The Legend Theory

“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

— 2 Peter 1:16

If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you’ve more than likely had, at one time or another, a conversation with a skeptic claiming that Christianity is based on myths. Unfortunately, a lot of anti-Christian voices have arisen in our culture, even among seminary professors and “Bible scholars.” Many of these people believe the “legend theory,” the idea that the “myths” surrounding Christ, His miracles, and His resurrection just gradually evolved over the decades and centuries.

This view, popular in the nineteenth century, largely collapsed in the twentieth century with the rise of modern archaeology. Even secular historians point out that the Church of Jesus Christ began in A.D. 33 in Jerusalem because the apostles preached a crucified and resurrected Christ. The apostles focused their teaching on this fact. And they had no time for myth making or legend spinning. As Peter said, “We were eyewitnesses.” John said, speaking of Jesus, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled . . . we declare to you” (1 John 1:1, 3). The apostles spoke of that which they had experienced.

What’s more, most of the apostles died deaths that testified to their absolute belief in what they proclaimed. They were crucified; they were stoned. And they endured all this for believing a legend which hadn’t even developed, which wouldn’t develop for another 100 or 150 years? That’s absurd.

As well, according to Josh McDowell, eighteen different first-century pagan writers present more than a hundred facts about Christ—His birth, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. These secular authors corroborate the disciples’ claims, the claims that have endured for centuries, the claims you and I make as Christians. Christianity is no legend that built up over the centuries. It’s the truth.

If people challenge you for believing in a so-called myth, you can rest assured that the Bible contains the reliable account of Christ’s life. No legend could ever come close to emulating such incredible truth.

“The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number
of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.”
C. S. Lewis