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The greatest myth ever told: The Pagan Christ (Book)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I don't know about you people but I am really tempted in buying the book. Will try to read a few pages first to see how it goes before deciding.


The greatest myth ever told

Religion writer and former Anglican priest Tom Harpur admits he's sticking his neck out for proffering that someone named Jesus never walked this Earth, RAY CONLOGUE writes

It is disconcerting, to say the least, for Canada's best-known religion writer to decide that Jesus Christ did not exist.
That is the contention of Tom Harpur's new book, The Pagan Christ. The former Anglican priest and Toronto Star religion editor for the past 35 years, has come to believe that there was never a man named Jesus, and that most of the miracles and wonders ascribed to him in the New Testament did not happen.

Even more astonishing, he argues that most of the Christ story was borrowed by the early church from ancient religions, which the church then suppressed in "the greatest cover-up of all time."

The chief religion to be ransacked was that of Egypt, already 3,000 years old when Christianity was founded. Egypt, he writes, supplied the "virgin birth, a star in the east, three wise men bearing gifts, the evil power that tries to take a special child's life, and angelic messengers." The Egyptian hieroglyph KRST, meaning the anointed one, was applied to the deity Horus, who was born of a mortal woman and later crucified between two thieves.

And yet -- for all this -- Harpur is still a believing Christian. "I'm not interested in debunking," says the white-haired 70-plus Harpur, who has already been attacked by an assortment of prominent fundamentalists. "I want to help see the church through this century. Right now it's in crisis. The book tries to provide a fresh vision."

He considers the popularity of Mel Gibson's Passion movie a demonstration of how unhealthily dependent people have become on a historic Jesus who never existed.

In Harpur's view, the core message that Christianity shares with the other great religions of the Middle East is that God has given every human being a spark of divinity, which can be realized through spiritual struggle. The Egyptians symbolized this in a deity they called "Iusa" (which possibly later became the name Jesus) and wove a mythology of stories about his painful transformation into a human being. But neither the Egyptians, nor the Persians who possessed a similar mythology, ever claimed that such a person really existed. "The truth was always esoteric," Harpur says. "It was symbolized in the stories, but it wasn't history."

There is evidence that the early church fathers shared the view that there was no historic Jesus. But some time in the third and fourth centuries, Harpur argues, it was decided that a historic Jesus would give the new faith a distinctive quality not possessed by the powerful pagan faiths it was competing with. The many gospels and early writings that reflected the old, symbolic view of Jesus were suppressed, and the few -- four, to be exact -- that claimed he had actually lived were retained.

How did a man trained as a priest, who taught New Testament theology for many years, and defended it for decades in his newspaper column, come to such a drastic re-appraisal of his beliefs?

Harpur says he had been troubled for many years by illogicalities in the New Testament, such as the claim that Jesus was tried before three different courts during the single night of the Passion. He was also dismayed to discover while teaching theology at the University of Toronto that a couple of buildings away the very devout scholar Northrop Frye was teaching his students that any accurate history found in the Bible was only there by accident.

By 1990, when he wrote Finding the Still Point, Harpur had come to believe that the story of a Jesus who walked around Galilee performing magic had become an obstacle to people searching for the deep meaning of Christianity. "It was a leading of the spirit. But I didn't know that a book like The Pagan Christ was down the road."

The final blow to his old beliefs arrived in his mailbox a couple of years ago.

"People have always sent me their manuscripts for one religious book or another, since I am a religion editor," he explains. "One day, about 2½ years ago, I got a manuscript from a guy who wrote: 'You might be open to this.' It was about a writer named Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who I had never read."

Kuhn was an American scholar of ancient Middle Eastern languages who died in 1963. While studying the vast body of Egyptian writings, Kuhn had been perturbed by occasional, oddly familiar passages. A poem in honour of Horus, for example, would begin with the words, "He was despised and shunned by men, a man of pain who knew what sickness was."

Kuhn recorded these similarities to New Testament language, and soon had a list of many hundreds of passages.

He was not, of course, the first to notice these oddities. Almost from the time it was possible to decipher the hieroglyphs, in the early 1800s, scholars were aware of them. Religious authorities decided that they merely "foreshadowed" the truth of Christianity, and few experts dared to disagree. Even Wallis Budge, the British Museum's Egyptian authority in the early 20th century, amassed volumes of research showing that pretty much the whole New Testament was in the hieroglyphs. But he dutifully concluded that it was just "foreshadowing."

Only a few scholars have come out and said flatly that Christianity is an evolution of the old "pagan" religions: Godfrey Higgins and Gerald Massey in the 19th century, and Alvin Kuhn in the 20th.

Reading Kuhn's books finally persuaded Harpur to set aside the historic Jesus. But it was a lengthy and painful process of wrestling both with Kuhn's evidence and with his own past. "I was raised with the idea of being saved 'in Jesus's arms,' " says Harpur, whose own parents were fundamentalist Christians. "So I know the Scriptures the way the fundamentalists know them."

Is he afraid of being shunned by believers, especially his fellow Anglicans?

"Well, you need a community. And it will be very painful, there will be grief for people who are seized by the cogency of my case but are wedded to the comfort of traditional faith. There's a personal grieving process if you're going to do this. But I am committed to doing as the Spirit leads me."

Kuhn, after a lifetime of writing and arguing and giving speeches in support of his ideas, was studiously ignored by Christian scholars and his books were forgotten the day that he died. Does Harpur fear the same might happen to him?

"I don't think so. We're living in a different time now. Ideas are disseminated on the Internet, and the control of the mainstream religions over the public conversation is much weaker than it was only 40 years ago."

He also believes that the millions of people who have abandoned mainstream religion in recent decades did so partly because it has become hard to believe in a magical god/man who changes water to wine and brings the dead back to life. "The things I'm saying don't downgrade the Jesus story. Instead, they save us from this plodding tale of a magic wonder worker, which is so hard for modern people to believe."

Of course, even as millions have left the churches, millions more have declared themselves believers in a fiercely and literally historic Jesus. These are the fundamentalists who watch religious television, such as 100 Huntley Street. That show has already invited a Christian expert on air to savage Harpur's book. "It was a guy I've never met who kept repeating, 'I love you, Tom Harpur.' Of course, they didn't invite me on the program."

Not to mention the millions who are flocking to see the violently literal rendition of Christ's passion in Mel Gibson's movie. "It is simply grotesque, that movie," says Harpur, although he acknowledges that the publishers of The Pagan Christ moved up the publication date in order to take advantage of the oceans of media attention generated by the film.

"The rise of fundamentalism is because we live in scary times," Harpur says. "The appeal of the absolute is very great. The idea that we are the winning side. The kind of language [President] Bush is using to justify killing Iraqis."

In Harpur's view, the insistence on Jesus's literal existence is the main obstacle to reconciliation between Christianity and the other great religions, none of which relies on a literal god-man as a founder. "How will we ever escape the impasse of a billion and a half people who say that they possess the exclusive truth. [Theologian] Hans Kung has said we can never have world peace until that is resolved."

But what exactly will be left of Christianity if it loses the figure of Jesus Christ?

"It will be a more mystical religion," Harpur says. "But not less practical. After all, this business of letting Jesus do it for you doesn't look so good after what we've seen in the past 2,000 years."
post #2 of 6
Well i for one believe in God and nothing or no one will ever
change my view on this because God has proven to me personally that
he DOES exist
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Opps, just to nip this in the butt. The book if you read the article is not about the existence of God. The author does not claim that God does not exist. In fact he believes that God DOES exist.

He is just sceptical about the literal aspects of the bible notably the story of Jesus. After all theyre are quite a number of people who do not believe in the literal Adam and Eve story yet still believe in God.

I do hope it is better than the book the Bible Code.
post #4 of 6
okay i see
post #5 of 6
Is this you reaction to the removal of the 'Passion' thread? Sorry: I couldn't resist.

Are you referring to the "DaVinci Code" above, where you mentioned the "Bible Code"? If you were, the problem with that book, beyond being a rather preposterous tale, is that that guy is a really lousy writer. He hit at the right moment though; they've now put out the book he wrote prior to this one in hardcover!
post #6 of 6
There is historical eveidence, outside of the Bible, that shows that Jesus did in fact exist. Whether or not someone chooses to believe in the miracles (not magic) that he performed, is a matter of faith.

In regards to the meaning of the Bible, some people do take it literally. Adam and Eve existed... Noah built the ark... Others, Catholics to name one, read the Bible in an historical-critical way. We realize that some of the Bible is story, told to convey a certain message. We realize that there are some inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, because every person will view every situation differently from the next person.

As for what Christianity would be without Jesus... Well, since it was the CHRIST event that helped to form the foundation of the church, I would say that there wouldn't be Christianity without Him. However, one little disgrunted man who is upset because he finally realized that Noah didn't REALLY build an ark isn't going to have any impact, at all, on people of real faith.
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