September 16, 2007
Even though I was never really a Christian (although I looked into it seriously for a year or so), I had always assumed that Jesus was, most likely, a real person. There’s a common argument1 which goes something like this:
“Either Jesus was crazy, or what he said must have been true. There’s no evidence he was crazy, therefore he must be the son of God”. Sure, there are plenty of other responses to this argument, but I think the two simplest ones are:
- Jesus was misquoted, or misconstrued
- Jesus never actually existed
I still maintain that if Jesus did actually exist, he would be quite unhappy about how his teachings have been butchered and interpreted today. So in some sense, I still believe the first option is quite likely. I had not, however (until recently) actually seriously considered the possibility that Jesus didn’t actually exist.
The bible talks about people we know existed, right? Various Kings and so forth? So, it’s fair to assume that Jesus also existed? Given that Jesus is such a central part of the Christian mythology, Christianity would fall if it could be demonstrated that Jesus was simply a myth, right (please, correct me if I’m wrong)? Well, this might just be true!
I first came across these two YouTube videos2 a while back, and it made me realise that, if true, it would be an amazing coincidence if he actually existed (of course, perhaps that was God’s plan to make Jesus even more difficult to believe, thus requiring more faith). Dionysus (one of the figures discussed in the videos) was supposedly born of a virgin, fathered by the king of heaven, turned water into wine, died and resurrected. Sound familiar? There are, apparently, many other mythical figures who have extraordinarily similar stories – all of which predate Jesus.
There seem to be many others out there who claim similar things, and while there is some criticism of some of these claims, there are, undoubtedly some parts of the Jesus story which were “borrowed” from earlier myths.
I plan to investigate this further, as I don’t believe it’s quite as clear as is suggested, but I wonder – how much of Jesus’ life has to be true for Christianity to remain?
- I think it might have originally been by C. S. Lewis, although I could be wrong [↩]
- Both videos are short clips from Zeitgeist – The Movie, available in its entirety via BitTorrent (legally!), streamed via Google Video, or for order on DVD [↩]