Jesus Christs Effect on Religion
Ernest Renan, French
historian and religious scholar
Jesus was the greatest religious genius that ever
lived. His beauty is eternal, and his reign shall never end. Jesus is
in every way unique, and nothing can be compared to him.
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor
of the French (1804-1814), 1769-1821
Paganism is the work of man. One can here read
but our imbecility. What do these gods so boastful know more than other
mortals; these legislators, Greek or Roman; his Numa; this Lycurgus;
these priests of India or of Memphis; this Confucius; this Mohammed?
Absolutely nothing. They have made a perfect chaos of mortals. There
is not one of them all who has said anything new in reference to our
future destiny, about the soul, about the essence of God, about the
creation. Enter the sanctuaries of paganism: You find there perfect
chaos, a thousand contradictions, war between the gods, the immobility
of sculpture, the division of the rending of unity, the parceling out
of the Divine attributes mutilated or denied in their essence, the sophisms
of ignorance and presumption, polluted fetes, impurity and abomination
adored, all sorts of corruption festering in the thick shades with the
rotten wood. The idol and the priest. Does this honor God, or does this
dishonor Him? Are these religions and these gods to be compared with
Christianity? As for me, I say no. Summon entire Olympus to my tribunal.
I judge the gods, but am far from prostrating myself before their vain
images. The gods, the legislators, of India, and of China, of Rome and
of Athens, have nothing which can overawe me.
About Jesus Christ he says instead:
His religion is a revelation from an intelligence
which is certainly not that of a man.
I know men; and I tell you Jesus Christ is not
a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders
of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not
There is between Christianity and whatever other
religion the distance of infinity.
We can say to the authors of every other religion: You
are neither gods, nor the agents of the Deity. You are but missionaries
of falsehood, moulded from the same clay with the rest of mortals. You
are made with all the passions and vices inseparable from them. Your
temples and your priests proclaim your origin. Such will be the
judgment, the cry of conscience of whomever examines the gods and the
temples of paganism.
Jesus Christ is the outstanding personality of
No other teacher Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Mohammedan
is still a teacher whose teaching is such a guidepost for the
world we live in. Other teachers may have something basic for an Oriental,
an Arab, or the Occidental; but every act and word of Jesus has value
for all of us.
Religion cannot be said to have had a bad choice
in pitching upon this man as the ideal representative and guide of humanity.
Confessed toward the end of his life:
is historical, not mythical,
an individual, no mere symbol
He remains the highest model of religion
within the reach of our thought; and no perfect piety is possible without
his presence in the heart.