Vegetation cults, it seems are older than stellar or solar cults, but were later blended with them. In theprimitive vegetation-god sacrifice, the victim was, it is believed, originally the king, or head-man, of thetribe or clan. It was believed by ancient man that the prosperity of the tribe depended on the well-beingof the ruler. If the king became old and feeble, it was considered a foregone conclusion that the nation ortribe would suffer a similar decline. So the king, who was usually regarded as a god in human form, wassacrificed, and replaced with a younger and more vigorous man. After much passage of time, the son of the king was substituted in the sacrificial rite, and being also the offspring of divinity, he was properlycalled the son of the god. At a still later period, a condemned criminal was chosen in the place of theroyal victim. This culprit was given regal honors for a time, then put to death. He was generally slainwhile bound to a sacred tree, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross. After being entombed, hewas believed to rise from the dead within three days; the three-day period representing the return of vegetation. The question naturally arises: Why three days? The answer is, that the three-day period isbased on the three-day interval between the Old and New Moons.
It is still believed by certain personsof a superstitious type that there is an intimate connection between the phases of the moon and thegrowth of crops.According to the Chaldean historian Berosus, there was a religious festival celebrated annually inancient Babylon, known as the Sacaea. The duration of the fete was five days, and for that length of timeservants and masters exchanged places in society, the servants giving orders and the masters obeyingthem. The king temporarily abdicated the throne, and a mock-king called Zoganes reigned in his place.But after the five days were over, the mock-king was dethroned and scourged, and then either hanged orcrucified. An eminent Egyptologist has noted that:The victims of these human sacrifices were generally crucified, or else killed and then"hung on a tree," until the evening. In this regard it is interesting to notice that in Acts thewriter mistakenly speaks of Jesus as having been slain and then hanged on a tree, as thoughthis were a common phrase coming readily to his mind; and the word "hanged" is frequentlyused in Greek to denote curcifixion.
Among the advocates of the non-historicity of Jesus, John M. Robertson and L. Gordon Rylands arewidely known. In his
Evolution of Christianity
Mr. Rylands contends that the name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua. Joshua, it seems, was an ancient Hebrew sun-god, who was demotedto the status of a man by the priests of the Yahweh cult. However, the worship of Joshua was continuedin secret by his devotees, until the fall of Jerusalem. After that event, secrecy was no longer necessary,so that the Joshua cult again came out into the open. The sacrificed Jesus, or Joshua, according toRobertson and Rylands, was not a historical personage, but a character in a mystery play. "What isclear," declares Mr. Robertson,is that the central narrative of the gospel biography, the story of the Last Supper, TheAgony, Betrayal, Trial, and Crucifixion, is neither a contemporary report nor a historicaltradition, but the simple transcript of a Mystery-Drama.
The views of Rylands and Robertson have been challenged by Joseph McCabe
and Sir ArthurWeigall. Mr. McCabe holds that it is more reasonable to conclude from the available evidence that Jesusdid actually live; that he was a man who was gradually turned into a god. Sir Arthur Weigall countersthe mythicists with a very ingenious theory. According to Sir Arthur, when Jesus was crucified he didnot die, but only swooned; and that afterwards he was revived by his friends and spirited away. TheMatthew narrator tells us that the chief priests and Pharisees requested Pilate to station a guard of Roman soldiers at the tomb of Jesus: "Lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say untothe people, he is risen from the dead." It is stated in the Bible account that the guard was not placed atPage 2 of 7ChristMythPart42/11/2009http://www.nbufront.org/html/MastersMuseums/JGJackson/ChristMyth/ChristMythPart4.h...