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Old 04-13-2004, 02:00 PM   #1
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A Believing Christian Who Thinks Christ did not exist?

I'm dying to hear what people have to say about this one! I find it strange that he could still be a "believing Christian" and not think the historical Christ existed! The Egyptian stuff is interesting though

The greatest myth ever told

Religion writer and former Anglican priest Tom Harpur admits he's sticking his neck out for proffering that someone named Jesus never walked this Earth, RAY CONLOGUE writes


It is disconcerting, to say the least, for Canada's best-known religion writer to decide that Jesus Christ did not exist.

That is the contention of Tom Harpur's new book, The Pagan Christ. The former Anglican priest and Toronto Star religion editor for the past 35 years, has come to believe that there was never a man named Jesus, and that most of the miracles and wonders ascribed to him in the New Testament did not happen.

Even more astonishing, he argues that most of the Christ story was borrowed by the early church from ancient religions, which the church then suppressed in "the greatest cover-up of all time."

The chief religion to be ransacked was that of Egypt, already 3,000 years old when Christianity was founded. Egypt, he writes, supplied the "virgin birth, a star in the east, three wise men bearing gifts, the evil power that tries to take a special child's life, and angelic messengers." The Egyptian hieroglyph KRST, meaning the anointed one, was applied to the deity Horus, who was born of a mortal woman and later crucified between two thieves.

And yet -- for all this -- Harpur is still a believing Christian. "I'm not interested in debunking," says the white-haired 70-plus Harpur, who has already been attacked by an assortment of prominent fundamentalists. "I want to help see the church through this century. Right now it's in crisis. The book tries to provide a fresh vision."

He considers the popularity of Mel Gibson's Passion movie a demonstration of how unhealthily dependent people have become on a historic Jesus who never existed.

In Harpur's view, the core message that Christianity shares with the other great religions of the Middle East is that God has given every human being a spark of divinity, which can be realized through spiritual struggle. The Egyptians symbolized this in a deity they called "Iusa" (which possibly later became the name Jesus) and wove a mythology of stories about his painful transformation into a human being. But neither the Egyptians, nor the Persians who possessed a similar mythology, ever claimed that such a person really existed. "The truth was always esoteric," Harpur says. "It was symbolized in the stories, but it wasn't history."

There is evidence that the early church fathers shared the view that there was no historic Jesus. But some time in the third and fourth centuries, Harpur argues, it was decided that a historic Jesus would give the new faith a distinctive quality not possessed by the powerful pagan faiths it was competing with. The many gospels and early writings that reflected the old, symbolic view of Jesus were suppressed, and the few -- four, to be exact -- that claimed he had actually lived were retained.

How did a man trained as a priest, who taught New Testament theology for many years, and defended it for decades in his newspaper column, come to such a drastic re-appraisal of his beliefs?

Harpur says he had been troubled for many years by illogicalities in the New Testament, such as the claim that Jesus was tried before three different courts during the single night of the Passion. He was also dismayed to discover while teaching theology at the University of Toronto that a couple of buildings away the very devout scholar Northrop Frye was teaching his students that any accurate history found in the Bible was only there by accident.

By 1990, when he wrote Finding the Still Point, Harpur had come to believe that the story of a Jesus who walked around Galilee performing magic had become an obstacle to people searching for the deep meaning of Christianity. "It was a leading of the spirit. But I didn't know that a book like The Pagan Christ was down the road."

The final blow to his old beliefs arrived in his mailbox a couple of years ago.

"People have always sent me their manuscripts for one religious book or another, since I am a religion editor," he explains. "One day, about 2 years ago, I got a manuscript from a guy who wrote: 'You might be open to this.' It was about a writer named Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who I had never read."

Kuhn was an American scholar of ancient Middle Eastern languages who died in 1963. While studying the vast body of Egyptian writings, Kuhn had been perturbed by occasional, oddly familiar passages. A poem in honour of Horus, for example, would begin with the words, "He was despised and shunned by men, a man of pain who knew what sickness was."

Kuhn recorded these similarities to New Testament language, and soon had a list of many hundreds of passages.

He was not, of course, the first to notice these oddities. Almost from the time it was possible to decipher the hieroglyphs, in the early 1800s, scholars were aware of them. Religious authorities decided that they merely "foreshadowed" the truth of Christianity, and few experts dared to disagree. Even Wallis Budge, the British Museum's Egyptian authority in the early 20th century, amassed volumes of research showing that pretty much the whole New Testament was in the hieroglyphs. But he dutifully concluded that it was just "foreshadowing."

Only a few scholars have come out and said flatly that Christianity is an evolution of the old "pagan" religions: Godfrey Higgins and Gerald Massey in the 19th century, and Alvin Kuhn in the 20th.

Reading Kuhn's books finally persuaded Harpur to set aside the historic Jesus. But it was a lengthy and painful process of wrestling both with Kuhn's evidence and with his own past. "I was raised with the idea of being saved 'in Jesus's arms,' " says Harpur, whose own parents were fundamentalist Christians. "So I know the Scriptures the way the fundamentalists know them."

Is he afraid of being shunned by believers, especially his fellow Anglicans?

"Well, you need a community. And it will be very painful, there will be grief for people who are seized by the cogency of my case but are wedded to the comfort of traditional faith. There's a personal grieving process if you're going to do this. But I am committed to doing as the Spirit leads me."

Kuhn, after a lifetime of writing and arguing and giving speeches in support of his ideas, was studiously ignored by Christian scholars and his books were forgotten the day that he died. Does Harpur fear the same might happen to him?

"I don't think so. We're living in a different time now. Ideas are disseminated on the Internet, and the control of the mainstream religions over the public conversation is much weaker than it was only 40 years ago."

He also believes that the millions of people who have abandoned mainstream religion in recent decades did so partly because it has become hard to believe in a magical god/man who changes water to wine and brings the dead back to life. "The things I'm saying don't downgrade the Jesus story. Instead, they save us from this plodding tale of a magic wonder worker, which is so hard for modern people to believe."

Of course, even as millions have left the churches, millions more have declared themselves believers in a fiercely and literally historic Jesus. These are the fundamentalists who watch religious television, such as 100 Huntley Street. That show has already invited a Christian expert on air to savage Harpur's book. "It was a guy I've never met who kept repeating, 'I love you, Tom Harpur.' Of course, they didn't invite me on the program."

Not to mention the millions who are flocking to see the violently literal rendition of Christ's passion in Mel Gibson's movie. "It is simply grotesque, that movie," says Harpur, although he acknowledges that the publishers of The Pagan Christ moved up the publication date in order to take advantage of the oceans of media attention generated by the film.

"The rise of fundamentalism is because we live in scary times," Harpur says. "The appeal of the absolute is very great. The idea that we are the winning side. The kind of language [President] Bush is using to justify killing Iraqis."

In Harpur's view, the insistence on Jesus's literal existence is the main obstacle to reconciliation between Christianity and the other great religions, none of which relies on a literal god-man as a founder. "How will we ever escape the impasse of a billion and a half people who say that they possess the exclusive truth. [Theologian] Hans Kung has said we can never have world peace until that is resolved."

But what exactly will be left of Christianity if it loses the figure of Jesus Christ?

"It will be a more mystical religion," Harpur says. "But not less practical. After all, this business of letting Jesus do it for you doesn't look so good after what we've seen in the past 2,000 years."


http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/...//?query=egypt
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:41 PM   #2
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Old 04-13-2004, 04:08 PM   #3
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Sorry I'm at work and don't have time to read the article quite yet, but my first reaction would be what's the point of being "christian" if you don't believe in Christ?

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Old 04-13-2004, 04:38 PM   #4
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This is so strange. I mean, yeah, hell and other Christian beliefs also pop up in other religions, but I don't understand how he can consider himself a Christian if he doesn't even believe that Jesus *existed*. The people who argue that there wasn't a historical Jesus have generally been skeptics.
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Old 04-13-2004, 05:40 PM   #5
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OK,,,,,

I think he is correct in looking at the evidence, but he is incorrect at his conclusions.

There are many who believe that things were added to the Christ tradition long after Christ walked the earth. Religions spread to other areas of the planet very often assimilate parts of other religions. This is true of Christianity as well. The for that we practice, very clearly is not the form that was spread by the disciples.

Examples.....religious paintings with the halo around the saints head is Egyption influence if my fading memory serves me correct.

The early church celebrated the sabbath on Saturday, not Sunday, roman influence.

Some believe that some of the miracles professed to have been done by Jesus were written in long after the original disciples were gone to prove that Jesus was a deity.

The trinity, a concept that I have a difficulty believing, is by many peoples standards and excuse for polytheism.

I do believe Christ walkd the Earth though.
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Old 04-13-2004, 05:56 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Dreadsox


I do believe Christ waled the Earth though.
Sometimes it needs a good waling. It's about time he came down and waled on it some more.
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Old 04-13-2004, 07:19 PM   #7
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


Sometimes it needs a good waling. It's about time he came down and waled on it some more.


My question for him would be why waste your time being a Christian? That would be like me saying I am a big baseball fan even though there is no such thing.
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Old 04-13-2004, 09:16 PM   #8
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It's a confusing subject, that's for sure. I often do believe that the various religions of the world are interconnected, for some reason or another.

I tend to be on a similar vein to Dreadsox on this one.

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Old 04-13-2004, 09:19 PM   #9
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Originally posted by Ft. Worth Frog

My question for him would be why waste your time being a Christian? That would be like me saying I am a big baseball fan even though there is no such thing.
That's because you have a narrow view of Christianity. I think that Harpur's view is more gnostic, and I think that many of the gnostics were perfectly contented with a non-literal Jesus, as I don't believe that many of them believed that He ever existed either.

Either way, I'm not being judgmental. Harpur's view just tends to be on the fringe of academia, which most people, Christian or non-Christian, will never approach.

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Old 04-13-2004, 10:19 PM   #10
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OK, here's what I think:

Isn't there historical proof that Jesus did exist? Aren't there documents from the Romans that even mention His crucifixion, and don't scholars agree that the historical Jesus did exist?

How can the Egyptians say this deity was crucified when it was the Romans who invented crucifixion?

Also, wouldn't what Harpur is saying discredit Judaism and even Islam? The Old Testament mentions the Messiah, and from what I understand, even the Koran says Jesus existed and was born of a virgin.

I think those hieroglyphs had to be foreshadowing. Maybe the Egyptians somehow foresaw Jesus. I do think God reveals Himself in various religions, too, and I think He revealed Jesus to the Egyptians, and this is how it came out. I mean, their religion wasn't monotheistic, so they wouldn't view God the same way.

I'm sure Jesus did exist, and most certainly think He was more than just an ordinary preacher. I think true faith comes from personal experience and I don't think Harpur really had it if he lost it so easily. It seems he believed out of fear, and because he was told to. It doesn't look like he firmly believed in Christ on his own.
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Old 04-13-2004, 10:42 PM   #11
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I'm with Dreadsox, Melon and Pearl. He's definitely on the fringe of academia.

Alot of religions and myths bear similarities to Christianity and to the Christ story. He doesn't bring any up. Why doesn't he discredit them, surely they are built on a lie as well?

Has anyone else heard this about the Egyptians? I'm not an expert in mythology and only know bits and pieces of Egyptian myth, but I've never heard of Horus being crucified. The resurrection myth has always been built around Osiris, and while different kingdoms emphasized different themes within the Egyptian religion, I've never heard this version before.

The one religion I've always heard as the example of "look what Christians stole," is the religion/church of Mithras. That's pretty common knowledge, so I find it odd that these Egyptian myths don't come up in conjunction with that. But I'm not qualified to judge, I'm just really, really curious and I hope someone can illuminate this further!

I think he's just as guilty of fervent belief and ignoring evidence as he claims the Church is and he's more eager to hit a large, controversial target than anything else. I believe there was a historic Jesus and that he was a prophet. I also believe that the similarities of so many myths and faiths speaks to a higher truth, whatever you may believe it is and whatever form it takes for you. That's something I think he's lost sight of.
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Old 04-13-2004, 10:49 PM   #12
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Originally posted by AvsGirl41
The one religion I've always heard as the example of "look what Christians stole," is the religion/church of Mithras. That's pretty common knowledge, so I find it odd that these Egyptian myths don't come up in conjunction with that. But I'm not qualified to judge, I'm just really, really curious and I hope someone can illuminate this further!
I do not believe that the Christian's stole it.

I think that Constantine for political reasons chose Christianity and then molded it into what he wanted to make it acceptable to the empire.

What came out of it is NOT what the "Christians" were practicing.

I actually view it as the Roman Empire stole Christianity. Then persecuted the Christians that did not conform to the new "Roman Church".

But that is my view.
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Old 04-13-2004, 11:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox


I do not believe that the Christian's stole it.

I think that Constantine for political reasons chose Christianity and then molded it into what he wanted to make it acceptable to the empire.

What came out of it is NOT what the "Christians" were practicing.

I actually view it as the Roman Empire stole Christianity. Then persecuted the Christians that did not conform to the new "Roman Church".

But that is my view.

I'm not saying the Christians stole it, either.

My question was regarding Harpur's argument and sources in conjunction with what myths and religious I'm familiar with, which is admittedly very little.

The Roman adoption and corruption of the faith is something a bit different altogether, though certainly connected.
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Old 04-13-2004, 11:23 PM   #14
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[Q]In the rites of Dionysus, a bull (or a goat) was often sacrificed, and worshippers ate the flesh and drank the blood of the animal as a surrogate for the god.[/Q]

Does this sound familiar?
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Old 04-13-2004, 11:30 PM   #15
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[Q]Phrygia (aka Anatolia = modern Turkey)
The worship of Cybele and Attis dated back centuries in Phrygia before it was imported to Rome in 204 BC.

Roman writers mentioning the religion include: Lucretius (lived 98 - 54 BC), Catullus (86 -40 BC), Varro (116 - 28 BC), and Dionysus Halicarnasensis (first century BC).

Attis predated Christ. Before and during the years the Christian Gospels were written (from the reign of Claudius, AD 41 - 54) the Festival of Joy, celebrated Attis' death and rebirth was celebrated yearly in Rome.
A Christian writer of the fourth century AD, recounted ongoing disputes between Pagans and Christians over the remarkable similarities of the death and resurrection of their two Gods. The Pagans argued that their God was older and therefore original. The Christians admitted Christ came later, but claimed Attis was a work of the devil whose similarity to Christ, and the fact he predated Christ, were intended to confuse and mislead men. This was apparently the stock answer -- the Christian apologist Tertullian makes the same argument.

Birth Attis was born of the Virgin Nana on December 25th. He was both the Father and the Divine Son.

The Festival of Joy -- the celebration of Attis' death and rebirth
On March 22 a pine tree was brought to the sanctuary of Cybele, on it hung the effigy of Attis. The God was dead. Two days of mourning followed, but when night fell on the eve of the third day, March 25th, the worshippers turned to joy. "For suddenly a light shone in the darkness; the tomb was opened; the God had risen from the dead...[and the priest] softly whispered in their ears the glad tidings of salvation. The resurrection of the God was hailed by his disciples as a promise that they too would issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave." [for more see Frazer, Attis, chapter 1]

Attis' worshipers at a sacramental meal of bread and wine. The wine represented the God's blood; the bread became the body of the savoir.

They were baptized in this way: a bull was placed over a grating, the devotee stood under the grating. The bull was stabbed with a consecrated spear. "It's hot reeking blood poured in torrents through the apertures and was received with devout eagerness by the worshiper...who had been born again to eternal life and had washed away his sins in the blood of the bull." [for more see Frazer, Attis, chapter 1]

Called "the Good Sheppard," the "Most High God," the "Only Begotten Son" and "Savior."

[In Rome the new birth and the remission of sins by shedding of bull's blood took place on what is now Vatican Hill, in our days the site of the great basilica of St. Peter's]
[/Q]

I do not claim this site to be accurate...but here is the link.

http://home.earthlink.net/~pgwhacker...roduction.html
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