This early philosopher confirms Jesus' existence:
"What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting
Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment
for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from
burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand.
What advantage did the Jews again from executing their wise King?
It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly
avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the
Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven
from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not
die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did
not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the
wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had
given.'" (British Museum Syriac MS. Addition 14,658, first century,
quoted pp. 210-211, Killing Jesus, Stephen Mansfield).
It is a striking consequence of Jesus denial that certainly one
of the most influential human beings who ever existed. . .never
existed. To quote Bono, evaluating the rival theory that He existed
but was a nut-case, “I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire
course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its
fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's
far-fetched.'" (quoted p. 128, Dave Sterrett, Why Trust Jesus?).
That the gospel upended the way of the world was noticed right from
the start: "But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out,
'These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.'”
(Acts 17:6-7). It is somewhat surprising that a fictional character
could do that, although one might suggest 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' as an
exemplar of a influential work of fiction. If Jesus never existed,
then around what pivot does human history turn? Who changed all the
rules, and why did he not sign his own name?
The pagan theologian Euhemerus propounded the theory that all the
gods had originally been men. He was not an atheist, as might be
supposed, but rather someone committed to the Macedonian world hegemony. His reduction of
the space between heaven and earth made it easier for the generals to
whom he was attached to claim divinity, as they wished to do. The
Greeks had at one time put to death men who acclaimed kings as gods,
but then they themselves began to do the same:
"'But you are present, Not made of wood or stone, a
genuine god. We pray to thee. First of all give us peace, O dearest
god. . .'
"This is what was sung by the nation which fought at
Marathon, and they sang it not only in public, but in their private
houses — men who had once put a man to death for offering
adoration to the king of Persia, and who had slain countless
myriads of barbarians." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists or the
Banquet of the Learned, Book VI, Chapter 64. Location 8108).
"But I wonder at the Athenians, how they allowed him to make
such a speech without bringing him to trial, and yet fined
Demades ten talents, because he thought Alexander a god; and
they put Evagoras to death, because when he went as ambassador
to the king he adored him." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, or the
Banquet of the Learned, Book VI, Chapter 58, Location 8053).
However politically repellent Euhemerus' theory, there does seem
to be something to it. However when offered as the comprehensive
pagan Theory of Everything, it is reductive to the point of doing damage, as it
accounts for some things and fails to account for others. Poseidon,
for example, is the sea, and the sea is not a man. There are forces
of nature, personified and equipped with intentionality, which find
their place in the pagan pantheon, and these meteorological
phenomena or celestial orbs are not, at bottom, men. The connection
between Athena and the owl is more than a totem or insignia, and one
waits for 'ox-eyed' Hera to say, 'mooo.' Bacchus is, in some sense,
the vine and the grape harvest, just as Demeter is the wheat crop.
But then, it gets complicated, because Bacchus went on an expedition
to India, and the grape-vine never went on an expedition to India.
Somehow this agricultural product has got itself mixed up with a man
who travelled about the world, which is a thing men do, but
agricultural products do not so much do. And this happens often in
pagan mythology; even celestial orbs end up enjoying lengthy careers
upon the earth, complete with romance and adventure. This Timothy Leary-type
encouraged people to 'tune in, turn on, and drop out,' impairing
civic order, though his drug of choice was not LSD but wine, 'soma' it may be. He
may have imported viticulture to areas where it had not previously
been practiced, and he attracted a large and enthusiastic following,
just as 'hippies' flocked to Leary's drug nirvana pitch. And
there was a certain amount of 'buyer's remorse' here too, just ask
Agave, whose life story gives a good summing up of the risks and
"Pentheus, the son of Echion and Agave, said that Liber
was not a god, and he was unwilling to accept his mysteries. Because
of this his mother, Agave, and her sisters, Ino and Autonoe, tore
him apart in a fit of madness brought on by Liber. When Agave
regained her senses and saw that she had been driven by Liber to
commit such a gruesome crime, she fled from Thebes."
Like the hippies, Bacchus' followers found more
degradation and disgrace than they found the heaven on earth they sought.
Since there is a man mixed up in here somehow, Euhemerus' approach
bears fruit, but it's only one strain to be traced throughout a complex whole.
Amongst the various theories about religion Madalyn Murray O'Hair
endorses at various times is Euhemerism: