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.”
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.
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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.
ATTENTION !!!! ATTENTION!!!! ATTENTION!!!!.
Ooooooooooo I am ever so mad! I stamped my feet I am so mad! I tried to call Ted Turner but the atheist liars at CNN said that he hasn't worked there in years. The I tried to call Stalin and Chairman Mao to let them know we smart Christians aren't going to take the tricks of their followers, but the people who answered lied and said Mao and Stalin were dead. LIARS!
I called President Bush at the White House, but the atheist who answered the phone lied and said there is this new guy doing the job, and he is . . . BLACK! Oh the lies that atheists will tell!
So I called Jesus himself, but he said he is busy mowing lawns and can't help me.
BOYCOTT CNN THE SAME WAY I DO, WHICH IS BY BEING HERE ALL THE TIME AND POSTING LIKE CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SEND THEM E-MAILS AND TEXTS AND CANDYGRAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's really sad to see people who try to deny the truth. I have been seeking God with all my heart and he's made himself known to me. I experience things not many people experience unless they are Born again and are seeking God Diligently. If you really want to disprove if Jesus existed, read the Bible and seek God with all your heart and come back and tell me he never existed.
I read the bible and sought god with all my heart for almost 50 years.. God doesn't exist and jesus is a myth.
That's not God you found. That's a mental illness manifesting itself in ways that you can understand. Your personal experience means nothing as the human brain is easily fooled. Most ex-Christians once believed as you do, until they realized that their god was not responding to their please. Then their rational side of the brain kicked in.
It's obvious you wasn't doing it from your heart. Jesus only appears to those who love him. If you didn't do it from your heart and excepted him as your Lord and Savior he will not SAVE you.
Yep, I did it.. I was a minister and saw many "saved' by my witness.
Look up Dan Barker, too.. He's another former believer/pastor who is an atheist.
LOL, ya'll funny. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when you guys are judged. This life is a test, either you pass or you fail. There is life after death, why do you think we die? We die because Adam and Eve, through 1 man sin came into the world through 1 man we earn a chance at external life. It's through Jesus, you break the curse that was placed on all men. Can you guys explain to me why we die, and how about why do we have mouths or eyes and a brain? Why aren't we like the majority of the animals on the earth? Please elaborate on that!
We don't know our purpose or what happens when we die, or even if we have a purpose and anything happens when we die.. It's a mystery.. If you need it all nice and pretty in a little fairy tale story so as not to be afraid then please continue to believe like you do.. Otherwise, grow up and deal with reality and realize that there are some things we just don't know..
It's obvious to me, you didn't keep feeding yourself in the word. You allow the devil to turn you away from God. Huge mistake on your part. I know the person I was, and it's only through Christ I changed to be what I am today. Jesus is real and you will answer for walking away from him when you made the right choice to follow him from the beginning.
That's all you've got?!?! Wow, what a letdown.
You do know, it's in the word. Why did you become a pastor if God didn't change you. I believe you walked away from him word because you was still in SIN, you was probably living in SIN and you took Gods Mercy for granted. It's like he said, if the Salt has lost it's flavor where with it be salted. You can't take your redemption and salvation for granted, you have to love God with all your heart and not be a hypocrite.
Again, that's so boring to somebody who has already been through faith and out the other side.. But it's all you've got, so...
Lol, you know I'm right. So tell everybody the truth. What did you do, I bet it was some bad stuff you was into and God told you depart from me ye who do inequity. If you go back to God with all your heart he will forgive, he's Merciful like that! I love God and there's nothing you or any other atheist cook can say to change that. That being said, I'm about to take a nap so God can show me things and talk to me through my dreams.
Some people really do need religious delusion.. Hindus, moslems, you, etc.. Enjoy your dream messages!
The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from iron age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.
Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you live your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.
And Atheist would do what? What happened in China? How many killed when Atheist rule?
I do not follow. China does not get to decide who goes to heaven or hell.
You will eventually find out the truth and it's going to be too late. I feel sorry for your Spirit.
Believing in god and praying to jesus is about as effective as asking the greeter at walmart to send you a spaceship full of time-traveling dinosaurs to bring you next week’s winning lottery numbers. Why not just tattoo “baby-brain inside” on your forehead and get it over with?
Maybe before I die I’ll inject drano into my head to kill off 99% of my brain cells, just so I can experience religious faith and understand where some of you tarts are coming from!
Stupid people do a lot of good things. Smart people do a lot of good things. Stupid people also do a lot bad things. Smart people also do a lot of bad things. Smart. Stupid. Doesn't really matter in the big picture. This is how humans evolved and we continue to evolve. They are you. You are them.
Ungodly, seriously, I like your comment. Not what I expected as a reply. My name-calling aside, I agree with you 100%. And to say it another way, there are good drivers and bad drivers, but we all share the road. I’m the type of person who believes at honking at the bad drivers so, just maybe, one day they’ll think twice before texting when getting on the highway.
... hahha if it is no true!!! it should not bother people just like the other religions ... Believe in science yes all true all of it : )
The existence of Jesus is a historical fact that is beyond dispute. I mean literally, if you say Jesus didn't exist, you are fundamentally living in fairy land. Come to whatever conclusion you want about his life, whether you place your trust in him is based on whether the holy spirit convicts you and calls you to him. But, to state that Jesus never existed is about as offensive and insane as saying that the holocaust never happened or that a plane didn't hit the world trade center.
Further, don't place Jesus into a box as a "great moral teacher." He does not allow you to do that. A great moral teacher doesn't tell you to "drink his blood." Either he was who he said he was, the son of God, or else a man possessed by demons. Clearly, based on his testimony, his miracles, and his resurrection, he was the son of God.
Logic dictates that God exists, there is no other conclusion that logically can be drawn. History dictates that Jesus existed, there is no other conclusion that historically can be drawn. I believe Jesus was God, and that no other conclusion can be drawn, not based on logic, but on faith. I hope you experience that faith at some time in your life too, though, I can't guarantee that.
Logic does NOT dictate a god, especially not one concerned with personal affairs.
If you were a historian you would know there is no contemporaneous evidence that Jesus existed.
So sad, your ignorance and self adoration and envy of those who are knowledgeable and respected for their work and insight is so blatantly obvious in this post.
A man called Jesus of Nazareth probably existed, although there is no evidence of it, none. If he was divine, like the pharaohs thought they were, he did a much poorer job of recording his life.
You can say Jesus existed but not “logic says god exists”. Maybe you don’t understand some of the words you’re using, but it’s about as coherent a phrase as saying, “circular triangles love blueberry muffins but cannot speak Dutch”. The words are real but the idea isn’t, get it?
The Christian church should realize something: even if Jesus existed, what the CHURCH has done has made Jesus less believable. By co-opting (aka STEALING) holidays from other religions such as Christmas and Easter, then lying to their own followers that those days are Jesus' birthday and resurrection days, it takes away from the credibility of his very existence. It gets people questioning when they discover those days have NOTHING to do with Christianity at all. Its things like that that have hurt the religion as a whole. I'm one that believes Jesus did exist, but he was just a man and his legend took on a life of its own, such as Robin Hood, which there is also a debate to his existence.
ATTENTION !!!! ATTENTION!!!! ATTENTION!!!!
!! Shame on CNN for posting this ridiculous article on Easter Sunday and attacking Christianity on this holiday !!
(CNN would never do this to any Jewish/Muslims during their holidays – poor Christians are always on the targeting during their holidays, and luckily they always forgive. It's same as questioning whether the holocaust or Muhammed existed!)
*** Do like me and many others: CALL/E-MAIL CNN & COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS BS ***
– Happy Easter everyone and may our Lord & Saviour bless us all who believe in him –
Why? Easter's roots have nothing to do with Christianity so this article is not inappropriate at all
It is noble to seek the truth any day of the year. Thank you CNN for this eye opening article.
The issue is topical and relevant....should they discuss on Halloween instead?
See, it is just another Sunday to me. Andif I am not allowed the benefit of of hearing this because you are offended, you have just displayed another example of how Christianity oppresses the freedom of free thought and exchange of ideas to those of us who do not adehere to your beliefs.
Its no coincidence that over 2,000 years before Jesus, Babylonia was celebrating Spring on a certain day while simultaneously celebrating the resurrection of their god Tammuz. How did they celebrate? By painting eggs, hiding them and later searching for them. However, unlike the Jesus resurrection myth, Tammuz was resurrected with help of his mother Ishtar. Ishtar was pronounced "easter"
I'm proud of HIM who died on the cross for my SIN and my sins. He gave His life for you and me so that we can have eternal life. Without HIM I don't have hope in the future. He is our creator and He is our Redeemer. Give glory to Him because He is worthy to be praised for ever and ever. Amen. –>
2 Tim 3:1-4: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
I can quote nonsensicle bible quotes too:
“If a man’s testicIes are crushed or his pe nis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”
No he didn't. He didn't die for you or your sins. Jesus–the man, not the myth–slowly died on that cross with his thoughts likely in panic or consumed for his own well-being. There's no greater symbolism to it. Jesus was not the son of god (how could he be when there is no god!), Jesus did not rise from the dead. Jesus died and that was that.
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
This is what concerns me about this mumbo jumbo, you are probably allowed to vote, huh?
Religion is the most dangerous ideology that faces the world today. All three of the Hebrew religions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) believe in an armageddon that will destroy the world, which makes them all the more willing to use the world destroying powers of nuclear weapons. The world needs a new way of thinking, an ideology that does not seduce good people into committing horrendous crimes against the earth and their fellow humankind.
Science is the new religion. Do not undermine science or you will burn on the stake.
If only it were that easy.
Your use of a highly technological devise that required extensive "science" to create in order to post your message illuminates the hypocrisy typical of religious people.
That's nice. If you feel that way about science, go turn off your computer. Cut off your electricity. Stop buying food from the supermarket and go hunt your own (no using guns or advanced weaponry though!). Science is the driving force behind almost everything man-made in this modern world. If you can't live with it, then get out. Move to the Sahara and become a nomad or something. We'll see how long you survive.
Science is reality. Religion, not so.
Science is not a religion, it is a method for understanding how things work. People who think science is faith based are ignorant beyond belief.
Next the educated elite will be trying to tell us the Eastern Bunny is a "myth"...yea? explain the eggs....
Thank you. I needed that. But really, what is the corrolation between Easter, bunnies, Jesus and eggs. That has to be more than two religions or holidays at work there cus that is a lot of unrelated stuff...
Watch what anthropologists, archeologists and religious historians seeking the truth have to say about where god came from:
Good movie from an atheist. But you know what? We are still going to win.
Clearly there are cowards at CNN. They do not have the balls to post this crap about the Jewish or Musilm faiths.
I am not offended by Jewish or Islamic faith because I am not having their followers try to shove their beliefs down my throat as an American. If it ever comes to it, I would want my local news to keep them on their radar like I want Christianity in the U.S. kept on the media's radar. Christianity is a threat to my freedom and to my country's scientific and intellectual progress.
Uh – they've posted many articles on those and other religions, including their relation to modern scholarship.
So far, only one of the subject's believers have raised any objections to rational examination of their beliefs.
CNN is Atheists favorite newssite............ GOD BLESS FOX NEWS
I don't watch Fox, but am not surprised it exists. CNN has an agenda, too.
How about we apply cultural sensitivity and not have these types of stories on one of the highest holy days in the Christian calendar. I'm not saying such debates should not be held but rather we should be sensitive to those who see this day as holy and not use it as a way to increase ratings and click counts by running such piece.
I can't think of a better time to publish such articles than on the days when their subject is foremost in reader's minds.
Ah, Faux – the right-wing mouthpiece.
The inventors of Christianity (mostly Paul) had deep-seated psychological problems (as do many of the followers today, though they refuse to admit this possibility to themselves or others).
I've read a bit about the psychological profile of Paul based on what is known about him and can be gathered from his writings...and he was clearly an unhappy, lonely, self-loathing man...with a negative world view, and wanting to inflict that misery on the world around him.
Christianity thrives because people who lack self-esteem and self-purpose (because they are told by the religion that it's sinful to have these things), feel self-important when they become tasked with the chore of micro-managing other peoples' lives. Another reason it does well is because people love to feel like martyrs, like their suffering somehow has meaning.
Simply put, it's mental-illness with a tax-exemption. (And don't let's even get started on how Zionism, an inexorably Judeo-Christian religious concept, pollutes and corrupts our foreign policy in the Middle East.)
The Pauline religion was on its way to extinction until Constantine converted and established it as the official religion of the empire, with some changes leading to the Pagan-Christian hybrid known today as "Christianity". If Constantine had never converted his empire, Paul's tiny religion would have continued to die out and we would be reading about it in books today the same way we read about Greek Mythologies...with amusement at their primitive, uneducated attempts to explain the world around them.
It seems like you are the one with the illness. sad.
"Simply put, it's mental-illness with a tax-exemption."
But it's time we start taxing these nut jobs!
It's time to rid the world of this lie. 2000 years is much too long.
GOOD IDEA: Psychological and behavioural profiling of the writers of these books. That would be interesting.
Funny that the two scholars used President Obama and Martin Luther King respectively, to make their points about the existence and importance of Jesus.
Consider that the story in the bible is liken to Horus and to Mithra. Maybe that story is important. Timespace, would also raise questions about the twins (Adam and Eve), the golden bovine, the Rams horn and the fisherman of men; Gemini, Taurus, Aries, and Pisces hmmmm! Myth and Reality could certainly become mixed, confused and complex. Why does God have to have a name, and why has Religion become the Bride of State. Why does mankind kill, in the name of God or priest, rabbi or cleric... all who have "warriors of shame"!
I wonder if a fact checker has looked through this article because it is riddled with numerous glaring errors. I'm not an expert in 1st century history, but accounts of the resurrected Jesus are inconsistent with 'visions'. Unlike what the writer claims, the resurrected Christ encourages the apostle Thomas to touch the wounds on his hands and side, and the women that first saw Jesus at the empty tomb clasped his feet to worship him. He was seen by hundreds. The accounts are clearly describing a physical body, not a mere vision. Also, no historical accounts, even the secular historical accounts mentioned here, record that Jesus escaped death like the Pagan god Osiris. They all said that he was crucified and died on the cross. In fact, secular Roman records claimed that his body, which was guarded by Roman soldiers non-stop, was stolen by the apostles, who were in hiding in fear of being attacked after the crucifixion. This is not consistent with a pagan god escaping death. Also, being resurrected after death is not the same as escaping death (and subsequently dying again). Also, no pagan god has inspired so many people to die for their belief in it. It is hard to believe (and almost mocking to suggest) that the early Christians willingly faced persecution and death for a 'vision' they saw based on a pagan god.I'm sure someone who actually studied first century history (or bothered to read up about it seriously and unbiasedly) could make a good fact checker for future articles on debates about this period in history.
Your problem is you are not looking at all the bible, because each story has a different description of what happened and as for straw man arguments against this article, they were specifically speaking about two important new testament proselytizers, Paul and Stephen who are not credible sources for a real Jesus since they only saw visions of him.
Bart Ehrmann is always cited by these deniers. Bart Ehrmann has his own problems. You can go to aomin(dot)org and get debates of Dr. James White debating him.
Apparently, whatever problems he may have are beyond your ability to address.