The following is a collection of selected posts (sequential) to show arguments for and against hearsay against historicity.
Provocative and Well Researched, But Still Puzzling13 July 2001By David M. Elder – Published on Amazon.comFormat:Paperback– I won’t go into too much about what’s good about this book other than to say I think it provides a lot of valid points backed up with sound historical research (at least as far as I can see, not being an expert on the subject). Anyone who has read and moderately studied the Bible and Apocrypha can clearly see how much of the incidents in Jesus’s life recall events and lyrical passages from the Old Testament(some word-for-word as in Psalms) and therefore anyone not prone to a ‘Magical’ view of reality might clearly see Jesus as a mythical figure.Still, I find some of Doherty’s points troublesome to accept and would therefore focus criticism on certain gaps I think need to be addressed in ‘The Puzzle’, gaps which left me confused and not yet completely convinced. Mainly I have some issues with trying to see how two supposedly distinct traditions, one related to Paul, the other to the Gospels, come together to form a cohesive story like we see in the New Testamant without being directly related.Briefly, Doherty believes that the historical Jesus was a myth. His theory is largely based on the premise of reversing the precedence of the New Testament texts, making Paul’s Epistles come before the Gospels. Instead, the latter ‘Q” inspired texts were actually later contrived documents designed to validate a movement Paul was instrumental in spreading.Questions:
1. Doherty believes that the Jesus of the Gospels was made up, a myth. If so, then what about Paul, Peter and the other disciples? Were they real or not? And if they were real — according to Doherty at least Paul and Peter are — than why not Jesus? In Doeherty’s view Peter appears to be a valid historical figure only because the only credible documents in the New Testament of historical relevance, according to Doherty, are Paul’s Epistles or at least some of them. If Peter is real, is Judas? Mary? Joseph? Who is and who isn’t real? If these other figures are not real, then those who invented the Gospels must have made them up. What are their provenance or literary pre-cursors? Are some, but not all real? Which ones are and which ones are not real or if they are all real, why not Jesus? Or are we simply looking at the first example of pure fiction, something we shouldn’t see until Cervantes or Chaucer. Perhaps only the central characters in the Bible (Jesus, Moses, Abraham) were made up.
2. He doesn’t quite explain the provenance of the Gospel of John, which appears to be, at least from original text discovered in an archaological context, the ‘oldest’ of the Gospels discovered and outside the Q line. I feel Doeherty should have discussed and related the archeological contexts of the oldest known scriptures, but he seems to ignore this angle for the most part and focuses strictly on content.
3. Outside of the Q material, Doherty theorizes, but doesn’t really provide evidence for, that Mark, being the oldest of the Q Gospels (or at least the parts referencing the events of the historic Jesus figure) was a contrived document authored by ‘someone’ wanting to validate an existing Messianic movement independent of the Gospels and Historic Jesus. This nebulous ‘someone’ obviously had to know about Peter and, if as Doehrty claims it was written after Paul’s letters, and Paul reference’s Peter in those letters, the author should have known about Paul as well. So why did he not include Paul (and associated Pauline Dogma and events) as a reference in Mark? Was there no backward-compatability? To use Doherty’s own arguments against Paul why there was no reference by him to an Historic Christ, I ask why is there no reference to an Historic Paul from documents supposedly drawn up well after Paul’s death and fame designed to support Paul’s theology.
4. Doeherty believes that both ‘The Acts’ and references to Jesus in ‘Josephus were forged redactions. And yet, he gives no in-depth analysis or proof of these very important assertions that are crucial to his theory.
There are many non-fundamentalist, even non-religious Biblical scholars probably more expert than Doherty is on the Bible who might be able to shred apart the author’s logic and evidence and while this book might not be the place for such debates, before I would accept Doherty’s theories I would want to hear those opposing views. I felt this book was generally lacking in examination and critique of years of sound Biblical scholarship that assumes Christ as a Historical figure.
Still, I think the author has made a good start and needs to continue with his research to make the Puzzle less Puzzling.
An outstanding opus by an erudite expert
24 May 2011
By Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock
– Published on Amazon.com
Like the shorter original text of which this book is an expansion, The
Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ?
Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus, Earl Doherty’s newest
effort is an excellent work analyzing the Christian conundrum using
finely honed skills of perception as well as extraordinary erudition
that stands out on every page. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for
a Mythical Jesus is a tour de force of scholarship rarely matched by
either professional or lay experts. Despite the fact that he is not a
professional New Testament scholar or theologian–or, rather, because of
that fact–Doherty is able to cut through the often biased and
self-interested “historical scholarship” that, in the case of religion,
frequently sees common sense and logic sacrificed in favor of blind
belief and fervent faith.
As we know from history, faith and
belief constantly cloud and color reality in an unseemly manner, and
scholarship and academia have suffered badly from this lack of unbiased
approach. Fortunately, Doherty has no vested interest in upholding the
status quo in order to maintain his vocation, the main reason the field
of Jesus mythicism has been populated significantly by outsiders
possessing no such investment. It is unfortunate that the hallowed halls
of American academia frequently have not transcended their foundations
as religious institutions, as was the case with Harvard, Yale, Columbia
and Princeton, to name just a few. Yet, it is extremely encouraging that
lay scholars like Doherty have stepped up to the plate to present an
impartial perspective so that the average person can deal with all the
data, rather than what is selectively filtered through partisan
Doherty’s latest endeavor reeks of hard work and
penetrating thought processes from the very beginning, as he presents
his material in an orderly and professional manner worthy of publication
by an academic press such as E.J. Brill, Peeters and Walter de Gruyter.
Indeed, august members of the Dutch, Danish and German schools of Bible
criticism over the centuries would likely find this oeuvre absorbing
and reflective of scholarly integrity.
Laying out the 12 “pieces
of the Jesus puzzle,” Doherty succinctly expresses the thesis he spends
the next nearly 800 pages demonstrating; each of these pieces is
factual, logical and scientific, as seen throughout the work. The
conclusion–that the “Jesus Christ” of the New Testament gospel story is
a mythical figure–is likewise logical and scientific, especially for
those who have studied the issue in depth and have seen that there
simply is no historical core to the mythological onion and that a
composite of numerous “people” is no one. As Doherty understands well,
countless books have been written about the “real” Jesus, whom the
authors assume a priori to be a historical figure without first
establishing the evidence for such a claim. Earl handily demonstrates
there is no credible, scientific evidence for this assumption; thus,
proceeding from there to sketch a “biography” of such an individual
represents treading in murky waters, as honest Christian scholars such
as Dominic Crossan and John Meier will admit.
In this carefully
crafted work, Doherty raises numerous facts many people will not be
aware of, such as that ancient and modern scholarship has cast doubt on
the authorship of practically every book in the New Testament–an
important fact the average person, especially the believer, has the
right to know but which has not been widely disseminated to the masses.
Of greatest interest to me, of course, are Earl’s discussions of
comparative mythology and the purported extrabiblical “evidence” for
Christ’s existence. Others, such as those Gnostically inclined, will
doubtlessly find fascinating Earl’s examination of more cosmic concepts
such as Christ’s perceived existence in non-third-dimensional planes,
rather than as a “historical” and material savior. For a skeptic,
Doherty has an amazing grasp of these flowery, complex and difficult
concepts–certainly one of the best such comprehensions in modern
scholarship. Without this context of Gnosticism and Docetism, early
Christian history is essentially incomprehensible.
massive effort, Doherty shines the critical spotlight on practically
every aspect of the gospel story found in the four canonical texts.
Whereas my works tend to show parallels in other religions and
mythologies, Earl enjoys dissecting the texts themselves, drilling down
into the original Greek, of which he has superior knowledge and is well
qualified to analyze. He also examines numerous extrabiblical Christian
epistles and gospels.
Doherty is most at home when analyzing the
Pauline epistles, drawing on an earlier lineage of scholars who
recognized there is next to nothing in them indicating a “historical”
Jesus. In this regard, Earl correctly identifies that when Paul is
speaking of “scripture” and “prophetic writings,” he is referring to the
Old Testament, specifically the Greek translation or Septuagint. In
that book, the word “Christos” appears some three dozen times, and it is
evident that, in his revelation of Christ, Paul is building upon
so-called “messianic prophecies,” not the words or deeds of a
“historical” Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the canonical Christ
represents not “fulfillment of prophecy” but, rather, a patchwork of Old
Testament “messianic scriptures,” amalgamated with Pagan philosophical
notions and mythical motifs, along with both Jewish and Gentile wisdom
sayings. Christ is, through and through, a literary figure, handily
demonstrated in this lengthy book.
The only major weakness I see
in Doherty’s fine work is his uncharacteristically uncritical acceptance
of mainstream dating for the canonical gospels, a position that hinders
efforts at determining who could have written them, since their authors
were ostensibly not the disciples to whom they are attributed. The fact
is that the canonical gospels as we have them do not appear clearly in
the historical record until the end of the second century.
is to religious studies what logic is to philosophy. Doherty’s book
represents a major achievement in the long and venerable field of
mythicism, standing on the shoulders of or side by side with such
excellent and erudite luminaries as the Viscount Bolingbroke, Charles
Dupuis, Count Volney, Thomas Paine, Rev. Dr. Robert Taylor, John E.
Remsburg, Dr. William Benjamin Smith, John M. Robertson, Dr. Arthur
Drews, Dr. John G. Jackson and Dr. Robert M. Price.
Murdock is an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology,
and the author of The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold,
Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, Who Was Jesus?
Fingerprints of The Christ and Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus
Connection. Raised a Christian, she has been studying Jesus mythicism in
multiple languages for some 20 years.
“Good evening Amuhd. Just a little more to think about:
“Evidence of Jesus Written in Stone.” So proclaimed the cover of Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December 2002). That cover featured a limestone bone box, an ossuary, that was found in Israel. Ossuaries were widely used among the Jews during the brief period between the first century B.C.E. and 70 C.E. What made this one especially significant was an Aramaic inscription on one side. Scholars acknowledged its reading: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
According to the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth had a brother named James who was considered a son of Joseph, the husband of Mary. When Jesus Christ taught in his hometown, the astounded audience asked: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”–Matthew 13:54-56; Luke 4:22, John 6:42
Yes, the inscription on the ossuary fits the description of Jesus the Nazarene. If the James mentioned in the inscription was the half brother of Jesus Christ, then it would be “the oldest extra-biblical archaeological evidence of Jesus,” asserts André Lemaire, an authority on ancient inscriptions and the writer of the aforementioned article in Biblical Archaeology Review. Hershel Shanks, editor of the magazine, notes that the ossuary “is something tactile and visible reaching back to the single most important personage ever to walk the earth.”
However, all three names readable on the inscribed ossuary were common in the first century. So it is possible that a family whose members included a James, a Joseph, and a Jesus existed apart from the family of Jesus Christ. Lemaire estimates: “In Jerusalem during the two generations before 70 C.E., there were . . . probably about 20 people who could be called ‘James/Jacob son of Joseph brother of Jesus.’” Nevertheless, he feels that there is a 90-percent chance that the James on the ossuary was the half brother of Jesus Christ.
There is another factor that makes some believe that the James in the inscription was Jesus Christ’s half brother. Although it was common to mention the father of the deceased in such inscriptions, it was extremely rare to name a brother. To justify the mentioning of a brother…he would by necessity have to have been a famously renowned person in his own right. Therefore, some scholars believe that this Jesus must have been somebody important, causing them to think that he was Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity.
To offset the lack of archaeological background, André Lemaire sent the box to the Geological Survey of Israel. The researchers there verified that the ossuary was made of limestone from the first or second century C.E. They reported that “no sign of the use of a modern tool or instrument was found.” Still, Bible scholars interviewed by The New York Times expressed the opinion that “the circumstantial evidence supporting a link to Jesus was possibly strong, but circumstantial nonetheless.”
Amuhd, I have given you evidence in the past… from writings of the time that Jesus was mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus who referred to Jesus Christ in the book Jewish Antiquities. Although some doubt the authenticity of the first reference where Josephus mentioned Jesus as the Messiah, Professor Louis H. Feldman of Yeshiva University says that few have doubted the genuineness of the second reference. There Josephus said: “[Ananus the high priest] convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” (Jewish Antiquities, XX, 200) Yes, a Pharisee, a member of the sect many of whose adherents were avowed enemies of Jesus, acknowledged the existence of “James, the brother of Jesus.”
Strange isn’t it that people accept that there was a philosopher called Socrates who lived before Jesus and the most that is known about him is written by Plato who claims to have been one of his students…consequently it is accepted that Socrates existed. How many followers of Jesus wrote about him, yet you cast doubt on Jesus’ existence?”
ludensian, sorry for a lengthy reply but that is my reply to your post.
For thousands of years no
Christian has ever questioned the historicity of Jesus, or Moses or the Gospels
or the Bible. In days bygone, such doubt would amount to heresy and the person
would be silenced on the stake. Faith demanded absolute acceptance of the
historicity of the Bible. The alternative was hell or total rejection by his
community as illustrated in these blogs.
Yet over the millinium no one
has ever been able to provide the physical evidence to support a historical
Jesus. There have been no artifacts, manuscripts, reliable writings of
historians, or inscriptions of any kind. There were not contemporary Roman
records that showed Pontius Pilate executing a man called Jesus. Not a single
contemporary writing referred to a person with the name of Jesus.
All documents about Jesus
came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either (1) unknown authors,
(2) people who had never met Jesus directly, or (3) from fraudulent, mythical
or allegorical writings. In other words all accounts of Jesus were derived from
Elaine Pagels writes:
“Although the gospels of the New Testament– like those discovered at Nag
Hammadi– are attributed to Jesus’ followers, no one knows who actually wrote
any of them.” [Pagels, 1995]
Virtually all other claims of
Jesus come from sources outside of Christian writings. Devastating to the
claims of Christians, however, comes from the fact that all of these accounts
come from authors who lived after the alleged life of Jesus. Since they did not
live during the time of the hypothetical Jesus, none of their accounts serve as
Josephus Flavius, the Jewish
historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although
many scholars think that Josephus’ short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities)
came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely,
Eusebius), Josephus’ birth in 37 C.E. (well after the alleged crucifixion of
Jesus), puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote
Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if
his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve
Pliny the Younger (born: 62
C.E.) His letter about the Christians only shows that he got his information
from Christian believers themselves. Regardless, his birth date puts him out of
range as an eyewitness account.
Tacitus, the Roman
historian’s birth year at 64 C.E., puts him well after the alleged life of
Jesus. He gives a brief mention of a “Christus” in his Annals (Book
XV, Sec. 44), which he wrote around 109 C.E. He gives no source for his
material. Although many have disputed the authenticity of Tacitus’ mention of
Jesus, the very fact that his birth happened after the alleged Jesus and wrote
the Annals during the formation of Christianity, shows that his writing can
only provide us with hearsay accounts.
Suetonius, a Roman historian,
born in 69 C.E., mentions a “Chrestus,” a common name. Apologists assume
that “Chrestus” means “Christ” (a disputable claim). But
even if Seutonius had meant “Christ,” it still says nothing about an
earthly Jesus. Just like all the others, Suetonius’ birth occurred well after
the purported Jesus. Again, only hearsay.
Talmud: Amazingly some
Christians use brief portions of the Talmud, (a collection of Jewish civil a
religious law, including commentaries on the Torah), as evidence for Jesus.
They claim that Yeshu in the Talmud refers to Jesus. However, this Yeshu,
according to scholars depicts a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia at least a
century before the alleged Christian Jesus or it may refer to Yeshu ben
Pandera, a teacher of the 2nd centuy CE. Regardless of how one interprets this,
the Palestinian Talmud didn’t come into existence until the 3rd and 5th century
C.E., and the Babylonian Talmud between the 3rd and 6th century C.E., at least
two centuries after the alleged crucifixion. At best it can only serve as a
controversial Christian or Jewish legend; it cannot possibly serve as evidence
for a historical Jesus.
Christian apologists mostly
use the above sources for their “evidence” of Jesus because they
believe they represent the best outside sources. All other sources (Christian
and non-Christian) come from even less reliable sources, some of which include:
Mara Bar-Serapion (circa 73 C.E.), Ignatius (50 – 98? C.E.), Polycarp (69 – 155
C.E.), Clement of Rome (? – circa 160 C.E.), Justin Martyr (100 – 165 C.E.),
Lucian (circa 125 – 180 C.E.), Tertullian (160 – ? C.E.), Clement of Alexandria
(? – 215 C.E.), Origen (185 – 232 C.E.), Hippolytus (? – 236 C.E.), and Cyprian
(? – 254 C.E.). As you can see, all these people lived well after the alleged
death of Jesus. Not one of them provides an eyewitness account, all of them
simply spout hearsay.
As you can see, apologist
Christians embarrass themselves when they unwittingly or deceptively violate
the rules of historiography by using after-the-event writings as evidence for
the event itself. Not one of these writers gives a source or backs up his
claims with evidential material about Jesus. Although we can provide numerous
reasons why the Christian and non-Christian sources prove spurious, and argue
endlessly about them, we can cut to the chase by simply determining the dates
of the documents and the birth dates of the authors. It doesn’t matter what
these people wrote about Jesus, an author who writes after the alleged
happening and gives no detectable sources for his material can only give
example of hearsay. All of these anachronistic writings about Jesus could
easily have come from the beliefs and stories from Christian believers
themselves. And as we know from myth, superstition, and faith, beliefs do not
require facts or evidence for their propagation and circulation. Thus we have
only beliefs about Jesus’ existence, and nothing more.
FAKES, FRAUDS, AND FICTIONS
Because the religious mind
relies on belief and faith, the religious person can inherit a dependence on
any information that supports a belief and that includes fraudulent stories,
rumors, unreliable data, and fictions, without the need to check sources, or to
investigate the reliability of the information.
The Burial box of James
Even many credible
theologians bought this fraud, hook-line-and-sinker. The Nov./Dec. 2002, issue
of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine announced a “world
exclusive!” article about evidence of Jesus written in stone, claiming
that they found the actual ossuary of “James, Brother of Jesus” in
Jerusalem. This story exploded on the news and appeared widely on television
and newspapers around the world.
Interestingly, they announced
the find as the “earliest historical reference of Jesus yet found.”
Since they claimed the inscribing on the box occurred around 70 C.E., that
agrees with everything claimed by this thesis (that no contemporary evidence
exists for Jesus). Even if the box script proved authentic, it would not
provide evidence for Jesus simply because no one knew who wrote the script or
why. It would only show the first indirect mention of a Jesus and it could not
serve as contemporary evidence simply because it didn’t come into existence
until long after the alleged death of Jesus.
The claim for authenticity of
the burial box of James, however, proved particularly embarrassing for the
Biblical Archaeology Review and for those who believed them without question.
Just a few months later, archaeologists determined the inscription as a forgery
(and an obvious one at that) and they found the perpetrator and had him
arrested (see ‘Jesus box’ exposed as fake and A fake? James Ossuary dealer
arrested, suspected of forgery).
Regrettably, the news about
the fraud never matched the euphoria of the numerous stories of the find and
many people today still believe the story as true.
THEN WHY THE MYTH OF JESUS?
Some people actually believe
that just because so much voice and ink has spread the word of a character
named Jesus throughout history, that this must mean that he actually lived.
This argument simply does not hold. The number of people who believe or write
about something or the professional degrees they hold say nothing at all about
fact. Facts derive out of evidence, not from hearsay, not from hubris scholars,
and certainly not from faithful believers. Regardless of the position or admiration
held by a scholar, believer, or priest, if he or she cannot support a
hypothesis with good evidence, then it can only remain a hypothesis.
While a likely possibility
exists that an actual Jesus lived, another likely possibility reveals that a mythology
could have derived out of earlier mythologies or possibly independent
archetypal hero worship. Although we have no evidence for a historical Jesus,
we certainly have many accounts of mythologies from the Middle East during the
first century and before. Many of these stories appear similar to the Christ
Just before and during the
first century, the Jews had prophesied about an upcoming Messiah based on
Jewish scripture. Their beliefs influenced many of their followers. We know
that powerful beliefs can create self-fulfilling prophesies, and surely this
proved just as true in ancient times. It served as a popular dream expressed in
Hebrew Scripture for the promise of an “end-time” with a savior to
lead them to the promised land. Indeed, Roman records show executions of
several would-be Messiahs, (but not a single record mentions a Jesus). Many
ancients believed that there could come a final war against the “Sons of
Darkness”– the Romans.
This then could very well
have served as the ignition and flame for the future growth of Christianity.
Biblical scholars tell us that the early Christians lived within pagan
communities. Jewish scriptural beliefs coupled with the pagan myths of the time
give sufficient information about how such a religion could have formed. Many
of the Hellenistic and pagan myths parallel so closely to the alleged Jesus
that to ignore its similarities means to ignore the mythological beliefs of
history. Dozens of similar savior stories propagated the minds of humans long
before the alleged life of Jesus. Virtually nothing about Jesus “the
Christ” came to the Christians as original or new.
Belief cannot produce
historical fact, and claims that come from nothing but hearsay do not amount to
an honest attempt to get at the facts. Even with eyewitness accounts we must
tread carefully. Simply because someone makes a claim, does not mean it
represents reality. For example, consider some of the bogus claims that
supposedly come from many eyewitness accounts of alien extraterrestrials and
their space craft. They not only assert eyewitnesses but present blurry photos
to boot! If we can question these accounts, then why should we not question
claims that come from hearsay even more? Moreover, consider that the hearsay comes
from ancient and unknown people that no longer live.
Unfortunately, belief and
faith substitute as knowledge in many people’s minds and nothing, even direct
evidence thrust on the feet of their claims, could possibly change their minds.
We have many stories, myths and beliefs of a Jesus but if we wish to establish
the facts of history, we cannot even begin to put together a knowledgeable
account without at least a few reliable eyewitness accounts.
Of course a historical Jesus
may have existed, perhaps based loosely on a living human even though his
actual history got lost, but this amounts to nothing but speculation. However
we do have an abundance of evidence supporting the mythical evolution of Jesus.
Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew
stories, long before the advent of Christianity. We simply do not have a shred
of evidence to determine the historicity of a Jesus “the Christ.” We
only have evidence for the belief of Jesus.
Amuhd, you discount the fact that the writers of the accounts and life of Jesus, lived with him. The writers of the New Testament have testified that they saw Jesus, heard Him, and touched Him (I John 1:1-5; et al.). Matthew, Peter, James, and John knew Jesus, they were his companions and wrote about what they had witnessed.
If there were the same number of independent writers who were responsible for twenty-seven independent letters or books which were all authenticated as having been written within a certain period of ancient history, and if each writer claimed to have personally seen and known Julius Caesar, would any serious historian question that Julius Caesar was an actual historical figure? Honourable historical research would demand that the historian presume that the eyewitnesses were telling the truth unless it could be established that they lied or until they were discredited as witnesses. We even insist upon those guidelines for accepting evidence in courts of law.
Were the New Testament writers lying? There was simply no reason for them to lie. They could not expect to receive spiritual reward for lying and from a physical point of view their reward was ridicule, persecution, and martyrdom. These men and their teachings were rejected by Jews, Greeks, and Romans alike. They gave up virtually all material gain and most of them died for a lie . . . if indeed they lied!
It is incredible to believe that they suffered so much for a known untruth. On the other hand, these men were honest to a fault. They did not hesitate to tell of their own mistakes and stupid blunders. They were not fanatics. Their words were intelligible and presented with quiet dignity and simple forthrightness. They gave their testimony from an objective point of view with strong conviction of its truthfulness.
Can the New Testament writers be discredited? That too is impossible by any acceptable standards of ethical inquiry. There are multiple witnesses and their testimony is never contradictory. It is true that some tell some things and others provide additional information, but they all testify as eyewitnesses to His presence and each witness complements, rather than disputes, the testimony of the others. When they do speak of the same events, they independently confirm what the others affirmed. Their written works were penned over a period of several decades and, therefore, no claim can be made that they got together and conspired to perpetrate a fraud. These men simply told it as they saw it. Not one of them can be justly discredited. Remember, to deny the fact that Jesus lived would require not only that one of them be discredited, but that they all be discredited!
Then we have the philosopher Socrates who left no written evidence apart from Plato who claimed to be his student and gave accounts of him…yet few if any doubt that Socrates existed. Considering all the above which accounts are more valid…those of the Apostles or the writings of Plato?
Flavius Josephus mentions Jesus twice, only PART of one account is contested where it contains the word “Messiah”…which is claimed as a possible interpolation….the rest stands.
The ancient historians also testify to the presence of Jesus among the Jews in the first century A.D. Statements from Polycarp, Eusebius, Irenaeus, Ignatius, Justin, Origin, and a host of others could be produced in abundance. It is sometimes said, however, that these men were believers in Christ and, therefore, their testimony is not convincing. Friendship does not deny truthfulness but we can turn our attention to the so-called “non-Christian” writers who also affirm that Jesus lived.
As you know-Josephus was a Jewish historian who was born in A.D. 37. He was commander of Jewish forces in Galilee and was captured by the Romans. He wrote his Antiquities Of The Jews about A.D. 66. One major reference to Christ (Antiquities, Book XVIII, chapter III, page 11) has been disputed because it contains the word “Messiah” but it is accepted that most of the reference stands. If any person is interested in a defence of its authenticity he should read William Whiston, “Dissertation I” in the appendices to his translation of The Works of Flavius Josephus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), Volume 4, pp. 244-265.
The following quotation is not, however, so hotly contested. It is found in a discussion of the high priest Ananus who ordered James the brother of Jesus put to death:
“. . . so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James .…” (Antiquities, Book XX, Chapter IX, page 140).
Mara Bar-Serapion, who lived about A.D. 73, wrote a letter to his son from prison. That letter is now in the British Museum. In it he asked:
“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished.”
The Talmud, writings of the Jewish fathers and definitely opposed to the Christians, was written over a period of several hundred years (probably between A.D. 100 and 500). It speaks of the Romans handing Jesus on a cross:
“On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth). . . they found naught in his defence and hanged him on the eve of Passover” (Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a).
Amuhd, it is so obvious that you do not WANT Jesus to have existed and you have gone to great efforts to disprove him and the Bible, but if you are an honest man and genuinely looking for truth, consider the following:
For the New Testament writers to have invented a character so perfect as Jesus is incredible. Not only would they have had to invent the man, but they also would have to invent His teachings. The great philosophers of the ages had been unable to construct a system of life that truly met man’s needs. To imagine that a few religionists whose lifetime vocational backgrounds included fishing and tax collecting would be able to invent His timeless guide to living is unreasonable. They would become not only the greatest dramatists in history creating a character who was so real to be believed by millions for thousands of years, but the greatest theologians and philosophers as well.
ludensian, it is apparent that you did not read carefully so I repeat:
“Josephus Flavius, the Jewish
historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although
many scholars think that Josephus’ short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities)
came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely,
Eusebius), Josephus’ birth in 37 C.E. (well after the alleged crucifixion
of Jesus), puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote
Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written!
Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, HIS INFORMATION COULD ONLY SERVE AS HEARSAY.”
Grasping at straws!
If y ou read the Bible properly, all the Gospel writers only quoted hearsay. None were witness accounts.
If you want a good book that discusses the authenticity of the Biblical text, do buy and read:
Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus by Earl Doherty (5 Oct 2009
ludensian, here is what was also written about the Gospels:
THE BIBLE GOSPELS
The most “authoritative”
accounts of a historical Jesus come from the four canonical Gospels of the
Bible. Note that these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and
authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of
early church fathers, especially the most influential of them all: Irenaeus
of Lyon who lived in the middle of the second century. Many heretical gospels
existed by that time, but Irenaeus considered only some of them for mystical
reasons. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, “like the
four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man’s estate,
and the four forms of the first living creatures– the lion of Mark, the calf
of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John (see Against the Heresies).
The four gospels then became Church cannon for the orthodox faith. Most of
the other claimed gospel writings were burned, destroyed, or lost.” [Romer]
Elaine Pagels writes: “Although
the gospels of the New Testament– like those discovered at Nag Hammadi–
are attributed to Jesus’ followers, no one knows who actually wrote
any of them.” [Pagels, 1995]
Not only do we not know who wrote
them, consider that none of the Gospels existed during the alleged life
of Jesus, nor do the unknown authors make the claim to have met an earthly
Jesus. Add to this that none of the original gospel manuscripts exist; we
only have copies of copies.
The consensus of many biblical
historians put the dating of the earliest Gospel, that of Mark, at sometime
after 70 C.E., and the last Gospel, John after 90 C.E. [Pagels, 1995; Helms].
This would make it some 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus that
we have any Gospel writings that mention him! Elaine Pagels writes that “the
first Christian gospel was probably written during the last year of the war,
or the year it ended. Where it was written and by whom we do not know; the
work is anonymous, although tradition attributes it to Mark…” [Pagels,
The traditional Church has portrayed
the authors as the apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew, & John, but scholars
know from critical textural research that there simply occurs no evidence
that the gospel authors could have served as the apostles described in the
Gospel stories. Yet even today, we hear priests and ministers describing these
authors as the actual disciples of Christ. Many Bibles still continue to label
the stories as “The Gospel according to St. Matthew,” “St.
Mark,” “St. Luke,” St. John.” No apostle would have announced
his own sainthood before the Church’s establishment of sainthood. But
one need not refer to scholars to determine the lack of evidence for authorship.
As an experiment, imagine the Gospels without their titles. See if you can
find out from the texts who wrote them; try to find their names.
Even if the texts
notion that the apostles wrote them, consider the low life
humans in the first century. According to the religious scholar,
J.D. Crossan, “the life expectancy of Jewish males in the Jewish state
was then twenty-nine years.” [Crossan] Some people think this age
appears deceptive because of the high infant mortally rates at birth.
However, at birth the inhabitants of the Roman Empire had an even lower
life expectancy of around twenty-five years.
According to Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the early third century C.E.,
the average life expectancy at birth came even lower to around
twenty-one. [Potter] Of course these ages represent averages and some
people lived after the age of 30, but how many? According to the
historian Richard Carrier: “We have reason to believe that only 4% of
the population at any given time was over 50 years old; over age 70,
less than 2%. And that is under normal circumstances. But the Gospels
were written after two very devastating abnormal events: the Jewish War
and the Neronian Persecution, both of which would have, combined,
greatly reduced the life expectancy of exactly those people who were
eye-witnesses to the teachings of Jesus. And it just so happens that
these sorts of people are curiously missing from the historical record
precisely when the Gospels began to be circulated.” [Carrier] Even if
they lived to those unlikely ages, consider the mental and physical
toll (especially during the 1st century) which would have likely
reduced their memory and capability to write. Moreover, those small
percentages of people who lived past 50 years were usually wealthy
people (aristocrats, politicians, land and slave owners, etc.). However,
the Gospels suggest that the followers of Jesus lived poorly, and this would further reduce the chances for a long life span. Although the New
Testament does not provide the ages of the disciples, most Christians
think their ages came to around 20-30 years old. Jesus’ birth would
have to have occurred before Herod’s death at 4 B.C.E. So if Jesus’
birth occurred in the year 4 B.C.E., that would put the age of the
disciples, at the time of the writing of the first gospel, at around
age 60-70 and the last gospel at around age 90-100! Based on just life
expectancies alone, that would make the probability unlikely they lived
during the writing of the first gospel, and extremely unlikely any of
them lived during the writing of the last gospel (and I have used only
the most conservative numbers).
The gospel of Mark describes the
first written Bible gospel. And although Mark appears deceptively after the
Matthew gospel, the gospel of Mark got written at least a generation before
Matthew. From its own words, one can deduce that the author of Mark
heard Jesus nor served as his personal follower. Whoever wrote the
gospel simply accepted the story of Jesus without question and wrote a
an ungrammatical account of the popular story at the time.
Historians tell us
of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Mark
served as the common element between Matthew and Luke and provided
the main source
for both of them. Of Mark’s 666* verses, some 600 appear in Matthew,
300 in Luke. According to Randel Helms, the author of Mark, stands
a third remove from Jesus and more likely at the fourth remove.
Bibles show 678
verses for Mark, not 666, but many Biblical scholars think the last
came later from interpolation. The earliest manuscripts and other
sources do not have Mark 16: 9-20. Moreover the text style does not
and the transition between verse 8 and 9 appears awkward. Even some
of today’s Bibles such as the NIV exclude the last 12 verses. The author of Matthew had obviously
gotten his information from Mark’s gospel and used them for his own needs.
He fashioned his narrative to appeal to Jewish tradition and Scripture. He
improved the grammar of Mark’s Gospel, corrected what he felt theologically
important, and heightened the miracles and magic.
The author of Luke admits himself
as an interpreter of earlier material and not an eyewitness (Luke 1:1-4).
Many scholars think the author of Luke lived as a gentile, or at the very
least, a Hellenized Jew. Many
modern scholars think that the Gospel of Matthew and Luke came from
the Mark gospel and a hypothetical document called “Q” .(German Quelle,
which means “source”). [Helms; Wilson] . However, since we have
no manuscript from Q, no one could possibly determine its author or
or how he got his information or the date of its authorship.
Moreover, some scholars challenge its existence and those who do think
that Q existed have problems explaining it. Again we get
faced with unreliable methodology and obscure sources.
John, the last appearing Bible
Gospel, presents us with long theological discourses from Jesus and could
not possibly have come as literal words from a historical Jesus. The Gospel
of John disagrees with events described in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Moreover
the unknown author(s) of this gospel wrote it in Greek near the end of the first century, and according
to Bishop Shelby Spong, the book “carried within it a very obvious reference
to the death of John Zebedee (John 21:23).” [Spong]
Please understand that the stories
themselves cannot serve as examples of eyewitness accounts since they came
as products of the minds of the unknown authors, and not from the characters
themselves. The Gospels describe narrative stories, written almost virtually
in the third person. People who wish to portray themselves as eyewitnesses
will write in the first person, not in the third person. Moreover, many of
the passages attributed to Jesus could only have come from the invention of
its authors. For example, many of the statements of Jesus claim to have come
from him while allegedly alone. If so, who heard him? It becomes even more
marked when the evangelists report about what Jesus thought. To whom did Jesus
confide his thoughts? Clearly, the Gospels employ techniques that fictional
writers use. In any case the Gospels can only serve, at best, as hearsay,
and at worst, as fictional, mythological, or falsified stories.
Amuhd, I have read your two last replies, which confirms more than ever that you have no real understanding of Scripture and as long as you reject the existence of God and seek to discredit the very Scriptures He inspired and has caused to be written you will remain in ignorance…but that is your choice and you are free to do so…God gave man a free will to believe Him or reject Him. For someone who has no understanding of why and how we and the world exists you certainly confound me.
You ignore or discount the fact that I gave the names of Matthew, Peter, James, and John who knew Jesus, they were his companions and wrote about what they had witnessed.
They were his companions, they ate with him, spoke with him and accompanied him everywhere. Even if you were correct that they wrote their accounts much later (which is not correct) would make no difference to what they had witnessed.
You accuse ME of not reading your replies properly yet I have given you irrefutable evidence that these companions wrote about him. But you seem to be so immersed in your conspiracy theories you are impervious to reasoning.
Now I asked you if these men were lying and asked what they had to gain by doing so.
Is it logically feasible that they would concoct a story by inventing a fictitious person and orchestrate a conspiratorial account of an invented Jesus?
Consider all the conspiratorial books that you recommend are written by authors to make money. What reward awaited the writers of the gospels? Certainly not pecuniary gain, but persecution, ridicule, prison and in some cases death.
Amuhd, would you lay down your life or suffer persecution for a fictitious story you concocted?? Use your God-given reason man!
Then you give the following which is totally disconnected from the Gospels:
“Elaine Pagels writes: “Although the gospels of the New Testament– like those discovered at Nag Hammadi– are attributed to Jesus’ followers, no one knows who actually wrote any of them.”
What in heavens name has that got to do with the discussion? The Nag ‘Hammadi texts date back to the fourth century, The texts offer alternative versions of Jesus’ life and teachings, including the Gospels of Thomas. They are recognised as Gnostic writings….an apostate sect.
These fourth-century documents have been attributed to a religious and philosophical movement called Gnosticism. Mixing elements of mysticism, paganism, Greek philosophy, Judaism, and Christianity, the movement was a contaminating influence on some professed Christians.
The “Gospel of Thomas,” the “Gospel of Philip,” and the “Gospel of Truth,” found in the “Nag Hammadi Library,” present various mystic Gnostic ideas as if coming from Jesus. The recently discovered “Gospel of Judas” is also counted among the Gnostic gospels. It portrays Judas in a positive light as the only apostle who really understood who Jesus was. One expert on this gospel notes that it describes Jesus as “a teacher and revealer of wisdom and knowledge and NOT the Messiah.
You are aware that the early church became apostate as is evident that they adopted much of the rubbish evident in those apostate writings.
Paul warned Timothy of such apostasy “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.” (1 Timothy 6:20, 21.)
Amuhd I don’t have the time to address all the sources of your comments but from what I read…most of them are unreliable nonsense…particularly the life expectancy of the first century Jews.
But you will believe what suits you, I respond only to put forward my views not so much for your benefit… your mind is closed, but for others to read and decide on.
An Interesting Interjectioin from Gazoopi:
I was trying to keep out of this discussion because it always comes down to the same point, blind faith or no blind faith, but some of your points above need to be challenged.
1) You say “For someone who has no understanding of why and how we and the world exists you certainly confound me.”
Well, in fact none of us has an understanding of why and how we and the world exists. That’s why such discussions take place. If you believe that you have this understanding, then you are being extremely naïve.
2) You say “Is it logically feasible that they would concoct a story by inventing a fictitious person and orchestrate a conspiratorial account of an invented Jesus?”
Yes, of course it is. All or many of the other religions have similar accounts. This is what believers do. They give accounts as if they are true, simply because they believe them. In the same way that you think you have an understanding of why and how we came to exist.
3) You say, ” would you lay down your life or suffer persecution for a fictitious story you concocted??”
No, probably not, but they didn’t. They laid down their lives and suffered persecution because of their beliefs. I am sure you can think of hundreds of examples where this happens today. Just look at the number of suicide bombers as one example.
4) You say “But you will believe what suits you, I respond only to put forward my views not so much for your benefit… your mind is closed, but for others to read and decide on”
It appears for me, as an onlooker, that your mind is also closed.
In my case, my mind is absolutely not closed. I grew up in a religious family, going to Sunday school each week until I was about 11 years old and began playing football. I married in church and had my first child christened. I also became a Godparent to our friends son.
A number of things then happened to change my views. I saw some extremely bad people who were ‘professionals’ in the church. I saw how my neighbour, who was a minister treated his family and their pets. I became educated in Maths and Physics and learned to look for evidence before I believed in something. Slowly, I realised that the religions can be answered very simply.
Mankind, in his arrogance, always tried to believe that he was something special. We used to believe that the Earth was at the centre of the universe, that We were the centre of it all. Naturally we would therefore be made in the image of a God. This belief in God, allows us to have a kind of immortality and allows us to keep the masses under control by threatening bad things if we don’t believe.
Having, over the years, slowly understood this more and more, I am piqued by my own naivety when I was younger. However, on saying all of this, I would still be open to believe in a Creator if I could see one scrap of evidence. All of the ‘evidence’ that you put forward Ludensian, are related to the word or writings of someone many centuries behind. This is not evidence, it is hearsay.
I hope that there is not a Creator, especially in the form that you suggest, because if there is He must be a very evil being, considering all of the horrible suffering that He has created here on Earth.
And If there is a Creator, there is no logical reason why He would be interested in us, especially in the form of answering our prayers, which doesn’t happen anyway.
I am sorry if this offends you, but I just wanted to explain that, in my experience it is the people of Faith who tend to be of closed mind, and are not willing to accept the non-existence of a super being.
I expect someday, the truth will become known, perhaps not, but certainly not in our lifetimes. Until then we will have those of Faith and those who need to see more than a few words on a bit of paper.
I believe that if a Creator existed, who did give a damn about us, He would have shown us that He existed by now. The only explanation that He hasn’t is that He doesn’t give a damn. And please don’t come back with talk about wanting us to have free will or supplying Jesus as a way of showing us. This is the same with all religions, never any real evidence, only folklore.
Incidentally, if you have time I would like you to read my latest CWG story on this topic 🙂
Ahmud acknowledges Gazoopi:
gazoopi, you are one of a few who have come out and expressed your open views about the Christian faith with clarity. You will be earmarked and condemned by the devout Christians for speaking out in this manner, but you have spoken with a up-to-date well informed modern mind. More people will be exposed with such thinking in time to come and it will change attitudes to religion.
NOTE: Thus far the conversation has ended there.