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How Christianity Started with a Fit and a Lie

September 17, 2015

As you know, I tend to get involved in debates with atheists on the Internet. In the most recent one, I complained (?) that no atheist had ever managed to explain how Christianity started, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. To my delight, Ken Thackerey replied and told me he had written a book answering that very question: “The Christianity Myth”. I mulled it over, but couldn’t resist the challenge: I bought the book.

I have now read it, and will write a review of the theory as soon as I can. But to whet your appetite – and to give Ken a chance to correct me if I’ve misunderstood him – here’s my summary of the actual theory.

Chrity myth cover2000 years ago there was indeed a Jewish preacher called Jesus, who was executed for his radical views. His followers stayed put in Jerusalem, led by fisherman-turned-patriarch Peter, trying to convince their fellow Jews that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, all the while wondering whether they had got it wrong after all.

Then, after six years or so, a man called Saul suddenly turns up and tells Peter and the others that he has seen Jesus alive! Peter quickly makes up a story that he and the others also saw Jesus alive – a complete fabrication; Peter just lies in order to make sure this new guy doesn’t eclipse him as leader of the church. Until this point, the resurrection was not part of the Jesus story at all!

According to the theory Saul, who started off persecuting the church, has had an epileptic fit on the road to Damascus; he saw Jesus risen and heard him call him to take his message to the Gentiles. This he proceeds to do, and whereas the Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah, the Gentiles are happy with the new all-inclusive message, and the Jewish Messianic movement becomes the Christian church.

Actually, that last statement isn’t quite true; according to Ken, the new Gentile religion had very little to do with the Jewish Messiah. He postulates a serious rift between the original Jerusalem church, which would have assumed that Jesus was only for Law-abiding Jews, and Paul’s message of forgiveness for all, Jew and Gentile alike. So it might be more correct to say that the Gentile Christian church is born from Paul’s missionary activities, with no real connection to the historical Jesus…

As the new religion spread, Gentiles started wondering about the life of this Son of God; so different Gospels were written – fabricated – by well-meaning church leaders, to provide some more background. These might have been based on legends and recollections of the original Jesus, but most of it came from pagan mythology (like the virgin birth) or the imagination of the church leaders. Then Acts was written to explain the origin of the church, and to gloss over the rift between Peter and Paul.

It’s a very interesting theory, and probably more coherent than other atheistic attempts at explaining the origins of Christianity without involving any kind of God. If I wanted to discard supernatural Christianity, I would definitely go with Ken’s version of events – for lack of a better one.

Unfortunately, there are several important problems with the theory, and I will discuss these in another post – watch this space!

UPDATE: My review is now published, as the next post on this blog.

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

6 Comments
  1. I will definitely be looking forward to more. Ken comments on my blog quite a bit but I have never read his book.

  2. I’m not familiar with this book, but Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus became God” is well researched and covers this topic in detail.

    • Yes, that’s true – at least that it deals with the same topic. I’ve not read it, nor the Christian response to it, “How God Became Jesus”. One day I’ll get through everything I’d like to read… I wish!
      The reason I read Thackerey’s book now was simply that he interacted with me on this blog… So if Bart Ehrman gets in touch, I’ll make sure to read his book as well! 🙂

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