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06/06/06
January 6, 2006 6:05 PM   Subscribe

The Beast is coming. Director Brian Flemming prepares to bring to the silver screen what might be the most controversial film of the year (if not all time). The cast and crew are all sworn to secrecy regarding the film's actual content, and the central premise easily explains why: What if there was a massive conspiracy in the Christian Church to conceal the fact that Jesus Christ never existed?
posted by deusdiabolus (74 comments total)

 
bah bahm bahm!!!!! *cue dramatic string music*
posted by tweak at 6:11 PM on January 6, 2006


deusdiabolus: Are you, by any chance, director Brian Flemming?
posted by billysumday at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2006


Plot Summary from the IMDB entry:
When her father, a biblical scholar, mysteriously disappears, a Christian high-school student named Danielle investigates. She discovers that he had stumbled across a cover-up of Christianity's best-kept secret: That Jesus Christ never existed. Now that she possesses proof of this dangerous fact, Danielle confronts two strong forces: A band of fundamentalist Christians who will stop at nothing to suppress the truth, and her own desire for Jesus Christ to be real. The Beast dives into factual territory well-explored by scholars but largely hidden from the view of the public.

Sworn to secrecy regarding actual content? Um?
posted by tweak at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2006


Wow. Uh, that's a really, really shitty teaser.
posted by cortex at 6:15 PM on January 6, 2006


Ooooh! The same director is working on Bat Boy! And it's a musical!
posted by mr_roboto at 6:17 PM on January 6, 2006


Jesus is so useful that if he didn't exist he would have to be invented.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:17 PM on January 6, 2006


In order to be fair and balanced this movie must also deny that Allah ever existed. And reinforce the existence of the Easter bunny. And call both the Mormons and Moonies cults.
posted by nofundy at 6:20 PM on January 6, 2006


Oh, and the description of the movie on IMDB is so weak it makes me want to vomit, but I can't, because the teaser made me lose my appetite.
posted by tweak at 6:21 PM on January 6, 2006


Shit, I'll go see it. But the little explanation in the "about" pop-up is what (I thought) was kind of common knowledge- that the gospels were written years after Christ's life, that they were not intended to be biographies (they were written as letters, no?). It goes on to say that there are no "credible non-Christian references to Christ during the period in which he is to have lived." I am not sure how that is meant to be taken- anything written about Christ during or close to his lifetime would be by those present, and the only ones who would really be bothered writing about it would be those who believed. Who else? Fox News wasn't around back then.

I am not a Christian, but I was always under the impression that Jesus existed, at least as man, was a pretty well-accepted viewpoint among scholars and historians, Christian or not.

Maybe he's just trying to one-up Dan Brown.
posted by Meredith at 6:22 PM on January 6, 2006


Anyways, we need a movie that exposes the conspiracy to trick the world into believing in Santa Claus.
posted by tweak at 6:22 PM on January 6, 2006


He wrote Bat Boy, too. And he ran for governor on the 'If I Win I'll Quit' platform. He seems like a fun guy.
posted by maryh at 6:24 PM on January 6, 2006


Check the forums for the cut and thrust of expert debate.

In other Jesus denying news:

Prove Christ Exists, Judge Orders Priest
posted by Sparx at 6:27 PM on January 6, 2006


it's pretty bad when the post contains more info than the trailer thats been posted....

Uh, yeah, I'll wait for video.
posted by drinkmaildave at 6:30 PM on January 6, 2006


If only they had Samuel L. Jackson.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2006


billysumday: deusdiabolus: Are you, by any chance, director Brian Flemming?

No.

tweak: Sworn to secrecy regarding actual content? Um?

I can only guess that they plan to reveal something not covered by the plot summary? (shrugs)

Anyways, we need a movie that exposes the conspiracy to trick the world into believing in Santa Claus.

Well, there was this...
posted by deusdiabolus at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2006


From the same director that brought you the acclaimed documentary film The God Who Wasn't There!
When fundies do the ol' synergistic agenda pushing it makes me nauseous, but this is anti-religion, so it's ok!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2006


b1tr0t: If only they had Samuel L. Jackson.

Snakes on a Cross.
posted by deusdiabolus at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2006


By the way, who's the creepy dude in the painting that the camera zooms in on in the trailer?

Homer: That man is sick!
Marge: Groundskeeper Willy saved you, Homer!
Homer: But listen to the music! He's evil!

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:36 PM on January 6, 2006


I kind of suspect the vatican is sitting on a bunch of bombshells for reasons of there being no worthwhile reason to detonate them, there seems to be so much stuff in their vaults that no-one else even knows exists, let alone sees. It wouldn't surprise me if evidence that there was no historical figure Jesus was one of them. As far as they'd be concerned, whether people take parables literally or figuratively is simply not very important, it's the point of the parable that holds the significance, arguing history is completely missing the point, so dropping a bombshell like, I don't know, "the resurrection is figurative" would cause way more trouble than it's worth.

So, I really doubt the bombshells are this big, but it wouldn't shock me if they were :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:37 PM on January 6, 2006


The Church is actually concealing the fact that Jesus loves the crisp, refreshing taste of Pepsi Blue.
posted by Zonker at 6:45 PM on January 6, 2006


It goes on to say that there are no "credible non-Christian references to Christ during the period in which he is to have lived." I am not sure how that is meant to be taken- anything written about Christ during or close to his lifetime would be by those present, and the only ones who would really be bothered writing about it would be those who believed. Who else?

From what I hear, the Romans kept copious records in that era, but Jesus doesn't appear in them. too lazy to Google further
posted by Aknaton at 7:10 PM on January 6, 2006


Snakes on a Cross.
No, no, that was the OLD testament.
posted by verb at 7:12 PM on January 6, 2006


Holy cow, they're making a movie of Bat Boy! The Musical! That's the best news I've heard all week!

No, really. Big musical theatre geek here. I have the recording for that show and everything. And it *totally* rocks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm about as big an atheist as atheists get. But even I acknowledge that Jesus Christ existed. I don't, of course, believe he was the son of God. I think he was just an ordinary guy who was either really smart and figured out a great way of getting people to do what he wanted them to do, or someone who was used as a pawn by people far smarter than him to get people to do what they wanted them to do. I've watched several documentaries from the BBC and other history channels here on SBS that have led me to form this conclusion.

I also think that some of the miracles attributed to him were more than likely just some cheap magic tricks the likes of which you can see any circus magician perform today but which would have awed the stupid peasants of Christ's day.

That said, just like both Testaments, this movie is a work of fiction, and it'll be enjoyed and/or reviled for that. So beyond that fact that there appears to be overwhelming evidence that there actually was a Jesus Christ around whose legend Christianity was founded, this movie should be discussed with the full knowledge that no matter what your religious convictions, this is first and foremost a work of pure fiction.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:22 PM on January 6, 2006


Yeah, I've also heard great things about Bat Boy, from someone who was in it.

I kind of suspect the vatican is sitting on a bunch of bombshells for reasons of there being no worthwhile reason to detonate them, there seems to be so much stuff in their vaults that no-one else even knows exists, let alone sees.

You mean, like... the corpse of Jesus?

Somehow that scenario is more deliciously blasphemous than Jesus not existing. Plus Robbins did it some 35 years ago.
posted by soyjoy at 7:27 PM on January 6, 2006


I don't know how other atheists feel, but for me, it's always discouraging to see people rabidly trying to disprove religion. If you don't believe, why spend your life talking about what you don't believe in?
posted by CrunchyGods at 7:30 PM on January 6, 2006


I don't know how other atheists feel, but for me, it's always discouraging to see people rabidly trying to disprove religion. If you don't believe, why spend your life talking about what you don't believe in?

Because it is interesting to track the evolution of ancient legends. I mean, who knew that many ancient heros and demigods had been crucified?

Of course the fact that the New Testament recycles Moses mythology kind of gives the game away to any six year old who is paying attention...
posted by Chuckles at 7:41 PM on January 6, 2006


crunchygods, I believe the director was raised Catholic and is basically pissed that he was hoodwinked into believing the bible was non-fiction. He's trying to spare others a sheltered, fear-filled ignorant life similar to the one he feels was thrust upon him. At least, that's what I got out of the five minutes I saw of The God Who Wasn't There.
posted by Manhasset at 7:41 PM on January 6, 2006


I saw his "The God Who Wasn't There" DVD and he did bring up some salient points that made this card carrying atheist start to believe that maybe Jesus -- the human nondiety -- didn't exist. Odd that there are written records about mundane people and stuff from that time period, but nothing about JC until the gospels are written decades later. He also did a good job explaining how Christians account for the striking resemblance between JC's life and that of several other "pagan" messiahs -- See, the devil actually went back in time to create these other myths AFTER Jesus came along. He was first, the older pagan gods came later even though they came earlier in time.

CrunchyGods, I think he's become a militant atheist because at one time he was a holy roller. In that DVD he goes back to the leader of the Christian High School he went to with an axe to grind. He's on a crusade to convert people to reject Christianity.
posted by birdherder at 7:48 PM on January 6, 2006


For the purpose of contributing something more than smartass commentary, I can remember two long discussions on the topic of historicity: Jesus' fame ranking, The Pegan Christ. No doubt there have been others.
posted by Chuckles at 7:55 PM on January 6, 2006


A friend of mine played piano for a production of Bat Boy. He said it was, and I quote, "fucking awesome."
posted by the_bone at 7:56 PM on January 6, 2006


The filming may be shrouded in secrecy, but I know who's doing craft services.
posted by rob511 at 8:02 PM on January 6, 2006


I am not afraid. Anything using Papyrus is bound to rock my world.
posted by gunthersghost at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2006


If the producers or director REALLY wanted to make money off this, they would make a movie about how great Jesus is and how we all need him in our lives. Taking money from the evangelicals where the bucks are.
posted by my sock puppet account at 8:16 PM on January 6, 2006


Personally, I'm waiting for the mashup of The Passion of The Beast.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:46 PM on January 6, 2006


I'm reading a book right now that makes the case that Jesus is the intersection of late Pagan cults (that feature a crucified savior who comes back to life) with Judaism. Celsus had a lot to say about it.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2006


I'm about as big an atheist as atheists get. But even I acknowledge that Jesus Christ existed. I don't, of course, believe he was the son of God. I think he was just an ordinary guy who was either really smart and figured out a great way of getting people to do what he wanted them to do, or someone who was used as a pawn by people far smarter than him to get people to do what they wanted them to do. I've watched several documentaries from the BBC and other history channels here on SBS that have led me to form this conclusion.

My own interpretation is that Christ was basically a benign progressive religious reformer who got nailed to a cross by the religious authorities of his time (with the complicity of the Romans) because of a mix of zealotry tinged with nationalism.

One of said religious authorities, St. Paul, managed to gain control of the remnants of Christ's cult of personality after his death, and attempted to twist it into a religious weapon against the Romans. He couldn't resist subverting Christ's more progressive intent, though, which is why anti-homosexuality messages appear in the portions of the New Testament which directly quote him.
posted by Ryvar at 8:54 PM on January 6, 2006


Sounds vaguely like the book Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:05 PM on January 6, 2006


I'm about as big an atheist as atheists get. But even I acknowledge that Jesus Christ existed.

Why don't you just refer to him as 'Jesus,' then? Christ wasn't his last name, you know.
posted by bingo at 9:32 PM on January 6, 2006


CrunchyGods: If (some) Xians (Muslims, etc etc) are rabidly trying to prove to everyone that [insert religious figure here] is real and performed all those cool tricks, why can't some Athiests do the same thing for the other side?
posted by papakwanz at 9:39 PM on January 6, 2006


I don't really have a concrete opinion as to whether Christ existed or not, but it's silly to try to prove it either way. Most of the individuals of that era who had Christ's background would not have been recorded.

I'm not sure if it would matter if Christ existed historically or not. I mean, Christians believe that the Bible is a message from God and most of them accept that at least some parts of it are figurative. If they were confronted with solid proof that Christ didn't exist, sure it would shock them at first, but they'd get over it - most of them would go on being Christians. There's a Hindu-Buddhist mojo going on underneath it all, mark my words, a good pious Christian can pierce the veil of samsara with the best of 'em.

I figure that the likelihood of Christ having existed is equal to the likelihood of Achilles having existed. That equation is both highly scientific and divinely inspired, so you better believe it.
posted by XMLicious at 9:43 PM on January 6, 2006


Oh man. That teaser is so bad. I have nothing more to say... except that, again, that teaser was soooo bad.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:56 PM on January 6, 2006


I can't believe I wasted bandwidth on that.
posted by fungible at 10:16 PM on January 6, 2006


Really makes you ponder what the world would be like if we didn't have the valuable teachings of helping the poor, healing the sick, and nonviolence.
posted by iamck at 10:43 PM on January 6, 2006


Heh. You thought the hysteria over "The War on Christmas" was bad? I can totally see some nutjobs interpreting this as a War on Christianity and like, picketing the theater or some crap like that. Which of course would only give it further publicity, and make people want to know what all the fuss was about.... hmm.
posted by beth at 10:55 PM on January 6, 2006


the documentary its based on is available on bit torrent... just saying.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:18 PM on January 6, 2006


He also did a good job explaining how Christians account for the striking resemblance between JC's life and that of several other "pagan" messiahs -- See, the devil actually went back in time to create these other myths AFTER Jesus came along.

I've talked to a lot of Christians, and lived in a highly religious community most of my life, and that one's totally new to me.

Some common others are:

(1) The true gospel was given to Adam/the first humans, and significant parts of it were woven into other myths as they were invented.
(2) The true myths bubble up from something like Jung's collective unconscios, and Christ was the actual culmination of this
(3) Addressing similarities in Christ's life to other earlier prophets seen as legit (say, Moses, as mentioned earlier) those count as divine foreshadowing, and also sortof a circular time where certain things or similar things are bound to happen repeatedly.
posted by weston at 11:30 PM on January 6, 2006


When you enter any divinity school, you learn that there is little physical evidence for the person of Jesus. But why would there be? He was one of many different prophets, most of whom were forgotten.

It was the stories of the apostles, who had visions of his presence, that mattered. For them, he was raised, and the power of the empire couldn't defeat... the power of love. Cheesy, perhaps, but this primary teaching has been convenient. We don't know if it was really him they saw. But something was passed down. I doubt that the criteria for reliability can truly be met.

The worst thing for an empire is the notion that its victims might return and offer justice.

There is the story of a turtle who meets a leopard at the crossroads. The leopard says to the turtle, "Mr. Turtle, I will have to eat you. These are my crossroads, and you look mighty tasty." The turtle, realizing he will be eaten, replies, "why certainly. But I must prepare myself before you eat me." The leopard agrees. The turtle then starts flailing about, making the area look like a war zone.

The leopard asks, "I've never seen anyone prepare themselves like that before. Why did you do that?"

The turtle says, "Perhaps the next person, when they see the crossroads will recognize that there was a great fight here. And perhaps they will have the courage to do what I cannot."

Personally, I think there might be a variety of ways to be an Atheist. One can run the gamut from religious non-realism [where utterances about God have no real object, but intrinsic comprehensibility], to a atheistic fundamentalism, where any reference to theological terms must be made material, with no reference to any collective imagination. Perhaps this will offer more clarity about what the historic religion of the church. I doubt it will do much about religion, superstition, or charlatans. Instead of the predictable institution of the church, hundreds of others will simply arise.
posted by john wilkins at 12:21 AM on January 7, 2006


iamck: Really makes you ponder what the world would be like if we didn't have the valuable teachings of helping the poor, healing the sick, and nonviolence.

Yeah, cuz Jesus totally invented that stuff.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:55 AM on January 7, 2006


Life of Brian.
posted by srboisvert at 3:57 AM on January 7, 2006


Shouldn't they be releasing the movie on 6/1/06 instead?

Anyway, here is the thing about Jesus: we don't know.

So many records have been lost -- thanks in large part to the very church which claimed to keep his memory and legacy alive. So much was burned. Why do we only have those second or third or more-hand accounts that are in the Bible? I had a conversation with someone a few months ago here in the Deep Red South about it all, and he took me telling him about the doubted authorship of the Gospels, that most likely it wasn't the original disciples who wrote them, like a slap in the face.

Every once in a while something new and (probably) unedited turns up. The Gospel of Thomas is the example that leaps to mind, which doesn't seek to mold Jesus's life into a narrative so much as just report a lot of things that he said. Guess what? A lot of it was concerned with helping the poor, and he was hard on the powerful.

Still, ultimately, we don't know, and probably never will. Barring further discoveries (and of course those could be hoaxes), there's little chance this will improve in the future. Once a bit of information is lost it can never be regained, and the best you can do is try to figure out what it said through what you do know. Sometimes you can reconstruct most of it, but you almost certainly won't get it all. Two thousand years have passed since Jesus' (supposed) birth, and while one could argue that the unusual amount of attention surrounding the man has preserved much of what he said (did that upstart Brian have teams of monks working centuries to rerecord what he said?), one could argue just as easily that all that attention has provided many, many opportunities for the scriptures to get modified according to the whims of whoever was in power at the time.

So there is much we don't know. But these days, who will admit they don't know something? That's a negative statement, and people trying to get their points across tend to speak in positives. It hardly matters at all whether you think Jesus lived or not, because the signal has become so distorted that most of the things you could say are more a matter of opinion, or opinion's more strident cousin belief, anyway.
posted by JHarris at 4:04 AM on January 7, 2006


helping the poor, healing the sick, and nonviolence.

Noble goals, yes, but how many Christians actually practice these things?
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:08 AM on January 7, 2006


I believe the director was raised Catholic and is basically pissed that he was hoodwinked into believing the bible was non-fiction. He's trying to spare others a sheltered, fear-filled ignorant life similar to the one he feels was thrust upon him

Yeah, that's exactly what happens to everyone raised Catholic, oh the horror and misery...

Sort of reminds me of how some of the most militant right wingers can be those who were hardcore leftists before. No references to actual existing persons named Christopher Hitchens implied.
posted by funambulist at 5:38 AM on January 7, 2006


atchafalaya writes "I'm reading a book right now that makes the case that Jesus is the intersection of late Pagan cults (that feature a crucified savior who comes back to life) with Judaism. Celsus had a lot to say about it."

Apollonius of Tyana is the first one to spring to mind. The era was full of magicians and prophets, as well as anti-Roman nationalists. It's so easy to get the stories confused... and Apollonius isn't the only historical figure whose story echoes that of Jesus. My 1,000th comment, w00t!
posted by moonbird at 6:46 AM on January 7, 2006


he took me telling him about the doubted authorship of the Gospels, that most likely it wasn't the original disciples who wrote them, like a slap in the face.

I can identify. That's the core problem with most fundies, they don't actually read, they just depend on someone feeding them their rotten pablum and they accept it without question, as they must. The book is only for beating others about the head with. How else to explain that so-called christians seem never to practice as directed to do by Jesus?
posted by nofundy at 7:43 AM on January 7, 2006


They read. They just read books that reinforce a self-contained loop, such as the Left Behind series and books with titles like Six Myths About Getting Into Heaven.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:07 AM on January 7, 2006


yeah, this looks really silly. it also, in my opinion, makes the debate look a lot better for the christians - basically this creates a dichotomy where either a)christianity is literally correct or b)it's a vast, complex conspiracy that has been hidden for 2000 years. the latter is almost as hard to believe as the former, and sounds much more evil and hopeless, so I think more people would root for a to be true, so to speak.

In reality, it seems pretty obvious to me that it was just another religious culty thing, like david koresh or those hale-bopp guys or any number of other weird little belief communities. With the help of Paul and some deeply considered interpretations of what it was meant to mean (see Augustine, e.g.), and a fairly universal central thesis, it grew into a much wider religion.

As for what people will believe: I once stayed at an ashram in upstate new york for a couple weeks, just to relax and have some time to myself after a major medical scare, and i was pretty amazed how literally some of the people there took things. they honestly believed their guru could levitate and walk on water and bring people back from the dead - they swore to me that he had brought a young boy back from death after three days, back in India. But I never even got to meet the guru (would only have wanted to out of anthropological interest :), because he'd been dead for some years, and the last videos they had of him were after he'd had a seriously debilitating stroke! but even that did not decrease their faith; they just figured that a less holy man would have died.

Basically, you don't have to trick people or hide things or manipulate in order to get people to believe in supernatural shit. They will do it all by themselves.
posted by mdn at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2006


I've seen Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There and it was a stinker. I looked forward to a scholarly discussion of the facts surrounding the existence of Jesus, and instead got a crapload of christian bashing.

Flemming can just get the fuck off my side.
posted by frykitty at 9:09 AM on January 7, 2006


While I haven't seen it, I agree with frykitty. Bashing achieves nothing, and like what mdn said, this just gives militant Christians more to point to and galvanize their forces. It seems truly best that we who choose to see a different side of Christian history don't go about "nanny nanny boo booing" the believers. While a great deal of America and the world has been groomed into complacency by zeal and pomp, we can't change that by being assholes.
posted by moonbird at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2006


Complaining aside, I find it odd how few people are aware that there's no evidence for the historical Jesus. That's not to say he didn't exist; it's just that no one can prove that he existed. This shouldn't actually get in the way of Christian faith in any way, as far as I'm concerned, but when even atheists believe there is concrete evidence for him, you know that's a cultural meme gone mad.

No first person accounts, no records whatsoever. We can't be sure. But faith is not about being historically accurate anyway.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:27 AM on January 7, 2006


helping the poor, healing the sick, and nonviolence.

I forgot to include the /sarcasm tag.

/obvious
posted by iamck at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2006


Aha. Now it makes sense.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on January 7, 2006


Given the number of books that deal with such topics, why do they only become controversial when they are dealt with in a movie?
posted by spira at 12:48 PM on January 7, 2006


Complaining aside, I find it odd how few people are aware that there's no evidence for the historical Jesus. That's not to say he didn't exist; it's just that no one can prove that he existed.

well, if we go by "prove", you can't really prove anyone existed. If they wrote something themselves, that's generally regarded as proof, though who can say for certain the author is who he says he is/etc. But a lot of our famous historical figures didn't leave anything they wrote, only the things written about them. Prove that Socrates existed, or for that matter, Alexander the Great, whose mother was said to have been impregnated by Zeus (rather than Kind Philip...)

It just seems much more likely that someone existed and details about him were changed, exaggerated or otherwise remembered generously, than that a group of people made up a completely fictional character who did a lot of random and not very godlike things (yelling at a fig tree?) and committed their life to tricking others into believing what they knew to be false. Again, that guru of the ashram definitely existed - I saw the videotapes of his generic sappy insights - but he didn't actually bring a boy back to life, in my opinion. His followers, however, are sure he did.
posted by mdn at 2:22 PM on January 7, 2006


I thought the number of the beast was 616.
posted by effwerd at 2:30 PM on January 7, 2006


erm, King...
posted by mdn at 2:45 PM on January 7, 2006


I just watched the God Who Wasn't There. Very good arguments in parts, but definitely a lot of Xian baiting.
posted by moonbird at 3:39 PM on January 7, 2006


well, if we go by "prove", you can't really prove anyone existed.

Please don't spread this fallacy. It's stupid and it only encourages the fundamentalists who then go on to edit history wholesale. We can indeed prove that certain historical figures existed just as we can prove that all types of people we've never met do indeed exist. Even for those historical figures whose existence can be reasonably contested, some have enormous amounts of proof and some have very little. Jesus is one of those figures that have very little. This is the way history works: you take a stance and then provide a rational defense. You don't take a stand and then point out other people have imperfect stands.

Yes, we can't prove he didn't exist. Still it's quite possible--some would say likely, though I wouldn't--that there were a bunch of preachy troublemakers who lived around the same time, whose various life stories and deeds got mixed up over time, toss in some standard messiah cliches like bringing the dead back to life, etc etc--poof, in the end, a name sticks, and you have your Jesus. Taking this stance is a relatively reasonable thing to do. Taking the stance that Alexander the Great never existed is not a reasonable thing to do. .
posted by nixerman at 4:41 PM on January 7, 2006


I feel an existential crisis coming on...
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:52 PM on January 7, 2006


well, I only used the Alexander example because he had a fair amount of mythology built up around him - but it's true that he did travel more widely and have a greater diirect impact so disbelieving in him would be a greater leap. But what about socrates? I don't know that the evidence for him is that much better than jesus.

And I don't know how reasonable a thing it is to disbelieve that Jesus ever existed. It requires quite a conspiracy on the part of his followers, don't you think? That's why the whole line of thinking seems misguided to me. Mythologizing a historical figure happens all the time. Completely making up a fictional character and claiming he is historical is much less natural. It's hard to see how that would come about organically, without some kind of actively deceitful claims on the part of his followers, rather than their simply being overly hopeful, faithful, culty, etc.

Also, you suggest that Jesus could be an amalgam of various other people, not that he is completely fictional. If he were an amalgam, his name very likely came from one person, whose name was Jesus. Otherwise, why wouldn't they have named him Immanuel, which was the prophesied name? Likewise, why give the detail that he came from Nazareth when he was supposed to be born in Bethlehem (the birth story seems obviously added after the fact to try to straighten this out, but why keep the Nazareth detail?)

So I would say there was a guy named Jesus of Nazareth - you could argue that some of the stories about him were actually stories about other folks that got folded into his story, but that still doesn't support the idea that there was simply no one named Jesus, that he was entirely fictional. It is also possible that some of the stories about Socrates were made up or were borrowed from other stories about archetypal philosophic gadfly he came to represent. But in both cases it seems more likely that one character is the primary source for the stories, except for those clearly mythological parts, like that Alexander was the son of Zeus, and Jesus the son of Allah, etc.
posted by mdn at 5:02 PM on January 8, 2006


I mean, Yahweh. Get 'em mixed up sometimes.
posted by mdn at 5:02 PM on January 8, 2006


No one has mentioned much scholarly information here, so let me recommend Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy's book The Jesus Mysteries. They delve deep into texts, examine sources, and include an extensive bibliography. And pretty conclusively show that "Jesus Christ" was a clever but derivative blend of stories and figures common to the Mediterranean for hundreds of years. Not one person, but an amalgam based on earlier, identical stories.
Others who can support this with similar, related scholarship: Tom Harpur; Earl Doherty; Acharya S; Tim Leedom; I could go on. Not all of these are as good as Freke and Gandy, but their workdelves into different facets of the same mythology.
The point I'd like to make is that this evidence has long been debated and reveiwed in various scholarly seminars. It hasn't been effectively brushed aside, and anyone who tries to examine it with an open mind will quickly realize that the traditional Christian mythos does not stand up to scrutiny.
posted by mooncrow at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2006


Papyrus font: the secret kept hidden for ages!
posted by NationalKato at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2006


Jesus is so useful that if he didn't exist he would have to be invented.

As we learned in Behold the Man, by Michael Moorcock.
posted by WCityMike at 3:10 PM on January 15, 2006


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