I am currently in correspondence with a reader of my book, The Biblical God Doesn’t Exist, and she had many questions about Jesus Christ. I pointed out that many of her ideas about Jesus contradict, or at least aren’t in line with what we know of him, because all of our knowledge of Jesus comes from the four Gospels and the letters from Paul. She mistakenly thought there was contemporary writing about Jesus in the records of the Roman Empire. I assured her that there was none, and that the first mention of Jesus Christ anywhere is in Paul’s letters to the Church of Galatia, which scholars have dated to the year 49, i.e. 16 years after the death of Christ.
Our discussion has reached the point where she is wondering if Jesus Christ was a fictional character. While my book is not an analysis of the historicity of Jesus Christ, but rather a series of arguments and evidence that make the case that the God of the Bible is a fictional character, I can answer with my opinion based on the evidence I looked at while researching the book. Jesus Christ likely never existed, but rather was a folk hero or legendary figure about whom tales were told and passed along orally for generations until they were written down in Greek by unknown authors. She states that she finds this difficult to accept.
When we are presented with information that is contrary to what we think is true, especially if it’s a position that is very dear to us, we tend to resist that new information and hold fast to our beliefs. Some of us will even build rationalizations around our beliefs, for example in this case where my reader is starting to rationalize that it’s highly unlikely someone made up stories like this in their entirety. However, our history is filled with these kinds of legendary tales:
- Consider the tale of Romulus, founder of the city of Rome. The tales encompass his entire life, yet they are entirely mythical.
- There are many tales of the brave and strong Hercules, the most famous being The Twelve Labours of Hercules, yet he is a fictional character.
- Apollo is featured famously in Homer’s The Iliad, bringing plagues to the Greek army when the priest Chryses calls upon him. Apollo never existed.
In my book, in the chapter about The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, I discuss two other folk heroes, including William Tell who was a national hero in Switzerland. While it is very upsetting to many of his fans, he is nothing more than legend.
So now we come to it don’t we? It’s difficult to accept that the main character in Christianity, the Son of God who died for our sins to make peace between God and man, may be nothing more than myth. However, what should be more difficult for us to accept? That these ancient tales are mythical and legendary, like so many others, or that the Creator of the Universe fathered a son through a virgin girl, who as a young man then cured lepers, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead back to life and of course, raised himself from death and flew off the face of the Earth into space? Shouldn’t you find that difficult to accept?