I beg to differ. - Read the following:
[INDENT]Amazingly, the question of an actual historical Jesus rarely confronts the religious believer. The power of faith has so forcefully driven the minds of most believers, and even apologetic scholars, that the question of reliable evidence gets obscured by tradition, religious subterfuge, and outrageous claims. The following gives a brief outlook about the claims of a historical Jesus and why the evidence the Christians present us cannot serve as justification for reliable evidence for a historical Jesus.
ALL CLAIMS OF JESUS DERIVE FROM HEARSAY ACCOUNTS
No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single
contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus got written well after
the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources derive from hearsay accounts.
Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.
Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay provides no proof or good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.
If you do not understand this, imagine yourself confronted with a charge for a crime which you know you did not commit. You feel confident that no one can prove guilt because you know
that there exists no evidence whatsoever for the charge against you. Now imagine that you stand present in a court of law that allows hearsay as evidence. When the prosecution presents its case, everyone who takes the stand against you claims that you committed the crime, not as a witness themselves, but solely because other people said so. None of these other
people, mind you, ever show up in court, nor can anyone find them.
Hearsay does not work as evidence because we have no way of knowing whether the person lies, or simply bases his or her information on wrongful belief or bias. We know from history about witchcraft trials and kangaroo courts that hearsay provides neither reliable nor fair statements of evidence. We know that mythology can arise out of no good information whatsoever. We live in a world where many people believe in demons, UFOs, ghosts, or monsters, and an innumerable number of fantasies believed as fact taken from nothing but belief and hearsay. It derives from these reasons why hearsay cannot serves as good evidence, and the same reasoning must go against the claims of a historical Jesus or any other historical person.
Authors of ancient history today, of course, can only write from indirect observation in a time far removed from their aim. But a valid historian's own writing gets cited with sources that trace to the subject themselves, or to eyewitnesses and artifacts. For example a historian today who writes about the life of George Washington, of course, can not serve as an eyewitness, but he can provide citations to documents which give personal or eyewitness accounts. None of the historians about Jesus give reliable sources to eyewitnesses, therefore all we have remains as hearsay.
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, 1995]
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 supported the notion that the apostles wrote them, consider that the average life span of humans in the first century came to around 30, and very few people lived to 70. If the apostles births occured at about the same time as the alleged Jesus, and wrote their gospels in their old age, that would put Mark at least 70 years old, and John at over 110.
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, we can deduce that the author of Mark had neither heard Jesus nor served as his personal follower. Whoever wrote the gospel, he simply accepted the mythology of Jesus without question and wrote a crude an ungrammatical account of the popular story at the time. Any careful reading of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) will reveal that Mark served as the common element between Matthew and Luke and gave the main source for both of them. Of Mark's 666* verses, some 600 appear in Matthew, some 300 in Luke. According to Randel Helms, the author of Mark, stands at least at a third remove from Jesus and more likely at the fourth remove. [Helms]
[SIZE=-2]* Most Bibles show 678 verses for Mark, not 666, but many Biblical scholars think the last 12 verses came later from interpolation. The earliest manuscripts and other ancient sources do not have Mark 16: 9-20. Moreover the text style does not match 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.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=-2] [/SIZE]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 and even possibly a woman. He (or she) wrote at a time of tension in the Roman empire along with its fever of persecution. Many modern scholars think that the Gospel of Matthew and Luke got derived 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 where or how he got his information or the date of its authorship. 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.
OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS
Even in antiquity people like Origen and Eusebius raised doubts about the authenticity of other books in the New Testament such as Hebrews, James, John 2 & 3, Peter 2, Jude, and Revelation. Martin Luther rejected the Epistle of James calling it worthless and an "epistle of straw" and questioned Jude, Hebrews and the Apocalypse in Revelation. Nevertheless, all New Testament writings came well after the alleged death of Jesus from unknown authors (with the possible exception of Paul, although still after the alleged death).
Epistles of Paul:
Paul's biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. However, there occurs not a single instance in all of Paul's writings that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does he give any reference to Jesus' life on earth. Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. Hearsay.
Epistle of James:
Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? Many claim him as the gospel disciple but the gospels mention several different James. Which one? Or maybe this James has nothing to do with any of the gospel James. Perhaps this writer comes from any one of innumerable James outside the gospels. James served as a common name in the first centuries and we simply have no way to tell who this James refers to. More to the point, the Epistle of James mentions Jesus only once as an introduction to his belief. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from an historical account. [1
Epistles of John:
The epistles of John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation appear so different in style and content that they could hardly have the same author. Some suggest that these writings of John come from the work of a group of scholars in Asia Minor who followed a "John" or they came from the work of church fathers who aimed to further the interests of the Church. Or they could have simply come from people also named John (a very common name). No one knows. Also note that nowhere in the body of the three epistles of "John" does it mention a John. In any case, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. Not only do we not know who wrote these epistles, they can only serve as hearsay accounts. [2
Epistles of Peter:
Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery (for some examples, see the introduction to 2 Peter in the full edition of The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985, and [3
]). In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an unknown author also named Peter (a common name) or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church.
Of the remaining books and letters in the Bible, there occurs no other stretched claims or eyewitness accounts for a historical Jesus and needs no mention of them here for this deliberation.
As for the existence of original New Testament documents, none exist. No book of the New Testament survives in the original autograph copy. What we have then come from copies, and copies of copies, of questionalbe originals (if the stories came piecemeal over time, as it appears it has, then there may never have existed an original). The earliest copies we have came more than a century later than the autographs, and these exist on fragments of papyrus. [Pritchard; Graham] According to Hugh Schonfield, "It would be impossible to find any manuscript of the New Testament older than the late third century, and we actually have copies from the fourth and fifth. [Schonfield]
LYING FOR THE CHURCH
The editing and formation of the Bible came from members of the early Christian Church. Since the fathers of the Church possessed the texts and determined what would appear in the Bible, there occurred plenty of opportunity and motive to change, modify, or create texts that might bolster the position of the Church or the members of the Church themselves.
Take, for example, Eusebius who served as an ecclesiastical church historian and bishop. He had great influence in the early Church and he openly advocated the use of fraud and deception in furthering the interests of the Church [Remsberg]. The first mention of Jesus by Josephus came from Eusebius (none of the earlier church fathers mention Josephus' Jesus). It comes to no surprise why many scholars think that Eusebius interpolated his writings. In his Ecclesiastical History,
he writes, "We shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity." (Vol. 8, chapter 2). In his Praeparatio Evangelica
, he includes a chapter titled, "How it may be Lawful and Fitting to use Falsehood as a Medicine, and for the Benefit of those who Want to be Deceived" (book 12, chapter 32).
The Church had such power over people, that to question the Church could result in death. Regardless of what the Church claimed, people had to take it as "truth." St. Ignatius Loyola of the 16th century even wrote: "We should always be disposed to believe that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the church so decides."
The orthodox Church also fought against competing Christian cults. Irenaeus, who determined the inclusion of the four (now canonical) gospels, wrote his infamous book, "Against the Heresies." According to Romer, "Irenaeus' great book not only became the yardstick of major heresies and their refutations, the starting-point of later inquisitions, but simply by saying what Christianity was not
it also, in a curious inverted way, became a definition of the orthodox faith." [Romer] The early Church burned many heretics, along with their sacred texts. If a Jesus did exist, perhaps eyewitness writings got burnt along with them because of their heretical nature. We will never know.
In attempting to salvage the Bible the respected revisionist and scholar, Bruce Metzger has written extensively on the problems of the New Testament. In his book, "The Text of the New Testament-- Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Metzger addresses: Errors arising from faulty eyesight; Errors arising from faulty hearing; Errors of the mind; Errors of judgement; Clearing up historical and geographical difficulties; and Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations. [Metzger]
With such intransigence from the Church and the admitting to lying for its cause, the burning of heretical texts, Bible errors and alterations, how could any honest scholar take any book from the New Testament as absolute, much less using extraneous texts that support a Church's intolerant and biased position, as reliable evidence?
In 1945, an Arab made an archeological discovery in Upper Egypt of several ancient papyrus books. They have since referred to it as The Nag Hammadi
texts. They contained fifty-two heretical books written in Coptic script which include gospels of Thomas, Philip, James, John, Thomas, and many others. Archeologists have dated them at around 350-400 C.E. They represent copies from previous copies. None of the original texts exist and scholars argue about a possible date of the originals. Some of them think that they can hardly have dates later than 120-150 C.E. Others have put it closer to 140 C.E. [Pagels, 1979]
Other Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Judas, found near the Egyptian site of the Nag Hammadi texts, shows a diverse pattern of story telling, always a mark of myth. The Judas gospel tells of Judas Iscariot as Jesus' most loyal disciple, just opposite that of the canonical gospel stories. Note that the text does not
claim that Judas Iscariot wrote it. The Judas gospel, a copy written in Coptic, dates to around the third-to fourth-century. The original Greek version probably dates to between 130 and 170 C.E., around the same tine as the Nag Hammadi texts. Irenaeus first mentions this gospel in Adversus Haereses
(Against Heresies) written around 180 C.E., so we know that this represented a heretical gospel.
Since these Gnostic texts could only have its unknown authors writing well after the alleged life of Jesus, they cannot serve as historical evidence of Jesus anymore than the canonical versions. Again, we only have "heretical" hearsay.
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 eyewitness evidence.
, 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.
Pliny the Younger
, a Roman official, got born in 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 the range of eyewitness accounts.
, 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.
, 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.
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 (a common name in Jewish literature) in the Talmud refers to Jesus. However, this Jesus, according to Gerald Massey actually depicts a disciple of Jehoshua Ben-Perachia at least a century before the alleged Christian Jesus. [Massey] Regardless of how one interprets this, the Palestinian Talmud got written between 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 and pagan 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. Although hundreds of fraudulent claims exist for the artifacts of Jesus, I will present only three examples which seem to have a life of their own and have spread through the religious community and especially on internet discussion groups.
The Shroud of Turin
Many faithful people believe the shroud represents the actual burial cloth of Jesus where they claim the image on the cloth represents an actual 'photographic' image left behind by the crucified body.
The first mention of the shroud comes from a treatise (written or dictated) by Geoffroi de Charny in 1356 and who claims to have owned the cloth (see The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi De Charny
). Later, in the 16th century, it suddenly appeared in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. (Note that thousands of claimed Jesus relics appeared in cathedrals throughout Europe, including the wood from the cross, chalices, blood of Jesus, etc. These artifacts proved popular and served as a prosperous commercial device which filled the money coffers of the churches.)
Sadly, many people of faith believe that there actually exists scientific evidence to support their beliefs in the shroud's authenticity. Considering how the Shroud's apologists use the words, "science," "fact," and "authentic," without actual scientific justification, and even include pseudo-scientists (without mentioning the 'pseudo') to testify to their conclusions, it should not come to any surprise why a faithful person would not question their information or their motives. Television specials have also appeared that purport the authenticity of the shroud. Science, however, does not operate though television specials who have a commercial interest and have no qualms about deceiving the public.
Experts around the world consider the 14-foot-long linen sheet, which has remained in a cathedral in Turin since 1578, a forgery because of carbon-dating tests performed in 1988. Three different independent radiocarbon dating laboratories in Zurich, Oxford and the University of Arizona yielded a date range of 1260-1390 C.E. (consistent with the time period of Charny's claimed ownership). Joe Zias of Hebrew University of Jerusalem calls the shroud indisputably a fake. "Not only is it a forgery, but it's a bad forgery." The shroud actually depicts a man whose front measures 2 inches taller than his back and whose elongated hands and arms would indicate that he had the affliction of gigantism if he actually lived. (Also read Joe Nickell's, Inquest On The Shroud Of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings
Walter C. McCrone, et al, (see Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin
) discovered red ochre (a pigment found in earth and widely used in Italy during the Middle Ages) on the cloth which formed the body image and vermilion paint, made from mercuric sulphide, used to represent blood. The actual scientific findings reveal the shroud as a 14th century painting, not a two-thousand year-old cloth with Christ's image. Revealingly, no Biblical scholar or scientist (with any credibility), cites the shroud of Turin as evidence for a historical Jesus.
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 inscription on the box occured around 70 C.E., that would agree with everything claimed by this thesis (that no contemporary evidence exists for Jesus). (Note that 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 an alleged 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.
Letters of Pontius Pilate
This would appear hilarious if not for the tragic results that can occur from believing in fiction: many faithful (especially on the internet) have a strong belief that Pontius Pilate actually wrote letters to Seneca in Rome where he mentions Jesus and his reported healing miracles.
Considering the lack of investigational temper of the religious mind, it might prove interesting to the critical reader that the main source for the letters of Pilate come from W. P. Crozier's 1928 book titled, "Letters of Pontius Pilate: Written During His Governorship of Judea to His Friend Seneca in Rome
." The book cites Crozier as the editor as if he represented a scholar who edited Pilate's letters. Well, from the title, it certainly seems
to indicate that Pilate wrote some letters doesn't it? However, unbeknownst or ignored by the uncritical faithful, this book represents Crozier's first novel
, a fictionalized account of what he thought Pilate would have written.
During the first publication, no one believed this novel represented fact and reviews of the day reveal it as a work of fiction
Crozier, a newspaper editor, went to Oxford University and retained an interest in Latin, Greek and the Bible. He wrote this novel as if it represented the actual letters of Pilate. Of course no scholar would cite this as evidence because no letters exist of Pilate to Seneca, and Seneca never mentions Jesus in any of his writings.
The belief in Pilate's letters represents one of the more amusing fad beliefs in evidential Jesus, however, it also reveals just how myths, fakes, and fictions can leak into religious thought. Hundreds of years from now, Crozier's fictionalized account may very well end up just as 'reliable' as the gospels.
WHAT ABOUT WRITINGS DURING THE LIFE OF JESUS?
What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what people later wrote about Jesus but what people did not
write about him. Consider that not a single historian, philosopher, scribe or follower who lived before or during the alleged time of Jesus ever mentions him!
If, indeed, the Gospels portray a historical look at the life of Jesus, then the one feature that stands out prominently within the stories shows that people claimed to know Jesus far and wide, not only by a great multitude of followers but by the great priests, the Roman governor Pilate, and Herod who claims that he had heard "of the fame of Jesus" (Matt 14:1)". One need only read Matt: 4:25 where it claims that "there followed him [Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jersulaem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordon."
The gospels mention, countless times, the great multitude that followed Jesus and crowds of people who congregated to hear him. So crowded had some of these gatherings grown, that Luke 12:1 alleges that an "innumberable multitude of people... trode one upon another." Luke 5:15 says that there grew "a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear..." The persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem drew so much attention that all the chief priests and scribes, including the high priest Caiaphas, not only knew about him but helped in his alleged crucifixion. (see Matt 21:15-23, 26:3, Luke 19:47, 23:13). The multitude of people thought of Jesus, not only as a teacher and a miracle healer, but a prophet (see Matt:14:5).
So here we have the gospels portraying Jesus as famous far and wide, a prophet and healer, with great multitudes of people who knew about him, including the greatest Jewish high priests and the Roman authorities of the area, and not one person records his existence during his lifetime?
If the poor, the rich, the rulers, the highest priests, and the scribes knew about Jesus, who would not
have heard of him?
Then we have a particular astronomical event that would have attracted the attention of anyone interested in the "heavens." According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Yet not a single mention of such a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone, including the astronomers and astrologers, anywhere in the world, including Pliny the Elder and Seneca who both recorded eclipses from other dates. Note also that, for obvious reasons, eclipses can't occur during a full moon (passovers always occur during full moons), Nor does a single contemporary person write about the earthquake described in Matthew 27:51-54 where the earth shook, rocks ripped apart (rent), and graves opened.
Matthew 2 describes Herod and all of Jerusalem as troubled by the worship of the infant Jesus. Herod then had all
of the children of Bethlehem slain. If such extraordinary infanticides of this magnitude had occurred, why didn't anyone write about it?
Some apologists attempt to dig themselves out of this problem by claiming that there lived no capable historians during that period, or due to the lack of education of the people with a writing capacity, or even sillier, the scarcity of paper gave reason why no one recorded their "savior." But the area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records. Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And as for historians, there lived plenty at the time who had the capacity and capability to record, not only insignificant gossip, but significant events, especially from a religious sect who drew so much popular attention through an allegedly famous and infamous Jesus.
Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus who's birth occurred in 20 B.C.E. and died 50 C.E. He lived as the greatest Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the Jewish events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus "the Christ." Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca's (4? B.C.E. - 65 C.E.) writings, nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? - 79 C.E.).
If, indeed, such a well known Jesus existed, as the gospels allege, does any reader here think it reasonable that, at the very least, the fame of Jesus would not have reached the ears of one of these men?
Amazingly, we have not one Jewish, Greek, or Roman writer, even those who lived in the Middle East, much less anywhere else on the earth, who ever mention him during his supposed life time. This appears quite extraordinary, and you will find few Christian apologists who dare mention this embarrassing fact.
To illustrate this extraordinary absence of Jesus Christ literature, just imagine going through nineteenth century literature looking for an Abraham Lincoln but unable to find a single mention of him in any writing on earth until the 20th century. Yet straight-faced Christian apologists and historians want you to buy a factual Jesus out of a dearth void of evidence, and rely on nothing but hearsay written well after his purported life. Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus lived as God on earth, the Almighty gives an embarrassing example for explaining his existence. You'd think a Creator might at least have the ability to bark up some good solid evidence.
Many problems occur with the reliability of the accounts from ancient historians. Most of them did not provide sources for their claims, as they rarely included bibliographic listings, or supporting claims. They did not have access to modern scholarly techniques, and many times would include hearsay as evidence. No one today would take a modern scholar seriously who used the standards of ancient historians, yet this proves as the only
kind of source that Christology comes from. Couple this with the fact that many historians believed as Christians themselves, sometimes members of the Church, and you have a built-in prejudice towards supporting a "real" Jesus.
In modern scholarship, even the best historians and Christian apologists play the historian game. They can only use what documents they have available to them. If they only have hearsay accounts then they have to play the cards that history deals them. Many historians feel compelled to use interpolation or guesses from hearsay, and yet this very dubious information sometimes ends up in encyclopedias and history books as fact.
In other words, Biblical scholarship gets forced into a lower standard by the very sources they examine. A renowned Biblical scholor illustrated this clearly in an interview when asked about Biblical interpretation. David Noel Freeman (the General editor of the Anchor Bible Series and many other works) responed with:[INDENT] "We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything."
-David Noel Freedman (in Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)
[/INDENT]The implications appear obvious. If one wishes to believe in a historical Jesus, he or she must accept this based on loose standards. Couple this with the fact that all of the claims come from hearsay, and we have a foundation made of sand, and a castle of information built of cards.
CITING GEOGRAPHY, AND KNOWN HISTORICAL FIGURES AS "EVIDENCE"
Although the New Testament mentions various cities, geological sites, kings and people that existed or lived during the alleged life of Jesus, these descriptions cannot serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus anymore than works of fiction that include recognizable locations, and make mention of actual people.
Homer's Odyssey, for example, describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. Mythical stories, fictions, and narratives almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories. The authors of the Greek tragedies not only put their stories in plausible settings as happening in the real world but their supernatural characters took on the desires, flaws and failures of mortal human beings. Consider that fictions such as King Kong, Superman, and Star Trek include recognizable cities, planets, and landmarks, with their protagonists and antagonists miming human emotions.
Likewise, just because the Gospels mention cities and locations in Judea, and known historical people, with Jesus behaving like an actual human being (with the added dimension of supernatural curses, miracles, etc.) but this says nothing about the actuality of the characters portrayed in the stories. However, when a story uses impossible historical locations, or geographical errors, we may question the authority of the claims.
For example, in Matt 4:8, the author describes the devil taking Jesus into an exceedingly high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world. Since there exists no spot on the spheroid earth to view "all the kingdoms," we know that the Bible errs here.
John 12:21 says, "The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee. . . ." Bethsaida resided in Gaulonitis (Golan region), east of the Jordan river, not Galilee, which resided west of the river.
John 3:23 says, "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . ." Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.
There occurs not a shred of evidence for a city named
Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Leedom; Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus's writings (even though he provides a detailed list of the cities of Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles got written before
the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn't come into existence until about 40 years after the hypothetical death of Jesus. Apologists attempt to dismiss this by claiming that Nazareth existed as an insignificant and easily missed village (how would they know?), thus no one recorded it. However, whenever the Gospels speak of Nazareth, they always refer to it as a city
, never a village, and a historian of that period would surely have noticed a city. (Note the New Testament uses the terms village, town, and city.) Nor can apologists fall on archeological evidence of preexisting artifacts for the simple reason that many cities get built on ancient sites. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as historical.
Many more errors and unsupported geographical locations appear in the New Testament. And although one cannot use these as evidence against a historical Jesus, we can certainly question the reliability of the texts. If the scriptures make so many factual errors about geology, science, and contain so many contradictions, falsehoods could occur any in area.
If we have a coupling with historical people and locations, then we should also have some historical reference of a Jesus to these locations and people. But just the opposite proves the case. The Bible depicts Herod, the Ruler of Jewish Palestine under Rome as sending out men to search and kill the infant Jesus, yet nothing in history supports such a story. Pontius Pilate supposedly performed as judge in the trial and execution of Jesus, yet no Roman record mentions such a trial. The gospels portray a multitude of believers throughout the land spreading tales of a teacher, prophet, and healer, yet nobody in Jesus' life time or several decades after, ever records such a human figure. The lack of a historical Jesus in the known historical record speaks for itself.
COMPARING JESUS TO OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURES
Many Christian apologists attempt to extricate themselves from their lack of evidence by claiming that if we cannot rely on the post chronicle exegesis of Jesus, then we cannot establish a historical foundation for other figures such as Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, etc. However, there sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing
Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E. For Agustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti
, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium
), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more. Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters. We can establish some
historicity to these people because we have evidence that occurred during
their life times. Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people. For example, some of the stories of Alexander's conquests, or Nero starting the fire in Rome always get questioned or doubted because they contain inconsistencies or come from authors who wrote years after the alleged facts
. In qualifying the history of Alexander, Pierre Briant writes, "Although more than twenty of his contemporaries chronicled Alexander's life and campaigns, none of these texts survive in original form. Many letters and speeches attributed to Alexander are ancient forgeries or reconstructions inspired by imagination or political motives. The little solid documentation we possess from Alexander's own time is mainly to be found in stone inscriptions from the Greek cities of Europe and Asia." [Briant]
Inventing histories out of whole cloth or embellished from a seed of an actual historical event appears common throughout the chronicle of human thought. Robert Price observes, "Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Cyrus, King Arthur, and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle." [Price, pp. 260-261]
Interestingly, almost all important historical people have descriptions of what they looked like. We have the image of Augustus Caesar cast on denarius coins, busts of Greek and Roman aristocrats, artwork of Napoleon, etc. We have descriptions of facial qualities, height, weight, hair length & color, age and even portraits of most important historical figures. But for Jesus, we have nothing
. Nowhere in the Bible do we have a description of the human shape of Jesus. How can we rely on the Gospels as the word of Jesus when no one even describes what he looked like? How odd that none of the disciple characters record what he looked like, yet believers attribute them to know exactly what he said. Indeed, this gives us a clue that Jesus came to the gospel writers and indirect and through myth. Not until hundreds of years after the alleged Jesus did pictures emerge as to what he looked like from cult Christians, and these widely differed from a blond clean shaven, curly haired Apollonian youth (found in the Roman catacombs) to a long-bearded Italian as depicted to this day. This mimics the pattern of Greek mythological figures as their believers constructed various images of what their gods looked like according to their own cultural image.
Historial people leave us with contemporary evidence, but for Jesus we have nothing
. If we wanted to present a fair comparison of the type of information about Jesus to another example of equal historical value, we could do no better than to compare Jesus with the mythical figure of Hercules.
IF JESUS, THEN WHY NOT HERCULES?
If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then shouldn't they act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?
To take one example, examine the evidence for Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the "historicity" of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus.
Note that Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. The mortal and chaste Alcmene, the mother of Hercules, gave birth to him from a union with God (Zeus). Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Similar to Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules gives example of perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.
Likewise the "evidence" of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mention Hercules in their writings. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have a brief mention of Jesus by Joesphus in his Antiquities
, Joesphus also mentions Hercules (more times than Jesus), in the very same work
(see: 1.15; 8.5.3; 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Christus, so does he also mention Hercules many
times in his Annals
. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him? Of course not, and the same must apply to Jesus if we wish to hold any consistency to historicity.
Some critics doubt that a historicized Jesus could develop from myth because they think there never occurred any precedence for it. We have many examples of myth from history but what about the other way around? This doubt fails in the light of the most obvious example-- the Greek mythologies where Greek and Roman writers including Diodorus, Cicero, Livy, etc., assumed that there must have existed a historical root for figures such as Hercules, Theseus, Odysseus, Minos, Dionysus, etc. These writers put their mythological heroes into an invented historical time chart. Herodotus, for example, tried to determine when Hercules lived. As Robert M. Price revealed, "The whole approach earned the name of Euhemerism, from Euhemerus who originated it." [Price, p. 250] Even today, we see many examples of seedling historicized mythologies: UFO adherents who's beliefs began as a dream of alien bodily invasion, and then expressed as actually having occurred (some of which have formed religious cults); beliefs of urban legends which started as pure fiction or hoaxes; propaganda spread by politicians which stem from fiction but believed by their constituents.
People consider Hercules and other Greek gods as myth because people no longer believe
in the Greek and Roman stories. When a civilization dies, so go their gods. Christianity and its church authorities, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations or fear embarrassment against their Christian friends. Christianity depends
on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources. The faithful want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical "experts" around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic. The establishment of history should never reside with the "experts" words alone or simply because a