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06 February, 2010

Was Jesus a Roman Urban Legend?

I was listening to the "Stuff You Should Know" podcast and they were talking about the origins of the most popular urban legends in the US, one being the couple at lover's lane being murdered by a psycho killer.

If there was any truth to the story at all, it is impossible to find out. Oral tradition works in such a way that details in the story such as location and time are constantly change. When retelling the story, people always tell it as coming from someone who knows someone they know, making it just out of reach for the person hearing it to fact check it, but close enough to be believable.

If these oral traditions could survive in our day, even with sites like Snopes that continue to debunk our most favored urban legends, what kind of stories could have been thought up during an age when superstition was the rule and the scientific method was still centuries away?

The earliest writings about the divine Jesus being raised from the dead are estimated to be between 30-60 years after his ascension to heaven. With an average lifespan of 30 years, that is an entire generation away. That and the very nature of oral tradition makes that story almost completely unreliable. In fact, there were other books written around that time that were gathered in the second or third century and decided by the new, dominating Church to be too outlandish, put Jesus in too magical a light, or would undermine the power of the Church and were subsequently thrown out.

This puts a shadow of doubt over the entire Gospel of Jesus, the foundation of Christian authority. And there are people that want us to base our laws on the literal interpretation of these very stories. Seems a bit ridiculous when you think about it that way, doesn't it?

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