Demolishing the Jesus Myth – A History
For more than 200 years a minority of courageous scholars have dared to question the story of Jesus. Despite the risks of physical assault, professional ruin and social opprobrium, they have seriously doubted the veracity of the gospel saga, have peeled away the layers of fraud and deceit and eventually have challenged the very existence of the godman.
Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768).1778, On the Intention of Jesus and His Teaching. Enlightenment thinker and professor of Oriental languages at the Hamburg Gymnasium, his extensive writings – published after his death – rejected 'revealed religion' and argued for a naturalistic deism. Reimarus charged the gospel writers with conscious fraud and innumerable contradictions.
Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire) (1694-1778) The most influential figure of the Enlightenment was educated at a Jesuit college yet concluded, "Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world ... The true God cannot have been born of a girl, nor died on a gibbet, nor be eaten in a piece of dough." Imprisoned, exiled, his works banned and burned, Voltaire's great popularity in revolutionary France assured him a final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris. Religious extremists stole his remains and dumped them in a garbage heap.
Count Constantine Volney, 1787, Les Ruines; ou, Méditation sur les révolutions des empires (Ruins of Empires). Napoleonic investigator saw for himself evidence of Egyptian precursors of Christianity.
Edward Evanson, 1792, The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists and the Evidence of their Respective Authenticity. English rationalist challenged apostolic authorship of the 4th Gospel and denounced several Pauline epistles as spurious.
Charles François Dupuis, 1794, Origine de tous les Cultes ou La Religion universelle. Astral-mythical interpretation of Christianity (and all religion). “A great error is more easily propagated, than a great truth, because it is easier to believe, than to reason, and because people prefer the marvels of romances to the simplicity of history.” Dupuis destroyed most of his own work because of the violent reaction it provoked.
Thomas Paine, 1795, The Age of Reason. Pamphleteer who made the first call for American independence (Common Sense, 1776; Rights of Man, 1791) Paine poured savage ridicule on the contradictions and atrocities of the Bible. Like many American revolutionaries Paine was a deist:
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of ... Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all." – The Age of Reason.
Robert Taylor, 1828, Syntagma Of The Evidences Of The Christian Religion; 1829, Diegesis. Taylor was imprisoned for declaring mythical origins for Christianity. "The earliest Christians meant the words to be nothing more than a personification of the principle of reason, of goodness, or that principle, be it what it may, which may most benefit mankind in the passage through life.”
Godfrey Higgins (1771-1834). 1836, Anacalypsis – An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis; or an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions. English pioneer of archaeology and freemason.
Bruno Bauer, 1841, Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptics. 1877, Christus und die Caesaren. Der Hervorgang des Christentums aus dem romischen Griechentum. The original iconoclast. Bauer contested the authenticity of all the Pauline epistles (in which he saw the influence of Stoic thinkers like Seneca) and identified Philo's role in emergent Christianity. Bauer rejected the historicity of Jesus himself. "Everything that is known of Jesus belongs to the world of imagination." As a result in 1842 Bauer was ridiculed and removed from his professorship of New Testament theology at Tübingen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841, Essays. One time Trinitarian Christian and former Unitarian minister held Jesus to be a "true prophet" but that organised Christianity was an "eastern monarchy".
"Our Sunday-schools, and churches, and pauper-societies are yokes to the neck."
Mitchell Logan, 1842, Christian Mythology Unveiled. “Reigning opinion, however ill-founded and absurd, is always queen of the nations.”
Ferdinand Christian Baur, 1845, Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi. German scholar who identified as "inauthentic" not only the pastoral epistles, but also Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians (leaving only the four main Pauline epistles regarded as genuine). Baur was the founder of the so-called "Tübingen "
David Friedrich Strauss, 1860, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Lutheran vicar-turned-scholar skilfully exposed gospel miracles as myth and in the process reduced Jesus to a man. It cost him his career.
Charles Bradlaugh, 1860, Who Was Jesus Christ? What Did Jesus Teach? Most famous English atheist of the 19th century, founded the National Secular Society and became an MP, winning the right to affirm. Condemned the teachings of Jesus as dehumanizing passivity and disastrous as practical advice. Bradlaugh denounced the gospel Jesus as a myth.
Ernest Renan, 1863, Das Leben Jesu. Trained as a Catholic priest, Renan wrote a romanticised biography of the godman which was influenced by the German critics. It cost him his job.
Robert Ingersoll, 1872, The Gods. Illinois orator extraordinaire, his speeches savaged the Christian religion. "It has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature. Is it not wonderful that not one word was written by Christ?"
Kersey Graves, 1875, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours. Pennsylvanian Quaker who saw through to the pagan heart of Christian fabrications, though rarely cited sources for his far-reaching conclusions.
Allard Pierson, 1879, De Bergrede en andere synoptische Fragmenten. Theologian, art and literature historian who identified The Sermon on the Mount as a collection of aphorisms from Jewish Wisdom literature.The publication of Pierson's Bergrede was the beginning of Dutch Radical Criticism. Not just the authenticity of all the Pauline epistles but the historical existence of Jesus himself was called into question.
Bronson C. Keeler, 1881, A Short History of the Bible. A classic exposé of Christian fraud.
Abraham Dirk Loman, 1882, "Quaestiones Paulinae," in Theologisch Tijdschrift. Professor of theology at Amsterdam who said all the epistles date from the 2nd century. Loman explained Christianity as a fusion of Jewish and Roman-Hellenic thinking. When he went blind Loman said his blindness gave him insight into the dark history of the church!
Thomas William Doane, 1882, Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions. Outdated but a classic revelation of pagan antecedents of biblical myths and miracles.
Samuel Adrianus Naber, 1886, Verisimilia. Laceram conditionem Novi Testamenti exemplis illustrarunt et ab origine repetierunt. Classicist who saw Greek myths hidden within Christian scripture.
Gerald Massey, 1886, Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ. 1907, Ancient Egypt-The Light of the World. Another classic from an early nemesis of the priesthood. British Egyptologist wrote six volumes on the religion of ancient Egypt
Edwin Johnson, 1887, Antiqua mater. A Study of Christian Origins. English radical theologian identified the early Christians as the Chrestiani, followers of a good (Chrestus) God who had expropriating the myth of Dionysos Eleutherios ("Dionysos the Emancipator"), to produce a self-sacrificing Godman. Denounced the twelve apostles as complete fabrication.
Rudolf Steck, 1888, Der Galaterbrief nach seiner Echtheit untersucht nebst kritischen Bemerkungen zu den Paulinischen Hauptbriefen. Radical Swiss scholar branded all the Pauline epistles as fakes.
Franz Hartman, 1889, The Life of Johoshua: The Prophet of Nazareth.
Willem Christiaan van Manen, 1896, Paulus. Professor at Leiden and most famous of the Dutch Radicals, a churchman who did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. After resisting the argument for many years van Manen concluded none of the Pauline epistles were genuine and that Acts was dependent on the works of Josephus.
Joseph McCabe, 1897, Why I Left the Church. 1907, The Bible in Europe: an Inquiry into the Contribution of the Christian Religion to Civilization. 1914, The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels. Franciscan monk-turned-evangelical atheist. McCabe, a prolific writer, shredded many parts of the Christ legend – "There is no "figure of Jesus" in the Gospels. There are a dozen figures" – but he continued to allow the possibility for an historical founder, nonetheless.
Albert Schweitzer.1901, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God. 1906, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The famous German theologian and missionary (35 years in the Cameroons) ridiculed the humanitarian Jesus of the liberals and at the same time had the courage to recognize the work of the Dutch Radicals. His own pessimistic conclusion was that the superhero had been an apocalyptic fanatic and that Jesus died a disappointed man. Famously said those looking for an historical Jesus merely found a reflection of themselves.
Wilhelm Wrede, 1901, The Messianic Secret. Wrede demonstrated how, in Mark’s gospel, a false history was shaped by early Christian belief.
George Robert Stowe Mead, 1903, Did Jesus Live 100 BC? A discussion of the Jewish Jeschu stories which moves Jesus back to an earlier time.
Thomas Whittaker, 1904, The Origins of Christianity. Declared Jesus a myth.
William Benjamin Smith, 1906, Der vorchristliche Jesus. 1911, Die urchristliche Lehre des reingöttlichen Jesus. Argues for origins in a pre-Christian Jesus cult on the island of Cyprus.
Albert Kalthoff, 1907, The Rise of Christianity. Another radical German scholar who identified Christianity as a psychosis. Christ was essentially the transcendental principle of the Christian community which aimed at apocalyptic social reform.
Gerardus Bolland, 1907, De Evangelische Jozua. Philosopher at Leiden identified the origin of Christianity in an earlier Jewish Gnosticism. The New Testament superstar is the Old Testament 'son of Nun', the follower renamed Jesus by Moses. The virgin is nothing but a symbol for the people of Israel. From Alexandria the "Netzerim" took their gospel to Palestine.
In 1907 Pope Pius X condemned the Modernists who were "working within the framework of the Church". An anti-Modernist oath was introduced in 1910.
Prosper Alfaric (1886-1955) French Professor of Theology, shaken by the stance of Pius X, renounced his faith and left the church in 1909 to work for the cause of rationalism.
Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian, 1909, The Truth About Jesus. Is He a Myth? Erstwhile Presbyterian Minister who saw through the fabrication.
Karl Kautsky, 1909, The Foundations of Christianity. Early socialist interpreted Christianity in terms of class struggle.
John E. Remsburg, 1909, The Christ: A critical review and analysis of the evidences of His existence. Gospels rife with contradictions. Doubtful that Jesus existed and a supernatural Christ is certainly Christian dogma.
Arthur Drews, 1910, Die Christusmythe (The Christ Myth). 1910, Die Petruslegende (The Legend of St Peter). 1924, Die Entstehung des Christentums aus dem Gnostizismus (The Emergence of Christianity from Gnosticism). Eminent philosopher was Germany's greatest exponent of the contention that Christ is a myth. The gospels historized a pre-existing mystical Jesus whose character was drawn from the prophets and Jewish wisdom literature. The Passion was to be found in the speculations of Plato.
John Robertson, 1910, Christianity and Mythology. 1911, Pagan Christs. Studies in Comparative Hierology. 1917, The Jesus Problem. Robertson drew attention to the universality of many elements of the Jesus' storyline and to pre-Christian crucifixion rituals in the ancient world. Identified the original Jesus/Joshua with an ancient Ephraimite deity in the form of a lamb.
Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga, 1912, Radical Views about the New Testament. 1918, Voorchristelijk Christendom. De vorbereiding van het Evangelie in de Hellenistische wereld. Theologian and last of the Dutch radicals to hold a university professorship.
Alexander Hislop, 1916, The Two Babylons. Exhaustive exposure of the pagan rituals and paraphernalia of Roman Catholicism.
Edward Carpenter, 1920, Pagan and Christian Creeds. Elaborated the pagan origins of Christianity.
Rudolf Bultmann, 1921, The History of the Synoptic Tradition. 1941, Neues Testament und Mythologie. Lutheran theologian and professor at Marburg University Bultman was the exponent of 'form criticism' and did much to demythologise the gospels. He identified the narratives of Jesus as theology served up in the language of myth. Bultmann observed that the New Testament was not the story of Jesus but a record of early Christian belief. He argued that the search for an historical Jesus was fruitless: "We can know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus." (Jesus and the Word,
James Frazer, 1922, The Golden Bough. Anthropological interpretation of man's progress from magic, through religion to science. Christianity a cultural phenomenon.
P. L. Couchoud, 1924, Le mystère de Jesus.1939, The Creation of Christ. Couchoud espoused an historical Peter rather than an historical Jesus and argued that the Passion was modelled on the death of Stephen.
Georg Brandes, 1926, Jesus – A Myth. Identified the Revelation of St John as the earliest part of the New Testament.
Joseph Wheless, 1926, Is It God's Word? An Exposition of the Fables and Mythology of the Bible and the Fallacies of Theology. 1930, Forgery in Christianity. American attorney, raised in the Bible Belt, shredded the biblical fantasy.
Henri Delafosse, 1927, Les Lettres d’Ignace d’Antioche. 1928, "Les e'crits de Saint Paul," in Christianisme. Epistles of Ignatius denounced as late forgeries.
L. Gordon Rylands, 1927, The Evolution of Christianity.1935, Did Jesus Ever Live?
John G. Jackson, 1933, Was Jesus Christ a Negro? 1937, Introduction To African Civilizations. 1941, Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth. 1970 Man, God, and Civilization. 1985, Christianity Before Christ. Most influential Black Atheist drew attention to the Ethiopian and Egyptian precedents of Christian belief.
Edouard Dujardin, 1938, Ancient History of the God Jesus.
Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 1944, Who is this King of Glory? 1970, Rebirth for Christianity. Jesus was never a person, but a symbol of the divine soul in every human being.
Herbert Cutner, 1950, Jesus: God, Man, or Myth? Mythical nature of Jesus and a summary of the ongoing debate between mythicists and historicizers. Mythic-only position is continuous tradition, not novel. Pagan origins of Christ.
Georges Las Vergnas, 1956, Pourquoi j'ai quitté l'Eglise romaine Besançon. 1958, Jésus-Christ a-t-il existé? Vicar general of the diocese of Limoges who lost his faith. Argues that the central figure of Christianity had no historical existence.
Georges Ory, 1961, An Analysis of Christian Origins.
Guy Fau, 1967, Le Fable de Jesus Christ.
John Allegro, 1970, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. 1979, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. Jesus was nothing other than a magic mushroom and his life an allegorical interpretation of a drug-induced state. Not jail for Allegro – but professional ruin.
George Albert Wells, 1975, Did Jesus Exist? 1988, The Historical Evidence for Jesus. 1996, The Jesus Legend. 1998, Jesus Myth. 2004, Can We Trust the New Testament? Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony. Christianity a growth from Jewish Wisdom literature. Later books concede possible influence of a real preacher.
Jean Magne, 1975, Christian Origins, I-II. 1989, III, IV. 1993, From Christianity to Gnosis and From Gnosis to Christianity: An Itinerary through the Texts to and from the Tree of Paradise.
Max Rieser, 1979, The True Founder of Christianity and the Hellenistic Philosophy. Christianity started by Jews of the Diaspora and then retroactively set in pre-70 Palestine. Christianity arrived last, not first, in Palestine – that's why Christian archeological finds appear in Rome but not in Judea until the 4th century.
Abelard Reuchlin, 1979, The True Authorship of the New Testament. Conspiracy theory par excellence: Roman aristocrat Arius Calpurnius Piso (aka "Flavius Josephus") conspired to gain control of the Roman Empire by forging an entirely new religion.
Karlheinz Deschner, 1986-2004, The Criminal History of Christianity, Volumes 1-8. A leading German critic of religion and the Church. In 1971 Deschner was called before a court in Nuremberg, charged with "insulting the Church."
Hermann Detering, 1992, Paulusbriefe ohne Paulus?: Die Paulusbriefe in der holländischen Radikalkritik. German minister in the Dutch radical tradition. No Jesus and no Paul.
Gary Courtney, 1992, 2004 Et tu, Judas? Then Fall Jesus! The Passion is essentially Caesar's fate in Judaic disguise, grafted onto the dying/resurrcting cult of Attis. Jewish fans of Caesar assimilated the sacrificed 'saviour of mankind' into the 'Suffering Servant' of Isaiah.
Michael Kalopoulos, 1995, The Great Lie. Greek historian finds strikingly similar parallels between biblical texts and Greek mythology. He exposes the cunning, deceitful and authoritarian nature of religion.
Gerd Lüdemann, 1998, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did. 2002, Paul: The Founder of Christianity. 2004, The Resurrection Of Christ: A Historical Inquiry. After 25 years of study German professor concluded Paul, not Jesus, started Christianity. Lüdemann was expelled from the theology faculty at the University of Göttingen for daring to say that the Resurrection was "a pious self-deception." So much for academic freedom.
Alvar Ellegard, 1999, Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ. Christianity seen as emerging from the Essene Church of God with the Jesus prototype the Teacher of Righteousness.
D. Murdock (aka 'Acharya S') 1999, The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. 2004, Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. Adds a astro-theological dimension to christ-myth demolition. Murdock identifies JC as a composite deity used to unify the Roman Empire.
Earl Doherty, 1999, The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? 2009, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Powerful statement of how Christianity started as a mystical-revelatory Jewish sect – no Jesus required!.
Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, 1999, The Jesus Mysteries. 2001, Jesus and the Lost Goddess : The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians. Examines the close relationship between the Jesus Story and that of Osiris-Dionysus. Jesus and Mary Magdalene mythic figures based on the Pagan Godman and Goddess.
Harold Liedner, 2000, The Fabrication of the Christ Myth. Anachronisms and geographic errors of the gospels denounced. Christianity one of history's most effective frauds.
Robert Price, 2000, Deconstructing Jesus. 2003 Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? Ex-minister and accredited scholar shows Jesus to be a fictional amalgam of several 1st century prophets, mystery cult redeemers and gnostic 'aions'.
Hal Childs, 2000, The Myth of the Historical Jesus and the Evolution of Consciousness. A psychotherapist take on the godman.
Michael Hoffman, 2000, Philosopher and theorist of "ego death" who jettisoned an historical Jesus.
Burton Mack, 2001,The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy. Social formation of myth making.
Luigi Cascioli, 2001, The Fable of Christ. Indicting the Papacy for profiteering from a fraud!
Israel Finkelstein, Neil Silbermann, 2002, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Courageous archaeologists who skillfully proved the sacred foundational stories of Judaism and Christianity are bogus.
Frank R. Zindler, 2003, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources. No evidence in Jewish sources for the phantom messiah.
Daniel Unterbrink, 2004, Judas the Galilean. The Flesh and Blood Jesus. Parallels between the tax rebel of 6 AD and the phantom of the Gospels explored in detail. 'Judas is Jesus'. Well, part of Jesus, no doubt.
Tom Harpur, 2005, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Canadian New Testament scholar and ex-Anglican priest re-states the ideas of Kuhn, Higgins and Massey. Jesus is a myth and all of the essential ideas of Christianity originated in Egypt.
Francesco Carotta, 2005, Jesus Was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity. Exhaustive inventory of parallels. Alarmingly, asserts Caesar was Jesus.
Joseph Atwill, 2005, Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus. Another take on the Josephus-Gospel similarities. Atwill argues that the 1st century conquerors of Judaea, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, used Hellenized Jews to manufacture the "Christian" texts in order to establish a peaceful alternative to militant Judaism. Jesus was Titus Flavius? I don't think so.
Michel Onfray, 2005, Traité d'athéologie (2007 In Defence of Atheism) French philosopher argues for a positive atheism, debunking an historical Jesus along the way.
Kenneth Humphreys, 2005, Jesus Never Existed. Book of this website. Draws together the most convincing expositions for the supposed messianic superhero. The author sets this exegesis within the socio-historical context of an evolving, malevolent religion.
Jay Raskin, 2006, The Evolution of Christs and Christianities. Academic and erstwhile filmaker Raskin looks beyond the official smokescreen of Eusebius and finds a fragmented Christ movement and a composite Christ figure, crafted from several literary and historical characters. Speculates that the earliest layer of myth-making was a play written by a woman called Mary. Maybe.
Thomas L. Thompson, 2006, The Messiah Myth. Theologian, university don and historian of the Copenhagen school who concludes Jesus and David are both amalgams of Near Eastern mythological themes originating in the Bronze Age.
Jan Irvin, Andrew Rutajit, 2006, Astrotheology and Shamanism: Unveiling the Law of Duality in Christianity and other Religions. Explores astrotheology and shamanism and vindicates John Allegro's work with psychoactive substances.