A small dwelling in Jerusalem, some time in the mid-30s AD.
Saul: Thank you for meeting me on such short notice. I have been watching you for a while and I think you are exactly what I need for a very special project.
Simon: What is this all about? What does a pharisee based in Jerusalem want with two Galilean fishermen and a carpenter?
Saul: What I’m about to tell you is going to change everything, not just in Judea and Galilee, but across the Roman Empire and perhaps beyond.
James: Well, get on with it. I want to get back to Nazareth. I have my family waiting for me.
John: Yes, get on. My brother in Bethsaida is carrying my weight in our fishing business while I’m here for the festival.
Saul: Yes, yes. Have some patience. None of my colleagues would doubt my zeal for the traditions of our fathers. But I have come to the conclusion that our faith as it stands now will not survive in these Roman times. We need something more. We need the Messiah.
James: Perhaps, but you can’t just decide for the Messiah to appear. That’s not our decision.
Saul: Isn’t it?
Simon: What are you talking about?
Saul: I have been doing some travelling, both in your native Galilee and elsewhere. I have been talking to Romans, Greeks and other Gentiles. I have been asking about their religious beliefs. After my initial revulsion, I had a revelation. It was while I was on the road to Damascus that I realized that there is a common thread that is found among the Egyptian, Greek and Roman beliefs.
John: Go on.
Saul: All of those cultures, and more, basically hold to divine god-man who was born of a virgin, had twelve followers, was crucified and raised on the third day.
Saul: It’s true, all of these motifs are found in each religion. Horus, Dionysus and Mithras are almost exactly the same figure.
John: Who in Moses’ name is Mithras?
Saul: Well, he is not that familiar in this area. He is based on eastern religions and is just beginning to appear in some Roman areas. But he is exactly what I have said, he was born of a virgin, had twelve followers, was crucified and raised on the third day!
Saul: Well, he was born from a rock that was almost certainly a virgin. Also, I saw a stone image of him that included the twelve signs of the zodiac. And he killed a bull that eventually came back to life, which is almost the same as his own crucifixion and resurrection.
James: Yeah, right. I don’t know about this Mithras guy, but I do know something about Horus. My cousin worked for a couple of years in Alexandria, Egypt, and he told me a lot about their religion. According to him, Horus was conceived through intercourse between Isis and the dead Osiris and that he died from a scorpion sting as a child and was brought back to life the same day.
Saul: Details, details. I prefer my summary of the story.
John: And living in Galilee, we have plenty of interaction with Greeks. I know a lot about Dionysus. He also was conceived through intercourse between Zeus and some mortal and when his pregnant mother blew up, he was sown to Zeus’ thigh. How does that fit your story?
Saul: It doesn’t matter. I say that there is a theme of a virgin born dying and rising god and if I say it, that is final. I’m the theologian here and not you!
Peter: Why are you telling us this?
Saul: It is time for the Messiah to appear. I’m going to construct a Jewish Messiah by taking aspects of Horus, Dionysus and Mithras and placing him in our culture. I’m just going to say that he appeared, and people will recognize him as part of the universal spiritual tradition.
John: But what if they read the myths and find out your theory is far fetched?
Saul: They won’t. People are too lazy to do their own research. Even the internet won’t change that.
James: The what?
Saul: Never mind.
Simon: You still haven’t answered my question. Why do you need us?
Saul: I’m going to start preaching this mythical Messiah, who I have given the name Jesus. I’m also going to start writing some letters to give a bit of theological foundation to the story. Then, I have arranged for some people to write four “biographies” of this Jesus that will begin to appear in forty to fifty years. James, you are going to be his half-brother.
James: Why half-brother?
Saul: Remember, this Jesus will be virgin born, just like Horus, Dionysus and Mithras.
James: Oh yeah…
Saul: And Simon and John, you and your brothers will be part of the twelve mythical zodiac followers of Jesus. But Simon, I’m not crazy about your name. Have you ever considered Rocky?
Simon: I don’t get it. Why the overlap between real people and people you have created from your imagination?
Saul: Don’t ask these questions.
James: I see a major problem with your plan. The stories about Horus, Dionysus and what’s his name were all written long after the supposed events took place. In fact they don’t even have a historical setting. People here in Jerusalem will know that there never was a Jesus guy teaching and performing miracles, getting crucified and rising from the dead. This is not going to work.
Saul: It will work if we throw ourselves into this. It may require that we give our lives over to the Romans for the sake of our mythical Jesus.
James, Simon, John: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!
Saul: I’m not kidding. We will be giving our lives for a Jesus who may not be real in history but will be real in people’s hearts.
James: Man, you are crazy. Come on guys, let’s get out of here.
Saul: It doesn’t matter. I don’t need you. I can include you in my story with or without your permission. World, prepare to be changed!
For more information on the Jesus Myth, get my book, Unmasking the Jesus Myth.