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How Jesus Got a Life
Figure 1. As the earth's axis slowly shifts its orientation in space, it traces out the surface of a double cone in space. Because of the axial wandering, the points where the celestial equator (the projection of the earth's equator onto the celestial sphere) intersects the ecliptic (the apparent path made by the sun against the background of "fixed stars") move also, shifting clockwise around the ecliptic as seen by the northern hemisphere. It takes 25,800 years for the points of the intersection to move all the way around the ecliptic.
How Jesus Got a Life
The Probing Mind
by Frank R. Zindler
March 1992, Revised October, 1999
NAPOLEON: Monsieur Laplace! I have read with great interest your Traité de mécanique céleste - all five volumes - but nowhere have I found any mention of the Good Lord.
LAPLACE: Sire, I have had no need of that hypothesis.
Our world is an unstable place. Nations rise, and governments topple. Unbalanced people the world around torture and kill each other for the sake of religion or other groundless causes. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and wars periodically scourge our globe. Continents drift about and collide with each other, and oceans form and disappear. Even planet Earth itself has the wobblies. As it spins on its axis, the earth is not stable. Like the center peg of a toy top, the axis of the spinning earth slowly wobbles in a circle, tracing out the surface of a double cone in space [see Figure 1, above].
This motion of the earth's axis is called precession, and it is, I believe, a major component of the causes long ago that led to the creation of Christianity. The character now known as Christ, or Jesus, was not born of a virgin; rather, it was the product of an unstably rotating earth. If the earth's axis did not precess, the Christ character would never have been invented. Christianity as we know it would not exist.
In my forthcoming book, Inventing Jesus, I hope to demonstrate exhaustively the extraordinary chain of causes and effects which led from a wobbling earth to a divine biography - the so-called "Life of Christ." In this brief article, of course, I can do little more than state and explain the major points of this thesis and give a sampling of the evidence I have found to support it.
I. "Jesus Christ" never existed as an historical figure.
It is a curious fact that the oldest components of the so-called New Testament, the letters believed to have been written by one Saul/Paul, know almost nothing of any Jesus biography. Neither Bethlehem nor Nazareth are mentioned in these charter documents of the Christian religion. Only in the much later Book of Acts is it claimed that Saul (Paul) had an interview with "Jesus of Nazareth."  The later the document, the greater the detail of the Jesus story presented.
There is no convincing evidence to make one suppose that any of the surviving "gospels" were written by eyewitnesses. Indeed, study of the gospels shows quite conclusively that they were not. For example, the authors of the gospels of Matthew and Luke incorporate nearly the entire Greek text of the gospel of Mark, adding sayings taken from yet another document (the so-called "Q-Document"), and generally make the miracles recounted by Mark even more miraculous. Had Matthew and Luke been eyewitnesses, they would have written their own accounts, without recourse to plagiarism.
Mark's gospel, the oldest of the official set of four, contains errors of geography  and custom  that would not have been made by an eyewitness. John's gospel, the latest of the set, is both too late and too ethereal to be taken as a biographical account at all - eyewitness or otherwise. There is nothing about the gospels to make one take them seriously from a biographic point of view: there is no good reason to think them other than ancient examples of the art of fiction.
If the historicity of Jesus cannot be supported by the New Testament writings, what about extrabiblical sources? Did any Greek or Roman or Jewish historians observe his career and write about it? Not one.
Although Josephus,  Tacitus,  Suetonius,  and other ancient authors are often cited as evidence for an historical Jesus, it is clear that their accounts (even if they could be proven authentic) are derivative, not original. Josephus, the oldest of these historians, was born at least five years after the date of the alleged crucifixion! There are no eyewitnesses. Moreover, the ancient non-Christian accounts of Jesus all were written at a time when Christianity already was a thriving delirium, and our pagan authors can be taken only as being witnesses of the state to which Christian traditions had evolved in their times, not as witnesses of an historical Jesus of Nazareth.
There is no credible evidence indicating Jesus ever lived. This fact is, of course, inadequate to prove he did not live. Even so, although it is logically impossible to prove a universal negative, it is possible to show that there is no need to hypothesize any historical Jesus. The Christ biography can be accounted for on purely literary, astrological, and comparative mythological grounds. The logical principle known as Occam's Razor tells us that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. For practical purposes, showing that an historical Jesus is an unnecessary assumption is just as good as proving that he never existed.
II. Christianity began as a mystery religion.
While modern Christianity trumpets its message openly and to all, with little regard for those uninterested in hearing its "good news," it was not so in the beginning. A careful reading of the Pauline epistles and the gospels (supplemented by modern documentary discoveries) shows that Christianity began as a mystery cult, replete with initiations, secrets, and multiple levels of indoctrination.
The word mystery (Greek, : 'what is known only to the initiated') occurs twenty-seven times in the official New Testament, and almost all of these occurrences demonstrate the existence of a secret infrastructure in the nascent cult.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, "Why speakest thou unto them in parables?' He answered and said unto them, 'Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." [Matt. 13:10-11]
The dangling verses now customarily printed at the end of the Epistle to the Romans (but placed elsewhere in various ancient manuscripts) tell of "that divine secret () kept in silence for long ages but now disclosed…" [New English Bible]
Paul the mystagogue is very evident in passages such as I Cor. 2:6ff:
Now we are speaking a wisdom among those who are mature [i.e., ready to be initiated], that is, a wisdom which does not belong to this age, nor the rulers of this age  who are about to pass away; but we are speaking God's wisdom in a mystery, wisdom which has been hidden and which God predetermined before the ages to contribute to our glory. None of this world's rulers knew this wisdom… But as it has been written, Things that no eye has seen and no ear heard and that have not occurred to human mind, things that God has prepared for those who love him- God indeed revealed them to us through the Spirit… 
I Cor. 4:1 speaks of "stewards of the mysteries of God."
Paul the would-be initiator of inductees into the mysteries peeks out at us also from the third chapter of I Corinthians. "I could not speak to you as I should speak to people who have the Spirit," he tells his not-fully-pliant initiates. "I had to deal with you on the merely natural plane, as infants in Christ. And so I gave you milk to drink, instead of solid food, for which you were not yet ready. Indeed, you are still not ready for it, for you are still on the merely natural plane."  Paul's Corinthians were still being fed the superficial story; they were not yet ready to be told the hidden meanings of things, perhaps the full truth concerning the symbolic, not physical, nature of "Christ."
That there was indeed a secret gospel and an initiation into the mysteries of the religion now known as Christianity is dramatically attested by the "Secret Gospel of Mark," found in a manuscript discovered by Morton Smith in 1958, in the Monastery of Mar Saba southeast of Jerusalem. The Greek text found by Smith appears originally to have been composed at the end of the second century by Clement of Alexandria.  Clement is replying to one Theodore who has been upset by claims that there was a secret gospel of Mark which differed from the canonic (official) version. Clement tells him that indeed there is a secret gospel used by the Alexandrian church for initiation into the Christian mysteries. He gives several examples of material present in the secret gospel but absent in the canonic one. One of the more interesting "secrets" revealed by Clement tells us:
…Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. 
III. Christianity was derived as much from Mithraism as from Judaism. Understanding the origin of Mithraism is crucial to understanding the origin of Christianity.
The mystery religion to which early Christianity seems most closely related is Mithraism. Mithra (also spelled Mithras), a Graeco-Persian invention, was born of a virgin on the winter solstice - frequently December 25th in the Julian calendar. Being a solar deity, Mithra was worshipped on Sundays; after Mithra had become amalgamated with Helios, he was depicted with a halo, nimbus, or glory around his head. In some cases it has been difficult to tell if ancient images were intended as depictions of Mithra or Jesus. The leader of the cult was called a pope (papa) and he ruled from a "mithraeum" on the Vatican Hill in Rome. A prominent iconographic feature in Mithraism was a large key, needed to unlock the celestial gates through which souls of the deceased were believed to pass. It would appear that the "keys of the Kingdom" held by the popes as successors to "St. Peter" derive from Mithra, not from a Palestinian messiah. The Mithraic priests wore miters, special headdresses from which the Christian bishop's hat was derived. (The Latin name for this Phrygian/Persian hat was mitra - which also was an acceptable Latin spelling for Mithra!) The Mithraists consumed a sacred meal (Myazda) which was completely analogous to the Catholic Eucharistic service (Missa, or Mass). Like the Christians, they celebrated the atoning death of a savior who was resurrected on a Sunday. A major center of Mithraic philosophy was at Tarsus - St. Paul's hometown - in what now is Southeast Turkey.
IV. Mithraism and Christianity have their origins in astrology and astronomy.
In 128 B.C.E. the Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes discovered the precession of the equinoxes [see Figure 2]. Because the earth's axis is tilted approximately 23.5 degrees away from a line perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around the sun, the sun appears from the northern hemisphere to follow a path in the sky (the ecliptic) which for six months of the year is above the celestial equator and below it for six months. (The celestial equator marks the points on the "celestial sphere" which are directly overhead as seen by a person living on the earth's equator.) Twice a year, as the sun appears to move along its ecliptic path, it crosses the celestial equator. When the sun is at these points - the so-called vernal (spring) and autumnal equinoxes - the durations of day and night are equal.
Figure 2. Views from the earth, the universe of stars seemed to the ancients to be attached to the great "celestial sphere" which had the eart as its center. The "celestial equator" is the projection of the earth's equator upon the inside of the sphere. The circle of the ecliptic is the path which the sun appears to follow against the background of "fixed stars." The zodiac is a belt of sky, extending 9o above and below the ecliptic, which can be divided into twelve zones of equal size, each characterized by the presence of a particularly prominent constellation. The moon and visible planets all eppear to move within the confines of the zodiacal belt. The equinoctial points are two places where the equator intersects the ecliptic, at an angle of approximately 23.5o. Around 128 B.C.E., Hipparchus of Rhodes discovered that the position of the equinoxes was not constant. He determined that the vernal (spring) equinox had once been in the constellation Taurus but had, by his day, moved ("precessed") almost all the way through the constellation of Aries. At the beginning of the Christian era, the vernal equinox moved into Pisces.
Because the earth wobbles as it spins on its axis, the north and south poles of its axis do not always point to the same spots on the celestial sphere. As a consequence, the equinoctial points become displaced with respect to the so-called fixed stars - including the stars forming the twelve zodiacal constellations. When Hipparchus discovered that the vernal equinox had been displaced from Taurus into Aries, he or some of his disciples felt that they had detected the labor of a hitherto unknown god. (Many Greeks felt that each natural phenomenon or physical force was actually the working of a particular god.) For astrological reasons, this new god was identified with the ancient Persian god Mithra. The mystery religion known as Mithraism thus was born.  Mithra was installed as a Time-Lord or chronocrat, the god who would rule over the Age or Aeon of Aries.
By the time Hipparchus and his Stoic colleagues understood that the vernal equinox had moved from Taurus into Aries, the equinox was almost out of Aries as well. Very soon it would move into Pisces, and a new Time-Lord would be needed. Just as movement of the equinox out of Taurus had been symbolized as the sacrifice of a bull , so too, the movement out of Aries would come to be symbolized by the sacrifice of a lamb. The first symbol of the new-age religion, the religion reigning in the age of Pisces, significantly, would be the fish.  (The cross, apparently, was originally the Greek letter chi (c), which reminds us of the intersection of the celestial equator with the ecliptic at an acute angle.) It is not surprising that in the oldest epitaphs and inscriptions it is actually two fish that were used to symbolize the New-Age cult - making the symbol of Christianity identical to the astrological symbol for Pisces, in obedience to the fact that Pisces is plural: the fishes.
V. The Magi mentioned in the second chapter of Matthew's gospel were Mithraic astrologer-priests, probably scouts looking for the new Time-Lord who was to rule the "new age" of Pisces.
The Mithraic clergy involved actively in the astrology of the cult were known as Magi (Greek magoi), and are depicted as wearing Phrygian (pseudo-Persian) caps such as Mithra is supposed to have worn. It is my thesis that some of these Magi, realizing that the age of Mithra was drawing to a close (the equinox would move into Pisces some time during the first century C.E.), would have left their cult centers in Phrygia and Cilicia, in what is now East and Southeast Turkey, from cities such as Tarsus to go to Palestine to see if they could locate not just the King of the Jews, but the new Time-Lord, the ruler of the new age of Pisces. (Pisces was considered to have especial connections with the Jews.) It is significant, I believe, that early depictions of the Magi's visitation of the Christ Child (including one in a church at Bethlehem) showed them wearing Phrygian (Mithraic) caps.
While it is clear that the story of the Magian visitation found at the beginning of the second chapter of Matthew's gospel is more fairy tale than history (how does one follow a star?), it seems there is a kernel of historicity in it. I believe, however, that the Greek text has been misunderstood with regard to the point of origin of the Magi and just where they were when they saw the star that triggered their trip. The King James Version tells us of "wise men from the east," who "have seen his star in the east." Modern translations tend to have the wise men see "his star at its rising." The Greek word for 'east' used in these two passages is , and it can indeed refer to the east or to the rising of a heavenly body. But it can also be the name of a place - Anatolia. Anatolia could signify either the entire peninsula of Asia Minor (i.e., the area now called Turkey), or a particular province of Phrygia. It thus appears that Matt. 2:1-2 should actually read:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from Anatolia to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for in Anatolia we have seen his star, and are come to worship him.
This Palestinian visit from the Magi could have been the catalyst that triggered various Jewish groups - and perhaps some non-Jewish groups - into thinking that the messiah whom they had been awaiting had already come and had not been noticed. Lest this seem too far-fetched, it should be noted that even in our own sophisticated age notices of Christ's "second coming" are of regular occurrence. It is not irrational to suppose that somewhere right now there is a small cult which believes that Jesus is back on earth. 
It is clear that the people who wrote the New Testament believed in reincarnation and "redivivus appearances" of such characters as Elijah. This would have made it fairly easy for a Magian visit to convince people that their messiah had already appeared. A particularly illustrative example is found in Matthew's gospel: 
Jesus... asked his disciples, saying: "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?"
And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the Seers."
He says to them: "But who do you say that I am?"
And Simon Peter, answering, said: "Thou art the Anointed, the Son of the Living God!"
And his disciples put a question to him, saying: "Why then do the scribes say 'Elijah must come first'?"
Now, Jesus answered and said to them: "Elijah indeed comes first, and will restore all things. Now, I say to you, Elijah has come already, and they did not recognize him, but have done him as many injuries as they could. Thus also the Son of Man is destined to suffer by them."
Then his disciples understood that he said this to them about John the Baptist.
Similar cases of "events" of cosmic significance occurring unnoticed are found in the gospels of Thomas  and Luke:
Gos. Thom. 51. His disciples said to him, "When will the repose of the dead come about, and when will the new world come?" He said to them, "What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it."
Gos. Thom. 52. His disciples said to him, "Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and all of them spoke of you." He said to them, "You have omitted the one living in your presence, and have spoken only of the dead.
Lk. 17:20-21. Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
VI. The Jews were ready for the Magi when they came to visit.
The Jews during the last two centuries B.C.E. were awaiting a messiah, and were making checklists of passages from the OT which they fancied described the who, where, why, and how of the person who would be their messiah. The actual texts from the OT were often taken completely out of context, distorted, and misquoted, and there was little respect for the tenses of verbs. (A particularly egregious example of such scripture-twisting methodology can be seen in the gospel of Matthew.)
No written works of Mithraism are known, since like other mystery cults, it centered around a secret known only to persons initiated into its rits. Most of our knowledge about it is derived from the iconography of its temples. A Central element in them was the depiction of Mithra sacrificing a wild bull (Taurus).
The messianic check-lists that different groups had been keeping would have been reinterpreted after the visit of the Magi: instead of telling what the messiah would do, they came to be interpreted as a record of what he had done. News that the messiah had already come would spread rapidly. The fact that no one had noticed the first coming was the reason the myth of the second coming had to be invented. Nothing actually had been accomplished by the first coming - except on paper!
An example of such a checklist has been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scrolls scholar Theodor Gaster tells us about
…a catena of five Scriptural passages attesting the advent of the Future Prophet and the Anointed King and the final discomfiture of the impious. The first four are taken from the Pentateuch, and include an excerpt from the oracles of Balaam. The fifth is an interpretation of a verse from the Book of Joshua. An interesting feature of this document… is that precisely the same passages of the Pentateuch are used by the Samaritans as the stock testimonial to the coming of the Taheb, or future 'Restorer.' They evidently constituted a standard set of such quotations, of the type that scholars have long supposed to have been in the hands of New Testament writers when they cited passages of the Hebrew Bible supposedly confirmed by incidents in the life and career of Jesus. 
VII. Gnosticism helped to reinterpret the checklists, and other pre-Christian literary creations, as documents pertaining to the life of the unnoticed messiah.
Before the so-called New Testament was completed, the leaders of the primitive Christian Church had to do battle with a "heresy" called gnosticism. The Gnostics were persons who believed in gnosis, a type of introspective knowledge. According to Kurt Rudolph, a leading authority on Gnosticism, gnosis is "knowledge given by revelation, which has been made available only to the elect who are capable of receiving it, and therefore has an esoteric character."  It is now known that gnosticism is older than Christianity, and an argument can be made that Christianity is a Gnostic heresy, rather than the other way around as traditionally taught.
Through "revelation" Gnostics and others could decide not only that checklists should be reinterpreted, but even that materials completely unrelated to Christianity were actually filled with hidden knowledge of Christian significance. This is extremely important from a psychiatric point of view, for it allowed the authors of the messianic biographies to feel guiltless of fraud, despite the fact that there was little if any truth in their products. All that was needed was for some person, perhaps one who had fasted too long, to have a very strong feeling - possibly the result of a dream, autosuggestion, or even hallucination - that knowledge was being communicated to him from another world. Thereafter, even a list of gardening tools could be transmogrified into a religious document of great profundity.
Two early symbols of Christianity were the lamb and the tropos cross, as seen on this sixth-century sarcophagus.
The Gnostic library discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt provides some examples of how non-Christian materials could have been appropriated for Christian purposes. The so-called "Apocalypse of Adam," a non-Christian phantasy composed of Jewish elements, follows the same general outline and contains many of the same components as does the birth narrative found in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. It is clear that both stories are derived from a common mythological source - a source that Gnostic principles allowed to be adapted for Christian use by "St. John the Revelator."
The "smoking gun" of revelation-in-the-making also has been found at Nag Hammadi, and it is most instructive for anyone wishing to understand how non-Christian materials could have been transmuted into the documents now found in the New Testament. James M. Robinson, the editor of the Nag Hammadi materials published in English, tells us that
The Nag Hammadi library even presents one instance of the Christianizing process taking place almost before one's eyes. The non-Christian philosophic treatise Eugnostos the Blessed is cut up somewhat arbitrarily into separate speeches, which are then put on Jesus' tongue, in answer to questions (which sometimes do not quite fit the answers) that the disciples address to him during a resurrection appearance. The result is a separate tractate entitled The Sophia of Jesus Christ. Both forms of the text occur side by side in Codex III. 
VIII. Jesus had to get his names before he could get his lives.
Before Jesus could be given a biography, he had to receive a name. Actually, he received several names and, as we shall see, all of his names were really titles. Thus, the name Jesus of Nazareth originally was not a name at all, but rather a title meaning (The) Savior, (The) Branch. In Hebrew this would have been Yeshua‘ Netser. The word Yeshua‘ means 'savior,' and Netser means 'sprout,' 'shoot,' or 'branch' - a reference to Isaiah 11:1, which was thought to predict a messiah (lit., 'anointed one') of the line of Jesse (King David's father): "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…"
While this reference to a branch from Jesse will doubtless seem obscure to modern readers, it would not have been obscure to ancient Jews such as those who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls (and wrote a commentary on Isaiah 11:1); nor would it have been obscure to the early Christians. According to the church father Epiphanius, who was born on Cyprus in 367 C.E. and wrote a treatise against "heretics," the Christians originally were called Jessaeans, precisely because of the messianic tie to Jesse. 
Although for speakers of Hebrew and its close cousin Aramaic the meaning and prophetic significance of the title The Savior, The Branch would have been clear, after it had been wrestled into Greek as or , its titular significance must soon have been forgotten. The part came to be a simple name ( in Latin) of the Tom, Dick, or Harry sort. The part, however, was misperceived as being derived from the name of a place - the imaginary village of Nazareth - much as the word Parisian can be derived from Paris.
And so, Yeshua‘ Netser came to be Jesus of Nazareth - a name of the Jimmy-the-Greek sort, a name thought to contain information on a person's place of origin. (There may have been an intermediate Wizard-of-Oz period, combining a title with a place name: The Savior of Nazareth.)
At the turn of the era, there was no place called Nazareth, and it is not entirely certain that the place now called by that name was inhabited during the period in question. The name appears neither in the Old Testament nor in the large "intertestamental" literature. Nor is it found in Josephus, despite the fact that he names several dozen towns in Galilee - a place where he conducted military maneuvers. As far as I can tell, the place presently called Nazareth received its name from an imaginative Jessaean some time at the end of the second century or early third century - most likely after Hadrian expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 135 CE. At the turn of the era, however, Nazareth was as mythical as the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus family that was supposed to have lived there. [21B]
It is interesting to note that archaeological excavations of the oldest Jewish-Christian churches in that town have revealed branches as a prominent decorative motif (shades of netser!) as well as zodiacs - some even surrounding the chi-rho symbol  of Christ, exactly as zodiacs have been found surrounding images of Mithra. Further, the ruins of the baptistries bear evidence that initiation rites in early Christianity were every bit as interesting as those in Mormonism before the recent bowdlerization.
Like Jesus of Nazareth, the "name" Jesus Christ also began as two titles. As we have seen, the Jesus part of the name really is the title Savior. But what of Christ? The Greek word christos means 'anointed,' and is the equivalent of the Hebrew word meshiah. Thus, Christ and Messiah are equivalent terms, both referring to the peculiar Israelite practice of anointing their kings and high priests with oil. (The Greeks oiled their athletes instead.)
IX. Jesus got his lives from other people and other literatures.
There are at least five different Jesuses described in the New Testament: the one which the Apostle Paul "met" during an epileptic seizure on the road to Damascus, and the four palpably different messiahs chronicled in the canonic gospels. The biographic dimensions of the Pauline messiah are so meager that little need be said about him. But what of the tales told by the four evangelists?
Two fish (symbolic of the Age of Pisces) with an anchor shaped like a cross are seen in detail from an early fourth-century tombstone. Early in the history of Christianity, the fish also was connected with baptism and served as a Greek acrostic for the phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."
Much of the biographic material found in the New Testament is merely a reworking of material taken from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint. A considerable part of the narrative structure of the gospel of Matthew (and also of Mark, his source) can be thought of as a fleshing out and adaptation of a messianic checklist such as I have hypothesized would have formed the nucleus for a messianic biography. Over and over again, events and circumstances both trivial and important are recounted by Matthew and followed by the refrain, "…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets…" While this refrain does not appear in Mark's narrative, it seems clear that the story skeleton used by Mark had been constructed from a checklist of Old Testament "prophecies" that would have to be fulfilled by the messiah.
The many "sayings of Jesus" (logia) recounted in the gospels would, if they could convincingly be derived from a single personality or source, be strong evidence that an historical Jesus once existed. But such is not the case. A group of prominent Bible scholars, styling themselves "The Jesus Seminar" and sponsored by the Westar Institute in Sonoma, California, recently completed its six-year analysis of all the logia and reported that at least eighty percent of the sayings were not authentic! That is to say, they were able to find explanations for their composition which did not require an historical Jesus.  And what of the other twenty percent? All we can say is that their true origins are unknown. It has not been proven that they come from a man called Jesus.
To trace all the elements of the Jesus biographies to their sources will require a very large book. Here we can give only a few examples of how some material became incorporated into the braid of literature that has come to be known as "The Life of Christ."
The healing miracles probably derive from the testimonies given by persons who thought themselves to have been cured by the Greek god Asklepios (Asclepius in Latin). The great venom with which the early church fathers attacked the cult of this pagan god indicates a close rivalry between the two cults and a certain embarrassment among Christians repeatedly being told that Asklepios had already done all of Jesus' tricks and had done them better.
Early in the development of the biographies, "Jesus" became identified with the "Son of Man" character who figures so importantly in late Old Testament books and apocryphal writings, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Enoch. This allowed for large-scale accretion of literary material. It is interesting to note that the Son-of-Man literature underwent considerable evolution from its beginning up to its amalgamation with the Christ character. Originally, in Hebrew and Aramaic, the phrase son of man simply signified a human being - i.e., not some other species of animal. Later, it came to symbolize Israel the nation. Much prophetic literature referring to the Son of Man is actually referring to Israel the nation. (Israel was, after all, a nation of human beings; the goyim or 'nations' - gentiles - were not considered fully human.) Then, the term was individualized once again and identified with the awaited messiah. Finally, it was grafted - with all its accumulated literature and associations - onto the Jesus vita.
Some of the Jesus biography was derived from pre-Christian gnosticism, and some material was incorporated from Hellenic-Jewish wisdom literature. Some items, such as the doctrine of the logos ("the Word") came from the Stoic philosophers. The saying "To give is more blessed than to receive" [Acts 20:35] is actually an ancient Greek aphorism.  The saying in Matt. 11:17, "We have piped unto you and ye have not danced," derives from one of Aesop's fables!  The saying that "wheresoever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together" [Matt. 24:28 = Luke 17:37] is attested by a number of Greek (Lucian , Aelianus ) and Latin (Seneca , Martial , and Lucan ) antecedents. 
As a final illustration of how easy it was to put words into Jesus' mouth, we may consider a passage in Saul/Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In the ninth verse of the second chapter, he quotes a yet unidentified "scripture":
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
In the gospel of Thomas (actually a collection of sayings or logia, resembling the Q-Document from which Matthew and Luke drew supposed sayings of Jesus), this is reworked as logion number 17 and attributed to Jesus himself:
"I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard, and what no hand has touched, and what has never occurred to the human mind." 
The same saying was adapted by the author of the Q-Document and found its way into the official New Testament as Matt. 13:16-7 and Luke 10:23-4:
"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears that hear what you hear… many prophets and righteous men have desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it." [Material in italics found only in Matthew's version] 
It yet remains to go through the entire New Testament to extract all the materials supposedly containing information of the life of Christ and to trace them to their sources. It remains also to sort out which of the characters in that book are historical and which are fictional. The twelve disciples, for example, appear to be zodiacal figures, but John the Baptist may have been real. St. Paul almost certainly was real, but St. Peter probably was not. The Virgin Mary and Joseph were invented for their roles, but Pontius Pilate was not.
Much work remains to be done to put the chroniclers of Christ out of business, although a surprising amount of it was done already a century or more ago, but now is lost or difficult to retrieve. This fact has prompted the popular writers Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln to comment:
Each contribution in the field of biblical research is like a footprint in sand. Each is covered almost immediately and, so far as the general public is concerned, left virtually without trace. Each must constantly be made anew, only to be covered again. 
It is time now for the vacuum that is Christ, not the footprints of scholars, to be filled in with sand. It is past the time when mythical beings should be taken seriously. The time has arrived for biblical scholars to stand upon the same solid foundation on which the Marquis de Laplace stood when questioned by the Emperor of France. When questioned about the historical Jesus, all should be able to reply: "I have had no need of that hypothesis."
 This is in Acts 22: 7ff, which alleges to be a first-person account of Saul's conversion: "Then I heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' I answered, 'Tell me, Lord, who you are.' 'I am Jesus of Nazareth,' he said, 'whom you are persecuting.' My companions saw the light, but did not hear the voice that spoke to me…" [New English Bible]
A contradictory, third-person account of Saul's conversion can be found in Acts 9: 4ff: "He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' "Tell me, Lord,' he said, 'who you are.' The voice answered, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting… Meanwhile the men who were travelling with him stood speechless; they heard the voice but could see no one…" [New English Bible]
It would appear that the version in Chapter 9 was taken from a document older than that from which the Chapter 22 account was derived. The Nazareth tradition had not yet been invented when the Chapter 9 story was put in writing.
 An example of Mark's ignorance of Palestinian geography is found in the story he recounts about Jesus traveling from Tyre on the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee, thirty miles inland. According to Mark 7:31, Jesus and his gang went by way of Sidon, twenty miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast! Since to Sidon and back would be forty miles, this means that Mark's messiah walked seventy miles when he could have walked only thirty. Although Mark seems unaware of this problem, the translators of the King James Version seem to have understood it quite well - adroitly obfuscating their translation accordingly: "Departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon…"
 Mark 10:12 tells us that a wife, if she divorces her husband and marries another, is guilty of adultery. While this was possible in some pagan societies, it was not an option open to Israelite women.
 Josephus ben Matthias (ca. C.E. 37 - ca. 100), Jewish Historian and general.
 Cornelius Tacitus (ca. C.E. 56 - ca. 120), Roman orator, historian and politician.
 Gaius Suetonius Tranquilus (ca. C.E. 69 - ca. 122), Roman biographer and historian.
 It is difficult not to see this as a reference to the end of the 2150-year-long astrological Age of Aries, over which Mithra had reigned as 'Time-Lord' or chronocrat. Paul was writing almost exactly at the time the Age of Pisces was beginning, with Jesus as the new Time-Lord. The Greek for 'the rulers of this age' is . This fairly reverberates with both astrological and Gnostic mysteries. In gnosticism, the archons clearly are rulers of astrological derivation, and the æons are both rulers and periods of time. It is suggestive also, that the church father Origen, in commenting on this passage in Corinthians alludes to "the astrology of the Chaldeans and Indians" and "Magi" - Mithraic or Zoroastrian astrologers [Origen De Principiis, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1982, pp. 335-6.]
 William F. Orr, and James Arthur Walther, The Anchor Bible: I Corinthians, Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY, 1976, pp. 153-4.
 I Cor. 3:1-3, New English Bible.
 Titus Flavius Clemens (ca. C.E. 150 - ca. 211), Prominent early church father.
 Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1973, p. 447.
 For this modern understanding of the late and astrological origin of the Mithraic religion, I am heavily dependent upon the writing of David Ulansey, especially his little book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford 1989.
 A glance at Figure 2 will show that the constellation Perseus is located above the constellation Taurus. Mythologically, Perseus became amalgamated with Mithra, and the physical ascendance of Perseus over Taurus suggested that Mithra-Perseus had killed the bull.
 Very early in the history of Christianity, the fish symbol received a non-astrological interpretation by means of a clever acrostic. The Greek word for fish, ICHTHUS, can be formed from the first letters of each word in the motto - 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.'
 On August 6, 1991, the supermarket tabloid National Examiner carried a front-page notice: "Vatican Report. Jesus may be back on earth." The article itself, on page nine, reported that "Stunned scientists and religious leaders believe Jesus Christ has returned to Earth!" There was some uncertainty, however, if the second coming had come about in a biblical manner or whether Christ had been cloned scientifically from blood spots in the Shroud of Turin. Considering the large numbers of people who read this paper, it is all but certain that there are some people who will believe its extraordinary tales.
 Matt. 16:13-16; 17:10-13. My translation.
 Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Trinity Press International, Philadelphia, 1990, pp. 124-5.
 Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, Third Revised and Enlarged Edition, Anchor Books/Doubleday , Garden City, New York, 1976, p. 393.
 Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1985, p. 55.
 James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library, Third, Completely Revised Edition, Harper, San Francisco, 1988, pp. 8-9.
 J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, etc., Series Graeca Prior, Patrologiae Graecae Tomus XLI, S. Epiphanius Constantiensis in Cypro Episcopus, Adversus Haereses, Paris, 1863, columns 389-390.
[21B] Despite the excavations of the Franciscan B. Bagatti [Excavations in Nazareth, translated by F. Hoade, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1969] no remains of any building datable to the first centuries BCE or CE have ever been found at present-day Nazareth, and the artifacts dated by Bagatti to "the Roman Period" are probably all later than first century CE. Moreover, most if not all of the artifacts appear to be funerary goods used in burials of residents of Japha (Japhia), a town a mile or so away which was known to Josephus.
The first inscriptional mention of the place-name Nazareth is thought to be on a fragment of marble found at the site of ancient Caesarea in 1962. ["A List of Priestly Courses from Caesarea," M. Avi-Yonah, Israel Exploration Journal, 12:137-9] The synagogue in which the marble fragment was found appears to date from the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century CE [The Archeology of the New Testament, Jack Finegan, Princeton Univ. Press, 1992, p. 46], thus ruling out the inscription as a witness to any first-century place called Nazareth.
It is doubtful, however, that the inscription really mentions Nazareth. The several related fragments of the inscription were interpreted by means of Hebrew liturgical poems dating from the sixth to seventh centuries - when present-day Nazareth was already a thriving tourist site and the name was well-known. The letters n-ts-r-t are bounded by broken edges of the stone (in fact, the n is only partially present), and it is not certain what letter may have preceded the n. In my opinion, the damaged n probably was preceded by a g (a narrow letter in Hebrew, easily fitting into the space hypothesized by the discoverers of the inscription) and read Gennesaret, not Nazareth. Gennesaret was founded in Hellenistic times and was well known.
 The letters chi () and rho () are the first two letters of the Greek word Christos, and have been superimposed upon each other to form a sort of cross, a symbol still prominently employed by the Roman Catholic Church.
 The rules of evidence employed by this team of scholars, along with their reasons for accepting or rejecting a particular logion can be found in The Gospel of Mark Red Letter Edition, by Robert W. Funk and Mahlon H. Smith, Polebridge Press, Sonoma, California, 1991.
 Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 63.
 Arnold Ehrhardt, The Framework of the New Testament Stories, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964, p. 51-3.
 Lucian (ca. C.E. 120 - 180), Greek Satirist and rhetorician.
 Claudius Aelianus (ca. C.E. 170 - ca. 235), Roman rhetorician.
 Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca. 4 B.C.E. 1- ca. 65), Roman statesman and philosopher.
 Marcus Valerius Martialis (ca. C.E. 40 - ca. 103), Roman Poet.
 Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (C.E. 39-65), Roman Poet.
 Ehrhardt, Framework, p. 53-8
 Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 58.
 Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 59.
 Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln., The Messianic Legacy, Henry Holt, New York, 1986, p. 9. [Manuscript received November 19, 1991.
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