Discrediting Jesus

Skeptics have tried for at least 2,000 years to find ways to discredit the Bible and the concept of God sending a messiah to save man. When Jesus was alive people debated who and what He was, and all kinds of mistaken concepts circulated throughout the world's populations, frequently controlled by the desires and beliefs of people who wanted to discredit Jesus. Things have not changed. Today we have a continuing flow of charges and attempts to minimize Jesus, the recent book The DaVinci Code being perhaps the best recent example.

What skeptics have always done and continue to do is to try and explain away Jesus in terms of the pagan cultures and religious sects of the day in which he lived. For many years people have claimed that the Essenes, a group of Jewish zealots who lived near the Dead Sea and gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls are the source of the stories about Jesus. The Essenes had a man known as the "Great Teacher" who seems to have been a figurehead or leader of the group, and skeptics have maintained that this individual was elevated by his followers to be "the son of God" and this led to the myth of Jesus Christ. As research has continued with the Dead Sea Scrolls and as new archeological discoveries have been made, that claim has gradually been pretty much laid to rest.

In more recent times people have tried to tie Christ to the cult of Isis. The reason for this is that there is a story of a "resurrection" in this Egyptian religious legend, and the claim is that this is where the story of the resurrection of Christ came from. Osiris was the Egyptian God of the underworld, and supposedly was the husband of Isis. In this Egyptian legend, Osiris is murdered by his brother and buried in the Nile. Isis recovers the body but Osiris' brother gets it back again and cuts it up into 14 pieces and scatters them around the world. Isis goes out and finds each of the 14 pieces and performs a baptism of each piece in the Niles river and Osiris is resurrected.

To make a comparison from this ancient pagan story, rooted in gods who have human relationships and pagan god battles is foolishness. The story of Christ cannot have been borrowed from the cult of Isis, because it has none of the characteristics of this story. Nowhere in the resurrection account is there any supernatural battle going on between equal gods. There is no sex interest, no defeat of one spiritual being by another, and no war based on physical skill and intelligence. When Peter takes his sword to defend Jesus and cuts off the ear of one of Christ's attackers, Jesus heals the ear and tells him to put the sword away. There is no struggle for political power in the story of Christ. From the beginning of the ministry of Jesus there is the teaching that Jesus would die for the sins of all mankind and would bring all of humanity back to God through his death on the cross. The contrast between the story of Isis and the story of Christ is so enormous that even the rankest skeptic should be able to see the foolishness of trying to make such comparisons.

What is especially interesting about all of this is that other attempts to explain the virgin birth by stories from pagan myths are even more ludicrous. In one case, the sun-god Apollo becomes a snake and impregnates the mother of Augustus Caesar so the baby born is without an earthly father. Not only is this account used by some skeptics of Christ ridiculous in its content, but it was written after the biblical account had been laid down in the gospels, so the gospel writers could not possibly have drawn from it in their account.

Another claim making the rounds is that the founder of Rome, Romulus, inspired the story of Christ. Romulus was supposed to have been fathered by the god Mars. When he and his twin brother Remus were left to die in the Tiber River, a she-wolf adopted them and raised them. Later Romulus kills Remus and becomes the founder and first king of Rome. Once again one just has to read the account and ask if there is any connection of any kind between this mythical story and the account of the birth, life, and death of Jesus. In the story of Christ there is no war, war god, murder of siblings, abandonment, animal intervention, or any of the things that make up this story.

We live in a time when there is a strong movement to try to discredit Christianity. The notion that there is one God and one way of reaching that God is unpopular. Relativism, the world situation, materialism, the total abandonment of morality, the disintegration of the home, and selfishness all make the Christian message unpopular. As people try to justify their life styles and selfish exploitation of others they will resort to almost anything to denigrate the beautiful and functional teachings of the Son of God. We need to answer these challenges and demonstrate the love and service that Jesus commanded his followers to show.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MarApr05.