A Star and Luna

Chapter XV

The resources of the dictionary are hardly adequate to pictorialize what has to be styled the doltish fatuity of popular conception in Christian countries of such an accouterment or embellishment of the Oriental dramatization of spiritual history as the heralding of the birth of Christos by the appearance of a star and its guidance of three Magi of Persia to the stable in Bethlehem. When this incredible instance and example of the devastation of sane reason by the psychological seductions of miracle and divine fiat has been looked into closely, some realization must begin to take form in the minds of many that Clement’s injunction to balance faith with critical thought is a quite indispensable counsel of wisdom. The power of blind faith to stultify the reason is brought out in glaring flagrancy in the instances to be cited. The point is accentuated here in all its ribald ridiculousness for the twofold purpose of awakening the narcotized intellects of thousands to a realization of the amount of inherent absurdity that must be swallowed if the narrative of Jesus’ historical "life" is to be accredited, and of adding another stone of solid strength to the building of the case for the non-historical interpretation of scripture. The climactic reflection from the critique should be that if the acceptance of the Jesus story as history rests upon a series of such mental infatuations as this, it can be received only by minds that have undergone nearly complete paralysis, and that the whole basic structure of Christianity thus stands upon perilously weak foundations indeed.

In a lifetime of reading there have been encountered only two slight or glancing allusions to the illogicality and inherent impossibility of the story of the guiding star of Bethlehem. There may be others that have not been seen. It is to illustrate or exemplify the shallowness of general orthodox thinking on matters of scripture and theology that an attempt is made to present this matter in realistic baldness. When the ordinary person at Christmas time purchases one of the greeting cards picturing the five-pointed star in a dark blue heaven of night; with a streak of rays streaming down as distinct as the beams of searchlights upon a humble structure on the edge of Bethlehem, directing the three camel-mounted Magi to the spot of the Savior’s nativity, the aura of interest and devotion in the scene is probably not dimmed or diminished by any roguish consideration that there may be a single irrational item in the representation. If the current query of American cleverness--"What is wrong with this picture?"--were put to the card purchaser, he or she would doubtless be shocked and taken aback to be apprised that there was anything amiss with it. It must be true as pictured, for it is so described in the Bible. And of course to those who have been educated to think of the Bible as a book wherein is inscribed the record of how God turned nature and its laws upside-down to impress his creature man with his almighty power, the physical impossibilities in the picture present no mental difficulties. God simply caused it to happen that way.

But it is a different story when looked at from the standpoint of reason and natural law. As intimated before, all that needs to be done to prove that the Bible is not a historical record of actualities, is to take it at its word and see what you have. It involves the process of de-romanticizing the narrative and transposing its detail over into the realm of factual realism. The result is sometimes just inane, but more frequently is deliciously ludicrous. A rare treat of the latter variety awaits a realistic probing of the Bethlehem starry portent.

The non-reflective Biblical idealist might be persuaded under pressure to admit, in the first place, that stars have been universally known to shine only at night, not very brightly if it is in moonlight season, and not at all (visibly) if it is cloudy. This detail would have necessitated traveling only by night for the three Magi. This would put the star under the awkward necessity of hiding somewhere in the intervening daylight periods, and holding up its speed of motion or resting, or somehow "killing the time" until dusk came on, when it would appear again and announce that it was ready to continue the journey. Otherwise it would get too far ahead of the camel train to serve as reliable guide. To cover the eight-hundred miles across the Arabian desert from Persia to Judea it would have to repeat this daily routine for a month or more, neglecting its ordinary celestial functions until the miracle of founding Christianity was attended to. Having landed the three men at the feet of the aureoled babe, it would bid them a grateful adieu and dash off into stellar normalcy again.

It may be a somewhat more difficult operation, however, to convince the hypnotized devotee of the miraculous and the supernatural, that no star--assuming now that it is a real star and not some hypothecated ignis fatuus of Christian fancy--could by any possibility become or act as a local guide to a given spot on earth. If there is any lingering remnant of protest that perhaps it could be done, let anyone go out under the open sky at night and try to determine at what moment he is exactly under a particular star, or exactly what spot that star is pointing to. With this corrective of his idle fancy, let him recall that the earth is constantly turning under the stars at the rate of over a thousand miles an hour, or about eighteen miles, roughly, a minute. Any locality thus would be rushing under the star at about four times the speed of the swiftest airplanes, and to keep over the desired spot the star itself would have to sweep around on its orbit at an unthinkable rate of speed. Even if it could shoot downward one distinct ray to point to the stable in Bethlehem, the latter would in a few hours turn around from under its finger and disappear on the underside of the planet. A star can give compass direction and nothing more. It can not be a local guide.

There has been no end of the weirdest and most fantastic speculation, much of it given out seriously by astronomers who should be ashamed, and by religious heads who think such things are permissible and indeed laudable because piously motivated, as to the possible actual astronomical nature of the Bethlehem phenomenon. One theory is that at about that period, or within a hundred years of the date, there was a conjunction of four, five or six of the planets, making such a bright cluster that the childish ancient world straightway fell into hysteria and paroxysms of superstitious fear, standing in awe of some great portent, the Bethlehem babe being somehow or other announced by the planets in one voice. Another typical version is that there flared up a mighty comet which aimed straight toward, or trailed its wispy tail right over, the Judean stable. It is distasteful to be called upon to emphasize the degree of mental folly necessary to hypostatize such stupidities, yet the consequences have been so fatal that a final satirical treatment seems called for. The astronomers and divines who are heedless enough to permit their names to go under these wild conjectures to keep the credulous in line with "the sacred story," seem to imagine that if they succeed in putting some unusual luminary in the sky about the year one, they have adequately explained the legend of the star, and thus substantiated Biblical prestige. It is not enough merely to have accounted for a star in the heavens; it must be brought down to earth and made to hover motionless over the cave in Bethlehem! For Matthew says that "it came and stood over where the young child was." Imagine a cluster of five or six of our planets, including Jupiter, which is many times the size of our earth, hanging on the outskirts of Bethlehem villages and pointing to the stable! No astronomer that ever lived knows anything about a star that came within a hundred feet of the earth and stood still there. No star ever known has "stood" anywhere, since all are rushing at invariable speed along an orbit. Again, the diameter of a star that could point to a single building of tiny dimensions in a village could not be twenty to thirty feet at most. The tiniest of the asteroids has a diameter of some five miles. The only sizable star left that might fulfill the conditions is a meteor, but no meteor ever led travelers patiently across a desert and then stood still over a village. As an actual phenomenon, the "star of Bethlehem" is the most childish absurdity ever perpetrated by unscrupulous priestcraft upon religiously derationalized humans.

But the story is not only inherently preposterous; it holds a self-contradiction as well. An amazing and, to the orthodox view, most disconcerting fact comes to light in an observation that reveals absolute contradiction between the conventional legend and the Gospel text. The legend universally has it that Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior, the "three Kings of Orient," were Magian astrologers from Persia or Chaldea, who by stellar or other forecast divined the date of the Messianic birth. Under the spur of news of such aeonial magnitude, they made the camel journey across the Arabian desert to greet the divine Messenger in Judea. According to the best geographies it is safe to say that this is going west on the map. So the Magi traveled west. But the Gospel story does not agree. It says they traveled east! For when they came to Herod and informed him of the purpose of their visit, and frightened him with their oracular prophecy that the new-born king would unseat him from his throne, they said: "We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." The star that appeared and led them till it stood over the birthplace was seen "in the east." The "dodge" out of this predicament will probably be the reminder that all stars rise in the east and then "travel" west. The text says nothing to this effect. The plain implications of the language of the Gospel is that the wise men saw the star in the east and therefore went there, i.e., to the east, where it indicated the locality of the Savior’s birth. But popular legend takes them westward. Something is indeed wrong with this picture.

Mention of these tangled absurdities was made a few years ago to the leading Episcopalian clergyman in Boston. With Christmas approaching he introduced matter from the discussion into his next two Sunday sermons, saying it was obvious that Christians would have to give up the assumed historicity of this aspect of the Nativity story, and regard it all as a beautiful allegory. The moral of the incident--and it is a weightier moral than appears on the surface--lies in the fact that this splendid and liberal divine had never before sensed the realistic impossibilities of the star’s role in the Gospel "history." The moral grew still heavier when it appeared likely that neither had any other minister thought it through. That so superficially glaring a knot of inconsistencies and physical absurdities should never have been noticed and commonly taken into account speaks loudly as to the mental narcotization of the votaries of a religion of blind faith. And the matter takes on still a graver import when it is considered that a hundred other constructions in both Old and New Testaments can similarly be reduced to nonsensical rubbish by the simple process of imaginatively actualizing what is described as taking place. The story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt makes particularly diverting "comic strip" when the details as narrated in holy writ are realistically reconstructed. Joseph Wheless has obligingly done this for us in his Is It God’s Word?

The purpose here is not primarily interpretative, but the challenge will come to us to produce a rational meaning for the star allegory if it was not a factual verity. It will carry some credence for the denial if it can be shown that it has another meaning on the esoteric side that is both clear and acceptable to reason. The explanation is not difficult. It is simple enough to anyone who has become familiar with ancient Egyptian symbology. One of the most patent emblems by which the Egyptians typified the soul as a nucleus of intellectual "fire" was the star, and the evolutionary descent of the soul into matter, typified as earth and water, was allegorized as the sinking of a star into the earth or ocean with the rotation of the globe. Soul and star unite in meaning in the Egyptian word Seb, says Massey. And souls, like the stars, sank periodically into the domain of matter. A star falling or sinking below the horizon was the typograph of a soul going down into incarnation in the earth, or into the earthy and watery elements of the body. The "west" was therefore the typical "region" where souls went to their "death," or semi-dead condition of existence under the limitations of matter, in which state they gained a new life, were reborn at Christmas and finally resurrected at Easter. The soul that, as a star, had sunk into flesh "on the western horizon of the sky," rose in its new birth or liberation "on the eastern side of heaven." Or, putting it a bit differently, the soul that as the aged one of a previous incarnational cycle, descended anew into matter and body to be regenerated after "death" and to be reborn as its own son, would show the light of its star rising in the east. The birth of the Christos then was the emergence above the eastern horizon of the new Adam resurrected out of the dying embers of the old. The advent of the Christ principle in man was therefore mythically embellished by the legend of the star of soul rising in the east. It was an integral part of the Egyptian and other dramatizations of the divine Nativity.

The three Wise Men, rather the three Kings of Wisdom, who attend the appearance of the star are none other than the three differentiations of the "star" or soul itself, the three aspects or rays into which it breaks its primal unity when it comes to organic manifestation in and through a body or instrument. Naturally they would appear when the "star" of soul has its birth in the east, as they are its own three aspects raying forth, and they must come with the star. This illumination of the mind with the true sense of a beautiful allegory is worth more than a hundred volumes of silly speculation in the effort to make the "history" of the Jesus life stand up in the face of obvious irrationality. It is a wholesome relief to know that it is allegory, and to know also that one’s faith and religion do not have to be supported any longer on the unstable foundation of the star’s claimed factuality. The star must be believed if the personal Jesus is to be accepted. Rejected as preposterous on factual ground, the star can still become a virile aid to spiritual realization if the Jesus story also is taken as the dramatization of wondrous truth. The drama, more potently than the "history," was to impress this indefeasible veritude upon the early life of humanity. It represents the genius of the whole ancient literature, which has been woefully misread because this fundamentum was ignored.

Less allegorical but equally fictitious must have been that other item of Nativity accompaniment which is introduced in order to account for the parents’ visit to the village of Bethlehem, through which new scriptures were to be made to fulfill "prophecies" in old ones. This was the alleged decree of Caesar Augustus "that all the world should be taxed." The first thought that occurs--to a politician, at least--is that the Romans must have been slow to rise to their lush opportunities for income if the idea of a tax had not occurred to them before this! The student of Roman history is pretty well assured that the Imperial government had not been unduly neglected of the taxing prerogative of a conquering nation at any time in the Republic’s or the Empire’s period. But the sum and substance of the story of the Augustus tax is that there is no official Roman government record of this world-wide levy anywhere extant or ever known. And the records were well kept at this epoch. The declaration has been thundered forth from a million pulpits that the Gospel story of the Christ stands accredited by facts of authentic history. Here is one of the most salient of such facts, and it is found to be no fact of history at all. It is more fictitious than any myth. It is untrue, whereas a myth is brimming with (hidden) truth.

It would not be difficult to amass a great amount of authors’ data to support the claim as to the fictional nature of this tax and the Cyrenian (Quirinian) census preparatory to it. But an authority lies at hand that will be used extensively in this section of the study, and it is desirable to summon the witness of a defender of the historical point of view to our side of the discussion. This particular authority can well be used as representative and typical of hundreds of others, which can not all be brought forward in evidence. It has been selected out of scores of "Lives of Jesus" because its handling of many items in the "life" of the subject is fairer than usual to the realistic or concrete view, and less haloed with mystic romanticism. The work is The Historical Life of Christ, by Joseph Warschauer, an eminent European scholar. In the Preface the author aims to embody in his work the method and theories of another leading European student, Albert Schweitzer, who in turn has stated that the ideal "Life" of Christ would be one that H. J. Holtzmann did not write, but should have written. The Warschauer book, therefore, may be taken as the mouthpiece of a "school" of orthodox thought in Christianity, confessedly modernistic and liberal, and certainly highly influential in shaping and formulating present Christian attitudes. It must be kept in mind throughout that his book is building the case for the historicity of Jesus.

This writer, then, is quite frank in admitting that the total silence of history concerning the tax and census in the reign of Augustus makes such an event highly improbable. He admits the 4 B.C. date of Herod’s death and rightly says that the census would not likely have been taken in his reign by any Roman authority, since Herod was an independent ruler and an ally of Rome. A "first census" was apparently taken about A.D. 6, after the deposition of Herod’s successor Archelaus, when Judea became part of the Roman province of Syria, under Cyrenius (Quirinus). This "governor in Syria" mentioned in the Gospel as in office when the Bethlehem birth occurred, is placed as early as 13-11 B.C. This dating would change and disarrange whole blocks and chains of evidence laboriously assembled. Warschauer concedes that if the date of Quirinus was earlier (than 4 B.C.), the census could not have been conducted under his supervision. For the census over which Quirinus did preside was carried out in A.D. 7 and caused the popular revolt alluded to in Acts 5:37, for the reason that it was the first time that the Jews had been thus levied upon. And, Warschauer adds, Joseph was a subject of the tetrarch Antipas and not liable to Roman taxation! Not only that, but the issuance of such an order would have entailed almost a miniature migration of inhabitants, an unlikely act of the Roman power. And finally, he adds, even if Joseph’s journey to his ancestral city can be explained over these difficulties, no unprejudiced mind would believe that he would have taken with him his wife in her then physical condition. There is no real or plausible reason for the trip, he asserts, beyond the literary or legendary necessity of having the Messiah born in Bethlehem. He even most truly concludes that Luke’s attempt to link the birth of Jesus with Bethlehem must be regarded as unsuccessful. Yet what must be considered most remarkable in this connection is that Warschauer’s own correct vision of the non-historicity of this (and scores of other) events in the detail of Jesus’ "life" builds no grave doubt in his mind as to the historicity of the whole structure. Childhood indoctrination and traditional prepossession will not yield even to the forthright evidence of massed opposing data. Jesus must be kept alive in spite of mountainous evidence.

He is entirely convinced, however, of the preposterousness of the star’s going ahead of a group of travelers and resting over a house in a village, saying it belongs to poetry and not to history. Yet again he gathers no hint from all this that the entire story of the Gospels might with as sound reason be consigned to the domain of (spiritual) poetry, and dropped as history. The ingenious explanation of the presence of an enormous percentage of poetry masquerading as history in the Gospel narrative is the time-worn claim that in lack of more than the most meager substratum of real data about the real Jesus, the poetry crept in and was incorporated through the, as he avers, particular proclivity of the first and second centuries toward indulging "popular legend." Just as the Norse elements of the pine tree, mistletoe, Yule log, holly, and other symbolisms crept into later Christianity, so elements of Greek and other mythologies became interwoven into the actual background of Jesus-fact. One wonders how long it will be ere the minds that go so far toward the truth, will not go the few additional steps to the goal of the full truth--that, far more than were the first and second centuries, the entire ancient period was transfused with the spirit of poetic and mythic representation of wisdom, and that the entire Gospel content was a formulation of this nature, and of immemorial antiquity. And it must be asked, since the apologists cling to the legend of much poetry clustering around some solid data, what and where and how many are those data, that stand as the rock of fact to which the barnacles of popular fancy have clung. Let Warschauer himself supply this interesting answer on almost his first page: he says that of this historical personage, to whom oceans of pious devotion have been poured out and to whom men of every age have turned as the revelation of God, we must say that we know next to nothing! A work to prove the historical life of Jesus begins with this admission. But, this is no deterrent to zeal; in fact, it serves the immediate purpose of enabling him to say in the same breath that since we know next to nothing about this extraordinary personage, we therefore know everything! This well matches its companion gem of Christian logic, the averment of Tertullian that the bases of Christianity were credible because they were impossible. This proves something else not so creditable to Christianity--that when once the mind is committed to fanatical obsession, an element contrary to reason becomes the gauge and standard of proof.

And what is the logic that builds up the astonishing conclusion that we know everything about Jesus because we know nothing? The piously sophistical answer is that Jesus’ mind and character have stamped themselves ineffaceably upon the consciousness of the race. We know him to have been the kind of man he was because of the kind of impression he has made upon us. We know him, as it were, by his psychological fruits in our lives. Again, this is an argument for the psychological efficacy of some exalted paragon, some hypostatized ideal, and as Warschauer admits, the ideal was presented to Christian adoration on little or no basis of actual knowledge whatever. This whole situation is covered by the statement that an ideal stereotype, the alleged historical Jesus, was held before the Christian imagination for centuries and naturally produced a psychological reaction consonant with the character of the figure presented. The psychological effect says nothing whatever either as to the historicity of the ideal personage or as to our definite knowledge about him. Once the paragon was dangled before the devotees, the psychological effect would be registered whether he lived to our definite knowledge or not. Beyond all refutation Mithra, Bacchus, Sabazius, Hercules, Izdubar, Marduk and Horus, as types and ideals of divine qualities, had also stamped the mind and character of ancient civilizations with their excellence. Yet they were not living persons; no one has even a little knowledge of their life histories. Portia, Hamlet, Othello, Tiny Tim and Cinderella have stamped much noble imagery into the life, mind and character of millions, and are not historical. Writers like Warschauer pooh-pooh the claims of a mythical foundation for Gospel writing. Yet, when their own admissions of the elements of impossibility, improbability, poetry and legend that were interpolated into the meager quantity of material that alone stands as the history of divinity on earth are added up, there is so little left of credible solid fact that it is indeed they who are basing a Gospel upon purely mythical grounds! What is the "historical life of Christ" but a myth if its historian is compelled to start out with the concession that almost nothing is known about his subject? It is far better to work with a myth that is true in the mythical manner, than to deal with a myth that pretends to be history, but is not. The first will at least not deceive you; the second will both deceive and delude. Advocates of the historicity found their structure of religion squarely on myth, and the deadly, not the sustaining, kind. The edifice of historical Christianity is founded on a reputed base of fact which can be made to stand up only by the endless resort to guess, conjecture, surmise, supposition, strained probability, the unbelievable proportion of which in the works of the apologists can only be hinted at here, and the total weakness of which can be realized only by the reading of scores of volumes that labor at the task of upholding the historical thesis. Indeed the surest way to enhance a doubt as to the existence of the living Jesus is to read enough books that essay to prove it. The instability of the groundwork on which it rests will be more sharply accentuated with each new reading.

Other features of the Nativity story engage attention. Warschauer almost puts the case irrevocably in our hands when he says that there is indeed hardly a single statement among those in which Luke tells us of the Bethlehem birth that can survive dispassionate scrutiny. He deals frankly with the Matthew-Luke flat contradictions as to the Bethlehem-Nazareth birth and residence problem. Matthew represents Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, and Nazareth as the adopted home of Mary and Joseph. But Luke has them residing in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus. Matthew brings the holy family from Bethlehem to Nazareth, while Luke moves the parents from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Matthew says nothing of the journey and enrollment. Luke is silent about the Herod plot and the flight into Egypt, and has nothing concerning the three Magi, or their star, or the massacre of the babes. Warschauer resolves the contradictions and discrepancies on the theory that we are dealing with two traditions which can not be harmonized. He does not know that the solution of the numerous Gospel contradictions must be sought further back than two opposing traditions. Nor does he explain how two irreconcilable traditions arose out of one original tradition. He does not know that there were more than two divergent versions of most legendary material and that the mythical representations of many aspects of the human-divine allegory branched off from one original formulation into many variations and recensions, in the same way as, supposedly, did language from one primal stock. Some of the variants can be attributed to copyists’ errors; others no doubt to scribal corrections, emendations, interpolations and forgery.

He notices the Slaughter of the Innocents and very justly equates it with a great diversity of Greek, Persian and Syrian "popular legend," in which kings were divinely warned of danger from their own infant sons. Yet it is to be assumed that Warschauer would protest the conclusion which a student of comparative religion would feel legitimately qualified to establish from these premises, that the Herod slaughter was itself derived from this common stock of pervading myth. It is time to remark here that the great--the inestimably great--service which Lord Raglan’s work, The Hero, has performed in clearing up the status of all this type of speculation is in the fact that it establishes, for the edification of these Bible analyzers and for all understanding, the truth that what they term "popular" legend and thus by a mere name brush aside as of no intrinsic import, was not the upgrowth of popular fancy and therefore mere superstition of the folk sort, but is all traceable to the one primal religious ritual-drama, to which must be assigned an authorship of truly Olympian sapiency. If it can ever be driven home to the seat of theological intelligence that the whole Christian Bible is just a somewhat specialized collection of the same stories, myths and allegories as constituted the mythical aggregations of Greece and other countries, it will mark the day-break of the new and true light on Biblical exegesis.

The role of the shepherds in the fields by night, the blinding flood of light, the celestial heralding of the advent, the proclamation of the glad tidings of great joy, are all likewise found by Warschauer to parallel similar features of the Mithra, the Dionysus, even the Augustus cycles of legends. The flight into Egypt is seen to be matched by a similar episode in several mythological quarters. The "stable" is admitted to be a "cave" in second century stories. The great Christian doctrine of the virgin birth is treated with sanity, as being akin to a series of divine progenations of both Greek and Old Testament heroes. In the Hebrew scriptures we have stories of the "wondrous births" in connection with Isaac, Samson and Samuel. The Talmudic Moses has a virgin mother; Samuel’s mother became pregnant after receiving divine seed; Zipporah was found by Moses pregnant, but by no mortal man. Tamar became pregnant by an infusion of divine seed and Isaac was not the result of generation, but of the shaping of the unbegotten. On the Greek side not only were the heroes of legend, Herakles, Theseus, Perseus, Jason and others believed to be the sons of divine fathers and human mothers, but the same legend reached down even to historical figures like Pythagoras and Plato, both of whom were "Sons of Apollo," the first by Parthenis--which Warschauer remarks sounds most intriguingly suggestive of parthenogenesis, or "virgin birth,"--the second by Periktione. It ought to be observed that the clue here noticed by Warschauer is fundamentally of far more significance in pointing the way to the truth than volumes of the blind speculation indulged in by students who flout the claims for the mythical origin of Bible material.

One encounters the frequent assertion that the Christians adopted many pagan myths and brought them from meaningless superstition to relevant intelligibility by weaving into them a new and worthy meaning. With an appearance of plausibility in a few cases, this ruse has been employed in many books as one of the numberless big and little sophistries that have served to maintain the legend of Christian superiority and pagan depravity. Needless to say, this is not true. Indeed the true lies the other way around. It was the exoteric folly of Christians that took the many high typifications of spiritual and cosmic knowledge and warped them out of all semblance of any truth, either esoteric or exoteric. Warschauer indulges in this unworthy subterfuge in several instances.

Short shrift is made of the genealogies by this author. First the difference between the two lists as given by Matthew and Luke is noted. They are hopelessly irreconcilable, he agrees. Then the inevitable necessity of the Messiah’s being proclaimed as of King David’s line, in order that "prophecy" might again be fulfilled, is set forth. He must be of Davidic descent and of Bethlehem birth. But the notable feature of the genealogies, in Warschauer’s estimation, is the fact that both lists trace the Davidic descent through the mother’s husband, who was not Jesus’ father, but was only his foster-father. (Massey shows the identity of Joseph’s role in the Gospels with that of the Egyptian Seb (Keb, Geb), the god of earth, who, though not the planter of the divine seed from which the Son of God sprang, yet nourished and nurtured him from birth onward.) The genealogies are included, he assumes, for the express purpose of establishing that Joseph was of David’s house and lineage. But the whole force of the set-up evaporates the moment the Holy Spirit steps in to usurp the function of human fatherhood. Christian poverty and pagan sufficiency are here seen in glaring contrast, for resort must be had to pre-Christian systems to catch the splendid hidden meaning of this cryptic situation--which was adopted by Christianity from pagan usage, but with interior meaning lost. To be sure, no power can implant the seed of divine sonship save the Holy Spirit, which is the Mind or Logos of God injected into the womb of matter, the Mother. Nothing but spirit can fecundate matter, to make it reproductive of new birth. No mere earthly parent could stand in the allegory as the divine father of the Christ. But once the seed is implanted and the matter-mother impregnated with the divine spark, then the earthly father can assume his role of rearer and protector of the divine-human child. After centuries of abuse of paganism, Christianity must now in humility turn to that despised source to learn for the first time the true meaning of its own elements. But Warschauer is quite fair and concise on this point. He says the genealogies are worthless, and ends by saying that had either Evangelist wished to prove the view of the Lord’s birth that afterwards became dominant, he would have given Mary’s and not Joseph’s line of ancestry. For if the genealogies prove anything, it is that Jesus was not of David’s line, as the Davidic descendant, Joseph, was not his father.

Yet again the obduracy of orthodox obsessions shows its hand in Warschauer’s assertion that the genealogies do not disprove the Lord’s Davidic descent. This once more is a sample of the inveterate arguing backwards, or sheer turning of "no" into "yes," to which resort such apologists have been so often forced that it has become an addiction.

The "flight into Egypt" is a vivid example of how a feature of ancient Egyptian representation of lofty cosmic and creative procedure came into Christianity in the merest fragmentary form. The full elucidation of the grand sweep of the meaning back of this allegorism has been made in the companion work to this, The Lost Light. But in the mighty Kamite system the flight into Egypt is the glyph for the descent of the hosts of embryo souls from celestial spheres into incarnation on earth. There is no disputing this rendering; "Egypt" clearly is the type-name for earth and body, or matter. It is a main item in Egyptian systematism, whereas in the Christian scheme it becomes a mere incident along the way, and is no essential part of the story.

It would be delightful to consider a paragraph on page 19 of Warschauer’s work. It details the pageantry attendant upon the Savior’s birth,--the Holy Child laid in the manger, the shepherds with their flocks by night, the angel’s appearance to announce the birth, the heavenly choir chanting their carol of glory to God and peace on earth, and the halo of holy thrill around the entire event. And he rightly says that in the whole of literature there is no more exquisite idyll than this. Even with the limitation of its meaning to the sheer event of one babe’s birth, it is so vibrant with imaginative glamor that its inherent beauty touches the aesthetic susceptibilities of all. But perhaps the world is not yet ready to agree with a lone voice, when it asserts that even this impressiveness is raised to a pitch of psychological intensity that is quite ineffable and cathartic beyond anything ever dreamed of, when a mind at last knows that the paean and halo are types and touches of a veritable rapture of adoration paid to the birth of Christ-love in all men.

What seems difficult to tell an age that has never learned to go beneath or behind the symbol to verity is that exotericism ends with the beauty of the symbol, whilst esotericism only begins with the symbol and goes on from it to the undreamed-of wealth of a whole new world of revelation. The symbol serves but to touch off the release of a flood of luminous conceptions, which would never leap into organic and meaningful array until marshaled into relationship by the magic of the symbol’s suggestiveness. Thousands of pulpits yearly resound with the sentiment that the vital significance of the Christmas festival lies in the stimulus it furnishes all celebrants to press on to bring to birth the Christ within themselves. This is commendable and good; but with the alleged historic reality of the Bethlehem scene engrossing so much of interest and attention, the detached aim has little chance to swing clear and sweep to more than touching sentimentalism. The vigorous force of a symbol or drama is caught in full when the meanings and intimations adumbrated by it can be carried away from the starting point and applied in the deep regions of personal consciousness. This transfer can be effected all the more smoothly for the very fact that the symbol or drama is itself known to be pure fiction. When, however, that which should be mere meaning-vane is alleged to be itself the event about which meaning is to center, itself the thing to which the meaning points, instead of being merely the pointer to a meaning higher and deeper, the native strong force of symbol and drama is choked in its cradle, so to speak. The alleged historicity of the cycle of Christmas pageantry ties the significance of the festival too close to itself. The meaning can not escape its own symbols and fly with main force into the hearts and minds it should be elevating. So long as the historicity clings and the Christmas festival purports to be the anniversary celebration of the physical birth of a human babe, the wings of the spiritual effort to transfer the meaning from the alleged event over to personal beatification of character are clipped, and the designed cathartic purification and exaltation of the human spirit is thwarted. Instead of sweeping into the mind and heart, the cleansing fire of the great Yule ceremony flows back into the symbol and ends there. As the result of the third-century debacle of esoteric wisdom, therefore, the millions in Christendom continue to celebrate their great solstitial festival without any competent realization of its full import and without ever experiencing anything of the divinely potent theurgy which the symbolical dramatization of the Christ-birth in all men was anciently designed to effectuate.

To stay with the symbol and pageantry and not go beyond them was the crime of Christianity. To stay with the symbol was to cut off the soul and mind from the possibility of their soaring aloft into the highest of their capabilities of rapport and rapture. With symbolism a dead language and a lost art for many centuries, culture in Christendom has been forced to limp on as best it could without the uplifting and sustaining power generated by a true science of symbolic drama. What is here discussed is something that was known to the ancient theurgists, lost in all the intervening time, and not safely recovered as yet. To see truth through the lens of a natural symbol was a consummate attainment of the ancient Egyptians, and is hardly even surmised today. To begin to apprehend something of its potency one must have lived and dreamed with symbols for some years. It is an experience that wholly transcends the power of language to depict its gripping efficacy and beauty. From this point of view it can be said that the full release of the hidden majesty and grandeur of the Nativity pageantry--that aspect of Yuletide festivity that Warschauer termed a "poetic idyll"--is only possible when at last the mind knows of a certainty that the idyll is purely poetry and not history. The tragedy is that so few can go beyond the symbol to the deeper plummeting. Erroneous tradition presses so heavily in upon them that they are afraid to let go of the symbol as fact itself and reach for the wondrous grace of the miracle of meaning beyond it. The legend of the historicity has atrophied the cultural capacity to catch what the event meant as symbol. There must first, of course, be some clear intellectual perception of what the pageantry and symbolical embellishment stood for, which is mostly as yet a secret of the ancient Egyptians. This itself constitutes a revelation beyond the belief of anyone who has not had the good fortune to discover it. The poverty of intellectual illumination and psychological afflatus to which the Christian literalization of arcane science has reduced us will be known only when the transcendent sublimity of the Christmas pageantry as an exquisite dramatic idyll is brought to realization again through the recovery of symbolic genius. That genius has mastered the art of employing an appropriate symbol as a lens to magnify the truth seen through it. The highest adroitness and skill in the usage consisted in keeping the symbol diaphanous, the lens transparent, so that it never distorted, obscured or shut out the object from view. This is just what Christianity did not do with ancient symbols. Its sin was to render them all concrete and opaque! Looking at the symbol, it sees that, but nothing beyond. The ancient world used symbols, allegories, dramas, because it knew how to keep them clear and translucent. No thought of history obtruded to congeal the translucency of pure emblemism into opaqueness. The symbol was an unobstructed pathway for the passage of the light.

It must be reiterated, then, as the summit truth in all this, that the Nativity idyll is, as idyll, as poetry, as luminous, gripping myth of truth in all its purifying power, far more potent for the beautification of the mind and the life than ever it can be as event. This is not treason to Christianity, but the uttermost loyalty to the more enlightened Christianity, it is so only to that hybrid pseudo-Christianity which exoteric blindness brought into existence after the third century. It never can be treason to the Christianity of the Christos.

The dynamic power of symbol and typology apostrophized in the foregoing elucidation finds powerful reinforcement in the inceptive revival of a science that is only now beginning to be formulated by modern insight, but which must have been well understood and exercised by the more learned and intelligent ancient esotericists,--the science of symbolism. It is finding its modern reincarnation in the new science of semantics, the meanings of signs. It is a really momentous denouement for the modern world and promises to put the mind of the race back in more harmonious rapport with the enlightened mentality of the early sages, whose view swept over the field of truth in comprehensive scope and crystal perspicacity. Likewise it will go far to restore to thought the great fundamental principle of knowledge which was particularly central in the philosophy of Spinoza,--that the order and structure of man’s mind is harmonious with the order and structure of nature. Symbolism alone reveals this harmony. As yet, however, the modern approach along this avenue of illumination is hesitant and tentative. The ancients clearly had a deeper grasp on what might be called a psychic luminosity of apperception, which was generated by and supervened upon the constant habit of reflecting upon natural symbols until hidden harmonies of meaning and the identity of structure between thought-form and nature-form burst upon inner vision. High thought in both the Pythagorean and the Platonic schools asserted that the contemplation of mathematical truth was the mind’s path of closest approach to deity. It seems likely that for the sapient Egyptians the highest path was considered to be the contemplation of natural symbols. It is evident that they regarded the forms and phenomena of nature as the living shapes of truth, structuralizing in material concreteness the unseen but concordant structure of archetypal forms in the noumenal world. With sonorous voice Emerson proclaims that the world of nature is the mirror of God’s thought and the visible things are his ideas crystallized in matter. He, then, who can discern the Logos of divine mind shining through the concrete forms of nature, becomes the priest of God, says Emerson. He interprets God’s language and reads the Word printed on the pages of the open book of nature. The Egyptians used the phenomena of nature as the glass by which the meanings of the creation were made clear and large. No one will have a basic understanding of the relation of soul to body until he grasps the essential facets of the relation between seed and soil, for the two are homologous. A hundred aspects of spiritual verity likewise come into lucid comprehension when viewed through the lens of natural analogy. Perhaps a much further recovery of this lost science of seeing through nature’s eyes is necessary before the fullest implications of the chief theses of this work can be grasped.

Some further comment is needed on Warschauer’s statement that the Christmas scenario is poetry of the deepest charm and that only a pedant would try either to prove or disprove what is so plainly the work of devout and tender imagination. But it is certainly legitimate to ask such a writer by what right he can pick and choose, out of a given body of what he himself designates as idyllic poetry, certain portions to be labeled poetry, while reserving other portions to be regarded as actual event. He merely assumes that a central event--the birth--occurred in fact, and then proceeds to classify almost the whole of the accompanying detail as poetic embellishment, clearly not history. On what ground does he dodge the inherent presumption that if the large body of concomitant detail is idyllic fiction and adornment, the central event, or the whole of the construction, may be equally embellishment? It has not seemed to occur to expounders in this field that if so large a series of alleged episodes in the "life" of their subject is proven to be work of the decorative imagination, there might be at least a presumptive possibility that the whole construction may be accounted for on the same basis. And one may legitimately ask also why so much respectful indulgence can be conceded to the play of devout and tender imagination in the formulation of Christian presentations, while the meed of respect for the same imagination when used by the ancient sages to portray the spiritual truths of religion is so churlishly denied. It is the contention here that the entire body of archaic sacred literature, the whole construct of mythology and the great universal ritual-drama that so definitely set the form of religious ceremonial the world over, were all the work not only of devout and tender imagination, but also of a consummate artistry and a genius for the pictorialization of supernal truth and wisdom unparalleled elsewhere in human history. That not only the fringe and the hem of the garment of ancient biblical literature, but the entire garment was a work of this consecrated embroidery, is the thing that seems so difficult for modern scholastic insight to recognize. Warschauer has gone a little way toward recognition of the pivotal truth when he removes a considerable segment of alleged Gospel history from the pale of heretofore claimed factuality, and he ennobles this portion with the dignity of sanctified mythicism. But when will insight go the whole way and see at last that the entirety of the ancient religious literary product is of the same stamp and mold?

Next to be noticed is Warschauer’s mention of the circumstance that Luke has no reference to the flight into Egypt. Instead, the parents go openly to Jerusalem, without fear of the threat from Herod, to present the child in the temple and offer sacrifice. Warschauer thinks it doubtful that every infant born in a Jewish household had to be presented in Jerusalem. It could not be carried out in all cases at any rate. But the presentation in this case is made the peg on which to hang the episode of Simeon and Anna in the narrative, which attests the Lord’s mission as Savior of Israel. But even these incidents in the temple, Warschauer admits, are not records of fact, but are introduced to emphasize the element of Messianic expectancy then so widely extant. He even notes that the "marvel" of Joseph and Mary at Simeon’s rapturous declarations is hardly natural after Mary had herself heard the annunciation of her divine motherhood from Gabriel.

It is a mite disconcerting to find Luke, after all, accrediting the babe’s natural paternity to Joseph. The Gospels thus contrive in the end to give Jesus two fathers, if not three, God, the Holy Ghost and Joseph. On the historical thesis this reduces to absurdity. It can be resolved into comprehensible meaning only by resort to ancient subtlety and deeper understanding. Warschauer’s version of explanation is that while Jesus was the natural child of Mary and Joseph, his divine paternity as the only begotten Son of God was insinuated into the narrative to meet and fulfill the age’s current prepossession with the earthly advent of a divine Avatar. He even asserts that the element of the virgin birth is a foreign importation. But in this sense it can be asked what element in Christianity is not of "foreign" origination. There is not a single doctrine or ceremonial of Christian theology and worship that has not been drawn from antecedent pagan religions.

Warschauer is driven to the extremity of falling back upon a claim of textual tampering to account for the injecting of the supernatural fatherhood into the story, when both Matthew’s and Luke’s intent was so obviously to regard Joseph as the begetter of Jesus. Incidentally he alludes to the undeniable fact that the text of the Gospel underwent some manipulation in the interest of dogma. A fact which is so generally hushed up, is thus made use of when it can prove a very present help in exegesis.

One paragraph on page 26 of Warschauer’s book is worthy of being transcribed verbatim. It is again a glowing instance of an argument that can be turned against the very point it is aimed to establish. It practically concedes the case for the opposition. Having yielded so much of the history to legend and poetry, he is forced to uphold the importance of these in the Nativity story. So he says that even if so much of the detail is only legendary embellishment, by which admission he robs the birth of all its supernatural staging, we must not therefore conclude, he insists, that the legends are worthless. The discovery of the non-historical character of a narrative does not require us to throw the whole thing on the rubbish heap, or to conclude that we have exposed the whole account as another literary hoax. We have to see what the legend means in connection with the story. And tracing its origin as far as we can into hidden springs, we may have to assign to it a very high significance and treat it as authentic contribution to the final message which it adorns. The legends are not history, but they are added to the modicum of history as a natural effort to testify to the divinely transcendent and really superhuman quality of the main event. To portray in some manner adequately the ineffable splendor of the Messianic advent the writers had to fall back on legends of supernal suggestiveness.

It is assuredly a strange circumstance that puts into the mouth of a writer who is conducting the case for the historicity the identical estimate of the value of myth that has here been used to dispute the historicity. It was hardly to be expected that our dissertation on the exalted function and value of the myth would have received so unequivocal a seconding from an opponent of our position. It really concedes everything to this side, if only its just implications are followed out. But who is it that has decried mythology and thrown on the ash-pile the whole marvelous structure of ancient mythicism? It is the Christian party. It is bad grace and an unfair fight to emphasize the value of myth in a carefully circumscribed sphere, where its usual condemnation would have endangered a large segment of the purported history of the Christ, and at the same time applaud its derogation in the large and everywhere else. That the value of the myth is supreme in the whole ancient field, and that the Christian habit of belittling it is a heinous error of vast proportions, is close to the nub of the entire debate. It is we who are arguing that the Gospel story is not to be cast out as rubbish just because it is myth. Warschauer will applaud legend in a minor province and as far as it can be useful to his purposes, but he is not sure enough of the universal value of myth to commit the entire Gospel story to that category and expect it to retain supreme value. The history or a modicum of it must be held on to as the irreducible solid rock of fact to rest the foundation of Christianity upon. A little fringe of the story--and it becomes a dangerously large one in the total--can be yielded over to myth; and while myth is thus sheltering a segment of the sacred canonical literature, it must be hoisted in importance, to uphold and not disqualify the history. That the ancients knew the ultimate value of the myth and were willing to let go all history for it, basing their solid foundations on the truth behind the myth, which was in the finale the gist of all history, the Christian scholar has never yet seen. All final true grounding of his studies yet awaits his coming to this perception.

The legend which reported that the name "Jesus" had been chosen for the new Messiah before he was conceived is granted Warschauer’s half-cynical indulgence as a concession to the poetizing instinct. He gives the name "Joshua," the equivalent of Jesus, as meaning "God’s help." It is not the place to enter into philological controversy; but that the root of the many variants of the name "Jesus" traces back to Egyptian origin and has a far profounder etymological significance than "God’s help" is known to many.

Warschauer represents Jesus as a Jew from the start, well versed in Hebrew scriptures, brilliant and skilled in exposition, defense and attack. Just how a still-young carpenter could have gained this literary and intellectual training, reached generally only by long schooling crowned with university courses--and years of teaching--without any known education, deponent sayeth not. The synagogue is one source suggested, and it could be assumed that he had some schooling or special rabbinical instruction.

Of his growth and development nothing is known, Warschauer admits. Yet that nothing is better than the grotesque tales of his childhood found in some spurious gospels, which are plainly clumsy inventions. The one item recorded--the Passover visit to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, and his tilt with the temple doctors--may be fact, thinks Warschauer; but he regards it as highly unlikely that his parents would have gone three days on the homeward journey before they missed him! That Jesus lost himself (for three days?) in his absorption in the debate and forgot to join the caravan is accepted by Warschauer as credible enough to permit the incident to stand on historical footing! On such feeble bases rests much of the main temple of Christianity.

Our authority is frank in adducing data that militate against the thesis he aims to uphold. He reveals that Luke’s narrative of the nativity of John the Baptist is modeled on Old Testament prototypes of famous and wondrous births. This story includes the central mythological element of a conception and birth from the womb of a mother past nature bearing age. This is of course pure allegory and only to be understood with reference to ancient theogonies. Sarah and Hannah are earlier prototypes of the same imagery. The mother is nature, and the natural order only in its great age--after millions of years of evolutionary development--produced man and his brain in which to bring the Christ child to functioning. Other identities with previous births are cited. So Warschauer admits that such a striking literary copying would of itself justify full doubt as to the historical character of any account so evidently constructed upon former models. But why will he not see that this frank admission and discerning observation holds with exactly the same force and relevance when extended to embrace the whole and not merely minor features of the Jesus birth and the Gospel set-up? Not only the birth of John the Baptist, but the entire body of Gospel occurrence can be just as completely matched by earlier figurations of sage dramatic genius,--and all of it mythological! What would amaze Warschauer, surely, is the extent to which correspondence, similarity, identity, between Christian material and pre-Christian mythology runs. Had he devoted the same zeal to the pursuit of such a comparison as he has done to sifting Gospel data, he would have realized that he is not warranted in clipping off merely a thin fringe of detail from the Gospel body, surrendering it to myth, while retaining the main bulk as history, but that he would have to resign it all to be catalogued as pagan dramatism. To his surprise and perhaps dismay he would have found with sufficient study that such parallels as he has detected in one case run consistently throughout the entire structure. If he can concede truly that identity with antecedent non-Christian mythical material invalidates the historicity of some portions of Gospel matter, then the invalidation extends over the whole of the ground and not only claims a margin. Conceivably he would dispute this as an arrant claim that could not be substantiated. The answer is that the all-sufficient evidence exists, and many who have examined it attest its adequacy. Its potent relevance, however, can not be seen until it is examined. At any rate it is a pleasure to cite Warschauer’s open admission that Luke’s wonder-tale of angelic apparitions, child-birth in the mother’s old age, lyrical rhapsodies, quite certainly belong to the domain of religious poetry and can not stand as fact. What he seemingly has not threshed out and can not see, is that poetry is itself one language of fact, and that the ancients in their wisdom delineated the entire range of cosmology, creative process, evolutionary pattern and lofty subjective experience by the method of myth and drama. Calamity ensued when later stupidity mistook the objective portrayals of subjective reality for the subjective portrayals of objective reality. Truth demands that Christianity recognize this and go the whole way to correct its mistake. To go part of the way is not enough. The whole truth is demanded.

The Zacharias hymn is a Messianic psalm, he rightly states. But difficulty is encountered when it is noted that the cousin relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, stated by Luke, is directly repudiated by John’s Gospel. The remainder of the story, he somewhat sadly confesses, is an instance of haggada, or fanciful religious narrative that later Judaism so delighted in. The fact that Judaism was prepossessed with a flair and fancy for poetic figurism is lightly touched by Warschauer, as just an incidental circumstance that accounts for an annoying feature of the Gospel historicity that must be explained. Had he the perspicacity to concede to the fact itself--that an age of a nation’s religious life was dominated by such an (to him) eccentric and irregular tendency--that poetic allegorism prevailed and predominated in Judaism at the time. And it is rather gratuitous that he limits it to this particular period. What he fails to recognize is that this tendency was part of the universal literary spirit of the whole ancient world over many centuries, and is in itself a powerful adjunct to the present contention that the whole of ancient scripture was allegorical, both in spirit and in method. His slighting treatment of this very central datum indicates a lack of perspective and understanding of the elements of his problem.

We step out of the flowery field of romantic legend over to firm ground of history in Warschauer’s elucidation, only when we reach the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, when John, the forerunner of the Messiah, issued the call to the age to repent in view of the imminent coming of the "Kingdom." But what evidence of factual objectivity is there in the narrative to differentiate what goes on thereafter from what had gone before? Obviously nothing more than the type of material encountered there, which is only a shade or two less romantic on the side of imagination than the more frankly mythic trimmings sewed on to the Nativity. Yet even here the expositor admits, item by item, that many occurrences connected with the story from that point onward are as obviously non-historical as the birth anecdotes. Some of these must be set down.

As early in fact as Mark’s citation of Isaiah’s announcement of the messengership of John, Warschauer says we are not dealing with history, but an Evangelistic attempt to match John’s herald role with popular expectation. The scholar even points out to us that Mark’s description of John’s voice as that of one crying in the wilderness is from Isaiah (40:3) where it is not even a reference to Messiah, but to Yahweh restoring his exile-ridden people to their homeland. And he is frank to tell us that while John proclaims the nearness of the Kingdom, he does not prophesy the Messiah either in person or in spirit.

Attention needs to be called here to the misapplied usage of the word "eschatological." Warschauer uses it here in relevance to the coming of the Kingdom, which Christian theology has erroneously connected, through the misinterpretation of several scriptural passages, with the "end of the world" (itself a fatal mistranslation of the Greek for "the end of the cycle"), and the pronouncing of judgment upon all humanity in a final scene. It can be said at last that the imagery of John’s language carried no such eschatological implications whatever. The coming of the Kingdom has no more extended reference than that which goes with the "Christification" of collective humanity. When the common variety of mortal men has accomplished the transfiguration of its life from animal or "Gentile" rating into the likeness of the shining radiance of spiritualized being, or the "Israelite" status, then the kingdom of heaven has materialized or "come" to earth. It is not likely that geological convulsions will have anything to do with it. Nor is it likely that the dawn of spiritual consciousness in the race as a whole will be delayed for the many millions of years the good earth has yet to run on in its course around the sun. Many righteous individuals have already brought their contribution to the kingdom of peace and good will here now. The matter makes clear how immediately dangerous the reading of the sage books of antiquity becomes the moment an objective rendering is introduced into what must be kept purely subjective to guard its sane reference. There is no history in antique books of wisdom. But the ideal patterns of all history are there. The eschatological suggestion, if it is such, embodied in John’s cry for repentance goes no farther than the reference to the general cry drawn from the Mystery stage character’s lines, when in the great drama the Messianic actor cries to mortals or "Gentile" man to awake to the realization that he must prepare his mind and heart for a great and always in some degree imminent transformation into the higher nature of the Christ whom "John," the natural man, precedes. The event impending is not one that is to supervene historically, that is, objectively, at any given moment, as a thing of outward observation. The "Kingdom," Jesus himself specifies, cometh neither here nor there, and not with observation. It comes silently in the hearts of men and women. The amazing ado about the age’s expectation of a personal Messiah, to be injected into the milieu of the world’s political, economic and social life, is a vast misreading of arcane meaning. Nothing in religion has ever driven sensible humans to such folly as the objective expectation of the coming of Messiah. Warschauer says that John’s prefatory preachment of the coming day of judgment created a stir and commotion in all Judea, so that the multitude flocked out to be ready to witness the expected prodigy. So did Miller’s deluded preachment of the same thing in all New England and west to Ohio in 1836 to 1843, when the whole bubble of delusion burst in ridiculous and shameful disillusionment. The "Millerite Delusion" should be read up by all who need to be impressed with the lesson of religious gullibility and the utter folly of taking scriptures as literal history.

Our scholar suggests that the multitudes who flocked out at the clarion call of the Messiah’s herald for repentance were not necessarily corrupt or sunk in iniquity. They were ill-used, oppressed and mistaught people, feverishly longing for release from hard conditions. Their greatest defect, Warschauer hints, was due to a mechanical conception of religion! They were taking the herald’s words too literally! They understood John to be predicting the coming of a great man, a king, who would redeem their lowly status, instead of a Christly or kingly instinct in the heart: this was their fault! There is entire agreement here with Warschauer on this point. But to our vision there is no reason perceptible on the horizon anywhere that makes clear why the fault of the populace of the first century in mistaking Messianic prophecy by translating it too literally and mechanically, and thereby turning the Christos, the Prince of Peace, into a human figure, is any more reprehensible then than now. The ironic possibilities and eventualities of the argument are left to the reader’s predilections.

The next bit of presumptive "history" that the scholar throws out the window is the romantic story of the circumstances precipitating the Baptist’s death: the "Salome" dance before Herod, his impetuous promise to give the damsel whatever she might ask, her intrigued demand for John’s head on a charger, and the rest. He says the entire episode is open to the gravest doubts, and again is admittedly molded over the pattern of Old Testament stories, especially that of Jephthah in Judges. John’s head is represented as being brought in and presented to the dancing daughter of Herodias then and there, whereas, says Warschauer, John was in prison at Machaerus, distant by four days’ journey from Tiberias, where such a banquet would have been held. Lastly Herodias was not a wanton character, but a loyal and steadfast queen.

Warschauer betrays his lack of acquaintance with deep and recondite ancient esoteric symbology when he says that John’s description of the one greater than he, who, though coming after him, is preferred before him, wielding a winnowing fan and bringing fire from heaven to burn the chaff, does not fit Jesus. One, however, must study the great system of Egyptian portrayal under glyph and symbol to see how perfectly it does fit the Jesus or Christ character.

It is desirable to call attention to this investigator’s tribute paid in his book (p. 46) to religious genius as a thing of subjective depth beyond all fathoming of ordinary mentality. It is the very thing that has been predicated of it in our work as the basis of the necessity for portraying its deeper intimations by the singular method and appliances of allegory and myth or drama. The religious intuition plumbs the wells of mystic realization to such depths that it is past depiction by any other typism. This is adduced here by way of showing that a Christian apologist can himself strengthen the case for esoteric methodology at moments when bias is not immediately concerned.

The next Biblical event of reputed historicity to be shunted aside by Warschauer is the opening of the heavens at the end of the baptism, the proclamation of the celestial voice that this was God’s beloved Son sent for the world’s acceptance, and the descent of the dove upon Jesus’ head. The disqualification of this as history is accomplished by the averment that it was a purely subjective intuition of Jesus himself and not an outward event witnessed by the assemblage on the river bank! The account given of the event by Matthew and Luke carries its own refutation, he acknowledges. For had Jesus’ mission thus been authenticated by such a marvel wrought openly in the sight of a concourse of people to bear it witness, neither Jesus nor the populace could have hesitated, they to acclaim and he to accept, the Messianic character of his person and his status. That no such sweeping demonstration followed, is regarded by this critic as conclusive proof that the divine approbation expressed out of heaven at the baptism could not have been objectively perceived.

Then he testifies to a realistic envisagement of the improbability that a man who a week or two previously had been a humble mechanic could suddenly register a serious realization of his being, in his own slender person, the embodied divinity of cosmic majesty and proportions, prefigured in and by the universal conception of Messiah. This is surely a sensible discernment on Warschauer’s part, knowing, as he must, the jibing rain of skeptical abuse and derision that any common man today, or any day, would call down upon his devoted head if he openly and seriously proclaimed himself the cosmic Christ and the Logos of God! No amount of the most genuine saintliness, or worthy character, of nobility of life, could support in any person today the self-announcement of his divine Messiahship, and save him from universal presumption of insanity. Hardly less suspect would be the claim for such a status advanced by others on behalf of any mere mortal, however saintly. Humanity will never be able to rationalize or render acceptable on any sane basis the claim of or on behalf of any one member chosen out of its own group to the unique status of "the elect of all the nations" or the only Son of Deity. It is psychologically impossible. So that it is a disappointment when Warschauer, with all his circumspection and realistic caution, in the end goes with Jesus in the latter’s eventual realization, stunning and awesome as it must have been to him, that he is personally the cosmic Messiah! All of which attests again how wretchedly the historical acceptance of scripture can twist human mentality. For it entails the acceptance of situations and events that the intellect can swallow only with repressed qualms and with rational nausea.

Another acknowledgment weakening to the historical claim is Warschauer’s reminder that every one of Jesus’ answers to Satan in the wilderness temptation is taken from Deuteronomy VI to VIII, and that such an encounter between the Savior and the personified evil principle is paralleled in Zoroastrian and Buddhistic and other religious literature. Warschauer unctuously attests that the piety of the age loves these parallels, but he still does not see that ancient love of analogues by which to typify eternal spiritual truth is a more smashing witness against the Gospel historicity which he defends than he possibly realizes. So general and constant was the pressure of this tendency to exploit the parallelism of events that, he says, we may expect to find the disposition manifest itself in attempts to relate nearly all the events in the "life of Christ" in the outward form of an analogue with some event in the Old Testament. He admits that this procedure involves some sacrifice of historical accuracy, and he grants that indeed in regard to the Lord’s temptation of forty days at Satan’s hands we are not dealing with history at all, declaring that this should need no confirmation. He is thus driven by his own intellectual probity to ask if there is any nucleus of veridical fact left in the incident for faith to feed upon. His answer is--as always--that the episode could not have become current and got into the record if it had not some basis of factuality beneath it. This has become a stock argument on the side of the historicity. It is used mechanically, without regard to the fact that in hosts of instances legendary figures, such as Lord Raglan shows Robin Hood and King Arthur to be, have acquired as much historic reality in the general mind as many a historical character. On this argument it is to be presumed that we would have to agree that doubtless there was some basis of truth back of Little Jack Horner, Little Bo-Peep, Tom the piper’s son, Jack Spratt and his wife, Old King Cole, Jack the giant-killer, Cinderella and Moby Dick. A thousand years from now some historical literalist will be saying that we must assume there was some personal ground for the characters of Portia and Shylock. It should be remarked, then, that the New Testament story of the temptation must be put down as resting on nothing stronger than conjecture. Warschauer himself disqualifies it as history.

The next item to be likewise disqualified is Jesus’ commissioning his twelve disciples upon a mountain. This, as given in Mark, Warschauer dismisses with the statement that it bears the stamp of legend and not that of history. Also is noted the fact that while there are four lists of these chosen "fishermen," not two of them quite agree.

With regard to the cleansing of the leper cited by the three Synoptists, he says that if it belongs to history, it could not well have happened when it is reported to have occurred. And the scholar reverts to sane criticism when he declares that for anyone who knows the deep-rooted nature of leprosy, it is difficult to believe that Jesus healed the disease with a mere word. He sees the account as just an attempt to analogize Jesus’ power with that of Moses and Elijah, who were said to have cured lepers. As to the account of Jesus healing the paralytic let down through a hole in the roof, he speaks of the glaring improbability of this detail. He calls in the modern psychological discovery of the power of auto-suggestion to account for the possible cure as narrated. He takes a wavering stand on the accredited miraculous power of the divine healer.

He comments again on the improbability that Jesus would have met the challenge as to his keeping company with publicans and sinners with the remark that he comes to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance, unless indeed it was uttered in irony. In regard to another cure, he says its credibility need not concern us,--its historicity being questionable. In another case he says Mark reports an incident with what we would judge to be a touch of exaggeration. He cites a remarkable instance of textual manipulation in Mark 3:21 after Jerome’s revision. Utter want of both historical and evolutionary perspective is exhibited by the exegetist--and thousands of others similarly conditioned by orthodox persuasions--in his viewing the Kingdom’s incidence upon earth as a thing that might be consummated by Jesus’ preaching of its imminence and his soulful exhortation to the masses, within the matter of a few years’ lapse. It can be safely predicated as to this that any mind which can seriously envisage the complete perfection of all humanity from present low stage to the lofty purity needed to bring in the Kingdom of Righteousness within the space of two years, as Warschauer postulates (p. 85), has had its capacity for sound judgment warped sadly out of focus. It can be asked what more is needed as evidence of the correctness of this statement and the folly of any immediate or early expectation of the arrival of the Kingdom of Christliness on earth than the fact that two thousand years have passed, with the western world in possession of the inestimable and unfailingly efficacious help of the Christ’s own (alleged) teachings, and we are sure at this moment that the Kingdom is if possible farther away than ever before. Humanity must indeed be slow to learn if the pointed moral of two thousand years fails to teach it so simple a determination as that. One of the stock delusions of religious folly to which the "common people" are always pitiably susceptible by reason of want of training in critical reflection, and which is therefor used by designing modern "evangelists" to prey upon their gullibility, is the notion that a heavy surge of feverish emotionalism can induce God quickly to wind up the affairs of the planet in deference to our regard for the inviolability of Old Testament "prophecy"! God is alleged to have written the Book; it seems to say clearly that the time is at hand; the Kingdom is imminent; the promised signs can be discerned (with a slight stretch of the imagination); therefore the cataclysmic holocaust must be only a matter of days or weeks away. Not even a thousand rebuffs to the fell presumption of this overweening expectation in the centuries of theological befuddlement have availed to dampen the ardor of unintelligent Christian sectaries for what these writers call "eschatological" and "apocalyptic" consummation. If it is a credit to have afflicted millions of ordinarily good humans with a series of pitiable delusions of this sort, Christianity has that credit. Repentance and the worthy fruits of repentance were to compel the Kingdom to appear, and that speedily, avers Warschauer, saying that Jesus sympathized warmly with the eager, zealous, activist mood of the times.

It is impossible to forego the opportunity to hold this idea up to realistic view. The author under discussion goes on to say seriously that the professedly religious in Jesus’ day believed that the coming of the Kingdom was merely delayed by the sins of the people. The rigorously ritualistic Pharisees felt that the general failure to conform to ceremonial observance with sufficient strictness was holding back the great Day of the Lord. Had not the Talmud said that Israel would be redeemed if the nation would keep only two sabbaths with the proper solemn decorum? Warschauer does see that this approaches caricature of the Messianic concept, but he still insists that Jesus himself fell in with popular belief that Jahweh would return to his people when they returned with pious devotion to him. Jesus instinctively adopted this prophetic persuasion, he states. He adds, of course, that Jesus interpreted it in terms of a more gradual moral regeneration; yet he does not let this in any way upset the schedule of a few years’ time for the striking of the clock of apocalyptic doom. If the present generation would but sow the seeds of righteousness, the same generation, or surely the next, would reap the harvest of the Kingdom’s descent from heaven. So even the omniscient Son of God is committed by his own followers to this moronic conception of infantile-minded religionists. For it was not only the sentiment of the unlettered rabble that did flock into the Christian communion a little later; it was, says Warschauer, the grandiose conception of the Savior, his own plan to call the Kingdom into existence quickly, immediately, with the challenge of power and the compelling unction of zealous faith. The Golden Age was to be dragged in by the violence of heroic ethic in obedience to God’s will; the Kingdom of Heaven was to be assaulted and captured by storm. And Warschauer subjoins that it is open to us to see the essential truth of this conception. He does indeed turn the sense into the more reasonable channel of a gradual transformation of the inner consciousness of individuals, instead of a sudden cataclysmic denouement. Yet he permits even Jesus to be fooled by its failure to appear at the beck of the pious zealotry of the age at the time expected. This presumes that Jesus himself had so lost the sense of evolutionary proportion as to believe a general stiffening of piety and good behavior would roll up the scroll of the heavens and melt down this planet as predicted with the fervent heat of Messianic zealotry. Surely his devotees could honor him with the imputation of a little more intelligence than that.

Wrestling with the problem of Jesus’ own recognition of his cosmically unique divine Sonship, Warschauer avers that this supervened upon his consciousness in full and mystically irresistible force at the baptism. He had there been seized with the intuition of his unique supernal cosmic status; in spite of all his sense of his humanity he was forced to realize that he was the Messiah! And that realization came to him with such strength, intimates Warschauer, that it even brought with it the temptation to regard himself as the earthly King, destined, according to exoteric popularization of the idea, to rule the nations politically. But Jesus put this glittering lure resolutely behind him, as the real Satanic temptation, says the commentator. He permits us to hazard the guess as to why Jesus dismissed the outward rulership idea and confined himself to the role of a spiritual messenger. This guessing is the thing of considerable significance both here and elsewhere along the way. If a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, the chain that holds up the whole structure of Gospel Christology is pitiably weak, for it is composed of an unbelievable number of linked guesses, conjectures, surmises, suppositions, inferences, some of which break under a laugh.

The paragraph raises the grave question anyhow as to the psychological sanity of the view that any mortal creature born of woman, with normal brain and strictly human powers of consciousness, could in any way, shape or manner possibly arrive at the conviction that he, in his own human nature and constitution, was THE cosmic Christ that the Bible and Christian theology have delineated. It is flatly and blankly impossible for any normal human being to gather from any source and entertain the conviction that he is standing outside the pale of humanity and that he belongs to a cosmic divine order instead of the human genus. He could not do this within the bounds of sanity. The possibility of his doing it would come only with the breakdown of his mentality. It is absolutely impossible for any mortal man to conceive of himself as holding some status or being commissioned with some grandiose errand which is not equally within the capability of other humans in the course of growth. For Warschauer and others to foist on Jesus the recognition of this utterly unconscionable and preternatural character for himself in all history is for them to place him in the class of a derationalized human. He deserves better treatment at the hands of his votaries. It is conceivable that a man may come to think of himself as a Christ, a mortal who has immortalized himself by having adopted the mind of true Christliness. But it is unthinkable that in sane, sober and serious consciousness any man of our race could come to think of himself as being THE Christ, that Christ of the Gospels and Christian doctrine in whose person were centered divine cosmic attributes and functions inconceivably remote from human category or accomplishment. If any individual reached and announced such a conviction now, his action would stand out as an ugly affront to general intelligence and be heartily resented by all ranks of people, the more vehemently in the ratio of their culture. If any segment of the population received such a Messiah seriously, we know what type it would be,--the most ignorant, uncritical and psychologically gullible element. This was indeed largely the kind that did receive and accredit the Gospel Christ in the form of a human person in that fatal third century. It can be maintained on grounds of sheer logic and common sense realism that Jesus, if a man, could not possibly have arrived at any such inner persuasion about himself and his mission consistently with the consummate sanity attributed to him generally. Any man can gain a conviction that his life is set apart for a unique work of first importance in world history. But this is a normal reaction and is a thousand miles away from that conception of cosmic uniqueness and hierarchical grandeur which the idea of Messiahship involved in its Biblical characterization. It is indeed the very thought--which Christian devotion had to strain at and swallow--that the cosmic aeonial Avatar, a figure of astronomical proportions, of solar and celestial grandeur, the co-creator of the worlds with the Father, could be compressed without garish ridiculousness within the compass of the personal stature of a man on earth, that has engendered even subconsciously a natural incredulity about the tenability of Christian theology, and brought the latter at last to the position of an outcast even from its own courts and temples. It is almost certain, indeed, that the simple explanation of that theology’s repudiation even in its own house, is nothing more involved than the revulsion of common human good sense and instinctive logic against an idea so grotesquely unnatural as that the cosmic Logos should come walking down the street or drop in for lunch! It comes close to being fairly well analogized by the idea of going in and purchasing the whole of Virtue or Integrity physically compressed in a drug-store capsule! But is it far from this to the assertion, which on the basis of all Christian dogmatism can be squarely made, that at the crucifixion the Logos was wounded in the side, hands and feet? A Roman soldier raised his spear and struck the cosmic universe below the heart! For the Logos is the manifest universe, and Christ was declared the Logos and Jesus was the Christ! The saddening reflection from all this is that such obfuscation should have been produced by a distorted theology upon the intellects of Biblical exegetists with the result that they could soberly write of a man in any age conceiving himself to be the Logos of God, with all the superhuman involvements going with the character. No amount of ascription to such a one of the most touching modesty and sanctification of motive could save him from the imputation of egotism beyond the reach of human thought. The conclusion of the whole matter is reached in the lamentable consideration that the mentality of a whole civilization had to be twisted askew to make such a conception tenable, and that the age-long prevalence of such a conception twisted that mentality still further askew. And with such premises to build upon, who can say that this distorted mentality has not been the breeding ground of the outward follies and mistakes that have cast this civilization into the most awful inferno of calamity in world history? It could well be so.

In passing Warschauer remarks that a meticulous regard for chronological accuracy is not a strong point with any of the Synoptists,--which is cited as just another weak link in a long chain of weak links.

It is his own argument that the term "bar nasha," translated "the Son of Man" in the Gospels, does not refer to Jesus as the Christ in person, but generically to "man" or humanity. What is this but a subsidiary and indirect, but still implied, corroboration of our contention here that the other terms alluding to the divinized man as the Christos, the Anointed, etc., escape the same particularized limitation and point to the larger and more general connotation?

The author confesses on page 103 that he is moving, however reverently and haltingly, in the direction of surmise, when he fixes the time of Jesus’ final realization of his Messianic role. On page 107 we encounter such admissions as that Mark’s statement is open to serious doubt, and that the graphic touches in the description of one of the miracles may possibly be attributable to the Evangelist’s own imagination. The amount of credit given to the story of the storm on Lake Gennesaret is not great. It, too, seems to have been modeled over the lines of the story of the Jonah storm. The parallelism extends far. He questions how far the prototypal story rests on a basis of fact, and he says that in such a problem surmises are cheap and knowledge is dear. His way out is to say that what may have happened is that Jesus fell asleep in the boat in the storm, and that all the rest was supplied from that ever-handy well of popular legend that slaked the thirst of the age for romantic afflatus. Mark is charged with great indifference to geography. He even locates the Gardarene miracle in the wrong place, according to Warschauer.

Coming to the great climactic miracle of the whole Gospel collection, the raising of Lazarus, the scholar quotes Prof. E. F. Scott (The Fourth Gospel, p. 45) as saying that it can not with real probability be given a place in any intelligible scheme of the life of Christ; that it is inconceivable that a miracle of such omen for all mankind, performed in the one week of the Savior’s career of which there is a full chronicle, and in the presence of multitudes just outside Jerusalem, with the miracle itself forming the direct occasion of the crucifixion, should have been left totally out of the narratives of the three other Evangelists and be given only by John,--the one, we may remark incidentally, who, like Paul, presents a Jesus who is scarcely personally human at all! And Scott ends by making the very sensible suggestion we are almost pushed to the conclusion that the raising of Lazarus is, in the main, symbolical! When will scholars receive that extra little push that will thrust them at last into the circle where alone the full truth as to the nature of all this material and its interpretative problem can be seen? When will they take that one further step beyond Prof. Scott’s suggestion that will enable them to see that not only the Lazarus story but the entire literature is symbolical?

Indeed the next author quoted by Warschauer practically does take that step. It is Prof. Burkitt, who (in The Gospel History and Its Transmission, p. 223) says that for all its dramatic setting we can not regard the Lazarus miracle as the account of a historical event! Warschauer agrees that the other (Lukan) mention of Lazarus in the story of the rich man and the beggar is pure moral apologue and suggests a very plausible connection between the two episodes. By we know not how many intervening stages, he writes, the moral fable grew through the haggadic tendency into the historic legend. It is our reflection prompted by this explanation that if he admits that the Bible material was a final outgrowth of a number of successive stages of transformation of original moral apologue into history, he has gone far in the very direction of granting the major premises on which our work stands. It is precisely our position that all ancient Biblical content began as apologue and became, in Christianity, transmuted into history. To refute that position in the large, this scholar supplies us with much data in the small, that support our contention. And after all, it is no small thing in this debate to concede the non-historicity of this particular Lazarus miracle. In fact the edifice of Christianity rests, as Paul loudly proclaims, on one single fact, the resurrection of Jesus. But this pivotal item has been considered to have been stoutly buttressed by the auxiliary death-to-life miracle of similar significance and portent at Bethany. To wipe away the latter as history is seriously to weaken the main girder in the temple of Christianity.

Then comes Warschauer’s analysis of the incident noted only by Luke (VII:36-50) when at a supper in the house of a Pharisee a woman who had been a sinner came in from the dark streets to pour out her gratitude to Jesus as the agent of her moral regeneration. It is introduced here to form the background of the scholar’s comment that the verses 44 to 46 read like a later elaboration, being too didactic and out of all relation to the human side of the situation as narrated. He even deletes the words "but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" from the Savior’s speech, claiming they are a singularly uninspired gloss. So one more item of "history" goes by the board,--when it serves a particular scheme of interpretative motive to oust it from the narrative.

Additional strength is given by Warschauer to his contention that Bethlehem could not have been the actual birthplace of Jesus by his treatment of material detailing the Savior’s later visit to Nazareth, "his own country," where he found himself strangely without honor. Also the disqualification of another item of the "history" is made by Warschauer’s statement that the clause--"save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them"-sounds decidedly like interpolation, either by the Evangelist of some later editor.

Mark, he says, knows nothing of the attack of the crowd on Jesus that nearly led to his murder, from which danger he escaped by "passing through the midst of them"; and this incident, too, is dismissed as likely not historical. Also the Lord’s sayings about Elijah and Elisha manifesting their powers only for the heathen and not for the Israelites, seem to our critic as of doubtful authenticity. They belong, he significantly states, to the realm of primitive Christian apologetics!

He questions, too, the credibility of Jesus’ commissioning two groups, one of twelve, the other of seventy-two, disciples to go forth and preach the Gospel unto all the world. He thinks they are two variants of the one event, and comments quite adversely as to the anti-climactic upshot of the whole grandiose missionary program, which, had it been historically true, would have shown some concrete results, either in failure or success, worthy of recording. Neither profane nor sacred history carries a single item of report on the outcome of the great strategy of the Son of God to publish the glad tidings of salvation to the nations.

Comment on Herod’s later suspicions of Jesus and fear of his power to stir up undesirable political ferment includes Warschauer’s statement that study of the incident is calculated to raise doubts as to the historical character of what is there said of Jesus’ identity. Admission is made in another connection that the true order of events can only be conjectured, with probability as our sole guide,--again a feeble basis for history to rest upon. Matthew made a most happy conjecture of his own, he ventures. Thus even the authors of Gospel "history" were not sure of what they recorded.

Mark is again accused of guessing,--as to why Jesus went into a period of retirement.

That Jesus should have twice withdrawn from the Galilean country following the two feedings of the multitude is put down as unbelievable and reduces the course of events to chaos. Resort is even had to the fictional reconstruction of occurrences to account for certain things mentioned in the history. If this liberty is permissible now, there should have been no condemnation of similar practice in the early centuries. Our safety is in being told that it is invention and not something else. A lengthy hypothetical construction is made by Warschauer on page 149 to serve as at least a not impossible explanation of the origin of the legend of the master’s walking on the waves.

The cure of the blind man at Bethsaida is allocated to the category of symbolic legend and is not to be taken as a historical reminiscence. It may stand as a symbolic representation of the gradual enlightenment of the disciples, who were initially dull. Some history then admittedly could have been made out of pristine spiritual allegory. It is stated that Mark’s setting of the cure of the epileptic boy is quite inappropriate for it, and his allocation of the incident is declared to be quite impossible. Of very doubtful historicity, too, is the disciple’s question as to why they could not exorcise the demon, and Jesus’ reply that this kind can only be dispossessed by prayer. The cure may have occurred before the commissioning of the twelve instead of after the transfiguration, is the surmise. On page 167 Warschauer speaks of the truly desperate task of reconciling the Synoptists with the Johannine version. Desperate indeed, if taken as history; infinitely less difficult if taken as spiritual drama. On page 168 he is confronted with, as he avows, the even more formidable task of fitting into the framework of events the recorded sayings of the Lord. This task frankly denies accomplishment, and the guesses of the Synoptists are often conflicting, it is admitted. Confusion, faulty memory, conflict of already corrupted manuscripts, all complicated the Evangelic labors. Mark follows one plan, Matthew and Luke others. Which saying followed what event was, as a rule, not so much matter for surmise as indeed past all accurate surmising, is the candid and damaging admission.

We may conclude this résumé of testimony from this typical author with his own climactic statement, confirming finally the chief theses of our own position, that the Gospels were written in the first place not as works of history, but of edification, and that purely historical considerations were at most of only secondary interest to the sacred writers! The purpose envisaged in our amassing so much material from a single work of this kind is exactly to demonstrate to readers that any rational attempt to build the case for the Gospel historicity, if it is honest enough to look closely at the factual content of that history, can save itself from entanglement in contradiction, absurd predicament and bizarre situation only by denying an enormous percentage of the history itself. It must indeed be accounted an odd situation when the claim for an important conclusion can be supposed to be strengthened or validated by the disqualification of by far the major evidence for it! At such a desperate pass stands the defense of the Gospels as history. It will have been noted that scarcely an event in the narrative touched upon by Warschauer (and he covers the main events of the Gospel "life" of Jesus) has not been undermined and severely weakened, if not put entirely out of court as history. Since the Gospels are, to begin with, the only source of supposed historical knowledge of the Savior’s life, even if they could be accredited as history, something like nine-tenths of their testimony is invalidated by Christian writers like Warschauer. These special pleaders rest their case for the historicity upon the extant history, and then turn to and make poetic or legendary or symbolical moonshine of that same history. If the Gospels are not histories, but mythical dramas--as obviously they are--there is no extant credible evidence to rest historical claims upon. Even in the hands of its own defenders the body of the history melts down until there is left nothing but a substanceless shadowy mirage of historical foundation, a veritable wraith of reality. Warschauer has been called in as witness to impress upon unstudied folk the astonishing extent to which the body of historical evidence, vaunted as of such solid substantiality and redoubtable proportions, does thus melt down under the rays of the sun of common sense and sane judgment. Warschauer might himself be dumbfounded to realize how little material he has left intact as veridical historical data upon which to support the thesis of Jesus’ life. He himself has stripped the already slim body of claimed factual history to skeletal tenuity.

The data supplied by such a work positively establish the fact that a very large segment of the Gospel material must be relinquished as history. What has been gullibly assumed to be history is now discovered to be--exactly what this work claims--poetic legend and typism.