This article is an expose on the greatest fraud of all time: the idea of Jesus Christ being the son of god and the salvation he is supposed to bring to his followers. Several different aspects of this fraud will be examined. First, I will examine how the Jesus myth has historical antecedents in the numerous savior gods who preceeded him. Next, I will examine some of the less-quoted statements purportedly made by Jesus in the New Testament which will show that he was certainly not the benevolent peace-loving role model most Christians imagine him to be. Finally, I will show that, contrary to current Christian belief, Jesus was a false prophet.
In a sense, all of this is really unnecessary since it is extremely doubtful that such a person as Jesus ever existed in the first place. For those interested in pursuing this issue in more detail, I refer you to my article Jesus Christ: Man or Myth. Here, I will simply state that had the miraculous events related in the New Testament actually occurred, it is singularly amazing that not one contemporary of Jesus wrote a single word of it. Nor did a single writer mention Jesus by name. That alone should send up warning signs as to the accuracy of the New Testament.
The idea that a man was the son of a god and a virgin mother and came to earth to “save” humanity, was executed, and rose from the dead was already an ancient one at the time Jesus was purported to have lived. What obviously occurred was that the early Christian writers created their imaginary Jesus character and then attributed all these current myths into his story. Let’s examine some of these earlier myths and see if they sound at all familiar.
Possibly the earliest savior god of which we have knowledge was the Babylonian Tammuz. He was supposed to have been born of a virgin mother originally named Innana (later changed to Ishtar). Tammuz is translated as “son of life.” He became associated with a cave in a small town called Beyt Lehem (Bethlehem) which became a cult center for the redeemer god. Tammuz’ legend even appears in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel 8:14 which relates how Tammuz’ women followers wept for him at the cave.
Many other savior gods followed in the tradition of Tammuz, and they shared many of the same mythic characteristics. All were the products of a special birth between a god and a mortal human. Many were crucified and returned on the third day. Other commonly shared traits include being tended by three wise men, being born on the Winter Solstice, dying on the Vernal Equinox, having a “last supper” with their followers, and many other familiar stories.
The similarities between Jesus and Krishna can be found in detail in my article Krishna and Jesus: Will the Real Savior Please Stand Up. Here, I will briefly examine a couple other predecessors of the Christ myth. One of these was Attis of Phrygia, who was said to be born of a virgin mother. Attis was said to have been hung on a tree and died there. Not surprisingly, he was said to have risen from the dead three days later. This was a very popular Roman cult some two hundred years before the Common Era, and it had a great influence on the Christian religion when it was formulated.
In India, Siddhartha Gautama was the most famous of the Buddhas. Centuries after his death, which occurred in 483 BCE, his followers transformed him into another savior figure. He too was miraculously conceived through his mother Maya (Mary) who was, of course, said to be a virgin. He was said to perform miracles and to have been crucified. After this, he descended into Hades for three days before his ascension into heaven. Other “sons of god” who were said to have been born of a virgin included Beddru of Japan and Odin of Scandinavia.
In fact, the “virgin birth” scenario owes its origin not to historical fact, but to our ancient ancestor’s observations of the heavens. The constellation Virgo (the virgin) begins rising at midnight on December 25 of each year and was depicted by the ancient astronomers as rising with a “star in the east” in her arms. Absorbing this into the Christ myth, biblical writers said that a star foretold the birth of Jesus (Matt: 2: 1). This notion goes back hundreds of years before Christ’s alleged birth; the same was said of the Hindu god Krishna. Albertus Magnus (c. 1200-1280 CE), the medieval Christian philosopher, understood this connection, writing that “the sign of the celestial virgin rises above the horizon, at the moment we find fixed for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
At the beginning of his book Gospel Fictions, author Randel Helms relates a very similar story: he stated that in the first century of the Christian era, a religious leader appeared in the Mediterranean who taught that there was only one true god, and that charity and good works were essential to salvation. He was said to perform many miracles, including walking on water, casting out demons, and healing the sick. He was also said to have successfully raised the dead. His life inspired his followers who said he was the son of god, although he contented himself by calling himself the son of man. He soon ran afoul of the Roman authorities and he was arrested for sedition. He was convicted and executed. After his death, his followers claimed that he had appeared to them before rising bodily into heaven. Who was this incredible man? He was Appollonnius of Tyre, and his death occurred in approximately 98 CE. The Roman author Flavius Philostratus wrote Life of Apollonius which relates all this. This timing coincides with the appearance of the gospels, so clearly Jesus had a contemporary with astonishingly similar legends attributed to him.
Another cult contemporary with Jesus is Mithraism. They arose at the same time and in the same area. Mithra was supposedly born around 600 BCE. His birthday was celebrated on December 25, and magi were said to have delivered presents to the infant. He was said to have had twelve disciples. Like Jesus, Mithra had a “last supper” prior to his execution on a cross. This death was said to atone for the sins of the world.
Enough examples have been related here to demonstrate that, once the Jesus myth was first introduced, rather than producing surprise, it would have more likely been greeted with a resounding yawn. And so how do contemporary Christians deal with these facts? Most of the time, they ignore them. They will also deny them, they will lie, they will do anything else but admit the truth. One of the more imaginative (although ridiculous) rationalizations is that the devil planted all these false saviors in advance so that everyone would ignore the real thing when it came along (!).
Now let us examine some of the lesser known quotes attributed to Jesus. Since so many right-wing Christians harp on “family values,” let’s examine Luke 14:26 and see what Jesus had to say on the matter: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Some apologists insist that “hate” does not mean hate, but merely to “love less.” This is false; the word meant the same thing in ancient times as it does today. More biblical family values are found in Matt. 10:35-36: “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Matt. 10:34 has Jesus saying “Think not that I am come to send peace: I came not to send peace but a sword” which of course contradicts the traditional view of Jesus as the lover of peace. Unfortunately, Christians have been constantly at war with others and among themselves virtually ever since, thereby proving this particular homily to be unfortunately true. If this passage were not enough to cast doubt on Jesus’ warlike intentions, other passages make it crystal clear that he is to be a man of war: Luke 22:36 has Jesus saying “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Finally, how should his opponents be treated? Luke 19:27 “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me.”
Jesus advocated in Luke 12:47 “that servant (meaning slave) which knew his lord’s will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” There is not one word in the Bible condemning slavery, but many supporting it, a fact not lost on Southern slaveholders during the antebellum South. More sage advice involves his support of castration in Matt. 19:12 “there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Mark 10:21-25 advises against becoming wealthy (a point conveniently ignored by today’s mega-church leaders). One shouldn’t plan for the future, since the kingdom of god is at hand, according to Matt. 6:34
Enough has been related above to show that for every allegedly “good” passage attributed to Jesus, there are an equal number that are at best questionable and at worst downright evil. Moreover, the good points are ones that had existed in secular philosophies long before the time of Jesus, so the Bible cannot claim them as their own; the “golden rule” is but one example of this.
Finally, it is extremely odd that Christians today expect the imminent return of Jesus. Since the time the New Testament was written, believers have expected the return of Jesus within their own lifetimes. For example, the year 1000 CE was a time of intense Christian excitement since it was thought that this was the planned millennium date for Jesus’ return. Even within our own time, this nonsense has not died down. Christian writer Hal Lindsay predicted in his 1970 book The Late Great Planet Earth that all the signs were in place for the return of Jesus, which he predicted would take place during the late 1980s. when this did not happen, he shifted the date and when that date also failed to produce his savior, he became increasingly vague.
Christians like Lindsay will not accept the fact that their own Bible, which is supposed to be infallible, was wrong about this, since it is quite clear that, when Jesus said he would be returning, it would be within the lifetime of some of his disciples. Matt. 16: 28 has Jesus telling his disciples “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, til they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” What could be more clear than this? Unless there are some two thousand year old men yet living, then Jesus was wrong and we may safely call him a false prophet.
Yet, this is not the only passage predicting Jesus’ imminent return. The New Testament is filled with the expectation of Jesus’ return in the immediate future. Rev. 1:7 says that everyone will see him, including those who executed him. Here are a few other places the interested reader may consult: Acts 1:11, Rev. 22:7, James 5:3, 1 John 2:18, Acts 2: 15-17,1 Peter 1:20, 1 Timothy 4:8, Eph. 1:21.
Clearly, the New Testament is a mess filled with contradictions, errors, false promises, bad history, immoral precepts, and general nonsense. Anyone who wishes to continue to believe it to be the literal word of god after reading the above is merely deluding him/herself. It is time for the human race to move beyond the disgraceful legacy of two thousand years of Christian nonsense and enter the real world.
- Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms. Published 1988 by Prometheus books, Buffalo, NY
- The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries by David Ulansey. Published 1989 by Oxford University Press, New York NY
- The Jesus Idea by Arnold M. Rothstein. Published 1993 by Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY
- Mythology’s Last Gods by William Harwood. Published 1992 by Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY
- Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker. Published 1992 by Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison WI
- Broken Promises: Jesus and the Second Coming by Mark Smith. Published 2000 by Set Free, Garden Grove, CA
- Jesus Christ, Sun of God by David Fideler. Published 1993 by Quest Books, Wheaton, Il
- The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. Published 1999 by Canadian Humanist Publications
By: Jon Nelson