There is a big difference between a history embroidered with propaganda, such as we find for example in Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and a fantasy placed into a historical setting; such an example there would be Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’. The Jesus tale is very much in the latter category: a fictional drama in which a stereotypic hero has been intruded into a more or less realistic historical landscape. As we would expect from a fictional creation, there exists not a single contemporary reference to such a character: not a single genuine artifact, nothing to substantiate that he ever walked the earth. The traditional authorized version of Christian origins is a big bang theory. It suggests that one fine day the only begotten son of God materialized in a virgin’s womb. He grew to manhood, assembled his disciples, imparted his wisdom, died, and rose again. From this a religion was born. How far should the rational thinker buy into this story? The idea of Jesus convinces many that someone must lie beneath the encrusted legends. Many of course reduce the Christian superstar to a dimly perceived good man, who perhaps said some wise words, fell foul of Roman and Jewish authorities, and managed to get himself crucified. The Big Bang Theory now boils down to little more than: Christianity exists, it must have begun somewhere, it began with a single character, here’s my version of who he really was. And favorites include an itinerant philosopher, or a religious reformer, a pacifist like Gandhi, or a militant like Che Guevara. In fact, Jesus has been reformed a hundred times. One thing of which historians and New Testament scholars are well aware is the trajectory by which the Jesus tale developed from an original text. Matthew, Luke, and even the fourth gospel build on a brief original tale without miracles and post-death appearances, written at an uncertain date, by an anonymous author. Church tradition alone identifies this is Mark. Matthew took the story off in one direction, and he packed the text with prophecy. Luke in contrast, trawled through the works of Josephus for tidbits of historical accuracy. Whatever else, eyewitness testimonies they are not, and the story was all but unknown until the second half of the 2nd century. Aware of these difficulties, New Testament scholars suggest a number of traditions preceded the gospel tales. And what do these earlier traditions tell us of Jesus? The Essenes anticipated Christianity in a number of respects, as did the Therapeuts of Egypt, held by the church historian Eusebius as early Christian monks. Yet they were established well before the Christian era. What then are we to make of the thinly drawn life of Jesus? It certainly appears to owe an extraordinary amount to Jewish Scripture, whether drawn from Adam, Moses, Enoch, Melchizedek, Elijah, Elisha, etc. And it’s a vast anticipation of the words and deeds of Jesus. Christian apologetics uses the words “fulfillment” but a simple word “copying” explains the same. What are we to make of the multitude of parallels to Jesus lore to be found in ancient world mythology? Even the embarrassed church fathers spoke of diabolical mimicry: It seems that Satan himself clearly understood the true message of the Jewish prophets, and was thus able to preempt Christianity centuries before the arrival of Jesus by copycat gods! In fact we have absolutely no trace or mention of Jesus’ exploits anywhere until the gospels were written decades after the purported events. Desperate to penetrate this fog, some scholars strive to identify an early layer of teaching, said to derive from an historical Jesus. But does a sayings tradition really point to a single author of wise words? The Bible itself provides an answer. We have a sayings collection in the book of Proverbs, which is attributed to Solomon. But it was standard practice in the ancient world to lend authority and prestige to new material, by falsely accrediting a prestigious figure from the past. But even more fatal to the claim of a sayings tradition is the patent failure of anyone to record any of the supposed astounding new teachings at the time. If a great multitude throughout Syria, Galilee and Judea heard and believed, how odd that no one recorded those sparkling gems of wisdom. The truth is that Christianity grew from neither a god nor a man, but out of what had gone before. A human Jesus was no more necessary than there was a human Horus, Dionysus, Mithras, etc. Can we explain the emergence of Christianity without its superstar? Of course we can. For two centuries the Christian movement languished, and thanks to civil war, it got its big chance. It was the ultimate product of ancient religious syncretism. But it isn’t history, it isn’t truth, it’s more astounding rubbish from the New Testament.