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Did Jesus of Nazareth Exist?
Evidence for a Historical Jesus
I'd like to outline some of the evidence that indeed suggests that an eccentric Rabbinical preacher, named Yeshua,(when this name is transliterated from linguistic pronunciation conventions in Hebrew to conventions in English this becomes Jesus) was indeed crucified by the Roman authority Pilate sometime in the fourth decade C.E.
We have a couple of sources that one might call, "disinterested," in Jesus as a prophet and thus more assuredly reliable. Flavius Josephus, a Roman/Jewish historian mentions Jesus twice in his historical account "Antiquities of The Jews." Book eighteen, chapter eight, as we know it today, is generally agreed by historians to derive from his original work and to be a conceptually intact account of the Crucifixion.
Tacitus, a Roman senator also refers in his "Annals" to the execution of Jesus by Pilate in book 15 chapter 44 and to the presence of early Christian persecution around the time period. Though this was written in 116 C.E., this is regarded as a secular and particularly non-Christian account of the crucifixion.
When these Roman documents are compared with the Synoptic Gospels (The gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark) there is enough historical overlap to convince most historians of the historicity of Christ. Yet only two facts about his life are universally agreed upon; first that he was baptized by John the Baptist and second that he was sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pilate. So if you are a Christian that is the good new, prepare your self for the not-so-good news.
Was Christianity Plagiarized?
To support this contention let's look at some of the most Theologically relevant events in Christ's life as described in the new testament and later used as tenets for his divinity and see what previous Theological traditions and Mythologies demonstrate commonalities.
Born of a Virgin
Chrishna, a Hindu god was born to the virgin Devaki around 3200 B.C.E.. The Buddha's mother, Maya, was a virgin who conceived as a result of a divine "holy ghost," infusing her with child. Horus and Ra, of the Egyptians were both immaculately conceived predating Christ by 3,000 years. That is just a few examples without even entering into the plethora of Mediterranean Gods and Goddesses born to virgins.
The Greek demi-god Dionysus (or Bacchus) worshipped 1500 years before the birth of Christ turned water into wine and it is very likely that this miracle became something of a mythological archetype.
Walking on Water was also described as a feat Peter was capable of as described in Matthew. Poseidon was said to ride his chariot over water in Greek mythology.
Asclepius, a Greek demi-god and the Zoroastrian god Mithra regularly made divine intercessions for the sake of the ill.
Resurrected from the Dead
Horus and Osiris, of the Egyptian mythologies were resurrected in mythologies predating Christ by 3,000 years. Attis of Greek Mythology and Krishna of Hinduism both rose from the dead according to their respective traditions each dating back to about 1400 B.C.E. Mithra also died and returned in Zoroastrian Theology 600 years before Christ.
Let's stay with this character Mithra for a bit. Perhaps the most fascinating are the multitude of similarities between Mithra and Christ. Mithra has been frequently referred to as , "The Pagan Christ," such are the divers similarities to be found. To begin with they were both born on December 25, this being approximately the Winter Solstice and a pagan day of celebration it would have made since to incorporate Christ into this festival as Christianity spread after being adopted by Constantine as the official religion of the Roman Empire around 400 C.E. As Christianity spread by the sword over pagan peoples and their theologies, letting them keep the schedule of their yearly rites was mostly an ingratiating political maneuver. Both these figures were traveling teachers and healers, both had twelve disciples. Both were called, "The Good Shepard," also "the way, the truth and the light, redeemer, savior, Messiah." They both partook in Baptismal rituals and presided over last suppers. They were both buried in caves and resurrected after three days. Mithra's sacred day was Sunday and his resurrection was celebrated in the Spring around the Vernal Equinox as is modern day Easter. Again this could be best explained as a propitiation to the Pagans and Zoroastrians as a way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ while keeping their spring festival in place. This spring festival is in fact where Easter derives most of it's current day symbolism (i.e. flowers, eggs, Bunnies). Most of which have to do with the renewal represented by Spring and employed in Spring festivals common to most civilizations prior to Christ.
The incorporation of Saints (particularly early Patron Saints) into Catholicism is another such appeasement made to Paganism. All of the Pagan traditions being swallowed up by Christianity were polytheistic. The incorporation of Catholic Saints of Cities, Saints of specific activities, Saints of differently vulnerable populations were derived from the many gods that were looking after these areas of concern before Christianity arrived and the many gods involved in, "nature worship."
While what precedes is by no means an exhaustive list of the tangle of ties between Christianity and earlier Theologies, I hoped to garner a number of pertinent examples of these ties into one place. The internet is replete with more information which goes even further into depth. Comparative Religion is an entire academic field into which Scholars pour their life's energy.
The main point to take away is that the spreading of religion is a process and a highly political one at that. If Constantine hadn't decided to convert to Christianity thus spreading it throughout the Roman Empire the Abrahamic tradition might have fizzled out 1500 years ago. At the council of Nicea a small group of Roman advisers decided what books would make it into what would become the New Testament. Since then books have been added and dropped. The biggest deciding factor in this selection process was what books were thought would most resonate with the mandated converts. It was a task of creating an amalgam of new and old theological doctrines that could be embraced by an empire peopled with subjects with no common theological background.