Life events shared by Yeshua (Jesus)
and the "Mythic Hero Archetype"
Life events shared by Yeshua (Jesus) and mythical
According to author Robert Price, specialists in mythology such as Lord
Raglan, Otto Rank, and others have developed a concept called the "Mythic
Hero Archetype" -- a type of larger-than-life man found in many Indo-European and
Semitic cultures. They have analyzed stories and myths of Aeneas, Arthur,
Buddha, David, Gilgamesh, Heracles, Lohengrin, Moses, Odysseus, Oedipus,
Perseus, Romulus, Siegfried, etc. and have identified twenty-two recurring elements in
these myths. Typically, the life story of any one hero contains many, but
not all, of the twenty-two components. 1
Author Alan Dundes has compared this archetype with events in the life
of Jesus, as recorded in the Christian Scriptures. 2 He
found that Jesus' life contained almost all of the twenty two elements.
Element #3 is missing, and #12 is a weak match. But the remaining twenty
events are relatively precise matches:
- His mother is a royal virgin. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke
state that Jesus' mother is a virgin. (e.g.
Matthew 1:23). The genealogies in the two gospels indicate that Joseph is
of royal descent; Mary would partake of royalty by being married to
Joseph. (e.g. Matthew 1:1-16).
- His father is a king. Jesus is regarded to be the Son of God,
and God is often referred to as King of Kings.
- His father and mother are related.
There is no match here. Nothing is known about the genealogy of
Mary, so this cannot be confirmed. If the early Christians believed that
Joseph and Mary were related, then this information did not make it into
- His conception was unusual. Both the Gospels of Luke and of
Matthew state that Jesus was conceived by Mary "from the Holy Spirit"
without having engaged in sexual intercourse with a man. (Matthew 1:20),
- He was said to be the son of God. This is seen throughout the
Christian Scriptures. Considering only the first chapter of the Gospel of
John, there are seven references to Jesus as the Son of God:
|as "The Word" being with God.|
|as the "only begotten of the Father." |
|as the "only begotten Son"|
|as "the Lamb of God." (2 times)|
|as the "Son of God." (2 times)|
- There was an attempt to kill the hero while he was a child. In
Matthew 2:16, Herod ordered that "all the Children who were in
Bethlehem" and its vicinity were to be murdered. (KJV) 3
The NIV says that the slaughter was to be restricted to only male infants.
- He was spirited away. Matthew 2:13-14 relates how an angel
appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with his
- He was reared by foster parents in a country far away. Matthew
2:15 states that Jesus was raised in Egypt until Herod died, and it was
safe for the family to return to Nazareth. Most hero myths involve a
foster family. In the case of Yeshua, Joseph was not Jesus' father; Joseph
was a type of foster father.
- Little or no information is known about his childhood. The
Christian Scriptures give almost no details about the life of Jesus, from
the time that he was circumcised at the age of eight days (Luke 2:21)
until his baptism at about the age of 30. The only exception is Luke
2:46-49 where, at the age of 12, he was described as having been taken to
Jerusalem at the time of Passover. He is described as debating theological
matters with the priests. Presenting the hero as a child prodigy does not
appear in the Mythic Hero Archetype being considered here. However,
Robert Price states that "it is a frequent mytheme in other hero tales
not considered by Raglan..." 1
- He goes to a future kingdom. Jesus went to Jerusalem just
before his last Passover, where he was declared king by the public. John
12:12-13 says that "a great multitude
took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of
Israel!' " (NKJ)
- He is victorious over the king. The passage in John 18:36-37
describes how Jesus demonstrated superior debating skill when interviewed
by Pilate. More importantly, Jesus' resurrection which was mentioned in
all four Gospels and many additional locations in the Christian Scriptures
is the ultimate victory over the king who was responsible for ordering the
crucifixion. Pilate ordered Jesus death and Jesus was triumphant. Pilate
was not a king; he was a procurator -- a type of governor. But he still
had enormous power.
- He marries a princess. There is no
match here -- only the suggestion of a tie-in. There is no
record of Jesus having been married. However, some theologians have
suggested that the miracle story in which he converts water into wine may
have taken place at his own wedding. The Gospels talk extensively about
women being in Jesus' retinue during his ministry. In the culture of Palestine during the
1st century CE, these female followers would have had to be married to Jesus and/or
the disciples, or they were prostitutes. One assumes the former, because
one would otherwise expect the Pharisees to repeatedly and viciously
criticize Jesus for moral laxity if he was followed by a crowd of hookers. It has
been argued that Jesus was probably married. Jewish society strongly
pressured men to marry while young; if Jesus remained single, then one
would have expected the Pharisees to criticize him for remaining a
bachelor. Luke 8:3 indicates that one of the women who followed Jesus was
at least close to King Herod.
- He becomes king. John 18:36-37 describes how the people of
Jerusalem proclaimed him the King of Israel. Pilate jokingly recognizes
that the public considered Jesus as a king in Mark 15:12 and John 19:15.
In Mark 15:18, the Roman soldiers jokingly referred to him as king of the
Jews. A plaque was placed above his head during the execution. It called
him "The King of the Jews." (e.g. Mark 15:26).
- He reigns uneventfully, for a while. He does not reign in the
sense of having temporal power. However, Mark 12:27 to 13: describes how
he holds court in the Jerusalem temple.
- He prescribes laws. In Mark 12 and 13, "...He issues
teachings, parables, and prophecies, which are taken with legal force by
his followers." 1
- He loses favor with the gods or his subjects. The Gospels
record how the public turns against Jesus and demands that he be
crucified. (e.g. John 19:15).
- He is driven from the throne and city. In Luke 23:26-32, he is
led out of the city by Roman soldiers.
- He has a mysterious death. During Jesus' crucifixion, he
died after an unexpectedly short time. (John 19:31-33). More mysterious
than that were the events at the time of his death. Luke 23:44-45
describes how the sun stopped shining and the curtain in the temple was
torn in two. Matthew 27:51-53 describes major earthquakes sufficiently
strong to split rocks. Matthew also discusses the resurrection of many
people from their graves, who subsequently entered the city and appeared
to many people.
- He dies at the top of a hill: He was executed on the hill of
Golgotha, on top of Mount Calvary.
- If he has any children, they do not succeed him. There is
nothing in the Christian Scriptures to indicate that Jesus had children.
It was Jesus brother, James, who succeeded him as leader of the disciples,
and the head of the Jewish Christian group in Jerusalem. (Some faith
groups regard James as Jesus' step-brother, cousin or friend).
- His body was not buried: Rather that being buried in an earthen
grave, his body was temporarily laid out in a rock cave. At some unknown
time between late Friday afternoon, when he was laid in the tomb, and the
following Sunday morning, the Gospels all say that Jesus was resurrected.
Price comments that this "would seem to be within legitimate
variant-distance of the ideal legend type." 1
- One or more holy sepulchers are built: The Church of the Holy
Sepulcher was built over the place where many Christians believe that
Jesus was executed.
Robert Price concludes that "The Gospel story of Jesus is itself
apparently mythic from first to last....As Dundes is careful to point out,
it doesn't prove there was no historical Jesus for it is not implausible
that a genuine, historical individual might become so lionized, even so
deified, that his life and career would be completely assimilated to the
Mythic Hero Archetype...Thus it seems to me that Jesus must be categorized
with other legendary founder figures, including the Buddha,
Krishna, and Lao-tzu. There may have been a
real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure."
- Robert Price, "Deconstructing Jesus," Prometheus Books, (2000),
Pages 259-261. Read
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- Alan Dundes, "The Hero Pattern and the Life of Jesus," in
Otto Rank et al. "In Quest of the Hero," Princeton University Press,
(1990), Page 179 to 223.
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- KJV refers to the King James Version of the Bible. The NIV is the New
Copyright � 2002 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2002-OCT-22
Latest update: 2004-OCT-30
Author: B.A. Robinson