The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
Does Easter celebrate a man, a savior, or a myth? Some say Jesus never existed and was a myth created by early Christians.
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET

The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

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.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Art • Belief • Books • Church • Culture wars • Easter • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus • Uncategorized • Virgin Mary

soundoff (8,773 Responses)
  1. Sybaris

    Would you take a prescription drug if it had not been tested?

    Now, think of Jesus the same way. There is nothing outside of the bible that can attest to the alleged miracles and tricks he performed.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • fred

      Jesus gave me a new life. Is that good enough?

      April 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • just sayin

      No it didn't fred, that 's all in your head.

      April 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • fred

      Just sayin
      What difference does it make if it is in my head or my heart. Results seem to count these days and the results are clear and proven. You are welcome to measure the results. The impact of Jesus is clear, in your face and known virtually throughout the world. I guess that is not real enough for you?
      Jesus spoke of things man knew nothing about and the best of scientists do not even have the tools to evaluate. Yet you think Einstein is more somehow of greater relevence? As smart as he was Einstein stood in wonder of the universe and called it miraculous. Einstein worked with simple math and physics that could be proven by men and written with a pencil. Jesus delt with atonement for sin, reconcilliation between God and man, opening a pathway to eternal life.

      April 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Fred, you need to get on your knees and service Jesus.

      April 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • ralphie

      why do you doubt what was written about him?

      March 21, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • ralphie

      "On the other hand, abortion is only morally reprehensible to a portion of today's society," heathen infidel reprobate fool

      the Holocaust was morally reprehensible only to a portion of the Germans.

      the universe-creation itself shouts out his existence

      divine revelation through the written word

      the testimony of hundreds of millions of people

      the changed lives

      the inner assurance

      the new testament could not have been slapped together haphazardly. no one could have planned and organized the entire breadth and depth of all contained within it. no one could have written the entire collection or supervised its production back then. no one could have created the various, myriad themes and characters and actions and let alone put the words christ spoke into his mouth.

      he cannot be a great moral leader based on the words someone else wrote for him.
      no one could have imagined or dreamed up in their wildest dreams all he had to say and all he did.
      no one had the motivation to attempt to tackle a fiction of that magnitude only to die for it.
      we would know if a band of criminals had tried to pull off a hoax like this. it would be the greatest conspiracy in world history and there is no hint of that. you don't announce god's birth to a virgin from a lowly cattle shed. you don't parade the king of kings throughout the land, the one so long hoped for to deliver his chosen people, and abruptly murder the guy, hoping people will believe he rose from the dead and returned to heaven. we don't think that way.
      there were easier ways of conning people to make a buck or to acquire political power than this thing.

      March 21, 2013 at 1:54 am |
  2. wimanf

    "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.” You see, Carrier does explain the blindness that Paul suffered after the encounter and the the laying hands of Ananias to regain his eyesight back. You see people think that they can make a fool of us by just telling us half of the truth. Go read the story for yourself: Acts9: 1-31, click on this link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%209&version=NIV. You will how wrong these so called scholars are when it comes to Biblical truth.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • ralphie

      if jesus hadn't existed, he couldn't have revealed himself to saul

      March 21, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  3. YeahItsMe72

    I don't know about you all but I'm gonna trust the words written thousands of years ago when people knew nothing about the natural world and were 99% illiterate. It just feels like the right thing to do. I don't need any evidence.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • fred

      Great so you trust skeptics that wrote 1500 years after the fact? You trust skeptics that you know have a bias built in. You trust skeptics that go against the conclusion of the majority of historical scholars? 25,000 manuscripts and that is not enough?
      This is the same skeptic nonsense that every God hater clung to until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

      April 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • OhPlease

      "You trust skeptics that go against the conclusion of the majority of historical scholars? "

      The bible has been proven not to be an historical book. LOL!

      April 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • fred

      The article was about Jesus being a myth. Not a single reputable historian will go along with that. I imagine you have found one. If so best toss out any book or article that person has written.
      The Bible is a story of God redeeming a people for himself. It contains history, alagory and metaphore as the story unfolds. The Bible is in you face and does not cut out the bad parts of man or twist the good parts. Where do you go for the history of Jesus or the Apostle Paul ?

      April 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Snow

      I agree fred.. and along with the god of the bible, the world also has wizards and the honest to god fact is that they exist.. I mean, there are thousands of books written by a variety of unrelated people from all across the world just in the last century (who of course were touched by the holy wizard spirit when they wrote it) that there is no way that they could not exist.. Harry Potter books, Dresden files books, Poe wrote about some of them so beautifully. In light of such great proof from vast myriad of evidence, how can anyone disprove their existence? I mean, can you?

      April 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • fred

      The difference between Potter etc and the Bible is that no one today and 50 years down the road would worship Potter as God. If anyone today or 50 years down the road began to claim it was anything other than a fiction book it would never gain traction. When God writes a story 6 billion copies are sold and the world is no longer the same. Oh, is this the year 2012 AD or it the 12th year of Potters Spell?

      April 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Snow

      My point exactly fred.. when christ gave his message, the majority of the world scorned at it.. just like you scorn at potter books now.. But what happened few centuries down the road? It obviously takes an absolute belief in the wizard books to know the message and follow it.. and you obviously do not have that.. as it is written in the potter books, you will never be able to crossover with this outlook.. But there is still time for you to save yourself.. believe me, I have love and your good at my heart when I say this..

      April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • fred

      Wait, I am just sticking with the facts we know that today’s reputable historical scholars do not take issue with. One being the writings of Saul of Tarsus (Paul) written 20 – 30 years after the resurrection of Christ by the key founder (some argue Peter) of the Church of Christ. The reason for suppression of the Gospel of Jesus was the ruling Jews leaders of the day arrogant and hostile att-itude in protecting their power base. The political and secular governments in the area were either protecting their power or appeasing the people. The majority of the early believers were empowered by the Holy Spirit and where they were not we find Paul and his gang run out of town or persecuted. Although Paul was the mouth piece the reason these people turned was by the power of Holy Spirit and prayer as detailed in the text.
      In addition to my own conversion all the conversions I witnessed were in the same process as described by Jesus and then Paul. Peter had a town of “Christians” that were once Jews and when Paul arrived he noticed they were missing something. After Paul spoke with them and prayed they became filled with the Holy Spirit. Their thoughts and lives were different. This is where the difference between a short term religious experience and life changing conversion can be obvious. We must need to know this since it was brought up several times. I do not see Potters Spell bringing about such change. It has been 12 years and there has been no such Potters Spell.
      I can see those few who witnessed Jesus resurrection (500) becoming followers but the first 3,000 at Pentecost that never saw Jesus walk about were under some influence.

      April 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  4. Russ

    From Bart Ehrman (a self-proclaimed agnostic "with atheistic tendencies") in the forward to his book "Did Jesus Exist?"...

    "Every week I receive two or three e-mails asking me whether Jesus existed as a human being. When I started getting these e-mails, some years ago now, I thought the question was rather peculiar and I did not take it seriously. Of course Jesus existed. Everyone knows he existed. Don’t they?

    But the questions kept coming, and soon I began to wonder: Why are so many people asking? My wonder only increased when I learned that I myself was being quoted in some circles—misquoted rather—as saying that Jesus never existed. I decided to look into the matter. I discovered, to my surprise, an entire body of literature devoted to the question of whether or not there ever was a real man, Jesus.

    I was surprised because I am trained as a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity, and for thirty years I have written extensively on the historical Jesus, the Gospels, the early Christian movement, and the history of the church’s first three hundred years. Like all New Testament scholars, I have read thousands of books and articles in English and other European languages on Jesus, the New Testament, and early Christianity. But I was almost completely unaware—as are most of my colleagues in the field—of this body of skeptical literature.

    I should say at the outset that NONE OF THIS LITERATURE is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world). OF THE THOUSANDS OF SCHOLARS OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY WHO DO TEACH AT SUCH SCHOOLS, NONE OF THEM, TO MY KNOWLEDGE, HAS ANY DOUBTS THAT JESUS EXISTED."
    [his quotes – my caps]

    April 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Sybaris

    Jesus, the David Koresh of his day

    April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  6. Maxwell T

    First of all posting a story like this is disrespectfull to us Christians especially at this time when we are celebrating easter. You could write a better story related to our sevior, instead of insulting us with a story of people who do not believe in our faith. I understand you will say that there is a freedom of speech; but I believe that freedom you have as a report includes respecting people's faith and as far as I can see here this is an insult to Christians.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • GodPot

      So which day would it be disrespectful to post a story about how atheism is false? Or do you expect respect from us but have none for us?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • momoya

      Oh quit your whining.. Jesus said you would be persecuted, but so far you christians have been running the entire US in almost every single political office.. You got churches on every street corner and all sorts of preferential treatment.. Now a little 'ole article on line is too much for you? Man up or drop your stupid delusion.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Religious beliefs are insulting to any rational thinking person.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • wimanf

      They can disrespect us but not the Muslims. They are cowards! They are afraid to say anything wrong about Islam – the fake religion. but, when it comes to Christianity, they can invent all kind of negative things to say due to the fact we are civil people; we are sheeps, as the bible puts it. And that gives the drive to bad mouth our belief in Jesus. The bottom line here is that they do not have any proof that Christianity is fake.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • JT

      It's just downright pathetic when you oppressors get upset when someone questions your unfounded belief system that you majority use to deny the rest of us our liberty.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Know What

      "They can disrespect us but not the Muslims. They are cowards!"

      Ok, Islam is a crock of fantasy tales. Happy?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Joe N

      That's just so dogmatic. Do you also agree that Muslims have the right to silence those cartoonists who drew the Prophet a couple of years ago? Your view is exactly why I distrust your religion: we can't question the Savior, we shouldn't hear about the child abuse committed in the name of your Church, we shouldn't question the Church's political and financial motives etc. Religion is such a hypocritical phenomena. It won't wed (or accept others wed) gays as apparently God decided in his wisdom that they are not equal to other human beings. I could go on...

      April 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Maria

      Since none of you apparently are Christians, you don’t unsnadtred the song at all.Oh, really?Most of us here—possibly all of us—are ex-Christians, Ma'am. We are very well acquainted with your-plural theological silliness.Although, the Great Commission is about telling “all the world” about Jesus and making disciples .It's also severely arrogant and has been the source of untold suffering in world history.The point is that now that the songwriter met Jesus, everything is different.Yes. That's obvious, not to mention banal and jejune.Service to others is a natural response to the forgiveness and the relationship we have with Him. It’s not at all about earning points.Seeing as how no one here has represented the matter as earning points, you seem to be prattling on meaninglessly. And tone-deafly, given the real substance of NFQ's concerns about exploitation of the unfortunate.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  7. Sefira

    When Myths and Storytelling, becomes someone Beliefs of any kind; damages and eliminates the course of 'Truths!" Ruling one group over the masses, is what they do in the end. Questioning such, is the only way to regain, 'Truths." Writing, rewriting, preaching, and dictating Myths, appeases only those who benefit from them.
    Human beings, around the world and different cultures; have created such, only for control.
    Leaving those who keep their minds blinded, go without their own clear thought. Therefore, human destruction has creeped into every generation, with such destruction; one can only hope for the future generation to crawl out and educate themselves, through clear and precise questions, on all fronts. Face value, this simply false value!

    April 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  8. palintwit

    The only thing the bible thumpers love more than the baby jesus is boinking their cousins every Sunday right after church.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • GodPot

      You are so wrong!! That happens Friday night when they get drunk after work so they can be absolved on Sunday morning...

      April 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Bootyfunk

    this one's easy - myth!

    April 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Bob

    Lets remember folks that cnn prints this as a "controversial" article. The attempt to bring both sides of the debate in a one page article. Then end it by saying, oh well, I guess noone really knows. If you actually take the time to examine theology, or the "jesus did not exist" idea, you find that that idea comes from those who hate and dispise religion, and are truly not looking for truth. I'm not saying the bible proves the cliams of God or Jesus 100%. It does not and was not meant to be a "proof". But for over a thousand years, real scholars, believers or not, they do not contest Jesus existence.
    This article should not be taking as an example to base your entire belief on. But certainly thats what the few authors, and I mean few, hope you will do.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • CaDad

      Hi Bob, a well thought out response.
      Although, isn't there always one of those? If you really research like a lot of agnostics and atheists have who have converted to Christ, you just might change your mind or reinforce your belief if you did go through the trouble of really examining scriptures instead of just listening to the dribble that comes out of a lot of churches today..

      April 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Buchab01

      @Bob That is simply an ad hominem attack. It is simply not true. Dr. Price held Bible study classes many years after he became an atheist. He and many of his listeners and readers love the Bible very much and think it and Jesus's teachings still hold a lot of value. Most of us simply want to know the truth wherever it leads. I have no care one way or the other if Jesus existed. His existence does not equate to Christianity being true or the Bible. He could have just been a revolutionary that got mythologized into some divine or semi-divine being.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Nick Rymond


    April 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • OOO

      The best explanation for what?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Bob

      With all due respect The bible's fundemental teachings have not been changed but passed down. You could say the same about the "book of Islam". Comparing both religions results in Jesus teachings totally different from Islam. And I suppose since Islam keeps Jesus in the religion, they can't say he was insane for saying he was the song of God, but as all the ancient texts proclaim, that was his stand, and claimed equality with God. Jesus taught to "love your enemies" and to forgive those who hate you. you tell me if thats dif frim Islam?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • jim

      i haveand find it to be a beautiful book of prose, poetry, ad a guide for living a quality life. whatever one's religion/faith system is there own choice. no one book/belief/guru works for everyone. if only we could all agree that underneath it all we are human and all bleed red, there would be so much less conflict and controversy. it's all about ACCEPTANCE, folks. all prophets fom time immemorial have stressed this one thing.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • tevii

      I wouldn't say the best explanation, just another version of it. If you want to say that, then you would have to say the Sumerian texts that predate and inspired both has the truth and not the Quran. People need to realize these are retellings that change with each re-telling. Similar to movies being remade. The Karate Kid is a remake of The Karate Kid. There are the same elements in it, but then there are the differences to make them unique. The same thing applies here. Humanity constantly retelling the same stories with their own twist.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • CaDad

      Wow nick, you certainly do not understand the concept, perhaps some study would help-or, Gasp, talking to a clergyman about what it is you don't get, even if you are an atheist, at least you won't be looked at like an idiot.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Jake

    Myth. Next question.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Jake: from an actual expert on myth...

      "I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read."
      – CS Lewis, "Fern Seed & Elephants"

      It could be lies. It could be factual reportage. One thing it cannot be: myth.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • momoya

      Yet it is myth by every definition of the word.. It doesn't matter if something is true if there's no way to prove that it is.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: that is equivocation. by the literary genre, it by definition is not myth.
      as such, the Gospels are the very thing you are looking for: a multiplicity of historic accounts of the event & person.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • momoya


      The gospel accounts do no such thing; perhaps you should research how and when and by whom they were written.. Your belief makes no sense whatsoever and has no verifiable proof for it.. As such, it can only be a myth, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate it might be.

      1 a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
      • such stories collectively : the heroes of Greek myth.
      2 a widely held but false belief or idea : he wants to dispel the myth that sea kayaking is too risky or too strenuous | there is a popular myth that corporations are big people with lots of money.
      • a misrepresentation of the truth : attacking the party's irresponsible myths about privatization.
      • a fict.itious or imaginary person or thing.
      • an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing : the book is a scholarly study of the Churchill myth.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: we've had this conversation before.

      Read CS Lewis' essay "Fern Seed & Elephants" in full. He rather demonstratively makes the point that no scholar can make such claim.

      One such point: myth (as a genre) never has such detail. Homer never says "Odysseus left the Cyclops cave around 3:30pm and rowed 3 or 3.5 miles out to sea." The Bible gives exactly that sort of detail. There was no genre for that other than historical reportage for another 1700 years. So, either one must believe the Gospel writers were a collective group of literary geniuses without copycats for 1700 years or this is non-fiction. In sum: it's either lies or reportage. Either way, not a myth.

      Another: myth arises 100s of years after the supposed historical event. All of these accounts within 50 years. Paul writes Corinthians within 20 years. People were still alive. There is no time for a "myth" to arise. Eyewitnesses are named. People are still alive. It's an invitation to fact check. That's historical reporting. This is not the legend of King Arthur.

      More recently (as I posted above), Bart Ehrman (self-proclaimed agnostic "with atheistic tendencies" & no friend to conservative scholars) has just released a book making this point: Jesus was a historical figure. He says he knows of NO ONE at any major accredited university or divinity school making the claim that Jesus did not exist.

      Read Ehrman's forward in full. He is stunned to find people realistically making the claim that Jesus never existed – and he is no fan of Jesus.

      The scholarship is there – and myth is not a viable category for the Gospels.

      April 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • momoya


      It's a myth because the definition clearly applies.. You don't want it to be a myth, but it is.. The gospels were written long after the time of the events, and there is absolutely NO WAY to verify any of it.. Your belief is strong, but your myth is weak..

      April 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • momoya

      Oh, and Russ, myths can have details in them.. Don't be stupid.. And this 2000 years later–plenty of time for the 80 and 100 year and 200 year old letters and such in the bible to be "mythicised.". Again, don't be stupid about this..

      April 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • fred

      Sorry, but we have manuscripts (thousands of them) that support the original. The letters of Paul written shortly after the resurrection of Christ (20-30 years) are not in dispute by any reputable historians. They were not altered we have the originals. Who has their bias hat on?

      April 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: as I said, the scholarship is against you here. read the experts.

      even an agnostic from the left end of the spectrum (Bart Ehrman) recognizes that Jesus existed – and claims he knows NO reputable scholars who claim to the contrary.

      and when a life-long scholar & myth expert (CS Lewis) tells you that myths never had this sort of detail ("the reader who does not see this simply has not learned to read"), saying "nuh-uh" or just calling it "stupid" is not a viable response.

      April 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Razier

      Fred, how do you now that they support the original when no one living today has ever seen the original? Yes we have thousands of manuscripts but most are centuries after Christ would have been around. The earliest piece of a manuscript of new testament book that we have today is P52 (Papyrus 52). It is a fragment about the size of a credit card that contains a parts of a few verses from John. It is dated around the year 150 and that date has been hotly debated to be much later. That's over a 120 years after Jesus!!!! THAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MANUSCRIPT and it only verifies part of maybe 13-14 verses. So please don't make ignorant statements about the thousands of manuscripts we have that verify the "original" books again.

      April 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • fred

      I am not a historian or a reputable historical scholar. I only went with the letters of Paul that were accepted as authentic by these "authorities" to avoid argument over reliability. Personally, I use the Holy Spirit as my guide on these writings since the real truth boils down to faith sooner or later.
      Compared with other writings of antiquity the manuscript support for the Bible is significantly greater in all respects. You should be making that truth clear instead of casting doubt.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  13. Buchab01

    I like how they refer to Dr. Robert M. Price as a "former Baptist minister". He is a new testament scholar with two PhDs (one in Systematic Theology and one in New Testament Studies. Dr. Ehrman makes general statements about the Jesus Myth supporters being mostly internet kooks instead of directly attacking Dr. Price because he knows better. Anyone who has read or listened to Dr. Price knows what an unbelievably brilliant man he is. Dr. Price isn't dogmatic about the Christ Myth theory. He simply believes that after viewing all of the evidence available to us, there is no good reason to think that there was a real Jesus. Even if there was some teacher/healer/revolutionary/apocalyptic preacher named Jesus, he has become so entangled with the mythic Jesus there is virtually no way to ever be able to separate the two. I have no problem with Dr. Ehrman believing one way or the other about Jesus's existence, but to shoot down the supporters of the Christ Myth theorists as kooks is outrageous. Dr. Ehrman is now saying the gospels are reliable historical sources? The man has spent a good chunk of his career proving just how unreliable they are. What a joke. Bart Ehrman has lost a lot of credibility in my humble opinion. Not to mention the false allegations he makes in his new book about D. M. Murdock.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • ralphie

      I see. D.M Murdoch is somehow above criticism? She has a college degree. What are her credentials? D.M., care to comment?

      March 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • 00 00

      John Dominic Crossan says that the crucifixion of Jesus is the most verifiable event in the world.

      January 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
  14. David Nelson

    The Jesus of Mormonism is in the realm of myth, everything about the strange tale is myth. There is ample evidence that the Christ of the Bible is real and that the prophecies of his His first coming as seen in the 490 years propecy in Daniel are so perfect that non-believers have to resort to saying Daniel was written after the time of Christ. Yet Christ told people people to read the book of Daniel. Not surprisingly Daniel and Revelation are then attacked. The prophecies given to Daniel about the Kingdoms that would rise after Babylon are so accurate they have been used to help convert people to worship the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Walter Veith, an atheist who taught evolution in South Africa, was so certain of the historical accuracy of the bible, that God controls the affairs of men, that he committed his life to Christ and abandoned the vain efforts of men to understand their existence. If you are curious about his story you can go to his Amazing Discoveries website and learn much more about how accurate the Bible is.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Razier

      No, all they have to say is that the writers of the gospels knew what to have Jesus do to fulfill these miracles. This is absolutely plausible. I'd dare to go a step further and say that the majority of what you are calling prophecies in the old testament are not even prophesies.

      April 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  15. Matthew

    With this argument, you could argue that no Historical Figure existed. Napoleon could be a myth or Alexander the Great. How do we know Sun Tzu lived? We only have his writings. Also who says there wasn't a real Hercules and he wasn't a strong person. I have a funny feeling that a lot of myths of all these ancient cultures have a lot of truth to them. We use to laugh at the idea of sea monsters from sailors in 1400s and so on and now we are finding evidence of Giant Squids, Octopus, Fish, etc. in the deep oceans.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • boink

      The more incredible the claim, the more incredible the evidence needs to be supporting that claim.
      If you told me you went to Florida last week, I would probably believe you. I and you don't have a lot invested in that claim and I would see not reason for you to lie, but you might.
      However, claiming that a man was born of a virgin, died and was risen from the dead, and performed many more miricles that would alter many of the natural sciences for everyone (not just the believer) requires much, much more evidence.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Buchab01

      Historians do argue about the existence of a lot of these figures. When you are dealing with a figure such as Jesus where so many miraculous claims are attributed to him, historians have to say that most likely never happened. There is no contemporary writings of or about Jesus. The accounts of his life are written 30-60 years after the supposed date of his death and those sources contradict each other on every major aspect of his life.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  16. John

    Wow, CNN is really showing its bias on a near daily basis now. I counted 3 anti-religion, subversive, "is God real" articles during Holy week, and now we follow up the day after Easter with another one. Look, we know what's going on now. Time Magazine kicked off this era of modernism with its infamous "Is God Dead?" cover in 1966. That was a statement, not a question. God is not dead, but the souls of those who promulgate Satanic propaganda (which is what this article is, full of lies and half truths) most certainly are. Repent, while there is still yet time.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • redhatbeer

      Yes, declare that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet and you will be saved!

      April 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • momoya

      Yeah, right, because an all-loving god is going to send you to his eternal torture chamber if you don't repeat exactly the right magical words and do the right magical things to heal some magical and unseen body part (soul) of its magical an unseen disease (sin) all because a rib woman got talked into doing something wrong by a talking snake–but she couldn't know it was wrong to do until after she did it.. So then god had to sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself in his umpteenth attempt to fix his plan.. LOL!!!!!!

      April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • QS

      I'll admit, it's a bit sadistic on my part....but I sort of enjoy the panic and desperation that is brought out in religious people when their beliefs are questioned even in the slightest way. It truly illustrates the borderline schizophrenic characteristics that religion tends to induce in a majority of its followers.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  17. trollol

    So the myth has the real kooks chasing their 'tales' trying to justify their beliefs. (pun intended) If you want to do some good in this world, your time is better spent elsewhere. I'm sure your benevolent jesus would say something along the lines of, 'Stop worshiping me and get out there and do something useful!'

    April 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  18. mm

    Think CNN would ever run a story that says, " Mohammad, Man vs.the myth"? I think not. It's open season on Christianity.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • QS

      When you consider that, as it pertains to this country specifically, Muslims are not trying to actually force their beliefs on everybody else through various laws.

      If they ever start trying, I guaranty you there would be just as many articles about that as there are about Christians doing that very thing.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Cassie

      Nice try, mm, but Jesus is also mentioned in the Kuran and the Torah.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  19. i love jesus

    planting seeds of doubt, doing satans bidding. All you humans out there who are blaspheming, you will one day soon know the truth! But unfortunately for those doing this work of evil, they will already be burning eternally, right where they belong in the lake of fire. These are the rewards they are reaping by writing this. One chance, one God. john blake, You suck!

    April 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • QS

      Spoken like a true believer....and some wonder why more and more people are fleeing from religion in droves like never before.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Zeus is not happy with you

      April 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • W

      Blah blah blah... who are you (or any other human) to say either way, anyway?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • jim

      how southern baptist convention of you!

      April 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • JC

      Here we go with the whole fire and damnation bit. The basic tool by which Christianity forever has tried to force its precepts on the human race. Why do those who "believe" feel it's so necessary to tell others that they're going to burn in hell. If they really want to promote Christianity, they would prove it by spreading God's love, not God's vindictive hatred.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • David Nelson

      Sodom was burned with everlast fire too, but it is not still burning, it was burned into non-existance. Such is the fate of those, including satan and his demons, in the lake of fire. The doctrine that a loving God would torture people with fire for all eternity is a creation of the devil and has made many people become atheists. The bible says the wicked shall be as stubble under your feet! Would your feet be burning for all eternity? Of course not! Lets get real here.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Daniel

      There are no theaters in heaven where the saved eat popcorn and watch sinners being burned and tormented forever. Disappointed? I thought so!

      April 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  20. reimann

    This is what Einstein said about religion and God(whatever name you may give to that God). I am going to assume that all the contributors here are a step below Einstein when it comes to understanding this universe and smartness in general.

    "I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.]

    My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance - but for us, not for God." – Albert Einstein 'The Human Side', 1954

    April 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
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About this blog

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.