collection of facts. Myth we choose, we create, we perpetuate.”
(A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz)
2 Peter 1:16 says: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (NASB) In the past this verse gave me much comfort; but, how realistic is the claim? Let’s leave behind the general scholarly consensus that 2 Peter was not written by Peter and just look at the claim that Christians do not follow cleverly devised tales.
1. First of all, the “cleverly devised tale” of Jesus was not exceptional to the day. In fact, Justin Martyr in the 2nd century argues to the contrary: “When we say that the Word, which is the first offspring of God, was born without sexual intercourse, namely Jesus Christ our teacher, and that after he was crucified and died and rose up, he ascended into heaven, we are not saying anything new beyond those called among you the sons of Zeus. For you know how many sons of Zeus the authors honored among you speak of…” (The World of Jesus the Hero).
2. In addition, Jesus fits the “The Mythic Hero Archetype“. Out of the 22 elements that characterize heroes such as Aeneas, Arthur, Gilgamesh, Heracles, Odysseus, Oedipus, Perseus, and Romulus, Jesus fits 20 out of the 22 elements! This lead Robert Price to conclude that “The Gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last…it doesn’t prove there was no historical Jesus for it is not implausible that a genuine, historical individual might become so lionized, even so deified, that his life and career would be completely assimilated to the Mythic Hero Archetype… There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure.“
3. A fairy tale is defined as “a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls,giants, and talking animals, and usually enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events…In cultures where demons and witches are perceived as real, fairy tales may merge into legendary narratives,where the context is perceived by teller and hearers as having historical actuality. However, unlike legends and epics they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, persons, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times” (Wikipedia definition). Hummm… Talking animals? Check. Far-fetched sequence of events? Check. Giants? Check. Yet, it’s not quite there. Maybe a legend is closer?
4. A legend is defined as “a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of “possibility”, defined by a highly flexible set of parameters, which may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened, within the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arises…” (Wikipedia definition). What a Christian actually has to argue is that the myths, legends and “fairy” tales of past gods were make-believe BUT the same type of miracles attributed to Jesus are true. Why? Because their bible tells them so.
How come you don’t believe what the Hindu scriptures clearly teach how Rama’s bridge was built? Didn’t Ram build this bridge with the help of an Army of monkeys? You laugh? You say that this is obviously ridiculous and no one believes that this happened? Wrong! Enough people believe it to attempt to get NASA involved and to halt a major construction project! (A Bridge Built By Monkeys?) Why? Because their scriptures clearly teach it.
Why don’t you believe that Dionysus was born of a mortal woman (Semele) whose father was god (Zeus)? Why don’t you believe he returned from the dead? Why don’t you believe that he changed water into wine? (see Dionysus) These stories are older than Christianity. Why don’t you believe them? You don’t believe them because they are obviously fictional. Why then are they fictional when similar Christian stories are obviously true?
So tell me, why is the Christian story true and all other ones are obviously false?
Stephen Roberts said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”