The Historicity Of Jesus
December 31, 2014 Leave a comment
No matter what creed you follow or do not, you cannot deny the fact Jesus existed. The modern concept that Jesus did not exist can be applied to many historical figures from the period, who sometimes have only one source. The article 5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed is very misleading. The contemporary historian Josephus mentions Jesus. And this article itself is full of errors, such as Paul’s attitude to Peter and James.
Here is a refutation of the 5 reasons given in the article (a copy is posted below):
1. The contemporary Jewish historian Josephus twice mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews, written in the first century. Also the prominent Roman historian Tacitus (a pagan), writing at the beginning of the second century, mentions Jesus, though incorrectly as “Christus”.
The lack of birth or death records, or even trial transcripts is simple – these methods of documenting everyday life did not exist until modern times! And any Roman bureaucratic records from the time would have been scant (without cheap paper and the printing press, writing was expensive) and unlikely to survive – there are many lost or incomplete books from Greek and Roman times. In most cases a manuscript only survived nearly 2,000 years through constant reproduction by scribes.
2. Paul’s “silence” on certain details is obvious – his writings in the New Testament are letters addressed to churches. In these letters he usually discussed topical issues and disputes. Why would he rehash details of Jesus’ life, or discuss other basic shared beliefs with the faithful?
The accusation that Paul thought little of Peter and James is totally unfounded. He respected them, and sought their approval of his plan to preach to the Gentiles. There is no way that Paul would have spoken against two of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles.
3. It is a big mistake believing that just because the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written about 100 years after Christianity began, that they must simply be a product of that time. When actually they were oral traditions, passed down among the followers, which were then documented and compiled by four separate individuals. This explains why there are slight differences when describing the details of certain events. The very first Christians (at that time just a new sect of Judaism) included people who knew or witnessed Jesus, and those who were familiar with the contemporary stories. Their shared accounts were their own Gospel, with the written gospels being produced afterwards from these sources.
4. Any differences in the four gospels are obviously the product of a hundred years of mistakes and corruption made through passing the stories down by word of mouth before they were committed to writing. The Christians who assembled the Bible noticed these minor discrepancies, and to their credit they didn’t rewrite or omit anything, but kept it all, knowing what the reasons must have been, and that it didn’t really matter.
5. This is just pure conspiracy theory stuff right here. So, Peter and some friends sat down one day and said, “You know how everyone is waiting for the Messiah? How about we pretend he came, was just friends with us, was killed, and then brought back to life, and then ascended to Heaven? We’ll be horribly persecuted and face much hardship, but won’t it be fun!” Then after persecuting the Christians, Paul one day thought, “Hey, I should get in on this scam, not try to stamp it out. I’ll pretend I had a vision of Jesus, then spend years of travel, hardship, and danger pushing this silly lie for absolutely no profit whatsoever!”
Extract from: 5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed
A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity
by VALERIE TARICO, ALTERNET
“1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef. In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)
2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts. Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!
Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”
3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .
4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other. If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.
The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.
5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer listassembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”
For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:
Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.
In a soon-to-be-released follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgeraldargues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.
We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell.”
5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed