The God Who Wasn't There: an Analysis
Last Updated: Mar 2007
Welcome to my analysis of the historical claims in Brian Flemming's "The God Who Wasn't There" movie!
I've recently redesigned my website, so this initial page is new. However, all the old pages are still there. I've made some updates since creating this review a year ago, and will make more as time and circumstances permit. See the "What's New" sections below for details of changes.
What's New: Mar 2007:
It's been nearly two years since Brian Flemming released his documentary The God who wasn't there. When I first produced my analysis of the historical claims in his movie, I expected that I would be adding updates to respond to Flemming as he began to reveal the sources for those historical claims. Incredibly, he still hasn't done that, other than to deny that he used the discredited Kersey Graves "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors". Curiously, he seems reluctant to review what sources he actually did use.
In fact, as far as I know, Flemming hasn't even tried to mount a case to support his views of how early Christianity developed. I heard that one person who wanted to check into the claims sent Flemming an email asking him for his sources. The response? Apparently a refusal, and a suggestion that the person "check the internet". If this story is true, then I have to note the irony. Flemming says that "steering the flock away from source material is a common strategy" of fundamentalists. Flemming has claimed a few times that he researched this topic. I can think of no possible reason why he doesn't give his sources, unless he found that those sources were ultimately unreliable.
In the only update section that I produced, Flemming admitted to "mistakes" in his movie. It would be interesting to get a list from him on what they are, but I note that this has not deterred him from continuing to distribute copies of his movie. He probably believes that the mistakes don't outway the information he provides in the rest of the movie, but again this shouldn't stop him from revealing his sources so that others can verify his work.
I urge his supporters to write to him, and ask him for his sources on his historical claims. Where did Flemming get the idea that Thor, "Deva Tat of Siam", etc, share with Jesus those attributes that he listed (see Section 1)? Where did he get the misquote from? (See Section 2). Where did Flemming get his information from originally, and did he validate it? We won't know until he decides to reveal his sources.
What's New: Feb 2007:
In Section 1: Misinformation, I make the point several times that one of the problems on both sides of this debate is that people just don't check the veracity of the claims being made. I've found a number of websites now that have simply repeated Flemming's vague claims about the influence of Dionysus, Mithras and Osiris on early Christianity, apparently without knowing what that influence was, nor knowing anything about the stories of the gods themselves.
Embarrassingly, a skeptic researcher has recently informed me that one of the quotes that Flemming attributes to Justin Martyr in his movie has been heavily edited. The original quote actually supports my position that Justin Martyr was stretching to find his parallels between Christianity and pagan stories. And Flemming's quote simply hides this. But ironically, I didn't check Flemming's quote in the primary source material and so missed it!
This is the quote that Flemming uses in his movie:
For when they say that Dionysus arose again and ascended to heaven, is it not evidence the devil has imitated the prophecy?
This is the actual quote from Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter LXIX:
For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by[Jupiterís] intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that [the devil] has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses?
In my review, I make the point that Justin Martyr's parallels are so weak that modern Jesus Mythers don't use them themselves, they only use Justin's summary statements to show that Justin was trying "to explain away" parallels between Christianity and pagan myths. But in fact, the context shows that Justin was trying to convince the pagans that the parallels exist. However, Justin was having a difficult time, so he came up with a reason: the devil was trying to imitate the prophecies in the Old Testament... but got them wrong! You can see how Flemming's edit removed the parts that showed how weak the parallels offered by Justin are. (For more information, see Section 2 of my analysis).
Now, whether Flemming deliberately edited the offending quote to remove the weak parallels or not I don't know. However, it shows the importance of declaring one's sources. Such misquoting leaves him open to charges of deliberate deception. So, where did he get the quote from? Is it his own investigation, or the work of another? At the least, I suggest that Flemming has simply taken information from Jesus Myth books and hasn't done any research of his own in the primary sources. At the worst, he has engaged in deliberate deception. But we won't know until he reveals where he got his information from.