by Marshall J. Gauvin
"How well we know
what a profitable superstition this fable of
Christ has been for us"
- Pope Leo X
(1513 - 1521)
vol. V1, 1910
Scientific inquiry into the origins of Christianity begins to-day
with the question: "Did Jesus Christ really live?" Was there a man
named Jesus, who was called the Christ, living in Palestine nineteen
centuries ago, of whose life and teachings we have a correct account
in the New Testament? The orthodox idea that Christ was the
God -- God himself in human form -- that he was the creator of the
countless millions of glowing suns and wheeling worlds that strew
the infinite expanse of the universe; that the forces of nature were
the servants of his will and changed their courses at his command --
such an idea has been abandoned by every independent thinker in the
world, by every thinker who relies on reason and experience rather
than mere faith, by every man of science who places the integrity
of nature above the challenge of ancient religious tales.
Not only has the divinity of Christ been given up, but his existence
as a man is being more and more seriously questioned. Some of the
ablest scholars of the world deny that he ever lived at all. A
commanding literature dealing with the inquiry, intense in its
seriousness and profound and thorough in its research, is growing up
in all countries, and spreading the conviction that Christ is a myth.
The question is one of tremendous importance. For the Freethinker,
as well as for the Christian, it is of the weightiest significance.
The Christian religion has been and is a mighty fact in the world.
For good or for ill, it has absorbed for many centuries the best
energies of mankind. It has stayed the march of civilization, and
made martyrs of some of the noblest men and women of the race: and
it is to-day the greatest enemy,
The progressive forces of the world are at war with this
Asiatic superstition, and this war will continue until the triumph
of truth and freedom is complete. The question, "Did Jesus Christ
Really Live?" goes to the very root of the conflict between reason
and faith; and upon its determination depends, to some degree, the
decision as to whether religion or humanity shall rule the world.
Whether Christ did, or did not live, has nothing at all to do with
what the churches teach, or with what we believe. It is wholly a
matter of evidence. It is a question of science. The question is --
what does history say? And that question must be settled in the
court of historical criticism. If the thinking world is to hold to
the position that Christ was a real character, there must be
sufficient evidence to warrant that belief. If no evidence for his
existence can be found; if history returns the verdict that his name
is not inscribed upon her scroll, if it be found that his story was
created by art and ingenuity, like the stories of fictitious heroes,
he will have to take his place with the host of other demigods whose
fancied lives and deeds make up the mythology of the world.
What, then, is the evidence that Jesus Christ lived in this world as
a man? The authorities relied upon to prove the reality of Christ
are the four Gospels of the New Testament -- Matthew,
Mark, Luke and
John. These Gospels, and these alone, tell the story of his life.
Now we know absolutely nothing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
apart from what is said of them in the Gospels. Moreover, the
Gospels themselves do not claim to have been written by these men.
They are not called "The Gospel of Matthew," or "The Gospel of Mark,"
but "The Gospel According to Matthew," "The Gospel
According to Mark,"
"The Gospel According to Luke," and "The Gospel
According to John."
No human being knows who wrote a single line in one of these Gospels.
No human being knows when they were written, or where. Biblical
scholarship has established the fact that the Gospel of Mark is the
oldest of the four. The chief reasons for this conclusion are that
this Gospel is shorter, simpler, and more natural, than any of the
other three. It is shown that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke
enlarged from the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark knows nothing
of the virgin birth, of the Sermon on the Mount, of the Lord's
prayer, or of other important facts of the supposed life of Christ.
These features were added by Matthew and Luke.
But the Gospel of Mark, as we have it, is not the original Mark. In
the same way that the writers of Matthew and Luke copied and
enlarged the Gospel of Mark, Mark copied and enlarged an earlier
document which is called the "original Mark." This original source
perished in the early age of the Church. What it was, who wrote it,
where it was written, nobody knows. The Gospel of John is admitted
by Christian scholars to be an unhistorical document. They
acknowledge that it is not a life of Christ, but an interpretation
of him; that it gives us an idealized and spiritualized picture of
what Christ is supposed to have been, and that it is largely
composed of the speculations of Greek philosophy.
The Gospels of
Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are called the "Synoptic Gospels," on
the one hand, and the Gospel of John, on the other, stand at
opposite extremes of thought. So complete is the difference between
the teaching of the first three Gospels and that of the fourth, that
every critic admits that if Jesus taught as the Synoptics relate, he
could not possibly have taught as John declares. Indeed, in the
first three Gospels and in the fourth, we meet with two entirely
different Christs. Did I say two? It should be three; for, according
to Mark, Christ was a man; according to Matthew and Luke, he was a
demigod; while John insists that he was God himself.
There is not the smallest fragment of trustworthy evidence to show
that any of the Gospels were in existence, in their present form,
earlier than a hundred years after the time at which Christ is
supposed to have died. Christian scholars, having no reliable means
by which to fix the date of their composition, assign them to as
early an age as their calculations and their guesses will allow; but
the dates thus arrived at are far removed from the age of Christ or
his apostles. We are told that Mark was written some time after the
year 70, Luke about 110, Matthew about 130, and John not earlier
than 140 A.D. Let me impress upon you that these dates are
conjectural, and that they are made as early as possible.
historical mention of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was
made by the Christian Father, St. Irenaeus, about the year 190 A.D.
The only earlier mention of any of the Gospels was made by
Theopholis of Antioch, who mentioned the Gospel of John in 180 A.D.
There is absolutely nothing to show that these Gospels -- the only
sources of authority as to the existence of Christ -- were written
until a hundred and fifty years after the events they pretend to
describe. Walter R. Cassels, the learned author of "Supernatural
Religion," one of the greatest works ever written on the
"After having exhausted the literature and the
testimony bearing on the point, we have not found a single distinct
trace of any of those Gospels during the first century and a half
after the death of Christ."
How can Gospels which were not written
until a hundred and fifty years after Christ is supposed to have
died, and which do not rest on any trustworthy testimony, have the
slightest value as evidence that he really lived? History must be
founded upon genuine documents or on living proof. Were a man of to-day
to attempt to write the life of a supposed character of a hundred
and fifty years ago, without any historical documents upon which to
base his narrative, his work would not be a history, it would be a
romance. Not a single statement in it could be relied upon.
Christ is supposed to have been a Jew, and his disciples are said to
have been Jewish fishermen. His language, and the language of his
followers must, therefore, have been Aramaic -- the popular language
of Palestine in that age. But the Gospels are written in Greek --
every one of them. Nor were they translated from some other language.
Every leading Christian scholar since Erasmus, four hundred years
ago, has maintained that they were originally written in Greek. This
proves that they were not written by Christ's disciples, or by any
of the early Christians. Foreign Gospels, written by unknown men, in
a foreign tongue, several generations after the death of those who
are supposed to have known the facts -- such is the evidence relied
upon to prove that Jesus lived.
But while the Gospels were written several generations too late to
be of authority, the original documents, such as they were, were not
preserved. The Gospels that were written in the second century no
longer exist. They have been lost or destroyed. The oldest Gospels
that we have are supposed to be copies of copies of copies that were
made from those Gospels.
we do not know who made these copies
not know when they were made
nor do we know whether they were
Between the earliest Gospels and the oldest existing
manuscripts of the New Testament, there is a blank gulf of three
hundred years. It is, therefore, impossible to say what the original
There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a
large number of them were forgeries. Among these were:
the "Gospel of
the "Gospel of Bartholomew"
the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot"
the "Gospel of the Egyptians"
the "Gospel or Recollections of Peter"
the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ"
and scores of other pious
productions, a collection of which may still be read in "The
Apocryphal New Testament"
Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached
the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them
the appearance of importance.
Works were forged in the names of the
apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian
teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie
glory of the faith.
Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian,
says: "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed"
The Rev. Dr. Giles
writes: "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then
written with no other view than to deceive"
Smith says: "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious
literature created to suit party views"
The early church was
flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of
literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the
inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no
certainty that they were not. But let me ask: If Christ was an
historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to
prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to
prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived?
The early Christian forgeries are a tremendous testimony to
weakness of the Christian cause.
Spurious or genuine, let us see what the Gospels can tell us about
the life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke give us the story of his
genealogy. How do they agree?
Matthew says there were forty-one
generations from Abraham to Jesus
Luke says there were fifty-six
Yet both pretend to give the genealogy of Joseph, and both count the
Nor is this all. The Evangelists disagree on all but
two names between David and Christ
These worthless genealogies show
how much the New Testament writers knew about the ancestors of their
If Jesus lived, he must have been born. When was he born?
says he was born when Herod was King of Judea
Luke says he was born
when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria
He could not have been born
during the administration of these tow rulers for Herod died in the
year 4 B.C.
Cyrenius, who, in Roman history is
not become Governor of Syria until ten years later
Herod and Quirinius are separated by the whole reign of Archelaus, Herod's
Between Matthew and Luke, there is, therefore, a
of at least ten years, as to the time of Christ's birth. The fact is
that the early Christians had absolutely no knowledge as to when
Christ was born. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says:
count one hundred and thirty-three contrary opinions of different
authorities concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth."
Think of it -- one hundred and thirty-three different years, each
one of which is held to be the year in which Christ came into the
world. What magnificent certainty!
Towards the close of the eighteenth century, Antonmaria Lupi, a
learned Jesuit, wrote a work to show that the nativity of Christ has
been assigned to every month in the year, at one time or another.
Where was Christ born?
According to the Gospels, he was habitually
called "Jesus of Nazareth"
The New Testament writers have
endeavored to leave the impression that Nazareth of Galilee was his
The Synoptic Gospels represent that thirty years of his
life were spent there
Notwithstanding this, Matthew declares that
he was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of a prophecy in the Book of
But the prophecy of Micah has nothing whatever to do with
Jesus; it prophesies the coming of a military leader, not a divine
Matthew's application of this prophecy to
strengthens the suspicion that his Gospel is not history, but
Luke has it that his birth occurred at Bethlehem, whither
his mother had gone with her husband, to make the enrollment called
for by Augustus Caesar. Of the general census mentioned by Luke,
nothing is known in Roman history. But suppose such a census was
taken. The Roman custom, when an enrollment was made, was that every
man was to report at his place of residence. The head of the family
alone made report. In no case was his wife, or any dependent,
required to be with him. In the face of this established custom,
Luke declares that Joseph left his home in Nazareth and crossed two
provinces to go Bethlehem for the enrollment; and not only this, but
that he had to be accompanied by his wife, Mary, who was on the very
eve of becoming a mother.
This surely is not history, but fable. The
story that Christ was born at Bethlehem was a necessary part of the
program which made him the Messiah, and the descendant of King
David. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David;
and by what Renan calls a roundabout way, his birth was made to take
place there. The story of his birth in the royal city is plainly
His home was Nazareth. He was called "Jesus of Nazareth"; and there
he is said to have lived until the closing years of his life. Now
comes the question -- Was there a city of Nazareth in that age? The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, the greatest
biblical reference work in the English language, says:
perhaps venture to assert positively that there was a city of
Nazareth in Jesus' time."
No certainty that there was a city of
Nazareth! Not only are the supposed facts of the life of Christ
imaginary, but the city of his birth and youth and manhood existed,
so far as we know, only on the map of mythology. What amazing
evidence to prove the reality of a Divine man! Absolute ignorance as
to his ancestry; nothing whatever known of the time of his birth,
and even the existence of the city where he is said to have been
born, a matter of grave question!
After his birth, Christ, as it were, vanishes out of existence, and
with the exception of a single incident recorded in Luke, we hear
absolutely nothing of him until he has reached the age of thirty
years. The account of his being found discussing with the doctors in
the Temple at Jerusalem when he was but twelve years old, is told by
Luke alone. The other Gospels are utterly ignorant of this
discussion; and, this single incident excepted, the four Gospels
maintain an unbroken silence with regard to thirty years of the life
of their hero.
What is the meaning of this silence?
If the writers
of the Gospels knew the facts of the life of Christ, why is it that
they tell us absolutely nothing of thirty years of that life?
historical character can be named whose life for thirty years is an
absolute blank to the world?
If Christ was the incarnation of
if he was the greatest teacher the world has known, if he came to
cave mankind from everlasting pain -- was there nothing worth
remembering in the first thirty years of his existence among men?
The fact is that the Evangelists knew nothing of the life of
before his ministry; and they refrained from inventing a childhood,
youth and early manhood for him because it was not necessary to
Luke, however, deviated from the rule of silence long enough to
write the Temple incident. The story of the discussion with the
doctors in the Temple is proved to be mythical by all the
circumstances that surround it. The statement that his mother and
father left Jerusalem, believing that he was with them; that they
went a day's journey before discovering that he was not in their
company; and that after searching for three days, they found him in
the Temple asking and answering questions of the learned Doctors,
involves a series of tremendous improbabilities.
Add to this the
fact that the incident stands alone in Luke, surrounded by a period
of silence covering thirty years; add further that none of the other
writers have said a word of the child Jesus discussing with the
scholars of their nation; and add again the unlikelihood that a
child would appear before serious-minded men in the role of an
intellectual champion and the fabulous character of the story
becomes perfectly clear.
The Gospels know nothing of thirty years of Christ's life.
they know of the last years of that life?
How long did the ministry,
the public career of Christ, continue?
According to Matthew, Mark
and Luke, the public life of Christ lasted about a year. If John's
Gospel is to be believed, his ministry covered about three years.
The Synoptics teach that Christ's public work was confined almost
entirely to Galilee, and that he went to Jerusalem only once, not
long before his death. John is in hopeless disagreement with the
other Evangelists as to the scene of Christ's labors.
that most of the public life of Christ was spent in Judea, and that
Christ was many times in Jerusalem. Now, between Galilee and
there was the province of Samaria. If all but the last few weeks of
Christ's ministry was carried on in his native province of Galilee,
it is certain that the greater part of that ministry was not spent
in Judea, two provinces away.
John tells us that the driving of the money-changers from the Temple
occurred at the beginning of Christ's ministry; and nothing is said
of any serious consequences following it. But Matthew, Mark and Luke
declare that the purification of the Temple took place at the close
of his career, and that this act brought upon him the wrath of the
priests, who sought to destroy him. Because of these facts, the
Encyclopedia Biblica assures us that,
the order of events in the life
of Christ, as given by the Evangelists, is contradictory and
that the chronological framework of the Gospels is
that the facts "show only too clearly with what lack
of concern for historical precision the Evangelists write"
words, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote, not what they knew, but
what they imagined.
Christ is said to have been many times in Jerusalem. It is said that
he preached daily in the Temple. He was followed by his twelve
disciples, and by multitudes of enthusiastic men and women. On the
one hand, the people shouted hosannas in his honor, and on the
other, priests engaged him in discussion and sought to take his
life. All this shows that he must have been well known to the
authorities. Indeed, he must have been one of the best known men in
Jerusalem. Why, then, was it necessary for the priests to bribe one
of his disciples to betray him?
Only an obscure man, whose identity
was uncertain, or a man who was in hiding, would need to be
betrayed. A man who appeared daily in the streets, who preached
daily in the Temple, a man who was continually before the public
eye, could have been arrested at any moment. The priests would not
have bribed a man to betray a teacher whom everybody knew. If the
accounts of Christ's betrayal are true, all the declarations about
his public appearances in Jerusalem must be false.
Nothing could be more improbable than the story of Christ's
crucifixion. The civilization of Rome was the highest in the world.
The Romans were the greatest lawyers the world had ever known. Their
courts were models of order and fairness. A man was not condemned
without a trial; he was not handed to the executioner before being
And yet we are asked to believe that an innocent man
was brought before a Roman court, where Pontius Pilate was Judge;
that no charge of wrongdoing having been brought against him, the
Judge declared that he found him innocent; that the mob shouted,
"Crucify him; crucify him!" and that to please the rabble,
commanded that the man who had done no wrong and whom he had found
innocent, should be scourged, and then delivered him to the
executioners to be crucified!
Is it thinkable that the master of a
Roman court in the days of Tiberius Caesar, having found a man
innocent and declared him so, and having made efforts to save his
life, tortured him of his own accord, and then handed him over to a
howling mob to be nailed to a cross?
A Roman court finding a man
innocent and then crucifying him?
Is that a picture of civilized
Is that the Rome to which the world owes its laws?
the story of the Crucifixion, are we reading history or religious
Surely not history.
On the theory that Christ was crucified, how shall we explain the
fact that during the first eight centuries of the evolution of
Christianity, Christian art represented a lamb, and not a man, as
suffering on the cross for the salvation of the world? Neither the
paintings in the Catacombs nor the sculptures on Christian tombs
pictured a human figure on the cross. Everywhere a lamb was shown as
the Christian symbol -- a lamb carrying a cross, a lamb at the foot
of a cross, a lamb on a cross. Some figures showed the lamb with a
human head, shoulders and arms, holding a cross in his hands -- the
lamb of God in process of assuming the human form -- the crucifixion
myth becoming realistic.
At the close of the eighth century, Pope
Hadrian I, confirming the decree of the sixth Synod of
Constantinople, commanded that thereafter the figure of a man should
take the place of a lamb on the cross. It took Christianity eight
hundred years to develop the symbol of its suffering Savior. For
eight hundred years, the Christ on the cross was a lamb.
Christ was actually crucified, why was his place on the cross so
long usurped by a lamb?
In the light of history and reason, and in
view of a lamb on the cross, why should we believe in the
And let us ask, if Christ performed the miracles the New Testament
describes, if he gave sight to blind men's eyes, if his magic touch
brought youthful vigor to the palsied frame, if the putrefying dead
at his command returned to life and love again -- why did the people
want him crucified? Is it not amazing that a civilized people -- for
the Jews of that age were civilized -- were so filled with murderous
hate towards a kind and loving man who went about doing good, who
preached forgiveness, cleansed the leprous, and raised the dead --
that they could not be appeased until they had crucified the noblest
benefactor of mankind? Again I ask -- is this history, or is it
From the standpoint of the supposed facts, the account of the
Crucifixion of Christ is as impossible as is the raising of
from the standpoint of nature. The simple truth is, that the four
Gospels are historically worthless. They abound in contradictions,
in the unreasonable, the miraculous and the monstrous. There is not
a thing in them that can be depended upon as true, while there is
much in them that we certainly know to be false.
The accounts of the virgin birth of Christ, of his feeding five
thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, of his cleansing
the leprous, of his walking on the water, of his raising the dead,
and of his own resurrection after his life had been destroyed, are
as untrue as any stories that were ever told in this world. The
miraculous element in the Gospels is proof that they were written by
men, who did not know how to write history, or who were not
particular as to the truth of what they wrote. The miracles of the
Gospels were invented by credulity or cunning, and if the miracles
were invented, how can we know that the whole history of Christ was
not woven of the warp and woof of the imagination?
Dr. Paul W. Schmiedel, Professor of
New Testament Exegesis at Zurich,
Switzerland, one of the foremost theologians of Europe, tells us in
the Encyclopaedia Biblica, that there are only nine passages in the
Gospels that we can depend upon as being the sayings of Jesus; and
Professor Arthur Drews, Germany's greatest exponent of the doctrine
that Christ is a myth, analyses these passages and shows that there
is nothing in them that could not easily have been invented. That
these passages are as unhistorical as the rest is also the
contention of John M. Robertson, the eminent English scholar, who
holds that Jesus never lived.
Let me make a startling disclosure. Let me tell you that the New
Testament itself contains the strongest possible proof that the
Christ of the Gospels was not a real character. The testimony of the
Epistles of Paul demonstrates that the life story of Jesus is an
invention. Of course, there is no certainty that Paul really lived.
Let me quote a passage from the Encyclopaedia Biblica, relative to
"It is true that the picture of Paul drawn by later times
differs utterly in more or fewer of its details from the original.
Legend has made itself master of his person. The simple truth has
been mixed up with invention; Paul has become the hero of an
admiring band of the more highly developed Christians."
Christian authority admits that invention has done its work in
manufacturing at least in part, the life of Paul. In truth, the
ablest Christian scholars reject all but our of the Pauline Epistles
as spurious. Some maintain that Paul was not the author of any of
them. The very existence of Paul is questionable.
But for the purpose of my argument, I am going to admit that Paul
really lived; that he was a zealous apostle; and that all the
Epistles are from his pen. There are thirteen of these Epistles.
Some of them are lengthy; and they are acknowledged to be the oldest
Christian writings. They were written long before the Gospels. If
Paul really wrote them, they were written by a man who lived in
Jerusalem when Christ is supposed to have been teaching there. Now,
if the facts of the life of Christ were known in the first century
of Christianity, Paul was one of the men who should have known them
fully. Yet Paul acknowledges that he never saw Jesus; and his
Epistles prove that he knew nothing about his life, his works, or
In all the Epistles of Paul, there is not one word about
virgin birth. The apostle is absolutely ignorant of the marvellous
manner in which Jesus is said to have come into the world. For this
silence, there can be only one honest explanation -- the story of
the virgin birth had not yet been invented when Paul wrote. A large
portion of the Gospels is devoted to accounts of the miracles Christ
is said to have wrought. But you will look in vain through the
thirteen Epistles of Paul for the slightest hint that Christ
performed any miracles.
Is it conceivable that Paul was acquainted
with the miracles of Christ -- that he knew that Christ had cleansed
the leprous, cast out devils that could talk, restored sight to the
blind and speech to the dumb, and even raised the dead -- is it
conceivable that Paul was aware of these wonderful things and yet
failed to write a single line about them?
Again, the only solution
is that the accounts of the miracles wrought by Jesus had not yet
been invented when Paul's Epistles were written.
Not only is Paul silent about the virgin birth and the miracles of
Jesus, he is without the slightest knowledge of the teaching of
The Christ of the Gospels preached a famous sermon on a
mountain: Paul knows nothing of it
Christ delivered a prayer now
recited by the Christian world: Paul never heard of it
taught in parables: Paul is utterly unacquainted with any of them
Is not this astonishing? Paul, the
greatest writer of early
Christianity, the man who did more than any other to establish the
Christian religion in the world -- that is, if the Epistles may be
trusted -- is absolutely ignorant of the teaching of Christ. In all
of his thirteen Epistles he does not quote a single saying of Jesus.
Paul was a missionary. He was out for converts.
Is it thinkable that
if the teachings of Christ had been known to him, he would not have
made use of them in his propaganda?
Can you believe that a Christian
missionary would go to China and labor for many years to win
converts to the religion of Christ, and never once mention the
Sermon on the Mount, never whisper a word about the Lord's Prayer,
never tell the story of one of the parables, and remain as silent as
the grave about the precepts of his master?
What have the churches
been teaching throughout the Christian centuries if not these very
Are not the churches of to-day continually preaching about
the virgin birth, the miracles, the parables, and the precepts of
And do not these features constitute Christianity?
any life of Christ, apart from these things?
Why, then, does Paul
know nothing of them?
There is but one answer. The virgin-born,
miracle-working, preaching Christ was unknown to the world in Paul's
day. That is to say, he had not yet been invented!
The Christ of Paul and the Jesus of the Gospels are two entirely
different beings. The Christ of Paul is little more than an idea. He
has no life story. He was not followed by the multitude. He
performed no miracles. He did no preaching. The Christ Paul knew was
the Christ he was in a vision while on his way to Damascus -- an
apparition, a phantom, not a living, human being, who preached and
worked among men.
This vision-Christ, this ghostly word, was
afterwards brought to the earth by those who wrote the Gospels.
was given a Holy Ghost for a father and a virgin for a mother
was made to preach
to perform astounding miracles
to die a violent
death though innocent
and to rise in triumph from the grave and
ascend again to heaven
Such is the Christ of the New Testament --
first a spirit, and later a miraculously born, miracle working man,
who is master of death and whom death cannot subdue.
A large body of opinion in the early church denied the reality of
Christ's physical existence.
In his "History of Christianity,"
Dean Milman writes: "The Gnostic sects denied that
Christ was born at
all, or that he died"
Mosheim, Germany's great ecclesiastical
historian, says: "The Christ of early Christianity was not a human
being, but an "appearance," an illusion, a character in miracle, not
in reality -- a myth
Miracles do not happen. Stories of
miracles are untrue. Therefore,
documents in which miraculous accounts are interwoven with reputed
facts, are untrustworthy, for those who invented the miraculous
element might easily have invented the part that was natural. Men
are common; Gods are rare; therefore, it is at least as easy to
invent the biography of a man as the history of a God. For this
reason, the whole story of Christ -- the human element as well as
the divine -- is without valid claim to be regarded as true. If
miracles are fictions, Christ is a myth.
Said Dean Farrar: "If
miracles be incredible, Christianity is false"
wrote: "The essence of Christianity lies in a miracle; and if it can
be shown that a miracle is either impossible or incredible, all
further inquiry into the details of its history is superfluous"
only are miracles incredible, but the uniformity of nature declares
them to be impossible. Miracles have gone: the miraculous Christ
If Christ lived, if he was a reformer, if he performed wonderful
works that attracted the attention of the multitude, if he came in
conflict with the authorities and was crucified -- how shall we
explain the fact that history has not even recorded his name? The
age in which he is said to have lived was an age of scholars and
thinkers. In Greece, Rome and Palestine, there were philosophers,
historians, poets, orators, jurists and statesmen. Every fact of
importance was noted by interested and inquiring minds.
Some of the
greatest writers the Jewish race has produced lived in that age. And
yet, in all the writings of that period, there is not one line, not
one word, not one letter, about Jesus. Great writers wrote
extensively of events of minor importance, but not one of them wrote
a word about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on earth
-- a man at whose command the leprous were made clean, a man who fed
five thousand people with a satchel full of bread, a man whose word
defied the grave and gave life to the dead.
John E. Remsburg, in his scholarly work on "The Christ," has
compiled a list of forty-two writers who lived and wrote during the
time or within a century after the time, of Christ, not one of whom
ever mentioned him.
Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has
produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian Era, and
lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to
have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to
have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified,
and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the
writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life.
Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with
massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and
death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of
the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions
that are said to have been near to Christ's heart, never once
mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed
Savior of the world.
In the closing years of the first century,
Josephus, the celebrated
Jewish historian, wrote his famous work on "The Antiquities of the
Jews." In this work, the historian made no mention of Christ, and
for two hundred years after the death of Josephus, the name of
Christ did not appear in his history. There were no printing presses
in those days. Books were multiplied by being copied. It was,
therefore, easy to add to or change what an author had written.
church felt that Josephus ought to recognize Christ, and the dead
historian was made to do it. In the fourth century, a copy of "The
Antiquities of the Jews" appeared, in which occurred this passage:
"Now, there was about this time,
Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful
to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher
of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him
both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ;
and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us,
had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first
did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third
day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand
other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians,
so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
Such is the celebrated reference to Christ in
Josephus. A more
brazen forgery was never perpetrated. For more than two hundred
years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of
Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the
works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian,
an Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their
Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist.
Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed that
that writer had not acknowledged Christ.
This passage first appeared
in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first
historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is
believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated
fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is know to have tampered
with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers,
introduces this passage in his "Evangelical Demonstration," (Book
III., p.124), in these words:
"Certainly the attestations I have
already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However,
it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the
Jew for a further witness."
Everything demonstrates the spurious character of the passage. It is
written in the style of Eusebius, and not in the style of Josephus.
Josephus was a voluminous writer. He wrote extensively about men of
minor importance. The brevity of this reference to Christ is,
therefore, a strong argument for its falsity. This passage
interrupts the narrative. It has nothing to do with what precedes or
what follows it; and its position clearly shows that the text of the
historian has been separated by a later hand to give it room.
Josephus was a Jew -- a priest of the religion of Moses. This
passage makes him acknowledge the divinity, the miracles, and the
resurrection of Christ -- that is to say, it makes an orthodox Jew
talk like a believing Christian! Josephus could not possibly have
written these words without being logically compelled to embrace
Christianity. All the arguments of history and of reason unite in
the conclusive proof that the passage is an unblushing forgery.
For these reasons every honest Christian scholar has abandoned it as
Dean Milman says: "It is interpolated with many
Dean Farrar, writing in the Encyclopaedia
Britannica, says: "That Josephus wrote the whole passage as it now
stands no sane critic can believe"
Bishop Warburton denounced it as
"a rank forgery and a very stupid one, too"
says: "The famous passage of Josephus is generally conceded to be an
In the "Annals" of Tacitus, the Roman historian, there is another
short passage which speaks of "Christus" as being the founder of a
party called Christians -- a body of people "who were abhorred for
their crimes." These words occur in Tacitus' account of the burning
of Rome. The evidence for this passage is not much stronger than
that for the passage in Josephus.
it was not quoted by any writer
before the fifteenth century
and when it was quoted, there was only
one copy of the "Annals" in the world
and that copy was supposed to
have been made in the eighth century -- six hundred years after Tacitus' death
The "Annals" were published between 115 and 117
A.D., nearly a century after Jesus' time -- so the passage, even if
genuine, would not prove anything as to Jesus.
The name "Jesus" was as common among the Jews as is William or
George with us. In the writings of Josephus, we find accounts of a
number of Jesuses.
one was Jesus, the son of
Sapphias, the founder
of a seditious band of mariners
another was Jesus, the captain of
the robbers whose followers fled when they heard of his arrest
still another Jesus was a monomaniac who for seven years went about
Jerusalem, crying, "Woe, woe, woe unto Jerusalem!" who was bruised
and beaten many times, but offered no resistance; and who was
finally killed with a stone at the siege of Jerusalem
The word "Christ," the Greek equivalent of the Jewish word
"Messiah," was not a personal name; it was a title; it meant "the
The Jews were looking for a Messiah, a successful political leader,
who would restore the independence of their nation.
us of many men who posed as Messiahs, who obtained a following among
the people, and who were put to death by the Romans for political
reasons. One of these Messiahs, or Christs, a Samaritan prophet, was
executed under Pontius Pilate; and so great was the indignation of
the Jews that Pilate had to be recalled by the Roman government.
These facts are of tremendous significance. While the Jesus Christ
of Christianity is unknown to history, the age in which he is said
to have lived was an age in which many men bore the name of "Jesus"
and many political leaders assumed the title of "Christ." All the
materials necessary for the manufacture of the story of Christ
existed in that age.
In all the ancient countries,
were believed to have been born of virgins,
to have preached a new
to have performed miracles
to have been crucified as
atonements for the sins of mankind
to have risen from the grave
and ascended into heaven
All that Jesus is supposed to have taught
was in the literature of the time. In the story of Christ there is
not a new idea, as Joseph McCabe has shown in his "Sources of the
Morality of the Gospels," and John M. Robertson in his "Pagan Christs."
"But," says the Christian, "Christ is so perfect a character that he
could not have been invented." This is a mistake. The Gospels do not
portray a perfect character. The Christ of the Gospels is shown to
be artificial by the numerous contradictions in his character and
he was in favor of the sword, and he was not
he told men
to love their enemies, and advised them to hate their friends
preached the doctrine of forgiveness, and called men a generation of
he announced himself as the judge of the world, and declared
that he would judge no man
he taught that he was possessed of all
power, but was unable to work miracles where the people did not
he was represented as God and did not shrink from avowing,
"I and my Father are one," but in the pain and gloom of the cross,
he is made to cry out in his anguish:
And how singular it is that these words, reputed as
the dying utterance of the disillusioned Christ, should be not only
contradicted by two Evangelists, but should be a quotation from the
If there is a moment when a man's speech is original, it is when,
amid agony and despair, while his heart is breaking beneath its
burden of defeat and disappointment, he utters a cry of grief from
the depth of his wounded soul with the last breath that remains
before the chill waves of death engulf his wasted life forever. But
on the lips of the expiring Christ are placed, not the heart-felt
words of a dying man, but a quotation from the literature of his
A being with these contradictions, these transparent unrealities in
his character, could scarcely have been real.
And if Christ, with all that is miraculous and impossible in his
nature, could not have been in vented, what shall we say of Othello,
of Hamlet, of Romeo?
Do not Shakespeare's wondrous characters live
upon the stage?
Does not their naturalness, their consistency, their
human grandeur, challenge our admiration?
And is it not with
difficulty that we believe them to be children of the imagination?
Laying aside the miraculous, in the story of the Jewish hero, is not
the character of Jean Valjean as deep, as lofty, as broad, as rich
in its humanity, as tender in its pathos, as sublime in its heroism,
and as touchingly resigned to the cruelties of fate as the character
Who has read the story of that marvelous man without being
And who has followed him through his last days with dry
And yet Jean Valjean never lived and never died; he was not a
real man, but the personification of suffering virtue born in the
effulgent brain of Victor Hugo. Have you not wept when you have seen
Sydney Carton disguise himself and lay his neck beneath the
blood-stained knife of the guillotine, to save the life of Evremonde? But Sydney Carton was not an actual human being; he is
the heroic, self-sacrificing spirit of humanity clothed in human
form by the genius of Charles Dickens.
Yes, the character of Christ could have been invented! The
literature of the world is filled with invented characters; and the
imaginary lives of the splendid men and women of fiction will
forever arrest the interest of the mind and hold the heart
enthralled. But how account for Christianity if Christ did not live?
Let me ask another question. How account for the Renaissance, for
the Reformation, for the French Revolution, or for Socialism? Not
one of these movements was created by an individual. They grew.
Christianity grew. The Christian church is older than the oldest
Christian writings. Christ did not produce the church. The church
produced the story of Christ.
The Jesus Christ of the Gospels could not possibly have been a real
person. He is a combination of impossible elements. There may have
lived in Palestine, nineteen centuries ago, a man whose name was
Jesus, who went about doing good, who was followed by admiring
associates, and who in the end met a violent death. But of this
possible person, not a line was written when he lived, and of his
life and character the world of to-day knows absolutely nothing.
This Jesus, if he lived, was a man; and if he was a reformer, he was
but one of many that have lived and died in every age of the world.
When the world shall have learned that the Christ of the Gospels
a myth, that Christianity is untrue, it will turn its attention from
the religious fictions of the past to the vital problems of to-day,
and endeavor to solve them for the improvement of the well-being of
the real men and women whom we know, and whom we ought to help and