By Douglas Anele
Logically speaking, it is quite possible that the events around which the gospels’ narratives were woven actually did not take place or that the stories are so garbled it is impossible to separate fiction from fact.
Some scholars believe that the story of Jesus in The Holy Bible, from the virgin birth to the purported death, resurrection and eventual ascent into heaven,is an accretion of legends popular in Mediterranean communities during the dying years of the Roman Empire.
For example, the noted historian, Arnold Toynbee, explained in his illuminating book, Mankind and Mother Earth, that in the Levant after Alexander the Great overthrew the Persian Empire, and round the whole perimeter of the Mediterranean after its political unification by the Roman Empire, there was fierce competition among rival religions for the diadem of becoming the universal religion of the region as a whole. Christianity eventually triumphed by a process adumbrated already in Pharaonic Egyptian theology.
According to the Egyptians, when a Pharaoh dies his detachable soul ascends into heaven and there devours the other gods whom the newcomer encounters.
By devouring rival deities, the Pharaoh appropriated their powers. Christianity appropriated the powers of its competitors by emulating an ascending Pharaoh’s mythical performance. More specifically, in the story of Jesus the religion absorbed Egyptian, Syrian, Anatolian and Hellenic gods and goddesses and thereby made their powers its own.
Thus, it is presumptuous of Christians, and a mark of their copious ignorance of the syncretic nature of Christianity, to think that the myth of a saviour, in the form of a god incarnate who dies and comes back to life again, is unique to their religion.
On the contrary, the mythical Jesus of the gospels had formidable rivals for that role. First was Horus, the falcon son of Osiris, god of Egypt, who subdued his fratricide uncle Seth; second, there was Mithras, an Iranian god whom the seer, Zarathustra, had demoted to the ranks of the devils but who, as a migrant from Iran to Asia Minor, had reasserted his divinity in cooperation with the Sun and the fateful Stars.
Seen in this light,Easter, like all the iconic celebrations of Christianity, has its roots in ancient pre-Christian mythology. We have already drawn attention to the contradictions in the gospels’ account of what transpired from the trial of Jesus to his purported ascension.
Now, let us look closely to the issue of whether Jesus, if indeed he was crucified as the gospels report, actually died on the cross. It must be observed at the outset that, after almost two millennia of controversy and rigorous Christological research, there is no hard evidence to support the belief that Jesus actually died on the cross – and without this belief Christianity is finished.
The Holy Koran implied that the person crucified was not Jesus but it was made to appear so to the Jewsby the supernatural intervention of Allah. In the English translation by MaulviSher Ali, the Islamic scripture, in chapter 4 verse 158 says: “And their (Jews) saying, ‘ We did kill the messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah’; whereas they slew him not nor killed him by crucifixion, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no definite knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture, and they did not convert this conjecture into a certainty.”
The way I see it, both the biblical and koranic accounts are dubious, and there is no scientific evidence to back any of them. In any case, some eminent researchers, including medical doctors, have expressed scepticism about the alleged death of Jesus by crucifixion.
For instance, Dr. Hugo Toll, director of Stockholm Hospital from 1897 to 1923, affirmed, on the basis of the what was known about the crucifixion, especially the slowness of dying from the process, that Jesus was apparently dead; but ignorant men did not understand that he was merely unconscious, not dead.
Citing modern authorities, Michael Biagent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, suggest that “Jesus, quite unabashedly, modelled and perhaps contrived his life in accordance with [Old Testament] prophesies which heralded the coming of a messiah.”
In the gospels Jesus “death” happened at a moment that is too convenient, too felicitously opportune to prevent his executioners from breaking his legs, which ultimately saved his life, as prophesied in the Hebrew scripture.
This position sits comfortably with Professor Hugh Schonfield whose work, The Passover Plot, detailed the elaborate hoax Jesus contrived with his cohorts to create the impression that he was the promised messiah prophesied in several passages of the Old Testament.
Professor James D.Tabor, a biblical archaeologist, believes that Jesus actually died as depicted in the gospels. Yet, he acknowledges that Jesus most likely read some textsof Psalms, Isaiah, and Zechariah, and took the too seriously by applying them directly to himself, which is absolutely vital for comprehending his (Jesus) developing sense of messianic self-identity.
All said and done, assuming that there was a religious teacher named Jesus (the grecianised form of the Hebrew name Yeshu or Joshua) whose activities were mythologised to create the fictional character in the gospels and who, as some investigators have suggested, did not die on the cross, what then became of him?
According to some Islamic and Indian legends, Jesus died at a ripe old age (some say 120 years) in Kashmir. Biagent and his colleagues report that an Australian journalist has put forward an intriguing and compelling argument that Jesus died at Masada when the fortress fell to the Romans in A.D. 74, by which time he would be approaching his eightieth year.
I am convinced that even if there is incontrovertible evidence that the trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesusare pure fiction, Christians will not abandon the religion, because their belief was not based on reason and evidence, in the first instance.
It is just a matter of dogmatic acceptance of pious legends, since they are incapable of considering the probability that the foundations of Christianity are mythological!! CONCLUDED.