Unmasking the Jesus Myth (e-book)
Paperback link here.
By Stephen Bedard
Bedard’s aim with Unmasking the Jesus Myth was to present the basics of the “Jesus myth” theory (JMT) for the interested lay person. Note interested. I don’t think the individual with no or little interest would be drawn into the book, but that was not Bedard’s intent, and I think he was successful in writing for his intended audience. Perhaps this review will pique your interest!
What is the Jesus Myth Theory (JMT)? It essentially has 2 parts: 1. Jesus never existed and 2. the Jesus of the Gospels is based on pagan myths. There can be variations, such as there was a person named Jesus but everything we know about him is based on myths. The book has 5 chapters that address: where the Jesus myth came from, the evidence we do have for Jesus, the inaccuracies with citing pagan god stories, the relationship to recent New Atheism, and a very practical final chapter with tips on discussing the JMT with those taken in by it.
Why should we care or be concerned about the JMT? Well, despite the fact that the JMT has been debunked, and just about all credible scholars (secular, Christian or otherwise – even Bart Ehrman) do not take it seriously, it has gained popularity and gets attention. The internet has played a key role since it is so easy for misinformation to be disseminated widely. While The Da Vinci Code is not directly about the JMT, Brown does argue Jesus was based on pagan gods. In Bedard’s area, a well-known religious writer wrote a book claiming Jesus was just a copy of pagan gods, and it unfortunately rattled Christians in his community.
I’ve experienced similar myself. A friend of mine who is a former Christian (who now identifies as agnostic or atheist) nonetheless occasionally reconsiders Christianity. The last time she did so, she shared a number of concerns with me about Christianity. One was…yes…all the pagan god stories that are supposedly so similar to Jesus. My friend, by the way, is a thinking type of individual but sent me the link from a “popular” website that briefly showed how non-unique the story of Jesus is because so many pagan god stories came before. If you actually look at the stories of these pagan gods in detail (chapter 3 of Bedard’s book) the truth becomes evident. There is little similarity, or at best it is only superficial, and Jesus could not have been borrowed from these myths.
I’d describe this as a booklet, as the main content is only 25 pages. However, the back has 3 appendices – each with an article that originally appeared in an academic Christian journal – which brings the page total to 62. If the lay person wants more, they can read the articles in the back. I think this book could also be a brief introduction or review for academic individuals.
I was amused by a tidbit in chapter 1 about the development of the JMT in the 19th century. While German scholars played a key part, one influential person was neither German nor a scholar. A Gerald Massey was a poet and self-taught “Egyptologist” who did not examine the Gospels but offered speculative reflections on Egyptians myths – particularly linking Horus and Jesus.
I recommend Unmasking the Jesus Myth to you. Ideally, all Christians should have at least a basic familiarity with it. This way they are not shocked if they stumble upon it, and can reply with some knowledge if a friend or family member encounters it – and even suggest this book to them.
*Note for my regular readers, I don’t use a kindle device and almost exclusively use tangible books. Since this book was so brief, I printed it out – and since I made it double sided/2 book pages per side – it only took about 30 pages of paper. I would not want to do this with a much longer book.