John E. Remsberg
[HTML and editing by Cliff Walker, 2000]
Humbly he came,
Christ's Real Existence Impossible [16k]
Silence of Contemporary Writers [33k]
Christian Evidence [23k]
The Infancy of Christ [82k]
The Ministry of Christ [142k]
The Crucifixion of Christ [125k]
The Resurrection of Christ [67k]
His Character and Teachings [142k]
The Christ a Myth [17k]
Sources of the Christ Myth: Ancient Religions [81k]
Sources of the Christ Myth: Pagan Divinities [103k]
Sources of the Christ Myth: Conclusion [20k]
"We must get rid of that Christ, we must get rid of that Christ!" So spake one of the wisest, one of the most lovable of men, Ralph Waldo Emerson. "If I had my way," said Thomas Carlyle, "the world would hear a pretty stern command -- Exit Christ." Since Emerson and Carlyle spoke a revolution has taken place in the thoughts of men. The more enlightened of them are now rid of Christ. From their minds he has made his exit. To quote the words of Prof. Goldwin Smith, "The mighty and supreme Jesus, who was to transfigure all humanity by his divine wit and grace -- this Jesus has flown." The supernatural Christ of the New Testament, the god of orthodox Christianity, is dead. But priestcraft lives and conjures up the ghost of this dead god to frighten and enslave the masses of mankind. The name of Christ has caused more persecutions, wars, and miseries than any other name has caused. The darkest wrongs are still inspired by it. The wails of anguish that went up from Kishenev, Odessa, and Bialystok still vibrate in our ears.
Two notable works controverting the divinity of Christ appeared in the last century, the Leben Jesu of Strauss, and the Vie de Jesus of Renan. Strauss in his work, one of the masterpieces of Freethought literature, endeavors to prove, and proves to the satisfaction of a majority of his readers, that Jesus Christ is a historical myth. This work possesses permanent value, but it was written for the scholar and that for the general reader. In the German and Latin versions, and in the admirable English translation of Marian Evans (George Eliot), the citations from the Gospels -- and they are many -- are in Greek.
Renan's "Life of Jesus," written in Palestine, has had, especially in its abridged form, an immense circulation, and has been a potent factor in the dethronement of Christ. It is a charming book and displays great learning. But it is a romance, not a biography. The Jesus of Renan, like the Satan of Milton, while suggested by the Bible, is a modern creation. The warp is to be found in the Four Gospels, but the woof was spun in the brain of the brilliant Frenchman. Of this book Renan's fellow countryman, Dr. Jules Soury, thus writes:
"It is to be feared that the beautiful, the 'divine,' dream, as he would say, which the eminent scholar experienced in the very country of the Gospel, will have the fate of the 'Joconda' of Da Vinci, and many of the religious pictures of Raphael and Michael Angelo. Such dreams are admirable, but they are bound to fade.... The Jesus who rises up and comes out from those old Judiaizing writings (Synoptics) is truly no idyllic personage, no meek dreamer, no mild and amiable moralist; on the contrary, he is very much more of a Jew fanatic, attacking without measure the society of his time, a narrow and obstinate visionary, a half-lucid thaumaturge, subject to fits of passion, which caused him to be looked upon as crazy by his own people. In the eyes of his contemporaries and fellow-countrymen he was all that, and he is the same in ours."
Renan himself repudiated to a considerable extent his earlier views regarding Jesus. When he wrote his work he accepted as authentic the Gospel of John, and to this Gospel he was indebted largely for the more admirable traits of his hero. John he subsequently rejected. Mark he accepted as the oldest and most authentic of the Gospels. Alluding to Mark he says:
"It cannot be denied that Jesus is portrayed in this gospel not as a meek moralist worthy of our affection, but as a dreadful magician."
This volume on "The Christ" was written by one who recognizes in the Jesus of Strauss and Renan a transitional step, but not the ultimate step, between orthodox Christianity and radical Freethought. By the Christ is understood the Jesus of the New Testament. The Jesus of the New Testament is the Christ of Christianity. The Jesus of the New Testament is a supernatural being. He is, like the Christ, a myth. He is the Christ myth. Originally the word Christ, the Greek for the Jewish Messiah," "the anointed," meant the office or title of a person, while Jesus was the name of the person on whom his followers had bestowed this title. Gradually the title took the place of the name, so that Jesus, Jesus Christ, and Christ became interchangeable terms -- synonyms. Such they are to the Christian world, and such, by the law of common usage, they are to the secular world.
It may be conceded as possible, and even probable, that a religious enthusiast of Galilee, named Jesus, was the germ of this mythical Jesus Christ. But this is an assumption rather than a demonstrated fact. Certain it is, this person, if he existed, was not a realization of the Perfect Man, as his admirers claim. There are passages in the Gospels which ascribe to him a lofty and noble character, but these, for the most part, betray too well their Pagan origin. The dedication of temples to him and the worship of him by those who deny his divinity is as irrational as it will prove ephemeral. One of the most philosophic and one of the most far seeing minds of Germany, Dr. Edward von Hartmann, says:
"When liberal Protestantism demands religious reverence for the man Jesus, it is disgusting and shocking. They cannot themselves believe that the respect in which Jesus is held by the people and which they have made use of in such an unprotestant manner, can be maintained for any length of time after the nimbus of divinity has been destroyed, and they may reflect on the insufficiency of the momentary subterfuge. The Protestant principle in its last consequences, disposes of all kinds of dogmatic authority in a remorseless manner, and its supporters must, whether they like it or not, dispense with the authority of Christ."