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The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light Hardcover – March 1, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Hardcover, March 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harpur, a former Anglican priest and professor of Greek and New Testament at the University of Toronto, delves into the foundations of the Christian faith, questioning the historicity of the Bible, reinterpreting the familiar stories and restoring what he considers the inner meaning of scriptural texts. "Taken literally, they present a world of abnormal events totally unrelated to people's authentic living today." He documents the many traditions that predate Christianity and parallel the familiar Bible story. He sees Christianity, and the Bible itself, as a rehash of these traditions, merely imitative rather than a record of actual, historical events. He goes so far as to question the existence of the historical Jesus. Harpur believes that the early church establishment, through deliberate acts of suppression and the destruction of books that might challenge the orthodox view (most famously in the Alexandrian Library), shaped a rigid institution unable to cope with an evolving world. He insists that a major change must take place in order for Christianity to survive. His solution is termed "Cosmic Christianity"—a radical reinterpretation not just of the Bible but of the nature of the Christian faith and its links to the world's great spiritual traditions. Harpur's arguments, themselves a rehash of earlier scholarship, are unlikely to convince readers who are not already inclined to his views. (Mar. 27)
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“In this passionate hymn to Christ universal, rather than demythologizing Jesus as so many scholars do, Tom Harpur remythologizes Christ. He identifies the Christian mythos with universal themes drawn, in particular, from Egyptian wisdom, not to debunk Christian truth but to rekindle it with ancient fire.” ―Forrest Church, author of Bringing God Home: A Spiritual Guidebook for the Journey of Your Life

“A thoroughly captivating book .... Harpur describes and shares his intellectual journey extremely powerfully.” ―Globe and Mail

“A truly revolutionary work, devout but subversive in the best sense, with a carefully constructed narrative that challenges believers and non-believers to fundamentally re-examine 'the Greatest Story Ever Told.' ... Harpur has arrived at a dramatic conclusion, firmly held and well detailed.” ―Edmonton Journal


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714497
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I applaud Mr. Harpur and the discussion that The Pagan Christ promotes about the origins of all organized religions. It is interesting to hear people talk about why they believe what they believe, as Mr. Harpur does. The book is worth reading for this alone.

Then, Harpur offers the reader a 128 source bibliography, 3 appendices with more background on research, a glossary, and detailed notes. There are many references to modern Egyptology and religious studies. In fact, 71 of the sources date from 1980 to 1999 and 18 of the sources date from 2000 to 2004 when the book was published. Harpur admittedly says that his book is an "investigation" into the history of Christianity, not intended as an attack but a "sincere and earnest search for spiritual truth".

Egyptologists and archeologists have ongoing debates as to dates of origin and the various methods of calculating dates. Can you blame them? We are talking about ancient times here, thousands of years, back to the Sumerians and invention of the wheel! So I can forgive Harpur and others for fudging a date. Etymology too is fraught with debate as we look at ancient languages with multiple meanings for one word depending on how it is used. I am not going to toss out the baby with the bathwater because there are minutia left to debate, as many of the Amazon commenters suggest.

WHAT IF it is true? That ancient Christianity and the Bible was intended to be allegorical, spiritual, and mythical rather than a literal interpretation? We have the right to ask the questions.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Harpur's "Pagan Christ" takes the necessary first step (or at least popularizes it) in freeing us from mindlessly superstitious literal and fundamentalist interpretations of the Christian tradition. In tracing the entirety of the Gospel narratives to similar stories thousands of years older in Egypt, Persia, and Greece, it becomes obvious that the biblical accounts are indeed reinterpreted myths, allegories pointing to universal truths, and not literal historical accounts. Examined from this perspective, the Bible takes on a new deeper meaning, its parables and principles become newly invigorated, contradictions are sorted out, and universal spirituality becomes experienced.
But how much more so, had Harpur but continued his analysis to its logical conclusion? For after pointing out that "all scripture is by nature allegorical" and that a literal interpretation leads to "serious error," he then falls into the same trap himself and takes a literal interpretation of the concept of "soul," and misses the fact that it too is metaphor. And thereby perpetuates the fundamentalists' error.
To explain: literalists (and Harpur) speak of the soul as if it were a "thing," existing in time and space and history, with attributes such as size, position, shape, and colour, as do all other "things;" it's just that this one is invisible and non-material. As a "thing," a literal soul, divine or otherwise, can leave a literal heaven and incarnate literal flesh, and after the death of the body, can leave for greener pastures.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Harpur began his career as an (evangelical) Anglican priest and professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto. Just over 30 years ago, he moved from academia into journalism. Today, he is perhaps the leading religion writer in Canada.

"The Pagan Christ" is the story of his discovery of the writings of one Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880-1963) and two earlier writers (Godfrey Higgins [1771-1834] and Gerald Massey [1828-1907]), who argued that all of the essential ideas of both Judaism and Christianity came primarily from Egyptian religion.
Toward the end of the third Christian century, the leaders of the church began to misinterpret the Bible. Prior to this, no one ever understood the Bible to be literally true. Earlier, in keeping with all other religions, the narrative material of the Hebrew and Greek Bible was interpreted as myth or symbol, read as allegory and metaphor rather than as history.
According to Harpur, there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived. He claims that virtually all of the details of the life and teachings of Jesus have their counterpart in Egyptian religious ideas. He does not quote any contemporary Egyptologist or recognized academic authority on world religions nor appeal to any of the standard reference books in Egyptology or to any primary sources. Rather, he is entirely dependent on the work of Kuhn (and Higgins & Massey).
Who is Alvin Boyd Kuhn? He is given the title `Egyptologist' and is regarded by Harpur as "one of the single greatest geniuses of the twentieth century" [who] "towers above all others of recent memory in intellect and his understanding of the world's religious.
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