Reza Aslan is a major biblical scholar and the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” The Iranian American is one of the top theological scholars in the world.

He says there are five myths about Jesus that we have been unaware of for thousands of years.

The myths are:

1. He was born in Bethlehem.

Aslan says all his life Jesus was referred to as the Nazarene or Jesus of Nazareth and was from Nazareth. However, it was a prophecy that held that he would be born in Bethlehem, the same city as King David. So the census story was essentially invented by Luke who noted that Joseph was born in Bethlehem and had the couple return there for the census count.

He also points out that the 6 A.D. census encompassed only Judea, Samaria and Idumea, not Galilee.

2. He was an only child.

Forget the Virgin birth, historical Jesus came from a family of at least four brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and an unknown number of sisters.

“That Jesus had brothers and sisters is attested to repeatedly by the Gospels and the letters of Paul. Even the 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus refers to Jesus’s brother James, who would become the most important leader of the early Christian church after Jesus’s death.” Aslan notes

3. He had 12 disciples.

Jesus had three levels of followers, says Aslan, the crowds who showed up in towns, the 70 or so disciples who went from town to town with him according to the gospel of Luke and the twelve apostles who were allowed to preach his message independent of him.

4. There was a trial with Pontius Pilate.

Pilate was not the weak man of the bible texts, but a jew hater who condemned and killed them indiscriminately. He would never have tried a man of the stature of Jesus, just another Jewish rabble rouser, says Aslan.

5. He was buried in a tomb.

Those who were crucified were almost always left up on the cross by the Romans as a warning to others, where their bones were picked clean by birds and attacked by wild dogs. Aslan says it would have been highly unusual for a man of Jesus’s low stature to be buried in an elaborate tomb.

Source: Washington Post

* Originally published in September 2013.