Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
In view of such an evolution, which may or may not have a historical connection with the old Asiatic rite seen surviving among the Khonds and Gonds, we may perhaps infer where we cannot trace the development that preceded the reduction of the Jesus myth to its present form. An important light is also thrown on the problem by the speculation of Dr. Frazer, inasmuch as it indicates clues which are not affected by the miscarriage of his actual theorem; and to these we may profitably turn.
Dr. Frazer's hypothesis is that the "mockeries" of the
crucifixion represent the application to the case of Jesus of the usages of the Perso-Babylonian festival of the Sacæa, 1 which he is disposed to identify with the very ancient New Year festival known as the Zakmuk or Zagmuku. 2 From this he holds the Jews to have derived their (certainly post-exilic) feast of Purim, of the origin of which such a fictitious account is given in the book of Esther, whereof the Esther and Mordecai strongly suggest the God-names Ishtar and Merodach. Purim, in its main features, resembles alike the accounts given of the Sacæa and those given of Zakmuk; and the suggestion is that the Jews, in borrowing the festival, may have copied from the Babylonians the Sacæa practice of putting to death at that date "a malefactor, who, after masquerading as Mordecai, in a crown and royal robe, was hanged or crucified in the character of Haman." This in itself is not incredible; nor is it unlikely that the fast which precedes the feasting of Purim was, in Babylon, a ceremonial mourning for a God or demigod who died like Tammuz or Adonis, and like him rose again on the third day. Then comes the suggestion that Jesus was crucified in the character of Haman.
Now arises, however, the problem as to dates. Purim occurred in the middle of the lunar month of Adar, the last of the Jewish sacred year, which, says Dr. Frazer, "corresponds roughly to March." In Condor's Handbook, as it happens, it is made to run from January 28th to February 25th, leaving (for us) an interval of eleven days unaccounted for between the end of the year and the beginning of the next, which sets out with 1st Nisan = 8th March. What the Jews did to round the cycle was to insert a thirteenth lunar month seven times in nineteen years. This intercalary month was presumptively placed at the end of the year, with the effect of retarding the New Year and making Nisan (also called Abib = ripe ears) run into our April. The practical point for us, then, is that there were several weeks between Purim and the Babylonian Zakmuk, which fell "early" in Nisan. Doubtless the Jews put Purim earlier to prevent its clashing with their Passover, which was originally a spring festival of the same order. But then the Sacæa, according to Berosus, fell in the Babylonian month of Lous, which answers to July; 3 and Jesus, again, is crucified at the Passover, which occurs in the middle of Nisan, the lamb being set apart on the 10th, while "unleavened bread" began on the 15th. Thus none of the dates
fit, Jesus being crucified, according to the story, a month after the Jewish festival in which Haman figures, and months before that of the Sacæa in which a mock king was hanged or crucified.
Of these difficulties, which Dr. Frazer avows, Mr. Lang makes the most. 1 Dr. Frazer's suggested solutions are(1) that Berosus may be wrong about the date of the Sacæa; (2) that Jesus may really have been crucified in Adar, at the feast of Purim, and not in Nisan, at the feast of the PassoverChristian sentiment preferring the latter date, and making the change in tradition; (3) that the Jews may sometimes (cp. Esther iii, 7) have put Purim alongside of the Passover. For the rest, he suggests that Barabbas was the Mordecai of the year; and cites from Philo the story of Carabbas, who was made to play the part of a mock king at Alexandria, by way of burlesquing King Agrippa. 2 The name Carabbas, it is suggested, may be a copyist's error for Barabbas, which, Dr. Frazer thinks, may have been the standing name for a figure in a mock sacrifice, since it means "Son of the Father," and points to the old Semitic cults in which king's sons were sacrificed by or for their fathers.
Now, the mere difficulty about dates would not be fatal to Dr. Frazer's very interesting and ingenious theory if that were otherwise on a sound footing. That there were two calendar usages in regard to the Sacæa becomes probable when we note (1) that the Jews, under Babylonian influence, had separated their ecclesiastical from their civil yeartheir ecclesiastical new year (the older) being in autumn, while the civil year began in spring, 3 and (2) that they had a second or little Passover, a month after the first, for those who could not keep that. 4 Under the changing dynasties of Mesopotamia there might easily be such a duplicating of the Sacæa; and as a matter of fact Zakmuk was a festival day in many Babylonian cults. 5 On the other hand, the Jews would readily antedate their Purim to separate it from the Passover; and Christian tradition might very well falsify a date of which it had no documentary record. But this last consideration calls up a far more serious
objection to the form of Dr. Frazer's propositionthe above-noted objection, namely, that he is accepting the historic actuality of the crucifixion, the inscriptions on the cross, the "of Nazareth," the mockery by the soldiers, the utterances of Pilate, the episode of Barabbas, and all the rest of it. To a critic who accepts all this the critical answer obviously is: If you thus take for granted the genuineness of such a highly detailed narrative, how can you possibly account for its absolute omission of any shadow of allusion to the Haman-and-Mordecai show of which you suppose the crucifixion to have accidentally become part? This objection Dr. Frazer does not try to meet; and it is hard to see how he could meet it.
A thorough inquiry, surely, must take account of all aspects of the gospel problem, not merely of ostensible parallels in pagan usage to one aspect of the crucifixion story. The whole documentary problem, surely, must be taken into account; and the historical criticism of the entire legend reckoned with. We are not dealing with a generally credible and corroborated narrative in which a single episode raises surmise of extraneous factors not recognised in the text, but with one which begins and ends in absolute and immemorial myth and is stamped with supernaturalism in every sentence. By Dr. Frazer's own repeated avowal, we ought not to look to the current narrative of the origin of a rite for the historical fact, but to the rite for the origin of the narrative. If this law does not hold of the Christian eucharist it holds of nothing; and the eucharist is the keystone of the arch built over the death of the God in the gospels.
Dr. Frazer obviously proceeds on the common assumption that the teachings of the Gospel Jesus testify to an indubitable personality. But that view, so natural at first sight, has reached its lowest degree of credit among special students precisely at the moment of Dr. Frazer's unquestioning acceptance of it. 1 Anthropology and hierology cannot afford thus to ignore the special historical problems of the very creed on which confessedly their results must finally come to bear. Several of Dr. Frazer's remarks, however, suggest that in the very act of bringing his invaluable research into relation with the creeds of his contemporaries he had regarded as outside his field of study some of the most significant and best-established facts as to the doctrinal evolution of Christism among the Jews. 2
145:1 Mentioned by Berosus, as cited in Athenæus, xiv, 44 (p. 639 C.); and by Dio Chrysostom, Orat. iv, p. 6 (ed. Dindorf, vol. i, p. 76).
145:2 Mentioned in recently recovered cuneiform inscriptions. See Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 6468; and Jastrow, Religions of Assyria and Babylonia, Index, under Zagmuk.
145:3 Or may possibly be as late as September. Lang, Magic and Religion, p. 145.
146:1 Sometimes very amusingly, but with unwonted diffuseness and repetition, in Magic and Religion, pp. 123-204. As Mr. Lang shows (p. 138, etc.), Dr. Frazer has left in his text (ii, 254, note; iii, 152-3) contradictory surmises as to dates. The immense mass of details in his book may well excuse such an oversight; but Mr. Lang undoubtedly shows his theory to be otherwise inharmonious in detail.
146:2 Dr. Frazer states (iii, 193, note) that "the first to call attention to this passage" in Philo was Mr. P. Wendland, in Hermes, in 1898. This, I may mention, is a mistake. I myself discussed the Carabbas story in the National Reformer so long ago as March 3rd, 1889, and certainly some previous writerI think Rabbi Wisehad called my attention to it.
146:3 Wellhausen, Prolegomena, Eng. tr. pp. 108-9; cp. Exodus xii, 2. Cp. Max Müller, Natural Religion, pp. 529-530. Cp. Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 232.
146:4 Num. ix, 10, 11.
146:5 See Jastrow, Index, under Zagmuk.
147:1 See hereinafter, Pt. II, ch. ii, §1 4-6; and Christianity and Mythology, Pt. III.
147:2 E.g. his note (ii, p. 3, n. 3) on the anticipations of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in Philo Judæus.