John E. Remsberg
[HTML and editing by Cliff Walker, 2000]
Sources of the Christ Myth:
In each of these divinities we find some element or lineament of Christ. And all of them existed, either as myths or mortals, long anterior to his time. Plato, the latest of them to appear, was born in the fifth century B.C. These Pagan divinities and deified sages, together with the religious systems and doctrines previously noticed, were the sources from which Christ and Christianity were, for the most part, derived.
The following religious elements and ideas, nearly all of which Christians believe to have been divinely revealed, and to belong exclusively to their religion, are of Pagan origin:
Son of God
The Ideal Man
Genealogies showing royal descent
Visit of shepherd
Visit of Magi
Star of Magi
Slaughter of innocents
Descent into Hell
Unity of God
Trinity in Unity
Holy Ghost (Spirit)
Immortality of the soul
Future rewards and punishments
Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory
Fatherhood of God
Brotherhood of man
Freedom of the will
Fall of man
Kingdom of God
Binding of Satan
Pope and bishops
Monks and nuns
Worship of Virgin
Adoration of Virgin and Child
Worship of saints
Worship of relics
The cross as a religious symbol
Lord's Day (Sunday)
Washing of feet
Masses for the dead
Community of goods
Golden Rule and other precepts
The Old Testament consists largely of borrowed myths. Nearly everything in Genesis, and much of the so called history which follows, are but a recital of Assyrian, Babylonian, Chaldean and other legends. Dr. Draper says: "From such Assyrian sources, the legends of the creation of the earth and heaven, the garden of Eden, the making of man from clay, and of woman from one of his ribs, the temptation by the serpent, the naming of animals, the cherubim and flaming sword, the Deluge and the ark, the drying up of the waters by the wind, the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, were obtained by Ezra" (Conflict, p. 223).
The ten antediluvian patriarchs, Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah, whom Luke presents as the first ten progenitors of Christ, are now known to have been a dynasty of Babylonian kings. Abram, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, whom both Matthew and Luke declare to have been ancestors of Christ, and whom Matthew places at the head of his genealogy, were not persons at all, but merely tribes of people. In regard to this Rev. Dr. Oort, professor of Oriental languages at Amsterdam, says: "They do not signify men, so much as groups of nations or single tribes. Abram, for instance, represents a great part of the Terachites; Lot, the Moabites and Ammonites, whose ancestor he is called; Ishmael, certain tribes of Arabia; Isaac, Israel and Edom together, Jacob, Israel alone; while his twelve sons stand for the twelve tribes of Israel.... Here and there the writers of the old legend themselves point out, as it were, that the patriarchs whom they bring upon the scene as men are personifications of tribes" (Bible for Learners, Vol. I, pp. 100-102). Moses, the reputed founder of Judaism and archetype of Christ, doubtless existed; but nearly all the Bible stories concerning him are myths. David and Solomon, from whose house Christ is said to have been descended, are historical characters; but the accounts respecting the greatness of their kingdom and the splendor of their reigns are fabulous.
Christ and Christianity are partly creations and partly evolutions. While the elements composing them were mostly derived from preexisting and contemporary beliefs, they were not formed as a novelist creates a hero and a convention frames a constitution. Their growth was gradual. Jesus, if he existed, was a Jew, and his religion, with a few innovations, was Judaism. With his death, probably, his apotheosis began. During the first century the transformation was slow; but during the succeeding centuries rapid. The Judaic elements of his religion were, in time, nearly all eliminated, and the Pagan elements, one by one, were incorporated into the new faith.
Regarding the establishment of this religion Lecky says: "Christianity had become the central intellectual power of the world, but it triumphed not so much by superseding rival faiths as by absorbing and transforming them. Old systems, old rites, old images were grafted into the new belief, retaining much of their ancient character but assuming new names and a new complexion" (Rationalism, Vol. I. p. 223).
Its origin is thus traced by Mrs. Besant: "From the later Jews comes the Unity of God; from India and Egypt the Trinity in Unity, from India and Egypt the crucified Redeemer, from India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the virgin mother and the divine son; from Egypt its priests and its ritual; from the Essenes and the Therapeuts its asceticism; from Persia, India, and Egypt, its sacraments; from Persia and Babylonia its angels and devils; from Alexandria the blending into one of many lines of thought." (Freethinkers' Text Book, p. 392.)
Concerning this, Judge Strange, another English writer, says: "The Jewish Scriptures and the traditionary teachings of their doctors, the Essenes and Therapeuts, the Greek philosophers, the Neo-Platonism of Alexandria and the Buddhism of the East, gave ample supplies for the composition of the doctrinal portion of the new faith; the divinely procreated personages of the Grecian and Roman pantheons, the tales of the Egyptian Osiris, and of the Indian Rama, Krishna, and Buddha, furnished the materials for the image of the new Savior of mankind." (Portraiture and Mission of Jesus, p. 27.)
Dr. G. W. Brown, previously quoted, says: "The Eclectics formed the nucleus into which were merged all the various religions of the Orient. Mithra, of the Zoroastrians; Krishna and Buddha, of the Brahmans; Osiris, of the Egyptians, and Bacchus, of the Greeks and Romans, all disappeared and were lost in the new God Jesus, each of the predecessors contributing to the conglomerate religion known as Christian, Buddha and probably Bacchus contributing the most."
Dr. John W. Draper, recognized on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most erudite, one of the most philosophic, and one of the most impartial of historians, in the following paragraphs tells the story of the rise and triumph of this everchanging faith:
"In a political sense, Christianity is the bequest of the Roman Empire to the world.
"Not only as a token of the conquest she had made, but also as a gratification to her pride, the conquering republic brought the gods of the vanquished peoples to Rome. With disdainful toleration, she permitted the worship of them all. That paramount authority exercised by each divinity in his original seat disappeared at once in the crowd of gods and goddesses among whom he had been brought. Already, as we have seen, through geographical discoveries and philosophical criticism, faith in the religion of the old days had been profoundly shaken. It was, by this policy of Rome, brought to an end.
"In one of the Eastern provinces, Syria, some persons in very humble life had associated themselves together for benevolent and religious purposes. The doctrines they held were in harmony with that sentiment of universal brotherhood arising from the coalescence of the conquered kingdoms. They were doctrines inculcated by Jesus.
"From this germ was developed a new, and as the events proved, all-powerful society -- the Church; new, for nothing of the kind had existed in antiquity; powerful, for the local churches, at first isolated, soon began to confederate for their common interest. Through this organization Christianity achieved all her political triumphs.
"After the abdication of Diocletian (A.D., 305), Constantine, one of the competitors for the purple, perceiving the advantages that would accrue to him from such a policy, put himself forth as the head of the Christian party. This gave him, in every part of the empire, men and women ready to encounter fire and sword in his behalf; it gave him unwavering adherents in every legion of the armies. In a decisive battle, near the Milvian bridge, victory crowned his schemes. The death of Maximian, and subsequently that of Licinius, removed all obstacles. He ascended the throne of the Caesars -- the first Christian emperor.
"Place, profit, power -- these were in view of whoever now joined the conquering sect. Crowds of worldly persons, who cared nothing about its religious ideas, became its warmest supporters. Pagans at heart, their influence was soon manifested in the paganization of Christianity that forthwith ensued.
"As years passed on, the faith described by Tertullian was transmuted into one more fashionable and more debased. It was incorporated with the old Greek mythology. Olympus was restored, but the divinities passed under other names. The more powerful provinces insisted on the adoption of their time-honored conceptions. Views of the Trinity, in accordance with Egyptian traditions, were established.
"Heathen rites were adopted, a pompous and splendid ritual, gorgeous robes, mitres, tiaras, wax-tapers, processional services, lustrations, gold and silver vases, were introduced. The Roman lituns, the chief ensign of the augurs, became the crozier. Churches were built over the tombs of martyrs, and consecrated with rites borrowed from the ancient laws of the Roman pontiffs. Festivals and commemorations of martyrs multiplied with the numberless fictitious discoveries of their remains. Fasting became the grand means of repelling the devil and appeasing God; celibacy the greatest of the virtues. Pilgrimages were made to Palestine and the tombs of the martyrs. Quantities of dust and earth were brought from the Holy Land and sold at enormous prices, as antidotes against devils. The virtues of consecrated water were upheld. Images and relics were introduced into the churches, and worshiped after the fashion of the heathen gods.... The apotheosis of the old Roman times was replaced by canonization; tutelary saints succeeded to local mythological divinities.
"As centuries passed, the paganization became more and more complete.
"The maxim holds good in the social as well as the mechanical world, that, when two bodies strike, the form of both is changed. Paganism was modified by Christianity. Christianity by Paganism" (Conflict, pp. 34 52).
While affirming the divine origin of Christianity, the church historian Mosheim admits its early paganisation. He says: "The rites and institutions, by which the Greeks, Romans, and other nations had formerly testified their religious veneration for fictitious deities, were now adopted, with some slight alterations, by Christian bishops, and employed in the service of the true God.... Hence it happened that in these times the religion of the Greeks and Romans differed very little in its external appearance from that of the Christians. They had both a most pompous and splendid ritual. Gorgeous robes, mitres, tiaras, wax-tapers, croziers, processions, lustrations, images, gold and silver vases, and many such circumstances of pageantry, were equally to be seen in the heathen temples and the Christian churches" (Ecclesiastical History, p. 105).
The Rev. Dr. R. Heber Newton, in an article which appeared in the North American Review, says: "There is, in fact, as we now see, nothing in the externals of the Christian church which is not a survival from the churches of paganism.... The sacramental use of water and bread and wine, the very sign of the cross -- all are ancient human institutions, rites and symbols. Scratch a Christian and you come upon a Pagan. Christianity is a rebaptized paganism." "Christendom," says Dr. Lyman Abbott, "is only an imperfectly Christianized paganism."
The creeds of old are dead or dying, and the celestial kings, who seemed so real to their worshipers, are mostly crownless phantoms now. Buddha, Laoutsze, and Confucius, the wise men of the East, command the reverence of nearly half the world, and the Persian prophet has a few followers; but from these faiths the supernatural is vanishing. Millions yet believe that Krishna, the Christ of India, is the son of God; but this faith, too, is waning. The intellectual offspring of Plato's brilliant brain survive, but all that remains of his divine father is a mutilated effigy. The genial Sun still warms and lights the earth, but centuries have flown since Mithra, his beloved, received the adoration of mankind. The fire still glows upon the hearth, but the great Titan who brought it down from Heaven lives only in a poet's dream. The crimson nectar of the vine moves men to mirth and madness now as when the swan of Teos sang its praise, but Bacchus and the ancient mysteries are dead. Above storm-wrapped Olympus, as of old, is heard the thunder's awful peal, but it is not the voice of Zeus. The voice of this, the mightiest of all the gods, is hushed forever. The populous and ever-growing empire of the dead still flourishes, but in its solemn court Osiris no longer sits as judge. The mother, as of yore, presses to her loving heart her dimpled babe and fondly gazes into its azure eyes to woo its artless smile; but Egypt's star-crowned virgin and her royal child, who once received the homage of a world, are now but mythic dust. Manly beauty thrills our daughters' hearts with love's strange ecstasy, and the feigned suffering of the dying hero on the mimic stage moistens their eyes with tears; but Adonis sleeps in his Phoenician tomb, his slumbers undisturbed by woman's sobs. The purple flower, substance of his clear self, which Venus carried in her bosom, withered long ago. When, at eve, the summer shower bathes with its cooling drops the verdure of the fields, across the sun-kissed cloud which veils the Orient sky may still be seen the gorgeous bridge of Bifrost; but over its majestic arch the dauntless Odin rides no more.
The fair humanities of old religions,
What has been the fate of the Pagan gods will be the fate of the Christian deity. Christianity, which supplanted the ancient faiths, will, in turn, be supplanted by other religions. On two continents already the cross has gone down before the crescent. The belief in Christ as a divine being is passing away. The creeds, as of old, affirm his divinity, but in the minds of his more enlightened followers the divine elements are disappearing. What was formerly believed to be supernatural is now known to be natural. What were once living verities are now clear formalities. Slowly and painfully, but surely and clearly, men are becoming convinced that there are no divine beings and no supernatural religions -- that all the gods, including Christ, are myths, and all the religions, including Christianity, human productions. In the words of Jules Soury, "Time, which condenses nebulae, lights up suns, brings life and thought upon planets theretofore steeped in death, and gives back ephemeral worlds to dissolution and the fertile chaos of the everlasting universe -- time knows nought of gods nor of the dim and fallacious hopes of ignorant mortals."
With these sublime pictures -- a retrospect and a prophecy -- from the gallery of the great master,* I close this long-drawn subject:
"When India is supreme, Brahma sits upon the world's throne. When the sceptre passes to Egypt, Isis and Osiris receive the homage of mankind. Greece, with her fierce valor, sweeps to empire, and Zeus puts on the purple of authority. The earth trembles with the tread of Rome's intrepid sons, and Jove grasps with mailed hand the thunderbolts of Heaven. Rome falls, and Christians, from her territory, with the red sword of war, carve out the ruling nations of the world, and now Christ sits upon the old throne. Who will be his successor?"
"I look again. The popes and priests are gone. The altars and the thrones have mingled with the dust. The aristocracy of land and cloud have perished from the earth and air. The gods are dead. A new religion sheds its glory on mankind. And as I look Life lengthens, Joy deepens, Love intensifies, Fear dies -- Liberty at last is God, and Heaven is here."
*[Robert Green Ingersoll.]