Question:

A friend sent me this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNf-P_5u_Hw, about this movement Zeitgeist, I was looking for information about them.  They believe that Jesus is a mythical story. What do you think about this? Is there any information that I can read and  give to my friend that suport the existence of Jesus versus this video?

Answer:

I have seen this video before.  There is nothing new here.  It has become a common tactic of skeptics of Christianity to imply that the Jesus of the Bible is a myth created by the church in the second century or later, borrowing from the common god/man myths in the Near East.  We at ARS sponsored a debate between Dr. Doug Jacoby and Dr. Robert Price on this very topic.  The title was Jesus: Man, Myth or Messiah?  You can get a copy of the debate at www.ipibooks.com.  I have taught a class recently on the topic.  You can find a copy of the notes and power point at http://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/index.php?option=com_custom_content&task=view&id=5029&&Itemid=52

Let me comment briefly on the Zeitgeist video.  First of all, this is a mixture of truth, exaggeration, manipulative use of information and outright lies.   Many of the claimed parallels are simply flat out falsifications.  Most of them are things said about these gods only hundreds of years after the life of Jesus.  In other words, these claims about Horus, Mithra and others are stolen from Christianity, not vice versa.

Here is why the entire premise of this video is bogus.  The difference between Jesus and gods like Horus, Krishna, Osiris, Empodocles and the others is that Jesus was a real person.  We know where he lived.  We know when he died.  We know the name of his mother and his father.  We know where, when, how and why he died.  We have historical references to the life, death and ministry of Jesus from non-Christian authors such as Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, Josephus and others.  These non-Christians give us information such as the fact that Jesus was crucified, that he came from Galilee, that he was known as a miracle-worker.  The Zeitgeist video claims that the story of the twelve apostles was borrowed from other myths.  The problem with this is that these twelve apostles are real historical figures.  Is anyone going to claim that Peter, Paul, John and Andrew did not really live and that they were not really apostles of Jesus.  You should be extremely skeptical of the Zeitgeist claims that such and such god was believed to have had twelve apostles.  Almost certainly this detail was added AFTER Jesus, not before, but even if this was not the case, Krishna is a myth.  No one really believes that he or Horus or Osiris are real people.  Jesus was definitely real.  We have writings from multiple people who actually knew Jesus.  We know the names of at least three of his brothers.  Josephus reports the execution of Jesus’ brother James.  Will these authors claim that Josephus made up the existence of Jesus and his brother?  That Jesus worked miracles was not denied by the Jews.  The Talmud, a Jewish document of the first or second century, tells us that Jesus (Yeshu) was a sorcerer, which is the Jew’s way of explaining his miracles. 

The gospels are not myths.  The claim that they are in fact mythical is really rather irresponsible.  They are written as straightforward history.  Thousands of those who knew Jesus–both those who accepted his claims and those who did not–were still alive and capable of responding when the gospels were written.  Matthew, Mark and Luke were written in the fifties or sixties AD when thousands of eye-witnesses to Jesus were still alive.  It in inconceivable that they could have created a complete fabrication.  Besides, all the apostles lived in constant fear of being arrested or killed, yet none of them ever relented of their story of the miracles of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.

Remember, that many of the supposed parallels to Jesus mentioned in this manipulative video are outright fabrications.  The great majority of the parallels involve things claimed for these false gods AFTER the life of Jesus.  Common sense tells us that the borrowing is from the Jesus story to these pretenders.  Zeitgeist says that the birth of Jesus was on December 25th, but we know for a fact that Jesus was not born on December 25th.  They say his birth in Bethlehem is a mythical retelling of his being the bread.  The problem with this is that Bethlehem is a real place and Jesus really was born there.  They try to make a connection between the sun and the southern cross, failing to notice that the southern cross is not even visible from the Northern Hemisphere.  This is sheer nonsense, cobbled together to create a false impression that the death on the cross is a lie.  It is not a lie.  We should accept the word of historians in the time of Jesus rather than the biased reasoning of these authors.

Really, this video is a lot of nonsense, dressed up to look like good argument.  Jesus is a very real person.  He really did work public miracles in front of thousands of eye-witnesses.  He was crucified in Jerusalem, not to fulfill some astrological meaning, but because the Jews wanted him killed.  His tomb was empty.  More than five hundred of his followers saw him alive after his execution.  These are historical facts.  They are not fabrications.  Do not be intimidated by this deceitful video.

John Oakes

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