A Miscellany 210
The God Who Wasn't There
Originally posted on the UCTAA Discussion Board
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I just bought (and watched) a DVD called "The God Who Wasn't There". It's a very interesting (if a little amateurishly produced) documentary on the historical origins of the figure of Jesus Christ. The film maker, Brian Flemming, claims that the Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults. He argues that the person referred to in the new Testament is just a re-working of similar archetypes such as Osirus (Egypt), Dionysus (Greece), Attis (Asia Minor), Adonis (Syria), Bacchus (Italy), and Mithras (Persia).
Other evidence mentioned is the total lack of written evidence to his actual existence during the time he is said to have lived and died. The first writings to mention him weren't for at least another 40 years. Also in the epistles of Paul, he doesn't mention anything about the events in the Gospels regarding the ministry of Jesus. There are additional features on the DVD including a listing of books supporting the thesis as well as extended interviews. When viewed from a computer's DVD player, the slide show feature will open browser windows to related websites. The film maker, himself, grew up in a fundamentalist church and one of the interviews he conducts is with the head of the school where he was taught that doubting your belief in Christ will condemn you to hell. He is the one interviewee who walks away during the middle of the interview when he realizes that Mr. Flemming doesn't share his beliefs.
The film takes a pretty interesting look at the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ. There's a minute-by-minute listing of the acts of violence that appear in the movie (and they even show a few of the bloodier clips). Having not seen the movie, I hadn't realized the extensive use of violence in the film. If it hadn't been about Jesus, the amount of violence alone would have warranted an "X" rating. Apparently, Gibson wasn't too happy about Brian Flemming's review of his movie and even attempted legal action against the documentary.
My main complaint of the DVD is the music of the soundtrack which I found distracting, often making it difficult to hear the narration or people being interviewed (at least for me).
One of the supporting texts mentioned is The Jesus Mysteries which I'm currently reading. The authors of the book also discuss the similarities of the biblical mysteries to the Pagan ones. It was a revelation they weren't seeking but stumbled upon as they started researching the Pagan Mysteries.
That the film maker of The God Who Wasn't There and the authors of The Jesus Mysteries should conclude that the New Testament stories are a re-working of earlier pagan works doesn't surprise me. I have read similar claims to many of the stories of the Old Testament as well. The similarities of the old testament to pagan religions is more evident when the stories are re-ordered according to when they were written vs. when the events in them take place. For instance, you can see an evolution away from such pagan traditions as animal sacrifice.
All in all, I found the documentary very compelling and a good jumping off point to explore other works written on this theme.