A friend of mine asked me to watch the first section of Zeitgeist (a movie you can watch for free on the internet at http://zeitgeistmovie.com/) and give him some perspective on it.

Here goes:

I don’t recall ever having run across so many factual inaccuracies in such a short span of time. I doubt I even caught them all — they were flying fast and furious.

I’ll start with a few that are easy for an untrained layperson to see right away. There’s some other stuff he said that I know is false, but demonstrating it is less easy. It becomes “my expert you’ve never heard of” versus “his expert you’ve never heard of” with me saying “my expert is better than his expert — trust me.” So I’ll keep this list focused on stuff anyone can easily verify on their own.

One easily-checked fact that he builds his argument on is that the Southern Cross is the real inspiration for the cross of Jesus (watch from 17:35 through 19:03). Three problems with this:
a) The Southern Cross is a modern invention — not an ancient constellation. Check http://www.windows.ucar.edu/the_universe/crux.html and http://www.fillingthesky.com/constellationhistory.html
b) The Southern Cross is not visible from where the New Testament was written. In the Northern Hemisphere you have to be below 30 degrees latitude to see it. The New Testament was written from Jerusalem on north.
c) It’s hard to see how a constellation that didn’t exist and couldn’t be seen inspired the story of Jesus when Romans actually killed people on crosses all the time. Is he seriously suggesting that the Romans didn’t actually crucify people?

Missing such a basic fact doesn’t inspire confidence in the more esoteric, less easily-checked facts he uses to make his entire case. There are other easily-checked facts he distorts. Two from the Bible struck me.

In the time range 23:38 — 25:20 the movie claims that Jesus is a personification of the astrological sign of Pisces. Towards the end of this section, the narrator states that Jesus’ disciples asked him when he would celebrate the next passover with them him after he is gone and that Jesus’ answer in Luke 22:10 was code language for Aquarius (the next age of the Zodiac). This is easy enough to check — and it turns out to be a lie. Luke 22:10 is about the passover they are celebrating that night, not the next meal they will share after his resurrection. That isn’t a minor difference — it undermines his entire interpretation.

Another example of his willingness to distort the Bible to make his point occurs around time marker 21:10, when he says that the Bible teaches that Jesus comes from heaven wearing a crown of thorns, which represent the rays of the sun. He quotes John 19:5 to support this point. Look it up. There’s not even a hint of Jesus descending from heaven anywhere in this passage. He’s walking from one place to another — not descending from the clouds as the narrator claims.

These two instances aren’t nitpicking — these are very easily checked statements in the bestselling book of all time which is always available for instant fact-checking on the internet at places such as Bible Gateway. If he didn’t even check these references that key parts of his argument rely on, then how much stock can we place in his references to obscure ancient Egyptian texts that only scholars have ready access to?

He’s evidently received criticism along this line, because he felt compelled to give some documentation for his use of ancient texts at http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/GMappendix.htm

Just look through it. Pay attention to the stories of Jesus in the right column (you are presumably more familiar with them). I think you’ll be surprised at how flaky that list is.

Bottom line: Zeitgeist is very imaginative, but that’s about it.

UPDATE 2/24/2008: This post is still generating comments. It’s been six months since I wrote this post, and since then a helpful review by Ben Witherington has been posted — The Zeitgeist of the ‘Zeitgeist Movie’. Look to it for a more detailed rebuttal of the movie’s claims.

11 thoughts on “Zeitgeist”

  1. I have seen this movie and found it quite bothersome given that it certainly shook my “faith” tree. As a Pastor I was very bothered by its claims and have been wondering what other Pastors, Clergy and Christians think about it. Like you I did find some problems with the film but it is still troubling to think that there really is multiple expressions of what was hereto called “astrotheology”. It seems to me that even if half of the imformation presented is true and there are these parallels with other world religions then isn’t that enough to make us take a more serious look at our faith and our roles as clergy?

  2. We should always be reflecting on our faith and our roles as clergy. 😉

    But Zeitgeist aside, the fact that there are legitimate parallels to other world religions embedded within Christianity shouldn’t bother us. What’s the alternative — to believe that every other religion on the planet is wrong in every conceivable way?

    We should expect a certain level of parallelism if for no other reason than that it’s just as remarkable to call 50 coin tosses in a row wrong as it is to call them correctly.

  3. There are not alternatives, rather continuous “whole parts”. That to which you refer as parallelism would be the key. Which apple you choose is irrelevant, how you eat it determines the flavour!

    In addition, 50 falsely called, and 50 correctly identified coin tosses are not remarkable. They’re expressions of probability, that same probability that holds you to the physical/mental place in which you find yourself at this moment. Similarly, the same probability that influenced your respective “clergy’s”.

  4. I think you misunderstand my point — let’s change the number from 50 to 500 to make the it clearer.

    Predicting 500 coin tosses in a row incorrectly is remarkable — and it is just as remarkable as predicting 500 coin tosses in a row correctly.

    Both are equally absurd statistical outliers.

    I am using this to illustrate my main point — that for a religion to be 100% wrong in every respect would be extremely surprising.

  5. first of all I would like to say i respect your position and status

    that being said:
    if the correlations between the pagan and christian religions are correctly stated in this movie
    would it be blasphemous for christians to convert to a more pagan based way of life?
    keeping in mind that the entire basis for christianity is from pagan religions


  6. Just a quick comment on the Southern Cross. I think you’ll find that in the time of when the myths are written that the “crux” constellation was indeed visible. Knowing that much should be the clue you need. The other points require a bit more explanation, but might be enough to get you thinking in another direction!

  7. to Cole: No. If the movie was correct it would be a good argument for not believing in Christianity, but it would not be a good argument for becoming a pagan. Showing that a false idea comes from another source doesn’t make the original source true.

    to Ash: even if you are correct about the constellation shifting in the horizon over the centuries, it doesn’t establish your point. The Southern Cross remains a modern invention and the fact remains that the Romans crucifed people left and right without needing any astrological reason for their preferred method of execution.

    It’s been six months since I wrote this post, and since then a helpful review by Ben Witherington has been posted — The Zeitgeist of the ‘Zeitgeist Movie’. Look to it for a more detailed rebuttal of the movie’s claims.

  8. I hope the March 15th of the world premiere of the movie Zeitgeist will cause a lot of newspapers from a lot countries to start hounding the U.S. Government to admit they were behind the 9/11 attack. These people need to be removed from power.

  9. Zeitgeist movie is true! From the religious point of view, to the political. We are controlled by religion and politics and we know it. So we deserve our faith! I don’t believe in things, I believe what I feel.

  10. The pastor who commented Thomas I think his name was, this is for you…

    If you truly are a pastor, do not let some movie come between you and your faith. You truly love Jesus and that’s what’s important. I do think it is vital to keep an open mind, and I think you do that. It’s just you can’t let some cult movie shake your faith, whatever that is.

    That’s just what I think…I mean I didn’t even mention my take on the movie or my beliefs so please don’t bash me lol.


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