Sunday, 12 June 2011

Historical Jesus?

Was there a real historical Jesus?  That is a question that most christians do not even entertain.  But many scholars doubt whether there is enough evidence from unbiased or contemporary historians.

. . . the very first thing most Christians often tell me is that most historians accept the historicity of Jesus. This is just an appeal to authority. The fact is that most historians accept the historicity of Jesus on faith. When we really look at the evidence, it is clear that there is very little reason to believe Jesus existed. It is only recently that some historians have started to even question the historicity of Jesus. When they have, no actual evidence has been found to support the claim of a historic Jesus.

So writes Staks Rosch in an interesting and concise post on's Atheism 101: The Jesus Myth.

Of course he is not alone in making the claim that Jesus was not an historical character.  Many others have pointed out that the Jesus story follows the very much earlier story of Mithra.  Even Christmas day was chosen as December 25th which was the date when the Romans celebrated the birth of Mithra.  Surely that is more than coincidence.

Adding some links to later posts in this series:

And another related post:


    man with desire said...

    When we begin to examine the gospels and the letters of the New Testament, we find that Jesus appears as the central figure in them. The four gospels tell us about His life here on earth while the epistles describe the meaning of His death and resurrection according to Christian belief. We can actually say, that if He hadn’t lived on earth, none of these would have been written.
    As we examine the historicity of Jesus, we can find proof of His life on earth. This proof has been preserved by His successors, such as the early church fathers, and also His opponents. Both sources refer to various parts of His life.

    Plasma Engineer said...

    I wonder whether you have actually read the page at that link? It is one of those pages designed to impress you (or perhaps depress you) by quantity not by quality. I would have thought that with 1 billion christians in the world, just one of you could come up with something more convincing than that.

    Did you know that early copies of Josephus do not contain the passages mentioned on that page. It is certain that they are forgeries. If you dispute this claim please provide your evidence.

    Besides that, Josephus and Tacitus were writing decades after the supposed time of the crucifiction, and the other writers were even later than that.

    I wonder whether you personally could write a fully factual book as long as a gospel about the life of your grandfather. Would it have so many factual stories, with witnesses and first hand evidence. You have all your relations to call upon, and perhaps surviving friends. You have newspapers, family heirlooms, documents and photographs. Perhaps within your adult life you knew him (or still know him) but still wouldn't be able to write a fully attested factual account with so much detail.

    Why would we expect Josephus, Tacitus and the gospel writers to find it any easier, in a time with shorter life expectancy, without having met any of the witnesses and without the evidence obtained with modern technology? Could you even do this for your own father? I don't think I could.

    Just one other thought. Was there a solar eclipse that fits with the time of the crucifiction? I only ask because it was part of the 'proof' that is offered on that page. If you find that there was no such solar eclipse I wonder what that says about the other 'facts' that you can't check.

    Clue: Wikipedia's article on the Crucifixion Darkness and eclipse seems to address the topic quite well.

    Plasma Engineer said...

    Just in case the Wikipedia article is too long - here are the key sentences:

    Jesus' crucifixion took place around Passover, the middle of the lunar month and the time of a full moon. Solar eclipses naturally take place only at the time of the new moon.

    Gordon said...

    The Gospels don't count any more than the Harry Potter books!

    Plasma Engineer said...

    Actually - at least the Harry Potter books are mutually consistent. Loved them - and off to see the final movie this evening I hope.

    Shane said...

    Thanks for the link - one of the important things that is overlooked by many is that much of the Jesus story is wholly unremarkable, and fits in perfectly with what we know about several such itinerant Jewish preachers in C1CE - even the miracles. The virgin birth was obviously tacked on much much later - there is internal evidence in the gospels that nobody suggested it when he was alive, Jesus never challenged the notion that he was the full biological son of Joseph, or the brother to several brothers and sisters. The only references are in Matthew and Luke, and even they are completely contradictory. So we can ditch the virgin birth using purely *biblical* evidence as a late myth.
    Then there is the resurrection. The gospels are hopelessly confused here, and completely contradictory. Indeed, the gospel of Mark (original) stops dead at the empty tomb. That's it! The later stories of Luke, Matthew (not the disciple of course - we don't know who wrote this gospel) and John (again, not written by "John") are tagged on, and twisted to suit the agenda of their individual authors.
    But if you strip all that away, Jesus is very credible in his social context as a Jewish preacher. Geza Vermes is good on this. Also, Mark, despite many allusions, is not written in mythological style. It is pretty homely. I tend to think it is not *wholly* inaccurate. But Jesus was a failed messiah, poor chap.

    Plasma Engineer said...

    I like it! A failed messiah. :)

    Justin said...

    Again, Dec. 25th was not the date assumed in the Gospels, spring was, as the only time shepherds were out with the flocks overnight was in the spring when they were giving birth.

    What most scholars accept was that there was some Jew named "Yeshua" who wandered Palestine in the 1st century preaching, and "healing." But he hardly alone. What most scholars debate is the question of the historicity of the Gospels, or "what did Jesus 'look like'?"

    Hobbes_79 said...

    He was about 5'9, white, brown hair, neatly trimmed beard, and a lovely white robe. Haven't you seen all the pictures...?

    Monkfishy said...

    Personally, the birth certificate I'd most like to see is Jesus'. Or even his high school yearbook. BTW, what WAS he doing for all those years which are unaccounted for in the gospels? Getting married and having kids, like nearly all good Jewish boys of the time?