Hello everyone… is this a provocative enough question? I'm new to the forum, so apologies if this subject has been covered. But I haven't seen it mentioned yet—and so I figured, why not get right to the heart of the matter?
I was born and raised in Alabama, so I think I can honestly claim to be a natural-born Rationalist; I certainly didn't pick it up from my immediate surroundings! (Stay tuned for my autobiography, "A Liberal Rationalist in Judge Moore's Court".)
Last year I decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover… something that about 90% of the "believers" I've met never seem to get around to doing. (Hmm, they believe it's the inspired Word of the Almighty God, but "Desperate Housewives" is the higher priority?!)
What I found was a "history book" that began with a talking snake, and ended with a seven-headed dragon. I found a "moral template" that mandated genocide, slavery, divine right of kings, racial superiority, subjugation of women, homophobia, punishment of children for the sins of their parents… and so on.
But, I had always assumed that the old axiom "Every myth has its basis in fact" also applied to Jesus… that surely there must've been an actual guy 2000 years ago, whose story was exaggerated to fit the religious requirements.
That is, until recently. Just a few spaces from Sam's book on the Barnes & Noble bookshelf, I came across an excerpt from a piece by a 20th century Rationalist by the name of Mangasarian. He makes the argument that Jesus never existed. I must admit, I found him pretty convincing.
Of course, even he admits that there may have been a historical Jesus, there's no way for us to know… but his point is that the evidence is not there. Basically, all we have is a few lines from Josephus, which even the Apologists admit was (at least "partially") forged. He seems to be saying, the Christian case is so weak that they can't even prove the guy existed, much less was God incarnate.
Here is the link to the entire piece: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/m_m_mangasarian/truth_about_jesus.html
It was written in 1908, but a few dated elements aside, I think his argument holds up brilliantly. By all means check it out and let me know what you think… feel free to straighten me out on this Sam himself has told me that he thinks there was "probably" a historical Jesus, but he hasn't told me yet what his basis for that assumption is.
i heard the new testaments were written 40 years after jesus died on the cross. it wasnt suppose to be taken seriously, it was ment for moral stories.
Paul’s stuff was written first, as I understand, twenty or thirty years after Jesus was allegedly executed. The Gospels came later, composed by various anonymous writers. Strange how they don’t match up with Paul, who doesn’t seem to be aware of Jesus’s miracles or his born-of-a-virgin origins… he seems to more agree with Sam that Jesus should merely be “born of a young woman”, and be a descendant of King David. Whereas the Gospels answer this prophecy by making Joseph the David relation (by giving two conflicting genealogies)... but what difference does it make if Joseph wasn’t the father of Jesus?! (Mangasarian carries this argument much further.)
I’ve had Apologetics tell me that one of the two conflicting genealogies is actually the genealogy of Mary… but that’s not what the Bible says! It directly refers to Joseph in both versions. It would make sense for the story… but any theory can be made to make sense if you just rewrite the data! And by the way, isn’t adding to the Bible a SIN?!
That’s a recurring habit with Believers, I’ve found—a constant game of adding and subtracting with the infallible Word of God, depending on how it affects them. Jesus says that rich men don’t get into heaven, that a Christian should sell all their goods and give the money to the poor (Commie!). How do all the affluent Christians driving to church in their Mercedes reconcile this? “He didn’t mean me, just in that particular situation.” How does a Christian woman manage to reconcile Paul’s demand that women cover their heads while in church? Basically the same excuse. (Assuming they’ve even read the passage at all.)
Anyway, as to Jesus’s historicity… obviously the Gospels are not a reliable “historical account.” That Jesus could’ve had the following he is supposed to have had, caused the ruckus he did, and not inspire a single contemporary secular account from an eyewitness, is a stretch. Not a single letter, or portrait or sculpture of the man (which would finally replace the generic Caucasian/blue-eyed version hanging in all the churches), not a single official record or scholarly account? (Again, Mangasarian argues this in detail.)
Something that Mangasarian doesn’t mention though—the broad gestures that are in the Bible but not recorded anywhere else. King Herod’s mass infanticide, for example… not recorded anywhere, to my knowledge. And my favorite, the entire planet going dark for three hours… you would think the astronomers of the day would have had something to say about this.
But, the Gospels could have a core of truth, as Sam seems to think. There could have been an actual guy. I’ll be glad to hear any evidence about this. Charles Manson’s disciples swore as eyewitnesses that Manson once flew a bus over a canyon… the ridiculousness of the story doesn’t mean that Manson himself doesn’t exist. Just means they were on something. (Wonder if it was the same stuff that the guy who wrote Revelations was on.
Jesus as depicted in the bible never existed. It is certainly possible a political/philosophical rebel shook things up at that time but an interesting issue comes up. Not a single artistic depiction exists showing Jesus in any form until AFTER the Nicean council. As well, check out this image:
It dates to around 300AD (prior to Nicean?) and shows Osiris (Orpheus Bacchus) on the cross.
Jesus = Mithras = Osiris = Moses = Noah = OT god = Enoch = Jesus in Revelation. They are one and all symbolic, anthropomorphized deities expressing our ancestor’s belief that meteorites “seeded” life on earth.
Maybe Jesus existed, maybe not. I think he probably did; there wouldn’t be much historical evidence, if any, because his appeal was to the poor, and who records what happens among the poor?
You have to understand the phenomenon of “syncretism.” The Hellenistic world was a sort of cultural stew, every imaginable philosophy and religion was available, and it was OK to incorporate any and all ideas from everywhere that seemed to fit. Because Jesus as Messiah was the product of prophesy, not only did his story have to be made to fit in with definite expectations, but earlier gods, demigods, etc. were understood as prophecies and/or prototypes for Jesus. The fact that these prototypes existed was taken as “proof” of Jesus’ power. Whatever he may actually have been hardly matters by now. Thus the virgin birth and much of the other nonsense. For Jesus to be accepted, these details had to be attached to his story.
There was, however, a very specific tradition of what Jesus looked like, with very specific instructions for how to represent him, in the very early Byzantine church. This might have been based on actual reports from those who saw him.
Jesus certainly would’ve appealed to the poor, if he was anything like the character we’re given in the New Testament… but if he was really raising enough of a ruckus to merit execution, then surely he was known to the bigwigs of the day as well.
As for his physical appearance—I once read a science magazine where a forensic team attempted to make a “composite” of the face of Jesus, based on what we “know” about him… what they came up with looked a lot more like Saddam Hussein than the usual sensitive-looking-long-haired-blue-eyed white guy we always see. I dunno, I never got into CSI, but I seriously doubt that a native Jew back then would’ve looked like Jim Caviezel.
To paraphrase one of Mangasarian’s arguments—if there were some “mold” that the original churches were going by, why wouldn’t they hold onto it? Amazing that the Son of God himself was here on earth (or at least had a lot of people believing so), and nobody bothered to keep the original Hebrew transcripts of his words, or the true representations of his appearance.
The best way to get a handle on the Jesus of the NT is to visit - http://www.ageofreason.org/
Earl Doherty argues convincingly on many levels that the Jesus described in the NT likely never actually existed.
To quote Mr. Doherty:
“One of the biggest guns in the evangelical arsenal is the so-called fulfillment of prophecy. Dozens of alleged prophecies in the Old Testament were supposedly fulfilled by Jesus in the New, and the odds against that degree of correspondence happening to occur in a random life lived by a simple human man would involve an astronomical number of zeros; ergo: Jesus was divine and the bible is a book of prophecy about him, inspired from heaven.
But all those zeros crash to earth and roll off into the sunset when one offers the simple and demonstrable principle that the story of Jesus as found in the Gospels is not historical, but was in fact put together out of those passages from the Jewish bible. Scripture was not the prophecy of Jesus, it was the source-text.”
No question, the NT is horse feathers… What I’d like to know is, is there any evidence at all that there was a flesh-and-blood Jesus? Or is the case closed because we don’t have a body? (As the Believers seem to prefer it.)
I think it’s ironic, that the two biggest movie characters of 2004 were Jesus and Spider-Man… because the arguments I’ve heard for the historicity of Jesus would usually prove Spider-Man equally valid. (“Spider-Man fought the Green Goblin on the Brooklyn Bridge in graphic historical document # so&so;... and we know there is a Brooklyn Bridge… so if the chroniclers of Spider Man were honest and knowledgeable about that, then Spider Man must be real!”)
Of course he didn’t exist in the sense that the bibles say. It was all explained in ‘The Life of Brian’ - now there’s a believable tale.
It seems to me we get some kind of composite in the bible, Jesus as a combination of different individuals who at times seem to have radically different worldviews and temperments; and 4 individuals telling the tale.
We have the peace and love Jesus with the Golden Rule,
and then we have the fire and brimstone Jesus damning certain sinners and saying he came to cause divisions and violence between people.
If you read everything attributed to him in sequence he comes across as having Multiple Personality Disorder. Its no wonder those teachings inspire such diversity.
(pretty cool message title, eh…hee hee)
Tom, you said “then we have the fire and brimstone Jesus damning certain sinners.” Nah, nah, nah…that is not what the text says. The sinner damns himself. Read please:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
The most famous three sentences in recorded history and you missed it….
Now, you ALSO said…: “Jesus said he would cause divisions and violence between people” Sigh, you missed this one too. The division are violence he was speaking of was the division and violence that unbelievers (such as yourself) would cause on us believers as we preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.
It was a parable Tom.
Ya know, you intellectuals are pretty smart when it comes to certain subjects. But you have me scratching me head when you attack a subject, such as the bible and you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. Perhaps there are some on this forum who have an agenda?
I live in Alabama… trust me, I for one have not missed John 3:16!
Quite a protection racket God has going, wouldn’t you say? Basically the deal is “Believe in me or I’ll send you to Hell to suffer for all eternity.”
Now, how would such a choice play out for a human being. Say I told my squeeze, “Love me, or I’ll lock you in a dungeon for the rest of your life.” Hey, I’m giving her a choice, right? She doesn’t HAVE to love me! It’s still free will!
If a human being made that kind of demand, with that kind of threat, it’d be a horrible crime… so why is it okay for the infallible, all-loving God to do it?
I think Tom was perhaps referring to Matthew 10:34-38, which is not a parable. And as for violence… seems after 2000 years of Inquisitions, Crusades, Holocausts, slavery, world wars, witch trials, slaughter of indigenous peoples in the Americas and elsewhere… the Christians have long since become the persecutors, with hundreds of millions of violent deaths throughout history to their credit.
But, this particular page is not for debating scripture… the question we’re tackling is, “Is there any reliable historical evidence for the existence of Jesus?” Any contributions therein will be welcome.
I can’t speak for everyone, but my agenda is the truth. Either there was a guy named Jesus who was God incarnate, or not. If not, then it’s foolish to believe so. If so… we need evidence.
[quote author=“Cody”]Jesus certainly would’ve appealed to the poor, if he was anything like the character we’re given in the New Testament… but if he was really raising enough of a ruckus to merit execution, then surely he was known to the bigwigs of the day as well.
This isn’t necessarily true, considering who the Roman prefect of Judaea was. Pontius Pilate was a routine mass murderer of such prolific bloodthirtiness that even the brutal Romans had to step in on him. Rome had a long-standing practice of executing any “kings” of the Jews who came along (or “kings” of any other suppressed people, for that matter), but even among Romans, Pilate was noted for his wanton cruelty and apparent love for slaughter.
King Agrippa I wrote a letter to the emperor Caligula about Pilate’s “corruption, his acts of insolence, and his rapine and his habit of insulting people, and his continual murder of persons untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending, and gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.”
Likewise Philo wrote that Pilate was an “unbending and recklessly hard character,” famous for “corruptibility, violence, robberies, ill treatment of the people, grievances, continuous executions without even the form of a trial, endless and intolerable cruelties.”
Pilate was so routinely cruel and murderous that, in 37 A.D., he was recalled to Rome as an embarrassment and disgrace. By the Romans, who were not known for either their compassion or their libertarianism.
So, long point short: the popularity of Jesus among the poor wouldn’t necessarily have made him noteworthy to record-keepers of the day. He’d have just been another nameless blip on Pilate’s radar. His death by crucifixion would have been, unfortunately, routine and ordinary, just another poor soul among the tens of thousands on Pilate’s hit-list.
Though it is interesting that the Bible seems to ignore Pilate’s documented cruelty, isn’t it?
As to the central question, I don’t think we’ll ever know the answer. But rational skepticism demands that we say, “not terribly likely.” After all, we have independent and contemporaneous documentation of two major NT figures—King Herod and Pontius Pilate—none of which mention anyone resembling Jesus, nor any of the events of the Gospels.
And BTW Cody, don’t bother arguing with Champ over this. It is useless.
I was watching some liberal show last night and it came up that the Jewish law the Pharisees used to justify the execution of Jesus was:
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
That Champion is quite the character. I guess he’s earning an extra layer of atheist fat for stuffing into his heavenly throne. He may even be allowed to help Saten a bit with the prodding if he keeps making an ass of himself in the name of the Thunder God.
It’s amazing to see a mind so sparky. I guess its kind of thrilling for him. Regardless of how incompetent he might seem in his comments and everyday life, its only a disguise. For underneath he is a very special person. In fact, a favorite pet of the supreme Master of the Universe.