Charles-François Dupuis

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"Charles Dupuis" redirects here. For the engraver, see Charles Dupuis (engraver).
Charles-François Dupuis.

Charles François Dupuis (26 October 1742 – 29 September 1809) was a French savant, a professor (from 1766) of rhetoric at the Collège de Lisieux, Paris, who studied for the law in his spare time and was received as avocat in 1770. He also ventured into the field of mathematics and served on the committee that developed the French Republican Calendar.

Along with Constantin François Chassebœuf de Volney (1757–1820) Dupuis was known for developing the Christ myth theory, which argued that Christianity was an amalgamation of various ancient mythologies and that Jesus was a mythical character.


Dupuis was born in Trie-Château (in present-day Oise), the son of a schoolmaster.

His precocious talents were recognized by the duc de La Rochefoucauld who sent him to the College d'Harcourt. In 1778, he invented a telegraph with which he was able to correspond with his friend Fortin de Bagneux, and must be considered among the first inventors of the telegraph that was perfected by Claude Chappe.

Dupuis devoted himself to the study of astronomy (his tutor was Lalande) in connection with mythology, the result of which was his magnum opus: Origine de tous les Cultes, ou la Réligion Universelle. It appeared in 1795 in quarto or octavo format, profusely illustrated (in 12 volumes); an abridgement (1798) spread his system more widely among the reading public. In Origine he advocated the unity of the astronomical and religious myths of all nations, an aspect of the Enlightenment's confidence in the universality of human nature. In his Mémoire explicatif du Zodiaque, chronologique et mythologique (1806) he similarly maintains a common origin for the astronomical and religious opinions of the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, Persians, and Arabians. He contributed to the Journal des savants a memoire on the origin of the constellations and on the explication of myth through astronomy, which was published as a separate fascicle in 1781. He came to the attention of Frederick the Great, who appointed him secretary but died before Dupuis could take up duties in Berlin.

Teaching Latin eloquence at the Collège de France, he was elected to the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres.

After the start of the Revolution, Dupuis fled Paris, appalled by the massacres of September 1792, only to return when he discovered he had been elected to the National Convention, where he sat on the Council of Five Hundred, and was President of the Legislative Body after the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire. He left political life in 1802. In April 1806 he received the Legion of Honor.

Christ myth theory[edit]

The beginnings of the formal denial of the existence of Jesus can be traced to late 18th century France, and the works of Constantin François Chassebœuf de Volney (1757–1820) and Dupuis.[1][2] Volney and Dupuis argued that Christianity was an amalgamation of various ancient mythologies and that Jesus was a mythical character.[1][3]

Dupuis argued that ancient rituals in Syria, Egypt and Persia had influenced the Christian story which was allegorized as the histories of solar deities, such as Sol Invictus.[4] He argued also that Jewish and Christian scriptures could be interpreted according to the solar pattern, e.g. the Fall of Man in Genesis being an allegory of the hardship caused by winter, and the resurrection of Jesus an allegory for the growth of the sun's strength in the sign of Aries at the spring equinox.[4]

Volney argued that Abraham and Sarah were derived from Brahma and his wife Saraswati, and that Christ was related to Krishna.[5] Volney published before Dupuis but made use of a draft version of Dupuis' work, and followed much of his argument, but at times differed from him, e.g. in arguing that the gospel stories were not intentionally created as an extended allegory grounded in solar myths, but were compiled organically when simple allegorical statements were misunderstood as history.[4]


French Catholic librarian Jean-Baptiste Pérès wrote a satirical refutation of Dupuis's work under the title of Grand Erratum (1827), in which he maintains, in parallel to Dupuis's thesis that the cult of Christ is merely a cult of the Sun, that Napoleon (who, in reality, died a mere six years before the publication of the pamphlet) never existed, but was only a sun myth.


  1. ^ a b Weaver, Walter P. (1999). The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century, 1900–1950. Trinity. pp. 45-50.
  2. ^ Schweitzer, Albert. (2001) [1913] The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Fortress. p. 355ff.
  3. ^ Van Voorst, Robert E. (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 7-11. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9.
  4. ^ a b c Wells, G. A. (1969). Stages of New Testament Criticism. Journal of the History of Ideas, 30 (2): 147-160.
  5. ^ Leask, Nigel (2004). British Romantic Writers and the East. Cambridge Univ Press. pp. 104 -105. ISBN 0521604443.

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