By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.
It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.
But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"
“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
On Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.
But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age. But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.
Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”
Your comments on Jesus deniers
He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.
“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”
Does it matter if Jesus existed?
Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.
“I don’t think I’m some Internet kook or Holocaust denier,” says Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor who argues in “Deconstructing Jesus” that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist.
“They say I’m a bitter ex-fundamentalist. It’s pathetic to see this character assassination. That’s what people resort to when they don’t have solid arguments.”
The debate over Jesus’ existence has led to a curious role reversal. Two of the New Testament scholars who are leading the way arguing for Jesus’ existence have a reputation for attacking, not defending, traditional Christianity.
Ehrman, for example, is an agnostic who has written books that argue that virtually half of the New Testament is forged. Another defender of Jesus’ existence is John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar who has been called a heretic because his books challenge some traditional Christian teachings.
But as to the existence of Jesus, Crossan says, he’s “certain.”
He says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.
“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American. If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”
Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?
Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.
If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.
It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”
“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”
The evidence against Jesus’ existence
Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points:
-The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.
-No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.
-The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.
Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God.
“There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century.
But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus.
“Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.”
Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed.
“Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus cite another source: the testimony of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ early disciples. Paul even writes in one New Testament passage about meeting James, the brother of Jesus.
These early disciples not only believed Jesus was real but were willing to die for him. People don’t die for myths, some biblical scholars say.
They will if the experience is powerful enough, says Richard Carrier, author of “Proving History.”
Carrier says it’s probable that Jesus never really existed and that early Christians experienced a mythic Jesus who came to them through visions and revelations.
Two of the most famous stories in the New Testament – the conversion of Paul and the stoning death of Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs - show that people seized by religious visions are willing to die, Carrier says.
In both the Paul and Stephen stories, the writers say that they didn’t see an actual Jesus but a heavenly vision of Jesus, Carrier says.
People “can have powerful religious experiences that don’t correspond to reality,” Carrier says.
“The perfect model is Paul himself,” Carrier says. “He never met Jesus. Paul only had an encounter with this heavenly Jesus. Paul is completely converted by this religious experience, but no historical Jesus is needed for that to happen.”
As for the passage where Paul says he met James, Jesus’ brother, Carrier says:
“The problem with that is that all baptized Christians were considered brothers of the Lord.”
The evidence for Jesus’ existence
Some scholars who argue for the existence of Jesus says the New Testament mentions actual people and events that are substantiated by historical documents and archaeological discoveries.
Ehrman, author of “Did Jesus Exist?” scoffed at the notion that the ancient world was full of pagan stories about dying deities that rose again. Where’s the proof? he asks.
Ehrman devoted an entire section of his book to critiquing Freke, the mythicist and author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” who says there was an ancient Osiris-Dionysus figure who shares uncanny parallels to Jesus.
He says Freke can’t offer any proof that an ancient Osiris figure was born on December 25, was crucified and rose again. He says Freke is citing 20th- and 19th-century writers who tossed out the same theories.
Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”
“He doesn’t know much about ancient history,” Ehrman says of Freke. “He’s not a scholar. All he knows is what he’s read in other conspiracy books.”
Craig A. Evans, the author of “Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence,” says the notion that Paul gave his life for a mythical Jesus is absurd.
He says the New Testament clearly shows that Paul was an early enemy of the Christian church who sought to stamp out the burgeoning Jesus movement.
“Don’t you think if you were in Paul’s shoes, you would have quickly discovered that there was no Jesus?” Evans asks. “If there was no Jesus, then how did the movement start?”
Evans also dismissed the notion that early Christians blended or adopted pagan myths to create their own mythical Jesus. He says the first Christians were Jews who despised everything about pagan culture.
“For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting,” Evans says. “I can’t imagine [the Gospel writer] Matthew making up a story where he is drawing parallels between Jesus’ birth and pagan stories about Zeus having sex with some fair maiden.”
The words of Jesus also offer proof that he actually existed, Evans says. A vivid personality practically bursts from the pages of the New Testament: He speaks in riddles, talks about camels squeezing through the eye of a needle, weeps openly and even loses his temper.
Evans says he is a man who is undeniably Jewish, a genius who understands his culture but also transcends his tradition with gem-like parables.
“Who but Jesus could tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?” Evans says. “Where does this bolt of lightning come from? You don’t get this out of an Egyptian myth.”
Those who argue against the existence of Jesus say they aren’t trying to destroy people’s faith.
“I don’t have any desire to upset people,” says Freke. “I do have a passion for the truth. … I don’t think rational people in the 20th century can go down a road just on blind faith.”
Yet Easter was never just about rationale.
The Easter stories about the resurrection are strange: Disciples don’t recognize Jesus as they meet him on the road; he tells someone not to touch him; he eats fish in another.
In the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to a group of disciples and gives them this cryptic message:
“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?
Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question. He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.
The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.
Jesus was a persecuted hom0se-xual.
Prove me wrong.
He DID hang out with a bunch of dudes and drank wine all day....
It's the atheists, 98% of them.
Leviticus 20:13 made them hate the Bible and God soo much and become atheists.
Everyone has the right to believe anything they want, however illogical. And anyone else has the right to find it ridiculous.
CNN, always ready to demonize Christianity. God forbid they even attempt to speak of Muhammad the way they speak about Jesus Christ.
I don't get the, you're picking me, so why don't you pick on them too mentality. Would it make you feel that much better?
Right, anything that doesn't praise Jesus is in fact demonizing Jesus.
P.S. anyone who doesn't submit to Jesus will burn in a fiery pit of hell.
– Loving Christians
"P.S. anyone who doesn't submit to Jesus will burn in a fiery pit of hell."
Well isn't that special.
Why would this new's CNN put out an article that it is well known that atheist would attack it on the most holy day of our religion.? I expect to see articles during Ramadan and the Muslim religion. I won't hold my breath waiting because you people do not the nerve to do it.
I would like to see if CNN would dare run a story saying that Muhammad was a "myth" on the Muslim' s holiest holidays and that Abraham was a "myth" on the Jewish holidays. Go ahead CNN and give it a try and see what happens.
Its because we are a Christian nation (regretfully)! That's why they wrote about it today! It's relevant! And why does it matter what day they bring it up and allow us to discuss the matter? I figured a good Christian would always want to discuss Christ, ESPECIALLY on the most holy day! Maybe its because this kind of talk makes you doubt the story of Jesus and that scares you... Don't be scared!
P.S. when someone has an argument against you don't just point at someone else. Have an argument in your favor!
Isn't that nice CNN runs a story, on Easter morning no less, about Jesus being a "myth". That is so respectful of CNN. I guess we can expect a similar story on Jesus being a "myth" next Christmas morning also.
We can hope.
Jesus is right up there with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny (who ironically CNN has not denied). Easter Bunny 1, Jesus 0.
To YeahOk and Robbie, did you know that both your mothers slept with black guys? Oh yeah! You can try and deny that all you want, but it's the truth.
To edeveryday I hope that was an argument in defense for Christianity!
First, there's a chance she did...
Second, what does it matter?...
Third, what does race have to do with anything?...
All around the worst argument for either side all day!
Heres is your Scientific Proof Nimrod http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/uonc-ter022712.php#
What does that prove? That ancient people told stories?
Ancient people also said that some dude made a boat big enough for every creature on earth. Then has incest children and repopulated the earth.
If Jesus actually existed, he certainly was a controversial fellow. Is it not conceivable that after his death, his grave was merely robbed either by followers or haters?
Over the Centuries, the church has gotten most everything wrong and they move glacially to admit it. Yet they are sticking to the "big one"
Why I have your eyes, within the framework of the church, how is it that they can deny that god put the huge gay community here.
And what, pray tell, does the gay community have to do with the existence of Jesus???
"Why I have your eyes, within the framework of the church, how is it that they can deny that god put the huge gay community here."
And that's why, most (if not all) of them became atheists? Just because they feel unaccepted by religious community? Cool!
I do not doubt that a man named Jesus existed, and that he probably did preach about God. But I believe he was no different than any cult leader today that preaches about their own religious beliefs and gains a small number of followers. The difference with Jesus is that Christianity was already more wide spread, and the general population was very uneducated and easily influenced by a great orator. Do I actually believe their is a God, and Jesus is his son? No. But I'm sure the man existed.
I'll take my chances and believe that Jesus existed in the context that is generally taught and accepted; as the Son of God. If I'm right, I win. If not, then what did I lose?
Pascal's Wager. Please. Try something original.
That means you have doubt. If you do not believe, you go to hell (according to the bible). So good luck flipping the coin on that Greg!
You lost years of your life being controlled.
You just wasted a lot of your time and money.
You can't believe in Jesus because its a Win-Win situation. That isn't how it works you either believe 100% or you don't. You sir, don't.
What do you lose? Your credibility, your bravery, your ability to think critically, your individuality for blindly following the masses and becoming just another sheeple, and your mental health, as believing in the unbelievable for no good reason aside from the fact that others believe it is insane. Imaginary friends are fine when you are a child, but as an adult, your children depend on you to be sane and not to lead them down flowery paths of lies and rose-colored myths (and eternal damnation if they make mistakes). Religions are fear-based, and that is no way to live, and it is abusive to force that upon others as christians are told to do, especially children.
what you lose? you'll never know...as an ex believer I'd say you could lose a whole lot or a little, depends how extreeme of a believr you are...best wishes
Who is Jesus?
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/uonc-ter022712.php# Find Jesus Christ
But going off of what was written in a 2,000 year old book by a bunch of people who thought the world was flat is a relevant source, right?
Remember, though, that the common Christian belief is that the Bible is supposed to be "god's" word, thus infallible. I know, I know, circular reasoning, but that's the argument that I hear from them time and time again.
I have no faith in organized Christianity partly because the Bible has been not just written down and interpreted by Man, but also censored and altered by Man as well.
I should think that no real belief system would actively think that they get to censor the word of their god....
Joisephus and Tacitus, the only known independent sources of their day, cite Jesus the same way they cite Hercules....both as mythical figures. The New Testament is not historically dependable. It has been rewritten dozens of times and contains hundreds of archeological inaccuracies. It cites as fact "stories" (i.e. the fellow who loved in a whale, the two by two story of that guy who mloaded up all the amnimals of thw orld in a boat etc) that are just mthical as well as ridiculous.
Raised Baptist, became a Baptist preacher. When I did serious research and found out there is absolutely NO credible historic evidence of a Jesus I became agnostic and then a proud happy atheist. I had been bothered for years by all the contradictions, absurdities, and druelties "said" by this Jesus character. e.g. a divorced woman cannot re-marry Matt 3:22 and Jesus was against peace and brought a sword of division and hate, even in famlies Matt 10:34. People will belive anything they want; virgin birth, defying gravity, and zombies. Read it all for yourself right from the bible http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/ interesting Kindle book http://www.amazon.com/JUSTIFIABLE-HOMICIDE–Growing-Fundamentalist–ebook/dp/B001BVLV00/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1333897173&sr=1-2
If christians want to be taken seriously, why invent an easter bunnie who hides his pastel-laid eggs for little children's parents to buy at wal-martt and hide for them to find on easter morning? Where is that in the bible? This ritual, like most of christianity, is "borrowed" from pagan mythologies from earlier times, and must be considered as such. Mithra, who supposedly lived thousands of years before Jesus, was also born of a virgin, had 12 disciples, was tortured, and rose three days after death. Interestingly, his birthday just happened to have been December 25. Coincidence? I don't think so. Religion has been proven to be man-made to control humans by the rich and powerful of the times – any times. Do your own history and debunking. You all have brains. The truth is there to be seen by all. Gods are myths, religions are little more than corporations who steal money and thrive tax-free, and imaginary men in the sky don't exist.
it's the glue of cultures: CRAZY GLUE
The Mithra-Jesus connection seems to be widely debunked. The one paper that I found that made claims similar to yours- that the idea of Jesus was stolen from Mithraism- blatantly avoided naming any sources, whereas the literature debunking the alleged connection seemed to demonstrate very good historical accuracy concerning true Mithraism. All of the credible sources I found intelligently demonstrated this connection is FALSE.
Obviously the author of this article is a sworn non-believer. Do what yo want with your life, who cares anyway. As long as you don't go in a shooting spree or you don't impose your views on others it's all good. Don't try to change the world because it's not working. Let people believe in whatever they want for it's not your business to tell them otherwise. Enjoy the Easter in the meantime, after all it's a holiday....dahh.
LOL All Atheist have disappeared from the forum like pharisees, they know they cant debate me, lol!
you haven't created any debatable thoughts yet. Try that first.
Very christian of you to troll on the internet on easter sunday, Elena.
So much for christian humility. Bring it. I'm ready.
Let it be know that Elena can prove with her superior scientific intellect that souls or spirits of conciseness, and a higher supreme consciousness or being, which is the fountain of creations exists.
There is overwhelming excitement among the scientific community for her presentation of her absolute defining evidence.
I guess Elena is busy finding those little eggs the biblical easter bunny hid on her lawn and decided not to take us non-believers on after all. Typical loud-mouthed christian.
Wow, shame on CNN for putting this article up on Easter. It's Easter and the main article CNN posts suggests that Jesus was not real in the first paragraph. Well I'm perplexed as to where this "debate" rages, because the majority of people are Christian. Of course, what one says and does in their own home is only for them to know but the majority of people I know are Christian. Nobody denies Jesus. Robert Price IS is a nut and does not speak for Baptists.
It's called being "topical."
So far, it seems that CNN hasn't been bought out by the Christians...yet.
Most atheists here either have not read the Bible, read it with prejudice, read and later disbelieved when they got to a sticking point, etc. However one thing is common to all. They do not understand it. And they sound like somewhere between brainwashed cult members n political propagandists.
That's where you're sorely mistaken or have just believed what your leaders want you to believe. We are well-versed in your holy and freakish book, my friend. In fact, it is that reason that some of us realized how absolutely ridiculous your cult actually is. It is full of historical and factual errors, contradictions, and atrocities committed by your god and jesus, and anyone who would worship your imaginary god after reading your bible would have to be a monster, too. That's why I know most of you christians haven't even read the darn thing.
In the United States, atheists know more about the bible, and christianity, then almost all the so-called christians here. Funny that.
Religion, ALL of it, is human-invented nonsense. Jesus probably lived, but he wasn't any more than an ordinary person with some interesting ideas and a fanatical belief in that invention. Nothing supernatural here. The human race has been inventing gods and deifying people for millennia. It is sad that we as a race haven't yet grown up and tossed this pack of fairytales and nonsense onto the dustbin of history where it belongs. It is even sadder that some people kill others, or torture them, over whose version of this gigantic hoax is the "right" one. Nobody ever walked on water, rose from the dead, or ascended into a non-existant "heaven"...GROW UP AND LIVE WITH REALITY!
What is reality to you is not reality to another. Perception is entirely subjective. You aren't in a position to tell people to "get real" when you cannot concretely prove anything around you. You can't prove the world around you actually exists, that I exist, or even that you exist. History and science both agree that human perception is easily fooled, and that our beliefs- be they in a god or no- heavily bias our perception. Don't belittle others for having faith when you have faith too.
He doesn't exist some say. Well, I do believe he does and I don't need any of you "mental midgets" to tell me otherwise. Most of you think you are scholars, which you are not. You are CNN readers in your underwear on a coach reading a story over a bowl of cereal. I am no scholar either though. It is simple faith for me.
Faith is a strange thing. I had a friend who was dying a few years back. It was over. He was down to 105 pounds (normal weight of about 180). He needed a liver transplant, his kidney's had failed, and his lungs where filled with fluid. The cause, not one, but SEVEN different ailments. He was an atheist. Not a big deal, we all get a choice. Your choice and his does not impact my life. At any rate, he could barely communicate and a mutual friend, a youth pastor, visited with him. Our friend, when asked, said he would allow a prayer for him. He decided to join in the best he could too. I think he figured, "What do I have to lose, I likely will be dead in a few days anyway). Long story short, he prayed again that day and twice each day the next few days. Guess what, he got a liver, the kidneys began to function on their own after about 2 months and now he is working again and back to full health (with some medicine of course).
Now, you might say, "What does God have to do with that". Well, I think a lot. However, if you don't, then you MUST believe this much. It WAS faith. Faith gave him an inner strength that he didn't have on his own. He was able to cling to something other than the concept of death. Faith can have a tremendous ability to heal the mind and thus the body. Oh, and that friend, yeah, he goes to church now. Why? He directly contributes his ability to heal to "faith". He isn't sure what, but he knows something else stepped in to help him. He said he "could almost feel it in the room". Well, you may consider this the ramblings of a dying man, but we'll all be in that position and very few choose to lay in bed and just die and assume they are "headed to the wormy earth" with nothing beyond this life.
Deny what you will, that is your choice. But to tell everyone they are wasting their time is ludicrous.
My mother had a brain tumor and had edema as a result. If the swelling did not go away it would have either killed her or left her brain dead. Doctors treated her and through medicine she got better. She is now better than before and does not speak of such a miracle happening. She is very religious too. She just recognizes the science that saved her. Not the relegious things. There are scientific reasons for your friend feeling the way he did and for his heeling.
What about the people that are sick, pray, and die anyways. It was their time? God's will?
If your imaginary friend healed your friend, why has he never healed an amputee? Does god hate amputees? Not one amputee has ever had his or her prayers answered to grow back a limb. Not one. Ever. Your god chose amputees to hate for some reason. Why? If your god can perform miracles to cure anything, why can't he cure amputees? If he is all-powerful, why can't he grow back a simple arm? Or foot? Or finger even? Your belief based on curing a disease is misplaced and you are crazy to think god musta done it. Even if god did it, your god is evil for curing some and not others. Don't you see that? Can't you make that simple leap of logic? For no-god's sake, use your brain!
I don't think the statement said "Doctors had nothing to do with it". However, faith did. Faith gives you mental preparedness. Anyway, I cannot win this argument. You either believe or you don't. It is as simple is that. Why are people called names and ridiculed if they believe or don't believe? Just do your thing.
I voiced my opinion, you don't care. You voiced your opinion, I don't care. It is as simple as that.
Anyway, if we bring this all back to politics, it is pretty simple really. Our country is at its most divided point right now because of religion and political party affiliation. Why? People are too worried about what everyone else is doing and paying no attention at all to what they are doing.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.