Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Debunking Jesus: A Reading List

by Catherine Giordano

Debunking Jesus
Is Christianity based on a myth?
Bill Maher is a well- known atheist who is outspoken about his views. Sometimes I imagine his friends saying, “Don’t get him started.” In his comedy he sometimes pokes gentle fun at religion, but at other times he comes down hard debunking religion.  

In his documentary-style movie, Religulous, Maher makes the point quite clear that religion is ridiculous. 

I've written a few articles on religion about Jesus and Christianity. I did not believe that Jesus was a miracle working “son of god” of course, but I did think that the man whom we today call Jesus Christ did actually exist. Or maybe there were a group of self-named messiahs and their stories were conflated into one. I did some research and changed my mind about Jesus being an actual person. I now believe that Jesus is no more than a myth. This school of thought is called mythicism.

There are three main reasons for this belief. 

There is no evidence that this person whom we call Jesus Christ ever existed. No contemporary accounts and no records to show that a person (Jesus Christ )was preaching, fomenting rebellion, and/or getting crucified exists. (There are a couple of references to Christians, but no details are given. It could have been a cult worshipping a sun-god.) 
The story of Jesus Christ and the practices of the early Christians strongly resembled the stories of the gods and the practices of the mystery cults devoted to these gods.
The Gospels and the Bible are not history (and except for some of the Epistles of Paul) were written by unknown authors 100 to 300 years after the time of Jesus Christ. The accounts are full of obvious factual errors, contradictions, copying and translation errors, and deliberate amendments and deletions.

At one point in the movie Religulous, (about 40 minutes in), Maher compares the god Horus to Jesus saying they both had a virgin birth, they were both baptized, they both walked on water, etc. Unfortunately, my research showed that most of what Maher says about this is wrong. There are some resemblances, but not as many as Maher thinks. Actually, the story of Jesus may be closer to the story of Mithra (or Mithras) than Horus. 

You can read my articles on the subject by clicking the following links. (The third one specifically addresses the similarities between Jesus Christ and Christianity and the myths and mystery cults.)
Did Jesus Exist or Is it All a Myth Jesus Who?
The Historical Record Doesn’t have a Clue
The Mythical Origins of Christianity: True or False
I have put together a reading list of a few books on the subject. I’ve given a brief review of each book. You can click the links for more information.

The Jesus Puzzle
Earl Doherty provides a richly-detailed and entertaining account of how Christianity began without an historical Jesus of Nazareth, who existed only on the pages of the Gospels. He provides a full and comprehensive survey of the early Christian record, the Pauline epistles, the gospels, the second century apologists, along with Jewish, Gnostic, and Greco-Roman documents of the time. He provides historical context with a discussion of the philosophy of the era, the pagan mystery cults, and other historical events. He was one of the first scholars of the modern mythicism school of thought. A great read for the general public and scholars alike.

Richard Carrier re-examines the whole premise that Jesus existed as a real person and concludes that the Jesus story as we know it today is a blending of the historical, mythical, and theological. Carrier finds compelling reasons to suspect that the view of many religious scholars that Jesus actually existed is incorrect.  (Note: This book is for people with an academic bent. There are lots of footnotes, and it is packed with references. However, it is the most comprehensive and well-documented.)

This book by David Fitzgerald sheds light on ten beloved Christian myths. The author gathers evidence from historians across the theological spectrum, and shows how it points to a Jesus Christ created solely through the allegorical alchemy of hope and imagination; a messiah that is a theological construct-- in short, a Christ that is pure myth.

Deconstructing Jesus
Robert Price, professor of scriptural studies at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, shows how the Jesus Christ of the gospels is very likely a fictional amalgam of several first-century prophets and messiahs, as well as of purely mythic Mystery Cult redeemers and Gnostic Aions.

Deconstucting Jesus

New Testament scholar, Robert M. Price, one of America's leading authorities on the Bible, has assembled in his book evidence that shows that almost the entire "biography of Jesus" is a conscious reworking of earlier literature.

Bart Ehrman is a Biblical scholar who believes that Jesus Christ existed as a real person, but even he recognizes that many books of the New Testament are not only not written by people to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries.

Just to be fair I’m including a few books that posit the theory that Jesus Christ did exist.


A meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.

The original disciples did not believe that Jesus was God—and it is not what Jesus claimed about himself. This book explains the evolution of a belief that looked very different in the fourth century than it did in the first.

How Jesus Became God is so often quoted to me to prove Jesus existed as a real actual human. If you read this book, you should also read this book by Earl Doherty, The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest  It is a point by point refutation of Erhman.  

How Jesus Became God Bart Ehrman

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Writing on this topic has brought me both praise and a lot of harsh criticism. Even the mere suspicion that a historical Jesus did not exist as god or man can tumble the typical Christian’s entire worldview. This is very threatening. However, the answer to the question, “Did Jesus exist?” makes no real difference to me. It is only an intellectual puzzle. Whether the answer is yes or no, my life will not change at all. If the answer is yes, I will remain an atheist because I do not believe in God. If the answer is No, I still remain an atheist. 

Just a note: You can show your support for my posts by using the above link when you purchase this or any other book. I thank you in advance.