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The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? [Paperback]

Timothy Freke
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Sep 2001
“Whether you conclude that this book is the most alarming heresy of the millennium or the mother of all revelations, The Jesus Mysteries deserves to be read.”
-- Fort Worth Star -Telegram

What if . . .
* there were absolutely no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus?
* for thousands of years Pagans had also followed a Son of God?
* this Pagan savior was also born of a virgin on the twenty-fifth of December before three shepherds, turned water into wine at a wedding, died and was resurrected, and offered his body and blood as a Holy Communion?
* these Pagan myths had been rewritten as the gospel of Jesus Christ?
* the earliest Gnostic Christians knew that the Jesus story was a myth?
* Christianity turned out to be a continuation of Paganism by another name?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA) (25 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609807986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807989
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,004,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent starting point for the truth 19 Feb 2002
An excellent book, which is clear and concise: trying to pick out the salient points of a vast subject. If anything it is a little lightweight. Anyone interested in the roots of Christianity and Christ's true message before it was corrupted by a political organisation should pick it up. As should anyone who is interested in historical facts which the church has tried to obliterate over the last 2000 years in an attempt to stamp its authority over humanity. Not content with raping, torturing and murdering every culture and civilisation they have come into contact with, the Christian Organisations are shown to be deceitfully peddling man's inheritance and salvation as their own invention.
To suggest that it only portrays one side of the argument is stating the obvious and it is a side of the argument, which is sorely needed. And to suggest that it use out dated reference material, can by a quick look at the notes section (which are extremely wide ranging and meticulous) shown to be incorrect. The breadth of material used to support their arguments adds strength to their whole standpoint.
It gives a glimpse of pre-Christian religions and shows them to be enlightening and bringing to humanity everything that Christianity claims to do yet blatantly has not. At last people are starting to break free of the Church's suffocating grip and quest to keep us all in the dark ages it enforced on us in the first place. It contains enough inspiration and promise to keep you reading further on the subject. Well worth a purchase.
Anyone who finds agreement in what they read might try "The Dark Side of God" which reaches a similar conclusion but by a different path. It's a weightier read but again concludes that the Chruch in Rome bears little resemblence to the orginal Nazarenes, Desposyni and Gnostics.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditation is key 25 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Of the 2 authors of this book, one has a degree in philosophy and is an authority on world mysticism with more than 20 books published internationally; the other has an MA in classical civilizations, specialising in the ancient Pagan Mystery religions.
Together they have turned detective and with their extremely detailed and very careful research (all listed in Notes) and logical, clear thinking have come up with this book and explained in layman's terms what has actually been known to scholars for centuries:
- there is no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus;
- for thousands of years Pagans also followed a Son of God;
- this Pagan saviour was also born of a virgin on the 25th December before 3 shepherds, turned water into wine at a wedding, died and was resurrected, and offered his body and blood as a Holy Communion;
- these Pagan myths have been rewritten as the gospel of Jesus Christ
- the earliest Gnostic Christians knew that the Jesus story was a myth;
- Christianity has turned out to be a continuation of Paganism by another name.
I was brought up as a Christian and have great respect for Christians and their belief in the Christian faith. I am certainly no theologian but I am interested in world religions and have a belief in God/higher power. I have attended Christian services in different churches from Roman Catholic to Church of England to URC and also attended services in a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple.
However, although I respect Christians I can see that Christianity does seem to have lost its way somewhat. When the authors reviewed the very substancial evidence they concluded that the traditional "history" of Christianity was nothing less than the greatest cover-up of all time.
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12 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is an interesting but fatally flawed book 4 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This book raises a number of interesting questions and collects together material known by theologians and historians for a long time. However, this is essentially as far as it goes for as soon as the authors get going with their analysis of this material they begin to rely heavily on assumption and generalisation. The idea that the original Christian community was Gnostic is ridiculous and the authors are so keen to force Jesus into the category of just another mythical resurrecting god-man that they soon leave behind the protocols of serious scholarship. For example, they date the New Testament documents extremely late, which is completely against the consensus of New Testament experts; they claim that St. Paul wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, even though the early Church said its authorship was unknown (however, the K.J.V. Bible attributes it to Paul - is this their source?); they 'conveniently' fit all the pagan resurrecting god stories into one unified account, when there are actually huge differences, and choose to ignore the huge gulf that separates the pagan and Christian stories; they fail to provide any reasonable argument as to why, given the fact that the Jesus stories were apparently fictional, they contain so much material that is contradictory or that blatantly implies it is referring to a historical figure.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute rubbish 6 Mar 2009
By A keen reader VINE VOICE
A previous reviewer wrote:

- there is no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus;
>>my comment: nonsense. There is widesread evidence, supported by all leading academics that Jesus did exist. Even members of the sceptical Jesus Seminar and numerous agnostic and atheist academics take this position.

- for thousands of years Pagans also followed a Son of God;
>>my comment: not true. This is a distortion of pagan traditions

- this Pagan saviour was also born of a virgin on the 25th December before 3 shepherds, turned water into wine at a wedding, died and was resurrected, and offered his body and blood as a Holy Communion;
>>my comment: nonsense. Any research into this assertion shows it to be untrue

- these Pagan myths have been rewritten as the gospel of Jesus Christ
>>my comemnt: since those pagan myths have been misrepresented, the assertion is incorrect. Christianity is unique

- the earliest Gnostic Christians knew that the Jesus story was a myth;
>>my comment: rubbish. Jesus is a historical person, not a myth. Independent, non-XChristian writers confirm his existence

- Christianity has turned out to be a continuation of Paganism by another name.
>>my comment: if you do some research into this topic, you iwll find that no academic, Christian or not supports this thesis. It is unfounded.

In conclusion:

Christianity's record of Jesus stands up to rigorous scrutiny and historical reasearch confirms Jesus was a real person who lived and was crucified by Pontius Pilate (this fact is confirmed by Jewish and Roman writers in the 1st and 2nd centuries).

This doesn't stop people writing such daft books, but it should stop readers being less gullible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  255 reviews
428 of 475 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Jesus Mysteries--Recommended! 1 Oct 2000
By readmore - Published on
The church father Tertullian said the questions that make people heretics are these: Where does humanity come from, and how? Where does evil come from and why? He could have added, Where do religious beliefs come from, and what gives them their authority? In The Jesus Mysteries, authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy take on these heretical question with some surprising results. In an interview with Harpers, the authors had this to say about their new book: "During the centuries leading up to the birth of Christianity various cults known as `Mystery Religions' had spread throughout the Pagan world.  At the centre of these Mystery cults was a story about a dying and resurrecting godman who was known by many different names in many different cultures.  In Egypt, where the Mysteries originated, he was known as Osiris, in Greece as Dionysus, in Asia Minor as Attis, in Syria as Adonis, in Italy as Bacchus, in Persia as Mithras.  The more we discovered about this figure, the more his story began to sound uncannily familiar. "Here are just a few of the stories that were told about the godman of the Mysteries. His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin. He is born in a cave or humble cow shed on the 25th of December before three shepherds.  He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.  He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony. He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honour him.  He dies at Easter time as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. After his death he descends to Hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory. His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days. His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood. "On the basis of this and much other evidence we now believe that the story of Jesus is not the biography of an historical Messiah, but a myth derived from the Pagan Mysteries.  The original Christians, the Gnostics, were Jewish mystics who synthesized the Jewish myth of the Messiah with the myth of the Pagan godman in order to make Pagan mysticism easily accessible to Jews. The origin of Christianity is not to be found in Judaism, as previously supposed, but in Paganism. Ironic don't you think? "Ironic indeed, but as a longtime student of mythology, philosophy and religion, their premise intrigued me immediately. I had long known of similarities between pagan religions and Christianity, but until The Jesus Mysteries I had not found a comprehensive source that tried to pull all these threads together and make a synthesis of them. Freke and Gandy take us on a wide ranging and well documented journey through numerous sources, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library and Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy in an effort to show the mythical and philosophical antecedents of the Christian religion. Along the way they also survey the violent and contentious history of the early Christian church as it made its way from an outlawed sect to the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire. Not everyone will agree with their conclusions, but the authors thoughtfully provide hundreds of bibliographical references and footnotes so most anyone can review their research and make up their own minds. The book is provocative but compelling, and I rank it as one of the most important books I have read in the last 30 years.
107 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Book 29 Mar 2002
By Jeff Danelek - Published on
Abandon all hope ye who enter here! This is one of the most dangerous books I've come across in a while and I urge all open-minded Christians to steer well clear of this tome lest they uncover the truth behind Christianity and perhaps even discover the God of the Universe who exists beyond traditional religion in the process!
Seriously, though, I found The Jesus Mysteries to be one of the bravest and most thought-provoking pieces of work I've come across in years. It is a lucid and exhaustively researched expose of the history of Christianity and its battles with Gnosticism put forth in laymen's terms that really gets the mind racing and the heart pumping. In it, Freke and Gandy make an excellent case for the idea that Christianity is actually a Jewish version of earlier Pagan Mystery Religions then in vogue in the Roman Empire with Jesus but a mythological character designed to reflect earlier Pagan mangod beliefs. They show--successfully, I think--that what started out as a mystical Gnostic Christianity was ultimately superceded by a Literalist Christianity (by which they mean Christians who intepret the Jesus stories as literal, historical events rather than mythological analogies and metaphors as did the Gnostics) that denied the very mystical, mythological underpinnings that created the movement in the first place. Their reports on some of the early church fathers and their complicity in destroying what they consider to have been the original "true faith" of Gnostic Christianity are brutal, especially in using these men's own writings and words against them, and their overview of the role of the Catholic Church in suppressing all belief systems that were at variance with their own is nothing short of savage. These men name names and take no prisoners, and have the references to back it up!
That's not to say this book is perfect. Freke's and Gandy's attempts to demonstrate the modern gospels to be "full of contradictions" was weak at best in using examples that have been largely successfully refuted by modern apologists, though they did score a few good solid "hits." And their use of the Book of Hebrews to bolster their claim that Paul was a Gnostic entirely ignored the fact that almost no modern scholars consider Hebrews a genuine Pauline writing in any case, making any "pro gnostic" statements in it irrelevant to their argument. They also have little to support their contention that some of the Pauline letters are later forgeries while others are genuine other than an apparent bias against any supposed Pauline statements that do not support their original contention. Yet even then, I still had to admit that their case for a Gnostic Paul was not entirely without merit; I only question their methodology. Finally, to bolster their arguments that the literalists "doctored" the Bible to suit their needs, they date the main Gospels along with the Book of Acts (with the possible exception of Mark) to the mid second century, much later than even most liberal scholars are usually willing to accept.
Yet despite these problems and a few lapses in logic, Freke and Gandy make a good solid case for Christianity being but another reflection of much earlier and widespread Pagan mythologies that should give many open-minded Christians much reason to pause. I also found it heartening at the end of the book when they demonstrated that their intention was not to destroy Christianity--which is where the book initially seems to be going--but to restore it to its original spiritual meaning and vitality. Like Bishop John Shelby Spong, their intent seems to be to save Christianity from itself. Only time will tell whether they have succeeded, but knowing the mindset of the average fundamentalist--and I was one myself once--I doubt if they have a Gnostic's chance in Hell of being successful.
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Jesus Mysteries - Highly Recommended 13 Dec 2000
By Corlyss M. Drinkard - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a revelation - not about the truth or fiction of an historical Christ, but about the phenomenon of Mediterranean culture known as Mystery Cults and their impact on the formation of Ancient Christianity. This thesis is not new with the current authors, but never has it been carried with such clarity for the general reader interested in Ancient Christianity but largely ignorant of its cultural milieu.
The influence of the Mystery Cults on Judaism didn't start with Christ. It may have even predated the influence of Alexander the Great; there's a strong argument that it reflects the influence of Egyptian religion and older religions that arose in the Mediterranean family of tribes and nations. These arguments cannot be discounted or dismissed because of the use the authors have put them. The book relies on the most recent studies by archeologists and Bibical scholars, two fields that have virtually exploded in the last 20 years with more accurate pictures of the Meditarranean cultures and writings and more accurate datings of familiar events. In fact the notes and the bibliography alone are worth the price of the book.
This book has led me on a wonderful voyage of exploration and discovery. If there are any out there who would like to plot their own voyage, I encourage you to get the book and start now on your trip. You won't be disappointed.
60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Refreshingly Complete View 13 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Many will see the basic premise of "The Jesus Mysteries" to be the similarities between Christianity and the earlier Pagan Mystery Religions. This concept is not new and has been turned into a strawman and somewhat refuted by certain Christian Apologists.
What makes this work unique is the completeness of the story, from the Pagan origins of the themes of Christianity, to the Mysteries' influence in the areas surrounding the first known Christian churches, to the earliest debates within the church over the "heretical" views of Gnosticism. Earlier works on this subject left many questions unanswered, but the complete story from Freke and Gandy leaves no stone unturned.
Critics will attempt to knock out a few legs of their argument, but the completeness of the argument means it has a solid foundation that can handle a few valid criticisms. The criticisms I've seen so far, however, resort to ad-hominem attacks against the credibility of the authors (such as "they don't have a degree in Theology, so how could they write about Jesus", which would be like saying that the only ones capable of criticizing one of Bush's speeches is a life-time member of the Republican party), nit-picking about how hard it is to find the books they reference, or thinking that by refuting a single claim, one can refute the entire work.
But none of the criticisms of the theory have convinced me that their basic premise is not entirely feasible -- at least as feasible as someone walking on water and raising the dead.
The proposed "true" history of christianity from its roots as a hellenized mystery religion expressed through Gnosticism with the literal interpretation of the Gospels being only the "outer" mystery (and never intended to be taken as literal), followed by an enforcement of "orthodoxy" by later literalists is very much supported by what we know of the ancient times ... often from the very texts the church holds sacred.
Certainly no fundamentalist myself, I had been introduced to the complete silence of the earliest Christians to any historical Jesus..., and have been open to finding the complete story. I suspect it is somewhere between Freke and Gandy's hypothesis and Doherty's.
Although somewhat one-sided (and who isn't), I still give it 5 stars due to the completeness of the theory. Is it true? Maybe. Is it entirely plausible and supported by history? Definitely.
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Annoying. 26 Sep 2000
By Peter Bridgman - Published on
'The Jesus Mysteries' is both very enlightening and very annoying at the same time. Among the irritations are the authors pretensions (they repeatedly claim that they started out with no particular agenda when it is quite obvious that this is untrue) and the book's tabloid style (they tend to use a lot of exclamation marks as though they are astounded by their discoveries). Despite these annoyances, the authors' argument - that there is no evidence for a historical Christ and that the Jesus story was cobbled together from elements of Platonism and contemporary Mystery cults - is extremely persuasive. So much so that this book, despite its tabloid style, demands a serious counter-argument from theologians.
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