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This continuation looks at reason number two why I suspect Jesus may be different than we think. When looking into ancient religions, there is understandably a lot of conflicting information. However, there appears to be significant patterns and similarities between the mythical deities of the past and the legendary Jesus. Ancient cultures heavily adopted, exchanged, and passed down religious beliefs and practices between them, as evidenced repeatedly by the Israelites in their close proximity to the Babylonians and Egyptians.
Certainly Jesus got people’s attention in his day, demonstrating that there was something very special about him, but just what it was, his fellow Israelites were also in the process of trying to understand through first century lenses. In other words, when it comes to religion, humans lack creativity. It’s easier to look back than up when trying to figure out how one would perceive and interact with a newly discovered divine messiah in the flesh—this had not exactly been done before. We find the disciples constantly questioning and misunderstanding Jesus, so it is easy to see why they and the parable-contemplating crowds may have entertained legends and speculations of all kinds. Ironically, Christianity claims that their version of a messiah and a religion are unique from all the others (religions of history), yet history apparently has a different story to tell.
As mentioned last week, I have some legitimate reasons to suspect a false virgin birth rumor (and perhaps a distorted portrayal of the real man Jesus). The first comes after a long list of similarities between the Jesus we know today and some of the well-known deities and demi-gods of ancient world religions such as Attis, Adonis, Buddha, Krishna, Mithras, Osirus, Tammuz, Zoroaster (from which the Pharisees were patterned after in many ways), all long before his time. Some scholarly works suggest the following parallels between these gods and our legendary Jesus:
- Were born on or very near Christmas Day
- Were born of a virgin
- Led a life of toil for mankind
- Were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Savior, Deliverer
- Were vanquished by the powers of darkness and descended into the underworld
- Rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the heavenly world
- Were commemorated by eucharistic meals
Certainly Jesus could have brought authenticity to some of these beliefs about the gods, a possibility I don’t altogether dismiss. However, we must take note of the ways we can determine that Jesus didn’t resemble other gods. It was the Catholic Church that instituted December 25th as the birth date of Jesus, yet there is no question today that this is incorrect. Might there be other “facts” about Jesus that are incorrect, whether on the aforementioned list or in our Bibles (i.e. skeptics like evangelical-scholar-turned-agnostic, Bart Ehrman, point out many of the contradictions and inconsistencies)? We know today that Jesus was not born on December 25th (or even close), yet that’s when we still celebrate it based on tradition. To me, that is the beginning of evidence for some of Jesus’s mythical attributions.
I came across a fantastic documentary by a prolific truth-seeker. Evangelical Christian professor, Dr. Robert Beckford, sets out to visit religions of many cultures and eras worldwide in order to demonstrate how similar the legendary Jesus is to the legendary gods and revered teachers of of the past and present, beginning with the Indian Krishna. Shucks and I were positively glued to this video and know you won’t want to miss out on this eye-opening exploration.
Realize that Krishna has been worshiped in India back to the 4th Century B.C., which corresponded to the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus (Esther’s day) that ruled the entire inhabited world, ensuring influence and movement between the Far East and the Middle East via oceanic trade routes and the Silk Road. The Persian Empire continued strong through several rulers (including Nebuchadnezzar and three Darius’ during the period of Daniel) until the middle of the 3rd century B.C.
As I said, there is the possibility that Jesus personified traits of mythical gods or even, as Beckford suggests, perhaps the writers of the NT used their legends and myths to try to explain Jesus in a way that the people could understand (from their rich culture and history of pagan religious influence). When considering the “immaculate conceptions” of so many of the ancient gods, I wonder if the reported virgin birth of Jesus might have been more of a spiritual anointing on Mary from his conception, than a biological phenomenon of God? Wasn’t Jesus called BOTH “son of man” and “son of God”? In order to be a son of man, it is reasonable that he had to have biological parents (not just an incubator). Might the writers of Matthew and Luke (which were written decades after the fact and perhaps not even by Matthew or Luke or anyone who knew Mary and Joseph personally) have put words in Mary’s mouth as a result of rumors based on legends? Nobody knows. Nobody can know for sure.
Consider some verses in the NT that seem to suggest that Jesus was indeed the biological “son of Joseph,” not God. Naturally, I realize that these contradict other verses that seem to suggest that Jesus was biologically conceived of God. But the point is to show that our old beliefs are not as cut and dried as we once mistook them to be. There’s enough evidence to suggest more than one plausible viewpoint—evidence that was right under our noses all along. Perhaps Jesus could not legitimately be considered a “son of David,” biologically fulfilling the messianic prophecy of a Davidic offspring, unless he were a son of either Mary or Joseph (or both). Isn’t that the whole point of Matthew and Luke’s genealogies to assure us that Jesus was indeed the bloodline son of man? Consider these verses:
Matthew: “[His hometown people asked] Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (13:55).
Luke: “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed,* the son of Joseph, the son of Eli…” (3:23).
John: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45).
I found something interesting about Luke 3:23* above that calls Jesus the “supposed” son of Joseph. The word “supposed” sounds as if they are saying people didn’t know any better so they assumed or thought Jesus was son of Joseph, not that he really was. In fact, just about every version of the Bible uses the word “supposed” or “thought” here. Yet, I looked up the word “supposed” in the Greek Concordance (enomizeto #3543), and here’s what I found:
How do you get (see middle of illustration) “law—properly, to suppose (assume)”? How is something that is the “law and practice” equated with supposing, assuming, or passively thinking? And here it is in the Greek Interlinear:
Once again, we see that even the Interlinear translated this word “lawized” or “legalized,” which provides for an interesting perspective on Jesus as the son of Joseph, since the Jews were pretty big about things that were legitimized by being according to law. I might add that my Septuagint Concordance (Greek) also translates this word, “to establish, introduce by law, to observe.” It falls right before words such as lawful, legal, legitimate, law. Might Joseph have been the legal, legitimate biological father of Jesus and God the supernatural, spiritual Father of Jesus? Might the overshadowing that took place in Mary have been a spiritual anointing on the child in her womb?
Here’s an interesting perspective by Paul, teaching uninformed Gentile Christians in Galatia. In this passage—the only place where he addresses the birth of Jesus—he neglects to refer to the mother of Jesus as a virgin.
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).
This is kind of a powerful little passage about God’s spiritual adoption of more sons, in the same manner as Jesus was made a son of God. It could easily read, “that we also might receive the adoption as sons…” And the word “adoption” in Greek, translates directly as “son placing.” We too are being placed as sons in the family of God, so why would Jesus’s placement as the firstborn necessarily have to have been different than ours?
Or was it just first?
The way it sounds to me right now is that it doesn’t do much good to tell me that I must “be like Jesus,” but, well, I can’t really be like Jesus because he was born of a virgin, he never sinned, he walked on water and raised dead people, God talked to him audibly on a regular basis, and Satan talked to him too, and oh yeah, he is God and he raised his own son-self from the dead. But hey, other than that, I can be just like Jesus, right?
In an effort to latch onto something sturdy while adrift a sea of legends and untruths, I loved the conclusions with which Dr. Beckford ended his documentary:
To understand the real Jesus, you have to strip away the doctrine, push aside the dogma, and go to his teachings. It’s a message that we can all buy into—Christians, Jews, Muslims, all faiths. It’s a simple message of truth, justice and human rights for all. Having now looked outside the Christian tradition, I believe the real Jesus, the one I call “the son of God and my personal savior,” was a revolutionary teacher, an oppressed Jew who challenged the hierarchy of Judaism and the tyranny of the Roman Empire. And for this reason, Jesus was executed like any political enemy. What he left us with was a universally powerful message of what it means to serve your God—to oppose injustice and oppression wherever it’s found.”
Still to come: We’re going to continue looking at many of the NT passages that describe quite a different Jesus—a Jesus that perhaps really was like us in every way (Heb, 2:17), in an exciting way we never considered before. We’ll look into the claims that Jesus was married with a family, what it might mean that Jesus was perfect and never sinned.
Stay tuned to find out why there just might be evidence that Jesus was more one of us, and what exciting, revolutionary implications that could mean for us today. So much good stuff ahead!
 “Mithras=Christianity?” Christianity Revealed (http://jdstone.org/cr/files/mithraschristianity.html).