Critical Podium Dewanand Christianity
Jesus as Synthetic Product
Sacrifice code wfor0411
Sacrifice date 25 march 2009
Jesus as Synthetic Product
Many scholars in the moderns West have noted that the entire paraphernalia
- virgin birth, baptism by water, miracles, parables, anointing, twelve
apostles, trial, last supper, betrayal passion, execution, resurrection,
ascension - with which Jesus is equipped in the gospels can be traced
back to magic rites, mystery cults, mythologies, religions, and philosophies
prevailing in this or that country in the ancient world since long before
Jesus is supposed to have been born. And they have concluded that Jesus
was a myth manufactured by the early evangelists in order to serve the
superstitious inclinations of various communities in the Roman empire.
Some weight is lent to this proposition by the weak welding which holds
together the different components of the Jesus cult. It seems that the
men who crafted the myth were neither precise in their design nor skilful
enough to endow the finished product with a semblance of reality.
Volney of France was perhaps the first to propound in the eighteenth
century that "Jesus was a solar myth derived from Krishna" of
Hindu mythology.36 He was followed by Ernest Renan, the famous Catholic
theologian from France, who pointed out Buddhist parallels in the parables
of Jesus in his Life of Jesus published in 1863. In 1883, Max Muller noted
"startling coincidences between Buddhism and Christianity in his
India: What it can teach us, published from England. He wondered about
the channels through which Buddhist lore could have travelled to the Mediterranean
world, but at the same time he drew attention to the fact that "Buddhism
existed at least four hundred years before Christianity".37 Another
French theologian, Ernest Havet, did the same in his study of primitive
Christianity published in 1884. A stronger case along the same lines was
made by Rudolf Seydel, Professor in the University of Leipzig (Germany),
whose first book, The Gospel of Jesus in relation to the Buddha Legend,
published in 1882, was followed by a more elaborate one, The Buddha Legend
and the Life of Jesus, published in 1897.38 Finally, J.M. Robertson, a
British scholar and a Member of Parliament, revived the Volney thesis
in 1900 by stating in his Christianity and Mythology that "the Christ-Myth
is merely a form of the Krishna-Myth".39 Many more books on the myth
of Jesus have come out since then, and we have yet to see the end of similar
literature. I give below brief descriptions of the few books which I have
read or references to which I have noticed.
1.. 1903, G. R. S. Meade, Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?, London, 1903
"The author compares the Christian tradition with the Jewish, and
finds in the latter a reminiscence of a Jesus who lived in the time of
Alexander Jannaeus (104-76 B.C.). This person was transferred by the earliest
evangelists to the later period, the attempt being facilitated by the
fact that during the procuratorship of Pilate a false prophet had attracted
some attention."40 Josephus, the historian of the Jews, had written
that Alexander Jannaeus used to crucify Jews. G.A. Wells observes, "Jannaeus'
crucifixion of eight hundred Pharisees left a particularly strong impression
on the Jewish world...In this connection it is of interest that the dating
of Jesus as a heretic who was put to death for misleading people about
100 BC, under Jannaeus, is 'one of the most persistent elements of the
Jewish tradition concerning Jesus' and 'goes back to the floating mass
of tradition' from which the Talmud drew. Mead allows that this dating
may have originated as a result of controversy between orthodox Jews and
Christians of Pauline type whose Christianity comprised a 'minimum of
history and a maximum of opposition to Jewish legalism'."41
2.. 1903, J.M. Robertson, Pagan Christs, London, 1903.
"Robertson's most distinctive thesis is that the Gospel story of
the Last Supper, the Agony, the Betrayal, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection
was a mystery play which came to be accepted as an account of real happenings.
The origin of this ritual drama is an ancient Palestinian rite in which
an annual victim known as 'Jesus (Joshua) the Son of the Father' was actually
3.. 1912, William Benjamin Smith, Ecce Deus: Studies
of Primitive Christianity, London, 1912.
"In the development of the drama of salvation there were many mythologic
elements that lay at hand, not a few venerable in their antiquity, descended
from Nippur and Babylon, from the Tigris and the Euphrates, and possibly
from the Indus and the Ganges. It would be strange if these had not suggested
or shaped or coloured some of the incidents and delineations and even
thought-elements elaborated in the Gospels, in the New Testament, in early
Christian literature, faith and worship."43 What was needed was a
cult round which these components could cluster. "There must have
been a pre-Christian cult of a pre-Christian divinity. This hypothesis
is absolutely unavoidable. It meets you full in the face whatever way
you turn. Moreover, it is overwhelmingly attested by the New Testament
itself which clearly shows that the cult was esoteric long before it became
4.. 1944, W.L. Knox, Some Hellenistic Elements in Primitive
Christianity, London, 1944.
The author sees the birth of Christianity in the decline of communal
or national and the rise of personal religion in the Graeco-Roman world.
"Knox notes that the same idea can be found in the pagan mystery
cults of the period; and he infers that the concern of both Christian
and pagan cults with personal religion was leading in the theology which
explained them, to the independent development of such metaphors."45
5.. 1948, H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, Chicago, 1948.
6.. 1951, H. Frankfort, The Problem of Similarity in Ancient Near Eastern
Religions, Oxford, 1951.
The author was Director of the Warburg Institute. His thesis was that
in hot climates the withering and blooming of Nature in quick succession
created the idea of gods who died and rose again. This idea lost its connection
with Nature when transplanted among impoverished urban populations, and
gave rise to a religion of resurrection.46
7.. 1953, Sir H. Idris Bell, Cults and Creeds in the Graeco-Roman Egypt,
Liverpool, 1948 Reader in Papyrology in the University of Oxford, this
author repeated the thesis of W. L. Knox but emphasized that the cults
prevalent in ancient Egypt provided the central substance to the Jesus
8.. 1955, B.M. Metzger, 'Mystery Religions and Early Christianity',
in the Harvard Theological Review, 49, 1955
This Professor of New Testament at the Princeton University observed
that "in the East three days constitute a temporary habitation, while
the fourth day implies a permanent residence" and inferred that Paul's
formula may be to "convey the assurance that Jesus would be but a
visitor in the house of the dead but not in permanent resident therein".47
He saw in the Christian eucharist a parallel with initiation in Mithraism.
9.. 1958, Rev. E.O. James, Myth and Ritual in the Ancient Near East,
In the opinion of this Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion
in the University of London, the ancient Middle East abounded in gods
like Osiris and Tammuz who had been on earth to suffer, die and rise again.
This provides "an intelligible origin of religious ideas which are
otherwise hard to explain".48
10.. 1958, S. G. F. Brandon, 'The Myth and Ritual Position', in Myth,
Ritual and Kingship edited by S.H. Hooker, Oxford, 1958.
The author was a Professor of Comparative Religion in the University
of Manchester and wrote several remarkable books on the subject of Jesus
Christ. He saw in Christianity concepts which were alien to the Jewish
religion but akin to the cult of Osiris in ancient Egypt, and concluded
that Osiris "the vegetation god par excellence of Egypt" became
"the Saviour to whom men and women turned for assurance of immortality".
He also pointed out that the Christian baptismal ritual was patterned
after the Osirian ritual.49
11.. 1963, A.E. Jensen, Myth and Culture Among Primitive Peoples, Chicago
and London, 1963.
This Professor of Anthropology in the University of Frankfurt (Germany)
saw the origin of the Christian eucharist in primitive cannibalism.
12.. 1963, S. G. F.Brandon (ed.), The Saviour God, Manchester, 1963.
This book carried articles by Professor Brandon and Professor M. Simon,
Professor of History of Religion in Strasburg University. Professor Simon
saw in the story of Jesus a parallel to the story of William Tell who
never existed but who was nevertheless regarded by many as a historical
person. The two professors together developed further Brandon's recurring
idea that Jesus was invented after the pattern of ancient saviour gods.
13.. 1965, R.H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology,
The author, a Professor of New Testament in the University of Evanston,
Illinois, USA, rejects the contention that the pagan cults of saviour
gods rose only in second and third centuries of the Christian era. He
argues that "this attractive suggestion 'does not quite fit the facts',
since mystery cults were active in the very areas missionized by first
century Christians: Antioch was in close contiguity with the Adonis cult,
Ephesus with the Cybele and Attis cult, Corinth with the Elusinian mysteries".50
14.. 1970, John Allegro, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, London,
This specialist in Oriental Studies in the University of Manchester "argues
in all seriousness that Christianity began as a secret cult of the sacred
mushroom, and that the name 'Jesus' was a code-word for this".51
15.. 1979, James P. Mackey, Jesus the Man and the Myth, London, 1979.
He is a Professor of Theology in the University of Edinburgh, England,
and assumes airs of superiority to the rest of the tribe which is busy
with Jesus. But he concedes: "Palestinian Jews sometimes envisaged
a better future in messianic terms... Hellenistic Jews, the Jews who had
gone abroad into an empire which was Greek in culture...had naturally
less interest in messianic or apocalyptic hopes, so they favoured more
titles such as Lord, a title which could be conferred on anyone from a
freeman, through a Roman Emperor, to a divine saviour of one of the mystery
religions, and which was often used in Greek translation of Jewish scriptures
for Yahweh himself. Hellenistic Jews would also be familiarized by the
Greek scriptures....with the personification of Wisdom as a kind of intermediary
between God and this world. Philo, a part contemporary of Jesus, and a
very philosophical Jew of Alexandria, had personified the Word or Logos
of God and even referred to it as the elder son of God. Finally, in purely
Graeco-Roman cultural circles, the conventions of emperor worship...had
some of these emperors proclaimed Lords, Gods, Sons of God (if only by
apotheosis after death) and Saviours, the gospels or good news of whose
coming were heralded by annunciations. There was more, much more; but
this gives some idea of the variety of titles which lay ready to hand
for preachers of Jesus as they spread out from Palestine to convert the
known world to his cause."52
16.. 1984, Michael Arnheim, Is Christianity True?, London,
The author raises a question: "If Jesus was not the Messiah, what
was he? Even his claims to being a great teacher, prophet and ideal human
being will not stand up to scrutiny, as we have discovered in the previous
chapter. What then is left?" His answer is: "Jesus clearly was
the leader of some sort of religious group within Judaism, though how
big it was is hard to say. It certainly was by no means the only group
of its kind, that of John the Baptist being another. That Jesus himself
claimed to be the Messiah is more than likely. But in this regard too
he was not exceptional: there was no shortage of Messianic claimants at
the time, and the Baptist may possibly have been one too..."53 And
he concludes, "Why then did Christianity become a new and separate
religion? Precisely because the bulk of the Jews were not persuaded of
the truth of the claims made for Jesus...Why then were these claims so
much more attractive and acceptable to pagan non-Jews? Because pagan religions
were not concerned with historical truth and it was in any case a matter
of indifference to non-Jews whether Jesus (or anyone else, for that matter)
was or was not the Jewish Messiah. What is more, the polytheistic pagan
mind did not see the concepts of 'man' and 'god' as separated by the same
great and unbridgeable chasm as appeared from the strictly Jewish vantage
point. The way was now open for the development of a number of totally
un-Jewish and frankly pagan features in Christianity...One distinguishing
feature of the new religion which may seem difficult to trace back to
polytheistic paganism is Christianity's extreme intolerance...."54
The Jesus of Christian theology had continued to spread terror for several
centuries. It was quite a relief when critical history abolished him,
and emancipated his victims. The Jesus of Fiction proved quite entertaining.
People in the modern West have become too fascinated by this human Jesus
to care for frowns from the churches and the missions.
36.. Hector Hawton, in his Introduction to a reprint of Pagan Christs
by J.M. Roberston, New York, 1966, p.5.
37.. Albert Schweitzer, op. cit., p.290.
38.. Ibid., p.290 fn.
39.. Ibid., p.290-91fn.
40.. Ibid., p. 327.
41.. G.A. Wells, op. cit., pp. 198-99.
42.. Hector Hawton, op. cit., p. 5.
43.. William Benjamin Smith, op.cit., p. 66.
44.. Ibid., pp. 74-75.
45.. G.A. Wells, op. cit., p. 181.
46.. Ibid., pp. 180-81.
47.. Ibid., p.31.
48.. Ibid., p. 178.
49.. Ibid., pp. 181 and 184.
50.. Ibid., pp. 182-83.
51.. Ian Wilson, op.cit., p.46.
52.. James P. Mockey, op. cit., pp. 197-98
53.. Michael Arnheim, op. cit., pp. 154-55.
54.. Ibid., pp. 164-55.
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