Guest post: Reza Aslan schools us in the “myths” about Jesus

September 30, 2013 • 10:18 am

Reader Ben Goren called my attention to a strange article by Reza Aslan in last week’s Washington Post, “Five myths about Jesus.” Aslan, as you probably know, has made a cottage industry of reassuring the faithful that a) Islam isn’t such a bad religion after all, and that b) Jesus was in many ways a regular guy, a “man of his time.” (I’m clearly in the wrong business, as there seems to be an insatiable and lucrative market for this kind of stuff.)

In his latest book, Zealot, Aslan rewrites the Jesus story based, as far as I can see, completely on a revisitionist interpretation of scripture—that is, on how he interprets what really happened to Jesus (he assumes, incontrovertibly, that Jesus was a historical person). There isn’t, of course, any extra-biblical information about Jesus that has any credibility, so I see Aslan’s tale as simply cherry-picked exegesis. As you’ll see in the piece below, Aslan’s “myths” about Jesus include mundane historical matters, but completely neglect important Christian issues like the virgin birth, the Resurrection, and Jesus’s miracles.

Ben was so exercised about the Post piece that, rather than simply borrow his ideas and anger about it, I asked him to write a guest post. Here it is:

Aslan’s Awkward Accommodations

by Ben Goren

A few years ago, The Squidly One observed that squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshiping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re “halfway to crazy town”. In his latest attempt at accommodating the posterior osculatory desires of the faithful, Reza Aslan offers himself up as the perfect example of what PZ was referring to.

In the piece, Aslan offers five fragments of factoids about Jesus that, he argues, are myths. In brief, he claims that these bits of received wisdom about Jesus are wrong, and tells us why:

  1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. There are no early mentions of the Nativity; conflicting prophecies led to conflicting birth narratives; and Luke latched onto the Census of Quirinius to have Joseph return with his family to Bethlehem. Aslan doesn’t offer an opinion as to the actual birthplace.
  2. Jesus was an only child. Dismissing the Catholic insistence on Mary’s perpetual virginity, Aslan uses the titles of “Brother” and “Sister” applied to a number of people in ancient Christian texts to claim that Jesus had at least four brothers and an unknown number of sisters.
  3. Jesus had 12 disciples. Jesus had many disciples. The Twelve were the Apostles.
  4. Jesus had a trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was too important to bother with a nobody like Jesus.
  5. Jesus was buried in a tomb. Petty criminals were never buried in tombs.

Yet, despite taking these huge swings at foundational and cherished elements of Jesus’s life, Aslan’s tone throughout the entire piece is one of a respectful teacher looking to further understanding of an important subject. The third-person pronouns referring to Jesus are all capitalized, and the fact and significance of His life are taken as givens.

Unfortunately for Aslan, this means that he’s surely pissed off both the Christians and the rationalists, as the thousands of responses to his piece would indicate.

As a professional trumpeter, I’ve performed in and sat through countless Christmas and Easter services at denominations across the spectrum. And I can’t recall a single one that didn’t make a big deal — often, a very big deal, with song and dance numbers and communal recitations — about both the Nativity in Bethlehem (O! Little Town!) at Christmas and the Empty Tomb (He Is Ris’n!) at Easter. But for Aslan, the Nativity was something that Luke just made up to tick off a checkbox on a list of prophecies to fulfill.

And, far worse for the Christians, he suggests that Jesus’s corpse would have been left on the Cross until its bones had been picked clean by dogs and crows…and the remains then tossed onto a trash heap. This, I believe, would constitute one of the most insulting blasphemies one could possibly direct at a Christian. While he’s certainly correct that that’s not an unreasonable fate for a rebel commando, Aslan completely ignores the central claim of Christianity that Jesus was something different, something more. That same glossing over of vital tenets of Christianity can be seen in his dismissal of the Trial and of the question of Jesus’s siblings.

At the same time that Aslan takes potshots at Christian dogma for its mythical origins, he also manages to concoct quite a few of his own whoppers. At the top of the list is his claim that Jesus was essentially a nobody, a rabble-rousing schmuck not worthy of any special attention. In reality, there are no ancient sources — not a single one — that describe Jesus as someone who could be easily overlooked. Though none could agree on who or what, exactly, he was, all were unanimous in their contention that he was the most important figure of the period, if not of all time. Yes, of course, there were scenes where, for dramatic effect, it took a paragraph or three for somebody to recognize Jesus or the significance of his actions or words; but, by the end of the story Jesus was always doing something mind-blowing.

The fundamental problem for Christianity, of course, is that this larger-than-life Jesus is all that we have in scripture or the few later documents that mention Jesus—but not a single contemporary or near-contemporary source mentions even a hint of anyone who could be remotely mistaken for Jesus or of any events even vaguely recognizable as the ones he precipitated. It’s as if The War of the Worlds actually happened as Mr. Wells documented it in 1898…and yet a complete review of the archives of The Times for the period 1890 – 1910 reveals no mention of strange happenings in Woking or anywhere else.

Even worse for the Christians is the fact that similar stories were legion, but involving other figures. Justin Martyr, possibly the earliest surviving Christian apologist, devoted much of his efforts at converting Pagans to describing, in excruciating detail, how dozens of popular and well-known Pagan demigods did the exact same things as Jesus. Indeed, by the time you subtract everything from Jesus’s biography that, according to Martyr, had a Pagan precedent, there literally isn’t anything left of Jesus at all.

And that’s where Aslan does violence to rationality. For the fact is that these four myths (and one dictionary nitpick) about Jesus are but the tip of the Myth Iceberg.

The real myth about Jesus,and the only one that matters, is that he’s anything more than than a myth.

And that’s where Aslan’s accommodationism has landed him. In staking out “neutral” ground between Christians and rationalists, he’s invented for himself yet another entirely new fantasy, one which isn’t merely inconsistent with the tenets of Christian belief, but which actively contradicts the only “evidence” which would support his position if weren’t filled with horror stories about zombies with a fetish for having their intestines fondled.

JAC note: This morning there were over 5000 comments on Aslan’s piece! I haven’t looked at them, but perhaps a diligent reader can give us a precis. Nothing sells like controversy.

72 thoughts on “Guest post: Reza Aslan schools us in the “myths” about Jesus

    1. Of course it happened. But the myth that it happened in England around 1898 is just a myth. A subtle piece of disinformation created by MSM and the Illuminati to draw attention away from the fact that it actually took place at Grover’s Mill, NJ in 1938 – or was it in California in the 1950s? Anyway the bacteria won as they always seem to.

  1. Jesus had a trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was too important to bother with a nobody like Jesus.

    Skipping over that there isn’t any significant evidence of Pilate’s life other than he existed as a prefect in Judea in the 1st C AD, it’s even worse; Jesus wasn’t a Roman so he wouldn’t get a trial. This is why Paul says “I’m a Roman”, as he wants to go to Rome & have a trial & if found guilty perhaps have not so nasty a sentence. Non citizens just got sentenced & a nasty death like crucifixion.

    I know Richard Carrier has been somewhat more generous to Aslan’s poor scholarship, saying that databases aren’t so great etc. but I think if you are writing an article and you are a scholar with access to other scholars, you ought to do better.

    1. Just the problems with the trial scene alone are enough to fill a book. Neither account in the Gospels can be reconciled with the other: in the one, Jesus heroically stands mute as he refuses to engage with an illicit mockery of justice; in the other, he waxes eloquently and at great length about the injustice of the system. Then there’s scandal by the court at every possible turn, from timing (interrupting Pesach) to the justices practically flinging poo. And a Roman prefect hemming and hawing and handing his responsibilities to a foreign mob and washing his hands of it? And not being killed on the spot by his own Centurions for such weakness?

      But wait! There’s more….


      1. ….and if course the Romans didn’t document this trial which seems a bit unusual given the amount of trials we have that are documented….there aren’t even references to this trial. It’s all fishy.

        1. The trial slipping through the cracks in Roman documents is understandable.

          What’s not understandable is Josephus failing to devote a chapter or three to it. If the actions of the court were even half as scandalous as the Gospels portray, it would have been gossip juicier than anything else Josephus wrote about.

          Imagine the OJ murder case being appealed to the Supreme Court, the justices themselves spitting on OJ as he was marched into the courtroom, and not a word about it appearing in the Weekly World News.


          1. I was on the fence until you won me over with the bit about the Weekly World News! When you put it that way, it does seem to incredible to believe. 😊

          2. I miss the Weekly World News. : (

            Oh, and great post and follow up comments. Glad you mentioned the intestines as that’s your signature. : )

  2. Point #5 – Jesus was buried in a tomb. Petty criminals were never buried in tombs.

    Whatever your opinion is about the historicity of the gospels, every gospel mentions Jesus being buried in the tomb of a KNOWN member of the Jewish Sanhedrin – Joseph of Arimathea. I agree, Jesus would not have been put in a tomb as a “common” criminal, but most non-Christian biblical scholars and historians understand that account to be trustworthy. Why mention a known member of the Jewish council at that time?

    1. …Maybe because Historical Fiction works better when you create an air of verismilitude. (I recall reading that Joseph of Arimathea is subtle play on words in Greek…)

      We have no evidence that the gospels are even referenced by the Christian community until the latter half of the Second Century. What we have was certainly heavily edited prior to general release.The writer of Luke clearly had a copy of Mark & Josephus’ writings on his lap as he crafted his tale.

      Accuracy or fear of crosschecking skeptics questioning the accounts would appear to have been a low priority for the Gospel writers.

      It’s all Historical, albeit pious, fiction.


      1. “…Maybe because Historical Fiction works better when you create an air of verismilitude.”

        A most telling point about the whole narrative, eheffa, together with the rest of your observation.

    2. Joseph of Arimathea is as well supported by history as the Wicked Witch of the West. “Arimathea” probably comes from “good disciple,” and the fact that the Sanhedrin had unanimously condemned Yesu that morning has had apologists twirling their thinking caps for 2000 years. To no avail: might as well ask why the Munchkins had no army.

  3. ” There isn’t, of course, any extra-biblical information about Jesus that has any credibility, so I see Aslan’s tale as simply cherry-picked exegesis.”

    For which Christians, in disagreeing with each other, have a handy word:

    “Eisegesis (from the Greek root εις, meaning into, in, among) is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas, reading into the text. This is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective. An individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, as someone who practices exegesis is known as an exegete. The term eisegete is often used in a mildly derogatory fashion.”

    I think all Christian Scriptural interpretation is that kind of projection, so it is nice to have a word for it.

  4. Aslan’s goal is surely to generate as much controversy as possible in order to sell his book, which appears to be working nicely. A friend of mine is reading it and is quite defensive when I suggest that Aslan doesn’t have any particular expertise in this field.

  5. Slightly OT, but …
    Ben, perhaps you’ll take on Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus”.
    Bill was on “60 Minutes” last night, and apparently feels he has a pipeline to the divine.

  6. Jerry, if you want to get on the gravy train, why not write an article on “Five Myths about Charles Darwin”? What was he really up to down there in Kent? What were the true nature of his ailments? Where was he in actual fact when he was alleged to be on board the Beagle? And what was the precise nature of his relationship with Captain Fitzroy? And did he rise from the dead and walk among men or not? No waffling please.

  7. Perhaps Aslan was invented by C.S. Lewis? The coincidence of his name being the same as the Jesus-lion in those horrible books is surely a sign of something.

    1. As kid, I was big into science fiction and stumbled upon “Out of the Silent Planet” in my church library. I found the book pretty freaky, although at the time I might have been hard pressed to tell you why. I think it was due to the inherent contradiction between the rationality underlying most science fiction with the superstition of the Christian theme. Perhaps that book was my first step on the road to atheism? Thank you CS Lewis.

      1. The first one was barely okay – but ugh what a terrible trilogy. Frankly, even as a nonbeliever I liked Lewis’ straight up apologetics better. The Great Divorce and Screwtape Letters were both better reads than those three.

        1. “Screwtape Letters”. Ugg. I found that book incredibly manipulative and irritating. Made me determined never to waste another moment on C. S. Lewis.

          1. In 7th grade I mentioned to a sibling away at college I had no belief in a deity. Next visit home I was loaned “Screwtape”. “The Age of Reason” and “Letters From Earth” were already open on my bedside table. About a dozen pages into Lewis’s book, it landed permanently in the unread pile as I returned to the stuff that contained meaning for me. There is much more of Twain’s work I prefer, though, I must say. “Letters” is something of a slog compared to, say, “Journalism in Tennessee.”

    2. Funny. Both Lewis and Aslan love to either endorse or apologize for all the Christian centric ideas. The prejudice and pretension and the history-is-so-important ideas makes me ill.

      People who read these books should just go outside and live for today.

  8. You guys just don’t get it, do you?

    Aslan has already won this argument. He has already defined the argument in a way that leaves him the winner and exposes us as “profoundly unsophisticated.”

    He sweeps the rug out from under with the claim that the accuracy of religious accounts, the truth, does not matter. And how silly of you to suppose that it should! No, the important thing is the meaning to be divined by each of us from religious accounts.

    You know! Religious accounts are expressions of humanities experiences with the numinous, the divine! Sort of like the stories told after a hit of acid or a sampling of peyote.

    I think the key issue that needs to be addressed with Aslan is that the accuracy of religious accounts, stories, myths, and claims actually are very important right here in real life because these things affect peoples behavior in particular ways that are detrimental to not only themselves and perhaps immediate victims, but to society as a whole.

    And sure, there are other things for which such a claim can be made. So what?

    Good post Ben Goren, thanks.

    1. Oops. My “joke” tags went missing.

      And would you believe “humanity’s” instead of “humanities.” Can’t figure out if I should blame my fingers or my brain.

    2. Aslan explaining his doublethink on the Daily Show:
      (A is Aslan, O is John Oliver)

      A: They didn’t realize that “wait, the infancy narratives in Matthew, and, and Luke don’t match”, that Jesus is crucified on a completely different day in John than he is, in, in the other gospels. Of course they knew that, but they didn’t care because thi- this idea of literalism; that the Bible is literally true is a incredibly new phenomenon.
      O: Right, but that, but that’s what’s interesting, because it’s not just that they didn’t care, but that they, that they were not intended to be read literally.
      A: They were not intended to do that.
      O: They would not have wanted people to go, “oh, yeah, so that was exactly the point, I get it”. Uh, no, no, no, it’s a broad- I’m trying to illustrate a broader truth with this kind of lie.
      A: I’ll give you one example of this.
      O: Huh, yeah.
      A: “Lie” is the wrong word. “Lie” is the wrong word.
      O: Well, I don’t know, born in Bethlehem, would be a lie.
      A: Ee-
      O: Because-
      A: It would be factually incorrect.
      O: [Laughs]. Okay. [Laughs]
      O: Yeah.
      A: So, so, okay, what you’re saying, this is exactly right.
      O: Well, I see. Yeah.
      A: Which i- which i-, so, the story you were talking about is the story that Luke says which is that in 6 C.E. there was this census all over the Roman world and that, and what the census said was that every s-, every subject of Rome had to get up from where they were living and go to the, the birthplace of, of their father, and wait there, and be counted.
      O: Right.
      A: Well, we know a lot about Roman, uh, taxation, uh, because they were very good at documenting, documentation,
      O: Oh, and if,
      A: …at the time of Jesus for taxation. They were…
      O: if nothing else, Romans were stickless for paperwork.
      A: really good, they were great, really serious for papyrus work. Um, but, so we know for a fact, two things, one, there was no such census in Galilee, which is where Jesus lived, (there was in Judea, but not in Galilee), and, two, the idea that every once in a while, every subject of Rome had to uproot themselves and their families, travel who knows how many miles to the land of their father’s birth, and then sit there and wait for a Roman official to come and count them
      and their property, which they left in their place of residence…
      O: [Laughs]
      A: anyway, is ridiculous.
      O: Yeah, well, when you put it like that…
      A: But, but here’s the important thing. Here’s the important thing. Luke knew what he was writing…
      O: Right.
      A: was factually…
      O: Right.
      A: incorrect.
      O: Right.
      A: The audience, the, the readers of Luke’s gospel…
      O: That’s the point.
      A: knew that what he was writing didn’t actually happen. They weren’t interested in facts, they were interested in truth. The truth that is revealed from this story is that Jesus is born in the city of David and therefore he’s the, the inheritor of David’s kingdom and he is the anointed Messiah. But, the fact is that Jesus was probably born in Nazareth, I mean, if there’s one thing that everybody seem to have agreed upon, his enemies and his followers, is that he was a Nazarean.

      1. That is so Sophisticated™. Aslan should be proud. He is ready to take his place among such Sophisticates™ as William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga and JP Moreland.

  9. This debate is not new; it’s been going on for a long time. Higher (aka historical) criticism goes back to 18th century. I just finished reading G.A. Wells: The Jesus Myth and Bart Ehrman’s: Lost Christianities (Lecture) among other sources – then read the NT in the order evidenced to be written – there is no way to separate fact from fiction (fantasy). Any gleaned or imputed fact about “Jesus” does not in any way give credence to the fiction. It’s all made up folk’s – same applies to Islam. Researching the Jesus myth did give me insight, however, as to how a hoax, perpetrated by Joseph Smith, could flourish into a spin-off religion.
    We human’s so want to be special, in the image of God, but in fact, we are just animated mud (Gen.2:7) shaped like God, I guess. Such is the price of self-awareness – self-delusion.

      1. “…was taken in adultery in Armenia and got a sound thrashing, but finally jumped down from the roof and made his escape, with a radish stopping his vent.”

        I was giggling like a schoolboy.

        1. I would take my oath to it that no one of the gods would be angry if Peregrinus should die a rogues death. Moreover, it is not easy for him to withdraw now, for his Cynic associates are urging him on and pushing him into the fire and inflaming his resolution; they will not let him shirk it. If he should pull a couple of them into the fire along with him when he jumps in, that would be the only nice thing about his performance.

          Replace ‘Peregrinus’ with “Boehner”, ‘Cynic’ with “Tea Party”, and ‘a couple of them into the fire’ with “the lot of them …”, and my personal sentiments about last night’s HoR action’s are summed up quite nicely.

  10. I read Aslans book. Now I regret I wasted the time. The only clarification that has emerged for me is that the stuff in the gospels is bullbleep and any alleged “historical” account of those times is to be viewed with suspicion.

  11. (I’m clearly in the wrong business, as there seems to be an insatiable and lucrative market for this kind of stuff.)…Nothing sells like controversy.

    From the News Hour interview of Aslan concerning his book, in which he was cited as a “scholar,” it seemed apparent that Aslan is a very slick con man. He will surely make lotsa dough from this book, and he will surely be laughing all the way to the bank. And last night, while watching 60 Minutes, I learned that Bill O’Reilly, a devout Catholic, has also jumped on the Jesus gravy train by writing the book Killing Jesus. O’Reilly claimed that the idea for the book came in a dream, a clear sign that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The interviewer seemed to imply that many will see the inspiration as natural for an inveterate money grubber (O’Reilly annual income was indicated to be $20 million).

  12. My current read is a collection of responses to Ehrman’s latest anti-mythologist book (Did Jesus Exist?)

    They collectively rip him to shreds personally and knock his “arguments” off the shelf. I would like to think that an Elvis-type cult leader was behind what became Christianity but the more you know the harder it is to believe. In the end the argument for Jesus is the same as the argument for God: if it’s conceivable it’s reasonable to believe it.

    *rolls eyes*

    1. You might be interested in reading some well crafted rebuttals to Bart Ehrman’s back handed dismissal of the Mythicist case.


      or here:

      Lots of food for thought on this Vridar site in terms of how one can consider the Mythicist question without jumping to conclusions…


    2. …if it’s conceivable it’s reasonable to believe it.

      Actually, the less conceivable it is, the more virtuous you are for believing it anyway.

    3. One of Ehrman’s arguments for historicity is that Paul refers to “James, the brother of the Lord”. Richard Carrier’s attempts to refute this evidence are very weak. He tries to make something of the fact that Paul says “brother of the Lord” rather than “brother of Jesus”. There is no reason to think that “brother of the Lord” is an unnatural way to refer to a biological brother. Consider an analogy: William is the future king of England and Harry is his brother. When William becomes king Harry will be known as the brother of the king, not as the brother of William.

      “Brother of the Lord” might mean something other than a biological brother but Carrier’s attempts to show this are pure speculation. He suggests that all Christians might be known as “brothers of the Lord”. It would be easy to prove this. If Paul had said something like this: “We are all brothers of the Lord”, or “I met many brothers of the Lord”, then that would prove Carrier’s point. Unfortunately, Paul never said anything like that.

      1. If Paul had said something like this: We are all brothers of the Lord, or I met many brothers of the Lord, then that would prove Carriers point. Unfortunately, Paul never said anything like that.

        Paul might never have written the words you wish he had, but, as Aslan points out as one of his myths, the label was quite common. Aslan takes it to mean that Jesus literally had at least four biological brothers (whom he names) plus an indeterminate number of biological sisters, but the much more obvious conclusion is that the ancient meaning of the term is the same as it remains today.



        1. Ben, you say that the label was quite common. Presumably, you mean that the term “brother” was common. That’s true. The first Christians called each other “brother”. That doesn’t mean that they called each other “brother of the lord”.

          In fact, the problem for mythicism is even more serious. Even if they thought of themselves as “brothers of the lord”, the context in which Paul used the term argues against that interpretation.

          Consider another analogy: nuns are “sisters”. They are also “brides of Christ”. The terms are used in different contexts. If I met a nun called Mary I might say that I met “sister Mary”. I wouldn’t say that I met “Mary,the bride of Christ”.

          1. Thomas, as I noted, even Aslan cited several examples. So, either Mary had more children than Joe Smith had wives, or it was a title.

            Of course, we’re also talking about a set of entirely fictional characters, so the whole point is quite moot. Luke Skywalker could well have a dozen brothers and sisters, not just Leia; so what?



            1. Ben, when you said that the term was common I thought you meant that brother was a commonly used metaphorical term. What you were actually referring to was the claim in Mark’s gospel that Jesus had four brothers. That is, of course, no more evidence that Jesus existed than the claim that Hercules had a brother is evidence that Hercules existed.

              What I was referring to was the debate between mythicists and historicists about something Paul said in his letter to the Galatians. He said that he met Cephas and no one else except “James, the brother of the Lord” (Gal. 1:19). Virtually all New Testament scholars see this as a reference to a biological brother of Jesus. Mythicists like Richard Carrier need to show that it doesn’t mean that.

              If they can do that convincingly I will happily believe that Jesus didn’t exist. But so far I think the arguments have been very unconvincing.

              1. I will observe that it is passing strange when belief in the existence of a particular human being, claimed to have lived thousands of years ago, whose existence wasn’t written about for (minimally) more than a hundred years afterwords can be made or broken on the basis of three words. And such unremarkable words, at that.

                Talk about a house of cards.

              2. Beat me to it.

                Paul met Jesus only in a self-described hallucination and made powerfully clear that that’s the only way anybody else ever met Jesus, as well. And we’re arguing over whether his writing about also meeting Jesus’s brother does anything to help establish Jesus as an historical figure?


              3. G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert Price and Richard Carrier have all tried to argue that the term “brother of the lord” has a metaphorical meaning. It seems that they have missed the obvious explanation: Paul imagined that he met someone called James.

  13. I’ve always thought it strange that the Christ Myth Theory is often considered utterly unconscionable, akin to the very worst excesses of atheistic axe-grinding, whereas interpretations such as Aslan’s revolutionary Jesus, or Ehrman’s apocalyptic Jesus are viewed as pretty reasonable, even though they’re as DEVASTATING to the truth claims of Christianity as any myth theory.

    Personally, I think the original Pauline Christ figure had (and still has) a certain nobility about it (not that I believe in it, mind you). By placing the whole business in a spiritual environment it is safely secure from being falsified and can therefore become an article of faith of some kind. IMO, once you start introducing a supposed historical Jesus taking part in supposed historical events, the whole thing becomes a weird euhemerised hybrid that seems somewhat absurd, precisely because it’s a rationalization of something that’s patently mythical.

    One must certainly admit that the revolutionary Jesus, or apocalyptic Jesus, or Cynic Jesus or Rabbi/teacher Jesus are perfectly plausible interpretations considering what we know about the Palestinian world at the turn of the Common Era. But they are only arrived at by drastically rewriting the gospel narratives to the point that they’re unrecognizable to what they were originally. Perhaps it’s wiser to appreciate the texts for what they actually say, rather than rationalizing them to make them more palatable to our modern historical consciousness.

  14. A most insightful post, Ben. A deal more erudite and consonant with the evidence, or lack thereof, than Aslan’s piece. It is without doubt a most gratuitous take on the jesus myth and for no other purpose than generating controversy. His account is more a mark silly polemics than anything one would deem scholarly.

  15. Aslan is a walking, talking, writing hypocrite. He is a professor of Creative Writing at UC, Riverside where he can safely write overtly blasphemous Christian fiction and become a millionaire.

    Please Reza, visit Saudi Arabia and go on a book tour explaining how the Prophet Mohammed wasn’t born in Mecca, show them your collections of Mohammed comic strips, and go on Al Jezeera with your teddy bear named after the Prophet. Please show us all the tolerant side of the religion of peace!

    He is SO lucky that the days of the Christian “fatwa” have long since receded in American history.

  16. Great to see Azlan called out for what he is: an apologist for Islam and Iran, a phony philospher pitching untrue credentials. His book hit #1 on NYT list, so he’s laughing all the way to the bank, unfortunately.

  17. In all his “research” Aslan seems to have missed something. Around the time of Jesus’ alleged birth, Bethlehem had become a ghost town. Not only was there no room at the inn, there was no inn. (Source: a PBS documentary a few years back titled, Digging for Jesus sets forth the archeological evidence for that time and place.)

  18. So what’s the evidence for the existence of 95% of the people who are mentioned in the Christian Scriptures? Or for Socrates or Plato or Aristotle or Plotinus or Iamblichus or whoever in the ancient world? Maybe those authors all wrote under psuedonymns, and we only ‘know’ a few emperors and such. The question for the Jesus as Myth theorists is what is the evidentiary value for the existence of Jesus verses most other people who lived in the ancient world? Rather high. Just because you prefer not to acknowledge the existence of the reality of the sacred and the holy and its personal manifestation in the world, and of its claims upon your falsely professed existential autonomy, and it happens to make you uncomfortable in the unexamined depths of your soul, doesn’t mean that that person doesn’t exist.

    1. We have scads of both literary (several different ancient sources) and archaeological evidence that Socrates existed and lots of other historic figures like Cicero and all the emperors – many minted their own coins(FYI, it is more than a few – see here for the big list, starting with my man, Augustus). Romans kept good records. If we look at just Cicero for example, who grew up during both the Republic and the Empire, records of his existence are found because like all Roman citizens, he was expected to take various form of office at the allowed age (different Roman offices has different age restrictions). His birth is recorded, his family lines are recorded (important for knowing if you are eligible for office) so we know when he was consul, when he was quaester, when he was praetor, his public speeches are preserved (some are partials and some are lost but referenced), we even know he was a novus homo (a big deal since he had no political background and new men didn’t get jobs like this normally).

      We know that he was involved with exposing the Catline conspiracies. We know from the writings of Augustus that (while still Octavian) he was saddened that because of Anthony’s animus toward him, he went along with him being killed – we have evidence of his proscribed (because those proscriptions exist).

      So, in other words, there is a lot of evidence as to the existence of Cicero not from just one book, but from multiple ancient sources surrounding Cicero.

      With Jesus – not so. The only real source we have is the Bible which has a lot of mistakes in it as it is.

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