gradually been evolved out of the spiritual questionings of man.
The idea of a suffering God atoning by his death for the sins of men, descending into the abodes of darkness and rising again to bring life and immortality to light, is found in the oldest records of the human race in every part of the world. It is originally in all cases a personification of the Sun…
Extinct races show the cross upon the ruins of their temples: the Virgin Mother and the Divine Child sanctified the worship of primitive Peru; and in Siam, ages before the Christian era, the Son of God was incarnated for the salvation of mankind…
The Hebrews, after many experiments with the cults of neighboring nations and victorious enemies, developed finally a strict monotheistic religion, to which they have ever since adhered.
The Hebrew Scriptures which form the basis of the Jewish and Christian faiths have been proved to be a mass of mingled history and fable, largely borrowed from the records of older nations, and showing no evidence of superhuman wisdom in the varied concepts.
Christ and the Gospels
There is no mention of Jesus in contemporary literature, either Jewish or Pagan. Authentic history is absolutely silent as to such a personality. The only record of his supposed life on earth is found in the Gospels of the New Testament, in certain epistles ascribed to Paul, in certain statements by the earliest “Fathers” of the Christian church, in certain legends contained in the miscellaneous portions of the Jewish Talmud, and in a very few allusions by Pagan writers. But not one of these sources is contemporary with the career of Jesus….
Christians are taught that the four Gospels were written by the four disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, whereas those compositions were not known to the early Christians nearly two hundred years after the supposed events which they record.
If those disciples ever really existed they were certainly not alive at that time, and there is no proof that they left any writings….
Recent discoveries seem to confirm the suggestion that nascent Christianity took is rise from the ferment of Oriental and Grecian ideas then beginning to be mingled with Jewish beliefs through the rapidly increasing intercourse between the far East and the shores of the Mediterranean, the intellectual impulse of which movement centered at Alexandria and spread as far as Rome….
Doctrine of Divine Paternity
Every year, at Christmas, this fable [of Immaculate Conception] is dinned into the ears of the Christian world…
But, nowadays, both clergy and laity must know that the same distinction has been claimed for many persons, mythical and real; that the oldest religions are based upon exactly such an origin; that the deified founders of Oriental faiths were begotten by a god and conceived by a virgin …
Other Virgin-Born Saviors
Although there were so many examples of supernatural birth to serve as a pattern for the fable of Jesus, still various circumstances in the story of his life seem to suggest particular instances as the chief sources of the imaginary details.
These instances are Krishna, Mithra, and Buddha….
The Magi belong to the story of Mithra, a deity of the ancient Persians, originally a personification of the sun.
He was said to have been born of a virgin in a cave, on the twenty-fifth of December, an allegorical representation of the emergence of the sun from the darkness of the winter solstice. At the period of the composition of the Gospels the cult of Mithra was familiar to the Western nations, and had long been established in Rome.
The Roman catacombs contained a picture of the Virgin seated holding the infant Mithra on her lap, and before them three men in Persian dress are kneeling and offering gifts.
The Massacre of the Innocents is taken from the story of Krishna, the favorite deity of India, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, and also a personification of the sun….
The introduction of the shepherds by Luke is also a reminiscence of Krishna. Immediately after Devaki, the sacred mother, had given birth to Krishna, her husband, Vasudeva, carried away the infant to a friendly shepherd named Nanda, whose wife, Yacoda, had just been delivered of a daughter, and the children were exchanged. Nanda and his wife were at that time in a village near Madura, whither they had gone to pay their taxes…
Vasudeva, on his way to them with the newborn Krishna, was obliged to cross a deep river, but the water was miraculously restrained so that it did not reach above his ankles, a legend which suggests the story of St. Christopher [“Christ-bearer”] carrying the Christ-child through the flood. The errand of Nanda and his wife serves to explain Luke’s assertion respecting the object of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, which is contradicted by historical fact….
Nanda and his wife carried the infant Krishna home with them, and he grew up among the shepherds. Luke’s account of the appearance to the shepherds of the angel and the heavenly host with their rapturous hymns of praise is also a reminiscence of Krishna, at whose birth there was great joy in heaven; flowers were thrown down to earth, and celestial music greeted the Incarnated One….
The character of these stories shows that they were older than the Christ-myth, and of native origin, whereas the Christian version betrays foreign and anachronistic features at every point….
The choice of the Redeemer’s birth-place can be traced to the same source. Luke mentions a stable as the refuge of the Virgin, and manger as the cradle of the new-born infant. There are pictures of Krishna lying in a manger surrounded by shepherds and shepherdesses, oxen and asses. But other early writers, including several of the Fathers, decided upon a cave as the true place, a decision exactly in accordance with the legend of Mithra, of a virgin, in a cave, on the 25th of December, symbolizing the renewed birth of the sun after the winter solstice….
The mythical stories concerning Buddha resemble those relating to Krishna; indeed, there is a family likeness in the presiding deities of all races and all times, and those personifications go back to the Sun – ALL OF THEM!
Buddha’s mother was a virgin; Buddha was begotten through the power of the Highest; heaven and earth rejoiced at his birth and recognized in him the long-desired Savior. The wealth of Oriental imagination is lavished upon descriptions of the celestial joy which heralded that marvelous event and the terrestrial prosperity which accompanied the arrival of the Redeemer of the World….
Soon after Buddha’s birth the wisest and best men of the city went in a body to the king and proposed that the Infant should be carried to the Temple of the Gods in token gratitude for the blessing bestowed. The king accepted the suggestion; the city was adorned for a festival; crowds joined the procession; music filled the air; flowers fell from the sky; one hundred thousand deities drew the vehicles which carried the Divine Child; an earthquake announced the arrival at the Temple; the shower of blossoms was renewed; the images of the gods, even those of Indra and Brahma, descended from their places and hastened to welcome the Long-desired, and the magnificent ceremony ended with a hymn from the gods in praise of Buddha….
The story of the Temptation, which, taken as an actual occurrence, is full of impossibilities and absurdities, might be regarded as an allegory, descriptive of the trials which the new sect had to undergo in its opposition to the practices of the world; but there is a probable way of accounting for this fable by comparing its details with those of similar trials and similar victories in the experiences of Zarathustra and of Buddha.
In both of these cases the devil appeared in person and offered the pleasures of sense and the gratification of all forms of ambition as the price of recognition of his sovereignty; in both cases he was repelled and finally banished by quotations from Holy Writ; in both cases the conquerors were afterwards refreshed and comforted through the ministry of angels….
Precocity, Prophecy, Celestial Rejoicing, Etc.
The story of Jesus being missed by his parents, who, after seeking, found him in the Temple sitting among the doctors and discussing with them has its parallel in a legend of Buddha, according to which he was one day lost in a forest, and being sought for by his father the king and a company of courtiers as found sitting under a tree surrounded by Rishis (the saints and angels of the Indian heaven), who had descended from the sky to sing his praises….
All such leaders are said to have been noted in childhood for their precocity. Buddha taught the gods wisdom while still in his mother’s womb; as soon as he was born he set his feet towards the four corners of the earth to show that his mission was to all the world; in school he confounded his teachers by his universal knowledge, and as a man he excelled all his contemporaries in physical accomplishments and intellectual acquirements….
The Beatitude are, in their sentiments, a condensation of the wisdom of Oriental thinking and Grecian philosophers and Roman moralists; in their language they are almost word for word an echo of Buddha’s message when he announced himself as the savior of men. While Buddha was living in and near the city Radschagriha, his favorite resort was a neighboring mountain…which, on account of his sermon upon the seven conditions of salvation, was called “The Mount of the Seven Beatitudes.”…
Many Parallel Legends…
The Transfiguration finds a parallel in the light which streamed from Buddha’s body as he lay dying under a tree…
But a still more striking similarity is found in the Transfiguration of Krishna before his beloved disciple Arjuna [John], as related in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The Gospel of Buddha contains the story of a Prodigal Son…
The story of the Woman of Samaria finds a striking parallel in a Buddha legend….
Among the Krishna legends is one which tells of two sorrowful women of the lowest caste, virtuous, indeed, but poor and despised, who, in spite of opposition and reproof, succeeded in reaching the presence of Krishna, and anointed his head with fragrant ointment…
Not only in a number of striking incidents is the connection between the legends of Buddha and Jesus demonstrated, but the similarity extends to the smallest particulars throughout the whole narrative. Situations, discourses, cures, advice, parables, figures of speech, even forms of expression, are so like as to imply copy and not coincidence….
It is not and cannot now be known who wrote any of these [gospel] books; the Apostles are not historical characters to begin with, and they certainly were not the authors of the compilations which are called by their names, and which bear evidence of having been written at a much later period than the lifetime of persons contemporary with the supposed career of Jesus….
Myth, Forgery and Human Credulity
Not only the Gospels, but also the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, were written long after the supposed occurrence of the events described….
But, it will be asked, how could such a fable obtain credence and become the foundation of a sect of believers so firm in the faith that they could endure persecution and welcome martyrdom in its defense?
To this it may be answered that, as history shows, there is no limit to human credulity; also, it is evident that the fable was of gradual growth…..
The Sacrament of the Eucharist
The Lord’s Supper…is the most binding ceremony of every Christian community. It is believed to have been instituted by Christ himself as an emblem of his broken body and shed blood, and is everywhere received by the faithful with reverent gratitude and solemn awe….
A wider survey reveals the fact that the sacrament of the Eucharist, as developed in the early church and handed down through the ages, is a repetition of similar ceremonies of earlier origin among ancient peoples, containing in each case the idea of death to sin and resurrection to righteousness through a celebration of the emblems of the awakening of nature to new life under the increasing force of the sun’s rays in spring. Bread and wine were the naturally-suggested emblems chosen for the rite.
The Greeks celebrated the mysteries of Ceres and Bacchus as bestowers and protectors of grain and grapes; the Aztecs partook with solemnity of a sacred perforated cake, and, most similar of all to the “Holy Communion” of the Christians, was the Haoma sacrifice of the Persians, a resemblance so striking as to draw from the early fathers of the church the complaint that the Devil had played a trick upon Christ in teaching the Parsis to caricature the Eucharist in their Soma sacrifice….
Christ Unknown to His Contemporaries
If such a man as the New Testament represents Jesus to have been had really lived and labored at the stated times and places there would have been some trace of his existence among the records of his contemporaries. An insignificant brawler could not have aroused the animosity of the Jewish Sanhedrin to the extent of demanding his crucifixion, and the illegal condemnation and execution of a celebrated teacher could not have taken place without protest from honorable citizens and without notice or comment in the history of the time. Yet in the whole range of Jewish and Pagan literature of that period there is not a word, not an allusion which applies to the person of Jesus or to the events which are said to have happened on his account….
Thus we have the formation of the fictitious character of Jesus Christ as the chief divinities of the ancient Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Roman nations; the Logos of the early Greek philosophers, and the Ideal of contemporary scholars….
The legends of Krishna and Buddha furnished the material for the miraculous conception and birth of the Redeemer; the maxims of all the great reformers are combined in his moral code; the career of the Sun, which from the beginning has risen upon the evil and the good, is demonstrated in that otherwise inexplicable sacrifice upon the cross, with its impossible sequel of resurrection and ascension.
What Is There Left?
For a long time previous to the beginning of the Christian era there had been regular and frequent intercourse between Eastern nations and the Roman empire. The religion of Persia had established its altars in Rome, and the religion of Buddha…was represented in city and province by learned and cultivated priests whose influence was felt by high and low among the people. And Brahmans came also, with their wealth of legends, and especially their story of God Krishna, whose name suggested the Greek epithet for the Anointed One [Christos], while his benevolent deeds and wise teachings answered to the moral standards of the philosophers; in short, all forms of human attempts to discover the Unknowable were concentrated in this latest, and probably last, development of anthropomorphic religion….
Just as the Brahmans represented their god Krishna as a crucified man with a wreath of sunbeams around his head, just as the ancient Assyrians represented their sun god Baal as a man surrounded by an aureole, and with outstretched arms, thus forming a perfect cross, so the Romans reverenced a crucified incarnation of the god Sol, and many ancient Italian pictures of Jesus as a crucified Savior bear the inscription “Deo Soli,” which may mean “To the only God,” or “To the God Sol.”
It is possible that some obscure man, “some Jewish peasant with a genius for religions” (as many “liberal” Christians nowadays are fond of saying), sat for the portrait of the idealized and deified Jesus; but it is not likely, because if he had been so insignificant as not to be distinguishable by the history of that time he could not have challenged the revenge of the Jewish theocracy and the severity of the Roman imperial power; whereas, if he had been of so much importance as to create so great a ferment he would have been known to history….
And, when we take away from this Person (as must be taken away) his supernatural birth, his superhuman powers, his borrowed teachings, his unlawful execution, his impossible resurrection and ascension – what is there left? …
The Christ Myth, a Study by Elizabeth Evans [1832 – 1911], New York: The Truth Seeker Company ( found via http://www.truthbeknown.com ). Elizabeth Edson Gibson Evans 1832-1911: Daughter of Dr. Willard Putnam Gibson and Lucia Field Williams. Married to Edward Payson Evans, 1868. Contributor to Atlantic Monthly, North American Review, Nation, etc. Author of 9 books, including: A History of Religions, 1892; The Christ Myth (her last book), 1900.