The central figure of the New Testament is Jesus, and the question we are trying to answer is, whether we have sufficient evidence to prove to the unbiased mind that he is historical. An idea of the intellectual caliber of the average churchman may be had by the nature of the evidence he offers to justify his faith in the historical Jesus. "The whole world celebrates annually the nativity of Jesus; how could there be a Christmas celebration if there never was a Christ?" asks a Chicago clergyman. The simplicity of this plea would be touching were it not that it calls attention to the painful inefficiency of the pulpit as an educator. The church goer is trained to believe, not to think. The truth is withheld from him under the pious pretense that faith, and not knowledge, is the essential thing. A habit of untruthfulness is cultivated by systematically sacrificing everything to orthodoxy. This habit in the end destroys one's conscience for any truths which are prejudicial to one's interest. But is it true that the Christmas celebration proves a historical Jesus? We can only offer a few additional remarks to what we have already said elsewhere in these pages on the Pagan origin of Christmas. It will make us grateful to remember that just as we have to go to the Pagans for the origins of our civilized institutions--our courts of justice, our art and literature, and our political and religious liberties--we must thank them also for our merry festivals, such as Christmas and Easter. The ignorant, of course, do not know anything about the value and wealth of the legacy bequeathed to us by our glorious ancestors of Greek and Roman times, but the educated can have no excuse for any failure to own their everlasting indebtedness to the Pagans. It will be impossible today to write the history of civilization without giving to the classical world the leading role. But while accepting the gifts of the Pagan peoples we have abused the givers. A beneficiary who will defame a bounteous benefactor is unworthy of his good fortune. I regret to say that the Christian church, notwithstanding that it owes many of its most precious privileges to the Pagans, has returned for service rendered insolence and vituperation. No generous or just institution would treat a rival as Christianity has treated Paganism. Both Christmas and Easter are Pagan festivals. We do not know, no one knows, when Jesus was born; but we know the time of the winter solstice when the sun begins to retrace his steps, turning his radiant face toward our earth once more. It was this event, a natural, demonstrable, universal, event, that our European ancestors celebrated with song and dance--with green branches, through which twinkled a thousand lighted candles, and with the exchange of good wishes and gifts. Has the church had the courage to tell its people that Christmas is a Pagan festival which was adopted and adapted by the Christian world, reluctantly at first, and in the end as a measure of compromise only? The Protestants, especially, conveniently forget the severe Puritanic legislation against the observance of this Pagan festival, both in England and America. It is the return to Paganism which has given to Christmas and Easter their great popularity, as it is the revival of Paganism which is everywhere replacing the Bible ideas of monarchic government with republicanism. And yet, repeatedly, and without any scruples of conscience, preacher and people claim these festivals as the gifts of their creed to humanity, and quote them further to prove the historical existence of their god-man, Jesus. It was this open and persistent perversion of history by the church, the manufacture of evidence on the one hand, the suppression of witnesses prejudiced to her interests on the other, and the deliberate forging of documents, which provoked Carlyle into referring to one of its branches as _the great lying Church_. We have said enough to show that, in all probability--for let us not be dogmatic--the story of Jesus,--his birth and betrayal by one of his own disciples, his trial in a Roman court, his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension,--belongs to the order of imaginative literature. Conceived at first as a religious drama, it received many new accretions as it traveled from country to country and from age to age. The "piece" shows signs of having been touched and retouched to make it acceptable to the different countries in which it was played. The hand of the adapter, the interpolator and the reviser is unmistakably present. As an allegory, or as a dramatic composition, meant for the religious stage, it proved one of the strongest productions of Pagan or Christian times. But as real history, it lacks the fundamental requisite--probability. As a play, it is stirring and strong; as history, it lacks naturalness and consistency. The miraculous is ever outside the province of history. Jesus was a miracle, and as such, at least, we are safe in declaring him un- historical. We pass on now to the presentation of evidence which we venture to think demonstrates with an almost mathematic precision, that the Jesus of the four gospels is a legendary hero, as unhistorical as William Tell of Switzerland. This evidence is furnished by the epistles bearing the signature of Paul. He has been accepted as not only the greatest apostle of Christianity, but in a sense also the author of its theology. It is generally admitted that the epistles bearing the name of Paul are among the oldest apostolical writings. They are older than the gospels. This is very important information. When Paul was preaching, the four gospels had not yet been written. From the epistles of Paul, of which there are about thirteen in the Bible--making the New Testament largely the work of this one apostle--we learn that there were in different parts of Asia, a number of Christian churches already established. Not only Paul, then, but also the Christian church was in existence before the gospels were composed. It would be natural to infer that it was not the gospels which created the church, but the church which produced the gospels. Do not lose sight of the fact that when Paul was preaching to the Christians there was no written biography of Jesus in existence. There was a church without a book. In comparing the Jesus of Paul with the Jesus whose portrait is drawn for us in the gospels, we find that they are not the same persons at all. This is decisive. Paul knows nothing about a miraculously born savior. He does not mention a single time, in all his thirteen epistles, that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that his birth was accompanied with heavenly signs and wonders. He knew nothing of a Jesus born after the manner of the gospel writers. It is not imaginable that he knew the facts, but suppressed them, or that he considered them unimportant, or that he forgot to refer to them in any of his public utterances. Today, a preacher is expelled from his denomination if he suppresses or ignores the miraculous conception of the Son of God; but Paul was guilty of that very heresy. How explain it? It is quite simple: The virgin-born Jesus was not yet _invented_ when Paul was preaching Christianity. Neither he, nor the churches he had organized, had ever heard of such a person. The virgin-born Jesus was of later origin than the Apostle Paul. Let the meaning of this discrepancy between the Jesus of Paul, that is to say, the earliest portrait of Jesus, and the Jesus of the four evangelists, be fully grasped by the student, and it should prove beyond a doubt that in Paul's time the story of Jesus' birth from the virgin-mother and the Holy Ghost, which has since become a cardinal dogma of the Christian church, was not yet in circulation. Jesus had not yet been Hellenized; he was still a Jewish Messiah whose coming was foretold in the Old Testament, and who was to be a prophet like unto Moses, without the remotest suggestion of a supernatural origin. No proposition in Euclid is safer from contradiction than that, if Paul knew what the gospels tell about Jesus, he would have, at least once or twice during his long ministry, given evidence of his knowledge of it. The conclusion is inevitable that the gospel Jesus is later than Paul and his churches. Paul stood nearest to the time of Jesus. Of those whose writings are supposed to have come down to us, he is the most representative, and his epistles are the _first_ literature of the new religion. And yet there is absolutely not a single hint or suggestion in them of such a Jesus as is depicted in the gospels. The gospel Jesus was not yet put together or compiled, when Paul was preaching. Once more; if we peruse carefully and critically the writings of Paul, the earliest and greatest Christian apostle and missionary, we find that he is not only ignorant of the gospel stories about the birth and miracles of Jesus, but he is equally and just as innocently ignorant of the _teachings_ of Jesus. In the gospels Jesus is the author of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Story of Dives, the Good Samaritan, etc. Is it conceivable that a preacher of Jesus could go throughout the world to convert people to the teachings of Jesus, as Paul did, without ever quoting a single one of his sayings? Had Paul known that Jesus had preached a sermon, or formulated a prayer, or said many inspired things about the here and the hereafter, he could not have helped quoting, now and then, from the words of his master. If Christianity could have been established without a knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, why, then, did Jesus come to teach, and why were his teachings preserved by divine inspiration? But if a knowledge of these teachings of Jesus is indispensable to making converts, Paul gives not the least evidence that he possessed such knowledge. But the Apostle Paul, judging from his many epistles to the earliest converts to Christianity, which are really his testimony, supposed to have been sealed by his blood, appears to be quite as ignorant of a Jesus who went about working miracles,--opening the eyes of the blind, giving health to the sick, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead,--as he is of a Jesus born of a virgin woman and the Holy Ghost. Is not this remarkable? Does it not lend strong confirmation to the idea that the miracle-working Jesus of the gospels was not known in Paul's time, that is to say, the earliest Jesus known to the churches was a person altogether different from his namesake in the four evangelists. If Paul knew of a miracle-working Jesus, one who could feed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes--who could command the grave to open, who could cast out devils, and cleanse the land of the foulest disease of leprosy, who could, and did, perform many other wonderful works to convince the unbelieving generation of his divinity,--is it conceivable that either intentionally or inadvertently he would have never once referred to them in all his preaching? Is it not almost certain that, if the earliest Christians knew of the miracles of Jesus, they would have been greatly surprised at the failure of Paul to refer to them a single time? And would not Paul have told them of the promise of Jesus to give them power to work even greater miracles than his own, had he known of such a promise. Could Paul really have left out of his ministry so essential a chapter from the life of Jesus, had he been acquainted with it? The miraculous fills up the greater portion of the four gospels, and if these documents were dictated by the Holy Ghost, it means that they were too important to be left out. Why, then, does not Paul speak of them at all? There is only one reasonable answer: A miracle-working Jesus was unknown to Paul. What would we say of a disciple of Tolstoi, for example, who came to America to make converts to Count Tolstoi and never once quoted anything that Tolstoi had said? Or what would we think of the Christian missionaries who go to India, China, Japan and Africa to preach the gospel, if they never mentioned to the people of these countries the Sermon on the Mount, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lord's Prayer--nor quoted a single text from the gospels? Yet Paul, the first missionary, did the very thing which would be inexplicable in a modern missionary. There is only one rational explanation for this: The Jesus of Paul was not born of a virgin; he did not work miracles; and he was not a teacher. It was after his day that such a Jesus was--I have to use again a strong word--_invented_. It has been hinted by certain professional defenders of Christianity that Paul's specific mission was to introduce Christianity among the Gentiles, and not to call attention to the miraculous element in the life of his Master. But this is a very lame defense. What is Christianity, but the life and teachings of Jesus? And how can it be introduced among the Gentiles without a knowledge of the doctrines and works of its founder? Paul gives no evidence of possessing any knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, how could he, then, be a missionary of Christianity to the heathen? There is no other answer which can be given than that the Christianity of Paul was something radically different from the Christianity of the later gospel writers, who in all probability were Greeks and not Jews. Moreover, it is known that Paul was reprimanded by his fellow-apostles for carrying Christianity to the Gentiles. What better defense could Paul have given for his conduct than to have quoted the commandment of Jesus-- "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." And he would have quoted the "divine" text had he been familiar with it. Nay, the other apostles would not have taken him to task for obeying the commandment of Jesus had they been familiar with such a commandment. It all goes to support the proposition that the gospel Jesus was of a date later than the apostolic times. That the authorities of the church realize how damaging to the reality of the gospel Jesus is the inexplicable silence of Paul concerning him, may be seen in their vain effort to find in a passage put in Paul's mouth by the unknown author of the book of _Acts_, evidence that Paul does quote the sayings of Jesus. The passage referred to is the following: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Paul is made to state that this was a saying of Jesus. In the first place, this quotation is not in the epistles of Paul, but in the _Acts_, of which Paul was not the author; in the second place, there is no such quotation in the gospels. The position, then, that there is not a single saying of Jesus in the gospels which is quoted by Paul in his many epistles is unassailable, and certainly fatal to the historicity of the gospel Jesus. Again, from Paul himself we learn that he was a zealous Hebrew, a Pharisee of Pharisees, studying with Gamaliel in Jerusalem, presumably to become a rabbi. Is it possible that such a man could remain totally ignorant of a miracle worker and teacher like Jesus, living in the same city with him? If Jesus really raised Lazarus from the grave, and entered Jerusalem at the head of a procession, waving branches and shouting, "hosanna"--if he was really crucified in Jerusalem, and ascended from one of its environs--is it possible that Paul neither saw Jesus nor heard anything about these miracles? But if he knew all these things about Jesus, is it possible that he could go through the world preaching Christ without ever once referring to them? It is more likely that when Paul was studying in Jerusalem there was no miraculous Jesus living or teaching in any part of Judea. If men make their gods they also make their Christs. [Footnote: Christianity and Mythology. J. M. Robertson, to whom the author acknowledges his indebtedness, for the difference between Paul's Jesus and that of the Gospels.] It is frequently urged that it was impossible for a band of illiterate fishermen to have created out of their own fancy so glorious a character as that of Jesus, and that it would be more miraculous to suppose that the unique sayings of Jesus and his incomparably perfect life were invented by a few plain people than to believe in his actual existence. But it is not honest to throw the question into that form. We do not know who were the authors of the gospels. It is pure assumption that they were written by plain fishermen. The authors of the gospels do not disclose their identity. The words, _according_ to Matthew, Mark, etc., represent only the guesses or opinions of translators and copyists. Both in the gospels and in Christian history the apostles are represented as illiterate men. But if they spoke Greek, and could also write in Greek, they could not have been just plain fishermen. That they were Greeks, not Jews, and more or less educated, may be safely inferred from the fact that they all write in Greek, and one of them at least seems to be acquainted with the Alexandrian school of philosophy. Jesus was supposedly a Jew, his twelve apostles all Jews--how is it, then, that the only biographies of him extant are all in Greek? If his fishermen disciples were capable of composition in Greek, they could not have been illiterate men, if they could not have written in Greek--which was a rare accomplishment for a Jew, according to what Josephus says--then the gospels were not written by the apostles of Jesus. But the fact that though these documents are in a language alien both to Jesus and his disciples, they are unsigned and undated, goes to prove, we think, that their editors or authors wished to conceal their identity that they may be taken for the apostles themselves. In the next place it is equally an assumption that the portrait of Jesus is incomparable. It is now proven beyond a doubt that there is not a single saying of Jesus, I say this deliberately, which had not already been known both among the Jews and Pagans. [Footnote: Sometimes it is urged by pettifogging clergymen that, while it is true that Confucius gave the Golden Rule six hundred years before Jesus, it was in a negative form. Confucius said, "Do not unto another what you would not another to do unto you." Jesus said, "Do unto others," etc. But every negative has its corresponding affirmation. Moreover, are not the Ten Commandments in the negative? But the Greek sages gave the Golden Rule in as positive a form as we find it in the Gospels. "And may I do to others as I would that others should do to me," said Plato.--Jowett Trans., V.--483. P. Besides, if the only difference between Jesus and Confucius, the one a God, the other a mere man, was that they both said the same thing, the one in the negative, the other in the positive, it is not enough to prove Jesus infinitely superior to Confucius. Many of Jesus' own commandments are in the negative: "Resist not evil," for instance.] And as to his life; it is in no sense superior or even as large and as many sided as that of Socrates. I know some consider it blasphemy to compare Jesus with Socrates, but that must be attributed to prejudice rather than to reason. And to the question that if Jesus be mythical, we cannot account for the rise and progress of the Christian church, we answer that the Pagan gods who occupied Mount Olympus were all mythical beings--mere shadows, and yet Paganism was the religion of the most advanced and cultured nations of antiquity. How could an imaginary Zeus, or Jupiter, draw to his temple the elite of Greece and Rome? And if there is nothing strange in the rise and spread of the Pagan church; in the rapid progress of the worship of Osiris, who never existed; in the wonderful success of the religion of Mithra, who is but a name; if the worship of Adonis, of Attis, of Isis, and the legends of Heracles, Prometheus, Hercules, and the Hindoo trinity,--Brahma, Shiva, Chrishna,--with their rock-hewn temples, can be explained without believing in the actual existence of these gods--why not Christianity? Religions, like everything else, are born, they grow old and die. They show the handiwork of whole races, and of different epochs, rather than of one man or of one age. Time gives them birth, and changing environments determine their career. Just as the portrait of Jesus we see in shops and churches is an invention, so is his character. The artist gave him his features, the theologian his attributes. What are the elements out of which the Jesus story was evolved? The Jewish people were in constant expectation of a Messiah. The belief prevailed that his name would be Joshua, which in English is Jesus. The meaning of the word is _savior_. In ancient Syrian mythology, Joshua was a Sun God. The Old-Testament Joshua, who "stopped the Sun," was in all probability this same Syrian divinity. According to tradition this Joshua, or Jesus, was the son of Mary, a name which with slight variations is found in nearly all the old mythologies. Greek and Hindoo divinities were mothered by either a Mary, Meriam, Myrrah, or Merri. Maria or Mares is the oldest word for sea--the earliest source of life. The ancients looked upon the sea-water as the mother of every living thing. "Joshua (or Jesus), son of Mary," was already a part of the religious outfit of the Asiatic world when Paul began his missionary tours. His Jesus, or anointed one, crucified or slain, did in no sense represent a new or original message. It is no more strange that Paul's mythological "savior" should loom into prominence and cast a spell over all the world, than that a mythical Apollo or Jupiter should rule for thousands of years over the fairest portions of the earth. It is also well known that there is in the Talmud the story of a Jesus, Ben, or son, of Pandira, who lived about a hundred years before the Gospel Jesus, and who was hanged from a tree. I believe this Jesus is quite as legendary as the Syrian Hesous, or Joshua. But may it not be that such a legend accepted as true--to the ancients all legends were true--contributed its share toward marking the outlines of the later Jesus, hanged on a cross? My idea has been to show that the materials for a Jesus myth were at hand, and that, therefore, to account for the rise and progress of the Christian cult is no more difficult than to explain the widely spread religion of the Indian Chrishna, or of the Persian Mithra. [Footnote: For a fuller discussion of the various "christs" in mythology read Robertson's Christianity and Mythology and his Pagan Christs.] Now, why have I given these conclusions to the world? Would I not have made more friends--provoked a warmer response from the public at large--had I repeated in pleasant accents the familiar phrases about the glory and beauty and sweetness of the Savior God, the Virgin-born Christ? Instead of that, I have run the risk of alienating the sympathies of my fellows by intimating that this Jesus whom Christendom worships today as a god, this Jesus at whose altar the Christian world bends its knees and bows its head, is as much of an idol as was Apollo of the Greeks; and that we--we Americans of the twentieth century--are an idolatrous people, inasmuch as we worship a name, or at most, a man of whom we know nothing provable.