Let me now give an idea of the method I propose to follow in the study of this subject. Let us suppose that a student living in the year 3000 desired to make sure that such a man as Abraham Lincoln really lived and did the things attributed to him. How would he go about it? A man must have a birthplace and a birthday. All the records agree as to where and when Lincoln was born. This is not enough to prove his historicity, but it is an important link in the chain. Neither the place nor the time of Jesus' birth is known. There has never been any unanimity about this matter. There has been considerable confusion and contradiction about it. It cannot be proved that the twenty-fifth of December is his birthday. A number of other dates were observed by the Christian church at various times as the birthday of Jesus. The Gospels give no date, and appear to be quite uncertain--really ignorant about it. When it is remembered that the Gospels purport to have been written by Jesus' intimate companions, and during the lifetime of his brothers and mother, their silence on this matter becomes significant. The selection of the twenty-fifth of December as his birthday is not only an arbitrary one, but that date, having been from time immemorial dedicated to the Sun, the inference is that the Son of God and the Sun of heaven enjoying the same birthday, were at one time identical beings. The fact that Jesus' death was accompanied with the darkening of the Sun, and that the date of his resurrection is also associated with the position of the Sun at the time of the vernal equinox, is a further intimation that we have in the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, an ancient and nearly universal Sun-myth, instead of verifiable historical events. The story of Jesus for three days in the heart of the earth; of Jonah, three days in the belly of a fish; of Hercules, three days in the belly of a whale, and of Little Red Riding Hood, sleeping in the belly of a great black wolf, represent the attempt of primitive man to explain the phenomenon of Day and Night. The Sun is swallowed by a dragon, a wolf, or a whale, which plunges the world into darkness; but the dragon is killed, and the Sun rises triumphant to make another Day. This ancient Sun myth is the starting point of nearly all miraculous religions, from the days of Egypt to the twentieth century. [Illustration: The Persian God, Mithra. All the Gods Have the Solar Disc Around Their Heads, Showing That Sun-Worship Was One of the Earliest Forms of Religion.] The story which Mathew relates about a remarkable star, which sailing in the air pointed out to some unnamed magicians the cradle or cave in which the wonder-child was born, helps further to identify Jesus with the Sun. What became of this "performing" star, or of the magicians, and their costly gifts, the records do not say. It is more likely that it was the astrological predilections of the gospel writer which led him to assign to his God-child a star in the heavens. The belief that the stars determine human destinies is a very ancient one. Such expressions in our language as "ill-starred," "a lucky star," "disaster," "lunacy," and so on, indicate the hold which astrology once enjoyed upon the human mind. We still call a melancholy man, _Saturnine_; a cheerful man, _Jovial_; a quick-tempered man, _Mercurial_; showing how closely our ancestors associated the movements of celestial bodies with human affairs. [Footnote: Childhood of the World.--Edward Clodd.] The prominence, therefore, of the sun and stars in the Gospel story tends to show that Jesus is an astrological rather than a historical character. That the time of his birth, his death, and supposed resurrection is _not_ verifiable is generally admitted. This uncertainty robs the story of Jesus, to an extent at least, of the atmosphere of reality. The twenty-fifth of December is celebrated as his birthday. Yet there is no evidence that he was born on that day. Although the Gospels are silent as to the date on which Jesus was born, there is circumstantial evidence in the accounts given of the event to show that the twenty- fifth of December could not have been his birthday. It snows in Palestine, though a warmer country, and we know that in December there are no shepherds tending their flocks in the night time in that country. Often at this time of the year the fields and hills are covered with snow. Hence, if the shepherds sleeping in the fields really saw the heavens open and heard the angel-song, in all probability it was in some other month of the year, and not late in December. We know, also, that early in the history of Christianity the months of May and June enjoyed the honor of containing the day of Jesus' birth. [Illustration: Isis Nursing Her Divine Child, 3000 B. C.] Of course, it is immaterial on which day Jesus was born, but why is it not known? Yet not only is the date of his birth a matter of conjecture, but also the year in which he was born. Matthew, one of the Evangelists, suggests that Jesus was born in King Herod's time, for it was this king who, hearing from the Magi that a King of the Jews was born, decided to destroy him; but Luke, another Evangelist, intimates that Jesus was born when Quirinus was ruler of Judea, which makes the date of Jesus' birth about fourteen years later than the date given by Matthew. Why this discrepancy in a historical document, to say nothing about inspiration? The theologian might say that this little difficulty was introduced purposely into the scriptures to establish its infallibility, but it is only religious books that are pronounced infallible on the strength of the contradictions they contain. Again, Matthew says that to escape the evil designs of Herod, Mary and Joseph, with the infant Jesus, fled into Egypt, Luke says nothing about this hurried flight, nor of Herod's intention to kill the infant Messiah. On the contrary he tells us that after the forty days of purification were over Jesus was publicly presented at the temple, where Herod, if he really, as Matthew relates, wished to seize him, could have done so without difficulty. It is impossible to reconcile the flight to Egypt with the presentation in the temple, and this inconsistency is certainly insurmountable and makes it look as if the narrative had no value whatever as history. When we come to the more important chapters about Jesus, we meet with greater difficulties. Have you ever noticed that the day on which Jesus is supposed to have died falls invariably on a Friday? What is the reason for this? It is evident that nobody knows, and nobody ever knew the date on which the Crucifixion took place, if it ever took place. It is so obscure and so mythical that an artificial day has been fixed by the Ecclesiastical councils. While it is always on a Friday that the Crucifixion is commemorated, the week in which the day occurs varies from year to year. "Good Friday" falls not before the spring equinox, but as soon after the spring equinox as the full moon allows, thus making the calculation to depend upon the position of the sun in the Zodiac and the phases of the moon. But that was precisely the way the day for the festival of the pagan goddess Oestera was determined. The Pagan Oestera has become the Christian Easter. Does not this fact, as well as those already touched upon, make the story of Jesus to read very much like the stories of the Pagan deities. The early Christians, Origin, for instance, in his reply to the rationalist Celsus who questioned the reality of Jesus, instead of producing evidence of a historical nature, appealed to the mythology of the pagans to prove that the story of Jesus was no more incredible than those of the Greek and Roman gods. This is so important that we refer our readers to Origin's own words on the subject. "Before replying to Celsus, it is necessary to admit that in the matter of history, however true it might be," writes this Christian Father, "it is often very difficult and sometimes quite impossible to establish its truth by evidence which shall be considered sufficient." [Footnote: Origin _Contre Celse._ 1. 58 et Suiv. Ibid.] This is a plain admission that as early as the second and third centuries the claims put forth about Jesus did not admit of positive historical demonstration. But in the absence of evidence Origin offers the following metaphysical arguments against the sceptical Celsus: 1. Such stories as are told of Jesus are admitted to be true when told of pagan divinities, why can they not also be true when told of the Christian Messiah? 2. They must be true because they are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. In other words, the only proofs Origin can bring forth against the rationalistic criticism of Celsus is, that to deny Jesus would be equivalent to denying both the Pagan and Jewish mythologies. If Jesus is not real, says Origin, then Apollo was not real, and the Old Testament prophecies have not been fulfilled. If we are to have any mythology at all, he seems to argue, why object to adding to it the mythus of Jesus? There could not be a more damaging admission than this from one of the most conspicuous defenders of Jesus' story against early criticism. Justin Martyr, another early Father, offers the following argument against unbelievers in the Christian legend: "When we say also that the Word, which is the first birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified, died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter." [Footnote: First Apology, Chapter xxi (Anti-Nicene Library).] Which is another way of saying that the Christian mythus is very similar to the pagan, and should therefore be equally true. Pressing his argument further, this interesting Father discovers many resemblances between what he himself is preaching and what the pagans have always believed: "For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribe to Jupiter. Mercury, the interpreting word (he spells this word with a small _w_ while in the above quotation he uses a capital _w_ to denote the Christian incarnation) and teacher of all; Aesculapius...who ascended to heaven; one Hercules...and Perseus;...and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horses of Pegasus." [Footnote: Ibid.] If Jupiter can have, Justin Martyr seems to reason, half a dozen divine sons, why cannot Jehovah have at least one? [Illustration: The Unsexed Christ, Naked In the Church of St. Antoine, Tours, France.] Instead of producing historical evidence or appealing to creditable documents, as one would to prove the existence of a Caesar or an Alexander, Justin Martyr draws upon pagan mythology in his reply to the critics of Christianity. All he seems to ask for is that Jesus be given a higher place among the divinities of the ancient world. To help their cause the Christian apologists not infrequently also changed the sense of certain Old Testament passages to make them support the miraculous stories in the New Testament. For example, having borrowed from Oriental books the story of the god in a manger, surrounded by staring animals, the Christian fathers introduced a prediction of this event into the following text from the book of Habakkuk in the Bible: "Accomplish thy work in the midst of the _years_, in the midst of the years make known, etc." [Footnote: Hab. iii. 2.] This Old Testament text appeared in the Greek translation as follows: "Thou shalt manifest thyself in the midst of _two animals_" which was fulfilled of course when Jesus was born in a stable. How weak must be one's case to resort to such tactics in order to command a following! And when it is remembered that these follies were deemed necessary to prove the reality of what has been claimed as the most stupendous event in all history, one can readily see upon how fragile a foundation is built the story of the Christian God-man. Let us continue: Abraham Lincoln's associates and contemporaries are all known to history. The immediate companions of Jesus appear to be, on the other hand, as mythical as he is himself. Who was Matthew? Who was Mark? Who were John, Peter, Judas, and Mary? There is absolutely no evidence that they ever existed. They are not mentioned except in the New Testament books, which, as we shall see, are "supposed" copies of "supposed" originals. If Peter ever went to Rome with a new doctrine, how is it that no historian has taken note of him? If Paul visited Athens and preached from Mars Hill, how is it that there is no mention of him or of his strange Gospel in the Athenian chronicles? For all we know, both Peter and Paul may have really existed, but it is only a guess, as we have no means of ascertaining. The uncertainty about the apostles of Jesus is quite in keeping with the uncertainty about Jesus himself. The report that Jesus had twelve apostles seems also mythical. The number twelve, like the number seven, or three, or forty, plays an important role in all Sun-myths, and points to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Jacob had twelve sons; there were twelve tribes of Israel; twelve months in the year; twelve gates or pillars of heaven, etc. In many of the religions of the world, the number twelve is sacred. There have been few god-saviors who did not have twelve apostles or messengers. In one or two places, in the New Testament, Jesus is made to send out "the seventy" to evangelize the world. Here again we see the presence of a myth. It was believed that there were seventy different nations in the world--to each nation an apostle. Seventy wise men are supposed to have translated the Old Testament, sitting in seventy different cells. That is why their translation is called "_the Septuagint_" But it is all a legend, as there is no evidence of seventy scholars working in seventy individual cells on the Hebrew Bible. One of the Church Fathers declares that he saw these seventy cells with his own eyes. He was the only one who saw them. That the "Twelve Apostles" are fanciful may he inferred from the obscurity in which the greater number of them have remained. Peter, Paul, John, James, Judas, occupy the stage almost exclusively. If Paul was an apostle, we have fourteen, instead of twelve. Leaving out Judas, and counting Matthias, who was elected in his place, we have thirteen apostles. The number forty figures also in many primitive myths. The Jews were in the wilderness for forty years; Jesus fasted for forty days; from the resurrection to the ascension were forty days; Moses was on the mountain with God for forty days. An account in which such scrupulous attention is shown to supposed sacred numbers is apt to be more artificial than real. The biographers of Lincoln or of Socrates do not seem to be interested in numbers. They write history, not stories. Again, many of the contemporaries of Lincoln bear written witness to his existence. The historians of the time, the statesmen, the publicists, the chroniclers--all seem to be acquainted with him, or to have heard of him. It is impossible to explain why the contemporaries of Jesus, the authors and historians of his time, do not take notice of him. If Abraham Lincoln was important enough to have attracted the attention of his contemporaries, how much more Jesus. Is it reasonable to suppose that these Pagan and Jewish writers knew of Jesus,--had heard of his incomparably great works and sayings,--but omitted to give him a page or a line? Could they have been in a conspiracy against him? How else is this unanimous silence to be accounted for? Is it not more likely that the wonder-working Jesus was unknown to them? And he was unknown to them because no such Jesus existed in their day. Should the student, looking into Abraham Lincoln's history, discover that no one of his biographers knew positively just when he lived or where he was born, he would have reason to conclude that because of this uncertainty on the part of the biographers, he must be more exacting than he otherwise would have been. That is precisely our position. Of course, there are in history great men of whose birthplaces or birthdays we are equally uncertain. But we believe in their existence, not because no one seems to know exactly when and where they were born, but because there is overwhelming evidence corroborating the other reports about them, and which is sufficient to remove the suspicion suggested by the darkness hanging over their nativity. Is there any evidence strong enough to prove the historicity of Jesus, in spite of the fact that not even his supposed companions, writing during the lifetime of Jesus' mother, have any definite information to give. But let us continue. The reports current about a man like Lincoln are verifiable, while many of those about Jesus are of a nature that no amount of evidence can confirm. That Lincoln was President of these United States, that he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and that he was assassinated, can be readily authenticated. But how can any amount of evidence satisfy one's self that Jesus was born of a virgin, for instance? Such a report or rumor can never even be examined; it does not lend itself to evidence; it is beyond the sphere of history; it is not a legitimate question for investigation. It belongs to mythology. Indeed, to put forth a report of that nature is to forbid the use of evidence, and to command forcible acquiescence, which, to say the least, is a very suspicious circumstance, calculated to hurt rather than to help the Jesus story. The report that Jesus was God is equally impossible of verification. How are we to prove whether or not a certain person was God? Jesus may have been a wonderful man, but is every wonderful man a God? Jesus may have claimed to have been a God, but is every one who puts forth such a claim a God? How, then, are we to decide which of the numerous candidates for divine honors should be given our votes? And can we by voting for Jesus make him a God? Observe to what confusion the mere attempt to follow such a report leads us. A human Jesus may or may not have existed, but we are as sure as we can be of anything, that a virgin-born God, named Jesus, such as we must believe in or be eternally lost, is an impossibility--except to credulity. But credulity is no evidence at all, even when it is dignified by the name of _faith_. Let us pause for a moment to reflect: The final argument for the existence of the miraculous Jesus, preached in church and Sunday-school, these two thousand years, as the sole savior of the world, is an appeal to faith--the same to which Mohammed resorts to establish his claims, and Brigham Young to prove his revelation. There is no other possible way by which the virgin- birth or the _godhood_ of a man can be established. And such a faith is never free, it is always maintained by the sword now, and by hell-fire hereafter. Once more, if it had been reported of Abraham Lincoln that he predicted his own assassination; that he promised some of his friends they would not die until they saw him coming again upon the clouds of heaven; that he would give them thrones to sit upon; that they could safely drink deadly poisons in his name, or that he would grant them any request which they might make, provided they asked it for his sake, we would be justified in concluding that such a Lincoln never existed. Yet the most impossible utterances are put in Jesus' mouth. He is made to say: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do." No man who makes such a promise can keep it. It is not sayings like the above that can prove a man a God. Has Jesus kept his promise? Does he give his people everything, or "whatsoever" they ask of him? But, it is answered, "Jesus only meant to say that he would give whatever he himself considered good for his friends to have." Indeed! Is that the way to crawl out of a contract? If that is what he meant, why did he say something else? Could he not have _said_ just what he _meant_, in the first place? Would it not have been fairer not to have given his friends any occasion for false expectations? Better to promise a little and do more, than to promise everything and do nothing. But to say that Jesus really entered into any such agreement is to throw doubt upon his existence. Such a character is too wild to be real. Only a mythical Jesus could virtually hand over the government of the universe to courtiers who have petitions to press upon his attention. Moreover, if Jesus could keep his promise, there would be today no misery in the world, no orphans, no childless mothers, no shipwrecks, no floods, no famines, no disease, no crippled children, no insanity, no wars, no crime, no wrong! Have not a thousand, thousand prayers been offered in Jesus' name against every evil which has ploughed the face of our earth? Have these prayers been answered? Then why is there discontent in the world? Can the followers of Jesus move mountains, drink deadly poisons, touch serpents, or work greater miracles than are ascribed to Jesus, as it was promised that they would do? How many self-deluded prophets these extravagant claims have produced! And who can number the bitter disappointments caused by such impossible promises? George Jacob Holyoake, of England, tells how in the days of utter poverty, his believing mother asked the Lord, again and again--on her knees, with tears streaming from her eyes, and with absolute faith in Jesus' ability to keep His promise,--to give her starving children their daily bread. But the more fervently she prayed the heavier grew the burden of her life. A stone or wooden idol could not have been more indifferent to a mother's tears. "My mind aches as I think of those days," writes Mr. Holyoake. One day he went to see the Rev. Mr. Cribbace, who had invited inquirers to his house. "Do you really believe," asked young Holyoake to the clergyman, "that what we ask in faith we shall receive?" "It never struck me," continues Mr. Holyoake, "that the preacher's threadbare dress, his half-famished look, and necessity of taking up a collection the previous night to pay expenses showed that faith was not a source of income to him. It never struck me that if help could be obtained by prayer no church would be needy, no believer would be poor." What answer did the preacher give to Holyoake's earnest question? The same which the preachers of today give: "He parried his answer with many words, and at length said that the promise was to be taken with the provision that what we asked for would be given, _if God thought it for our good."_ Why then, did not Jesus explain that important _proviso_ when he made the promise? Was Jesus only making a half statement, the other half of which he would reveal later to protect himself against disappointed petitioners. But he said: "If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it," and "If it were not so, I would have told you." Did he not mean just what he said? The truth is that no historical person in his senses ever made such extraordinary, such impossible promises, and the report that Jesus made them only goes to confirm that their author is only a legendary being. When this truth dawned upon Mr. Holyoake he ceased to petition Heaven, which was like "dropping a bucket into an empty well," and began to look _elsewhere_ for help. [Footnote: Bygones Worth Remembering.--George Jacob Holyoake] The world owes its advancement to the fact that men no longer look to Heaven for help, but help themselves. Self-effort, and not prayer, is the remedy against ignorance, slavery, poverty, and moral degradation. Fortunately, by holding up before us an impossible Jesus, with his impossible promises, the churches have succeeded only in postponing, but not in preventing, the progress of man. This is a compliment to human nature, and it is well earned. It is also a promise that in time humanity will be completely emancipated from every phantom which in the past has scared it into silence or submission, and "A loftier race than e'er the world Hath known shall rise With flame of liberty in their souls, And light of science in their eyes."