The belief that Jesus was a fictional character borrowed from ancient mythology is a popular one. Critics often claim that Jesus is no different from other dying and rising gods like Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and Mithras. Those who hold this position are known as “mythicists.” For anyone willing to sacrifice scholarly integrity and objectivity, you can join the tiny fraternity of those who doubt the historical existence of Jesus, too. All you need to do is follow these twelve easy steps:
- Scorn everything written by Christians, whether by ancient writers or modern scholars. Assume every believer is hopelessly biased and every mythicist is indisputably objective.
- Ignore or dismiss the work of accomplished classicists and historians. Instead, rely primarily on the work of unqualified hobbyists with little training in history, archaeology, or ancient languages.
- Throw everything we know about ancient historiography out the window and treat Christianity as a unique case. The greater the double standard, the better.
- Reject the Bible as a source on the grounds that it contains the supernatural, but admit any other ancient, non-Christian text whether it mentions the supernatural or not.
- Refuse to examine the original myths, instead preferring to rely upon summaries written by mythicists over a hundred years ago before scholars analyzed these texts to any great degree.
- Label the births of pagan gods as “virgin” regardless of the circumstances of conception.
- Label the deaths of pagan gods as crucifixions despite their actual manner of death (or non-death).
- Pay no attention to chronological concerns. Treat Christianity as if it alone was influenced by other religions despite evidence that the opposite was often the case.
- Dismiss any evidence from historical texts in favor of Christianity as interpolations from Christian authors (Josephus and other Roman historians like Tacitus and Suetonius are popular targets).
- Claim the apostle Paul knew nothing of a historical Jesus in spite of the dozens of references to Christ in his epistles.
- Claim Christianity was little more than an ancient mystery religion even though there are no clear parallels between the two or any evidence of borrowing on the part of early Christians.
- When in doubt, treat all evidence that undermines the mythicist position as irrelevant.
With these steps, you, too, can join the half-dozen scholars who hold the mythicist position. It is a minuscule but proud group of fringe thinkers who hold their heads high in the face of the tens of thousands of other scholars around the world who hold the consensus view that Jesus was indeed a historical figure.