A brief guide to the making of Jesus of Nazareth, the Greatest Man Who Never Was.
1. No one "just made-up" Jesus.
If we step around the centuries of fabrication and glorification which informs everyone's perception of Jesus Christ and closely examine the two hundred year gestation period of the current Lord and Savior – that is approximately 100 BC - 100 AD – we can see a perfectly plausible and, indeed, convincing process by which, upon the legacy of earlier times and from piety and scripture alone, the Christian godman emerged into the light.
Beliefs created the man; the man did not create the beliefs.
In essence Jesus Christ is like every other ancient god, a personification of Principals and Forces. More than anything else, the figure of Jesus symbolized and personified Just Law, Divine Punishment and Reward. The myth did not require the happenstance of a genuine human life to get it going – which is one reason why, as a human being, the superhero is at best only partially formed, even after passing through several revisions and re-workings.
2. Evolving Hero myth
The Jews, a repeatedly conquered people on the fringes of great empires, long nurtured hope for a deliverer. Such heroes of the people were a staple of their sacred literature. During the period 1st century BC / 1st century AD, whilst the Herodian aristocracy happily danced to the tune of the caesars, exploitation of the common people intensified. Upon their backs now weighed the priesthood, the landowning elite and the Romans. The stage had been set in which rabbis and rebels could pitch subversive ideas to the despised and exploited masses.
The Jewish religious radicals – militant patriots within Palestine and proto-Christians of the Jewish diaspora – contended for the future of Judaism. In the Levant, militant resistance to Rome had the upper hand until the final debacle of 135. In the diaspora, a repackaged piety centered on a personal savior god eventually gained the ascendancy, advancing with each successive reversal of belligerency and the attendant flood of refugees and captive slaves into the cities of the Mediterranean.
The early Jewish-Christian scribes drew most of their inspiration from the traditional source – the vast stock of Jewish sacred writings, which were (and are) a reiterating statement of lost piety, divine punishment and righteousness regained.
The earliest "Christ" reigned in Heaven at God's right hand. Nowhere was a genuine human life to be found. Only at the End of Days would he arrive to judge the quick and the dead. Only those who worshipped him, the Elect, would enter the Kingdom.
3. Paganizing the Jewish Myth
Judaism in the Diaspora, for all its exclusivity, became Hellenized. It also attracted a following among pagans disillusioned with their arbitrary traditional gods. In the cities of the eastern Mediterranean, this neo-Judaism fused a multiplicity of old Jewish themes – Son of Man, Wisdom and Messiah with ideas long familiar to pagans: redemptive sacrifice, Son of God, Logos. The farrago made little headway against a reorganizing rabbinic Judaism but found a ready ear among pagans long accustomed to syncretic gods.
Because heavenly existence remained unknowable the handful of intellectuals who led the various bands of early proto-Christians spoke of their Christ by use of an allegorical human life. Set in times past, present and future, it was a device by which their Lord resolved ethical issues and uttered divine Wisdom. Each worthy tenet of a higher morality, every pithy statement of priestly wisdom, was coupled to the majestic name of Jesus the Christ to give sanction and assurance of its heavenly origin.
A revised 'rabbinic' Judaism made an impressive revival in the Roman world in the 2nd century. But by then the heresy now called Christianity had been commandeered by gentile pagans who saw opportunity in a hybridized oriental cult with a strong Jewish core. They took the stock of Jewish scripture, long available in the Greek language, and set it to a new purpose.
4. Allegory mutates into "reality"
The earliest works on the Christian godman had been simple liturgical documents in which the figure of Jesus had no discernible features, no true biography – merely attributes befitting his messianic status, such as absolute assuredness and "authority". A new generation of ex-pagan scribes, convincing themselves that this Lord and Savior had in reality walked upon the earth, set to work to thoroughly ground their hero in an historical setting.
They selected the reign of the most famous Jewish king – Herod – for his birth and the tenure of the most brutal Roman governor – Pilate – for his ministry. The activity of a genuine, pacifist prophet – John the Baptist – was used as a prologue to their hero's own tale and useful historical detail was gleaned from the works of the Jewish historian Josephus.
Scavenging through the pious romances and holy heroics of Hebrew scripture and Jewish history the Christian scribes found edifying story lines and useful characterization. Their intent was that, in the day-to-day struggle for a mass following, their Christ should match rival gods point for point, miracle for miracle. Even so, Christ's "life" remained extremely thin. His "ministry" and wonder working filled only eight weeks or so of "biography" – and that included 40 days and nights in the wilderness.
To make good the shortage of material, Christ's so-called "life" was back-projected as the "fulfillment of prophecy" – art imitating artifice. On the pretext "That Scripture Might Be Fulfilled" every utterance and pronouncement of the ancient Jewish prophets was wrenched out of context and repurposed as a prefiguring of the Christian wonder-worker.
To those who already "believed" it was the majestic design of an ineffable God, weaving the wondrous image of his only begotten son across several centuries of Jewish history. The misadventure and internecine strife of an entire people were reduced to the prologue for the Christian godman.
The compendium that resulted – ambiguous, inconsistent, improbable and impossible – though never intended as a "history", nonetheless masqueraded as such, underpinning the claims of the faith to a unique historical foundation. But any attempt to reconstruct the timetable or itinerary of the "ministry" of the Christian savior is doomed to failure because the gospels are both inadequate and contradictory. One moment Jesus is in the Decapolis, receiving word of the death of John the Baptist, the next he is in Phoenicia expelling demons. One moment Jesus is "transfiguring" on a mountain in Syria, the next he is pontificating in Samaria.
5. It's All a Fraud
Every instance in the godman's "career" was nothing other than a set piece, templated from an earlier source. Jesus the Christ, King of Kings, Light of the World, High Priest forever, Good Shepherd, Universal Judge and the Savior of Mankind is nothing less than – nothing other than – an omnibus edition of all that had gone before, the final product of ancient religious syncretism.
A 'life' conjured up from pious fantasy, a mass of borrowed quotations, copied story elements and a corpus of self-serving speculation, does not constitute an historical reality.
It constitutes a myth, a hero-myth, in essentials no different from the legends of champions that times of crisis called into existence in many cultures. "Jesus Christ Lord and Savior" is certainly the most convoluted and enduring of such accretions but its fabrication from simple elements is no less apparent than that of any other west Asian salvation god.
Makes You Think
If all this sounds shocking and difficult to accept reflect on the following:
1. Absolutely nothing at all from secular history corroborates the sacred biography and yet this 'greatest story' is peppered with numerous anachronisms, contradictions and absurdities. For example, at the time that Joseph and the pregnant Mary are said to have gone off to Bethlehem for a supposed Roman census, Galilee (unlike Judea) was not a Roman province and therefore ma and pa would have had no reason to make the journey.
2. Nazareth (let alone a city of Nazareth) did not exist during the first century.
3. Many elements of the 'Passion' make no sense historically. For example, a trial for Jesus, when suspected rebels were habitually arrested and executed by the Romans without trial?
4. There is NO corroborating evidence for the existence of the 12 Apostles and absolutely NO evidence for the colorful variety of martyrs' deaths they supposedly experienced. The Bible itself actually mentions the death of only two apostles, a James who was put to death by Herod Agrippa and the nasty Judas Iscariot. The fanciful heroics were dreamed up to inspire generations of gullible Christians.
For further information on the dark history of the Christian Church more than 70 articles are freely available on the website:
1st June, 2005