ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE
Part 1 of Zeitgeist: The Movie uses a title with a double meaning, "The Greatest Story Ever Told." But instead of taking "story" in the sense of an accurate newspaper account of an historical event, Zeitgeist uses "story" in the sense of a fictional myth. This part of the movie is an extended diatribe against Christianity, and to a much smaller extent against theism in general. It labels Christianity as "the fraud of the age" which justifies "awful crimes," calls Jesus Christ a "Solar Deity" and "mythical figure" and labels the Bible as "an astro-theological literary fold hybrid, just like nearly all religious myths before it" which is full of "plagiarized" stories. The German word "Zeitgeist" literally means "ghost of the time.
(Note: These quotations are from the "Interactive Transcript" on the movie web site, which is an edited version of the movie transcript. It lacks at least the ten minute introduction and conclusion. Some of the quotes below are from untranscribed parts of the movie.)
AN UNBIASED MOVIE?
According to its authors, Zeitgeist is the ONLY source of unbiased, factual information on Christianity. The narration says, "we want to be factual... academically correct" about what is historically true.
Yet, the "Statement" on the web site warns people NOT to attempt to verify the "facts" stated in the movie:
"...information contained in Part 1 and Part 3, specifically, is not obtained by simple keyword searches on the Internet.... people who look up 'Horus'... draw their conclusions from very general or biased sources. Online encyclopedias or text book Encyclopedias do not contain the information contained in Zeitgeist."
This indirectly accuses Egyptologists and historians of the ancient world who have no interest in defending Christianity of being ignorant or deceitful. Whenever a movie like Zeitgeist tells you that you can't verify their information in neutral sources, you can be sure that they are making up or misapplying their "information."
In fact, Zeitgeist is polemical and incendiary, not unbiased and factual. Part 1 begins and ends with a key spokesman- comic George Carlin in a profanity-laced anti-Christian riff, ridiculing caricatures of Christian teachings to get laughs in a live performance.
The movie tries to use backward engineering, starting with its pop view of Christian teachings (which aren't accurate) and attempting to show that most gods of the ancient world had the same characteristics as Jesus Christ: they were all conceived in a virgin, born Dec 25 on the winter solstice under the "three kings" stars, had 12 disciples, did miracles, died for three days, and resurrected.
Zeitgeist doesn't even know Christianity well enough to distinguish between facts of Christianity recorded in Scripture from fable added by centuries of legend. Essential to its argument that Jesus is a Solar Deity is the "fact" that Christianity says be was born Dec 25. But the Bible does not say he was born Dec 25, nor even in December. Nor does it even say what time of year he was born. Jesus' birth was recognized on various dates in the early Church. Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354 AD set Dec 25 as the date, but even then people didn't believe that was his actual birth date. To this day, the Eastern Orthodox Church (the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church, including Greek, Russian, and other branches) celebrate The Incarnation of our Lord on January 6, not Dec 25.
Another essential Zeitgeist argument is that the "three kings" that visited Jesus soon after birth were actually the three stars of Orion's belt which are called "three kings." They use this to show that Jesus is a mythical figure of astrology, not a real person. But the Bible does not say that three kings visited Jesus. It speaks of magi, but never calls them kings and never says how many there were (only that there were more than one). Zeitgeist took a Christmas carol written in 1857 by John Hopkins called "We Three Kings of Orient" and used it to "demonstrate" that the Bible and Jesus are only astrological myth.
Zeitgeist also claims that the Roman political system established Christian doctrine and story at the council of Nicea in 325 AD. Actually, Christian doctrine was described in great detail long before that. Early Christian leaders were prolific writers and speakers. Those who wrote before 325 AD are collectively called "The Ante-Nicene Fathers" ("ante-Nicean" means "before Nicea" ). Printed together they are the size of a full encyclopedia and are available at any theological library.
Zeitgeist ticks off a list of "Solar Gods" which allegedly all have the same characteristics as Jesus Christ. It includes Horus, the sun god of Egyptians; Attis of Phyrigia; Dionysus of the Greeks; Krishna of Hindus; and Mithra of Persians. They all parallel Jesus' life exactly, and Horus the most exactly and fully of them all. But be warned! Zeitgeist reminds you that you can't find any evidence of these claims outside of books by their special network of writers.
A thorough study of this topic reveals that there are very few similarities between the events of Jesus' life and those of pagan gods. An article titled "Alleged Similarities Between Jesus & Pagan Deities" (www.thedevineevidence.com/jesus_similarities.html examines in detail the stories of eight pagan gods and shows that Zeitgeist's claims of similarities are completely false. The web site www.tektonmics.org also refutes the "copycat" theory and includes links (www.tektonics.org/copycat/copycathub.html ) to many articles evaluating specific assertions made in Zeitgeist and other places.
Zeitgeist doesn't seem to understand calendars very well, either. The Julian calendar of the Romans and the early Popes was solar, but the solstice did not fall on Dec 25, contradicting Zeitgeist's essential argument. The lunar calendars of other societies did not match up to solar calendars, either. The Gregorian calendar which fixed errors in other calendars wasn't widely accepted until the 1700s.
Zeitgeist's zeal to force ancient gods into the mold of Jesus Christ results in great imagination and mangling of history.
JESUS A MYTH?
Zeitgeist really overplays its hand when it claims that Jesus was a "mythical figure" and that "the figure known as Jesus did not even exist." It grudgingly admits that four historians of the first century state that Christ did exist, Pliny the younger, Suetonius, Tacitus and Josephus. It brushes them aside in only three sentences: "Each one of these entries consists of only a few sentences at best and only refer to the Christus or the Christ, which in fact is not a name but a title. It means the 'Anointed One.' The fourth source is Josephus and this source has been proven to be a forgery for hundreds of years."
This kind of reasoning prompts questions. If a writer says a lot about a person or event, does that mean that they really existed? But if little is said, does that mean they did not exist? If every person or event historians say little about were considered to have never existed, there would be hardly anything left. This is especially true since writers of the first century were not as verbose as today, especially so in the case of Pliny's letter, since letters are by nature short. In fact, when public figures are well known there is even less reason to say a lot about them. This was the case with Jesus Christ.
Another question: If historians use titles for people instead of names, does this mean that they never existed? This is what Zeitgeist infers. Does this mean that when historians use titles like "Caesar," "Queen of Egypt," "King of the Jews" or "Christ" it means they never existed? Of course not!
These Roman authors confirm several historical events. Tacitus (Annals 15:44) notes that "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hand of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate." He then notes that Christianity spread beyond Judea to Rome itself and that Nero tortured Christians.
These four authors confirm that Jesus Christ existed as a historical person. While the exact text of Josephus has been debated, and part of the traditional text was indeed considered added after his death, historians agree that Josephus did in fact mention Christ.
Zeitgeist ignores other evidence of Jesus' existence. The Jewish Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) says that Jesus had disciples and was "near to the kingship," meaning that he was born in the line of King David. It states that "Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve" (meaning hanged on the cross).
Another ancient author, Mara Bar Serapion, who wrote sometime after 73 AD, probably in the second or third century, said "What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished... Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."
The Jews as well as the Romans were enemies of Christianity at that time, and all would have been anxious to claim Jesus had never existed if that had been the case. Graffiti from the first century has been discovered which pictures a man with a donkey head hanging on a cross along with the words "Alexemenos worships his god." It confirms the Biblical event of the crucifixion of Jesus and the fact that it was common knowledge. To this day, a Roman emperor's goddaughter, Domitila, is connected with Christian catacombs in Rome, showing how well know Christianity was known even in Roman circles.
There were also Christian leaders in addition to Bible writers who confirmed Jesus' existence and teachings. Collectively they are called the Apostolic Fathers, including Pappias, who speaks of Matthew's Gospel, and the Didache (Teaching of the Apostles). All those writers knew people who knew Jesus Christ, in much the same way that people alive today know people who knew famous people who lived in the 1930s. Zeitgeist quotes Justin Martyr who defended the faith against attacks from critics. But Justin never had to answer an objection that Jesus Christ never existed, because it was common knowledge in his day that Christ was a real historical person.
Zeitgeist predicably tries to eliminate the cross of Christ by claiming Jesus never existed and by claiming the cross comes from the zodiac. It depicts lines drawn through The zodiac horizontally and vertically, making a cross. But most zodiacs don't have those lines drawn through them, because the passage of lunar months and constellations don't neatly match the equinoxes. However, the cross which was a typical method of Roman execution in the first century and the record of Jesus' death on a cross explain the cross as both a historical and spiritual symbol for Christians.
THE BIBLE- AN ASTROLOGICAL WORK?
Zeitgeist is as ignorant and afraid of the Bible as it is of Jesus Christ, saying "the Bible is nothing more than an astro-theological literary fold hybrid, just like nearly all religious myths before it." It claims that Matthew 28:20 is a mistranslation "among many mistranslations." Of course, they don't give examples. But be warned! Zeitgeist wants you to know that you won't find evidence for their claims in neutral sources!
Zeitgeist claims that Matthew 28:20 is a mistranslation because it uses the word "world" instead of "age." But they quote the King James version which is 500 years old and uses many words that have changed meaning over the centuries. Newer translations like the New International Version use the word "age," but in the Biblical sense rather than the astrological sense that Zeitgeist wants to impose on it.
How astrological is the Bible? Let the Bible answer this question: "Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month. Let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble, the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves...." (Isaiah 47:12-14) The book of Daniel mentions astrologers only to show what failures they are, and Amos 5:26 criticizes "the star of your god."
What about similarities between Bible stories or between Bible stories and some myths? When it comes down to it, there are only a handful of themes that are meaningful to human beings: power over nature, self-sacrifice, faithfulness in the face of suffering or opposition, wise and strong leadership, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, purpose in life, etc. These recur in most every culture and religion because they are things humans respect.
This is Zeitgeist's simplistic logic: "Myths sometimes mention things Jesus is said to have done, therefore whatever Jesus did is a myth, too." Does this make sense? This is like saying, "some fictional movies show soldiers giving their lives to save their friends, therefore any story of a soldier giving his life for his friends is a myth too." Fiction is often based on events, not proof that such things have never happened. In the same way, if some myths depict people doing things Jesus did, this is not proof Jesus never did them or that his life was mythical.
TRYING TO FIT SQUARE PEGS IN ROUND HOLES
Zeitgeist is desperate to make every mythical god fit the pattern of Jesus Christ's life, and to make Bible stories fit the mold of astrology and sun worship. It can't be done.
For example, the movie tries to force Bible stories to fit the mold of astrology's supposed "Age of Pices." Whenever the Bible mentions fish in any context it is used to "prove" that the New Testament sees itself as initiating that astrological period. But if the movie wanted to "prove" the New Testament was initiating the Age of Leo (the lion in the zodiac), no doubt it could find "evidence" in phrases like "the lion of Judah," in David killing a lion, in Numbers' saying that the people would rise as a lion, or in prophets speaking of lions roaring or feeding. There are plenty of mentions of bulls in the Bible if the movie wanted to impose the Age of Taurus on it, and mentions of twins or pairs if they were looking for Gemini. None of it makes any sense or fits the astrological bill.
It is also ironic that Zeitgeist condemns the Bible and Christianity as being theistic, while at the same time it tries to make the Bible a book of astrology which is often an atheistic kind of thinking.
Zeitgeist is loaded with anger, exaggeration, speculation and appeals to emotion, not to reason and evidence. It begins with graphic images of death, violence, war and sorrow then amazingly claims that "religious institutions of this world (which in context means Christianity in particular) are at the bottom of the dirt," and religion is the "worst kind of bull****." While some people who claim to be Christians have done these things, this can't be laid at the feet of Jesus Christ who said "love your enemies and turn the other check, and who forgave soldiers who tortured and killed him.
The best defense of Christianity the movie offers is when Carlin ridicules a Christian who Carlin says told him that God created dinosaur bones to test his faith. This is a "straw man," picturing Christians as such wimps and weaklings they can be knocked over by a breath of Zeitgeist.
Christianity has withstood much more reasoned and forceful attacks than Zeitgeist. Ridicule is its best weapon, but it has no more substance than a ghost (geist).
Dr. John Juedes, Highland CA, 2007, www.abouttheway.org
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