Jesus & the Rank-Raglan’s Hero Pattern


An argument sometimes used by mythicists to prove Jesus never actually existed is to compare Jesus to the Rank-Raglan mythotype list. In narratology and comparative mythology, the Rank-Raglan mythotype are narrative patterns proposed by psychoanalyst Otto Rank and later on amateur anthropologist Lord Raglan that lists different cross-cultural traits often found in the accounts of heroes, including mythical heroes. The list contains a set of 22 common traits that are shared by many heroes in various cultures, myths and religions throughout history and around the world. Raglan argued that the higher the score, the more likely the figure’s biography is mythical. However, Raglan did not categorically deny the historicity of the heroes he looked at, rather it was their common biographies he considered as non historical.

A mythicist that uses the list to disprove the historical Jesus is the Godless Engineer. He does so in this video.

The List & Jesus

So let’s compare the list to Jesus and see how many points he scores:

1. Hero’s mother is a royal virgin.

Mary is not royalty, but she is a virgin. Matthew and Luke both mention Mary being a virgin (Mark and John, however, do not) but both have different reasons as to why. In Matthew’s case it’s because of a mistranslation in the Septuagint and in Luke’s case it’s because he most probably was addressing a gentile audience and therefore molded his portrayal of Jesus’ birth in a way that would resonate to a pagan reader who was familiar with Greco-Roman tales of other divine beings who walked the earth. So only half a point scored here. Total score: 0.5

2. His father is a king.

Jospeh was not a king and God isn’t a king in the traditional sense. Zero points here. Total score: 0,5

3. And often a near relative of his mother.

No indication for that. Total score: 0,5

4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual.

Most definitely, but this goes for many historical figures. Total score: 1,5

5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.

True and again goes for many historical figures. Total score: 2,5

6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal grand father to kill him.

Not by his father or maternal grand father, but by King Herod in the Gospel of Matthew. Only half a point here. Total score: 3

7. He is spirited away.

True. Total score: 4

8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country.

Not true. Joseph might not be his biological father, Mary did carry Jesus for nine months and is considered his mother. Also, Egypt is not a far country. Total score: 4

9. We are told nothing of his childhood.

Although the Gospels mention next to nothing about Jesus childhood, Luke 2:41–52
does mention something. Total score: 4

The Boy Jesus in the Temple
“Now whis parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast awas ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus iincreased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future Kingdom.

Jesus has no kingdom in Jerusalem. Total score: 4

11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast.

No such thing happens in the Gospels. Total score: 4

12 + 13. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
And becomes king.

None of this happens in the Gospels. Total score: 4

14. For a time he reigns uneventfully.

Jesus never reigned over anything. Total score: 4

15. Prescribes laws.

Jesus nowhere prescribes laws, he only restates the already existing Jewish law and tells his followers to follow it. Total score: 4

16. Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects.

He does lose favour with the people, so half a point here. Total score: 4,5

17. Is driven from the throne and city.

Doesn’t happen. Total score: 4,5

18. He meets with a mysterious death.

There is nothing mysterious regarding crucifixion, it was actually quite common. Total score: 4,5

19. Often at the top of a hill.

True. Total score: 5,5

20. His children, if any do not succeed him.

Jesus had no children. Total score: 5,5

21. His body is not buried.

His body is buried according to our oldest source, Paul. Total score: 5,5

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3/6

22. He has one or more holy sepulchres.

Not according to the Gospels. Total score: 5,5


Jesus scores 5,5 points. So let’s compare that to others:

Theseus (20 points), Romulus (18 points), Heracles (17 points), Perseus (18 points), Jason (15 points), Bellerophon (16 points), Pelops (13 points), Dionysos (19 points).

Also, Harry Potter would score 8 points and Tsar Nicolas II would score 14 points. So it’s safe to conclude that this method isn’t without its faults. When it comes to figuring out the historicity of a historical figure, one should use the sources available and not resort to methods like these.



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