Today we had an interesting discussion about the historical Jesus and how much we think we know about his life is likely to be based in fact and how much is likely to be mythology superimposed upon the historical Jesus. Much of what we discussed came out of Part One of Zeitgeist: The Movie by Peter Joseph.
According to Wikipedia: Part I questions religions as being god-given stories, stating that the Christian religion specifically is mainly derived from other religions, astronomical assertions,astrological myths and traditions, which in turn were derived from or shared elements with other traditions. In furtherance of the Jesus myth hypothesis this part states that the historical Jesus is a literary and astrological hybrid, nurtured politically.
The argument is that there are a set of things that have been attributed to virtually all spiritual leaders in the ancient world when nobody knew anything and the whole world was scared by disease, condemned to poverty and living in ignorance of science. Among these things is an obsession with the sun, which had the ability to warm the world around you in spring and had an obvious effect on the plants which feed the world.
A recurring theme in widely scattered cultures is the god who dies and after three days is resurrected from the dead. The movie indicates that the reason that this is such a widespread idea is that in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun moves across the horizon at dawn from North to South until the time of the Winter Solstice. At that time the sun appears to not move at all across the horizon but after three days the sun rises on the horizon slightly more Northernly compared to the previous day. The sun begins moving again from South to North after three days. The author postulates that there is no mystery why all ancient cultures appear to have adopted the same theme in their mythology. Also, on at that time in the solstice the three prominent stars in Orion's belt align with the point on the horizon where the sun will rise on the solstice. This phenomenon, according to the author, explains why so many cultures have an equivalent to the Christian three wise men.
Dark and light are obvious analogies to the evil and good in the world. Horace and many other heros also had 12 disciples. So, we postulate that somewhere there was an itinerant preacher who had some pretty radical good ideas. Over the centuries, a lot of mythology got superimposed upon the Jesus of history. We just wonder if we have a good understanding of how to figure out what is truth and what is fiction.