Why the Christ Myth Theory Is Problematic

Updated on April 4, 2019
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Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

He changed the world once, and even now he remains an influential figure in the modern world.

He was the son of a Jewish carpenter and said to be born of a virgin mother. The man they called Jesus, also referred to as the Christ is a revered figure, venerated as the Son of God in Christianity, and a holy prophet in Islam. In life he was a charismatic preacher who spread the message of non-violence and simple life. He was put to death by crucifixion and was believed to be resurrected three days after. The early community he formed will soon grow into the largest, and the most powerful religion in history.

With Christ teachings reaching into the farthest lands and his influence surviving the test of time, few doubt he exists. But there are few who does.

Though a well-known figure, several people asserts how the evidence aren’t reliable enough to convince them that Jesus was a real figure. Maybe he was a fabrication by his followers, based from of popular myths of antiquity.

The idea that Jesus of Nazareth never existed and was a product of a deluded mind is nothing new. People are questioning his existence back in the 18th century. Nevertheless, despite producing some interesting arguments, modern secular scholars often dismiss their ideas as fringe theory. In short, scholars consider the notion that Christ is a myth, is nothing but a myth.

The Christ Myth Theory

Later in this article, we will see how scholars accepted the historicity of Jesus Christ, but in a poll conducted by the Church of England in 2015, 40 percent of respondents never believed Jesus was a real person.

Also known as the Jesus Myth theory or Jesus mythicism, the Christ Myth theory is a notion that Christ never existed. That Jesus of Nazareth was simply in par with imaginary figure like Horus.

Overall, the theory has three stances:

  1. Possibly a historical Jesus existed, but Saint Paul mythicized him into a supernatural being.
  2. There was never a historical Jesus, and the figure mentioned in the Bible is a mythological character.
  3. There was no conclusion or evidence to support the historical Jesus.

To further elaborate this threefold argument, mythicists often question the reliability of Paul’s epistle and the Gospel as an evidence of the historical Jesus. They also argue that Christ was a copy of a mythological figure, something cooked by early Christians.

The Followers of the Theory

Constantin François de Chassebœuf, one of the early proponents of the Christ Myth theory.
Constantin François de Chassebœuf, one of the early proponents of the Christ Myth theory.

The formal denial of Christ existence goes back in the 18th century France. It was the works of Constantin François de Chassebœuf and Charles François Dupuis that suggested how the Christ we knew was simply a copy of a mythical figure. In 1835, a German theologian David Friedrich Strauss argued that although a real Jesus existed, his miracles were mythical additions. Other people who favored the myth theory also included Bruno Bauer, Godfrey Higgins, Kersey Graves, Gerald Massey and Abraham Dirk Loman.

The people mentioned above are just some examples. Later in the 1970, the theory enjoyed a revival due to the works of people like George Albert Wells, Earl Doherty and Richard Carrier.

At present thanks to the internet, the Christ Myth theory gained a lot of attention. Militant atheists often relied on the theory to support their claims on the delusions of religion.

The Written Evidence of Christ’s Existence

Possible historical Jesus, based on the features of men during that age.
Possible historical Jesus, based on the features of men during that age.

The theory will compel, but at present it gained little support among modern Biblical scholars. In fact, experts dismissed the Christ Myth notion as “fringe theory.” Few take it seriously and was always treated in par with cryptozoology, pseudo-history and conspiracy theory. All in all, the Christ Myth theory represents an outdated idea. Many scholars agreed that a real Jesus existed.

Yes, there are historical evidences that Jesus exist as an actual and real figure. Firstly, there is a good deal of written text about him both from his followers, and even non followers.

The earliest texts concerning Jesus came from the letters of the Apostle Paul (50-60 AD), but a non-Christian historian Flavius Josephus (a Jewish) also mentioned Christ in his work Jewish Antiquities (93 AD). In the book, he described Jesus as a wise man, a supposedly brother of James who died in the cross and resurrected on the third day.

20 years later, Roman historians Pliny and Tacitus also spoke about Jesus. In the Annals of Tacitus, he wrote about how Christ was executed by a Roman prefect when Tiberius was the emperor, which agreed with the time-frame of the Christian Gospel. However, Tacitus was not too fond of Christians nor Jesus. He called Christianity as destructive superstition. Pliny the Younger on the other hand once described the Christian’s worship of Jesus, and their customs. Like Tacitus, he never liked Christianity either and their “pig-headed obstinacy” as what he called it.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Earliest New Testament Manuscript
Earliest New Testament Manuscript

Mythicists often question the reliability of the New Testament in terms of historicity. They pointed how the books bear contradictions in their accounts. Simply the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John about the life of Jesus were not the same at some point. But they do agree on common events like the birth, life and death of Christ.

Nevertheless, the Gospels display a degree of historical accuracy.

The Gospels are written within only 35 to 65 years of Jesus, which means that the information is still fresh. What’s more, the eyewitnesses who knew Jesus was still alive at that time. This means that the author of the Gospels had no need to employ guess works since the information is still available from live sources. Among the four Gospels, Mark is the most accurate as what the Biblical scholars agreed upon. And the other evangelists probably used Mark as their source.

It should also note that although they have differences, the Gospels are far closer to each other than other ancient text. The customs presented in the Gospels, traditions and lifestyles is also accurate with that period.

By why it was so different in the first place.

To begin with, the New Testament was supported by more than 5500 copies in both Greek and other languages. And the contradiction originated because of the following:

  1. Paraphrasing and interpretations. The Jewish language is Aramaic, and the original text is Greek. Some items will be interpreted differently when translated.
  2. Difference in perspective. The Evangelists wanted to present Christ in different views, one as a man, the other as a kingly figure and so forth. This will result in difference in accounts, even in the chronology, as each of the Evangelist could reorder the events to make the message clear. Then there is the fact that accounts from the many eye witness could also vary.

The mythicists also failed to explain why Gospels have many similarities.

Christ is not a Mythical Figure

The Egyptian deity Horus.
The Egyptian deity Horus.

Scholars are also finding problems with the notion that Christ is simply a recreation of a mythical figure. In one instance, he was compared to Horus, who died and was resurrected. But Horus’ story is not consistent, but a collection of stories in a span of 1500 years. And these stories are not the same as each other and could vary at certain time period. And in order to relate the life of Jesus to Horus, one must cherry-pick verses in these many stories, hence creating a false claim of its own.

And the early Christians had no way to base the Gospels to the life of Horus, as they have no way of doing so. They must access the many variations of the stories that was buried in sand until archaeologists dug them in 1800.

In the end, the so-called Christ Myth is simply a distortion of truth by a playful mind.

Conclusion

Being unreliable, lacking evidence and shady, the Christ Myth theory never found support among serious scholars. But being documented by historians and seen by many (not to mention winning a lot of followers), only one thing is for sure.

Jesus Christ is real.

References

1. Simon Gathercole (April 14, 2017) "What is the Historical Evidence that Jesus Lived and Died." The Guardian.

2. Sander, E.P. (1993). "The Historical Figure of Jesus." Penguin.

3. Mark Strauss (September 19, 2017). "Bible Contradiction Explained: 4 Reasons the Gospels Disagree."

4. J. Warner Wallace (November 6, 2017). "Is Jesus Simply a Retelling of the Horus Mythology?"

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Dave Richardson 

        4 months ago

        If you knew him, as I do, your questions and doubts would be answered.

      • profile image

        Dave Richardson 

        4 months ago

        If you knew him, as I do, your questions and doubts would be answered.

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