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Full text of "The Christ myth"

THE CHRIST MYTH 

By ARTHUR DREWS 

* 


II """ ;•'••" 



V v,. 




V 



THE CHRIST MYTH, 



UNWIN'S THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY 

Crown 8vo, cloth, 5/- per volume. 
(Inland postage, 4d.) 

i. Religion and Historic Faiths. By Otto 
Pfleiderer, D.D. 

2. Christian Origins. By Otto Pfleiderer, D.D. 

3. What is Religion ? By Professor W. Bousset. 

4. The Bible as English Literature. By Professor 
J. H. Gardiner. 

5. The Programme of Modernism. Translated from 
the Italian by Father Tyrrell. 

6. Christ and the Nation. Westminster and other 
Sermons. By Canon Hensley Henson. 

7. Thursday Mornings at the City Temple. By the 

Rev. R. J. Campbell. 

8. Modernism : The Jowett Lectures, 1908. By 

Paul Sabatier. 

9. The Papacy : the Idea and its Exponents. By 

Professor Gustav Krüger. 

10. The Development of Christianity. By Otto 
Pfleiderer, D.D. 

11. The Religion of Israel. By Alfred Loisy. 
Translated by Arthur Galton. 

On Sale at all Booksellers. 

T. FISHER UNWIN, 1 Adelphi Terrace, London. 



THE CHRIST MYTH 



BY 



ARTHUR DREWS, Ph.D. 

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE 
TECHN. HOCHSCHULE, KARLSRUHE 



TRANSLATED FROM THE THIRD 
EDITION (REVISED AND ENLARGED) 

BY C. DELISLE BURNS, M.A. 



T. FISHER UNWIN 

LONDON: i ADELPHI TERRACE 
LEIPZIC : INSELSTRASSE 20 



1141 



{All rights reserved.) 



TO 

MY FRIEND 

WILHELM VON SCHNEHEN 



r/ 



PREFACE TO THE FIRST AND 
SECOND EDITIONS 



.•d 



SINCE David Frederick Strauss, in his "Life of 
Jesus," attempted for the first time to trace the 
Gospel stories and accounts of miracles back to myths 
and pious fictions, doubts regarding the existence of 
an historical Jesus have never been lulled to rest. Bruno 
Bauer also in his "Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte 
und der Synoptiker" (1841-42, 2nd ed. 1846),* disputed 
the historical existence of Jesus ; later, in his " Christ 
und die Cäsaren, der Ursprung des Christentums aus 
dem römischen Griechentum" (1877), he attempted to 
show that the life of Jesus was a pure invention of 
the first evangelist, Mark, and to account for the whole 
Christian religion from the Stoic and Alexandrine culture 
of the second century, ascribing to Seneca especially a 
material influence upon the development of the Christian 
point of view. But it was reserved for the present day, 
encouraged by the essentially negative results of the 
so-called critical theology, to take up the subject ener- 
getically, and thereby to attain to results even bolder 
and more startling. 

In England John M. Robertson, in "Christianity and 

Mythology" (1900), in " A Short History of Christianity" 

(1902), as well as in his work "Pagan Christs: Studies in 

Comparative Hierology " (1903), has traced the picture 

* Cf. also his " Kritik der Evangelien," 2 vols. (1850-51). 

7 



8 PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

of Christ in the Gospels to a mixture of mythological 
elements in heathenism and Judaism. 

In France, as early as the end of the eighteenth 
century, Dupuis ("L'origine de tous les cultes " (1795) 
and Voltaire ("Les Euines," 1791) traced back the 
essential points of the history of the Christian redemp- 
tion to astral myths, while Emile Burnouf (" La science 
des religions," 4th ed., 1885) and Hochart ("Etudes 
d'histoire religieuse," 1890) collected important mate- 
rial for the clearing up of the origin of Christianity, 
and by their results cast considerable doubt upon the 
existence of an historical Christ. 

In Italy Milesbo (Emilio Bossi) has attempted to 
prove the non-historicity of Jesus in his book " Gesü 
Christo non e mai esistito " (1904). 

In Holland the Leyden Professor of Philosophy, 
Bolland, handled the same matter in a series of works 
(" Het hij den en Sterven van Jezus Christus," 1907 ; 
" De Achtergrond der Evangelien. Eene Bijdrage tot 
de kennis van de Wording des Christendoms," 1907; 
" De evangelische Jozua. Eene poging tot aanwijzing 
van den oorsprong des Christendoms," 1907). 

In Poland the mythical character of the story of Jesus 
has been shown by Andrzej Niemojewski in his book 
" Bog Jezus " (1909), which rests on the astral-mytho- 
logical theories of Dupuis and the school of Winckler. 

In Germany the Bremen Pastor Kalthoff, in his work, 
" Das Christusproblem, Grundlinien zu einer Sozial- 
theologie " (1903), thought that the appearance of the 
Christian religion could be accounted for without the 
help of an historical Jesus, simply from a social move- 
ment of the lower classes under the Empire, subsequently 
attempting to remove the one-sidedness of this view 
by his work " Die Entstehung des Christentums. Neue 
Beiträge zum Christusproblem" (1904). (Cf. also his 



AND SECOND EDITIONS 9 

work " Was wissen wir von Jesus ? Eine Abrechnung 
mit Professor D. Bousset," 1904.) A supplement to the 
works of Kalthoff in question is furnished by Fr. Steudel 
in " Das Christusproblem und die Zukunft des Pro- 
testantismus " (Deutsche Wiedergeburt, 1909). 

Finally, the American, William Benjamin Smith, in his 
work, "The Pre-Christian Jesus" (1906), has thrown so 
clear a light upon a number of important points in the rise 
of Christianity, and elucidated so many topics which give 
us a deeper insight into the actual correlation of events, that 
we gradually commence to see clearly in this connection. 

" The time is passed," says Jülicher, " when among 
the learned the question could be put whether an ' his- 
torical' Jesus existed at all."* The literature cited does 
not appear to justify this assertion. On the contrary, that 
time seems only commencing. Indeed, an unprejudiced 
judge might find that even Jiilicher's own essay, in which 
he treated of the so-called founder of the Christian religion 
in the " Kultur der Gegenwart," and in which he declared 
it " tasteless " to look upon the contents of the Gospels 
as a myth, speaks rather against than for the historical 
reality of Jesus. For the rest, official learning in 
Germany, and especially theology, has, up to the 
present, remained, we may almost say, wholly unmoved 
by all the above-mentioned publications. To my mind 
it has not yet taken up a serious position regarding 
Robertson. Its sparing citations of his " Pagan Christs " 
do not give the impression that there can be any talk of 
its having a real knowledge of his expositions, t 

* " Kultur d. Gegenwart : Gesch. d. christl. Eeligion," 2nd ed., 
1909, 47. 

f The same is true of Clemen, who, judging by his " Eeligions- 
geschichtl. Erklärung d. N.T." (1909), appears to be acquainted 
with Eobertson's masterpiece, " Christianity and Mythology," only 
from a would-be witty notice of Seville, and furthermore only cites 
the author when he thinks he can demolish him with ease. 



io PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

It has, moreover, passed Kalthoff over with the mien 
of a better informed superiority or preferably with silent 
scorn, and up to the present it has avoided with care any 
thoroughgoing examination of Smith.* And yet such 
a distinguished theologian as Professor Paul Schmiedel, 
of Zürich, who furnished a foreword to Smith's work, laid 
such an examination upon his colleagues as a " duty of 
all theologians making any claim to a scientific temper," 
and strongly warned them against any under-estimation 
of Smith's highly scientific work ! " How can one then 
confidently stand by his former views," Schmiedel cries 
to his theological colleagues, "unless he investigates 
whether they have not in whole or in part been under- 
mined by these new opinions ? Or is it a question of 
some secondary matter merely, and not rather of exactly 
what for the majority forms the fundamental part of their 
Christian conviction ? But if these new opinions are so 
completely futile, then it must be an easy matter, indeed 
a mere nothing, to show this." 

In the meantime there are many voices which speak 
out against the existence of an historical Jesus. In wide 
circles the doubt grows as to the historical character of 
the picture of Christ given in the Gospels. Popular 
works written with a purpose, such as the investigations 
of the Frenchman Jacolliot, worked up by Plange into 
"Jesus ein Inder " (1898), have to serve to alleviate this 

* A. Hausrath, in his work " Jesus u. die neutestamentlichen 
Schriftsteller," vol. i. (1908), offers a striking example of how light a 
matter our theologians make it to overthrow the attacks of the 
opponents of an historical Jesus. In scarcely three pages at the com- 
mencement of his compendious work he rejects the myth theory of 
Bruno Bauer with the favourite appeal to a few individual and 
historical features of the Gospel tradition which are intrinsically 
of no significance, finishing up this " refutation " with a reckless 
citation from Weinel which proves nothing for the historical char- 
acter of Jesus. 



AND SECOND EDITIONS u 

thirst for knowledge and confuse views more than they 
clear them. In a short work, "Die Entstehung des 
Christentums " (1905), Promus has afforded a brief 
rSsumS of the most important matter bearing on the 
point, without any working up of it on its own 
account, and attacked the existence of an historical 
Jesus. Lately Karl Voller, the prematurely deceased 
Jena Orientalist, in his valuable work, " Die Weltreli- 
gionen in ihrem geschichtlichen Zusammenhange " (1907), 
voiced the opinion " that weighty reasons favour this 
radical myth interpretation, and that no absolutely 
decisive arguments for the historicity of the person of 
Jesus can be brought forward " (op. cit. i. 163). 

Another Orientalist, P. Jensen, in his work "Das 
Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur ' (1906), even 
thinks that he can show that both the main lines of the 
Old Testament story and the whole narrative of the 
life of Jesus given in the Gospels are simply variations of 
the Babylonian Gilgamesch Epic (about 2000 B.c.), and 
consequently a pure myth.* 

While criticism of the Gospel documents is advancing 
more boldly and always leaving in existence less of an 
historical Jesus, the number of works in popular re- 
ligious literature intended to glorify Jesus the man grows 
enormously. These endeavour to make up for the 
deficiency in certain historical material by sentimental 
phrases and the deep tone of conviction ; indeed, the 
rhetoric which is disseminated with this design t seems 
to find more sympathy in proportion as it works with less 
historical restraint. And yet learning as such has long 
come to the point when the historical Jesus threatens to 
disappear from under its hands. The latest results in the 

* Cf. also his work " Moses, Jesus, Paulus. Drei sagen Varianten 
des babylonischen Gottmenschen Gilgamesch," 2nd ed., 1909. 

f Cf., for example, " Jesus Vier Vorträge, geh. in Frankf." 1910. 



12 PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

province of Oriental mythology and religion, the advances 
in the comparative history of religion, that are associated 
in England with the names of Frazer and Eobertson 
especially, and in Germany with those of Winckler, 
Jeremias, Gunkel, Jensen, &c, have so much increased 
our knowledge of the religious position of Nearer Asia in 
the last century before Christ, that we are no longer 
obliged to rely exclusively upon the Gospels and the other 
books of the New Testament for the rise of Christianity.* 
The critical and historical theology of Protestantism has 
itself thrown so deep a light upon the origins of the 
Christian religion that the question as to the historical 

* In other respects the "progress" in the province of religious 
history is not so great as I formerly believed I could assume. That 
is to say, in essentials modern learning in this connection has only 
brought facts to light and given a new focus to points of view which 
were already possessed (cf. Dupuis and Volney) by the eighteenth 
century. In the twenties and forties of the nineteenth century 
investigations, unprejudiced and independent of theology, had already 
reached in the case of some of their representatives, such as Grfrorer, 
Lützelberger, Ghillany, Nork, and others, the point which is 
to-day again represented by the most advanced learning. The revo- 
lution of 1848 and the reaction consequent on it in ecclesiastical 
matters then again shook, on account of their radical tendency, those 
views which had been already arrived at. The liberal Protestantism, 
too, that rose as a recoil against orthodoxy in its effort to work out 
the " historical " Jesus as the kernel of Christianity on its part had no 
interest in again bringing up the old results. Indeed, it actually makes 
it a reproach to a person of the present day if he quotes the works of 
those earlier investigators, and reminds him that religious learning did 
not begin only with the modern Coryphaei, with Holtzman, Harnack, 
&c. Whoever looks upon things from this point of view can most 
probably agree in the melancholy reflection of a reviewer of the first 
edition of " The Christ Myth," when he says with reference to the 
"latest investigations " : " Apparently the whole learning of the nine- 
teenth century so far as relates to investigations into the moving 
forces of civilisation and national upheavals will be considered by 
future research as an arsenal of errors" (0. Hauser in the Neue 
Freie Presse, August 8, 1909). 



AND SECOND EDITIONS 13 

existence of Jesus loses all paradox which hitherto may 
have attached to it in the eyes of many. So, too, Pro- 
testant theology no longer has any grounds for becoming 
excited if the question is answered in a sense opposed 
to its own answer. 

The author of the present work had hoped until 
lately that one of the historians of Christianity would 
himself arise and extract the present results of the 
criticisms of the Gospel, which to-day are clear. These 
hopes have not been fulfilled. On the contrary, in theo- 
logical circles religious views continue to be quietly 
drawn from the "fact" of an historical Jesus, and he 
is considered as the impassable height in the religious 
development of the individual, as though nothing has 
occurred and the existence of such a Jesus was only 
the more clearly established by the investigations of 
critical theology in this connection. The author has 
accordingly thought that he should no longer keep 
back his own views, which he long since arrived at 
out of the works of specialists, and has taken upon 
himself the thankless task of bringing together the 
grounds which tell against the theory of an historical 
Jesus. 

Whoever, though not a specialist, invades the province 
of any science, and ventures to express an opinion 
opposed to its official representatives, must be pre- 
pared to be rejected by them with anger, to be 
accused of a lack of scholarship, " dilettantism," or 
"want of method," and to be treated as a complete 
ignoramus. This has been the experience of all up to 
now who, while not theologians, have expressed them- 
selves on the subject of an historical Jesus. The like 
experience was not spared the author of the present work 
after the appearance of its first edition. He has been 
accused of "lack of historical training," "bias," "in- 



14 PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

capacity for any real historical way of thinking," &c, 
and it has been held up against him that in his inves- 
tigations their result was settled beforehand — as if this 
was not precisely the case with theologians, who write 
on the subject of a historical Jesus, since it is just the 
task of theology to defend and establish the truth of 
the New Testament writings. Whoever has looked 
about him in the turmoil of science knows that generally 
each fellow- worker is accustomed to regard as " method " 
that only which he himself uses as such, and that the 
famous conception of " scientific method " is very often 
ruled by points of view purely casual and personal. * 

* It has also been reckoned as a want of "method" in this 
work that I have often made use of a cautious and restrained mode 
of expression, that I have spoken of mere "suppositions" and em- 
ployed locutions such as " it appears," &c, when it has been for the 
time being impossible for science or myself to give complete certainty 
to an assertion. This reproach sounds strange in the mouths of 
such as plume themselves upon "scientific method." For I should 
think that it was indeed more scientific in the given cases to express 
oneself in the manner chosen by me, than by an unmeasured cer- 
tainty in assertions to puff out pure suppositions into undoubted 
facts. I must leave such a mode of proceeding to the historical 
theologians. They work purely with hypotheses. All their en- 
deavours to obtain an historical kernel from the Gospels rest upon 
conjectures simply. Above everything, their explanation of the 
origin of Christianity simply from an historical Jesus is, in spite of 
the certainty and self-confidence with which it comes out, a pure 
hypothesis, and that of very doubtful value. For that in reality the 
new religion should have been called into life by the " all-subduing 
influence of the personality of Jesus " and its accompaniments, the 
visions and hallucinations of the disciples worked up into ecstasies, 
is so improbable, and the whole view is psychologically so assailable, 
and, moreover, so futile, that even a liberal theologian like Gunkel 
declares it entirely insufficient (" Zum religionsgesichtl. Ver- 
ständnis d. N.T.," 89 sq.). With this explanation, however, stands 
or falls the whole modern Jesus-religion. For if they cannot show 
how the Pauline and Johannine Christology could develop from the 
mere existence of an historical Jesus, if this now forms " the problem 
of problems of New testament research " (Gunkel, op. cit.), then their 



AND SECOND EDITIONS 15 

Thus, for example, we see the theologian Clemen, in his 
investigation into the method of explaining the New 
Testament on religious-historical lines, seriously put the 
question to himself whether one " could not dispense 
himself from refuting such books as finally arrive at the 
unauthenticity of all the Pauline epistles and the non- 
historicity of the whole, or at least of almost the whole, 
tradition concerning Jesus ; for example, not only that 
of Bauer, but also those of Jensen and Smith." This 
same Clemen advances the famous methodological axiom : 
"An explanation on religious-historical lines is impos- 
sible if it of necessity leads to untenable conse- 
quences or sets out from such hypotheses," * obviously 
thinking here of the denial of an historical Christ. For 
the rest, the "method " of " critical theology" consists, 
as is well known, in applying an already settled picture 
of Jesus to the Gospels and undertaking the critical 
sifting of their contents according to this measure. This 
picture makes the founder of the Christian religion 
merely a pious preacher of morality in the sense of 
present-day liberalism, the " representative of the noblest 
individuality," the incarnation of the modern ideal of 
personality, or of some other fashionable theological view. 
Theologians commence with the conviction that the 
historical Jesus was a kind of "anticipation of modern 
religious consciousness." They think that they discern 
the real historical import of the Gospels in their " moral- 
religious kernel " so far as this is good for all time, and 
they arrive in this manner at its " strictly scientific 
conception" of Jesus by casting out all such features as 

whole conception of the rise of Christianity disappears into air, and 
they have no right to hold up against others who seek a better ex- 
planation the partially hypothetical, character of the views advanced 
by them. 

* Op. cit., 10 sq. 



i6 PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

do not fit this picture, thus recognising only the " ever- 
lasting human " and the " modern " as historical.* 

* Cf. K. Dunkmann, " Der historische Jesus, der mythologische 
Christus, und Jesus der Christ" (1910). Cf. also Pfleiderer, "Das 
Christusbild des urehristlichen Glaubens in religionsgeschichtlicher 
Beleuchtung" (1903), 6 sq. Here, too, it is pointed out that 
modern scientific theology in its description of the figure of Christ 
proceeds in anything but an unprejudiced manner. Out of the belief 
in Christ as contained in the New Testament it " only draws forth 
what is acceptable to present modes of thinking — passing over 
everything else and reading in much that is its own — in order to 
construct an ideal Christ according to modern taste." Pfleiderer 
declares it a " great illusion " to believe that the pictures of Christ in 
works such as Harnack's " Wesen des Christentums," each differently 
drawn according to the peculiarities of their composers, but all 
more or less in the modern style, are the result of scientific historical 
research, and are related to the old conceptions of Christ like truth 
to error. "One should," he says, " be reasonable and honourable 
enough to confess that both the modern and the antique conceptions 
of Christ are alike creations of the common religious spirit of their 
times and sprung from the natural need of faith to fix its special prin- 
ciple in a typical figure and to illustrate it. The differences between 
the two correspond to the differences of the times, the former a 
simple mythical Epic, the latter a sentimental and conscious 
Romance." In the same sense Alb. Schweitzer also characterises the 
famous " method " of historical theology as "a continual experi- 
mentation according to settled hypotheses in which the leading 
thought rests in the last resort upon an intuition " (" Von Eeimarus bis 
Wrede," 1906). Indeed, Weinel himself, who cannot hold up against 
the author with sufficient scorn his lack of method and his 
dilettantism has to confess that the same blemishes which in his 
opinion characterise dilettantism are to be found even in the most 
prominent representatives of historical theology, in a Wrede or a 
Wellhausen. He reproaches both of these with the fact that in 
their researches " serious faults of a general nature and in method " 
are present (21). He advises the greatest prudence in respect to 
Wellhausen's Gospel Commentaries " on account of their serious 
general blemishes " (26). He objects to Wrede that to be consistent 
he must himself go over to radical dilettantism (22). He charges 
Schweitzer actually with dilettantism and blind bias which cause 
every literary consideration to be lacking (25 sq.). Indeed, he 
finds himself, in face of the "dilettante endeavours" to deny the 



AND SECOND EDITIONS 17 

If one keeps this before his eyes he will not be 
particularly moved by the talk about "method" and 
"lack of scientific system." One could then at most 
wonder that it should be forbidden to philosophers 
particularly to have a say in theological matters. As 
though the peace at present reigning between philosophy 
and theology and their mutual efforts at a rapprochement 
did not clearly indicate that upon one of the two sides, 
or upon both, something cannot be in order, and that 
consequently it was high time, if no one else undertakes 
it, for a philosopher to notice theology in order to 
terminate the make-believe peace which is for both so 
fateful. For what does Lessing say ? " With orthodoxy 
God be thanked one had arrived at a tolerable under- 
standing. Between it and philosophy a partition had 
been raised behind which each could continue its way 
without hindering the other. But what is now being 
done ? The partition is again being demolished, and 
under the pretext of making us reasonable Christians 
we are being made unreasonable philosophers." 

historical Jesus, compelled even to admit that liberal theology for 
the future " must learn to express itself with more caution and to 
exhibit more surely the method of religious historical comparison " 
(14). He blames Gunkel for imprudence in declaring Christianity 
to be a syncretic religion, and demands that the historical works of 
liberal theology " should be clearer in their results and more con- 
vincing in their methods " (16). He says that the method which 
they employ is at present not sure and clear enough since " it has 
been spoken of generally in very loose if not misleading terms," and 
he confesses : " We have apparently not made the measure, according 
to which we decide upon what is authentic and what not so in the 
tradition, so plain that it can always be recognised with security " 
(29). Now, if matters are in such a position, we non-theologians 
need not take too tragically the reproach of dilettantism and lack 
of scientific method, since it appears very much as though historical 
theology, with the exception at most of Herr Weinel, has no sure 
method. 



4 



1 8 PREFACE TO THE FIRST 

The author of this book has been reproached with 
following in it tendencies merely destructive. Indeed, 
one guardian of Zion, particularly inflamed with rage, 
has even expressed himself to this effect, that the author's 
researches do not originate in a serious desire for know- 
ledge, but only in a wish to deny. One who, as I have 
done, has in all his previous work emphasised the 
positive nature of the ethical and religious life against 
the denying and destroying spirit of the age, who has 
in his work "Die Eeligion als Sebst-Bewusstein Gottes" 
(1906) sought to build up anew from within the 
shattered religious outlook upon the world, who in the 
last chapter of the present work has left no doubt 
remaining that he regards the present falling away of 
religious consciousness as one of the most important 
phenomena of our spiritual life and as a misfortune 
for our whole civilisation, should be protected against 
such reproaches. In reality, " The Christ Myth " has 
been written pre-eminently in the interests of re- 
ligion, from the conviction that its previous forms 
no longer suffice for men of to-day, that above all the 
" Jesuanism " of historical theology is in its deepest 
nature irreligious, and that this itself forms the greatest 
hindrance to all real religious progress. I agree with 
E. v. Hartmann and W. v. Schnehen in the opinion 
that this so-called Christianity of the liberal pastors is in 
every direction full of internal contradiction, that it is 
false through and through (in to saying naturally no 
individual representative of this movement is accused of 
subjective untruthfulness). I agree that by its moving 
rhetoric and its bold appearance of being scientific it is 
systematically undermining the simple intellectual truth- 
fulness of our people ; and that on this account this 
romantic cult of Jesus must be combated at all costs, 
but that this cannot be done more effectually than by 



AND SECOND EDITIONS 19 

taking its basis in the theory of the historical Jesus * 
from beneath its feet. 

This work seeks to prove that more or less all the 
features of the picture of the historical Jesus, at any rate 
all those of any important religious significance, bear a 
purely mythical character, and no opening exists for 
seeking an historical figure behind the Christ myth. It 
is not the imagined historical Jesus but, if any one, Paul 
who is that " great personality " that called Christianity 
into life as a new religion, and by the speculative range 
of his intellect and the depth of his moral experience 
gave it the strength for its journey, the strength which 
bestowed upon it victory over the other competing 
religions. Without Jesus the rise of Christianity can be 
quite well understood, without Paul not so. If in spite of 
this any one thinks that besides the latter a Jesus also 
cannot be dispensed with, this can naturally not be 
opposed ; but we know nothing of this Jesus. Even in 
the representations of historical theology he is scarcely 
more than the shadow of a shadow. Consequently it is 
self-deceit to make the figure of this " unique " and 
" mighty " personality, to which a man may believe he 
must on historical grounds hold fast, the central point of 
religious consciousness. Jesus Christ may be great and 
worthy of reverence as a religious idea, as the symbolical 
personification of the unity of nature in God and man, on 
the belief in which the possibility of the "redemption" 
depends. As a purely historical individual, as liberal 
theology views him, he sinks back to the level of other 
great historical personalities, and from the religious point 
of view is exactly as unessential as they, indeed, more 

* Cf. W. v. Schnehen, " Der moderne Jesuskultus," 2nd ed., 
1907, p. 41, a work with which even a Pfleiderer has agreed in the 
main points ; also the same author's " Fr. Naumann vor dem Bankrott 
des Christentums," 1907. 



20 PREFACE FIRST AND SECOND EDITIONS 

capable of being dispensed with than they, for in spite of 
all rhetoric he is in the light of historical theology of 
to-day, even at best only " a figure swimming obscurely 
in the mists of tradition." * 

PEOFESSOE DE. AETHUE DEEWS. 
Karlsrühe, January, 1910. 

* The excursus on " The Legend of Peter " which was contained in 
the first edition of this work, and there appears to have been rather 
misunderstood, has recently (1910) appeared more closely worked out 
and reasoned in an independent form in the Neuer Frankfurter 
Verlag under the title " Die Petrus Legende. Ein Beitrag zur 
Mythologie des Christentums." 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 

THE time since the appearance of the second edition 
was too short for any material alterations to be 
undertaken in the third edition now appearing. How- 
ever, the phraseology here and there has been improved 
and many things put more strongly. Above all, the 
famous passage in Tacitus and the passage 1 Cor. ii. 23 
et seq. has been so handled that its lack of significance as 
regards the existence of an historical Jesus should now 
appear more clearly than hitherto. That Paul in reality 
is not a witness for an historical Jesus and is wrongly 
considered as the " foundation " of the faith in such a 
figure, should be already established for every un- 
prejudiced person as the result of the discussion so far 
on the " Christ Myth." The Protestantenblatt finds itself 
now compelled to the admission that the historical image 
of the person of Jesus as a matter of fact " can no 
longer be clearly recognised " (No. 6, 1910). How 
then does it fare with the new " bases " of Schmiedel ? 
To no refutation of the assertions which I represent has 
greater significance been hitherto ascribed on the theo- 
logical side than to those supposed supports of a " really 
scientific life of Jesus" (in the discussions of "the 
Christ Myth" this has again received the strongest 
expression). And yet these bases were advanced by their 
originator obviously with a view to a conception quite 
different from mine, and, as I have now shown, do not 



21 



22 PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 

affect, generally speaking, the view represented by me 
regarding the rise of the supposed historical picture of 
Jesus. When, above all, the "historical references to 
Jesus " are supposed to be contained in them, and these, 
according to the Protestantenblatt, lie " like blocks of 
granite " in my path — then this is a pure illusion of the 
theologians. 

As can be conceived, my assertion that a pre-Christian 
cult of Jesus existed has found the most decisive rejec- 
tion. This, however, is for the most part only due to 
the fact that the researches in this connection of the 
American, Smith, and the Englishman, Kobertson, were 
not known, and, moreover, the opinion was held that one 
need not trouble about these " foreigners," who further 
were not " specialists." And yet Gunkel, in his work 
" Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verständnis des Neuen 
Testaments," had already sufficiently prepared that view, 
as one might have thought, when, among other things, 
he declares " that even before Jesus there existed in 
Jewish syncretistic circles a belief in the death and 
resurrection of Christ."* Again, it can only be rejected 
without more ado by such as seek the traces of the 
pre-Christian cult of Jesus in well-worn places and will 
only allow that to be " proved " which they have 
established by direct original documentary evidence 
before their eyes. In this connection it is forgotten that 
we are dealing with a secret cult, the existence of which 
we can decide upon only by indirect means. It is for- 
gotten also that the hypothesis of a pre-Christian cult of 
Jesus, if urged upon us from another quarter, cannot be 
forthwith rejected because it does not suit the current 
views, and because it may be that it is impossible for the 
time being to place it beyond all doubt. "Where every- 
thing is so hypothetical, uncertain, and covered with dark- 

* Op cit., 82. 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 23 

ness, as is the case with the origins of Christianity, every 
hypothesis should be welcomed and tested which appears 
to be in some way or the other suitable for opening up a 
new point of view and clearing away the darkness. For 
as Dunkmann says in his sympathetic and genuine dis- 
cussion of " The Christ Myth " : " Irregularities and even 
violences of combination must be borne in science for the 
simple reason that our sources are too scanty and full of 
contradictions. Our hypotheses will in all such cases 
have, something rash, bold, and surprising in them ; if 
even they are in the main correct, i.e., if they are 
irrefutable according to the method of investigation " 
(" Der historische Jesus, der mythologische Jesus, und 
Jesus der Christ," 1910, 55). But if that very hypothesis 
is not established, yet this makes no difference in the fact 
that there existed a pre-Christian Jesus Christ, at least as 
a complex myth, and this quite suffices for the explana- 
tion of the Pauline Christology and the so-called 
" original community " of Jerusalem. I can, accordingly, 
only regard it as a misleading of the public when the 
other side, after rejecting the hypothesis of a pre- 
Christian cult of Jesus, bear themselves as though they 
had thereby taken away the foundations for the whole 
body of my views regarding an historical Jesus. 

Meanwhile the storm which has been raised against 
my book in theological circles and in the Press, and has 
even led to mass meetings of protest in the Busch Circus 
and in the Dom at Berlin, shows me that I have "hit 
the bull's-eye " with my performance and have in truth 
touched the sore point of Christianity. The way in 
which the battle is being waged, the means by which my 
opponents attempt to disparage the author of " The 
Christ Myth," or to make me ridiculous in the eyes of 
the public by personal slanders, their habit of trying 
to injure me by throwing doubt on my intellectual 



2 4 PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 

capabilities, and to undermine my scientific honour and 
official position (Bornemann, Beth) — all this can only 
make me more determined to continue the work of 
illumination that I have begun, and only proves to me that 
my "Christ Myth" cannot be so absolutely "un- 
scientific" and so completely a quantite negUgeable as 
its opponents are disposed to represent it. 

The means by which the " Christ Myth " is opposed 
to-day are exactly the same as those which were 
employed against Strauss's " Leben Jesa," without, 
however, the least result being attained. I accordingly 
await the further attacks of the enemy with complete 
coolness of mind, confident in the fact that what is 
true in my book will make its way of itself, and that a 
work which, like mine, has arisen from serious motives, 
and has been carried through with a disregard of 
personal advantages, cannot be lost but will be service- 
able to the spiritual progress of mankind. The attacks 
which have so far come to my notice in pamphlets 
(Bornemann, v. Soden, Delbrück, Beth) and in the Press 
have not had the effect of making any weaker my 
fundamental convictions. On the contrary, they have 
only served to reveal to me still further the weakness 
of the opposing position, which is much greater than 
I myself had hitherto imagined. I am, however, at all 
times ready and pleased — and I have shown this too by 
the corrections undertaken since the first edition of this 
work — to give attention to real objections and to put 
right possible errors. All that matters to me is simply 
the fact as such. The question before us in " The Christ 
Myth," as it is not unnecessary to point out here once 
again, is a purely scientific one. For possible suggestions 
and advice in this direction I will accordingly at all times 
be grateful. On the contrary, I am left perfectly cold by 
personal slanders, anonymous threats, and pious correc- 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 25 

tions, meetings of protest in which the Minister of Public 
Worship takes part with obbligato trombone choirs and 
professions of faith, as well as by the uproar of the multi- 
tude roused to fanaticism in this manner by the " guar- 
dian of their souls." They are everything except 
refutations. 

PROFESSOR DR. ARTHUR DREWS. 
Karlsruhe, March, 1910. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

Preface to the First and Second Editions . . 7 



Preface to the Third Edition . . . .21 

THE PRE-CHRISTIAN JESUS . . . .29 

i. The Influence of Parseeism on the Belief 

in a Messiah . . . . .37 

ii. The Hellenistic Idea of a Mediator (Philo) 46 

hi. Jesus as Cult-God in the Creed of Jewish 

Sects . . . . . .51 

iv. The Sufferings of the Messiah . . 64 

v. The Birth of the Messiah. The Baptism . 88 

vi. The Self-Offering of the Messiah. The 

Supper ...... 128 

vii. Symbols of the Messiah. The Lamb and 

the Cross ..... 140 

27 



28 CONTENTS 

PAGE 

THE CHRISTIAN JESUS . . . . .163 



i. The Pauline Jesus .... 165 

ii. The Jesus op the Gospels . . . 214 

a. The Synoptic Jesus . . . 214 

Jesus in Secular Literature . 230 

b. The Objections against a Denial op 

the Historicity of the Synoptic 
Jesus ..... 235 

c. The True Character op the Synoptic 

Jesus ..... 265 

d. Gnosticism and the Johannine Jesus . 273 

THE RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OP THE PRESENT . 283 
INDEX . . . . . . . .301 



THE PRE-CHRISTIAN JESUS 



a 



THE CHRIST MYTH 



THE PEE-CHKISTIAN JESUS 

IF you see a man undaunted by dangers, undisturbed 
by passions, happy when fortune frowns, calm in 
the midst of storms, will you not be filled with reverence 
for him ? Will you not say that here is something too 
great and grand to be regarded as of the same nature 
as the trivial body in which it dwells ? A divine force 
has descended here — a heavenly power moves a soul so 
wonderful, so calm, one which passes through all life 
as though it were of small account, and smiles at all our 
hopes and fears. Nothing so great can exist without the 
help of God, and therefore in the main it belongs to that 
from which it came down. Just as the rays of the sun 
touch the earth, but belong to that from which they are 
sent, so a great and holy spirit, sent here that we may 
have a more intimate knowledge of deity, lives indeed in 
our midst, but remains in contact with its source. On 
that it depends, thither its eyes are turned, thither its life 
tends : among men it dwells as a noble guest. What 
then is this soul ? One which relies upon no goodness but 
its own. What is proper to man is his soul and the 
perfect reason in the soul : for man is a rational animal : 
therefore his highest good is reached when he is filled 
with that of which he is born." 

With these words the Roman philosopher Seneca 

31 



32 THE CHRIST MYTH 

(4 B.C.-65 A.D.) portrays the ideally great and good 
man that we may be moved to imitate him.* " We must 
choose some good man," he says, " and always have him 
before our eyes ; and we must live and act as if he were 
watching us. A great number of sins would remain 
uncommitted were there a witness present to those 
about to sin. Our heart must have some one whom it 
honours, and by whose example its inner life can be 
inspired. Happy is he whose reverence for another 
enables him to fashion his life after the picture living in 
his memory. We need some one upon whose life we may 
model our own : without the rule you cannot correct 
what is amiss" (Ep. 11). " Rely on the mind of a 
great man and detach yourself from the opinions 
of the mob. Hold fast to the image of the most 
beautiful and exalted virtue, which must be wor- 
shipped not with crowns but with sweat and blood " 
(Ep. 67). " Could we but gaze upon the soul of a 
good man, what a beautiful picture should we see, 
how worthy of our reverence in its loftiness and peace. 
There would justice shine forth and courage and pru- 
dence and wisdom : and humanity, that rare virtue, 
would pour its light over all. Every one would declare 
him worthy of honour and of love. If any one saw that 
face, more lofty and splendid than any usually found 
among men, would he not stand in dumb wonder as 
before a God, and silently pray that it might be for his 
good to have seen it ? Then, overcome by the inviting 
grace of the vision, he would kneel in prayer, and after 
long meditation, filled with wondering awe, he would 
break forth into Virgil's words : ' Hail to thee, whoe'er 
thou art ! lighten thou our cares ! ' There is no one, 
I repeat, who would not be inflamed with love were it 
given him to gaze upon such an ideal. Now indeed 

* Ep. ad Luc. 41. 



THE PRE-CHRISTIAN JESUS 33 

much obscures our vision : but if we would only make 
our eyes pure and remove the veil that covers them, we 
should be able to behold virtue even though covered by 
the body, and clouded by poverty, lowliness and shame. 
We should see its loveliness even through the most sordid 
veils " (Ep. 115). 

The attitude expressed in these words was widespread 
in the whole of the civilised world at the beginning of 
the Christian era. A feeling of the uncertainty of all 
things human weighed like a ghastly dream upon most 
minds. The general distress of the time, the collapse of 
the nation states under the rough hand of the Eoman 
conquerors, the loss of independence, the uncertainty of 
political and social conditions, the incessant warfare and 
the heavy death-roll it involved — all this forced men back 
upon their own inner life, and compelled them to seek 
there for some support against the loss of outer happi- 
ness in a philosophy which raised and invigorated the 
soul. But the ancient philosophy had spent itself. The 
naive interplay of nature and spirit, that ingenuous trust 
in external reality which had been the expression of a 
youthful vigour in the Mediterranean peoples, from which 
indeed the ancient civilisation was derived, now was 
shattered. To the eyes of men at that time Nature and 
Spirit stood opposed as hostile and irreconcilable facts. 
All efforts to restore the shattered unity were frustrated 
by the impossibility of regaining the primitive attitude. 
A fruitless scepticism which satisfied no one, but out of 
which no way was known, paralysed all joy in outward 
or inner activities, and prevented men from having any 
pleasure in life. Therefore all eyes were turned towards 
a supernatural support, a direct divine enlightenment, a 
revelation ; and the desire arose of finding once again the 
lost certainty in the ordering of life by dependence upon 
an ideal and superhuman being. 

3 



34 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Many saw in the exalted person of the Emperor the 
incarnation of such a divine being. It was not then 
always pure flattery, but often enough the expression of 
real gratitude towards individual Imperial benefactors, 
combined with a longing for direct proximity with and 
visible presence of a god, which gave to the worship of 
the Emperor its great significance throughout the whole 
Koman Empire. 

An Augustus who had put an end to the horrors of the 
civil war must, in spite of everything, have appeared as 
a prince of peace and a saviour in the uttermost extremity, 
who had come to renew the world and to bring back the 
fair days of the Golden Age. He had again given to man- 
kind an aim in life and to existence some meaning. As 
the head of the Roman State religion, a person through 
whose hands the threads of the policy of the whole 
world passed, as the ruler of an empire such as the world 
had never before seen, he might well appear to men as a 
God, as Jupiter himself come down to earth, to dwell 
among men. " Now at length the time is passed," runs 
an inscription, apparently of the ninth year before Christ, 
found at Priene not long ago, " when man had to lament 
that he had been born. That providence, which directs 
all life, has sent this man as a saviour to us and the 
generations to come. He will put an end to all feuds, 
and dispose all things nobly. In his appearance are the 
hopes of the past fulfilled. All earlier benefactors of 
mankind he has surpassed. It is impossible that a 
greater should come. The birthday of the God has 
brought for the world the messages of salvation (Gospels) 
which attend him. From his birth a new epoch must 
begin." * 

* E. v. Mommsen and Wilamowitz in the Transactions of the 
German Archaeological Institute, xxiii. Part iii. ; " Christi. Welt," 1899, 
No. 57. Compare as a specially characteristic expression of that 



THE PRE-CHRISTIAN JESUS 35 

It was not only the longing of mankind for a new 
structure of society, for peace, justice, and happiness 
upon earth, which lay at the root of the cult of the 
Emperors. Deeper minds sought not only an improve- 
ment in political and social circumstances, but felt 
disturbed by thoughts of death and the fate of the soul 
after its parting from its bodily shell. They trembled at 
the expectation of the early occurrence of a world-wide 
catastrophe, which would put a terrible end to all 
existence. The apocalyptic frame of mind was so wide- 
spread at the commencement of the Christian era that 
even a Seneca could not keep his thoughts from the 
early arrival of the end of the world. Finally, there also 
grew up a superstitious fear of evil spirits and Daemons, 
which we can scarcely exaggerate. And here no philo- 
sophic musings could offer a support to anxious minds, 
but religion alone. Seldom in the history of mankind 
has the need for religion been so strongly felt as in the 
last century before and the first century after Christ. 
But it was not from the old hereditary national religions 
that deliverance was expected. It was from the unre- 
strained commingling and unification of all existing 
religions, a religious syncretism, which was specially 
furthered by acquaintance with the strange, but on that 
account all the more attractive, religions of the East. 
Already Rome had become a Pantheon of almost all 
religions which one could believe, while in the Far East, 
in Nearer Asia, that breeding-place of ancient Gods and 
cults, there were continually appearing new, more daring 
and secret forms of religious activity. These, too, in a 
short while obtained their place in the consciousness of 
Western humanity. Where the public worship of the 

period's longing for redemption the famous Fourth Eclogue of Virgil. 
Also Jeremias, " Babylonisches im Neuen Testament," 1905, pp. 57 
sqq. Lietzmann, " Der Weltheiland," 1909. 



36 THE CHRIST MYTH 

recognised Gods did not suffice, men sought a deeper 
satisfaction in the numberless mystic associations of that 
time, or formed themselves with others of like mind into 
private religious bodies or pious brotherhoods, in order to 
nourish in the quiet of private ritualistic observance an 
individual religious life apart from the official State 
religion. 



THE INFLUENCE OF PARSEEISM ON THE BELIEF 

IN A MESSIAH 

AMONG- no people was the longing for redemption so 
lively and the expectation of a speedy end of the 
world so strong as among the Jews. Since the Baby- 
lonian captivity (586-536 B.c.) the former Jewish outlook 
upon the world had undergone a great change. Fifty 
years had been spent by the Israelites in the land of the 
stranger. For two hundred years after their return to 
their own land they were under Persian overlordship. 
As a consequence of this they were in close connection 
politically and economically with the Achaemenidean 
Empire, and this did not cease when Alexander over- 
threw the Persian power and brought the whole 
Eastern world under Greek influence. During this 
lengthy period Persian modes of thinking and Persian 
religious views had influenced in many ways the 
old Jewish opinions, and had introduced a large num- 
ber of new ideas. First of all the extreme dualism 
of the Persians had impressed a distinctly dual character 
upon Jewish Monotheism. God and the world, which in 
the old ideas had often mingled with one another, were 
separated and made to stand in opposition to each other. 
Following the same train of thought, the old national 
God Jahwe, in imitation of the Persian Ahuramazda 
(Ormuzd), had developed from a God of fire, light, and 

37 



38 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sky into a God of supernatural purity and holiness. 
Surrounded by light and enthroned in the Beyond, like 
Ahuramazda, the source of all life, the living God held 
intercourse with his creatures upon the earth only 
through the instrumentality of a court of angels. These 
messengers of God or intermediate beings in countless 
numbers moved between heaven and earth upon his 
service. And just as Angromainyu (Ahriman), the evil, 
was opposed to Ahuramazda, the good, and the struggle 
between darkness and light, truth and falsehood, life and 
death, was, according to Persian ideas, reproduced in the 
course of earthly events, so the Jews too ascribed to 
Satan the role of an adversary of God, a corrupter of the 
divine creation, and made him, as Prince of this world and 
leader of the forces of hell, measure his strength with the 
King of Heaven.* 

In the struggle of the two opposing worlds, according 
to Persian ideas, Mithras stood in the foreground, the 
spirit of light, truth, and justice, the divine " friend " of 
men, the "mediator," "deliverer," and "saviour" of the 
world. He shared his office with Honover, Ahuramazda's 
"Word of creation and revelation ; and indeed in most 

* It is certain that the old Israelite Jahwe only attained that 
spiritualised character for which he is nowadays extolled under the 
influence of the Persians' imageless worship of God. All efforts to 
construct, in spite of this admission, a " qualitative " difference between 
Jahwe and Ahuramazda, as, for example, Stave does in his work 
("Der Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judentum," 1898, 122 sq_.) are 
unavailing. According to Stave, the conception of good and evil is 
not grasped in Mazdeism in all its purity and truth, but " has been 
confused with the natural." But is that distinction "grasped in all 
its purity " in Judaism with its ritualistic le ality ? Indeed, has it 
come to a really pure realisation even in Christianity, in which piety 
and attachment to the Church so often pass as identical ideas ? Let 
us give to each religion its due, and cease to be subtle in drawing 
such artificial distinctions in favour of our own — distinctions which 
fall into nothingness before every unprejudiced consideration. 



PARSEEISM ON BELIEF IN A MESSIAH 39 

things their attributes were mingled. An incarnation of 
fire or the sun, above all of the struggling, suffering, 
triumphant light, which presses victoriously through 
night and darkness, Mithras was also connected with 
death and immortality, and passed as guide of souls and 
judge in the under-world. He was the "divine son," of 
whom it was said that Ahuramazda had fashioned him as 
great and worthy of reverence as his own self. Indeed, 
he was in essence Ahuramazda himself, proceeding from 
his supernatural light, and given a concrete individuality. 
As companion in creation and " protector " of the world 
he kept the universe standing in its struggle against its 
enemies. At the head of the heavenly host he fought for 
God, and with his sword of flame he drove the Daemons 
of Darkness in terror back into the shadows. To take 
part in this combat on the side of God, to build up the 
future kingdom of God by the work of a life-giving 
civilisation, by the rendering fruitful of sterile wastes, the 
extinction of noxious animals, and by moral self-educa- 
tion, seemed the proper end of human existence. But 
when the time should have been fulfilled and the present 
epoch come to an end, according to Persian belief, 
Ahuramazda was then to raise up from the seed of 
Zarathustra, the founder of this religion, the " virgin's 
son," Saoshyant (Sraosha, Sosiosch, which signifies the 
Saviour), or, as it ran according to another rendering, 
Mithras himself should descend upon the earth and in a 
last fierce struggle overwhelm Angromainyu and his hosts, 
and cast them down into the Nether World. He would 
then raise the dead in bodily shape, and after a General 
Judgment of the whole world, in which the wicked should 
be condemned to the punishments of hell and the good 
raised to heavenly glory, establish the " millennial King- 
dom of Peace." Hell itself was not to last for ever, for a 
great reconciliation was to be finally held out even to the 



40 THE CHRIST MYTH 

damned. Then Angromainyu also would make peace 
with Ahuramazda, and upon a new earth beneath a new 
heaven all were to be united to one another in everlasting 
blessedness. 

These ideas entered the circle of Jewish thought and 
there brought about a complete transformation of the 
former belief in a Messiah. 

Messiah — that is, the Anointed (in Greek, Christos) — 
originally signified the king as representative of Jahwe 
before the people and of the people before Jahwe. 
According to 2 Sam. vii. 13 sq., he was placed in the 
same relation of an obedient " son " to his " father," in 
which the whole people was conscious of standing.* 
Then the opposition between the holy dignity of the 
"Anointed" of God and the humanly imperfect person- 
ality of the Jewish kings led to the ideal of the Messiah 
being transferred to the future and the complete realisa- 
tion of the rule of Jahwe over his people being expected 
only then. In this sense the ancient prophets had 
already celebrated the Messiah >as an ideal King of the 
future, who would experience in the fullest sense the 
high assurances of Jahwe's favour, of which David had 
been deemed worthy, since he would be completely 
worthy of them. They had described him as the Hero, 
who would be more than Moses and Joshua, who would 
establish the promised glory of Israel, dispose the 
people anew, and bring Jahwe's religion even to the 
heathen, t They had glorified him in that he would 
span the heavens afresh, establish a new earth, and make 
Israel Lord over all nations. J In this they had at first 
understood the Messiah only as a human being, as a new 
David or of his seed — theocratic king, divinely favoured 
prince of peace and just ruler over his people, just as the 

* Exod. iv. 22 ; Deut. xxxii. 6 ; Hosea xi. 1. 
f Isa. xlix. 6, 8. J Id. li. 16. 



PARSEEISM ON BELIEF IN A MESSIAH 41 

Persian Saoshyant was to be a man of the seed of 
Zarathustra. In this sense a Cyrus, the deliverer of the 
people from the Babylonian captivity, the rescuer and 
overlord of Israel, had been acclaimed Messiah.* But 
just as Saoshyant had been undesignedly transfigured in 
v the imagination of the people into a divine being and 
made one with the figure of Mithras,! so also among the 
prophets the Messiah was more and more assigned the 
part of a divine king. He was called " divine hero," 
" Father of Eternity," and the prophet Isaiah indulged in 
a description of his kingdom of peace, in which the wolf 
would lie down by the lamb,men would no longer die before 
their time, and would enjoy the fruit of their fields with- 
out tithe, while right and justice would reign upon earth 
under this king of a golden age as it had never done 
before.} Secret and supernatural, as was his nature, 
so should the birth of the Messiah be. Though a divine 
child, he was to be born in lowly state. § The person- 
ality of the Messiah mingled with that of Jahwe 
himself, as though it were God himself of whose ascend- 
ing the throne and journey heavenwards the Psalmists 
sing. || 

These alternations of the Messiah between a human and 
a divine nature appear still more clearly in the Jewish 
apocalyptics of the last century before and the first century 
after Christ. Thus the Apocalypse of Daniel (about 
165 b.c.) speaks of one who as Son of Man will descend 
upon the clouds of heaven and will be brought before 
the " Ancient of Days." The whole tone of the passage 
leaves no doubt that the Son of Man (barnasa) is a 
superhuman being representing the Deity. To him the 

* Isa. xliv. 28, xlv. 1 eq. 

f Cumont, " Textes et monuments figures relatifs aux mysteres de 
Mithra," 1899, vol. i. 188. J Isa. xi. 65, 17 sqq. 

§ Isa. ix. 6 ; Micah v. 1. || Psa. xlvii. 6, 9, lvii. 12. 



42 THE CHRIST MYTH 

majesty and kingdom of God have been entrusted in 
order that, at the end of the existing epoch, he should 
descend upon the clouds of heaven, surrounded by a 
troop of angels, and establish an everlasting power, a 
Kingdom of Heaven. In the picture-language of Enoch 
(in the last decade before Christ) the Messiah, the 
"Chosen One," the " Son of Man," appears as a super- 
natural pre-existing being, who was hidden in God 
before the world was created, whose glory continues from 
eternity to eternity and his might from generation to 
generation, in whom the spirit of wisdom and power 
dwells, who judges hidden things, punishes the wicked, 
but will save the holy and just.* Indeed, the Apocalypse 
of Esdras (the so-called fourth Book of Esdras) expressly 
combats the opinion that the judgment of the world will 
come through another than God, and likewise describes 
the Messiah as a kind of " second God," as the " Son of 
God," as the human incarnation of the Godhead. t 

In all of this the influence of Persian beliefs is un- 
mistakable, whether these arose in Iran itself directly, 
or whether the idea of a God-appointed king and deliverer 
of the world was borrowed by the Persians from the 
circle of Babylonian ideas. Here this conception had 
taken deep root and was applied at different times now 
to this king, now to that 4 Just as in the Persian 
religion the image of Saoshyant, so also in the Jewish v' 
view the picture of the Messiah wavered between a 
human king of the race of David and a supernatural 
being of divine nature descended from heaven. And 
just as in the Persian representation of the coming of 
Saoshyant and the final victory of the Kingdom of Light 

* Ch. xlv.-li. 
f Ch. vi. 1 sqq. 

J Cf. Gunkel, " Zum religionsgesch. Verständnis des Neuen Testa- 
ments," 1903, p. 23, note 4. 



PARSEEISM ON BELIEF IN A MESSIAH 43 

there would be a preceding period during which threaten- 
ing signs would appear in the heavens, the whole of 
nature would find itself in upheaval and mankind would 
be scourged with fearful plagues, so also the Jewish 
Apocalypse speaks of the "woes" of the Messiah and 
describes a period of terror which would precede the 
coming of the Messiah. The coming of the power of 
God was looked upon as a miraculous catastrophe sud- 
denly breaking in from on high, as a conflagration of 
the world followed by a new creation. The Jewish 
agreed with the Persian view in this also, that it made 
a heavenly kingdom of undisturbed bliss " in the light of 
the everlasting life and in likeness of the angels " follow 
the earthly world-wide empire of the Messiah. This 
they imagined on exactly the same lines as the Persian 
Paradise. There would the holy drink of the " Water 
of Life " and nourish themselves on the fruit which hang 
upon the " Tree of Life." The wicked, on the other 
hand, would be cast into hell and suffer in fearful torments 
the just punishment of their sins.* 

The conception of a resurrection of the dead and a 
last judgment had hitherto been strange to the Jews. 
In pre-exilic days they allowed the body to die and the 
soul after death to go down as a shadow without feel- 
ing into Hades (Sheol), without disturbing themselves 
further about its fate. Now, however, with the doctrine 
of the destruction of the world by fire and the general 
judgment, the idea of personal immortality entered the 
world of Jewish thought. Thus it is said by Daniel 
that on the day of judgment the dead will rise again, 
some waking to everlasting life, others to everlasting 
perdition. " But the teachers will shine as the bright- 
ness of heaven, and those who led the multitude to 

* Revelation xxii. ; cf. Pfleiderer, " Das Urchristentum. Seine 
Schriften und seine Lehren," 2nd edit., 1902, vol. ii. 54 sqq. 



44 THE CHRIST MYTH 

justice as the stars for ever and ever." * With the 
acceptance of personal immortality the whole tone of 
religious thought was deepened and enriched in the 
direction of thought for the individual. Former Jewish 
morality had been essentially of a collective kind. It 
was not so much the individual as the people viewed 
collectively that was looked upon as the object of divine 
solicitude. At this point the position, the road to which 
had been already prepared by the prophets, was definitely 
established, that the individual hoped for a personal 
religious salvation and as a consequence felt in direct 
personal relationship with Jahwe. God indeed remained, 
as the Persians had taught them to understand him, the 
superhuman lord of heaven enthroned in pure light, 
the source of all life, the living God. His metaphysical 
qualities, however, his dazzling glory and unconquerable 
might were ever more and more overshadowed by his 
moral attributes : goodness, grace, and mercy appeared 
as the most prominent features in the character of 
Jahwe. God seemed a loving father who leads his 
children through life with kindly care, and without 
whose consent not a hair of one of his creatures could be 
touched. The strong tendency within Judaism, repre- 
sented by the upper currents of pharisaic rabbinism, 
continually drew the national boundaries closer, and was 
ever more anxiously occupied with a painfully strict 
observance of the letter of the law and a conscientious 
observance of ritualistic ordinances. Ethics threatened 
to be extinguished under a system of conventional rules 
of an essentially juristic nature. Yet all the while a 
more human and natural morality was arising, an 
inward piety, warm-hearted, popular, and sound, which 
broke through the narrow limits of Jewish nationalism, 
and sent a fresh current into the heavy atmosphere of 

* Dan. xii. 3. 



PARSEEISM ON BELIEF IN A MESSIAH 45 

official legality. It was then that the groundwork of 
later Christian ethics was laid in the purified morality 
of the psalms, aphorisms, and other edificatory writings 
of a Job, Baruch, Jesus son of Sirach, &c. It was then 
that the Jewish Monotheism set itself to extend its sway 
beyond the boundaries of its own land and to enter into 
competition with the other religions of antiquity, from 
which it was to draw back vanquished only before a 
matured Christianity. 



II 

THE HELLENISTIC IDEA OF A MEDIATOE (PHILO) 

WITH Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire 
Palestine also was drawn within the circle of 
Hellenistic culture. It was at first a vassal state of the 
Egyptian Ptolemies, and consequently at the commence- 
ment of the second century before Christ came under 
the overlordship of the Syrian Seleucids. The customs 
and intellectual life of Greece forced their way into the 
quiet isolation of the priest-ruled Jewish state and could 
not be expelled again, despite the national reaction under 
the Maccabees against foreign influences. Above all, 
however, the dispersal of the Jews contributed to bring 
about a settlement of opposing views. Since the Exile 
the Jews had spread over all the countries of the East 
Mediterranean. Some had remained in Babylon, others 
were permanently settled especially in the ports as 
tradesmen, bankers, and merchants. They controlled 
the entire money market and trade of the East through 
their assiduous industry, mercantile sharpness, their 
lack of scruples, and the tenacity with which they held 
together, supported therein by their worship in common 
in the Synagogue. In the atmosphere of Greek philo- 
sophy and morality a still further transformation and 
purification of Jahwe took place. All common human 
and material lineaments were dropped, and he developed 

into a spiritual being of perfect goodness, such as Plato 

4 6 



THE HELLENISTIC IDEA OF A MEDIATOR 47 

had described the Godhead. Here the Jews found them- 
selves face to face with the same problem that had 
long occupied the Greek philosophers. This was the 
reconciliation of the supernatural loftiness and aloofness 
from the world of their God with the demands of the 
religious consciousness that required the immediate 
presence of Godhead. 

Among the ideas which were borrowed by Judaism 
from the Persian religion belonged those connected with 
the mediatory " Word." As the creative power of the 
Godhead, the bearer of revelation and representative of 
God upon earth, the expression "the word" had already 
appeared in aphoristic literature. Under Grseco-Egyp- 
tian influence the term "wisdom " (sophia) had become 
the naturalised expression for it. " Wisdom " served to 
describe the activities in regard to man of the God who 
held aloof from the world. In this connection it may be 
noted that according to Persian ideas "Wisdom" under 
the name of Spenta Armaiti was considered as one of the 
six or seven Amesha Spentas (Amshaspands), those 
spirits that stood as a bodyguard closest to the throne 
of God and corresponded to the Jewish archangels. She 
was considered by the Persians as the daughter or spouse 
of Ahuramazda. Already, in the so-called " Wisdom of 
Solomon," written by an Alexandrian Jew in the last 
century before Christ, she was declared to be a separately 
existing spirit in close relation to God. Under the guise 
of a half-personal, half-material being — a power control- 
ling the whole of nature — she was described as the 
principle of the revelation of God in the creation, main- 
tenance, and ruling of the world, as the common 
principle of life from on high and as the intermediary 
organ of religious salvation. Just as Plato had sought to 
overcome the dualism of the ideal and the material world 
by the conception of a " world-soul," so " Wisdom " was 



48 THE CHRIST MYTH 

intended to serve as an intermediary between the 
opposites, the God of the Jews and his creation. These 
efforts were continued by the Alexandrian Jew Philo 
(30 B.c. to 50 A.D.), who tried to bring the Perso-Jewish 
conception of the "Word" or "Wisdom" into closer 
accord with the ideas of Greek philosophy than the 
author of the "Book of Wisdom" had already done. 
Philo, too, commenced with the opposition between an 
unknowable, unnameable God, absolutely raised above 
the world, and material created existence. He imagined 
this opposition bridged over by means of " powers " 
which, as relatively self-existing individuals, messengers, 
servants, and representatives of God, at one time more 
closely resembled Persian angels or Greek Daemons, at 
another time the Platonic "Ideas," the originals and 
patterns of God in creating. Essentially, however, they 
bore the character of the so-called " Fructifying powers," 
those creative forces which infused a soul and design into 
formless matter and by means of which the Stoic philo- 
sophers sought to explain existence. As the first of these 
intermediate forces, or, indeed, as the essence of them 
all, Philo considered the " Logos," efficacious reason or 
the creative word of God. He called him the " first- 
born son of God " or the "second God," the representa- 
tive, interpreter, ambassador, Archangel of God, or 
Prince of Angels. He considered him as the High 
Priest, who made intercession with God for the world, 
the affairs of which he represented before him as the 
paraclete, the advocate and consoler of the world, who 
was the channel to it of the divine promises ; as the tool 
with which God had fashioned the world, the original 
and ideal of it to which God had given effect in its 
creation — that which operated in all things ; in a word, as 
the soul or spirit of the world, which the Stoics had 
identified with their God, but which Philo distinguished 



THE HELLENISTIC IDEA OF A MEDIATOR 49 

from the other-world Divinity and looked upon as his 
revelation and manifestation. 

In essence only an expression for the sum total of all 
divine forces and activities, the Logos of Philo also 
was sometimes an impersonal metaphysical principle, 
simply the efficacy of the Godhead, and sometimes an 
independent personality distinct from God. Just as the 
Stoics had personified their world-reason in Hermes, 
the messenger of the Gods, so the Egyptians had raised 
Amun Ea's magic word of creation to a self -existing per- 
sonal mediatory being in Thoth the guide of souls ; the 
Babylonians, the word of fate of the great God Marduk 
in the shape of Nabu ; the Persians, the word of 
Ahuramazda in Vohu mano as well as in the Spenta 
Armaiti, the good thought of the creative God. Aad 
just as according to Persian ideas it was at one time the 
divine "son" and mediator "Mithras," the collectivity 
of all divine forces, at another the ideal man Saoshyant 
who appeared as Saviour and Deliverer of the world, and 
just as both mingled in one form, so Philo also at one 
time described the Word as the collectivity of all creative 
ideas, at another only as the unembodied idea of man, 
the ideal man, the direct divine image and immaterial 
pattern of the material exemplars of humanity, that is 
effective therein as the subject of all religious redemp- 
tion. Indeed, he occasionally identified him with the 
tree of life in Paradise, since both were everlasting and 
" stood in the middle." 

According to Philo, man is unable of his own strength 
to free himself from the bonds of earthly existence. All 
deliverance depends upon the emancipation of the soul 
from the body and its sensuous desires. In conformity 
with his true spiritual and godlike nature, to become as 
perfect as God, is the highest virtue and at the same 
time true happiness. This is attained by an insight 

4 



5o THE CHRIST MYTH 

into the divine reality of things, by whole-hearted trust 
in God, by grateful recognition of the goodness and love 
bestowed by him, showing itself in piety towards God as 
well as in charity and justice towards other men. But 
in addition the Logos itself must be in us and cause for 
us the insight into our divine nature. The Logos must 
guide us, come to the aid of our human weakness with 
his supernatural strength in the struggles against the 
world and sin and raise us up to God. Thus the 
apotheosis of man is the goal aimed at in all religious 
activity. The Logos, however, is the only means to this 
end, in so far as we are raised through union with him 
in faith and love to our true origin and life's source, " the 
vision of God," and thereby have participation in his life. 



Ill 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN THE CREED OF 
JEWISH SECTS 

ALL religious spirits of the time longed to secure this 
happy vision and communion with God, and to 
obtain even here on earth a foretaste of the heavenly life. 
The Jews sought to attain this end by a painfully exact 
observance of the ordinances of their law, but in so doing 
they became entangled in a mesh of such minute and 
tiresome regulations that the more they applied them- 
selves to the service of the law the more difficult it 
appeared. It seemed to be no longer possible to reconcile 
the demands of everyday life with one's religious duties. 
Some therefore withdrew from the life of the world 
and in retirement and quiet endeavoured to devote 
themselves exclusively to the " inner life." In Egypt 
the Therapeutes or Physicians, a religious associa- 
tion composed of Jews and their proselytes, with their 
headquarters in the neighbourhood of Alexandria, sought 
in this manner, as Philo informs us in his work " On the 
Contemplative Life," to give effect to the claims of 
religion as expressed by Philo himself.* Their religious 

* The assertion advanced by Grätz and Lucius that the work 
mentioned is a forgery of a fourth-century Christian foisted upon 
Philo with the object of recommending the Christian " Ascesis," and 
that a sect of Therapeutes never existed, can now be considered 
disposed of, since its refutation by Massebiau and Conybeare. Cf. 
Pfleiderer, " Urchristentum," ii. 5 sq. 

si 



52 THE CHRIST MYTH 

observances resembled those of the Orphic-Pythagorean 
sects, as in abstinence from flesh and wine, admiration 
for virginity, voluntary poverty, religious feasts and 
community singing, and the use of white garments. 

They made a deep study of the mystical writings of 
revelation that had been handed down, and these they 
used as a guide in the allegorical explanation of the 
Mosaic law. They united a contemplative piety with 
a common religious observance, and thus sought to 
strengthen themselves mutually in the certainty of 
religious salvation. Beyond the Jordan the Jewish sect 
of the Essenes (from the Syrian word chase, plural 
chasen or chasaja) had their chief settlement. These 
called themselves, as is expressed by their name, the 
"Pious" or "Godfearing." In their esteem of temper- 
ance, celibacy, and poverty, their reprobation of slavery, 
private property, the taking of oaths, and blood-sacrifice, 
in the honour they paid the sun as a visible manifestation 
of the divine light, they agreed with the Therapeutes. 
They differed from them, however, in their monastic 
organisation and the regular manner in which the life 
of the community was divided among different classes, 
their strict subordination to superiors, their maintenance 
of a novitiate of several years, the secrecy of the tra- 
ditions of the sect, and their cultivation of the healing 
art and magic. The Therapeutes passed their lives in 
leisurely contemplation and spiritual exercises ; the 
Essenes, on the other hand, engaged in the rearing of 
stock, farming, and bee-culture, or they pursued a handi- 
craft, and in the country places or towns of Judasa, where 
they often dwelt together in houses of the order, they 
lived as dwellers in a desert the life of purity and 
sanctity. Both sects, again, were alike in expecting an 
early end of the world and in seeking to prepare them- 
selves for the reception of the promises of God by the 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 53 

cultivation of brotherly dispositions amongst themselves, 
by justice, good works, and benevolence towards their 
fellow-men, finding therein the special occupation of 
their lives.* 

Of what nature were the secret traditions upon which 
these sects rested ? We know from the Jewish historian 
Josephus that the Essenes clung to an extreme dualism 
of soul and body, in which, indeed, they agreed with 
the other religious associations of antiquity. Like all 
mystical sects, they regarded the body as the grave 
and prison-house of the immortal soul, to which it had 
been banished from an earlier life in light and blessed- 
ness. They also grounded their longing for deliverance 
from the world of sense and their strivings towards the 
glory of a better life of the soul beyond the grave upon 
pessimism in regard to human existence. They even 
regarded the performance of secret rites as a necessary 
condition of redemption. But in the opinion of the 
Essenes it was essential above all to know the names of 
the angels and daemons who opened the passage to the 
different heavens, disposed one above another. This 
knowledge was to be revealed to men by one of the 
higher gods, a god-redeemer. A conception allied to that 
lay at the root of the Book of Wisdom, as well as of 
Philo's work — the belief in the magic power of the 
redemptive word of God, mingled by the Essenes 
with many strange Egyptian, Persian, and Babylonian 
ingredients and removed from the sphere of philosophic 
thought to the region of a rankly luxuriant superstition. 
Thus the closely related Jewish Apocalypse had expressly 
supported the revelation of a secret divine wisdom, t 

* Cf. as regards the Essenes, Schürer, " Geschichte des jüdischen 
Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi," 1898, II. 573-584. 

f Regarding the connection between the Essenes and the Apoca- 
lypse, cf. Hilgenfeld, " Die jüdische Apokalyptik," 1857, p. 253 sqq. 



54 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Indeed, we now know that this whole world of thought 
belonged to an exceedingly manifold syncretic religious 
system, composed of Babylonian, Persian, Jewish, and 
Greek ingredients, which ruled the whole of Western 
Asia in the last centuries before Christ. Its followers 
called themselves Adonsei, after the name of its supposed 
founder, Ado (? Adonis). It is, however, generally 
described as the Mandaic religion, according to another 
name for its followers, the so-called Mandsei (Gnostics).* 

Of the numberless sects into which this religion split 
only a few names have come down to us, of which some 
played a part in the history of the heresies of early 
Christianity ; for example, the Ophites or Nassenes, the 
Ebionites, Perates, Sethianes, Heliognostics, Sampssees, 
&ct We are thus much better acquainted with their 
fundamental ideas, which were very fantastic and com- 
plicated. They all subscribed to the belief in the 
redemption of the soul of man from its grave of darkness 
by a mediatory being, originally hidden in God and then 
expressly awakened or appointed by him for this purpose. 
In original Mandaism he bore the name of Manda de 
hajje — that is, Gnosis, or " word " of life. In the form 
of Hibil-ziwa, the Babylonian Marduk or Nabu, he was 
to descend from heaven with the keys thereof, and by 
means of his magic obtain the dominion of the world. 
He was to conquer those dsemons that had fallen away 
from God, introduce the end of the world, and lead back 
the souls of light to the highest Godhead. 

As the Apocalyptics show, this view had numerous 
adherents among the Jews of Palestine also. All those 
who found no satisfaction in the literalness of the 

* On this point, cf. Brandt, " Die mandäische Religion," 1899 ; 
" Realenzyklop, f.d. protest. Theologie u. Kirche," xii. 160 sqq.; 
Gunkel, op. cit., 18 sqq. 

t Cf. Hilgenfeld, " Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums," 1884. 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 55 

Pharasaic beliefs and the business-like superficiality of 
the official Jewish religion, found edification in ideas 
of this sort, which excited the imagination. They dealt 
with them as "mysteries," and sought, as may well be 
from fear of conflicts with traditional religion, to keep 
them secret from the public* Hence it is that we have 
such an incomplete knowledge of this side of the religious 
life of the Jews. At any rate they clothed their expected 
Messiah with the attributes of the Mandaic God of Media- 
tion, and they appear, as is clear from the Apocalypse 
of Daniel and that of John, to have taken particular 
pleasure in the description of the scene where God calls 
(" awakes ") the Kedeemer to his mediatory office and 
installs him as Deliverer, Kuler of the World, and Judge 
of the living and the dead. 

We are accustomed to look upon the Jewish religion as 
strictly monotheistic. In truth, it never was, even in the 
Mosaic times, until after the return from Exile. And 
this is clear, in spite of the trouble which the composers 
, of the so-called historic books of the Old Testament have 
taken to work up the traditions in a monotheistic sense 
and to obliterate the traces of the early Jewish poly- 
theism, by transforming the ancient gods into patriarchs, 
heroes, angels, and servants of Jahwe. It was not 
entirely Babylonian, Persian, and Greek opinions which 
influenced Judaism in a polytheistic direction ; from the 
beginning, besides the theory of one God, emphasised by 
the priesthood and official world, there existed a belief in 
other Gods. This constantly received fresh nourishment 
from foreign influences, and it appears to have been 
chiefly cultivated in the secret societies. On the descent 
of the Israelites into Canaan each tribe brought with it 
its special God, under whose specific guidance it believed 
its deeds were accomplished. By the reforms of the 

* Gunkel, op. cit., 29. 



56 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Prophets these Gods were suppressed ; but the higher 
grew the regard for Jahwe (apparently the God of the 
tribe of Judah), and the further he was in consequence 
withdrawn from the world to an unapproachable dis- 
tance, the more strongly the remembrance of the ancient 
Gods again arose and assumed the form of the recognition 
of divine intermediate beings, the so-called " Sons of 
God." In these the longing for the direct presence and 
visible representation of God sought expression. Such 
appears to have been the " Presence," or " Angel of God," 
with whom Jacob wrestled in the desert,* who led the 
Israelites out of Egypt and went before them as a pillar 
of flame, + who fought against their enemies, drove the 
Canaanites from their homes,! held intercourse with the 
prophets Elijah and Ezekiel,§ and stood by the people 
of Jahwe in every difficulty. || He is also called the 
1 'King" (Melech), or "Son" of Jahwe, % and thus 
exactly resembles the Babylonian Marduk, the Persian 
Mithras, the Phoenician Hercules or Moloch, " the first- 
born son " of God (Protogonos), who also appeared 
among the Orphics under the name of Phanes {i.e., 
Countenance), who wrestles with Zeus at Olympia as 
Jacob with Jahwe, and, like him, dislocates his hip in 
the struggle with Hippokoon. In the rabbinic theology 
he is compared with the mystic Metatron, a being related 
to the Logos, " The Prince of the Presence," " Leader of 
Angels," "Lord of Lords," "King of Kings," "Com- 
mencement of the Way of God." He was also called the 
"Protector," " Sentinel," and "Advocate" of Israel, who 
lays petitions before God, and " in whom is the name 
of the Lord."** Thus he is identical with that Angel 

* Gen. xxxii. 24. f Numb. xx. 16 ; Exod. xiii. 21. 

I Exod. xxxiii. 14 ; 2 Sam. v. 23. § 1 Kings i. 3 ; Ezek. xliii. 5. 
|| Isa. lxiii. 9 sqq. 1T Psa. ii. 

** Cf. Ghillany, " Die Menschenopfer der alten Hebräer," 1842, 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 57 

promised in the second Book of Moses, in whom also is 
the name of Jahwe, who was to lead Israel to victory over 
the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, 
and Jebusites.* But he, again, is no other than Joshua, 
who was said to have overthrown these nations with 
Jahwe's aid.t But Joshua himself is apparently an 
ancient Ephraimitic God of the Sun and Fruitfulness, 
who stood in close relation to the Feast of the Pasch 
and to the custom of circumcision. J 

Now, many signs speak in favour of the fact that 
Joshua or Jesus was the name under which the expected 
Messiah was honoured in certain Jewish sects. In Zech. 
iii. Joshua, who, according to Ezra iii. 2, led back the 
Jews into their old homes after the Babylonian captivity, 
just as the older Joshua brought back the Israelites into 
Canaan, the promised land of their fathers, was invested 
as High Priest by the "Angel of the Lord," and promised 
the continuance of his priesthood so long as he walked in 
the ways of the Lord. In Zech. vi. 9-15 the High Priest 
Joshua is crowned as Messiah and brought into connec- 
tion with the " branch" under which the glory of God's 
kingdom will come to pass. It is true that in this passage 
under the title of Messiah Zerubbabel, the leader of the 
Jews of the race of David, was originally understood. 

326-334 ; Eisenmenger, " Entdecktes Judentum," 1711, i. 311, 395 
sqq. Also Movers, " Die Phönizier," 1841 ; i. 398 sq. 

* Exod. xxiii. 20 sqq. 

f Jos. xxiv. 11. 

J Jos. v. 2-10. The unhistorical nature of Joshua is admitted also 
by Stade. Stade counts him an Ephraimitic myth, recalling to mind 
in so doing that the Samaritans possessed an apocryphal book of 
the same name in place of our Book of Joshua (" Gesch. d. Volkes 
Israel," 1887, i. 64 sqq., 135). The Samaritan Book of Joshua 
(Chronicum Samaritanum, published 1848) was written in Arabic 
during the thirteenth century in Egypt, and is based upon an old 
work composed in the third century b.c. containing stories which 
in part do not appear in our Book of Joshua. 



58 THE CHRIST MYTH 

In him the prophet thought he could discern that 
" branch " by which, in accordance with Isaiah xi. 1, the 
House of David was again to obtain the rule. Since, 
however, the great hopes set upon Zerubbabel as Messiah 
were not fulfilled, a correction was made (and this before 
the Bible was translated into Greek) in the text of the 
prophet, as follows : The name of Zerubbabel was struck 
out, the plural changed into the singular, so that Joshua 
alone was represented as having been crowned, the 
promises regarding the Messiah accordingly also passing 
over to him (Stade, " Gesch. des Volkes Israel," 1888, 
ii. 126, note. Huhn, " Die messianischen Weissagungen 
des israel. Volkes," 1889, 62 et sq.). 

Jesus was a name given, as will be still more clearly 
shown, not only to the High Priest of Zechariah and to 
the successor of Moses, both of whom were said to have 
led Israel back into its ancient home, both having a 
decidedly Messianic character. The name in ancient 
times also belonged to the Healthbringer and Patron 
of the Physician — namely, Jasios or Jason, the pupil of 
Chiron skilled in healing * — who in general shows a 
remarkable resemblance to the Christian Eedeemer. 
Consider also the significant fact that three times at 
decisive turning-points in the history of the Israelites 
a Joshua appears who leads his people into their pro- 
mised home, into Canaan and Jerusalem, into the 
Kingdom of God — the " New Jerusalem." Now, as Epi- 
phanius remarks in his "History of the Heretics," Jesus 
bears in the Hebrew language the same meaning as 
curator, therapeutes — that is, physician and eurer. But 
the Therapeutes and Essenes regarded themselves as 

* That the hypothesis of Smith here mentioned is quite admissible 
from the linguistic point of view has lately been maintained by 
Schmiedel in opposition to Weinel (Protestantenbl., 1910, No. 17, 
438). 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 59 

physicians, and, above all, physicians of the soul. It 
is accordingly by no means improbable that they too 
honoured the God of their sect under this name.* We, 
moreover, read in a Parisian magic-papyrus recently 
found and published by Wessely (line 3119 et sq.) : 
" I exort thee by Jesus the God of the Hebrews." The 
words are found in an ostensibly "Hebrew Logos" of 
that papyrus, the tone of which is quite ancient, more- 
over shows no trace of Christian influence, and is ascribed 
by the transcriber to "the Pure," under which name, 
according to Dieterich, the Essenes or Therapeutes are 
to be understood, t The Jessaes or Jessenes (Jessaioi) 
named themselves after Jesus, or after " the branch from 
the root of Jesse." t They were closely connected on one 
side with the Essenes and on the other side with the Jewish 
sect of the Nazarenes or Nazoraes (Nazoraiori) , if they 
were not absolutely identical. These were, as Epiphanius 
shows, in existence long before Christ, and had no know- 
ledge of him. § They were, however, called Nazoraes (Naza- 
renes (Nazarenos) is only a linguistic variation of it, cf. 
Essaes and Essenes) because they honoured the Mediator 
God, the divine " son," as a protector and guardian 
(Syrian, Nasarya; Hebrew, Ha-nosri) (cf. "the Pro- 
tector of Israel," also the fact that Mithras was honoured 
as "Protector of the "World"). According to Acts, 
xxiv. 5 the first followers of Jesus were also called 
Nazoraes or Nazarenes. The expressions "Jesus" and 
"Nazorean" were therefore originally of almost like mean- 
ing, and by the addition of " the Nazorean " or " Naza- 
rene " Jesus is not characterised as the man of Nazareth, 
as the Evangelists represent it, but as the Healer and 
Deliverer. 
Whether there was a place called Nazareth in pre- 

* Epiph., " Hseresiol." xxix. Smith, op. cit., 37 sq., 54. 

I Isa. ii. 1. Cf. Epiphanius, op. cit. § Id. xxix. 6. 



6o THE CHRIST MYTH 

Christian days must be considered as at least very 
doubtful. Such a place is not mentioned either in the 
Old Testament or in the Talmud, which, however, men- 
tions more than sixty Galilean towns ; nor, again, by 
the Jewish historian Josephus, nor in the Apocrypha. 
Cheyne believes himself justified by this in the conclu- 
sion that Nazareth in the New Testament is a pure 
geographical fiction.* 

It is only in the later phases of the tradition that the 
name appears in the New Testament as a place-name. In 
the earlier ones the Nazorean (Nazarene) only signifies 
the follower of a particular sect, or is a surname of Jesus 
which characterises the significance attached to him in 
the thoughts of his followers. " The Nazorean" appears 
here only as an integral part of the whole name of Jesus, 
as Zeus Xenios, Hermes Psychopompos, Apollo Pythios, 
&c, &c. It is applied to Jesus only as Guardian of the 
world, Protector and Deliverer of Men from the power of 
sin and Daemons, but without any reference to a quite 
obscure and entirely unknown village named Nazareth, 
which is mentioned in documents beyond any dispute, 
only from the fourth century on (see Eusebius, Jerome, and 
Epiphanius). Or where else is a sect named after the 
birthplace of its founder? f Moreover, even in the Gospels 
it is not Nazareth but Capernaum which is described as 

* "Enc. Bibl.," art. "Nazareth." 

f " Since ha-nosrim was a very usual term for guardians or pro- 
tectors, it follows that when the term or its Greek equivalent hoi 
Nazoraioi was used the adoption of its well-known meaning was un- 
avoidable. Even if the name was really derived from the village of 
Nazareth, no one would have thought of it. Every one would have 
unavoidably struck at once upon the current meaning. If a class of 
persons was called protectors, every one would understand that as 
meaning that they protected something. No one would hit upon it to 
derive their name from an otherwise unknown village named 
Protection " (Smith, op. cit., 47). 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 61 

his city ; while Nazareth does not play any part at all in 
the life of Jesus. For the passages Matt. xiii. 53-58 
and Mark vi. 1-6, according to which he had no success 
with his miracles in his " patris " on account of the 
unbelief of the people, leave the question open whether 
under the name of " patris " one is to understand his 
father-city Nazareth or somewhere else. The correspond- 
ing passage, Luke iv. 16-31, mentions Nazareth, it is true, 
in connection with this incident ; but it is in discrepancy 
with the older versions of Matthew and Mark, and it 
appears otherwise recognisable as a later redaction of the 
passages in the other Gospels.* 

Now the expression nazar or netzer in the sense of 
twig (sprout) is found not only in the well-known passage 
Isaiah xi. 1, where the Messiah is described as the " rod 
from the tree of Jesse " or " the twig from its root." In 
fine, was not the twig looked upon as a symbol of the 
Eedeemer in his character of a God of vegetation and life, 
as was the case in the worship of Mithras, of Men, a god 
of Asia Minor, of Attis, Apollo, t &c, and did not this 
idea also make itself felt in the name of the Nazareans ? 
"He shall be called a Nazarene,"t accordingly, does not 
signify that he was to be born in the small village of 
Nazareth, which probably did not exist in the time of 
Jesus, but that he is the promised netzer or Zemah, who 
makes all new, and restores the time when " one loads 
the other beneath vine and fig-tree, "§ and wonderful 
increase will appear. || Again, the possibility is not ex- 
cluded of the name of the Nazareans having been confused 
with that of the Nasiraes (Nazirites), those "holy" or 
"dedicated" ones, who were a survival in Judea from 
the times when the Israelite tribes were nomads. These 

* Cf. in this connection Smith, op. cit., 36 sq., 42 sqq. 

f Cf. Cumont, op. cit., 195 sq. f Matt. ii. 25. 

§ Zech. iii. 10. || Jeremias, op. cit., 56; cf. also 33 and 46, notes. 



62 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sought to express their opposition to the higher civilisation 
of the conquered land by patriarchal simplicity and purity 
of life, abstinence from the use of oil, wine, and the 
shears, &c* 

According to this, Jesus (Joshua) was originally a 
divinity, a mediator, and God of healing of those pre- 
Christian Jewish sectaries, with reference to whom we 
are obliged to describe the Judaism of the time — as 
regards certain of its tendencies, that is — as a syncretic 
religion.! " The Revelation of John " also appears to be 
a Christian redaction of an original Jewish work which in 
all likelihood belonged to a pre-Christian cult of Jesus. 
The God Jesus which appears in it has nothing to do with 
the Christian Jesus. Moreover, its whole range of ideas 
is so foreign even to ancient Judaism that it can be 
explained only by the influence of heathen religions upon 
the Jewish. \ It is exactly the same with the so-called 
" Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles." This too displays a 
Jewish foundation, and speaks of a Jesus in the context 
of the words of the supper, who is in no wise the same as 
the Christian Redeemer. § It is comprehensible that the 
later Christians did all they could in order to draw the veil 
of forgetfulness over these things. Nevertheless Smith 
has succeeded in his book, " The Pre-Christian Jesus," in 
showing clear evidences even in the New Testament of a 
cult of an old God Jesus. Among other things the 
phrase "to. Trepi rov 'Iijcrou" ("the things concerning 
Jesus") || which according to all appearance has no 
reference to the history of Jesus, but only means the 

* Robertson, " A Short History of Christianity," 1902, 9 sqq. 
t Gunkel, op. cit, 34. 

| Id., op. cit, 39-63 ; cf. also Eobertson, " Pagan Christs," 1903, 
155 seq. 

§ Cf. Eobertson, op. cit., 156. 

|| Mark v. 27 ; Luke xxiv. 19 ; Acts xviii. 25, xxviii. 31. 



JESUS AS CULT-GOD IN JEWISH SECTS 63 

doctrines concerning him, and in any case could originally 
only have had this meaning, involves a pre-Christian 
form of belief in a Jesus. But this point is above all 
supported by the circumstance that even at the earliest 
commencement of the Christian propaganda we meet 
with the name of Jesus used in such a manner as to 
point to a long history of that name. For it is employed 
from the beginning in the driving out of evil spirits, a 
fact that would be quite incomprehensible if its bearer 
had been merely a man. Now we know from the 
Gospels and Acts of the Apostles that it was not only 
the disciples of the Jesus of the Gospels, but also others 
even in his lifetime {i.e., even in the first commencement 
of the Christian propaganda), healed diseases, and drove 
out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. From this it is to 
be concluded that the magic of names was associated 
from of old with the conception of a divine healer and 
protector, and that Jesus, like Marduk, was a name for 
this God of Healing.* Judging by this the Persian, but 
above all the Babylonian, religion must have influenced 
the views of the above-named sects. For the superstition 
regarding names, the belief in the magic power attributed 
to the name of a divine being, as well as the belief in 
Star Gods and Astral mythology, which is a characteristic 
of Mandaism, all have Babylon as their home. The 
Essenes also appear to have exercised the magical and 
healing art of which they boasted in the form of wonder- 
working and the driving out of evil spirits by a solemn 
invocation of the name of their God of Healing, f 

* Luke ix. 49, x. 17 ; Acts iii. 16 ; James v. 14 sq. For more 
details regarding Name magic, see W. Heitmüller, " Im Namen 
Jesu," 1903. 

t Cf. on whole subject Eobertson, op. cit., 153-160. 



IV 

THE SUFFEEINGS OF THE MESSIAH 

IN the most different religions the belief in a divine 
Saviour and Redeemer is found bound up with the 
conception of a suffering and dying God, and this idea of 
a suffering and dying Messiah was by no means unknown 
to the Jews. It may be of no importance that in the 
Apocalypse of Esdras* the death of Christ is spoken of, 
since in the opinion of many this work only appeared in 
the -first century after Christ ; but Deutero-Isaiah too, 
during the Exile, describes the chosen one and messenger 
of God as the "suffering servant of God," as one who had 
already appeared, although he had remained unknown 
and despised, had died shamefully and been buried, but 
as one also who would rise up again in order to fulfil the 
splendour of the divine promise, t This brings to mind 
the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Gods of 
Babylon and of the whole of Nearer Asia ; for example, 
Tammuz, Mithras, Attis, Melkart, and Adonis, Dionysus, 
the Cretan Zeus, and the Egyptian Osiris. The prophet 
Zechariah, moreover, speaks of the secret murder of a 
God over which the inhabitants of Jerusalem would 
raise their lament, "as in the case of Hadad-rimmon 
(ßammän) in the valley of Megiddon," that is, as at the 
death of Adonis, one of the chief figures among the Gods 

* Ch. vii. 29. f Isa. iii. 

6 4 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 65 

believed in by the Syrians.* Ezekiel also describes the 
women of Jerusalem, sitting before the north gate of the 
city and weeping over Tammuz.t The ancient Israelites, 
too, were already well acquainted with the suffering and 
dying Gods of the neighbouring peoples. Now, indeed, 
it is customary for Isaiah's " servant of God " to be held 
to refer to the present sufferings and future glory of the 
Jewish people, and there is no doubt that the prophet 
understood the image in that sense. At the same time 
Gunkel rightly maintains that in the passage of Isaiah 
referred to, the figure of a God who dies and rises again 
stands in the background, and the reference to Israel 
signifies nothing more than a new symbolical explanation 
of the actual fate of a God. J 

Every year the forces of nature die away to reawaken 
to a new life only after a long period. The minds of 
all peoples used to be deeply moved by this occurrence 
— the death whether of nature as a whole beneath the 
influence of the cold of winter, or of vegetable growth 
under the parching rays of the summer sun. Men looked 
upon it as the fate of a fair young God whose death they 
deeply lamented and whose rebirth or resurrection they 
greeted with unrestrained rejoicing. On this account 
from earliest antiquity there was bound up with the 
celebration of this God an imitative mystery under the 
form of a ritualistic representation of his death and 
resurrection. In the primitive stages of worship, when 
the boundaries between spirit and nature remained 
almost entirely indistinct, and man still felt himself 
inwardly in a sympathetic correspondence with surround- 
ing nature, it was believed that one could even exercise 
an influence upon nature or help it in its interchange 
between life and death, and turn the course of events 

* Ch. xii. 10 sqq. ; cf. Movers, op. cit., i. 196. 
t Ch. viii. 14. J Op. oit., 78. 

5 



66 THE CHRIST MYTH 

to one's own interest. For this purpose man was obliged 
to imitate it. "Nowhere," says Frazer, to whom we 
are indebted for a searching inquiry into all ideas and 
ritualistic customs in this connection, "were these efforts 
more strictly and systematically carried out than in 
Western Asia. As far as names go they differed in 
different places, in essence they were everywhere alike. 
A man, whom the unrestrained phantasy of his adorers 
clothed with the garments and attributes of a God, used 
to give his life for the life of the world. After he had 
poured from his own body into the stagnating veins of 
nature a fresh stream of vital energy, he was himself 
delivered over to death before his own sinking strength 
should have brought about a general ruin of the forces of 
nature, and his place was then taken by another, who, 
like all his forerunners, played the ever-recurring drama 
of the divine resurrection and death." * Even in historic 
times this was frequently carried out with living persons. 
These had formerly been the kings of the country or 
the priests of the God in question, but their place was 
now taken by criminals. In other cases the sacrifice 
of the deified man took place only symbolically, as with 
the Egpytian Osiris, the Persian Mithras, the Phrygian 
Attis, the Syrian Adonis, and the Tarsic (Cilician) Sandan 
(Sandes). In these cases a picture of the God, an effigy, 
or a sacred tree-trunk took the place of the " God man." 
Sufficient signs, however, still show that in such cases 
it was only a question of a substitute under milder forms 
of ritual for the former human victim. Thus, for ex- 
ample, the name of the High Priest of Attis, being also 
Attis, that is, "father," the sacrificial self-inflicted wound 
on the occasion of the great feast of the God (March 22nd 
to 27th), and the sprinkling with his blood of the picture 
of the God that then took place, makes us recognise 
* Frazer, " The Golden Bough," 1900, ii. 196 sq. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 67 

still more plainly a later softening of an earlier custom of 
self-immolation.* With the idea of revivifying dying 
nature by the sacrifice of a man was associated that of 
the " scapegoat." The victim did not only represent 
to the people their God, but at the same time stood for 
the people before God and had to expiate by his death 
the misdeeds committed by them during the year.t As 
regards the manner of death, however, this varied in 
different places between death by his own sword or that 
of the priest, by the pyre or the gibbet (gallows). 

In this way we understand the 53rd chapter of 
Isaiah : " Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried 
our sorrows : yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of 
God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our trans- 
gressions, he was bruised for our iniquities : the chas- 
tisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his 
stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone 
astray ; we have turned every one to his own way ; and 
the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He 
was oppressed, yet he humbled himself, and opened not 
his mouth ; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as 
a sheep that before her shearers is dumb ; yea, he opened 
not his mouth. He was cut off out of the land of the 
living ; for the transgression of my people was he 
stricken. And they made his grave with the wicked 
and with the rich in his death ; although he had done 
no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. When 
thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see 
his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure 
of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see 
of the travail of his soul [? sufferings], and shall be 
satisfied : by his knowledge shall my righteous servant 
justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. There- 

* Frazer, " Adonis, Attis, Osiris," 1908, 128 sqq. 
t "The Golden Bough," i., iii. 20 aq. 



68 THE CHRIST MYTH 

fore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he 
shall divide the spoil with the strong ; because he poured 
out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the 
transgressors ; yet he bare the sin of many, and made 
intercession for the transgressors." Here we obviously 
have to do with a man who dies as an expiatory sacrifice 
for the sins of his people, and by his death benefiting 
the lives of the others is on that account raised to be 
a God. Indeed, the picture of the just man suffering, 
all innocent as he is, itself varies between a human and 
a divine being. 

And now let us enter into the condition of the soul of 
such an unhappy one, who as " God man " suffers death 
upon the gibbet, and we understand the words of the 
22nd Psalm : " My God, my God, why hast thou 
forsaken me ? Why art thou so far from helping 
me, and from the words of my roaring ? O my God, 
I cry in the day time, but thou answereth not ; and in 
the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, 
thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers 
trusted in thee ; they trusted, and thou didst deliver 
them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered ; they 
trusted in Thee, and were not ashamed. But I am a 
worm, and no man ; a reproach of men, and despised 
of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn : 
they shoot out the lip, they shake the lip, saying, 
Commit thyself unto the Lord, let him deliver him : 
let him deliver him, seeing he delighteth in him. . . . 
Many bulls have compassed me : strong bulls of Bashan 
have beset me round. They gape upon me with their 
mouth, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured 
out like water. And all my bones are out of joint : my 
heart is like wax : it is melted in the midst of my 
bowels. . . . They pierced my hands and my feet. I may 
tell all my bones. They look and stare upon me : they 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 69 

part my garments among them, and upon my vesture 
do they cast lots. But be not thou far off, Lord : 
Thou, my succour, haste Thee to help me. . . . Save 
me from the lion's mouth, yea, from the horns of the 
wild oxen. . . ." 

When the poet of the psalms wished to describe help- 
lessness in its direst extremity, before his eyes there 
came the picture of a man, who, hanging upon the gibbet, 
calls upon God's aid, while round about him the people 
gloat over his sufferings, which are to save them ; and 
the attendants who had taken part in the sacrifice divide 
among themselves the costly garments with which the 
God-king had been adorned. 

The employment of such a picture presupposes that 
the occurrence depicted was not unknown to the poet 
and his public, whether it came before their eyes from 
acquaintance with the religious ideas of their neigh- 
bours or because they were accustomed to see it in their 
own native usages. As a matter of fact in ancient Israel 
human sacrifices were by no means unusual. This 
appears from numberless passages of the Old Testament, 
and has been already exhaustively set forth by Ghillany 
in his book "Die Menschenopfer der alten Hebräer" 
(1842), and by Daumer in his " Der Feuer- und Moloch- 
dienst der alten Hebräer." Thus we read in 2 Sam. 
xxi. 6-9 of the seven sons of the House of Saul, who 
were delivered over by David to the Gibeonites, who 
hung them on the mountain before the Lord. Thus was 
God appeased towards the land.* In Numb. xxv. 4 
Jahwe bade Moses hang the chiefs of the people " to the 
Lord before the sun, in order that the bitter wrath of the 
Lord might be turned from Israel." And according to 
the Book of Joshua this latter dedicated the inhabitants 
of the city of Ain to the Lord, and after the capture of the 

* Verse 14. 



7o THE CHRIST MYTH 

city hung their king upon a tree,* while in the tenth 
chapter (15-26) he even hangs five kings at one time. 
Indeed, it appears that human sacrifice formed a regular 
part of the Jewish religion in the period before the Exile ; 
which indeed was but to be expected, considering 
the relationship between Jahwe and the Phoenician 
Baal. Jahwe himself was, moreover, originally only 
another form of the old Semitic Fire- and Sun-God ; the 
God-king (Moloch or Melech), who was honoured under 
the image of a Bull, was represented at this time as 
a " smoking furnace " f and was gratified and propitiated 
by human sacrifices.! Even during the Babylonian 
captivity, despite the voices raised against it by some 
prophets in the last years of the Jewish state, sacrifices 
of this kind were offered by the Jews ; until they were 
suppressed under the rule of the Persians, and in the 
new Jewish state were expressly forbidden. But even 
then they continued in secret and could easily be revived 
at any time, so soon as the excitement of the popular 
mind in some time of great need seemed to demand an 
extraordinary victim. § 

Now the putting to death of a man in the role of a 
divine ruler was in ancient times very often connected 

* Op. ott., viii. 24-29. f 1 Gen. xv. 17. 

J Ghillany, op. cit., 148, 195, 279, 299, 318 sqq. Cf. especially the 
chapter " Der alte hebräische Nationalgott Jahve," 264 sqq. 

§ J. M. Eobertson, "Pagan Christs," 140-148. It cannot be 
sufficiently insisted upon that it was only under Persian influence that 
Jahwe was separated froni the Gods of the other Semitic races, 
from Baal, Melkart, Moloch, Chemosh, &c, with whom hitherto he 
had been almost completely identified ; also that it was only through 
being worked upon by Hellenistic civilisation that he became that 
" unique " God, of whom we usually think on hearing the name. 
The idea of a special religious position of the Jewish people, the 
expression of which was Jahwe, above all belongs to those myths of 
religious history which one repeats to another without thought, but 
which science should finally put out of the way. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 71 

with the celebration of the new year. This is brought 
to our mind even at the present day by the German and 
Slav custom of the " bearing out " of death at the 
beginning of spring, when a man or an image of straw 
symbolising the old year or winter, is taken round amidst 
lively jesting and is finally thrown into the water or 
ceremonially burnt, while the " Lord of May," crowned 
with flowers, makes his entrance. Again, the Eoman 
Saturnalia, celebrated in December, during which a mock 
king wielded his sceptre over a world of joy and licence 
and unbounded folly, and all relationships were topsy- 
turvy, the masters playing the part of slaves and vice- 
versa, in the most ancient times used to be held in March 
as a festival of spring. And in this case, too, the king 
of the festival had to pay for his short reign with his life. 
In fact, the Acts of St. Dasius, published by Cumont, show 
that the bloody custom was still observed by the Eoman 
soldiers on the frontiers of the Empire in the year 
303 a.D.* 

In Babylon the Feast of the Sakaees corresponded to 
the Eoman Saturnalia. It was ostensibly a memorial of 
the inroad of the Scythian Sakes into Nearer Asia, and 
according to Frazer was identical with the very ancient 
new year's festival of the Babylonians, the Zakmuk. 
This too was associated with a reversal of all usual 
relationships. A mock king, a criminal condemned to 
death, was here also the central figure — an unhappy 
being, to whom for a few days was accorded absolute 
freedom and every kind of pleasure, even to the using 
of the royal harem, until on the last day he was divested 
of his borrowed dignity, stripped naked, scourged, and 
then burnt. t The Jews gained a knowledge of this feast 
during the Babylonian captivity, borrowed it from their 

* " Golden Bough," iii. 138-146. 
f Movers, op. cit., 480 sqq. 



72 THE CHRIST MYTH 

oppressors, and celebrated it shortly before their Pasch 
under the name of the Feast of Purim, ostensibly, as the 
Book of Esther is at pains to point out, as a memorial 
of a great danger from which in Persia during the reign of 
Ahasuerus (Xerxes) they were saved by the craft of Esther 
and her uncle Mordecai. Jensen, however, has pointed 
out in the Vienna Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgen- 
landes * that the basis of the narrative of Esther is an 
opposition between the chief Gods of Babylon and those of 
hostile Elam. According to his view under the names of 
Esther and Mordecai are hidden the names of Istar, the 
Babylonian Goddess of fertility, and Marduk, her " son " 
and "beloved." At Babylon during the Feast of the 
Sakaees, under the names of the Elamite Gods Vashti 
and Haman (Humman), they were put out of the way 
as representatives of the old or wintry part of the year 
in order that they might rise up again under their real 
names and bring into the new year or the summer half 
of the year.t Thus the Babylonian king of the Saksees 
also played the part of a God and suffered death as such 
upon the pyre. Now we have grounds for assuming that 
the later Jewish custom at the Feast of Purim of 
hanging upon a gibbet and burning a picture or effigy 
representing the evil Haman, originally consisted, as at 
Babylon, in the putting to death of a real man, some 
criminal condemned to death. Here, too, then was seen 
not only a representative of Haman, but one also of 
Mordecai, a representative of the old as well as of the 
new year, who in essence was one and the same being. 
While the former was put to death at the Purim feast, 
the latter, a criminal chosen by lot, was given his freedom 

* VI. 47 sqq., 209 sqq. 

\ Cf. Gunkel, "Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit," 1895. 
309 sq. E. Schrader, " Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament," 
1902, 514-520. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 73 

on this occasion, clothed with the royal insignia of 
the dead man and honoured as the representative of 
Mordecai rewarded by Ahasuerus for his services. 

" Mordecai," it is said in the Book of Esther, " went 
out from the king in royal attire, gold and white, with 
a great crown of gold, and covered with a robe of linen 
and purple. And the town of Susa rejoiced and was 
merry." * Frazer has discovered that in this description 
we have before us the picture of an old Babylonian king 
of the Saksees, who represented Marduk, as he entered 
the chief town of the country side, and thus introduced 
the new year. At the same time it appears that in reality 
the procession of the mock king was less serious and 
impressive than the author of the Book of Esther would 
out of national vanity make us believe. Thus Lagarde 
has drawn attention to an old Persian custom which 
used to be observed every year at the beginning of spring 
in the early days of March, which is known as " the Eide 
of the Beardless One." f On this occasion a beardless 
and, when possible, one-eyed yokel, naked, and accom- 
panied by a royal body-guard and a troop of outriders, 
was conducted in solemn pomp through the city seated 
upon an ass, amidst the acclamations of the crowd, who 
bore branches of palm and cheered the mock king. He 
had the right to collect contributions from the rich people 
and shopkeepers along the route which he followed. 
Part of these went into the coffers of the king, part were 
assigned to the collector, and he could without more ado 
appropriate the property of another in case the latter 
refused his demands. He had, however, to finish his 
progress and disappear within a strictly limited time, for 
in default of this he exposed himself to the danger of 

* Ch. viii. 15. Cf. also vi. 8, 9. 

f " Abhandlungen d. Kgl. Ges. d. Wissenschaften zu Göttingen," 
xxxiv. 



74 THE CHRIST MYTH 

being seized by the crowd and mercilessly cudgelled to 
death. People hoped that from this procession of " the 
Beardless One " an early end of winter and a good year 
would result. From this it appears that here too we 
have to do with one of those innumerable and multiform 
spring customs, which at all times and among the most 
diverse nations served to hasten the approach of the 
better season. The Persian " Beardless One " corre- 
sponded with the Babylonian king of the Sakaees, and 
appears to have represented the departing winter. 
Frazer concludes from this that the criminal also who 
played the »part of the Jewish "Mordecai" with similar 
pomp rode through the city like "the Beardless One," 
and had to purchase his freedom with the amusement 
which he afforded the people. In this connection he 
recalls a statement of Philo according to which, on the 
occasion of the entry of the Jewish King Agrippa into 
Alexandria, a half-crazy street sweeper was solemnly 
chosen by the rabble to be king. After the manner of 
" the Beardless One," covered with a robe and bearing 
a crown of paper upon his head and a stick in his hand 
for a sceptre, he was treated by a troop of merry-makers 
as a real king.* Philo calls the poor wretch Karabas. 
This is probably only a corruption of the Hebrew name 
Barabbas, which means " Son of the Father." It was 
accordingly not the name of an individual, but the regular 
appellation of whoever had at the Purim feast to play 
the part of Mordecai, the Babylonian Marduk, that is, 
the new year. This is in accordance with the original 
divine character of the Jewish mock king. For as " sons" 
of the divine father all the Gods of vegetation and fertility 
of Nearer Asia suffered death, and the human representa- 
tives of these gods had to give their lives for the welfare 

* Cf. also P. Wendland, " Ztschr. Hermes," xxxiii., 1898, 175 sqq., 
and Robertson, op. cit., 138, note 1. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 75 

of their people and the renewed growth of nature.* It 
thus appears that a kind of commingling of the Baby- 
lonian Feast of the Sakaees and the Persian feast of 
" the Beardless One " took place among the Jews, owing 
to their sojourn in Babylon under Persian overlordship. 
The released criminal made his procession as Marduk 
(Mordecai) the representative of the new life rising 
from the dead, but it was made in the ridiculous role 
of the Persian " Beardless One " — that is, the representa- 
tive of the old year — while this latter was likewise repre- 
sented by another criminal, who, as Haman, had to 
suffer death upon the gallows. In their account of the 
last events of the life of the Messiah, Jesus, the custom 
at the Jewish Purim feast, already referred to, passed 
through the minds of the Evangelists. They described 
Jesus as the Haman, Barabbas as the Mordecai of the 
year, and in so doing, on account of the s}^mbol of the 
lamb of sacrifice, they merged the Purim feast in the 
feast of Easter, celebrated a little later. They, however, 
transferred the festive entry into Jerusalem of " the 
Beardless One," his hostile measures against the shop- 
keepers and money-changers, and his being crowned in 
mockery as " King of the Jews," from Mordecai - 
Barabbas to Haman-Jesus, thus anticipating symbolically 
the occurrences which should only have been completed 
on the resurrection of the Marduk of the new year.f 
According to an old reading of Math, xxvii. 18 et seq., 
which, however, has disappeared from our texts since 

* In the same way the Phrygian Attis, whose name characterises 
him as himself the " father," was also honoured as the " son," 
beloved and spouse of Cybele, the mother Goddess. He thus varied 
between a Father God, the high King of Heaven, and the divine Son 
of that God. 

f Frazer, op. cit., iii. 138-200. Cf. also Eobertson, " Pagan 
Christs," 136-140. 



76 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Origen, Barabbas, the criminal set against the Saviour, 
is called " Jesus Barabbas " — that is, " Jesus, the son of 
the Father." * May an indication of the true state of 
the facts not lie herein, and may the figure of Jesus 
Barabbas, the God of the Year, corresponding to both 
halves of the year, that of the sun's course upwards and 
downwards, not have separated into two distinct per- 
sonalities on the occasion of the new year's feast ? 

The Jewish Pasch was a feast of spring and the new 
year, on the occasion of which the firstfruits of the 
harvest and the first-born of men and beasts were offered 
to the God of sun and sky. Originally this was also 
associated with human sacrifices. Here too such a 
sacrifice passed, as was universal in antiquity, for a 
means of expiation, atoning for the sins of the past 
year and ensuring the favour of Jahwe for the new 
year.f "As representing all the souls of the first-born 
are given to God ; they are the means of union between 
Jahwe and his people ; the latter can only remain for 
ever Jahwe's own provided a new generation always 
offers its first-born in sacrifice to God. This was the 
chief dogma of ancient Judaism ; all the hopes of the 
people were fixed thereon ; the most far - reaching 
promises were grounded upon the readiness to sacrifice 
the first-born." \ The more valuable such a victim was, 
the higher the rank which he bore in life, so much the 
more pleasing was his death to God. On this account 
they were "kings" who, according to the Books of 
Joshua and Samuel, were " consecrated " to the Lord. 
Indeed, in the case of the seven sons of the house of 
Saul whom David caused to be hung, the connection 
between their death and the Pasch is perfectly clear, 

* Keim, " Geschichte Jesu," 1873, 331 note. 
f Ghillany, op. cit., 510 sqq. 
I Id. 505. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH yj 

when it is said that they died " before the Lord " at the 
time of the barley harvest (i.e., of the Feast of the 
Pasch).* Thus there could be no more efficacious 
sacrifice than when a king or ruler offered his first-born. 
It was on this account that, as Justin informs us, t the 
banished Carthaginian general Maleus caused his son 
Cartalo, decked out as a king and priest, to be hung 
in sight of Carthage while it was being besieged by him, 
thereby casting down the besiegers so much that he 
captured the city after a few days. It was on this 
account that the Carthaginian Hamilcar at the siege 
of Agrigentum (407 B.c.) sacrificed his own son, and 
that the Israelites relinquished the conquest of Moab, 
when the king of this country offered his first-born to 
the Gods, t Here, too, the human victim seems to have 
been only the representative of a divine one, as when, for 
example, the Phoenicians in Tyre until the time of the 
siege of that city by Alexander sacrificed each year, 
according to Pliny, a boy to Kronos, i.e., Melkart or 
Moloch (king).§ This Tyrian Melkart, however, is the 
same as he to whom, as Porphyry states, a criminal 
was annually sacrificed at Rhodes. According to Philo 
of Byblos the God was called "Israel" among the 
Phoenicians, and on the occasion of a great pestilence, 
in order to check the mortality, he is said to have 
sacrificed his first-born son Jehud (Judah), i.e., "the Only 
one," having first decked him out in regal attire. || Thus 
Abraham also sacrificed his first-born to Jahwe. 
Abraham (the "great father") is, however, only another 
name for Israel, "the mighty God." This was the 
earliest designation of the God of the Hebrews, until 

* 2 Sam. xxi. 9 ; cf. Lev. xxiii. 10-14. f " Hist.," xviii. 7. 

J 2 Kings iii. 27. § " Hist. Nat.," xxxiv. 4, § 26. 

|| Mentioned in Eusebius, " Praeparatio Evangelica," i. 10. Cf. 
Movers, op. cit., 303 sq. 



78 THE CHRIST MYTH 

it was displaced by the name Jahwe, being only 
employed henceforth as the name of the people belong- 
ing to him. The name of his son Isaac (Jishak) marks 
the latter out as " the smiling one." This, however, 
does not refer, as Goldzither* thinks, to the smiling 
day or the morning light, but to the facial contortions of 
the victim called forth by the pains he endured from the 
flames in the embrace of the glowing oven. These contor- 
tions were anciently called "sardonic laughter," on account 
of the sacrifices to Moloch in Crete and Sardinia.! When, 
as civilisation increased, human sacrifices were done 
away with in Israel, and with the development of 
monotheism the ancient Gods were transformed into 
men, the story of Genesis xxii. came into existence with 
the object of justifying " historically " the change from 
human to animal victims. The ancient custom accord- 
ing to which amongst many peoples of antiquity, kings, 
the sons of kings, and priests were not allowed to die a 
natural death, but, after the expiration of a certain time 
usually fixed by an oracle, had to suffer death as a 
sacrificial victim for the good of their people, must 
accordingly have been in force originally in Israel also. 
Thus did Moses and Aaron also offer themselves for their 
people in their capacity of leader and high priest. J But 
since both, and especially Moses, passed as types of the 
Messiah, the opinion grew up quite naturally that the 
expected great and mighty leader and high priest of 
Israel, in whom Moses should live again, § had to suffer 
the holy death of Moses and Aaron as sacrificial victims. || 

* " Der Mythus bei den Hebräern," 1876, 109-113. 
\ Cf. Ghülany, qp. cit., 451 sqq. ; Daumer, op. cit., 34 sqq., 111. 
| Numb. xx. 22 sqq., xxvii. 12 sqq., xxxiii. 37 sqq., Deut, xxxii. 
48 sqq. Cf. Ghülany, op. cit., 709-721. 
§ Deut, xviii. 15. 
II Cf. Heb. v. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 79 

The view that the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah 
was unknown to the Jews cannot accordingly be main- 
tained. Indeed, in Daniel ix. 26 mention is made of a 
dying Christ. We saw above that among the Jews of 
the post-exilic period the thought of the Messiah was 
associated with the personality of Cyrus. Now of Cyrus 
the story goes that this mighty Persian king suffered 
death upon the gibbet by the order of the Scythian queen 
Tomyris.* But in Justin the Jew Trypho asserts that 
the Messiah will suffer and die a death of violence, t 
Indeed, what is more, the Talmud looks upon the death 
of the Messiah (with reference to Isaiah liii.) as an 
expiatory death for the sins of his people. From this it 
appears "that in the second century after Christ, people 
were, at any rate in certain circles of Judaism, familiar 
with the idea of a suffering Messiah, suffering too as an 
expiation for human sins." \ 

The Kabbinists separate more accurately two concep- 
tions of the Messiah. According to one, in the character 
of a descendant of David and a great and divine hero he 
was to release the Jews from servitude, found the 
promised world-wide empire, and sit in judgment over 
men. This is the Jewish conception of the Messiah, of 
which King David was the ideal. § According to the 
other he was to assemble the ten tribes in Galilee and 
lead them against Jerusalem, only to be overthrown, 
however, in the battle against Gog and Magog under the 
leadership of Armillus on account of Jeroboam's sin — 
that is, on account of the secession of the Israelites from 
the Jews. The Talmud describes the last-mentioned 

* Diodorus Siculus, ii. 44. 
f Justin, " Dial, cum Tryphone," cap. xc. 

I Schürer, op. cit,, ii. 555. Cf. also Wünsche, "Die Leiden des 
Messias," 1870. 

§ See above, page 40 sqq. 



8o THE CHRIST MYTH 

Messiah, in distinction from the first, as the son of 
Joseph or Ephraim. This is done with reference to the 
fact that the kingdom of Israel included above all the 
tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and that these traced 
back their origin to the mythical Joseph. He is thus the 
Messiah of the Israelites who had separated from the 
Jews, and especially, as it appears, of the Samaritans. 
This Messiah, " the son of Joseph," it is said, "will offer 
himself in sacrifice and pour forth his soul in death, and 
his blood will atone for the people of God." He himself 
will go to heaven. Then, however, the other Messiah, 
"the son of David," the Messiah of the Jews in a 
narrower sense, will come and fulfil the promises made to 
them, in which connection Zech. xii. 10 sq. and 
xiv. 3 sq. seem to have influenced this whole doctrine.* 
According to Dalman,t the figure of the Messiah ben 
Joseph first appeared in the second or third century 
after Christ. Bousset too appears to consider it a 
" later " tradition, although he cannot deny that the 
Jewish Apocalypses of the end of the first thousand 
years after Christ, which are the first to make ex- 
tensive mention of the matter, may have contained 
" very ancient " traditions. According to Persian beliefs, 
too, Mithras was the suffering Eedeemer and mediator 
between God and the world, while Saoshyant, on the 
other hand, was the judge of the world who would appear 
at the end of all time and obtain the victory over Ariman 
(Armillus). In the same way the Greek myth distin- 

* Cf. Eisenmenger, op. cit., ii. 720 sqq. ; Gfrörer, " Das Jahrhun- 
dert des Heils," 1838, ii. 260 sqq. ; Lützelberger, " Die kirehl. Tradi- 
tion über den Apostel Johannes u. s. Schriften," 1840, 224-229; 
Dalman, " Der leidende und der sterbende Messias der Synagoge im 
ersten nachchristlichen Jahrtausend," 1888 ; Bousset, " Die Eeligion 
des Judentums, im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter," 1903, 218 sq. ; 
Jeremias, op. cit., 40 sq. 

f Op. cit., 21. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 81 

guished from the older Dionysius, Zagreus, the son of 
Persephone, who died a cruel death at the hands of the 
Titans, a younger God of the same name, son of Zeus 
and Semele, who was to deliver the world from the 
shackles of darkness. Precisely the same relationship 
exists between Prometheus, the suffering, and Heracles, 
the triumphant deliverer of the world. We thus obvi- 
ously have to do here with a very old and wide-spread 
myth, and it is scarcely necessary to point out how closely 
the two figures of the Samaritan and Jewish Messiahs 
correspond to the Haman and Mardachai of the Jewish 
Purim feast, in order to prove the extreme antiquity of 
this whole conception. The Gospel united into one the 
two figures of the Messiah, which had been originally 
separate. From the Messiah ben Joseph it made the 
human Messiah, born in Galilee, and setting out from 
there with his followers for Jerusalem, there to succumb 
to his adversaries. On the other hand, from the Messiah 
ben David it made the Messiah of return and resurrec- 
tion. At the same time it elevated and deepened the 
whole idea of the Messiah in the highest degree by 
commingling the conception of the self-sacrificing Messiah 
with that of the Paschal victim, and this again with that 
of the God who offers his own son in sacrifice. Along 
with the Jews it looked upon Jesus as the "son" of 
King David, at the same time, however, preserving a 
remembrance of the Israelite Messiah in that it also gave 
him Joseph as father ; and while it said with respect to 
the first idea that he was born at Bethlehem, the city of 
David, it assigned him in connection with the latter 
Nazareth of Galilee as his birthplace, and invented 
the abstruse story of the journey of his parents to 
Bethlehem in order to be perfectly impartial towards 
both views. 

And now, who is this Joseph, as son of whom the 

6 



82 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Messiah was to be a suffering and dying creature like 
any ordinary man ? Winckler has pointed out in his 
" Geschichte Israels " that under the figure of the Joseph 
of the Old Testament, just as under that of Joshua, 
an ancient Ephraimitic tribal God is concealed. Joseph 
is, as Winckler expresses it, "the heroic offspring of Baal 
of Garizim, an offshoot of the Sun-God, to whom at the 
same time characteristics of Tammuz, the God of the 
Spring Sun, are transferred." * Just as Tammuz had to 
descend into the under-world, so was Joseph cast into 
the well, in which, according to the " Testament of the 
twelve Patriarchs," t he spent three months and five days. 
This betokens the winter months and five additional days 
during which the sun remains in the under-world. And 
again he is cast into prison ; and just as Tammuz, after 
his return from the under-world, brings a new spring to 
the earth, so does Joseph, after his release from confine- 
ment, introduce a season of peace and happiness for 
Egypt.! On this account he was called in Egypt 
Psontomphanech, that is, Deliverer of the "World, in 
view of his divine nature, and later passed among the 
Jews also as a prototype of the Messiah. Indeed, it 
appears that the Evangelists themselves regarded him in 
such a light, for the story of the two fellow-prisoners of 
Joseph, the baker and cupbearer of Pharaoh, one of 
whom, as Joseph foretold, was hanged, § while the other 
was again received into favour by the king, was trans- 
formed by them into the story of the two robbers who 
were executed at the same time as Jesus, one of whom 
mocked the Saviour while the other besought him 

* Op. cit., 71 sq. 

f Kautzsch, " Pseudoepigraphen," 500. 

I Winckler, op. cit., 67-77. Cf. also Jeremias, op. cit., 40, and his 
" Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients," 1904, 239 aq. 
§ Gen. xl. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 83 

to remember him when he entered into his heavenly 
kingdom.* 

But the Ephraimitic Joshua too must have been a 
kind of Tammuz or Adonis. His name (Joshua, Syrian, 
Jeshu) characterises him as saviour and deliverer. As 
such he also appears in the Old Testament, finally leading 
the people of Israel into the promised land after long 
privations and sufferings. According to the Jewish 
Calendar the commencement of his activity was upon 
the tenth of Nisan, on which the Paschal lamb was 
chosen, and it ended with the Feast of the Pasch. Moses 
introduced the custom of circumcision and the redemption 
of the first-born male, and Joshua was supposed to have 
revived it.t At the same time he is said to have replaced 
the child victims, which it had been customary to offer to 
Jahwe in early days, by the offering of the foreskin of 
the male and thereby to have established a more humane 
form of sacrificial worship. This brings to our mind the 
substitution of an animal victim for a human one in the 
story of Isaac (Jishäks). It also brings to mind Jesus 
who offered his own body in sacrifice at the Pasch as 
a substitute for the numberless bloody sacrifices of 
expiation of prior generations. Again, according to an 
ancient Arabian tradition, the mother of Joshua was 
called Mirzam (Mariam, Maria), as the mother of Jesus 
was, while the mother of Adonis bore the similar sounding 
name of Myrrha, which also expressed the mourning of 
the women at the lament for Adonis % and characterised 
the mother of the Redeemer God as " the mother of 
sorrow." § 

But what is above all decisive is that the son of the 

* Luke xxiii. 39-43 ; cf. also Isa. lxxx. 12. 
f Jos. v. 2 sqq. 

I Amos viii. 10 ; cf. Movers, op cit., 243. 
§ Cf. Robertson, " Pagan Christs," 157. 



84 THE CHRIST MYTH 

"Ploughman" Jephunneh, Caleb (i.e., the Dog), stands 
by Joshua's side as a hero of equal rank. His name 
points in the same way to the time of the summer solstice, 
when in the mouth of the "lion" the dog-star (Sirius) 
rises, while his descent from Nun, the Fish or Aquarius, 
indicates Joshua as representing the winter solstice.* 
Just as Joshua belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, to 
which according to the Blessing of Jacob the Fishes of 
the Zodiac refer, t so Caleb belonged to the tribe of Judah, 
which Jacob's Blessing likened to a lion ; t and while the 
latter as Calub (Chelub) has Shuhah for brother, that is, 
the Sun descending into the kingdom of shadows (the 
Southern Hemisphere),! in like manner Joshua represents 
the Spring Sun rising out of the night of winter. They 
are thus both related to one another in the same way as 
the annual rise and decline of the sun, and as, according 
to Babylonian ideas, are Tammuz and Nergal, who 
similarly typify the two halves of the year. When 
Joshua dies at Timnath-heres, the place of the eclipse 
of the Sun (i.e., at the time of the summer solstice, at 
which the death of the Sun-God was celebrated ||), he 
appears again as a kind of Tammuz, while the "lamen- 
tation" of the people at his deathH alludes possibly to 
the lamentation at the death of the Sun-God.** 
* It cannot be denied after all this that the conception of 
a suffering and dying Messiah was of extreme antiquity 
amongst the Israelites and was connected with the earliest 
nature- worship, although later it may indeed have become 
restricted and peculiar to certain exclusive circles, tt 

* Numb. xiv. f Id. xiii. 9 ; Gen. xlviii. 16. 

I Id. xiii. 7 ; Gen. xlix. 9. § 1 Chron. iv. 11. 

|| Judges ii. 9. H Id. iv. 

** Cf. Nork. " Bealwörterbuch," 1843-5, ii. 301 sq. 

f f Cf. on whole subject Martin Brückner, " Der sterbende und 
auferstehende Gottheiland in den orientalischen Religionen und ihr 
Verhältnis zum Christentum. Religionsgesch. Volksbücher," 1908. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH 85 

The Jewish representative of Haman suffered death at 
the Feast of Purim on account of a crime, as a deserved 
punishment which had been awarded him. The Messiah 
Jesus, on the other hand, according to the words of 
Isaiah, took the punishment upon himself, being "just." 
He was capable of being an expiatory victim for the sins 
of the whole people, precisely because he least of all 
deserved such a fate. 

Plato had already in his " Eepublic " sketched the picture 
of a "just man" passing his life unknown and un- 
honoured amidst suffering and persecution. His righteous- 
ness is put to the proof and he reaches the highest degree 
of virtue, not allowing himself to be shaken in his 
conduct. " The just man is scourged, racked, thrown 
into prison, blinded in both eyes, and finally, when he 
has endured all ills, he is executed, and he recognises 
that one should be determined not to be just but to 
appear so." In Pharisaic circles he passed as a just man 
who by his own undeserved sufferings made recompense 
for the sins of the others and made matters right for 
them before God, as, for example, in the Fourth Book 
of the Maccabees the blood of the martyrs is represented 
as the expiatory offering on account of which God 
delivered Israel. The hatred of the unjust and godless 
towards the just, the reward of the just and the punish- 
ment of the unjust, were favourite themes for aphoristic 
literature, and they were fully dealt with in the Book 
of Wisdom, the Alexandrian author of which was 
presumably not unacquainted with the Platonic picture 
of the just man. He makes the godless appear conversing 
and weaving plots against the just. "Let us then," he 
makes them say, " lie in wait for the righteous ; because 
he is not to our liking and he is clean contrary to our 
doings ; he upbraideth us with our offending the law and 
reproacheth us with our sins against our training. He 



86 THE CHRIST MYTH 

professeth to have the knowledge of God ; and he calleth 
himself the child of the Lord. He proved to be to us for 
the reproof of our designs. He is grievous unto us even 
to behold : for his life is not like other men's, his ways 
are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as 
counterfeits ; he abstaineth from our ways as from filth ; 
he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed and 
maketh his boast that God is his father. Let us see if 
his words be true : and let us prove what will happen in 
the end of him. For if the just man be the son of God, 
he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his 
enemies. Let us examine him with despitefulness and 
torture that we may know his meekness and prove his 
patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death : 
thus will he be known by his words." * " But the souls 
of the just," continues the author of the Book of "Wisdom, 
" are in the hands of God, and there shall no torment 
touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to 
die : and their departure is taken for misery, and their 
going from us for utter destruction : but they are in 
peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men 
yet is their hopes full of immortality. And having been 
a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded : for God 
proved them and found them worthy for himself. As 
gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received 
them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their 
visitation they shall shine and run to and fro like sparks 
among the stubble. They shall judge the nations and 
have dominion over the people and their Lord will rule 
for ever." t It could easily be imagined that these words, 
which were understood by the author of the Book of 
Wisdom of the just man in general, referred to the just 
man par excellence, the Messiah, the " son " of God in the 
highest sense of the word, who gave his life for the sins 

* Ch. Ü. 12-20. f Ch. iii. 1-8. 



THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH %>j 

of his people. A reason was found at the same time for 
the shameful death of the Messiah. He died the object 
of the hatred of the unjust ; he accepted contempt and 
scorn as did the Haman and Barabbas of the Feast of 
Purim, but only in order that by this deep debasement he 
might be raised up by God, as is said of the just man in 
the Book of Wisdom : " That is he whom we had some- 
times in derision and a proverb of reproach : We fools 
accounted his life madness and his end to be without 
honour : Now is he numbered among the children of God, 
and his lot is among the saints." * 

Now we understand how the picture of the Messiah 
varied among the Jews between that of a divine and that 
of a human being; how he was " accounted just among 
the evil-doers " ; how the idea became associated with a 
human being that he was a " Son of God " and at the 
same time " King of the Jews " ; and how the idea could 
arise that in his shameful and undeserved death God had 
offered himself for mankind. Now too we can under- 
stand that he who died had after a short while to rise 
again from the dead, and this in order to ascend into 
heaven in splendour and glory and to unite himself with 
God the Father above. These were ideas which long 
before the Jesus of the Gospels were spread among the 
Jewish people, and indeed throughout the whole of 
Western Asia. In certain sects they were cherished as 
secret doctrines, and were the principal cause that 
precisely in this portion of the ancient world Christianity 
spread so early and with such unusual rapidity. 

* Ch. v. 3-5. 



V 

THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 

IT is not only the idea of the just man suffering, of 
the Messiah dying upon the gibbet, as " King of the 
Jews " and a criminal, and his rising again, which 
belongs to the centuries before Christ. The stories 
which relate to the miraculous birth of Jesus and to 
his early fortunes also date back to this time. Thus in 
the Kevelation of John * we meet with the obviously very 
ancient mythical idea of the birth of a divine child, who 
is scarcely brought into the world before he is threatened 
by the Dragon of Darkness, but is withdrawn in time 
into heaven from his pursuer ; whereupon the Archangel 
Michael renders the monster harmless. Gunkel thinks 
that this conception must be traced back to a very 
ancient Babylonian myth.t Others, as Dupuis J and 
Dieterich, have drawn attention to its resemblance to 
the Greek myth of Leto,§ who, before the birth of the 
Light god Apollo, being pursued by the Earth dragon 
Pytho, was carried by the Wind god Boreas to Poseidon, 
and was brought safely by the latter to the Island of 
Ortygia, where she was able to bring forth her son 
unmolested by the hostile monster. Others again, like 
Bousset, have compared the Egyptian myth of Hathor, 
according to which Hathor or Isis sent her young son, 

* Ch, xii. f " Zum religionsgesch. Verst. d. N.T.," 54. 

I " L'origine de tous les cultes," 1795, v. 133. § "Abraxas," 117. 

88 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 89 

the Light god Horus, fleeing out of Egypt upon an ass »' 
before the pursuit of his uncle Seth or Typhon. Pom- 
peian frescoes represent this incident in such a manner 
as to recall feature for feature the Christian represen- 
tations of the flight of Mary with the Child Jesus into 
Egypt ; and coins with the picture of the fleeing Leto 
prove how diffused over the whole of Nearer Asia this 
myth must have been. The Assyrian prince Sargon also, 
being pursued by his uncle, is said to have been aban- 
doned on the Euphrates in a basket made of reeds, to 
have been found by a water-carrier, and to have been 
brought up by him — a story which the Jews have inter- 
woven into the account of the life of their fabulous 
Moses.* And very similar stories are related both in 
East and West, in ancient and in later times, of other 
Gods, distinguished heroes and kings, sons of the Gods, 
of Zeus, Attis, Dionysus, (Edipus, Perseus, Komulus and 
Remus, Augustus, and others. As is well known, the 
Indian God-man Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, is 
supposed to have been sought for immediately after his 
birth by his uncle, King Kansa, who had all the male 
children of the same age in his country put to death, 
the child being only saved from a like fate by taking 
refuge with a poor herdsman. t This recalls Hero- 
dotus's story of Cyrus, \ according to which Astyages, 
the grandfather of Cyrus, being warned by a dream, 
ordered his grandson to be exposed, the latter being 
saved from death, however, through being found by a 
poor herdsmen and being brought up in his house. Now 

* Cf. regarding the mythical nature of Moses, who is to be looked 
upon as an offshoot of Jahwe and Tammuz, Winckler, op. cit, 86-95. 

f Cf. also 0. Pfleiderer, " Das Christusbild des urchristlichen 
Glaubens in religionsgesch. Beleuchtung," 1903, 37. Also Jeremias, 
" Das A.T. im Lichte des alten Orients," 254. 

J I. 107. 



90 THE CHRIST MYTH 

in Persian the word for son is Cyrus (Khoro,* Greek 
Kyros), and Kyris or Kiris is the name of Adonis in 
Cyprus. t Thus it appears that the story of the birth of 
Cyrus came into existence through the transfer to King 
Cyrus of one of the myths concerning the Sun-God, the 
God in this way being confused with a human individual. 
Now since Cyrus, as has been said, was in the eyes of 
the Jews a kind of Messiah and was glorified by them 
as such, we can understand how the danger through 
which the Messianic child is supposed to have passed 
found a place in the Gospels. Again, a similar story of a 
king, who, having been warned by a dream or oracle, 
orders the death of the children born within a specified 
time, is found in the " Antiquities " of JosephusJ in con- 
nection with the story of the childhood of Moses. Moses, 
however, passed like Cyrus for a kind of forerunner and 
anticipator of Christ ; and Christ was regarded as a 
Moses reappearing. § Again Joab, David's general, is 
said to have slaughtered every male in Edom ; the 
young prince Hadad, however, escaped the massacre by 
fleeing into Egypt. Here he grew up and married the 
sister of the king, and after the death of his enemy King 
David he returned to his home.|| But Hadad is, like 
Cyrus, (Kyrus) a name of the Syrian Adonis. 

Another name of Adonis or Tammuz is Dod, Dodo, 
Daud, or David. This signifies "the Beloved" and 
indicates " the beloved son " of the heavenly father, who 
offers himself for mankind, or " the Beloved " of the 
Queen of heaven (Atargatis, Mylitta, Istar).1F As is well 
known, King David was also called "the man after 
the heart of God," and there is no doubt that character- 
istics of the divine Bedeemer and Saviour of the same 

* Cf. Plutarch, " Artaxerxes," eh. i. f Movers, op. cit, 228. 

| II. 9, 2. § Bousset, "Das Judentum," 220. || 1 Kings xi. 14 sq. 
11 Schrader, " Die Keilinschriften u. d. A.T.," 225. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 91 

name have been intermingled in the story of David in 
the same way as in that of Cyrus.* According to 
Jeremiah xxx. 8 and Ezekiel xxxiv. 22 sqq. and xxxvii. 
21, it was David himself who would appear as the 
Messiah and re-establish Israel in its ancient glory. 
Indeed, this even appears to have been the original con- 
ception of the Messiah. The Messiah David seems to 
have been changed into a descendant of David only with 
the progress of the monotheistic conception of God, 
under the influence of the Persian doctrine concerning 
Saoshyant, the man " of the seed of Zarathustra." Now 
David was supposed to have been born at Bethlehem. 
But in Bethlehem there was, as Jerome informs us,t 
an ancient grove and sanctuary of the Syrian Adonis, 
and as Jerome himself complains the very place where 
the Saviour first saw the light resounded with the 
lamentations over 'Tammuz.t At Bethlehem, the former 
Ephrata (i.e., Place of Ashes), Bachel is said to have 
brought forth the youngest of the twelve month-sons 
of Jacob. She herself had christened him Benoni, son 
of the woeful lament. He was, however, usually called 
Benjamin, the Lord or Possessor of light. In the 
Blessing of Moses he is also called " a Darling of the 
Lord," and his father Jacob loved him especially. § He 
is the God of the new year born of the ashes of the past, 
at whose appearance lament and rejoicings are com- 
mingled one with another ; and thus he is only a form 
of Tammuz (Hadad) bringing to mind the Christian 
Bedeemer in that he presided over the month of the 
Bam. || 

* Winckler, op. cit, 172 sqq., Jeremias, " Das A.T. im Lichte 
d. a. O.," 2nd. ed., 488 sqq. ; cf. also " Baentsch, " David und sein 
Zeitalter. Wissenschaft u. Bildung," 1907. 

f Ep. vüi. 3. J Id. xlii. 58. § Ch. v. 1. 

|| Gen. xxxv. 11-19 ; Deut, xxxiii. 12 ; Gen. xliv. 26. 



9 2 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Now we understand the prophecy of the prophet 
Micah : " Thou Bethlehem Ephrathah, which art little 
to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall 
one come forth unto me that is to be a ruler in Israel, 
whose going forth is from of old, from everlasting."* 
Now, too, the story of the slaughter of the children at 
Bethlehem has its background in religious history. It 
is said in Matt. ii. 18, with reference to Jer. xxxi. 15, 
"A voice was heard in Bamah, weeping and great mourn- 
ing, Bachel weeping for her children, and she would not 
be comforted, because they are not." It is the lamen- 
tation of the women over the murdered Adonis which 
was raised each year at Bethlehem. This was trans- 
formed by the Evangelists into the lament over the 
murder of the children which took place at the birth of 
Hadad who was honoured at Bethlehem. t 



* Cf. Nork, " Bealwörterbuch," i. 240 sq. 

f The other famous " prophecy " supposed to refer to the birth of 
the Messiah, viz., Isaiab vii. 14, is at present no longer regarded as 
such by many. The passage obviously does not refer to the Messiah. 
This is shown by a glance at the text, and it would hardly have been 
considered so long as bearing that meaning, if any one had taken 
the trouble to read it in its context. Consider the situation. Queen 
Eezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel march against the Jewish King 
Ahaz, who is therefore much troubled. At the command of Jahwe 
the prophet goes to the king in order to exhort him to courage, and 
urges him to pray for a sign of the happy outcome of the fight. He, 
however, refuses to tempt God. Thereupon Isaiah himself gives him 
a sign. " Behold," he says, " a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, 
and shall call his name Immanuel, God be with us. Before the 
child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose 
two kings thou abhorrest shall be forsaken." And undisturbed by 
the fact that this prophecy for the moment can give but little 
encouragement to the king,Isaiah goes with the help of two witnesses(!) 
to a prophetess and gets her with child in order to make his words 
true (!). The text does not say in what relationship the woman stood 
to Isaiah. The Hebrew word Almah may mean " young woman " 
as well as " virgin." The Septuagint, however, thoughtlessly making 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 93 

Hadad- Adonis is a God of Vegetation, a God of the 
rising sap of life and of fruitfulness : but, as was the 
case with all Gods of a similar nature, Ithe thought of 
the fate of the sun, dying in winter and being born 
anew in the spring, played its part in the conception of 
this season God of Nearer Asia. Something of this kind 
may well have passed before the mind of Isaiah, when 
he foretold the future glory of the people of God under 
the image of a new birth of the sun from out of the 
blackness of night, with these "prophetic" words: 
"Arise, shine, for thy light has come and the glory of 
the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall 
cover the earth and gross darkness the peoples : but 
the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be 
seen upon thee. And nations shall come to thy light, 
and kings to the brightness of thy rising . . . The abund- 
ance of the sea shall be turned unto thee, the wealth 
of the nations shall come unto thee. The multitude of 
camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and 
Ephah. They all shall come from Sheba : they shall 
bring gold and frankincence, and shall proclaim the 
praises of the Lord." * 

As is well known, later generations were continually 
setting out this idea in a still more exuberant form. The 
imagination of the enslaved and impoverished Jews 
feasted upon the thought that the nations and their 
princes would do homage to the Messiah with gifts, 
while uncounted treasures poured into the temple at 
Jerusalem: "Princes shall come out of Egypt, Ethiopia 
shall haste to stretch out her hands unto God. Sing 

the passage refer to the Messiah, and having before its eyes very 
possibly the stories of the miraculous birth of the heathen Redeemer 
Gods, translates the word straightway by " virgin," without thinking 
what possible bight it thereby threw upon Isaiah. 
* Ch. lx. 1 sqq. 



94 THE CHRIST MYTH 

unto God ye kingdoms of the earth.* This is the foun- 
dation of the Gospel story of the " Magi," who lay their 
treasures at the feet of the new-born Christ and his 
"virgin mother." But that we have here in reality 
to do with the new birth of the sun at the time of the 
winter solstice appears from the connection between 
the Magi, or kings, and the stars. For these Magi are 
nothing else than the three stars in the sword-belt of 
Orion, which at the winter solstice are opposed in the 
West to the constellation of the Virgin in the East; stars 
which according to Persian ideas at this time seek the 
son of the Queen of Heaven — that is, the lately rejuve- 
nated sun, Mithras, t Now, as it has been said, Hadad 
also is a name of the Sun-God, and the Hadad of the 
Old Testament returns to his original home out of 
Egypt, whither he had fled from David. Thus we can 
understand how Hosea xi. 1, "I called my son out of 
Egypt," could be referred to the Messiah and how the 
story that Jesus passed his early youth in Egypt was 
derived from it.t 

It may be fairly asked how it wa§ that the sun came to 
be thus honoured by the people of Western Asia, with 
lament at its death and rejoicing at its new birth. For 
winter, the time of the sun's " death," in these southern 
countries offered scarcely any grounds at all for lament. 
It was precisely the best part of the year. The night, too, 
having regard to its coolness after the heat of the day, 
gave no occasion for desiring the new birth of the sun in 
the morning. 

We are compelled to suppose that in the case of all the 
Gods of this nature the idea of the dying away of vegeta- 
tion during the heat of the year and its revival had become 
intertwined and commingled with that of the declining 
and reviving strength of the sun. Thus, from this ming- 

* Psa. lxviii. 32 sq. f Dupuis, op. cit., 268. J Matt. i. 14 sq. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 95 

ling of two distinct lines of thought, we have to explain 
the variations of the double-natured character of the Sun- 
Gods and Vegetation-Gods of Western Asia.* It is 
obvious, however, that the sun can only be regarded from 
such a tragic standpoint in a land where, and in the 
myths of a people for whom, it possesses in reality such a 
decisive significance that there are grounds for lamenting 
its absence or lack of strength during winter and for an 
anxious expectation of its return and revival. t But it is 
chiefly in the highlands of Iran and the mountainous 

* The feasts of the Gods in question also correspond to this in 
character. They fell upon the solstice (the birthday or day of death 
of the sun), so far as their connection with the sun was emphasized. On 
the contrary, upon the equinoxes, so far as their connection with vege- 
tation was concerned, sowing and harvest were brought into promi- 
nence. Usually, however, death and reappearance were joined in one 
single feast, and this was celebrated at the time in spring when day 
and night were of equal length, when vegetation was at its highest, 
and in the East the harvest was begun. Cf. Jeremias, " Babylonisches 
im N.T.," 10 sq. 

f One should compare the description given by Hommel of 
the climate of Babylonia {op. cit, 186) with the picture of the 
natural occurrences which, according to Gunkel, gave occasion for 
the myth of the birth of Marduk, and the threatening of the child 
by the " Winter Dragon," Tiamat. " Before spring descends to the 
earth from heaven, winter has had its grim (!) rule upon the earth. 
Men pine away (in the country of the two rivers !) beneath its sway, 
and look up to heaven wondering if deliverance will not come. The 
myth consoles them with the story that the God of spring who will 
overthrow winter has already been born. The God of winter who 
knows for what he is destined is his enemy, and would be very pleased 
if he could devour him. And winter at present ruling is much stronger 
than the weak child. But his endeavour to get rid of his enemy comes 
to nought. Do you then want to know why he is so grim ? He 
knows that he has only a short time. His might is already broken 
although we may be yet unaware of it. The year has already changed 
to spring. The child grows up in heaven ; the days become longer, 
the light of the sun stronger. As soon as he is grown up he descends 
and overthrows his old enemy. ' Only trust in God without despair, 
spring must come ' " (" Schöpfung und Chaos," 389 sq.). 



96 THE CHRIST MYTH 

hinterland of Asia Minor that this is the case to such an 
extent as to make this idea one of the central points of 
religious belief. Even here it points back to a past time 
when the people concerned still had their dwelling-place 
along with the kindred Aryan tribes in a much more 
northerly locality.* Thus Mithras, the " Sol invictus " of 
the Romans, struggling victoriously through night and 
darkness, is a Sun hero, who must have found his way 
into Persia from the north. This is shown, amongst other 
things, by his birthday being celebrated on the 25th of 
December, the day of the winter solstice. Again, the 
birth of the infant Dionysus, who was so closely related to 
the season Gods of Nearer Asia, used to be celebrated as 
the feast of the new birth of the sun at about the same 
time, the God being then honoured as Liknites, as "the 
infant in the cradle " (the winno wing-fan) . The Egyptians 
celebrated the birth of Osiris on the 6th of January, on 
which occasion the priests produced the figure of an in- 
fant from the sanctuary, and showed it to the people as a 
picture of the new-born God.f That the Phrygian Attis 
came thither with the Aryans who made their way from 
Thrace into Asia Minor, and must have had his home 
originally in Northern Europe, appears at once from the 
striking resemblance of the myth concerning him with 
that of the northern myth of Balder. There can be no 
doubt that the story in Herodotus of Atys, son of Croesus, 
who while out boar hunting accidently met his death 
from the spear of his friend, only gives another version of 
the Attis myth. This story, however, so closely resembles 
that of the death of Balder, given in the Edda, that the 
theory of a connection between them is inevitably forced 
upon one's mind. In the Edda the wife of Balder is 
called Nanna. But Nanna (i.e., " mother ") was accord- 

* Dupuis has already pointed this out, op. cit., 152. 
f Macrobius, " Saturnal.," i. 18, i. 34-35. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 97 

ing to Arnobius * the name of the mother of the Phrygian 
Attis. 

Now the Sun and Summer God Balder is only a form 
of Odin, the Father of Heaven, with summer attributes, 
and he too is said, like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, to have 
met his death through a wild boar. Just as anemones 
sprang from the blood of the slain Adonis and violets 
from that of Attis, so also the blood of the murdered Odin 
(Hackelbernd) is said to have been changed into spring 
flowers, t At the great feast of Attis in March a post 
or pine-tree trunk decked with violets, on which the 
picture of the God was hung, used to form the central 
point of the rite. This was a reminder of the way in 
which in ancient times the human representative of the 
God passed from life to death, in order by sacrifice to 
revive exhausted nature. According to the verses of the 
Eddie Havamal, Odin says of himself : — 

" I know that I hang on the wind-rocked tree 
Throughout nine nights, 
Wounded by the spear, dedicated to Odin, 
I myself to myself." J 



* " Adversus Nationes," v. 6 and 13. 

f Cf. Simrock, "Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie," 4th ed., 
1874, 201 and 225. 

I Op. cit., 138. The transfixing of the victim with the holy lance, 
as we meet it in John xix. 34, appears to be a very old sacrificial cus- 
tom, which is found among the most different races. For example, 
both among the Scythian tribes in Albania in the worship of Astarte 
(Strabo) and in Salamis, on the island of Cyprus, in that of Moloch 
(Eusebius, " Praep. Evang.," iv. 16). " The lance thrust," says Ghillany , 
with reference to the Saviour's death, " was not given with the object 
of testing whether the sufferer was still alive, but was in order to 
correspond with the old method of sacrificing. The legs were not 
broken because the victim could not be mutilated. In the evening 
the corpse had to be taken down, just as Joshua only allowed the 
kings sacrificed to the sun to remain until evening upon the cross " 
(ojp. cit., 558). 

7 



98 THE CHRIST MYTH 

By this self-sacrifice and the agonies which he endured, 
the northern God, too, obtained new strength and life. 
For on this occasion he not only discovered the Runes of 
magic power, the knowledge of which made him lord over 
nature, but he obtained possession at the same time of 
the poetic mead which gave him immortality and raised 
the Nature God to be a God of spiritual creative power and 
of civilisation. This is obviously the same idea as is again 
found in the cult of Attis and in the belief in the death 
of the God. The relationship of all these different views 
seems still more probable in that a sacrificial rite lay at 
the root of the Balder myth also. This myth is only, so 
to speak, the text of a religious drama which was per- 
formed every year for the benefit of dying nature — a drama 
in which a man representing the God was delivered over 
to death.* As all this refers to the fate of a Sun God, 
who dies in winter to rise again in the spring, the same 
idea must have been associated originally with the worship 
of the Nearer Asiatic Gods of vegetation and fruitfulness, 
and this idea was only altered under changed climatic 
conditions into that of the death and resurrection of the 
plant world, without, however, losing in its new form its 
original connection with the sun and winter. 

At the same time the myth of the Sun God does not 
take us to the very basis and the real kernel of the stories 
of the divine child's birth. The Persian religion was not 
so much a religion of Light and Sun as of Fire, the most 
important and remarkable manifestation of which was of 
course the sun. Dionysus too, like all Gods of the life- 
warmth, of the rising plant sap and of fruitfulness, was 
in his deepest nature a Fire God. In the Fire Religion, 
however, the birth of the God forms the centre of all 

* Frazer, op. cit., 345 sq. F. Kaufimann, "Balder Mythus u. Sage 
nach ihren dichterischen u. religiösen Elementen untersucht," 1902, 
266 sq. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 99 

religious ideas ; and its form was more exactly fixed 
through the peculiar acts by means of which the priest 
rekindled the holy fire. 

For the manner in which this occurred we have the 
oldest authentic testimony in the religious records of the 
Indian Aryans. Here Agni, as indeed his name (ignis, 
fire) betokens, passed for the divine representative of the 
Fire Element. His mystic birth was sung in numberless 
passages in the hymns of the Eigveda. At dawn, as soon 
as the brightening morning star in the east announced 
that the sun was rising, the priest called his assistants 
together and kindled the fire upon a mound of earth by 
rubbing together two sticks (arani) in which the God was 
supposed to be hidden. As soon as the spark shone in 
the " maternal bosom," the soft underpart of the wood, it 
was treated as an " infant child." It was carefully 
placed upon a little heap of straw, which at once took fire 
from it. On one side lay the mystic " cow " — that is, the 
milk-pail and a vessel full of butter, as types of all animal 
nourishment — upon the other the holy Soma draught, 
representing the sap of plants, the symbol of life. A 
priest fanned it with a small fan shaped like a banner, 
thereby stirring up the fire. The "child" was then 
raised upon the altar. The priests turned up the fire with 
long-handled spoons, pouring upon the flames melted 
butter (ghrita) together with the Soma cup. From this 
time "Agni" was called "the anointed" (Akta). The 
fire flickered high. The God was unfolding his majesty. 
With his flames he scared away the daemons of darkness, 
and lighted up the surrounding shadows. All creatures 
were invited to come and gaze upon the wonderful 
spectacle. Then with presents the Gods (kings) hastened 
from heaven and the herdsmen from the fields, cast 
themselves down in deep reverence before the new-born, 
praying to it and singing hymns in its praise. It grew 



ioo THE CHRIST MYTH 

visibly before their eyes. The new-born Agni already had 
become "the teacher" of all living creatures, "the wisest 
of the wise," opening to mankind the secrets of existence. 
Then, while everything around him grew bright and the 
sun rose over the horizon, the God, wreathed in a cloud 
of smoke, with the noise of darting flames, ascended to 
heaven, and was united there with the heavenly light.* 

Thus in ancient India the holy fire was kindled anew 
each morning, and honoured with ritualistic observances 
(Agnihotra). This took place, however, with special cere- 
mony at the time of the winter solstice, when the days 
began again to increase (Agnistoma). They then cele- 
brated the end of the time " of darkness," the Pitryana, 
or time of the Manes, during which the worship of the 
Gods had been at a standstill. Then the Angiras, the 
priestly singers, summoned the Gods to be present, greet- 
ing with loud song the beginning of the " holy " season, 
the Devayana, with which the new light arose. Agni 
and the other Gods again returned to men, and the priests 
announced to the people the " joyful tidings " (Evange- 
lium) that the Light God had been born again. As 
Hillebrand has shown, this festival also indicates the 
memory of an earlier home in the North whence the Aryan 
tribes had migrated, since in India, where the shortest 
and longest days only differ by about four hours, no 
reason exists for celebrating the " return" of the light. t 
Indeed, it appears that we have to do here with a rite 
which reaches back into the very origins of all human 
civilisation, and preserves the memory of the discovery of 
fire in the midst of the horrors of the Stone Age. 

There is no doubt that we have before us in the Vedic 
Agni Cult the original source of all the stories of the 
birth of the Fire-Gods and Sun-Gods. These Gods usually 

* Eigv. v. 1, v. 2, iii. 1, vii. 12, i. 96, &c. 
f Hillebrand, " Vedische Mythologie," 1891-1902, ii. 38 aq. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 101 

enter life in darkness and concealment. Thus the 
Cretan Zeus was born in a cavern, Mithras, Dionysus, 
and Hermes in a gloomy grotto, Horus in the " stable " 
(temple) of the holy cow (Isis) — Jesus, too, was born at 
dead of night in a lowly " stable " * at Bethlehem. The 
original ground for this consists in the fact that Agni, in 
the form of a spark, comes into existence in the dark 
hollow of the hole bored in the stick. The Hymns of 
the Eigveda often speak of this " secret birth " and of the 
"concealment" of Agni. They describe the Gods as 
they set out in order to seek the infant. They make the 
Angiras discover it " lying in concealment," and it grows 
up in hiding.! But the idea of the Fire-God being born 
in a " stable " is also foreshadowed in the Eigveda. For 
not only are the vessels of milk and butter ready for 
the anointing compared with cows, but Ushas, too, the 
Goddess of Dawn, who is present at the birth, is called a 
red milch-cow, and of men it is said that they flocked 
" like cows to a warm stable " to see Agni, whom his 
mother held lovingly upon her lap.! 

It is a common fundamental feature of all Nature 
religions that they distinguish between the particular and 
the general, between earthly and heavenly events, 
between human acts and natural occurrences as little as 
they do between the spiritual and natural. The Agni 
Cult shows, as does the Vedic religion in general, this 
interplay of the earthly and heavenly world, of the 
microcosmic individual and the macrocosm. The kind- 



* According to early Christian writers, such as Justin and Origen, 
Jesus also came into the world in a cave, and Jerome complains 
(Epist. lviii.) that in his time the heathens celebrated the feast of the 
birth of Tammuz at Bethlehem in the same cave in which Jesus was 
born. 

f I. 72, 2 ; v. 11, 6 ; v. 2, 1 ; iii. 1, 14 ; i. 65, 1 ; x. 46, 2. 

j III. 1, 7 ; iii. 9, 7 ; v. 1, 1 ; v. 2, 1, and 2 ; iii. 7, 2 ; x. 4, 2, and 3. 



io2 THE CHRIST MYTH 

ling of the fire upon the earth at the same time betokened 
the rising of the great light of the skies, the sun. The 
fire upon the altar did not merely represent but actually 
was the sun, the earthly and the heavenly Agni were 
one. Thus it was that the nations of antiquity were able 
to think of transferring earthly events into heaven, and 
conversely were able to read earthly events in heavenly 
occurrences such as the relations of the stars to one 
another. It was on this that astrology rested. Even 
the ancient Fire Worship appears in very early times to 
have been transformed into astrology, and what was in 
the beginning a simple act of worship was generalised by 
the priests in a macrocosmic sense and was transferred to 
the starry heavens as a forecast. Thus the altar or place 
of sacrifice upon which the sacred fire was kindled was 
enlarged into the Vault of the Spheres or Grotto of the 
Planets. Through this the sun completed its annual 
journey among the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and in so 
doing assumed successively the form and fulfilled the 
functions of that constellation with which it entered into 
astronomical relations. The metaphorical name of 
" stable " for the place of sacrifice attains a new signifi- 
cance from the fact that the sun during a certain epoch 
of the world (something between 3000 and 800 B.c.) at 
the beginning of spring passed through the constellation 
of the Bull, and at the time of the winter solstice com- 
menced its course between the Ox (Bull) and the Great 
Bear, which anciently was also called the Ass.* The 
birth of the God is said to have been in secret because it 
took place at night. His mother is a " virgin " since at 
midnight of the winter solstice the constellation of the 

* Cf. Volney, "Die Ruinen," 1791 (Reclam), note 83 to chap. xiii. 
This is the reason why the infant Christ was represented in early 
Christian pictures lying in his mother's lap or in a cradle between an 
Ox and an Ass. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 103 

Virgin is on the eastern horizon.* Shortly afterwards 
Draco, the Dragon (the snake Pytho), rises up over Libra, 
the Balance, and seems to pursue the Virgin. From this 
comes the story of the Winter Dragon threatening Leto, 
or Apollo ; or, as it is also found in the Myth of Osiris 
and the Apocalypse of John, the story of the pursuit of 
the child of light by a hostile principle (Astyages, Herod, 
&c.).t Unknown and in concealment the child grows up. 
This refers to the course of the sun as it yet stands low 
in the heavens. Or like Sargon, Dionysus, or Moses it is 
cast in a basket upon the waters of some great stream or 
of the sea, since the sun in its wanderings through the 
Zodiac has next to pass through the so-called watery 
region, the signs of the Water-carrier and the Fishes, the 
rainy season of winter. Thus can the fate of the new- 
born be read in the sky. The priests (Magi) cast his 
horoscope like that of any other child. They greet his 
birth with loud rejoicings, bring him myrrh, incense and 
costly presents, while prophesying for him a glorious 
future. The earthly Agni is completely absorbed in the 
heavenly one ; and in the study of the great events which 
are portrayed in the sky, the simple act of sacrificial 
worship, which had originally furnished the opportunity 
for this whole range of ideas, gradually fell into oblivion. I 



* Jeremias, "Babylonisches im Neuen Testament," 85, note 1. 
Cf. Dupuis, op. cit., Ill sqq. 

f Dupuis, op. cit, 143 sq. 

I Cf. also Winckler, " Die babylonische Geisteskultur Wissenschaft 
u. Bildung," 1907. Jeremias, " Babylonisches im N.T.," 62 sqq. 
The astral references of the Christ myth are very beautifully shown 
in the " Thomakapelle " at Karlsruhe, where the Master has depicted 
in costly profusion and unconscious insight the chief points of the 
Gospel " history " in connection with the signs of the Zodiac and the 
stars — the riddle of the Christ story and its solution ! As is well 
known, the theological faculty in Heidelburg conferred an " honorary 
doctorate of theology " upon the Master. 



/ 



io4 THE CHRIST MYTH 

It has been often maintained that Indian influences 
have worked upon the development of the story of the 
childhood of Jesus, and in this connection we are accus- 
tomed to think of Buddhism. Now, as a matter of fact, 
the resemblances between the Christian and Buddhist 
legends are so close that we can scarcely imagine it to be 
a mere coincidence. Jesus and Buddha are both said to 
have been born of a "pure virgin," honoured by heavenly 
spirits at their birth, prayed to by kings and loaded with 
presents. " Happy is the whole world," sing the Gods 
under the form of young Brahmins at the birth of the 
child — as we are told in the Laiita Vistara, the legendary 
biography of Buddha, dating from before Christ, " for he 
is indeed born who brings salvation and will establish the 
world in blessedness. He is born who will darken sun 
and moon by the splendour of his merits and will put all 
darkness to flight. The blind see, the deaf hear, the 
demented are restored to reason. No natural crimes 
afflict us any longer, for upon the earth men have become 
righteous. Gods and men can in future approach each 
other without hostility, since he will be the guide of their 
pilgrimage." * Just as the significance of Jesus was 
announced beforehand by Simeon, in the same way 
according to the Buddhist legend, the Seer Asita foresees 
in his own mind the greatness of the child and bursts into 
tears since he will not see him in the splendour of his 
maturity and will have no part in his work of redemption. 
Again, just as Jesus f even in his early youth astonished 

* " Le Lalita Vistara, traduit du Sanscrit en francais," i. 76 sqq. 

f Further in E. Seydel, " Die Buddhalegende u. das Leben Jesu," 
2nd ed., 1897, and in his "Das Evangelium von Jesus in seinem 
Verhältnis zur Buddhasage u. Buddhalegende," 1882. Also Van 
den Bergh van Eysinga, " Indische Einflüsse auf evang. Erzäh- 
lungen," 2nd ed., 1909. Cf. also 0. Pfleiderer, " Das Christusbild," 
23 sqq. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 105 

the learned by his wisdom, so Prince Siddharta (Buddha) 
put all his teachers at school to shame by his superior 
knowledge, and so on. The Buddhist legend itself, 
however, goes back to a still older form, which is the 
Vedic Agni Cult. All its various features are here pre- 
served in their simplest form and in their original 
relation to the sacrificial worship of the Fire-God. This 
was the natural source of the Indian and Christian 
legends, and it was the original of those myths which 
the Evangelist worked up for his own purposes, which 
according to Pfleiderer belonged "to the common tribal 
property of the national sagas of Nearer Asia." * Again, 
it could the more easily reappear in the Evangelists' 
version of the story of the childhood of Jesus, since 
the sacrificial act had been re-interpreted mytho- 
logically, and the corresponding myths transformed 
into astrology, and, as it were, written with starry 
letters upon the sky, where they could be read without 
trouble by the most distant peoples of antiquity. 

The myth of Krishna offers a characteristic example of 
the manner in which in India a sacrificial cult is 
changed into a myth. Like Astyages and Herod, in 
order to ward off the danger arising from his sister's 
son, of which he had been warned by an oracle, King 
Kansa caused his sister and her husband Vasudewa to be 
cast into prison. Here, in the darkness of a dungeon, 
Krishna comes into the world as Jesus did in the stable 
at Bethlehem. The nearer the hour of birth approaches 
the more beautiful the mother becomes. Soon the whole 
dungeon is filled with light. Bejoicing choirs sound in 
the air, the waters of the rivers and brooks make sweet 
music. The Gods come down from heaven and blessed 
spirits dance and sing for joy. At midnight his mother 
Dewaki {i.e., the divine) brings the child into the world, 
* " Urchristentum," i. 411 sq. 



io6 THE CHRIST MYTH 

at the commencement of a new epoch. The parents 
themselves fall down before him and pray, but a voice 
from heaven admonishes them to convey him from the 
machinations of the tyrant to Gokala, the land of the 
cow, and to exchange him for the daughter of the herds- 
man Nanda. Immediately the chains fall from the 
father's hands, the dungeon doors are opened, and he 
passes out into freedom. Another Christopher, he bears 
the child upon his shoulders through the river Yamuna, 
the waters of which recede in reverence before the son of 
God, and he exchanges Krishna for the new-born 
daughter of Nanda. He then returns to the dungeon, 
where the chains again immediately fasten of their own 
accord upon his limbs. Kansa now makes his way into 
the dungeon. In vain Dewaki entreats her brother to 
leave her the child. He is on the point of tearing it 
forcibly from her hands when it disappears before his 
eyes, and Kansa gives the order that all newly-born 
children in his country under the age of two years shall 
be killed. 

At Mathura in Gokala Krishna grew up unknown 
among poor herdsmen. "While yet in his cradle he had 
betrayed his divine origin by strangling, like Hercules, a 
dreadful snake which crawled upon him. He causes 
astonishment to every one by his precosity and lofty 
wisdom. As he grows up he becomes the darling of the 
herdsmen and playmate of Gopias, the milkmaid ; he 
performs the most astonishing miracles. When, how- 
ever, the time had come he arose and slew Kansa. He 
then fought the frightful " Time Snake " Kaliyanaga, of 
the thousand heads (the Hydra in the myth of Hercules, 
the Python in that of Apollo), which poisoned the 
surrounding air with its pestilential breath ; and he 
busied himself in word and deed as a protector of the 
poor and proclaimer of the most perfect teaching. His 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 107 

greatest act, however, was his descent into the Under- 
world. Here he overpowered Yama, the dark God of 
death, obtained from him a recognition of his divine 
power, and led back the dead with him to a new life. 
Thus he was a benefactor of mankind by his heroic 
strength and miraculous power, leading the purest 
life, healing the sick, bringing the dead back to life, 
disclosing the secrets of the world, and withal humbly 
condescending to wash the feet of the Brahmins. 
Krishna finally died of an arrow wound which he 
sustained accidentally and in an unforeseen manner on 
his heel — the only vulnerable part of his body (cf. 
Achilles, Balder, Adonis, and Osiris). While dying he 
delivered the prophecy that thirty-six years after his 
death the fourth Epoch of the World, Caliyuga, the Iron 
Age, would begin, in which men would be both unhappy 
and wicked. But according to Brahmin teaching 
Krishna will return at the end of all time, when bodily 
and moral need will have reached its highest pitch upon 
the earth. In the clouds of heaven he will appear upon 
his white steed. With a comet in his right hand as a 
sword of flame he will destroy the old earth by fire, 
founding a new earth and a new heaven, and establishing 
a golden age of purity and perfection in which there will 
be nothing but pure joy and blessedness. 

This reminds us strongly of the Persian Eschatology, 
of Mithras and Saoshyant, and of the Jewish Apocalyptics. 
But following the ancient sacred poem, the Barta Chas- 
tram, the former conception as well as the doctrine of a 
Messiah rest upon a prophecy according to which Vishnu 
Jesudu (!) was to be born a Brahmin in the city of 
Skambelam. He was to hold intercourse with men as a 
God, to purify the earth from sin, making it the abode of 
justice and truth, and to offer a sacrifice (self-sacrifice?). 
But still more striking are the resemblances of the Krishna 



io8 THE CHRIST MYTH 

myth with the Gospels. Does any connection between 
the two exist ? The question is hard to answer because, 
owing to the uncertainty in all Indian citation of dates, 
the age of the story of Krishna cannot be settled. In the 
oldest Indian literature, the Vedas, Krishna appears to be 
the name of a Daemon. In the Mahäbbhärata, the great 
Indian heroic epic, he plays indeed a prominent part, and 
is here on the point of assuming the place of the God 
Indra. The age of the poem, however, is debatable, 
although it is probably of pre-Buddhist origin. The chief 
source of the Krishna myth is the Puranas, especially 
the Bhagavat Purana and Vishnu Parana. But since 
the antiquity of these also is uncertain, and their most 
modern portions presumably belong only to the eighth 
or ninth century of the Christian era, a decision as to the 
date of the appearance of the Krishna myth can only be 
arrived at from internal evidence. 

Now the Pantanjalis Mahäbhashya, i.e., " Great 
Commentary," of the second century before Christ, 
shows that the story of Kansa's death at the hands of 
Krishna was at that time well known in India, and was 
even the subject of a religious drama. Thus the story 
of the birth at least of Krishna, who had already been 
raised to be a Cult God of the Hindoos, cannot have been 
unknown. The other portions of the myth, however, 
belong as a whole to the general circle of Indian ideas, 
and are in part only transferred from other Gods to 
Krishna. Thus, for example, the miraculous birth of 
the divine child in the darkness, his precosity, his up- 
bringing among the herdsmen, and his friendship with 
Gopias, remind us of Agni, the God of Fire and Herds- 
men, who also is described in the Rigveda as a "friend 
and lover of the maidens " (of the Cloud Women?). His 
combat with the Time Snake, on the other hand, is copied 
from the fight of Indra with the wicked dragon Vritra 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 109 

or Ahi. Again, in his capacity as purifier and deliverer of 
the world from evil and daemons the God bears such a 
striking resemblance to Hercules, that Megasthenes, the 
ambassador of Seleucus at the court of the king at 
Pataliputra, in the third century before Christ, simply 
identified him with the latter. No impartial critic of the 
matter can now doubt that the Krishna myth was in 
existence and was popularised long before Christianity 
appeared in the world. The great importance, however, 
which the God possesses in present-day India may have 
been attained only during the Christian era, and the 
Puranas may have been composed only after the appear- 
ance of the Gospels ; for their being written down later 
proves nothing against the antiquity of the matter they 
contain. It appears that even Buddhism did not obtain 
its corresponding legends direct from the Vedas, but 
through the channel of the Krishna myth. Since, how- 
ever, Buddhism is certainly at least four hundred years 
older than Christianity, it must be assumed that it was 
the former which introduced the Krishna myth to 
Christianity, and not vice versa, if we are not to consider 
the Babylonian - Mandaic religion as the intermediary 
between Krishna and Christ.* 

For the rest the supposition of Indian influences in the 
Gospel story is not by any means an improbable one. It 
is pure theological prejudice, resting upon a complete 
ignorance of the conditions of national intercourse in 
ancient times, when it is denied, as, for example, by 
Clemen in his " Eeligionsgeschichtlichen Erklärung des 
Neuen Testaments " (1909), that the Gospels were in- 
fluenced by Indian ideas, or when only a dependence the 
other way about is allowed ; t and this although Buddha 

* Robertson, " Christianity and Mythology," 1900, 129-302. 
f Op. oit., 25 sqq., 239-244; of., on the other hand, Paul W. 
Schmidt, " Die Geschichte Jesu erläutert," 1904, 16. 



no THE CHRIST MYTH 

left to his disciples, as one of the highest precepts, the 
practice of missionary activity, and although as early as 
400 b.c. mention is made in Indian sources of Buddhist 
missionaries in Bactria. Two hundred years later we 
read of Buddhist monasteries in Persia. Indeed, in the 
last century before the Christian era the Buddhist 
mission in Persia had made such progress that Alexander 
Polyhistor actually speaks of a period during which 
Buddhism flourished in that country, and bears witness 
to the spread of the Mendicant Orders in the western 
parts of Persia. Buddhism also reached Syria and Egypt 
at that time with the trade caravans ; as we have to 
suppose a frequent exchange of wares and ideas between 
India and the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, 
especially after the campaigns of Alexander. Communi- 
cation took place, not only overland by way of Persia, 
but by sea as well. Indian thought made advances in 
the Near East, where Alexandria, the London and 
Antwerp of antiquity, and a headquarters of Jewish 
syncretism, favoured the exchange of ideas. With the 
rediscovery of the South-west Monsoon at the beginning 
of the first century after Christ the intercourse by sea 
between India and the Western world assumed still 
greater dimensions. Thus Pliny speaks of great trading 
fleets setting out annually for India and of numerous 
Indian merchants who had their fixed abode in Alexan- 
dria. Indian embassies came to Borne as early as the 
reign of Augustus. The renown of Indian piety caused 
the author of the Peregrinus Proteus to choose the 
Indian Calanus as an example of holiness. Indeed, so 
lively was the Western world's interest in the intellectual 
life of India, that the library at Alexandria, as early as 
the time of the geographer Eratosthenes under Ptolemy 
Euergetes (246 b.c.), was administered with special 
regard to Indian studies. The monastic organisation of 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM in 

the Essenes in Palestine also very probably points to 
Buddhist influence. Again, although the Kigveda, which 
contains the groundwork of all Indian religions, may 
have been unknown in Nearer Asia, yet the Fire 
Worship of the Mazda religion at any rate reaches back 
to the time before the division between the Indian and 
Persian Aryans. Certain fundamental ideas, therefore, 
of the Fire Eeligion may through Persian influences 
on Nearer Asia have been known to the surrounding 
peoples.* 

As a matter of fact, the Mandaic religions contains much 
that is Indian. This is the less strange considering that 
the headquarters and centre of Mandaism was in 
Southern Babylonia ; and the ancient settlements of the 
Mandaei, close to the Persian Gulf, were easily reached 
by sea from India. Moreover, from ancient times 
Babylonian trade went down to India and Ceylon, t Con- 
sequently it is by no means improbable that the many 
remarkable resemblances between the Babylonian and 
Indian religions rest upon mutual influences. Indeed, in 
one case the borrowing of a Mandaic idea from India 
can be looked upon as quite certain. The Laiita Vistara 
begins with a description of Buddha's ante-natal life in 
heaven. He teaches the Gods the "law," the eternal 
truth of salvation, and announces to them his intention 
of descending into the bosom of an earthly woman in 
order to bring redemption to mankind. In vain the Gods 
endeavour to hold him back and cling weeping to his 
feet : "Noble man, if thou remainest here no longer, this 
abode of heaven will be bright no more." He leaves 
them, however, a successor, and consecrates him solemnly 

* Cf. also Seydel, " Evangelium von Jesus," 305 sqq. ; " Buddha- 
Legende," 46 sqq. Also Emile Burnouf, " La Science des Religions," 
4th ed., 1885, 105. 

f R. Kessler, " Realenz. f. prot. Theol. u. Kirche," xii. 163. 



. 



ii2 THE CHRIST MYTH 

to be the possessor of the future dignity of Buddha : 
" Noble man, thou art he who will be endowed after me 
with the perfect intelligence of a Buddha."* "Man" 
(Purusha) is thus here the usual name for the divine 
nature of Buddha destined for individual incarnations. 
It is also called the "great man " (Mahapurusha) or the 
"victorious lord" (Cakravartin) . Here we have the 
original of the Mandaic "son of man," whom we meet 
with in the Jewish Apocalyptics (Daniel, Enoch, Ezra), 
a figure which plays so great a part in the primitive 
Gospel records of Christianity, and has called forth so 
many explanations. And the Elcesaitic Gnostics teach 
a like doctrine when they imagine the " son of man," or 
Christ, as a heavenly spirit and king of the world to come 
who became incarnate first in Adam, then in Enoch, 
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on, in order finally 
to appear by a supernatural virgin-birth in the person of 
Jesus, and to illumine the dark earth by his true message 
of salvation.! 

Of all the Gods of the Eigveda Agni bears the closest 
relationship to the Perso-Jewish Messiah, and it is he 
also who stands closest to man's soul. He is rightly 
called king of the universe, as God of Gods, who created 
the world and called into life all beings that are upon it. 
He is the lord of the heavenly hosts, the guardian of the 
cosmic order and judge of the world, who is present as an 
invisible witness of all human acts, who as a " knower of 
nature " works in every living thing, and as a party to all 
earthly secrets illuminates the unknown. Sent down by 
his father, the Sky-God or Sun-God, he appears as the 
"light of the world." He releases this world from the 
Powers of Darkness and returns to his father with the 
" Banner of Smoke " in his hand as a token of victory. 

* Foucaux, " Le Laiita Vistara," i. 40. 

f Hippolytus, op. cit., 9, 10; Epiphanius, op. cit., 30, 53. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 113 

Agni blazes forth in the lightning flash from out of the 
watercloud, the " sea of the sky," in order to annihilate 
the Daemons of Darkness and to release oppressed 
humanity from the fear of its tormentors. Thus, 
according to Isaiah xi., 4, the Messiah too will burn his 
enemies with the fiery breath of his mouth; and in 
this he is clearly a Fire-God. Again, in the Apocalypse 
of Esdras (chap, xiii.) the Seer beholds the " Son of Man " 
(Purusha) rise up from out of the sea, fly upon the clouds 
of heaven, destroy the hostile forces by the stream of 
fire which proceeded from his mouth, free the scattered 
Israelites from their captivity and lead them back into 
their country.* But this " first-born " son of the Sun- 
God and the Sky-God is at the same time the .father 
and ancestor of men, the first man (Purusha), the head 
of the community of mankind, the guardian of the house 
and of the domestic flock, who keeps from the threshold 
the evil spirits and the enemies who lurk in the dark- 
ness. Agni enters the dwellings of men as guest, friend 
(Mitra), companion, brother and consoler of those who 
honour him. He is the messenger between this world 
and the beyond, communicating the wishes of men to 
the Gods above, and announcing to men the will of the 
Gods. He is a mediator between God and men who 
makes a report to the Gods of everything of which he 
becomes aware among mankind. Although indeed he 
takes revenge for the men's faults yet he is a gracious 
God, disposed to forgive, in his capacity of an expiatory, 
propitiatory and redeeming power, atoning for their sins 
and bringing them the divine grace. Finally, he is also 
the guide of souls — he conducts the Gods down to the 
sacrifices offered by man and makes ready for men the 
path upon which he leads them up to God. And when 
their time has come he, as the purifying fire, consumes 
* Cf. Pfleiderer, " Christusbüd," 14 $q. 
8 



ir 4 THE CHRIST MYTH 

their bodies and carries that which is immortal to 
heaven.* 

Agni's father is, as has been said, the sky, or rather the 
light, the sun, the source of all warmth and life upon the 
earth. He bears the name of Savitar, which means 
"creator" or "mover," is called " the lord of creation," 
"the father of all life," "the living one," or "the 
heavenly father" simply. \ At the same time Tvashtar 
also passes as the father of Agni. His name characterises 
him simply as modeller (world-modeller) or work-master, 
divine artist, skilful smith, or " carpenter," in which 
capacity he sharpens Brihaspati's axe, and, indeed, is 
himself represented with a hatchet in his hand. \ He 
appears to have attained this role as being the discoverer 
of the artificial kindling of fire, by means of which any 
fashioning (welding), any art in the higher sense of the 
word became possible, as being the preparer of the appa- 
ratus for obtaining fire by friction or rotation — " the fire 
cradle " — which consisted of carefully chosen wood of a 
specified form and kind. Finally, the production of fire 
is ascribed to Mataricvan also, the God of the Wind 
identical with Vayu, because fire cannot burn without 
air, and it is the motion of the breeze which fans the 
glimmering spark. § All of these different figures are 
identical with one another, and can mutually take the 
place one of another, for they are all only different mani- 

* Cf. also Max Müller, "Natural Eeligion"; Bergaigne, "La 
religion vedique d'apres les hymnes du Eigveda," 1878-83 ; Holtz- 
mann, " Agni nach den Vorstellungen des Mahäbbhärata," 1878. 

f Rgv. üi. 1, 9, 10. 

| Id. ii. 23 ; i. 7 ; xcv. 2, 5 ; x. 2, 7 ; vüi. 29, 3. 

§ Id. iii. 5, 10 ; i. 148, 1. Cf. also Adalb. Kuhn, " Die Herabkunft 
des Feuers und des Göttertrankes," 2nd ed., 1886-9. In Mazdeism 
also the light is indissolubly connected with the air, passing as this 
does as its bearer. Cf. F. Curnont, " Textes et monuments," i. 228, 
ii. 87 sq., and his " Mysteres de Mithra." 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 115 

festations of warmth. It is this which reveals itself as 
well in the lightning of the sky and motion of the air, 
as in the glimmering of the fire, and not only as the 
principle of life, but also as that of thought and of know- 
ledge or the "word " (Väc, Veda), appearing on the one 
side as the productive, life-giving, and fructifying power 
of nature, on the other as the creative, inspiring spirit. 
This is the reason why, among the ancients, the God of 
life and fertility was in his essential nature a Fire-God, 
and why the three figures of the divine "father," " son," 
and " spirit," in spite of the differences of their functions, 
could be looked upon without inconsistency as one and 
the same being. 

As is well known, Jesus, too, had three fathers, namely, 
his heavenly father, Jahwe, the Holy Spirit, and also his 
earthly father, Joseph. The latter is also a work-master, 
artizan, or "carpenter," as the word "tekton" indi- 
cates. Similarly, Kinyras, the father of Adonis, is said 
to have been some kind of artizan, a smith or carpenter. 
That is to say, he is supposed to have invented the 
hammer and the lever and roofing as well as mining. 
In Homer he appears as the maker of the ingenious coat 
of mail which Agamemnon received from him as a guest- 
friend.* The father of Hermes also is an artizan. Now 
Hermes closely resembles Agni as well as Jesus. He is 
the " good messenger," the Euangelos ; that is, the pro- 
claimer of the joyful message of the redemption of souls 
from the power of death. He is the God of sacrifices, 
and as such " mediator" between heaven and earth. He 
is the "guide of souls " (Psychopompos) and "bridegroom 
of souls" (beloved of Psyche). He is also a God of 
fertility, a guardian of the flocks, who is represented in 
art as the " good shepherd," the bearer of the ram, a 

* IL, xi. 20; cf. Movers, op. cit., 242 s . 



n6 THE CHRIST MYTH 

guide upon the roads of earth, a God of the door-hinge 
(Strophaios) and guardian of the door,* a god of healing 
as well as of speech, the model of all human reason, in 
which capacity he was identified by the Stoics with the 
Logos that dwelt within the world, t Just as in the 
Eigveda Tvashtar stands with Savitar, the divine father 
of Agni, and Joseph the "carpenter" with Jahwe, as 
father of the divine mediator, so the divine artificer, 
Hephaistos, whose connection with Tvashtar is obvious, 
is looked upon together with Zeus, the father of heaven, 
as the begetter of Hermes. I 

Now if Joseph, as we have already seen, was originally 
a God, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a Goddess. Under 
the name of Maya she is the mother of Agni, i.e., the 
principle of motherhood and creation simply, as which 
she is in the Bigveda at one time represented by the fire- 
producing wood, the soft pith, in which the fire-stick was 
whirled ; at another as the earth, with which the sky has 
mated. She appears under the same name as the mother 
of Buddha as well as of the Greek Hermes. She is iden- 
tical with Maira (Maera) as, according to Pausanias, viii. 
12, 48, the Pleiad Maia, wife of Hephaistos, was called. 
She appears among the Persians as the "virgin" mother 
of Mithras. As Myrrha she is the mother of the Syrian 
Adonis ; as Semiramis, mother of the Babylonian Ninus 
(Marduk). In the Arabic legend she appears under the 
name of Mirzam as mother of the mythical saviour 
Joshua, while the Old Testament gives this name to 

* Cf. John x. 3, 7, 9. 

\ O. Gruppe, " Griech. Mythologie," 1900, ii. 1328, note 10. 

I Id., op. cit., 1307. According to the Arabian legend Father 
Abraham, also, who here plays the part of a saviour and redeemer, 
was under the name of Thare, a skilful master workman, under- 
standing how to cut arrows from any wood, and being specially 
occupied with the preparation of idols (Sepp, " Das Heidentum 
und dessen Bedeutung für das Christentum," 1853, iii. 82). 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH THE BAPTISM 117 

the virgin sister of that Joshua who was so closely 
related to Moses; and, according to Eusebius,* Merris 
was the name of the Egyptian princess who found Moses 
in a basket and became his foster-mother. 

After all this it seems rather naive to believe that the 
parents of the " historical " Jesus were called Joseph and 
Mary, and that his father was a carpenter. In reality the 
whole of the family and home life of the Messiah, Jesus, 
took place in heaven among the Gods. It was only 
reduced to that of a human being in lowly circumstances 
by the fact that Paul described the descent of the Messiah 
upon the earth as an assumption of poverty and a relin- 
quishment of his heavenly splendour, t Hence, when the 
myth was transformed into history, Christ was turned 
into a "poor" man in the economic sense of the word, 
while Joseph, the divine artificer and father of the sun, 
became an ordinary carpenter. 

Now it is a feature which recurs in all the religions of 
Nearer Asia that the " son " of the divine " virgin " 
mother is at the same time the "beloved" of this 
Goddess in the sexual sense of the word. This is the 
case not only with Semiramis and Ninus, Istar and 
Tammuz, Atargatis (Aphrodite) and Adonis, Cybele and 
Attis, but also with Aphrodite (Maia) and Hermes,! Maia 
and Iasios, one of the Cabiri, identical with Hermes or 
Cadmus, who was slain by his father, Zeus, with a 
lightning stroke, but was raised again and placed in 
the sky as a constellation. § We may conclude from the 
connection between Iasios and Joshua that a similar 
relationship existed between the latter and his mother 
Mirzam. Indeed, a glimmer of this possibly appears 

* " Praep. Evang.," ix. 27. 

f 2 Cor. viii. 9. 

J Gruppe, op. tit., 1322, 1331. 

§ Preller, " Griech. Mythol.," 1894, 775 sq., 855. 



n8 THE CHRIST MYTH 

even in the Gospels in the relationship of the various 
Maries to Jesns, although, of course, in accordance with 
the character of these writings, they are transferred into 
quite a different sphere and given other emotional 
connections.* 

Now in Hebrew the word "spirit" (ruach) is of 
feminine gender. As a consequence of this the Holy 
Ghost was looked upon by the Nassenes and the earliest 
Christians as the " mother " of Jesus. Indeed, it appears 
that in their view the birth of the divine son was only 
consummated by the baptism and the descent of the 
Spirit. According to the Gospels which we possess, on 
the occasion of the baptism in the Jordan a voice from 
above uttered these words : " Thou art my beloved son; 
in thee I am well pleased." t On the other hand, in an 
older reading of the passage in question in Luke, which 
was in use as late as the middle of the fourth century, 
it runs, in agreement with Psalm ii. 7 : " Thou art my 
son, this day have I begotten thee." In this case the 
spirit who speaks these words is regarded as a female 
being. This is shown by the dove which descends from 
heaven, for this was the holy bird, the symbol of the 
Mother Goddess of Nearer Asia. J But it was not the 
Nassenes alone (Ophites) who called the Holy Spirit 
" the first word " and " the mother of all living things : " § 

* Eobertson, " Christianity and Mythology," 322. 

f Matt. iii. 17 ; Mark i. 11 ; Luke iii. 22. 

I Phereda or Pheredet, the dove, is the Chaldaic root of the name 
Aphrodite, as the Goddess in the car drawn by two doves was called 
among the Greeks. In the whole of Nearer Asia the cult of doves 
was connected with that of the Mother Goddess. As is well known, 
the dove as a symbol of innocence or purity is also the bird of the 
Virgin Mary, who is often compared to one. Indeed, in the Protevan- 
gelium of James she is actually called a dove which nested in the 
temple, a plain reference to the dove cult of the Syrian Aphrodite or 
Atargatis (Astarte, Astaroth). 

§ Irenseus, i. 28. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 119 

other Gnostic sects, such as the Valentinians, regarded 
the Spirit which descended in the shape of a dove as the 
" word of the mother from above, of wisdom." * Viewed 
in this sense, baptism also passed in the Mysteries as 
a new birth. Indeed, its Greek name, phötisma or 
phötismös {i.e., illumination), clearly indicates its origin 
in fire-worship. Thus, when Justin t too speaks of a 
flame appearing at the baptism of Jesus, he alludes 
thereby to the connection between that solemn act 
and the birth of a Fire-God. I Ephrem, the Syrian 
composer of hymns, makes the Baptist say to Jesus : 
"A tongue of fire in the air awaits thee beyond the 
Jordan. If thou followest it and wilt be baptized, then 
undertake to purify thyself, for who can seize a burning 
fire with his hands ? Thou who art all fire have mercy 
upon me." § In Luke iii. 16 and Matt. iii. 11 it is said 
in the same sense: "I indeed baptize you with water ; 
but there cometh he that is mightier than I. . . . He 
shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." 



* Hippolytus iv. 35. This brings to mind that, according to 
Persian ideas also, besides the Trinity of Heaven (Ahuramazda), 
Sun, Fire (Mithras), and Air (Spirit, "word," Honover, Spenta 
Armaiti), the earth stood as a fourth principle (Anahita, Anaitis, 
Tanit). This stood in the same relation to Mithras as Istar to 
Tammuz, Cybele to Attis, Atargatis to Adonis, Maya to Agni, 
Aphrodite to Hermes, Mary to Jesus, &c, becoming identical, 
however, usually with the " word " of God, the holy spirit 
(Cumont, op. cit., ii. 87 sq.). 

f " Dialog.," 88. 

I One cannot therefore say, as is usual, that Mark, in whom the 
story of the birth given in Matthew and Luke is not found, knew 
nothing of a supernatural birth of Christ. For the narrative of the 
baptism is the history of his birth, while the corresponding narrative 
of the other Evangelists only came into existence later, when the 
original sense of the story of the baptism in Mark was no longer 
understood. 

§ Quoted in Usener, " Religionsgesch. Untersuchungen," 1889, i. 64. 



120 THE CHRIST MYTH 

And in Luke xii. 49 sq. we read the words : " I came to 
cast fire upon the earth : and what will I, if it is already 
kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with." 
Here is a reference to fire falling upon the eyes and 
being made to blaze up by "baptism," that is, the pouring 
on of a nourishing liquid, as we have seen in the worship 
of Agni.* 

Just as John, who was closely related to the Essenes, 
baptized the penitents in the Jordan in the open air, so 
also the Mandaei, whose connection with the Essenes is 
extremely probable, used to perform baptisms in flowing 
water only, on which account they were also called " the 
Christians of John " in later times. This custom among 
them was obviously connected with the fact that Hibil 
Ziwä, who was venerated by them as a Redeemer, was a 
form of Marduk, and the latter was a son of the great 
Water-God, Ea ; he thus incorporated the healing and 
cleansing powers of water in himself. On the other 
hand, as has been already said, the " anointing " of the 
God in the Agni Cult with milk, melted butter, and the 
fluid Soma, served to strengthen the vital powers of 
the divine child and to bring the sparks slumbering in 
the fire-wood to a blaze. There is no doubt that this idea 
was also present in the baptism as it was usually practised 
in the mystic cults. By baptism the newly admitted 
member was inwardly "enlightened." Often enough, 
too, for example, in the Mysteries of Mithras, with the 
ceremony there was also associated the actual flashing 
forth of a light, the production of the Cult God himself 

* Thus Mithras also was said to have been born on the bank of a 
river, just as Jesus received baptism in or near the Jordan. On this 
account " the Bock-born " was usually represented with a torch in 
his left and a sword or knife in his right hand (Cumont, " Myst. d. 
Mithra," 97). This recalls to mind the words of Jesus in Matt. x. 34 : 
" I came not to send peace, but a sword." 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 121 

manifested in light.* By this means the faithful were 
" born again," in the same way as Agni was " baptized " 
at his birth, and thereby enabled to shine forth brightly 
and to reveal the disorder of the world hidden in the 
darkness. 

11 The world was swallowed up, veiled in darkness, 
Light appeared, when Agni was born." f 

" Shining brightly, Agni flashes forth far and wide, 
He makes everything plain in splendour." J 

A complete understanding of the baptism in the Jordan 
can only be attained if here, too, we take into consideration 
the translation of the baptism into astrological terms. 
In other words, it appears that John the Baptist, as we 
meet him in the Gospels, was not an historical personage. 
Apart from the Gospels he is mentioned by Josephus 
only,§ and this passage, although it was known to Origen || 
in early days, is exposed to a strong suspicion of being a 
forgery by some Christian hand. M Again, the account in 

* Cf. Wobbermin, " Religionsgesch. Studien zur Frage der Beein- 
flussung des Urchristentums durch das antike Mysterien wesen," 1896, 
154 sqq. The Christian Church also surrounded the act of baptism 
with an unusual splendour of lights and candles. Not only was the 
House of God lit up on this occasion in a festive manner, but each 
individual to be baptized had to carry a burning candle. The sermons 
which have come down to us delivered on the feast of the Epiphany, 
the feast of the birth and baptism of the Saviour which in earlier 
days fell together (!), excel in the description of the splendour of the 
lights ; indeed, the day of the feast itself was actually called " the 
day of lights " or " the lights " (phöta). 

+ Egv. x. 88, 2. 

I Id. v. 2, 9. 

§ "Antiq.,"xviii. 5, 2. 

|| '* Contra Celsum," i. 47. 

1F Graetz calls it " a shameless interpolation" ("Gesch. d. Juden," 
1888, iii. 278). Cf. J. Chr. K. v. Hofmann, "Die heiligen Schriften 
des N.T.," vii. Tl. 3, 1876, 4; Schürer, "Gesch. des jüdischen 
Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu," i. 438, note. 



122 THE CHRIST MYTH 

the Gospels of the relations between John and Jesus is 
full of obscurities and contradictions, as has been pointed 
out by Strauss. These, however, disappear as soon as 
we recognise that under the name John, which in 
Hebrew means " pleasing to God," is concealed the 
Babylonian Water-God, Oannes (Ba). Baptism is con- 
nected with his worship, and the baptism of Jesus in 
the Jordan represents the reflection upon earth of what 
originally took place among the stars. That is to say, 
the sun begins its yearly course with a baptism, entering 
as it does, immediately after its birth, the constellations 
of the Water-carrier and the Fishes. But this celestial 
Water Kingdom, in which each year the day-star is 
purified and born again, is the Eridanus, the heavenly 
Jordan or Year- Stream (Egyptian, iaro or iero, the river), 
wherein the original baptism of the divine Saviour of the 
world takes place.* On this account it is said in the 
hymn of Ephrem on the Epiphany of the divine Son : 
" John stepped forward and adored the Son, whose form 
was enveloped in a strange light," and " when Jesus had 
received the baptism he immediately ascended, and his 
light shone over the world." \ In the Syrian Baptismal 
Liturgy, preserved to us under the name of Severus, we 
read the words : "I, he said, baptize with water, but he 
who comes, with Fire and Spirit, that spirit, namely, which 
descended from on high upon his head in the shape of a 
dove, who has been baptized and has arisen from the 
midst of the waters, whose light has gone up over the 
earth." According to the Fourth Gospel, John was not 
himself the light; but he gave testimony of the light, 
" that true light which lighteth every man coming into 
the world," by whom the world was made and of whose 
fulness we have all received grace. \ In this the refer- 

* Cf . Sepp., op. cit., i. 168 sqq. f Cf. Usener, op. cit., 62. 

J I. 8, 9, 10, 16 ; cf. Matt. iv. 16. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 123 

ence to the sun is unmistakable, while the story of 
John's birth * is copied from that of the Sun-Gods 
Isaac t and Samson. \ In John, the Baptist himself is 
called by Jesus " a burning and shining lamp," § and he 
himself remarks, when he hears of the numerous following 
of Jesus, "he must increase but I must decrease," || a 
speech which probably at first referred to the summer 
solstice, when the sun, having reached the highest point 
in its course, enters the winter hemisphere and loses 
strength day by day. John is said to have been born 
six months before Jesus. 1T This, too, points to the fact 
that both are essentially identical, that they are only the 
different halves of the year, representing the sun as rising 
and setting, these two phases being related to one 
another as Caleb and Joshua, Nergal and Tammuz, &c. 
John the Baptist is represented as wearing a cloak of 
camel-hair, with a leathern girdle about his loins.** This 
brings to mind the garb of the prophet Elijah, ft to whom 
Jesus himself likened him.iJ But Elijah, who passed 
among the Jews for a forerunner of the Messiah, is a 
form of Sun-God transferred to history. In other words, 
he is the same as the Greek Helios, the German Heljas, 
and Ossetic Ilia, with whom he coincides in most 
important points, or at any rate characteristics of this 
God have been transferred to the figure of the prophet. §§ 

* Luke i. 5 sqq. f Gen. xvii. 16 sqq. J Judges, xiii. 2 sqq. 

§ John v. 35. || Id. iii. 30. f Luke i. 26. 

** Matt. iii. 4. ff 2 Kings i. 8. JJ Matt. xi. 14. 

§§ Cf. Nork, " Bealwörterbuch," i. 451 sqq. The Baptist John in 
the Gospels also appears as the " forerunner," announcer, herald, and 
preparer of the way for Jesus, and it appears that the position of 
Aaron in regard to Moses, he being given the latter as a mouthpiece 
or herald, has helped in the invention of the Baptist's figure. A 
similar position is taken in the Old Testament by the " Angel of the 
Countenance," the messenger, mediator, ambassador, and " Beginning 
of 'the way of God," the rabbinic Metatron, whom we saw earlier 



124 THE CHRIST MYTH 

According to Babylonian ideas corresponding to the 
" baptism of water " at the commencement of the effi- 
cacious power of the sun, was the " baptism of fire," 

was identical with Joshua (see above, p. 56 sq.). In the Syro- 
Phoenician and the Greek Mysteries Cadmus, Kadmilos, or Kadmiel, 
a form of the divine messenger and mediator Hermes, also called 
Iasios (Joshua), corresponded to him, his name literally meaning 
" he who goes before God " or prophesies of him, the announcer, 
herald, or forerunner of the coming God (cf. Schelling, "Die Gott- 
heiten von Samothrake Ww.," i. 8, 358, 392 sqq). Ezra ii. 40, 39, and 
Nehem. vii. 43, call Kadmiel a Levite, he being always named together 
with the High Priest Joshua. It is probably only another name of 
the latter himself, and characterises him as servant and herald of 
God. Now Kadmiel is the discoverer of writing and the establisher 
of civilisation, and in so far identical with Oannes, the Babylonian 
" Water-man " and Baptism-God (Movers, op. cit, 518 sqq.). Can 
Oannes (Johannes) the Baptist in this way have become Kadmiel, the 
" forerunner " and preparer of the way of Jesus, who announced his 
near arrival, and the God Jesus, in consequence of this, have divided 
into two different figures, that of Joshua-Kadmiel (Johannes) and the 
Messiah Jesus ? In this regard it is certainly not without significance 
that the figure of the High Priest Joshua in Zechariah wavers 
between the Messiah (Zemah) and a mere forerunner of the latter. 
John's question to Jesus, " Art thou he that cometh, or look we for 
another ? " (Matt. xi. 3) is exactly the question which strikes the 
reader in reading the corresponding passage of Zechariah. Possibly 
the presence of the dove at the baptism in the Jordan obtains in this 
way a still closer explanation, for Semiramis, the Dove Goddess, is 
the spouse of Oannes (Ninus) ; John and the dove accordingly are the 
parents, who are present at the " birth " of the divine son. But 
the violent death of John at Herod's command and the head of the 
prophet upon the dish have prototypes in the myth of Cadmus. 
For the head of the latter is supposed to have been cut off by his 
brother and to have been buried upon a brazen shield, a cult story 
which plays a part especially in the Mysteries of the Cabiri Gods, to 
whom Cadmus belongs (cf. Creuzer, " Symbolik und Mythologie 
der alten Völker," 1820, ii. 333). According to Josephus (op. cit.) 
John was put to death because Herod feared political disorders from 
his appearance, while Matthew makes him fall a victim to Herod's 
revenge, the latter having been censured by John for his criminal 
marriage with the wife of his brother. Moreover, the prophet Elijah, 
who accuses Ahab of having yielded to his wife Jezebel and of having 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 125 

when it was at the height of its annual course, at the 
time of the summer solstice, and its passage was again 
inclined downwards.* This idea, too, is found in the 

murdered Naboth (1 Kings xxi.), as well as the prophet Nathan, who 
reproaches David for having killed Uriah and having married his 
wife (2 Sam. xii., cf. also Esther v. 7, 2), are also prototypes. 
According to this a religious movement or sect must, in the minds 
of posterity, have been condensed into the figure of John the Baptist. 
Its followers, who closely resembled the Essenes, in view of the 
imminent nearness of the kingdom of heaven, exhorted men to a 
conversion of mind, looked upon the Messiah in the sense of Daniel 
essentially as the God appointed (" awakened ") judge over the living 
and the dead, and sought by baptism to apply to the penitents the 
magic effects which should flow from the name of their Cult God 
Johannes (Oannes), the Babylonian-Mandiac Baptism and Water- 
God. The stern and gloomy character of this sect may have been 
reflected in the character sketch of the John in the Gospels, and 
between it and the sect of Jesus many collisions, disagreements, and 
conversions appear to have taken place (Matt. xi. 1 sq. ; Luke vii. 18 
sqq. ; John i. 37). Possibly the sect of Jesus was originally only 
an excrescence from, and a development of, the conception which the 
disciples of John had of the Messiah, as is indicated by the supposed 
blood relationship between Jesus and John. At any rate, the adherents 
of the former in their belief in the sufferings, death, and resurrection 
of the Messiah felt that their point of view was higher and more 
perfect as compared with that of John's disciples, who do not appear 
to have risen essentially above the general ideas of the Jewish 
Apocalyptics. According to Matthew iii. 13 Jesus came out of 
Galilee, the " Galilee of the Heathens," to the baptism of John. 
Herein the original heathenish origin of the faith of Jesus was pointed 
to. " The people which sat in darkness have seen a great light. To 
them which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light 
spring up " (Matt. iv. 16; cf. Smith, op. cit., 95). The opposition of 
the two different sects was, at any rate, so great that John's disciples 
needed a further instruction and a new baptism " in the name of the 
Lord Jesus" to receive the Holy Ghost, in order to be received into 
the Christian community. For example, the twelve at Ephesus, who 
had simply received the baptism of John, as well as the eloquent and 
literary Alexandrian, Apollo, who none the less proclaimed the message 
of salvation (rä nepl rov 'lijaoii) (Acts xviii. 24 sqq., xix. 1-7). 

* Cf., Sepp, " Heidentum," i. 170 sq., 190 sq. ; Winckler, " Die baby- 
lonische Geisteskultur," 89, 100 sq. By this reference of the Gospel 



126 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Gospels, in the story of the transfiguration of Jesus upon 
the mountain.* It takes precisely the same place in the 
context of his life-year, as depicted by the Evangelists, as 
the Sun's " baptism of fire " in the Babylonian world 
system, since it too marks the highest and turning-point 
in the life of the Christian Saviour. On this occasion 
Moses and Elijah appeared with the Saviour, who shone 
like a pillar of fire, " and his garments became glistening, 
exceeding white, like unto snow, so as no fuller on earth 
can whiten them." And there came a cloud which over- 
shadowed the three disciples whom Jesus had taken with 
him on to the mountain. And a voice came from the 
cloud, saying, " This is my beloved Son, hear ye him." 
As at the baptism, so here, too, was Jesus proclaimed by 
a heavenly voice as the Son or beloved of God, or rather 
of the Holy Spirit. As the latter is in Hebrew of the 
feminine gender, it consequently appears that in this 
passage we have before us a parallel to the baptism of 
Jesus in the Jordan. The incident is generally looked 
upon as though by it was emphasised the higher signi- 
ficance of Jesus in comparison with the two chief repre- 
sentatives of the old order, and as though Jesus was 
extolled before Moses and Elijah by the transfiguration. 
Here too, however, the Sun-God, Helios, is obviously 
concealed beneath the form of the Israelite Elijah. On 
this account Christianity changed the old places of 
worship of Zeus and Helios upon eminences into 
chapels of Elijah ; and Moses is no other than the 
Moon-God, the Men of Asia Minor. And he has been 



story to the sun's course it appears that the activity of Jesus from 
his baptism in the Jordan to his death, according to the account of 
the Synoptics, only covered a year. It is the mythological year of 
the sun's course through the Watery Region in January and February 
until the complete exhaustion of its strength in December. 
* Mark ix. 2-7. 



BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. THE BAPTISM 127 

introduced into the story because the divine lawgivers 
in almost all mythologies are the same as the moon, the 
measurer of time and regulator of all that happens (cf. 
Manu among the Indians, Minos among the Greeks, Men 
(Min) among the Egyptians).* According to Justin, t 
David is supposed to have made the prophecy that 
Christ would be born " before the sun and the moon." 
The sun and moon often appear upon the pictures of the 
Nearer Asiatic Eedeemer, God (e.g., Mithras), paling before 
the splendour of the young Light-God, as we have seen 
in the case of Buddha,! and as, according to the 
narrative of the Eigveda, also happened at the birth 
of the Child Agni. Accordingly we have before us in 
the story of the transfiguration in the Gospels only 
another view of the story of the birth of the Light-God 
or Fire-God, such as lies at the root of the story of the 
baptism of the Christian Saviour. § And with the thought 
of the new birth of the Saviour is associated that of the 
baptism of Jesus, and particularly that of the fire-baptism, 
of which the sun partakes at the height of its power. || 

* The horns (crescent) which he also shares with Jahwe, as the 
Syrian Hadah shows (Winckler, " Gesch. Israels," ii. 94), recalls to 
mind the Moon nature of Moses. Moses is, as regards his name, 
the " Water-drawer." The moon is, however, according to antique 
views, merely the water-star, the dispenser of the dew and rain, and 
the root ma (mo), which, in the name of Moses, refers to water, is 
also contained in the various expressions for the moon. 

t " Contra Tryph.," xlvi. 

I Cf. above, 112. 

§ Burnouf, op. cit., 195 sq. 

|| That in the closer description of this occurrence Old Testament 
ideas have had their part has already been advanced by others. Thus 
in the transfiguration of Jesus the transfiguration of Moses upon Sinai 
without doubt passed before the mind of the narrator. And just as 
Jesus took with him his three chief disciples on to the mount of 
transfiguration, so Moses took his three trusted followers, Aaron, 
Nadab, and Abihu, to partake in the vision of Jahwe (Strauss, 
" Leben Jesu," ii. 269 sqq.). 



VI 

THE SELF-OFFEBING OF THE MESSIAH. THE SUPPER 

LIKE Baptism, the sacrament of the " Supper," the 
partaking of the sacred host and wine (in place 
of which among certain sects water is also found), has its 
precedent in the most ancient fire-worship. When the 
sacred fire had been kindled upon the altar, the faithful 
were accustomed, as the Eigveda shows, to sit down in 
order to partake of the sacred cake prepared from meal 
and butter, the symbol of all solid food, and of the Soma 
cup, the symbol of all liquid nourishment. It was 
thought that Agni dwelt invisible within these sub- 
stances : in the meal as though in the concentrated heat 
of the sun, in the Soma, since the drink in its fiery 
nature and invigorating power disclosed the nature of the 
God of Fire and Life. Participation therein opened to 
the faithful communion with Agni. Thereby they were 
incorporated with the God. They felt themselves trans- 
formed into him, raised above the actuality of every day, 
and as members of a common body, as though of one 
heart and one soul, inflamed by the same feeling of 
interdependence and brotherhood. Then some such 
hymn as follows would mount towards heaven from 
their breasts overflowing with thankfulness : — 

" Oh great Agni, true-minded 
Thou dost indeed unite all. 
Enkindled on the place of worship 
Bring us all that is good. 
128 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 129 

Unitedly come, unitedly speak, 
And let your hearts be one, 
Just as the old Gods 
For their part are of one mind. 

Like are their designs, like their assembly, 
Like their disposition, united their thoughts. 
So pray I also to you with like prayer, 
And sacrifice unto you with like sacrifice. 
The like design you have indeed, 
And your hearts are united. 
Let your thoughts be in unison, 
That you may be happily joined together." * 

While the faithful by partaking of the sacred cake and 
the fiery Soma cup united themselves with the God and 
were filled with his "spirit," the sacrificial gifts which 
had been brought to him burnt upon the altars. These 
consisted likewise of Soma and Sacred Cake, and caused 
the sacred banquet to be of such a kind that it was 
partaken of by Agni and men together. The God was 
at and present in the banquet dedicated to him. He 
consumed the gifts, transformed them into flame, and in 
sweet-smelling smoke bore them with him up to heaven. 
Here they were partaken of by the other divine beings 
and finally by the Father of Heaven himself. Thus 
Agni became not merely an agent at the sacrifice, a 
mystic sacrificial priest, but, since the sacrificial gifts 
simply contained him in material form, a sacrificer, who 
offered his own body in sacrifice, t While man sacrificed 
God, God at the same time sacrificed himself. Indeed, 
this sacrifice was one in which God was not only the 
subject but also the object, both sacrificer and sacrificed. 
" It was a common mode of thinking among the 
Indians," says Max Müller, " to look upon the fire on 
the altar as at the same time subject and object of the 
sacrifice. The fire burnt the offering and was accord- 
* Rgv. x. 191 ; cf. i. 72, 5. \ Id. üi. 28, vi. 11. 

9 



130 THE CHRIST MYTH 

ingly the priest as it were. The fire bore the offering to 
the Gods and was accordingly a mediator between God 
and men. But the fire also represented something 
divine. It was a God, and if honour was paid to this 
God, the fire was at once subject and object of the 
sacrifice. Out of this arose the first idea, that Agni 
sacrificed to himself, that is, that he brought his own 
offering to himself, then, that he brought himself as a 
victim — out of which the later legends grew." * The 
sacrifice of the God is a sacrificing of the God. The 
genitive in this sentence is in one case to be understood 
in an objective, in the other in a subjective sense. In 
other words, the sacrifice which man offers to the God is 
a sacrifice which the God brings, and this sacrifice of the 
God is at the same time one in which the God offers 
himself as victim. 

In the Bigveda Agni, as God of Priests and Sacrifices, 
also bears the name of Vicvakarrnan, i.e., " Consummator 
of All." Hymn x., 81 also describes him as the creator 
of the world, who called the world into existence, and in 
so doing gave his own body in sacrifice. Hence, then, the 
world, according to x. 82, represents nothing existing 
exterior to him, but the very manifestation of Vicvakar- 
rnan, in which at the creation he as it were appeared. 
On the other hand, Purusha, the first man, is represented 
as he out of whose body the world was formed, t But 
Purusha is, as we have seen, the prototype of the 
Mandaic and apocalyptic " son of man." Herein lies the 
confirmation of the fact that the "son of man" is none 
other than Agni, the most human of the Vedic Gods. 
In the Mazda religion the first mortals were called 
Meshia and Meshiane, the ancestors of fallen mankind, 

* Max Müller, " Einleitung in die vergl. Beligionswissenschaft," 
note to p. 219. 
f Eigv. x. 90. 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 131 

who expect their redemption at the hands of another 
Meshia. This meaning of the word Messiah was not 
strange to the Jews too, when they placed the latter as 
the "new Adam" in the middle of the ages. Adam, 
however, also means man.* The Messiah accordingly, 
as the new Adam, was for them too only a renewal of the 
first man in a loftier and better form. This idea, that 
mankind needed to be renewed by another typical 
representative of itself, goes back in the last resort to 
India, where, after the dismemberment of Purusha, a 
man arose in the person of Manu or Manus. He was to 
be the just king, the first lawgiver and establisher of 
civilisation, descending after his death to rule as judge in 
the under-world (cf. the Cretan Minos). But Manu, whose 
name again meant no more than man or human being 
(Manusha), passed as son of Agni. Indeed, he was even 
completely identified with him, since life, spirit, and fire 
to the mind of primitive man are interchangeable ideas, 
although it is spirit and intelligence which are expressed 
under the name of Manu (Man = to measure, to examine). t 

* The Bigveda describes Purusha as a gigantic being (cf. the Eddie 
Ymir) who covers the earth upon all sides and stretches ten fingers 
beyond. The Talmud, too (Chagiga, xii. 1), ascribes to the first man 
Adam a gigantic size, reaching as he did with his head to heaven 
and with his feet to the end of the world. Indeed, according to 
Epiphanius (" Haeres." xix. 4), the Essenes made the size of Christ 
too, the " second Adam," stretch an immeasurable distance. 

f In Hebrew Messiah means " the anointed." But Agni too as 
God of Sacrifices bears the name of the anointed, akta (above, p. 99). 
Indeed, it appears as though the Greek Christ, as a translation of 
Messiah, stands in relation to Agni. For the God over whom at his 
birth was poured milk or the holy Soma cup and sacrificial butter, 
bore the surname of Hari among the members of the cult. The word 
signified originally the brightness produced by anointing with fat 
and oil. It appears in the Greek Charis, an epithet of Aphrodite, and 
is contained in the verb chrio, to anoint, of which Christos is the 
participial form (cf. Cox, " Mythology of the Aryan Nations," 1908, 
27, 254). 



132 THE CHRIST MYTH 

We thus also obtain a new reason for the fact that the divine 
Redeemer is a human being. We also understand not 
only why the " first-born son of God " was, according to 
the ideas of the whole of Nearer Asiatic syncretism, the 
principle of the creation of the world, but also why the 
redemption which he brought man could be for this 
reason looked upon as a divine self-sacrifice.* 

The sacrifice of the God on the part of mankind is a 
sacrifice of the God himself — it is only by this means that 
the community between God and man was completed. 
The God offers sacrifice for man, while man offers sacrifice 
for God. Indeed, more than this, he offers himself for 
mankind, he gives his own body that man may reap the 
fruit of his sacrifice. The divine " son" offers himself as 

* The Bhagavadgita shows that the idea of a self-sacrifice was 
associated with Krishna also, whom we have already learnt to 
recognise as a form of Agni, and that his becoming man was regarded 
as such a sacrifice. It (ii. 16) runs : " I am the act of sacrifice, the 
sacrifice of God and of man. I am the sap of the plant, the words, 
the sacrificial butter and fire, and at the same time the victim." 
And in viii. 4 Krishna says of himself : " My presence in nature is 
my transitory being, my presence in the Gods is Purusha (i.e., my 
existence as Purusha), my presence in the sacrifices is myself 
incorporated in this body." But Mithras too offers himself for 
mankind. For the bull whose death at the hands of the God takes 
the central position in all the representations of Mithras was originally 
none other than the God himself — the sun in the constellation of 
the Bull, at the spring equinox — the sacrifice of the bull accordingly 
being also a symbol of the God who gives his own life, in order by his 
death to bring a new, richer and better life. Mithras, too, performs 
this self-sacrifice, although his heart struggles against it, at the 
command of the God of Heaven, which is brought to him by a raven, 
the messenger of the God of Gods. (cf. Cumont, op. cit., 98 sqq.). 
And just as according to Vedic ideas Purusha was torn in pieces by 
the Gods and Daemons and the world made out of his parts, so too 
according to Persian views the World Bull Abudad or the Bull Man 
Gayomart at the beginning of creation is supposed to have shed his 
blood for the world, to live again as Mithras (Sepp., op. cit., i. 330, 
ii. 6 sq.). 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 133 

a victim. Sent down by the "father" upon the earth in 
the form of light and warmth, he enters men as the 
" quickening and life-giving spirit " under the appearance 
of bread and wine. He consumes himself in the fire and 
unites man with the father above, in that by his disposal 
of his own personality he removes the separation and 
difference between them. Thus Agni extinguishes the hos- 
tility between God and man, thus he consumes their sins in 
the glow of his fiery nature, spiritualising and illuminating 
them inwardly. Through the invigorating power of the 
" fire-water" he raises men above the actuality of every 
day to the source of their existence and by his own sacrifice 
obtains for them a life of blessedness in heaven. In the 
sacrifice, too, God and man are identified. Therein God 
descends to man and man is raised to God. That is the 
common thought which had already found expression in 
the Eigveda, which later formed the special "mystery" 
of the secret cults and religious unions of Nearer Asia, 
which lay at the root of the sacrament of " the Supper," 
which guaranteed to man the certainty of a blessed 
life in the beyond, and reconciled him to the thought 
of bodily death.* Agni is accordingly nothing else than 
the bodily warmth in individuals, and as such the 
subject of their motions and thoughts, the principle of 
life, their soul. When the body grows cold in death 
the warmth of life leaves it, the eyes of the dead go up 
to the sun, his breath into the wind ; his soul, however, 
ascends towards heaven where the "fathers" dwell, 
into the kingdom of everlasting light and life.t Indeed, 
so great is the power of Agni, the divine physician and 
saviour of the soul, I that he, as the God of all creative 
power, can, by merely laying on his hands, even call 
the dead back to life.§ 

* Cumont, " Myst. de Mithra," 101. \ Bgv. x. 16. 

I Id. x. 16, 6. § Id. lx. ; cf. also Burnouf, op. cit., 176 sqq. 



134 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Even in the Old Testament we meet with the idea of a 
sacramental meal. This is pointed to in Genesis xiv. 18 
sqq., when Melchisedek, the prince of peace ("King of 
Salem"), the priest of " God Most High," prepares for 
Abraham a meal of bread and wine, and at it imparts to 
him the blessing of the Lord God. For Melchisedek, the 
ruler of Salem, the city of peace, " the King of Justice," as 
he is called in the Epistle to the Hebrews, is even in this 
book plainly described as an ancient God: "without father, 
without mother, without genealogy, having neither 
beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the 
Son of God, he abideth a priest continually."* So also 
the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of holy feasts, consisting 
of cake and wine, of nightly sacrifices of burnt-offerings 
and liquids, which were offered to the Queen of Heaven 
(i.e., the Moon) and other Divinities. t Isaiah, too, is 
indignant against those who prepare a drinking-feast for 
God and make liquid offerings to Meni. J Now Meni is 
none other than Men, the Moon-God of Asia Minor, and 
as such is identical with Selene-Mene, the Goddess of 
the Moon in the Orphic hymns. Like her he is a being 
of a dual sex, at once Queen and King of Heaven. Con- 
sequently a liquid sacrifice appears to have been offered by 
all the people of Nearer Asia in honour of the Moon. As 
Moon-God (Deus Lunus) and as related to Meni, in whose 
worship a sacramental meal also plays the chief part, Agni 
appears in the Vedas under the name of Manu, Manus, or 
Soma. He too is a being of dual sex. Of this we are 
again reminded when Philo, the Eabbinic speculation of 

* Op. cit., vii. 3. He is Jahwe, the King of Jeru- Salem itself 
(Josephus, "Ant.," x. 2), and corresponds to the Phoenician Moloch 
(Melech) Sidyk, who offered his only born son, Jehud, to the people as 
an expiation. Cf. supra, p. 77. 

f Op. cit., xix. 13, xxxii. 29, xliv. 17, xvi 25. 

I . cit., lxv. 11. 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 135 

the Kabbala, as well as the Gnostics ascribe to the first 
man (Adam Kadmon) two faces and the form of a man 
and woman, until God separated the two sexes from one 
another.* According to this we should probably look 
upon the fire-worship in Asia Minor also as the foundation 
of the sacramental meal. 

Obviously we have to do with a meal of this kind in 
the bringing in of the so-called shew-bread. Every 
Sabbath twelve cakes were laid by the priests " upon the 
pure table before the Lord," "and it shall be for Aaron 
and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, for it 
is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord, by a 
perpetual statute." f 

It appears, then, that this meal, presided over by the 
High Priest as representative of Aaron, was partaken of 
by twelve other priests, and Eobertson rightly sees herein 
the Jewish prototype of the Christian Supper and of the 
number of apostles — the Twelve — present at it. But the 
High Priest Aaron is a personification of the Jewish 
Ark of the Covenant, that is, of the visible expression of 
the Covenant between God and man, one of the chief 
prototypes of the Messiah. And if the self-offering of 
the Messiah, as we have seen above (p. 78), has its pre- 
cedent in the self-offering of Aaron, so also the great 
solemnity of the Aaronic sacrificial meal would not be 
wanting in the story of the Christian Kedeemer. 

As is well known, Joshua too, the Jesus of the Old 
Testament, whom we have learnt to recognise as an 
ancient Ephraimitic God of the Sun and Fruitfulness, 
was accompanied in his passage of the Jordan by twelve 
assistants, one from each tribe. And he is said after 
circumcising the people to have celebrated the Paschal 

* As is well known, the Germanic first man, Mannus, according to 
Tacitus, was a son of the hermaphrodite Thuisto. 
f Lev. xxiv. 5-9. 



136 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Feast on the other bank.* Hence, taking into account 
what has been said above concerning Joshua, we are 
probably justified in drawing the conclusion that his 
name was permanently connected with the partaking of 
the Easter lamb, t In any case the so-called "Supper" 
of Christianity did not only later take its place as the 
central point of religious activity, but from the beginning 
it held this central position in the cults of those sects out 
of which Christianity was developed. It was the point of 
crystallisation, the highest point, of the other ritualistic 
acts, in a way the germ cell out of which in association 
with the idea of the death and resurrection of the God 
Redeemer the Christian outlook upon the world has 
grown. Just as in the Vedic Agni Cult the sacrifice 
offered by men to their God was a self-sacrifice of this 
God as well in a subjective as in an objective sense ; just 
as the participating in common of the sacrificial gifts 
served the purpose of rendering the sacrifice in an inward 
sense their very own, and thereby making them imme- 
diate participators in its efficacy, so, too, the Christian 
partakes in the bread of the body of his God and in the 
wine drinks his blood in order to become as it were him- 

* Jos. iv. 1 sqq. ; ch. v. 

f Thus Helios also, the Greek Sun-God, the heavenly physician 
and saviour, annually prepared the " Sun's Table "in nature, causing 
the fruit to ripen, the healing herbs to grow, and inviting mortals to 
the life-giving feast. " This Table of the Sun was always spread in 
the land of the happy and long-living Ethiopians ; even the twelve 
Gods journeyed thither each year with Zeus for twelve days, i.e., in 
the last Octave of the old and new year, as though to the feast of 
Agape " (Sepp., op. cit., i. 275). For the rest the number twelve had 
throughout the whole of antiquity in connection with such ceremonial 
feasts a typical signification. For example, among the Athenians, 
whose common religious feasts were celebrated annually on the 
occasion of the spring sacrifices ; also among the Jews at least twelve 
persons had to be assembled round the table of the Easter Lamb 
(Sepp., op. cit., ii. 313 sqq.). 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 137 

self God. The Evangelists make the Supper coincide 
with the Feast of the Pasch, because originally a man 
was immolated on this occasion; and he, as the first-born 
and most valuable of sacrificial gifts, took the place of 
the God who offered himself in sacrifice.* 

The celebration of sacramental feasts was very wide- 
spread throughout the whole of antiquity. They were 
among the most important acts of worship in the Mystic 
religions, above all in connection with the idea of the 
Saviour (Soter) and God of Sacrifices, who gave his life 
for the world. Thus Mithras, the Persian Agni, is said 
to have celebrated in a last meal with Helios and the 
other companions of his toils the end of their common 
struggle. Those initiated into the Mysteries of Mithras 
also celebrated this occurrence by common feasts in 
which they strove to unite themselves in a mystic 
manner with the God. Saos (Saon or Samon), the son 
of Zeus or Hermes, the God of Healing, and a nymph, 
reminds us of the name of Mithras, rejuvenated and 
risen again, of Saoshyant or Sosiosh. He is said to 
have founded the Mysteries in Samothrace, and appears 
to be identical with the mythical Sabus, who is supposed 
to have given his name to the Sabines, to have founded 
Italian civilization, and to have invented wine.t His 
name characterises him as the " sacrificer" (Scr., Savana, 
sacrifice) ; and he appears to be a Western form of Agni, 
the God of Sacrifices and preparer of the Soma, since 
Dionysus also bore the surname of Saos or Saotes and, 
as distributor of the wine, is supposed to have shed his 
blood for the salvation of the world, to have died and to 
have risen again, and thus has a prototype in the Vedic 
Agni. "With Saos are connected Iasios (Jasion), the son 
and beloved of Demeter or Aphrodite (Maia), and of Zeus 

* Ghillany, op. cit., 510 sqq. 

f Preller, " Griech. Mythol.," 398, 850, and his " Born. Mythol.," 275. 



138 THE CHRIST MYTH 

or the divine " artificer " Hephaistos (Tvashtar). Just as 
Saos established the worship of the Cabiri, Iasios is said to 
have established the worship of Demeter in Samothrace. 
In this connection he is identified with Hermes-Cadmus, 
the divine sacrificial priest (Kadmilos, i.e., Servant of 
God) of the Samothracian religion (cf. Adam-Kadmon 
of the Kabbala and the Gnostics, who is connected both 
with Agni-Manu and Jesus). According to Usener his 
name is connected with the Greek "iasthein," to cure, 
and consequently characterises its bearer as " saviour." 
But this is also the real meaning of the name Jason, 
whose bearer, a form of the patron of physicians, 
Asclepios (Helios), wanders about as a physician, 
exorciser of demons and founder of holy rites, and was 
venerated as God of Healing in the whole of Nearer 
Asia and Greece.* The myth also connects him with 
the establishment of the worship of the twelve Gods.t 

Now, Iasios (Jason) is only a Greek form of the name 
Joshua (Jesus). Just as Joshua crossed the Jordan with 
twelve assistants and celebrated the Pasch (lamb) on the 
further bank, just as Jesus in his capacity of divine 
physician and wonder-worker wanders through Galilee 
(the district of Galil !) with twelve disciples, and goes to 
Jerusalem at the Pasch in order to eat the Easter lamb 
there with the Twelve, so does Jason set out with twelve 
companions in order to fetch the golden fleece of the 
lamb from Colchis. \ And just as Jason, after over- 
coming innumerable dangers, successfully leads his com- 
panions to their goal and back again to the homes they 
so longed for, so does Joshua lead the people of Israel 

* Strabo, xi. 2 ; Justin, xlii. 3. 

f PreUer, " Griech. Mytholog.," 110. 

I It is worth while to observe that the High Priest Joshua 
returned to Jerusalem at the head of twelve elders (Ezra ii. 2 ; 
Nehem. vii. 7. Cf. Stade, " Gesch. d. V. Israel," ii. 102). 



THE SELF-OFFERING OF THE MESSIAH 139 

into the promised land " where milk and honey flow," 
and so Jesus shows his followers the way to their true 
home, the kingdom of heaven, the land of their " fathers," 
whence the soul originally came and whither after the 
completion of its journey through life it returns. It can 
scarcely be doubted that in all of these cases we have to 
do with one and the same myth — the myth of the Saving 
Sun and Eejoicer of the peoples, as it was spread among 
all the peoples of antiquity, but especially in Nearer Asia. 
We can scarcely doubt that the stories in question ori- 
ginally referred to the annual journey of the sun through 
the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Even the names (Iasios, 
Jason, Joshua, Jesus ; cf . also Vishnu Jesudu, see above) 
agree, and their common root is contained also in the 
name Jao (Jahwe), from which Joshua is derived. Jao 
or Jehu, however, was a mystical name of Dionysos 
among the Greeks, and he, like Vishnu Jesudu (Krishna), 
Joshua, and Jesus, roamed about in his capacity of travel- 
ling physician and redeemer of the world.* Of all of 
these wandering Healers, Physicians, and Deliverers it is 
true that they were honoured in the Mysteries by sacra- 
mental meals and offered the faithful both the chalice of 
corporal and spiritual healing and the " bread of life." 

* Cf. Movers, op. cit, 539 sqq. ; Sepp., "Heidentum," 271, 421. 



VII 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH: THE LAMB AND THE 

CEOSS 

OF a great number of modes of expression and images 
in the New Testament we know that they originated 
from the common treasury of the languages of the secret 
sects of the Orient, having their source above all in 
Mandaism and the Mithraic religion. Thus " the rock," 
"the water," "the bread," "the book," or "the light of 
life," * " the second death," " the vine," " the good shep- 
herd," &c, are simply expressions which in part are 
known also by the Rigveda and there belong to the ideas 
grouped about Agni, the God of Fire, Life, and Shepherds. 
Of the latter, too, as of Jesus, it is said that he loses not 
a single one of the flock entrusted to his care,t for 
Pushan, to whom the hymn in this connection is 
addressed, is only a form of Agni. In its symbols also 
the earliest Christianity coincides with Indian thought 
in such a striking manner that it can scarcely be ex- 
plained as chance. Thus the horse, + the hare, and the 
peacock, which play so great a part in symbolic pictures 
of the catacombs, point to an ultimately Vedic origin, 
where they all stand in connection with the nature of 
Agni. Again, the Fish was already to be found in the 

* Cf. Jeremias, " Babyl. im N.T.," 69-80. 
f Rgv. vi. 54. 

t Of. " The Hymns to Dadhikra," iv. 38-40 
140 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 141 

Indian Fire Worship and appears to have here originally 
represented Agni swimming in the water of the clouds, 
the ocean of heaven.* In the hymn of the Eigveda 

* Cf. Burnouf, op. cit., 196. The connection between the Fire-God 
and water is of extreme antiquity. As is well known, in the Edda 
Loki seeks to escape the pursuit of the Gods in the shape of a 
salmon ; Hephaistos, too, after being cast forth from heaven remains 
concealed in the sea until Dionysus brings him out ; in Eome on 
the 22nd of August fish from the Tiber used to be sacrificed to 
Vulcan, being cast living into the fire in representation of the souls 
of men (Preller, " Eöm. Mythol.," ii. 151). It is uncertain whether 
or to what degree the relations of the sun to the constellation of the 
Fishes have influenced these images. As regards Babylon, where 
astrology underwent the most accurate development, this can indeed 
be looked upon as certain. Here Ea (Oannes), the God of Water 
and of Life, the father of the Bedeemer God Marduk, was repre- 
sented under the form of a fish. Again, it was not only to the 
Philistinian Dagon that fish as well as doves were sacred (above, 
p. 118), but also to the Syrian Atargatis, the latter having borne, 
as was said, the " Ichthus," or fish, and the worship of fish being 
connected with devotion to her (Bobertson Smith, " Beligion of 
the Semites," 174 sqq.). In Egypt Horus was the "divine fish," 
being represented with a fish-tail and holding a cross in the hand. 
But the Joshua of the Old Testament, in whom we believe we 
see the Israelite original of the Christian Saviour, was also called 
a "Son of the Fish" (Nun, Ninus, a form of Marduk, whose 
spouse or beloved, Serniramis, is also a Fish Divinity and is the 
same as Derketo (Atargatis), the Syrian Mother Goddess. The 
Babbinists called the Messiah son of Joseph (see above, p. 80 sq.), 
Dag (Dagon) the Fish, and made him to be born of a fish ; that is, 
they expected his birth under the constellation of the Fishes, on 
which account the Jews were long accustomed to immolate a fish on 
expiatory feasts. Finally, the fish is also Vishnu's symbol, in whose 
worship baptism of water takes an important place. Again, the God 
is said in the form of a fish to have come to the rescue of the pious 
Manu, the only just man of his time, the Indian Noah, and to have 
steered the Ark through the flood, thus ensuring to mankind its con- 
tinuation. It is not difficult to suppose that this idea as well 
influenced the symbols of Christianity through Mandaic (Gnostic) 
channels. At any rate, it cannot be admitted at all that the symbol 
of the fish first arose out of a mere play on letters so far as the 
formula "Jesous Christos Theou Huios Soter " represents in five 



\ 



142 THE CHRIST MYTH 

itself Agni is often invoked as " the Bull." This was 
probably originally a simple nature symbol, the Bull as 
image of the strength of the God ; then the Fire-God and 
Sun-God, in his capacity of preparer of the Soma cup, 
was identified with the moon (Manu), whose crescents 
were taken as the horns of a bull. Later, however, the 
image of the Bull was driven out by that of the Bam. As 
early as in the Bigveda there is frequent mention of the 
God's " banner of smoke." Thus he was accustomed to 
be represented leading a ram with a banner in his hand 
or simply with a banner in his hand with the picture of a 
ram upon it, just as Christ is portrayed under the shape 
of a ram or lamb bearing a banner like a cross. 

About the year 800 B.c. the sun, the heavenly Agni, 
which had hitherto been at the commencement of spring 
in the constellation of the Bull, entered (as a consequence 
of the advance of equality between day and night) that 
of the Bam. Thus it became, according to astrological 
modes of thought, itself a ram.* While it had formerly, 
in the shape of a bull, opened the spring and released the 
world from the power of winter — an image which was 
still retained in the Mithras Cult — these functions were 
now transferred to the ram, and this became a symbol of 
the God and the beast offered in expiatory sacrifices. 
Now the constellation of the Bam was described by the 
Persians in a word which could also mean lamb. In 
other cases also the lamb often took the place of the ram 
in the sacrificial worship of Nearer Asia ; for example, 
among the Jews, who were accustomed to consume the 
Paschal lamb at the beginning of the year in spring. 
This is the explanation of the mystical lamb in the 

words the expression of the quintessence of the Christian faith (cf. 
van den Bergh van Eysinga, " Ztsehr. d. Deutchen Morgenland. 
Gesellschaft B.," ix., 1906, 210 sqq.). 
* Cf. Iamblichus, "De Symbol. Aegyptiorum," ii.i7. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 143 

Eevelation of John (which is scarcely an original Christian 
work, but shows signs of a pre-Christian Cult of Jesus*), 
being depicted by seven horns or rays in a way which 
rather implies the idea of a ram. 

The fifth chapter of Revelation describes the lamb in 
its quality of heavenly victim of expiation. No one 
can open the book with the seven seals, which God holds 
in his right hand, in which the fate of the world appears 
to be written, but the lamb alone succeeds in so doing — 
" In the midst of the four-and-twenty elders who, clad in 
white garments and with crowns on their heads, sit 
around the divine throne, and in the midst of the four 
beasts who sit around it, the lamb, suddenly and without 
anything happening, stands as though it had been slain, 
having seven horns and seven eyes which are the seven 
spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. And when 
he had taken the book the four living creatures and the 
four-and-twenty elders fell down before the lamb, having 
each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which 
are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song 
saying, Worthy art thou to take the book and to open 
the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and didst purchase 
unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, 
and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our 
God a kingdom and priests ; and they reign upon the 
earth."! 

The scene recalls to mind the self-offering of Agni in 
the midst of the Gods, Priests, and victims, and the 
ascension of the God which then took place. Just as 
the sacrifice of the lamb in Revelation refers to the 
entrance of the sun into the constellation of the Ram, 
and the victory of light over wintry darkness and the 
beginning of a new life which it heralds, so were mystic 

* Gunkel, op. cit., 32. sq. ; Eobertson, " Pagan Christs," 135 sq. 
f Op. cit, v. 6 sq. 



144 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sacrifices of bulls and rams in the other Sun Cults of 
Nearer Asia, especially in those of Attis and Mithras, 
very customary for purposes of expiation or new birth. 
On these occasions the beast was immolated while 
tanding, and the blood which poured in streams from 
the victim was looked upon as a means of cleansing and 
of life-giving. In any case, throughout Eevelation the 
lamb plays the part of the heavenly fire revealing God's 
illuminatory nature, unfolding his wisdom and enlighten- 
ing the world. As it is said of the heavenly Jerusalem : 
" And the city needed no sun and no moon to shine upon 
her, for the glory of God illumined her, and her light is 
the lamb."* 

Again, in the Church of the first century, at Easter, a 
lamb was solemnly slaughtered upon an altar and its 
blood collected in a chalice, t Accordingly in the early 
days of Christianity the comparison of Christ with the 
light and the lamb was a very favourite one. Above all 
the Gospel of John makes the widest use of it. As had 
already been done in the Vedic Cult of Agni, here too 
were identified with Christ the creative word of God that 
had existed before the world — the life, the light, and the 
lamb. And he was also called "the light of the world" 
that came to light up the darkness ruling upon the earth, 
as well as " the Lamb of God, who bore the sins of the 
world."! And indeed the Latin expression for lamb 
(agnus) also expresses its relation to the ancient Fire- 
God and its sanctity as a sacrificial animal. For its 
root is connected with ignis (Scr. agni, the purify- 
ing fire, and yagna, victim), and also, according to 
Festus Pompeius, with the Greek "hagnos," pure, 

* Rev. xxi. 23. 

f Hatch, " The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the 
Christian Church," Hibbert Lectures, 1888, 300. 
\ John i. 7, 12; ix. 5; xii. 36, 46. 



/ 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 145 

consecrated, and " hagnistes," the expiator.* In this 
sense "Agnus Dei," the Lamb of God, as Christ is 
very frequently called, is in fact nothing else than 
11 Agni Deus," since Agnus stands in a certain measure 
as the Latin translation for Agni.f But in India at the 
so-called Hulfeast, at the spring equinox, a ram (lamb) 
used to be solemnly burnt as an expiatory victim repre- 
senting Agni. The " crucifixion " of Jesus, as will like- 
wise appear, is in a certain sense only the symbol of the 
burning of the divine lamb, which by its death redeems 
man from sin. In both cases the lamb refers to the 
lamb of the Zodiac, the constellation of the Earn, into 
which the sun enters at the time of the spring equinox, 
and with which consequently, in accordance with the 
astrological way of looking at things, it is blended, and 
which is as though burnt up by it. Thus were com- 
pleted the victory of the Sun Fire (Agni) over the night 
of winter and the resurrection of nature to a new life, 
this cosmic process finding its reflection in the sacrifice 
upon earth of a lamb (agnus). 

During the first century after Christ the lamb in 
association with light and fire was among the most 
popular images in ecclesiastical language and symbolism. 
The heathen Romans used to hang " bullae " round the 
necks of their children as amulets. The Christians used 
consecrated waxen lambs, which were manufactured out 
of the remains of the Easter candles of the preceding 
year and distributed during Easter week. The belief 
then attached itself to these " Agnus Dei's," that if they 
were preserved in a house they gave protection against 
lightning and fire. Above all the lamps offered a con- 
venient opportunity for symbolising Christ as a light, and 
thus making use of the image of the lamb. J The motif 

* Sepp., i. 353. f Burnouf, op. cit, 186 sq. 

Cf., for example, F. X. Kraus, "Geschichte d. christl. Kunst," i. 105. 

IO 



146 THE CHRIST MYTH 

of the lamb with the cross is also found very frequently 
in old Christian art upon glass bowls, sarcophagi, and 
articles of use of all kinds. And indeed in such cases 
the cross is sometimes found upon the head or shoulder, 
sometimes at the side of the lamb or even behind him, 
while a nimbus in the shape of a disc of sunlight 
surrounds his head and points to the " light ' ' nature of 
the lamb. The nimbus, too, is an old Indian symbol, and 
thus indicates that the whole conception was borrowed 
from the circle of Indian ideas. Later the lamb is also 
found upon the cross itself, and indeed at the point 
of intersection of the two arms surrounded by the 
disc of sunlight. This seems to point to the Saviour's 
death upon the cross, the cross here appearing to be 
understood as the gibbet. But is it really certain that 
the cross in the world of Christian thought possessed this 
significance from the beginning as the instrument by 
means of which Jesus was put to death ? 

In the whole of Christendom it passes as a settled 
matter that Jesus " died upon the cross " ; but this has 
the shape, as it is usually represented among painters, of 
the so-called Latin cross, in which the horizontal cross- 
piece is shorter than the vertical beam. On what then 
does the opinion rest that the cross is the gibbet ? The 
Evangelists themselves give us no information on this 
point. The Jews described the instrument which they 
made use of in executions by the expression " wood" or 
" tree." Under this description it often occurs in the 
Greek translation of the Old Testament, in which the 
gibbet is rendered by xulon, the same expression being 
also found in the Gospels. Usually, however, the gibbet 
is described as staurös (i.e., stake), so much so that stauros 
and xulon pass for synonyms. The Latin translation of 
both these words is crux. By this the Eomans under- 
stood any apparatus for the execution of men generally, 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 147 

without thinking, however, as a rule of anything else than 
a stake or gallows (patibulum, stipes) upon which, as 
Livy tells us, the delinquent was bound with chains or 
ropes and so delivered over to death.* That the method 
of execution in Palestine differed in any way from this is 
not in any way shown. Among the Jews also the con- 
demned used to be hanged upon a simple stake or beam, 
and exposed to a lingering death from heat, hunger, and 
thirst, as well as from the natural tension of his muscles. 
" To fasten to the cross " (stauroun, afigere cruci) accord- 
ingly does not mean either in East or West to crucify in 
our sense, but at first simply "to torture " or " martyr," 
and later " to hang upon a stake or gallows." And in 
this connection it appears that the piercing of hands and 
feet with nails, at least at the time at which the execution 
of Jesus is supposed to have occurred, was something 
quite unusual, if it was ever employed at all. The ex- 
pressions prospassaleuein andproseloun, moreover, usually 
signify only to " fasten," " to hang upon a nail," but not 
at all " to nail to " in the special sense required, t 

There is not then the least occasion for assuming that 
according to original Christian views an exception to this 
mode of proceeding was made at the execution of Jesus. 
The only place in the Gospels where there is any mention 
of the " marks of the nails " (viz., John xx. 25) belongs, 
as does the whole Gospel, to a relatively later time, and 
appears, as does so much in John, as a mere strengthening 
and exaggeration of the original story. For example, 
Luke xxiv. 39, upon which John is based, does not speak 
at all of nail-marks, but merely of the marks of the 
wounds which the condemned must naturally have 
received as a consequence of being fastened to the 

* " Hist. Rom.," i. 26. 

J Cf. Zöckler, "Das Kreuz Christi," 1875, 62 sqq.; Hochart, 
" Etudes d'histoire religieuse," 1890, chap, x., " La crucifix." 



148 THE CHRIST MYTH 

stake. Accordingly the idea that Christ was " nailed " 
to the cross was in the earliest Christianity by no means 
the ruling one. Ambrose, for example, only speaks of the 
"cords" of the "cross" and the "ligatures of the 
passion " ("usque adcrucis laqueos ac retia passionis"), * 
and consequently knew nothing of nails having been 
used in this case.t If we consider that the " crucifixion" 
of Jesus corresponds to the hanging of Attis, Osiris, and 
so forth, and that the idea of the gibbeted gods of Nearer 
Asia called forth and fixed the Christian view ; if we 
remember that Haman, the prototype of Jesus at the 
Purim feast, was also hanged upon a gallows,! then it be- 
comes doubly improbable that our present ideas on the 
matter correspond to the views of the early Christians. 
For although we have no direct picture of the hanging of 
those Gods, yet we possess representations of the execution 
of Marsyas by Apollo, in which the God has his rival 
hauled up on to a tree by ropes round his wrists, which 
have been bound together. § But Marsyas, the inventor 
of the flute, the friend and guide of Cybele in the search 
for the lost Attis, is no other than the latter himself, or at 
any rate a personality very near akin to Attis. || It is 
not difficult to conclude that Attis too, or the man who 
represented him in the rites, was hung in the same manner 
to the stake or tree-trunk and thus put to death. Thus 
it seems that originally the manner of death of the Jewish 
Messiah was imagined in the same way, and so the 



* Aringhi, " Eoma subterranea," vi. ch. 23, " De Cervo." 

f Cf. on the other hand Justin, " Apol.," i. 35. 

I Esther v. 14, vii. 10. 

§ Cf. the picture of Marsyas hanging upon a tree-trunk in the 
collection of antiquities at Karlsruhe ; also the illustrations in 
P. Schmidt, " Die Geschichte Jesu, erläutert," 1904. 

|| Movers, op. cit., 687; Nork, " Eeallexikon," ii. 122 sq.; Frazer, 
"Adonis, Attis, Osiris," 185 sq. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 149 

heathens too called the new God in scorn " the Hanged 
One." 

How, then, did the idea come into existence that Jesus 
did not die upon a simple gallows, but rather upon wood 
having the well-known form of the cross ? It arose out 
of a misunderstanding, from considering as the same and 
mingling two ideas which were originally distinct but 
described by the same word wood, tree, xulon, lignum, 
arbor. This word signifies, as we have already said, on 
the one hand indeed the stake or gallows (stauros, crux) 
upon which the criminal was executed ; but the same 
word, corresponding to the Hebrew text of the Old Testa- 
ment, also referred to the " wood," " the tree of life," 
which was supposed to stand in Paradise. According to 
the Kevelation of John it was to serve as food for the holy 
in the new Paradise to come,* and it was honoured by the 
Christians as the " seal " and guarantee of their salvation 
under the form of the mystic cross or Tau. 

In all private religious associations and secret cults of 
later antiquity the members made use of a secret sign 
of recognition or union. This they carried about in the 
form, in some cases, of wooden, bronze, or silver 
amulets hung round the neck or concealed beneath the 
clothes, in others woven in their garments, or tattooed 
upon the forehead, neck, breast, hands, &c. Among 
these signs was the cross, and it was usually described 
under the name " Tau," after the letter of the old 
Phoenician alphabet. Such an application of the cross 
to mystic or religious ends reaches back into grey 
antiquity. From of old the cross was in use in the cult 
of the Egyptian Gods, especially of Isis and Horus. 
It was also found among the Assyrians and Persians, 
serving, as the pictures show, in part as the mark and 
ornament of distinguished persons, such as priests and 

* Eev. ii. 7, xxii. 2. 



ISO THE CHRIST MYTH 

kings, in part also as a religious attribute in the hands 
of the Gods and their worshippers. According to some 
it was the sign which Jahwe ordered the Israelites to 
paint upon their doors with the blood of the lamb when 
he sent the angel of death to destroy the first-born of 
their Egyptian oppressors. It played a similar part also 
in Isaiah* and Ezekiel,t when it was a question of sepa- 
rating the god-fearing Israelites from the crowd of other 
men whom Jahwe purposed to destroy. When the 
Israelites were pressed in battle by the Amalekites 
Moses is said to have been helped by Aaron and Hur 
to stretch out his arms in the shape of that magic sign, 
and thus to have rendered possible a victory for his 
people over their enemies. I Among the other nations 
of antiquity also — the Greeks, Thracians, the Gaulish 
Druids, and so on — the Tau was applied in a similar 
manner to ritualistic and mystic ends. It appears as 
an ornament on the images of the most different 
divinities and heroes — e.g., Apollo, Dionysus, Demeter, 
Diana (the Phoenician Astarte). It is also found upon 
innumerable Greek, Eoman, Egyptian, and Phoenician 
coins, upon vases, pictures, jewellery, &c. In Alexandria 
the Christians found it chiselled upon the stone when 
the temple of Serapis was destroyed, in 391. In this 
temple Serapis himself was represented of superhuman 
size, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, as 
though embracing the universe. In Eome the Vestal 
virgins wore the cross upon a ribbon round the neck. 
Indeed, it even served as an ornament upon the weapons 
of the Koman legions and upon the standards of the 
cavalry long before Constantine, by his well-known 
"vision," gave occasion for its being expressly intro- 
duced under the form of the so-called " Monogram of 

* lxvi. 19. f ix. 3, 4. 

I Exod. xvii. 10 sqq. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 151 

Christ " into the army as a military sign.* But in the 
North also we find the cross, not only in the shape of 
the hooked-cross and the three-armed cross (Triskele), 
but also in the form of Thor's hammer, upon runic, 
stones, weapons, utensils, ornaments, amulets, &c. And 
when the heathens of the North, as Snorre informs us, 
marked themselves in the hour of death with a spear, 
they scratched upon their bodies one of the sacred signs 
that has been mentioned, in doing which they dedicated 
themselves to God.f 

That here we have to do with a sun symbol is easily 
recognised wherever the simple, equally-armed cross 
appears duplicated with an oblique cross having the 
same point of intersection with it, -%r, or where it has 
the shape of a perpendicular which is cut symmetrically 
by two other lines crossing one another, % . And as a 
matter of fact this symbol of a sun shedding its rays is 
found upon numberless coins and illustrations, in which 
it is obvious that a reference to the sun is intended — 
e.g., upon the coins of the Egyptian Ptolemies, of the 
city Gods of Eome, of Augustus and the Flavian Caesars. 
Here the Sun sign appears to have been adopted as a 
consequence of the fusing of the Sun Cult of later 
antiquity with the cult of the Emperor. Much more 
frequent, however, is the simple Tau, sometimes, indeed, 
in a shape with equal limbs (Greek cross) , + , sometimes 
with the upright below lengthened (Latin cross), -j- , some- 
times upright, sometimes oblique (St. Andrew's cross), X, 

* For particulars see Zöckler, op. cit., 7 sqq.; also Hochart, op. cit., 
chap, via., "Le symbole de la croix" ; G. de Mortillet, " Le signe de 
la croix avant le christianisme," 1866; Mourant Brock, "La croix 
payenne et chretienne," 1881 ; Goblet d'Alviella, " La migration des 
symboles," 1891. 

f Henry Petersen, " Über den Gottesdienst u. den Götterglauben 
des Nordens während der Heidenzeit," 1882, 39 sqq. 95 sqq. 



152 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sometimes, again, like the Greek letter Tau, T, some- 
times in the shape of the so-called mirror of Venus, 2 , in 
which the ring plainly refers to the sun, sometimes in 
that of the Svastika, or hooked cross, «-f. , sometimes 
with, sometimes without a circle, and so on. A form 
made up of the oblique and the ring cross of the Egyp- 
tians (so-called Key of the Nile) is the cross known 
under the description of the "Monogram of Christ," >{<.. 
According to the legend it was first employed by Con- 
stantine on account of his "vision"; and ecclesiastical 
writers, especially on the Catholic side, try even to-day 
to support this view, in spite of all facts. For this form 
of the cross also is clearly of pre-Christian origin, and 
had its prototype in the ancient Bactrian Labarum 
cross, as is found, for example, upon the coins of the 
Bactrian king Hippostratos (about 130 b.c.), of the 
Egyptian Ptolemies, of Mithridates, upon Attic Tetra- 
drachma, &c* 

After the careful investigations on this subject which 
have been undertaken by French savants especially, there 
can be no doubt that we have before us in this so-called 
"seal" of the Gods and religious personalities a symbol 
of the creative force of nature, of the resurrection and 
the new life, a pledge of divine protection in this world 
and of everlasting blessedness after. As such it appears 
upon heathen sarcophagi and tombstones ; and on this 
account in some cases their Christian character is too 
quickly assumed. Moreover, the cross has been preserved 
in present-day musical notation as the sign of the raising 
of a note,! while its use in the Mysteries and private Cult 
associations is authority for the statement that precisely 
in these the thought of a new-birth and resurrection in 
company with the hero of the association or God of the 

* Zöckler, op. cit., 21 sqq. 

t Winckler, "Die babyl. Geisteskultur," 82. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 153 

union stood as a central point of faith. One understands 
the painful feeling of the Christians at the fact that the 
private sign used by them and their special sacraments 
were in use among all the secret cults of antiquity. They 
could explain this to themselves only as the work of 
spiteful daemons and an evil imitation of Christian usages 
on the heathens' part.* In reality the symbol of the 
cross is much older than Christianity ; and, indeed, the 
sign of the cross is found associated in a special manner 
with the cult of divinities of nature or life with its alterna- 
tions of birth, blossoming, and decay, representatives of 
the fertility and creative force of nature, the Light-Gods 
and Sun-Gods subjected to death and triumphing victori- 
ously over it. It is only as such, as Gods who died and 
rose again, that they were divinities of the soul and so 
of the Mysteries and pious fraternities. The idea of the 
soul, however, is found everywhere in nature religion con- 
sidered as being connected with the warmth of life and 
with fire, just as the sun was honoured as the highest 
divinity and, so to speak, as the visible manifestation of 
the world-soul solely on account of its fiery nature. 
Should not, then, the symbol of life, which in its developed 
form plainly refers to the sun, in its simplest and original 
shape point to the fire, this "earliest phenomenon" of all 
religious worship ? 

Naturally, indeed, different views can be held as to 
what the various forms of the cross betoken. Thus, for 
example, according to Burnouf, Schliemann, and others, 
the Svastika represents the " fire's cradle," i.e., the pith 
of the wood, from which in oldest times in the point of 
intersection of the two arms the fire was produced by 
whirling round an inserted stick.! On the other hand, 
according to the view most widespread at the present 

* Tertullian, " Contra Haereses," 40. 
f Burnouf, op. cit., 240. 



154 THE CHRIST MYTH 

day, it simply symbolises the twirling movement when 
making the fire, and on this, too, rests its application as 
symbol of the sun's course.* Hochart considers the 
cross in the shape of the Greek Tau as the inserted stick 
(pramantha) of the Vedic priests, f Very likely, however, 
this form arose simply through the identity of sound 
between the Greek and Phoenician letter, the Greeks 
having interchanged the like-sounding foreign letter with 
their own Tau. That the cross generally speaking, how- 
ever, is connected with the Fire Cult, and that both parts 
of the sign originally contained a reference to the pieces 
of wood (arani) of which in most ancient times use was 
made to produce fire, has been placed beyond doubt by 
the investigations into the matter. This is confirmed 
inter alia by the use of the symbol in the worship 
of the Vestals, the Roman fire-priestesses. This is the 
explanation of the wide extent of the symbol of the 
cross. Not only among the peoples of antiquity and in 
Europe, but also in Asia among the Indians and Chinese, 
it is in use from ancient times. In America, too, among 
the Mexicans and Incas, it played a part in worship long 
before the arrival of Europeans. In the same way is 
explained the close association of that symbol with the 
priestly office and kingly dignity, which was itself often 
connected with that office ; similarly the intimate rela- 
tions between the sign of the cross and the Gods of 
Fertility, Vegetation, and Seasons. For all of these 
were, as representatives of the warmth of life and the 
soul's breath, in their deepest nature, Fire-Gods special 
aspects, closer characterisations and connections of that 
one divinity, of whom the oldest form known to us is in 
the Vedic Agni, and in whose service the priests of all 

* Goblet d'Alviella, op. cit., 61. sqq. Cf. also Ludw. Müller, "Det 
saakaldte Hagekors Anvendelse og Betydning i Oldtiden," 1877. 
f Op. cit, 296. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 155 

peoples and times grew to their overwhelming strength.* 
Julius Firmicus Maternus was thus quite right when he 
declared that Mithras, whose followers bore the sign of 
the cross upon their foreheads and at their communion- 
meal had the cross, imprinted upon the holy loaf, before 
their eyes, was an ancient Fire-God. f But if the cross 
is the symbol of fire and also of the Mediator God, who 
brings earth and heaven into connection, then the reason 
can be found why Plato in the " Tiruseus " makes the World 
Soul in the form of a Chi, i.e., an oblique cross, stretched 
between heaven and earth. \ Then, indeed, it is not 
strange that the Christians of the first century regarded 
as an inspiration of the devil Plato's doctrine of the 
mediatory office of the "double-natured" World Soul, 
which, according to that philosopher, was formed from a 
mixture of ideal and sensible matter. It is not strange 
that a Justin, "the most foolish of the Christian fathers" 
(Eobertson), could actually assert that Plato borrowed 
the idea, as well as that of a world-conflagration, from 
— Moses. § 

In the Old Testament also, as was shown above, we 
meet the cross. Here it served as a mark of recognition 
and distinction of the God-fearing Israelites from the 
heathen, and as a magic sign. With a similar signifi- 
cance we meet it again in the New Testament. In the 
Revelation of John it appears as " the seal (sphragis) of 
the living God." By it here, too, are the chosen ones of 
Israel marked off from the rest of mankind whom judgment 
has overtaken. At the same time, it is said that this sign 

* One feels the words of Revelation quoted above brought to his 
mind : " And madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests ; 
and they reign upon the earth ! " 

f " De errore profanae religionis," i. 5. 

\ Op cit., § 48. 

§ " Apolog.," i. ch. 60. 



156 THE CHRIST MYTH 

is imprinted upon the foreheads of the inhabitants of the 
true Jerusalem.* In the Epistles to the Galatians and 
Ephesians it is said of the believers in Christ that they 
were " sealed " before God by the mystic sign upon their 
foreheads, hands, or feet. The sign thus serves them as 
a pledge of redemption.! Again, in the Epistle of Bar- 
nabas ix. 8, the cross contained in the letter T is expressly 
interpreted as (charis) " grace." Under the form of the 
Greek Tau the cross appears during the first century of the 
Christian era, especially among the Christians in Egypt, 
and according to many was a symbol of Adonis or Tarn- 
muz. | Now since the expressions xylon and staurös, 
lignum and crux, were of double significance and denoted 
both the " seal " of religious salvation and the gibbet, it 
is possible that the two different significations became of 
themselves identical in the minds of the faithful. § This 
was possible so much the more easily since the biblical 
account placed by the side of the " tree of life " in Para- 
dise a "tree of death," the fateful " tree of the knowledge 
of good and evil," which was supposed to have been 
accountable for the death of Adam and so of the whole of 
mankind, and as such made the comparison possible with 

* III. 12, vii. 3 sqq., ix. 4, xiv. 1, xx. 4, xxii. 4. 

f Gal. vi. 17 ; Ephes. i. 13 sq. 

I Mourant Brock, op. cit., 177 sqq., 178 sqq. 

§ So also in Tertullian when, with reference to the passage of 
Ezekiel above quoted (ix. 5), he describes the Greek letter Tau as 
" our [the Christians'] kind of cross " (nostra species cruris), not be- 
cause it had the shape of the gibbet upon which Jesus is supposed to 
have died, but because it represented the seal or sign upon the 
inhabitants of the New Jerusalem (" Contra Marcionem," iii. 22). And 
when in the same work (iii. 18) he explains the horns of the " uni- 
corn " (ox ?) mentioned in the Blessing of Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 17) as 
the two arms of the cross, this happens only for the reason that the 
sign of union and uplifting and the gibbet became commingled in 
his fancy into the one and the same form (cf. also " Adv. Judaeos," 
10, and Justin, " Dial.," 91 ; also Hoehart, op, cit., 365-369). 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 157 

the wood upon which Jesus died. We meet again with 
a special form of the cross in the old Assyrian or Baby- 
lonian so-called " mystical tree of mystery," which was 
also a symbol of life. Among the Persians it appears 
to have had some reference to the holy Haoma tree ; 
and here, too, as well as in India, where it was 
connected with the Bodhi tree, under which Sakyamuni 
by his devout humility rose to be a Buddha, it was 
represented in the artificial shape of a many-armed 
cross.* 

One and the same word, then (xulon, crux), betokens 
both the gibbet and the pledge of life. Christ himself 
appears as the true " Tree of Life," as the original of that 
miraculous tree the sight of which gave life to the first 
man in Paradise, which will be the food of the blessed in 
the world to come, and is represented symbolically by 
the mystical cross. It was easy to unite the ideas con- 
nected with those expressions, to look upon the "seal " 
of Christ (to semeion tou staurou, signum cruris) as the 
cross upon which he suffered, and vice-versa, and to 
ascribe to the " wood " upon which Jesus is supposed to 
have died, the shape of the mystic sign, the Tau, or cross. 
The heathens had been accustomed to regard the stake 
upon which their Gods were hanged both as the represen- 
tative of the God in question and the symbol of life and 
fruitfulness. For example, the stake furnished with four 
oblique sticks (like a telegraph post), which went by the 
name of the tatu, tat, dad, or ded and was planted at 
the feast of Osiris in Egypt, often had a rough picture 
of the God painted upon it, as also the pine-tree trunk 
of Attis, in which connection the idea that the 
seed contained in the cones of the rock-pine from 
of old had served men as food, while the sap found 
in them was prepared into an intoxicating drink 

* Zöckler, ojp. cit,, 14 sq. 



158 THE CHRIST MYTH 

(Soma), played its part.* We are reminded also of the 
Germanic custom of the planting of the may-tree. This 
was not only a symbol of the Spring God, but also 
represented the life bestowed by him. In the same way 
the cross did not appear to the Christians originally as 
the form of the gibbet upon which God died, but as " the 
tree of life," the symbol of the new birth and redemption. 
Since, however, the word for the mystical sign was iden- 
tical with the expression for the gibbet, the double mean- 
ing led to the gibbet of Jesus being looked upon as the 
symbol of life and redemption, and the idea of the gibbet 
was mingled with that of the cross, the shape of the 
latter being imagined for the former. As Justin in his 
conversation with the Jew Trypho informs us, the Jews 
used to run a spit lengthwise through the whole body of the 
Paschal lamb and another cross-wise through its breast, 
upon which the forefeet were fastened, so that the two spits 
made the shape of a cross. This was to them obviously 
not a symbol of execution but rather the sign of recon- 
cilement with Jahwe and of the new life thereon depend- 
ing. For the Christians, however, who compared their 
Saviour with the Paschal lamb, this may have been an 
additional cause for the above-mentioned commingling 
of ideas, and this may have strengthened them in the 
conception that their God died upon the "cross." The 
Phrygians, moreover, according to Firmicus Maternus, at 
the Spring Feast of Attis, used to fasten a ram or lamb 
at the foot of the fig-tree trunk on which the image of 
their God was hung.t 

* Frazer, "Adonis, Attis, Osiris," 174 sq., 276 sqq. 

f Cf. on the whole subject Hochart, op. cit., 359 sqq. ; P. Schmidt, 
" Gesch. Jesu," 386-394. In spite of all his efforts Zöckler has not suc- 
ceeded in proving that Jesus was nailed to a piece of wood having 
the form of a four-armed cross. The assertion that this form of gibbet 
Was borrowed by the Eomans from the Carthaginians, and was the 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 159 

In agreement with this view is the fact that the earliest 
representations of Christ in connection with the cross had 
for their subject not the suffering and crucified, but the 
miraculous Saviour triumphing over sickness and death. 
He appeared as a youthful God with the Book of the 
Law, the Gospel, in his hand, the lamb at his feet, the 
cross upon his head or in his right hand, just as the heathen 
Gods, a Jupiter, or some crowned ruler, used to be depicted 
with a cross-shaped sceptre. Or Jesus' head was placed 
before the cross, and this in the orb of the sun — and exactly 
at the point of intersection of the arms of the cross, thus 
at the place where one otherwise finds the lamb. Even 
the Church, probably with a right feeling of the identity 
of Agnus and Agni, and in order to remove the connection 
of ideas therein contained, in the year 692, by the Quini- 
sext Synod (in Trullo) , forbade the pictures of the lamb 
and required the representation to be of the Saviour's 
human shape. In spite of this even then they did not 
represent " the Crucified " in the present-day sense of the 
word, but portrayed Christ in the form of one standing 
before the cross praying with outstretched arms. Or he 
was shown risen from the grave, or standing upon the 
Gospels at the foot of the cross, out of this arising later 
the support for the feet in the pictures of him crucified. 
Here he was represented with open eyes, with his head 
encircled by the sun's orb. In all of these different repre- 
sentations accordingly the cross only brought again before 
the eyes in symbolical form what was at the same time 
expressed by the figure of Christ standing at the cross, 

usual one in late pre-Christian days, is simply a figment of the imagi- 
nation. All passages usually brought forward in support of this 
traditional view either prove nothing, as the appeal to Luke xxiv. 39, 
John xx. 20 and 25, or they refer to the symbol, not to the gibbet of the 
cross, and consequently cannot serve to support the usual view of the 
matter (Zöckler,ojp. eit., especially 78 ; 431 sqq.). 



i6o THE CHRIST MYTH 

just as at the feasts of Osiris or Attis the God was doubly- 
represented, both in his true shape (as image or puppet) 
and in the symbolical form of the Jatu or pine-tree 
trunk. This mode of depicting Christ lasted a long while, 
even though as early as the fifth or sixth century mention 
is made of crucifixion, and in arbitrary interpretation of 
Psa. xxii. 17 he was depicted with the marks of the nails. 
For, as has been said, " crux " betokens both the gibbet 
and the mystical sign, and the marks of the nails served 
to symbolise the Saviour's triumph over pain and death. 
An ivory plate in the British Museum in London, men- 
tioned and copied by Kraus,* is considered the oldest 
representation of a crucifixion in our present sense. It 
is said to be of fifth-century origin. This assignment of 
date is, however, just as uncertain as the other, according 
to which the miniature from the Syrian Gospel manuscript 
of the monk Eabula of the monastery of Zagba in Meso- 
potamia, which also has the crucifixion for subject and is 
to be found in the Bibliotheca Laurenziana at Florence, 
is assigned to the year 586. In any case, as a general 
rule until the eleventh century it was not the dead but 
the living Christ who was depicted before or on the cross. 
Consequently an illustration in the Bibliotheca Lauren- 
ziana of about the date 1060 is considered as the first 
certain example of a dead crucified Christ.! 

The conception of Christ being put to death upon the 
cross is, comparatively speaking, a late one. The con- 
nection of Christ with the cross was originally not a 
reproduction of the manner of his death. It rather 
symbolises, as in the ancient Mysteries, precisely the 
reverse — the victory of the Christian Cult-God over death 
— the idea of resurrection and life. Hence it is obvious 

* " Geschichte der christlichen Kunst," 174. 

f Cf. Detzel, " Christi. Ikonographie," 1894, 392 sqq. ; Hochart, 
op. cit., 378 sqq. 



SYMBOLS OF THE MESSIAH 161 

that the above-mentioned juxtaposition of the cross and 
lamb must have expressed the same idea. Here, too, the 
cross was originally only the symbol of fire and life. The 
lamb encircled by the sun's orb refers to the ceremonial 
burning of the lamb at the spring equinox as an expiatory 
sacrifice and as a pledge of a new life. It appears the 
more plainly to be a figure of Agni (Agnus), since it is 
usually placed exactly at the point of intersection of the 
two arms — that is, at the place whence the divine spark 
first issued at the kindling of the fire with the two 
arani.* 

* Moreover, the so-called Flabellum, the fan, which in the early 
Christian pictures of the birth of Christ a servant holds before the 
child, shows the connection of the Christ Cult and that of Agni. This 
fan, which was in use in divine service of the Western Church as late 
as the fourteenth century, cannot be for the driving away of insects 
or for cooling purposes, as is usually considered, for this would 
obviously be in contradiction to the " winter " birth of the Saviour. 
It refers to the fanning of the divine spark in the ancient Indian fire- 
worship. In this sense it has been retained until the present day in 
the Greek and Armenian rites, in which during the Mass the fan is 
waved to and fro over the altar. A synopsis of all the facts and 
illustrations bearing on the matter are to be found in A. Malvert's 
"Wissenschaft und Eeligion," 1904. 



II 



THE CHRISTIAN JESUS 



THE PAULINE JESUS 

THE faith in a Jesus had been for a long time 
in existence among innumerable Mandaic sects in 
Asia Minor, which differed in many ways from each 
other, before this faith obtained a definite shape in the 
religion of Jesus, and its adherents became conscious 
of their religious peculiarities and their divergence from 
the official Jewish religion. The first evidence of such a 
consciousness, and also the first brilliant outline of a new 
religion developed with Jesus as its central idea, lies in 
the epistles of the tent-maker of Tarsus, the pilgrim- 
apostle Paul. 

Of the epistles in his name which have been handed 
down to us, that to the Hebrews is quite certainly not 
Paul's. But also the two epistles to the Thessalonians, 
that to the Bphesians, as well as the so-called pastoral 
epistles (to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon), are considered 
by the overwhelming majority of theologians to be 
forgeries ; and also the authenticity of the epistles to the 
Colossians and Philippians is negatived by considerations 
of great weight. But with all the more certainty modern 
critical theologians believe that Paul was the writer of 
the four great didactic epistles — one to the Galatians, two 
to the Corinthians, and one to the Romans ; and they 
are wont to set aside all suspicion of these epistles as a 
" grave error " of historical hypercriticism. 

165 



i66 THE CHRIST MYTH 

In opposition to this view the authenticity of even 
these epistles is contested, apart from Bruno Bauer, 
especially by Dutch theologians, by Pierson, Loman, von 
Mauen, Meyboom, Matthes, and others ; and, in addition, 
recently the Bern theologian E. Steck, and B. W. Smith, 
Professor of Mathematics in the Tulane University of 
New Orleans, with whom the late Pastor Albert Kalthoff 
of Bremen was associated, have contested the traditional 
view with objections that deserve consideration. They 
have attempted to prove the Pauline epistles, as a 
literary product, to be the work of a whole school of 
second-century theologians, authors who either simulta- 
neously or successively wrote for the growing Church. 

This much is certain — a conclusive proof that Paul was 
really the author of the epistles current in his name 
cannot be given. With regard to this it must always 
remain a ground for doubt that Luke, who accompanied 
Paul on his missionary travels, was completely silent as 
to such literary activity of the apostle ; and this, although 
he devoted the greatest portion of his account in the 
Acts to Paul's activities.* Also the proof given by Smith, 
that the Pauline epistles were as yet completely unknown 
in the first century A.D., that in particular the existence 
of the Epistle to the Romans is not testified to before the 

* Of course the " Acts of the Apostles" is, and remains in spite of 
all modern attempts at vindication (Harnack), a very untrustworthy 
historical document, and the information it gives as to Paul's life is 
for the most part mere fiction. We need not go so far as Jensen, 
who disputes the existence at any time of an historical Paul (" Moses, 
Jesus, Paulus. Drei Sagenvarianten des babylonischen Gottmen- 
schen Gilgamesch," 2 Aufl., 1909), but will nevertheless not be able to 
avoid the view that the description of Paul, as Bruno Bauer has already 
shown, represents an original, in any case very much worked over, 
and in the opinion of many only a copy of the original, which pre- 
ceded it in the portrayal of the " chief of the apostles," Peter (cf., on 
the historical value of the Acts, also E. Zeller, " Die Apg. nach ihrem 
Inhalt und Ursprung kritisch untersucht," 1854). 



THE PAULINE JESUS 167 

middle of the second century, must speak seriously 
against Paul's authorship, and is evidence that those 
epistles cannot be accepted as the primary source of the 
Pauline doctrines. For this reason it can in no way be 
asserted that the critical theology of last century has 
" scientifically and beyond question established " * the 
authenticity of the Pauline writings. 

It is well known that the ancient world was not as yet 
in possession of the idea of literary individuality in our 
sense of the word. At that time innumerable works were 
circulated bearing famous names, whose authors had 
neither at the time nor probably at any time anything 
to do with the men who bore those names. Many 
such productions were circulated among the members of 
Sects of antiquity, which passed, for example, under the 
names of Orpheus, of Pythagoras, of Zoroaster, &c, and 
thereby sought to procure the canonical acceptance of their 
contents ! Of the works of the Old Testament neither the 
Psalms, nor the Proverbs, nor the so-called Preacher, nor 
the Book of Wisdom, can be connected with the historical 
kings David and Solomon, whose names they bear; and the 
prophet Daniel is just such a fictitious personality as the 
Enoch and the Ezra of the Apocalypses known under 
their names. Even the so-called Five Books of Moses are 
the literary product of an age much later than the one 
in which Moses is supposed to have lived, while Joshua 
is the name of an old Israelite God after whom the 
book in question is called. t There has never anywhere 

* Cf. H. Jordan, " Jesus und die modernen Jesusbilder. Bibl. 
Zeit-u-Streitfragen," 1909, 36. 

| " To create authors who have never written a letter, to forge 
whole series of books, to date the most recent production back into 
grey antiquity, to cause the well-known philosophers to utter opinions 
diametrically opposed to their real views, these and similar things 
were quite common during the last century before and the first after 
Christ. People cared little at that time about the author of a work, if 



i68 THE CHRIST MYTH 

been such a Moses as the one described in the Old 
Testament. 

The possibility of the so-called Pauline epistles having 
been the work of later theologians, and of having been 
christened in the name of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, 
only to increase their authority in the community, is 
therefore by no means excluded; especially when we 
consider how exuberantly literary falsifications and 
" pious frauds " flourished in the first century, and at 
other times also, in the interests of the Christian Church. 
Indeed, at that time they even dared, as is shown by 
Christian documents of the second century, to alter the 
very text of the Old Testament, and thereby, as they 
used to say, to " elucidate "it. Already in the middle of 
the second century Marcion, the Gnostic, reproached the 
Church with possessing the Pauline epistles only in a 
garbled form, and who can say whether it was a false 
accusation ? He himself undertook to restore the correct 
text by excisions and completions.* 

But let us leave completely on one side the question 
of the authenticity of the Pauline epistles, a question 
absolute agreement on which will probably never be 

only its contents were in harmony with the taste and needs of the 
age " (E. Zeller, " Vorträge u. Abhdlg.," 1865, 298 sq.). " It was at 
that time a favourite practice to write letters for famous men. A 
collection of not less than 148 letters was attributed to the tyrant 
Phalaris, who ruled Agrigentum in the sixth century b.c. Beyschlag 
has proved that they were ascribed to him in the time of Antoninus. 
Similarly the letters attributed to Plato, to Euripides and others, 
are spurious. It would have been indeed strange if this custom of 
the age had not gained an influence over the growing Christian litera- 
ture, for such forgery would be produced most easily in the religious 
sphere, since it was here not a question of producing particular 
thoughts, but of being an organ of the common religious spirit 
working in the individual " (Steck, op. cit., 384 sq. ; cf. also Holtz- 
mann, " Einl. in das N.T.," 2 Aufl., 223 sqq.). 

* E. Vischer, " Die Paulusbriefe, Eel. Volksb.," 1904, 69 sq. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 169 

attained, for the simple reason that we lack any certain 
basis for its decision. Instead of this let us turn rather 
to what we learn from these epistles concerning the 
historical Jesus. 

There we meet in the first place with the fact, testified 
to by Paul himself, that the Saviour revealed himself in 
person to him, and at the same time caused him to enter 
his service (Gal. i. 12). It was, as is stated in the Acts, 
on the way to Damascus that suddenly there shone 
round about him a light out of heaven, while a voice 
summoned him to cease his former persecution of the 
community of the Messiah, and revealed itself to him as 
Jesus.* There is no need to doubt the fact itself ; but to 
see in it a proof of the historical Jesus is reserved for 
those theologians who have discovered the splendid con- 
ception of an " objective vision," basing the objective 
reality of the vision in question on Paul's life in the 
desert. It was obviously only an "inner vision," which 
the "visionary" and "epileptic" Paul attributed to 
Jesus ; and for this reason it proves nothing as to the 
existence of an historical Jesus when he asks, 1 Cor. ix. 1, 
" Have I not seen our Lord Jesus ? " and remarks, 1 Cor. 
xv. 9, " Last of all he appeared to me also." 

It only proves the dilemma of theologians on the 
whole question that they have recently asserted that Paul, 
notwithstanding his own protestations (Gal. i.), must 
have had a personal knowledge of the historical Jesus, as 
otherwise on the occasion at Damascus he could not have 
recognised the features and voice of the transfigured 
Jesus, not being already acquainted with them from 
some other quarter ! With equal justice we might assert 
that the heathens also, who had visions of their Gods, 
must previously have known them personally, as other- 
wise they could not have known that Zeus or Athene or 

* Op. cit., ix. 3 sqq. 



I70 THE CHRIST MYTH 

any other definite God had appeared to them. In the 
Acts we read only of an apparition of light which Paul 
saw, and of a voice which called to him, " Saul, why 
persecutest thou me?" Is the supposition referred to 
necessary to account for the fact that Paul, the persecutor 
of Jesus, referred the voice and the vision to Jesus ? 

The case is similar with Paul's testimony as to those 
who, like him, saw the Saviour after his death.* It is pos- 
sible that the people concerned saw something, that they 
saw a Jesus " risen up " in heavenly transfiguration ; but 
that this was the Jesus of the so-called historical theology, 
whose existence is hereby established, even its supporters 
would not in all probability insist upon ; for in their view 
the historical Jesus had in no way risen from the dead : 
but here also there would only be question of a purely 
subjective vision of the ecstatically excited disciples. 
Moreover, the passage of the Epistle to the Corinthians 
in question (5-11) seems clearly to be one at least very 
much interpolated, if it is not entirely an after-insertion. 
Thus, the Eisen Jesus is said to have been seen by " more 
than five hundred Brethren at once." But of this the 
four Gospels know nothing ; and also, according to xv. 5, 
that " the twelve" had the vision, would lead us to suspect 
that it was first inserted in the text at a much later date.t 

Paul himself never disguised the fact that he had seen 
Jesus, not with mortal eyes, but only with those of the 
Spirit, as an inner revelation. " It has pleased God," he 
says (Gal. i. 16), "to reveal his Son within me." \ He 

* 1 Cor. xv. 5\sqq. 

\ Cf. W. Seufert, " Der Ursprung und die Bedeutung des Apostolates 
in der christlichen Kirche der ersten Jahrhunderte," 1887, 46, 157. 

% An attempt is now being made to prove the contrary, citing 
2 Cor. v. 16, which runs : " Wherefore we henceforth know no man 
after the flesh : even though we have known Christ after the flesh, 
yet now we know him so no more." The passage has been most 
differently explained According to Baur the " Christ after the 



THE PAULINE JESUS 171 

confesses that the Gospel preached by him was not " of 
men," that he neither received nor learnt it from any 
man, but that he had obtained it direct from the heavenly 
Christ and was inspired by the Holy Ghost.* He seems 
also to have had no interest at all in giving accurate 
information as to the personality of Jesus, as to his 
fortunes and teachings. When three years after his con- 
version he first returns to Jerusalem, he visits only Peter 
and makes the acquaintance of James during the fourteen 
days of his stay there, troubling himself about none of 
the other apostles, t But when, fourteen years after, 
he meets with the "First Apostles" in the so-called 
Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem, he does not set 
about learning from them, but teaching them and pro- 
flesh " refers to the Jewish Messiah, the expected king and earthly 
Saviour of the Jews from political and social distress, in whom even 
Paul believed at an earlier date ; and the meaning of the passage 
quoted is that this sensuous and earthly conception of the Messiah 
had given place in him to the spiritual conception (" Die Christuspartei 
in der kor. Gemeinde Tüb. Ztschr.," 1831, 4 Heft, 90). According to 
Heinrici the " even though we have known" is not a positive asser- 
tion of a point of view which had once determined his judgment of 
Christ, but a hypothetical instance, which excludes a false point of 
view without asserting anything as to its actuality (" Komment," 289). 
According to Beyschlag the passage is to be understood as asserting 
that Paul had seen Jesus at Jerusalem during his life on earth. But 
with Paul there is no talk of a mere seeing, but rather of a knowing. 
Lütgert disproves all these different hypotheses with the argument 
that the words " after the flesh " refer not to Christ but to the verb. 
" The apostle no longer knows any one ' after the flesh,' and so he 
no longer knows Jesus thus. At an earlier stage his knowledge of 
Christ was ' after the flesh.' At that time he did not have the spirit 
of God which made him able to see in Jesus the Son of God. Paul 
then is not protecting himself from the Jews, who denied him a 
personal knowledge of Jesus, but from the Pneumatics, who denied 
him a pneumatic knowledge of Jesus " (" Freiheitspredigt und 
Schwarmgeister in Korinth," 1908, 55-58). 

* Gal. i. 11, 12 ; 1 Cor. ii. 10 ; 2 Cor. iv. 6. 

| Gal. i. 17-19. 



172 THE CHRIST MYTH 

curing from them recognition of his own missionary 
activity; and he himself declares that he spoke with 
them only on the method of proclaiming the Gospel, but 
not on its religious content or on the personality of the 
historic Jesus.* 

Certainly that James whose acquaintance Paul made in 
Jerusalem is designated by him as the " Brother of the 
Lord";! and from this it seems to follow that Jesus 
must have been an historical person. The expression 
" Brother," however, is possibly in this case, as so often 
in the Gospels,! only a general expression to designate a 
follower of Jesus, as the members of a religious society 
in antiquity frequently called each other " Brother " and 
" Sister " among themselves. 1 Cor. ix. 5 runs: "Have 
we [i.e., Paul and Barnabas] not also right to take about 
with us a wife that is a sister, even as the other Apostles 
and Brothers of the Lord and Cephas?" There it is 
evident that the expression by no means necessarily refers 
to bodily relationship, but that " Brother " serves only 
to designate the followers of the religion of Jesus. § 
Accordingly Jerome seems to have hit the truth exactly 
when, commenting on Gal. i. 19, he writes : " James was 
called the Brother of the Lord on account of his great 
character [though the Pauline epistles certainly show the 

* Gal. ii. 1 sqq. 

t Id. i. 19. 

I Matt, xxviii. 10 ; Mark xiii. 33 sqq. ; John xx. 17. 

§ In the opinion of the Dutch school of theologians, whom 
Schläger follows in his essay, " Das Wort kurios (Herr) in Seiner 
Beziehung auf Gott oder Jesus Christus" (" Theol. Tijdsckrift," 33, 
1899, Part L), this mention of the "Brother of the Lord" does not 
come from Paul; as according to Schläger, all the passages in 1 Cor., 
which speak of Jesus under the title " Kurios," are interpolated. 
" Missionary travels of Brothers of Jesus are unknown to us from any 
other quarter, and are also in themselves improbable " (op. cit., 46 ; 
cf. also Steck, op. cit., 272 sq.). 



THE PAULINE JESUS 173 

opposite of this], of his incomparable faith and extra- 
ordinary wisdom. The other Apostles were as a matter 
of fact also called Brothers, but he was specially so called, 
because the Lord at his death had confided to him the 
sons of his mother " (i.e., the members of the community 
at Jerusalem).* And how then should Paul have met 
with a physical brother of that very Jesus whom, as will 
be shown, he could only treat as a myth in other 
respects ? The thing is, considered now purely psycho- 
logically, so improbable that no conclusion can in any 
case be drawn from the expression concerning James as 
the Brother of the Lord as to the historical existence of 
Jesus ; especially in view of the fact that theologians 
from the second century to the present day have been 
unable to come to an agreement as to the true blood- 
relationship between James and Jesus, t Moreover, if 
we consider how the glorification of James came into 
fashion in anti-Pauline circles of the second century, and 
how customary it was to connect the chief of the Jewish 
Christians at Jerusalem as closely as possible with Jesus 
himself (e.g., Hegesippus, in the so-called Epistles of 
Clement, in the Gospel of the Nazarenes, &c), the 

* Similarly Origen, " Contra Celsum," i. 35 ; cf. Smith, op. cit., 

18 s 2' *, 57 

t Cf. as to this Sieffert in " Realenzyklop. f. prot. Theol. und f&£'% ' 

Kirche " under " James." In Ezr. ii. 2 and 9 there is also mention 
of " Brothers " of the High Priest Joshua, by which only the priests 
subordinate to him seem to be meant ; and in Justin (" Dial c. 
Tryph.," 106) the apostles are collectively spoken of as " Brothers of 
Jesus." Similarly in Bev. xii. 17, those " who keep the word of God 
and bear testimony to Jesus Christ " are spoken of as children of the 
heavenly woman and also as Brothers and Sisters of the Divine 
Bedeemer, whom the dragon attempts to swallow up together with 
his mother. As Revelation owes its origin to a pre-Christian Jesus- 
cult, the designation of pious brothers of a community as physical 
brothers of Jesus seems also to have been customary in that cult, 
antecedent to the Pauline epistles and the Gospels." 



174 THE CHRIST MYTH 

suspicion forces itself on us that the Pauline mention of 
James as " the Brother of the Lord " is perhaps only an 
after-insertion in the Epistle to the Galatians in order 
thereby to have the bodily relationship between James 
and Jesus confirmed by Paul himself.* Jesus' parents 
are not historical personalities (see above, 117 ff.) ; and it 
is probably the same with his brothers and sisters. Also 
Paul never refers to the testimony of the brothers or of 
the disciples of Jesus concerning their Master; though 
this would have been most reasonable had they really 
known any more of Jesus than he himself did. " He 
bases," as Kalthoff justly objects, "not a single one of 
his most incisive polemical arguments against the 
adherents of the law on the ground that he had the 
historical Jesus on his side ; but he gives his own 
detailed theological ideas without mentioning an historical 
Jesus, he gives a gospel of Christ, not the gospel which 
he had heard at first, second, or third hand concerning a 
human individual Jesus." t 

From Paul, therefore, there is nothing of a detailed 
nature to be learnt about the historical Jesus. The 
apostle does indeed occasionally refer to the words and 
opinions of the " Lord," as with regard to the prohibition 
of divorce,! or to the right of the apostles to be fed by 
the community. § But as the exact words are not given 
there is no express reference to an historical individual of 
the name of Jesus ; and so we are persuaded that we 
here have to do with mere rules of a community such as 
were current and had canonical significance everywhere 
in the religious unions as " Words of the Master," i.e., of 

* This is actually the view of the Dutch school of theologians, 
f A. Kalthoff, " Was wissen wir von Jesus ? Eine Abrechnung 
mit Prof. D. Bousset," 1904, 17. 
| 1 Cor. vii. 10. 
§ Id. ix. 14. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 175 

the patrons and celebrities of the community (cf. the 
" avToq tya : he himself, viz., the Master, has said it " of 
the Pythagoreans). Only once, 1 Cor. xi. 23 sq., where 
Paul quotes the words at the Last Supper, does the 
apostle apparently refer to an experience of the " his- 
torical " Jesus : " The Lord Jesus, in the night in which 
he was betrayed, took bread," &c* Unfortunately here 
we have to do with what is clearly a later insertion. The 
passage is obscure throughout (vers. 23-32), and through 
its violent and confusing interruption of the Pauline line 
of thought may be recognised as an after-insertion in the 
original text, as is even acknowledged by many on the 
theological side.t Paul says that he had obtained these 
things from the " Lord " himself. Does this mean that 
they were directly " revealed " to him by the transfigured 
Jesus? It seems much more reasonable to believe that 
he took them from a religion already existing. This 
could indeed refer at most only to the words of the Last 

* 1 Cor. xi. 23. 

f Cf. Brandt, "Die evangel. Geschichte u. d. Ursprung d. 
Christentums," 1893, 396. Schläger also agrees with the Dutch 
school, and produces telling arguments in favour of the view that 
1 Cor. xL 23-32 is an interpolation. "In our opinion," he says, "the 
opening words, ' For I received of the Lord,' betray the same 
attempt as can be seen in vii. 10 and ix. 14 — and probably the 
attempt of one and the same interpolator — to trace back Church 
institutions and regulations to the authority of the Lord, of the 
Kurios. In the three cases in which the latter is mentioned he 
is called ' the Lord,' which is a fact well worthy of consideration in 
view of the usual designation." Schläger also shows that verse 32 
is a very appropriate conclusion to verse 22; while as they stand 
now the logical connection is broken in a forcible manner by the 
interpolation of the account of the Last Supper. Another proof of 
the interpolation of 23-32 is to be found, Schläger thinks, in the 
fact that in verse 33 as in verse 22 the Corinthians are addressed in 
the second person, while in verses 31 and 32 the first person plural 
is used (op. cit, 41 sq.). In view of these notorious facts we can 
hardly understand how German theologians can with such decision 



176 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Supper in themselves. On the other hand, the words 
"in the night in which he was betrayed" are certainly 
an addition. They will do neither in the connection of a 
" revelation " nor of an existing religion, but stand there 
completely by themselves as a reference to a real event in 
the life of Jesus ; and so, for this alone, they form much 
too small a basis for testimony as to its historical 
truth.* 

All expressions concerning Jesus which are found in 
Paul are accordingly of no consequence for the hypo- 
thesis of an historical person of that name. The so-called 
"words of the Lord" quoted by him refer to quite 
unimportant points in the teachings of Jesus. And, on 
the other hand, Paul is just as silent on those points in 
which modern critical theology finds the particular 
greatness and importance of this teaching; as, e.g., on 

adhere to the authenticity of the passage, reproaching those who 
contest it with "faults in method." As against this view of theirs 
Schläger justly objects that " Eeferences to words and events from 
the life of Jesus are so isolated in the Pauline writings that we 
are entitled to and forced to raise the question as to each such 
reference, whether it is not the reflection of a later age, of an age 
which already placed confidence in the Gospel literature, that brought 
Jesus' authority into the text " (Schläger, op. cit., 36). And the 
critical theologians are convinced that the writings of the New 
Testament are worked over to a great extent, rectified to accord with 
the Church, and in many places interpolated. But when some one 
else brings this to publicity, and dares to doubt the authenticity of a 
passage, they immediately raise a great outcry, and accuse him of 
wilfully misrepresenting the text ; as if there were even one single 
such passage on which the views of critics are not divergent 1 

* M. Bruckner's opinion also is " that the Pauline account of the 
scene at the Last Supper is in all probability not a purely historical 
one, but is a dogmatic representation of the festival." And he adds : 
" In any case just on account of its religious importance this scene 
cannot be cited to prove Paul's acquaintance with the details of 
Jesus' life" ("Die Entstehung der paulinischen Christologie," 1903, 
44). Cf. also Robertson, " Christianity and Mythology," 388 sq. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 177 

Jesus' confidence in the divine goodness of the Father, 
his command of the love of our neighbours as the fulfil- \nl 
ment of the Law, his sermon about humility and charity, 
his warning against the over-esteem of worldly goods, 
&c, as on Jesus' personality, his trust in God, and his 
activity among his people.* 

* Holtzrnann has, as a matter of fact, in an essay in the " Christ- 
liche Welt " (No. 7, 1910) recently attempted to prove the contrary, 
citing from Paul a number of moral exhortations, &c, which are in 
accord with Jesus' words in the Gospels. But in this argument 
there is a presupposition, which should surely be previously proved, 
that the Gospels received their corresponding content from Jesus and 
not, on the contrary, from Paul's epistles. It is admitted that they 
were in many other respects influenced by Pauline ideas. Moreover, 
all the moral maxims cited have their parallels in contemporary 
Eabbinical literature, so that they need not necessarily be referred 
back to an historical Jesus ; also, such is their nature, that they might 
be advanced by any one, i.e., they are mere ethical commonplaces with- 
out any individual colouring. Thus we find the Eabbis in agreement 
with Rom. xiii. 8 sq. and Gal. v. 14, which Holtzrnann traces back 
to Matt. vii. 12 : " Bring not on thy neighbour that which displeases 
thee ; this is our whole doctrine." Bom. xiii. 7 has its parallel not 
only in Matt. xxii. 21, but also in the Talmud, which runs: "Every 
one is bound to fulfil his obligations to God with the like exactness 
as those to men. Give to God his due ; for all that thou hast is from 
him." Bom. xii. 21 runs in the Sanhedrin : " It is better to be 
persecuted than to persecute, better to be calumniated by another 
than to slander." So that the remark need not necessarily be based 
on Matt. v. 39 ; in fact, the last-named passage is not found at all 
in the standard MSS., in the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The 
phrase, " to remove mountains " (1 Cor. xiii. 2). is a general Eabbinical 
one for extolling the power of a teacher's diction, and so could easily 
be transferred to the power of faith. So also the phrase, Mark ix. 50, 
"Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another" — 
which Bom. xii. 18 is supposed to resemble — is a well-known 
Eabbinical expression. Matt. v. 39 sq., which is supposed to 
accord with 1 Cor. vi. 7, runs in the Talmud : " If any one desires 
thy donkey, give him also the saddle." Matt. vii. 1-5, on which 
Eom. ii. 1 and xiv. 4 are supposed to be based, equally recalls the 
Talmud : " Who thinks favourably of his neighbour brings it about 
that fair judgments are also made of him." " Let your judgment of 

12 



178 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Paul did not give himself the least trouble to bring the 
Saviour as a man nearer to his readers. He seems to 
know nothing of any miraculous power in Jesus. He 
says nothing of his sympathy with the poor and oppressed, 
though surely just this would have been specially adapted 

your neighbour be completely good." " Even as one measures, with 
the same measure shall it also be measured unto him." Rom. xiv. 13 
and 1 Cor. viii. 7-13 need not necessarily be an allusion to Jesus' 
tender consideration for those who are ruined by scandal, as we find 
in the Talmud : " It would have been better that the evil-minded had 
been born blind, so that they would not have brought evil into the 
world (cf. also Nork, " Rabbinische Quellen und Parallelen zu 
neutestamentlichen Schriftstellen," 1839). And does Paul's usual 
phrase of greeting, "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus 
Christ," really contain the avowal of the " Father-God " preached 
by Christ ? For the connection of the divine Son and bearer of 
salvation with the " Father-God " is a general mythological formula 
which occurs in all the different religions — witness the relation 
between Marduk and lEa, Heracles and Zeus, Mithras and Ormuzd, 
Balder and Odin. What then does it mean when Paul speaks of the 
" meekness and humility of Christ," who lived not for his own 
pleasure, who made no fame for himself, but was " submissive," 
assumed the form of a servant, and was " obedient " to the will of 
his " father," even to the death of the cross ? All these traits are 
reproduced directly from the description of the suffering servant of 
God in Isaiah, which we know had a great part in shaping the 
personality of Jesus. Meekness, humility, charitableness, and 
obedience are the specific virtues of the pious of Paul's time. It was 
a matter of course for Christ also, the ideal prototype of good and 
pious men, to be endowed with these characteristics. Abraham was 
obedient when he sacrificed his son Isaac ; and so was the latter to 
his father, being also submissive in himself bringing the wood to the 
altar and giving himself up willingly to the sacrificial knife. And we 
know what a significant role the story of Isaac's sacrifice has always 
played in the religious ideas of the Jews. Moreover, the heathen 
redeemer deities — Marduk, of the Mandaic Hibil Ziwa, Mithras and 
Heracles — were also obedient in coming down upon earth at the bidding 
of their heavenly father, burst the gates of death, and gave themselves 
up, in the case of Mithras, even to be sacrificed ; and Heracles served 
mankind in the position of a servant, fought with the monsters and 
horrors of hell, and assumed the hardest tasks at the will of others. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 179 

to turn the hearts of men towards his Jesus and to make 
an impression on the multitude that sought for miracles. 
All the moral-religious precepts and exhortations of Jesus 
are neither employed by Paul as a means of proselytising 
for him, nor in any way used to place his individuality in 
opposition to his prophetic precursors in a right light, as 
is the case in the Christian literature of the present day. 
" Thus, just those thoughts, which Protestant theologians 
claim as the particular domain of their historical Jesus, 
appear in the epistles independently of this Jesus, as 
individual moral effusions of the apostolic consciousness ; 
while Christian social rules, which the same theologians 
consider additions to the story, are introduced directly as 
rules of the Lord. For this reason the Christ of the Pauline 
epistles may rather be cited as a case against critical 
theologians than serve as a proof for the historical Jesus 
in their sense." * Even so zealous a champion of this 
theology as Wernle must admit : "We learn from Paul 
least of all concerning the person and life of Jesus. Were 
all his epistles lost we should know not much less of 
Jesus than at present." Immediately after this, however, 
this very author consoles himself with the consideration 
that in a certain sense Paul gave us even more than the 
most exact and the most copious records could give. 
" We learn from him that a man (?) Jesus, in spite of his 
death on the cross, was able to develop such a power 
after his death, that Paul knew himself to be mastered, 
redeemed, and blessed by him ; and this in so marked a 
way that he separated his own life and the whole world 
into two parts : without Jesus, with Jesus. This is a 
fact which, explain it as we may, purely as a fact excites 
our wonder (!) and compels us to think highly of Jesus. "t 

* Kalthoff, " Die Entstehung d. Christentums," 1904, 15. 
I P. Wernle, " Die Quellen des Lebens Jesu, Eeügionsgesch. Volks- 
bücher," 2 Aufl., 4. 



i8o THE CHRIST MYTH 

What does excite our wonder is this style of historical 
" demonstration." And then how peculiar it is to read, 
from the silence of an author like Paul concerning the 
historical Jesus, an argument in its favour ! As if it does 
not rather prove the unimportance of such a personality 
for the genesis of Christianity ! As if the fact that Paul 
erected a religious-metaphysical thought construction of 
undoubted magnificence must necessarily be based on the 
" overwhelming impression of the person of Jesus," of 
the same Jesus of whom Paul had no personal knowledge 
at all ! The disciples — who are supposed to have been 
in touch with Jesus for many years — Paul strenuously 
avoided, and of the existence of this Jesus no other signs 
are to be found in his epistles but such as may have 
quite a different meaning. Or did Paul, as historical 
theology says, reveal more of Jesus in his sermons than 
he did in the epistles ? Surely that could only be main- 
tained after it was first established that in his account 
Paul had in view any historical Jesus at all. 

This seems to be completely problematic. The 
"humanity" of Jesus stands as the central point of 
the Pauline idea. And yet the Jesus painted by Paul 
is not a man, but a purely divine personality, a heavenly 
spirit without flesh and blood, an unindividual super- 
human phantom. He is the " Son of God " made mani- 
fest in Paul ; the Messiah foretold by the Jewish Apoca- 
lyptics ; the pre-existing " Son of Man " of Daniel and 
his followers ; the spiritual " ideal man " as he appeared 
in the minds of the Jews influenced by Platonic ideas ; 
whom also Philo knew as the metaphysical prototype of 
ordinary sensual humanity and thought he had found 
typified to in Gen. i. 27. He is the " great man " of the 
Indian legends, who was supposed to have appeared also 
in Buddha and in other Eedeemer figures — the Purusha of 
the Vedic Brahmans, the Mandä de hajje and Hibil Ziwä 



THE PAULINE JESUS 181 

of the Mandaic religion influenced by Indian ideas, the 
tribe-God of syncretised Judaism. The knowledge which 
Paul has of this Being is for this reason not an ordinary 
acquaintance from teachings, but a Gnosis, an immediate 
consciousness, a " knowledge inspired " ; and all the 
statements which he makes concerning it fall within the 
sphere of theosophy, of religious speculation or meta- 
physics, but not of history. As we have stated, the belief 
in such a Jesus had been for a long time the property of 
Jewish sects, when Paul succeeded, on the ground of his 
astounding personal experiences, in drawing it into the 
light from the privacy of religious arcana, and setting it 
up as the central point of a new religion distinct from 
Judaism. 

" There was already in their minds a faith in a divine 
revealer, a divine-human activity, in salvation to be 
obtained through sacraments." * Among the neighbour- 
ing heathen peoples for a very long time, and in Jewish 
circles at least since the days of the prophets, there had 
existed a belief in a divine mediator, a " Son of God," a 
" First-born of all creation," in whom was made all that 
exists, who came down upon earth, humbled himself in 
taking on a human form, suffered for mankind a shameful 
death, but rose again victorious, and in his elevation and 
transfiguration simultaneously renewed and spiritualised 
the whole earth, f Then Paul appeared — in an age which 

* Gunkel, op. cit., 93. 

| Gunkel also takes the view " that before Jesus there was a belief 
in Christ's death and resurrection current in Jewish syncretic circles 
(op. cit., 82). Now we have already seen (p. 57) that the term 
" Christ " is of very similar significance to " Jesus." So that it is 
not at all necessary to believe, as Gunkel asserted in the Darmstadt 
discussion, that Paul in speaking of "Jesus" testifies to an historical 
figure, because Jesus is the name of a person. "Jesus Christ" is 
simply a double expression for one and the same idea — that is, for the 
idea of the Messiah, Saviour, Physician, and Redeemer ; and it is not 



i82 THE CHRIST MYTH 

was permeated as no other with a longing for redemption ; 
which, overwhelmed by the gloom of its external relations, 
was possessed with the fear of evil powers ; which, pene- 
trated with terror of the imminent end of the world, was 
anxiously awaiting this event and had lost faith in the 
saving power of the old religion — then he gave such an 
expression to that belief as made it appear the only means 
of escape from the confusion of present existence. Can 
the assumption of an historical Jesus in the sense of the 
traditional conception really be necessary, in order to 
account for the fact that men fled impetuously to this new 
religion of Paul's ? Is it even probable that the intelli- 
gent populations of the sea-ports of Asia Minor and 
Greece, among whom in particular Paul preached the 
Gospel of Jesus, would have turned towards Christianity 
for the reason that at some time or other, ten or twenty 
years before, an itinerant preacher of the name of Jesus 
had made an "overpowering" impression on ignorant 
fisher -folk and workmen in Galilee or Jerusalem by his 
personal bearing and his teachings, and had been believed 
by them to be the expected Messiah, the renowned divine 
mediator and redeemer of the world ? Paul did not 
preach the man Jesus, but the heavenly spiritual being, 
Christ.* The public to which Paul turned consisted for 
the most part of Gentiles ; and to these the conception of 
a spiritual being presented no difficulties. It could have 
no strengthening, no guarantee, of its truth, through 
proof of the manhood of Jesus. If the Christians of the 

at all improbable, as Smith supposes, that the contradictions in the 
conception of the Messiah in two different sects or spheres of thought 
found their settlement in the juxtaposition of the two names. 

* " Not the teacher, not the miracle-worker, not the friend of the 
publicans and sinners, not the opponent of the Pharisees, is of im- 
portance for Paul. It is the | crucified and risen Son of God alone " 
(Wernle, op. cit., 5). 



THE PAULINE JESUS 183 

beginning of our own historical epoch had only been able 
to gain faith in the God Christ through the Man Jesus, 
Paul would have turned his attention from that which, to 
him, particularly mattered ; he would have obscured the 
individual meaning of his Gospel and brought his whole 
religious speculation into a false position, by substi- 
tuting a man Jesus for the God-man Jesus as he under- 
stood him.* 

Paul is said to have been born in the Greek city of 
Tarsus in Cilicia, the son of Jewish parents. At that 
time Tarsus was, like Alexandria, an important seat of 
Greek learning. 

Here flourished the school of the younger Stoics, with 
its mixture of old Stoic, Orphic, and Platonic ideas. 
Here the ethical principles of that school were preached 
in a popular form, in street and market-place, by orators 
of the people. It was not at all necessary for Paul, 
brought up in the austerity of the Jewish religion of the 
Law, to visit the lecture-rooms of the Stoic teachers in 

* " Indeed, the historical Jesus in the sense of the Ritschlian 
school would have been for Paul an absurdity. The Pauline theology 
has to do rather with the experiences of a heavenly being, which 
have, and will yet have, extraordinary significance for humanity " 
(M. Brückner, " Die Entstehung der paulinischen Christologie," 1903, 
12). Brückner also considers it settled "that Jesus' life on earth had 
no interest at all for Paul " (op. cit., 46). " Paul did not trouble 
himself about Jesus' life on earth, and what he may here and there 
have learnt concerning it, with few exceptions, remained indifferent 
to him " (42). Brückner also shows that the passages which are 
cited to contradict this prove nothing as to Paul's more detailed 
acquaintance with Jesus' life on earth (41 sqq.). He claims "to 
have given the historical demonstration " in his work " that the 
Christian religion is at bottom independent of ' uncertain historical 
truths ' " (Preface). And in spite of this he cannot as a theologian 
free himself from the conception of an historical Jesus even with 
regard to Paul, though he is, nevertheless, not in a position to show 
where and to what extent the historical Jesus had a really decided 
influence over Paul. 



1 84 THE CHRIST MYTH 

order to gain a knowledge of Stoic views, for in Tarsus it 
was as though the air was filled with that doctrine. Paul 
was certainly acquainted with it. It sank so deeply into 
his mind, perhaps unknown to himself, that his epistles are 
full of the expressions and ideas of the Stoic philosopher 
Seneca, and to this are due the efforts which have been 
made to make Seneca a pupil of Paul's, or the reverse, to 
make Paul a pupil of Seneca's. A correspondence exists, 
which is admittedly a forgery, pretending to have passed 
between the two. 

Tarsus, in spite of its Eastern character, was a city 
saturated with Greek learning and ways of thought, but 
not these alone. The religious ideas and motives of the 
time found also a fruitful soil there. In Tarsus the 
Hittite Sandan (Sardanapal) was worshipped, a human 
being upon whom Dionysus had bestowed the godhead of 
life and fecundity, who was identified by the Greeks either 
with Zeus, or with Heracles, the divine "Son" of the 
"Father" Zeus. He passed as the founder of the city, 
and was represented as a bearded man with bunches of 
grapes and ears of corn, with a double-headed axe in his 
right hand, standing on a lion or a funeral pyre ; and every 
year it was the custom for a human representative of the 
God, or in later times his effigy, to be ceremoniously 
burnt on a pyre.* But Tarsus was also at the same time 
a centre for the mystery-religions of the East. The 
worship of Mithras, in particular, flourished there, with its 
doctrine of the mystic death and re-birth of those received 
into the communion, who were thereby purified from 
the guilt of their past life and won a new immortal 
life in the "Spirit"; with its sacred feast, at which 
the believers entered into a communion of life with 
Mithra by partaking of the consecrated bread and 

* Movers, op. cit., 438 sqq. ; Fräser, "Adonis, Attis, Osiris," 42, 
43, 47, 60, 79 sq. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 185 

chalice ; with its conception of the magic effect of the 
victim's blood, which washed away all sins ; and with its 
ardent desire for redemption, purification, and sanctifi- 
cation of the soul.* Paul was not unaffected by these 
and similar ideas. His conception of the mystic signifi- 
cance of Christ's death shows that ; in which conception 
the whole of this type of religious thought is expressed, 
although in a new setting. Indeed, the expression 
(Gal. iii. 27), in which the baptized are said to have 
" put on " Christ, seems to be borrowed directly from the 
Mithraic Mysteries. For in these, according to a primitive 
animistic custom, the initiated of different degrees used 
to be present in the masks of beasts, representing God's 
existence under diverse attributes ; that is, they used to 
" put on " the Lord in order to place themselves in inner- 
most communion with him. Again, the Pauline expres- 
sion, that the consecrated chalice and bread at the Lord's 
Supper are the " communion of the blood and body of 
Christ," t reminds us too forcibly of the method of expres- 
sion in the Mysteries for this agreement to be purely a 
coincidence. J 

If in such circumstances Paul, the citizen of Tarsus, 
heard of a Jewish God of the name of Jesus, the ideas 
which were connected with him were in no way quite 
new and unaccustomed. Nearer Asia was, indeed, as we 
have seen, filled with the idea of a young and beautiful 
God, who reanimated Nature by his death ; with popular 
legends connected with his violent end and glorious 
resurrection : and not merely in Tarsus, but also in Cyprus 
and in countless other places of the "Western Asiatic 
civilised world, there was the yearly celebration in most 
impressive fashion of the feast of this God, who was 

* Curaont, " Textes et monuments," &a, i. 240 ; Pfleiderer, 
" Urchristentum," i. 29 sqq. 

f 1 Cor. x. 16. | Pfleiderer, op. cit., 45. 



/ 



1 86 THE CHRIST MYTH 

called Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, &c. 
Nowhere, perhaps, was the celebration more magnificent 
than at Antioch, the Syrian capital. But at Antioch, if 
we may believe the Acts * on this point, the Gospel of 
Jesus had been preached even before Paul. Men of 
Cyprus and Cyrene are said to have spoken there the 
"Word of the dead and risen Christ, not only to the Jews 
but also to the Greeks, and they are said to have converted 
many of the heathens to the new " Lord." The Acts 
tells us this after it has recounted the persecution of the 
community of the Messiah at Jerusalem ; representing 
the spreading of the Gospel as a consequence of the dis- 
persion of the community that followed the persecution. It 
seems, however, that Cyprus — where Adonis was particu- 
larly worshipped, at Paphos — and Cyrene were very 
early centres from which missionaries carried abroad the 
faith in Christ.! Consequently the Gospel was in origin 
nothing but a Judaised and spiritualised Adonis cult. J 
Those earliest missionaries of whom we hear would not 
have attacked the faith of the Syrian heathens : they 
would have declared that Christ, the Messiah, the God of 
the Jewish religions, was Adonis : Christ is the " Lord " ! 
They would only have attempted to draw the old native 
religion of Adonis into the Jewish sphere of thought, and 
by this means to carry on the Jewish propaganda which 
they could find everywhere at work, and which developed 
an efficacy about the beginning of our epoch such as it 
had never before possessed. They would carry on the 
propaganda, not in the sense of the strict standpoint of 
the Law, but of the Jewish Apocalypses and their 
religious teachings. § 

* xi. 19 sqq. f Smith, op. cit., 21 sq. 

I Cf. Zimmern, "Zum Streit um die Christusmythe," 23. 
§ "I am the A and the O, the beginning and the end," the Revela- 
tion of John makes the Messiah say (i. 8.). Is there not at the same 



THE PAULINE JESUS 187 

Such a man as Paul, who had been educated in the 
school of Gamaliel as a teacher of the Law of the strict 
Pharisaical sort, could not indeed calmly look on while 
the heathen belief in Adonis, which he must surely, even 
in his native city of Tarsus, have despised as a blasphe- 
mous superstition, was uniting itself, in the new religious 
sects, with the Jewish conceptions. " Cursed is he who 
is hung upon the tree," so it stood written in the Law; * 
and the ceremony of the purification — at which one 
criminal was hung, amid the insults of the people, as the 
scapegoat of the old year, while another was set free 
as Mordecai, and driven with regal honours through the 
city, being revered as representative of the new year — 
must have been in his eyes only another proof of the 
disgrace of the tree, and of the blasphemous character of a 
belief that honoured in the hanged man the divine Saviour 
of the world, the Messiah expected by the Jews. Then on 
a sudden there came over him as it were enlightenment. 
What if the festivals of the Syrian Adonis, of the 
Phrygian Attis, and so on, really treated of the self-sacri- 



time in this a concealed reference to Adonis ? The Alpha and the 
Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, form together 
the name of Adonis — Ao (Aoos) as the old Dorians called the God, 
whence Cilicia is also called Aoa. A son of Adonis and Aphrodite 
(Maia) is said (" Schol. Theocr.," 15, 100) to have been called Golgos. 
His name is connected with the phallic cones (Greek, golgoi), as 
they were erected on heights in honour of the mother divinities of 
Western Asia, who were themselves, probably on this account, called 
Golgoi and golgön anassa (Queens of the Golgoi), and is the same as 
the Hebraic plural Golgotha (Sepp, " Heidentum," i. 157 sq.). 
Finally, was the " place of skulls " an old Jebusite place of worship 
of Adonis under the name of Golgos, and was the cone of rock, 
on which statue of Venus was erected in the time of Hadrian, 
selected for the place of execution of the Christian Saviour because 
it was connected with the remembrance of the real saorifice of a man 
in the role of Adonis (Tammuz) ? 
* Deut. xxi. 23. 



1 88 THE CHRIST MYTH 

fice of a God who laid down his life for the world? 
The guiltless martyrdom of an upright man as expiatory 
means to the justification of his people was also not 
unknown to the adherents of the Law since the days of 
the Maccabean martyrs. The " suffering servant of God," 
as Isaiah had portrayed him, suggests as quite probable 
the idea that, just as among the heathen peoples, in Israel 
also an individual might renew the life of all others by 
his voluntary sacrifice. Might it not be true, as the 
adherents of the Jesus-religions maintained, that the 
Messiah was really a " servant of God," and had already 
accomplished the work of redemption by his own voluntary 
death ? According to the heathen view, the people were 
atoned for by the vicarious sacrifice of their God, and 
that "justification" of all in the sight of the Godhead 
took place which the pious Pharisee expected from the 
strict fulfilment of the Jewish Law. And yet, when Paul 
compared the " righteousness " actually achieved by him- 
self and others with the ideal of righteousness for which 
they strove, as it was required in the Law, then terror at 
the greatness of the contrast between the ideal and the 
reality must have seized him ; and at the same time he 
might well have despaired of the divine righteousness, 
which required of the people the fulfilment of the Law, 
which weighed the people down with the thought of the 
imminent end of the world, and which, through the very 
nature of its commands, excluded the possibility of the 
Messiah meeting on his arrival, as he should have done, 
with a "righteous" people. Were those who expected 
the sanctification of humanity not from the fulfilment of 
the Law, but immediately, through an infusion of God 
himself, really so much in the wrong ? It was not 
unusual among the heathen peoples for a man to be 
sacrificed, in the place of the Diety, as a symbolical repre- 
sentative ; although already at the time of Paul it was 



THE PAULINE JESUS 189 

the custom to represent the self-sacrificing God only by 
an effigy, instead of a real man. The important point, 
however, was not this, but the idea which lay at the 
foundation of this divine self-sacrifice. And this was not 
affected by the victim's being a criminal, who was killed 
in the role of the guiltless and upright man, and by the 
voluntariness of his death being completely fictitious. 
Might it not also be, as the believers in Jesus asserted, 
that the Messiah was not still to be expected, and that 
only on the ground of human righteousness ; but that 
rather he had already appeared, and had already accom- 
plished the righteousness unattainable by the individual 
through his shameful death and his glorious resurrection ? 
The moment in which this idea flashed through Paul's 
mind was the moment of the birth of Christianity as 
Paul's religion. The form in which he grasped that con- 
ception was that of an Incarnation of God ; and at the 
same time this form was such that he introduced with 
it quite a new impulse into the former mode of thought. 
According to the heathen conception a God did indeed 
sacrifice himself for his people, without thereby ceasing 
to be God; and here the man sacrificed in the place of 
God was considered merely as a chance representative of 
the self-sacrificing God. According to the old view of 
the Jewish faith it was really the " Son of Man," a being 
of human nature, who was to come down from heaven 
and effect the work of redemption, without, however, 
being a real man and without suffering and dying in 
human form. With Paul, on the contrary, the stress lay 
just on this, that the Redeemer should be himself really 
a man, and that the man sacrificed in God's place should 
be equally the God appearing in human form : the man 
was not merely a representation of God's as a celestial 
and supernatural being, but God himself appearing in 
human form. God himself becomes man, and thereby 



x 






igo THE CHRIST MYTH 

a man is exalted to the Deity, and, as expiatory repre- 
sentative for his people, can unite mankind with God.* 
The man who is sacrificed for his people represents on 
the one hand his people in the eyes of God, but on the 
other hand the God sacrificing himself for mankind in 
the eyes of this people. And thereby, in the idea of the 
representative expiatory victim, the separation between 
God and Man is blotted out, and both fuse directly in the 
conception of the " God-man." God becomes man, and 
by this means mankind is enabled to become God. The 
man is sacrificed as well in the place of God as in that 
of mankind, and so unites both contradictories in a 
unity within himself. 

It is evident that in reality it was merely a new setting 
to the old conception of the representative self-sacrifice of 
God — in which the genitive is to be taken both in its 
subjective and objective sense. No historical personality, 
who should, so to say, have lived as an example of the 
God-man, was in any way necessary to produce that 
Pauline development of the religion of Jesus. For the 
chance personalities of the men representing the God 
came under consideration just as little for Paul as for the 
heathens ; and when he also, with the other Jews, 
designated the Messiah Jesus as the bodily descendant 
of David " according to the flesh," t i.e., as a man ; when 
he treated him as " born of woman," he thought not at 
all of any concrete individuality, which had at a certain 
time embodied the divinity within itself, but purely of 
the idea of a Messiah in the flesh ; just as the suffering 

* We notice that already in these distinctions the germs of those 
endless and absurd disputes concerning the "nature" of the God-man 
lie concealed, which later, in the first century a.D., tore Christendom 
into countless sects and " heresies," and which gave the occasion for 
the rise of the Christian dogma. 

f Rom. i. 3. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 191 

servant of God of Isaiah, even in spite of the connection 
of this idea with an actually accomplished human 
sacrifice, had possessed only an ideal imaginary or typical 
significance. The objection is always being raised that 
Paul must have conceived of Jesus as an historical in- 
dividual because he designates him as the bodily 
descendant of David, and makes him " born of woman " 
(Gal. iv. 4). But how else could he have been born? 
(Cf. Job xiv. 1.) The bringing into prominence the birth 
from woman, as well as the general emphasis laid by the 
Apostle on the humanity of Jesus, is directed against/ J ^ 
the Gnostics in the Corinthian community, but proves 
nothing whatsoever as to the historical Jesus. And the 
descent from David was part of the traditional charac- 
teristics of the Messiah ; so that Paul could say it of 
Jesus without referring to a real descendant of David. 
But even less is proved by Paul's, in Gal. iii. 1, reproach- 
ing the Galatians with having seen the crucified Christ 
" set forth openly" ; we would then have to declare also 
that there was an actual devil and a hell, because these 
are set forth to the faithful by the " caretakers of their 
souls " when preaching. Here then lies the explanation 
for the fact that the "man" Jesus remained an intangible 
phantom to Paul, and that he can speak of Christ as a 
man, without thinking of an historical personality in the 
sense of the liberal theology of the present day. The 
ideal man, as Paul represented Jesus to himself — 
the essence of all human existence — the human race 
considered as a person, who represented humanity to 
God, just as the man sacrificed in his role had represented , 
the Deity to the people — the "Man" on whom alone 
redemption depended — is and remains a metaphysical 
Being — just as the Idea of Plato or the Logos of Philo 
are none the less metaphysical existences because of their 
descent into the world of the senses and of their 



r, 



192 THE CHRIST MYTH 

assuming in it a definite individual corporality. And what 
Paul teaches concerning the " man " Jesus is only a 
detailed development and deepening of what the 
Mandsei believed of their Mandä de ha] je or Hibil 
Ziwa, and of what the Jewish religions under the 
influence of the Apocalypses involved in their mysterious 
doctrines of the Messiah. For Paul the descent, death, 
y and resurrection of Jesus represented an eternal but not 
an actual story in time ; and so to search Paul for the 
signs of an historical Jesus is to misunderstand the chief 
point in his religious view of the world. 

God, the "father" of our "Lord" Jesus Christ, 
" awakened " his son and sent him down upon the earth 
for the redemption of mankind. Although originally one 
with God, and for that reason himself a divine being, 
Christ nevertheless renounced his original supernatural 
existence. In contradiction to his real Being he changed 
his spiritual nature for " the likeness of sinful flesh," 
gave up his heavenly kingdom for the poverty and misery 
of human existence, and came to mankind in the form of 
a servant, " being found in fashion as a man," in order to 
bring redemption.* For man is unable to obtain religious 
salvation through himself alone. In him the spirit is 
bound to the flesh, his divine supersensible Being is bound 
down to the material of sensible actuality, and for that 
reason he is subject " by nature" to misfortune and sin. 
All flesh is necessarily " sinful flesh." Man is compelled 
to sin just in so far as he is a being of the flesh. Adam, 
moreover, is the originator of all human sin only for the 
reason that he was "in the flesh" — that is, a finite Being 
imprisoned in corporality. Probably God gave the Law 
unto mankind, in order to show them the right path in 
their obscurity ; and thereby opened the possibility of 
being declared righteous or " justified " before his court, 
* Bom. viii. 3 ; 2 Cor. viii. 9 ; Phil. ii. 7 sq. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 193 

through the fulfilment of his commands ; but it is im- 
possible to keep the commandments in their full severity. 

And yet only the ceaseless fulfilment of the whole Law 
can save mankind from justice. We are all sinners.* So 
the Law indeed awakened the knowledge of guilt, and 
brought sin to light through its violation ; but it has at 
the same time increased the guilt, t It has shown itself 
to be a strict teacher and taskmaster in righteousness, 
without, however, itself leading to righteousness. So 
little has it proved to be the desired means of salvation, 
that it may equally be said of it that it was given by God 
not for the purpose of saving mankind, but only to make 
it still more miserable. Consequently Paul would rather 
attribute the mediation of the Law of Moses not to God 
himself but to his angels, in order to relieve God of the 
guilt of the Law. I This circumstance is of so much the 
more consequence for mankind, because the sin aroused 
by the Law unresistingly drew death in its train ; and 
that deprived them also of the last possibility of becom- 
ing equal to their higher spiritual nature. So is man 
placed midway between light and darkness — a pitiable 
Being. His spirit, that is kin with God, draws him 
upwards ; and the evil spirit and daemons drag him down- 
wards, the evil spirits who rule this world and who 
lure him into sin — and who are at bottom nothing but 
mythical personifications of man's sinful and fleshly 
desires. 

Christ now enters this world of darkness and of sin. 
As a man among men, he enters the sphere over which 
the flesh and sin have power, and must die as other men. 
But for the incarnate God death is not what it is in the 
ordinary sense. For him it is only the liberation from 

* Gal. iii. 10 sqq. ; Bom. iii. 9. 

f Rom. iii. 20, iv. 15, v. 20, vii., sqq. 

\ Gal. iii. 19 sqq. 

13 



194 THE CHRIST MYTH 

the incongruous condition of the flesh. When Christ 
dies, he merely strips off the fetters of the flesh and 
leaves the prison of the body, leaves the sphere over 
which sin, death, and evil spirits hold their sway. He, 
the God-man, dies to the sin, which was once unknown 
to him, once and for all. By prevailing over the power 
of death in his resurrection, the Son regains, by means 
of death, his original individual existence, perpetual life 
in and with the Father.* Thus also does he attain 
mastery over the Law, for this rules only in so far as 
there are fleshly men of earth, and ceases to hold good 
for him at the moment when Christ raises himself above 
the flesh and returns to his pure spiritual nature. Were 
there the possibility for mankind of similarly dying to 
their flesh, then would they be redeemed, as Christ was, 
from sin, death, and the Law. 

There is, in fact, such a possibility. It lies in this : 
even Christ himself is nothing but the idea of the human 
race conceived as a personality, the Platonic idea of 
Humanity personified, the ideal man as a metaphysical 
essence; and so in his fate the fate of all mankind is ful- 
filled. In this sense the saying holds, " If one has died 
for all, then have they all died."t In order to become 
partakers of the fruit of this Jesus' death, it is certainly 
necessary that the individual man become really one 
with Christ ; that he enter into an inner unity with the 
representative, with the divine type of the human race, 
not merely subjectively, but objectively and actually ; and 
this takes place, according to Paul, by means of "faith." 
Faith, as Paul understands it, is not a purely external 
belief in the actuality of Jesus' death as a victim and of 
his resurrection, but the turning of the whole man to 
Jesus, the spiritual unification with him and the divine 
disposition produced thereby, from which the corre- 
* Bom. vi. 9 sq. f Id. v. 14. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 195 

sponding moral action proceeds of itself. It is only in 
this sense that Paul sets faith above works as demanded 
by the Law. An action that does not proceed from faith, 
from the deepest conviction of the divine, has no religious 
value, be it ever so conformable to the letter of the Law. 
That is a view which Paul completely shared with the 
Stoic philosophy of his age, and which was at that time 
being brought more and more to the front in the more 
advanced circles of the old civilisation. Man is justified 
not through the Law, not through works, but through 
faith ; faith, even without works, is reckoned as righteous- 
ness.* It is only another expression for the same thought 
when Paul says that God justifies man, not according to 
his merit and actions, but " gratuitously," " of his grace." 
In the conception of the Jewish religion of the Law the 
idea of justification has a purely juridical significance. 
Reward here answers exactly to merit. Justification is 
nothing but an " obligation " according to an irrevocable 
standard. In Paul's new conception it is, on the contrary, 
a natural product of God's mercy. But mercy consists 
finally in this, that God of his own accord sacrificed his 
Son, so that mankind may share in the effects of his work 
of redemption by " faith " in him, and by the unity with 
him thus brought about. But faith is only one way of 
becoming one with Christ ; and real unity with him 
must also be externally effected. Baptism and the 
Lord's Supper must be added to faith. There Paul 
directly follows the Mysteries and their sacramental 
conception of man's unification with the deity; and 
shows the connection of his own doctrines with those 
of the heathen religions. By his baptism, his immersion 
and disappearance in the depths of the water, man is 
"buried in death" with Christ. In that he rises once 
more from the water, the resurrection with Christ to a 

*jBom. iv. 3 sqq. 



196 THE CHRIST MYTH 

new life is fulfilled, not merely in a symbolic but also in 
a magical mystic fashion.* And Christ is as it were 
"put on"t through Baptism, so that henceforth the 
baptized is, no longer potentially but actually, one 
with Christ ; Christ is in him, and he is in Christ. 
The Lord's Supper is indeed on one hand a feast of 
fraternal love and recollection, in memory of the Saviour ; 
just as the adherents of Mithras used to hold their 
love-feasts (Agape) in memory of their God's parting 
feast with his own people.! But on the other hand it 
is a mystic communion of the blood and body of Christ, 
through the drinking of the sacramental chalice and the 
eating of the sacramental bread — a mystic communion in 
no other sense than that in which the heathens thought 
they entered into inner connection with their Gods 
through sacrificial feasts, and in which savages generally 
even to-day believe that through the eating of another's 
flesh, be it beast's or man's, and through the drinking 
of his blood, they become partakers of the power 
residing in him.§ Even for Paul baptism and the 
Lord's Supper are to such an extent purely natural 
processes or magic practices, that he does not object 
to the heathen custom of baptizing, by proxy, living 
Christians for dead ones ; and in his opinion unworthy 
eating and drinking of the Lord's Supper produce sick- 
ness and death. || In this respect, consequently, there 
can be no talk of a " transcending of the naturalism of 
the heathen mysteries" in Paul; and to attribute to him 
a much higher or more spiritual conception of the sacra- 
ment than the heathens had seems difficult to reconcile 
with his express statements.^" 

Now Christ, as already stated, is for Paul only a 

* Rom. vi. 3 sqq. f Gal. iii. 27. 

% Cf. above, p. 137. § 1 Cor. x.16 sqq., xi. 23-27. 

|| 1 Cor. x. 3 sqq., 16-21. IT Ci, e.g., Pfleiderer, op. tit., 333. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 197 

comprehensive expression for the ideal totality of men, 
which is therein represented as an individual personal 
being. It is clearly the Platonic idea of humanity, and 
nothing else ; just as Philo personified the divine intelli- 
gence and made this coalesce with the " ideal man," with^ 
the idea of humanity.* As in the Platonic view the 
union of man with the ideal takes place through love, 
through immediate intellectual perception on the basis 
of ideal knowledge, and the contradiction between the 
world of sense and the world of ideas is overcome by 
the same means ; as also thereby man is raised to 
membership in the cosmos of ideas ; in just such a 
manner, according to Paul, Christians unite together 
by means of faith and the sacraments into constitutive 
moments of the ideal humanity. Thus they realise the 
idea of humanity, and enter into a mystic communion 
with Jesus, who himself, as we have already said, 
represents this idea in its united compass. The con- 
sequence of this is, that all that is fulfilled in Christ 
is equally experienced along with him, in mysterious 
fashion, by those men who are united with him. 
Consequently they can now be termed " members of 
the one body of Christ," who is its "head" or 
" Soul " ; and this indeed in the same sense as with 
Plato the different ideas form but members and 
moments of the one world of ideas, and their plu- 
rality is destroyed in the unity of the comprehensive 
and determining idea of the One or the Good. 

Just what an elevation of the spirit to the world of 
ideas is for Plato, the union of mankind with Christ is 
for Paul. What the man actually in possession of know- 
ledge, the "wise man," is for the former, "Christ" is 
for the latter. What is there called Eros — the mediator 
of the unity between the world of ideas and the sense- 

* Cf. above, p. 49 sqq. 



iq8 THE CHRIST MYTH 

world, of Being and Conscious Being, of objective and 
subjective thought, and at the same time the very 
essence of all objective thought — is here called Christ. 
Eros is called by Plato the son of riches and poverty, 
who bears the " nature and signs " of both : " He is 
quite poor, runs around barefoot and homeless, and 
must sleep on the naked earth without a roof, in the 
open air, at the doors and on the streets, in conformity 
with his mother's nature." " As, however, he is neither 
mortal nor immortal, at one moment he is flourishing 
and full of life, at another he is weary and dies away, 
and all that often on the self-same day ; but ever he rises 
up again in life in conformity with his father's nature." * 
So also the Pauline Christ contains all the fulness of 
the Godheadt and is himself the "Son of God"; yet 
nevertheless Christ debases himself, takes on the form 
of a servant, becomes Man, and dies, thereby placing 
himself in direct opposition to his real nature, but 
j only to rise again continually in each individual man 
y and allow mankind to participate in his own life. 
And as Christ (in 1 Tim. ii. 5) is the "mediator" 
between God and men, so also the Platonic Eros 
"is midway between the immortal and the mortal." 
" Eros, Socrates, is a daimon, a great daimon, and 
everything of this nature is intermediate between God 
and man. The daimon transfers to the Gods what 
comes from man, and to man what comes from the 
Gods ; from the one prayer and sacrifice, from the 
other the orders and rewards for the sacrifice. Midway, 
he fills the gap between the immortal and the mortal, 
and everything is through him bound into one whole. 
By his mediation is disseminated every prophecy and 
the religious skill which has reference to sacrifice, 
sanctification, sacred maxims, and each prediction and 
* Plato, " Symposium," c. 22. f Col. ii. 9. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 199 

magic spell. God himself does not mix with mankind, 
but all intercourse and all speech between God and man, 
as well in waking as in sleep, takes place in the way 
mentioned. Whoever has experienced this, in him is the 
daimon." In this connection we recall to our minds that 
Eros appears in the "Timaeus" under the name of the 
" world-soul," and this is supposed by Plato to have 
the form of an oblique cross.* 

The Platonic Eros is the mythical personification of 
the conception that the contemplation of Being (obj. 
gen.) as such is at the same time a contemplation of 
Being's (sub. gen.) ; or that in the contemplation of the 
Ideas the subjective thought of the Philosopher and 
the objective ideal Beality as it were meet each other 
from two sides and fuse directly into a unity, f It is 
thus only the scientific and theoretical formulation of the 
fundamental idea of the old Aryan Fire Cult. According 
to this the sacrifice of Agni — that is, the victim which 
man offers to God — is as such equally Agni's sacrifice, 
the victim which God offers, and in which he sacrifices 
himself for humanity. It is in agreement with this 
that according to Paul the death and resurrection of 
Christ, as they take place in the consciousness of the 
believer, represent a death and resurrection of Christ as 
a divine personality : man dies and lives again with 
Christ, and God and man are completely fused together 
in the believer. As mankind by this means becomes a 
"member" of the "Body of Christ," so in the Vedic 
conception the partaker of the Fire-God's sacrifice, by 
the tasting of the blood and the eating of the sacred 
bread, is associated with a mystic body, and is infused 
with the one Spirit of God, which destroys his sins in its 

* Op. dt., 80. 

\ Cf. my work, " Plotin und der Untergang der antiken Welt- 
anschauung," 1907. 



200 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sacred fire, and flows through him with new life-power. 
In India, from the cult of the Fire-God and the complete 
unity of God and man thereby attained, Brahmanism 
was developed, and gained an influence over all the 
Indian peoples. In Plato intellectual contemplation 
formed the basis of cognition. He placed the wise 
man at the head of the social organism, and regarded 
the philosopher as the only man fitted for the govern- 
ment of the world. And the future development of the 
Church as a" Communion of Saints " appears already in 
the Pauline conception of the faithful as the "Body of 
Christ," in which the Idea of the human race (Christ) is 
realised, as the kingdom of God upon earth, as the true 
humanity, as the material appearance of the divine ideal 
man, to belong to which is mankind's duty, and without 
which it is impossible for man to live in his real ideal 
nature. 

Ancient philosophy had attempted until now in vain 
to overcome the contradiction between the sense-world 
and the world of ideas, and to destroy the uncertainty of 
human thought and life which results from this contradic- 
tion. From the time of Plato it had worked at the prob- 
lem of uniting, without contradiction, Nature and Spirit, 
whose contradictory nature had first been brought to 
notice by the founder of metaphysical idealism. Religion, 
particularly in the Mystery Cults, had tried to solve in 
a practical way the problem that seemed insoluble by 
abstract means, and had sought to secure for man a 
new basis and resting-place by means of devotion and 
"revelation " — a mystic sinking into the depths of God. 
But Paul's Christianity first gave a form to all this 
obscure desire, a form which united the thrills and joy 
of mystic ecstasy with the certainty of a comprehensive 
religious view of the world, and enlightened men as to 
the deepest meaning of their emotional impulse towards 



THE PAULINE JESUS 201 

certainty : man obtains unity with God and certainty as 
to the true reality, not by an abstract dialectic, as Plato 
supposed; not by logical insight into the cosmos in the 
sense of an abstract knowledge attainable only by the 
few, but through faith, through the divine act of 
redemption. To adopt this internally, thereby to live with 
it directly — this alone can give man the possibility of 
emerging from the uncertainty and darkness of corporeal 
existence into the clear light of the spiritual. All 
certainty of the true or essential being is consequently 
a certainty of faith, and there is no higher certainty than 
that which is (given to men in faith and piety. As 
Christ died and was thereby freed from the bonds of the 
body and of the world, so also must man die in the spirit. 
He must lay aside the burden of this body, the real cause 
of all his ethical and intellectual shortcomings. He 
must inwardly rise with Christ and be born again, thereby 
taking part in his spiritual certitude and gaining together 
with the "Life in the Spirit" salvation from all his 
present shortcomings. It is true that outwardly the 
body still exists, even after the inner act of redemption 
has taken place. Even when the man who died with 
Christ has arisen and has become a new man, he is 
nevertheless still subject to corporeal limitations. The 
redeemed man is still in the world and must fight with 
its influences. But what man gains in the union with 
the body of Christ is the " Spirit " of Christ, which holds 
the members of the body together, shows itself to be 
active in everything which belongs to the body, and acts 
in man as a supernatural power. This spirit, as it dwells 
henceforth in the redeemed man, works and directs and 
drives him on to every action ; lifts man in idea far above 
all the limitations of his fleshly nature; strengthens him 
in his weakness ; shows him existence in a new light, so 
that henceforth he feels himself no longer bound ; gives 



202 THE CHRIST MYTH 

him the victory over the powers of earth, and enables 
him to anticipate, even in this life, the blessedness of his 
real and final redemption in a life to come.* But the 
spirit of Christ as such is equally the divine spirit. So 
that the redeemed, as they receive the spirit of Christ, 
are the " sons " of God himself, and this is expressed by 
saying that with the spirit they " inherit the glorious 
freedom of the children of God."t For, as Paul says, 
" the Lord is the spirit ; but where the spirit is, there is 
freedom."! 

So that when the Christian feels himself transformed 
into a " new creature," equipped with power of knowledge 
and of virtue, blest in the consciousness of his victorious 
strength over carnal desires, and wins his peace in faith, 
this is only the consequence of a superhuman spirit 
working in him. Hence the Christian virtues of 
Brotherly Love, Humility, Obedience, &c, are necessary 
consequences of the possession of the Spirit : " If we live 
by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk." § And if 
the faithful suddenly develop a fulness of new and 
wonderful powers, which exceed man's ordinary nature — 
such as facility in " tongues," in prophecy, and in the 
healing of the sick — this is, in the superstitious view of 
the age, only to be explained by the indwelling activity of 
a supernatural spirit-being that has entered man from 
the outside. Certainly it does not seem clear, in the 
* Pauline conception of the redemption, how this heavenly 
spirit can at the same time be the spirit of man — how 
it can be active in man without removing the particular 
and original spirit of man, and without reducing the 
individual to a passive tool, to a lifeless puppet without 
self-determination and responsibility ; how the man 
"possessed" by such a spirit can nevertheless feel 

* Gal. ii. 20 ; Rom. viii. 4, 26. \ Id. viii. 14 sqq. 

% 2 Cor. iii. 17. § Gal. v. 26. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 203 

himself free and redeemed by the Spirit. For it is in 
truth an alien spirit, one that does not in essence belong 
to him, which enters man through the union with Christ. 
Yet it is supposed to be the spirit, not merely of the 
individual man, but also Christ's personal spirit. One 
and the same spirit putting on a celestial body of light 
must be enthroned on the right hand of the Father in 
heaven, and must also be on earth the spirit of those who 
believe in it, setting itself to work in them as the source 
of Gnosis, of full mystic knowledge ; and, as the power 
of God, as the spirit of salvation, must produce in them 
supernatural effects.* It must be on the one hand an^ 
objective and actual spirit-being which in Christ becomes 
man, dies, and rises again; and on the other hand an 
inner subjective power, which produces in each individual 
man the extinction of the flesh and a new birth which is, 
to be shared by the faithful as the fruit of their individual 
redemption. That is perhaps comprehensible in the mode 
of thought of an age for which the idea of personality 
had as yet no definite meaning, and which consequently 
saw no contradiction in this, that a personal Christ-spirit 
should at the same time inhabit a number of individual 
spirits ; and which did not differentiate between the one, 
or rather the continual, act of redemption by God 
and its continual temporal repetition in the individual. 
We can understand this only if the Pauline Christ is a 
purely metaphysical being. It is, on the contrary, quite 
incomprehensible if Paul is supposed to have gained his 
idea of the mediator of salvation from any experience of 
an historical Jesus and his actual death. Only because' 
in his doctrine of the saving power of the Christ-spirit 
Paul had thought of no particular human personality 
could he imagine the immanence of the divine in the 
world to be mediated by that spirit. Only because he 
* 1 Cor. ii. 9, 14; Rom. xii. 2. 



204 THE CHRIST MYTH 

connected no other idea with the personality of Jesus 
than the Book of Wisdom or Philo did with their particular 
immanence principles, does he declare that Christ brings 
about salvation. So that Christ, as the principle of 
redemption, is for Paul only an allegorical or symbolical 
personality and not a real one. He is a personality such 
as were the heathen deities, who passed as general cosmic 
powers without prejudice to their appearing in human 
form. Personality is for Paul only another mode of 
expressing the supernatural spirituality and directed 
activity of the principle of redemption, in distinction 

•''from the blindly working powers and material realities of 
religious naturalism. It serves merely to suggest 
spirituality to an age which could only represent spirit 

s asa material fluid. It corresponds simply to the popular 
conception of the principle of redemption, which treated 
this as bound up with the idea of a human being. But 
it in no way referred to a real historical individual, show- 
ing, in fact, just by the uncertainty and fluctuation of the 
idea, how far the Christ of the Pauline doctrine of 
redemption was from being connected with a definite 
historical reality. 

Not because he so highly esteemed and revered Jesus 
as an historical personality did Paul make Christ the 
bearer and mediator of redemption, but because he knew 
nothing at all of an historical Jesus, of a human indi- 
vidual of this name, to whom he would have been able 
to transfer the work of redemption. " Faithful disciples," 
Wrede considers, " could not so easily believe that the 
"Than who had sat with them at table in Capernaum, or 
had journeyed over the Sea of Galilee with them, was 
the creator of the world. For Paul this obstacle was 

^absent."* But Paul is nevertheless supposed to have 
met James, the " Brother of the Lord," and to have had 

* Op. cit., 86. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 205 

dealings with him which would certainly have modified 
his view of Jesus, if here there were really question of 
a corporeal brotherhood. What a wonderful idea our 
theologians must have of a man like Paul if they think 
that it could ever have occurred to him to connect such 
tremendous conceptions with a human individual Jesus 
as he does with his Christ ! It is true that there is a type 
of religious ecstasy in which the difference between man 
and God is completely lost sight of ; and, especially at the 
beginning of our era, in the period of Csesar-worship and of 
the deepest religious superstition, it was not in itself un- 
usual to deify, after his death, a man who was highly 
esteemed. A great lack of reason, a great mental con- 
fusion, an immense flight of imagination, would be 
necessary to transform a man not long dead, who was 
still clearly remembered by his relatives and contem- N 
poraries, not merely into a divine hero or demi-god, but 
into the world-forming spiritual principle, into the meta- 
physical mediator of redemption and the " second God."^ 
And if, as even Wrede acknowledges in the above-quoted 
words, personal knowledge of Jesus was really an 
" obstacle " to his apotheosis, how is it to be explained 
that the " First Apostles " at Jerusalem took no exception 
to that representation of Paul's ? They surely knew who 
Jesus had been ; they knew the Master through many 
years' continual wandering with him. And however 
highly they may always have thought of the risen Jesus, 
however intimately they may have joined in their minds 
the memory of the man Jesus with the prevailing idea of 
the Messiah, according to the prevalent theological 
opinion, even they are supposed to have risen in no way 
to such a boundless deification of their Lord and Master 
as Paul undertook a comparatively short while after 
Jesus' death. 

"Paul already believed in such a heavenly Being, in ap» 



206 THE CHRIST MYTH 

divine Christ, before he believed in Jesus." * The truth 
is that he never believed at all in the Jesus of liberal 
theology. The "man" Jesus already belonged to his 
faith in Christ, so far as Christ's act of redemption was 
supposed to consist in his humbling himself and be- 
coming man — and no historical Jesus was necessary for 
that. For Paul also, just as for the whole heathen world, 
the man actually sacrificed in God's place was at best 
merely a chance symbol of the God presenting himself 
as victim. Hence it cannot be said that the man Jesus 
was but "the bearer of all the great attributes," which 
as such had been long since determined ; t or, as Gunkel 
puts it, that the enthusiastic disciples had transferred to 
him all that the former Judaism had been wont to ascribe 
to the Messiah ; and that consequently the Christology 
of the New Testament, in spite of its unhistorical nature, 
was nevertheless "a mighty hymn which History sings 
to Jesus " (!).{ If we once agree as to the existence 
of a pre-Christian Jesus — and even Gunkel, apart from 
"Robertson and Smith, has worked for the recognition of 
this fact — then this can in the first place produce 
nothing but a strong suspicion against the historical Jesus ; 
and it seems a despairing subterfuge of the "critical" 
theology to seek to find capital, from the existence of 
a pre-Christian Jesus, for the " unique " significance of 
their " historical " Jesus. 

Christ's life and death are for Paul neither the mora 
achievement of a man nor in any way historical facts, 
but something super-historical, events in the super- 
sensible world. § Further, the "man" Jesus comes in 
question for Paul, just as did the suffering servant of God 
for Isaiah, exclusively as an Idea, and his death is, like 
his resurrection, but the purely ideal condition whereby 

* Wrede, Id. f Id. 

I Op. cit., 94. § Wrede, op. cit., 85. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 207 

redemption is brought about. " If Christ hath not 
been raised, your faith is vain." * On this declara- 
tion has till now been founded the chief proof that 
an historical Jesus was to Paul the pre-supposition 
of his doctrine. But really that declaration in Paul's 
mouth points to nothing but the faith of his con- 
temporaries, who expected natural and religious salvation 
from the resurrection of their God, whether he were 
called Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, or anything 
else. 

The fact is therefore settled, that Paul knew nothing 
of an historical Jesus ; and that even if he had known 
anything of him, this Jesus in any case plays no part for 
him, and exercised no influence over the development of 
his religious view of the world. Let us consider the 
importance of this : the very man from whom we derive 
the first written testimony as to Christianity, who was 
the first in any way to establish it as a new religion 
differing from Judaism, on whose teachings alone the 
whole further development of Christian thought has 
depended — this Paul knew absolutely nothing of Jesus 
as an historical personality. In fact, with perfect justice 
from his point of view he was even compelled to excuse 
himself, when others wished to enlighten him as to such 
a personality ! At the present day it will be acknow- 
ledged by all sensible people that, as Ed. von Hartmann 
declared more than thirty years ago, without Paul the 
Christian movement would have disappeared in the sand, 
just as the many other Jewish religions have done — at 
best to afford interest to investigators as an historical 
curiosity — and Paul had no knowledge of Jesus ! The 
formation and development of the Christian religion 
began long before the Jesus of the Gospels appeared, 
and was completed independently of the historical Jesus 

* 1 Cor. xv. 17. 



2o8 THE CHRIST MYTH 

of theology. Theology has no justification for treating 
Christianity merely as the " Christianity of Christ," as it 
now is sufficiently evident ; nor should it present a view 
of the life and doctrines of an ideal man Jesus as the 
Christian religion.* 

The question raised at the beginning, as to what we 
learn from Paul about the historical Jesus, has found 
its answer — nothing. There is little value, then, in the 
objection to the disbelievers in such a Jesus which is 
raised on the theological side in triumphant tones : that 
the historical existence of Jesus is " most certainly 
established " by Paul. This objection comes, in fact, 
even from such people as regard the New Testament, 
in other respects, with most evidently sceptical views. 
The truth is that the Pauline epistles contain nothing 
which would force us to the belief in an historical Jesus ; 
and probably no one would find such a person in them 
if that belief was not previously established in him. It 
must be considered that, if the Pauline epistles stood 
in the edition of the New Testament where they really 
belong — that is, before the Gospels — hardly any one 
would think that Jesus, as he there meets him, was a 
real man and had wandered on the earth in flesh and 
blood ; but he would in all probability only find therein 
a detailed development of the "suffering servant of God," 
and would conclude that it was an irruption of heathen 
religious ideas into Jewish thought. Our theologians 
are, however, so strongly convinced of it a priori — that 
the Pauline representation of Christ actually arose from 
the figure of Jesus wandering on earth — that even 
M. Brückner confesses, in the preface to his work, 
that he had been " himself astonished " (!) at the 
result of his inquiry — the independence of the Pauline 

* Cf. as to the whole question my essay on " Paulus u. Jesus " 
(" Das Freie Wort " of December, 1909). 



THE PAULINE JESUS 209 

representation of Christ from the historical personality, 
Jesus.* 

Christianity is a syncretic religion. It belongs to 
those multiform religious movements which at the 
commencement of our era were struggling with one 
another for the mastery. Setting out from the Apoca- 
lyptic idea and the expectation of the Messiah among 
the Jewish sects, it was borne on the tide of a mighty 
social agitation, which found its centre and its point 
of departure in the religious sects and Mystery commu- 
nities. Its adherents conceived the Messiah not merely 
as the Saviour of souls, but as deliverer from slavery, 
from the lot of the poor and the oppressed, and as the 
bearer of a new justice. t 

It borrowed the chief part of its doctrine, the specific 
point in which it differed from ordinary Judaism, the 
central idea of the God sacrificing himself for mankind, 
from the neighbouring peoples, who had brought down 
this belief into Asia, in connection with fire-worship, 
from its earlier home in the North. Only in so far as 
that faith points in the end to an Aryan origin can it be 
said that Jesus was " an Aryan " ; any further statements 
on this point, such as, for example, Chamberlain makes 
in his "Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts," 
are pure fancies, and rest on a complete misunderstand- 
ing of the true state of affairs. Christianity, as the 
religion of Christ, of the "Lord," who secularised the 

* It is true that other theologians think differently on this point, 
as, e.g., Feine in his book, "Jesus Christus und Paulus" (1902), 
declares that Paul had "interested himself very much in gaining 
a distinct and comprehensive picture of Jesus' activity and per- 
sonality" (1) (229). 

| Kalthoff has in his writings laid especial stress on this social 
significance of Christianity. Cf. also Steudel, " Das Christentum 
und die Zukunft des Protestantismus" ("Deutsche "Wiedergeburt," iv., 
1909, 26 sq.), and Kautsky, " Der Ursprung des Christentums," 1908. 

14 



2io THE CHRIST MYTH 

Jewish Law by his voluntary death of expiation, did not 
" arise " in Jerusalem, but, if anywhere, in the Syrian 
capital Antioch, one of the principal places of the worship 
of Adonis. For it was at Antioch where, according to 
the Acts,* the name "Christians " was first used for the 
adherents of the new religion, who had till then been 
usually called Nazarenes.t 

That certainly is in sharpest contradiction to tradition, 
according to which Christianity is supposed to have 
arisen in Jerusalem and to have been thence spread 
abroad among the heathen. But Luke's testimony as 
to the arising of the community of the Messiah at 
Jerusalem and the spreading of the Gospel from that 
place can lay no claim to historical significance. Even 
the account of the disciples' experience at Easter and of 

* xl. 26. 

f In the same way Völlers also, in his work on "Die Welt- 
religionen" (1907), seeks to explain the faith of the original Chris- 
tian sects in Jesus' death and resurrection as a blend of the Adonis 
(Attis) and Christ faiths. He regards this as the essence of that 
faith, that the existing views of the Messiah and the Resurrection 
were transferred to one and the same person ; and shows from this of 
what great importance it must be that this faith met a well-prepared 
ground, in North Syria, Anatolia, and Egypt, where it naturally 
spread. But he treats the Jewish Diaspora of these lands as the 
natural mediator of the new preaching or "message of Salvation" 
(Gospel), and finds a proof of his view in this, "that the sphere of 
the greatest density of the Diaspora almost completely coincides 
with those lands where the growing and rising youthful God was 
honoured, and that these same districts are also the places in which 
we meet, only a generation after Jesus' death, the most numerous, 
flourishing, and fruitful communities of the new form of belief. It 
is the Eastern Mediterranean or Levantine horse-shoe shaped line 
which stretches from Ephesus and Bithynia through Anatolia to 
Tarsus and Antioch, thence through Syria and Palestine by way of 
the cult-centres Bubastes and Sais to Alexandria. Almost directly 
in the middle of these lands lies Aphaka, where was the chief sanc- 
tuary of the " Lord" Adonis, and a little south of this spot lies the 
country where the Saviour of the Gospels was born {pp. oit., 152). 



THE PA ULI NE J ES US 211 

the first appearances after the Resurrection, from their 
contradictory and confused character appear to be 
legendary inventions.* Unhistorical, and in contradic- 
tion to the information on this point given by Matthew 
and Mark, is the statement that the disciples stayed in 
Jerusalem after Jesus' death, which is even referred by 
Luke to an express command of the dead master.! Un- 
historical is the assemblage at Pentecost and the wonder- 
ful " miracle " of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, 
which, as even Clemen agrees, probably originated from 
the Jewish legends, according to which the giving of the 
Law on Sinai was made in seventy different languages, in 
order that it might be understood by all peoples. \ But 
also Stephen's execution and the consequent persecu- 
tion of the community at Jerusalem are legendary 
inventions. § The great trouble which Luke takes to 

* Cf. 0. Pfleiderer, " Die Entstehung des Christentums," 1905, 
109 sqq. 

f Luke xxiv. 33, xlix. 52 ; Acts i. 4, 8, 12 sqq. 

I " Religionsgesch. Erklärung d. N.T.," 261. Cf. also Joel iii. 1 and 
Isa. xxviii. 11, and the Buddhist account of the first sermon of 
Buddha : " Gods and men streamed up to him, and all listened breath- 
lessly to the words of the teacher. Each of the countless listeners 
believed that the wise man looked at him and spoke to him in his 
own language; though it was the dialect of Magadha which he 
spoke." Seydel, " Evangelium von Jesus," 248 ; " Buddha-Legende," 
92 sq. 

§ Stephen's so-called "martyrdom," whose feast falls on December 
26th, the day after the birth of Christ, owes its existence to 
astrology, and rests on the constellation of Corona (Gr., Stephanos), 
which becomes visible at this time on the eastern horizon (Dupuis, 
op. cit., 267). Hence the well-known phrase " to inherit the martyr's 
crown." Even the theologian Baur has found it strange that the 
Jewish Sanhedrin, which could not carry into effect any death 
sentence without the assent of the Boman governor, should com- 
pletely set aside this formality in the case of Stephen ; and he has 
clearly shown how the whole account of Stephen's martyrdom is 
paralleled with Christ's death (Baur, "Paulus," 25 sqq). 



212 THE CHRIST MYTH 

represent Jerusalem as the point whence the Christian 
movement set out, clearly betrays the tendency of the 
author of the Acts to misrepresent the activity of the 
Christian propaganda, which really emanated from many 
centres, as a bursting out of the Gospel from one focus. 
It is meant to produce the impression that the new 
religion spread from Jerusalem over the whole world like 
an explosion ; and thus its almost simultaneous appear- 
ance in the whole of Nearer Asia is explained. For this 
reason " devout Jews of all nations " were assembled in 
Jerusalem at Pentecost, and could understand each other 
in spite of their different languages. For this reason 
Stephen was stoned, and the motive given for that 
persecution which in one moment scattered the faithful 
in all directions.* 

Now it is certainly probable that there was in Jerusa- 
lem, just as in many other places, a community of the 
Messiah which believed in Jesus as the God sacrificing 
himself for humanity. But the question is whether this 
belief, in the community at Jerusalem, rested on a real 
man Jesus ; and whether it is correct to regard this 
community, some of whose members were personally 
acquainted with Jesus, and who were the faithful com- 
panions of his wanderings, as the " original community " 
in the sense of the first germ and point of departure of 
the Christian movement. We may believe, with Fräser, 
that a Jewish prophet and itinerant preacher, who by 
chance was named Jesus, was seized by his opponents, 
the orthodox Jews, on account of his revolutionary 
agitation, and was beheaded as the Haman of the current 
year, thereby giving occasion for the foundation of the 
community at Jerusalem. \ Against this it may be said 
that our informants as to the beginning of the Christian 
propaganda certainly vary, now making one assertion, 
* Smith, op. cit, 23-31. f Frazer, " Golden Bough," iii. 197. 



THE PAULINE JESUS 213 

now another, without caring whether these are con- 
tradictory ; and they all strive to make up for the lack 
of any certain knowledge by unmistakable inventions. 
If the doctrine of Jesus was, as Smith declares, pre- 
Christian, " a religion which was spread among the 
Jews and especially the Greeks within the limits of the 
century [100 b.c. to 100 A.D.], more or less secretly, and 
wrapped up in ■ Mysteries,' " then we can understand 
both the sudden appearance of Christianity over so wide 
a sphere as almost the whole of Nearer Asia, and also 
the fact that even the earliest informants as to the 
beginning of the Christian movement had nothing 
certain to tell. This, however, seems quite irreconcil- 
able with the view of a certain, definite, local, and 
personal point of departure for the new doctrine.* 
The objection will be raised : what about the Gospels? 
They, at least, clearly tell the story of a human indi- 
vidual, and are inexplicable, apart from the belief in an 
historical Jesus. 

The question consequently arises as to the source from 
which the Gospels derived a knowledge of this Jesus ; 
for on this alone the belief in an historical Jesus can 
rest. 

* Smith, op. cit., 30 sq. 



II 

THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 

HOWEVEB widely views may differ even now in 
the sphere of Gospel criticism, all really com- 
petent investigators agree on one point with rare unani- 
mity : the Gospels are not historical documents in the 
ordinary sense of the word, but creeds, religious books, 
literary documents revealing the mind of the Christian 
community. Their purpose is consequently not to give 
information as to the life and teachings of Jesus which 
would correspond to reality, but to awaken belief in 
Jesus as the Messiah sent from God for the redemption 
of his people, to strengthen and defend that belief against 
attacks. And as creeds they confine themselves naturally 
to recounting such words and events as have any signi- 
ficance for the faith ; and they have the greatest interest 
in so arranging and representing the facts as to make 
them accord with the content of that faith. 

(a) The Synoptic Jesus. 

Of the numerous Gospels which were still current in 
the first half of the second century, as is well known, 
only four have come down to us. The others were not 
embodied by the Church in the Canon of the New 
Testament writings, and consequently fell into oblivion. 
Of these at most a few names and isolated and insignifi- 
cant fragments remain to us. Thus we know of a Gospel 

214 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 215 

of Matthew, of Thomas, of Bartholomew, Peter, the 
twelve apostles, &c. Of our four Gospels, two bear the 
names of apostles and two the names of companions 
and pupils of apostles, viz., Mark and Luke. In this, 
of course, it is in no way meant that they were really 
written by these persons. According to Chrysostom 
these names were first assigned to them towards the 
end of the second century. And the titles do not run : 
Gospel of Matthew, of Mark, and so on, but " according 
to " Matthew, " according to " Mark, Luke, and John ; 
so that they indicate at most only the persons or schools 
whose particular conception of the Gospel they represent. 
Of these Gospels, again, that of John ranks as the 
latest. It presupposes the others, and shows such a 
dogmatic tendency, that it cannot be considered the 
source of the story. Of the remaining Gospels, which on 
account of their similarity as to form and matter have 
been termed "Synoptic" {i.e., such as must be dealt 
with in connection with each other and thus only give 
a real idea of the Saviour's personality), that of Mark 
is generally regarded as the oldest. Matthew and Luke 
rely on Mark, and all three, according to the prevailing 
view, are indebted to a common Aramiac source, wherein 
Jesus' didactic sermons are supposed to have been 
contained. Tradition points to John Mark, the nephew 
of Barnabas, pupil of Peter, and Paul's companion on 
his first missionary journey and later a sharer in the 
captivity at Kome, as the author of the Gospel of Mark. 
It is believed that this was written shortly after the 
destruction of Jerusalem (70) — i.e., at least forty years 
after Jesus' death (!). This tradition depends upon a note 
of the Church historian Eusebius (d. about 340 A.D.), 
according to which Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia 
Minor, learnt from the " elder John" that Mark had set 
forth what he had heard from Peter, and what this latter 



2i6 THE CHRIST MYTH 

had in turn heard from the "Lord." On account of its 
indirect nature and of Eusebius' notorious unreliability 
this note is not a very trustworthy one,* and belief in it 
should disappear in view of the fact that the author of 
the Gospel of Mark had no idea of the spot where Jesus 
is supposed to have lived. And yet Mark is supposed to 
have been born in Jerusalem and to have been a mission- 
ary ! As Wernle shows in his work, " Die Quellen des 
Lebens Jesu," Mark stands quite far from the life of 
Jesus both in time and place (!) ; indeed, he has no clear 
idea of Jesus' doings and course of life, t And Wrede 
confirms this in his work, " Das Messias-geheimnis " 
(1901), probably the clearest and deepest inquiry into the 
fundamental problem of the Gospel of Mark which we 
possess. Jesus is for Mark at once the Messiah and the 
Son of God. " Faith in this dogma must be aroused, it 
must be established and defended. The whole Gospel is 
a defence. Mark wishes to lead all his readers, among 
whom he counts the Heathens and Gentile Christians, 
to the recognition of what the heathen centurion said, 



* As to the small value of Papias' statement, cf . Gfrörer, " Die 
heilige Sage," 1838, i. 3-23 ; also Lützelberger, " Die kirchl. Tradition 
über den Apostel Johannes," 76-93. The whole story, according to 
which Mark received the essential content of the Gospel named 
after him from Peter, is based on 1 Peter v. 13, and merely serves 
the purpose of increasing the historical value of the Gospel o 
Mark. " As the first Gospel was believed to be the work of the 
Apostle Matthew, and the second (Luke) the work of an assistant 
of Paul, it was very easy to ascribe to the third (Mark) at least a 
similar origin as the second, i.e., to trace it back in an analogous 
way to Peter ; as it would have seemed natural for the chief of the 
apostles, longest dead, to have had his own Gospel, one dedicated to 
him, as well as Paul. The passage 1 Peter v. 13, " My son Mark 
saluteth you," gave a suitable opportunity for bestowing a name on 
the book," (Gfrörer, op. cit., 15 ; cf. also Brandt, " Die evangelische 
Geschichte u. d. Ursprung des Christentums," 1893, 535 sq.). 

f Op. cit., 58. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 217 

* Truly this man was the Son of God ! '* The whole 
account is directed to this end."t 

Mark's main proof for this purpose is that of miracles. 
Jesus' doctrines are with Mark of so much less import- 
ance than his miracles, that we never learn exactly what 
Jesus preached. " Consequently the historical portrait is 
very obscure : Jesus' person is distorted into the grotesque 
and the fantastic " (!)t Not only does Mark often intro- 
duce his own thought into the tradition about Jesus, and 
so prove perfectly wrong, and indeed absurd, the view 
held, for instance, by Wernle, that Jesus had intentionally 
made use of an obscure manner of speech and had spoken 
in parables and riddles so as not to be understood by 
the people ; § but also the connection which he has 
established between the accounts, which had first gone 
from mouth to mouth for a long time in isolation, is a 
perfectly disconnected and external one. At first the 
stories reported by Mark were totally disconnected with 
one another. There is no evidence at all of their having 
followed each other in the present order (!).|| So that 
only the matter, not what Mark made of it, is of histori- 
cal value.1I Single stories, discourses, and phrases are 
bound into a whole by Mark ; and often enough it may 
be seen that we have here a tradition which was first 
built up in the earliest Christianity long after Jesus' 
death. Experiences were at first gradually fashioned 
into a story — and the miracle-stories may especially be 
regarded in this way. In spite of all these trimmings 
and alterations, and in spite of the fact that neither in 
the words of Jesus nor in the stories is it for the most 
part any longer possible to separate the actual from the 

* xv. 39. f 60. I Id. 

§ The proper explanation for this should lie in the fact that the 
Jesus-faith was set up as a sect-faith and not for " outsiders." 
|| 63 sqq. 1T 68. 



2i8 THE CHRIST MYTH 

traditional, which for forty years was not put into 
writing — in spite of all this, the historical value of the 
traditions given us by Mark is "very highly" estimated. 
For not only is " the general impression of power, origi- 
nality, and creation " " valuable," which is given in this 
account of Mark's, but also there are so many individual 
phrases " corresponding to reality." Numerous accounts, 
momentary pictures and remarks, "speak for themselves." 
The modesty and ingenuousness (!), the freshness and 
joy (!) with which Mark recounts all this, show distinctly 
that he is here the reporter of a valid tradition, and that 
he writes nothing but what eye-witnesses have told 
him (!). "And so finally, in spite of all, this Gospel 
remains an extraordinarily valuable work, a collection of 
old and genuine material, which is loosely arranged 
and placed under a few leading conceptions ; produced 
perhaps by that Mark whom the New Testament knows, 
and of whom Papias heard from the mouth of the elder 
John." * 

One does not trust one's eyes with this style of attempt- 
ing to set up Mark as an even half -credible " historical 
source." This attempt will remind us only too forcibly 
of Wrede's ironical remarks when he is making fun of 
the " decisions as you like it " that flourish in the study 
of Jesus' life. " This study," says Wrede, " suffers from 
psychological suggestion, and this is one style of historical 
solution." \ One believes that he can secure this, another 
that, as the historical nucleus of the Gospel ; but neither 
has objective proofs for his assertions.! If we wish to 

* 70. 
13. 

J It strikes the reader, who stands apart from the controversy, as 
comical to find the matter characterised in the theological works on 
the subject as " undoubtedly historical," " distinct historical fact," 
"true account of history," and so forth; and to consider that what 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 219 

work with an historical nucleus, we must really make cer- 
tain of a nucleus. The whole point is, that in an anecdote 
or phrase something is proved, which makes any other 
explanation of the matter under consideration improbable, 
or at least doubtful.* It seems very questionable, after 
his radical criticism of the historical credibility of Mark's 
Gospel, that Wrede saw in it such a "historical kernel" — 
though this is supposed by Wernle to " speak for itself." 
Moreover, "Wrede 's opinion of the "historian" Mark is 
not essentially different from Wernle's. In his opinion, 
for example, Jesus' disciples, as the Gospel portrays 
them, with their want of intelligence bordering on 
idiocy, their folly, and their ambiguous conduct as regards 
their Master, are " not real figures." t He also concedes, 
as we have stated, that Mark had no real idea of the 
historical life of Jesus,! even if " pallid fragments" (!) of 
such an idea entered into his superhistorical faith-concep- 
tion. " The Gospel of Mark," he says, "has in this sense 
a place among the histories of dogma." § The belief that 
in it the development of Jesus' public life is still per- 
ceptible appears to be decaying. || " It would indeed be 
in the highest degree desirable that such a Gospel were 
not the oldest." IT 

Thus, then, does Mark stand as an historical source. 
After this we could hardly hope to be much strengthened 
in our belief in Jesus' historical reality by the other two 
Synoptics. Of these, Luke's Gospel must have been 
written, in the early part of the second century, by an 

holds for one as " historically certain " is set aside by another as 
"quite certainly unhistorical." Where is the famous " method " of 
which the " critical " theologians are so proud in opposition to the 
" laity," who allow themselves to form judgments as to the historical 
worth or worthlessness of the Gospels ? 

* Wrede, op. cit., 91. f 104. { 129. 

§ 131. |i 148. IT 148. 



220 THE CHRIST MYTH 

unknown Gentile Christian; and Matthew's is not the 
work of a single author, but was produced — and unmis- 
takably in the interests of the Church — by various hands 
in the first half of the second century.* But now both, 

* Cf. Pfleiderer, "Entstehung des Christentums," 207, 213. All 
estimates as to the time at which the Gospels were produced rest 
entirely on suppositions, in which points of view quite different from 
that of purely historical interest generally predominate. Thus it has 
been the custom on the Catholic side to pronounce, not Mark or Luke, 
but Matthew, to be the oldest source. "Proofs "for this are also 
given — naturally, as it is indeed the " Church " Gospel : it contains 
the famous passage (xvi. 18, 19) about Peter's possession of the 
keys ; how, then, should this not be the oldest ? And lately Harnack 
(" Beiträge zur Einl. in das N.T.," iii., " Die Apostelgeschichte," 1908) 
has tried to prove that the Acts, with the Gospel of Luke, had been 
already produced in the early part of the year 60 A.D. But he does 
not dare to come to a real decision ; and his reasons are opposed by 
just as weighty ones which are against that " possibility " suggested 
by him {op. cit., 219 sqq.). Such is, first, the fact that all the other 
early Christian writings which belong to the first century, as the 
Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, evidently know 
nothing of them. In the Epistle of Barnabas, written about 96 A.D., 
we read that Jesus chose as his own apostles, as men who were to 
proclaim his Gospel, " of all men the most evil, to show that he had 
come to call, not the righteous, but sinners, to repentance " (iv.). 
As to this Liitzelberger very justly remarks, " That is more even than 
our Gospels say. For these are content to prove that Jesus did not 
come for the righteous by saying that he ate with publicans and was 
anointed by women of evil life ; while in this Epistle even the Apostles 
must be most wicked sinners, so that grace may shine forth to them. 
This passage was quite certainly written neither by an Apostle nor by 
a pupil of an Apostle ; and also it was not written after our Gospels, but 
at a time when the learned Masters of the Church had still a free 
hand to show their spirit and ingenuity in giving form to the evan- 
gelical story" ("Die hist. Tradition," 236 sq.). But also the so-called 
Epistle of Clement, which must have been written at about the same 
time, is completely silent as to the Gospels, while the " Doctrine of 
the Twelve Apostles," which perhaps also belongs to the end of the 
first century, cites Christ's words, such as stand in the Gospels, but 
not as sayings of Jesus. Moreover, according to Harnack, the 
" Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles " is the Christian elaboration of an 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 221 

as we have said, are based on Mark. And even if in 
their representations they have attained a certain "pecu- 
liar value " which is wanting in Mark — e.g., a greater 
number of Jesus' parables and words — even if they have 
embellished the story of his life by the addition of legen- 
dary passages (e.g., of the history of the time preceding 
the Saviour, of many additions to the account of the 
Passion and Resurrection, &c), this cannot quite estab- 
lish the existence of an historical Jesus. It is true that 
Wernle takes the view that in this respect "old traditions " 
have been preserved "with wonderful fidelity" by both 
the Evangelists ; but, on the other hand, he concedes as 
to certain of Luke's accounts that even if he had used 
old traditions they need not have been as yet written, 
and certainly they need not have been " historically re- 
liable." It seems rather peculiar when, leaving completely 
on one side the historical value of the tradition, he 
emphatically declares that even such a strong interest, 
as in his opinion the Evangelists had in the shaping and 
formation of their account, could not in any way set aside 
" the worth of its rich treasure of parables and stories, 
through which Jesus himself [!] speaks to us with fresh- 
ness and originality " (!). He also strangely sums up at 
the end, " that the peculiar value of both Gospels, in 
spite of their very mixed nature, has claim enough on 
our gratitude" (!).* This surely is simply to make use 
of the Gospels' literary or other value in the interest of 
the belief in their historical credibility. 

But there is still the collection of sayings, that "great 
authority on the matter," from which all the Synoptics, 
and especially Luke and Matthew, are supposed to have 

early Jewish document ; whence we may conclude that its Words of 
Christ have a similar origin in Jewish thought to that from which 
the Gospels obtained them. (Cf. Lützelberger, op. cit., 259-271.) 

* 81. 



222 THE CHRIST MYTH 

derived the material for their declarations about Jesus. 
Unfortunately this is to us a completely unknown 
quantity, as we know neither what this " great " 
authority treats of, nor the arrangement of the matter 
in it, nor its text. We can only say that this collection 
was written in the Aramaic tongue, and the arrangement 
of its matter was not apparently chronological, but 
according to the similarity of its contents. Again, it 
is doubtful whether the collection was a single work, 
produced by one individual ; or whether it had had a 
history before it came to Luke and Matthew. All the 
same, " the collection contains such a valuable number 
of the Lord's words, that in all probability an eye- 
witness was its author " (!).* As for the speeches of Jesus 
constructed from it, they were never really made as 
speeches by Jesus, but owe the juxtaposition of their 
contents entirely to the hand of the compiler. Thus the 
much admired Sermon on the Mount is constructed by 
placing together individual phrases of Jesus, which 
belong to all periods of his life, perhaps made in the 
course of a year. The ideas running through it and 
connecting the parts are not those of Jesus, but rather 
those of the original community; "nevertheless, the 
historical value of these speeches is, on the whole, very- 
great indeed. Together with the ' Lord's words ' of Mark 
they give us the truest insight into the spirit of the 
Gospel" (!).t 

Such are the authorities for the belief in an historical 
Jesus ! If we survey all that remains of the Gospels, 
this does indeed appear quite " scanty," or, speaking 
plainly, pitiable. Wernle consoles himself with, " If 
only it is certain and reliable." Yes, if ! " And if only 
it was able to give us an answer to the chief question : 
Who was Jesus?"! This much is certain: a "Life of 

* 71. t 81 sq. J Id. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 223 

Jesus" cannot be written on the basis of the testimony 
before us. Probably all present-day theologians are 
agreed on this point ; which, however, does not prevent 
them producing new essays on it, at any rate for the 
"people," thus making up for the lack of historical 
reliability by edifying effusions and rhetorical phrases. 
" There is no lack of valuable historical matter, of 
stones for the construction of Jesus' life ; they lie 
before us plentifully. But the plan for the construction 
is lost and completely irretrievable, because the oldest 
disciples had no occasion for such an historical connection, 
but rather claimed obedience to the isolated words and 
acts, so far as they aroused faith." But would they 
have been less faith-arousing if they had been arranged 
connectedly, would the credibility of the accounts of 
Jesus have been diminished and not much rather in- 
creased, if the Evangelists had taken the trouble to give 
us some more information as to Jesus' real life ? As 
things stand at present, hardly two events are recounted 
in the same manner in the Gospels, or even in the same 
connection. Indeed, the differences and contradictions — 
and this not only as to unimportant things, such as 
names, times and places, &c. — are so great that these 
literary documents of Christianity can hardly be sur- 
passed in confusion. * But even this is, according to 
Wer nie, "not so great a pity, if only we can discover 
with sufficient clearness, what Jesus' actions and wishes 
were on important points." f Unfortunately we are 
not in a position to do even this. For the ultimate 
source of our information, which we arrive at in our 
examination of the authorities is completely unknown to 

* The laity has, as is well known, but a slight suspicion of this. 
So S. E. Verus' "Vergleichende Übersicht der vier Evangelien" 
(1897), with the commentary, is to be recommended. 

t 83. 



224 THE CHRIST MYTH 

us — the Aramaic collection of sayings, and those very 
old traditions from which Mark is supposed to have 
derived his production, gleanings of which have been 
preserved for us by Luke and Matthew. But even if we 
knew these also, we would almost certainly not have 
"come to Jesus himself." " They contain the possibility 

y of dispute and misrepresentation. They recount in the 
first place the faith of the oldest Christians, a faith 
which arose in the course of four hundred years, and 
moreover changed much in that time." * So that at 

j most we know only the faith of the earliest community. 
We see how this community sought to make clear to 
itself through Jesus its belief in the Eesurrection, how it 
sought to "prove" to itself and to others the divine 
nature of Jesus by the recital of tales of miracles and 
• the like. What Jesus himself thought, what he did, 

• > what he taught, what his life was, and — might we say 

it ? — whether he ever lived at all — that is not to be learnt 

from the Gospels, and, according to all the preceding 

.discussion, cannot be settled from them with lasting 

certainty. 

Of course the liberal theologian, for whom everything 
is compatible with an historical Jesus, has many re- 
sources. He explains that all the former discussion has 
not touched the main point, and that this point is — What 
was Jesus' attitude to God, to the world, and to man- 
kind ? What answer did he give to the questions : 
What matters in the eyes of God ? and What is religion ? 
This should indicate that the solution of the problem is 
contained in what has preceded, and that this solution is 
unknown to us. But such is not the case. Wernle knows 
it, and examines it " in the clear light of day." "From 
his numerous parables and sermons and from countless 
momentary recollections it comes to us as clearly and 

* 83. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 225 

distinctly as if Jesus were our contemporary [!] . No man 
on earth can say that it is either uncertain or obscure 
how Jesus thought on this point, which is to us [viz., 
to the liberal theologians] even at the present day the 
chief point." "And if Christianity has forgotten for 
a thousand years what its Master desired first and 
before all, to-day [i.e., after the clear solutions of 
critical theology] it shines on us once more from the 
Gospels as clearly and wonderfully, as if the sun were 
newly risen, driving before its conquering rays all 
the phantoms and shadows of night."* And so Wernle 
himself, to whom we owe this consoling assurance, has 
written a work, "Die Anfänge unserer Eeligion " 
(1901), which is highly esteemed in theological circles, 
and in which he has given a detailed account, in a tone 
of overwhelming assurance, of the innermost thoughts, 
views, words, and teachings of Jesus and of his followers, 
just as if he had been actually present. 

"We must be careful of our language. These are 
indeed the views of a man who must be taken seriously, 
with whom we have been dealing above, a " shining 
light " of his science ! The often cited work on " Die 
Quellen des Lebens Jesu " belongs to the series of 
" Popular Books on the History of Eeligion," which 
contains the quintessence of present-day theological study, 
and which is intended for the widest circles interested 
and instructed in religion. "We may suppose, probably 
with justice, that that work expresses what the liberal 
theology of our day wishes the members of the com- 
munity subject to it to know and to believe. Or is it 
only that the popular books on the history of religion 
place the intellectual standard of their readers so low 
that they think they can strengthen the educated in their 
belief in an historical Jesus by productions such as 

* 85 sq. 

15 



226 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Wernle's ? We consider the more " scientifically " 
elaborated works of other important theologians on the 
same subject. We think of Beyschlag, Harnack, Bernard 
Weiss, of Pfleiderer, Jülicher, and Holtzmann. We 
consult Bousset, who defended against Kalthoff, with 
such great determination and warmth, the existence of 
an historical Jesus. Everywhere there is the same half- 
comic, half-pathetic drama : on the one hand the evan- 
gelical authorities are depreciated and the information 
is criticised away to such an extent that hardly anything 
positive remains from it ; on the other hand there is a 
pathetic enthusiasm for the so-called " historical kernel." 
Then comes praise for the so-called critical theology and 
its " courageous truthfulness," which, however, ultimately 
consists only in declaring evident myths and legends to 
be such. This was known for a long time previously 
among the unprejudiced. There usually follows a hymn 
to Jesus with ecstatic raising of the eyes, as if all the 
statements concerning him in the Gospels still had 
validity. What then does Hausrath say ? — " To conceal 
the miraculous parts of the [evangelical] accounts and 
then to give out the rest as historical, has not hitherto 
passed as criticism." * Can we object to Catholic 

* " Jesus u. d. neutestamentl. Schriftsteller," ii. 43. Let us take the 
final paragraph in E. Petersen's " Die wunderbare Geburt des 
Heilandes," which reaches the zenith in proving the mythical nature 
of the evangelical account of the Saviour's birth : " If, not because 
we wish it, but because we are forced to do so by the necessity of 
History, we remove the sentence, ' Conceived of the Holy Ghost, 
born of the Virgin Mary ' — Jesus nevertheless remains the ' Son of 
God.' He remains such because he experienced God as his father, 
and because he stands at God's side for us. Also, in spite of our 
setting aside the miraculous birth as unhistorical, we are quite justi- 
fied in declaring ' Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.' " M. 
Brückner speaks similarly at the close of his otherwise excellent work. 
" Der sterbende und auferstehende Gottheiland." For the person to 
whom such phraseology is not — futile, there is no help. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 227 

theology because it looks with open pity on the whole 
of Protestant " criticism," and reproaches it with the 
inconsistency, incompleteness, and lack of results, 
which is the mark of all its efforts to discover the be- 
ginnings of Christianity.* Is it not right in rejoicing at 
the blow which Protestantism has sustained and from 
which it must necessarily suffer through all such attempts 
at accepting the Gospels as basis for a belief in an 
historical Jesus ? Certainly what Catholic theologians 
bring forward in favour of the historical Jesus is so 
completely devoid of any criticism or even of any genuine 
desire to elucidate the facts, that it would be doing them 
too much honour to make any more detailed examination 
of their works on this point. For them the whole 
problem has a very simple solution in this : the existence 
of the historical Jesus forms the unavoidable presupposi- 
tion of the Church, even though every historical fact 
should register its veto against it ; and as one of its 
writers has put it, that is at bottom the long-established 
and .unanimous view of all our inquiries into the subject 
under discussion: "The historical testimony for the 
authenticity of the Gospels is as old, as extensive, and as 
well established as it is for very few other books of 
ancient literature [!]. If we do not wish to be inconsistent 
we cannot question their authenticity. Their credibility 
is beyond question ; for their authors were eye-witnesses 
of the events [!] related, or they gained their information 
from such; they were as competent judges [!] as men 
loving the truth can well be ; they could, and in fact 
were obliged to speak the truth." f 

* Cf. " Jesus Christus," a course of lectures delivered at the 
University of Freiburg i. B., 1908. 

f Schäfer, " Die Evangelien und die Evangelienkritik," 1908, 123. 
The story of the Church's development in the first century is a story 
of shameless literary falsifications, of rough violence in matters of 



228 THE CHRIST MYTH 

How distinguished, as compared with this kind of 
theologian, Kalthoff seems ! It is true that we are 
obliged to allow for the one-sidedness and insufficiency 
of his positive working out of the origin of Christianity, 
of his attempt to explain it, on the basis of Mark's 
handling of the story, purely on the lines of social 
motives, and to represent Christ as the mere reflection 
of the Christian community and of its experiences. 
Quite certainly he is wrong in identifying the biblical 
Pilate with Pliny, the governor of Bithynia under Trajan, 
and in the proof based on this ; and this because in all 
probability Pliny's letter to the Emperor is a later Chris- 
tian forgery.* But Kalthoff is quite right in what he 
says about modern critical theology and its historical 
Jesus. The critical theologians may think themselves 
justified in treating this embarrassing opponent as 
"incompetent," or in ignoring him on account of the 
mistaken basis of argument ; but all the efforts made 
with such great perseverance and penetration by historical 
theologians to derive from the authorities before us proof 
of the existence of a man Jesus in the traditional sense 
have led, as Kalthoff very justly says, to a purely negative 
conclusion. " The numerous passages in the Gospels 
which this theology, in maintaining its historical Jesus, 
is obliged to place on one side and pass over, stand from 
a literary point of view exactly on the same footing as 
those passages from which it constructs its historical 
Jesus ; and consequently they claim historical value equal 
to these latter. The Synoptic Christ, in whom modern 

faith, of unlimited rial of the credence of the masses. So that for 
those who know history the iteration of the " credibility " of the 
Christian writers of the age raises at most but an ironical smile. 
Cf. Robertson, " History of Christianity," 1910. 

* Cf. Hochart, "Etudes au sujet de la persecution des Chretiens 
sous Nöron," 1885, cp. 4. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 229 

theology thinks it finds the characteristics of the historical 
Jesus, stands not a hair's breadth nearer to a human 
interpretation of Christianity than the Christ of the 
fourth Gospel. What the Epigones of liberal theology 
think they can distil from this Synoptic Christ as his- 
torical essence has historical value only as a monument 
of masterly sophistry, which has produced its finest 
examples in the name of theological science." * Historical 
research should not have so long set apart from all other 
history that of early Christianity as the special domain of 
theology and handed it over to churchmen, as if for the 
decision of the questions on this point quite special talent 
was necessary — a talent far beyond the ordinary sphere 
of science and one which was only possessed by the 
Church theologian. The world would then long since have 
done with the whole literature of the "Life of Jesus." 
The sources which give information of the origin of 
Christianity are of such a kind that, considering the 
present standard of historical research, no historian 
would care to undertake an attempt to produce the 
biography of an historical Christ. f They are, we can add, 
of such a nature that a real historian, who meets them 
without a previous conviction or expectation that he will 
find an historical Jesus in it, cannot for a moment doubt 
that he has here to do with religious fiction,! with myth 

* A. Kalthoff, " Das Christusproblem, Grundzüge zu einer Sozial- 
theologie," 1902, 14 sq. 

f Kalthoff, " Die Entstehung des Christentums : Neue Beiträge 
zum Christusproblem," 1904, 8. 

| If v. Soden ("Hat Jesus gelebt?" vii. 45) has proved wrong 
the comparison with the Tell-legend, and thinks I have " probably 
once more " forgotten that Schiller first transformed a very meagre 
legend, which was bound up in a single incident, from grey antiquity 
into a living picture, he can know neither Tschudi nor J. v. Müller. 
Cf. Hertslet, "Der Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte," 6 Aufl., 1905, 
216 sqq. 



230 THE CHRIST MYTH 

in an historical form, which does not essentially differ 
from other myths and legends — such as perhaps the 
legend of Tell. 

Supplement : Jesus in Secular Literature. 

There seems to be but little hope of considerably 
adding to the weight of the reasons in favour of the 
historical existence of Jesus by citing documents of 
secular literature. As is well known, only two passages 
of the Jewish historian Josephus, and one in each of 
the Eoman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, must be 
considered in this connection. As for the testimony of 
Josephus in his "Antiquities," which was written 
93 a.D., the first passage (viz., xviii. 3, 3) is so evidently 
an after-insertion of a later age, that even Roman 
Catholic theologians do not venture to declare it 
authentic, though they always attempt, with pitiful 
naivete, to support the credibility of pre-Christian 
documents of this type.* But the other passage, too 
(xx. 9, 1), which states that James was executed under 
the authority of the priest Ananos (A.D. 62), and refers 
to him as "the Brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ," 
in the opinion of eminent theologians such as Credner,t 
Schürer,]: &c., must be regarded as a forgery ;§ but 

* The passage runs : " At this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if 
he may be called a man, for he accomplished miracles and was a 
teacher of men who joyously embrace the truth, and he found a great 
following among Jews and Greeks. This one was the Christ. 
Although at the accusation of the leading men of our people Pilate 
sentenced him to the cross, those who had first loved him remained 
still faithful. For he appeared again to them on the third day, risen 
again to a new life, as the prophets of God had foretold of him, with 
a thousand other prophecies. After him are called the Christians, 
whose sect has not come to an end." 

f "Einl. ins N.T.," 1836, 581. 

X "Gesch. d. jüd. Volkes," i. 548. 

§ Origen, though he collected all Josephus' assertions which could 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 231 

even if its authenticity were established it would still 
prove nothing in favour of the historical Jesus. For, 
first, it leaves it undecided whether a bodily relationship 
is indicated by the word " Brother," or whether, as is 
much more likely, the reference is merely to a reli- 
gious brotherhood (see above, 170 sq.). Secondly, the 
passage only asserts that there was a man of the name 
of Jesus who was called Christ, and this is in no way 
extraordinary in view of the fact that at the time of 
Josephus, and far into the second century, many gave 
themselves out as the expected Messiah. * 

The Eoman historians' testimony is in no better case 
than that of Josephus. It is true that Tacitus writes in 
his " Annals " (xv. 44), in connection with the persecution 
of the Christians under Nero (64), that "the founder of 
this sect, Christ, was executed in Tiberius' reign by the 
procurator Pontius Pilate" ; and Suetonius states in his 
biography of the Emperor Claudius, chap, xxv., that he 
" drove out of Borne the Jews, who had caused great dis- 
turbances at the instigation of Chrestus." What does 
this prove ? Are we so certain that the passage cited 
from Tacitus as to the persecution of the Christians 
under Nero is not after all a later insertion and falsifi- 
cation of the original text ? This is indeed the case, 
judging from Hochart's splendid and exhaustive inquiry. 
In fact, everything points to the idea that the " first 
persecution of the Christians," which is previously 
mentioned by no writers, either Jewish or heathen, is 
nothing but the product of a Christian's imagination in 

serve as support to the Christian religion, does not know the passage, 
but probably another, in which the destruction of Jerusalem was 
represented as a punishment for James' execution, which is certainly 
a forgery. 

* Cf . Kalthoff, " Entstehung d. Chr.," 16 sq. As to the whole matter, 
Schürer, op. cit., 544-549. 



232 THE CHRIST MYTH 

the fifth century.* But let us admit the authenticity 
of Tacitus' assertion ; let us suppose also that by 
Suetonius' Chrestus is really meant Christ and not a 
popular Jewish rioter of that name ; let us suppose that 
the unrest of the Jews was not connected with the 
expectation of the Messiah, or that the Koman historian, 
in his ignorance of the Jewish dreams of the future, did 
not imagine a leader of the name of Chrestus. t Can 
writers of the first quarter of the second century after 
Christ, at which time the tradition was already formed 
and Christianity had made its appearance in History as 
a power, be regarded as independent authorities for 
facts which are supposed to have taken place long before 
the birth of the Tradition ? Tacitus can at most have 
heard that the Christians were followers of a Christ who 
was supposed to have been executed under Pontius Pilate. 
That was probably even at that time in the Gospels — and 
need not, therefore, be a real fact of history. And if it 
has been proved, according to Mommsen, that Tacitus 
took his material from the protocols of the 'Senate and 
imperial archives, there has equally been, on the other 



* V. Soden proves the contrary in his work, " Hat Jesus gelebt ? " 
(1910), " in order to show the reliability of Drew's assertions," from 
Clement's letter of 96 A.D., from Dionysius of Corinth (about 170) 
from Tertullion and Eusebius (early fourth century, not third, as 
v. Soden writes) ; and wishes to persuade his readers that the 
persecution under Nero is testified to. The authenticity of the 
letter of Clement is, however, quite uncertain, and has been most 
actively combated, from its first publication in 1633 till the present 
day, by investigators of repute, such as Semler, Baur, Schwegler, 
Volkmar, Keim, &c. But as for the above-cited authors, the unim- 
portance of their assertions on the point is so strikingly exhibited by 
Hochart that we have no right to call them up as witnesses for the 
authenticity of the passage of Tacitus. 

f Cf. Hochart, op. cit., 280 sqq.; H. Schiller, "Gesch. d. röm 
Kaiserzeit," 447, note. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 233 

hand, a most definite counter-assertion that he never 
consulted these authorities.* 

Lately, Tacitus proving to be slightly inconsistent, it 
has been usual to refer to Pliny's letter to the Emperor 
Trajan, asserting that the historical Jesus is certified to 
in this. The letter hinges on the question of what 
Pliny's attitude as Governor of Bithynia must be to the 
Christians ; so that naturally the Christians are much 
spoken of, and once even there is mention of Christ, 
whose followers sing alternate hymns to him "as to a 
God" (quasi deo). But Jesus as an historical person is 
not once mentioned in the whole letter ; and Christ was 
even for Paul a " Quasi-god," a being fluctuating between 
man and God. What then is proved by the letter of 
Pliny as to the historical nature of Jesus ? It only 
proves the liberal theologians' dilemma over the whole 
question, that they think they can cite these witnesses 

* " Consulting the archives has been but little customary among 
ancient historians; and Tacitus has bestowed but little considera- 
tion on the Acta Diurna and the protocols of the Senate " (" Handb. 
d. klass. Altertumsw.," viii., 2 Abt., Aft. 2, under " Tacitus "). Moreover, 
the difficulties of the passage from Tacitus have been fully realised 
by German historians (H. Schiller, op. cit., 449; " De. Gesch. d. röm 
Kaiserreiches unter der Eegierung des Nero," 1872, 434 sqq., 583 sq.), 
even if they do not generally go as far as to say that the passage is com- 
pletely unauthentic, as Volney did at the end of the eighteenth century 
(" Euinen," Reclam, 276). Cf. also Arnold, " Die neronische Christen- 
verfolgung. Eine historiche Untersuchung zur Geschichte d. ältesten 
Kirche," 1888. The author does indeed adhere to the authenticity of 
the passage in Tacitus, but as a matter of fact he presupposes it 
rather than attempts to prove it ; while in many isolated reflections 
he gives an opinion against the correctness of the account given by 
Tacitus, and busies himself principally in disproving false inferences 
connected with that passage, such as the connection of the Neronic 
persecution with the Book of Eevelation. The conceivable possibility 
that the persecution actually took place, but that at all events the 
sentence of Tacitus may be a Christian interpolation, Arnold seems 
never to have considered. 



234 THE CHRIST MYTH 

again and again for strengthening the belief in an 
historical Jesus, as, e.g. Melhorn does in his work 
" Wahrheit und Dichtung im Leben Jesu " (in " Aus 
Natur und Geisteswelt," 1906), trying to make it appear 
that these witnesses are in any way worthy of considera- 
tion. Joh. Weiss also — according to the newspaper account 
— in his lecture on Christ in the Berlin vacation-course 
of March, 1910, confessed that " statements from secular 
literature as to the historical nature of Jesus which are 
absolutely free of objection are very far from having 
been authenticated." Even an orthodox theologian like 
Kropatscheck writes in the "Kreuzzeitung" (April 7, 
1910) : " It is well known that the non-Christian writers in 
a very striking way ignore the appearing of Christ. The 
few small notices in Tacitus, Suetonius, &c, are easily 
enumerated. Though we date our chronology from him, 
his advent made no impression at all on the great 
historians of his age. The Talmud gives a hostile 
caricature of his advent which has no historical value. 
The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, from whom we 
might have expected information of the first rank, is 
absolutely silent. We are referred to our Gospels, as 
Paul also says little of the life of Jesus ; and we can 
understand how it is that attempts are always being 
made to remove him, as an historical person, from the 
past." The objection to this, that the secular writers, 
even though they give no positive testimony for Jesus' 
historical existence, have never brought it in question, is 
of very little strength. For the writings considered in 
it, viz., Justin's conversation with the Jew Trypho, as 
well as the polemical work of Celsus against Christianity, 
both belong to the latter half of the second century, while 
the passages in the Talmud referred to are probably of a 
later date, and all these passages are merely based on the 
tradition. So that this "proof from silence" is in reality 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 235 

no proof. It is, rather, necessary to explain why the 
whole of the first century, apart from the Gospels, seems 
to know nothing of Jesus as an historical personality. 
The Frenchman Hochart ridicules the theological attitude: 
" It seems that the most distinguished men lose a part of 
their brilliant character in the study of martyrology. Let 
us leave it to German theologians to study history in 
their way. We Frenchmen wish throughout our inquiries 
to preserve our clearness of mind and healthy common- 
sense. Let us not invent new legends about Nero : there 
are really too many already."* 



(b) The Objections against a Denial of the 
Historicity of the Synoptic Jesus. 

There the matter ends : we know nothing of Jesus, of 
an historical personality of that name to whom the events 
and speeches recorded in the Gospels refer. " In default 
of any historical certainty the name of Jesus has become 
for Protestant theology an empty vessel, into which that 
theology pours the content of its own meditations." t 
And if there is any excuse for this, it is that that name 
has never at any time been anything but such an empty 
vessel : Jesus, the Christ, the Deliverer, Saviour, 
Physician of oppressed souls, has been from first to 
last a figure borrowed from myth, to whom the desire 
for redemption and the na'ive faith of the Western Asiatic 
peoples have transferred all their conceptions of the soul's 
welfare. The "history" of this Jesus in its general 
characteristics had been determined even before the 
evangelical Jesus. Even Weinel, one of the most zealous 
and enthusiastic adherents of the modern Jesus-worship, 

* Op. cit., 227. 

f Kalthoff, " Christusproblem," 17. 



236 THE CHRIST MYTH 

confesses that " Christology was almost completed before 
Jesus came on earth."* 

It was not, however, merely the general frame and out- 
lines of the "history" of Jesus which had been determined 
in the Messiah-faith, in the idea of a divine spirit sent 
from God, of the " Son of Man " of Daniel and the Jewish 
Apocalyptics, &c, not merely that this vague idea was 
filled out with new content through the Bedeemer- 
worship of the neighbouring heathen peoples. Besides 
this, many of the individual traits of the Jesus-figure 
were present, some in heathen mythology, some in the 
Old Testament ; and they were taken thence and worked 
into the evangelical representation. There is, for instance, 
the story of the twelve-year old Jesus in the Temple. 
"Who would have invented this story? " asks Jeremias. 
" Nevertheless," he thinks it " probable " that in this 
Luke was thinking of Philo's description of the life of 
Moses ; he calls to mind that Plutarch gives us a quite 
similar statement concerning Alexander, whose life was 
consciously decorated with all the traits of the Oriental 
King-redeemer, t Perhaps, however, the account comes 
from a Buddhist origin. The account of the temptation 
of Jesus also sounds very much like the temptation of 
Buddha, so far as it is not derived from the temptation of 
Zarathustra by Ahrimant or the temptation of Moses by 
the devil, of which the Kabbis told,§ while Jesus is said 
to have entered upon his ministry in his thirtieth year,|| 
because at that age the Levite was fitted for his sacred 
office. H Till then {i.e., till his baptism) we learn nothing 

* Weinel, " Jesus im 19 Jahrhundert," 1907, 68. 

f "Babylonisches im Neuen Testament," 109 sq. 

I " Zerduscht Narneh," eh. xxvi. 

§ Gfrörer, " Jahrhundert des Heils," Part II., 380 sqq. 

|| Luke iii. 23. 

f Numb. iv. 3. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 237 

of Jesus' life. Similarly Isa. liii. 2, jumps from the early 
youth of the Servant of God (" He grew up as a tender 
plant, as a root out of a dry ground : he hath no form nor 
comeliness, is despised and rejected of men ") straight to 
his passion and death ; while the Gospels attempt to fill 
in the interval from Jesus' baptism up to his passion by 
painting in further so-called Messianic passages from the 
Old Testament and Words of Jesus. We know how 
the early Christians liked to rediscover their faith in the 
Scriptures and see it predicted, and with what zeal they 
consequently studied the Old Testament and altered the 
"history" of their Jesus to make it agree with those 
predictions, thus rendering it valuable as corroboration of 
their own notions. In this connection it has been shown 
above how the " ride of the beardless one " influenced the 
collection of the tribute and his direct attack on the shop- 
keepers and money-changers in the evangelical account of 
Jesus' advent to the Temple at Jerusalem.* But the more 
detailed development of this scene is determined by Zech. 
ix. 9, Mai. iii. 1-3, and Isa. i. 10 sqq., and the words 
placed in Jesus' mouth on this occasion are taken from 
Isa. lvi. 7 and Jer. vii. 1 sqq., so that this "most im- 
portant " event in Jesus' life can lay no claim to historical 
actuality.! 

And again the account of the betrayal, of the thirty 
pieces of silver, and of Judas' death, have their source in 
the Old Testament, viz., in the betrayal and death of 
Ahitophel. J To what extent in particular the figures of 
Moses, with reference to Deut. xviii. 15 and xxxiv. 10, of 

* Matt. xxi. 12 sqq. 

f Zech. xiv. 21 runs in e Targum translation : "Every vessel in 
Jerusalem will be consecrated to the Lord, &c, and at that time there 
will no longer be shopkeepers in the House of the Lord." In this 
there may have been aifurther inducement for the Evangelists to state 
that Jesus chases the tradesmen from the Temple. 

2 Sam. xvii. 23 ; cf. also Zech. xi. 12 sq. ; Psa. xli. 10. 



238 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Joshua, of Elijah and Elisha, influenced the portrayal of 
the evangelical Jesus has also been traced even by the 
theological party.* Jesus has to begin his activities 
through baptism in the Jordan, because Moses had begun 
his leadership of Israel with the passage through the Red 
Sea and Joshua at the time of the Passover led the 
people through the Jordan, and this passage (of the sun 
through the watery regions of the sky) was regarded as 
baptism, t He has to walk on the water, even as Moses, 
Joshua, and Elias walked dryshod through the water. 
He has to awaken the dead, like Elijah ; t to surround 
himself with twelve or seventy disciples and apostles, 
just as Moses had surrounded himself with twelve chiefs 
of the people and seventy elders, and as Joshua had 
chosen twelve assistants at the passage of the Jordan ; § 
he has to be transfigured, || and to ascend into heaven like 
Moseslf and Elijah.** Elijah (Eli-scha) and Jeho-schua 
(Joshua, Jesus) agree even in their names, so that on this 
ground alone it would not have been strange if the Prophet 
of the Old Testament had served as prototype of his 
evangelical namesake. ft Now Jesus places himself in 
many ways above the Mosaic Law, especially above the 
commands as to food, II and in this at least one might 
find a trait answering to reality. But in the Eabbinical 
writings we find: "It is written, §§ the Lord sets loose 

• 
* Gförer, " Jahr. d. Heils," ii. 318 sqq. 
f Cf. 1 Cor. x. 1 sq. 

I 2 Kings iv. 19 sqq. 

§ Numb. i. 44 ; Jos. iii. 12 ; iv. 1 sqq. Cf. " Petrus-legende," 51 sq. 
|| Cf. p. 127, note. 

f Josephus, " Antiq.," iv. 8, 48 ; Philo, " Vita Mos.," iii. 
** 2 Kings ii. 11. 

ft E.g. also the account of the arrest of Jesus (Matt. xxvi. 51 sqq.) 
cf. 2 Kings vi. 10-22. 

II Matt. ix. 11 sq., xii. 8 sq., xv. 1 sqq., 11 and 20, xxviii. 18. 
§§ Psa. cxlvi. 7. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 239 

that which is bound ; for every creature that passes as 
unclean in this world, the Lord will pronounce clean in 
the next." * So that similarly the disposition of the 
Law belongs to the general characteristics of the Messiah, 
and cannot be historical of Jesus, because if it were the 
attitude of the Jewish Christians to Paul on account of 
his disposition of the Law would be incomprehensible, t 
The contrary attitude, which is likewise represented by 
Jesus, \ was already foreseen in the Messianic expectation. 
For while some hoped for a lightening and amendment 
of the Law by the Messiah, others thought of its aggra- 
vation and completion. In Micah iv. 5 the Messiah was 
to exert his activity, not merely among the Jews, but also 
among the Gentiles, and the welfare of the kingdom of 
the Messiah was to extend also to the latter. According 
to Isaiah lx. and Zechariah xiv., on the contrary, the 
Gentiles were to be subjected and brought to nothing, and 
only the Jews were worthy of participation in the king- 
dom of God. For that reason Jesus had to declare 
himself with like determination for both conceptions, § 
without any attempt being made to reconcile the contra- 
diction contained in this.|| That the parents of Jesus 
were called Joseph and Mary, and that his father was a 
" carpenter," were determined by tradition, just as the 
name of his birthplace, Nazareth, was occasioned by the 
name of a sect (Nazaraios= Protector), or by the fact that 
one sect honoured the Messiah as a " branch of the root 
of Jesse" (nazar Isai).1T It was a Messianic tradition 
that he began his activity in Galilee and wandered about 

* Bereshith Eabba zu Gen. xli. 1. 

f Cf. esp. Acts xi. 2 sqq. 

I Matt. v. 17 sqq. 

§ Id. viii. 11 sqq., x. 6, xxiii. 34 sqq., xxviii. 19 sqq. 

|| Cf. Lützelberger, " Jesus, was er war und wollte," 1842, 16 sqq. 

IT Cf. above, 59 sqq. 



240 THE CHRIST MYTH 

as Physician, Saviour, Eedeemer, and Prophet, as medi- 
ator of the union of Israel, and as one who brought 
light to the Gentiles, not as an impetuous oppressor full 
of inconsiderate strength, but as one who assumed a 
loving tenderness for the weak and despairing. * He 
heals the sick, comforts the afflicted, and proclaims to the 
poor the Gospel of the nearness of the kingdom of God. 
That is connected with the wandering of the sun through 
the twelve Signs of the Zodiac (Galil= circle), and is based 
on Isa. xxxv. 5 sqq., xlii. 1-7, xlix. 9 sqq., as well as on 
Isa. lxi. 1, a passage which Jesus himself, according 
to Luke iv. 16 sqq., began his teaching in Nazareth by 
explaining.! He had to meet with opposition in his 
work of salvation, and nevertheless endure patiently, 
because of Isa. 1. 5. Naturally Jesus, behind whose 
human nature was concealed a God, and to whom the 
pilgrim " Saviour " Jason corresponded, J was obliged to 
reveal his true nature by miraculous healing, and could 
not take a subordinate place in this regard among the 
cognate heathen God-redeemers. At most we may 
wonder that even in this the Old Testament had to 
stand § as a model, and that Jesus' doings never surpass 
those which the heathens praise in their gods and heroes, 
e.g., Asclepius. Indeed, according to Tacitus|| even the 
Emperor Vespasian accomplished such miracles at Alex- 
andria, where, on being persistently pressed by the people, 
he healed both a lame man and a blind, and this almost 

* It is given as a reason for his appearing first in Galilee that the 
Galileans were first led into exile, and so should first be comforted, 
as all divine action conforms to the law of requital (Gfrörer, 
" Jahr. d. Heils," 230 sq. Cf. also Isa. viii. 23). 

f Cf. above, 173 sq. 

J See above, 171. 

§ Exod. xvi. 17 sqq. ; Numb. xxi. 1 sqq. ; iExod. vii. 17 sqq. 
1 Kings xvii. 5 sqq. 

II "Eist.," iv. 81. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 241 

in the same way as Jesus did, by moistening their eyes 
and cheeks with spittle ; which information is corroborated 
also by Suetonius* and Dio Cassius.t But the most 
marvellous thing is that the miracles of Jesus have been 
found worth mentioning by the critical theology, and 
that there is an earnest search for an " historical nucleus," 
which might probably " underlie them." 

All the individual characteristics cited above are, how- 
ever, unimportant in comparison with the account of the 
Last Supper, of the Passion, death (on the cross), and re- 
surrection of Jesus. And yet what is given us on these 
points is quite certainly unhistorical ; these parts of the 
Gospels owe their origin, as we have stated, merely to 
cult-symbolism and to the myth of the dying and rising 
divine Saviour of the Western Asiatic religions. No 
" genius " was necessary for their invention, as every- 
thing was given : the derision,! the flagellation, both the 
thieves, the crying out on the cross, the sponge with 
vinegar (Psa. lxix. 22), the piercing with a lance, § the 
soldiers casting dice for the dead man's garments, also 
the women at the place of execution and at the grave, 
the grave in a rock, are found in just the same form in 
the worship of Adonis, Attis, Mithras, and Osiris. Even 
the Saviour carrying his cross is copied from Hercules 
(Simon of Cyrene) , || bearing the pillars crosswise, as well 
as from the story of Isaac, who carried his own wood to 
the altar on which he was to be sacrificed. % But where *< 
the authors of the Gospels have really found something 
new, e.g., in the account of Jesus' trial, of the Koman and 
Jewish procedure, they have worked it out in such an 
ignorant way, and to one who knows something about it 

* " Vespasian," vii. f lxvi. 8. 

I Isa. 1. 6 sq. § Zech. xii. 10. 

|| Cf. " Petruslegende," 24. 

IF Gen. xxvi. 6 ; cf. also Tertullian, " Adv. Jud.," 10. 

16 



242 THE CHRIST MYTH 

betray so significantly the purely fictitious nature of their 
account, that here really there is nothing to wonder at 
except perhaps the naivete of those who still consider 
that account historical, and pique themselves a little on 
their "historical exactness" and "scientific method."* 
Is not Kobertson perhaps right after all in considering 
the whole statement of the last fate of Jesus to be the re- 
writing of a dramatic Mystery-play, which among the 
Gentile Christians of the larger cities followed the sacra- 
mental meal on Easter Day ? We know what a great 
role was played by dramatic representations in numerous 
cults of antiquity, and how they came into especial use 
in connection with the veneration of the suffering and 
rising God-redeemers. Thus in Egypt the passion, death, 
and resurrection of Osiris and the birth of Horus; at 
Eleusis the searching and lamentation of Demeter for 
her lost Persephone and the birth of Iacchus ; at Lernse 
in Argolis and many other places the fate of Dionysus 
(Zagreus) ; in Sicyon the suffering of Adrastos, who threw 
himself on to the funeral pyre of his father Hercules ; at 
Amyclae the passing away of Nature and its new life 
in the fate of Hyacinth : these were celebrated in festal 

* Cf. for this Brandt, "Die Evangelische Geschichte," esp. 53 sqq. 
Even such a cautious investigator as Gfrörer confesses that, after his 
searching examination of the historical content of the Synoptics, he is 
obliged to close " with the sad admission " that their testimony does 
not give sufficient assurance to enable us to pronounce anything they 
contain to be true, so far as they are concerned, with a good historical 
conscience. " In this it is by no means asserted that many may not 
think their views correct, but only that we cannot rely on them suffi- 
ciently to rest a technically correct proof on them alone. They tell 
us too many things which are purely legendary, and too many others 
which are at least suspicious, for a prudent historian to feel justified 
in a construction based on their word alone. This admission may be 
disagreeable — it is also unpleasant to me — but it is genuine, and it is 
demanded by the rules which hold everywhere before a good tribunal, 
and in the sphere of history " (" Die hi. Sage," 1838, ii. 243). 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 243 

pageants and scenic representations, to say nothing of 
the feasts of the death and resurrection of Mithras, Attis, 
and Adonis. Certainly Matthew's account, xx.-xxviii. 
(with the exception of verses 11-15 in the last chapter) , with 
its connected sequence of events, which could not possibly 
have actually followed each other like this — Supper, 
Gethsemane, betrayal, passion, Peter's denial, the cruci- 
fixion, burial, and resurrection — throughout gives one the 
impression of a chain of isolated dramatic scenes. And 
the close of the Gospel agrees very well with this concep- 
tion, for the parting words and exhortations of Jesus to 
his people are a very suitable ending to a drama.* 

If we allow this, an explanation is given of the " clear- 
ness " which is so generally praised in the style of the 
Gospels by the theologians and their following, and which 
many think sufficient by itself to prove the historical 
nature of the Synoptic representation of Jesus. 

Of course, Wrede has already warned us "not too 
hastily to consider clearness a sign of historical truth. A 
writing may have a very secondary, even apocryphal 
character, and yet show much clearness. The question 
always is how this was obtained." t "Wernle and Wrede 
quite agree that at least in Mark's production the clear- 

* This is the case with the corresponding account in Mark, while 
in Luke the dramatic presentation seems to be more worked away, 
and the coherence, through the introduction of descriptions and 
episodes (disciples at Emmaus) bears more the character of a simple 
narrative. Cf. Eobertson, " Pagan Christs," 186 sqq. ; " A Short 
History," 87 sqq. The fact that in almost all representations of this 
kind both the scene at Gethsemane and the words spoken by Jesus 
usually serve as signs of his personality (e.g. also Bousset's " Jesus " — 
"Eel. Volksb.," 1904, 56), shows what we must think of the historical 
value of the accounts of the life of Jesus ; especially when we consider 
that certainly no listeners were there, and Jesus cannot himself have 
told his experience to his disciples, as the arrest is supposed to have 
taken place on the spot. 

f " Messiasgeheimnis," 143. 



244 " THE CHRIST MYTH 

ness is of no account at all, while clearness in the other 
Gospels is found just in those parts which admittedly 
belong to the sphere of legend. And how clearly and 
concretely do not our authors of the various " Lives of 
Jesus," not to mention Eenan, or our ministers in the 
pulpits describe the events of the Gospels, with how many 
small and attractive traits do they not decorate these 
events, in order that they should have a greater effect on 
their listeners ! This kind of clearness and personal 
stamp is really nothing but a matter of the literary skill 
and imagination of the authors in question. The writings 
of the Old Testament, and not merely the historical 
writings, are also full of a most clear ability for narration 
and of most individual characteristics, which prove how 
much the Eabbinical writers in Palestine knew of this 
side of literary activity. Or is anything wanting to the 
clearness and individual characterisation, to which Kalt- 
hoff also has alluded, of the touching story of Euth ; of 
the picture of the prophet Jonah, of Judith, Esther, 
Job, &c? And then the stories of the patriarchs — 
the pious Abraham, the good-natured, narrow-minded 
Esau, the cunning Jacob, and their respective wives — 
or, to take one case, how clear is not the meeting of 
Abraham's servant with Eebecca at the well ! * Or 
let us consider Moses, Elijah, Samson — great figures 
who in their most essential traits demonstrably belong to 
myth and religious fable ! If in preaching our ministers 
can go so vividly into the details of the story of the 
Saviour that fountains of poetry are opened and there 
stream forth from their lips clear accounts of Jesus' good- 
ness of heart, of his heroic greatness, and of his readiness 
for the sacrifice, how much more would this have been 
so at first in the Christian community, when the new 
religion was still in its youth, when the faith in the 

* Gen. xxiv. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 245 

Messiah was as yet unweakened by sceptical doubts, and 
when the heart of man was still filled with the desire for 
immediate and final redemption ? And even if we are 
confronted with a host of minor traits, which cannot so 
easily be accounted for by religious motives and poetic 
imagination, must these all refer to the same real per- 
sonality ? May they not be based on events which are 
very far from being necessarily experiences of the liberal 
theology's historical Jesus ? Even Edward v. Hartmann, 
who is generally content to adhere to the historical Jesus, 
suggests the possibility " that several historical per- 
sonages, who lived at quite different times, have contributed 
concrete individual characteristics to the picture of Jesus." * 
There is a great deal of talk about the " uninventable " 
in the evangelical representation. Von. Soden even goes 
so far as to base his chief proof for the historical existence 
of Jesus on this individuality that cannot be invented, f 
As if there was any such thing as what cannot be invented 
for men with imagination ! And as if all the significant 
details of Jesus' life were not invented on the lines of the 
so-called Messianic passages in the Old Testament, in 
heathen mythology, and in the imported conceptions 
of the Messiah! The part that is professedly "unin- 
ventable " shrinks continuously the more assiduously 
criticism busies itself with the Gospels ; and the word 
can at present apply only to side-issues and matters of no 
importance. We are indeed faced with the strange fact, 
that all the essential part of the Gospels, everything which 
is of importance for religious faith, such as especially the 
passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is demonstrably 
invented and mythical ; but such parts as can at best 
only be historical because of their supposed "uninventable" 

* E. v. Hartinann, " Das Christentum des Neuen Testaments," 
1905, 22. 
f Op. cit. 



246 THE CHRIST MYTH 

nature are of no importance for the character of the 
Gospel representation ! 

Now, it has been shown that the Gospel picture of 
Jesus is not without deficiencies. We may see a proof * 
of the historical nature of the events referred to in small 
traits, as, for example, in Jesus' temporary inability to 
perform miracles,! the circumstance that he is not 
represented as omniscient,! the attitude of his relatives 
to him.§ So the theologian Schmiedel set up first five 
and then nine passages as " clearly credible," and pro- 
nounced these to be the basis of a really scientific know- 
ledge of Jesus. The passages are Mark x. 17 sqq. (Why 
callest thou me good?), Matt. xii. 31 sqq. (The sin 
against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven), Mark iii. 21 
(He is beside himself), Mark xiii. 32 (But the day and 
the hour is known to no man), Mark xv. 24 (My God, 
why has thou forsaken me ?) , Mark vi. 5 (And he could 
there do no mighty work), Mark viii. 12 (There shall no 
sign be given unto this generation), Mark viii. 14-21 
(Reproaching the disciples on the occasion of the lack of 
bread), Matt. xi. 5 (The blind see, the lame walk). All 
these " bases " evidently have a firm support only on the 
supposition that the Gospels are meant to paint a stainless 
ideal, a God, that they are at most but a conception, such, 
perhaps, as has been set up by Bruno Bauer. But they 
are useless from the point of view intended, as portraying 
a man. If, however, the Evangelists' intention was to 
paint the celestial Christ of the Apostle Paul, the God- 
man, the abstract spirit-being, as a completely real man 
for the eyes of the faithful, to place him on the ground of 
historical reality, and so to treat seriously Paul's "idea" 
of humanity, they were obliged to give him also human 
characteristics. And these could be either invented afresh 

* Cf. H. Jordan, " Jesus und die modernen Jesusbilder, Bibl. Zeit-u. 
Streitfragen," 1909, 38. 
f Mark vi. 1 sq. J Mark xiii. 32. § Mark iii. 20. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 247 

or taken from the actual life of honoured teachers, in 
which the fact is acknowledged that, even for the noblest 
and best of men, there are hours of despair and grief, 
that the prophet is worth nothing in his own fatherland, 
or is even unknown to his nearest relatives. Even the 
prophet Elijah, the Old Testament precursor of the 
Messiah, who has in many ways determined the picture 
of Jesus, is said to have had moments of despair in which 
he wanted to die, till God strengthened him anew to the 
fulfilment of his vocation.* Moreover, Mark x. 17 was 
a commonplace in all ancient philosophy from the 
time of Plato, and gained that form by an alteration 
of the original text (A. Pott, " Der Text des Neuen 
Testaments nach seiner gesch. Entwicklung " in "Aus 
Natur und Geisteswelt," 1906, p. 63, sq.) ; Mark xiv. 
24 is taken from the 22nd Psalm, which has also in other 
respects determined the details of the account of the 
crucifixion. Mark iii. 21 is, as Schleiermacher showed 
and Strauss corroborated, a pure invention of the Evan- 
gelist, the words of the Pharisees being put into their 
mouths, as their opinion, in order to explain Jesus' 
answer by the assertion of his kinship (Strauss, " Leben 
Jesu/^i. 692; cf. also Psa. lix. 1: "I am become a 
stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my 
mother's children"). Matt. xi. 5 is based on Isaiah 
xxxv. 5, xlii. 7, xlix. 9, lxi. 1, which runs in the 
Septuagint : "The spirit of the Lord is upon me; 
because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good 
tidings unto the poor ; he hath sent me to bind up the 
broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to 
the blind the opening of their eyes ; to proclaim the 
acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of 
our God ; to comfort all that mourn." t Schmiedel's 

* 1 Kings xix. ; cf. also Isa. xlii. 4. 
f Cf. Brandt, op. cit., 553 sq. 



248 THE CHRIST MYTH 

nine " bases " consequently are at most testimony to a 
"lost glory"; but the construction of a "really scien- 
tific " life of Jesus cannot possibly arise from them.* 

Clearness of exposition, then, can never afford a proof 
of the historical nature of the matter concerned. And 
how easily is not this clearness imported by us into the 
evangelical information ! We are brought up in the 
atmosphere of these tales, and carry about with us, under 
the influence of the surrounding Christianity, an imagi- 
nary picture of them, which we unwittingly introduce 
into our reading of the Gospels. And how subjective 
and dependent on the reader's " taste " the impression of 
clearness given by the Gospel picture of Jesus is, to what 
a great extent personal predilections come in, is evidenced 
by this fact, that a Völlers could not discover in the 
Gospels any real man of flesh and blood, but only a 
" shadowy image," which he analysed into a thaumaturgi- 
cal (the miracle-worker) and a soteriological (the Saviour) 
part.t In opposition to the efforts of the historical 
theology to give Jesus a " unique " position above that 
of all other founders of religions, Völlers justly remarks 
how difficult it must be for the purely historical treatment 
to recognise these and similar assertions. " The improb- 
ability, not to say impossibility, of the soteriological 
picture is too obvious. At bottom this picture of 
critical theology is nothing but the contemporary trans- 
formation of Schleiermacher' s ideal man ; what must have 
a hundred years ago appeared comprehensible as the 
product of a refined Moravianism, in the atmosphere of 
Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, is nowadays a mere avoid- 
ance of an open and honourable analysis from the point of 
view that prevails outside of theology, and is principally 

* Hertlein treats of these Bases of Schmiedel in the " Prot. Monats- 
heften," 1906, 386 sq. ; cf. also Schmiedel's reply, 
f Op. cit, 141. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 249 

known in the spheres of Nature and of History. Who would 
deny that the tone of the catechism and of the pulpit, 
that full-sounding words of many meanings, even the 
concealment and glossing over of unpleasant admissions, 
play a part in this sphere such as they could never have in 
in any other science ? " 

We are then reduced to the individual maxims and ser- 
mons of Jesus. These must be proved to be intelligible only 
as the personal experiences and thoughts of one supreme 
individual. Unfortunately just this, as has already been 
proved, seems peculiarly doubtful. As for Jesus' sermons, 
we have already understood from Wernle that they were 
in any case not received from Jesus in the form in which 
they have been handed down to us, but were subsequently 
compiled by the Evangelists from isolated and occasional 
maxims of his.* These single phrases and occasional 
utterances of Jesus are supposed to have been taken in 
the last resort partly from oral tradition, partly from the 
Aramaic collection — that " great source " of Wernle' s — 
which was translated into Greek by the Gospels. The 
existence of this source has been established only very 
indirectly, and we know absolutely nothing more of it. 
But it is self-evident that even in the translation from K 
one language into another much of the originality of 
those " words of the Lord " must have been lost ; and, 
as may be shown, the different Evangelists have " trans- 1 
lated " the same words quite differently. Whether it 
will be possible to reconstruct the original work, as 
critical theology is striving to do, from the material 
before us, seems very questionable. And we are given 

* Bousset agrees with this in his work " Was wissen wir von 
Jesus ? " (1901). " Jesus' speeches are for the most part creations of 
the communities, placed together by the community from isolated 
words of Jesus." " In this, apart from all the rest, there was a power- 
ful and decided alteration of the speeches " (47 sqq.). 



250 THE CHRIST MYTH 

no guarantee that we have to do with actual "words of 
the Lord " as they were contained in the Aramaic col- 
lection. 

Even if the Evangelist is supposed to have expressed 
the original meaning, what is to assure us that this 
phrase was spoken by Jesus just in this way, and not in 
other connections, if even the phrases were taken down 
as soon as uttered ? But this is admittedly supposed not 
to have occurred till after Jesus' death, after his Messianic 
significance was clearly recognised, and after people were 
making efforts to go back in memory to the Master's 
figure and preserve of his sayings any that were service- 
able. Bousset, indeed, in his work, "Was wissen wir 
von Jesus ? " — which was directed against Kalthoff — has 
referred to the "good Oriental memory of the disciples." 
All who know the East from personal experience are 
in tolerable agreement on one point, viz., how little an 
Oriental is able to repeat what he has heard or experienced 
in a true and objective fashion. Consequently there are 
in the East no historical traditions in our sense of the 
word, but all important events are decorated like a novel, 
and are changed according to the necessities of the 
moment. Such maxims, indeed, as "Love your enemies," 
" To give is more blessed than to receive," " No one but 
God is good," " Blessed are the poor," " You are the 
light of the world," " Give to Caesar that which is 
Caesar's," &c, once heard may be " not easily forgotten," 
as the theological phrase runs. But also they are not of 
such a kind that the Jesus of liberal theology was neces- 
sary for their invention. 

We need not here take into consideration how many of 
Jesus' expressions may have been imported into the Gos- 
pels from the Mystery drama, with whose existence we 
must nevertheless reckon, and from which phrases may 
have been changed into sayings of the " historical " Jesus. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 251 

Such obscure and high-flown passages as, e.g., Matt. x. 32 
sq.; xi. 15-30, xxvi. 64, and xxviii. 18, give one the impres- 
sion of coming from the mouth of God's representative 
on the stage ; and this probability is further increased 
when we meet quite similar expressions, such as of the 
"light burden" and the "easy yoke," in the Mysteries 
of Mithras or of Isis.* Bousset admits that all the 
individual words which have been handed down to us as 
expressions of Jesus are " mediated by the tradition of a 
community, and have passed through many hands." t 
They are, as Strauss has observed, like pebbles which the 
waves of tradition have rolled and polished, setting them 
down here and there and uniting them to this and that 
mass. " We are," Steck remarks, " absolutely certain of 
no single word of the Gospels — that it was spoken by 
Jesus just in this way and in no other." { "It would be 
very difficult," thinks Völlers, " to refer even one expres- 
sion, one parable, one act of this ideal man to Jesus of 
Nazareth with historical certainty, let us say with the 
same certainty with which we attribute the Epistle to 
the Galatians to the Apostle Paul, or explain the Johan- 
nine Logos as the product of Greek philosophy." § Even 
one of the leaders of Protestant orthodoxy, Professor 
Kahler, of Halle, admitted, as was stated in the 
" Kirchliche Monatsblatt für Rheinland und West- 
falen," in a theological conference held in Dortmund, 
that we possess " no single authentic word " of Jesus. 
Any attempt, such as Chamberlain has made, to gather 
from the tradition a certain nucleus of " words of Jesus," 
is consequently mistaken ; and if nothing is to be a 
criterion but one's personal feelings, it would be better 

* Cf. Robertson, " Christianity and Mythology," 424 sqq., 429. 

f Op. cit., 43. 

\ " Protest. Monatshefte," 1903, Märzheft. 

§ Op. cit., 161 sq. 



252 THE CHRIST MYTH 

to confess at once that here there can be no talk of any 
kind of decision. 

It is, then, settled that we cannot with certainty trace 
back to an historical Jesus any single one of the expres- 
sions of the "Lord " that have come down to us. Even 
the oldest authority, the Aramaic collection, may have 
contained merely the tradition of a community. Can we 
then think that the supporters of an " historical " Jesus 
are right in treating it as nothing more than a " crude 
sin against all historical methods," as something most 
monstrous and unscientific, if one draws the only possible 
inference from the result of the criticism of the Gospels, 
and disputes the existence at any time of an historical 
Jesus ? There may after all have been such a collection 
of " words of the Lord " in the oldest Christian com- 
munities ; but must we understand by this words of a 
definite human individual ? May they not rather have 
been words which had an authoritative and canonical 
acceptation in the community, being either specially im- 
portant or congenial to it, and which were for this reason 
attributed to the "Lord" — that is, to the hero of the 
association or cult, Jesus ? It has been generally agreed 
that this was the case, for example, with the directions 
as to action in the case of quarrels among the members 
of the community* and with regard to divorce.! Let 
us also recall to our minds the " words of the Lord " in 
the other cult-associations of antiquity, the avrbg e^a of 
the Pythagoreans. And how many particularly popular, 
impressive, and favourite sayings were current in antiquity 
bearing the names of one of the " Seven Wise Men," 
without any one dreaming of ascribing to them an histori- 
cal signification ! How then can it be anything but hasty 
and uncritical to give out the "words of the Lord " in the 
collection, which are the basis of Jesus' sermons in the 

* Matt, xviii. 15 sqq. f Id. xxix. 3 sqq. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 253 

Gospels, as sayings of one definite Eabbi — that is, of 
the "historical" Jesus? One may have as high an 
opinion of Jesus' words as one likes : the question is 
whether Jesus, even the Jesus of liberal theology, is their 
spiritual father, or whether they are not after all in the 
same position as the psalms or sayings of the Old Tes- 
tament which are current in the names of David and 
Solomon, and of which we know quite positively that 
their authors were neither the one nor the other. 

But perhaps those sayings and sermons of Jesus are 
of such a nature that they could only arise from the 
" historical Jesus " ? Of a great number both of isolated 
sayings and parables of Jesus — and among these indeed 
the most beautiful and the most admired, for example, 
the parable of the good Samaritan, whose moral content 
coincides with Deut. xxix. 1-4, of the Prodigal Son,* 
of the man that sowed — we know that they were 
borrowed t partly from Jewish philosophy, partly from 
oral tradition of the Talmud, and partly from other 
sources. In any case they have no claim to originality . \ 
This holds good even of the Sermon on the Mount, which 
is, as has been shown by Jewish scholars in particular, 
and as Kobertson has once more proved, a mere patch- 
work taken from ancient Jewish literature, and, together 
with the Lord's Prayer, contains not a single thought 
which has not its prototype in the Old Testament and in 
the ancient philosophical maxims of the Jewish people. § 
Moreover, the remaining portions, whose genesis from any 
other quarter is at least as yet unproved, is not at all of 
such a nature that it could only have arisen in the mind 

* Cf. Pfleiderer, " Urchristentum," i. 447 sq. ; van den Bergh van 
Eysinga, op. cit., 57 sqq. f Smith, op. cit., 107 sqq. 

I Cf. Nork, " Eabbinische Quellen und Parallelen zu neutestament- 
lichen Schriftstellen," 1839. 

§ Cf. Robertson, "Christianity and Mythology," 440-457. 



t-" 



254 THE CHRIST MYTH 

of such a personality as the theological Jesus of Nazareth. 
At bottom, indeed, he neither said nor taught anything 
beyond the purer morality of contemporary Judaism — to 
say nothing at all of the Stoics and of the other ethical 
teachers of antiquity, in particular those of the Indians. 
The gravest suspicion of their novelty and originality is 
awakened at the Gospels' emphasising the novelty and 
significance of Jesus' sayings by " the ancients said " — 
"but I say unto you"; attempting thereby to make an 
artificial contradiction with the former spiritual and moral 
standpoint of Judaism, even in places where only a look at 
the Old Testament is necessary to convince us that such a 
contradiction does not exist, as, for example, in the case 
of the love of God and of one's neighbour.* Moreover, 
our cultivated reverence for Jesus and the overwhelming 
glorification of everything connected with him has 
surrounded a great many of the " words of the Lord " 
with a glitter of importance which stands in no relation 
to their real value, and which they would never have 
obtained had they been handed down to us in another 
connection or under some other name. 

Let us only think how much that is in itself quite 
trivial and insignificant has been raised to quite an 
unjustifiable importance merely through the use of the 
pulpit and the consecration of divine service. Even 
though our theologians are not already tired of extolling 
the " uniqueness," incomparability, and majesty of Jesus' 
words and parables, they might nevertheless just for once 

* Cf. v. Hartmann, op. cit., 131-143. It will always be a telling 
argument against the historical nature of the sayings of Jesus that 
Paul seems to know nothing of them, that he never refers to them 
exactly ; and that even up to the beginning of the second century, 
with the exception of a few remarks in Clement and Poly carp, the 
Apostles and Fathers in all their admonitions, consolations, and 
reprimands, never make use of Jesus' sayings to give greater force to 
their own words. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 255 

consider how much that is of little worth, how much 
that is mistaken, spiritually insignificant and morally 
insufficient, even absolutely doubtful, there is in what 
Jesus preached.* In this connection it has always been 
the custom to extenuate the tradition by referring to the 
inexactitude or to fly in the face of any genuine historical 
method by tortuous elucidations of the passages in question, 
by unmeaning references to the temporal and educational 
limitations even of the " superman," and by suppression 
of the disagreeable parts. 

How much trouble have not our theologians taken, 
and do they not even now take, to show even one single 
point in Jesus' doctrines which may justify their declaring 
with a good conscience his "uniqueness" in the sense 
understood by them, and may justify their raising their 
purely human Jesus as high as possible above his own 
age ! Not one of all the passages quoted to this end has 
been allowed to remain. The Synoptic Jesus taught 
neither a new and loftier morality, nor a " new meekness," 
nor a deepened consciousness of God; neither the "in- 
destructible value of the individual souls of men " in the 
present-day individualistic sense, nor even freedom as 
against the Jewish Law, nor the immanence of the 
kingdom of God, nor anything else, that surpassed the 
capabilities of another intellectually distinguished man 
of his age. Even the love, the general love, of one's 
neighbour, the preaching of which is with the greater 
portion of the laity the chief claim to veneration possessed 
by the historical Jesus, in the Synoptics plays no very 
important part in Jesus' moral conception of life ; govern- 
ing no wider sphere than had already been allowed it in 
the Old Testament.! And if the pulpit eloquence of 

* V. Hartmann, op. cit., 44 sq. 

\ Let us hear what Clemen says against this : " In its reduction of 
the Law to the Commandment of love, though this was already 



256 THE CHRIST MYTH 

nineteen hundred years has nevertheless attempted to lay- 
stress on this point, it is because it counts on the faithful 
not having in mind the difference between the Gospels, 
and on their peacefully permitting the Gospel of John, 

• the one and only "gospel of love," which, however, is not 
supposed to be "historical," to be substituted for the 
,Synoptic Gospels. And so we actually see the glorification 
of Jesus' doctrines which, a short time ago, flourished 
so luxuriantly, appearing recently in more and more 
moderate terms.* 

Thus it was for a time customary in theology, under 
the influence of Holtzmann and Harnack, to consider the 
ethical deepening and return of God's " fatherly love " as 
the essentially new and significant point in Jesus' " glad 
tidings," and to write about it in unctuous phrases. 
Recently, even this seems to have been abandoned, as, 
for example, Wrede openly confesses, with respect to the 

(/"filiation to God," that this conception existed in 
Judaism very long before Christ ; also that Jesus did not 
especially preach God as the loving "Father" of each 
individual, that indeed he did not once place in the fore- 
ground the name of God as the Father.! But so much 

prominent in the Old Testament [ !] and even earlier had here and 
there [!] been characterised as the chief Commandment, Christianity 
is completely original [!]. And for Jesus the subordination of religious 
duties to moral was consequent on this, though in this respect he 
would have been equally influenced by the prophets of the Old 
Testament" (op. cit., 135 sq.). 

* " We must (as regards the moral ideals of Jesus) pay just as much 
attention to what he does not treat of, to what he set aside, as to 
what he clung to, indeed, setting it in opposition to all the rest. At 
least this wonderfully sure selection is Jesus' own; We may produce 
analogies for each individual thing, but the whole is unique and cannot 
be invented" (v. Soden, op. cit., 51 sq.): This method, practised by 
liberal theology, of extolling their Jesus as against all other mortals, 
and of raising him up to a " uniqueness " in the absolute sense, can 
make indeed but a small impression on the impartial. 

f Wrede, " Paulus," 91. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 257 

the more decidedly is reference made to the "enormous 
effects " which attended Jesus' appearance, and the 
attempt is made to prove from them his surpassing 
greatness, " uniqueness," and historical reality. As if 
Zarathustra, Buddha, and Mohammed had achieved less, 
as if the effects which proceed from a person must stand 
in a certain relation to his human significance, and as if 
those effects were to be ascribed to the " historical " and 
not rather to the mythical Jesus — that is, to the idea of 
the God sacrificing himself for humanity ! As a matter 
of fact, his faith in the immediate proximity of the 
Messianic kingdom of God, and the demand for a change 
of life based on this, which is really " unique " in the 
traditional Jesus, is without any religious and ethical 
significance for us, and is at most only of interest for the 
history of civilisation. On the other hand, such part of 
his teaching as is still of importance to us is not 
" unique," and only has the reputation of being so 
because we are accustomed by a theological education to 
treat it in the light of the Christian dogmatic metaphysics 
of redemption. Plato, Seneca, Epictetus, Laotse, or 
Buddha in their ethical views are not behind Jesus with 
his egoistical pseudo-morals, his basing moral action on 
the expectation of reward and punishment in the future, 
his narrow-minded nationalism, which theologians in 
vain attempt to debate away and to conceal; and his 
obscure mysticism, which strives to attain a special 
importance for its maxims by mysterious references to 
his " heavenly Father." * And as for the " great impres-' 

* We admit that besides the eschatological grounding of his moral 
demands, Jesus also makes use occasionally of expressions that pass 
beyond the idea of reward. But they are quite isolated — as, e.g., 
Matt. v. 48, " Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is per- 
fect," a phrase which is, moreover, in accord with Lev. xi. 44 and 
xix. 3 — and without any fundamental significance. In general, and 

17 



\\ 



258 THE CHRIST MYTH 

sion " which Jesus is supposed to have made on his own 
people and on the following age, and without which the 
history of Christianity is supposed to be inexplicable, 
Kalthoff has shown with justice that the Gospels do not 
in any way reflect the impression which a person pro- 
duced, but only such as the accounts of Jesus' personality 
would have made on the members of the Christian com- 
munity. " Even the strongest impression proves nothing 
as to the historical truth of these accounts. Even an 
account of a fictitious personage may produce the deepest 
impression on a community if it is given in historical 
terms. What an impression Goethe's "Werther" pro- 
duced, though the whole world knew that it was only a 

in particular even in the Sermon on the Mount, that " Diamond in 
the Crown of Jesus' ethics," the idea of reward and punishment is 
prevalent (Matt. v. 12 and 46 ; vi. 1, 4, 6, 14, 18 ; v. 20 ; vi. 15 ; 
vii. 1, &c). Views may still differ widely as to whether it is histori- 
cally correct to estimate, as Weinel would like to, Jesus' ethics in 
this connection really by the few sayings which go beyond that idea. 
(Cf. v. Hartmann, op. cit., 116-124.) The favourite declaration, how- 
ever, is quite unhistorical, that Jesus was the first who introduced 
into the world the principle of active love ; and that the Stoics, as 
Weinel represents, only taught the doing away with all our passions, 
even that of love ; or indeed that Jesus, who wished salvation only to 
benefit the Jews, who forbade his people to walk in the ways of the 
Gentiles, and who hesitated to comply with the Canaanite woman's 
prayer, "raised to the highest degree of sincerity" the "altruistic 
ideal," and that in principle he broke down the boundaries between 
peoples and creeds with his "Love thy enemy," (Weinel, op. cit, 
55, 57). As against this cf. the following passage from Seneca: 
" Everything which we must do and avoid may be reduced to this short 
formula of human obligation : We are members of a mighty body. 
Nature has made us kindred, having produced us from the same stuff 
and for the same ends. She has implanted in us a mutual love, and 
has arranged it socially. She has founded right and equity. Because 
of her commands to do evil is worse than to suffer evil. Hands ready 
to aid are raised at her call. Let that verse be in our mouths and 
our hearts : I am a man, nothing human do I despise I Human life 
consists in well-doing and striving. It will be cemented into a society 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 259 

romance ! Yet it stirred up countless disciples and 
imitators." * 

In this we have at the same time a refutation of the 
popular objection that to deny the historical existence of 
Jesus is to misunderstand " the significance of person- 
ality in the historical life of peoples and religions." 
Certainly, as Mehlhorn says, active devotion above all 
is enkindled to persons in whom this personality strikes 
us in an evident, elevating, and animating way.t But 
in order to enkindle devotion and faith in Jesus Christ 
the elevating personality of a Paul sufficed, whether or 
not he was the author of the epistles current in his name ; 
the missionary activity of apostles, working, like him, 

of general aid not by fear but by mutual love. What is the rightly 
constituted, good and high-minded soul, but a God living as a guest 
in a human body ? Such a soul may appear just as well in a knight 
as in a freedman or in a slave. We can soar upwards to heaven from 
any corner. Make this your rule, to treat the lower classes even as 
you would wish the higher to treat you. Even if we are slaves, we 
may yet be free in spirit. The slaves are men, inferior relatives, 
friends ; indeed, our fellow-slaves in a like submission to the tyranny 
of fate. A friendship based on virtue exists between the good man 
and God, yes, more than a friendship, a kinship and likeness ; for 
the good man is really his pupil, imitator, and scion, differing from 
God only because of the continuance of time. Him the majestic 
father brings up, a little severely, as is the strict father's wont. God 
cherishes a fatherly affection towards the good man, and loves him 
dearly. If you wish to imitate the gods, give also to the ungrateful ; 
for the sun rises even on the ungodly and the seas he open even to 
the pirate, the wind blows not only in favour of the good, and the 
rain falls even on the fields of the unjust. If you wish to have the 
gods well-disposed towards you, be good : he has enough, who honours 
and who imitates them." Cf. also Epictetus: "Dare, raising your 
eyes to God, to say, Henceforth make use of me to what end thou 
wilt ! I assent, I am thine, I draw back from nothing which thy 
will intends. Lead me whithersoever thou wilt ! For I hold God's 
will to be better than mine." (Cf. also Matt. xxvi. 39.) 

* Kautsky, " Ursprung des Christentums," 17. 

f Op. cit.y 3. 



26o THE CHRIST MYTH 

in the service of the Jesus-creed, was enough, since 
they moved from place to place, and, often undergoing 
great personal sacrifice and privation, with danger to 
their own lives demanded adoration of the new God. 
Those in need of redemption could never find any real 
religious support outside of the faith in a divine redeemer, 
they could never find satisfaction and deliverance but in 
the idea of the God sacrificing himself for mankind — the 
God whose redeeming power and whose distinct supe- 
riority to the other Mystery-deities the apostles could 
portray in such a lively and striking fashion. That an 
idea can only be effective and fruitful by means of a great 
personality is a barren formula.* In thinking they can 
with this argument support their faith in an historical 
Jesus liberal theologians avail themselves of an irrelevant 
bit of modern street-philosophy without noticing that in 
their case it proves nothing at all. Where, then, is the 
/"great personality" which gave to Mithraism such an 
I efficacy that in the first century of our era it was able to 
conquer from the East almost the whole of the West and 
1 to make it doubtful for a time whether the world was to 

* " How is it conceivable," even Pfleiderer asks, " that the new 
community should have fashioned itself from the chaos of material 
without some definite fact, some foundation-giving event which 
could form the nucleus for the genesis of the new ideas ? Every- 
where in the case of a new historical development the powers and 
impulses which are present in the crowd are first directed to a definite 
end and fastened into an organism that can survive by the purpose- 
giving action of heroic personalities. And so the impulse for the 
formation of the Christian community must have come from some 
definite point, which, from the testimony of the Apostle Paul and of 
the earliest Gospels, we can only find in the life and death of Jesus " 
(" Entstehung des Chr.," 11). But that the " testimony " for an his- 
torical Jesus is not testimony, and that the " definite fact," the 
"foundation-giving event," is to be looked for, if anywhere, in Paul 
himself and nowhere else — such ia the central point of all this 
analysis. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 261 

be Mithraic or Christian ? In such influential religions 
as those of Dionysus and Osiris, or indeed in Brahmanism, 
we cannot speak of great personalities as their "founders " ; 
and as for Zarathustra, the pretended founder of the 
Persian, and Moses, the founder of the Israelite religion, 
they are not historical persons ; while the views of 
different investigators differ as to the historical existence 
of the reputed founder of Buddhism. Of course, even in 
the above-mentioned religions the particular ideas would 
have been brought forward by brilliant individuals, and 
the movements depending on them would have been first 
organised and rendered effective by men of energy and 
purpose. But the question is whether persons of this 
type are necessarily "great," even "unique," in the 
sense of liberal theology, in order to be successful. So 
that to set aside Paul, whose inspiring personality gifted 
with a genius for organisation we know from his epistles, 
— to set him aside in favour of an imaginary Jesus, to 
base the importance of the Christian religion on the 
" uniqueness " of its supposed founder, and to base this 
uniqueness in turn on the importance of the religious 
movement which resulted from it, is to abandon the 
critical standpoint and to turn about in circles. "It is 
an empty assertion," says Lützelberger, "without any 
real foundation, that the invention of such a person as 
the Gospels give us in their Jesus would have been quite 
impossible, as we find in him such a peculiar and sharply 
defined character that imagination would never have been 
able to invent and adhere to it. For the personality 
which meets us in the Gospels is by no means one that 
is sharply drawn and true to itself ; but the story shows 
us rather a man who from quite different mental tenden- 
cies spoke now one way and now another, and is perfectly 
different in the first and fourth Gospels. Only with the 
greatest trouble can a homogeneous and coherent whole 



262 THE CHRIST MYTH 

be formed from the descriptions in the Gospels. So that 
we are absolutely wrong in concluding from the originality 
of the person of Christ in the Gospels to their historical 
credibility." The conclusion is much more justifiable 
that if such a person with such a life-history and such 
speech had stood at the beginning of the Christian 
Church, the history of its development must have been 
quite a different one, just as the history of Judaism 
would have been different if a Moses with his Law had 
stood at its head.* 

And now if we compare the praises of Buddha in the 
Laiita Vistara with the description of Jesus' personality 
given in the New Testament, we will be convinced how 
similarly — even if we exclude the hypothesis of a direct 
influence — and under what like conditions the kindred 
religion took shape: "In the world of creatures, which 
was long afflicted by the evils of natural corruption, thou 
didst appear, king of physicians, who redeemest us 
from all evil. At thy approach, guide, unrest dis- 
appears, and gods and men are filled with health. Thou 
art the protector, the firm foundation, the chief, the 
leader of the world, with thy gentle and benevolent 
disposition. Thou art the best of physicians, who 
bringest the perfect means of salvation and healest 
suffering. Distinguished by thy compassion and sym- 
pathy, thou governest the things of the world. Dis- 
tinguished by thy strength of mind and good works, 
completely pure, thou hast attained to perfection, and, 
thyself redeemed, thou wilt, as the prophet of the four 
truths, redeem other creatures also. The power of the 
Evil One has been overcome by wisdom, courage, and 
humility. Thou hast brought it about, — the highest and 
immortal glory. We greet thee as the conqueror of the 
army of the Deceiver. Thou whose word is without 

* Op. cit., 61 sq. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 263 

fanlt, who freest from error and passion, hast trod the 
path of eternal life ; thou dost deserve in heaven and on 
earth honour and homage unparalleled. Thou quickenest 
Gods and men with thy clear words. By the beams 
which go forth from thee thou art the conqueror of this 
universe, the Master of Gods and men. Thou didst 
appear, Light of the Law, destroyer of misery and 
ignorance, completely filled with humility and majesty. 
Sun, moon, and fires no longer shine before thee and 
thy fulness of imperishable glory. Thou who teachest 
us to know truth from falsehood, ghostly leader with the 
sweetest voice, whose spirit is calm, whose passions are 
controlled, whose heart is perfectly at rest, who teachest 
what should be taught, who bringest about the union of 
gods and men : I greet thee, Sakhyamuni, as the greatest 
of men, as the wonder of the three thousand worlds, who 
deservest honour and homage in heaven and on earth, 
from Gods and men!" Where, then, is the "unique- 
ness " of Jesus, into which the future divinity of the 
World-redeemer has disappeared for modern critical 
theology, and into which it has striven to import all the 
sentimental considerations which once belonged to the 
" God-man " in the sense of the Church dogma ? 
" Nothing is more negative than the result of the 
inquiry into the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth, 
who appeared as the Messiah, who proclaimed the morals 
of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of 
heaven upon earth, and died to give consecration to his 
acts, never existed. He is a figure which was invented 
by Eationalism, restored by Liberalism, and painted over 
with historical science by modern theologians." With 
these words of the theologian Schweitzer* the present 
inquiry may be said to agree. 

* " Von Eeimarus bis Wrede," 396. 



\ 



264 THE CHRIST MYTH 

In fact, in the Gospels we have nothing but the ex- 
"' pression of the consciousness of a community. In this 
respect the view supported by Kalthoff is completely 
right. The life of Jesus, as portrayed by the Synoptics, 
merely brings to an expression in historical garb the 
metaphysical ideas, religious hopes, the outer and inner 
experiences of the community which had Jesus for its 
cult-god. His opinions, statements, and parables only 
reflect the religious-moral conceptions, the temporary 
sentiments, the casting down and the joy of victory, the 
hate and the love, the judgments and prejudices of the 
members of the community, and the differences and con- 
tradictions in the Gospels prove to be the developing 
material of the conception of the Messiah in different 
communities and at different times. Christ takes just 
the same position in the religious-social brotherhoods 
which are named after him as Attis has in the Phrygian, 
Adonis in the Syrian, Osiris in the Egyptian, Dionysus, 
Hercules, Hermes, Asclepius, &c, in the Greek cult- 
associations. He is but another form of these club-gods 
or patrons of communities, and the cult devoted to him 
shows in essentials the same forms as those devoted to the 
divinities above named. The place of the bloody expia- 
tory sacrifice of the believers in Attis, wherein they under- 
went " baptism of blood " in their yearly March festival, 
and wherein they obtained the forgiveness of their sins 
and were " born again " to a new life, was in Eome the 
Hill of the Vatican. In fact, the very spot on which in 
Christian times the Church of Peter grew above the so- 
called grave of the apostle. It was at bottom merely an 
alteration of the name, not of the matter, when the 
High Priest of Attis blended his role with that of the 
High Priest of Christ, and the Christ-cult spread itself 
from this new point far over the other parts of the 
Roman Empire. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 265 

(c) The True Character op the Synoptic Jesus. 

The Synoptic Gospels leave open the question whether 
they treat of a man made God or of a God made man. 
The foregoing account has shown that the Jesus of the 
Gospels is to be understood only as a God made man. 
The story of his life, as presented in the Gospels, is the 
rendering into history of a primitive religious myth. 
Most of the great heroes of the legend, which passes as 
historical, are similar incarnate Gods — such as Jason, 
Hercules, Achilles, Theseus, Perseus, Siegfried, &c. ; in 
these we have nothing but the old Aryan sun — champion 
in the struggle against the powers of darkness and of 
death. That primitive Gods in the view of a later age 
should become men, without, however, ceasing to be 
clothed with the glamour of the deity, is to such an 
extent the ordinary process, that the reverse, the eleva- 
tion of men to Gods, is as a rule only found in the 
earliest stages of human civilisation, or in periods of 
moral and social decay, when fawning servility and 
worthless flattery fashion a prominent man, either during 
his life or after his death, into a divine being. Even the 
so-called " Bible Story " contains numerous examples of 
such God made men : the patriarchs, Joseph, Joshua, 
Samson, Esther, Mordecai, Haman, Simon Magus, the 
magician Elymas, &c, were originally pure Gods, and in 
the description of their lives old Semitic star-myths and 
sun-myths obtained a historical garb. If we cannot 
doubt that Moses, the founder of the old covenant, was 
a fictitious figure, and that his " history " was invented 
by the priests at Jerusalem only for the purpose of 
sanctioning and basing on his authority the law of the 
priests named after him ; if for this end the whole 
history of Israel was falsified, and the final event in the 
religious development of Israel, i.e., the giving of the 



/ 



^66 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Law, was placed at the beginning — why cannot what was 
possible with Moses have been repeated in the case of 
Jesus ? Why may not also the founder of the new 
covenant as an historical person belong entirely to pious 
legend ? According to Herodotus,* the Greeks also 
changed an old Phoenician God, Hercules, for national 
reasons, into a native hero, the son of Amphitryon, and 
incorporated him in their own sphere of ideas. Let us 
consider how strong the impulse was, especially among 
Orientals, to make history of purely internal experiences 
and ideas. To carry historical matter into the sphere of 
myth, and to conceive myth as history, is, as is shown by 
the investigations of Winckler, Schrader, Jensen, &c, 
for the Orientals such a matter of course, that, as regards 
the accounts in the Old Testament, it is hardly possible 
to distinguish their genuinely "historical nucleus " from 
its quasi-historical covering. And it is more especially 
the Semitic thought of antiquity which proves to be 
completely unable to distinguish mythical phantasy from 
real event ! It is, indeed, too often said that the Semite 
produced and possessed no mythology of his own, as 
Renan asserted; and no doubt at all is possible that 
they could not preserve as such and deal with the 
mythical figures and events whencesoever they derived 
them, but always tended to translate them into human 
form and to associate them with definite places and times. 
" The God of the Semites is associated with place and 
object, he is a Genius loci," says Winckler. t But if ever 
a myth required to be clothed in the garment of place 
and the metaphysical ideas contained in it to be separated 
into a series of historical events, it was certainly the 
myth of the God sacrificing himself for humanity, who 
sojourned among men in human form, suffered with the 
rest of men and died, returning, after victoriously over- 
* ii. 44. f " Gesch. Israels," ii. 1 sqq. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 267 

coming the dark powers of death, to the divine seat 
whence he set out. 

We understand how the God Jesus, consequent on his 
symbolical unification with the man sacrificed in his 
stead, could come to be made human, and how on this 
basis the faith in the resurrection of God in the form of 
an historical person could arise. But how the reverse 
process could take place, how the man Jesus could be 
elevated into a God, or could ever fuse with an already 
existing God of like name into the divine-human 
redeemer — indeed, the Deity — that is and remains, as we 
have already said, a psychological puzzle. The only way 
to solve it is to refer to the " inscrutable secrets of the 
Divine will." In what other way can we explain how 
" that simple child of man, as he has been described," 
could so very soon after his death be elevated into that 
"mystical being of imagination," into that "celestial 
Christ," as he meets us in the epistles of Paul? There 
can only have been at most seven, probably three, years, 
according to a recent estimate hardly one year, between 
the death of Jesus and the commencement of Paul's 
activity.* And this short time is supposed to have 
sufficed to transform the man Jesus into the Pauline 
Christ ! And not only Paul is supposed to have been 
able to do this ; even Jesus' immediate disciples, who 
sat with him at the same table, ate and drank with him, 
knowing then who Jesus was, are supposed to have 
declared themselves in agreement with this, and to have 
prayed to him whom they had always seen praying to the 
"Father"! Certainly in antiquity the deification of a 
man was nothing extraordinary : Plato and Aristotle 
were, after their death, honoured by their pupils as 
god-like beings ; Demetrius Poliorcetes, Alexander, the 

* Holtzmann, " Zum Thema 'Jesus and Paulus' " (" Prot. Monats- 
heft," iv. s 1900, 465). 



268 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Ptolemies, &c, had divine honours rendered to them 
even during their lives. But this style of deification is 
completely different from that which is supposed to have 
been allotted to Jesus. It is merely an expression of 
personal gratitude and attachment, of overflowing senti- 
ment and characterless flattery, and never obtained any 
detailed theological formulation. It was the basis for 
no new religion. Schopenhauer has very justly pointed 
out the contradiction between Paul's apotheosis of Jesus 
and usual historical experience, and remarked that from 
this consideration could be drawn an argument against 
the authenticity of the Pauline epistles.* In fact, 
Holtzmann considers, with reference to this assertion 
of the philosopher's, the question " whether the figure 
of Jesus attaining such colossal dimensions in Paul's 
sight may not be taken to establish the distance between 
the two as that of only a few years, if there was not 
immediate temporal contact," as the question "most 
worthy of discussion, which the critics of the Dutch 
school have propounded for consideration." t According 
to the prevalent view of critical theologians, as presented 
even by Pfleiderer, the apparitions of the " Lord," which 
after Jesus' death were seen by the disciples who had 
fled from Jerusalem, the " ecstatic visionary experiences, 
in which they thought they saw their crucified Master 
living and raised up to heavenly glory," were the 
occasion of their faith in the resurrection, and conse- 
quently of their faith in Jesus' divine role as Redeemer.]: 
Pathological states of over-excited men and hysterical 
women are then supposed to form the " historical founda- 
tion " for the genesis of the Christian religion ! And 

* Parerga, ii. 180. 

f Neutest. Theol. ii. 4. Cf. R. H. Grützmacher: " Ist das liberale 
Christusbild modern ? Bibl. Zeit-und Streitfragen," 39 sq. 
% Pfleiderer, " Entstehung d. Chr.," 108 sqq. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 269 

with such opinions they think themselves justified in 
looking down on the rationalist of the eighteenth-century 
Enlightenment with supreme contempt, and in boasting 
of the depth to which their religious-historical insight 
reaches ! But if we really admit, with historical theology, 
this more than doubtful explanation, which degrades 
Christianity into the merely chance product of mental 
excitement, at once the further question arises as to 
how the new religion of the small community of the 
Messiah at Jerusalem was able to spread itself abroad 
with such astounding rapidity that, even so soon as at 
most two decades after Jesus' death, we meet with 
Christian communities not only over the whole of 
Western Asia, but also in the islands of the Mediter- 
ranean, in the coast-towns of Greece, even in Italy, 
at Puteoli, and in Eome ; and this at a time when as 
yet not a line had been written about the Jewish Eabbi * 
Even the theologian Schweitzer is obliged to confess of 
historical theology that " until it has in some way 
explained how it was that, under the influence of the 
Jewish sect of the Messiah, Greek and Roman popular 
Christianity appeared at all points simultaneously, it 
must admit a formal right of existence to all hypotheses, 
even the most extravagant, which seek to attack and 
solve this problem." t 

If in all this it is shown to be possible, or even 
probable, that in the Jesus of the Gospels we have not 
a deified man, but rather a humanised God, there 
remains but to find an answer to the question as to 
what external reasons led to the transplanting of the 
God Jesus into the soil of historical actuality and the 
reduction of the eternal or super-historical fact of his 
redeeming death and of his resurrection into a series of 
temporal events. 

* Cf. Stendel, op. cit., 22. f "Von Beimarus bis Wrede," 313. 



270 THE CHRIST MYTH 

This question is answered at once if we turn our 
attention to the motives present in the earliest Christian 
communities known to us, which motives appear in the 
Acts and in the Pauline epistles. From these sources 
we know at what an early stage an opposition arose 
between Paul's Gentile Christianity and the Jewish 
Christianity, the chief seat of which was at Jerusalem, 
and which for this reason, as we can understand, 
claimed for itself a special authority. As long as the 
former persecutor of the Christian community, over 
whose conversion they could not at first rejoice too 
much,* did not obstruct others and seemed to justify 
his apostolic activity by his success among the 
Gentiles, they left him to go his way. But when 
Paul showed his independence by his reserve before 
the " Brothers " at Jerusalem, and began to attract 
the feelings of those at Jerusalem by his abrogation 
of the Mosaic Law, then they commenced to treat 
him with suspicion, to place every obstacle in the 
way of his missionary activity, and to attempt, led by 
the zealous James, to bring the Pauline communities 
under their own government. Then, seeking a title for 
the practice of the apostolic vocation, they found it 
in this — that every one who wished to testify to Christ 
must himself have seen him after his resurrection. 

But Paul could very justly object that to him also the 
transfigured Jesus had appeared, t Then they made the 
justification for the apostolic vocation consist in this, 
that an apostle must not only have seen Christ risen up, 
but must also have eaten and drunk with him.| This 
indeed was not applicable in the case of Judas, who in 
the Acts i. 16 is nevertheless counted among the 
apostles ; and it was also never asserted of Matthias, 
who was chosen in the former's stead, that he had been 

* Gal. i. 24. f 1 Cor. ii. 1 ; 2 Cor. xix. 9. | Acts i. 3, x. 41. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 271 

a witness of Jesus' resurrection. Much less even does he 
seem to have fulfilled the condition to which advance was 
made in the development of the original idea, i.e., that an 
apostle of Jesus should have been personally acquainted 
with the living Jesus, that he should have belonged to the 
" First Apostles " and have been present as eye-witness 
and hearer of Jesus' words from the time of John's 
baptism up to the Eesurrection and Ascension.* Now 
Seufert has shown that the passage of the Acts referred 
to is merely a construction, a transference of later condi- 
tions to an earlier epoch ; and that the whole point of it 
is to paralyse Paul's mission to the Gentiles and to 
establish the title of the Jew-Christians at Jerusalem as 
higher than that of his followers. 

If with this purpose, as Seufert showed, the organisa- 
tion of the Apostleship of Twelve arose — an organisation 
which has no satisfactory basis or foundation in the 
Gospels or in the Pauline epistles — then it is from this 
purpose also that we can find cause for the God Jesus to 
become a human founder of the apostleship. "An 
apostle was to be only such an one as had seen and 
heard Jesus himself, or had learnt from those who had 
been his immediate disciples. A literature of Judaism 
arose which had at quite an early stage the closest 
interest in the historical determination of Jesus' life ; and 
this formed the lowest stratum on which our canonical 
Gospels are based." f Judaism in general, and the form of 
it at Jerusalem in particular, needed a legal title on which 
to base its commanding position as contrasted with the 
Gentile Christianity of Paul; and so its founders were 

* Acts i. 21 sq. 

f Seufert, " Der Ursprung und die Bedeutung des Apostolates in 
der christlichen Kirche der ersten Jahrhunderte," 1887, 143. Cf. 
also my " Petruslegende," in which the unhistorical nature of the 
disciples and apostles is shown, 50 sqq. 



vA 



272 THE CHRIST MYTH 

obliged to have been companions of Jesus in person, and 
• to have been selected for their vocation by him. For 
^this reason Jesus could not remain a mere God, but had 
to be drawn down into historical actuality. Seufert 
thinks that the tracing of the Apostleship of Twelve 
back to an " historical" Jesus, and the setting up of the 
demand for an apostle of Jesus to have been a com- 
panion of his journeying, took place in Paul's lifetime in 
the sixth, or perhaps even in the fifth decade.* In this 
he presupposes the existence of an historical Jesus, 
while the Pauline epistles themselves contain nothing to 
lead one to believe that the transformation of the Jesus- 
faith into history took place in Paul's lifetime. In early 
Christianity exactly the same incident took place here, 
on the soil of Palestine and at Jerusalem, as took 
place later in " eternal " Eome, when the bishop of 
this city, in order to establish his right of supremacy 
in the Church, proclaimed himself to be the direct 
successor of the Apostle Peter, and caused the " posses- 
sion of the keys" to have been given to this latter by 
Jesus himself. + 

So that there were very mundane and very practical 
reasons which after all gave the impulse for the God 
Jesus to be transformed into an historical individual, and 
for the central point of his action, the crisis in his life, 
his death and his resurrection, which alone affected 
religious considerations, to be placed in the capital of the 
Jewish state, the " City of God," the Holy City of David, 
of the "ancestors " of the Messiah, with which now the 
Jews connected religious salvation. But how could this 
fiction succeed and maintain its ground, so that it was 
able to become an absolutely vital question for the new 
religion, an indestructible dogma, a self-evident "fact," 

* Op. cit., 42. 

f Cf. my work " Die Petruslegende." 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 273 

so that its very calling in question seems to the critical 
theologians of our time a perfect absurdity? 

Before we can answer this question we must turn our 
attention to the Gnostic movement and its relations to 
the growing Church. 

(d) Gnosticism and the Johannine Jesus. 

Christianity was originally developed from Gnosticism 
(Mandaism). The Pauline religion was only one form 
of the many syncretising efforts to satisfy contemporary 
humanity's need of redemption by a fusion of religious 
conceptions derived from different sources. So much 
the greater was the danger which threatened to spring 
up on this side of the youthful Church. 

Gnosticism agreed with Christianity in its pessimistic 
valuation of the world, in its belief in the inability of 
man to obtain religious salvation by himself, in the 
necessity for a divine mediation of " Life." Like 
Christianity, it expected the deliverance of the oppressed 
souls of men by a supernatural Eedeemer. He came 
down from Heaven upon earth and assumed a human 
form, establishing, through a mystic union with him- 
self, the connection between the spheres of heaven and 
earth. He thereby guarantees to mankind an eternal 
life in a bliss to come. Gnosticism also involves a 
completely dualistic philosophy in its opposition of God 
and world, of spirit and matter, of soul and body, &c. ; 
but all its efforts are directed to overcoming these 
contradictions by supernatural mediation and magical 
contrivances. It treats the " Gnosis," the knowledge, 
the proper insight into the coherence of things, as the 
necessary condition of redemption. The individual must 
know that his soul comes from God, that it is only 
temporarily confined in this prison of the body, and 

18 



274 THE CHRIST MYTH 

that it is intended for something higher than to be 
lost here in the obscurity of ignorance, of evil and of 
sin; so that he is already freed from the trammels of 
the flesh, and finds a new life for himself. The God- 
Bedeemer descended upon earth to impart this knowledge 
to mankind; and Gnosticism pledges itself, on the 
basis of the "revelation" received directly from God, to 
open to those who strive for the highest knowledge all 
the heights and depths of Heaven and of earth. 

This Gnosticism of the first century after Christ was 
a wonderfully opalescent and intricate structure — half 
religious speculation, half religion, a mixture of Theoso- 
phy, uncritical mythological superstition, and deep re- 
ligious mysticism. In it Babylonian beliefs as to Gods 
and stars, Parsee mythology, and Indian doctrines of 
metempsychosis and Karma were combined with Jewish 
theology and Mystery-rites of Western Asia ; and through 
the whole blew a breath of Hellenic philosophy, which 
chiefly strove to fix the fantastic creatures of speculation 
in a comprehensible form, and to work up the confusion 
of Oriental licence and extravagance of thought into the 
form of a philosophical view of the world. The Gnostics 
also called their mediating deity, as we have already 
seen of the Maudaic sect of the Nassenes, " Jesus," and 
indulged in a picture rendering of his pre-worldly exist- 
ence and supernatural divine majesty. They agreed with 
the Christians that Jesus had been " human." 
4 The extravagant metaphysical conception which they 
had of Jesus at the same time prevented them from 
dealing seriously with the idea of his manhood. So that 
they either maintained that the celestial Christ had 
attached himself to the man Jesus in a purely external 
way, and indeed, first on the occasion of the baptism in 
the Jordan, and only temporarily, i.e., up to the Passion 
— it being only the " man " Jesus who suffered death 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 275 

(Basilides, Cerinthus) ; or they thought of Jesus as having 
assumed merely a ghostly body — and consequently thought 
that all his human actions took place merely as pure 
appearance (Saturninus, Valentinus, Marcion). But how 
little they managed to penetrate into the centre of the 
Christian doctrine of redemption and to value the funda- 
mental significance of the Christ-figure, is shown by the 
fact that they thought of Christ merely as one mediator 
among countless others. It is shown also by the romantic 
and florid description of the spirits or " aeons," who are 
supposed to travel backwards and forwards between heaven 
and earth, leading their lives apart. These played a great 
part in the Gnostic systems. 

It was a matter of course that the Christian faith had 
to take exception to such a fantastic and external treat- 
ment of the idea of the God-man. The Pauline Chris- 
tianity was distinct from Gnosticism, with which it was 
most closely connected, just in this, that it was in earnest 
with the " manhood " of Jesus. It was still more serious 
that the Gnostics combined with their extreme dualism 
an outspokenly anti-Jewish character. For this in the 
close relationship between Gnosticism and Christianity 
would necessarily frighten the Jews from the Gospel, and 
incite only too many against the young religion. But 
the Jews formed the factor with which early Christianity 
had first of all to reckon. In addition to this the Gnostics, 
from the standpoint of their spiritualistic conception of 
God, turned to contempt of the world and asceticism. 
They commended sexual continence, rejected marriage, 
and wished to know nothing either of Christ's or of man's 
bodily resurrection. But in the West no propaganda of 
an ascetic religion could succeed. And yet even with the 
Gnostics, as is so often the case, asceticism only too 
frequently degenerated into unbridled voluptuousness and 
libertinage, and che spiritual pride of those chosen by 



276 THE CHRIST MYTH 

God to knowledge, who were raised above the Mosaic 
Law, threatened completely to tear apart the connection 
with Judaism by its radical criticism of the Old Testa- 
ment. In this Gnosticism not only undermined the 
moral life of the communities, but also brought the 
Gospel into discredit in other parts of the world. As an 
independent religion, which expressly opposed all other 
worships, and the adherents of which withdrew from the 
religious practices of the State, even from any political 
activity whatsoever, Christianity brought on itself the 
suspicion of the authorities and the hate of the people, 
and incurred the prohibition of new religions and secret 
sects (lex Julia majestatis).* So that Gnosticism, by 
taking it from its Jewish native soil, drove Christianity 
into a conflict with the Roman civil laws. 

All these dangers, which threatened Christianity from 
the Gnostic movement, were set aside in one stroke by 
the recognition of the true " manhood " of Jesus, the 
assertion of the "historical" Jesus. This preserved the 
connection, so important for the unhindered spread of 
Christianity in the Roman Empire, with Judaism and its 
"revealed" legality — the heteronomous and ritualistic 
character of which had indeed been shown by Paul, and 
the moral content of which was nevertheless adhered to 
by the Christians even later. It was made possible, in 
default of any previous written documents of revelation, 
even yet to regard the Old Testament in essentials as the 
authoritative book of the new faith, and as a preparatory 
testimony to the final revelation which appeared in Jesus. 
And most of all, it put a check on Gnostic phantasy, in 
drawing together the perplexing plurality of the Gnostic 
paeons into the one figure of the World-redeemer and 
Saviour Christ, in making the chief dogma the redeeming 

* Cf. Hausrath, "Jesus und die neutestamentl. Schriftsteller," 
ii. 203 sqq. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 277 

sacrificial death of the Messiah, and in concentrating the 
religious man's attention on this chief turning-point of 
all the historical events. This was the reason why 
the Apologists and "Fathers" of Christianity, Ignatius, 
Polycarp, Justin, Irenseus, &c, spoke with such decision 
in favour of the actuality and true manhood of Jesus. 
It was not perhaps a better historical knowledge which 
caused them to do this, but the life-instinct of the 
Church, which knew only too well that its own position 
and the prosecution of its religious task, in contrast with 
the excitements of Gnosticism and its seductive attempts 
to explain the world, was dependent on the belief in an 
historical Eedeemer. So the historical Jesus was from 
the beginning a dogma, a fiction, caused by the religious 
and practical social needs, of the growing and struggling 
Christian Church. This Jesus has, indeed, led it to vic- 
tory ; not, however, as an historical reality, but as an 
idea ; or, in other words, not an historical Jesus, in the 
proper sense of the word, a really human individual, but 
the pure idea of such a person, is the patron-saint, 
the Genius of ecclesiastical Christianity, the man who 
enabled it to overcome Gnosticism, Mithraism, and 
the other religions of the Kedeemer-Gods of Western 
Asia. 

The importance of the fourth Gospel rests in having 
brought to a final close these efforts of the Church to 
make history of the Kedeemer-figure Christ. Begun 
under the visible influence of the Gnostic conception of 
the process of redemption, it meets Gnosticism later as 
another Gospel ; indeed, it seems saturated through and 
through with the Gnostic attitude and outlook. To a 
certain degree it shares with Gnosticism its anti-Jewish 
character. But at the same time it adheres, with the 
Synoptics, to Jesus' historical activity, and seeks to 
establish a kind of mediation between the essentially 



278 THE CHRIST MYTH 

metaphysical conception of the Gnostics and the essenti- 
ally human conception of the Synoptic Gospels. 

The author who wrote the Gospel in the name of John, 
7 the " favourite disciple of Jesus," probably about 140 A.D., 
agrees with Gnosticism in its dualistic conception of the 
universe. On one side is the world, the kingdom of dark- 
ness, deceit, and evil, in deadly enmity to the divine 
kingdom of light, the kingdom of truth and life. At the 
head of the divine kingdom is God, who is himself Light, 
Truth, Life, and Spirit — following Parsee thought. At 
the head of the kingdom of earth is Satan (Angromainyu) . 
In the middle, between them, is placed man. But man- 
kind is also divided, as all the rest of existence, into two 
essentially different kinds. The souls of the one part of 
mankind are derived from God, those of the other from 
Satan. The "children of God" are by nature destined 
for the good and are fit for redemption. The " children 
of Satan" — among whom John, in agreement with the 
Gnostics, counts the Jews before all — are not susceptible 
of anything divine and are assigned to eternal damnation. 
In order to accomplish redemption, God, from pure 
" Love " for the world, selected Monogenes, his only- 
begotten Son, that is, the only being which, as the child 
of God, was produced not by other beings, but by God 
himself. The author of the Gospel fuses Monogenes with 
the Philonic Logos, who in the Gnostic conception was 
only one of countless other aeons, and was a son of 
Monogenes, the divine reason, and so only a grandson of 
God. At the same time, he transfers the whole " pleroma " 
— the plurality of the aeons into which, in the Gnostic 
conception, the divine reality was divided — to the single 
principle of the Logos, defines the Logos as the unique 
bearer of the whole fulness of divine glory, as the pre- 
existent creator of the world; and calls him also, since 
he is in essence identical with God his " Father," the 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 279 

source of life, the light, the truth, and the spirit of the 
universe. 

And how then does the Logos bring about redemption ? 
He becomes flesh, that is, he assumes the form of the 
"man " Jesus, without, however, ceasing to be the super- 
natural Logos, and as such brings to men the "Life" 
which he himself is, by revealing wisdom and love. As 
revealer of wisdom he is the "light of the world"; he 
opens to men the secret of their filial relation to God ; 
he teaches them, by knowing God, to understand them- 
selves and the world; he collects about himself the 
children of God, who are scattered through the world, in 
a united and brotherly society ; and gives them, in imi- 
tating his own personality, the " light of life " — that is, 
he inwardly enlightens and elevates them. As revealer 
of love he not only assumes the human form and the 
renunciation of his divine bliss connected with it, but as 
a "good shepherd " he lays down his life for his flock; 
he saves them from the power of Satan, from the terrors 
of darkness, and sacrifices himself for his people, in order 
through this highest testimony of his love for men, 
through the complete surrender of his life, to regain the 
life which he really is, and to return to his celestial glory. 
This is the meaning of Christ's work of redemption, that 
men by faith and love become inwardly united with him 
and so with God ; whereby they gain the " life " in the 
higher spirit. For though Christ himself may return to 
God, his spirit still lives on earth. As the " second 
Paraclete " or agent, the Spirit proceeds with the 
Saviour's work of redemption, arouses and strengthens 
the faith in Christ and the love for him and for the 
Brotherhood, thereby mediating- for them the "Life," 
and leading them after their death into the eternal bliss. 

In all this the influence of Gnosticism and of the 
Philonic doctrine of the Logos is unmistakable, and it is 



28o THE CHRIST MYTH 

very probable that the author of the fourth Gospel was 
influenced by the recollection, still living at Ephesus, of 
the Ephesian Heraclitus' Logos, in his attachment to 
Philo and to the latter's more detailed exposition of the 
Hellenic Logos-philosophy. But he fundamentally differs 
from Philo and Gnosticism in his assertion that the Logos 
" was made flesh," sojourned on earth in the figure of 
Jesus of Nazareth, and suffered death. It is true, how- 
ever, that the Evangelist is more persistent in this 
assertion than successful in delineating a real man, 
notwithstanding his use of the Synoptic accounts of the 
personal fate of Jesus. The idea of the divine nature of 
the Saviour is the one that prevails in his writings. The 
" historical picture " which came down to him was 
forcibly rectified, and the personality of Jesus was 
worked up into something so wonderful, extraordinary, 
and supernatural that, if we were in possession of the 
fourth Gospel alone, in all probability the idea would 
hardly have occurred to any one that it was a treatment 
of the life-story of an historical individual. And yet in this 
the difference between the Johannine and the Synoptic 
Gospels is only a slight one. For the Synoptic Jesus also 
is not really a man, but a " superman," the original 
Christian community's God-man, cult-hero, and mediator 
of salvation. And if it is settled that the quarrel 
between the Church teachers and the Gnostic heretics 
hinged, not on the divinity of Christ, in which they 
agreed, but rather on the kind and degree of his 
humanity, then this "paradoxical fact" is by itself 
sufficient to corroborate the assertion that the divinity 
of the mediator of redemption was the only originally 
determined and self-evident presupposition of the whole 
Christian faith ; and that, on the contrary, his humanity 
was doubtful even in the earliest times, and for this reason 
alone could become a subject of the bitterest strife. 



THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS 281 

Indeed, even the author of the fourth Gospel did not 
bring about a real fusion between the human person 
Jesus and the mythological person, the Gnostic Son of 
God, who with Philo wavered, also in the form of the 
Logos, between impersonal being and allegorical person- 
ality. All the efforts to render comprehensible " the 
interfusion of the divine and the human in the unity of 
the personal, its basis (essence) being divine, its appear- 
ance a human life of Jesus," are frustrated even with the 
so-called John by one fact. This fact is that a Logos 
considered as a person can never be at once a human 
personality and yet have as its basis and essence a divine 
personality, but can only be demoniacally possessed by 
this latter, and can never be this latter itself. And so, as 
Pfleiderer says, the Johannine Christ wavers throughout 
" between a sublime truth and a ghostly monstrosity ; the 
former, in so far as he represents the ideal of the Son of 
God, and so the religion of mankind, separated from all 
the accidents and limits of individuality and nationality, 
of space and time — and the latter so far as he is the 
mythical covering of a God sojourning on earth in human 
form."* 

It is true that this fusion of the Gnostic Son of God \ 
and the Philonic Logos with the Synoptic Jesus first 
fixed the hazy uncertainty of mythological speculation 
and abstract thought in the clear form and living indivi-/ 
duality of the personal mediator of redemption. It 
brought this personality nearer to the hearts of the 
faithful than any other figure of religious belief, and 
thereby procured for the Christian cult-god Jesus, in his 
pure humanity, his overflowing goodness and benevolence, 
such a predominance over his divine competitors, Mithras, 
Attis, and others, that by the side of Jesus these faded 
away into empty shadows. The Gnostic ideal man, that 
* " Entstehung d. Chr.," 239. 



282 THE CHRIST MYTH 

is, the Platonic idea, and the moral ideal of man merged 
in him directly into a unity. The miracle of the union 
of God and man, over which the ancient world had so 
hotly and so fruitlessly disputed, seemed to have found 
its realisation in Christ. Christ was the "Wise man" of 
the Stoic philosophy, in whom was united for them all 
that is most honourable in man ; more than this, he was 
the God-man, as he had been preached and demanded by 
Seneca for the moral elevation of mankind.* The world 
was consequently so ready to receive and so well prepared 
for his fundamental ideas that we easily see why the 
Church Christianity took its stand on the human per- 
sonality of its redeeming principle with almost more 
decision than on the divine character of Jesus. Neverthe- 
less, in spite of the majesty and sublimity, in spite of the 
immeasurable significance which the accentuation of the 
true humanity of Jesus has had for the development of 
Christianity, it remains true that on the other hand it is 
just this which is the source of all the insoluble con- 
tradictions, of all the insurmountable difficulties from 
which the Christian view of the world suffers. This is 
the reason why that great idea, which Christianity 
brought to the consciousness of the men of the West, 
and through which it conquered Judaism — the idea of the 
God-man — was utterly destroyed, and the true content 
of this religion was obscured, hidden, and misrepresented 
in such disastrous fashion, that to-day it is no longer 
possible to assent to its doctrine of redemption without 
the sacrifice of the intellect. 

* Cf. above, p. 31. sqq. 



THE RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE 

PRESENT 



THE RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 

IN the opinion of liberal theologians, not the God but 
rather the man Jesus forms the valuable religious 
essence of Christianity.* In saying this it says nothing 
less than that the whole of Christendom up to the present 
day — that is, till the appearance of a Harnack, Bousset, 
Wernle, and others of like mind — was in error about 
itself, and did not recognise its own essence. For 
Christianity, as the present account shows, from the 
very first conceived the God Jesus, or rather the God- 
man, the Incarnate, the God-redeemer, suffering with 
man and sacrificing himself for humanity, as the central 
point of its doctrine. The declaration of the real man- 
hood of Jesus appears, on the other hand, but as an 
after-concession of this religion to outer circumstances, 
wrung from it only later by its opponents, and so 
expressly championed by it only because of its forming 
the unavoidable condition of its permanence in history 
and of its practical success. Only the God, therefore, not 
the man Jesus, can be termed the "founder" of the 
Christian religion. 

It is in fact the fundamental error of the liberal 
theology to think that the development of the Christian 

* Cf. Arnold Meyer, " Was uns Jesus heute ist. Rel. Volksb.," 1907 
— a very impressive presentation of the liberal Protestant point of 
view; also Weinel, "Jesus irn 19ten Jahrhundert." 

285 



286 THE CHRIST MYTH 

Church took its rise from an historical individual, from 
the man Jesus. The view is becoming more common 
that the original Christian movement under the name 
of Jesus would have remained an insignificant and 
transient movement within Judaism but for Paul, who 
first gave it a religious view of the world by his meta- 
physics of redemption, and who by his break with the 
Jewish Law really founded the new religion. It will not 
be long before the further concession is found necessary, 
that an historical Jesus, as the Gospels portray him, and 
as he lives in the minds of the liberal theologians of 
to-day, never existed at all ; so that he never founded the 
insignificant and diminutive community of the Messiah 
at Jerusalem. It will be necessary to concede that the 
Christ-faith arose quite independently of any historical 
personality known to us ; that indeed Jesus was in this 
sense a product of the religious " social soul " and was 
made by Paul, with the required amount of reinter- 
pretation and reconstruction, the chief interest of those 
communities founded by him. The " historical" Jesus is 
not earlier but later than Paul ; and as such he has 
always existed merely as an idea, as a pious fiction in 
the minds of members of the community. The New 
Testament with its four Gospels is not previous to the 
Church, but the latter is antecedent to them ; and the 
Gospels are the derivatives, consequently forming a 
support for the propaganda of the Church, and being 
without any claim to historical significance. 

Nothing at all, as Kalthoff shows, is to be gained for 
the understanding of Christianity from the completely 
modern view that religion is an entirely personal life and 
experience. Eeligion is such personal life only in an 
age which is differentiated into personalities ; it is such 
only in so far as this differentiation has been accom- 
plished. From the very beginning religion makes its 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 287 

appearance as a phenomenon of social life ; it is a group- 
religion, a folk-religion, a State religion ; and this social 
character is naturally transferred to the free associations \ 
which are formed within the limits of tribe and the State. 
The talk about personality as the centre of all religious 
life is with regard to the origin of Christianity absurd 
and unhistorical, for the reason that Christianity grew 
up in religious associations, in communities. From this 
social religion our personal religion has only been 
developed in a history lasting centuries. Only after 
great struggles has personal religion been able to succeed 
against an essentially older form. What devout people 
of to-day call Christianity, a religion of the individual, a 
principle of personal salvation, would have been an 
offence and an absurdity to the whole of ancient 
Christendom. It would have been to it the sin against 
the Holy Ghost which was never to be forgiven ; for 
the Holy Ghost was the spirit of the Church's unity, 
the connection of the religious community, the spirit 
of the subordination of the flock to the shepherd. For 
this reason individual religion existed in old Christendom 
only through the medium of the association of the 
community of the Church. A private setting up of 
one's own religion was heresy, separation from the body 
of Christ.* 

We cannot refuse to concede to the "Catholic" 
Church, both Eoman and Greek, that in this respect 
it has most faithfully preserved the spirit of the 
earliest Christendom. This alone is to-day what 
Christianity in essence once was — the religion of an 
association in the sense to which we have referred. Thus 
Catholicism justly refers to "tradition" for the truth 
of its religious view of the world and for the correctness 
of its hierarchical claims. But Catholicism itself beyond 
* " Entstehung d: Chr.," 98 sq. 



288 THE CHRIST MYTH 

doubt first established this " tradition " in its own 
interests. It teaches also an "historical" Jesus, but 
clearly one that is historical merely by tradition, and 
of whose actual historical existence not the least indi- 
cation has yet been established. Protestantism, on the 
other hand, is completely unhistoric in passing off the 
Gospels as the sources, as the "revealed" basis of the 
faith in Christ, as if they had arisen independently 
of the Church and represented the true beginnings 
of Christianity. Consequently one cannot base one's 
religious faith on the Gospel and wish nevertheless to 
stand outside of that community, since the writings of 
the New Testament can only pass as the expression of 
the community's life. One cannot therefore be Christian 
in the sense of the original community without obliterat- 
ing one's own personality and uniting oneself as a 
member with the " Body of Christ " — that is, with the 
Church. The spirit of obedience and humility, which 
Christ demanded of his followers, is nothing but the 
spirit of subordination to the system of rules of conduct 
observed by the society of worship passing under his 
name. Christianity in the original sense is nothing but 
— " Catholic " Christianity ; and this is the faith of the 
Church in the work of redemption accomplished by the 
God-man Christ in his Church and by means of the 
organisation infused with his " spirit." 

On purely religious grounds the wrongly so-called 
"Catholicism" could very probably dispense with the 
fiction of an historical Jesus, and go back to Paul's 
standpoint before the origin of the Gospels, if it could 
have faith to-day in its mythological conception, of the 
God sacrificing himself for mankind, without that fiction. 
In its present form, however, it stands or falls as a Church 
, with the belief in the historical truth of the God- 
l redeemer ; because all the Church's hierarchical claims 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 289 

and authority are based on this authority having been 
entrusted to her by an historical Jesus through the 
apostles. Catholicism relies for this, as it has been said, 
on "tradition." But Catholicism itself called this 
tradition into life, just as the priests at Jerusalem worked 
up the tradition of an historical Moses in order to trace 
back to him their claim to authority. It is the " Irony 
of World-History" that that very tradition soon after- 
wards forced the Church, with regard to the historical 
Christ, to conceal its real nature from the crowd, and to 
forbid the laity to read the Gospels, on account of the 
contradiction between the power of the Church and the , 
traditional Christ it had produced. But the position of 
Protestantism is even more contradictory and more 
desperate than that of the Catholic Church, in view of 
our insight into the fictitious character of the Gospels. 
For Protestantism has no means but history for the 
foundation of its religious metaphysics ; and history, 
viewed impartially, leads away from those roots of 
Christianity to which Protestantism strives, instead of 
towards them. 

If this is true of Protestant orthodoxy it is even more 
true of that form of Protestantism which thinks it can 
maintain Christianity apart from its metaphysical doc- 
trine of redemption because this doctrine is "no longer 
suitable to the age." Liberal Protestantism is and 
wishes to be nothing but a mere faith in the historical 
personality of a man who is supposed to have been born 
1,900 years ago in Palestine, and through his exemplary 
life to have become the founder of a new religion ; being 
crucified and dying in conflict with the authorities at 
Jerusalem, being raised up then as a God in the minds 
of his enthusiastic disciples. It is a faith in the "loving 
God the Father," because Jesus is supposed to have 
believed in him ; in the personal immortality of man, 

19 



290 THE CHRIST MYTH 

because this is supposed to have been the presupposition 
of Jesus' appearance and doctrines; in the "incom- 
parable " value of moral instructions, because they stand 
in a book which is supposed to have been produced under 
the immediate influence of the prophet of Nazareth. 
Liberal Protestantism supports morality on this, that 
Jesus was such a good man, and that for this reason it 
is necessary for each individual man to follow the call 
of Jesus. But it bases the faith in Jesus once and for 
all on the historical significance of the Gospels ; though 
it cannot conceal from itself, after careful consideration, 
that the belief in their historical value rests on extremely 
weak grounds, and that we know nothing of that Jesus, 
not even that he ever lived. In any case we know 
nothing which could be of influential religious signifi- 
cance, and which could not be put together just as well 
or better from other less doubtful sources.* It is 

* Weinel, indeed, resolutely denies that this is a real characteristic 
of liberal Protestantism, and asserts that he has looked for it in vain 
in any liberal theologian's book. But he need only look in A. Meyer's 
work, which is cited by me, to find my idea confirmed. There it is 
said of Jesus inter alia: "Not only should we move and live in his 
love, but we are as he was, of the faith that this love will overcome 
the world, that it is the meaning, end, and true content of the world ; 
that the power which uniformly and omnipotently fills and guides 
the world, is nothing but the God in whom he believed [was Jesus 
then a Pantheist ?] , and whom he calls his heavenly father. As he 
believed, so let us also, that whoever trusts in this God and lives in 
his love has found the meaning of life and the power which preserves 
him in time and in eternity. Jesus was the founder of our religion, 
of our faith, and of our inner life " (31). According to Meyer, Jesus 
attracts us by his manner, his Being, his love and his faith, we feel 
ourselves bound to him, become kin with him and so live by his 
strength; he is called " the voice of God to us," " our redeemer," and 
so forth. Those are simply expressions which applied to God have 
at least a valid meaning, but applied to the historical man Jesus are 
nothing but phrases, and are to be explained purely psychologically 
from the fact that liberalism in honouring the " unique " man Jesus 
does nevertheless unwittingly allow the belief in his divinity to come 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 291 

pierced to the heart by the denial of the historical 
personality of Jesus, not, like Catholicism, merely as a 
Church, but in its very essence, as a Keligion. And as 
to its real religious kernel it consists in a few fine- 
sounding phrases and some scattered references to a 
metaphysics which was once living, but which is now 
degraded into a mere ornament for modest minds. And 
after disposing of its would-be historical value there is 
left only a dimly smouldering spark of " homeless 
sentiments," which would suit any style of religious 
faith. Liberal Protestantism proclaims itself as the 
really " modern " Christianity. Confronted by the philo- 
sophic spirit of our day, it lays stress upon having no 
philosophy. It sets aside all religious speculation as 
" Myth," if possible with reference to Kant, as this is 
"modern," without noticing that it is itself most deeply 



into play. In this atmosphere, obscured with phrases, the so-called 
" theology " of liberal Protestantism moves. Moreover, Weinel 
himself quotes a sentence of Herrmann with approval, which also 
gives expression to the idea that Jesus is for Protestant liberalism 
a kind of "demonstration of God" (80), and he adds himself: "It 
may indeed be that our conception of the significance of Jesus has 
often been expressed unskilfully enough. It may be that in dis- 
courses, lectures, or other popular ways of speaking something is at 
times said which may be so clumsily put as to give occasion for such 
things to be said." Indeed, he himself maintains regarding Jesus : 
" Whoever places the ideal of his life in him, he experiences God in 
him " (84). He also finds that the desire for God of the Jews, 
Greeks, Semnites, and Germans " could be stilled in him." Taking 
into account these expressions and the whole tone which it pleases 
Herr Weinel to adopt towards the opponents of his standpoint, it 
appears time to remind him once again of E. v. Hartmann's " Die 
Selbstzersetzung des Christentums " (it is obvious he has only a 
third-hand acquaintance with the author whose point of view he 
calls Neo-Buddhism, counting him among the supporters of the 
morality of pity !) and especially of the chapter on " Die Irreligios- 
ität des liberalen Protestantismus." Here, in connection with the 
lack of metaphysics displayed by liberal Protestantism (and 



292 THE CHRIST MYTH 

imbedded in mythology with its "historical" Jesus. It 
believes that, in its exclusive reverence for the man 
Jesus, it has brought Christianity to the "height of 
present culture." As to this Stendel justly says: "Of 
the whole apologetic art with which the modern Jesus- 
theology undertakes to save Christianity for our time, 
it can be said that there is no historical religion which 
could not just as well be brought into accord with 
the modern mind as that of the New Testament." * 
"We have no occasion to weep for the complete col- 
lapse of such a "religion." This form of Christianity 
has already been proved by Hartmann to be worthless 
from the religious point of view;t and it is only a 
proof of the fascinating power of phrases, of the laxity 
in our creeds, and the thoughtlessness of the mob in 
religious matters, that it is even yet alive. For such 



admitted even by Weinel) and the latter's principle of love, he says : 
" If we transform the whole of religion into Ethics and soften down 
the whole of Ethics into love, we thereby renounce everything that 
is in religion besides love, and everything which makes love 
religious. We thereby confess that the impulse of love is raised into 
religion since religion properly so called has been lost. It is true 
religion is not a shark, as the inquisitors thought, but at the same 
time it is not a sea-nettle. A shark can at least be terrifying, a 
sea-nettle is always feeble." Liberal Protestantism, as Hartmann 
sums it up, consists " of a shapeless, poor, shallow metaphysic, 
which is concealed as far as possible from critical eyes ; of a worship 
successfully freed from all mystery, but one that has become thereby 
by no means incapable of being objected to; of an Ethics forcibly 
separated from Metaphysics and on that account irreligious. It rests 
upon a view of the world which by its worldliness and optimistic 
contentment with the world is by no means in a position to give 
birth to a religion, and which sooner or later will allow the remnants 
of religious feeling which it brought with it to be smothered in 
worldly ease." 

* Op. cit., 39. 

f Cf. E. v. Hartmann, " Die Selbstzersetzung deslChristentums und 
die Religion der Zukunft," 2nd ed., 1874, especially chaps, vi. and vii. 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 293 

reasons it is even allowed, under the lead of the so-called 
critical theology, to proclaim itself as the pure Christi- 
anity, now known for the first time. Thus it finds 
sympathy. This unsystematic collection of thoughts, 
arbitrarily selected from the view of the world and of life 
given by the Gospels, which even so requires to be rhe- 
torically puffed out and artistically modified before it is 
made acceptable to the present age, — this unspeculative 
doctrine of redemption, which at bottom is uncertain of 
itself, — this sentimental, aesthetic, Jesus-worship of a 
Harnack, Bousset, and the rest on whom "W. v. Schnehen 
so pitilessly broke his lance ;* this whole so-called Chris- 
tianity of cultured pastors and a laity in need of redemp- 
tion, would have long since come to grief through its 
poverty of ideas, its sickening sweetness, if it were not 
considered necessary to maintain Christianity at all costs, 
were it even that of the complete deprivation of its 
spiritual content. The recognition of the fact that the 
" historical " Jesus has no religious interest at all, but at 
most concerns historians and philologists, is indeed at 
present commencing to make its way into wider circles, t 
If one only knew a way out of the difficulty ! If one 
were only not afraid of following a clear lead just because 
one might then possibly be forced beyond the existing 
religion in the course of his ideas — as the example of 
Kalthoff showed ! If only one had not such a fearful 
respect for the past and such a tender "historic uncon- 
sciousness " and such immense respect for the " historical 
basis" of existing religion! The reference to history 
and the so-called " historical continuity of the religious 
development" is indeed on the face of it merely a way 

* Cf. W. v. Schnehen, "Der moderne Jesuskultus," 2nd ed., 1906 ; 
also "Naumann vor dem Bankerott des Christentums," 1907. 

f Cf. my work, 4 "Die Religion als Selbstbewusstsein Gottes," 
1906, 199 sq. 



294 THE CHRIST MYTH 

mit of a difficulty, and another way of putting the fact 
that one is not desired to draw the consequences of his 
presuppositions. As if there can still be talk of a " his- 
torical basis " where there is no history, but pure myth ! 
As if the " preservation of historical continuity " could 
consist in maintaining as history what are mythical 
fictions, just because they have hitherto passed for 
historic truth, though we have seen through their purely 
fictitious and unreal character ! As if the difficulty of 
the redemption of present-day civilisation from the chaos 
of superstition, social deceit, cowardice, and intellectual 
servitude which are connected with the name of Christi- 
anity, lay in a purely spiritual sphere and not rather in 
the sentiment, in the slovenly piety, in the heavy weight 
of ancient tradition, above all in the economic, social, 
and practical relations which unite our churches with 
the past ! Faith in the future of Christianity is still 
built not so much on the persuasive inner truth of its 
doctrine, but much more on the inborn religious feeling 
of the members of the community, on the religious educa- 
tion in school and home, and the consequent increasing 
store of metaphysical and ethical ideas, on protection by 
the State and — on the law of inertia in the spiritual life 
of the mob. For the rest, in pulpit, in parish papers, and 
in public life, a method of expression is used which is 
not essentially different from that of orthodoxy, but is so 
adapted as to allow every man to think what he deems 
best for himself. "We are enthusiastically told that thus 
we are able to keep the rudderless ship of Protestantism 
still a while above water, and that we have " reconciled " 
faith with modern culture in " the further development of 
Christianity." 

Thus nineteen hundred years of religious development 
were completely in error. Is no other course open to 
us but a complete break with the Christian doctrine of 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 295 

redemption ? This doctrine, however — such was the 
result of our previous examination — is independent of 
the belief in an historical Jesus. Its centre of gravity 
lies in the conception of the "incarnation " of God, who 
suffers in the world but is finally victorious over this 
suffering ; and through union with whom Mankind also 
"prevails over the world" and gains a new life in a 
higher sphere of existence. That the form of this divine 
Redeemer of the world coalesced, in the minds of the 
Christian community, with that of a man Jesus ; that, 
consequent on this, the act of redemption was fixed as to 
time and place, is only the consequence of the conditions 
under which the new religion appeared. 

For this reason it can only claim, in and for itself, a 
transient practical significance, and not a special religious 
value ; while on the other hand it has become the doom 
of Christianity that just this making into history of the 
principle of redemption makes it impossible for us still to 
acknowledge this religion. But then the preservation of 
historical continuity or the " further development " of 
Christianity in its proper sense probably does not consist 
in separating this chance historical side of the Christian 
doctrine of redemption from its connection with the whole 
Christian view of the world and setting it up by itself, but 
only in going back to the essential and fundamental idea 
of the Christian religion, and stating its metaphysical 
doctrine of redemption in a manner more nearly answering 
to the ideas of the day. 

From the conception of a personal God-redeemer arose 
the possibility of sacrificing a man in God's place, and of 
seeing the divine and ideal man, that is, the Idea of Man, 
in an actual man. From the growing Church's desire 
for authority, from its opposition to Gnostic phantasy 
with its intellectual volatilising of the religious-moral 
kernel of the Pauline doctrine of redemption, and from 



296 THE CHRIST MYTH 

the wish not to give up the historical connection with 
Judaism on opportunist grounds, arose the necessity of 
portraying the divine-human expiatory sacrifice as the 
sacrifice of an historical person who had arisen in 
Judaism. All these different reasons, which led to the 
formation of the belief in an " historical " Jesus, have no 
force with us, particularly after it has been shown that 
the personality of the principle of redemption, this 
fundamental presupposition of the evangelical " history," 
is in the end to blame for all the contradictions and 
shortcomings of that religion. To lead back to its real 
essence the Christian doctrine of redemption can conse- 
quently mean nothing but placing the idea of the God- 
man, as it lies at the basis of that doctrine, in the central 
point of the religious view of the world, through the 
stripping off of the mythical personality of the 
Logos. 

God must become man, so that Man can become God 
and be redeemed from the bounds of the finite. The idea 
of Man which is realised in the world must itself be a 
divine idea, an idea of the Deity, and so God must be the 
common root and essence of all individual men and 
things ; only then may Man attain his existence in God 
and freedom from the world, through this consciousness 
of his supernatural divine essence. Man's consciousness 
of himself and of his true essence must itself be a divine 
consciousness. Man, and indeed every man, must be a 
purely finite phenomenon, an individual limitation, the 
clothing of the Deity with a human form. In possibility 
he is a God-man, to be born again an actual God-man 
through his moral activity, and consequently to become 
really one with God. In this conception all the contra- 
dictions of Christian dogmatism are solved, and the kernel 
of its doctrine of redemption is preserved without being 
divested of its true significance by the introduction of 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 297 

mythical phantasy or of historical coincidences, as is the 
case in Christianity. 

If we are still to use the language of the past, and to 
call the divine essence of mankind the immanent God- 
head, " Christ," then any advance of religion can only 
consist in the development and working out of this "inner 
Christ," that is, of the spiritual-moral tendencies dwelling 
in mankind, in the carrying of it back to its absolute and 
divine basis, but not in the historical personification of 
this inner human nature. Any reality of the God-man 
consequently consists in " Christ's " activity in Man, in 
the proving of his "true self," of his personal, spiritual 
essence, in the raising of one's self to personality on the 
ground of Man's divine nature, but not in the magical 
efficacy of an external divine personality. This, indeed, 
is nothing but the religious ideal of mankind, which 
men have projected on to an historical figure, in order to 
assure themselves of the "reality" of the ideal. It is not 
true that it is " essential " to the religious consciousness 
to consider its ideal in human form, and that for this 
reason the historical Jesus is indispensable for the reli- 
gious life. Were this true, religion would not be, in 
principle, in a position to raise itself above the mythical 
and primitive stage of God's externality and appearance 
to the senses, and to conquer these Gods, working them 
more and more into the forms of an inner nature. This, 
however, is the essence of religious development. Reli- 
gion would otherwise be confined to a lower province in 
the human life of the spirit ; and it would be over- 
thrown whenever the fiction of that projection and 
separation of God from one's own self was seen 
through. It is only to orthodox Christianity that it 
is necessary to represent the God in Man as a God 
outside of Man, as the " unique " personality of a 
historical God-man ; and that because it still remains 



298 THE CHRIST MYTH 

with one foot in religious naturalism and mythology, 
and the historical circumstances of another age occa- 
sioned the choice of that representation and falsification 
of the idea of the God-man. 

To think of the world's activity as God's activity ; of 
mankind's development, filled with struggles and suffer- 
ings, as the story of a divine struggle and Passion ; of 
the world-process as the process of a God, who in each 
individual creature fights, suffers, conquers and dies, so 
that he may overcome the limitations of the finite in the 
religious consciousness of man and anticipate his future 
triumph over all the suffering of the world — that is the 
real Christian doctrine of redemption. To revive in this 
sense the fundamental conception from which Christianity 
sprang — and which is independent of any historical refer- 
ence — is, indeed, to return to this religious starting-point. 
Protestantism, on the contrary, which repudiates Paul's 
religion and sets up the Gospels as the foundation of its 
belief, nevertheless does not go behind Christianity's 
development into the Church, back to the origin of 
Christianity, but remains always within this develop- 
ment, and deceives itself if it thinks that it can prevail 
over the Church from the point of view of the Gospel.* 

In such an interpretation and development of the 
Christian conception of redemption " historical con- 
tinuity " is preserved just as decidedly as it is in the 
one-sided making into history of that thought on the 
side of liberal Protestantism. What is in opposition to 
it is, on the one hand, completely unhistorical belief in 
an historical Jesus ; on the other hand, the prejudice 
against the "immanent God," or against Pantheism. 
But this prejudice is based entirely on that fiction of an 

* Cf. my work, " Die Eeligion als Selbstbewusstsein Gottes," in 
which the attempt has been made to form a general religious view 
of the world in the sense mentioned. 



RELIGIOUS PROBLEM OF THE PRESENT 299 

historical "mediator" and the hypothesis contained 
therein of a dualistic separation of world and God. 
The representatives of the monistic conception — who 
began to organise themselves a short time ago — should 
be clearer as to the significance of that conception 
than they are for the most part even at the present day. 
They must perceive that the true doctrine of unity can 
only be the doctrine of the all in one. There must be an 
idealistic monism in opposition to the naturalistic monism 
of Haeckel, which is prevalent even to-day. This 
monism must not exclude but include God's existence; 
and its present unfruitful negation of all religion must 
deepen into a positive and religiously valuable view of 
the world. Then, and not till then, will it be able to 
effect a genuine separation from the Church, and the 
monistic movement, still in its childhood, may lead to 
an inner improvement and renovation of our spiritual 
life in general. It requires much short-sightedness on 
the part of the exponents of a purely historical 
Christianity to suppose that the soulless and poor faith 
in the personal, or as it is considered better expressed 
to-day, in the "living" God, in freedom and immor- 
tality, supported by the authority of the "unique" 
personality of a man Jesus who died two thousand years 
ago, will be in a position permanently to satisfy religious 
needs, even when the metaphysic of redemption, still 
connected with it at all points, and the pious attitude 
based upon this are completely stripped off from it. The 
earlier the orthodox Christians, by giving up their super- 
stition in an historical Jesus, and the Monists, by sacrific- 
ing their equally fatal superstition in the sole reality of 
matter and in the redeeming truths of physical science 
which alone can give happiness, come to a mutual recon- 
ciliation, the better it will be for both. The more surely 
we shall avoid the total obliteration of the religious 



300 THE CHRIST MYTH 

consciousness ; and the civilised nations of Europe will 
be saved from the loss of their spiritual ballast — towards 
which loss there seems at the present day to be a con- 
tinuous movement on all sides. At present there are 
only two possibilities — either to look on quietly while 
the tidal wave of naturalism, getting ever more powerful 
from day to day, sweeps away the last vestige of religious 
thought, or to transfer the sinking fire of religion to the 
ground of Pantheism, in a religion independent of any 
ecclesiastical guardianship. The time of dualistic Theism 
has gone by. At present all the advancing spirits, in 
spheres most widely different, concur in striving towards 
Monism. This striving is so deeply grounded and so 
well warranted, that the Church will not be able to 
suppress it for ever.* The chief obstacle to a monistic 
religion and attitude is the belief, irreconcilable with 
reason or history, in the historical reality of a " unique," 
ideal, and unsurpassable Bedeemer. 

* Cf. " Der Monismus, dargestellt in Beiträgen seiner Vertreter," 
2 vols., 1908. 



INDEX 



Aaron, 78, 135 

Adam, connected with Messiah, 

131 ; originator of sin, 156, 192 
Adam, Cadmon, 135 
Ado, 54 
Adonaei, 54 
Adonis, as suffering, 64 ; in sacrifice, 

66 ; in Bethlehem, 91 ; relation 

to Atargatis, 117 ; feast of, 186 ; 

Passion of, 241 ; as patron, 264 
Agni, as fire-God, 99, 100, 105, 154, 

199 ; as mediator, 113 ; baptism 

of, 120 ; self-offering of, 128-33 ; 

in symbolism, 140-44, 159 
Ahuramazda, 37-40 
Amun Ra, 49 
Angromainyu, 38-40 
Aphrodite, 117, 137 
Apollo, 61, 103 
Asclepius, 138, 240, 264 
Asita, 104 
Atargatis, 117 
Attis, in symbolism, 61 ; sufferings 

of, 64 ; in sacrifice, 66 ; relation 

to Cybele, 117, 148 ; (feast of, 186 ; 

Passion of, 241 ; as patron, 264, 

281 
Augustus, as Saviour, 34 

Baal, 70 

Balder, 96, 97 

Baptism, 103, 118-27, 195, 264 



Barabbas, 74-6, 87 

Beardless One, the, 73-5 

Benjamin, 91 

Body of Christ, 200 

Brother of the Lord, 172-4, 204, 230 

Buddha, birth of, 104, 127 ; temp- 
tation of, 236 ; personality, 257, 
261, 262 

Buddhist influence on Jewish 
thought, 105-15 

Bull, as symbol, 70, 142, 144 

Caleb, 84 

Carpenter, 114-17, 239 
Cross, 146-61, 187, 199 
Crucifixion, 147, 148, 160 
Cybele, 117 

Cyrus, as Messiah, 41, 90; in 
Herodotus, 89 

Daemons, fear of, 35 ; of darkness,, 

39 ; messengers of God, 48, 53 
David, 40, 69, 90, 91, 167 
Demeter, 137, 242 
Descent into the Underworld, 107 
Dionysus, sufferings of, 64, 242 ; 

birth, 96-103 ; self-offering, 137 ; 

feast of, 186; personality, 261, 

264 
Divine Son, Mithras, 39 ; of Jahwe,, 

56 ; Jesus, 126 
Dualism, 33, 37 



301 



302 



INDEX 



Ea, 120, 122 

Elijah, as Sun-God, 123, 126; as 

prophet, 238, 244, 247 
Eros, 197 

Essenes, 52, 53, 58, 59, 63 
Esther, 72 

Fire-cult, Jahwe, 37, 70 ; Hadad, 
94 ; Agni, 98-100, 105, 112, 140 ; 
merged in astrology, 102 ; cross 
as symbol, 154 ; Eros, 199 ; in 
Brahmanism, 200 

First-born son of God, 48, 56, 113 

Fish, as symbol, 140 

Gibbet, 67, 69, 72, 79, 146 

Gnostics, 54, 120, 165, 192, 273-82 

Good and evil, opposition of, in 

Parseeism, 38-9 ; with Philo, 

49-50 ; in Mandaism, 54 ; Jesus 

and Barabbas, 75 

Hadad, 92-4 

Hades, in ancient Judaism, 43 

Haman, 72, 75, 81, 85, 87, 148, 212 

Hanged one, the, 149, 187 

Helios, 123, 126, 137 

Heljas, 123 

Hell, 38, 39, 43 

Hephaistos, 116, 138 

Hercules, 56, 81, 241, 264 

Hermes, 49, 101, 117, 264 

Hibil Ziwa, 54, 120, 192 

Hippokoon, 56 

Holy Ghost, as father of Jesus, 
115 ; as mother of Jesus, 118; 
Paul inspired by, 171 ; at Pente- 
cost, 211 ; as spirit of unity, 287 

Honover, 38 

Horus, 101, 242 

Ideal man, in Seneca, 31-3 ; Sao- 
shyant, 49 ; in Plato, 85 ; of 
Gnosticism, 281 



Ideas, of Plato, 48 
Ilia, 123 

Incarnation, 189, 192 
Individualism, 44 
Isaac, 78, 83, 241 
Isaiah, 41, 58, 65, 67, 150 
Istar, 72, 90, 117, 244 

Jacob, 56 

Jahwe, influence of Parseeism, 37, 
40, 44 ; influence of Grecian 
thought, 46 ; struggle with Jacob, 
56 ; and Moses, 69 ; as fire-god, 
70 ; sacrifice to, 76 ; father of 
Jesus, 115 ; cross as symbol, 
149-50 

Jason, 58, 117, 137, 240 

Jessenes, 59 

Jesus, Jewish writer, 45 ; as cult- 
god, 51-63 ; as Haman, 75 ; as 
Barabbas, 76 ; son of David, 81 ; 
connection with Joshua, 83 ; as 
victim, 85 ; influence of Budd- 
hism, 104-15 ; baptism, 122-7 ; 
execution of, 147 ; the Pauline, 
165-213 ; the Synoptic, 214-30 ; 
in secular literature, 230-5 ; in 
Christology, 235-64 ; true char- 
acter of Synoptic, 264-73 ; the 
Johannine, 273-82 

Jews, expectation of redemption, 
37 ; King of the, 75 

John the Baptist, 119-23 

Joseph, as Messiah, 80-2 ; as father 
of Jesus, 115-17, 239 

Joshua, name of expected Messiah, 
80-2; father of Jasios, 117; 
Ephraimitic God, 82-4; relation 
to Caleb, 123 ; connection with 
Pasch, 135-8 

Judgment, last, 39, 43 

Karabas, 74 

King of the Jews, 75 



INDEX 



303 



Kingdom of peace, longing for, 33-5 ; 

in Parseeism, 39 ; in Buddhism 

109 
Krishna, 89, 105-8, 139 

Lamb, as symbol, 142-6 ; Paschal, 

136, 158 
Leto, 88, 103 
Logos, 47-50, 56, 59, 115, 116, 191, 

278-81, 296 

Magi, 94, 103 

Mandä de hajje, 54, 192 

Mandsei, 54, 120, 165, 192, 273-82 

Manu, 131, 134 

Marduk, 49, 54, 56, 63, 72-5, 120 

Maria (Mary), 83, 116-17, 239 

Mediator, Mithras, 38 ; Spenta 

Armaiti, 47 ; in Mandaism, 54-5 ; 

in early Judaism, 55-9 ; Agni, 

113; Hermes, 115 
Melchisedek, 134 
Melkart, 64, 77 
Men, 61, 126, 134 
Messiah, as king, 40 ; influenced by 

Persian thought, 40-3 ; Nazarene, 

61 ; sufferings of, 64-87 ; birth of, 

88-117; servant of God, 188; 

identification with Jesus, 205-9, 

236-9,245,264 
Mirzam, 83 
Mithras, as mediator, 38-41, 49, 

56 ; sufferings of, 64, 66, 80 ; as 

sun-hero, 96 ; birth of, 101 ; 

Mysteries of, 120, 137, 251 ; as 

fire-God, 155 ; feast of, 184 ; 

Passion of, 241 ; personality of, 

281 
Moloch, 56, 70, 77 
Monotheism, 37, 55, 91 
Mordecai, 72-5, 81 
Moses, 40, 78, 90, 103, 126, 150, 

167, 237, 244, 265 
Myrrha, 83, 116 



Mysteries, in Judaism, 55 ; of 
Mithras, 120-37, 251 

Nabu, 49, 54 

Nanna, 96 

Nassenes, 54, 118, 274 

Nazar, 61 

Nazarene, signification of, 59-61 

Nazarenes, sect, 59, 210 

Nazareth, 59-61, 81, 239 

Ninus, 117 

Odin, 97 

Osiris, sufferings of, 64 ; in sacrifice, 
66 ; birth of, 96 ; hanging of, 
148 ; feast of, 186 ; Passion of, 
241-2 ; personality of, 261, 264 

Pasch, 72, 76, 83, 135 

Persephone, 81, 242 

Phanes, 56 

Philo, 48-51, 53, 197, 204, 236 

Plato, 46-8, 85, 197-9 

Prometheus, 81 

Protogonos, 56 

Purim, feast of, 72, 81, 85 

Purusha, 113, 130, 131 

Bam, as symbol, 115, 142-4, 158 
Eesurrection, 39, 43, 170, 206, 241, 
Bide of the beardless, 73-5 

Sacred tree-trunk, 66, 97, 157 

Sacrifice of representative of God, 
66-70; of first-born, 76-7; sub- 
stitution of circumcision, 83 

Sandan, 66, 184 

Saoshyant, as Saviour, 39-42, 49 ; 
as judge of the world, 80 ; seed 
of Zarathustra, 91 ; Mysteries of, 
137 

Sargon, 103 

Satan, 38 

Saturnalia, 71 



304 



INDEX 



A u 



Savitar, 114 

Scapegoat, 67 

Serairamis, 116-17 

Seneca, on the ideal man, 31-3 

Serapis, 150 

Simeon, 104 

Soma cup, 128, 129, 137, 142 

Son of Man, 41, 112-13, 189, 236 

Spenta Armaiti, 47, 49 

Stoics, 48, 116, 183-4, 195 

Suffering servant of God, 64-7, 

237 
Sun-cult, 90, 95, 151 

Tammuz, 64-5, 82-4, 91, 117, 186 
Tau, as symbol, 149 
Therapeutes, 51-9 
Thoth, as mediator, 49 



Tree, of Life, 43, 49, 156, 157 ; in 

sacrifice, 70, 97 
Twelve, the, 62, 135, 170, 271 

Union with Christ, 194 
Ushas, 101 

Virgin, 39, 102, 103, 117 
Vohu mano, 49 

Wisdom, as Logos, 47, 48 
Word, 47-50 

Zakmuk, 71 

Zarathustra, 39, 236, 257 
Zerubbabel, 57, 58 
Zeus, 56, 64, 81, 101, 137 
Zodiac, 84, 102, 103, 139, 240 



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Drews, Arthur, 1865-1935, 

The Christ myth