Kersey Graves’ groundbreaking treatise, arguing against the existence of Jesus Christ with the citation of fifteen precedents with striking similarities, remains popular and controversial to this day.
Published in 1875, Graves’ thesis was among the most divisive of its time. Already rocked by the newly-published theory of evolutionary science, which directly contradicted the Biblical telling of man’s creation, the Christian church found itself further assailed by skeptics who doubted the very existence of Jesus Christ. Kelsey Graves authored the most comprehensive criticism of the time, compiling from existing chronicles this thesis: that the genesis of Christianity existed before Christ himself.
The central notion put forth in this book is that there were a total of sixteen crucified individuals from a variety of different ancient belief systems, all of whom provided a model for Jesus Christ. Their birth dates, events in their lives, sentiments which they voiced, miracles which they performed, and of course the circumstances of their death bear great resemblance to the Jesus Christ of the Christian gospels. Thus, Christ as we know him was a heavily derivative product of millennia of religious thought, rather than a credible and distinct figure in his own right.
Although not without flaws – Graves is patchy in citing the dates and publication details of his sources – The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours is an effective summary and expansion of investigations which had ensued on the subject of God-men prophets offering salvation. Formerly a minister himself, Graves’ disillusion with Christian doctrine led him to pursue free thought, wherein he promoted an atheistic view based upon gathered, credible evidence.
The tone of this book is frequently impassioned. Although the subjects are scholarly and even obscure in places, the conviction and liveliness with which Graves approaches this subject serve to make passionate what might otherwise be difficult or arduous reading.