The Pagan Christ
by Tom Harpur
Silver Chalice E-zine ~ Book Review

The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur is, overall, suited more to a Christian audience than a Pagan one -- unless you're into Christian Wicca or really fascinated by comparative religion.

But it does have 4 things going for it ...

  1. It successfully negates Christian literalism and fundamentalism.
  2. It breathes life back into the world's largest religion, recovering the true spiritual essence of Christianity.
  3. It confesses the irreparable damage that Christian literalism has wreaked on the world.

  4. It honours Pagan wisdom, right up front.

The last two, alone, are worth reading The Pagan Christ!

To not only feel the weight of millennia of lies and persecution fall away, but to hear Paganism honoured and respected by a leading Christian writer is beyond refreshing! It’s invigorating, inspiring, and immensely hopeful for a new future for world religion.

In The Pagan Christ, Harpur demonstrates that Jesus the Christ was not an historical person, and the New Testament (even the Old Testament) was never meant to be taken literally.

Further, he draws clear parallels not only between the Christ mythos and its Pagan (primarily Egyptian) origins.

Other Books by Tom Harpur


A Christian Book for Pagans?

Since I am surrounded by Christianity, as are most Westerners, I find it both helpful and interesting to discover the truths behind the religion. And since I'm deeply interested in spiritual matters, I want to know what the great spiritual sages of history have to teach us.

So -- while it seems to surprise many Christians -- even though I'm a Witch, I've made a study of Christianity.

I don't think I'm alone in this. Especially with more and more Christian Witches out there, this seems to be a growing trend.

And the information is handy, if you're ever set-upon by rabid Christian fundamentalists, claiming you're in league with the devil and the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal saviour.

Intellectual ammo, as it were. wicca-spirituality Winking Witch


But Is The Pagan Christ A Pagan-Friendly Read?

The spiritual perspectives on the stories attributed to Jesus are certainly enlightening. But this book is definitely of more interest to Christian readers, or Christian Witches at least.

There are two sections, however, that Pagans will find most interesting...

  • The account of the reasons behind the Christian war on Paganism, and

  • The (admittedly gratifying) long-overdue acknowledgement of respect for Paganism.

It's even more fun when you read between the lines. Harpur often says "modern" when he means, more accurately, "Christian." Try substituting the word, and an unacknowledged confession of ignorance or simple stupidity of the orthodoxy is revealed.

It may be petty to enjoy this minor vindication, and I have no excuse to offer. Other than I am, of course, human.


The Biggest Flaws

What I liked least about The Pagan Christ was more an underlying current of thought than what Harpur actually says.

Despite his deep exploration of the meaning of the Christ myths, he remains unthinkingly steeped in an inexcusable mindset ...

  • Matter-spirit dichotomy (one could say "war").

  • Subtle demeaning of nature and animals. For instance, claiming that "the spiritually aware person [is] a direct contrast to the natural-animal human." (p. 100)

  • A thoroughly androcentric point of view. For instance, setting up the male experience as the universal: "...the dawning of maturity, when the falsetto voice of innocent youth dramatically changes to the authentic voice of adult responsibility..." (P. 95)
This male-oriented perspective is so engrained, he is obviously not even aware that it's an issue.

That outlook carries over to the realm of the Divine, as well.

The Pagan Christ mentions the Divine Feminine only in passing and almost by accident. A strange omission, one might think, in a book that examines the pre-Christian ancient religions.

The style is a little dry, although perhaps that's to be expected, due to the subject matter.


The Big Question

Maybe it's because I am a Pagan, but The Pagan Christ seemed more than anything to beg the question…

If what is true and best in Christianity is actually Pagan, why go with the middleman rather than the source? Why not skip the cumbersome translations and partake in the original?

Still, Christian Wiccans will enjoy this book, for its perspectives on Paganism and Christ.

While this book is probably of limited interest to most Pagans, I'm deeply grateful it has been written and so widely read.

If nothing else, it eliminates any reason for Christians to hate and persecute Pagans.

That can only be a good thing.


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Excerpts from The Pagan Christ


The power of the millennia-old Christ mythos to transform the whole of humanity was all but destroyed in the literalist adulation of "a presumptive Galilean paragon." Centuries of darkness were to follow.

Christianity began as a cult with almost wholly Pagan origins and motivations in the first century, "and by the fourth it had utterly turned its back on Paganism and repudiated every hint of ... connection with it, loading it with contempt from that day to this." [quoting Kuhn]

They made mute all the Pagan voices that would have "cried aloud their testimony" against the unparalleled imposture then being shaped and perfected in Rome. Few people realize today that in the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great had to tell Church members to stop worshipping the sun. Instead of a literal story about a kind of magician, we have a relevant and potentially transformative wisdom to apply to our daily life.

The Full Moon was a monthly symbol of the maturation of the divinity, or Christos, in everyone.

Ancient religion was indeed deeply rooted in nature and nature symbolism, as we have seen, but these ancients were infinitely more sophisticated than our frequent, too readily assumed superiority allows most of us moderns to realize, especially Christian critics of Pagan thought.

The evidence is mountainous that Pagan eyes pierced through the phenomena of nature to the truth of higher levels.

In other words, Pagan spiritual discernment was all the keener for its close beholding of the natural world.

I wish all fundamentalists would take special note that while these quite public, literally stupendous [miracles] are alleged to have taken place, not a single other contemporary source can be found to corroborate or confirm them -- even though this was at a time and in a place where capable observers, recorders of remarkable happenings, historians, and others were in no way lacking. There is not a smidgeon of a trace of historicity to be found.

-- The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light, Tom Harpur. 2005, Walker & Company, ISBN 13: 978-0802714497, ISBN 10: 0802714498.

(All bold text, my emphasis.)

Rating for The Pagan Christ: 3 Stars

(As a compromise... 4 for Christian Witches, 2 for other Pagans)

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With Bright Blessings,

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