The three books that you ask about have a common subject, the origins
of Christianity, and take a similar tone by accusing the religious
authorities of suppressing the basic facts about this subject.
As I will explain, the main conflict between the work of Tony Bushby
(The Bible Fraud, 2001) and the other authors is over the question of
the historical Jesus. Bushby presents some partly new ideas about the
identity of "Rabbi Jesus", in particular that Jesus had a twin brother
"Judas Khrestus" and that the Gospel accounts combine elements from
both their life stories. Acharya S (apparently a pen name) and the
other two authors, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, contend that there
never was any historical Jesus Christ and that Christianity simply
recasts a powerful myth of dying and resurrected heroes from earlier
religions in a Jewish context.
With such a fundamental divergence in viewpoints, we need not strain
at elucidating obscure points of doctrinal difference. However we
face an alternate difficult in comparison, namely that the narratives
of Bushby on the one hand and Acharya (as I will simply call her) and
Freke/Gandy on the other quickly lose any contact with one another.
To deal with this, I will first present extended synopses of each of
the three books and some brief background information on their
authors, largely based on excerpts, reviews, and author interviews
that may be found on the Web.
Let me explain that I own a number of books on the origins of
Christianity, some of which I rely upon in the discussion that
follows, but prior to tackling this question I had not heard of any of
these three books or their authors. I made an effort to see whether
the books were available at the local public or university libraries,
but they were not.
I'm also a regular patron of the local Borders and Barnes & Noble
bookstores, where I was able to buy a copy of Freke and Gandy's book,
The Jesus Mysteries. So I have only one of the three books in hand as
I write my response. Fortunately there is a substantial amount of
excerpting and author commentary on the Internet, as well as a small
number of critical reviews of the individual books.
The Bible Fraud by Tony Bushby
[The Bible Fraud by Tony Bushby]
"The untold story of Jesus and his twin brother, Judas Khrestus..."
"In The Bible Fraud, you will find the truth about Rabbi Jesus and his
twin brother, Judas Khrestus, their birth, marriages and deaths as
well as the bloodlines that have resulted from events of that time."
[The Bible Fraud - an excerpt]
"JESUS CHRIST HAS CAPTURED THE IMAGINATION OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE
around the world for almost 2000 years. Few people know that he
represents something far different and the following chapters unravel
an entirely new story about the circumstances surrounding the birth
and emergence of the Christian religion.
"In order to cover this ground it is necessary to consider the New
Testament stories from a different perspective.By stripping away their
supernatural elements,the earliest church writings relay a confused
skeletal outline of the lives of two separate men."
[The Bible Fraud part 1 of 3 - an article by Tony Bushby]
"The name 'ben Stada', given to Jesus in the Talmud, was found to be
paralleled in the ancient Mehgheehlla Scroll, which was discovered by
Russian physician D. B. de Waltoff near Lake Tiberius in 1882 and is
now called simply 'the Safed Scroll'.
"In this old text, there were two brothers called Yeshai and Judas ben
Halachmee who were the illegitimate twin sons born of a
fifteen-year-old girl called Stadea. The closeness of the name 'Stada'
in the Talmud to the 'Stadea' in the Safed Scroll is extraordinary,
and the slight difference in spelling can be explained by variations
in translations. The interesting point here is that the name 'ben
Halachmee' was the name of Stadea's later husband, not the biological
father of her sons. Unfortunately, no mention is made of the real
father's name, but ben Halachmee was the name given to Stadea's
illegitimate twin boys.
"According to the Safed Scroll, Yeshai and his brother Judas ben
Halachmee were taken in, raised and educated by the religious order of
Essene monks. The Essenes were a perennial Jewish colony that
particularly flourished in Judea for some centuries previous to the
time ascribed to the New Testament stories. Subsequently, one of the
boys became a student of Rabbi Hillel's school of philosophy and the
other became the leader of the Essenes. An older Essene named Joseph
was assigned as Yeshai's 'religious father' and guardian.
"The Safed Scroll suggests that, eventually, Yeshai ben Halachmee's
outspoken religious views angered the Jewish priests. He was tried by
a Roman court on a charge of inciting the people to rebel against the
Roman Government. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but
escaped, left the area and travelled to India.
"The Mehgheehlla Scroll mirrors aspects of the hidden story in the
Gospels and provides external evidence that the conclusion reached in
this volume was known in ancient tradition."
[Interview with Tony Bushby about The Bible Fraud]
(Tony Bushby [TB] is being interviewed by Peter Little [PL] about The
PL: ... Who is Tony Bushby?
TB: Well Peter, I guess the simplest thing I could say is that Im an
Australian who has spent around about thirty years of my life in the
publishing industry and, during that time, I researched and wrote
quite a few high quality specialist magazines for the Australian and
New Zealand markets. That took many years of my life and I had a lot
of fun with that publishing and writing.
PL: What prompted you to write The Bible Fraud, Tony?
TB: Well, during my course of publishing magazines, I did a lot of
international research on Near Death Experience, which fascinated me,
and I spoke to over 500 people worldwide who had been revived from
clinical death. I published a quality colour magazine on the subject
called Glimpses of Life Beyond Death.
Some of these peoples stories, Peter, were extraordinary and one
particular lady came to see me. She was quite an elderly lady probably
in her early seventies and she had a Near Death Experience. She had
fallen down with a heart attack at the front door and the neighbours
over the road saw her collapse and rang the ambulance and she was
taken away and revived. She came back and then she couldnt explain
what happened to her this wonderful experience where she was reunited
with her Mum and Dad who had been deceased for quite some time.
So she went to see her priest and he told her that this experience
really didnt happen and that she had been tempted by the Devil
because Jesus wasnt there to meet her. This lady was quite mentally
perturbed because she had this experience and she just didnt know
what happened to her. So the Church teachings and her actual
experience conflicted and she was on the verge of committing suicide.
We had a good talk together and she actually really stressed the point
that somebody should go out and tell the world that what happens when
you die is not what the Church tells you what happens. She got me
thinking about the Bible, which led me into some deeper research, and
I came to a series of conclusions that seriously conflicted with the
actual Church teachings and that of course, led me into deeper
Hence today The Bible Fraud, which is the first of a series of three
books about the Bible.
PL: This took how many years to research? I have got a figure down
here saying twelve years. That sounds extraordinary!
TB: Yes well, it actually was Peter. It was twelve years full time and
there was quite a few years leading up to it. Some of those years five
thousand hours, one hundred hours a week is not really enough and
during that time, I had some extraordinary experiences in being
introduced to wonderful, old archival libraries and some extraordinary
material that is not freely available to the public in fact at one
stage, I actually lived in an old archival library for ten weeks and
slept on a mattress on the floor.
(Tony goes on to add that he "loved every minute of it.")
The Bible Fraud was originally published by The Pacific Blue Group of
Hong Kong in 2001, but since then the rights to publication and
distribution were acquired by Joshua Books, an Australian "boutique
[Welcome to Joshua Books]
The book is available from the author's website for $22.50, and
elsewhere on the Web for $18.95 or less.
In a nutshell Bushby's research led him to the conclusion that twins,
Jesus (Yeshai) and Judas, were born to a favorite granddaughter of
King Herod, named Mariamne. She had been "raped by a Roman archer and
his nickname was 'The Panther'. This man later became the Emperor of
Rome in 14AD. He was Tiberius who was the adopted son of Emperor
Augustus. Mariamne bore the twins and they were hidden away for a
while in the House of Augustus."
While the twin Jesus is said to have become a Rabbi, Bushby claims
that it was Judas "Khrestus" who instigated against the Roman
authorities (in Rome!), was condemned to death but invoked a supposed
"right" of a royal first-born to have another person condemned in his
place, and was subsequently sold into slavery and travelled to India,
where he was buried.
Jesus, on the other hand, was with his family "banished from Rome and
they were set adrift in a ship. They drifted ashore in the south of
France at Marseilles and they trekked overland to England and they
settled at the place we now know as Glastonbury." In this account
Rabbi Jesus settles down in Britain, is inducted into the Druidic
mysteries and becomes "King Cunobeline", marries Mary Magdalene (a
Celtic(?) princess) and a couple of other wives, and is ultimately
stoned by the Druids for attempting to reveal a "secret" from a stolen
I find it hard to see in Bushby's patchwork a compelling
reconstruction of the true origins of Christianity. He appears to
ignore the writings of St. Paul the Apostle and other New Testament
books besides the Gospels, though perhaps a treatment of this material
is planned for a later book. Yet in carrying his two protagonists so
far away from Jerusalem and the Near East ("One went to England and
one went to India."), it becomes accordingly difficult to see them as
"founders" of the earliest churches there.
What Bushby seems to say is that the "Mystery Schools knew about Rabbi
Jesus" and that the "Roman Church incorporated into Christian beliefs
the 'Krist' concept, which was part of diverse mystery traditions
including those of the Essenes, Druids, Greeks and ancient Egyptians."
Somehow this led to a lot of virulent disagreement about "true"
Christianity that, because of its threat to public order, compelled
Constantine to step in and resolve by creating a "state orthodoxy".
The Christ Conspiracy by Acharya S
[The Christ Conspiracy by Acharya S]
Title: The Christ Conspiracy - The Greatest Story Ever Sold
[The Christ Conspiracy - an excerpt]
"We have seen that there is no evidence for the historicity of the
Christian founder, that the earliest Christian proponents were as a
whole either utterly credulous or astoundingly deceitful, and that
said 'defenders of the faith' were compelled under incessant charges
of fraud to admit that Christianity was a rehash of older
"The Egyptian sun god Horus, who predated the Christ character by
thousands of years, shares the following in common with Jesus:
* Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th in a
cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and
attended by three wise men.
* His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph"). Seb is also known as
"Geb": "As Horus the Elder he..was believed to be the son of Geb and
Nut." Lewis Spence, Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends, 84.
* He was of royal descent.
* At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was
baptized, having disappeared for 18 years.
* Horus was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iarutana (Jordan) by
"Anup the Baptizer" ("John the Baptist"), who was decapitated.
* He had 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named
"Anup" and "Aan" (the two "Johns").
* He performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised El-Azarus
("El-Osiris"), from the dead.
* Horus walked on water.
* His personal epithet was "Iusa," the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah,"
the "Father." He was thus called "Holy Child."
* He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the
"Sayings of Iusa."
* Horus was transfigured on the Mount.
* He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a
tomb, and resurrected.
* He was also the "Way, the Truth, the Light," "Messiah," "Gods
Anointed Son," the "Son of Man," the "Good Shepherd," the "Lamb of
God," the "Word made flesh," the "Word of Truth," etc.
* He was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"),
Lamb and Lion.
* He came to fulfill the Law.
* Horus was called "the KRST," or "Anointed One."
* Like Jesus, "Horus was supposed to reign one thousand years."
Furthermore, inscribed about 3,500 years ago on the walls of the
Temple at Luxor were images of the Annunciation, Immaculate
Conception, Birth and Adoration of Horus, with Thoth announcing to the
Virgin Isis that she will conceive Horus; with Kneph, the 'Holy
Ghost,' impregnating the virgin; and with the infant being attended by
three kings, or magi, bearing gifts. In addition, in the catacombs at
Rome are pictures of the baby Horus being held by the virgin mother
Isis the original 'Madonna and Child.' "
(end of excerpt)
It was difficult to determine the background of this author. In
refuting a devastating review by the Fortean Times ("This is one of
the most worthless books on the subject... an incoherent rant of
diabolical proportions"), Acharya S writes:
[Rebuttal to Fortean Times review]
"The Christ Conspiracy is very scholarly and well researched,
representing 30 years of study by a classically educated
archaeologist, historian, mythologist and linguist."
However she omits to specify her educational background is, even while
boasting of having better credentials than another of her critics,
J.P. Holding (also a pseudonym; "Acharya" is a Tantric term for
[Madness inside the Holding Cell]
"My own credentials, it should be noted, are far greater than
Holding's, but he is a disturbed hypocrite living in a glass house and
throwing stones, and there is little one can do about it except call
him on it..."
"Holding wrote a very shallow and superficial assault on the fact that
Christianity plagiarized Mithraism. (Naturally, he thinks he's very
clever--on his site he attacks other mythicists whose IQs and
knowledge are far superior to his own, but that's quite typical.) I
demolished his arguments very easily at
"Holding, as smug and wrong as ever, believes he has somehow refuted
this scholarly essay. He hasn't, and he is clearly wasting everyone's
time with his insistent foolishness. Holding's attacks are grotesque
and nonsensical, and he displays signs of irrationality and mental
illness. Again, he has in no way refuted the Christ mythicist
position, despite his seemingly clever ramblings and anal tactics."
What Acharya S "demolished" may be found here:
[Mighty Mithraic Madness by J.P. Holding]
"Back in the Roman era, Mithraism was perhaps Christianity's leading
competitor for the hearts and minds of others. Today Mithraism is
religiously a non-factor, but it still 'competes' with Christianity,
in another way: It is a leading candidate for the 'pagan copycat'
thesis crowd as a supposed source for Christianity.
"Our walking papers are laid out for us by a leading proponent of that
view, Acharya S, who, in her magnum opus The Christ Conspiracy
(118-120), lays out over a dozen things that Jesus supposedly has in
common with Mithras and, by extension, Christianity allegedly borrowed
to create the Jesus character; some of these points she now defends
further in a work titled Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ
Unveiled, which is presently only available in sample chapters on her
Internet page. The points are:
1. Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his
birth was attended by shepherds.
2. He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
3. He had 12 companions or disicples.
4. Mithra's followers were promised immortality.
5. He performed miracles.
6. As the "great bull of the Sun," Mithra sacrificed himself for world
7. He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
8. His resurrection was celebrated every year.
9. He was called "the Good Shepherd"and identified with both the Lamb
and the Lion.
10. He was considered the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the
"Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
11. His sacred day was Sunday, the "Lord's Day," hundreds of years
before the appearance of Christ.
12. Mithra had his principal festival of what was later to become
13. His religion had a eucharist or "Lord's Supper," at which Mithra
said, "He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that
he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved."
14. "His annual sacrifice is the passover of the Magi, a symbolical
atonement or pledge of moral and physical regeneration."
15. Shmuel Golding is quoted as saying that 1 Cor. 10:4 is "identical
words to those found in the Mithraic scriptures, except that the name
Mithra is used instead of Christ."
16. The Catholic Encyclopedia is quoted as saying that Mithraic
services were conduced by 'fathers' and that the 'chief of the
fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called "Pater
"Our goal in this essay is to offer an overview of Mithraic belief and
at the same time analyze each of these claims in terms of the
evidence. In order to lay some groundwork, however, it will be
necessary to briefly explore the goings-on over the past few decades
in the field of Mithraic studies. There is a certain caveat emptor
that will be necessary in order to help the reader understand exactly
how critics like Acharya S are misusing their sources -- and what to
be on the lookout for in future comparisons..."
(Then follows analysis of these points in regard to references
provided or not by Acharya S to support them.)
For the record, J.P. Holding claims to have a Masters of Library
[Acharya S Reaches for the Pepper Spray]
Her book, first published by Adventures Unlimited Press in 1999, costs
$11.87 at amazon.com, though she invites the purchase of an
autographed copy on her website for "a donation of $22 ($17 + $5
shipping and handling) or more each..."
I have the impression that Acharya S approaches the subject of
religious history as a vast canvas upon which she is free to paint
with a broad brush. She provides a number of links on her main page
at truthbeknown.com whose commonality seems to be simply a denial of
the historical character of Jesus.
Her evidence and that of supporting links seems to be a compilation of
parallels between Christianity, esp. the Gospel tradition, and other
religious figures like Mithras, Horus, Krishna, Osirus, and Dionysus,
drawn from mythology.
Certain points of parallelism exist, without doubt, but her
implication that "therefore" there is no historical Jesus requires
much more in the way of argument than this.
For example, the Church generally acknowledges that Dec. 25
(Christmas) is a celebration of Christ's birth but is not considered
to be the actual birthdate (which is unknown). There is nothing in
the Bible to tie the birth to what was then and now the end of the
calendar year. Indeed the tradition was of celebrating the birth of
Christ may not have begun until the middle of third century, and such
a practice was opposed by Origen:
[Christmas, Date and Origin of]
"There remains then this explanation, which is the most probable one,
and held by most scholars in our time: the choice of December 25 was
influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor
Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god (Sol Invictus:
the Unconquered Sun) on that day. December 25 was called the 'Birthday
of the Sun,' and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras
cult were held all through the empire. What was more natural than that
the Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the 'Light of the
World' and the true 'Sun of Justice' on this very day? The popes seem
to have chosen December 25 precisely for the purpose of inspiring the
people to turn from the worship of a material sun to the adoration of
Christ the Lord. This thought is indicated in various writings of
A prudent critique of the evidence for the historical Jesus must deal
with traditions that are a great deal closer to the accepted time of
Christ's ministry, around 30AD. Among the documents that should be
considered are "canonical" ones (so called because of their inclusion
in the biblical "canon") like the Gospels and the letters of Paul and
other early Christians. It is appropriate to raise issues about
"forgery" and authorship, and to question the integrity of the
received text for these documents. These can be quite problematic
issues, but having said that these are legitimate questions, we can
hardly turn our backs on the fruits of past scholarship.
The Dead Sea Scrolls may have some value in this respect, if only in
illustrating the level of detail appropriate to scholarly analysis of
Recent scholarship suggests that some small fragments from Qumran Cave
7 may be logically identified as portions of New Testament books (e.g.
Paul's 1st Timothy 3:16 - 4:1,3). The chronology of the destruction
of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD then constrains the existence of
such works to precise historical context.
[The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity by
Carsten Peter Thiede]
The author has also argued for a first century dating of papyrus
fragments from the Gospel of Matthew preserved at Magdalen College,
[The Jesus Papyrus]
previously dated (in the 1950's) to late second century.
A refutation of Thiede's arguments about the Qumran fragment
identification from 1st Timothy, is given here by Ernest A. Muro:
[7QEnoch: Rebuttals, Commentary]
I present these items mainly to illustrate how even a fractious
scholarly debate ought to proceed, but does not with a self-annointed
expert like Acharya S. I add one further quote on the historical vs.
[The Jesus Seminar by George William Rutler]
"The brevity of historical records about Jesus is a natural argument
for their authenticity. This includes extra-canonical witness, like
Polycarp's testimony from John recorded by Irenaeus. Legends would be
more detailed because the gods of legends are invented: Much of the
best pagan literature is poetic detail about the gods."
The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
[The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (Thorsons,
Title: The Jesus Mysteries - Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God?
[The Jesus Mysteries - an excerpt]
"We have become convinced that the story of Jesus is not the biography
of a historical Messiah, but a myth based on perennial Pagan stories.
Christianity was not a new and unique revelation but actually a Jewish
adaptation of the ancient Pagan Mystery religion."
[The Jesus Mysteries - another excerpt]
"The early Christians, known as Gnostics, understood the Jesus story
as allegory, not history, and even called Jesus by the names of the
Pagan Godman. The Gnostics were brutally eradicated by the Roman
Church in the 4th and 5th centuries, and since then we have believed
the official propaganda that these Christians were dangerous heretics
who had gone Pagan.
"Actually the evidence suggests the opposite is closer to the truth.
The Gnostics were the original Christians, just as they themselves
claimed. They had synthesized Jewish and Pagan mythology to produce
the Jesus story and many other extraordinary Christian myths largely
unknown today. The Roman Church was a later deviation, which
misunderstood the Jesus story as history. It was, as the Gnostics said
at the time, an imitation Church teaching a superficial Christianity
designed for the masses." (quoted by "Vexen Crabtree")
"absolutely no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus"
[Who is Timothy Freke?]
"Well, on the backs of my books it says things like 'Timothy Freke has
a BA in philosophy and is an authority on world spirituality'. I
remember my shock the first time I was called 'a noted scholar'... But
what about the essential me? I have less idea everyday who that is,
and that's a feeling I like. I am a mystery to myself. That's the
[Interview with the Authors]
"Timothy Freke has an honours degree in philosophy from Bristol
University and is an authority on world mysticism. He has written over
twenty books about various spiritual traditions. If you would like
more information about these please click here.
"Peter Gandy has an MA in Classical Civilization from the University
of London. As well as The Jesus Mysteries (Thorsons 1999) they have
co-authored three previous books..."
Q2. Could you, for the benefit of those who have not yet come across
the book, give a brief outline of your extraordinary discoveries?
"During the centuries leading up to the birth of Christianity various
cults known as Mystery Religions had spread throughout the Pagan
world. At the centre of these Mystery cults was a story about a dying
and resurrecting godman who was known by many different names in many
different cultures. In Egypt, where the Mysteries originated, he was
known as Osiris, in Greece as Dionysus, in Asia Minor as Attis, in
Syria as Adonis, in Italy as Bacchus, in Persia as Mithras. The more
we discovered about this figure, the more his story began to sound
Here are just a few of the stories that were told about the godman of
the Mysteries. His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin. He
is born in a cave or humble cow shed on the 25th of December before
three shepherds. He offers his followers the chance to be born again
through the rites of baptism. He miraculously turns water into wine
at a marriage ceremony. He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey
while people wave palm leaves to honour him. He dies at Easter time
as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. After his death he descends
to Hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to
heaven in glory. His followers await his return as the judge during
the Last Days. His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual
meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.
On the basis of this and much other evidence we now believe that the
story of Jesus is not the biography of an historical Messiah, but a
myth derived from the Pagan Mysteries. The original Christians, the
Gnostics, were Jewish mystics who synthesized the Jewish myth of the
Messiah with the myth of the Pagan godman in order to make Pagan
mysticism easily accessible to Jews. The origin of Christianity is not
to be found in Judaism, as previously supposed, but in Paganism.
Ironic don't you think?"
[Links to related sites]
[To order The Jesus Mysteries]
Available as an e-book for $12.50 without discount; I paid $14 for an
over-the-counter paperback without discount.
In one sense the material presented by Freke and Gandy is quite
similar to that of Acharya S. Numerous similarities between the
stories of Christ and stories of "mystery cult" heroes are alleged.
Freke and Gandy do not claim to be scholars deeply involved in the
historical studies alluded to here, but more as well educated and
interested popularizing writers. The tone of their remarks is fairly
temperate and a welcome contrast to the diatribes of Acharya S.
The parallels between the Christ story and the mysteries is a subject
that modern scholars as well as the early Church Fathers have tackled.
Joseph Campbell, who was both scholar and populizer, edited a volume
of papers from an annual seminar called Eranos:
The Mysteries (Papers from the Eranos Yearbook), Bollingen XXX vol.2
in which topics are explored from a variety of points of view.
In particular there is a final paper from 1944 by Hugo Rahner
"The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries"
which is particularly germane.
To their credit Freke and Gandy do address one major block of
historical evidence in the letters of Paul the Apostle. As they see
it, Paul was a Gnostic Christian and did not believe in a historical
Jesus, but only a mythological one.
To support this they point out that many Gnostics claimed Paul at
their "authority" and spiritual guide. There is agreement that Paul
(as well as Jesus, Peter, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, and many other
familiar figures) were "claimed" by the Gnostics in support of their
differences with what would become orthodox doctrine after
But it would be well to recognize that Gnostics, while opening a
spectrum of interpretation about the humanity of Jesus, did not argue
that his ministry was fictional or otherwise non-historical. The
Gnostics saw material reality as corrupt and even evil per se, and
tended to hold out a divine reality behind the appearance of Jesus in
history as the "Truth".
So the Gnostics did not deny the historical reality of Jesus in quite
the same sense as Freke and Gandy. These authors imply that a myth
developed by the Gnostics was "taken over" by some literal-minded (or
manipulative) church leaders.
One must make radical selection among the writings of Paul and use
sometimes very strained logic in interpreting the rest in order to
accomodate this scheme. In particular passages like:
"Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with
Peter (Cephas) and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the
other apostles -- only James, the Lord's brother." Galations 1:18-19
in which Paul seems to acknowledge the reality (and importance) of
other figures known to us from the Gospel accounts of Jesus's life,
Freke and Gandy take the position that 1) we cannot be sure whether
the Cephas here is actually the same as the Gospel Peter or not, and
2) the reference to James as the "brother" of the Lord is no more than
common Christian parlance for believers.
I find this quite strained, for James is mentioned somewhat
specifically as "the Lord's brother", where elsewhere Paul might refer
to the community of believers as "our brothers and sisters in Christ",
a distinctly different formulation.
Nonetheless one must credit Freke and Gandy with posting questions in
a popular format that scholars have been at pains to address for
years. In the summary to their chapter "The Missing Man" they write:
"Like countless scholars who have made this quest before us, we have
found that looking for a historical Jesus is futile."
The Jesus Mysteries, pg. 157
Yet this is not quite fair. While efforts to identify a "historical
Jesus" behind the clearly allegorical and even mythical portions of
the Gospels have for more than one hundred years always begun with a
"critical" and "textual" approach to clearing away "non-historical"
matter, few scholars have come to the conclusion that when all is
done, nothing remains of the historical figure. A good example is the
book "Quest for the Historical Jesus" by Albert Schweitzer (1906),
available online here:
[Quest for the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer]
which is valuable for its analysis of the previous work in this
Schweitzer concludes that Jesus was a historical person, but one who
believed that the end of world (eschatology) was near and would result
in a final judgement by God on the lives of men (apocolypse).
Finally, I would point out the "success" of Christianity owes much to
its sense of exclusive truth, which perhaps paradoxically made it
attractive to many for whom the syncretistic doctrines of Mithraism
made little "life changing" difference. The early Christians were set
apart by their beliefs, yet were motivated by the remembered words of
Jesus to go out and share the "good news" of salvation, and to exhibit
their "light" by works of charity.
For a detailed historical account of these developments, see:
Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox (Harper & Row, 1986)