Faith’s Odd Wonderland

Chapter IX

An item of sensational testimony bearing upon the pre-Christian origin and character of insignia claimed to be exclusively Christian is the statement of Lundy (Monumental Christianity, p. 125) that the well-known monogram of Christ regarded as an origination of Christianity and a cryptic shorthand signature for the name of their personal Founder, was antecedent to the time of Jesus. Says this author: "Even the XP, which I had thought to be exclusively Christian, are to be found in combination thus: [@insert glyph] on coins of the Ptolemies and on those of Herod the Great, struck forty years before our era, together with this other form so often seen on the early Christian monuments, viz., @insert glyph. And in regard to it, King well remarks, ‘although these symbols, as far as regards their material form, were not invented by the Christians, they nevertheless received at this time a new signification and which became their proper one; and everybody agrees in giving them this peculiar signification.’" (King: Early Christian Numismatics, p. 12 ff.). As to this the important thing is that the emblem was not "invented" by the Christians and must have been therefore pre-extant. As to the "new" signification given it, that is another of those rash statements that are based on sheer assumption and the pious necessity of putting a face on the matter reflecting favorably on Christianity and detrimentally upon paganism, as much as to say that the pagans had the emblem, but of course did not know its real and true import and assigned some base meaning to it, and only the Christians elevated it to pure connotations. There has been enough of this brash apologetic for Christian superiority to sicken the conscientious mind. The truth in this instance happens to be precisely the opposite of what is claimed: it was the philosophical pagans who had the insignium and knew what it meant in its profoundest sense; it was the Christians who adopted it in ignorance and reduced it to the empty status of a supposed abbreviation of the name of a man. Lundy himself lets out a hint that confirms this explanation. He says:

"The Greek monogram, therefore, was the prevailing symbol of Christ as the First and the Last during the first three centuries of the Christian era, as more expressive of the faith in His divine character and mission . . . ; while the cross afterwards became the symbol of his human sufferings and death, until it culminated in the ghastly crucifix. Or rather, the primitive Church dwelt more on the divine side of Christ’s person and office than upon the human."

This last clause is a hint that entirely falls in consonance with the view that the personal Christ embodied in Jesus was a formulation of later incompetence after nearly two centuries, and not a simple fact stemming from direct original knowledge of such a man’s existence. It is perhaps well to add Lundy’s supplemental remark, that the sacred monogram, as well as the cross, was used in every act of worship, stamped upon the bread of the Eucharist, marked on the foreheads of the baptized and worn on seal rings, long before the term Pope was ever exclusively applied to the Bishop of Rome, or ever Romanism was dreamed of.

Full value must be given to such a fact as that the early Christian Fathers were insistent on comparing many features of antecedent religion with those of Christianity. For one instance Origen elaborately traces out the agreement of the resurrection of Dionysus in the Greek cult with that of Christ, and does it in such a way as to hint that the resurrection was an allegory of the "Pilgrim Soul" and not historical. Paul carries out this hint in Timothy.

The historicity of the Gospel of Mark is directly challenged by Bacon in his Jesus and Paul (p. 147). He declares that when we look at this Roman Gospel which became so completely standard for this whole class of literature that no other considerable record of Jesus’ activity survives, and when we see how the material has been selected and what motive controls the elaboration, it will be perfectly clear that we have in Mark not a biography, not a history, but a collection of anecdotes; and even this collection is made for purposes of edification and not of historical record.

Abraham Geiger, German researcher, agrees with Graetz, one of the most voluminous of German textual critics, in thinking that in Jesus’ teaching "there is nothing new, or that what is new is put before us in a somewhat enervated form, just as it originated during an enervated period." (Geiger: Das Judentum und Seine Geschichte, p. 119.)

This allusion to enervation falls in harmoniously with the thesis of deterioration of wisdom in Christian acumen after the second or third century.

No students have surpassed the German investigators in thoroughness of research. Another of this group, G. Friedländer, in his The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount shows with much learning that not only the Sermon on the Mount, but the entire Christian system (excluding its asceticism) is borrowed from the Old Testament, the Book of Ben Sira, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Philo of Alexandria and the earlier portions of the Talmud and Midrash.

Another of the German School, Chwolson, makes a specially noteworthy point that, rightly to understand Pauline and Post-Pauline Christianity, a knowledge of the Sibylline Oracles, Philo and Greek literature generally is most important.

One of the finest Jewish treatises on the subject of Jesus of Nazareth is Joseph Klausner’s work under that title. He says definitely that the fourth Gospel is not a "religio-historical, but a religio-philosophical book." It was not composed, he says, until about the middle of the second century, at a time when Christians were already distinct from Jews. The object of John’s Gospel is to interpret Jesus as the Logos in the extreme Philonic or cosmic sense, and it therefore passes over such details in the "life" of Jesus as would appear too human! "It may well include a few historical fragments handed down to the author (who was certainly not John the disciple) by tradition; but speaking generally, its value is theological rather than historical or biographical."

Among capable students in the field of this study who entirely disbelieved in Jesus’ existence are B. Smith and Arthur Drews. Smith denies the existence of the town of Nazareth, in which determination some others have sided with him. Origen in the latter part of the second century states that he could find no trace of "Bethany beyond Jordan." Smith advances the claim that Jesus was an object of worship to a sect of Nazarites who existed at the time when Christianity came into being, and whom the Christian Father Epiphanius mentions at great length.

It may be noticed in passing that Nietzsche, the philosopher of super-humanity in Germany a half century ago, pronounces the combining of the New Testament artificially with the Old in the Christian system as "perhaps the greatest piece of effrontery and worst kind of ‘sin against the Holy Ghost’ with which literary Europe has ever burdened its conscience." (Beyond Good and Evil, III, p. 52.)

Nietzsche’s view is endorsed by Grethenbach, who feels that

"the solemn endorsement of the Jewish Scriptures now embodied in the ‘Old Testament’ by the Christian Church must stand out forever as one of the most remarkable facts in the history of religion. By this act Christianity made itself liable for and guarantor of a series of writings not a line of which has a known author, and but few incidents of which are corroborated by other testimony; writings which record prodigies and miracles more daring and more frequent than are asserted in the literature of any serious sort promulgated by any other people." (A Secular View of the Bible.)

This virtually amounts, he thinks, to Christianity’s chaining itself to a "corpse." However this conclusion must be modified by the knowledge that while the Old Testament literature may be considered a "corpse" if regarded as history--rather a ghost or wraith of history--it must be accepted as a very living thing when taken, as it rightly should be, as vital allegory and drama of verity. Solomon, Grethenbach adds, wise and wealthy as he was, left no inscriptions or other stone witnesses to his name, as did the neighboring monarchs of the Nile and Euphrates.

Meister Eckhardt described the Christ as the collective soul of humanity.

The celebrated Orientalist Rhys Davids in Hibbert Lectures, 1881, (p. 33) declares that historical criticism was quite unknown in the early centuries of Buddhism, "when men were concerned with matters they held to be vastly more important than exact statements of literal history."

And Vittorio D. Macchioro in his fine work, From Orpheus to Paul supplements this with a statement that is of the utmost cogency in its bearing on the general thesis of this work. He says: "In both cases an historical event, which in the opinion of the believers really happened, becomes a spiritual event for every man at all times." This concedes essentially the whole case for our argument. This is the true and graphic description of the position of Christianity at this time and for centuries past. It is doing its best to make inspiring sustenance out of events that it feels must have happened because the belief in them yields spiritual nourishment. The Gospel story must be true history, it asseverates, for witness to which see the good effect it has had on believers. The events of Jesus’ life could not have worked so beneficial an effect upon millions and not have happened in reality. There must have been a personal Christ to have made Christianity the religion it has been.

Without the change of a single word this last form of statement may be conceded to be the truth. But if ever truth was a two-edged sword cutting in both directions, it is so in this case, and with damaging consequences for Christianity. True enough (the conception of) a personal Christ was necessary to produce Christianity and make it the religion it has been. The simple contention of this work is that it would have been a far different and far better religion had it been based on the conception of the spiritual Christ instead of the historical Jesus. Would Christian adherents accept their statement in the form which might justly be substituted for the one above?--There must have been a personal Jesus to have made Christianity the witch-baiting, heresy-hunting, doctrine-wrangling, war-waging, bigoted and persecuting religion it has been!

Macchioro testifies to the truth of all that has been claimed here when he goes on to particularize that "in other words, an historical fact, or, if you prefer, a story which Christians regard as an historical fact, I mean the death and resurrection of the Christ, became a mystical fact, the spiritual rebirth of man." The crux of significance in his statements is the point that the spiritual efficacy of the doctrine is in its being believed, not in its factuality. And it can unquestionably be better believed as allegory than as history. Any faith, factually founded or fancifully conceived, can become an effective agent of human psychologization, if only it is believed hard enough. Even what appear to be the splendid fruits of any religion may only be proving the operations of human psychology and not at all the alleged facts on which the religion is based.

"The Baptism and Eucharist," concludes Macchioro, "are in the light of history nothing but acts of initiation."

Bacon admits that Haggadic teaching, whether Jewish or Christian, has no restrictions in the use of fiction save to bring home the religious or moral truth intended. Its one rule is: "Let all things be done unto edification."

Another German critic, Bruno Bauer, thought the Gospels were "abstract conceptions turned into history, probably by one man--the evangelist Mark."

W. B. Smith, Tulane University, in Der Vorchristliche Jesus, derives the "Christ myth" from certain alleged "Jesus cults," dating

from pre-Christian times. Jesus, he thinks, is the name of an ancient Western Semitic cult-god, and he finds a reference to the doctrines held by the devotees of this deity in Acts 18:25, where a Jew, Apollo, coming from Alexandria to Ephesus, already learned in the Way of the Lord, preaches Jesus. He connects the name Jesus with the Nazaraioi, the Nazarenes, a pre-Christian religious society.

Not less summary in his conclusions is Drews, a profound analyst of the Jewish material. He says: "The Gospels do not contain the history of an actual man, but only the myth of the god-man, Jesus, clothed in an historical dress."

Then there is J. M. Robertson, whose labors unearthed much of the buried truth about the Jesus myth. He calls attention to the notable circumstance that the Miriam of Exodus is no more historical than Moses; like him and Joshua she is to be reckoned an ancient deity euhemerized; and the Arab tradition that she was the mother of Joshua (Jesus) raises an irremovable surmise that a Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have been worshipped in Syria long before our era.

According to Preller (Griech. Myth., I, p. 667) the founder of the Samo-Thracian Mysteries is one Jasion, a name cognate with Jesus. No less so is Jason, the recapturer of the "Golden Fleece,"--divinity coming under the zodiacal sign of Aries, the Ram.

Robertson is emphatic and decisive in his assertion that "the Christian system is a patchwork of a hundred suggestions drawn from pagan art and ritual usage." No mind open to the relevance of facts and data can study ancient lore extensively without being driven to the same conclusion. Those who deny it simply have not looked at enough of the material.

Even T. J. Thorburn in his work, The Mythical Interpretation of the Gospels (p. 91), says that the cave of Bethlehem had been from time immemorial a place of worship in the cult of Tammuz, as it actually was in the time of Jerome; and, as the "quasi-historic David" bore the name of the sun-god Daoud, or Dodo (Sayce: Hibbert Lectures, pp. 56-7), who was identical with Tammuz, it was not improbable on that account that Bethlehem was traditionally the city of David, and therefore no doubt, was deemed by the New Testament mythmakers the most suitable place for the birth of Jesus, the mythical descendant of that quasi-historical embodiment of the god Tammuz or Adonis.

Among the Gnostics Basilides and Valentinus never did acknowledge any historical founder of Christianity. (Massey: Ancient Egypt, p. 904.) And Clement of Alexandria is authority for the statement that it was after his resurrection that Jesus revealed the true Gnosis to Peter, James and John. (Eusebius: H. E., 2:1.)

Epiphanius, in speaking of the "Sabelian Heretics," says:

"The whole of their errors and the main strength of their heterodoxy they derive from some Apocryphal books, but principally from that which is called The Gospel of the Egyptians . . . for in that many things are proposed in a hidden, mysterious manner as by our Savior." (Ad. Haeres., 26:2.)

Priceless in value would be that same Gospel of the Egyptians if Christian fury had not destroyed it.

Ancient preoccupation with figurism and neglect of history even extended to a denial of the existence of Orpheus, legendary divine instructor of the Hellenic world. Says Lundy (Monumental Christianity, p. 190):

"Both Bryant and Von Doellinger express the opinion that Orpheus was only a name applied to a school of priests who brought the new cult of Dionysus into Greece. Vossius doubts, with good reason, whether any such person as Orpheus ever existed, citing Aristotle and Suidas to this effect. . . . Orpheus was a title under which Deity was worshipped, and he was the same as Horus of Egypt and Apollo of Greece."

In the preface to his work, Prehistoric Religion (p. 18), the author, Philo L. Mills, writes that the written Bible is late in its appearance, but absolutely pure and primitive in its message, while the extrabiblical traditions held a priority of composition, but not of content; "they are valuable only so far as they lend confirmation to the biblical record, which is itself founded on prehistorical records, which have since been lost."

Mosheim (I, p. 482) says of Tatian, one of the later Church Fathers, that he "disclaimed the notion of Christ’s having assumed a real body."

And he also says that "Marcion indisputably denied that Christ in reality either suffered or died; but at the same time he affirmed that this imaginary or feigned death was attended with salutary consequences to the human race." By what psychological processes he fancied the Church’s perpetuation of a lie could generate salutary consequences for the human race is another of those doctrinal riddles coming down to us from early Christian days which we are supposed to accept without using our reason.

Mosheim adds that the Marcionites were the most fearless in courting martyrdom among the Christian sects, being surpassed by non "either in the number or the courage of their martyrs." If this is so, it only unhappily testifies to the fanatical possibilities even among people of considerable intelligence.

Origen, says Mosheim (II, 160),

"thought it utterly impossible that God, a being entirely separate from matter, should ever assume a body, or be willing to associate himself with matter. . . . That is, the divine nature, being generally a different substance from matter, the two substances cannot possibly be commingled."

There is apparent here a singular lack of esoteric systemology on Origen’s (or perhaps Mosheim’s) part. For that soul everywhere does commingle with matter to effect the work of creation is taught in Platonic-Orphic, Hermetic, and all ancient religious systems. But Origen was astute in recommending to the preachers of Christianity to carry into their practice a set of instructions he prescribed, following the maxim that it is vastly important to the honor and advantage of Christianity that all its doctrines be traced back to the sources of all truth, or to be shown to flow from the principles of philosophy; and consequently that a Christian theologian should exert his ingenuity and industry primarily to demonstrate the harmony between religion and reason, or to show that there is nothing taught in the Scriptures but what is founded in reason. If only sixteen centuries of Christian theologians had followed Origen’s prescription!

Mosheim has been quoted as saying that a serious fault of Origen’s was that "he lauded immoderately the recondite and mystical sense of scripture and unreasonably deprecated the grammatical and historical sense." If this was or is a fault, how can the existence of a single theological seminary in Christian ecclesiasticism ever be justified? If there is no recondite or mystical meaning underneath the scriptures, why does it need a life training of their expositors, and why are the laity kept in ignorance of their deeper import? The gross absurdity of such whinings against the esoteric side of religion and its sacred books can now be better seen in its bald childishness.

Mosheim has to go to the length of saying the damaging thing that it is not good sense to be enthusiastic over the sublimer interpretations of scripture! And this is precisely the absurd dilemma in which Christian theology has always entangled itself in its efforts to talk down the esoteric element in its own history. It has to repudiate itself at its own best. There is no quibbling over the point: either there is a deeper sense to the scriptures, to all religious exposition, to the profounder experience of religion itself, than the simple-minded can apprehend, or all the labored academic studies in the field have been an extravagance and an impertinence. When they are sincere, all Christian mystics and Christianity’s greatest preachers have endlessly emphasized the deeper intuitions of "the life hid with Christ" in the deeper chambers of human consciousness. The ecclesiastical quarrel with and hostility toward esotericism is on the face of it both dialectically irrational, directly treasonable and patently self-contradictory. It is a grave question whether there is not full warrant for characterizing it as a base sell-out of its own true genius for the reward of currying the support of the illiterate masses. It is a betrayal and re-crucifixion of the Christ in man, that has continued from the third century down to this present.

We have also seen, in his strictures upon Origen’s addiction to "allegory" how Mosheim reflects the constant theological fear of allegory, which is based on the ever-present possibility that if you give free-thinkers and Gnostics an inch of allegory in the scriptures, they may quickly stretch it to a mile and embrace the whole of scripture in your tropes. As between absurd and impossible history and sublime allegorical truth, the truth must be sacrificed for the history.

A light on the date of "Luke’s Gospel" is found in the item that Theophilus, the friend to whom Luke addresses himself in the opening chapter, was Bishop of Antioch from about 169 to 177 A.D. (Cath. Ency., XIV, 625). If Luke was written 120 to 130 years after Jesus’ death, the chances of its being a legitimate, well-historicized and positive account of events so far past, and entirely quiescent in the interval since their occurrence, are very slim indeed.

To prove Old Testament "history" unauthentic does not directly discredit whatever may be genuine New Testament history. Still it would strengthen the case against the reliability of the latter if the Old can be disproved. So Higgins (Anac., p. 633) remarks how extraordinary a thing it is that the destruction of the hosts of Pharaoh should not have been known to Berosus, Strabo, Diodorus or Herodotus, that they should not have heard of these stupendous events either from the Egyptians or from the Syrians, Arabians or Jews. Yet, he subjoins, the same "events" happened in India. The Afghans or Rajapoutans, shepherd tribes as at this day, invaded south India and conquered Ceylon, then were driven out over Adam’s bridge; and the same kind of catastrophe is said to have overtaken their pursuers as that which overwhelmed the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites in the "Red" Sea.

For its circumstantial significance it is well to bring to daylight another feature of historical fact that has received no attention for centuries. This is the matter of the monumental record of Jesus’ burial. Says Lundy (Monu. Christ., p. 256):

"The earliest example of our Lord’s burial which exists among the monuments of primitive Christianity is, perhaps, that of an ivory in the Vatican, of the sixth century, which represents a square structure surmounted by a dome . . . with a sleeping soldier on one side of it, and two of the holy women who came early in the morning to anoint the dead body of their Lord. No such representations are found in the catacombs or ‘early’ churches either of the East or West. . . . So careful was early Christian art in abstaining from all painful representation of the Lord. It is a hint to modern idealists in art that they go and do likewise."

Perhaps it is also a hint that the basis of historical factuality behind the story of the Christ’s death was too completely wanting.

At the same level of significance is the sister fact that Lundy brings out (Monu. Christ., p. 268). This time it is the resurrection.

"It is a most singular fact that no actual representation of our Lord’s resurrection has yet been discovered among the monuments of early Christianity. The earliest that I can find is that published by Mr. Eastlake in Mrs. Jameson’s History of Our Lord, representing a temple-like tomb, with a tree growing behind it on which two birds are feeding; the drowsy guards are leaning on the tomb, one asleep, the other awake, and two others are utterly amazed and confounded; an angel sits at the door of the sepulcher speaking to the three holy women; and our Lord is ascending a hill with a roll in one hand, while the other is grasped by the hand of the Eternal Father, as it is seen reaching down out of heaven. It is an ivory carving and said to belong to the fifth or sixth century. It is at Munich."

Lundy adds that as the crucifixion is only indicated by symbol, so doubtless is the resurrection.

Grethenbach reminds us that we must make liberal allowance in our reading of New Testament Scripture for the desire on the part of Jesus’ biographers to make the "incidents" of his life conform to the texts of ancient sacred works. Hence, he says, each reader must judge for himself whether he is being treated to fact or to the results of this process of conformity. What a basis for the substantiation of events that have determined the religion of one third of mankind!

In his History of the Christian Religion to the Year 200 Waite affirms there is no evidence that any of those Gospels which were basic documents back of Matthew, Mark, and Luke taught the miraculous conception or the material resurrection of Christ, or contained any account of his miracles, or any references to any book containing such accounts or teachings. Waite says it can not be denied that evidence that the canonical Gospels were unknown to Justin Martyr is very strong, and indeed conclusive, and that his references and quotations were not from them but from other known Gospels, of which Irenaeus says there were many.

A weighty consideration is back of Waite’s strong sentence that

"no work of art of any kind has been discovered, no painting or engraving, no sculpture or other relic of antiquity, which may be looked upon as furnishing additional evidence of the existence of those Gospels, and which was executed earlier than the latter part of the second century. Even the exploration of the catacombs failed to bring to light any evidence of that character."

It would certainly appear that the event of Jesus’ life had no relation to the time of its recording. It has never occurred to partisan zealots that almost indubitably this would be an indication that the "recording" had no relation to the event. An event that begins to be recorded only two hundred years after its occurrence hardly has a legitimate claim to the title of history. It must inevitably be a construction of legend and romanticism, which is exactly what the "life" of Jesus proves to be when examined.

Miss Holbrook says that the four Gospels were written in Greek (by Hebrew fishermen and simple unlearned citizens) and that there was no translation of them into other languages earlier than the third century. No autograph manuscript of any of them has ever been known, nor has any credible witness ever claimed to have seen such a manuscript. Origen says that the four were selected from a very large number, and Irenaeus says that the four were chosen out of many because there were four universal winds and four quarters to the globe. Such a reason for the number selected puts entirely out of court the reason commonly and naïvely believed to have been the guiding one--the selection of four because there were but four in existence. Of the ordinary natural motives that led to the writing and preserving of actual history, not a single one is evident in the production of the Gospels. Neither the time of their composition, nor the character of their material, nor the knowledge of their existence, nor the definiteness of any data concerning them bears evidence of their being veridical history.

Hippolytus claims that the Basilidian Gnostics accepted the Gospel entirely, but Mead asserts that there is evidence to prove they did not. On the contrary they explained such material as the historicized legends of initiation, the process of which is magnificently worked out in the Pistis Sophia treatise. Mead says of the learned Gnostic societies that in their eyes a Gospel was always taken in the sense of an exposition of the things beyond the phenomenal world. As they were the most intelligent of the early Christians, it is warrantable to regard their views as far the most likely version of the truth. The Basilidian view of Jesus was that he was the perfect "man" within the psychic and animal soul of man, or the innermost divine ray of consciousness within the mortal body.

A point of fair cogency is made by Harry Elmer Barnes (The Twilight of Christianity, p. 415) that if Jesus had been the Son of God, neither he nor his Father would have allowed his doctrines to be perverted and later almost wholly supplanted by a jumbled compound of Judaism and paganism.

It counts for much in the argument that Mead (Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.?, p. 324) makes it clear that the name "Christian" was not a title given by the early followers of Jesus to themselves. Indeed it is found still unused by a series of Christian writers of the first half of the second century at the time when it was employed by Pliny the Younger in 112 A.D., by Tacitus in 116-117 A.D., and by Suetonius in 120 A.D. These Christian writers were content to designate the early communities of these co-believers by such expressions as "brethren," "saints," "elect," "the called," "they that believed," "faithful," "disciples," "they that are in Christ," "they that are in the Lord," and "those of the way."

A touch of early Christian association of doctrine with Egyptian origins that did not suffer erasure by the vandal hands, is seen in an identification, by Augustine and Ambrose amongst the Christian Fathers, of Jesus with and as the "good scarabaeus," the Egyptian name for the divine Avatar coming under the zodiacal sign of Cancer, the Crab or Beetle. In accordance with the continuation for some time of the Kamite symbolism in Christianity, it was also maintained by some sectaries that Jesus was a potter and not a carpenter. The Egyptian God Ptah was the divine Potter, or shaper of the clay of man’s nature into divine form.

Not one person in thousands in the Church today has the faintest idea when the chronology or dating of the Christian era was fixed. Mead states that Dionysius of the sixth century, following Victorious of Aquitaine of the preceding century, fixed the date of the nativity of Jesus. Turner of Oxford, in his article on the Chronology of the New Testament in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, gives the nativity in B.C. 7-6. In the Ency. Biblica von Soden of Berlin, under "Chronology" gives the Birth "circa 4 B.C." Some encyclopedias give two to three years of the ministry, others but one year.

Likewise Mead cites the judgment of many scholars that the speeches of the persons in the Acts of the Apostles are the most artificial element in a book already vastly discredited as history. Schmiedel pointed out that the author constructed the utterances in each case according to his own conception. Even Headlam, the writer of the conservative article in Hastings’ Dictionary, admits that the speeches are "clearly in a sense the author’s own compositions."

It is impossible to ignore the force of the rather startling fact baldly stated by Mead (Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.?, p. 48) when he writes:

"It has always been an unfailing source of astonishment to the historical investigator of Christian beginnings that there is not one single word from the pen of any pagan writer of the first century of our era which can in any fashion be referred to the marvelous story recounted by the Gospel writers. The very existence of Jesus seems unknown."

Mead goes deeply and carefully into the early use of the term Nazarioi (Nazarenes, Nazarites, Nazarians, etc.) and cites especially Epiphanius’ references to it, showing how this careless or over-imaginative "historian" of the "heresies" entangles himself in many flagrant contradictions in his statements. Says Mead:

"The historical fact underlying all this contradiction seems to be simply that ‘Nazoraei’ was a general name for many schools possessing many views differing from the view which subsequently became orthodox. Their descendants are the Mandaites of southern Babylonia, who have the Codex Nazaraeus."

Epiphanius claims strenuously that the Nazoraeans were the first Christians and that they used both Old and New Testament,--though how they could have used the New Testament when it was not yet in existence, he does not explain! Incidentally the present thesis that there were extant many documents like the Logia or Sayings and various Mystery ritual texts or "Gospels" in all the ancient period, both before, during and after Jesus’ "life," is the only one that permits us to solve the difficulty of Epiphanius’ claims without charging him with overt lying. The "Gospels" were in existence, yes, but not as the canonical Gospels officially apotheosized at Nicea in 325. But so were they in existence centuries before Christ.

Further with reference to the term Nazar, Mead (Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.?, p. 346) has to say that the Old Testament Nazirs were those "consecrated" to Jahweh by a vow, and their origin goes back to very early times in Jewish tradition.

"Now it is to be remembered," he says, "that in Numbers VI the word nezer is applied to the taking of the Nazirite vow of separation and consecration, and the name netzer (branch) is given to one of the disciples of Jesus in the Talmud, and in one of the Toldoth recensions to Jeschu himself, and that the commentators are agreed that this is a play on notzri, the Hebrew for ‘Nazarene,’" or Galilean.

In discussing the Ebionites, one of the earliest Christian sects, Mead says that the main charge against them, as related by Hippolytus (Philos., VIII, p. 34) is that they, like all the earliest "heretics" decried the later doctrine of the miraculous physical virgin birth of Jesus. Strange to note again that the closer one gets to the period of Jesus’ alleged time, the greater and more general is the denial or ignorance of his existence. The further one draws away from it, the greater and more insistent the "proofs" of it! This again entirely reverses the universal phenomenon of a historical recording. Most living characters are homely and familiar entities during and immediately after their lives, and only wax romantic and haloed after centuries have elapsed. But Jesus was airy and ethereal in the first century, and crystallized into quite concrete personality after several centuries. Every writer about him from the twelfth century on can describe his appearance, his moods, his motives to meticulous particularity far better than anyone writing in the first century.

A curious early Christian document is Justin’s Dialogue Cum Trypho, or debate with Trypho, in which (xlix) he puts the following argument into the mouth of his Jewish opponent:

"Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become a Christ (Anointed), appear to me to speak more plausibly than you," that is, than Justin, who maintained the physical birth of Jesus.

Justin represents his opponent as arguing that Jesus was born naturally like other humans, and not by a miracle of virgin parturition. But this whole debate is wide of the mark, since the question is not whether his birth was natural or supernatural, but whether it was a physical event at all,--not how it occurred, but whether it occurred. The question is not one of quality or manner, but purely one of fact.

A work of Celsus, the pagan debater with Origen, called The True Logos, which certainly would have yielded us much light on all early Gnostic or esoteric interpretation of sacred writings, has been destroyed by the Christians.

It may with many carry weight in the discussion that both Kant and Hegel negate the historical Jesus.

Of the Church Fathers Irenaeus seems never to have subscribed to the legend of Jesus’ death on the cross, or his death at all at the early age of thirty-three years. It is a curious thing and hard to explain in the face of the claim that Jesus’ life was accepted historically by the universal early Church, that Irenaeus repeats the famous legend which refutes the Gospel "history" flatly. Irenaeus was born in the early part of the second century between 120 and 140 A.D. He was Bishop of Lyons, France; and he repeats a tradition testified to by the elders, which he alleges was derived directly by them from John, the "Disciple of the Lord," to the effect that Jesus was not crucified at the age of thirty-three, but that he had passed through every age and lived on to be an "oldish man." And we are permitted to wonder how such a tradition, attributed to so accredited a source as John, could have lived on for so many years, if the general field was occupied by the factual acceptance of the Gospel narrative, or how it could have been purveyed by a Bishop of such eminence in the Church as Irenaeus.

There are other semi-authenticated tales and legends which keep Jesus alive beyond his early thirties, and afloat in our modern day are works and canards purporting to expose a lost record of the Savior’s escape from death in Judea and his travels and teachings in Eastern monasteries, inevitably in Tibet and the Himalayas, that Shamballah of spiritual mystery, where any such fanciful history can safely be localized. The significant thing to note about all this is that the late inventions in the field of etherealized imagination are very likely no more daring and bizarre than those of the earlier centuries.

Candor and honest reflection have both had to be cast aside and a curtain of reticence drawn over the glaring data which operate so directly to contradict the historicity of Jesus, in the material of the famous fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. By theologians it is known as the chapter of the "Suffering Servant." In it are depicted in the most vivid and memorable phraseology the sufferings of the divine agent of human redemption, who sacrifices his heavenly heritage and reduces himself to the form of a lowly servant to bear the sins of wayward men. It is too well known to need quotation. Its impressive recital of the Logos bearing our sins in his body and suffering agony for our transgressions is unforgettable literature. But the point to note is that it is a descriptive summary of exactly what the "historical" Jesus experienced in his earthly career, and it was written centuries before Jesus "lived." Again it appears that Jesus’ biography was in considerable part written before he came.

Massey has called attention to the fact, disconcerting to the supporters of the historical thesis, that the Jesus of Revelation is described with female breasts. The conception of supernal deity as androgyne motivated the representation of types of deity as combined male and female. But this was all in the allegorical portrayal and it removes the data from history. In this light Lord Raglan’s statement can be well credited, that we can not go far toward the true realization of the meaning of ancient literary formulations without recognizing that the archaic tomes rest on no historical foundations, but that they are documents illustrating the development of religious ideas and systems that are of the highest importance. And when research has fortified itself with this initial instrument of correct comprehension, Raglan avers that all the difficulties will disappear. For that which is difficult and impossible as history, becomes not only possible but sublimely illuminating as mythicism.

This chapter must include an item of the most curious sort, that will doubtless fall with great surprise and some dismay into the minds of many readers. This has to do with the several varying reports or accounts of Jesus’ personal appearance and beauty--or ugliness--of physical features. We have here one of the most certain instances of the confusion of allegory with history, for on no other grounds can so eccentric a misconstruction be accounted for. Very understandably all the prevalent notions of the Christ’s personality picture him as of the highest order of comeliness. It would not match popular conceptions of his character to think of him otherwise. Surely the Son of God could be nothing less than radiant with charm and beauty. If he had not been comely, he would have had to be made so to give devotees the only picture of him that would have been acceptable to their fancies. Hence every painting and sculpture from the early centuries portrayed him as a man of typical saintliness and beauty. The imaginative genius of artists has extended itself to the utmost to create a form and appearance, mien and expression, that would most fully embody the highest Christian conception of divine character. Jesus was painted to depict what the Christian imagination conceived the perfect man and Son of God in human form to be like. This portrayal represented in the finale a compromise between or composition of the worldly ideal of natural masculine beauty and celestial spirituality, softened by the elements limned in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the man of sorrows who bore our pains in his person. It disturbs many who like to emphasize his humanity, in which he is presented as in all respects like unto us, to read that he never laughed. This tradition precluded his ever being pictured laughing. Laughter, though one of the commonest and most natural of human expressions, does not quite comport with the heavier dignity and gravity of the theological conception of his nature and mission. It is a little too light to harmonize with the more austere solemnity of his earthly errand. Human laughter is not commonly thought of as divine, and if the gods laugh, we are not too certain it befits their empyreal dignity. They might be laughing at us. Laughter is commonly too close to carousal and buffoonery to be seemingly associated with high divinity. Our notion of divinity is inevitably colored with Sabbath sanctity of decorum. Our puritanical bent had pretty effectively debarred laughter from the Sabbath, hence from religion, and hence from the Christ’s personality.

The portraiture of Jesus inevitably took the form and character which these considerations dictated, and we have the conventional form, face, bearing and clothing so well known. But it will come with a heavy shock to all who with uncritical minds have accepted this portrayal as at least tentatively a possibility of likeness to the living person of Jesus, to learn for the first time that a number of the earliest Fathers positively stated that Jesus was ugly, ungainly, uncomely and deformed! We can do no better than cite Lundy’s findings on this matter (Monu. Christ., p. 232):

"Now it is worthy of special consideration that none of the sculptured or painted representations of Christ in early Christian art exactly agree with the reputed descriptions given of his personal appearance by Agbarus, Lentulus and others. It is not an easy matter to determine when the mere symbols of Christ were developed into pictorial and sculptured representations of his person; but one thing is certain, viz., that the uniform testimony of the earliest writers of the Christian era is to the effect that our Lord’s person was insignificant and void of beauty, but that the spirit which shone through his humanity was all beauty and glory."

Again Lundy wrestles (p. 231) with the point:

"The New Testament writings give no account of our Lord’s personal appearance. ‘Fairer than the children of men’ in mind, body and soul was the Hebrew ideal of the Messiah, as the Psalmist expresses it. (XLV:2): and ‘He hath no form nor comeliness,’ no attractive beauty, is another Hebrew aspect of him, as Isaiah reports it; and with such opposite prophetic anticipations, is it any wonder that the subject of them has actually given rise to two schools of ancient Christian art, or rather two different modes of treating our Lord’s personal appearance? One made him the young and blooming and beautiful Divinity, like Krishna, Mithra and Apollo; the other gave him a sad and ugly face, covered by a beard, and made him really and literally ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’"

Lundy should have added Isaiah’s more specific details of portraiture in the verse which runs: "How was his visage marred, more than any man; and his form, more than the sons of men; disfigured till he seemed a man no more, deformed out of the semblance of a man." The Son of God, deformed more than even humankind! This puts the entire historicity in jeopardy. The structure of Christian theology rests very definitely upon the claim that the babe of Bethlehem was the literal and historical fulfillment of Old Testament "prophecy." It is now caught in the dilemma of having to admit--if Jesus was divinely comely--that the prophecy failed of fulfillment in this important and specific item. To have fulfilled the "prophecy" Jesus must be put down as ugly and deformed! And if Jesus is admitted to have been ill-featured, then millions upon millions of pages of Christian pious effusion about the Galilean’s austere beauty must be reduced to what they are at any rate--unctuous froth.

We find Justin Martyr, early second century Father, quoted as follows: "He appeared without comeliness, as the scriptures declared," when he came to the Jordan. Clement of Alexandria deposed to this effect: "the Lord himself was uncomely in aspect . . . his form was mean, inferior to men." Celsus, in his debate with Origen, argues that since the Divine inhabited the body of Jesus, that body must certainly have been different and more beautiful and radiant than common, in grandeur, beauty, strength, voice, impressiveness and influence, "whereas his person did not differ in any respect from another, but was, as they report, little and ill-conditioned and ignoble, i.e., low and mean." Origen in rebuttal protests Celsus’ using the prophet’s description in literal application to the man Jesus, and argues that any way all human meanness was changed and glorified in his transfiguration, resurrection and ascension. Tertullian decides that no matter how poor and despised that body may be, Jesus is still his Christ, be he inglorious, ignoble and dishonored. David’s words that "he is fairer than the children of men" are applicable in that figurative sense of spiritual grace, when he has put on his shining armor of beauty and glory. Tertullian (Flesh of Christ, Ch. 9) says "his body did not reach even to human beauty, to say nothing of heavenly glory." Augustine sidesteps the bald issue by asseverating his beauty in all his functions, offices, acts, miracles, words, character and mission. He summarizes his position in his statement (De Trinitate, VIII, Ch. 4, tom. 8, p. 951, Migne’s Ed.): "Whatever the bodily appearance or face of our Lord was, it was but one, yet it was represented and diversified by a variety of numberless ideals." Lundy observes that this passage clearly proves that in Augustine’s day the representations of Jesus’ features were according to each Christian or Gnostic artist’s own conception, and that the theologian-saint would have mentioned any portrait of Jesus if there had been one extant, either of him or of his mother, the virgin Mary. For he adds: "We know not the face or personal appearance of the Virgin Mary." (De Trinitate, VIII, Ch. 5.)

Abarbanel says that the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah can not apply to the personal Messiah, because of the prevailing tradition of the Jewish people that he was a beautiful and blooming youth. This tradition surely had its roots in the imaginative characterizations of the Messiah as the sun-god, which gave to Krishna, Agni, Mithra, Zarathustra, Horus and Apollo the ruddiest bloom of youth and beauty.

It has already been demonstrated that the letter of Lentulus in which Jesus is described ostensibly from first-hand knowledge is a forgery. It goes on to state that Jesus’ hair is the color of wine and golden from the root, and from the top of the head to the ears straight and without luster, but descending from the ears in glossy curls to the shoulders, flowing down the back and parted in two portions down the middle after the manner of the Nazarenes; his forehead is smooth, his face without blemish and slightly mantled with a ruddy bloom; his expression is noble and gracious. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is full and abundant and of the wine and gold color of his hair, and forked. His eyes are blue and very brilliant. In rebuke and reproof he is awe-inspiring, in exhortation and instruction he is gentle and persuasive. None has seen him laugh, but many have seen him weep. His person is tall and slender; his hands long and straight, his arms graceful. In speech he is grave and deliberate, his language and manner quiet and simple. In beauty he surpasses the most of men.

John Damaschius of the eighth century cites an early tradition saying he was like his mother, assuming her features. Lundy, quotes Didron as testifying to the descriptions of him as given by those mystics to whom he appeared in psychic vision. These say that he was tall, clad like a Jew, beautiful of face, the splendor of divinity darting from his eyes, his voice full of sweetness. Lundy notes that these traditions do not agree with the Patristic writings on the subject nor with the portraits copied by Boscio from the frescoes of the catacombs. Lundy concludes by citing the fact that there is nearly a score of examples like the two copied by Boscio, where the ugly and bearded Christ and the beautiful and beardless one occur together on the same monuments!

This whole debate in the early Church forum is a striking instance of the ignorance and confusion concerning their own theological material in which the Christians became entangled by reason of their smothering Egypt’s time-honored wisdom. Egypt stood all the while holding in her hands the answer to the riddle of the two contradictory versions of Jesus’ personal appearance. Its Messianic Horus was figuratively two characters in one, "the double Horus," "Horus of the two horizons" (west and east). "Horus the Elder and Horus the Younger." As the elder he typified the adult divinity of one cycle; as the younger, he was the new-born son of that aged father. Horus the Elder represented the aged past, Horus the Younger the new-born present and the coming future. As Massey so convincingly shows, the two characterizations passed over into Christianity through Gnostic or other channels, and after some time the inner connections having been lost, both stood facing the ignorant Christians with all explanation gone. Hence the debate in the dark. Again we have a grim demonstration of what a miscarriage of rational sense is produced the moment allegory is converted into history.

There has been grouped in this chapter a long series of data, all of a certain evidential character bearing with accentuated force upon the chief point to be established by the work. It is not the first time that one or more of these points have been raised. But it is the first time that they have been assembled into an organic whole and focused directly upon a single object on the basis of a thesis adequate to give them all a unified coherence and consistency. All acquire a substantial force and pertinence through the application of the keys of the esoteric method and the esoteric wisdom. And while perhaps no one of them may be claimed to exert decisive influence in the final conclusion, the articulated phalanx of them all in linked array does indeed present a massive body of evidence for the case that can not be pushed aside by any critic. If this was the whole evidence the case would still be strong. Limited space has curtailed the expansion of some of the points, as others of far great cogency are awaiting presentation. Many of these are so strong in their testimony that single ones among them might be deemed of sufficient weight and decisiveness to support the main contention. Collectively they must be accounted as constituting final and conclusive proof. The first group of these deals with the incidents and circumstances connected with the Nativity of Jesus. When these incredible circumstances of alleged history are carefully scrutinized and seen at last in their relation to Egyptian elucidative constructions, the weakness of the historical rendition of the Gospels will be apparent with a vividness never before realized. The Gospel narrative has been so romanticized with far-away ideality that the mere act of facing the data in the full realistic sense as history that actually occurred is itself a shocking experience to hypnotized votaries. It is a straight fact that, stripped of their imaginative halo, most of the Gospel events stand forth eerie and grotesque to naked vision. The readiest way to discredit three fourths of the Biblical "history" is to take the narrative strictly at its word--and then reproduce it with literal realism. The general result is slap-stick comedy ready for Hollywood’s jaded producers, buffoonery raised to the square or cube.