Napoleon and Jesus
In researching for an essay, I came across G. F. Moore’s piece on “Nazarene and Nazareth,” in The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I, Acts of the Apostles,Volume I: Prolegomena, eds. F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920), 426-32. This is still probably the best discussion of the words “Nazarenos” and “Nazoraios“, which are used in the Gospels and Acts as an epithet for Jesus (and once for his followers in Acts 24:5).
In the course of his discussion, Moore (whose impressive grasp of rabbinic material is well known among scholars) mentions then-recent writers (J. M. Robertson, W. B. Smith, Arthur Drewes) who had asserted that Jesus was a purely legendary figure, building their case on what Moore shows to be completely spurious etymology and a mischievous mis-reading of sources (e.g., Epiphanius’ reference to a group he calls “Nasaraioi“). Moore observes that the claim that there was a sect of pre-Christian “Nasaraeans” in which a “”pre-Christian Jesus” was worshipped has no basis.
He also draws a comparison to J.-B. Peres’s “ingenious demonstration that a man Napoleon never existed,” in an enjoyable satire: Comme quoi Napoleon n’a jamais existe; ou Grand Erratum, source d’un nombre infini d’errata a note dans l’histoire du xixe siecle (Paris, 1817, and reprinted numerous times thereafter). The English translation = Did Napoleon ever Exist? (London: Remington & Co., 1885; reprint Utrecht: De Roos, 1972). I gotta get sight of this one! Looks like great fun!