Is A Historical Jesus Necessary?

These past few months I have been reading and pondering on some interesting and fascinating books. Beginning with a video recommendation from a friend, I have read three books by co-British Authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy; The Jesus Mysteries, The Laughing Jesus, and The Gospel of the Second Coming. Other friends suggested Canadian scholar and teacher Tom Harpur’s book, “The Pagan Christ” and having read that, found it likewise fascinating to ponder. Presently I’ve been reading Alvin Boyd Kuhn’s book, published in 1949, “Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity.” Boyd’s work based much of his work on Kuhn’s earlier studies along with 19th century writer, Gerald Massey.

What these books argue, quite plausibly to me, is that the historical Jesus never actually existed. Rather, the stories of Jesus were present many centuries before the Jesus we know ever existed. The stories of Jesus were likely adopted and written by a group of Jewish mystical thinkers, used to teach and “enlighten” fellow Jews of the mystery of our being Spirit beings. Such implications would help people realize freedom did not consist in deliverance from Greek and Roman occupations.

Before Jewish writers and thinkers wrote their version, there were many other surrounding countries with similar stories, dating all the way back to Egypt some 10,000 years B.C.E. The argument is made that the name Jesus is based on the same Egyptian word, “Horus” which was their “god-man teacher” in that earlier era. These writers point out that all the stories used in the story of the Christian Jesus were long prevalent in previous centuries in at least six or seven surrounding countries. These stories include a virgin birth in which a star leads wise men to the god-man’s birth place, the god-man having the ability to perform miracles and to even raise the dead. They depict the “Savior” as being killed or executed by angry men and crowds, and after three days, raised from the dead, appearing to his devoted followers and then ascending into heaven! As old St. Augustine himself wrote, “That which is known as the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist; from the very beginning of the human race until the time when Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity.” Tom Harpur writes, himself an ordained Anglican priest, that these correlating stories were never mentioned to him while studying in seminary, preparing for his ministry as a priest. Thus was my own experience in the traditions I experienced as Christian, based upon conclusions drawn in the 4th Century, C.E. from “church fathers.”

If these stories and arguments are plausible, and I believe they are, what effects might they have on what we have been following as confessing Christians all or most of our lives? For one, they would definitely lead one to conclude the stories of the Bible, especially those in what we call the “New Testament,” are not to be taken literally but as allegorical and metaphorical teachings of enlightenment and salvation. These were common “mystery” stories passed down for centuries in surrounding countries. They were used to teach people the metaphysical awakening point that we are in essence Spirit in contrast to our earthy bodies of flesh. So-called “miracle stories” are metaphorical and allegorical to help teach awareness of living with our Spiritual selves. Virgin birth stories teach how each one must listen to and respond to the inner Voice of Light making a decision to follow. Easter stories serve as metaphors of our awakening from the sleep in flesh, of being locked into our bodies as prisoners of earthly matter.  And all these earlier stories have sacramental rituals of sharing bread and wine.

Interestingly, these stories, referred to as “mysteries,” connect to the lunar calendar; references to guiding stars (the Light within), to new births at the winter solstice with the journey through darkness back to the Light, to the Spring equinox with the celebration and awakening to Light over Darkness. Riding donkeys on the spring equinox symbolize our riding the donkey of mortality, of our stubborn attachment to such identities, until we find victory in responding to the Light.

The stories left to us in the Bible, although altered in many situations by later 3rd and 4th Century authorities (part of Kuhn’s “Shadow of the Third Century”) still can be used as spiritual metaphors for teaching awakening and struggles each day to leave blindness and imprisonment for freedom. These authors’ writings help to open up a new appreciation for using scriptures, realizing many were rewritten and forged to fit a 4th Century teaching of historical literalism.

Another implication is that what the Church adopted in the 4th Century with creedal statements and enforced by the Roman powers was not something unique to the Church. It was not a direct special revelation for a special people confessing to follow the man, the Savior Jesus. On the contrary, the stories were universally known for centuries teaching humanity as being part of one Spirit, together seeking freedom from suffering, death, and despair. We can thus join with and appreciate religious systems other than our own. Or we could add, join those which would be willing to accept us without declaring their own teachings as the only true and literal ones delivered exclusively for them. The tendency to literalize these teachings and declare them as God’s gift to a special people forces systems to claim superiority. Such narrowness has resulted in untold brutality with the millions killed in wars and purges in the name of God.

Thus I am very thankful for being led to the study and sharing of such books. I encourage people to find and read them for themselves. I welcome invitations to visit groups in homes or religious places to read and discuss such works with implications for our times. We live in a world deeply divided by religious structures couched in nationalist boundaries. Given the plausibility of our all being connected on a much deeper level as taught from historical teachings is a welcomed discussion for our times and age. It no doubt will take many years to share such knowledge but millions would be open for a message of unity and spiritual hope beyond literal, unscientific, unhistorical declarations. I urge you to read, think, and ponder the greatness of a One Universal Creator of Spirit, a Presence who indwells all, granting to each of the power to be free, loving, forgiving and kind.

About David Persons

Retired minister who still writes, speaks some, hikes less, and golfs.
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2 Responses to Is A Historical Jesus Necessary?

  1. Rich Owen says:

    …’sundry times and diverse manners’….
    …’seek and you will find’….
    Dreams, visions, stories, chant, meditation, dance, ritual, myth, legend, story, omens, signs. .
    To any one who seeks to know or think or be ‘spirit’ comes the awakenning (new birth, new life); the painful power of forgiveness; and expanding understanding that one’s own life (and the live’s of others and life itself) is but a dream, vision, chant, meditaton, dance, ritual, myth, legend, story, omen, sign.


    • davepersons says:

      Rich, so nice to read your beautiful words of expression! Hope all is well. Amy had supper with me at Presbytery tonight and commented how much you brought to today’s Bible study. Greetings to Susie.


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