Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History

By Maurice Goguel (1926)


The question of the historical character of Jesus is one of present-day interest. It has once again been ably raised by Monsieur P. L. Couchoud in a small volume of considerable literary value and high spiritual inspiration.[1] Is it true that the theory of the origins of Christianity sketched out in the above work is, as announced in the programme of the collection in which it has appeared, "the synthesis of recent works on Christianity," and "the focussing that all agree in considering as indispensable"? For he who knows, even superficially, the present state of research concerning Christian origins may be permitted to doubt this. Has not one of M. Couchoud's collaborators written on the first volume of the collection: " Without Jesus, the history of Christianity would seem as inexplicable as that of Islam without Mahomet, or of Pythagorianism without Pythagoras"? The intellectual loyalty of M. Couchoud,[2] the sincerity and vigour of his thought, the loyal effort which he has made to penetrate into the spirit of primitive Christianity, are worthy of full respect, but this homage which it is a pleasure to pay him does not prevent our seeing in his book the dream of a poet rather than the work of an historian.

During the discussions which took place last winter at the Union pour la Vérité certain criticisms were advanced and facts were cited in contradiction to his theses. It is no matter for surprise that these objections should have left him unmoved, but it is surprising that in the volume he has just published he has not attempted to answer them.

The problem of the historical character of Jesus is one of fact. It is entirely in the region of fact and by the historical method that we shall attempt its solution to decide whether modern criticism since the eighteenth century has entered a blind alley, and should admit its error, cease to see in Jesus

[1] P. L. Couchoud, Le Mystère de Jésus, Paris, 1924.

[2] Albert Houtin, Courte histoire du Christianisme, Paris, 1924.


a real personage, and in so doing enter upon a road other than that followed by Strauss, Baur, Renan, Albert and Jean Reville, Auguste Sabatier, Harnack, Lagrange, Loisy and Guignebert.[1]

[1] Being only here concerned with the question of the historical existence of Jesus, we pass over the problem of the influence (according to certain authors) of the religions of India upon him and the Gospel tradition.

Cp. R. Seydel, Das Evangelium von Jesus in seinen Verhaltnissen zur Buddha-Sage und Buddha Lehre, Leipsig, 1882 ; Buddha und Christus, Breslau, 1884 ; Die Buddha-Legende und das Leben Jesu nach den Evangelien, Weimar, 1897.

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