The Jesus Model

Nothing has ever been presented that can be said to give historical authenticity to the earliest biblical characters (Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, etc.,etc.); and that is equally true of the New Testament characters of Jesus and his apostles. For millions of persons this is blasphemy; but be honest, is it not strange that in over two thousand years nothing has ever been unearthed to verify that the “son of God” once dwelt on this little planet?

In the case of Jesus, there is enough characterization presented to suggest that, if nothing else, some person must have at least served as an example. A strong possibility of who that might be was a man of whom real records remain; he is known as Apollonius of Tyana, a neo-Pythagorean philosopher and magician who was born in Tyana, Cappadocia early in the first century CE.

Apollonius adopted the doctrines of Pythagorias early in life, abstaining from animal food and living in the simplest manner. He traveled to India, becoming initiated into the doctrines of the Brahmans. He visited Nineveh, Babylon and traveled through Ethiopia, Spain and Italy, eventually settling in Greece where he opened a school. His contemporaries regarded him as a worker of miracles, and his reputation spread to influence the aristocrats and literati of Rome.

There was another possible model in this same period, a verified man named Simon Magnus who is actually spoken of in the NT book of Acts. Still another possible model was a real man named Celus who was regarded so highly that a 15th century Swiss physician and alchemist, Paracelsus (like Celus), fashioned his own name.

But it is Apollonius who seems to stand out. He was so proficient in the arts of deception that even the Christian apologist Justin Martyr would later marvel at his “miracles.” “How is it,” Martyr lamented, “that the talismans of Apollonius have power in certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, and the violence of the winds, and the attack of wild beasts; and whilst our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous and actually manifest in present facts.” Apollonius was venerated for his wisdom throughout Greece, and in the first century CE he was regarded by many as the rival of Christ. The major difference is that one can be historically verified and the other cannot.

There is more in favor of Apollonius’ contribution to Christianity than having produced the illusion miracles though. By some accounts, while Apollonius was traveling through the East c. 38-40, in the general region of present Singapore, he came upon a mythological account of Krishna (sometimes spelled Chrishna). That literary work is credited to a very great sage of India called Deva Bodhisatoua. Apollonius was so impressed with the story that he translated it into his own language, making some changes according to his own philosophy. He carried the manuscript back to Antioch–a favorite city among the Roman aristocrats and literati–and where there happened to be a well-established Greek cult that spoke of themselves as Chrestianoi, or sometimes as Chrestians. Perhaps we should remember that the spelling of the title Christ was not standardized until the mid-third century.

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