I am really sorry if this has been posted before.
If you knew me in person, you would know I love getting into discussions with people about religion. One of the questions that seems to keep coming into the discussion loop is Jesus.
So I was at a social gathering the other night at a restaurant and I dropped my silverware and out of habit I said "Jesus Christ!" And a random girl that was a friend of a friend said, "Don't use the Lords name in vain."
So obviously we got into a debate.
I brought up the point in the discussion that Jesus never existed. Well everyone looked at me like i was off the wall insane...
At that point the discussion just turned into incoherent ramblings and Grrrr... So frustrating that people base their whole life on hearsay! Simply dumbfounding!!!
Help me feel better... seriously.
There does not exist any evidence for the historicity of the Jesus figure as described in the gospels.
Quick guide: http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/puzzle1.htm
Muhammad also existed, right? What does that say about the veracity of Islam? Nothing, that's what it says.Well said Radu.
Actually it is not entirely clear if Muhammed existed. If he did, nothing is known about him. All are later writings, the earliest being about 120-130 years after his supposed death.
I would second this approach. I don't think the main concern should be too focused on proving whether or not Jesus existed. I think it is very likely that he existed - perhaps as he is described in the gospels, perhaps as a key figure that gained the qualities of others within a philosophical/religious sect, perhaps as a very different person from what the Gospels portray, or perhaps not at all - and merely a symbolic representation of a sect's belief. There are theories to support many different options - and I agree - the main focus should be on how likely he performed miracles as literal believers interpret the scriptures today. I think it is good to study the historical context of Jesus - which goes far beyond whether he physically existed as described in the Gospels. The main concern, imo, is the belief that he was immortal and the son of God... not whether or not he existed.
Other good options for historical Jesus study - The Jesus Seminar and the multi-volume documentaries such as "Origin of Christianity" (2003) and Corpus Christi (1997) - both amazing, detailed explorations of historical Jesus from multiple points of view.
I'm totally okay with the idea that he existed - and may have said many of the things as expressed in the Gospels - but I feel the context of his life, if he did exist, if far greater, richer and complicated than many believers dare to explore.
I don't care either way if a Jesus really existed or not. The point is that there is no evidence. This does not make the position that Jesus existed equally likely as rejecting his existence.
There should be evidence, copious amounts of it actually. But there is exactly none that can be validated. Worse than that Christian forgery in Josephus was identified. The fact that there is no evidence while there should be, alone makes the rejection of the historicity of Jesus much more plausible than the position that a Jesus really has existed.
But then you even go a step further and "feel" that not only should you accept the historicity of this Jesus character without any evidence whatsoever, but attribute to this character an entirely different, far better history that presumably has as much evidence to back it up with as there is for the for this purpose required existence of a historical Jesus.
I find that pretty amazing. But please do explore this novel great, rich and complicated Jesus, I am genuinely curious to find out.
'also, inevitably during discussions on this topic people bring up the awful Zeitgeist documentary and/or comparisons between Jesus and other "Sun gods'
No. There isnt any evidence to say that Mithraism and early Chrsitanity was ever connected.
This is all pseudo scholarship...
Wait a minute. In many ways I believe Jesus is merely an updated version of various gods that came before him... and yes - I "feel" that believers can and should explore the rich context of Christ mythology - as well as what we may or may not know about the historical context of Jesus' time. I also feel that non-believers can learn from studying the historical Jesus - the larger, richer context beyond cutting off all discussion of the phenomenon by pointing to a lack of evidence.
Yes there is a lack of evidence - but I'm not convinced that there should be copious amounts of evidence for someone the Romans very likely didn't take very seriously. It is his disciples and followers - or the sect leaders creating a new myth - who took "Jesus" seriously. The context of the historic Jesus IS worthy of study. If anything, there is plenty of evidence to suggest censorship of non-believers, or heretics, or those who insisted on a broader understanding of Jesus or the Jesus Movement.
In the end - the main issue is how to question faith. No amount of evidence, or lack-thereof - will stop people from placing faith in a mythology. They may be entertained by "lack of proof" arguments - but a better place to start is to broaden their understanding of the possibility of Jesus within a larger historical context than what their comfort zone (church/bible) allows. Faith is the problem - not whether or not Jesus physically existed or not. People who want/need to have faith in something "larger" than themselves will merely move on to another mythological, charismatic figure for support.
My personal understanding of Jesus is that, whether or not a man of any name inspired sects during that particular time period, he is unmistakeably fashioned after many mythological characters, christs, gods, deities - and inspired people to build temples then, and to build temples now... and that there are qualities within that historical/mythological figure that worthy of recognition - but that he does not need to garner more respect than any other historical/mythological figure who metaphorically explains the experiences of human fears and joys. He is one "man" worthy of study - if one is drawn to him.... but so are many other humans/myths that defined thousands of years of moral dilemma.
So if the answer of 'yes I believe Jesus was largely fictional - but not entirely fictional'- is an uncomfortable response for some - so be it. I am open to fact, debate and theory - which is not quite the same as debating the existence of atoms. What we have to work with thousands of years after the birth of the Jesus movement is not the same as questioning scientific fact. Humans suppress and destroy evidence - and also take aspects of real events and create mythologies out of them. Lack of evidence regarding historical theories is different than lack of evidence regarding scientific theories.
For starters - I often point out the previous incarnations of the Golden Rule. If people have no historical understanding of the Golden Rule - how can we expect them to give up on a historical Jesus?
Thank you, I understand your position better now. And I can find at least some common ground now.
I don't think the position is reasonable that we shouldn't expect there to be evidence in contemporary Roman writing. What's more Christian clergy seemed to agree and made their point stick by falsifying history and insert passages in Tacitus and Josephus.
The evidence for censorship you are talking about is by the Christian orthodoxy trying to wipe out the traces of the earliest religious competiton (there hasn't been any "the Jesus movement" that spread out and diversified, instead the tree is chronically reversed) out of which they rose as victorious. Not evidence for wiping out traces of Roman or Jewish writings. By the time they had access to those we have now evidence they did the exact opposite.
So there is not a lack of evidence, there is actually no evidence at all that withstands close scrutiny. So you're basically left with tradition and that's that. Maybe an enlightened person could throw out all the supernatural stuff and keep what's left, but on what basis this is justifiable exactly I wouldn't know.
Nevertheless I am not saying that the mythology isn't rich and that the mythological Christ figure wasn't all important for early Christian sects and we shouldn't explore answers to what exactly the roots of Christianity are. Even if we can trace the genesis of the Christ mythology back to an epileptic insult of Paul on his way to work, this doesn't diminish the importance of that research in any way. But you don't have to uphold a false premise, namely there must have been a kernel of truth to this Jesus myth in order for it to be meaningful. No, there isn't a kernel of truth to the stories of Robin Hood and Rome wouldn't crumble if no Romulus or Remus ever sucked on canine-titties, but this doesn't make the mythology any less valuable.
Neither does the absence of a historical Jesus devalue in any way the real history of Christianity in all facets and how it impacted world history: art, science, philosophy and so on.
So there we basically agree, I think.
I am not concerned here with how Christians might cope with or react to the absence of any historical Christ that's their business entirely. I am only interested as to whether this or other Christ figure existed or not and if so, what can we say about him with any confidence. It is misleading to talk about a "scientific fact" here we shouldn't question precisely because there is no evidence, we are talking about applying scientific methodology to historical research. And you are right there are limitations to what can be done in historical sciences, you can't do repeatable experiments. What you can do is increase confidence in certain theories about what happened by using evidence and (scientifically validated) background knowledge. In this sense there is a difference in methods, a difference in levels of certainty, but not in basic scientific methodology.
If you don't have any evidence and your background knowledge does not allow you to make any conclusions one way or the other, you have nothing. In this case I maintain our background knowledge of the period favors the existence of historical evidence. (This would then be the main point of contention.) And since there is none the balance swings in the direction of there being no historical Jesus figure.
I don't understand what you want to say with your Golden Rule argument. You can trace back the Golden Rule in different shapes and forms to earliest written history. There are copious amounts of evidence all over the world. You can't deny it, you can only turn a blind eye to it. But that is the complete opposite in the case of a historical Jesus where there is no evidence and where you are not only perfectly in your right, but the only sensible thing to do is to deny it for the reasons I gave.
I agree completely. I could say that Adolf Hitler didn't exist, but there seems to be enough evidence to suggest he did (even though I have viewed none of it first hand).
If the gospel writers made the whole story up, then they made his sayings up also. The story surely circulated for years (about 30) before anyone wrote it down. The timeframe that it is originally written in is ok for the story of the life of Jesus, as many famous people in antiquity were written of 30, 50, even 70 years after their death. However, the resurrection is a different story.
If Jesus had really rose from the dead, it would have been written of spontaneously - in real time. Crowds numbering thousands would have followed him wherever he went. His resurrection would have been undeniable to the Jewish leadership - there wouldn't be a discussion about the empty tomb, as Jesus would be walking among the people. Even enemies like the Romans would fall down and worship him. And they would have written all about it.
Was Jesus a real man? There isn't any reason to think he wasn't.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? Almost certainly not. The gospels provide the only story, and it is riddled with inaccuracies.