Kinkazzo Burning
~ reflections & disquisitions
It takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow...


CONTENTS [click titles to go to chapters]:


{for specific references within the texts below,
check them on Wikipedia, entering your query into
the 'search' box of Wikipedia's Homepage}

N.B.: We shall not bother to discuss Mohammed here, as that’s another story: the story of an illiterate plagiarist!

Michelangelo: Creation of Adam

by Marshall J. Gauvin

Scientific inquiry into the origins of Christianity begins to-day with the question: "Did Jesus Christ really live?" Was there a man named Jesus, who was called the Christ, living in Palestine nineteen centuries ago, of whose life and teachings we have a correct account in the New Testament? The orthodox idea that Christ was the son of God -- God himself in human form -- that he was the creator of the countless millions of glowing suns and wheeling worlds that strew the infinite expanse of the universe; that the forces of nature were the servants of his will and changed their courses at his command -- such an idea has been abandoned by every independent thinker in the world -- by every thinker who relies on reason and experience rather than mere faith -- by every man of science who places the integrity of nature above the challenge of ancient religious tales.

Not only has the divinity of Christ been given up, but his existence as a man is being more and more seriously questioned. Some of the ablest scholars of the world deny that he ever lived at all. A commanding literature dealing with the inquiry, intense in its seriousness and profound and thorough in its research, is growing up in all countries, and spreading the conviction that Christ is a myth. The question is one of tremendous importance. For the Freethinker, as well as for the Christian, it is of the weightiest significance. The Christian religion has been and is a mighty fact in the world. For good or for ill, it has absorbed for many centuries the best energies of mankind. It has stayed the march of civilization, and made martyrs of some of the noblest men and women of the race: and it is to-day the greatest enemy of knowledge, of freedom, of social and industrial improvement, and of the genuine brotherhood of mankind. The progressive forces of the world are at war with this Asiatic superstition, and this war will continue until the triumph of truth and freedom is complete. The question, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live?" goes to the very root of the conflict between reason and faith; and upon its determination depends, to some degree, the decision as to whether religion or humanity shall rule the world.

Whether Christ did, or did not live, has nothing at all to do with what the churches teach, or with what we believe, It is wholly a matter of evidence. It is a question of science. The question is -- what does history say? And that question must be settled in the court of historical criticism. If the thinking world is to hold to the position that Christ was a real character, there must be sufficient evidence to warrant that belief. If no evidence for his existence can be found; if history returns the verdict that his name is not inscribed upon her scroll, if it be found that his story was created by art and ingenuity, like the stories of fictitious heroes, he will have to take his place with the host of other demigods whose fancied lives and deeds make up the mythology of the world.

What, then, is the evidence that Jesus Christ lived in this world as a man? The authorities relied upon to prove the reality of Christ are the four Gospels of the New Testament -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These Gospels, and these alone, tell the story of his life. Now we know absolutely nothing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, apart from what is said of them in the Gospels. Moreover, the Gospels themselves do not claim to have been written by these men. They are not called "The Gospel of Matthew," or "The Gospel of Mark," but "The Gospel According to Matthew," "The Gospel According to Mark," "The Gospel According to Luke," and "The Gospel According to John." No human being knows who wrote a single line in one of these Gospels. No human being knows when they were written, or where. Biblical scholarship has established the fact that the Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the four. The chief reasons for this conclusion are that this Gospel is shorter, simpler, and more natural, than any of the other three. It is shown that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were enlarged from the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark knows nothing of the virgin birth, of the Sermon on the Mount, of the Lord's prayer, or of other important facts of the supposed life of Christ. These features were added by Matthew and Luke.

But the Gospel of Mark, as we have it, is not the original Mark. In the same way that the writers of Matthew and Luke copied and enlarged the Gospel of Mark, Mark copied and enlarged an earlier document which is called the "original Mark." This original source perished in the early age of the Church. What it was, who wrote it, where it was written, nobody knows. The Gospel of John is admitted by Christian scholars to be an unhistorical document. They acknowledge that it is not a life of Christ, but an interpretation of him; that it gives us an idealized and spiritualized picture of what Christ is supposed to have been, and that it is largely composed of the speculations of Greek philosophy. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are called the "Synoptic Gospels," on the one hand, and the Gospel of John, on the other, stand at opposite extremes of thought. So complete is the difference between the teaching of the first three Gospels and that of the fourth, that every critic admits that if Jesus taught as the Synoptics relate, he could not possibly have taught as John declares. Indeed, in the first three Gospels and in the fourth, we meet with two entirely different Christs. Did I say two? It should be three; for, according to Mark, Christ was a man; according to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod; while John insists that he was God himself.

There is not the smallest fragment of trustworthy evidence to show that any of the Gospels were in existence, in their present form, earlier than a hundred years after the time at which Christ is supposed to have died. Christian scholars, having no reliable means by which to fix the date of their composition, assign them to as early an age as their calculations and their guesses will allow; but the dates thus arrived at are far removed from the age of Christ or his apostles. We are told that Mark was written some time after the year 70, Luke about 110, Matthew about 130, and John not earlier than 140 A.D. Let me impress upon you that these dates are conjectural, and that they are made as early as possible. The first historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D. The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D.

There is absolutely nothing to show that these Gospels -- the only sources of authority as to the existence of Christ -- were written until a hundred and fifty years after the events they pretend to describe. Walter R. Cassels, the learned author of "Supernatural Religion," one of the greatest works ever written on the origins of Christianity, says: "After having exhausted the literature and the testimony bearing on the point, we have not found a single distinct trace of any of those Gospels during the first century and a half after the death of Christ." How can Gospels which were not written until a hundred and fifty years after Christ is supposed to have died, and which do not rest on any trustworthy testimony, have the slightest value as evidence that he really lived? History must be founded upon genuine documents or on living proof. Were a man of to-day to attempt to write the life of a supposed character of a hundred and fifty years ago, without any historical documents upon which to base his narrative, his work would not be a history, it would be a romance. Not a single statement in it could be relied upon.

Christ is supposed to have been a Jew, and his disciples are said to have been Jewish fishermen. His language, and the language of his followers must, therefore, have been Aramaic -- the popular language of Palestine in that age. But the Gospels are written in Greek -- every one of them. Nor were they translated from some other language. Every leading Christian scholar since Erasmus, four hundred years ago, has maintained that they were originally written in Greek. This proves that they were not written by Christ's disciples, or by any of the early Christians. Foreign Gospels, written by unknown men, in a foreign tongue, several generations after the death of those who are supposed to have known the facts -- such is the evidence relied upon to prove that Jesus lived.

But while the Gospels were written several generations too late to be of authority, the original documents, such as they were, were not preserved. The Gospels that were written in the second century no longer exist. They have been lost or destroyed. The oldest Gospels that we have are supposed to be copies of copies of copies that were made from those Gospels. We do not know who made these copies; we do not know when they were made; nor do we know whether they were honestly made. Between the earliest Gospels and the oldest existing manuscripts of the New Testament, there is a blank gulf of three hundred years. It is, therefore, impossible to say what the original Gospels contained.

There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a large number of them were forgeries. Among these were the "Gospel of Paul," the Gospel of Bartholomew," the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot," the "Gospel of the Egyptians," the "Gospel or Recollections of Peter," the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ," and scores of other pious productions, a collection of which may still be read in "The Apocryphal New Testament." Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them the appearance of importance. Works were forged in the names of the apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie for the glory of the faith. Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian, says: "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed." The Rev. Dr. Giles writes: "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then written with no other view than to deceive." Professor Robertson Smith says: "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views." The early church was flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no certainty that they were not. But let me ask: If Christ was an historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived? The early Christian forgeries are a tremendous testimony to the weakness of the Christian cause.

Spurious or genuine, let us see what the Gospels can tell us about the life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke give us the story of his genealogy. How do they agree? Matthew says there were forty-one generations from Abraham to Jesus. Luke says there were fifty-six. Yet both pretend to give the genealogy of Joseph, and both count the generations! Nor is this all. The Evangelists disagree on all but two names between David and Christ. These worthless genealogies show how much the New Testament writers knew about the ancestors of their hero.

If Jesus lived, he must have been born. When was he born? Matthew says he was born when Herod was King of Judea. Luke says he was born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria. He could not have been born during the administration of these tow rulers for Herod died in the year 4 B.C., and Cyrenius, who, in Roman history is Quirinius, did not become Governor of Syria until ten years later. Herod and Quirinius are separated by the whole reign of Archelaus, Herod's son. Between Matthew and Luke, there is, therefore, a contradiction of at least ten years, as to the time of Christ's birth. The fact is that the early Christians had absolutely no knowledge as to when Christ was born. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: "Christians count one hundred and thirty-three contrary opinions of different authorities concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth." Think of it -- one hundred and thirty-three different years, each one of which is held to be the year in which Christ came into the world. What magnificent certainty!

Towards the close of the eighteenth century, Antonmaria Lupi, a learned Jesuit, wrote a work to show that the nativity of Christ has been assigned to every month in the year, at one time or another.

Where was Christ born? According to the Gospels, he was habitually called "Jesus of Nazareth." The New Testament writers have endeavored to leave the impression that Nazareth of Galilee was his home town. The Synoptic Gospels represent that thirty years of his life were spent there. Notwithstanding this, Matthew declares that he was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of a prophecy in the Book of Micah. But the prophecy of Micah has nothing whatever to do with Jesus; it prophesies the coming of a military leader, not a divine teacher. Matthew's application of this prophecy to Christ strengthens the suspicion that his Gospel is not history, but romance. Luke has it that his birth occurred at Bethlehem, whither his mother had gone with her husband, to make the enrollment called for by Augustus Caesar. Of the general census mentioned by Luke, nothing is known in Roman history. But suppose such a census was taken. The Roman custom, when an enrollment was made, was that every man was to report at his place of residence. The head of the family alone made report. In no case was his wife, or any dependent, required to be with him. In the face of this established custom, Luke declares that Joseph left his home in Nazareth and crossed two provinces to go Bethlehem for the enrollment; and not only this, but that he had to be accompanied by his wife, Mary, who was on the very eve of becoming a mother. This surely is not history, but fable. The story that Christ was born at Bethlehem was a necessary part of the program which made him the Messiah, and the descendant of King David. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David; and by what Renan calls a roundabout way, his birth was made to take place there. The story of his birth in the royal city is plainly fictitious.

His home was Nazareth. He was called "Jesus of Nazareth"; and there he is said to have lived until the closing years of his life. Now comes the question -- Was there a city of Nazareth in that age? The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, the greatest biblical reference work in the English language, says: "We cannot perhaps venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus' time." No certainty that there was a city of Nazareth! Not only are the supposed facts of the life of Christ imaginary, but the city of his birth and youth and manhood existed, so far as we know, only on the map of mythology. What amazing evidence to prove the reality of a Divine man! Absolute ignorance as to his ancestry; nothing whatever known of the time of his birth, and even the existence of the city where he is said to have been born, a matter of grave question!

After his birth, Christ, as it were, vanishes out of existence, and with the exception of a single incident recorded in Luke, we hear absolutely nothing of him until he has reached the age of thirty years. The account of his being found discussing with the doctors in the Temple at Jerusalem when he was but twelve years old, is told by Luke alone. The other Gospels are utterly ignorant of this discussion; and, this single incident excepted, the four Gospels maintain an unbroken silence with regard to thirty years of the life of their hero. What is the meaning of this silence? If the writers of the Gospels knew the facts of the life of Christ, why is it that they tell us absolutely nothing of thirty years of that life? What historical character can be named whose life for thirty years is an absolute blank to the world? If Christ was the incarnation of God, if he was the greatest teacher the world has known, if he came to cave mankind from everlasting pain -- was there nothing worth remembering in the first thirty years of his existence among men? The fact is that the Evangelists knew nothing of the life of Jesus, before his ministry; and they refrained from inventing a childhood, youth and early manhood for him because it was not necessary to their purpose.

Luke, however, deviated from the rule of silence long enough to write the Temple incident. The story of the discussion with the doctors in the Temple is proved to be mythical by all the circumstances that surround it. The statement that his mother and father left Jerusalem, believing that he was with them; that they went a day's journey before discovering that he was not in their company; and that after searching for three days, they found him in the Temple asking and answering questions of the learned Doctors, involves a series of tremendous improbabilities. Add to this the fact that the incident stands alone in Luke, surrounded by a period of silence covering thirty years; add further that none of the other writers have said a word of the child Jesus discussing with the scholars of their nation; and add again the unlikelihood that a child would appear before serious-minded men in the role of an intellectual champion and the fabulous character of the story becomes perfectly clear.

The Gospels know nothing of thirty years of Christ's life. What do they know of the last years of that life? How long did the ministry, the public career of Christ, continue? According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the public life of Christ lasted about a year. If John's Gospel is to be believed, his ministry covered about three years. The Synoptics teach that Christ's public work was confined almost entirely to Galilee, and that he went to Jerusalem only once, not long before his death. John is in hopeless disagreement with the other Evangelists as to the scene of Christ's labors. He maintains that most of the public life of Christ was spent in Judea, and that Christ was many times in Jerusalem. Now, between Galilee and Judea there was the province of Samaria. If all but the last few weeks of Christ's ministry was carried on in his native province of Galilee, it is certain that the greater part of that ministry was not spent in Judea, two provinces away.

John tells us that the driving of the money-changers from the Temple occurred at the beginning of Christ's ministry; and nothing is said of any serious consequences following it. But Matthew, Mark and Luke declare that the purification of the Temple took place at the close of his career, and that this act brought upon him the wrath of the priests, who sought to destroy him. Because of these facts, the Encyclopedia Biblica assures us that the order of events in the life of Christ, as given by the Evangelists, is contradictory and untrustworthy; that the chronological framework of the Gospels is worthless; and that the facts "show only too clearly with what lack of concern for historical precision the Evangelists write." In other words, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote, not what they knew, but what they imagined.

Christ is said to have been many times in Jerusalem. It is said that he preached daily in the Temple. He was followed by his twelve disciples, and by multitudes of enthusiastic men and women. On the one hand, the people shouted hosannas in his honor, and on the other, priests engaged him in discussion and sought to take his life. All this shows that he must have been well known to the authorities. Indeed, he must have been one of the best known men in Jerusalem. Why, then, was it necessary for the priests to bribe one of his disciples to betray him? Only an obscure man, whose identity was uncertain, or a man who was in hiding, would need to be betrayed. A man who appeared daily in the streets, who preached daily in the Temple, a man who was continually before the public eye, could have been arrested at any moment. The priests would not have bribed a man to betray a teacher whom everybody knew. If the accounts of Christ's betrayal are true, all the declarations about his public appearances in Jerusalem must be false.

Nothing could be more improbable than the story of Christ's crucifixion. The civilization of Rome was the highest in the world. The Romans were the greatest lawyers the world had ever known. Their courts were models of order and fairness. A man was not condemned without a trial; he was not handed to the executioner before being found guilty. And yet we are asked to believe that an innocent man was brought before a Roman court, where Pontius Pilate was Judge; that no charge of wrongdoing having been brought against him, the Judge declared that he found him innocent; that the mob shouted, "Crucify him; crucify him!" and that to please the rabble, Pilate commanded that the man who had done no wrong and whom he had found innocent, should be scourged, and then delivered him to the executioners to be crucified! Is it thinkable that the master of a Roman court in the days of Tiberius Caesar, having found a man innocent and declared him so, and having made efforts to save his life, tortured him of his own accord, and then handed him over to a howling mob to be nailed to a cross? A Roman court finding a man innocent and then crucifying him? Is that a picture of civilized Rome? Is that the Rome to which the world owes its laws? In reading the story of the Crucifixion, are we reading history or religious fiction? Surely not history.

On the theory that Christ was crucified, how shall we explain the fact that during the first eight centuries of the evolution of Christianity, Christian art represented a lamb, and not a man, as suffering on the cross for the salvation of the world? Neither the paintings in the Catacombs nor the sculptures on Christian tombs pictured a human figure on the cross. Everywhere a lamb was shown as the Christian symbol -- a lamb carrying a cross, a lamb at the foot of a cross, a lamb on a cross. Some figures showed the lamb with a human head, shoulders and arms, holding a cross in his hands -- the lamb of God in process of assuming the human form -- the crucifixion myth becoming realistic. At the close of the eighth century, Pope Hadrian I, confirming the decree of the sixth Synod of Constantinople, commanded that thereafter the figure of a man should take the place of a lamb on the cross. It took Christianity eight hundred years to develop the symbol of its suffering Savior. For eight hundred years, the Christ on the cross was a lamb. But if Christ was actually crucified, why was his place on the cross so long usurped by a lamb? In the light of history and reason, and in view of a lamb on the cross, why should we believe in the Crucifixion?

And let us ask, if Christ performed the miracles the New Testament describes, if he gave sight to blind men's eyes, if his magic touch brought youthful vigor to the palsied frame, if the putrefying dead at his command returned to life and love again -- why did the people want him crucified? Is it not amazing that a civilized people -- for the Jews of that age were civilized -- were so filled with murderous hate towards a kind and loving man who went about doing good, who preached forgiveness, cleansed the leprous, and raised the dead -- that they could not be appeased until they had crucified the noblest benefactor of mankind? Again I ask -- is this history, or is it fiction?

From the standpoint of the supposed facts, the account of the Crucifixion of Christ is as impossible as is the raising of Lazarus from the standpoint of nature. The simple truth is, that the four Gospels are historically worthless. They abound in contradictions, in the unreasonable, the miraculous and the monstrous. There is not a thing in them that can be depended upon as true, while there is much in them that we certainly know to be false.

The accounts of the virgin birth of Christ, of his feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, of his cleansing the leprous, of his walking on the water, of his raising the dead, and of his own resurrection after his life had been destroyed, are as untrue as any stories that were ever told in this world. The miraculous element in the Gospels is proof that they were written by men, who did not know how to write history, or who were not particular as to the truth of what they wrote. The miracles of the Gospels were invented by credulity or cunning, and if the miracles were invented, how can we know that the whole history of Christ was not woven of the warp and woof of the imagination? Dr. Paul W. Schmiedel, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Zurich, Switzerland, one of the foremost theologians of Europe, tells us in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, that there are only nine passages in the Gospels that we can depend upon as being the sayings of Jesus; and Professor Arthur Drews, Germany's greatest exponent of the doctrine that Christ is a myth, analyses these passages and shows that there is nothing in them that could not easily have been invented. That these passages are as unhistorical as the rest is also the contention of John M. Robertson, the eminent English scholar, who holds that Jesus never lived.

Let me make a startling disclosure. Let me tell you that the New Testament itself contains the strongest possible proof that the Christ of the Gospels was not a real character. The testimony of the Epistles of Paul demonstrates that the life story of Jesus is an invention. Of course, there is no certainty that Paul really lived. Let me quote a passage from the Encyclopaedia Biblica, relative to Paul: "It is true that the picture of Paul drawn by later times differs utterly in more or fewer of its details from the original. Legend has made itself master of his person. The simple truth has been mixed up with invention; Paul has become the hero of an admiring band of the more highly developed Christians." Thus Christian authority admits that invention has done its work in manufacturing at least in part, the life of Paul. In truth, the ablest Christian scholars reject all but our of the Pauline Epistles as spurious. Some maintain that Paul was not the author of any of them. The very existence of Paul is questionable.

But for the purpose of my argument, I am going to admit that Paul really lived; that he was a zealous apostle; and that all the Epistles are from his pen. There are thirteen of these Epistles. Some of them are lengthy; and they are acknowledged to be the oldest Christian writings. They were written long before the Gospels. If Paul really wrote them, they were written by a man who lived in Jerusalem when Christ is supposed to have been teaching there. Now, if the facts of the life of Christ were known in the first century of Christianity, Paul was one of the men who should have known them fully. Yet Paul acknowledges that he never saw Jesus; and his Epistles prove that he knew nothing about his life, his works, or his teachings.

In all the Epistles of Paul, there is not one word about Christ's virgin birth. The apostle is absolutely ignorant of the marvellous manner in which Jesus is said to have come into the world. For this silence, there can be only one honest explanation -- the story of the virgin birth had not yet been invented when Paul wrote. A large portion of the Gospels is devoted to accounts of the miracles Christ is said to have wrought. But you will look in vain through the thirteen Epistles of Paul for the slightest hint that Christ ever performed any miracles. Is it conceivable that Paul was acquainted with the miracles of Christ -- that he knew that Christ had cleansed the leprous, cast out devils that could talk, restored sight to the blind and speech to the dumb, and even raised the dead -- is it conceivable that Paul was aware of these wonderful things and yet failed to write a single line about them? Again, the only solution is that the accounts of the miracles wrought by Jesus had not yet been invented when Paul's Epistles were written.

Not only is Paul silent about the virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus, he is without the slightest knowledge of the teaching of Jesus. The Christ of the Gospels preached a famous sermon on a mountain: Paul knows nothing of it. Christ delivered a prayer now recited by the Christian world: Paul never heard of it. Christ taught in parables: Paul is utterly unacquainted with any of them. Is not this astonishing? Paul, the greatest writer of early Christianity, the man who did more than any other to establish the Christian religion in the world -- that is, if the Epistles may be trusted -- is absolutely ignorant of the teaching of Christ. In all of his thirteen Epistles he does not quote a single saying of Jesus.

Paul was a missionary. He was out for converts. Is it thinkable that if the teachings of Christ had been known to him, he would not have made use of them in his propaganda? Can you believe that a Christian missionary would go to China and labor for many years to win converts to the religion of Christ, and never once mention the Sermon on the Mount, never whisper a word about the Lord's Prayer, never tell the story of one of the parables, and remain as silent as the grave about the precepts of his master? What have the churches been teaching throughout the Christian centuries if not these very things? Are not the churches of to-day continually preaching about the virgin birth, the miracles, the parables, and the precepts of Jesus? And o not these features constitute Christianity? Is there any life of Christ, apart from these things? Why, then, does Paul know nothing of them? There is but one answer. The virgin-born, miracle-working, preaching Christ was unknown to the world in Paul's day. That is to say, he had not yet been invented!

The Christ of Paul and the Jesus of the Gospels are two entirely different beings. The Christ of Paul is little more than an idea. He has no life story. He was not followed by the multitude. He performed no miracles. He did no preaching. The Christ Paul knew was the Christ he was in a vision while on his way to Damascus -- an apparition, a phantom, not a living, human being, who preached and worked among men. This vision-Christ, this ghostly word, was afterwards brought to the earth by those who wrote the Gospels. He was given a Holy Ghost for a father and a virgin for a mother. He was made to preach, to perform astounding miracles, to die a violent death though innocent, and to rise in triumph from the grave and ascend again to heaven. Such is the Christ of the New Testament -- first a spirit, and later a miraculously born, miracle working man, who is master of death and whom death cannot subdue.

A large body of opinion in the early church denied the reality of Christ's physical existence. In his "History of Christianity," Dean Milman writes: "The Gnostic sects denied that Christ was born at all, or that he died," and Mosheim, Germany's great ecclesiastical historian, says: "The Christ of early Christianity was not a human being, but an "appearance," an illusion, a character in miracle, not in reality -- a myth.

Miracles do not happen. Stories of miracles are untrue. Therefore, documents in which miraculous accounts are interwoven with reputed facts, are untrustworthy, for those who invented the miraculous element might easily have invented the part that was natural. Men are common; Gods are rare; therefore, it is at least as easy to invent the biography of a man as the history of a God. For this reason, the whole story of Christ -- the human element as well as the divine -- is without valid claim to be regarded as true. If miracles are fictions, Christ is a myth. Said Dean Farrar: "If miracles be incredible, Christianity is false." Bishop Westcott wrote: "The essence of Christianity lies in a miracle; and if it can be shown that a miracle is either impossible or incredible, all further inquiry into the details of its history is superfluous." Not only are miracles incredible, but the uniformity of nature declares them to be impossible. Miracles have gone: the miraculous Christ cannot remain.

If Christ lived, if he was a reformer, if he performed wonderful works that attracted the attention of the multitude, if he came in conflict with the authorities and was crucified -- how shall we explain the fact that history has not even recorded his name? The age in which he is said to have lived was an age of scholars and thinkers. In Greece, Rome and Palestine, there were philosophers, historians, poets, orators, jurists and statesmen. Every fact of importance was noted by interested and inquiring minds. Some of the greatest writers the Jewish race has produced lived in that age. And yet, in all the writings of that period, there is not one line, not one word, not one letter, about Jesus. Great writers wrote extensively of events of minor importance, but not one of them wrote a word about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on earth -- a man at whose command the leprous were made clean, a man who fed five thousand people with a satchel full of bread, a man whose word defied the grave and gave life to the dead.

John E. Remsburg, in his scholarly work on "The Christ," has compiled a list of forty-two writers who lived and wrote during the time or within a century after the time, of Christ, not one of whom ever mentioned him.

Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified, and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with Herod's massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ's heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed Savior of the world.

In the closing years of the first century, Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, wrote his famous work on "The Antiquities of the Jews." In this work, the historian made no mention of Christ, and for two hundred years after the death of Josephus, the name of Christ did not appear in his history. There were no printing presses in those days. Books were multiplied by being copied. It was, therefore, easy to add to or change what an author had written. The church felt that Josephus ought to recognize Christ, and the dead historian was made to do it. In the fourth century, a copy of "The Antiquities of the Jews" appeared, in which occurred this passage: "Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

Such is the celebrated reference to Christ in Josephus. A more brazen forgery was never perpetrated. For more than two hundred years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen an Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist. Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed that that writer had not acknowledged Christ. This passage first appeared in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is know to have tampered with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers, introduces this passage in his "Evangelical Demonstration," (Book III., p.124), in these words: "Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness."

Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage. It is written in the style of Eusebius, and not in the style of Josephus. Josephus was a voluminous writer. He wrote extensively about men of minor importance. The brevity of this reference to Christ is, therefore, a strong argument for its falsity. This passage interrupts the narrative. It has nothing to do with what precedes or what follows it; and its position clearly shows that the text of the historian has been separated by a later hand to give it room. Josephus was a Jew -- a priest of the religion of Moses. This passage makes him acknowledge the divinity, the miracles, and the resurrection of Christ -- that is to say, it makes an orthodox Jew talk like a believing Christian! Josephus could not possibly have written these words without being logically compelled to embrace Christianity. All the arguments of history and of reason unite in the conclusive proof that the passage is an unblushing forgery.

For these reasons every honest Christian scholar has abandoned it as an interpolation. Dean Milman says: "It is interpolated with many additional clauses." Dean Farrar, writing in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says: "That Josephus wrote the whole passage as it now stands no sane critic can believe." Bishop Warburton denounced it as "a rank forgery and a very stupid one, too." Chambers' Encyclopaedia says: "The famous passage of Josephus is generally conceded to be an interpolation."

In the "Annals" of Tacitus, the Roman historian, there is another short passage which speaks of "Christus" as being the founder of a party called Christians -- a body of people "who were abhorred for their crimes." These words occur in Tacitus' account of the burning of Rome. The evidence for this passage is not much stronger than that for the passage in Josephus. It was not quoted by any writer before the fifteenth century; and when it was quoted, there was only one copy of the "Annals" in the world; and that copy was supposed to have been made in the eighth century -- six hundred years after Tacitus' death. The "Annals" were published between 115 and 117 A.D., nearly a century after Jesus' time -- so the passage, even if genuine, would not prove anything as to Jesus.

The name "Jesus" was as common among the Jews as is William or George with us. In the writings of Josephus, we find accounts of a number of Jesuses. One was Jesus, the son of Sapphias, the founder of a seditious band of mariners; another was Jesus, the captain of the robbers whose followers fled when they heard of his arrest; still another Jesus was a monomaniac who for seven years went about Jerusalem, crying, "Woe, woe, woe unto Jerusalem!" who was bruised and beaten many times, but offered no resistance; and who was finally killed with a stone at the siege of Jerusalem.

The word "Christ," the Greek equivalent of the Jewish word "Messiah," was not a personal name; it was a title; it meant "the Anointed One."

The Jews were looking for a Messiah, a successful political leader, who would restore the independence of their nation. Josephus tells us of many men who posed as Messiahs, who obtained a following among the people, and who were put to death by the Romans for political reasons. One of these Messiahs, or Christs, a Samaritan prophet, was executed under Pontius Pilate; and so great was the indignation of the Jews that Pilate had to be recalled by the Roman government.

These facts are of tremendous significance. While the Jesus Christ of Christianity is unknown to history, the age in which he is said to have lived was an age in which many men bore the name of "Jesus" and many political leaders assumed the title of "Christ." All the materials necessary for the manufacture of the story of Christ existed in that age. In all the ancient countries, divine Saviors were believed to have been born of virgins, to have preached a new religion, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified as atonements for the sins of mankind, and to have risen from the grave and ascended into heaven. All that Jesus is supposed to have taught was in the literature of the time. In the story of Christ there is not a new idea, as Joseph McCabe has shown in his "Sources of the Morality of the Gospels," and John M. Robertson in his "Pagan Christs."

"But," says the Christian, "Christ is so perfect a character that he could not have been invented." This is a mistake. The Gospels do not portray a perfect character. The Christ of the Gospels is shown to be artificial by the numerous contradictions in his character and teachings. He was in favor of the sword, and he was not; he told men to love their enemies, and advised them to hate their friends; he preached the doctrine of forgiveness, and called men a generation of vipers; he announced himself as the judge of the world, and declared that he would judge no man; he taught that he was possessed of all power, but was unable to work miracles where the people did not believe; he was represented as God and did not shrink from avowing, "I and my Father are one," but in the pain and gloom of the cross, he is made to cry out in his anguish: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" And how singular it is that these words, reputed as the dying utterance of the disillusioned Christ, should be not only contradicted by two Evangelists, but should be a quotation from the twenty-second Psalm!

If there is a moment when a man's speech is original, it is when, amid agony and despair, while his heart is breaking beneath its burden of defeat and disappointment, he utters a cry of grief from the depth of his wounded soul with the last breath that remains before the chill waves of death engulf his wasted life forever. But on the lips of the expiring Christ are placed, not the heart-felt words of a dying man, but a quotation from the literature of his race!

A being with these contradictions, these transparent unrealities in his character, could scarcely have been real.

And if Christ, with all that is miraculous and impossible in his nature, could not have been in vented, what shall we say of Othello, of Hamlet, of Romeo? Do not Shakespeare's wondrous characters live upon the stage? Does not their naturalness, their consistency, their human grandeur, challenge our admiration? And is it not with difficulty that we believe them to be children of the imagination? Laying aside the miraculous, in the story of the Jewish hero, is not the character of Jean Valjean as deep, as lofty, as broad, as rich in its humanity, as tender in its pathos, as sublime in its heroism, and as touchingly resigned to the cruelties of fate as the character of Jesus? Who has read the story of that marvelous man without being thrilled? And who has followed him through his last days with dry eyes? And yet Jean Valjean never lived and never died; he was not a real man, but the personification of suffering virtue born in the effulgent brain of Victor Hugo. Have you not wept when you have seen Sydney Carton disguise himself and lay his neck beneath the blood-stained knife of the guillotine, to save the life of Evremonde? But Sydney Carton was not an actual human being; he is the heroic, self-sacrificing spirit of humanity clothed in human form by the genius of Charles Dickens.

Yes, the character of Christ could have been invented! The literature of the world is filled with invented characters; and the imaginary lives of the splendid men and women of fiction will forever arrest the interest of the mind and hold the heart enthralled. But how account for Christianity if Christ did not live? Let me ask another question. How account for the Renaissance, for the Reformation, for the French Revolution, or for Socialism? Not one of these movements was created by an individual. They grew. Christianity grew. The Christian church is older than the oldest Christian writings. Christ did not produce the church. The church produced the story of Christ.

The Jesus Christ of the Gospels could not possibly have been a real person. He is a combination of impossible elements. There may have lived in Palestine, nineteen centuries ago, a man whose name was Jesus, who went about doing good, who was followed by admiring associates, and who in the end met a violent death. But of this possible person, not a line was written when he lived, and of his life and character the world of to-day knows absolutely nothing. This Jesus, if he lived, was a man; and if he was a reformer, he was but one of many that have lived and died in every age of the world. When the world shall have learned that the Christ of the Gospels is a myth, that Christianity is untrue, it will turn its attention from the religious fictions of the past to the vital problems of to-day, and endeavor to solve them for the improvement of the well-being of the real men and women whom we know, and whom we ought to help and love.

Last Judgement?

by Frank R. ZindlerThe American Atheist, Summer 1998.

I have taken it for granted that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Some writers feel a need to justify this assumption at length against people who try from time to time to deny it. It would be easier, frankly, to believe that Tiberius Caesar, Jesus' contemporary, was a figment of the imagination than to believe that there never was such a person as Jesus.
- N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Fortress, 1996)

For most of my life, I had taken it for granted that Jesus, although certainly not a god, was nevertheless an historical personage - perhaps a magician skilled in hypnosis. To be sure, I knew that some of the world's greatest scholars had denied his existence. Nevertheless, I had always more or less supposed that it was improbable that so many stories could have sprung up about someone who had never existed. Even in the case of other deities, such as Zeus, Thor, Isis, and Osiris, I had always taken it for granted that they were merely deified human heroes: men and women who lived in the later stages of prehistory - persons whose reputations got better and better the longer the time elapsed after their deaths. Gods, like fine wines, I supposed, improved with age.

About a decade ago, however, I began to reexamine the evidence for the historicity of Jesus. I was astounded at what I didn't find. In this article, I would like to show how shaky the evidence is regarding the alleged existence of a would-be messiah named Jesus. I now feel it is more reasonable to suppose he never existed. It is easier to account for the facts of early Christian history if Jesus were a fiction than if he once were real.

Burden of Proof

Although what follows may fairly be interpreted to be a proof of the non-historicity of Jesus, it must be realized that the burden of proof does not rest upon the skeptic in this matter. As always is the case, the burden of proof weighs upon those who assert that some thing or some process exists. If someone claims that he never has to shave because every morning before he can get to the bathroom he is assaulted by a six-foot rabbit with extremely sharp teeth who trims his whiskers better than a razor - if someone makes such a claim, no skeptic need worry about constructing a disproof. Unless evidence for the claim is produced, the skeptic can treat the claim as false. This is nothing more than sane, every-day practice.

Unlike N. T. Wright, quoted at the beginning of this article, a small number of scholars have tried over the centuries to prove that Jesus was in fact historical. It is instructive, when examining their "evidence," to compare it to the sort of evidence we have, say, for the existence of Tiberius Cæsar - to take up the challenge made by Wright.

It may be conceded that it is not surprising that there are no coins surviving from the first century with the image of Jesus on them. Unlike Tiberius Cæsar and Augustus Cæsar who adopted him, Jesus is not thought to have had control over any mints. Even so, we must point out that we do have coins dating from the early first century that bear images of Tiberius that change with the age of their subject. We even have coins minted by his predecessor, Augustus Cæsar, that show Augustus on one side and his adopted son on the other. [1] Would Mr Wright have us believe that these coins are figments of the imagination? Can we be dealing with fig-mints?

Statues that can be dated archaeologically survive to show Tiberius as a youth, as a young man assuming the toga, as Cæsar, etc. [2] Engravings and gems show him with his entire family. [3] Biographers who were his contemporaries or nearly so quote from his letters and decrees and recount the details of his life in minute detail. [4] There are contemporary inscriptions all over the former empire that record his deeds. [5] There is an ossuary of at least one member of his family, and the Greek text of a speech made by his son Germanicus has been found at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. [6] And then there are the remains of his villa on Capri. Nor should we forget that Augustus Cæsar, in his Res Gestæ ("Things Accomplished"), which survives both in Greek and Latin on the so-called Monumentum Ancyranum, lists Tiberius as his son and co-ruler. [7]

Is there anything advocates of an historical Jesus can produce that could be as compelling as this evidence for Tiberius? I think not, and I thank N. T. Wright for making a challenge that brings this disparity so clearly to light.

There is really only one area where evidence for Jesus is even claimed to be of a sort similar to that adduced for Tiberius - the area of biographies written by contemporaries or near contemporaries. [a] It is sometimes claimed that the Christian Bible contains such evidence. Sometimes it is claimed that there is extrabiblical evidence as well. Let us then examine this would-be evidence.

The Old Testament "Evidence"

Let us consider the so-called biblical evidence first. Despite the claims of Christian apologists, there is absolutely nothing in the Old Testament (OT) that is of relevance to our question, apart from the possible fact that some prophets may have thought that an "anointed one" (a rescuer king or priest) would once again assume the leadership of the Jewish world. All of the many examples of OT "predictions" of Jesus are so silly that one need only look them up to see their irrelevance. Thomas Paine, the great heretic of the American Revolution, did just that, and he demonstrated their irrelevance in his book An Examination of the Prophecies, which he intended to be Part III of The Age of Reason. [b]

The New Testament "Evidence"

The elimination of the OT leaves only the New Testament (NT) "evidence" and extrabiblical material to be considered. Essentially, the NT is composed of two types of documents: letters and would-be biographies (the so-called gospels). A third category of writing, apocalyptic, [c] of which the Book of Revelation is an example, also exists, but it gives no support for the historicity of Jesus. In fact, it would appear to be an intellectual fossil of the thought-world from which Christianity sprang - a Jewish apocalypse that was reworked for Christian use. [8] The main character of the book (referred to 28 times) would seem to be "the Lamb," an astral being seen in visions (no claims to historicity here!), and the book overall is redolent of ancient astrology. [9]

The name Jesus occurs only seven times in the entire book, Christ only four times, and Jesus Christ only twice! While Revelation may very well derive from a very early period (contrary to the views of most biblical scholars, who deal with the book only in its final form), the Jesus of which it whispers obviously is not a man. He is a supernatural being. He has not yet acquired the physiological and metabolic properties of which we read in the gospels. The Jesus of Revelation is a god who would later be made into a man - not a man who would later become a god, as liberal religious scholars would have it.

The Gospels

The notion that the four "gospels that made the cut" to be included in the official New Testament were written by men named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John does not go back to early Christian times. The titles "According to Matthew," etc., were not added until late in the second century. Thus, although Papias ca. 140 CE ('Common Era') knows all the gospels but has only heard of Matthew and Mark, Justin Martyr (ca. 150 CE) knows of none of the four supposed authors. It is only in 180 CE, with Irenæus of Lyons, that we learn who wrote the four "canonical" gospels and discover that there are exactly four of them because there are four quarters of the earth and four universal winds. Thus, unless one supposes the argument of Irenæus to be other than ridiculous, we come to the conclusion that the gospels are of unknown origin and authorship, and there is no good reason to suppose they are eye-witness accounts of a man named Jesus of Nazareth. At a minimum, this forces us to examine the gospels to see if their contents are even compatible with the notion that they were written by eye-witnesses. We cannot even assume that each of the gospels had but one author or redactor.

It is clear that the gospels of Matthew and Luke could not possibly have been written by an eye-witness of the tales they tell. Both writers plagiarize [d] (largely word-for-word) up to 90% of the gospel of Mark, to which they add sayings of Jesus ^e and would-be historical details. Ignoring the fact that Matthew and Luke contradict each other in such critical details as the genealogy of Jesus - and thus cannot both be correct - we must ask why real eye-witnesses would have to plagiarize the entire ham-hocks-and-potatoes of the story, contenting themselves with adding merely a little gravy, salt, and pepper. A real eye-witness would have begun with a verse reading, "Now, boys and girls, I'm gonna tell you the story of Jesus the Messiah the way it really happened..." The story would be a unique creation. It is significant that it is only these two gospels that purport to tell anything of Jesus' birth, childhood, or ancestry. Both can be dismissed as unreliable without further cause. We can know nothing of Jesus' childhood or origin!


But what about the gospel of Mark, the oldest surviving gospel? Attaining essentially its final form probably as late as 90 CE but containing core material dating possibly as early as 70 CE, it omits, as we have seen, almost the entire traditional biography of Jesus, beginning the story with John the Baptist giving Jesus a bath, and ending - in the oldest manuscripts - with women running frightened from the empty tomb. (The alleged postresurrection appearances reported in the last twelve verses of Mark are not found in the
earliest manuscripts, even though they are still printed in most modern bibles as though they were an "authentic" part of Mark's gospel.) Moreover, "Mark" being a non-Palestinian non-disciple, even the skimpy historical detail he provides is untrustworthy. To say that Mark's account is "skimpy" is to understate the case. There really isn't much to the gospel of Mark, the birth legends, genealogies, and childhood wonders all being absent. Whereas the gospel of Luke takes up 43 pages in the New English Bible, the gospel of Mark occupies only 25 pages - a mere 58% as much material! Stories do indeed grow with the retelling.

I have claimed that the unknown author of Mark was a non-Palestinian non-disciple, which would make his story mere hearsay. What evidence do we have for this assertion? First of all, Mark shows no first-hand understanding of the social situation in Palestine. He is clearly a foreigner, removed both in space and time from the events he alleges. For example, in Mark 10:12, he has Jesus say that if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. As G. A. Wells, the author of The Historical Evidence for Jesus [10] puts it,

    Such an utterance would have been meaningless in Palestine, where
    only men could obtain divorce. It is a ruling for the Gentile Christian readers... which the evangelist put into Jesus' mouth in order to give it authority. This tendency to anchor later customs and institutions to Jesus' supposed lifetime played a considerable role in the building up of his biography.

One further evidence of the inauthenticity of Mark is the fact that in chapter 7, where Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees, Jesus is made to quote the Greek Septuagint version of Isaiah in order to score his debate point. Unfortunately, the Hebrew version says something different from the Greek. Isaiah 29:13, in the Hebrew reads "their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote," whereas the Greek version - and the gospel of Mark - reads "in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" [Revised Standard Version). Wells observes dryly [p. 13], "That a Palestinian Jesus should floor Orthodox Jews with an argument based on a mistranslation of their scriptures is very unlikely." Indeed!

Another powerful argument against the idea that Mark could have been an eye-witness of the existence of Jesus is based upon the observation that the author of Mark displays a profound lack of familiarity with Palestinian geography. If he had actually lived in Palestine, he would not have made the blunders to be found in his gospel. If he never lived in Palestine, he could not have been an eye-witness of Jesus. You get the point.

The most absurd geographical error Mark commits is when he tells the tall tale about Jesus crossing over the Sea of Galilee and casting demons out of a man (two men in Matthew's revised version) and making them go into about 2,000 pigs which, as the King James version puts it, "ran violently down a steep place into the sea... and they were choked in the sea."

Apart from the cruelty to animals displayed by the lovable, gentle Jesus, and his disregard for the property of others, what's wrong with this story? If your only source of information is the King James Bible, you might not ever know. The King James says this marvel occurred in the land of the Gadarenes, whereas the oldest Greek manuscripts say this miracle took place in the land of the Gerasenes. Luke, who also knew no Palestinian geography, also passes on this bit of absurdity. But Matthew, who had some knowledge of Palestine, changed the name to Gadarene in his new, improved version; but this is further improved to Gergesenes in the King James version.

By now the reader must be dizzy with all the distinctions between
Gerasenes, Gadarenes, and Gergesenes. What difference does it make? A lot of difference, as we shall see.

Gerasa, the place mentioned in the oldest manuscripts of Mark, is located about 31 miles from the shore of the Sea of Galilee! Those poor pigs had to run a course five miles longer than a marathon in order to find a place to drown! Not even lemmings have to go that far. Moreover, if one considers a "steep" slope to be at least 45 degrees, that would make the elevation of Gerasa at least six times higher than Mt. Everest!

When the author of Matthew read Mark's version, he saw the impossibility of Jesus and the gang disembarking at Gerasa (which, by the way, was also in a different country, the so-called Decapolis). Since the only town in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee that he knew of that started with G was Gadara, he changed Gerasa to Gadara. But even Gadara was five miles from the shore - and in a different country. Later copyists of the Greek manuscripts of all three pig-drowning gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) improved Gadara further
to Gergesa, a region now thought to have actually formed part of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. So much for the trustworthiness of the biblical tradition.

Another example of Mark's abysmal ignorance of Palestinian geography is found in the story he made up about Jesus traveling from Tyre on the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee, 30 miles inland. According to Mark 7:31, Jesus and the boys went by way of Sidon, 20 miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast! Since to Sidon and back would be 40 miles, this means that the wisest of all men walked 70 miles when he could have walked only 30. Of course, one would never know all this from the King James version which - apparently completely ignoring a perfectly clear Greek text - says "Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the Sea of Galilee..." Apparently the translators of the King James version also knew their geography. At least they knew more than did the author of Mark!


The unreliability of the gospels is underscored when we learn that, with the possible exception of John, the first three gospels bear no internal indication of who wrote them. Can we glean anything of significance from the fourth and latest gospel, the gospel of John? Not likely! It is so unworldly, it can scarcely be cited for historical evidence. In this account, Jesus is hardly a man of flesh and blood at all - except for the purposes of divine cannibalism as required by the celebration of the rite of "holy communion."

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god," the gospel begins. No Star of Bethlehem, no embarrassment of pregnant virgins, no hint that Jesus ever wore diapers: pure spirit from the beginning. Moreover, in its present form, the gospel of John is the latest of all the official gospels. [f]

The gospel of John was compiled around the year 110 CE. If its author had been 10 years old at the time of Jesus' crucifiction in the year 30 CE, he would have been 80 years old at the time of writing. Not only is it improbable that he would have lived so long, it is dangerous to pay much attention to the colorful "memories" recounted by a man in his "anecdotage." Many of us who are far younger than this have had the unpleasant experience of discovering incontrovertible proof that what we thought were clear memories of some event were wildly incorrect. We also might wonder why an eye-witness of all the
wonders claimed in a gospel would wait so long to write about them!

More importantly, there is evidence that the Gospel of John, like Matthew and Luke, also is a composite document, incorporating an earlier "Signs Gospel" of uncertain antiquity. Again, we ask, if "John" had been an eye-witness to Jesus, why would he need to plagiarize a list of miracles made up by someone else? Nor is there anything in the Signs Gospel that would lead one to suppose that it was an eye-witness account. It could just as easily have been referring to the wonders of Dionysus turning water into wine, or to the healings of Asclepius.

The inauthenticity of the Gospel of John would seem to be established beyond cavil by the discovery that the very chapter that asserts the author of the book to have been "the disciple whom Jesus loved" [John 21:20] was a late addition to the gospel. Scholars have shown that the gospel originally ended at verses 30-31 of Chapter 20. Chapter 21 - in which verse 24 asserts that "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true" - is not the work of an eye-witness. Like so many other things in the Bible, it is a fraud. The testimony is not true.

Saint Saul And His Letters

Having eliminated the OT and the gospels from the list of possible biblical "evidences" of the existence of Jesus, we are left with the so-called epistles.

At first blush, we might think that these epistles - some of which are by far the oldest parts of the NT, having been composed at least 30 years before the oldest gospel - would provide us with the most reliable information on Jesus. Well, so much for blushes. The oldest letters are the letters of St. Saul - the man who, after losing his mind, changed his name to Paul. Before going into details, we must point out right away, before we forget, that St. Saul's testimony can be ignored quite safely, if what he tells us is true, namely, that he never met Jesus "in the flesh," but rather saw him only in a vision he had during what appears to have been an epileptic seizure. No court of law would accept visions as evidence, and neither should we.

The reader might object that even if Saul only had hearsay evidence, some of it might be true. Some of it might tell us some facts about Jesus. Well, allright. Let's look at the evidence.

According to tradition, 13 of the letters in the NT are the work of St Saul. Unfortunately, Bible scholars and computer experts have gone to work on these letters, and it turns out that only four can be shown to be substantially by the same author, putatively Saul. [g] These are the letters known as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. To these probably we may add the brief note to Philemon, a slave-owner, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians. The rest of the so-called Pauline epistles can be shown to have been written by other and later authors,
so we can throw them out right now and not worry about them.

Saul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:32 that King Aretas of the Nabateans tried to have him arrested because of his Christian agitation. Since Aretas is known to have died in the year 40 CE, this means that Saul became a Christian before that date. So what do we find out about Jesus from a man who had become a Christian less than ten years after the alleged crucifixion? Precious little!

Once again, G.A. Wells, in his book The Historical Evidence for Jesus
[pp. 22-23], sums things up so succinctly, that I quote him verbatim:

The...Pauline letters...are so completely silent concerning the events that were later recorded in the gospels as to suggest that these events were not known to Paul, who, however, could not have been ignorant of them if they had really occurred.

These letters have no allusion to the parents of Jesus, let alone to the virgin birth. They never refer to a place of birth (for example, by calling him 'of Nazareth'). They give no indication of the time or place of his earthly existence. They do not refer to his trial before a Roman official, nor to Jerusalem as the place of execution. They mention neither John the Baptist, nor Judas, nor Peter's denial of his master. (They do, of course, mention Peter, but do not imply that he, any more than Paul himself, had known Jesus while he had been alive.)

These letters also fail to mention any miracles Jesus is supposed to have worked, a particularly striking omission, since, according to the gospels, he worked so many...

Another striking feature of Paul's letters is that one could never gather from them that Jesus had been an ethical teacher... on only one occasion does he appeal to the authority of Jesus to support an ethical teaching which the gospels also represent Jesus as having delivered.

It turns out that Saul's appeal to the authority of Jesus involves precisely the same error we found in the gospel of Mark. In 1 Cor.7:10, Saul says that "not I but the Lord, [say] that the wife should not separate from the husband." That is, a wife should not seek divorce. If Jesus had actually said what Saul implies, and what Mark 10:12 claims he said, his audience would have thought he was nuts - as the Bhagwan says - or perhaps had suffered a blow to the head. So much for the testimony of Saul. His Jesus is nothing more than the thinnest hearsay, a legendary creature which was crucified as a sacrifice, a creature almost totally lacking a biography.

Extrabiblical "Evidence"

So far we have examined all the biblical evidences alleged to prove the existence of Jesus as an historical figure. We have found that they have no legitimacy as evidence. Now we must examine the last line of would-be evidence, the notion that Jewish and pagan historians recorded his existence.

Jewish Sources

It is sometimes claimed that Jewish writings hostile to Christianity prove that the ancient Jews knew of Jesus and that such writings prove the historicity of the man Jesus. But in fact, Jewish writings prove no such thing, as L. Gordon Rylands' book Did Jesus Ever Live? pointed out nearly seventy years ago:

all the knowledge which the Rabbis had of Jesus was obtained by them from the Gospels. Seeing that Jews, even in the present more critical age, take it for granted that the figure of a real man stands behind the Gospel narrative, one need not be surprised if, in the second century, Jews did not think of questioning that assumption. It is certain, however, that some did question it. For Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho, represents the Jew Trypho as saying, "ye follow an empty rumour and make a Christ for yourselves." "If he was born and lived somewhere he is entirely unknown."

That the writers of the Talmud [4th-5th centuries CE, FRZ] had no independent knowledge of Jesus is proved by the fact that they confounded him with two different men neither of whom can have been he. Evidently no other Jesus with whom they could identify the Gospel Jesus was known to them. One of these, Jesus ben Pandira, reputed a wonder-worker, is said to have been stoned to death and then hung on a tree on the eve of a Passover in the reign of Alexander Jannæus (106-79 BC) at Jerusalem. The other, Jesus ben Stada, whose date is uncertain, but who may have lived in the first third of the second century CE, is also said to have been stoned and hanged on the eve of a Passover, but at Lydda. There may be some confusion here; but it is plain that the Rabbis had no knowledge of Jesus apart from what they had read in the Gospels. [11]

Although Christian apologists have listed a number of ancient historians who allegedly were witnesses to the existence of Jesus, the only two that consistently are cited are Josephus, a Pharisee, and Tacitus, a pagan. Since Josephus was born in the year 37 CE, and Tacitus was born in 55, neither could have been an eye-witness of Jesus, who supposedly was crucified in 30 CE. So we could really end our article here. But someone might claim that these historians nevertheless had access to reliable sources, now lost, which recorded the existence and execution of our friend JC. So it is desirable that we take a look at these two supposed witnesses.

In the case of Josephus, whose Antiquities of the Jews was written in 93 CE, about the same time as the gospels, we find him saying some things quite impossible for a good Pharisee to have said:

About this time, there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared. [12]

Now no loyal Pharisee would say Jesus had been the Messiah. That Josephus could report that Jesus had been restored to life "on the third day" and not be convinced by this astonishing bit of information is beyond belief. Worse yet is the fact that the story of Jesus is intrusive in Josephus' narrative and can be seen to be an interpolation even in an English translation of the Greek text. Right after the wondrous passage quoted above, Josephus goes on to say, "About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder..." Josephus had previously been talking about awful things Pilate had done to the Jews in general, and one can easily understand why an interpolator would have chosen this particular spot. But his ineptitude in not changing the wording of the bordering text left a "literary seam" (what rhetoricians might term aporia) that sticks out like a pimpled nose.

The fact that Josephus was not convinced by this or any other Christian claim is clear from the statement of the church father Origen (ca. 185-ca. 154 CE) - who dealt extensively with Josephus - that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, i.e., as "the Christ." Moreover, the disputed passage was never cited by early Christian apologists such as Clement of Alexandria (ca.150-ca. 215 CE), who certainly would have made use of such ammunition had he had it!

The first person to make mention of this obviously forged interpolation into the text of Josephus' history was the church father Eusebius, in 324 CE. It is quite likely that Eusebius himself did some of the forging. As late as 891, Photius in his Bibliotheca, which devoted three "Codices" to the works of Josephus, shows no awareness of the passage whatsoever even though he reviews the sections of the Antiquities in which one would expect the disputed passage to be found. Clearly, the testimonial was absent from his copy of Antiquities of the Jews. [13] The question can probably be laid to rest by noting that as late as the sixteenth century, according to Rylands, [14] a scholar named Vossius had a manuscript of Josephus from which the passage was wanting.

Apologists, as they grasp for ever more slender straws with which to support their historical Jesus, point out that the passage quoted above is not the only mention of Jesus made by Josephus. In Bk. 20, Ch. 9, §1 of Antiquities of the Jews one also finds the following statement in surviving manuscripts:

Ananus convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.

It must be admitted that this passage does not intrude into the text as does the one previously quoted. In fact, it is very well integrated into Josephus' story. That it has been modified from whatever Josephus' source may have said (remember, here too, Josephus could not have been an eye-witness) is nevertheless extremely probable. The crucial word in this passage is the name James (Jacob in Greek and Hebrew). It is very possible that this very common name was in Josephus' source material. It might even have been a reference to James the Just, a first-century character we have good reason to believe indeed existed. Because he appears to have born the title Brother of the Lord, [h] it would have been natural to relate him to the Jesus character. It is quite possible that Josephus actually referred to a James "the Brother of the Lord," and this was changed by Christian copyists (remember that although Josephus was a Jew, his text was preserved only by Christians!) to "Brother of Jesus" - adding then for good measure "who was called Christ."

According to William Benjamin Smith's skeptical classic Ecce Deus, [15] there are still some manuscripts of Josephus which contain the quoted passages, but the passages are absent in other manuscripts - showing that such interpolation had already been taking place before the time of Origen but did not ever succeed in supplanting the original text universally.

Pagan Authors Before considering the alleged witness of Pagan authors, it is worth noting some of the things that we should find recorded in their histories if the biblical stories are in fact true. One passage from Matthew should suffice to point out the significance of the silence of secular writers:

Matt. 27:45. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour... Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection [exposed for 3 days?], and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Wouldn't the Greeks and Romans have noticed - and recorded - such darkness occurring at a time of the month when a solar eclipse was impossible? Wouldn't someone have remembered - and recorded - the name of at least one of those "saints" who climbed out of the grave and went wandering downtown in the mall? If Jesus did anything of significance at all, wouldn't someone have noticed? If he didn't do anything significant, how could he have stimulated the formation of a new religion?

Considering now the supposed evidence of Tacitus, we find that this Roman historian is alleged in 120 CE to have written a passage in his Annals (Bk 15, Ch 44, containing the wild tale of Nero's persecution of Christians) saying "Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus..." G.A. Wells [p. 16] says of this passage:

[Tacitus wrote] at a time when Christians themselves had come to believe that Jesus had suffered under Pilate. There are three reasons for holding that Tacitus is here simply repeating what Christians had told him. First, he gives Pilate a title, procurator [without saying procurator of what! FRZ], which was current only from the second half of the first century. Had he consulted archives which recorded earlier events, he would surely have found Pilate there designated by his correct title, prefect. Second, Tacitus does not name the executed man Jesus, but uses the title Christ (Messiah) as if it were a proper name. But he could hardly have found in archives a statement such as "the Messiah was executed this morning." Third, hostile to Christianity as he was, he was surely glad to accept from Christians their own view that Christianity was of recent origin, since the Roman authorities were prepared to tolerate only ancient cults. (The Historical Evidence for Jesus; p.16).

There are further problems with the Tacitus story. Tacitus himself never again alludes to the Neronian persecution of Christians in any of his voluminous writings, and no other Pagan authors know anything of the outrage either. Most significant, however, is that ancient Christian apologists made no use of the story in their propaganda - an unthinkable omission by motivated partisans who were well-read in the works of Tacitus. Clement of Alexandria, who made a profession of collecting just such types of quotations, is ignorant of any Neronian persecution, and even Tertullian, who quotes a great deal from Tacitus, knows nothing of the story. According to Robert Taylor, the author of another freethought classic, the Diegesis (1834), the passage was not known before the fifteenth century, when Tacitus was first published at Venice by Johannes de Spire. Taylor believed de Spire himself to have been the forger. [i]

So much for the evidence purporting to prove that Jesus was an historical figure. We have not, of course, proved that Jesus did not exist. We have only showed that all evidence alleged to support such a claim is without substance. But of course, that is all we need to show. The burden of proof is always on the one who claims that something exists or that something once happened. We have no obligation to try to prove a universal negative. [j]

It will be argued by die-hard believers that all my arguments "from silence" prove nothing and they will quote the aphorism, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." But is the negative evidence I have referred to the same as absence of evidence? It might be instructive to consider how a hypothetical but similar problem might be dealt with in the physical sciences.

Imagine that someone has claimed that the USA had carried out atomic weapons tests on a particular Caribbean island in 1943. Would the lack of reports of mushroom-cloud sightings at the time be evidence of absence, or absence of evidence? (Remember, the Caribbean during the war years was under intense surveillance by many different factions.) Would it be necessary to go to the island today to scan its surface for the radioactive contamination that would have to be there if nuclear explosions had taken place there? If indeed, we went there with our Geiger-counters and found no trace of radioactive contamination, would that be evidence of absence, or absence of evidence? In this case, what superficially looks like absence of evidence is really negative evidence, and thus legitimately could be construed as evidence of absence. Can the negative evidence adduced above concerning Jesus be very much less compelling?

It would be intellectually satisfying to learn just how it was that the Jesus character condensed out of the religious atmosphere of the first century. But scholars are at work on the problem. The publication of many examples of so-called wisdom literature, along with the materials from the Essene community at Qumran by the Dead Sea and the Gnostic literature from the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt, has given us a much more detailed picture of the communal psychopathologies which infested the Eastern Mediterranean world at the turn of the era. It is not unrealistic to expect that we will be able, before long, to reconstruct in reasonable detail the stages by which Jesus came to have a biography.

They Should Have Noticed
John E. Remsburg, in his classic book The Christ: A Critical Review
and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence
(The Truth Seeker
Company, NY, no date, pp. 24-25), lists the following writers who
lived during the time, or within a century after the time, that Jesus
is supposed to have lived:

Pliny Elder
Dion Pruseus
Pliny Younger
Justus of Tiberius
Hermogones Silius Italicus
Valerius Maximus
Florus Lucius
Quintius Curtius
Aulus Gellius
Dio Chrysostom
Valerius Flaccus
Pomponius Mela
Appion of Alexandria
Theon of Smyrna

According to Remsburg, "Enough of the writings of the authors named in
the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of
Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the
works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of
Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ." Nor,
we may add, do any of these authors make note of the Disciples or
Apostles - increasing the embarrassment from the silence of history
concerning the foundation of Christianity.

^a It is sometimes claimed that the "miraculous" spread of
Christianity in the early Roman Empire is evidence of an historical
Jesus - that such a movement could not have gone so far so fast had
there not been a real person at its inception. A similar argument
could be made, however, in the case of the earlier rapid spread of
Mithraism. I am unaware of any Christian apologists who would argue
that this supports the idea of an historical Mithra!

^b A profusely annotated paperback edition of Paine's book is
available from American Atheist Press.

^c An apocalypse is a pseudonymous piece of writing characterized by
exaggerated symbolic imagery, usually dealing with the expectation of
an imminent cosmic cataclysm wherein the deity destroys the wicked and
rewards the righteous. Apocalyptic writing abounds in hidden meanings
and numerological puzzles. Parts of a number of Judæo-Christian
apocalypses other than Revelation have been preserved, but only the
latter (if one does not consider the Book of Daniel to be entirely
apocalyptic) was accepted into the Christian canon - and it almost
didn't make it, having been rejected by several early Church Fathers
and Church Councils.

^d The opposite theory, often referred to as "Griesbach's hypothesis,"
that the author of Mark had "epitomized" the two longer gospels,
keeping only the "essential" details, is today almost entirely
rejected by bible scholars. While the arguments to support this nearly
universal rejection are too involved to even summarize here, it may be
noted that shortening of miracle stories is completely out of keeping
with the principles of religious development seen everywhere today.
Stories invariably get "better" (i.e., longer) with the retelling,
never shorter!

^e There is compelling evidence indicating that these alleged sayings
of Jesus were taken from another early document known as Q (German,
for Quelle, 'source'). Like the so-called Gospel of Thomas found at
Nag Hammadi in Egypt, Q appears to have been a list of wisdom sayings
that at some point became attributed to Jesus. We know that at least
one of these sayings ("We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced"
Matt. 17:11; Luke 7:32) derives from Æsop's Fables, not from a sage of

^f I say "official gospels" because there are, in fact, many other
gospels known. Once people started making them up, they sort of got
stuck in over-drive. Only later on in Christian history did the number
get pared back to four.

^g Even the letters supposed to contain authentic writings of
Saul/Paul have been shown by a number of scholars to be as composite
as the gospels (e.g., L. Gordon Rylands, A Critical Analysis of the
Four Chief Pauline Epistles: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, and
, Watts & Co., London, 1929). According to such analyses, the
core Pauline material in these letters is what might be termed a
pre-Christian Gnostic product. This material is surrounded by often
contradictory material added by proto-Catholic interpolators and
redactors who succeeded thus in claiming a popular proto-Gnostic
authority for the Church of Rome. In any case, the Greek text of these
letters is heavy with terms such as Archon, Æon, etc. - jargon terms
popular in the more astrologically conscious forms of Gnosticism. It
would appear that the Christ of Paul is as astral a being as the Lamb
of Revelation. Like the god of Revelation, the god of Paul
communicates via visions, not physically, face-to-face.

^h Originally, this would have been the title born by a member of a
religious fraternity associated with the worship of Yahweh, who in
Greek was always referred to as kurios ('Lord'). This was carried over
into primitive Christianity, where we know from I Cor. 9:5 that there
existed a governing class coordinate with apostles that was called
"Brothers of the Lord." Misunderstanding of the original meaning of
the title led to the belief that Jesus had siblings - an error that
can be found already in the earliest of the canonical gospels.

Interestingly, the embarrassing passages in the gospels where Jesus is
rude to his mother and brethren would seem to derive from a period
where a political struggle had developed between apostolically
governed sects and those governed by "Brethren of the Lord," who
claimed authority now by virtue of an alleged blood relationship to
Jesus - who had by then supplanted Yahweh as "Lord." The apostolic
politics of the gospel writers could not resist putting down the
Brethren Party by having Jesus disregard his own family. If Jesus
didn't pay serious attention to his own family, the argument would go,
why should anyone pay attention to their descendants? This is the only
plausible explanation for the presence of such passages as John 2:4
("Woman, what have I to do with thee?") or Mark 3:33 ("Who is my
mother, or my brethren?).

^i Latinists often dispute the possibility of the passage being a
forgery on the grounds that Tacitus' distinctive Latin style so
perfectly permeates the entire passage. But it should be noted that
the more distinctive a style might be, the easier it can be imitated.
Then too, there is a lapse from normal Tacitean usage elsewhere in the
disputed passage. In describing the early Christians as being haters
"of the human race" (humani generis), the passage reverses the word
order of normal Tacitean usage. In all other cases, Tacitus has
generis humani.

^j Curiously, in the present case, it would seem that such proof is in
fact possible. Since Jesus is frequently referred to as "Jesus of
Nazareth," it is interesting to learn that the town now called
Nazareth did not exist in the first centuries BCE and CE. Exhaustive
archaeological studies have been done by Franciscans to prove the cave
they possess was once the home of Jesus' family. But actually they
have shown the site to have been a necropolis - a city of the dead -
during the first century CE. (Naturally, the Franciscans cannot
agree!) With no Nazareth other than a cemetery existing at the time,
how could there have been a Jesus of Nazareth? Without an Oz, could
there have been a Wizard of Oz?

^1. Illustrated in Robin Seager, Tiberius, Eyre Methuen, London, 1972.
For more detailed numismatic documentation of Tiberius, see also C. H.
V. Sutherland, Roman History and Coinage 44 BC-AD 69, Clarendon Press,
Oxford, 1987; by the same author, Coinage in Roman Imperial Policy 31
B.C.-A.D. 68
, Sanford J. Durst Numismatic Publications, NY, 1978.

^2. Illustrated in Seager, op. cit.

^3. Illustrated in Seager, op. cit.

^4. Examined in Sutherland, 1987, op. cit. See also Victor Ehrenberg
and A. H. M. Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus &
, 2nd Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1955.

^5. See Inscriptiones Latinæ Selectæ, edidit Hermannus Dessau,
reprinted in 4 vols. by Ares Publishers Inc., Chicago, 1979.

^6. Illustrated in Seager, op. cit.

^7. See Acta Divi Augusti, Regia Academia Italica, Rome, 1945.

^8. In her Anchor Bible Volume 38, Revelation (Doubleday, Garden City,
NJ, 1975), J. Massyngberde Ford proposed that the core of Revelation
was material written by Jewish followers of John the Baptist. Even if
the Baptist had been an historical figure (which is extremely
doubtful), this still would make Revelation in essence a
pre-Christian, Jewish apocalypse.

^9. For more astrological aspects of Revelation, see Bruce J. Malina,
On The Genre And Message Of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys,
Hendrickson, Peabody, MA, 1995.

^10. George A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, Prometheus
Books, Buffalo, NY, 1982, p. 13.

^11. L. Gordon Rylands, Did Jesus Ever Live?, Watts & Co., London,
1929, p. 20.

^12. This so-called Testimonium Flavianum appears in Bk 18 Ch 3 §3 of
Josephus: Jewish Antiquities Books XVIII-XIX, IX, translated by L. H.
Feldman, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
MA, 1981, pp. 48-51.

^13. J. P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Græca, Tomus
CIII. Photius Constantinopolitanus Patriarcha, Garnier Fratres, Paris,
1900, Cod. 47, 76, and 238.

^14. Rylands, op. cit., p. 14.

^15. William Benjamin Smith, Ecce Deus: Studies Of Primitive
, Watts & Co., London, 1912, p. 235.

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