How Can You Tell a Fake Jesus?


A man in Australia claims to be Jesus. A.J. Miller is attracting hundreds of people to his seminars; dozens have moved to his land in Queensland where he calls his movement the Divine Truth. He says he remembered he was Jesus in 2004.

"There were lots of people in the first century who didn't believe I was the Messiah and were offended by what I said -- and in fact I died at the hands of some of them,” he recently told SkyNews. "Unfortunately they didn't learn love either and my suggestion is, even if you don't believe I am Jesus, at least learn how to love."

Other so-called messiahs have come and gone.

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"People have done this since Jesus' time; it's not anything new," said Ron Burks, a clinical mental health counselor at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital who co-wrote the book "Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement," after being involved with the Fort Lauderdale/Shepherding movement for 17 years. "The apostle Paul warned of false Christs."

But why are scholars so sure that A.J. Miller isn't Jesus, and that his partner, Australian Mary Luck, is not Mary Magdalene, as she claims?

Although Jesus is one of the most studied figures in history, scholars debate many of the details of his life. Still, many agree on consistencies in his character. For example, the historical Jesus didn’t appear to seek power.

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"There's a way of speaking in Greek (which has the same constructs as Aramaic) in the imperative case if you’re giving an order and expect to be obeyed. There are several times (in the Bible) when Jesus said things and he’s not using that case. He never said things in a way where people felt obligated to do what he had said," Burks said.

It's also questionable whether the first Jesus even claimed he was the Messiah.

"We have the historical Jesus vs. the portrayal in the Gospels, and we can reconstruct some reliable things about Jesus," associate professor of religious studies at Grinnell College Henry Rietz said. "We are pretty confident that he proclaimed that the kingdom of God is near. But claiming that he would be the king? Maybe, maybe not. His message was much more about establishing the social order of justice in contrast to the oppressive Roman empire."

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