David Fitzgerald, Author of Nailed, has a new trilogy out, Jesus: Mything in Action. A lot of people, including most atheists, aren’t overly willing to concede that christianity could have happened with some sort of actual Jesus somewhere in the mess. Most people have settled on “yes, there was, or might have been, a rabbi who wandered about preaching outside the box stuff, and it all blew up from there.” Fitzgerald argues that it’s more likely the case there was no outside the box rabbi at all. Valerie Tarico has an interview with him about Mything Jesus, and the difference between historicized mythology and mythologized history. Interesting reading!
Tarico: Walk us through how Christianity could have emerged if Jesus never existed.
Fitzgerald: There’s nothing implausible about Christianity beginning with a wandering teacher and his followers. And it’s no skin off my nose if there was – but that’s not what our evidence points to. The further we go back in Christian history, the more diverse it appears, and the less likely it began with a single founder. Instead there are abundant indications that its origins are tied to the pagan mystery faiths.
Not that Christianity is some cookie-cutter copy of the mystery faiths – it is a mystery faith; a uniquely Jewish version of this Hellenistic theology. When the Gospel of Mark is written generations later, the mystery faith savior of Paul, the book of Hebrews, and the earliest Christians becomes an allegorical figure built from pastiches from the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus doesn’t fulfill prophecy; Jesus is a collage constructed from prophecy and other writings. And his story grows by leaps and bounds in the second century.
As Bart Ehrman and other biblical scholars have demonstrated beyond a doubt, most of our New Testament books are forgeries. None are written by anyone who actually knew a Jesus. The only genuine books are seven of the letters attributed to Paul (though even these have been tampered with). And of course, Christian scriptures were edited and re-edited to suit the needs of different religious factions over centuries. We have no way of knowing how much has changed from the original writings; for the first 150-200 years, we have a blackout period with nothing but tiny fragments of New Testament texts until complete books begin to appear at the end of the second century. Our earliest complete New Testaments only go back to the 4th century; although they differ from each other – and from ours.
And of course Christianity continues to evolve and mutate for the next two millennia, a process still alive and well – a perfect textbook example of Darwinian evolution in action. Modern Christians would have a hard time recognizing their religion in the beliefs of their earliest spiritual ancestors. In fact, most Christians of today would be the heretics of 500 years ago. Please note that all these problems of evidence remain – whether there was a Jesus or not.