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About this week’s feature article

In this week’s eSkeptic, Tim Callahan reviews Derek Murphy’s book Jesus Potter Harry Christ (Portland, OR: Holy Blasphemy Press). Tim Callahan is Skeptic magazine’s religion editor and author of the books Bible Prophecy and The Secret Origins of the Bible.

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Harry Potter and Jesus Christ

a book review by Tim Callahan

At first glance, the title of this work, along with the cover illustration depicting a man who seems the amalgam of Jesus Christ and Harry Potter, seem whimsical. Yet, Derek Murphy is serious in his comparison of Harry Potter with Jesus by noting the many parallels between the two:

  • Magic father, human mother
  • Miraculous birth foretold by prophecy
  • Threatened infancy: Herod tries to kill Jesus. Voldemort kills Harry’s parents in an attempt to kill him.
  • Raised in obscurity
  • Both possess magical powers and do battle with evil
  • In both stories, the hero is symbolized by the lion, while his enemy is symbolized by the serpent.
  • Both stories stress the power of faith and love.
  • Both heroes experience a sacrificial death and resurrection.

Of course, the main difference between two is that Harry Potter is known to be fictional, while Jesus is presumed to be historical. However, works of comparative mythology, among them Sir James Frazier’s multivolume work The Golden Bough, reveal consistent parallels between pagan gods and Christ. So striking are these parallels as to provoke the response from the great 20th-century Christian apologist C.S. Lewis that these earlier myths were pale reflections of the true myth, that of the Christ. Lewis reasoned that God used these earlier myths to introduce human beings to the concepts of death and resurrection that were historical in Jesus Christ. As Murphy notes, Lewis was not the first to attempt to explain away mythic parallels between Jesus and earlier god-men. In the second century St. Justin Martyr (103–165) wrote in his First Apology, chapter 21:

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Asclepius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Caesar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre?

Where C. S. Lewis explained the similarities as imperfect reflections of the true myth, Justin Martyr explained them as “diabolical mimicry,” i.e. that demons, knowing what God was planning to do in the future planted these myths so as to make it seem that the story of Jesus was the copy instead of the original.

Murphy examines many of the specific forerunners of the Christ myth, starting with Dionysus. Jesus turning water into wine, at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1–10) duplicates a miracle originally performed by Dionysus, who, along with Jesus was called the “true vine” (see John 15). Both were born of mortal women, killed and resurrected. Dionysus was called the “twice born” and initiates into his cult were said to be born again (p. 118). He was twice born because Zeus initially sired him on the goddess Persephone. The titans killed him and ate most of his body, but Zeus saved his heart and used it to impregnate Semele. When Semele is struck by lightning Zeus rescued the unborn child from her womb and sewed it into his thigh, from which the infant Dionysus was born. There are also parallels between the release of Peter on one occasion, and Paul and Silas on another in the Book of Acts (Acts 12:5–10 and 16:25–27), and the release of the followers of Dionysus imprisoned by Pentheus in The Bacchae. In both Acts and The Bacchae the fetters fall from the limbs of the prisoners, and the doors of the prison open of themselves.

The Egyptian god Osiris was another dying and resurrecting god, whose worship along with that of his wife Isis had spread through the Roman Empire predated Christ. In a debate I had with Christian apologist Gary Habermas, he pointed out that Osiris was only resurrected in the underworld. Thus, his was not a true resurrection. That stopped me somewhat, and it wasn’t until well after our debate that it occurred to me that Osiris, having been chopped into 14 pieces by his enemy, Set, is first put back together, then physically reanimated. In any case, the original Egyptian story was certainly altered by Roman times to give the worshiper of Osiris the promise of physical resurrection in the afterlife. The cults of Isis and Osiris also leant their imagery to Christianity, which co-opted the image of Isis and the infant Horus (begotten supernaturally) as the image of the Madonna and Christ child. Likewise, the Pieta, portraying Mary mourning the dead Jesus, owes its imagery to that of Isis mourning the dead Osiris.

So far, I am in agreement with Murphy. However, I find myself less in concurrence with his argument for astrologically based origins of Christianity. Consider, for example, this quote (p. 198):

Many traditions have called the three stars of Orion’s belt the “kings” or the “magi.” They form a direct line to Sirius and appear to follow him to the birthplace of the sun. Try to find them early on Christmas morning—they’re the brightest stars you see.

While the image of three magi presenting gifts to the Christ child appears on an incised sarcophagus slab from the third century, the Gospel of Matthew—the only account in which the magi appear—says nothing about their number. Rather it says (Mt. 2:1, 2):

Now when Jesus was born I Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men [Gr. magoi] from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

The number three seems to have been inferred from there being three gifts given by the magi: gold frankincense, and myrrh. The magi coming from the east makes them Zoroastrian holy men from the Parthian Empire, Rome’s archenemy. Thus, the magi recognizing Jesus as the true king of the Jews stands in stark contrast to Herod, a Roman appointee. Thus, in the political, messianic mythology of Matthew’s Nativity, the motif of magi from the east doing homage to the Christ child was an affirmation of his status as king and messiah. My one great criticism of this book is that it fails to consider, along with pagan origins of the Christ myth, its reliance on the Jewish scriptures, as well as on Jewish messianism of the first century and the political mythology that surrounded it.

The birthday of Jesus on December 25, like the identification of the magi as being three in number, is a post-biblical addition to Christianity. However, it may be of genuinely astrological origin as a solar myth, since the sun was seen to be reborn on the solstice. Due to the failure of the Julian and earlier Roman calendars to adequately deal with the partial day at the end of the solar year—roughly, but not quite, a quarter of a day, the winter solstice, originally in early January had, by early Christian times, slipped to December 25. Making it the birthday of Jesus might have been a bit of syncretism designed to blot out worship of the sun as Sol Invictus (Latin for “unconquered sun”). Eventually, with the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, the solstice was fixed at December 21. As Murphy points out, early images of Jesus showed him as a beardless sun god.

Murphy’s assertion on page 205 of a pagan inspiration for Nativity stories certainly holds true for Luke, though I’m not sure how much of this to equate with astrological symbolism. I do agree with Murphy’s identification of the Christian cross as a solar symbol. Assuming Jesus to be historical and his crucifixion to be an actual event, the device upon which he was put to death would have been shaped like a capitol “T”.

In Part Three of the book, titled “The Accidental History,” Murphy asserts that Christianity as intended by Paul would have been a mystery religion, but that it was co-opted by others with a different agenda. Certainly Paul himself had an agenda, one that transformed an original Jewish sect into a new religion. Thus, if there was a historical Jesus, Paul quite simply dispensed with him. Paul makes this plain in his very telling epistle to the Galatians, toward the beginning of which he states (Gal. 1:11, 12):

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from a man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Having been given a direct revelation from the risen Christ Paul says (Gal. 1:16b, 17a), “I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.” When he finally did go to Jerusalem after three years he stayed briefly with Cephas (Peter) and also spoke to James, but none of the other disciples (Gal 1:18, 19). Did Paul receive anything of value from those who knew Jesus? No, he did not (Gal. 2:6): “And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me.”

Thus, in Paul’s own words, he tells us that, even if there had been a historical Jesus, the Christ Jesus of his epistles was created out of his own imagination via some sort of mystical conversion experience; and the Jesus of the gospels was a construct of messianic expectations, reworked Jewish scriptures and pagan myths. That Paul reports his contacts with people who knew Jesus, indicates to me that there was a Jesus to be known but that he wasn’t anyone Paul ever met or wanted to meet.

It is Murphy’s assertion that what Paul tried to create was another mystery religion on the order of those of Dionysus, Mithras and Osiris/Isis. To judge whether or not this was indeed Paul’s aim, we need to understand just what a mystery religion was. The author lists the characteristics of mystery religions as follows:

Code of silence, Hieros Logos (sacred history), Hierarchy of initiation, Brotherhood, Ritual death and rebirth, Identification with God, Code of Ethics, Spiritual afterlife

The code of silence—keeping the doctrines of the religion secret—is what makes these faiths specifically mystery religions. The heiros logos, or sacred history, record the miraculous deeds of the deity at the center of the cult—often a semi-mortal being whose birth is miraculous, whose life is exemplary, who teaches a code of higher ethics, undergoes an excruciating death, yet overcomes it, with the promise that his followers can do likewise, if only in symbolic terms. The hierarchy of initiation leads the initiate through ever higher levels of enlightenment as he or she progresses in gnosis. In the process of initiation members of the mystery religion experience brotherhood with fellow initiates. Eventually they experience a ritual death and rebirth, dying to their old, carnal selves and being reborn as spiritual beings. As such, they experience identification with God. As such, they practice a code of high ethics and live in expectation of a spiritual afterlife, free of the bonds of carnal corruption. Members of mystery religions enjoyed a sense of communion with their semi-mortal saviors that involved a personal relationship with God (p. 293). So also did the Titans eat the flesh of Dionysus, and so, too, did Paul recount Jesus initiating the symbolic drinking of his blood and eating of his flesh (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Notably, Paul records that this is the only detail of the life of Christ, other than the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Even accepting that Jesus was as fictional a character as Harry Potter, we may ask how Harry can compare to Jesus. Murphy notes (pp. 417, 418):

Most importantly Harry Potter is popular in a way Jesus is not. Harry Potter’s movies have made billions, while Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (2004) was disturbing, bloody, and ultimately unsatisfying, riddled with unresolved complexities in a system where the all powerful and all knowing God has to trick or deceive his creation, Satan. Harry’s popularity is crucial—he is the gospel of our time; the best selling story. Yes, he is a repacking of the Jesus Christ story, but one that eclipses that story completely. While we can sift through Harry and trace back to Jesus, why would we? Harry is a much more humane, in depth, vibrant character than the Jesus of the gospels, infinitely easier to identify with, champion and even love.

Whether or not one agrees with Murphy’s ultimate position, and whether or not one agrees with his arguments that Jesus was entirely (rather than mostly) mythic, Jesus Potter Harry Christ is well worth wading through, and wade through it one must, simply because of the sheer mass and volume of evidence the author provides. Make this a book whose pages you dog-ear for further reference and second readings.


Skeptical perspectives on the Bible…
cover Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment?
by Tim Callahan

How accurate were the Biblical prophets? Are modern events fulfillment of things described in the Book of Revelation? Tim Callahan investigates the claims of fundamentalist ministers that the fates of nations were foretold in accurate detail by prophets and apocalyptic literature. By comparing the predictions to actual history, as well as to each other and by noting evidence of historical anachronisms and faulty scholarship on the part of fundamentalist apologists, Callahan subjects the prophecies of the Bible to four rigorous questions… READ more and order the book.

cover The Bible Against Itself
by Randel Helms

The Bible Against Itself is a witty and well-informed work of revisionist Bible scholarship, a courageous exercise in the deconstruction of Holy Writ and a healthy corrective to anyone who still thinks of the Bible as the revealed word of God.” —Jonathan Kirsch
READ more and order the book.

cover Secret Origins of the Bible
by Tim Callahan

How can such a widely studied book like the Bible still hold secrets? Many intelligent and otherwise well informed readers will find much of the material in this book new and quite startling, although Bible scholars, and anyone with a background in comparative mythology will be familiar with it. Callahan gathers material together from many sources — literary analysis, archeology, and history — and uses comparative mythology to demonstrate how Bible stories that do not make much sense when taken literally can be understood when their mythic content is revealed. READ more and order the book.

25 Comments »

25 Comments

  1. Sunwyn Ravenwood says:

    This book does not seem very interesting, just another attempt to cash in on the HP bandwagon. The whole mythic thing is yet another variation of the Ur myth, the Summer King is murdered by the Winter King who is killed by the new Summer King. It’s the Osiris myth, the Hamlet legend, the plot of the Lion King. Lucas jazzed it up a bit by making the Father and the Slayer one and the same. I liked HP but I was never in any doubt of how it would end.

  2. Jennifer G says:

    Boring. Harry Potter has not appeal, but hurrah to those who like it. Showing my grumpy side, is it not time to retire the myth of the Dying Sun God?

  3. william wallace says:

    The man’s name was NOT Jesus Christ. ‘Christ’ means ‘savior’ and should not be used by anyone not Christian unless you want to acknowledge that he was the son of god and able to keep you out of hell.

    I see this mistake all over the place.

    • Dr Sidethink says:

      WHAZZUP WITH THIS????

      Magic words that infidels mus not say???

      “Christ” means “Annointed” and by extrapolation
      refers to the reason why such persons are called “annointed” usually in reference to the Messiah idea.

      His name to the Jews is well known
      Commonly spelled “Yeshua”
      and was not “Christ”

      I don’t have time to even do your homework for you look this up, but you might at least google the word before making “fundiats” (fundie fiats)

      Dr Sidethink Hp.D
      Pastor ( than a speeding bullet)
      69th Clench of the Stark Fist of Removal
      Reformed Church of the Subgenius

    • Scatterer says:

      No, we’re just acknowledging that y’all call him The Christ. Sort of the way a lot of people call Elvis “The King”

      • Dr Sidethink says:

        this is exactly my point.

        (Red herring fleet arriving)

        “Y’all” ( Southern Fundies)
        have no right to appropriate use of a Name and make fiats about the requirements needed by “Outgroupers” to use it.

        In common usage, I will admit that saying
        “THE Christ” has a specialized connotation
        among Christians , and that Non- Christians and U.S. Roman Catholisc are
        misrepresenting their position if they use it with this knowledge.

        I also perceive that the use among Orthodox Catholics has a somewhat different flavor than among Hillbilly Parsnips

        Dr. S

    • David S says:

      This thread needs to die. The author of the book uses “Christ Jesus” because that’s the phrase that Paul uses, and he’s indirectly quoting Paul. The author of the review is then indirectly quoting the book.

      Anyone reading eSkeptic should know that “Christ” is a title (the Greek version of the Hebrew term “messiah” meaning “anointed one”), not a last name. Arguing about its appropriateness in this book and/or review just makes each of you look ridiculous.

      • Dr Sidethink says:

        the thread is Dim, Jed
        And that’s it hangin’ in the shed, Fred!!

        Dr. S

        • Bad Boy Scientist says:

          Bummer.

          I had a couple of glib comments just for this thread – but had to wait till not to post ’em. e.g. “If only those who accept Jesus as savior are allowed to call him (Him?) ‘Christ’, doesn’t that mean only Adolf’s followers are allowed to call Hitler ‘Der Fuhrer’?”

          • Dr Sidethink says:

            you are not allowed to use the word “glib” unless you accept Glib Chendrowskyj as the greatest Basso of all time !!!

            HeCe

    • Jenn says:

      The person called the Crist in the Christian book is not the savior. The savior was to have been named Emmanuel.

      On to another subject: Anything that Tim Callahan writes is of interest to me. He knows his topics.

    • Steverino says:

      “Kristos” was the word commonly-substituted for the Hebrew “Messhiahk” (both spelled with non-Roman alphabets and given here via my poor Romanization). Arguably, “Kristos was used in place of “Messhiahk” first in Greek translations of the Pentateuch, and then used (maybe) in the original (but massively translated, edited, etc.) New Testament. So one can argue that “Kristos” is simply a Greek representation of “Messiah.” Now if you want to argue about what “Messiah” meant or means, be my guest. However I tend to agree that one shoudl either call him “Yeshuah” or Jesus, and omit the English “Christ,” translation of “Kristos,” representation of “Messiah.”

  4. Tim W says:

    This is a subject I’ve been fascinated with for years. The article does a very good job of hitting some of the central ideas that move through both pagan and Christian religions. There is certainly a lot more that could be added, especially in regard to the death/resurrection cycle. Frazier’s book “The Golden Bough” recounts dozens of these stories and just the size of the book is impressive. There is a wealth of material.
    One observation is when you compare the gospels with the ancient myths and Judaism, it’s seems obvious Christianity has more in common with pagan beliefs than with the Hebrew Bible. It’s worth noting that at the time Christianity was rising in the Roman empire, the empire itself was awash in cults. Christianity was just another cult which in my opinion had the advantage of political savvy. That each of these cults influenced the others is inevitable and is especially likely given that the attitudes among a lot of these cults was that any single person could be a member of multiple cults.
    The key point I get in the comparison to Harry Potter and the final analysis in the article is a point I have had a lot of thought about. The major religions of the world today are rooted firmly in the past. To focus on Christianity for the sake of this article’s premise, the images and symbols are from thousands of years ago. They relate to a culture that no longer exists. Who can image an image of Jesus in a suit and tie or a polo shirt, instead he always is shown in Roman robes. The Vatican clings to this imagery, compare the pope’s robes to the outfits of the last few emperors, it’s very telling. My point is these images and in fact a lot the ideas and values are from a dead culture. At the time Paul was plodding around empire preaching his beliefs this was a living, current and relevant belief. The first Christians imagined Jesus in a robe because they were wearing robes. Now it’s a belief system that is always looking backward, that hasn’t evolved and grown as culture and society has. It’s no wonder religious extremists are hostile to modern science and contemporary culture. They live in the past. A Harry Potter movie will have a bigger audience, first because it is just fun entertainment with great special effects but also because it speaks to a modern audience.

  5. marianne says:

    There are two books I heartily recommend to anyone interested in the transfer of iconography and myth from religion to religion. One is E.O. James “The great mother” and the other is Guignebert’s “The History of Christianity.”

    After reading E.O. James at an early age, I became an atheist. As I recall, it’s been some decades since I read this, James recounts that in the Near East, several centuries B.C. — I think it is about 8,000 B.C. — the god Dammuzi (Tammuz) was born of Ishtar (whose sympol is a 6-pointed star) in a stable on the December solstice each year. Damuzzi dies each spring. All of these myths have to do with the farming cycles.

    Guignebert, who was the first professor of the History of Christianity, taught at the Sorbonne for decades. His book is a monumental piece of scholarship, but is eminently readable. It would be hard to remain a Christian after reading this work. Guignebert has the historical facts and based his work on primary documents (letters and other documents from the time) to show that St. Paul hijacked the Christian religon. St. Paul was asked by the remaining apostles to go away because the historical man, Jesus, had never intended to found a new religion. St. P. then imposed the beliefs of the mystery religions then flourishing in Antioch on his version of Christianity, which has survived.

    The history of the church is quite shocking.

  6. Lars says:

    Lily Potter was not human (a muggle), she was a muggle-born witch. When the first bullet point only 5 lines in is incorrect it raises an eyebrow.

    • David S says:

      I read the email version but popped on here to point out the same as Lars — point #1 is incorrect. Harry’s not a “Mudblood” — his parents were both wizards. Funny that the entire supposed premise of the book is based on gross inaccuracy. Makes me wonder if the author decided to tack Harry Potter onto his otherwise-impressive book just to get it on the endcap at your local B&N.

  7. Richard says:

    I recall a band called the Beatles who were once more popular than Christ. It’s painfully obvious that Mr. Murphy is trying to ride on Ms. Rowling’s coat tails with his turgid tripe.

    Mr. Murphy references the Golden Bough, which is filled with historical errors and unverifiable “facts”. Mr. Murphy seems to ooze crankdom.

    I’m a skeptic who has seen no convincing evidence that Jesus Christ is any less fictional than Harry Potter, but I can’t even imagine spending money to buy this book.

    • David S says:

      Agreed: this book traverses well-trodden soil by quoting sketchy sources who were quoting sketchy sources. Sadly, I’m afraid that adding a little Harry Potter twist and a cute cover illustration will generate enough interest and revenue to somehow legitimize this tome. Publishers and editors aren’t interested in what’s original or accurate anymore, just what will sell. Truly pathetic.

      • Xtine says:

        Agreed with the sketchiness of this book… and it’s sleek presentation. I was asked to review it many moons ago and I was blown away at how much marketing glitz the author/or his publicist had put into the website… it was oozing with marketing to such an extent … and not much substance… that I totally forgot to take it seriously.

        People are so obsessed with Harry Potter that it might sell. Curious to know if the formula doesn’t fit pretty much every blockbuster action sci-fi fantasy out there… and it felt that the author was choosing Potter because Potter’s hot. And yes… the Golden Bough might not be the best source for him to cite.

        • Bad Boy Scientist says:

          Well, at worst, people will just waste a little time & money – and maybe it will open some eyes about some Christian traditions. Just think of it as a “Homeopathic remedy for the ‘soul’ “

  8. Travis Lamar says:

    E. O. James wrote “The Cult of the Mother Goddess.” See http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/society/A0821675.html.

    Charles Guignebert wrote at least ten books in French. Two available in English include “The Early History of Christianity” and “Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Christianity: The Evolution of a Religion.” See http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Guignebert. Guignebert believed that Jesus was a historical person (from the idiosyncratic descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels and St. Paul’s Letters, but acknowledged that “all the pagan and Jewish testimonies, so-called, afford us no information of any value about the life of Jesus, nor even any assurance that he ever lived.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus.

  9. Roo.Bookaroo says:

    This is an interesting article. Especially on Paul and the foundation of a mystery religion.

    Many reviewers of Tim Callahan’s books complain that he is not a real scholar, that he is without credentials, and simply rehashes popular themes in the history of mythologies and religions presented by the real experts in these fields.
    But he’s done his job of assimilating the results of their research. He does show an encyclopedic knowledge of the many strands and backgrounds of the biblical field, and knows how to make a presentation interesting to the popular market.

    He has his favorite themes and explanations, and his style seems to tend more towards popular than strictly scholarly acceptance. Probably a result of the tempting commercialization of biblical studies for the large public market now possible in the media, conditions that didn’t exist in the more rigorous and narrow field of biblical scholarship in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when every scholar’s ambition was to only be persuasive to his academic colleagues.

    I remember reading once Tim Callahan’s discussion of the extremely famous few mentions of Christ in the classical non-Christian Roman literature of the 1st and 2d centuries — Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius — and didn’t find it at the level of, say, Edwin Johnson, Arthur Drews, and many other, less commercial, scholars who have devoted a lot of research and efforts to the evaluation of those extremely rare non-Christian passages of antiquity.
    I kept asking myself “But who is this Tim Callahan?”
    I looked for an article in Wikepedia on Tim Callahan and could find none.

    So, could eSkeptic give us such a Wikepedia-like biography of Tim Callahan, with clear mentions of birth, education, books and articles, place in the scholarly field of Biblical studies, and a few personal data?That would be a great help in getting an understanding and appreciation of who Tim Callahan really is.

  10. Steve Moore says:

    Peake”s commentary on the Bible is a great source….Allows one to understand the time period better

  11. Tim Callahan says:

    With the exception of a few authors – such as Richard Elliott Friedman, Bart Ehrman and William Dever – most biblical scholars aren’t that great at communicating with the lay public, the vast majority of which is profoundly ignorant of biblical archaeology, comparative mythology, the Documentary Theory or much of anything having to do with biblical origins.

    Those of us with considerably more knowledge of these subjects than the majority of the lay public, who are, none the less, without scholarly credentials, can often communicate with the lay public far better than do many scholars. Thereby, we can transmit information to them that would otherwise be the sole property of scholars.

  12. Dru B says:

    Tim says that Paul refers to meeting people who did meet Jesus in person. This is an open question, actually, and presupposes the Gospel story.

    If we read Paul with no preconceptions (for example, an apriori acceptance that there was a Jesus of Nazareth for James, John, and Peter to meet), we can see clearly that there is only one place in the entire Pauline literature that refers to the possibility that Paul knows someone who knew Jesus first hand. This is in Galatians where Paul refer to James as the Lord’s Brother, or brethren of the Lord. It’s been pointed out by many scholars, and many ancient witnesses (Origen, for example) that this need not refer to a flesh-and-blood relationship. Origen argues that Paul does not mean that and I agree with that assessment (my reasons run too deep for this late comment that few will read).

    Take out that reference and there is nothing in Paul that even alludes to any of the apostles he names actually having met Jesus in the flesh. In 1 Cor, Paul references “appearances” of the Risen Christ to Cephas, the 12, the 500, James, etc. Those appearances are on the same order of importance, even if not chronological, as Paul’s own vision of the Risen Christ.

    I point this out to emphasis upon how slim the earth is under Callahan’s acceptance of the HJ when he says “That Paul reports his contacts with people who knew Jesus, indicates to me that there was a Jesus to be known…” Paul never makes such a report.

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Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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