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4:4 Inventing Christ

Prior to 33-36 CE, when Paul started sharing his stories, there was no mention of the figure Jesus Christ nor did this savior have any known following. So where did the story of Jesus come from?

As with all great stories told over the centuries the story of Jesus has many origins and developed more and more during each retelling. What started out as Paul's imagination and personal interpretation of Hebrew scriptures eventually became the Jesus we know today through an accumulation of traits pulled from various stories and storytellers.

 

Age of the Messiahs

Age of the Messiahs

Prior to 33-36 CE

Prior to the story of Jesus there were many alleged saviors believed to be the Jewish messiah predicted by Hebrew scriptures. Some were made-up figures and others were real people with their own followers. Although none of these alleged saviors were known as Jesus Christ, historians still use the terms "Christian" and "Christianity" as blanket terms to describe all early Jewish messiah cults.

Yes, the photo is from the comedy "The Life of Brian."


The Birth of Jesus Christ

The Birth of Jesus Christ

During 33-36 CE

Paul, the founder of Christianity, was the first person in history to mention anything about the figure Jesus Christ. This first mentioning did not occur until several years after the story of Jesus takes place. Also, according to Paul himself, he never met Jesus in person and did not learn about him from any other person. So where did his knowledge of Jesus come from?

Everything we know today about the character Jesus is based on, or derived from, Paul's writings. And everything Paul wrote was based on what he claims to be a “divinely guided” interpretation of religious Jewish texts.

 

About This Jesus...

Jesus was based on scripture

According to Paul, his knowledge of Jesus was revealed to him through a divinely guided interpretation of Hebrew scriptures instead of a historic event just 20 years earlier. The knowledge of Jesus dying for our sins, being buried, and rising on the third day is all "according to the scriptures" and "made known through the prophetic writings." Paul never mentions having any encounter with Jesus and only quotes scripture, not Jesus. He even specifically says that his knowledge of Jesus was not received from another man nor was it taught to him.

Knowledge of Jesus was exclusive

According to Paul only a chosen group were given knowledge of Jesus. Gnosticism is usually associated with a particular sect of Christians but the word itself refers to having divinely given knowledge. Paul himself, along with the others mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, were all claimed to be gnostic. Only they received the exclusive knowledge of Jesus Christ, after Jesus' supposed death, when Jesus appeared to them just as he finally appeared to Paul which was through a divine interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus was not known to the public

According to Paul not a single person, other than those with divinely given knowledge in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, was aware of Jesus' significance until Paul himself personally shared this knowledge with the public. Paul states that his knowledge of Jesus was previously a mystery and that it was kept secret since the world began. Paul even describes the future coming of Jesus as a revelation, something that will happen for the first time, and dismisses any "returning" aspect.

 

Common Questions

Is Jesus Just a Lie?

Not likely. Paul probably really did think that he was given special knowledge. Historically speaking, such behavior was pretty common in ancient times when gods where sprouting up left and right.

Didn't Paul meet Jesus' brother?

Paul probably did meet a guy named James who either had a brother named Jesus (which was very common) or that was believed to be the Jewish messiah (which was also quite common). Even if Paul did meet this James he still claims that his knowledge of Jesus did not come from another person. This obviously would include James, meaning Paul did not learning about Jesus from the alleged brother.

Didn't Paul Persecute Jesus?

Paul only persecuted the rapidly spreading belief of a Jewish messiah being revealed. He was not persecuting the belief in the specific messiah Jesus Christ as no one was even mentioning such a savior.

Didn't Paul meet Jesus on the road to Damascus?

Acts, which contains the story of a journey to Damascus, was not written by Paul. It is a story involving Paul written by a later author, likely the author of Luke. Paul himself never mentions meeting Jesus and only cites religious scriptures as his source of knowledge about Jesus.

Was Jesus a Mythical Figure?

“Mythical figures” is a term typically related to figures that are believed to only exist in a mythical realm. However, Paul believed Jesus was born of flesh & blood and once lived in the real world. Although Jesus is a myth, his story is not set in only a mythical realm.

God has a son in Hebrew scriptures?

Paul most likely based the notion of God having a son from passages like Proverbs 30:4 which asks, “what is his [God's] name, and what is his son's name”. He may have also misinterpreted Psalms 2:7-12 which refers to King David as God's “begotten” son.

Where did Jesus' name come from?

Jesus' original name in Hebrew is Yahu'shuah which simply means "Yahweh saves" or "salvation." The Hebrew word yahu'shuah is often used in the Tanach (Old Testament) and in the official Jewish daily and festival Prayer Books where it is generally translated as "salvation". Yahu'shuah (“Jesus” in English) was also a very common and generic name for the time.

English = Jesus
Latin = Iesus
Greek = lesous
Arabic = Yeshuah
Hebrew = Yahu'shuah

View Related Verses

 

Related Verses

Based On Scripture

Romans 16:25-26 "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him"

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"

Romans 10:11 "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

Note that Paul did not say "Jesus saith" but rather "scripture saith."

Galatians 1:11-12 "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

It is important to note that it was a revelation OF Jesus Christ and not FROM Jesus Christ as some modern Bibles like the NIV falsely translate it.

 

Exclusive Knowledge

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

 

Not Known to the Public

Ephesians 3:1-5 "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets."

Ephesians 6:19 "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,"

Romans 16:25-26 "Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—"

Colossians 4:3 "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains."

Colossians 2:2 "My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ"

Ephesians 1:9 "he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ"

 

Jesus' coming referred to as a "COMING" without any returning aspect.

1 Corinthians 4:5, 11:26, 15:23, 16:22, 2 Peter 1:16, 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, James 5:7, 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:1-2, 2:8, Hebrews 10:37, 1 John 2:28

 

Jesus' coming referred to as a "APPEARANCE" without any returning aspect.

1 John 2:28, Colossians 3:4, 1 Peter 5:4, 1 Timothy 6:14-16, 2 Timothy 4:1, Titus 2:13

 

Jesus' coming referred to as a "REVELATION" which is something that will happen for the first time.

1 Peter 4:13, 1 Peter 5:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Corinthians 1:7

NOTE:Hebrews 9:28 says Jesus will appear a second time but this passage does not say he will appear before his followers a second time, just simply appear back on earth where his first appearance was unknown to humans. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 Jesus does not appear in flesh and blood but only in the same manner he appeared to Paul, by being revealed by the Spirt as mentioned in Ephesians 3:1-5.


The Jesus Sequels

The Jesus Sequels

After 40 CE

Even though Jesus was not originally based on a real person later aspects were. The writers of the Gospels re-wrote the story of Jesus making it more relatable to the average person with their real world struggles. In doing so certain events, such as Jesus' birth, were now being set during recent historical events and legends derived from a regular person(s) were being incorporated into the Gospel stories.

Certain stories in the Gospels are what suggest that aspects of Jesus' life were loosely inspired by legends of an actual person or persons. Historians have dubbed this person(s) "Historical Jesus" because an actual person or name is not known. Outside of scripture there is nothing to suggest that this person(s) existed but certain scriptural writings about Jesus, such as the resurrection story, sound more like they were based on a real life regular human than being complete fantasy.

The Crucifixion & Resurrection

The image many Christians have in their heads of Jesus Christ being crucified and resurrected is likely just an exaggerated retelling of the collapsing and revival of a regular human.

Death from crucifixion normally takes several days but Matthew 27:46 says "Jesus" was taken down after only six hours and Luke 23:44-46 says he was taken down after only three hours. This suggests that the person being referred to as Jesus did not actually die from crucifixion but only appeared to be dead. Jesus was likely just subdued by liquid contained in the vinegar coated sponge which he drank from immediately before he appeared to be dead (John 19:29-30). Even Pontius Pilate in Mark 15:44 doubts that the man being crucified could already be dead so soon and the soldiers had to break the legs of the other two men to speed up their deaths before the Sabbath day.

We also know that the person referred to as Jesus was not clinically dead when taken to the sealed tomb since the herbs Joseph of Arimathea brought to the tomb were aloes. These are healing, not embalming herbs. The original Greek scriptures speak of a resuscitation, not a resurrection, and the person was simply resuscitated with the healing herbs and not resurrected from the dead as most Churches preach today. After being healed and resuscitated the man likely fled and spent the rest of his life hiding from the Romans which is why the tomb was discovered empty.

NOTE: The "ascension" to Heaven is not part of or found in any of the earliest copies of the gospels. The ascension was added to the end of Mark and Luke much later.