I will only post a few paragraphs of this artile here but the links will lead to many useful references useful for future research and reference.
[PS: I dd not reqalise that that this article had restrictions so In apologise if you are unable to read it in full. I have given up!]
The majority of people in the world today assume or believe that Jesus Christ was at the very least a real person. Perhaps he wasn’t really “the Messiah”, perhaps he was not “The Son of God”, and perhaps he didn’t actually perform miracles and rise from the dead, but he really was a great moral teacher who traveled around Galilee with followers and got arrested by the Jews and crucified by the Romans right?
Not likely. In fact, a close examination of the evidence shows that the best explanation for the story of “Jesus Christ” is what we call “mythology”. The case that I will be outlining here is that there never was any “Jesus Christ” nor any meaningful real life basis for the story of “Jesus Christ”. Like many other religious figures, “Jesus Christ” began as a theological concept, was later used as a character in allegorical stories, and was then historicized as someone whom people believed really existed. The belief in a literal “human” Jesus most likely emerged as eucharist rituals and theology developed around the concept of the “flesh” and “blood” of Christ and these concepts merged with allegorical narratives about the figure.
What is the basis for the claim that “Jesus never existed”?
Actually, there are many important facts that support this conclusion. First let’s look at an outline of some of the major points in this case:
- The Gospel of Mark was the first story of Jesus that was written, and all others are dependent on it
- The Gospel of Mark shows clear signs of being written as an allegorical fiction
- Virtually every detail of the life of Jesus comes from “Old Testament” scriptures
- Some of the details of the life of Jesus are based on mistranslations of the Hebrew scriptures
- Jesus’ crucifixion on Passover defies historical believability, yet makes perfect sense metaphorically
- The Gospels make many claims that are contradicted by the historical record
- The earliest writings about Jesus, from Paul and others, contain no details of his life
- Many statements in the letters of Paul only make sense if Paul does not view Jesus Christ as a historical person
- There is not one single writing from or about Jesus during his supposed lifetime
- Philo, a prolific Jewish writer who lived from 20 BCE to 50 CE, wrote extensively about the political and theological movements throughout the Mediterranean, and his views foreshadowed Christian theology, yet he never once wrote anything about Jesus. Not only this, but he actually wrote about political conflicts between the Jews and Pontius Pilate in Judea
- All of the non-Christian references to Jesus can be shown to have either been introduced later by Christian scribes or were originally based on Christian claims
- There is no evidence of any knowledge of a tomb of Jesus (empty or occupied) prior to the Gospel stories
- There were many conflicting beliefs about who Jesus Christ was in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries, including beliefs that he had never existed on earth “in the flesh”
- The Catholics made purely theological arguments as to why Jesus Christ had to have existed “in the flesh”
None of these points are meant to stand on their own, but collectively they provide a very strong argument against the story of Jesus Christ being based on a real person.
It is important to note that we have one, and only one, source of information about the life of Jesus and that is the Christian Gospels. The Gospels are the sole source of information about this figure; everything that we “know” about “him” depends on these sources.
There are two basic views of the Biblical Jesus as a real person today, the religious Christian view and the secular historical view. The religious Christian view takes the Gospels as accurate and reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, including all of the miracles. The religious Christian view demands that Jesus Christ was a popular and well known figure in the region, who drew crowds of thousands of people and performed great miracles, who was such a revolutionary figure that the Jewish priesthood was compelled to have him arrested and put to death in dramatic fashion before hundreds or thousands of witnesses.
The secular historical view, which may also be held by some Christians, takes the Gospels as exaggerated accounts of the life of a real Jesus. The secular historical view basically starts with the Gospels and then removes the fantastic or “supernatural” claims in the Gospels and accepts what is left as history. The secular historical view tends to minimize the role of Jesus in the region, stating instead that he was barely noticed by others. Secular historians who believe that Jesus existed rely on the Gospels as essentially historical, but inflated, accounts of his life.
But are the Gospels reliable historical accounts?The origin of the Gospels has always been unknown. At no point has anyone (that we know of) reallknown who wrote any of the Gospels, when they were written, or even where they were written. Eacthe Gospels could have been written anywhere from Egypt to Rome, and the estimated dates for thwriting range from around 50 CE at the earliest estimates to about 150 CE at the latest, with a minor of people proposing dates into the 4th century.The traditional explanation for the origin of the Gospels has been that they were each writtenindependently by people who were either disciples of Jesus or who received their information fromdisciples of Jesus. This is called the apostolistic tradition, and according to the apostolistic traditionGospel could only be considered “authentic” if it had a direct lineage to an apostle, thus the namesassigned to each of the Gospels were given in order to help establish their authenticity.It has not always been believed, however, that each of the Gospels is an eyewitness account. Indeethe Gospel of Luke explicitly states that it is compiled from the research of the author.The earliest account for the origin of some of the Gospels comes to us from the early church leader Papias, from about 130 CE:Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrotewith great accuracy, but not, however, in the order in which it wasspoken or done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord,but, as before said, was in company with Peter, who gave him suchinstruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord’sdiscourses. Wherefore Mark has not erred in any thing, by writing somethings as lie has recorded them; for lie was carefully attentive to onething, not to pass by any thing that he heard, or to state any thingfalsely in these accounts. … Matthew composed his history in theHebrew dialect, and every one translated it as he was able.–Papias, 130 CEHere Papias states that the Gospel called Mark was written by someone named Mark, and that Mar recorded his Gospel from the apostle Peter. He then goes on to state that the Gospel called Matthewas written by someone named Matthew who wrote his Gospel in “the Hebrew dialect”, which wouldhave been Aramaic. We’ll go ahead and look at one more early explanation for the origin of the Gosand then analyze these statements.Around 175 CE the early church leader Irenaeus expounded upon the information of Papias when hgave an account of the origin of each of the four Gospels that later became canon.Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their owndialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying thefoundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the discipleand interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what hadbeen preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in abook the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of theLord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospelduring his residence at Ephesus in Asia.–Irenaeus; Against Heresies, 175 CEHere Irenaeus basically repeats the statement of Papias, most likely getting his information from Paand then adds a statement about the Gospel called Luke and the Gospel called John. There are seproblems with what Papias and Irenaeus state, but first let’s see what they are saying and why theysaying it.Early Christian theologians believed the Gospel of Matthew to be the first Gospel that was written, aby many accounts, the most important (of course there was disagreement among them, as there waall doctrinal issues). The reason that Matthew was viewed by many as the earliest Gospel and the mimportant was because it contained the virgin birth story and the lineage to David, and the Gospel oLuke was self-described as not an eyewitness account, so it could not have been the first. Some peclaimed that they had seen the original copy of Matthew, and that it was in Aramaic, but the realmotivation behind this story of being written“in the language of the Hebrews”was an effort to establiits primacy and authority. It makes sense that an account would be written in the same language thJesus spoke to his followers, yet all of the Gospels were written in Greek, so this idea of an originalHebrew or Aramaic Gospel had a lot of draw to it. Jesus was presumed to have spoken in Aramaicbecause the Gospels “quote him” as saying things in Aramaic, such as his last words in the crucifixi
The rest of this lengthy article can be found here:
Conclusion and Summary
The proposition that “Jesus Christ” never existed relies on much more than simply stating that we don’t have evidence for his existence or that the Gospels are unbelievable. Showing that the story of Jesus Christ is not based on a person in any meaningful way requires showing that the story of Jesus Christ is better explained as having developed through non-historical methods than it is through historical methods. We can identify literary sources and traditions that are not only capable of providing all of the material for the Jesus story, but indeed it is clear that the Jesus story is developed from these source materials, and this fact undermines the possibility that the stories are based on observed historical events. If the crucifixion of Jesus were based on an observed historical event, then we should not expect that virtually every line of the crucifixion narrative comes from existing Hebrew scriptures (including themes that were mistranslated in the Greek sources that were used). Not only does the scriptural basis of the Jesus stories undermine their historical credibility, but we also have historical facts, or lack thereof, which corroborate Jesus’ absence of existence.
The suspicion that Jesus never existed was first seriously entertained (within the past thousand years) and addressed in a scholarly fashion in the 19th century. A major flaw in the first generation of “Jesus Myth theories”, however, was that they often relied on parallels between the story of Jesus and “pagan” myths. This happened because the first generation of Jesus Myth scholarship emerged from Protestant criticism of Catholicism and there was a tendency at the time to view Catholicism, and much of early Christian history, as “corrupted by paganism”. There were good reasons to think this, because many of the later developing Christian traditions and institutions, such as Christmas, the veneration of Mary, and the Catholic hierarchy, are indeed based on pre-Christian Roman practices and institutions. But these later developments cannot be confused with the pre-Catholic period of Christianity. Indeed there are Hellenistic influences on the Christian story and theology, but these influences were largely a part of Hellenistic Judaism itself.
The development of the Jesus Christ story is best explained not as simply a “paganization” of Judaism, but as a part of Jewish literary tradition. What did set Christianity apart, however, was its crossover status into non-Jewish communities, where Jewish literary traditions were not understood. A combination of factors then led to its growing acceptance. The destruction of Judea left many diaspora Jews in despair and without a grounding for traditional Judaism, so the story of Jesus had appeal to them. Unlike most of the Greek and Roman religions, Christianity was highly evangelical with its claims of salvation and “truth”. People living in the Roman Empire had grown up with messages of confidence and strength, but in the 3rd and 4th centuries Rome went through a series of hardships so the Christian story of suffering, redemption, and humility, rooted in the history of Jewish hardships, appealed to a people who were surrounded by religions based on a culture of superiority that was now failing. For those who looked deeper into the religion, many were impressed with the degree to which the life of Jesus seemed to have been so completely foretold by the earlier Hebrew scriptures. The numerous parallels between the Gospels and the “Old Testament” convinced many that the religion “had to be true”, how else could one account for so many “fulfilled prophecies”? They declined to understand, however, that the parallels are there because the Gospels are made-up stories based on the Hebrew scriptures. As Christians began filling the ranks of the military in the 4th century Constantine and other emperors had reasons to cater to the religion, and they found that people who were willing to die to spread their religion to new lands made for good soldiers.
For those who claim that the “rapid” (actually over a period of about 200 years) spread of Christianity cannot be explained without a real central Jesus figure, the reality is that even if Jesus were real he played no role in the spread of the religion. We absolutely know that the major spread of the religion happened after the writing of the Gospels. Even the spreading of the religion prior to the Gospels occurred due to apostolistic evangelism, the works of Paul and other writings are a testament to this. Paul did not interact with one single group of people that had already interacted with Jesus. People claim that the apostles wouldn’t have gone to such efforts to spread the religion if they had not been certain of the truth of their religion because they had personal contact with Jesus, but Paul himself, the only apostle that we actually do have written records from, is proof that this is false, because we know for a fact that Paul never saw a “flesh and blood” Jesus and Paul emphasized over and over again how important his “revelations” from Jesus were. By all accounts the most active and important apostle that we know of, Paul, never had personal contact with Jesus.
Not only can Christianity be explained without a real historical Jesus at its core, but the historical facts that we do have are best explained if Jesus never existed.