The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light by Tom Harpur, Walker & Company, NY, 2004; 246 pages, ISBN 0802714498, paperback $23.00.
"My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally." – John Dominic Crossan
Jesus is generally accepted as a historical figure, even by New Testament scholars who know that there is virtually no "biographical" material about him in the New Testament. But what if Jesus was instead a mythic figure whose symbolic life was later mistaken for that of a real man? This is the conclusion reached by journalist Tom Harpur, formerly both an Anglican priest and a professor at the Toronto School of Theology. His opinion is based particularly on the works of three scholars – Godfrey Higgins (1771-1834), Gerald Massey (1828-1907) and Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880-1963) – and his researches to confirm or disprove their assertions. He concludes that Jesus was a mythic figure whose "life" was drawn from many well-known symbolical motifs, particularly those originating in Egypt. The many details still found, corresponding directly to names and places used in the Gospel stories, impress him, as do statements by many of the earlier Church Fathers about the symbolic nature of the Jesus story. Certain prominent Fathers also condon deceit and outright lies about scripture and theology if it served ecclesiastical ends. He quotes historians and Church Fathers to show that orthodox Christianity of the 3rd and 4th centuries promoted the literalization of ancient Mystery teachings, supported by lies, suppression of ideas, destruction of books and monuments, and the closing of Mysteries that would reveal the sources that Christianity borrowed from and its true nonliteral interpretation.
The spiritual and scholarly journey that this book embodies surprised the author: "Certainly very little of what follows was ever presented to me by the institutional Church during my ten years of university training for the Anglican priesthood long ago. Nor was it ever once seriously discussed by any of my colleagues during the roughly ten years I spent as a professor of the New Testament and Greek at a prominent Canadian theological college. It was assumed by all throughout that traditional Christianity had always been more or less what it is today. Its superiority over other religions was seldom, if ever, seriously challenged." (p. 4)
Theosophists will note that the author quotes from early theosophists Gerald Massey and G. R. S. Meade, and even one quote from H. P. Blavatsky. This book attempts to revitalize Christianity by showing the inner meaning of the Christ mythos which applies to every person in their own spiritual quest, not just to one historical person. A very sincere book, it invites readers to research these questions for themselves. – Sarah Belle Dougherty