Merry Christmas, Maybe

The book I'm reading now is the 'Historicity of Jesus', by David Carrier.  It is quite a dense and lengthy tome, written from a hard-core historian's perspective, and I keep making the mistake of attempting to absorb its contents right before bed.  But it's one I should have read decades ago.

The term 'historicity' refers to the issue of whether Jesus of Nazareth actually existed as a person, or if he were mythological in nature.   I'm only halfway through the book, but I'm getting the distinct sense that the evidence for an actual, physical Jesus is quite slim.  The Gospels in the New Testament were all written many decades after Jesus' apparent death and resurrection (and all by unknown authors), and there are no recorded eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life--either in the Christian Bible or elsewhere.  Think about that:  not a single, documented eyewitness account of Jesus ever existing. 

 All that Christians have to go on, then, is the canonical statement that the words of Scripture were (divinely) revealed to their authors, even though it is widely accepted that those same texts have undergone significant redaction and alteration over the centuries.   And when that is all you have, without any sort or degree of independent corroboration,  one is hard pressed to distinguish between divinely inspired/revealed and simply made up.

The other disconcerting conclusion is that savior/resurrection myths appeared to be a small cottage industry back in the day, with numerous stories/myths/revelations each competing with one another for the hearts and minds (and money and power) of the people.  There are at least 15 such saviors--all predating Jesus of Nazareth--who strangely have nearly identical stories, down to their virgin births, an attempt to kill them when they are a baby, rising to power (or being called a king or king-like), meeting a mysterious death often involving crucifixion, his/her body then turns up missing, etc.   There are so many of them that historians have invented a formalized measurement for it, the 'Rank-Raglan hero-type'.  And within the savior cottage industry there is a subset of Christian sects, each with their own story of Jesus (of Nazareth), battling it out in the public sphere.  None of them survived, save for the one we know of now.  

Imagine living in the first or early second century CE, hearing of Jesus of Nazareth's death and resurrection, and thinking, "sheesh, another one?"  

What I also find interesting, layered on top of this, is how neat and clean Christianity looks now, two thousand years later, and how little most Christians know about its very un-neat and un-clean origins.  And quite possibly, all made up from pre-existing mythologies of the period.   

None of which, by the way, mars my expectation of Santa Claus coming next month.  Merry Christmas!