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Debunking the Christ myth

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THIS week is the time of the year when even the state, by declaring three “holy” days related to the Christ myth as official holidays, strengthens superstitious beliefs created centuries ago when superstition and baseless dogmas, rather than science and rationality, dominated the human mind.

As an analogy, we believed in ghosts, Santa Claus, angels in our childhood. These beliefs — except for a few and for a certain kind of mind — vanished unnoticed in our adulthood, as we imbibed civilization’s greatest tools of the science and rationality

A Filipino woman this time pretending to be the Messiah. AFP PHOTO

To start getting out of one’s mindset built since childhood, you have to recognize that in this modern age, science has been the singularly powerful tool for us to understand reality, to separate what’s false and mythical, and what’s true and factual (or historical). Science just in a brief span of 100 years of the modern human’s 200,000 years of existence has unlocked the mysteries of the atom and of the human genome, so we understand now that the world is not composed of “earth, air, water and fire,” nor are we just a more sophisticated form of dust.

But science has been employed not only to understand matter and life but also human society itself through such disciplines as archaeology, philology, psychology, literary and textual criticism and sociology. So, it is not surprising at all that the social sciences have been used to study that aspect of human society that is so significant to humans: religion.

The social sciences have been employed to study the world’s largest religion, Christianity and its central figure, Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection purportedly saved trillions of humans past, present and future from living forever in hell. In the past several decades indeed, there has been an explosion of scholarly studies debunking the dogmas of the former Roman imperial religion, Christianity.

Elite

Most of these studies were known and discussed before only by a small elite in the academe. In the past decade, however, they have published hundreds of these studies, writing them in layman’s terms — thanks to capitalist book publishing that makes academics millionaires. Many of these were even clerics who would announce that they have become atheists, or at least their belief in Christianity, saying that they cannot ignore, as one professional theologian said sarcastically, “What my God-given faculties of mind has proven false.”

Three modern narratives of ‘Jesus Christ.’

In the past five years, there has been a flood of vloggers and short documentaries that explain these studies, primarily on YouTube. Stop wasting your time on Netflix or Apple TV, and learn truths you would not have known about. These are presented without straining your mind — in the comfort of your couch. Start with these two amazing documentaries: “Creating Christ” and “Caesar’s Messiah.” These will blow your mind. Watch on YouTube the rock star of scholarship on early Christian history, the boyish-looking Dr. Richard Carrier, who wrote “On the Historicity of Jesus,” who even used advanced mathematical logic to estimate the probability of Jesus Christ’s existence.

The crux of these studies is the question whether Jesus Christ is half-god, half-human or just a myth. These questions had been asked by scholars starting in the 18th century, as academic freedom was unshackled from clerical dictatorship. In recent years, interest in the question has intensified with probably a thousand doctoral and master’s theses, books, as well as articles, both from Christian and secular universities, being churned out on the issue.

The result of these studies will trouble the Christian faithful.

Preacher

Some 40 percent, by one reckoning, have concluded that a preacher Yeshua (a very common Jewish name) did exist, but he was just one of scores of similar Jewish apocalyptic preachers who proliferated in the Middle East after the traumatic destruction by the Romans of the Jews’ Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, an unbelievable event for a people who believed for centuries that they were the Chosen People of the one true God.

They claimed they were the Messiahs (from the Hebrew “Mashiach,” the one anointed by oil, i.e., God-appointed) with Divine superpowers to defeat the most powerful military machine of that era, the Romans.

A leading authority on the bible, Bart D. Ehrman, in his book “Did Jesus Exist?” claimed that Jesus was one of the many “repent-the-end-is-near” millenarians in that age and society when Jews believed that since they were God’s Chosen People, God would overthrow their Roman conquerors, led by a Messiah, a Prophet-King. The best-selling book “The Zealot” by Reza Aslan explained that Jesus was a leader of the Zealots, a political movement in Judea inciting people to overthrow the Roman yoke.

Ehrman, however, pointed out that when Jesus said the “Kingdom of God is near,” he was not referring to an afterlife-Heaven, where good souls supposedly go after death. Instead, he was alluding to the establishment of God’s anointed Kingdom of Israel, which would rule over all other nations.

Jesus, in fact, even claimed when this cosmic cataclysm would happen: Before his disciples “taste death” (Mark 9:1) or in Mark 13:30, before “this generation” passes away.

Jesus, however, was not the revolutionary leader rousing and organizing the masses, as idealized by Catholic liberation theology priests. Jesus believed that the Romans would be overthrown by God with his cosmic forces: “The sun will grow dark, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:24-27).

Pontius Pilate, of course, saw him as another of the many troublemakers rousing the masses to overthrow the Roman yoke. The Romans ruled by fear; they killed people they conquered when they were bored. Ehrman says the trial of Jesus probably lasted no more than a couple of minutes, and the order of death was carried out immediately. “Before anyone knew it, the apocalyptic preacher was on a cross and dead within six hours,” Ehrman wrote somewhat sarcastically.

A myth

Another 40 percent of scholars who have studied Christianity without the blinkers of religious dogma have concluded that Jesus Christ never existed. It is merely the invention of the proselytizer Greek-Jewish Paul, in practically the same way the ancient Egyptians concocted the god-man Osiris, or the Greeks, the demigod Hercules.

These “mythicists” claim that Jesus Christ is a legendary figure invented in the first and second centuries to become the core of a new religion, just as Greek gods, Santa Claus, Robin Hood, King Arthur were not real historical people but amalgams of persons mythicized over the centuries.

As evidence, mythicists claim that elements of the Jesus story were prevalent in myths during that era and in that part of the world. The theme of a dying-rising god was common in ancient religions: Osiris, Attis, Heracles and Baal. The Persian god Mithra (who was popular among Roman soldiers) was also born to a virgin.

Furthermore, the mythicists point out, there are no non-Christian accounts reporting that Jesus existed and was crucified. The often-cited reference to Jesus by the first-century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus — “the doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth” — has been conclusively established to have been clumsily inserted into the text a century after Jesus’ supposed life, obviously by a Jesus believer.

Roman invention

The following thesis has been developed only in recent years to be the most shocking claim about Jesus Christ: Jesus was invented by the Romans as a means of pacifying the Jews, who were one of the most rebellious nations it conquered. The Romans feared they could engulf Rome from its periphery, since after their Temple’s destruction, they spread out to and built communities all over the Mediterranean coasts.

This thesis has been propounded in detail in “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus,” by Joseph Atwill, a respected scholar on biblical studies and by James Valliant and Warren Fahy in their “Creating Christ: How Roman Emperors Invented Christianity.”

That thesis very well explains one episode in the New Testament that I have found puzzling since my youth. Why were the Jews depicted as a mob demanding the execution of one of their own, Jesus, while their hated rulers, the Romans, i.e., Pontius Pilate, is portrayed as a righteous man pressured to give in to the mob’s demand? (Indeed Roman records portrayed him as so ruthless a governor that he was recalled and never given such a post again.)

This biblical episode is not trivial, as most scholars have traced the anti-Semitic ideology among many Christians, which eventually led to the Nazis’ Holocaust of 6 million Jews during World War 2, to this account in the New Testament. In my youth, I heard of it: “The Jews are bad; they killed Jesus.”

If the Romans indeed invented the Jesus myth, they would have certainly portrayed themselves as just, even respecting the Jews so much that Pilate gave in to the Jewish priests’ and mob’s demands. And they are indeed portrayed so in the New Testament, with Jesus himself directing his followers: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” In the Roman Empire, taxes were ubiquitous as “Cesar’s,” the most important thing from being part of the Roman Empire. Render these to the Romans.

State religions

But why did the “Jesus movement” grow to become one of the world’s largest organized religions?

The quite obvious answer is that it became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the most powerful empire at that time. It was the wily Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who used it masterfully as a way of consolidating his rule over an empire of varied cultures and peoples. Just as Islam became the second-biggest religion when it was made the state religion of the Muslim empire.

The rest, to use the cliché, is history, as the successors of the Roman Empire, the medieval kingdoms of Europe, and then the modern superpowers that included the United States, made Christianity also their state religion, even on a de facto basis. European monarchies more easily ruled by brainwashing their subjects (as well as colonized peoples like us) that they were Jesus Christ’s representatives on earth.

While Christianity did give millions of humans some consolation that they can expect a life after death free from their sufferings on earth as slaves or serfs, and the art and churches to make it easy for them to believe so, that religion gave a tiny political and economic elite the brainwashing mechanism to rule over them, extracting their labor.

It was also the propaganda tool that ordered millions of people to kill other millions of peoples, as evident in the Crusades ordered by the pope against Muslim nations. That trick has been used to this day: US President George W. Bush said in a BBC interview in 2005, “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq.” That war resulted in the death of a million people, from bullets, bombs, wounds, sickness and starvation.


Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. The problem with these self-proclaimed expert “rockstar” scholars and academics is that they are all Western materialist atheists or agnostics, so, naturally, their confirmation bias compels them to cherry-pick evidence and sources that would support their preselected thesis and viewpoint.
    Whatever the actual truth really is, Jesus has now turned into an egregore, or what Buddhists would call a tulpa, a thought-form that has acquired mystical power due to the length of time and amount of energy directed into thinking and believing in the idea of the figure/symbol. But that is another conversation that, I suspect, most materialist-atheists and religious-fanatics alike aren’t mentally-prepared to contemplate. Those two groups are, unfortunately, still in the lower levels of spiritual evolution, they are still not ready for the veil to be lifted from their minds and souls. They would still need some more incarnations in this prison planet before their vibrations are high enough to enable them to accept the greater truths about this level of existence.

  2. Jonathan B. Bangui

    Faith is the substance or assurance of things we hope for, but have not yet received. Faith (confidence, belief, trust) is also our evidence of that which is not seen—the invisible spiritual things.

  3. Jose Panergo

    Quoting other people, no matter how smart they seem, does not make you right, or wise.

    1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”

    Mr. Tiglao, when you die and the truth about the reality of Jesus is finally revealed for you, you will regret everything you have said and written about Him. But it’s too late by then.

    Repent now and believe.

  4. pierre hordista

    A Response to Skepticism: “Defending, Affirming the Reality and Historical Jesus”

    Historical existence of Jesus Christ.

    Numerous historical documents, including non-Christian sources like Tacitus and Josephus, mention Jesus, his crucifixion, and the early Christian movement. These accounts provide credible evidence for Jesus’ existence as a historical figure.

    Theological Significance:

    From a theological standpoint, the article overlooks the profound impact of Jesus’ teachings and the growth of Christianity beyond mere political manipulation.

    The enduring influence of Christ’s message of love, forgiveness, and redemption cannot be attributed solely to political motives.

    Christianity’s spread throughout the Roman Empire occurred despite severe persecution, indicating a genuine belief in Jesus’ teachings among early followers.

    Misrepresentation of Biblical Accounts:

    The article presents a skewed interpretation of biblical narratives, such as the portrayal of Pontius Pilate as a righteous man pressured by the Jewish mob. In reality, biblical accounts depict Pilate as complicit in Jesus’ crucifixion, motivated by political expediency rather than a desire for justice.

    The New Testament narratives provide a nuanced portrayal of the complex political and religious dynamics of the time.

    The Role of Faith and Revelation:

    Finally, the article neglects the subjective aspect of faith and spiritual experience that transcends empirical evidence. For many believers, the truth of Jesus’ existence and significance goes beyond historical documentation, relying on personal encounters with the divine and the transformative power of faith.

    In summary, while the article “Debunking the Christ Myth” raises legitimate questions about historical interpretation and religious influence, it overlooks the comprehensive body of evidence supporting the existence of Jesus Christ and the enduring impact of his teachings on individuals and societies throughout history.

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