A TIMELINE OF JESUS MYTHICISM
The first time an author is mentioned the name is capitalized.
Links are generally not furnished for authors whose biographies are readily available online (e.g. via Wikipedia). However, links are furnished for complete books when available online, as well as for comprehensive reviews.
(Trad) = Traditionalist. Endorses the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.
(Gen) = Generalist whose work influenced the wider culture in a skeptical direction.
(Skep) = Skeptical of the orthodox position regarding Jesus of Nazareth but not avowedly mythicist nor semi-mythicist.
(Semi-Myth) = Semi-mythicist. Endorses the existence of a prophet at the origin of Christianity,
but maintains that prophet had little or no resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth.
(Myth) = Mythicist. Endorses the non-existence of any founding prophet at the origin of Christianity.
• (Skep) BARUCH SPINOZA Ethica. Considered an atheist, Spinoza was excommunicated from Judaism because he opposed all dogma and advocated the application of unfettered historical method to the interpretation of the biblical sources. Spinoza explained miracles as natural events misinterpreted and emphasized for their moral effect. Contemporaries condemned his strident rationalism and his work as “forged in hell by a renegade Jew and the devil.”
• (Skep) BARON d’HOLBACH. Christianity unveiled: being an examination of the principles and effects of the Christian religion. The book attacked Christianity and religion in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of mankind. Holbach was a wealthy atheist and wrote voluminously against religion, thogh the authorship of these works was not known until well after his death. Holbach’s Parisian salon was an important meeting place for the contributors to the progressive Encyclopédie.
• (Skep) HERMANN SAMUEL REIMARUS completes his “Apology or Essay in Defense of the Veneration of God through Reason” for private circulation. He finds deceit and trickery behind scripture, accusing Jesus of having fraudulently started a plot to make himself known as the Messiah in future times, using his disciples as agents of the plot. Reimarus questions the post-Easter Jesus, suggesting that the body was stolen by the disciples who then invented the resurrection and ascension. For Reimarus, the Church is based on superstition.
• Baron d’Holbach , Histoire critique de Jésus-Christ, ou Analyse raisonnée des évangiles. The first critical life of Jesus.
• Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature, his most famous book. Holbach denies the existence of a deity and sees the universe as nothing more than matter in motion, bound by inexorable laws of cause and effect. The Catholic Church threatened the French crown with withdrawal of financial support over this book, and numerous famous dignitaries wrote refutations. Holbach’s materialism influenced many, including Karl Marx.
• (Semi-Myth) COMPTE DE VOLNEY, Les Ruines. Volney argued that the gospel story was compiled organically when simple allegorical statements like “the virgin has brought forth” were misunderstood as history. Volney parted company with Dupuis by allowing that confused memories of an obscure historical figure may have contributed to Christianity when they were integrated with solar mythology. He predicted the final union of all religions and the recognition of a common truth underlying them all.
• (Myth) CHARLES-FRANÇOIS DUPUIS. French astromythicist publishes The Origin of all Religious Worship. Dupuis’ knowledge of mythology led him to propose that the ancient divinities were none other than constellations, the names of gods being those of planets whose vicissitudes were simply movements in the heavens anciently expressed in metaphorical language. He sought to find the unity of religions in astronomical observations common to Egyptians, Greeks, and even Chinese. Dupuis considered Christianity “a fable with the same foundation as all the other solar religions.”
• (Skep) DAVID F. STRAUSS. The Life of Jesus scandalized Europe by introducing New Testament “demythology” and denial of Jesus’ divinity. “Shows the purely mythic character of all gospel narratives. The best book on the gospels ever written, even today!” (R. Price)
• (Myth) BRUNO BAUER. Often considered the first academic mythicist. His Kritische Darstellung der Religion des Alten Testaments is a rationalist critique of the Hebrew Bible which was poorly received by the Christian theologians. Bauer was Karl Marx’s sympathetic doctoral advisor in Berlin. Schweitzer devotes Chp. 11 of his Quest (1906) to Bauer’s thought.
• (Skep) LUDWIG FEUERBACH, a student of Hegel, publishes Das Wesen des Christentums (“The Essence of Christianity”). He urged that all religions be eliminated, along with their deceptive tools used to instill fear and invoke the mystical powers of God. Feuerbach believed that ‘God’ is merely the outward projection of man’s inward nature which is infinite. His thought influenced Karl Marx, David F. Strauss, and Bruno Bauer.
• Bruno Bauer publishes a pamphlet, “The trumpet of the last judgment on Hegel” in which he defends atheism and denies that Jesus was an historical figure.
In July Bauer and his protegé Karl Marx scandalized Bonn residents by public drunkenness, laughing uproariously in church, and galloping through the streets on donkeys in imitation of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.
• Bruno Bauer, Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker und des Johannes (3 vol). Bauer argued that the gospels were purely literary, with no historically authentic material. The third volume denied the historicity of Christ. Subsequently, Bauer was dismissed from the university faculty by a direct order from the King of Prussia and never taught again.
• (Skep) KARL MARX, increasingly estranged from his mentor Bruno Bauer, writes: “religion in itself is without content. It owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself.”
• (Skep) FERDINAND C. BAUR. Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi, sein Leben und Wirken, seine Briefe und seine Lehre. Contends that only four of the pauline epistles are authentic, and that the Paul of Acts is a different person from the author of the epistles.
• Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism: Against Bruno Bauer and Co. by his pupils, Marx and Engels (350 pp). “The Holy Family” are a reference to the brothers Bruno and Edgar Bauer among the Young Hegelians. The book caused a sensation. It called for revolt and for the creation of a socialist, even communist, state.
• Bruno Bauer, Kritik der paulinischen Briefe (“Critique of the Pauline Letters”). Bauer declared all of Paul’s epistles to be 2nd century forgeries.
• Bruno Bauer, Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs, 3 vol. (“Critique of the Gospels and History of their Origins”), 4th vol. under the title Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien (“Theological Interpretation of the Gospels”).
• (Gen) CHWOLSOHN, DANIIL. Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus (rpt. Elibron 2005). A four volume magnum opus which extends to almost 2,000 pages. (The last two volumes are on GoogleBooks). Chwolsohn explores heterodox gnosticism and equates a proto-gnostic religion with the Mandeans, whose adherents survived in the irrepressibly non-conformist city of Harran in northern Mesopotamia.
• (Skep) ERNEST RENAN, Life of Jesus (“Vie de Jesus”), the first of his eight volume magnum opus, Histoire des Origines du Christianisme. Renan scandalized Protestants and Catholics alike with this work which openly questioned the divinity of Christ. Renan had a mistrust of intuition or the poetic soul that purported to have a vision of truth discovered through inspiration. He subjected the Old and New Testaments to the same critical scrutiny given to other pieces of historical evidence, concluding that the sacred texts were an entirely human product whose characteristics were relative to time and place.
[Dedicated onsite page.]
• (Skep) DANIEL SCHENKEL, Das Charakterbild Jesu strips away all supernatural elements while generally following the traditional outline of events. He sees Jesus as a perfect moral human being whose standards and teachings are to be followed.
• (Semi-myth) SYTZE HOEKSTRA, De Christologie van het kanonische Marcus-Evangelie (Dutch). One of the first Dutch Radicals, Hoekstra considered Mark’s gospel worthless as a biography of Jesus. For him, the synoptics are symbolic poetry.
• (Myth) ALLARD PIERSON. Recognized as the founder of the Dutch Radical School. His De Bergrede en andere synoptische Fragmenten (“The Sermon on the Mount and other Synoptic Fragments”) argued that the Sermon on the Mount is a post-70 product, a collection of aphorisms of Jewish wisdom placed into the mouth of the semi-god Jesus. For Pierson, non-Christian witnesses are worthless, especially Tacitus; the Galatians epistle is not genuine (contrary to F.C. Baur and the Tübingen School); and the non-historicity of Jesus is patent.
While other continental scholars ignored Bruno Bauer’s work, the Dutch Radical School paid great attention to his ideas and incorporated them into their own exegesis. Because they wrote in Dutch, however, they had minimal international impact.
• Bruno Bauer, Christ and the Caesars: The Origin of Christianity from Romanized Greek Culture. 359 pp. (Trans. 1999, Charleston House Pub.) Paul wrote none of the ‘Pauline’ epistles. The most important individual catalyst for Christian emergence was not Jesus (whom Mark created) but Seneca, many of whose maxims and ideals appear unaltered at the heart of the New Testament. Bauer was the ideological founder of the Dutch Radical School. (Dr. Price’s review).
• Friedrich Engels, Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity, an homage published on the death of Bauer. Engels wrote: “Official theologians, including Renan, wrote [Bruno Bauer] off and therefore maintained a deadening silence (Totschweigen) concerning him. Yet Bauer was worth more than them all and did more than all of them regarding a question which interests us Socialists: the historical origin of Christianity… It is clear that if spontaneously arising religions… come into being without deception playing any part, deception by the priests soon becomes inevitable in their further development. But, in spite of all sincere fanaticism, artificial religions cannot, even at their foundation, do without deception and falsification of history. Christianity, too, has pretty achievements of which to boast in this respect from the very beginning, as Bauer shows in his criticism of the New Testament… And, if almost nothing from the whole content of the Gospels turns out to be historically provable—so that even the historical existence of a Jesus Christ can be questioned—Bauer has, thereby, only cleared the ground for the solution of the question… Bauer also gives very valuable data on the causes which helped Christianity triumph and attain world domination. But here the German philosopher is prevented by his idealism from seeing clearly and formulating precisely…”
• (Semi-Myth) ABRAHAM DIRK LOMAN. Quaestiones Paulinae (“Questions on the Paulines”) contends that not only Galatians, but all of Paul’s Epistles are (following Bruno Bauer) 2nd century forgeries. Loman finds no evidence of the Paulinae before Marcion and considers the epistles to be Gnostic treatises. For him, Jesus is a 2nd century fiction though ‘some’ Jesus may have existed, quite buried in history. The Jesus of Christianity is an ideal symbol, a non-historical construction.
• (Myth) E. JOHNSON. Antiqua Mater: A Study of CHristian Origins.
• (Myth) RUDOLF STECK. Der Galaterbrief nach seiner Echtheit untersucht nebst kritischen Bemerkungen zu den Paulinischen Hauptbriefen (“Inquiry into the Genuineness of the Galatians Epistle, and Critical Remarks on the Chief Paulines”). Steck was a Swiss scholar and ally of the Dutch School. He branded all the Pauline epistles as fakes and supported Pierson and Naber.
— The Dreyfus Affair rocks France. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer, was accused of high treason on the basis of documents forged by the military. This incident showed that “a reactionary government, in close association with ecclesiastical interests, is fatal to the life of freedom in every area, not least in the religious and educational realms” Loisy (p. vii).
• (Skep) WILLEM CHRISTIAAN VAN MANEN. His multi-volume Paulus was published 1890-1896. The first volume dates the Acts of the Apostles to 125-150 CE and argues that it was dependent on several writings including those of Josephus. The other two volumes were about Romans and 1st–2nd Corinthians. An exception in the Dutch Radical School, van Manen accepted the historicity of Jesus.
• (Myth) JOHN M. ROBERTSON, Christianity and Mythology. Draws extensive parallels between Christ and Krishna.
• (Skep) ADOLF VON HARNACK, Das Wesen des Christentums English. Harnack insisted on absolute freedom in the study of church history and the New Testament and that there be no taboo areas of research. He rejected the historicity of the Fourth Gospel in favor of the synoptic accounts. While Harnack denied the possibility of miracles, he argued that Jesus may well have performed acts of healing that seemed miraculous. Harnack was especially interested in contemporary practical Christianity as a religious life and not a system of theology (the “Social Gospel”).
Harnack sought to show that Christianity, properly understood, is the religion which Jesus taught and practiced. It can be summed up as including the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the leadership of Jesus, and the possibility of living “the eternal life in the midst of time.” The theological interpretation of Jesus as in some profound sense truly, divine as well as human, the existence of the Church as an institution, and the sacramental rites of the Christian community, are to be interpreted (Harnack asserted) as examples of the “acute Hellenization” of the simple gospel which Jesus taught. What we should do, if we wish to be authentic Christians, is return to the simplicities of Jesus’ teaching, for this is essential Christianity. All the rest is addition to, or unnecessary complication of, the essential thing. Loisy and other modernists objected that Christian teaching was never simple, and that from the beginning Christianity saw the presence of God in Jesus.
• (Skep) W. WREDE. The Messianic Secret German edition. Confirmed Bruno Bauer’s claim that Mark was the real creator of Christianity. “Showed how Mark is anything but unvarnished history as Liberals had supposed, but is an elaborate piece of narrative theology trying to harmonize two competing early Christologies.” (R. Price)
• (Skep) ALBERT KALTHOFF. Was wissen wir von Jesus? Also: Die Entstehung des Christentums (transl. “The Rise of Christianity,” 1907). Kalthoff’s thought was much influenced by Bruno Bauer and, in turn, influenced Arthur Drews. Kalthoff saw Christianity as a social psychosis. He criticized the romanticist and sentimental image of Jesus as a Great Personality of history, one developed by German liberal theologians (including Schweitzer). In Kalthoff’s view the early church created the New Testament, not the reverse. The early Jesus movement combined the Jewish apocalyptic belief in a Messiah with the socialist hope for reform and a better world. Arthur Drews accepted Kalthoff’s ideas but insisted that the original Christian socialism was religious, not economic.
• (Gen) DITLEF NIELSEN, The Old Arabian Moon Religion and the Mosaic Tradition. Chps. 1-5 tr. R. Salm
(PDF). Shows the unsuspected gnostic background of Iron Age religion which informed both early Judaism and then Christianity.
— Largely as a result of the Dreyfus Affair (1894, above), the French government instituted the constitutional separation of Church and State. With this change, control of the Sorbonne (Univ. Of Paris) and many other institutions of learning passed out of the hands of conservative interests. Many ‘radical’ and ‘modernist’ scholars were now able to exercise their profession, including Alfred Loisy (to be excommunicated in 1908).
• (Skep) ALBERT SCHWEITZER. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. A book beloved by the tradition. While professing skepticism, Schweitzer counters mythicism at every turn. The expanded (and suppressed) 2nd edition came out in 1913.
• (Myth) WILLIAM BENJAMIN SMITH. The Pre-Christian Jesus: Studies of Origins of Primitive Christianity, argued that Christianity’s origins lay in a pre-Christian Jesus cult, a Jewish sect that had worshipped a divine being Jesus in the centuries before the human Jesus was supposedly born. Smith found evidence for this cult in Hippolytus’ mention of the Naasenes and Epiphanius’ report of a Nasarene sect that existed before Christ, as well as passages in Acts. The seemingly historical details in the New Testament were built by the early Christian community around narratives of the pre-Christian Jesus. Smith also argued against the historical value of non-Christian writers regarding Jesus, particularly Josephus and Tacitus.
— The Catholic Church issues a decree, signed by pope Pius X, entitled Lamentabili Sane Exitu (“A Lamentable Departure Indeed”), which formally condemned sixty-five modernist or relativist propositions regarding the nature of the Church, revelation, biblical interpretation, the sacraments, and the divinity of Christ. This decree was followed by the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (“Feeding the Lord’s Flock”), which characterized Modernism as the “synthesis of all heresies.” The encyclical (text) remonstrated against those who “assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to a simple, mere man.”
• (Myth) G.J.P.J. BOLLAND. De Evangelische Jozua. Dutch version. English summary. “Jesus” was derived from the Old Testament figure Joshua, son of Nun. This was accomplished by Alexandrian Jews after 70 CE. For those Hellenized Netsarim (“guarded ones”) a mythical Chrestos figure (meaning “the good”) became “Christus.” They colonized Palestine with their Gospel, not the other way around.
• (Skep) ALFRED FIRMIN LOISY’s Les Évangiles Synoptiques leads directly to his excommunication vitandus, that is, all Catholics were forbidden to communicate with him. As a result, up to the year of his death the elderly Loisy could not even get a haircut in his home village (Loisy, p. viii).
Loisy had been ordained a priest in 1879 but, due to his modernist views he published under a series of pseudonyms. 1901-1903 he had already written several works condemned by the Church. Promptly after his excommunication Loisy was offered the History of Religion chair at the Collège de France (Paris), where he taught for the next twenty-five years. Perhaps Loisy’s most famous observation was that “Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church”. He never doubted the existence of Jesus and, in the late 1930s, engaged in an acrid exchange with Couchoud regarding this question. [Dedicated onsite page.]
• (Myth), CHRISTIAN HEINRICH ARTHUR DREWS (pronounced “drefs”), The Christ Myth (Die Christusmythe). This German historian and philosopher demonstrated that no independent evidence for the historical existence of Jesus has ever been found outside the New Testament writings. Drews was a German teacher of philosophy at a Technische Hochschule. He never secured a position as university professor due to his controversial views. For him, Jesus Christ never existed and Christianity was the syncretism of sundry mythologies. Drews was strongly influenced by the Jesus deniers in Germany (Bauer, Kalthoff), Britain (J.M. Robertson, T. Whittaker) and America (W.B. Smith), and in turn Drews influenced P-L. Couchoud, G.A. Wells, and others. He attempted to present Bauer’s ideas in clear and concise language intelligible to the general public, language devoid of Hegelian rhetoric and pedantic profundities—no dialectic, no alienation, no synthesis. He elicited strident mainline opposition in the West (e.g., the N.Y. Times), while his ideas were sympathetically promulgated in the Soviet Union via Marx and Lenin. [Dedicated onsite PDF.]
• (Myth) G. A. BERGH VAN EYSINGA, Indische Einflüsse auf evangelische Erzählungen. Van Eysinga concluded that there was no evidence for the existence of the Pauline writings before Marcion (contra Harnack). Unlike his teacher van Manen, van Eysinga rejected the historicity of Jesus.
• (Skep) M. M. MANGASARIAN, The Truth About Jesus: Is He A Myth?
• (Myth) SALOMON REINACH, Orpheus: A General History of Religions. Reinach pointed to the poverty of documentary evidence regarding Jesus, particularly in the gospels. He endorsed the docetist view of Jesus, basing himself on the Pauline epistles (some of which he accepted as authentic).
• The supporters of Arthur Drews caused a sensation by plastering Berlin’s billboards with posters asking, “Did Jesus Christ ever live?” 2,000 people showed up for the famous debates in the Berlin Zoological Gardens (Jan 31 and Feb. 1).
• A. Drews, The Legend of Peter (tr. 1997 by Frank Zindler). Drews exposes the completely legendary character of the figure of Peter, both in the Gospels and the fantastic history of Peter in Rome.
• Adolf von Harnack proposes very early dates for the synoptic gospels and Acts, thus delivering a counter-argument to the Tübingen school (Strauss, Baur, Zeller, Hilgenfeld).
• (Myth) SAMUEL LUBLINSKI, Die Entstehung des Christentums; Das werdende Dogma vom Leben Jesu; Falsche Beweise für die Existenz des Menschen Jesus. Lublinski questioned the existence of Jesus and argued that Christianity arose out of a syncretism of Judaism, mystery religions, gnosticism, and oriental influences, with the Essenes and Therapeutae as pioneering sects.
• (Myth) ARTHUR HEULHARD, Le mensonge Chretien extends to eleven volumes. Stridently anti-Semitic, Heulhard maintained that it was John the Baptist, not Jesus, who proclaimed himself the Christ, the Son of the Father (Bar Abba in Aramaic), and that “Jesus Christ did not Exist” (one of his subtitles). Furthermore, the Baptist was not decapitated, but Barabbas was the one crucified by Pilate on charges of assassination, theft, and treason. A century later, the evangelists substituted an imaginary and innocent Jesus for Barabbas, in order to set the basis for financial profit from the redemption of sins through baptism.
• A. Drews, The Christ Myth. This book sparked violently negative and critical reactions worldwide. (Main entry for Drews above, year 1909.)
• A. Drews, The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus Christ. Drews reviews ancient alleged witnesses to Jesus’ existence.
• William Benjamin Smith, Ecce Deus: Studies Of Primitive Christianity. (Main entry for Smith above, year 1906.)
• (Trad) SHIRLEY JACKSON CASE, The Historicity of Jesus: a Criticism of the Contention that Jesus Never Lived, a Statement of the Evidence for His Existence, an Estimate of His Relation to Christianity.
• G. A. van Eysinga, “Radical views about the New Testament.” (Open Court, 124 pp.) German translation.
• Albert Schweitzer, Geschichte der Leben Jesu-Forschung), being the second edition of his Quest of the Historical Jesus. It is characteristic that for almost a century the first edition appeared in numerous English printings, while the more complete second edition (with the important chapters 22 and 23 on Jesus mythicism) was universally overlooked, until it finally became available to the English reader from Fortress Press (2000, ed. by John Bowden). In any event, Schweitzer hardly offers an impartial assessment of the mythicist thesis but launches into extended philosophical digressions and consistently sides with the tradition while, at the same time, admitting that the tradition has nothing firm upon which to stand.
• (Semi-Myth) FREDERICK C. CONYBEARE, The historical Christ, or, An investigation of the views of Mr. J.M. Robertson, Dr. A. Drews, and Prof. W.B. Smith. Conybeare was an Orientalist and Professor of Theology at Oxford. For him, the texts show a gradual deification of an existing human source.
• John Robertson, The Historical Jesus: A Survey of Positions.
• John Robertson, The Jesus Problem: A Restatement of the Myth Theory.
• G. A. van Eysinga, Voorchristelijk Christendom; de voorbereiding van het evangelie in de Hellenistische wereld.
• A. Von Harnack Reconstructs Marcion’s Apostolicon.
• Arthur Drews, The Gospel of Mark as Witness against the Historicity of Jesus (Das Markusevangelium als Zeugnis gegen die Geschichtlichkeit Jesu). GMk is a poetic retelling of the astral mythical journey of the sun god dressed in Tanakh robes… The order of the tales strictly follows the astral-mythical cycle. Mark’s gospel is of astral-Gnostic origin and dates to the middle of the second century CE.
• Arthur Drews, The Starry Sky in the Poetry and Religion of Ancient Peoples and Christianity: An Introduction to Astral Mythology (“Der Sternhimmel in der Dichtung und Religion der alten Völker und des Christentums: Eine Einführung in die Astralmythologie”).
• (Myth) PAUL-LOUIS COUCHOUD. The Enigma of Jesus (intro. by James Frazer). This is only the first step in Couchoud’s exegesis, as his most important works appeared after 1926. Couchoud received degrees both in medicine and in philosophy. Between 1925 and 1939 he was the de facto leader of the French rationalist school as regards the history of religion. Couchoud was influenced by Arthur Drews and accepted the genuineness of the Pauline letters, “at least in their shorter, Marcionite editions.” Couchoud argued that Marcion penned 2 Thessalonians and Ephesians (known originally as Laodiceans), that he also wrote the first gospel after the Bar Kochba revolt (133 CE), and that Marcion lived to see other gospels expand upon his own. [Dedicated onsite page.]
• Arthur Drews, The Origin of Christianity in Gnosticism. For Drews, Gnosticism is undeniably pre-Christian and has both Jewish and gentile roots. The Wisdom of Solomon already contained Gnostic elements and prototypes for the Jesus of the Gospels: God is no longer the Lord of righteous deeds but becomes the Good One. A clear pre-Christian Gnosticism can be distilled from the epistles of Paul, who is recklessly misunderstood by those who try to read into it any elements of a historical Jesus. The conversion of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles is a pure forgery inspired by various Tanakh passages. The pauline epistles are from the pens of Christian mystics dating to the middle of the second century. Paul is thus the strongest witness against the Historical Jesus hypothesis. GJohn’s Gnostic origin is more evident than that of the synoptics—the canonization of the Fourth Gospel proves that even the Church was not concerned with historical facts at all. (Main Drews entry above, year 1909.]
• (Skep) MAURICE GOGUEL, Jesus The Nazarene, Myth Or History? Son of a Lutheran pastor, Goguel became a Professor of History of Early Christianity in Paris. For him, the religion started as a mystery cult, with a hero of a recent date, a Jewish faith-healer who came to believe he was the Messiah and was executed by Pilate. Paul’s works are a confusing patchwork of ideas and remain unexplained.
• Arthur Drews, The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present (Klaus Schilling’s English summary). A historical review of some 35 major deniers of Jesus’ historicity, covering the period 1780-1926. This is Drews’ response to Schweitzer’s 1908 Quest.
• P.-L. Couchoud, Le Mystère de Jésus..
• (Skep) JOSEPH TURMEL, Les Lettres d’Ignace d’Antioche. This overlooked thinker has been called “the greatest historian of Christian dogma.” Turmel showed that the letters of Ignatius must be dated much later than is customary. Their earliest redaction is by Marcion and can be no earlier than 135 CE, while their revisions date to 190-211 CE. It follows that the works cited by Pseudo-Ignatius could have been edited late and, finally, that the bodily existence of Jesus was unknown in the second century of our era—at least among some Christians.
Turmel was ordained priest in 1882 and soon appointed professor of dogmatic theology at the Seminary of Rennes. His keen intellect and independent outlook led, however, to his secret existence as a non-believer while still in the cloth. Eventually the Church found him out and burned his manuscripts. Turmel continued to write in private and some of his work came to the attention of A. Loisy, who was instrumental in having Turmel’s works published under no less than fourteen pseudonyms from 1909 to 1930, at which time Turmel was finally excommunicated.
Turmel also illuminated Marcion’s role in relation to the Fourth Gospel, where a spiritual Christ opposes a physical one. He likewise made valuable observations regarding the Pauline literature, in which he was able to distinguish three stages: (1) short letters attributable to Paul; (2) Marcionite revisions; and (3) Catholic additions. [Dedicated onsite page.]
• (Trad) HENRY J. CADBURY, The Making of Luke-Acts. A staple of all Lucan studies.
• Arthur Drews, Die Marienmythe (“The Myth of Mary”). All the characters in Jesus’ family and entourage are as imaginary and fantastic as Jesus himself. Drews finds it mind-boggling that theologians have believed such patched-up constructions for centuries.
• P.-L. Couchoud, The First Edition of the Paulina (trans. P.-L. Fabry). Concludes that Marcion’s version of Paul (the Apostolicon) was first, and that Harnack had unknowingly but correctly reconstructed it. The New Testament version of the Pauline epistles is late.
• (Myth) G. A. BERGH VAN EYSINGA, “Does Jesus Live, or Has He Only Lived? A Study of the Doctrine of Historicity.” (Perhaps better translated: “Does Jesus Still Live, or Did he Ever Live?”) Van Eysinga endorses the view that the epistles of Clement and Ignatius of Antioch are not genuine. There is no evidence of the Pauline epistles before Marcion, and all were produced by the Marcionite circle. Paul’s epistles are full of incongruities and he does not sound Jewish (in opposition to Harnack). No evidence is found in them for the existence of Jesus the Messiah.
• (Semi-myth) DANIEL MASSÉ, The Enigma of Jesus Christ. Massé believed that Jesus was in fact John of Gamala, the son of Judas of Gamala. The true Nazareth was Gamala, where Jesus bar Judah was born. Massé viewed the gospels as deliberate efforts on the part of the Church to falsify history. For him, exegesis is a way in which ecclesiastics propagandize the masses.
• P.-L. Couchoud, L’Apocalypse. (“The Book of Revelation: A key to Christian origins.”)
• (Myth) PROSPER ALFARIC, The Problem of Jesus and Christian Origins written together with P.-L. Couchoud and A. Bayet. Alfaric grew up Catholic and was ordained priest in 1899, thereafter teaching philosophy in French seminaries. He gradually lost faith on intellectual grounds and sought out Alfred Loisy. Alfaric abandoned the priesthood in 1909 and resumed the study of the history of religions, receiving his doctorate (1919) and becoming chair of history of religions at the University of Strasbourg. His 1932 book led to his excommunication. Despite the erudition of Alfaric’s work, his mythicist theories are to be found only in the Bulletin of the Cercle Ernest Renan (which Alfaric co-founded in 1949), and in the Cahiers Rationalistes, the periodical of the Union Rationaliste. [Dedicated onsite page.]
• (Skep) CHARLES GUIGNEBERT, Jésus,. G. studied under Ernest Renan, doing his thesis on Tertullian. 1919-37 he chaired the History of Christianity faculty at the Sorbonne. “The gospels are texts of propaganda,” he wrote, “…to conform to the mythology of the era.” Yet G. did not deny the historicity of Jesus and even wrote against the mythicists of his day.
• A. Loisy, The Birth of the Christian Religion.
• A. Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament.
• Arthur Drews, Deutsche Religion: Grundzüge eines Gottesglaubens im Geiste des deutschen Idealismus, (“German religion: Principles of a Belief in God in the Spirit of German Idealism.” This was Drews’ last book, published the year he died at the age of 70.
• P.-L. Couchoud, The Creation of Christ (Jèsus le Dieu fait Homme”). A landmark study. An extensive series of commentaries by Neil Godfrey is here. (Main entry for Couchoud, year 1924.)
• (Myth) ÉDOUARD DUJARDIN, Ancient History Of The God Jesus in four volumes. Dujardin was regarded as “a partisan, along with Couchoud and Alfaric, of the non-historicity of Jesus.”
— The term mythicist for “one who denies the existence of Jesus” is first used by both A. D. Howell Smith and Archibald Robertson.
• (Skep) ARCHIBALD ROBERTSON (not to be confused with John Robertson, above year 1900), Jesus: Myth or History? Robertson’s father (same name) was Principal of King’s College, London and Bishop of Exeter. Robertson finds a middle ground between traditionalism and mythicism.
• G. A. van Eysinga, Das Christentum als Mysterienreligion (“Christianity as a Mystery Religion”). Argues that the Jesus movement started as a mystery cult.
• (Trad) C. H. DODD, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. “Wonderful tracing through of themes in the gospel, plus comprehensive introductions to Hermetic, Gnostic, Philonic, Qumran, and other influence-paradigms” (R. Price).
• (Semi-Myth) JOHN MARCO ALLEGRO, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of Christianity. Prof. Allegro, one of the original DSS team, had the courage to buck his teammates. Prescient in many ways, Allegro’s provocative proposals may not be all correct but they nevertheless attest to a remarkable scholar.
— The Library of the Late… G. A. Van Den Bergh Van Eysinga, a Collection of Modern Literature and Books on Various Subjects. [Auction at Utrecht, J. L. Beijers, on the 28th of January 1958.] Published by J.L. Beijiers, 53 pp.
• (Myth) GEORGES LAS VERGNAS, Did Jesus Christ Exist? (Jésus Christ a-t-il Existé?) Las Vergnas argues that the central figure of Christianity had no historical existence, not even as prophet or revolutionary.
• (Myth) GEORGES ORY, Le Christ et Jésus. Reviews the mythicist case and concludes that “Jesus Christ is a composite god.” Ory claimed that Jesus was the product of repeated fusions and contacts or borrowings from local religious sects, from which he never ceased to gain in both richness and complexity” (p. 251). Pp. 29-38 on the separate backgrounds of the names “Jesus” and “Christ” are available in translation here.
Ory studied in Paris where he received diplomas in liberal studies, political science, and a license to practice law. Active as a Freemason, Ory was also an active member of the Parti Radical (a centrist party despite its name). In 1949, together with Prosper Alfaric, Ory co-founded the Cercle Ernest Renan in Paris, which has been at the cutting edge of French Jesus-mythicism for over half a century and continues to publish quarterly Cahiers and to offer monthly lectures in Paris. Ory was also the principal religion contributor for the Dictionnaire Rationaliste (1964), an indispensable resource for liberal French trends in religion. Ory identified John the Baptist as the original Christian messiah. He further identified this figure with the Samaritan heresiarch Dositheus. Ory refused to identify the Essenes with the Dead Sea Sect. He supposed that Marcion had a disciple, Lucanus, who was ultimately responsible for the third gospel and who succeeded Marcion at the latter’s death. Lucanus led the Marcionite community in Rome and considered Christ a heavenly being. “Jesus” was a composite. [Dedicated onsite page.]
• (Trad) J. M. ROBINSON and H. KOESTER, Trajectories Through Early Christianity. “An amazing reshuffling of the NT puzzle pieces by following ‘heretical’ currents of Nag Hammadi back through the NT canon.” (R. Price)
• (Trad) RUDOLF BULTMANN, The Gospel of John: A Commentary.” “Amazing intuitive insight into John’s religious existentialism. Disengages Ecclesiastical Redactor’s padding from original Gnostic gospel. The greatest!” (R. Price)
• (Skep) THOMAS L. THOMPSON, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives. The author concludes that there simply is no historicity to those narratives.
• (Semi-Myth) GEORGE A. WELLS, Did Jesus Exist? Greatly influenced by Arthur Drews, Wells is a prolific writer and arguably the foremost mythicist representative in Europe today. Wells may be best characterized as a semi-mythicist, for he does not exclude the possibility that a prophet lay at the origins of Christianity, yet one with little in common with Jesus of Nazareth. Wells is a former Chairman of the Rationalist Press Association, with degrees in German, Philosophy, and natural science.
• (Trad) WALTER SCHMITHALS, The Apocalyptic Movement: Introduction and Interpretation. “Shows the kinship between Apocalypticism and Gnosticism as two moments along the same conceptual continuum. He demonstrates a Jewish, pre-Christian stage of Gnosticism” (R. Price).
• (Trad) KURT RUDOLPH, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism<. “Able exposition and defense of traditional (correct!) view of Gnosticism as a pre-Christian Jewish-syncretistic baptizing mysticism. Before ludicrous attempts of recent scholars to dismantle Gnosticism” (R. Price).
• J. M. Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. This is perhaps Allegro’s most important book. He draws not merely parallels but “actual identity of origin” between the Dead Sea Sect and Christianity(front flap). Allegro also identifies “Eastern Galilee”with the area around Qumran. (Initial entry for Allegro: 1957.)
• (Skep) THEODORE WEEDEN, Mark: Traditions in Conflict. “Important scrutiny of Mark as virtually Marcionite in his treatment of the twelve.” (R. Price)
• (Skep) R. JOSEPH HOFFMANN’S doctoral thesis, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity. Hoffmann has recently adopted a vocal and ascerbic anti-mythicist position on the internet. “Despite the energy of the myth school,” he writes, “it remains a quaint, curious, interesting but finally unimpressive assessment of the evidence… an agenda-driven waste of time… a quicksand of denial and half-cooked conspiracy theories that take skepticism and suspicion to a new low.”
• (Trad) ROBERT FUNK forms The Jesus Seminar, a consortium of 150 scholars.
• G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus.
• (Trad) PETER BROWN, The Body and Society. “Absorbingly interesting recounting and explanation of early Christian sexual asceticism. Wider repercussions [than you’d have] ever guess” (R. Price).
• (Skep) RANDEL HELMS, Gospel Fictions. Argues that the main gospel narrative source is the Septuagint.
• (Skep) ROBERT EISENMAN, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. A mammoth, labyrinthine book which places the Essenes, Jewish Christianity, and Pauline Christianity in controversial contexts based on Eisenman’s own primary research into the Dead Sea scrolls. Armed with a hermeneutic of suspicion, Eisenman shows us how to crack the codes of theological disinformation. Dr. Price’s review.
• (Skep) BURTON MACK, “A myth of Innocence.” Mark as largely fictional and anachronistic.
• (Myth) EARL DOHERTY, The Jesus Puzzle. Details the thesis that Jesus was an immaterial being executed in the spiritual realm. This book was subsequently greatly expanded (see 2009). “Doherty argues that Paul and other writers of the earliest existing proto-Christian Gnostic documents did not believe in Jesus as a person who incarnated on earth in an historical setting. Rather, they believed in Jesus as a heavenly being who suffered his sacrificial death in the lower spheres of heaven in the hands of the demon spirits, and was subsequently resurrected by God. This Christ myth was not based on a tradition reaching back to a historical Jesus, but on the Old Testament exegesis in the context of Jewish-Hellenistic religious syncretism heavily influenced by Middle Platonism, and what the authors believed to be mystical visions of a risen Jesus” (Wikipedia).
• George A. Wells. The Jesus Myth.
• (Semi-myth) ALVAR ELLEGARD. Jesus—One Hundred Years Before Christ: A Study In Creative Mythology. Ellegard argues that Jesus is to be identified with the Essene Teacher of Righteousness and actually lived a century before the common era, during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus.
• (Myth) T. FREKE and P. GANDY, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? A demonstration that there was very likely no historical Jesus, but that the character was based on a sectarian Jewish adaptation of pagan god-men such as Dionysus, Osiris, and Attis. Jesus began as an allegorization of the OT Joshua (himself perhaps a mythic version of King Josiah).
• (Skep) GERD LÜDEMANN, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did. Argues that only about five per cent of the sayings attributed to Jesus are genuine and the historical evidence does not support the claims of traditional Christianity. ‘The person of Jesus himself becomes insufficient as a foundation of faith once most of the New Testament statements about him have proved to be later interpretations by the community.’ As a result of this book Lüdemann’s research funding was cut and his teaching was no longer part of the Göttingen university curriculum.
• ROBERT M. FOWLER, Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. “The scales will fall from your eyes! Fowler unlocks Mark’s rhetorical technique of talking over the heads of his characters to his readers!” (R. Price)
• Gerd Lüdemann, Paul: The Founder of Christianity. Rejects the chronological sequence for Paul’s activities narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, which Lüdemann considers sheer fiction and heavily propagandistic in nature. Dr. Price’s review.
• (Myth) ROBERT M. PRICE. The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?”. With doctorates in theology and New Testament, Dr. Price is arguably the dean of contemporary American mythicists. He is formerly a Baptist minister in New Jersey but now describes himself as a religious skeptic and occasionally as a ‘Christian atheist.’ Price’s vast erudition, engaging personality, and prolific pen continue to buttress the scholarly argument against the historicity of Jesus.
Price challenges biblical literalism and argues for a more skeptical and humanistic approach to Christianity… Price supports a version of the Jesus myth hypothesis, suggesting that the early Christians adopted the model for the figure of Jesus from the popular Mediterranean dying-rising saviour myths of the time, such as that of Dionsus… Price suggests that Christianity simply adopted themes from the dying-rising god stories of the day and supplemented them with themes (escaping crosses, empty tombs, children being persecuted by tyrants, etc.) from the popular stories of the day in order to come up with the narratives about Christ. He has argued that there was an almost complete fleshing out of the details of the gospels by a Midrash (haggadah) rewriting of the Septuagint, Homer, Euripides’ Bacchae, and Josephus” (Wikipedia).
• (Myth) FRANK ZINDLER, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew. An exhaustive resumé and discussion of ancient Jewish records, none of which attest to a historical Jesus who was born about the turn of the era. Zindler has been Editor of American Atheists magazine, and also interim president of that organization. He works as a linguist and has been a biology, psychobiology, and geology professor. Zindler has edited and translated numerous books. In addition, he has written, spoken, and debated extensively on Biblical history, creationism and evolution, and the historicity of Jesus. Now in his seventies, he continues active as translator, writer, and editor.
• (Myth) TOM HARPUR, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Canadian New Testament scholar and ex-Anglican priest re-states the ideas of Kuhn, Higgins and Massey. Jesus is a myth and all of the essential ideas of Christianity originated in Egypt. Dr. Price’s review.
• Robert Eisenman (prior entry: 1997). The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ. A difficult, massive, but ultimately rewarding read. Eisenman maintains that the Dead Sea Scrolls clearly stem from the mid to late first century CE. Price writes: “Teicher was right. Eisenman is right. The Scrolls are the legacy of the Jerusalem Christians led by the Heirs of Jesus: James the Just, Simeon bar Cleophas, and Judas Thomas. The Teacher of Righteous was James the Just (though Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Personages of Earliest Christianity, 2004, may be right: as per Barbara Thiering, John the Baptist may have been the first to hold that office, with James as his successor). The Spouter of Lies who ‘repudiated the Torah in the midst of the congregation’ was Paul. It was he who ‘founded a congregation on lies,’ namely the tragically misled ‘Simple of Ephraim,’ converts from among the Gentile God-fearers who knew no better. The Wicked Priest was Ananus ben Ananus, whom Josephus credits with lynching James on the Day of Atonement… Eisenman’s monumental work stands as a new milestone in the progress of New Testament research.” Dr. Price’s review.
• Robert Price. Jesus Is Dead. This is a provocative collection “of some of my best writing and thinking on the resurrection (and in a couple of cases, closely related issues).”
• (Semi-Myth) RENÉ SALM. The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. Presents an exhaustive review of the primary archaeological evidence from the Nazareth basin and concludes that the town came into existence between the two Jewish revolts. Salm received undergraduate degrees in Music and German, and was active as a composer and keyboardist for a number of years. Interest in religion began in early adulthood and led to independent study of Buddhism and then Christianity, including occasional post-graduate coursework. Salm considers himself an Atheist, a Buddhist, and (in an ethical rather than doctrinal sense) a Christian . He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and maintains several websites. He is pursuaded that Jesus of Nazareth is a pure invention as regards all biographical particulars, but suspects that a prophet may have lived several generations before the turn of the era, one who inspired the gnostic religion known as Mandeism and (though considerable perversion) Pauline Christianity.
• Earl Doherty, Jesus Neither God nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus. This is a greatly expanded revision of the author’s 1999 book (see above). “…[O]ffers an increased depth of evidence and argumentation in virtually every area of my original case as presented in The Jesus Puzzle, published ten years ago this week (October 1999). There are whole chapters devoted to specific topics, such as Galatians 4:4’s ‘born of woman,’ the usages and meanings of phrases involving the term ‘flesh’ (as in kata sarka), the Epistle to the Hebrews and its statement that Jesus had never been on earth, many facets of ancient salvation mythology and views of the spiritual world both Hellenistic and Jewish, Gnosticism, the existence of Q, the Gospels as midrash and allegory” (from Doherty’s website).
• George A. Wells. Cutting Jesus Down to Size: What Higher Criticism Has Achieved and Where It Leaves Christianity.
• R. Joseph Hoffmann, ed. Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth.
• Robert Price. The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems.
• (Myth) RICHARD CARRIER. Proving history: Bayes’s theorem and the quest for the historical Jesus.
• (Trad) BART D. EHRMAN, Did Jesus Exist? This book is the first book-length rebuttal of the mythicist thesis by a noted American scholar. It is written with the layperson in mind rather than the scholar. Mythicist reaction to the book has been extensive, quick, and uniformly negative, the overall impression being that this book is an inferior effort by Ehrman.
• (Myth) THOMAS BRODIE. Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. In this book, the 76-year old Brodie drops the bombshell that he has been a Jesus mythicist since the 1970s: Jesus is a literary character who did not exist as a historical person at all. Brodie, an Irish Dominican priest, counters Ehrman’s 2012 book, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. Brodie may hold the palm for being the first scholar from within academe to openly espouse the Jesus mythicist thesis. After appearance of his book, Brodie was forbidden by the Church from teaching.