Below is a quote from Richard Dawkin’s interview in the September 2012 edition of “Playboy,” in which he questions the existence of Jesus Christ as a historical figure. It’s nice that Dawkins has apparently been appraised of Earl Doherty’s important work on the Pauline epistles, but there is MUCH more to mythicist studies than just a single aspect of the analysis. If “Playboy” wants an expert on Jesus mythicism, they should come to me. (No, I will not pose, as I’m not into doing a Joan Collins reprise.)
The commentary is better framed not as “the evidence for Jesus’s existence is surprisingly shaky” but that “the evidence points to the ‘Jesus Christ’ of the New Testament as a fictional composite of characters, real and mythical. A composite of multiple ‘people’ is no one.”
Moreover, anyone who has studied the religion, mythology and philosophy of antiquity knows that there is nothing morally novel or advanced in the New Testament that could not be found in pre-Christian times. What the composers of the New Testament have done is cherry-picked ancient ideas and reworked them to revolve around a fictional character in order to further their agenda.
In addition, it can be shown – as I have done in my book Who Was Jesus? – that the supposedly stellar moral character of Jesus Christ as depicted in the NT is not what it is cracked up to be.
It is HIGHLY refreshing, however, that this subject is being aired in a mainstream publication. And you know we’ve really progressed when “Playboy” has become a mainstream publication.
PLAYBOY: What is your view of Jesus?
DAWKINS: The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.
Dawkins’s comments are also refreshing in consideration of the fact that not long ago he was making remarks such as the following, when asked about the short and simplified summary of the Jesus mythicist position in the film “Zeitgeist”:
I am deeply suspicious of this video. I think there are SOME revealing similarities between the Jesus myth, and the other god myths mentioned. But there are surely not as many similarities as are alleged here. For example, all those gods being born on “December 25th.” That would be an amazingly powerful weapon against Christianity if it were true, but it is surely not true. Our system of naming dates didn’t even exist when some of those god myths arose. This cavalier use of “December 25th” is just one example. I am suspicious of many other details on similar grounds. The whole film has the air of something made up, in pursuit of an anti-Christian agenda (with which I happen to sympathize) but with almost complete disregard for truth, which I fear parallels the lies told by religious apologists.
Although Dawkins is evidently referring to the entire film,* it is utterly fallacious and calumnious to assert that the short and concise summary in the first or religion part (“ZG1.1”) has an “almost complete disregard for truth.” Each of the main contentions in ZG1.1 concerning Jesus mythicism can be documented with primary sources and works of credentialed authorities, as in my ZEITGEIST Sourcebook.
Here Dawkins displays that he is unaware of numerous parallels between the Christ myth and many gods and goddesses in pre-Christian antiquity, stretching around the world and dating back thousands of years. As I say, there is much more to the subject, including a large body of mythicist literature over the past several centuries. If one wishes to be considered an expert on the subject of Jesus mythicism, one will need to study this literature, which includes primary sources in numerous languages as well as scientific scholarship from authorities since antiquity into modern times.
Dawkins is also indicating that he has not understood the terminology of “December 25th” to refer to the winter solstice, a time of celebration that extends back into remote antiquity and most assuredly was reworked by Christian doctrine in order to combine the extremely popular sun god or solar deity myths with the Jewish “messianic prophecies” found in the Old Testament and other pre-Christian and proto-Christian writings. This aspect of ancient religion and mythology in which the sun god/solar deity is “born” or “resurrected” at the winter solstice is readily understandable, and this fact of numerous gods “born” at this time was discussed in antiquity, as it was extremely well known and, in fact, represented one of the focal points of ancient religious traditions in many parts of the world. One must wonder how Dawkins fails to know that the winter solstice represents the birth of the sun in traditions globally for the past several thousand years, commemorated as the days become longer and the sunlight increases on a daily basis.
(* Note that I had nothing to do with the creation of the “Zeitgeist” film. That is Peter Joseph’s vision. I was a last-minute consultant on the first part. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with parts 2 and 3, the fact is that ZG was the vehicle for which a possible 200 million or more people worldwide in a variety of languages have now become aware of Jesus mythicist studies. No other medium in history has accomplished such a feat.)
Dawkins: Islam is ‘one of the great evils in the world’
Richard Dawkins on ZEITGEIST, Part 1
Rebuttal to Chris Forbes regarding ZEITGEIST
When Was the First Christmas?
What is a Mythicist?
Did Jesus Fulfill Prophecy?
Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Killed and Resurrected after Three Days
Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Crucified and Resurrected after Three Days
Mithra: Born on December 25th
Was Horus Born on December 25th?