Top Ten Problems With the Jesus Myth Theory

AnkhAs I sit here watching the documentary on Tom Harpur’s Pagan Christ, I find myself reminded of all the problems that I see in the Jesus myth theory.  I will share my top ten problems with this theory.  This is not a detailed analysis but rather my opportunity to vent on the glaring problems with this theory.

1) The rejection of the Gospels as historical sources.  They are seen as faith documents and not modern biographies.  That is true but we do not have any unbiased ancient texts that meet the criteria of modern biography.  If we reject the Gospels, we would also have to reject most of what we know about ancient history.

2) The claim that Paul never mentions the historical Jesus.  This is simply not true.  Paul quotes Jesus, mentions aspects of his life and in 1 Corinthians 15 he challenges his readers to check out the surviving witnesses.

3) The rejection of Josephus as a testimony of Jesus.  Some authors reject Josephus as evidence for Jesus because it is clear that there is Christian tampering.  Most scholars see an original core testimony that has been augmented by Christians not created.  Plus we have what Josephus says about John the Baptist and James, the brother of Jesus.

4) The claim that gnosticism was an equally original valid of Christianity along side what became orthodox Christianity.  The fact is that there is a clear continuity with our first century Christian documents as found in the New Testament and what became orthodox Christianity.  Gnosticism with its rejection of the Jewish God, Jewish Scriptures, material world, and its focus on gnosis rather than sin were a later (mid to late second century) break away from Christianity.

5) The misuse of pagan myths.  Many claims are made about the pagan myths by these authors but when you look at the myths themselves, these claims are often not accurate.  You are expected to rely on their secondary sources and not to look at the primary sources.

6) Pagan myths are described in Christian language to strengthen their connection to Jesus.  Mithras is said to be born of a virgin even though he was born of a rock.  Horus is said to be born of virgin even though he was conceived in the post-death intercourse of his married parents.

7) No respect for the dates of texts.  Authors use pagan texts to establish connections to Jesus but sometimes (as in the case of Mithras) the texts post-date the New Testament.  How do we know that the pagans did not borrow from the Christians?

8) Use of post-biblical traditions.  Authors demonstrate pagan influence on the three wide men, the ox and ass, December 25 and a number of other traditions.  The problem is that those are not biblical traditions.  These things were added to the tradition later and any pagan influence says nothing about the origins of the Jesus story.

9) Misunderstanding of pagan influence on art.  There are valid examples of pagan influence on Christian art such as Isis holding baby Horus being used as a model for Mary holding baby Jesus.  It make sense that the new movement of Christianity would look beyond itself as it was developing its artistic side.  This says nothing about pagan origins for the story.

10) The patchwork use of pagan myths.  It is difficult to find large chunks of pagan myth that look like the Gospels.  Jesus myth theorists take a word here and a phrase here, from dozens of myths from many cultures and say “Here is the Gospel!”  If you start with enough stories, you can reconstruct almost any historical figure, ancient or minor.

These are just a few of the problems that I have with the Jesus myth theory.  Unfortunately, it is not likely to go away any time soon.

For more information, visit my Jesus Myth Theory page.




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76 thoughts on “Top Ten Problems With the Jesus Myth Theory”

  1. “As I sit here watching the documentary on Tom Harpur’s Pagan Christ, I find myself reminded of all the problems that I see in the Jesus myth theory. I will share my top ten problems with this theory. This is not a detailed analysis but rather my opportunity to vent on the glaring problems with this theory.

    1) The rejection of the Gospels as historical sources. They are seen as faith documents and not modern biographies. That is true but we do not have any unbiased ancient texts that meet the criteria of modern biography. If we reject the Gospels, we would also have to reject most of what we know about ancient history.”

    For the most part, proponents of the Jesus Myth (JM) regard the gospels as allegorical first and faith documents second. Also, proponents of the JM do highlight the fact that the early catholic church used purely theological arguments for the existence of Jesus and did not defer to historical sources. Barnabbas and Clement are very curious because when they refer to the passion of Christ they simply quote Isaiah 53… which is an odd thing to do if the exploits of Christ had been a matter of recent history and were purported to be world reknown.

    And there does exist a good selection of actual historical documents from the 1st century, such as Pliny’s Natural History and Josephus’ Testimonium… the four gospels do not mirror the style and format of any known works of historical record from the time period they are alleged to have been composed in.

    “2) The claim that Paul never mentions the historical Jesus. This is simply not true. Paul quotes Jesus, mentions aspects of his life and in 1 Corinthians 15 he challenges his readers to check out the surviving witnesses.”

    That Paul “quotes” Jesus is not problematic for proponents of the JM. There’s nothing that prohibits the idea that the cosmic divine messiah taught his apostles. That Paul is aware of a sacred meal is not problematic either. Sacred meals are virtually universal. And in 1st Corinthians 15 Paul never differentiates between the nature of his experience with Jesus (revelatory vision) and the experience of the other apostles. Doesn’t Paul say at some point in the epistles, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?” Paul wrote that there was no difference between his experience with Jesus and the other apostles experience. And in verse 45 Paul actually says that Jesus was not a human and draws a stark contrast between Adam and Jesus to illustrate the point.

    You seem to be basing your 10 points off of a very faulty understanding of the JM, which is regrettable but predictable.

    “3) The rejection of Josephus as a testimony of Jesus. Some authors reject Josephus as evidence for Jesus because it is clear that there is Christian tampering. Most scholars see an original core testimony that has been augmented by Christians not created. Plus we have what Josephus says about John the Baptist and James, the brother of Jesus.”

    I am always very doubtful of anyone who says anything along the lines of “most scholars”. This kind of appeal to authority and reliance upon an alleged consensus is the heighth of intellectual laziness.

    “4) The claim that gnosticism was an equally original valid of Christianity along side what became orthodox Christianity. The fact is that there is a clear continuity with our first century Christian documents as found in the New Testament and what became orthodox Christianity. Gnosticism with its rejection of the Jewish God, Jewish Scriptures, material world, and its focus on gnosis rather than sin were a later (mid to late second century) break away from Christianity.

    5) The misuse of pagan myths. Many claims are made about the pagan myths by these authors but when you look at the myths themselves, these claims are often not accurate. You are expected to rely on their secondary sources and not to look at the primary sources.

    6) Pagan myths are described in Christian language to strengthen their connection to Jesus. Mithras is said to be born of a virgin even though he was born of a rock. Horus is said to be born of virgin even though he was conceived in the post-death intercourse of his married parents.”

    It is not a fact that there is clear continuity between canonical texts and what became orthodox Christianity. There is a record of development from the 1st century to the 2nd of an evolving human Jesus doctrine. This can be seen in primitive “gospel” references throughout Barnabbas, Polycarp, Clement, Paul, Ignatius, etc. and it leads all the way to the end of the 2nd century with the crystallization of the four gospels as referred to by Irenaeus in Against Heresies.

    Please note that, unlike your baseless assertion this is an argument that is logical and supported by the documentary evidence.

    Also, you over-state the case for pagan influences. You’re building one heck of a strawman. Certainly there was pagan influence, but any proponent of the JM worth his/her salt will tell you that the biographical data that came to be expressed in the gospels was drawn almost entirely from the Old Testament.

    Again, your understanding the JM seems to be incredibly flawed.

    “7) No respect for the dates of texts. Authors use pagan texts to establish connections to Jesus but sometimes (as in the case of Mithras) the texts post-date the New Testament. How do we know that the pagans did not borrow from the Christians?

    8) Use of post-biblical traditions. Authors demonstrate pagan influence on the three wide men, the ox and ass, December 25 and a number of other traditions. The problem is that those are not biblical traditions. These things were added to the tradition later and any pagan influence says nothing about the origins of the Jesus story.

    9) Misunderstanding of pagan influence on art. There are valid examples of pagan influence on Christian art such as Isis holding baby Horus being used as a model for Mary holding baby Jesus. It make sense that the new movement of Christianity would look beyond itself as it was developing its artistic side. This says nothing about pagan origins for the story.

    10) The patchwork use of pagan myths. It is difficult to find large chunks of pagan myth that look like the Gospels. Jesus myth theorists take a word here and a phrase here, from dozens of myths from many cultures and say “Here is the Gospel!” If you start with enough stories, you can reconstruct almost any historical figure, ancient or minor.”

    Strawman strawman strawman.

    “These are just a few of the problems that I have with the Jesus myth theory. Unfortunately, it is not likely to go away any time soon.”

    No, it won’t go away any time soon, in fact it is gaining traction.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I will respond to most of what you say. If I leave anything out, please remind me.

    Regarding the Gospels, even the great allegorist Origen did not take them as strictly allegorical. While not exactly the same as Josephus, the Gospels do have much in common with ancient histories. They are closer to ancient biographies with Luke-Acts having stronger historical leanings. And as for the early church, they did not just rely on allegory or OT interpretation. They also stated these events as being historical events.

    Regarding Paul and the historical Jesus, in the first verses of 1 Cor 15 where Paul speaks of the resurrection historically and tags his experience to the witness of others. As for verse 45, Paul is contrasting Jesus with Adam but he is not denying that he is human. Read the passage from Genesis that he is quoting and you will see that the whole verse is about Adam. Paul is saying Jesus is a complete Adam.

    I hear what you are saying about “most scholars” but I have trouble when there is a strong consensus among a wide variety of scholars (not just Christian) and just a few scholars, usually those with a theory like the Jesus myth to promote, who deny the passage.

    I disagree with your statement about the continuity. Orthodox Christians agreed that Jesus’ Father was the God of the OT and that Jesus was human and divine. All of this found in the NT but denied by gnostics.

    Regarding the pagan influence. I agree that there is a stronger case that the Gospels are based on the OT than on pagan sources but the Jesus myth people I have encountered (Tom Harpur, Peter Gandy, Timothy Freke) have focused mostly on the pagan sources.

    I hope this clarifies some of what I said. I look forward to your responses.

  3. I will try to be brief. I have to agree with the other commenter that you are presenting a very poor version of the JM idea, with numerous of your points being straw men. When you say such things as “Mithras is said to be born of a virgin when he is born of a rock,” who are you claiming is saying this?

    In no way does the strength of the JM argument depend on minor differences between mythologies anyway. The idea is that people of various nations were all making up various fantastic stories, and there is a load of commonality between them, and Jesus fits in quite nicely with the prevailing patterns.

    That alone is not enough to prove Jesus was not a real man, of course, which is where we get into dissecting the actual ancient documents, and though I have read some of them in the original languages, I am not a scholar and I could not offer very strong arguments in this area.

    I can tell you though that your contention that if we threw away the Gospels we “would lose most of what we know about ancient history” is incredibly false. From the very same region we have ancient texts that preceded Jesus (if he existed) by 3400 years. (Perhaps you don’t believe the Earth is that old though?)

    There are all kinds of ancient texts from various cultures that tell us about history, and while losing the Gospels would surely be a tragedy, we would have pretty much the same idea of history that we do now from other sources. Except for perhaps Jesus, because as you yourself say, “we do not have any unbiased ancient texts that meet the criteria of modern biography.”

    Your post has interested me to read some of these other sources though, such as Josephus, which I am not familiar with.

    I’m sure as a Christian and moreover, a pastor, it is disturbing to you that some educated people do not believe in this, so I apologize for responding to something that you wrote half a year ago, on a topic that clearly irks you. It’s because your page is pretty high up on google for this topic!

    You seem like a good guy and I found your response to the other commenter very respectful.

  4. Sorry for the delay, I just got back from a very nice cruise. Thanks for your comments.

    Regarding the virgin birth, Jesus myth authors that I have read that claim this include Tom Harpur and Peter Gandy/Timothy Freke. When pushed they will admit they are really not virgin births but that term is useful to try and convince people that there really is a close link to Christianity.

    Regarding the Gospels and ancient history, I am not saying that the Gospels are the only ancient documents about history that we have. What I am saying is that the standards used to disqualify the Gospels as history if used consistently would disqualify most other ancient history as well.

    As a pastor, I am not disturbed that people believe in the Jesus myth. If anything, I have more problem with it as a historian. But then again everyone is welcome to believe what they want.

    If you are interested in a balanced view, I would encourage you to read my book Unmasking the Pagan Christ.

      1. The virgin birth of Ganesha is only one version of his birth. There are also popular versions where there is a father and mother. Plus Ganesha did not emerge as a distinct deity until the 4-5th century AD and therefore unlikely an influence on the Gospels.

  5. I’m a little late to the commenting party, but I just read this post. I generally reject JM arguments because the scholars I know feel pretty confident in some of Paul’s letters and he knew a guy who knew a guy. Though, I do think there are a few compelling points. I know Richard Carrier is trying to resurrect (no pun intended) this argument in a forthcoming book. I’m interested to see how he makes his case and how it departs from current tactics.

    I do want to question point 4, though. Is that true that gnosticism wasn’t first century? I don’t have my old textbook handy, but I felt like they were earlier along with the followers of Marcion. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The beginnings of Gnosticism have long been a matter of controversy and are still largely a subject of research. The more these origins are studied, the farther they seem to recede in the past. ” They go on to say that some scholars feel its origins predate Christianity.

  6. You are correct that it is difficult to define the limits of gnosticism as it is connected with earlier systems such as middle platonism. But the Christian form of gnosticism is definitely second, third or later centuries based on the texts that we have.

  7. Logic should tell you that if Jesus really did carry out at least some of the miracles as expressed in the New Testament, then, any believer in Jesus would not write only one sentence or small paragraphs about Jesus. People like Josephus and Tactitus would have gone into great detail as to what Jesus did and why? Think about it! You either believe in Jesus or you don’t. Therefore, it simply surprises me as to why there is so little written about a man that supposibly divided time into two: BC and AD.

    We know that the Bible contains at least one logical contradiction, a situation which clearly implies that the Bible is NOT the verbatim Word of God. Therefore, this book is just as subject to the critical discernment process as any other book which contains errors. We also know that the Gospel accounts contradict each other in many ways, which implies a serious lack of integrity in these books.

  8. There are numerous problems with what you have said.
    1) Witnesses may have written stuff. Just because it did not make it to us, does not mean it did not exist. Plus you have the lack of literacy.
    2) You are looking at it from a post-enlightenment perspective on miracles. Miracles were not as big a thing back then. Public policy in the Roman empire was sometimes determined by interpretations of miracles.
    3) Josephus and Tacitus were not writing biographies, what we have is what we expect from the purposes of the books those authors were writing.
    4) As for dividing time, certainly no one then knew that. No Roman calenders changed their dates!
    5) My arguments for the historical Jesus are not based on the Bible as a the Word of God but as a reliable historical source. Do some work on other contemporary historical writings and you will find that the New Testament lines up quite well with the historical standards of the time.

    1. How can you say that the gospels line up with other historical works of their day, this is just unbelievable. Subsequent gospels are based to some degree on the Gospel according to, as received from not written by, Mark. The author is anonymous he never says who he is, why he is qualified to write or how he got hold of his information. Christian tradition is very flakey on it claiming a Mark was Peter’s companion yet we end up with a Gospel for the gentiles supposedly derived from the Torah observant Peter, that’s just nuts. No report in it is backed up with evidence and almost all of it has been constructed by rehashing OT stories and Psalms, it’s full of anachronisms and has only a shakey grasp of Palestinian geography. It is never backed up by any earlier christian writings, does Paul back up claims of JC’s baptism? No or any miracles, or trappings of his birth? No! This is not history remembered this is theology disguised as historical fiction. Was there a pool of eye witnesses and bountiful oral tradition about the earthly life of JC? No- how do we know this? Because the next gospel writer, Matthew was forced to use, mostly verbatim over 600 of Mark’s verses.

  9. Irenaeus in Against Heresies shows just how fluid the life of Jesus was even in c180 CE as he argued that as the summation of Book 2 Chapter 22 reads “The thirty aeons are not typified by the fact that Christ was baptized in his thirtieth year: he did not suffer in the twelfth month after his baptism, but was more than fifty years old when he died”.

    The problem is that there is no way to fit a 50+ year old Jesus into the standard c4 BCE to c36 CE timeline. Worst yet Irenaeus quotes Luke 3:23 regarding the start of Jesus’ ministry which works out to c29 CE and then argues using John 8:56-57 that Jesus must have been a minimum of 46 years old. However to get to the 50 minimum here both Pontius Pilate (36 CE) and Tiberius (37 CE) would have to be dead and gone.

    Also we KNOW that Sentius Saturninus was governor of Syria from 9 BCE to 6 BCE and was succeeded by Quintilius Varus who ruled to at least 3 BCE. Furthermore we also know that Sulpicius Quirinius was fighting a war at least two provinces to the east against the Homonadenses at the end of which he was given a triumph. This effectively throws out Matthew for Jesus birth date pushing us to 6CE leading to more headaches.

  10. Not sure where you are going with this. I am aware of Irenaeus’ view that Jesus fifty. While I disagree with him, it does not mean we throw out the Gospels. As for the governor of Syria, to be honest I do not have a complete solution to this problem. However, it still does not mean that we throw out the Gospels. The variations between the Gospels are well within the standards of contemporary ancient histories.

  11. Here is another example from Irenaeus that shows just poorly the early Church fathers were at checking things:

    “For Herod the king of the Jews and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Claudius Caesar, came together and condemned Him to be crucified.” Irenaeus, Demonstration (74)

    The amount of non-historical nonsense in that ONE sentence is insane.

    1) the “King of the Jews” title here was not given to Herod Antipas but to his nephew Herod Agrippa I. (Herod Antipas’ actual title was Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea)

    2) Herod Agrippa I got this title from from Caligula who came to power in 37 CE or one year after Pontius Pilate was replaced by Marcellus.

    3) Claudius Caesar came to power in 41 CE, some 5 years after Pontius Pilate had been replaced by Marcellus.

    3) In 42 CE both Marcellus and Herod Antipas was replaced by Herod Agrippa I.

    This shows just what the issue with Irenaeus is. To support his idea that Jesus was a minimum of 46 years old in Against Heresies he clearly simply extrapolated from Luke saying Jesus was about thirty c29 CE and made Pontius Pilate governor under the appropriate Emperor’s rule.

    If you look at the years of their reigns you understand why Tiberius and Caligula were not chosen–they make Jesus too young. Even pushing Luke’s about thirty to 34 you only get a 42 year old Jesus with Tiberius. Caligula add another four years getting one to the 46 but not to the 50+ claimed by Irenaeus. This leaves Claudius Caesar whose 13 year reign is more than long enough.

    The historical reality is that governor Pontius Pilate Emperor Claudius Caesar are separated by a minimum of five years.

  12. I am not sure your point of all this. Neither myself, nor anyone else I know, argues for the inerrancy of Irenaeus. He is very interesting, but there are places where I think he is wrong.

    But let me put things in perspective. Irenaeus was writing 150 years after the events. How about I get you to start naming world leaders and American leaders with correct titles during the American Civil War without using the Internet. Just sit down and do it. If you made some mistakes in who was where and when, would we then conclude that the Civil War was a myth or never happened? Probably not. In the same way, we should not conclude that just because Irenaeus made some mistakes that Jesus never existed or that Irenaeus got the basic story of Jesus wrong.

  13. You are falling into an old but familiar strawman argument. There is a WORLD of difference between the American Civil War and the life of a person in that period. Just because the American Civil War happened doesn’t mean Rhett Butler or Scarlett O’Hara really existed.

    Similarly those who play “The Great Game” have found a John H Watson in the roster of men that served in the Boer War (1880). By the logic you are presenting here since there was a Boer War in which a John H Watson served there MUST be a Sherlock Holmes.

    Compare Jesus with the English folkhero Robin Hood. Even with the largely illiterate and isolated villages of the time we have no shortage of possible “historical” candidates ranging from c1190 to 1377 . Yet for Jesus goes as far as provenance goes we don’t have anything. Josephus has been tampered with, Tacitus could be just repeating what he was told (he gets Pontius Pilatus title wrong), and everybody else provenancewise is less that useless.

  14. Perhaps I should have spoke of Lincoln instead of the war. Just because you may struggle giving a correct list of all of his contemporaries does not mean that Lincoln did not exist. Your point about Tacitus is important. Modern historical standards of precision should not be imposed on ancient histories. However, lack of precision does not mean the events never happened. Why compare Jesus to Robin Hood (who we do not have any contemporary witnesses). Compare Jesus to any acknowledge historical figure. For whatever excuse you give not to accept the texts, we can use the same standards to remove just about every historical figure from the books.

  15. Using Lincoln is ANOTHER strawman as is any major figure after the invention of the printing press. A related problem is that we are not even sure the Gospels are contemporary or are by the People associated with them–the best provenancewise we have is a fragment of what may be John c125 (Rylands Library Papyrus P52) and after that we have to go to c180 for our next provenancewise evidence (Irenaeus).

    Justin Martyr when challenged regarding Jesus instead of pointing the Gospels said it was on the the same level as “what you believe about Jupiter and Hercules”. Where are the historical records of ZEUS?

  16. You have totally misunderstood the purpose of the example. You used Irenaeus’ mistakes of events a hundred and fifty years earlier to cast doubt on whether or not those events ever happened. I encourage you to immerse yourself in ancient history writing and then apply your standards to all of them If you are consistent you will have to conclude that nothing ever happened or at least we are completely ignorant of what happened in ancient times aside from what buildings remain.

    Regarding Justin, have you read his complete work? I do not completely agree with Justin, but if you read the whole thing, you will see he tries to build bridges to his pagan audience by comparing Jesus to pagan figures to make them consider Jesus and then goes on to talk about how unique Jesus is.

    However, as much as I respect Irenaeus and Justin, my faith is not based on them. You are welcome to dislike these Christian writers and reject their beliefs if that is what you wish. However, I do not see the point of continuing this conversation any further.

  17. As has been pointed out on the talk page of the Jesus Myth theory wikipedia article the comparison is STILL a strawman. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Socrates are three ancient historical figures that come to mind that deep six this nonsense–all there have truly contemporary evidence of their existence. Comparisons with Apollonius of Tyana and Sun Tzu would be better.

    One of the best arguments for all the versions the CMT is Philo of Alexandria (c20 BCE – c50 CE). His ideas closely resembled those of Jesus, he was in both Jerusalem and Rome, was the grandson of Herod the Great, loaned money to Herod Agrippa I, and even noted the plight of Carabbas a man whose treatment c39 CE mirrors Jesus’ treatment.

    Yet Philo who took the time to write four full paragraphs about an obscure man who “spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat” , talked about Pontius Pilate for a full chapter show just how cruel and bad ruler, whose ideas nearly mirror those of Jesus and makes statements that might have come straight out John makes NO MENTION of Jesus.

    “For God, while he spake the word, did at the same moment create; nor did he allow anything to come between the word and the deed” –Philo

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1-3

    The one man we KNOW was in the right place, the right time, and who echos ideas Jesus supposedly preached, and took time to talk about some crazy naked man who was mocked as a king, AND talks about Pontius Pilate says not one word about Jesus.

    If Jesus did exist in Philo’s time he was so marginal that he ranked below a naked crazy man in terms of notability. This gels with the CMT as defined by Charles Harold Dodd (1938), The Hibbert journal (1911), and Robert M Price (2009) where the early Christians may have “seized on the reports of an obscure Jewish Holy man bearing this name and arbitrarily attached the “Cult-myth” to him.” (Dodd)

    This is why people try to push the CTM into the more extreme ‘Jesus didn’t exist in any real way’ camp because thy canNOT argue against the more mild pre-existing Jesus myth+obscure Jewish Holy man named Jesus in 1st century = Gospel Jesus that is ALSO part of the CTM.

  18. Sir,
    I ‘m an ordinary man, and I don’t know about the historical of Jesus, but in my opinion, when the ancient manuscripts of the gospels that do exist. It’s all history, right?

    And to what they were in those days to make the myth that Jesus is God, what the benefits for them?

    Thanks alot for Your Info

  19. Answer to point one) As an indifferent soul purely rational and unbiased if I was shown any historical text I would not see it as definitive proof of an event, or of the existence of an individual. However we can deny definity but not deny probabibility,

    “I am too much of a sceptic to deny the possibility of anything” Thomas Henry Huxley

  20. I assume the question is: Why did Philo not mention Jesus? I would ask: why would Philo mention Jesus? Philo was a philosopher, not a historian. It was not his purpose to record the teachings of the various Jewish teachers. Also, Philo was from Alexandria and his interest was not primarily about what was happening in Galilee or Judea. If Philo had heard of Jesus, he may have thought of him as too obscure to deal with. My suspicion is that Philo never heard of Jesus. Philo died a couple of years before 1 Thessalonians, the first Christian writing that we know of. Josephus wrote about Jesus because he lived later, at a time when it was becoming clearer the importance of Jesus.

  21. So according to your last comment, Jesus wasn’t important until ~100 after he died? There is such a flaw in that logic that I don’t know why others don’t see it. A man who was claimed to be a king, who performed miraculous deeds, and had such a following. Answer this, how does one go through all that, gets forgotten about, then 100 years later someone decides, “Yeah, that Jesus guy in my great grandfather’s time had a great point!” Your arguments have so far been demolished by the case that Morgan offers, and the Jesus Myth theory will never go away. In fact, the more that people look into it, the better. Hey, maybe in the next 50 years or so the actual numbers of religious(not just Christian, but all mythology that is believed as fact) will be so insignificant that we’ll have a Middle Eastern Mythology class like we have a Greek Mythology…This article was a joke and your points are terrible. Thanks for the interesting read though.

  22. You are right, people should have known immediately how important Jesus was. All they had to do was google him or go to his web-site and that information would have gotten around the world in no time. With resources like the Internet, there is no excuse for the Romans not to know about the events in Judea almost immediately. Excuse my sarcasm but that is the kind or reasoning that you are using. How would the leading citizens, authors and historians of Rome know that Jesus was as important as he was, say in 50 AD? Because he was a religious leader? There were lots of religious leaders. It was not until the testimony of Jesus spread through the expansion of churches that the Romans knew about Jesus and that his movement was not a fly by night religious cult. And by that time we start to get some Roman testimony.

  23. Stephen, God bless you and your ministry! It seems as though skeptics like Morgan are too unreasonable to accept the reality of the Gospel. Thank you for being patient with them and intellectually honest enough to point out the flaws in their skepticism. The Christ myth theory is very problematic, given the fact that it attempts to rewrite history.

    Thanks!

  24. Stephen, I have read through all of the arguments presented so far and believe you have done a great job of providing reason and rebuttal to Morgan’s claims and rebuttals. It appears that the major strength placed in Morgan’s arguments is Philo’s lack of mentioning Jesus’ as any person of great significance. Might I add, that Philo was not alone in shrugging off Jesus’ seeming lack of significance – the Jewish and Roman leaders of that time also felt he was of no real significance and therefore saw fit to hang him on a tree – a gruesome and tortuous execution reserved for criminals and blasphemers. Why would Philo bother writing about an accused blasphemer (he was not an accused criminal)? His silence on this matter in no way provides evidence that Jesus did not exist. Claiming otherwise is pure arrogance. And might I add, that even more powerful than someone’s silence on a given historical event, is the ‘reactions’ of ‘multiple’ people to an historical event – in this case the many disciples and followers of Christ who willingly died for what they knew to be true. No one dies for something they know to be a lie.

  25. This is just complete nonsense. Any historian will tell you, there is plenty of credible evidence for Jesus. The dark just does not like the light and will scurry to any corner to try and convince themselves otherwise. Here is a video of an atheist interviewing Bart Ehrman (a self-proclaimed agnostic), just listen to the disbelief of the interviewer when Ehrman does’nt agree with him.

  26. Zeigler, you are presenting a strawman argument. Even the Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall admits that there two ways Jesus could be historical: he actually exist (opposed to King Lear or Dr. Who) or the Gospel accounts are historically accurate (opposed to the stories of King Arthur)

    Schweitzer in his his 1931 autobiography “Out of My Life and Thought” listed Sir James George Frazer, John M. Robertson, William Benjamin Smith, and Arthur Drews as men “who contested the historical existence of Jesus” despite the fact that in 1900 Robertson stated he was willing to accept that a flesh and blood Jesus was one of the parts that went into the Christ Myth and Frazer in 1913 had expressly stated “My theory assumes the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth”

    Herbert George Wood in his 1934 University Press book “Christianity and the nature of history” classifies Christ-myth theory as being among the “theories which regard Jesus as an historical but insignificant figure.” on page 40.

    In 1946 Archibald Robertson in his Jesus: Myth or History? stated “(John M.) Robertson is prepared to concede the possibility of an historical Jesus perhaps more than one having contributed something to the Gospel story.” and explained “The myth theory is not concerned to deny such a possibility (as there being a flesh and blood Jesus) What the myth theory denies is that Christianity can be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded.”

    Even the 1988 edition of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines Christ Myth Theory as “(the) view states that the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology, possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes,…”. Two things here. First, you can have a story of a historical person that is entirely mythological (George Washington chopping down the cherry tree) and still have that person existing. Second as Remsburg and others have pointed out is mythology covers a large range—the stories of Hades and Persephone, Heracles, and the Trojan War are all part of Greek mythology but they have different claims to historical fact. Norse mythology similarly contains what is known as legendary sagas such as the Yngvars saga víðförla which are now known to be historical myth i.e. myths based on actual historical events.

    Finally, “It is not possible to compare the above (several quotes regarding Jesus by several authors) with what we have, namely, that there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived.” ((Fischer, Roland (1994) “On The Story-Telling Imperative That We Have In Mind” _Anthropology of Consciousness_ American Anthropological Association Dec 1994, Vol. 5, No. 4: 16) Peer reviewed journal article clearly states “there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived.”

  27. I am not sure what you have demonstrated except for the fact that there is an extremely small minority of people who have questioned Jesus’ existence. We already knew that. Of course 99%, not just biblical scholars, but scholars of religion, history and philosophy, would strongly affirm the existence of Jesus and that he is at least something like what we find in the Gospels, even if they might disagree on things like miracles and the resurrection. As for not a shred of evidence, there are the Gospels, Paul, Josephus, early church fathers, etc. Much more than a shred I would say.

  28. I have demonstrated that the Jesus myth Theory is NOT that Jesus the man never existed but that the Jesus OF THE GOSPELS never existed.

    “If no such person as Jesus Christ existed, or if ***He were historical, but in any way failed to conform to the character given to Him in the Gospels***, the evolution of the Christ-myth in the first two centuries is the greatest miracle the world ever saw.” (Berdoe, Edward (1896) “Browning and the Christian faith”)

    “Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist.” (Remsburg)

    ” If in spite of this any one thinks that besides the latter (ie Gospel Jesus) a(n actual historical) Jesus also cannot be dispensed with, this can naturally not be opposed ; but we know nothing of this (actual historical) Jesus.” (Drews “Christ Myth” pg 19)

    Furthermore, Wood specifically stated that Christ-myth theory was among the “theories which regard Jesus as an HISTORICAL but insignificant figure.”

    The Christ Myth theory has always been about Jesus of Bethlehem not existing and NOT about a totally different but HISTORICAL Jesus of Nazareth who may have walked about the area, preached a few words of wisdom, and then drifted off to die of old age in obscurity. The fact that Frazer, Remsburg, Robertson, Mead, Ellegård, and Wells who all accepted the possible existence of a HISTORICAL Jesus being involved in the myth have been called Christ Mythers shows that the Christ Myth is about the Jesus OF THE GOSPELS not existing.

  29. I realize some people are open to some person named Jesus existing. However, you are wrong to say that the Christ Myth is only about denying the Jesus of the Gospels. I have encountered enough Jesus mythicists to know otherwise. Perhaps in its older view there was an openness but much of the newer stuff completely denies Jesus. More shocking and therefore sells more books. Either way, there is no reason to reject the Gospels as our main understanding of who Jesus was.

  30. To use Carl Sagan’s example in Cosmos those Jesus mythers are “saving a step” The only detailed source for what Jesus supposedly was are the Gospels and even the pro historical Jesus site Jesus Police admits there is NO EVIDENCE that ANY of the Gospels were written in the 1st century. In fact the first father say anything about any writing regarding Jesus is Bishop Papias in c130 CE and even then we have to go to c140 for what we could call reference to some Gospels.

    One only look to John Frum to see the total disconnect one can have between what the holy teachings and history say in a period as short as 17 years. As early as 1957 the cult said John Frum was a white literate US serviceman that appeared to the elders in the 1930s while the closest thing history can find is a dark skinned illiterate native named Manehivi in 1941 ie wrong nationality, wrong decade, and wrong skin color.

    Irenaeus c180 CE does much the same thing with his “For Herod the king of the Jews and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Claudius Caesar, came together and condemned Him to be crucified.” claim c180 CE that no one of the time called him on the carpet for even though it had the wrong Herod (Herod Agrippa I) and wrong Caesar (Claudius) for Pontius Pilate to be governor.

    Celsus “The True Word” (c180 CE) if the first known work regarding the Christ myth but all we have of it is a rebuttal made c250 CE–some seventy years later; long after Celsus was dead and gone and unable to defend his work.

  31. No first century for the Gospels? Really? Your homework is to start contacting New Testament professors. Keep away from the evangelical scholars, you know what you will get. Contact liberal seminaries, religious studies departments in secular universities, Jewish scholars, atheist scholars. When you are done, tell me how many gave you a second century date for the Gospels.

  32. John Dominic Crossan admitted in A&E’s 1996 “How Wrote the Bible” that there is no evidence of Gospels in the first century and of the Gospels themselves the oldest -fragment- of the Gospels is John (18:36 first sentance) dated c125 CE. “Then you have to go to the year 200 for anything from Matthew or Luke and a least the year 225 or later before you get anything from Mark (8:34 fragment)”

    There is NOTHING that follows good archeological provenance standards that show the Gospels existed in written form before 140 CE NOT A SINGLE THING.

  33. Crossan in his Historical Jesus (pp. 427-34) lists 12 Jesus traditions from 30-60 CE, including Q (sayings found in Matthew and Luke but not Mark). He includes 7 more Jesus traditions from 60-80 CE, including Mark. He dates Matthew around 90 and Luke also in the 90’s. By the way your definition of “NOTHING” includes 99% of scholarship across every academic discipline.

  34. Traditions are NOT an archeological provenance standard. The John Frum cult has a tradition that the founder was a literate white US serviceman that appeared to the Elders as early as 1930. The only thing history records remotely close was a illiterate native named Manehivi of 1941 who took up the name “John Frum” but even this fact presented in 1957 would not change the cult’s view of what John Frum “really” was.

    The problem with this tradition nonsense is echoed in the criticism David Kusche leveled against the Bermuda Triangle myth: “Say I claim that a parrot has been kidnapped to teach aliens human language and I challenge you to prove that is not true. You can even use Einstein’s Theory of Relativity if you like. There is simply no way to prove such a claim untrue. The burden of proof should be on the people who make these statements, to show where they got their information from, to see if their conclusions and interpretations are valid, and if they have left anything out.”

    Crossan mentions the Gospel of Thomas (which in the A&E program he states makes Jesus nothing more than a talking head–“it is the LIVING Jesus as scripture”) and Gospel of the Herbrews which in terms of provenance only date to 4th century. As mentioned in the A&E program the Jewish community had woken up to the fact that thanks to the requirement of knowing Greek to get a good job Hebrew had fallen out of favor and took to the mammoth task of translating the OT into Greek… c100 BCE.

    Tradition basically is saying that the Jewish community had been writing stuff down in a language that had become so marginalized that they had translated their Holy text OUT of that language a full century before. This is the equivalent of saying a Roman Catholic would have recorded events about Martin Luther King Jr in Latin rather than their native language and about as nonsensical.

    As Fischer’s PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL article stated “here is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived”

    tot eh fact that to get a good job you need to know Greek an

  35. Earlier you stated “Philo was from Alexandria and his interest was not primarily about what was happening in Galilee or Judea.” BZZZ WRONG. “Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ’s miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness and resurrection of the dead took place——when Christ himself rose from the dead and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not” (Remsburg)

    The question that Christ mythers ask is how did Philo who took the time to note some obscure naked crazy man miss the actions of Jesus who by the Gospel account attracted thousands, was tried by the local Priests on the eve of one of their most Holy days, and Pontius Pilate tried to save by offering a murderer of Roman citizens to the mob the priests had stirred up. History by its very nature records the unusual and yet NO contemporary (not even Paul) tells us these events.

  36. A few things I want to say. Historians do not determine if an ancient person is a historical figure simply by if we have original documents from the same century rather than copies a hundred years later. We have many more texts and earlier texts of the New Testament than any other ancient writing. If historians used your criteria, then we would have recall all our history books and simply acknowledge we don’t know anything that happened outside of our own personal experience. Regarding lack of first century evidence of the Gospels, there are some interesting developments in that: http://www.dts.edu/read/wallace-new-testament-manscript-first-century/

    As for Philo, I think you better check your facts. I think you may have combined Philo and Josephus. Philo did not write a history and he lived and spent most of his time in Alexandria. He visited Jerusalem and we know at least once he offered a sacrifice there, but we certainly do not have evidence such as what you suggest.

    By the way, why do you even think there was a historical Philo? You don’t really think we have first century copies of Philo do you? What evidence do we really have?

  37. It going to be at least a year until the formal study of this manuscript is published. Of the fragments only one is thought to be of the first century and Brent Nongbri in his very good “The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel” in Harvard Theological Review 98 (2005) showed “any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries”. In short the dating for P52 c125 CE is more to due with wishful thinking that any actual science.

  38. That fragment is not the bedrock to the belief in the historical Jesus, but it is still interesting. I have more homework for you. I want you to contact a professor of ancient history (not a theology or Bible professor). I want you to ask them: “Can I confirm with you that it is standard historical procedure to doubt the historicity of an ancient figure if we do not have texts from their time? Not just texts attributed to that time but if we lack copies going back to that century.” What I want you to do is find out if the standards you want to apply to Jesus are used by historians for any other figures.

  39. The problem with your question is that as even Biblical scholar I. Howard Marshall admitts “historical” can mean that the person actual lived (in contrast to King Lear or Dr. Who) or that the stories are mostly true (as opposed to King Arthur). Remsburg using David Strauss and John Fiske said much the same thing in 1909: “the narrative (can be) essentially true, or it may be distorted and numberless legends attached until but a small residuum of truth remains and the narrative is essentially false.”

    King Arthur and Robin Hood are “historical” in the sense they are not totally fictional but we know ‘ the narratives are essentially false’ about them. Remsburg made a clear distinction between a possible historical Jesus and the Jesus of Christianity.

    I would flip the question around and ask this of a theology or Bible professor: “Using John Frum, King Arthur, and Robin Hood as a reference just how good is the evidence that the Jesus of the NT is historical and historical in what way?”

  40. Sometimes when we stand too close to an object we fail to see what is truly before our eyes. When we take a few steps back, and take in the larger surrounding view, allowing all of the pieces to come together, the reality before us makes more sense. Arguing for the historicity of Jesus based on what ONE historical person (Philo) may or may not have said, or when a particular copy was written, shall not be the ‘make-or-break’ criteria. Consider also the fact that MANY secular historians and writers made reference to what the New Testament records (Tacitus, Suetonius, pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion), and that major archaeological discoveries over the decades have only supported (not discredited) the recordings from both the Old and New Testament, time and again, and that Jesus fulfilled numerous prophecies recorded about himself (see Book Of Isaiah – Dead Sea Scrolls, dated and written BEFORE Jesus), and lastly, that the Christian church was able to give rise from within the very epicenter of hostility (Jerusalem) is an amazing proof. As Stephen has stated many times above, there is little doubt among ANY breathing scholar that Jesus lived and died by crucifixion (Tacitus himself said so). If the resurrection did not take place, how did such a myth survive among such a hostile environment full of witnesses that would have been fully motivated and capable of producing a dead body? Again, take a few steps back, and take in the entire picture. The amount of evidence supporting the events recorded in the Bible is overwhelming – it takes more faith not to believe.

  41. Morgan, you are missing my point. When a historian looks at a person like King Herod, or Pontius Pilate or Alexander the Great or just about any other historical figure, they are looking at them as people that we know something about and not as a fictional figure perhaps originally based on a historical figure but with no possibility of reconstruction, such as the example of King Arthur. And when a historian makes that judgment that we have enough data to know pretty much what a person said or did, they usually have far less data than we have for Jesus. You keep citing I. Howard Marshall. I wonder how much of his stuff you have read because I know he is confident that we have a good handle on the historical Jesus.

  42. Shepen, King Herod (both of them), Pontius Pilate, and Alexander the Great have CONTEMPORARY evidence for their existence–the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t.

    Andy, as for the so called evidence Historicity Of Jesus FAQ (1994)
    Scott Oser (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/scott_oser/hojfaq.html) points out the SAME problems Remsburg did in 1909: Tacitus at best seems to reporting what Christians BELIEVED not history, Pliny only knows of a group that revere some “Christ” but provides no details, Suetonius talks about Chrestus and his follower of JEWS being expelled from Rome–We know from “Life of the Caesars” that how knew the difference between Jews and Christians so another non reference.

    Furthermore Israel Knohl and Wise (see “The Messiah before Jesus”) have shown there is good evidence there was a “Christ” BEFORE Jesus who inspired his ministry–the reaction from the Christian community has been less than friendly.

    Finally as Robert Price states one of the ways Christ is a fiction is “the central figure of the gospels is not based on any historical individual”, i.e. the Gospel is little more than “a synthetic construct of theologians, a symbolic ‘Uncle Sam’ figure.” The funny thing about that comparison is Uncle Sam himself is based in part on a living breathing person–Samuel Wilson born September 13, 1766 died July 31, 1854.

    Again the Jesus (Christ) myth theory is NOT that Jesus as a flesh and blood man didn’t exist but ‘that Christianity cannot be traced to a personal founder who taught as reported in the Gospels and was put to death in the circumstances there recorded’ (Paraphrasing of John M. Robertson)

    Oh while we are on old John M. Robertson here is what he said went into the Christ myth theory: “a teacher or teachers named Jesus, or several differently named teachers called Messiahs, may have Messianically uttered some of these teachings (the Gospels) at various periods” (Christianity and mythology (1900) pg 115)

  43. Here’s the problem. For those other historical figures, historians do not just say they existed, they say they can piece together the story of their life. You say that we cannot know anything about Jesus because we do not have the original writings, only copies of the first century texts. Look at the writings that historians use to put together biographical information for any of these other historical figures. They have less textual evidence than we have for Jesus. Are you prepared to demand that all ancient history books be thrown out because the standards you require are not met by any of them?

  44. What is the evidence and how many copies are available to support the validity of the NT?
    New Testament (50-100 A.D.) – 5,664(+-) ( Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy). Compare this with other ancient historical writings:
    a. Caesar (100-44 B.C.) “Gallic Wars” – 10 Greek manuscripts
    b. Tacitus – (55 – 118 A.D.) “Annals of Imperial Rome” – 2
    c. Livy (64 BC-17 A.D.) “History of Rome” – 20
    d. Plato (428-347 B.C.)” Dialogues” – 7
    e. Josephus (37-100 A.D.) “The Jewish War” – 9
    Important Papyri Fragments
    1. CHESTER BEATTY BIBLICAL PAPYRI (dated 200-250 A.D.)
    a. Made public in 1931
    b. Contains the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles, and Revelation
    2. PAYPRUS BODMER II (dated 200 A.D.)
    a. Discovery announced in 1956
    b. Contains fourteen chapters of John, and portions of the
    last seven chapters
    Now let us look at Bible prophesy going back a thousand years before the above events occurred. The Psalm of David, 22:14-20 and 31:9-18. These verses were fulfilled in Matthew 27:34-35; John 19:24, 28. The prophet Isaiah lived around 740 B. C. wrote in Isaiah 7:14 a prophesy that was fulfilled in Matthew 1:23. Isaiah also wrote one of the most famous prophesies of the Bible, Isaiah 53:3-12, describing an incredible description of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.
    Now let us ask why eleven of the twelve apostles, some who denied Jesus during his ministry, were later willing to die agonizing deaths when they could have just denid that Jesus was who he claimed to be and saved their lives?
    John 20:30-31 says, And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

  45. Bedard, again you are assuming that “Jesus didn’t exist” means the man himself didn’t exist. Volney, Robertson, Mead, Wells pre-Jesus Legend, and Ellegård all accepted the possibility of a flesh and blood Jesus being part of the myth.

    Even the 1988 edition International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines Christ Myth as “(the) view states that THE STORY OF Jesus is a piece of mythology, possessing no more substantial claims to historical fact than the old Greek or Norse stories of gods and heroes,…”

    This definition has two HUGE problems. First you can the story of a historical person that is entirely mythological (George Washington chopping down the cherry tree) and still have that person existing. Second as shown by Bullfinch, Strass, and Remsburg mythology has a RANGE as for the Greeks you have stories of Hades and Persephone, Heracles (who Eusebius in Preparation of the Gospel accepted as a flesh and blood man), and the Trojan War and Norse have Yngvars saga víðförla which are now known to be HISTORICAL mythology.

    Don, that claim of 5,664(+-) New Testament documents is an apologist’s pipe dream–they don’t exist. Duke University has Minnen’s “Dating the Oldest New Testament Manuscripts” (http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/scriptorium/papyrus/texts/manuscripts.html) shows that the pre-2nd century dating of manuscripts depends on paleography which Brent Nongbri showed to be a VERY iffy science at best and the early dates for P52 and this supposed 1st century manuscript of the Gospel are more wishful thinking than any actual science.

  46. I never said anything about existence. To be clear, I know personally followers (including authors) of the Christ myth whose position is that Jesus did not exist. Tom Harpur would be one example.

    Let us take that the Jesus myth does not deny the existence of a Jesus (being a common name, hard to do). Your position is that nothing like what we find in the Gospels or Paul existed and the reason for this is, even though the Gospels and Paul were written relatively soon after the claimed events, that the copies we have today are late enough that we have to discount any historical reliability.

    When we look at a figure like Socrates, Alexander the Great or almost any other historical figure, historians do not say that just such a figure existed, they actually describe their life, achievements and often their sayings. However, by your standards they should stop that and simply say a figure by that name existed but we can’t know anything about them, despite the wealth of writings that have come down to this day, because the copies we have are too late.

    I am just asking you to be consistent. You cannot hold one standard for Jesus and then say other ancient figures can have the benefit of the doubt.

  47. Again Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Socrates all had truly CONTEMPORARY evidence of their existence by KNOWN sources. Julius accounts of his military campaigns in his own hand have been passed down to us as have the writing of both his supporters and detractors, Alexander had Callisthenes, Ptolemy, Nearchus, Aristobulus, and Onesicritus, and Socrates has Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes.

    Contrast this with Jesus. We have Paul who never met the man and give us few firm historical details but does mention the existence of other Jesuses other Gospels (2 Cor. 11:3-4) and we know that there were as many as 50 of these things (not counting variants such as the Secret Mark) with one claim to be written by Jesus himself. Yet the best the Church father could come up with were four Gospels that we don’t know who actually wrote them or even when they were written with a nonscientific nonsense better suited to an ouija board to put the canon stuff as early as possible and non canon stuff as late as possible.

  48. You are back peddling. You said that it was not about existence. Of course we know these people existed, we even know Jesus existed as you have reminded me. The question is did the version we know today exist? You claimed that the copies of the NT we have are too late to give us any evidence of Jesus. How late are our copies of Plato (our main source of Socrates)? Or any of the other ancient figures? At least be honest and say you have one set of standards for Jesus and one for other ancient figures.

  49. You are dodging the issue and clearly don’t understand document provenance. Plato like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Socrates has KNOWN CONTEMPORARIES commenting on him such as Thucydides Aristotle, and Xenophon. Of the NT only First Thessalonians (c 51 CE), Philippians (c 53 CE), Philemon (ca. 53 CE ), First Corinthians (c 54 CE), Galatians (c 55 AD), Second Corinthians (c 55 AD) and Romans (c 56 EC) have good enough provenance to establish not only their author (Paul) but reasonable dates. Similarly the Pastoral epistles and Hebrews are regarded as NOT by Paul.

    The rest of the NT in terms of provenance is a train wreck with dates and authorship all over the freaking place especially in the case of the Gospels: Mark 50-70, Matthew 50-100, Luke: 60-100, and John 50-110. Acts is nearly as bad with 60-100. The majority of modern scholarship agrees these Gospels were NOT written by the men credited with their authorship.

    The John Frum cargo cult shows that the disconnect between the founder of faith and any historical founder can happen insanely rapidly and for one sect the mythical John Frum even got himself a flesh and blood brother–Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

    There is nothing to show the Gospels are history or that they even show any resemblance of historical accuracy. If anything historical INaccuracy and social illogic abound both internally and externally.

    As Remsburg stated back in 1909: “The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:
    Josephus
    Philo-Judaeus
    Seneca
    Pliny the Elder
    Suetonius
    Juvenal
    Martial
    Persius
    Plutarch
    Justus of Tiberius
    Apollonius
    Pliny the Younger
    Tacitus
    Quintilian
    Lucanus
    Epictetus
    Silius Italicus
    Statius
    Ptolemy
    Hermogones
    Valerius Maximus
    Arrian
    Petronius
    Dion Pruseus
    Paterculus
    Appian
    Theon of Smyrna
    Phlegon
    Pompon Mela
    Quintius Curtius
    Lucian
    Pausanias
    Valerius Flaccus
    Florus Lucius
    Favorinus
    Phaedrus
    Damis
    Aulus Gellius
    Columella
    Dio Chrysostom
    Lysias
    Appion of Alexandria
    Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.”

  50. You are back peddling. When I used the NT earlier, you disregarded that because our copies are not from the first century. Yet you accept copies for other figures even if they are many more centuries from the original from what we have in the NT. But I will let that go.

    As for the list of authors, let us look at this in perspective. Let us imagine for a minute that the Gospels give a fairly accurate account of Jesus. Of this list, who would we expect to say something about Jesus? The Roman writers? Why? Why should they care about some Jewish religious teacher? They don’t talk about the other Jews claiming to be a messiah, why should they care about Jesus? We would expect Josephus to say something and he does. The mention of Jesus as the brother of Jesus is not disputed. As for the Testamonium Flavianium, you need to do a bit more research. Go beyond Jesus mythicists and evangelical scholars. Look at what Josephus scholars say, people like Steve Mason. Look at liberal NT scholars like JD Crossan. All admit that there was something original that was expanded and that we can reconstruct the original. The only question is Philo as one of the few Jewish writers we have from the first century. But he demonstrates very little interest in Palestine or historical matters. His interest is to establish connections between the Torah and Plato. I am not sure why he would mention Jesus in his writings or how he would fit.

    The Gospels are good sources, generally accepted as ancient bios. Paul is a good source, writing very soon after the events.

    I understand that you do not accept that the Jesus of the Gospels existed (even if some other Jesus may have). I disagree. What is more, most historians (not just Christian) would disagree with you. The standards that you expect are not used by professional historians. If you are confident that you know more than professional historians, that is your right. However, I think our discussion is at an end. We will have to agree to disagree. We have both put forth our case and it is up to others to decide for themselves. Thanks for your interest in this blog.

  51. Continually claiming backpedaling doesn’t make it so. Given how much Josephus spend on other would saviors (The Egyptian for example) there should be a whole CHAPTER on a man that had thousands of followers, created enough problems that the Priests met on the eve of their Holiest day to get rid of him, Pontius Pilate went out of his way to save him, and was executed in a manner reserved for STATE crimes for what by the Gospels was a NON-State offense.

    More to the point why does NO Church father before the mid point of the 3rd century refer to either passage in Josephus? Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), Theophilus (d. 180), Irenaeus (c. 120/140-c. 200/203), Clement of Alexandria (c 150-c 215), Origen (c. 185-c. 254), Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 235), Minucius Felix (d. c. 250), Anatolius (230-c. 270/280), Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Methodius 9th century), and Photius (c. 820-891) make no mention of the Testimonium Flavianum even when it would have been in their best interests to do so. Furthermore as documented by Drews and others in the 19th century “in the sixteenth century Vossius had a manuscript of the text of Josephus in which there was not a word about Jesus.” (ie clear into the 1500s there was a copy of Josephus with NO Testimonium Flavianum or ‘who was called Christ’ in it!) Either all these people took a snooze or by Occam’s razor the TF and ‘who was called Christ’ passage simply didn’t exist in their versions of Josephus.

    In fact, Jerome (c. 347-c.419) had a weird variant of Josephus that “asserted that at the Lord’s crucifixion there broke from the temple voices of heavenly powers, saying: ‘Let us depart hence.'”

  52. Morgan – in reference to the total number of NT manuscripts you can search the internet and come up with many sites supporting the numbers I show, i. e. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript for one.
    Peter Van Minnen seems to support the Textual Criticism philosophy originated by Westcott and Hort and that has been highly questioned by the experts and disregarded as it is based upon Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus being most accurate and both are full of errors and disagreements. This really boils down to the ongoing argument regarding Byzantine vs. Alexandrian.

  53. Arguing if Jesus is a myth or not seems pretty fruitless. Faith does not depend upon evidence or it would not be faith. Since man is dead in sin (Romans 3:10) upon birth (Psalm 51:5) as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, he/she cannot and will not seek God, Romans 3:11. Dead people cannot act upon anything, and until a person is made spiritually alive (2 Corinthians 4:6) by reading scripture and being quickened by the Holy Spirit, they will deny what the Bible teaches; however, if one chooses this path they will be judged upon death, Hebrews 9:27 and that judgement is described in John 12:44-50 that says that man is going to be judged by God’s word and that word is the Holy Bible. Not believing is explained in 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. John 20:31 says, But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 8:24-25, For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
    Bottom line = all who do not have faith will die in their sins and pay the eternal price. One fact most people do not understand is that even faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 1:17-18, Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 1:29, etc.) and man cannot make a decision to believe John 1:13. Read about Pelagianism, Synergism, Armininianism, Decision Theology, etc. Man is dead in sin and is considered a child of wrath Ephesians 1:1-3, a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6), etc. The scriptures attest to this and as it says in Matthew 7:13-14; most people will not find the truth, but will follow the wide gate leading to destruction.

  54. Don, NT manuscript does NOT equal Gospel manuscript. No Christ Myther I am aware of would ispute that Paul wrote First Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon, First Corinthians, Galatians, Second Corinthians, and Romans. Also the wikipedia article you linked to states “The dates of these manuscripts range from c. 125 (the John Ryland’s manuscript, P52; oldest copy of John fragments) to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century.” That means the 5,800 Greek as well as 10,000 Latin and 9,300 other language manuscripts are scattered over a 13 CENTURY RANGE! This is akin to saying that all the manuscripts in the 12th and 13 centuries PROVE the existing of a English king named Arthur in the 6th and its just as silly.

    Also in addition to P52 with its really hazzy dating is an unknown Gospel also dated to c125 CE (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb1a.htm)

    We know from what Christ fathers wrote there were variants of what would in the 4th century became our Gospels. For example, Irenaeus had versions that made him able to claim that Jesus lived to the age of 50 and that Herod Agrippa I, Pontius Pilate, and Claudius Caesar were the rulers involved at the time Jesus was crucified “as the Gospel and all the elders testify”.

    Apologists hem and haw and try to blow smoke but as a PEER REVIEWED ANTHROPOLOGICAL JOURNAL article stated “there is not a shred of evidence that a historical character Jesus lived”.

    The fact that Christians continue to FORGE “evidence” (The infamous Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar letter (c150-c4th century; http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/actspilate.html) in some versions of the New Testament Apocrypha and the latest fiasco with the Burial Box of Jesus’ Brother http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1920720,00.html) shows they KNOW their belief is built on sand. If the evidence was as strong as they claim then there would be no need to forge MORE evidence now would there?

    The amount of non-historical nonsense in that ONE sentence is insane.

    1) the “King of the Jews” title here was not given to Herod Antipas but to his nephew Herod Agrippa I. (Herod Antipas’ actual title was Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea)

  55. “All of the original copies of the gospels have been lost. We must rely upon hand-written copies which are an unknown number of replications removed from the originals. The oldest known surviving part of a gospel dates from about 125 CE. It consists of a few passages from an unknown gospel. Another ancient manuscript, a portion of the Gospel of John, is also dated to about 125 CE. Remaining gospel manuscripts date to the third century CE or later. ” (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ntb1a.htm)

    That last part is important as our only pre-third century sources for the Gospels are Christ fathers like Irenaeus who argue for their versions being better than the 16 to 26 other ones with mystic BS like “There are four principle winds, four pillars that hold up the sky, and four corners of the universe; therefore, it is only right that there be four gospels.” THERE NO PILLARS HOLDING UP THE SKY AND THE UNIVERSE DOES NOT EVEN HAVE CORNERS. Never mind the other arguments that guy presented that does NOT make sense which I have already related several times. When we get to something in the Gospel we CAN crosscheck (Herod “slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” or the dates provided by Matthew and Luke) we either find NO evidence or history conflicts with the Gospel account. At this point the apologists go into spin doctor mode trying to salvage the mess. (The gyrations to make Matthew and Luke agree would be comical if they weren’t so desperate)

  56. Morgan – Gospels meaning “good news,” only applies to the NT. The OT is considered the “Law” and it was given to the Jews. This is stated in Romans 2:14-15. Yes, all copies of Biblical manuscripts are copies only. All the originals were lost; however, if you study the Bible experts you will see that the process of copying was extremely accurate and even though some individual words may change due to the fact that Greek has no English equivalency, the message is intact. You must not consider writers like those of the Jesus Seminar, but go with the acknowledged experts like Bruce Metzgar and Kurt Aland. In the back of Metzgar’s book, “The Text of the New Testament” there is a section showing most supporting manuscripts of the NT and where they are located. Since the Bible says in Hebrews 8:13 that the OT is “obsolete,” I am focusing only on the NT. The Bible also testifies that OT scriptures existed and Jesus was fulfillment of its prophesies, like Isaiah 7:14 and 53.
    My opinion is that God purposely did not leave evidence of his existence because evidence does not leave room for faith. Many in history gave their lives just to read a few sentences of scripture and today there is no excuse. The entire Bible is based upon faith and its words come with power as stated in 1 Thess. 1:5.
    Reason is the enemy of faith, but the Bible is clear that not eveyone will be saved and not everyone will hear God’s call. No one really knows who the elect are, but when a person looks for every reason to reject, they are deciding there own fate and it is eternal. James 4:14 says, we are like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow and that we really do not have much time. Once a person dies, it is too late and salvation is lost, but eternal blackness, separation from God and eternal torment is stated over and over again in the Bible.

  57. Don, you are engaging in typical apologetic spin doctoring. The reality is that of the supposed 5,664(+-) New Testament documents only 720 are demonstrably root texts and of those only 14 (!) have been dated to before 200 and those depend on the VERY iffy method of paleography which given Nongbri’s work on the matter is little better than an Ouija board.

    As for faith, the painful truth is faith is NOT fact. Heaven’s Gate had FAITH that Comet Hale-Bopp was followed by an alien spaceship, the Mormom’s have FAITH in their beliefs, as do the Universals (which dates to the time of Jesus http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Prevailing.html), as do the KJV only branch of Christianity, and so on.

    Having faith in something doesn’t mean it is true. Science looks for what is DEMONSTRABLY true about the world and when it find things that don’t agree with its model it (reluctantly) has to come up with a new model if the old one cannot be refined anymore.

    In his 1949 book _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_ Joseph Campbell advanced the theory that a single myth stood behind the stories of Krishna, Buddha, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus and other hero stories and later in his _The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology_ Campbell stated “(i)t is clear that, whether accurate or not as to biographical detail, the moving legend of the Crucified and Risen Christ was fit to bring a new warmth, immediacy, and humanity, to the old motifs of the beloved Tammuz, Adonis, and Osiris cycles.”

    Apologists try to ignore these similarities but to be fair some Christ Myth claim similarities that are the product of flawed or poor research (The whole supposed Virgin Isis-Horus born on Dec 25 connection needs to be nuked from freaking orbit and the ground covered in a mountain of salt).

    Was there a man named Jesus who preached something in 1st century Galilee? Probably.

    But the crux of the Jesus Myth is the Gospel version THAT Jesus or a mythical construct that wove fragments of that and other would be Christs into an already existing mythical framework. EVERY time the Gospels give us something regarding Jesus that can actually be checked against history it spectacularly blows up in the apologists’ faces and you get arguments that make those used to support homeopathy look reasonable by comparison.

    The Roman reaction to Jesus nearly seems to be along the lines of the joke in Napoleon Bunny-Part:
    “Hey, here’s another Christ.”
    “That’s the sixth one today.”

  58. Morgan – When I speak of “faith” I mean one thing only and that is confidence that the Bible is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and that Jesus Christ became flesh and in accordance with the will of his Father, shed his blood on the cross to save the world from sin. And as Jesus said in John 11:26, And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? You apparently do not believe this but we can agree on one thing – everyone dies and Revelation 20:12 speaks to those who do not believe, And I saw the dead (means those dead in their sins), small and great, stand before God; and the books (note the plural because there are many who fall into the catagory of unbelief) were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (“Works” here means having faith in Christ). 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (the grave or realm of the dead) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works (again this means faith in Christ during their lifetime). 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (FOREVER).
    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
    If nothing else it seems pretty obvious that the Bible is so complex and so well written and self supporting that man could not have accomplished this without divine help.
    The Bible also makes it clear that not every person who reads it will be quickened in the spirit and enabled to discern its truths; therefore, most are lost and will die in their sins without any eternal hope.

  59. Don, again you are talking about belief NOT fact. Besides, using the Bible to prove the inspiration of the Bible is a totally circular argument and can be done with nearly any other religious text. In terms of archeology and historical anthropology the NT is either a void or a total inconstant train wreck–historical, geographical, and social-political impossibilities abound.

  60. Stephen Bedard, you asked “I would ask: why would Philo mention Jesus?”

    Eusebius in his “The History of the Church” claimed “It is also recorded that under Claudius, Philo came to Rome to have conversations with Peter, then preaching to the people there … It is plain enough that he not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day, who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in the Jewish manner, still retained most of their ancient customs.” (Eusebius, The History of the Church, p50,52)

    More over according to PRO-HISTORICAL JESUS Shirley Jackson Case’s 1912 _The History of Jesus_ “Epiphanius makes two further statements which are sometimes thought to point to a pre-Christian Jesus. He says that there were Nazarees (or Nasarees) before Christ, and that Philo once wrote a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt.”

    So we are asked to believe that Philo not only met Peter himself while he was preaching the teaching of Jesus but “wrote a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt” and yet wrote no word on Jesus himself.

    Care to explain THAT?

  61. I don’t think historians take Eusebius’ claim to seriously. I think that is a case where the early Christians wished it happened. Sort of like the fake letters between Paul and Seneca. As for Philo writing about Christians, he didn’t. He wrote about the Therapeutae, which some people wanted to see as a type of Christian but no historian today accepts.

  62. But WHY would Christians want Philo to have met Peter? It creates the issue if this really did happen why didn’t Philo write anything about Jesus.

    Furthermore the Case reference states that *Epiphanius* said that “Philo once wrote a treatise describing the early Christian community in Egypt” It does NOT say what the name of the group was or what work Epiphanius was referring to. I have see most people saying this is in reference to the Essenes (Jessaeans) so this Therapeutae claim is new but IMHO shows the fundamental problem–nobody is exactly sure as to WHAT is being referenced and so go through all kinds of handwaving to distract from the fact there is a problem or rather problems:

    “And then there’s the Dead Sea Scrolls, thought to belong to the Essenes. With their “Gabriel’s Revelation” of a messiah being brought back to life in three days, their messainic banquets, a “new covenant” borne from “living water”. Their “Teacher of Righteousness” who they likened to Joshua son of Nun? Joshua, which is “Jesus” in Greek, and “Chrestos” (χρηστος) meaning “good” in Greek is similar to “Christ” (χριστος)? Why did the Essenes disappear right when Christianity started becoming popular?” ((February 22, 2009) “Epiphanius, Philo, the Nazarenes, and the Essenes”)

  63. I’m neither a historian; nor, being a Christian who believes the Gospels, can I really be counted as an absolutely totally unbiased objective observer. I do, however, believe that God has given me a finite yet real mental capacity, in order that I might use it in a fashion as unbiased as possible within my proscribed limits; so I hope you’ll all excuse my hopefully-objective attempt at criticism of a few points of the Christ-Myth debate that I’ve just read.

    A priori, I have a problem with people who use any permutation of the phrase, “there is no evidence for X, therefore absent Y.” It’s used too often as a shortcut rhetoric for a real logical citation of conspicuous positive evidence X for absence of Y. In any case, I find it interesting how certain Christ-Myth theorists explain away the Testimonium Flavianum; they say it was a later addition to Josephus’ writings.

    Now, a pure rationalist realizes that in order to claim that the Testimonium was added later, you have to claim that there were people around (yes, likely Christians) who were both capable of writing something down, and yet more importantly *unwilling* to write down the original non-Testified copy of ancient history. If you claim that someone, likely from the Christian church, was willing to modify ancient literature in order to fit some narrative other than its own, then why on earth (except bias) would you claim that such person was modifying the literature only in the positive direction of adding evidence for another narrative? If you are to appeal against proper scribal integrity, why not suggest that the early church Fathers simply removed all the historical evidence for Jesus other than the Gospel itself? A refusal which, if it did not lead to an instant removal of all historical sources, did ultimately lead to a sufficient paucity of source material as to over the years result in a lack of surviving materials that are both historical and non-Biblical?

    Notions of deleting historical records do not seem to me comparatively far-fetched. Lord knows, every culture in modern times has tweaked its history to fit its own narrative. Anyway, the biggest conspicuous ancient absence that I know of is that of any knowledge of how exactly pre-Roman Celtic religion functioned. Neopagans lament the difficulty of reconstructing decently the ancient druidic rituals; for the druids wrote nothing down themselves, and Roman characterizations of the druids were far too often biased against “the barbarians.” It’s not, I’m sure, because either Romans or druids were incapable of writing about Celtic religion, or that the religion was unimportant to the Celts and to world history; it’s simply that the two groups shared an unwillingness to record things sufficiently for our enlightenment. The druids didn’t see the value of writing down things for people other than their priests, people who by definition were not going to receive the traditions form the ultimate source; and the Romans didn’t see the value of writing down stories and traditions from people who weren’t going to be the progenitors of a true and lasting civilization anyway. It is unknown why church scribes would’ve saw any value in confusing the world with biblically-inaccurate histories of Jesus, when people could instead just read the stories the scribes believed were true. And thus, if we have established, through analysis of the Testimonium Flavianum, the presence of an unknown willingness variable which could have greater influence than all other variables of an event’s ability to become a historical record, I can only think that the appeal to proof by silence is tentative. At best.

    Again, I’m no historian; but I heard someone say on a similar forum of Jesus-Myth theory that we have no evidence for the existence of Hannibal. The claimant of this was probably-duly shot down by a Jesus-Myth theorist who cited some Roman author who had himself cited in his work on Hannibal a comprehensive list of authors, all of whom, the author claimed, had written about Hannibal’s life. If we’re to accept such proof by silence, then I am forced to assume that the JM follower was not capable of producing any better source for the life of Hannibal other than a self-proclaimed second hand compiler; similar, I imagine, to the JM characterization of Paul. (You, likewise, by modern standards, receiving this anecdote multiple-handedly from me, should count this not as evidence for the existence of Hannibal, of any authors or compilers of Hannibal lore, or of any irate JM posters citing any such ancient Hannibal scholars. It’s evidence only that I told a particular story, just like your evidence will be should you tell anyone what I’ve just related to you.)

    (Also, if I’ve misstated anything pertaining to Celtica or Hannibal, feel free to correct me.)

    Which brings me to something else; the whole thing about Jesus being less important than Carabbas in the eyes of Philo is a pure strawman. In order to claim that Philo’s silence is a conspicuous evidence by absence, one has to first assume that Philo’s extensive work was actually a product of some desire to record everything of importance that he was aware of down to the Jesus-level of resolution. I’m again no historian, but I can again see no sense in the argument either that Philo’s consideration of events as important was the same as ours, nor that he was really necessarily attempting to record everything that he heard of or that he valued.

    To use an analogy, it’s akin to saying that a comprehensive historian of our era would be out-of-character to include mention of some homeless man they saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, over someone like Aimee Semple McPherson or L. Ron Hubbard. If the John Frum rebuttal has any relevance, it’s that faith healers and proclaimed prophets do indeed pop up all the time; and if Philo new this, and if he acted on this knowledge, then even if he new that Jesus attracted crowds like McPherson and got into legal trouble like Hubbard’s spiritual descendants, there would still be absolutely nothing saying that Philo would necessarily deem their stories as anything other than the routine gossip of living breathing society, routine gossip from which he could pick and choose a few of the examples that best illustrated his historical points, points such as that of Roman brutality toward the person of Carabbas.

    Finally, pursuant to the previous estimation of what we know of how Philo would’ve approached Jesus, I just want to point out the futility of attempting to construct… well, almost anything, historical or otherwise, of the past, or of using the past to justify anything that has happened, should happen, or will happen in the future or present. I have recently learned that it was common knowledge in Shakespeare’s day that people slept in two chunks, the first sleep and the second sleep, with a waking period in between. Hidden within Shakespeare, you actually find references to it; the waking times of the night were considered to be meant for quiet reflection. (It was a “dark sacred night,” like in the song “It’s a Wonderful World.”) Sleepwalking during what should be quiet and peaceful indicated a troubled mind, perhaps a need to walk off the dark thoughts that were disrupting what would otherwise be peaceful waking reflection.

    Any references to sleep written around that time period would’ve assumed not only that people actually operated in this way, of waking in the middle of the sleep, but also that the readers *knew* that people operate in this way. To use an analogy like before, I cannot imagine that very many modern writers write assuming that their readers will be unaware of the existence of a periodic table containing more than four chemical elements; which means that said writers may make vague references to the prevailing thought, even if they don’t mention explicitly anything chemistry-related.

    If we can alter as a society our cultural understanding of even something as basic as sleep, how much more can our cultural understanding be warped when we read anything Josephus, Tacitus, Philo, or even [enter name here] ever said. For still another example, as an American Midwesterner, I find certain turns of phrase to be clearly passive-aggressive, subtle nuances which my friends in the East Coast often miss. Alternatively, I find that I often miss subtle nuances of my own speech that occasionally brand me among my friends in the East as brash and opinionated; despite the fact that among my friends in the Midwest, I was always considered to be very quiet and level-headed.

    What I am suggesting is that 2000-some years of removal from the source is sufficient time to make any arguments about the stories we have of a historical Jesus absolutely irrelevant to the atheism and Christianity of today. The existence of such a distinct cultural time divide makes cultures across the divide entirely irrelevant to our own, except inasmuch as we have maintained relics of them into the present. The stories are what they are, and the historical debate on their precise meaning will continue for as long as the culture of debating it survives.

    And mostly, I’m suggesting that culture is really what some are debating here, not history and certainly not science.

    The recent gaining traction of the No-Real-Jesus theory (which for the sake of even-handedness I will distinguish verbally from the Jesus-Myth theory) is not particularly a result of newer or deeper scholarship, but is primarily tied to the recent surge in the number of people willing to speak out for against religion on principle, instead of speaking out for or against religion because of what it says. For example, I cannot help but notice how the posters here do not themselves seem to agree with each other on the exact relationship between Jesus-Myth and No-Real-Jesus theories, which suggests that we are likely dealing with multiple issues and not just one; nor do posters here necessarily refrain anyway from turning statements of faith into the real issue, giving relatively “definitive” proof for faith as one of the things we’re debating, not just historical salience. Notions like “extraordinary claims require extraordinary [scientific] evidence,” get thrown around on forums like this, despite the fact that the concept of “extraordinary,” is itself a non-scientific idea defined by abstract notions of some normality that as far as real science is concerned can only be said to vary by culture.

    And this all relates to Philo because Philo lived in a world as complex and multifaceted as our own; and his goals were likely as obscure and difficult-to-define in the moment as the goals and actions of people are today. Using any modern intuition on our part as to what would or would not have been Philo’s goal as a writer is quite literally using a source ~2000-years removed from contemporary; in other words, a source that is not particularly good. Which again, makes arguments that appeal to his silence particularly difficult to believe.

    Thus, my final paragraph is this: that if we want to debate culture, fine, but that we ought not do it at the same time as we debate the comparative believability of the historical record. For clearly, Marxism-Leninism-New-Atheism proves that culture wars are an opiate for masses more extensive than the religious ones alone; and just as clearly from all socially-recorded experience, we know that no one can really debate properly once they become addicted to an opiate.

  64. I’ve found this website belatedly; and there seems to be a growing argument about sources, which isn’t getting anywhere. For myself, there’s much too much allegory, metaphor and various types of symbolism in the Gospels, to accept it as a literal historical account of anything.

    At most, we can glean more information about in-fighting among the proponents of the new ‘philosophy’ (not yet a formed religion, let alone orthodox anything) and some of their Jewish contemporaries, than about its ‘founder’.

    Thus, there has been a complete fall-out between Paul and Peter (see Paul’s letters – Peter shilly-shallied about the inclusion of gentiles – first against it; then (temporarily) agreed with Paul’s inclusive stance; then back-tracked to exclude the non-circumcised again); Mark (to me, agreeing with Paul) effectively damns Peter (in Mark’s gospel, Peter is literally last seen going out weeping into the outer darkness, after denying Jesus); then Matthew, writing AFTER Mark, ‘rehabilitates’ Peter by having Jesus personally rescue him (walking on water scene – this scene moved significantly nearer the start of the gospel); and then Matthew has Jesus give Peter (i.e. the Jewish ‘Christians’ – not Paul’s gentiles) the ‘keys’ to the kingdom of heaven, thereby implicitly denying Paul’s teachings about accepting gentiles without circumcision. Not to mention the ‘bad press’ given the Pharisees: but then, the temple priesthood had been exterminated by the Romans during the Jewish war, so these were no longer opponents.
    So – interesting divisions apparent between the proponents and opponents of the new ‘philosophy’ – and plenty about sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus: but much too little about Jesus the man.

    On the subject of allegory, metaphor and symbolism – my understanding is that only c50% of the population can recognise its presence easily when and where it exists: the other c50% will generally read the same text and take it as written in ‘plain, simple language’ and take it literally. The proportions may be debated – but this difference, between those who recognise the presence of a non-literal meaning, and those who do not, is the basis of the most profound differences of opinion on the meaning of scripture. Non-literalists have a slight advantage, in that they can (just) have a glimmering of where the literalists are coming from: the literalists have no conception of what non-literalists are talking about…………….. the result is a complete absence of sensible communication between them on the meaning of scripture. Put another way – if c50% of people say such-and-such a text (scripture or otherwise) has an other-than-literal meaning, then the text in question does so, as this is the maximum proportion who could be expected to recognise it.

  65. Ralph Ellis

    Ralph released his first book in this genre in 1998; but his seminal work, King Jesus, was published in 2008. In this book, Ralph proposes that the gospel story is semi-mythical: it was based upon real events, but subsequently embellished and fictionalised by the gospel authors and editors. The proposed foundation for this semi-mythical gospel story is the history of King Izates of Adiabene, who Josephus Flavius claims was the leader the Jewish Revolt. Apparently, Josephus also calls this monarch, King Izas.

    This was followed in 2012 by a sequel, Jesus, King of Edessa. This work follows the same reasoning, but attempts to further explore and refine the historical evidence for Josephus’ otherwise semi-mythical monarch, King Izas. The result is a claim that Adiabene is actually a reference to Edessa in Mesopotamia; and therefore King Izas must be King Manu VI of Edessa. So the Edessan king was called King Izas Manu, while Jesus was called King Jesus (Em) Manu-el.

    In addition, Ralph claims that the traditional crown** of the Edessan monarchs is a plaited crown of thorns, and therefore similar to the gospel description.

    Ralph

    ** Image of an Edessan king, wearing his plaited Crown of Thorns.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/38/Coin_of_King_Abgar_X_Phraates_of_Edessa.jpg

  66. Have you looked at the sermons and writings of early church fathers such as Polycarp to see if the they contained verses from the NT? By early church fathers, I am thinking of those who lived in the first and second century (50 ad-199ad) or so time frame. Could the NT be reconstructed from these sermons and writings?

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