In Hinduism, Krishna is said to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu or the eighth avatar. The Encyclopedia Mythica says that he is also one of the most popular gods in Hindiusm. He is often depicted in art as a child with blue skin and playing a flute. And in depictions of him as an adult, he appears very feminine-like — at least at I see it. Historians believe that he was born at around the thirtieth century BC, about 5,000 years ago.
Like in the cases of the alleged “parallels” that Jesus has with several pagan deities (or non deities) like Horus and Buddha (which are refuted here and here), D.M. Murdock also then makes the exact same claims about Krishna, saying that “The similarities between the Christian character and the Indian messiah are many.” So, my purpose is to show if her listed claims claims hold water.
She begins her list by claiming that,
Krishna was born of the Virgin Devaki (“Divine One”)
The only truth in this is that Krishna’s mother’s name was Devaki, and that she is technically divine (Click here) But is is not true that she was a virgin when Krishna was born. Devaki had a total of eight children. It so happens that Krishna was the youngest which proves she had her fun at least eight times before he was born.
In her footnotes, Ms. Murdock tries to explain this fact away by saying that in Hinduism, Devaki “was considered to have had a miraculous conception.” The problem here is that, with exception of “Jesus-Myth” propaganda, I could find no references that substantiate that this is true. But even if Hinduism taught that Krishna’s birth was miraculous (which it does not), that still wouldn’t explain away the fact that Devaki was not a virgin because we know she had other children before Krishna.
Next, she claims,
His father was a carpenter.
Wrong! — His father Vasudeva was a nobleman, not a carpenter. (Text link) Besides, considering the fact that Devaki was a princess, if he was a carpenter, then he would never have been able to marry her.
His birth was attended by angels, wise men and shepherds, and he was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
This is completely false, and I will bet any amount of money that nobody can find a single Hindu reference which back it up. In the story of Krishna’s birth, as far as I can tell, the only two that were present were his parents.
He was persecuted by a tyrant who ordered the slaughter of thousands of infants.
This is an attempt to tie Krishna to King Herod’s “slaughter of the innocence” from the Gospel of Matthew, and a similarity does appear to exist. — King Kasma was told in a vision that one of his sister’s sons would destroy him, so he locked her up and killed six of her eight children as soon as they were born. However, Kasma didn’t slaughter thousands of infants, only his nephews were a potential threat to him.
He was of royal descent.
True, but trivial.
He was baptized in the River Ganges.
I can’t find any reliable sources that confirm this.
He worked miracles and wonders.
Even if he did, this wouldn’t be evidence of causation because miracles are only an expectation in religious writings.
He raised the dead and healed lepers, the deaf and the blind.
Again, even if he did, so what? Miracles are only to be expected in religious writings.
Krishna used parables to teach the people about charity and love.
I could be wrong on this one, but I have to conclude that this claim is bogus. But even if it were true, it could be easily explained as a coincidence.
“He lived poor and he loved the poor.”
Considering the fact that Krishna became a king, this is not particularly true. — But even if true, it would be irrelevant because being poor 5,000 to 2,000 years ago was just a fact of life.
He was transfigured in front of his disciples.
Really? I can’t find any reference for this claim.
In some traditions he died on a tree or was crucified between two thieves.
This is absolutely false! There is no Hindu literature which back it up at all. — Krishna was accidentally shot in the heel by a hunter who thought he was a deer .(See “Mahabharata 16: 4“ ) Also, the claim that Krishna was crucified is suspicious because that particular form of capital punishment didn’t exist during his lifetime. Crucifixion first appeared in the 6th century BC, about 2,400 years after Krishna. (Click here)
He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.
He ascended into heaven, but he didn’t rise from the dead. The New World Encyclopedia says that it is commonly believed that he left his body behind. — In other words, the circumstances are completely different from those of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Krishna is called the “Shepherd God” and “Lord of lords,” and was considered “the Redeemer, Firstborn, Sin Bearer, Liberator, Universal Word.”
It is true that Krishna was known by several names. For example, he was called “lord of the whole world,” “all victorious god,” “speaker of truth,” as well as many other titles. ( Source)
But, I cannot find references that confirm that he was known by any of the titles that Ms. Murdock lists, and I would actually argue that there is negative evidence that he was known by some of them. — Krishna would not have been known as the “firstborn” because he was the youngest of eight children.
His disciples bestowed upon him the title “Jezeus,” meaning “pure essence.”
There is no Hindu source that backs this up. But even if such a name was given to Krishna, it wouldn’t indicate causation. — Jesus, who spoke Aramaic, would have answered to the name “Yeshua” which is the true pronunciation, and “Iesous” is the Greek pronunciation. — “Jesus” is only the English pronunciation and is, therefore, irrelevant. So it turns out that Ms. Murdock is playing meaningless word games.
Krishna is to return to do battle with the “Prince of Evil,” who will desolate the earth.
Yet another unsupported claim. But even if it were a true parallel, it would not make any difference because a fight between good are evil are very frequent in religion.
Before Ms. Murdock gives her list of alleged similarities between Jesus and Krishna, she says:
It should be noted that a common earlier English spelling of Krishna was “Christna,” which reveals its relation to ‘”Christ.” It should also be noted that, like the Jewish godman, many people have believed in a historical, carnalized Krishna.
So, now she’s claiming that English spelling can tie Jesus to Krishna. What a hoot!!! — For someone who claims to be a well versed scholar, this is a very unusual tactic to resort to.
There is absolutely no evidence that Jesus was copied from Krishna. The only sources that Ms. Murdock give in her footnotes are from fellow “Jesus-Mythers,” and not one Hindu source is listed. If she were an expert of religious mythology as she claims, then she should be able to back up her claims by using primary sources.
Between the years 563 to 483 BC, there was a man in India named Siddhārtha Gautama better known as the Buddha. He was a man who taught principles for peace, harmony as well as love. He was raised in luxury by his father Shuddodana who was determined to not allow his son to see anything unpleasant. This was to keep the fact that there was ugliness and suffering in the world away from him.
One day when Siddhārtha was twenty-nine, he asked his father if he could visit a neighboring city. His father decided to allow him, but also attempted to have the entire city cleaned before his son should arrive. This tactic worked at first, but Siddhārtha strayed away from the rout that his father was counting on him taking and then he saw four different men on which the “four signs” were based: One was old, one was ill, one was dead and the fourth was a beggar. And frm this he came to the realization that even he would grow old and die and he began wondering what was the point of life if one was going to die. From then on he renounced his life of ease to begin a life of begging on the streets.
— By the age of 35, he had supposedly gained great insight of the causes of pain and suffering and how to eliminate it and later he ban to teach. Among his teachings, he taught the “four noble truths” which claim that 1) all life is suffering, 2) that desire causes suffering, 3) one can overcome suffering, and 4) that is would be overcome by following the Eight Fold Path.
Several in the “Jesus Myth” crowd have attempted to tie the Buddha to Jesus Christ by mentioning several apparent similarities between the two. — D.M. Murdock, otherwise known as Acharya S, has been one of many of the mythers that do this. Following, her claims are placed in bold while my responses are in regular font.
Buddha was born of the virgin Maya, who was considered the “Queen of Heaven.”
It is certainly true that the birth of Siddhārtha Gautama was miraculous in itself, however the claim that his mother Maya was a virgin is unsubstantiated and isn’t found in Buddhist writings. The fact is that Buddhist tradition points out that Maya and her husband King Suddhodhana were already married for twenty years before their son was born which argues all out against Queen Maya’s virginity. Most certainly, their marraige would have been consumated long before Siddhārtha Gautama’s birth. (Text link)
If Ms. Murdock’s mention of Maya being the “Queen of Heaven” is an attempt to link her to the virgin Mary, then it should also be mentioned that the idea of such a title for Mary is purely Roman Catholic and has no Biblical basis. Protestant Christianity, which is more based on the Bible than Catholicism does not recognize Mary in any such way.
He was of royal descent.
This is true for both Jesus and Buddha, however it is also incidental with absolutely no relevance at all. Arguing that this is a relevant parallel is like saying that since Queen Elizabeth I of England and Nero, the Roman Emperor were both of royal descent that they are therefore connected. Such reasoning just doesn’t work.
He crushed a serpent’s head.
I cannot find any evidence that this was said about Buddha. Even if it was, it certainly is not said about Jesus in any of the four Gospels or (as far as I know) in the New Testament at all. — The crushing of the serpent’s head (which is considered a Messianic prophesy) actually comes from Genesis 3: 15 which was written is at least 1397 BC over 800 before the Buddha was born. This pretty much means that even if such a thing was ever said about Buddha the Hebrew Bible had the saying many centuries before Buddhism ever had existed and therefore Jesus being a Jew would not have had to imitate Buddhism for this one detail.
The fact of the matter is that “crushing a serpent’s head” is actually out of the Buddha’s character because he had resolved not to harm a single creature. As a matter of fact there is a story of him protecting a serpent. (The Story of Buddha, page 7)
Sakyamuni Buddha had 12 disciples.
This is most definitely not true. — At first the Buddha, after his renunciation, had five companions (The Story of Buddha, Pages 40 & 41). Later on, not counting the Buddha’s immediate family or royal patrons, he had a total of eleven male disciples, nine female disciples, and five lay disciples making a total of twenty-five, more than double. (Click here)
In her footnotes Ms. Murdock cites a Travel Guide page as proof of “the motif of Buddha and the 12.” The page she refers to mentions a large statue of Buddha accompanied by twelve smaller Buddhas. — The problem here is that this imagery comes from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty which is dated from the 13th and 14th centuries AD. So even if this was a reflection of Jesus’ twelve disciples, it’s from a period way too late to have affected Christianity. Buddhist tradition shows, however, that the Buddha had more than twelve followers.
Besides, her source suggests that this particular scene is the “Nirvana.” If this interpretation is correct then I must point out that Buddhist tradition says that the Buddha at the time was surrounded by 500 arachants who committed to memory his teachings. (The Story of Buddha, Page 93) If this is the case then the only reason that the Buddhist relief she refers to shows twelve men is because it is much easier than depicting 500.
He performed miracles and wonders, healed the sick, fed 500 men from a “small basket of cakes,” and walked on water.
It is true that the Buddha is associated with miracles. But this hardly proves anything because it goes without saying that miracle-workers are an expectation in any religion and therefore this alone does not imply any imitation on Jesus’ part.
Even though it is true that the Buddha did care for the sick, he used a much different method than Jesus who healed with a touch and even over long distances. Buddha would treat his patients with hot water and would bathe them. There were various patients that Buddha treated that didn’t regain their health and even died, which is not the case with Jesus. (Text Link)
I can’t find any Buddhist or Encyclopedic sources that show that Buddha fed 500 people with a “small basket of cakes.” Besides, it should be mentioned that Jesus didn’t use cakes, but rather five loaves of bread and two fish. — And as for the last claim of walking on water, this one is true. But it is also true that this parallel has its differences because the Buddha is said to have accomplished this by “levitating over a stream” to convert a non-believer to Buddhism. Jesus didn’t levitate, he just walked. And he didn’t do it to convert anyone. (Text Link)
He abolished idolatry, was a “sower of the word,” and preached “the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness.”
It would be a true statement to say that Buddha “asked his followers not to create images of him when he died,” though this doesn’t seem to be an actual command. But this really is not an issue because Buddhism is a “Non-Theistic” religion. (Click here) Buddhist do bow to Buddha which, at least from a Christian perspective, is defined as Idolatry. — It should be mentioned that Jesus did not “abolish Idolatry,” nor did he need to because it was already legally prohibited by Jewish law. (Exodus 20: 4)
As for the last two claims that Buddha was a “sower of the word” and preached “the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness” — I can find absolutely no reference to them.
He taught chastity, temperance, tolerance, compassion, love, and the equality of all.
Okay, and so did Gandhi, Seneca and many others. These are very common ideas, way too common to just assume that Jesus copied them from Buddha. Though these ideas are held in common between both Christianity and Buddhism, the truth is that there are differences between the two. The philosophical foundations of the two religions are actually quite different. (Text Link)
He was transfigured on a mount.
This is not true. He was transformed into the Buddha while he sat under a tree in a region in Northern India known as Bodhgaya. (Text Link) — I have been informed in an E-Mail correspondance by Eyal Aviv of George Washington University that this area is not even a mountain region.
Sakya Buddha was crucified in a sin-atonement, suffered for three days in hell, and was resurrected.
Again, this is completely false. Buddha did not die of crucifixion or even as a “sin-atonement.” He became ill and died at age eighty after eating a large meal of “soft pork” which, according to a diagnosis of his sickness, was too large for his digestive system. (Click here) Also, he was not raised from the dead, rather his body was cremated after death. (Source)
As for suffering in hell for three days in hell, this is not true of either Buddha or Jesus.
He ascended to Nirvana or “heaven.”
Here, Ms. Murdock is showing blatant ignorance of the concept of “Nirvana.” — Nirvana is not a place, and it certainly isn’t “heaven.” It is to live on earth in a state of enlightenment which ends the cursed cycle of reincarnation for a Buddhist. (Click here)
Buddha was considered the “Good Shepherd”, the “Carpenter”, the “Infinite and Everlasting.”
There is no evidence that Buddha was ever called the “good Shepherd or even the “Carpenter.” — It is true that one sect of Buddhism (Mahayana) contains the idea of an “everlasting Buddha.” But this is virtually a meaningless parallel between Jesus and Buddha considering the number of debunked parallel claims between the two made by Ms. Murdock.
He was called the “Savior of the World” and the “Light of the World.”
For once, there is truth to this. After Siddhārtha was born, a sage names Asita told his parents that if he renounced a life of luxury at the court he would indeed become the “savior of the world.” (Text Link) I cannot find a mention of Buddha being “the light of the world.” But even if it exists, it would not prove anyone did any copying.
After making these debunked claims, Ms. Murdock cites Dr. Christian Lindtner to further prove her point that Jesus was copied from Buddhism. — Even though Dr. Lindtner is recognized in the field, he is also a noted “Jesus-Myther.” Many of the claims Ms. Murdock quotes him as saying have already been debunked such as the alleged “crucifixion” of Buddha and the “twelve disciples,” so I’m not going into too much detail. The fact that he is willing to make such easily refuted claims shows blatant dishonesty on his part.
Interestingly, he lists the “last supper” as a parallel between Jesus and Buddha. Though it is true that they had a “last supper,” the details of the two are completely different. Buddha simply ate his meal, got sick and died. — In Jesus’ case, the event was used to declare that he would be betrayed, killed and resurrected. This is way too different to assume that one account influenced the other.
He then repeats the claim that Buddha was resurrected but he leaves out the fact that if this were true then that would mean he never attained “Nirvana,” the point of which was to prevent resurrection or reincarnation. But no dedicated Buddhist would accept this because this would mean that Buddha was not actually a Buddha. — Considering that he is recognized in this field and that his claims are so easily disproved, I unfortunately have to question his honesty.
As I was researching for this blog post, I e-mailed Ms. Murdock’s claims of Jesus-Buddha parallels to several professors of Buddhism and I received a response from Eyal Aviv, Assistant Professor of the Department of Religion at George Washington University who said,
Generally, the claims made in the website you read are historically so problematic that I can simply say that they are not true [ . . . ] I would recommend you to be cautious with Web sources and rely on authoritative scholars or religious writers from within the respective traditions you are interested in.
The truth is that even though there is what could be construed as evidence of Buddhist influence on Christianity, it is basically inconclusive. And just because there are certain similarities, this does not indicate beyond doubt that the similarities between them are a result of Buddhist influence on Christianity. (Text Link)
— So in conclusion, the claims that are made by Ms. Murdock (a.k.a., Acharya S) about parallels between Jesus and Buddha are mostly untrue. The claims that are true are so few in number and therefore can be assumed to be coincidence. Not to mention, in her list of parallels, she jumps to certain conclusions that lead her to misunderstand basic teachings of Buddhism. Considering the fact that Ms. Murdock claims to be an expert in comparative religion, this is pretty odd.
Joseph ben Matthias, better known as Flavius Josephus, was the son of a priest born in the year 37 AD. — During the first part of the Jewish revolt he was a reluctant military commander that fought the Romans. Later in 67 AD, when many of his allies had committed suicide rather than surrender he surrendered to the Romans for uncertain reasons and provided them with information and then was released two years later in 69 AD. As a result, he has been called a traitor and a pro-Roman propagandist, though he tried to fix the Jewish image in Rome’s point of view.
The works of Flavius Josephus are an important compilation of history that, in many cases, would be otherwise unknown to us had he not written it. He is the basic source from which we learn about many important historical figures and events. He wrote extensively about King Herod the Great, the Jewish revolt of 66 AD which lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and about the census of Quirinius of 6 AD which caused the rebellion of Judas of Galilee. — These are all mentioned in the New Testament, but not to the great detail that Josephus had described them.
Many Christians have appealed to this Jewish historian for confirmation of several biblical events and personalities such as the existence of the historical Jesus. One of the most secular historical references is known as the Testimonium Flavianum which is attributed to him. The other is usually called “the James Passage” which only mentions Jesus in passing.
This passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum occurs when Josephus is giving a historical account of the Roman Prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate,
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18: 63-64)
The passage not only acknowledges that Jesus had indeed existed, it also affirms that “he was the Christ” and was resurrected after the third day of his death, there in lies the problem. Josephus was a devout Jew, not a Christian. It is practically impossible that Josephus had acknowledged Jesus as the true Messiah (or Christ). Therefore he would not have believed that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified.
Not surprisingly the “Jesus Myth” crowd calls the authenticity of the Josephus passages into question calling the passage into question, Acharya S (a.k.a. Dorthy M. Murdock), being very prominent among them.
Ms. Murdock, in her statements about the Testimonium, in an attempt to prove that it is a forgery mentions that early Christians such as Justin Martyr and Theophilus don’t cite it and therefore this silence indicates that they did not know anything about it. The problem with her argument is that her logic only leads her to a conclusion that was already presupposed.
— She is assuming that early Christian apologists, to defend their faith, would have cited theTestimonium to show that Jesus existed if indeed they knew about it. The fact is that citing the Testimonium would have been practically pointless because it only would have only served to confirm Jesus’ existence which was actually never questioned by early skeptics of Christianity.
Another argument that Ms. Murdock uses is that if Josephus truly knew about Jesus he would have written more about him,
Josephus goes into long detail about the lives of numerous personages of relatively little import, including several Jesuses. It is inconceivable that he would devote only a few sentences to someone even remotely resembling the character found in the New Testament. If the gospel tale constituted “history.” [ . . . ] Moreover, the TF refers to Jesus as a “wise man”–this phrase is used by Josephus in regard to only two other people, out of hundreds, i.e., the patriarchs Joseph and Solomon. If Josephus had thought so highly of an historical Jesus, he surely would have written more extensively about him. Yet, he does not.
This argument proves nothing except that Acharya S has likely not read a lot of Josephus’ works. Josephus mentions others that were well-known in first century Judea and yet wrote little about them. His mention of John the Baptist is only a paragraph long. Josephus calls him “a good man” who taught righteousness (Antiquities 18: 116) — Also, there was another holy man which he mentions (again in only a single paragraph) called Zacharias, son of Baruch who was murdered without just cause. (Wars of the Jews 4: 334-344)
These two men were well known at the time of Josephus and yet he only dedicates a single paragraph to each. So in my opinion this refutes the assumption that just because Josephus didn’t write more extensively about Jesus that therefore he wasn’t known to him.
Also, as mentioned, Josephus speaks in high regard about John the Baptist and Zacharias but does not go into greater detail about them. — This in itself can be used to show that Ms. Murdock’s argument that if Josephus thought highly of Jesus then he would necessarily have written a longer history about Jesus is incorrect. As a matter of fact, her two arguments here can be turned around to argue for the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum because it follows the pattern of the one paragraph accounts of well-known good (or holy) men that Josephus both wrote about and respected.
Ms. Murdock complains that the Testimonium “interrupts the flow of the primary material” meaning that it is out of context. Even if it was out of context this wouldn’t indicate it is an interpolation because such digressions were much more common in Greek and Roman writings than in modern literature. Today, we would place such breaks in footnotes which wasn’t done 2,000 years ago. (Greek and Roman Historians, page 53)
She makes the claim that the consensus among scholars is that the passage is a complete forgery. To back her up she quotes several writters from the 19th century. — Interestingly enough, one of her experts that she cites is Gordon Stein who she quotes as saying that most scholars since the late 1800’s believe the Testimonium to be a forgery. However, on his paper (which is found here) which she cites there is a disclaimer inserted by an editor before the text which says that things have changed since Stein wrote his essay in 1982,
While there is no doubt among the majority of scholars that the Testimonium has been tampered with (and thus the entire passage cannot be authentic), a decent number of scholars believe the Testimonium is based upon an authentic core. In other words, on their view, Josephus really did write a passage referring to Jesus. (Italics mine)
I do not know if this disclaimer was already added to Gordon Stein’s paper by Infidels.org by the time Acharya S decided to use it as a source, but it certainly is enough to refute her claim that the Testimonium is seen as a fake by the scholarly community.
The indication (from the disclaimer) is that even though it is true that at one point (at least until 1982) the Testimonium was seen as a forgery, this is no longer the case. — The vast majority of Acharya S’ sources come from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. These facts mean that she is using outdated sources to prove her case because the scholarly opinion has shifted.
The late David Flusser, Professor of early Christianity and Judaism and Orthodox Jew, while commenting on the Testimonium says,
Although it is generally recognized that the passage concerning Jesus in the extant Greek manuscripts of his Jewish Antiquities (18:63-64) was distorted by later Christian hands “the most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote,but that some alterations have been made by a Christian interpolator.” (The Sage from Galilee – Rediscovering Jesus Genius, page 12)
So basically, Ms. Murdock’s claims that the vast majority of scholars believe the Testimonium is a Christian forgery is not only out dated. It is completely wrong. It is true that there are certain statements in it that more than likely were not written by Josephus such as “if it be lawful to call him a man” and “he was the Christ,” but that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is a complete forgery “in toto” as Murdock puts it.
The second Josephus passage that mentions Jesus is not quite as lengthy as the Testimonium. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even about Jesus,
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still upon the road. So Ananus assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of that Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some of his companions. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. (Antiquities 20, 200)
The basic objection that the “Jesus Myth” crowd brings up is that Josephus uses the term “was called Christ” in association with Jesus. — Ms. Murdock on her page only mentions this passage in passing and doesn’t go into detail about it. One of her listed sources on her page is the 19th century Christ-Myther John E. Remsberg who claims,
This passage is probably genuine with the exception of the clause, “who was called Christ,” which is undoubtedly an interpolation, and is generally regarded as such.
He goes on to claim that believing that the James mentioned in the passage is in fact Jesus Christ’s brother “accepted history of the primitive church” which says he was killed in 69 AD, not in 62 AD. To this point all I can say is that one should not confuse folklorewith true history.
As for his claim that the entire passage except for the clause “was called Christ” is authentic — Considering that the names Jesus and James were very common in the first century AD, if the means of identification were to be erased, as Remsberg apparently believed should be done, then the passage would become pretty unclear and ambiguous. It would simply be a mention of a “Jesus, brother of James.” Anyone reading the passage in the first century would likely have thought “Ok. Which ones? I know a million of them.”
Also, near the end of the paragraph, Josephus mentions another Jesus called the son of Damneus who became the high priest. (Antiquities 20: 203) This is all the more reason for Josephus to identify Jesus Christ in order to distinguish the two to avoid confusion.
Also, it is not true that the clause “was called Christ” is “generally regarded” as an interpolation. — Leading Josephus Scholar Louis Feldman says,
That, indeed, Josephus did say something about Jesus is indicated, above all, by the passage — the authenticity of which has been almost universally acknowledged — about James, who is termed (A XX, 200) the brother of the “aforementioned Christ.” (Josephus, Judaism and Christianity, page 56)
Feldman on the same page goes on to answer a charge that the passage was interpolated because of an apparent contradiction between this passage and another mention of the priest Ananus in Wars of the Jews,
As to the recent suggestion Tessa Rajak that the passage about James is a Christian interpolation because it has a derogatory view of Ananus the high priest (Josephus elsewhere praises him), we may remark that there are a number of instances in the Antiquities where Josephus contradicts what he says in the War. In any case, it would seem more likely that a forger would have been more careful than to contradict outright what Josephus says elsewhere.
Other scholars point out that the “James Passage” fits the context and that a Christian interpolator would have used “laudatory language” different than what Josephus used to describe James and especially Jesus. -A Christian would have called James “the brother of the Lord” much like the Apostle Paul does.
They also point out that the term “λεγόμενος” (pronounced as “legomenos”) used by Josephus for the clause “was called Christ” is way too neutral for any Christian interpolator to have inserted. A Christian would have used the term in a more absolute way leaving no room for doubt that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Josephus’ language, however, neither denies or affirms Jesus’ Messiaship. (Jesus Outside the New Testament, pages 83, 84)
Finally, Ms. Murdock claims that,
Even if the Josephus passage were authentic [ . . . ], it nevertheless would represent not an eyewitness account but rather a tradition passed along for at least six decades, long after the purported events. Hence, the TF would possess little if any value in establishing an “historical” Jesus.
She claims, basically, that even if the Testimonium were indeed authentic it would not prove anything because it is not a first hand account due to the fact that Josephus was born a few short years after the death of Jesus. — This is a popular argument among the “Jesus-Myth” crowd, but it is one that makes absolutely no sense.
Josephus wrote about many people decades and even centuries after they existed. — He wrote extensively on the life of King Herod the Great, the Deposition of Archelaus from Judea, and even on the Census of 6 AD. He even wrote about the invasion of of Jerusalem by the Roman General Pompey over a century after the fact. The fact is that Josephus’ life was much further removed from these historical accounts he wrote about then he was from the life of Jesus. So if these “Jesus-Mythers” were to hold these historical accounts to the same standard that they do with the Testimonium then we would end up throwing out most of Josephus’ valuable works. But no prominent scholar or historian would ever even consider such a thing.
The same goes for several other historians such as Tacitus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, and others who wrote several decades or centuries after the events the report on and are still believed useful by modern historians and scholars. So the fact is that a historian writing about an event decades after the fact does not invalidate the historicity of what he reports. It does not have to be a first hand eyewitness account to be historically relevant.
Another fact is that though Josephus was born in 37 AD, about six years after the death of Jesus, he was alive when the event he covers in his “James passage” was happening. He was writing about the stoning of James which historians believe happened in 62 AD, when Josephus would have been twenty-five years of age. (After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, page 53) There is therefore no reason why Josephus wouldn’t have had good first hand information about this event about a man known as the brother of Jesus. – If the name and family of the man was known, then almost certainly so was the man himself.
Before I conclude, a word should be said about Ms. Murdock’s sources. — As mentioned before, most of her sources which she uses to back up the claim that the Testimonium Flavianum is a complete forgery come from the late 19th century and considering that the scholarly opinion has completely shifted since then they are therefore outdated and irrelevant.
Also, several of her listed sources who she doesn’t necessarily quote outright are early “Jesus-Mythers” such as Hayyim ben Yehoshua and John Remsburg. Neither of these 19th century “Jesus-Mythers” even had the qualifications of a scholar in the necessary field. Ms. Murdock also lists a paper among her sources from Infidels.org contributed by Scott Orser. But a quick look at his bio once again shows that he is not an expert in this particular field either.
It really strikes me as odd that someone who claims to be an expert in the fields of history, religion and archaeology like Ms. Murdock would resort to citing non-experts in order to prove her point. If I may say so, many amateurs have been known to use much better tactics than her in their own personal research. — I’m not trying to demean her, but honestly —
In conclusion, the arguments that D.M. Murdock uses to prove her case for the Testimonium Flavianum being a complete forgery are mostly al moot. Many scholars, despite her claims to the contrary, do in fact believe that the Testimonium is partially authentic, though not entirely. Her claims that Josephus would have written much more of Jesus if he in fact knew about him are also irrelevant because there are other well-known men that he writes about and yet only gives them a paragraph each. Also the claim that the Testimonium is out of context is irrelevant because, even if true, it was common practice to insert such digressions 2,000 years ago. — It does not help matters for Ms. Murdock that her many of her authorities are outdated and, in many cases, not even authorities at all.
The James Passage is almost universally considered authentic so even if it were true the Testimonium was thought by experts to be a complete forgery, it would still be believed that Josephus indeed gives secular first century proof of Jesus’ existence. — Also, as for claims that he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of Jesus and therefore his short mentions of him are not relevant, this is to undermine Josephus’ known accuracy as a capable historian because it is unlikely that Josephus would have been fooled into writing about a man that was said to have lived so close to his time that did not exist.
Recently I wrote a short refutation of AcharyaS’ defence of Zeitgeist. For anyone who would like a better refutation, I am posting a video refutation which was produced by the webmasters of Zeitgeist Challenge which goes into better detail that I do.
Most probably, if you are familiar with the “Christ-Myth” hypothesis then you probably have heard of anti-Christian author Acharya S (whose real name is Dorthy M. Murdock.) She was one of the main sources for the first part of Zeitgeist, the Movie as can be seen by the sources in the film’s transcript. She is the author of many books entitles The Christ Conspiracy and Sons of God. Much of her arguments can be accessed on her website Truth Be Known.
In a YouTube Video she takes it upon herself to “respond” to the debunking of Zeitgeist. She then says that despite claims that Zeitgeist, Part one has been debunked “the facts continue to to demonstrate otherwise.” The then complains that many of the refutations of the film have been directed largely at her. I cannot speak for all the other debunkers of Zeitgeist, but my fourteen part refutation of Zeitgeist doesn’t mention her even once. Also, my personal investigation of the facts has lead me to the conclusion that Zeitgeist is rooted in false claims.
Next Ms. Murdock makes the claim that the “detractors” whether theist or atheist didn’t study her work. — This claim is false. — R. G. Price, an Atheist who read her book Suns of God is very critical of her works calling it “bogus.” (See “Critical Reviewof Acharya S’ The Suns of God“). Also, Christian Apologist Mike Licona, who read her other book entitled The Christ Conspiracy effectively shows many flaws in her works. (Click here and here)
Ms. Murdock then makes the claim that her claims presented in Zeitgeist are not available to us because of the dangers in the past of losing their lives. She also claims that there is “deliberate censorship” of the facts by many encyclopedias. This is a quite an excuse she uses to inoculate herself against any independent research that refutes her. She is basically saying “Any investigation you do will not matter because I know more than you. So uncrittically take my word for it.” — If what she says were true, then at the very least there shouldn’t be any information in the sources that contradict her. But my investigation of Zeitgeist shows there are tons of contradictory evidences so her point is completely false.
To help make her point, she shows pictures of the inquisition while claiming that is why a lot of evidence has been silenced. The problem is that even if the inquisition silenced information about Pagan European gods, in her books she includes Oriental gods such as Krishna and Buddha on her list of Christ-like gods. — The truth is the inquisition didn’t reach all the way to India, China and Japan so according to her logic there should be an abundant amount of information which backs her up in this case, but there isn’t any.
Attis and Jesus
She then goes into certain paralels between Pagan gods and Jesus. As an example she mentions the god Attis. — To prove her point of a parallel she cites Professor A.T. Fear who contributed a chapter to the book entitled Attis and Related Cults. She claims that in the chapter entitled “Cybele and Christ” Professor Fear claims that Attis was killed and resurrected after three days during a celebration that depicts his resurrection out of a tomb.
As far as her claim claim goes, it is true (page 39) however the problem here is that Professor A.T. Fear, in the long run, does not support what Ms. Murdock is claiming. The ceremony that Dr. Fear describes is from a major festival of the metroac cult. But later he points out that this very cult had gone through changes which could have been “a deliberate attempt to rival Christianity” to ensure the cult’s survival in the market. (Page 44)
As a matter of fact, about the resurrection of Attis he says,
Attis too with his strong emphasis on resurrection seems to be a late-comer to the cult, the stress on the Halaria as celebrating the resurrection of Attis also appears to increase at the beginning of the Fourth century AD. : the same time as in the taurobolium towards the rite of personal redemption.
While these changes could simply be a mutation of religion over time, and it is important to remember that here we are discussing a period of centuries not merely years, they do seem to have been provoked by a need to respond to the challenge of Christianity. (Attis and Related Cults, pages 41, 42)
Dr. Fear does question whether the process of changing the Attis cult was conscious, but he never even implies that Jesus was influenced by Attis. He says that the Attis cult either mutated or that it responded to Christianity. — This completely contradicts what Ms. Murdock claims that he wrote. She misrepresented his views. Dr. Fear is implying that Christianity may have influenced Attis, not the other way around, if indeed one influenced the other. — Why didn’t she mention this? Obviously because it would have demolished her point.
The Day of Halaria, the Day of Joy of the festival (on March 25th) mentioned by Ms. Murdock in relationship to Attis’ “resurrection” was actually a post-Christian addition which was added to the festival either during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius or even later. This means the earliest the “resurrection” day was added is the year 138 AD. Also, the “three days of mourning” of Attis’ death were added by the Emperor Claudius between who reigned between 41 and 54 AD. (Text link) All of these days of the festival being post-Christian, this fact refutes Ms. Murdock’s insinuation that the festival of Attis’ “resurrection” influenced Christianity.
Krishna born of a virgin?
Next, she mentions Krishna and repeats the claim that his mother, Devaki, was a virgin. She defends the claim saying that it is only not widely known and on that ground alone is considered to therefore be wrong. She then quotes Philo of Alexandria (a Jewish historian) to prove her point. Assuming that the reference attributed does exist (I cannot find it) I still do not buy into the idea that we should depend on him so heavily on a subject that, chances are, he would not have known so mush about.
Unlike Ms. Murdock’s claims, the idea of Devaki’s virginity at Krishna’s birth is not assumed false because it is mostly unknown. I call the claim false because it contradicts basic Hindu tradition! Krishna was the youngest of a total of eight children that his mother had. (click here) So the fact is that there is no chance his mother was a virgin.
Is December 25th relevant?
Ms. Murdock goes on to mention that Christian apologists (like me) dismiss December 25th as being irrelevant to Christianity. But then she argues,
However, since the fourth century when this winter solstice celebration was designated as Christ’s birthday hundreds of millions of people have been taught that December 25th is the date of Christ’s birth. And hundreds of millions continue to celebrate that date every year. Indeed, Christian preachers today still insist that Jesus Christ is “the reason for the season.” Furthermore, in 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed house resolution 847 officially declaring December 25thto be the Birthday of Jesus Christ. Raising up this issue about the birthday of the Sun (S-U-N) is therefore entirely legitimate.
This argument is one that no intellectually honest person would ever give. Ms. Murdock apparently thinks that because Christians started to celebrate Christmas on December 25th in the 4th century AD and because the U.S. Congress officially declared it in 2007 that this makes the date relevant to the origins of Christianity. — The problem with her logic is obvious: If the practices indeed date so long after Christ, then they are irrelevant to Christ and Christianity, period!
The date of December 25thas Christ’s birthday is also completely contradictory of the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth. Luke 2: 8 says that during the night of Jesus’ birth shepherds were out in the fields. This would not be so if Jesus were born in the winter. This is proof beyond the shaddow of a doubt that the date hase no relevancy and later practices which Ms. Murdock appeals to cannot change this fact.
After this she says that when Christians say that this date is not Christ’s birthday that we prove her point that Jesus is not the reason for the season. — This shows that Murdock has no understanding of why Christians celebrate Christmas at all. It’s not the date that’s important, but the event.
The Three Kings
Ms. Murdock brings up the subject of the “three kings” in the Gospel of Matthew. In arguing against claims that they are not numbered as three she points out the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. She argues that since there are three kinds of gifts that therefore there must be “three kings.”
Just because there were three kinds of gifts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there were only three gifts and therefore only three magi. — There could have been five magi which gave the same three gifts. Or there could have been six. There are many ways that this can work out. Three so therefore three is just an irrelevant oversimplification.
She then tries to connect the three stars in the belt of Orion with the “three” wise men. She says that “Christian tradition” calls the three stars “the magi.” — Notice she says that it is “Christian tradition.” In other words, later tradition which has no bearing on the origins of Christianity.
The truth is they are not called “kings” in Matthew, but rather “wise men” or “magi.” However, she misleadingly uses all three terms interchangeably to insinuate her point even though they cannot be used as such. (For a good discussion, click here)
Basically, her defence of Zeitgeist is just a rehashing of refuted claims and, in many ways, is a defence of herself (which I do not see the point in answering.) Even though she claims that the facts have not refuted Zeitgeist, there is no reason to accept her claim. The fact is that most of the claimed parallels between Jesus and other gods are superficial or false.
Her claims that many of her critics have not studies her writtings are also wrong, as earlier I have linked crituiques of skeptics of her books, both a theist and and atheist.
Her further claims that the information that backs her up is hidden and censured seems like an attempt to neutralize any research by both real experts and laymen which falsifies her far-fetched claims. When I hear her say that, what I really hear is “Don’t ask questions or worry about the facts. Just believe me.” And unfortunately, that’s what her gullible disciples do.