The Jesus Myth and apologists' claims

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Iasion, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. Iasion Registered Senior Member

    Greetings all,

    I thought readers here may be interested in this.

    I was asked to answer an essay from a certain Pastor, which was presented as argument against the claim that Jesus did not really exist in history. I have answered this brief essay here below and also provided a brief outline of the Jesus Myth theory. The main theme of this monograph is to answer the apologists' claim that Jesus was a historical person for whom we have good evidence.

    For references and information and assistance and the NT and its history, I refer to, and recommend,these sites :

    Peter Kirby's Early Christian writings - a modern masterpiece :

    Michael Turton's superb online commentary on G.Mark :

    The Jesus Puzzle - Earl Doherty's superb exposition of the Jesus Myth theory :

    Church Fathers and councils at NewAdvent etc :

    Stephen Carlson's Synoptic Problem page :

    Historian Richard Carrier's essays dealing with these issues :

    Internet Infidels - lively and educated discussions of these issues :

    Suggested reading list:

    Part A - Iasion's answer to Pastor's apologetics

    Pastor : "The documents of the New Testament are themselves historical documents (and are, by the way, the best-attested documents in all of antiquity.)"

    A "historical document"?
    In other words - a very old document which appears to tell a history of ancient times. There are many such documents, of varying quality - but no such ancient book is true just because some believer, then or now, BELIEVES it to be true.

    All old writings must be evaluated by all the methods at our disposal. Christians sometimes try to argue that ancient documents can be presumed to be true, unless proven otherwise - sometimes even invoking the irrelevant phrase "innocent until proven guilty" or even invoking a supposed law of Aristotle.
    Well, this is nonsense - no historian assumes an ancient book to be true, and certainly not religious works, and nor did Aristotle say so. Rather all ancient writings are criticised and compared and analyzed carefully to see what can be considered reliable, and what is myths and legends or lies or exaggeration or just plain error.

    Consider some other ancient works -
    * the Golden Ass of Apuleius - this "historical document" tells the story of how Apuleius turned into an Ass and met the gods face to face. It dates to the very same period as the Gospels, is set in historical places and includes historical figures and events. It has speeches and stories and miracles and divine events, including an EMPTY TOMB scene!. In short it is very similar the Gospels.

    * the Iliad - this "historical document" is famous and very well attested indeed. This work was seminal in Greek culture and includes real places and realistic people, it has Gods and miracles and speeches and heroes - to the Greeks, Homer was like the Bible.

    Both of these writings are similar to the Gospels and are similarly true - i.e. not particulalry true at all. In other words being a "historical document" means nothing about a books truthfulnes..

    NT MSS attestation
    Claims about the NT being "best-attested" confuse two UN-related issues -
    * reliability of the text,
    * truthfulness of the contents.

    Firstly, it is FALSE to claim the NT are "the best-attested documents in all of antiquity" because there are some documents even older than the NT for which we have the ORIGINAL literally carved in stone (e.g. Behistun inscription, Egyptian tomb inscriptions, the Rosetta Stone, the Moabite Stone) - making them absolutely 100% accurately attested from the original because they ARE the original, and thus much better attested than the NT.

    It's true the NT is fairly well-attested (in terms of quantity) compared to SOME ancient writings - in the sense that we have many old copies (24,000 or more in total). However the vast majority of these copies are from the middle-ages. The number of NT MSS from before the dark ages is about a hundred.

    But there are NO originals for ANY of the NT writings - all we have is copies of copies, all varying from each other (thats right - every single manuscript we have is slightly different from every other - not counting very tiny scraps) from long after the alleged events :
    * NO copies from 1st century,
    * a few tiny fragments from 2nd century (e.g. P52, P90),
    * a few UNCOMPLETE copies from late 2nd / early 3rd (e.g. P75, P46),
    * several fairly complete copies in 3rd / 4th century.

    And, there IS considerable variation in Gospel MSS, and it often DOES reach to core beliefs and events :
    * the words of God at the baptism in the Jordan - changed to avoid adoptionist views,
    * the different later endings of G.Mark,
    * the issue of salvation the Christ's Blood,
    * the Trinity - added much later,
    * the Lord's prayer - much variations in MSS.

    These are just some issues of MSS variations - contradictions between different Gospel's versions of the Jesus stories is another very smelly kettly of fish :
    * the widely variant birth stories,
    * the completely irreconcilable easter morning stories, etc.

    Quantity of MSS irrelevant to truth
    But more importantly, Pastor has confused two fundamentally different issues - he is arguing that because we have so many copies this proves the contents true. Well, this is obviously nonsense - the number of copies has nothing to do with the truth of the contents. Consider -

    * the Iliad - over 600 MSS, more than the NT until after 1000AD - does this mean that the Iliad was more true than the NT until about 1000AD, but from the middle ages on, the NT became MORE TRUE than the Iliad?
    * the works of 10thC. Yen-Shou of Hangchow - about 400,000 copies exist, about 4000 times as many copies as NT copies at that time - does this make the work over 4000 times MORE TRUE than the NT?
    * the Book of Mormon - there are millions of copies of this work, many dating maybe a FEW YEARS after the original - would this make the Book of Mormon much MORE TRUE than the NT?
    * the Lord of the Rings - there are many millions of copies of this work, (including the original manuscript AFAIK), dating from very soon after its writing - does this makes the Lord of the Rings of vastly more true than the NT?

    It should be obvious that the NUMBER of copies attesting to a work gives no support to the truth of the contents - yet apologists like Pastor repeatedly bring this point up as if it proves something.

    NT Authorship
    Pastor: "The New Testament alone consists of twenty-seven books written by at least eight different authors. Furthermore, of those eight, only three (Matthew, Peter, and John) were a part of the original twelve disciples. Of the remaining five, two were originally skeptical concerning Jesus' identity. One was a great persecutor of Christians and even consented to the execution of the first New Testament martyr. One was a gentile, and one was a young boy when Jesus lived and taught. Additionally, these New Testament authors came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. One was a tax collector, another a physician. Another was a highly educated Pharisee. At least two were fishermen while two others grew up as the children of a carpenter and most likely learned that trade."

    Pastor is merely repeating the faithful beliefs of Christians here - the beliefs he presents are straight out the actual NT itself - in other words he is using the stories INSIDE the NT to try and prove the NT is reliable. This is called circular reasoning. No mainstream scholar believes the Gospels to be history, because they are not supported by any reliable outside evidence, and because they contain much material that is religious mythology.
    The NT must be judged on its merits like any ancient writing - and it HAS been so judged and evaluated, it is one of the most studied works in Western culture - and what follows is some of the results of that study :

    Firstly -
    With the exception of some of the letters of Paul, we do NOT KNOW for sure who wrote ANY of the remaining books of the Bible - all we know is what we find IN the books. (Bear in mind there is no external evidence of any kind about Paul either, but some one person wrote most of those letters and we call him Paul mostly for convenience.)
    The Gospels were originally anonymous documents of unknown origin - the earliest mentions of Gospels are as UN-NAMED works, the current titles were not attached to the four Gospels until late 2nd century by Iraneus based on a few earlier scraps and speculations. Before then we see various references to Gospels without authors - by Aristides, Justin, Ignatius, Polycarp, Theodotus, Hegesippus, Melito, Polycrates, Autolycus - all make reference to anonymous Gospel(s).

    Papias does make some unclear comments possibly in about 130CE which refer to writings by Mark, and writings by Matthew - however his comments do NOT match our modern Gospels, and he does NOT use the word "Gospel", and he makes it clear he holds such writings in LOW regard.

    Justin in about 150CE is the first to make lengthy quotes of Gospels almost like the modern ones - but he calls them "memoirs of the apostles" as well as "Gospels" but gives NO authors' names.

    Aristides, possibly just before Justin, described a singular, un-named Gospel that had "been preached for a short time". This is an important clue - a church father who mentions "the Gospel, as it is called" - showing that is what it is called "the Gospel", no name, just one. Furthermore he explcitly says it had only been preached for a "short time", perhaps a few years - evidence for when the Gospel became known in Christian circles.

    Tatian possibly wrote an important work called the "diaTessaron" (literally "from four", implying a harmony of four, meaning a harmony of four Gospels) about 172 (after he split from the early Christian. This numbering of the Gospels as four sems to occur slightly before they are actually named, and may have come about because Tatian inherited the "memoirs of the Apostles" from Justin, and there were four of them, but they had not yet been named.

    It was not until about 185CE that the Gospels received their current names with Irenaeus.

    It is consensus among modern scholars that the first Gospel to be written was G.Mark - but it clearly was NOT by an eye-witness, for several reasons :
    * G.Mark shows ignorance of Palestine geography,
    * G.Mark shows dependance on oral tradition,
    * G.Mark was most likely written for a Roman audience,
    * Ireneus says G.Mark was written in Rome.
    * G.Mark was largely crafted from the whole cloth of the OT.

    For more detail, I suggest Michael Turton's great work on G.Mark:

    It is sometimes argued that Mark was the secretary of Peter, but this seems unlikely for several other reasons -
    * there is no evidence in the NT stories to support Mark being Peter's secretary,
    * G.Mark shows the structure of literature crafted from the Jewish scriptures, not recorded conversations,
    * G.Mark includes many scenes in Peter was NOT present, which can only mean they are fiction.
    * Peter is a cowardly dullard in G.Mark which ends with Peter un-redeemed after having betrayed Jesus (G.Mark ended 16:8 with the empty tomb - G.Mark 16:9-20 is merely the most popular of one of a number of later endings which were attached to the abrupt end 16:8.). A secretary recording the words of a hallowed elder would hardly portray him like that.

    It is also sometimes noted that Papias gives early evidence of G.Mark (and is the source of the Peter connection) - but Papias refers to G.Mark being the recollections of Peter but "adapted as needed" ... "but not in order". This just does not match at all well with G.Mark, which is in chronological order, and shows no sign of being the adapted words of Peter.

    It is the firm consensus of scholars that G.Matthew was NOT written by a disciple, because :
    * it depends largely on G.Mark, copied word for word, while making changes based on theology, not history
    * it conflicts with statements by Papias and Ireneus,
    * it shows signs of being a 2nd or 3rd generation work

    It is also sometimes noted that Papias gives early evidence of G.Matthew - but Papias refers to G.Mark being written in Hebrew - this just does not match at all well with G.Matthew, which was written in Greek.

    1,2 Peter
    Scholars agree that the letters attributed to Peter were forged by 2 different people, neither of whom had ever met Jesus - 1 Peter probably writen in Rome c.90, 2 Peter in early-mid 2nd century.

    Scholars agree that the Gospel of John could NOT be by an eye-witness - because :
    * the issue regarding expulsion from the synagogues - such a glaring anachronism could not be by an eye-witness,
    * at one stage this Gospel was believed to be written by Cerinthus (and thus rejected),
    * it tells such a different, and fantastic, story.

    False NT attributions
    The same is true of all the NT documents (apart from Paul1) - NONE are by an eye-witness, all are later FORGED by unknown authors who never met Jesus -
    * James (FORGED in c.80s)
    * 1 John (FORGED in c.80s)
    * 2 Thessalonians (FORGED in c.80s)
    * Ephesians (FORGED in c.90s)
    * 1 Peter (FORGED in c.90s)
    * Jude (FORGED in c.100s)
    * 1 Timothy (FORGED in c.120s)
    * 2 Timothy (FORGED in c.120s)
    * Titus (FORGED in c.120s)
    * 2 John (FORGED in c.120s)
    * 3 John (FORGED in 120s)
    * 2 Peter (FORGED in c.130s)
    The arguments for these can be all be found at Peter Kirby's or in Brown NT Commentary e.g.

    No NT author met Jesus
    of the NT authors we find -
    * Paul only met Jesus in a VISION,
    * several of "Paul's" letters were forged by unknown authors,
    * G.Mark was written in Rome by someone who never met Jesus,
    * G.Matthew was largely copied from G.Mark, not by an eye-witness,
    * G.Luke was largely copied from G.Mark, not by an eye-witness (A.Luke does NOT claim to be an eye-witness, A.Luke does NOT claim he spoke to eye-witnesses, he merely refers to eye-witnesses as distant sources),
    * G.John was written long afterwards by someone who never met Jesus,
    * Jude - forged by an unknown author who never met Jesus,
    * 1,2 Peter - forged by 2 unknown authors who never met Jesus,
    * James - forged by unknown author who never met Jesus,
    * 1,2,3 John - forged by unknown authors in early-mid 2nd century who never met Jesus.

    In other words - the general consensus of modern NT scholars is that NOT ONE SINGLE NT document was written by anyone who ever met Jesus. You can check this is any modern commentary - try Brown's or the New Jerome or see Peter Kirby's.
    But it appears that Pastor has never read a single scholarly NT commentary, instead he repeats the contents of the stories as if they prove themselves ! Well, the Book of Mormon claims it is true - does Pastor believe those claims?

    The Jesus Myth
    Pastor: "It is also important to understand that the writings of the New Testament span a period of over fifty years with the book of Revelation being written at the very end of the first century. This being the case, it is hard to imagine that there could have been a collaborative effort in creating the books of the New Testament."

    Firstly, the NT writings vary from the 50s to possibly as late as 150 or so, long after 1st century.
    Secondly - "a collaborative effort " ?

    The Jesus Myth theory does NOT argue this, or that the evangelists were liars. This is a strawman and all to common from Jesus Myth critics. I will give a overview of the Jesus Myth argument below in Part B.

    Human realism does not make a story true
    Pastor : "Few biographies portray the flaws of their leading characters with such candor. "

    The Gospels are not biographies, they are religious stories. There is no evidence of candor - we have no outisde information to compare it with, and the Gospels contain events which in any other book would be obviously considered NOT true (the miracles.)

    Pastor : "Consider the following. At one point or another, the gospels portray Jesus' disciples as skeptical, faithless, selfish, argumentative, fearful, and even defiant.The scriptures even record an event in which Jesus rebuked Peter with the words, "Get thee behind Me, Satan!" (Mt. 16:23). Further, the gospels chronicle events in which the disciples fought among themselves for personal power (Lk. 22:24), fled for their lives in terror (Mt. 26:56), openly forsook Jesus (Mt. 26:73-74), and even considered abandoning the faith altogether (Jn. 21:3). Clearly, the gospel writers were not afraid to expose character flaws in their leading figures.Additionally, the gospels portray Jesus as a man of limits. At one point, He is shown in a state of such fatigue that He remains sleeping in a boat during a violent storm (Mt. 8:24-26). In another event, Jesus is shown needing to lay hands upon a man a second time in order to heal him (Mk. 8:22-25). Jesus was even portrayed as vulnerable when at the end of His life, He appealed to the Father to remove "the cup" containing the horror of His impending crucifixion (Lk 22:42).Throughout the scriptures, Jesus is shown displaying a variety of emotions such as love, joy, anger, disappointment, agitation, and reflection. Whether it was His sadness when lamenting the plight of Jerusalem (Mt. 23:37), His rage at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day (Mt. 23), or His tenderness when receiving little children (Mk. 10:14-16), Jesus was portrayed as what He truly was - REAL."

    A story that shows some realistic human flaws and emotions must be really TRUE ?
    Any good story is written to seem realistic -
    Rhett Butler has human flaws and emotions - does that make Gone With the Wind true?
    Apuleius has some very human and silly moments - does that make The Golden Ass of Apuleius true?
    Frodo Baggins is a very real character with believable emotions and flaws - does that make the Lord of The Rings true?
    The argument that a story with believable characters and real flaws and emotions proves a story is TRUE is obvious nonsense.

    Mind you - lets not forget that many elements of the NT stories are transparent fiction - weird miracles, darkness at noon, dead saints wandering the streets, crazy happenings at the tomb, and characters who show completely UN-believable behaviour (in G.Mark the disciples are dullards who don't understand anything Jesus says, even when he spells it out.) Much of the NT sounds just like Aesop's fables or other ancient myths - entirely UN-believable in many places.

    Pastor's entire argument here seems to be : "gee, the Gospels seem so real - they must be true! "
    Faithful assertions, not based on any facts. Essentially, this is a Christian preaching Christian beliefs based on Christian stories - but would Pastor belief a Mormon preaching Mormon beliefs, based on Mormon stories?

    Pastor : "It is hard to imagine any biographer being more objective in his account of a person's life than the gospel writers were when recounting the life of Jesus."

    Pastor's beliefs notwithstanding, the Gospels are not biographies, they are religious mythology. How on earth can they be "objective" when we have no outside evidence to compare it with? The only evidence we have is the stories themselves, which are full of all sorts of un-believable legends.

    ACTS (and G.Luke)
    Pastor : "There is an important fact that is ignored by most critics of the New Testament. This fact is that at least one New Testament book was authored by a professional writer who was commissioned to chronicle the history of the early New Testament Church.The book of Acts is a legitimate and highly credible history of the Church during the first century. It was written by Luke, a Gentile convert. Luke was sponsored to write this history by a man named Theophilus. Although little is known of Theophilus, most authorities believe he was a high-ranking Roman official. Luke introduces the book of Acts as well as his gospel with a tribute to this man."

    Acts is not ignored - it is one of the most studied and commented upon books in the bible, vital to our understanding of early Christianity. G.Luke and Acts are generally considered together, being pretty certainly two volumes of one work by one author.
    we have NO idea who A.Luke really was, as both G.Luke and Acts are anonymous - the attribution to Luke the physician in Colossians is later church tradition. Yes, the work addressed to Theophilus (it is not sure who this is, the only one we know is late 2nd century), which does not in any way prove anything - books were often addressed to someone - so what? There is NO evidence A.Luke was a professional writer, and NO evidence that he was commissioned to write a history.

    it is quite clear that G.Luke/Acts was not written by an apostle in the early period, e.g. -
    "Nevertheless it is clear that neither the two books in their totality, nor even the prologues, can be attributed to a writer of apostolic time and, consequently, not to Luke." (Alfred Loisy, The Origins of the NT, Chapter VI, pg.142-3)

    Most importantly, G.Luke, like G.Matthew, copies a great deal, word-for-word, from G.Mark - not the action of an eye-witness. Stories and sayings similar to G.Luke (or perhaps an early version of the Gospel) was quoted by Christian writers, BEFORE it was given a name - e.g. Clement of Rome, Aristides, Marcion, and Justin. The Gospel of Luke is simply another case of an originally anonymous Gospel, eventually accepted by Christian as authoritative and eventually attributed to Luke.

    Luke/Acts are late documents
    Some of the reasons why G.Luke/Acts is dated fairly late, and NOT by someone who knew Paul, are as follows :
    * Its infancy interest, pushed back to the birth of John. One is reminded that in the Book of James (the Protevangelium), half a century or more later, this infancy interest is pushed still farther back to the nativity of the Virgin herself.
    * Its resurrection interest, including a whole series of appearances, visits, eatings, penetration of locked doors, protracted through forty days. This is in marked contrast to Matthew's (which was probably also Mark's) account and is much nearer to the second-century representations of Jesus' long post-resurrection conversations with the apostles, e.g., the Epistle of the Apostles, ca. A.D. 150.
    * Its doctrine of the holy Spirit, which pervades both volumes. The holy Spirit is to come over Mary, 1:35; it fills Elizabeth, 1:42, and Zechariah, 1:67. It came down upon Jesus, 3:22; he was full of the holy Spirit, 4:1. It is on almost every page of the Acts, the whole narrative of which seems to float upon a sea of it. Luke evidently has a definite and developed doctrine of the holy Spirit, which was the fruit of no little religious reflection.
    * The interest in punitive miracle, a feature conspicuous in the Elijah-Elisha cycles of Kings but wholly wanting from Mark and Matthew. It marks the opening scene of Luke (Zechariah is struck dumb) and plays a prominent part in the Acts: Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead, 5:5, 10; Elymas is struck blind, 13:11; compare 12:23. In this trait we are on our way to the fondness for punitive miracle in the infancy gospels of the second century, which also found it edifying, e.g., the Gospel of Thomas.
    * The passing of the Jewish controversy; this interest, so acute in Paul's day, has become a dead issue when Luke is written.
    * The interest in Christian psalmody. Luke preserves hymn after hymn, 1:42, 46, 68; 2:14, 29-the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Nunc Dimittis. Nowhere else do we find any such early interest in Christian poesy, except in Eph. 5:14 and in the arias, choruses, and antiphonies of the Revelation. Already that liturgical endowment, which Walter Pater once said was one of the special gifts of the early church, was beginning to appear.
    * Church organization; the Twelve appear in the Acts as a sort of college of apostles, stationed in Jerusalem, watching over the progress of the Christian mission. With them are associated the elders, 15:2, 6, 22; 16:4, etc. Paul is represented as appointing elders in each church, 14:23, so the presbyteral organization is recognized as established, though Paul himself in his list of types of Christian leadership in I Cor. 12:28 says nothing about elders. The office of deacon is also traced back to the earliest days of the church and given added dignity and luster by the story of Stephen, chapters 6, 7. Luke's account of Ananias and Sapphira shows an interest in church funds when he wrote the Acts, and the story of Dorcas sewing for the poor, 9:39, also points to a considerable degree of organization. The point made here is not as to the fact of such embezzlement or charitable doings in the church, but of the writer's interest in recording them. Here belongs also the emphasis upon baptism as a condition of church membership, forgiveness, and salvation that is so characteristic of the Acts. 2:38; 8:12, 36; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15, 33.
    * The Speaking with Tongues; this was simply ecstatic utterance with Paul, I Corinthians, chapters 12-14, but in the Acts it has come to be a miraculous endowment with the power to speak foreign languages, Acts 2:4-11.
    (The alleged silence of Luke about Paul's death)
    * Paul is dead; that he is still living when the curtain falls upon the Acts in 28:30, 31, is outweighed by his farewell to the Ephesian elders, 20:25, with its solemn declaration that none of them would ever see his face again, underscored by its repetition in 20:38: "they were especially saddened at his saying that they would never see his face again." Such presentiments are remembered and recorded only when they have proved true.
    * Paul has risen to hero stature. He is not only dead; he has become a hallowed memory. He is no longer a man struggling and grappling with difficulties, as in his letters; he has become a heroic figure and towers above priests, officers, governors, and kings. This is simply the retrospect of history. Lincoln rose in a generation into a heroic figure, very different from the man his contemporaries knew. The manner of his death no doubt contributed to this, but Paul's death too made its contribution to the reverence in which he came to be held, for he was probably the first of the Roman martyrs. Time has to play its part in the development of these attitudes. The success of the Greek mission naturally drew attention to the figure of the leader of that movement.
    * The emergence of the sects; men of their own number were appearing and teaching perversions of the truth in order to draw the disciples away after them, 20:30. Apart from this reference to them in Acts the first we hear of the sects is in Eph. 4:14; compare 4:3-6, and in the Revelation, where the mysterious sect of the Nicolaitans is mentioned with abhorrence, 2:6, 15. Early in the second century the Docetists appear (cf. I, II John, Ignatius), then the Marcionites and Gnostics, and then the Montanists. Here, again. Acts seems to belong to the time of Ephesians and the Revelation.
    (Edgar Goodspeed, The Work of Luke, pg.192-193)

    Acts MSS highly variant
    Also note - Acts is the single most textually suspect book of the whole NT - it comes it two different versions, one considerably longer (about 10%) than the other. Manuscripts of Acts shows the most variation of ANY NT book.
    Regarding historicity, while Acts is accurate in places, its reliability (and G.Luke) as history is hotly disputed, as there are many apparent errors :
    * Luke 2:2 and 1:5 is wrong about Quirinius,
    * Acts 5:37 is wrong about Judas the Galilean,
    * Acts 10:1 is probably wrong about the Italica cohort,
    * Acts 5:34-39 is probably wrong about Gamaliel's tolerance,
    (from Brown's NT commentary, Doubleday, 1996, page 321)

    Also, Acts does not seem typical of histories of the day :
    "Acts does not match the pretensions of contemporary historiography either in style or subject-matter"
    (Oxford Bible Commentary, OUP, 2001, pg. 1029)

    Of course, some parts of Acts are transparent mythology, such as the Pentecost stories.
    The date of G.Luke/Acts is problematic, scholarly opinion varies from late 1st century to early 2nd century. Of particular interest the argument that Acts depends on Josephus (c.96) :

    to summarise the situation of G.Luke / Acts -
    * it is a late document(s), from decades after the war, by an unknown author, not an eyewitness, who never met Paul,
    * the Gospel is copied largely from G.Mark,
    * MSS of Acts are the most variant of all the NT books,
    * it contains miraculous stories,
    * it is not typical of histories of the period,
    * it has some historical inaccuracies,
    * Paul in Acts does not well match Paul own's writings (e.g. the VARIANT stories about the appearances of Jesus)

    In short, it is a religious hagiography - legends and myths, not history.

    No Witnesses
    Pastor : "With the words "until the day in which He was taken up," Luke is reporting as historical fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Although many skeptics today argue the veracity of such a claim, it would have been almost impossible to rebut it during the first century. According to the apostle Paul, the eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection numbered in the hundreds."

    Indeed - IF 500 witnesses had really left evidence about a resurrection, we can be SURE it would be considered a real event impossible to rebut.
    But we DON'T have 500 witnesses.
    We have the claims of ONE person who saw Jesus in a VISION, saying OTHER people also "saw" Jesus, just like he did.
    This cannot possibly be considered evidence for anything historical.
    What about the Book of Mormon - it starts with the sworn testimony of 12 people who claim to have actually seen the magic "plates" - does that make it true?

    What about the mysterious "ghost" who lead Caesar's army across the Rubicon, actually taking and blowing a trumpet and marching them across - this figure is recorded in the historical accounts of the day, apparently as based on eyewitness accounts, and was seen by thousands or Roman soldiers - does Pastor believe this really happened?

    A claim by ONE person who saw Jesus in a vision, that OTHER people also "saw" Jesus is no proof of anything.

    Pastor: "Clearly, the Bible record was chronicled by men of diverse backgrounds and educational levels. These men were very different from each other. However, despite all these differences, they did have something in common. Virtually every one of them claimed to have known Jesus personally. Therefore, they were speaking as eyewitnesses. Consider the words of Peter, the author of two epistles bearing his name."

    NOT ONE of thse documents claims to be an eye-witness to Jesus of Nazareth -
    * Paul "saw" Jesus in a VISION.
    * the later epistles of Paul were forged long afterwards by an unknown person who never met Jesus, and who makes no claim to have done so.
    * the epistles of Peter were forged long afterwards by an unknown person who never met Jesus, and who makes no claim to have done so.
    * the epistles of John were forged long afterwards by an unknown person who never met Jesus, and who makes no claim to have done so.
    * The Gospels were written decades later by unknown people who never met Jesus and made no claim to have done so (A.Luke does NOT claim to be an eye-witness at all.)

    If you compare Pastor's preaching from what we read IN the NT stories with what the external evidence and expert opinion shows - we see that no Christian writer met a historical Jesus, not one single book in the NT is really by a an actual person who met Jesus of Nazareth.
    Most of the letters, like the Gospels, were written after the war, by people unknown, who were not personally involved - this is clear and present evidence of myth.

    External evidence
    Now we move on the external, historical evidence - I present here a summary of the writer or writing usualy cited as "evidence" for Jesus -

    JOSEPHUS (c.96CE)
    The famous Testamonium Flavianum is considered probably the best evidence for Jesus, yet it has some serious problems :
    * the T.F. as it stands uses clearly Christian phrases and names Christ as Messiah, it could not possibly have been written by the Jew Josephus (who refused to call anyone "messiah"),
    * The T.F. comes in several versions of various ages,
    * The T.F. was not mentioned by Origen when he reviewed Josephus - Origen even says Josephus does NOT call Jesus the Messiah, showing the passage was not present in that earlier era.
    * The T.F. first showed up in manuscripts of Eusebius, and was still absent from some manuscripts as late as 8th century.
    * (The other tiny passage in Josephus is probably a later interpolation.)
    An analysis of Josephus can be found here:

    In short - this passage is possibly a total forgery (or at best a corrupt form of a lost original.)
    But, yes,
    it COULD just be actual evidence for Jesus - late, corrupt, controversial but just POSSIBLY real historical evidence.
    Such is the weakness of the evidence that this suspect passage is considered some of the best "evidence" for a historical Jesus of Nazareth.

    TACITUS (c.112CE)
    Roughly 80 years after the alleged events (and 40 years after the war) Tacitus allegedly wrote a (now) famous passage about "Christ" - this passage has several problems however:
    * Tacitus uses the term "procurator", used in his later times, but not correct for the actual period, when "prefect" was used.
    * Tacitus names the person as "Christ", when Roman records could not possibly have used this name (it would have been "Jesus, son of Joseph" or similar.)
    * Tacitus accepts the recent advent of Christianity, which was against Roman practice (to only allow ancient and accepted cults and religions.)
    * (No-one refers to this passage for a millenium, even early Christians who actively sought such passages.)

    This evidence speaks AGAINST it being based on any Roman records -
    merely a few details which Tacitus gathered from Christian stories circulating in his time (c.f. Pliny.)
    this passage is NOT evidence for Jesus,
    it's just evidence for 2nd century Christian stories about Jesus.

    PLINY the Younger (c.112CE)
    About 80 years after the alleged events, (and over 40 years after the war) Pliny refered to Christians who worshipped a "Christ" as a god, but there is no reference to a historical Jesus or Gospel events.
    Pliny is not evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth,
    just evidence for 2nd century Christians who worshipped a Christ.

    SUETONIUS (c.115CE)
    Roughly 80-90 years after the alleged Gospel events, (about 75 years after the war) Suetonius refers to a "Chrestus" who stirred the Jews to trouble in Rome during Claudius' time, but:
    * this "Chrestus" is a Greek name (from "useful"), and is also a mystic name for an initiate, it is not the same as "Christos"
    * this Chrestus was apparently active in Rome, Jesus never was.
    this passage is not evidence for Jesus,
    it's nothing to do with Jesus,
    it's evidence for Christians grasping at straws.

    IGNATIUS (107CE? 130-170CE?)
    The letters of Ignatius are traditionally dated to c.107, yet:
    * it is not clear if he really existed, his story is suspicious,
    * his letters are notoriously corrupt and in 2 versions,
    * it is probable that his letters were later forgeries,
    * he mentions only a tiny few items about Jesus.
    Ignatius is no evidence for Jesus himself,
    at BEST it is 2nd century evidence to a few beliefs about Jesus.

    QUADRATUS (c.125CE)
    Quadratus apparently wrote an Apology to Hadrian (117-138), but:
    * we have none of his works,
    * it is not certain when he wrote,
    * all we have is 1 sentence quoted much later.
    Quadratus is uncertain evidence from about a century later.

    THALLUS (date unknown)
    We have NO certain evidence when Thallus lived or wrote, there are NONE of Thallus' works extant.
    What we DO have is a 9th century reference by George Syncellus who quotes the 3rd century Julianus Africanus, who, speaking of the darkness at the crucifixion, wrote: "Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse".
    there is NO evidence Thallus made specific reference to Jesus or the Gospel events at all, as there WAS an eclipse in 29. This suggests he merely refered to a known eclipse, but that LATER Christians MIS-interpreted his comment to mean their darkness. (Also note the supposed reference to Thallus in Eusebius is a false reading.)

    Richard Carrier the historian has a good page on Thallus:
    Thallus is no evidence for Jesus at all,
    merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.

    PHLEGON (c.140)
    Phlegon wrote during the 140s - his works are lost. Later, Origen, Eusebius, and Julianus Africanus (as quoted by George Syncellus) refer to him, but quote differently his reference to an eclipse. There is no evidence Phlegon actually said anything about Gospel events, he was merely talking about an eclipse (they DO happen) which LATER Christians argued was the "darkness" in their stories.
    Phlegon is no evidence for Jesus at all -
    merely evidence for Christian wishful thinking.

    VALENTINUS (c.140CE)
    In mid 2nd century the GNOSTIC Valentinus almost became Bishop of Rome, but:
    * he was several generations after the alleged events,
    * he wrote of an esoteric, Gnostic Jesus and Christ,
    * he mentioned no historical details about Jesus.
    Valentinus is no evidence for a historical Jesus.

    POLYCARP (c.155CE)
    Polycarp wrote in mid 2nd century, but :
    * he is several generations after the alleged events,
    * he gives many sayings of Jesus (some of which do NOT match the Gospels),
    * he does NOT name any evangelist or Gospel.
    Polycarp knew sayings of Jesus,
    but provides no actual evidence for a historical Jesus.

    LUCIAN (c.170CE)
    Nearly one-and-a-half CENTURIES after the alleged events, Lucian satirised Christians, but :
    * this was several generations later,
    * Lucian does NOT even mention Jesus or Christ by name.
    Lucian is no evidence for a historical Jesus, merely late 2nd century lampooning of Christians.

    TALMUD (3rd C. and later)
    There are some possible references in the Talmud, but:
    * these references are from 3rd century or later, and seem to be (unfriendly) Jewish responses to Christian claims.
    * the references are highly variant, have many cryptic names for Jesus, and very different to the Gospel stories (e.g. one story has "Jesus" born about 100BC.)
    the Talmud contains NO evidence for Jesus,
    the Talmud merely has much later Jewish responses to the Gospel stories.

    The Acts of Pilate
    Pastor: "Justin Marty wrote about 150 A.D. In one of his writings, he explained that the events of Christ's crucifixion could be validated by the report of Pontius Pilate."
    Justin does refer to such a report or Acts of Pilate, but no such document existed, until forged in two versions in 3rd and 4th century. The story Tertullian tells is patently absurd.

    A fragment which includes -
    "... What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?",
    in the context of ancient leaders like Socrates.
    It is NOT at all clear WHEN this MSS was written, nor exactly who it is referring too, but there is no evidence it is Jesus.

    Late 2nd century, Galen makes a few references to Christians, and briefly to Christ.
    This is far too late to be evidence for Jesus.

    In the 3rd century, Origen claimed Numenius "quotes also a narrative regarding Jesus--without, however, mentioning His name"
    This not any evidnce for Jesus, it's late wishful thinking.

    NO external contemporary evidence for Jesus
    Pastor : "Whether it was the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius, Phlegon, Origin, Thallus, Justin Martyr, Josephus, or even Pontius Pilate, the existence of the biblical Jesus is unimpeachable. Jesus of Nazareth did live
    and His life had a powerful impact on the course of history."

    When the evidence of these writers is actually checked we fid that -
    * none are contemporary, all are from after the war(s),
    * some merely repeat 2nd century Christian beliefs (e.g. Tacitus, Pliny, Galen, Lucian),
    * some are from LONG afterwards (e.g. Talmud),
    * some are just 2nd century Christian believers (Origen, Justin)
    * some are total forgeries (Acts of Pilate),
    * some are unrelated or even lost comments made to seem like evidence (e.g. Thallus, Phlegon, Suetonius, Numenius)
    The single credible evidence is Josephus - yet this "best evidence" for Jesus is late 1st century, at least tampered with, at worst a total forgery. Such is the weakness of the case for Jesus.

    Pastor : "It is interesting to note that the one thing enemies of Christianity could have done to completely shut down the Christian movement was never successfully attempted. Understand that the resurrection was the central theme of the Christian church. Therefore, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ could be proven untrue, Christianity would collapse."

    Firstly - many stories and claims and myths and legends date from that era, but were never refuted - so what? Did anyone produce a detailed refutation of the Heaven's Gate cult?
    Does that make their crazy views true ?
    Of course not - fringe cults may be ignored or they may be ridiculed or they may be refuted in detail, or they may not - the lack of a detailed rebuttal does not in anyway make cult views true.
    Anyway - when the Gospels came to prominance in late 2nd century,
    we DO see a detailed rebuttal of the Gospels.

    Celsus wrote a long work "On the True Doctrine" which criticised Christian beliefs in detail. It specifically attacked the Gospels as FICTION based on MYTHS. It also attacked the faked prophesies in the Gospels crafted from the Jewish scriptures, but often by corrrupting the original.
    This work was so damaging to the forming church that is was eventually ordered burned, and every copy was lost to history. Fortunately this book was so highly critical of Christianity that it drew the angry attention of several Christian writers who wrote length detailed rebuttals of it, often quoting whole sections of it in their works. We can thus recover the bulk of Celsus' attack from these Christian quotes.

    Celsus : "Clearly the christians have used...myths... in fabricating the story of Jesus' birth...It is clear to me that the writings of the christians are a lie and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction"

    Other writers refuted Christian claims -
    Porphyry wrote in Against the Christians, early 3rd century : " the evangelists were inventors – not historians or eye witnesses to the life of Jesus. Each of the four contradicts the other in writing his account of the events of his suffering and crucifixion "

    Julian wrote in Against the Gallileans, 4th century : "why do you worship this spurious son...a counterfeit son", "you have invented your new kind of sacrifice " "Matthew and Luke are refuted because they disagree concerning the genealogy"

    The kind of words used by early writers to refer to Christians and Christianity include :
    "fables" "lie" "myths" "superstition" "empty rumour"
    "alter the originals over and over" "invented"
    "base and ignorant creed making fishermen"
    "blasphemy" "spurious" "counterfeit" "contradicts"
    "refuted because they disagree"

    There is no doubt from this that early Christianity was dismissed as a cult based on lies and myths. Yet somehow apologists like Pastor pretend that these writers are supporting the veracity of the resurrection! What nonsense!

    Pastor : "Secular history goes into considerable detail when describing Jesus Christ and His effect on history. The following are twelve aspects regarding Jesus Christ and Christianity that are addressed in the secular historical record."

    Absolutely totally 100% wrong, as has been shown above.
    Secular history does NOT describe Jesus Christ in the sense that he is recorded as a player in history - that is NOT what the documents detailed above show. On the contrary what we see is LATER writers mentioning Christians and their views, usually in totally CRITICAL and SCEPTICAL ways.

    Yet faithful Christians still trot out this tired old list of "evidence for Jesus", even though the whole pack of cards has serious problems in every single case, with many being misunderstanding at best, or deception at worst (e.g. Suetonius, Thallus and Phlegon - none mention Jesus at all, but they are always on the list.)

    Pastor : "However, history records no legitimate attempt to invalidate the resurrection with credible evidence. This is because there was no credible evidence to prove Jesus was not resurrected as the scriptures claim."

    Rubbish, this was partly because Christianity was originally seen as just another wacky cult which took a long while to be noticed. It was dismissed as "ruinous superstion" by Pliny and Tacitus, it was ridiculed as being a cult of easily lead fools (Lucian). And there WERE specific refutations of Christian myths :
    Celsus explicitly attacked the Gospels as "FICTION" .. "based on MYTHS".
    Porphyry attacked the evangelists as "INVENTORS - not historians"
    Julian derided the Christians as "INVENTING" a "SPURIOUS" son of god.
    The church did their best to DESTROY all these critiques, and did such a good job that faithful apologists like Pastor have never even heard of them.

    Pastor : "Clearly, the voice of both the secular and New Testament records speak dynamically regarding a real biblical Jesus. His life and teachings are thoroughly documented by eyewitness testimony as well as the historical record of objective and highly credible sources."

    Totally false.
    What the evidence shows, as presented above, makes it clear that both -
    * the CHRISTIAN record has NOTHING written by an eye-witness to a historical Jesus,
    * the historical record has NO contemporary evidence of a historical Jesus.
    Instead we have a spiritual being Iesous Christos, whose myth grew in stages, and then after the war(s) began to be seen as a historical figure, this caused a battle of opinions, the literalist won, then opposing views were erased.

    OT Prophesies
    Pastor : "However, there is an even more dramatic historical record regarding this man called Jesus. In addition to the 27 books of the New Testament that reflect back on Jesus' life, there are 39 books of the Old Testament which describe Jesus' life virtually centuries before He lived. These books describe in extraordinary detail the biblical Jesus.Included in their chronicle is a detailed description of His lineage, His birth, His teachings, His miracles, His betrayal, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension to heaven. These prophecies span the pages of the Old Testament from the third chapter of Genesis to the third chapter of Malachi. There are virtually hundreds of prophecies regarding Jesus Christ. Consider the words of Sidney Collette."

    Well, lets be frank - professionals and scholars do not believe this prophecy nonsense for a moment. In adult circles believing in prophesies is like believing in miracles, or angels and demons, or Santa Claus. Even the early critics of Christianity could see the prophesies were nonsense (the birth prophesies were rubbished by early critics such as Celsus.)
    (Furthermore, the people who wrote the Jewish scriptures, and who still base their worship on it today - are absolutely clear that NONE of these passages are really a prophesy of Jesus. Christian apologists must then claim the Jews are wrong about their own scriptures.)

    Lets have brief look at some of these "prophesies" anyway :

    Jer. 23:5-6
    He would be a descendent of David.
    Lk. 1:32-33

    The Gospels were crafted from the text of the OT, of course they show echoes of it. G.Mark wrote the Gospel using elements of the suffering servant and messiah figures to build his character Jesus - of COURSE it shows echoes of the book it was crafted from.

    This is no more miraculous than finding elements of the Lord of The Rings in the earlier The Hobbit. Let's see - in The Hobbit it says (i.e. it "prophesies") that a wizard will defeat the dark lord; and lo and behold! in the Lord of The Rings, we see the wizard DOES defeat the dark lord! A prophesy has come true! Gandalf is Lord! What nonsense.

    Mal. 3:1
    He would be preceded by a forerunner (John the Baptist).
    Lk. 1:17
    Gee - how many people in history have ever had forerunners? Ridiculous.
    Isa. 7:14
    He would be born of a virgin.
    Mt. 1:23

    A true classic - Isaiah 7:14 is NOT a prophetic passage at all. It tells the story of a king threatened by an enemy, and it happens his wife is pregnant at the time. The king is promised that he will soon soon defeat his enemies, before the child is born safely. And that is just what happens - the battle is won, the child is then born in peace (whcih is what happens in Isaiah a bit later). It has NOTHING to do with a future prohecy, its a completely false claim. But, somehow few Christians seem to have noticed this - clear evidence that the typical Christian apologist rarely checks the facts, even when it merely means reading the OT, part of their own bible!

    Mic. 5:2
    He would be born in Bethlehem.
    Mt. 2:5-6

    Another classic - this passage talks about a CLAN "Bethlehem Ephrathah", NOT a village called "Bethlehem" - it says nothing about a prophesy. But once again, few Christians seems to have ever bothered to read the passage

    Jer. 31:15
    Children would be slaughtered.
    Mt. 2:18

    Wow! That is so rare and specific isn't it! Children were hardly ever slaughtered, were they?! What nonsense - in those barbaric times this happened often (sadly, it is still happening today in Palestine and Iraq.)
    In short, none of these alleged "prophesies" stand up to scrutiny.

    Pastor : "Was Jesus of Nazareth a real historical figure? Did He walk the countryside of Palestine and preach a powerful message about a magnificent Kingdom? Was He crucified and more importantly, was He resurrected from the dead as the scriptures declare? Further, is the impact of Jesus' life thoroughly documented in both the biblical and historical record? The answer to these questions is categorically yes! Jesus lived and taught just as the biblical record asserts. Despite what critics might claim, the proof of Jesus' existence is overwhelming. It is interesting to note that there were also critics in Jesus' time who rejected Him and His gospel. This was done despite the mountain of evidence that proved He was in fact the promised Messiah."

    Well, Pastor preached many claims about Jesus, but we saw none of his claims really stand up to scrutiny -
    * The NT is not the "best attested" writing from antiquity,
    * even if it was, it says nothing about the truth of the stories,
    * not one single Christian writer was an eye-witness to any Jesus,
    * the Gospels stories are lifted from the Jewish scriptures,
    * they contain miracles and magic which are not believed as true in any other book,
    * the Gospels and epistles tell different stories about Jesus,
    * most of the NT (and many subsequent writings) were FORGED by unknown hands,
    * no contemporary writer mentions Jesus,
    * all alleged "evidence" for Jesus is late, and/or suspect, or not about Jesus at all
    In short, Jesus shows all the signs of being a myth, but Christian apologists continue to ignore the evidence of scholarship and just prech the stories themselves - which have no more veracity than Aesop's fables.

    Quentin David Jones
    24th January 2005

    Part B - The Development of the Jesus Myth
    The Jesus Myth theory can be seen in terms of the stages of evolution of Jesus Christ of Nazareth -

    Stage one - spiritual Iesous Christos
    * INITIALLY PAUL describes Iesous Christos as a purely spiritual being who exists on a higher plane, but who acts inside every human, perhaps somewhat like what we might now call a "soul" (Christ in you, the hope of Glory.) Paul mentions no earthly Jesus of Nazareth, no miracles, no empty tomb, no dates, names places, events - merely a few spiritual references.
    Paul is religious allegory - our soul (the Christos) is pinned (crucified) to the body (the cross) by the passions of the flesh, and raised back to heaven after we die (we live Christ's death, Christ lives our death.)

    * THEN OTHER LETTERS follow after Paul's (but before the Gospels arise) - anonymous (Hebrews), forged in Paul's name, or forged in the name of characters from Paul's letters.
    Notably, Paul, like all the 1st century writings, show NO mention of a historical Jesus of Nazareth as found in the Gospels - there is no 1st century mention of any of these major elements of the Gospel story - the early Christians just did not know anything about the following -
    * Joseph and Mary and Bethlehem and Nazareth
    * the birth stories, the Magi, the Star, the flight to Egypt
    * Herod and the massacre of the infants
    * John the Baptist or the baptism in the Jordan
    * the trial before Pilate (and Herod?)
    * the raising of Lazarus or any miracles of Jesus
    * the cleansing of the temple, the trumphal entry
    * the Sermon on the Mount or any teachings by Jesus
    * the passion of Jesus, or the transfiguration
    * the twelve disciples or Peter and "the keys"
    * the denial by Peter, or betrayal by Judas
    * the empty tomb !!

    You can see how the early Christians show no knowledge of Gospel stories in overview in my table here:

    NONE of this is mentioned until the 2nd century, just like there is NO mention of the Gospels -
    from late 2nd century on, we see an enormous explosion in writings by many Christian authors which explain, and exposit and exegise the Gospels - whole libraries of books endlessly quoting and preaching from the Gospel and debating the finiest minutiae of every detail of every incident in Jesus' life.

    The argument that these issues were NOT mentioned because they were so well-known is obvious nonsense - these details were even MORE well known in later centuries when we see them repeated endlessly at vast length. Every later writer (who obviously have heard of the Gospel Jesus) quotes and argues from the Gospel stories frequently. The only possible explanation for the total silence of the 1st century Christian writers about the Gospel stories thet are the basis for Christianity now, is that they had NEVER HEARD of them.

    For example there are MANY occasions in Paul where we WOULD EXPECT Paul to mention the live and teaching when the context is entirely appopriate for a mention of Jesus or his teachings -
    * 1 Thess 4:9 - Paul tells Christians to "love one another" WITHOUT a mention of Jesus! Even though Jesus supposedly taught exactly that.
    * 2 Cor. 6:1 - Paul talks about the the "day of deliverance" (quoting Isaiah 49:8) without the slightest mention of what Jesus had said on this very important topic!
    * Rom. 6:2 - Paul talks of Christian baptism - NO MENTION of the baptism in the Jordan.
    * Rom. 133 - Paul encourages Paul to trust the authorities - yet those authorities allegedly just crucified his God!
    * 1 Cor. 1:7 - Paul talks of the coming of Christ in the future tense - no hint he had recently been.
    * Rom. 6:17 - Paul talks of Christian teaching being "handed on to you" - no mention here of Jesus' teachings.
    * Gal 2:14 - Paul talks about the Jewish laws and the Gentiles - no mention of what Jesus had allegedly said on these very subjects.

    See Earl Doherty's list of 200 silences in Paul for a detailed analysis of this problem -
    (internal URL, pardon me

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    The WAR, part1
    * 70CE and after - the Romans get fed up, Jerusalem is largely destroyed, many Jews killed or dispersed.

    Stage 2 - the Gospel appears
    * the Gospel (of Mark) appears, anonymous, just after the war - a masterpiece of spiritual literature, synthesizing a grand new version of the heroic son-of-god story so well known to so many cultures through Osiris, Dionysius, Attis, Adonis, Iasius but now cast into a Jewish milieu by melding key elements from the ancient Jewish writings. We know how the religious impulse in humans just loves to find old books to mine for their cherished beliefs - so in those times the Jewish scriptures represented a newly discovered, yet an ancient and deep and rich spiritual literature to peoples bored with crude Homer and jaded with Rome's silly superstitions. Mark's story was set in the perfect heroic past - not long ago, just before the war, yet cast in the epic ancient context of the Jewish scriptures. Mark uses the figures mentioned in Paul as his actors - Peter, John, James.

    And G.Mark is a work of genius, it creates entire speeches and characters and events from the whole cloth of the Jewish writings AS WELL as elements of Paul's letters - he lifts the suffering servant and messianic figures to craft a new son-of-god who transcends the older figures by expressing the myth with a new sense of depth, by capturing many of the spiritual issues and themes which were important to seekers of the day. G.Mark also appears to specifically echo Homer by episodes in which Jesus mimics actions of Odysseus but is found to be superior in some way. We also see literary structures (called after X in Greek) in the form : ABCDcba and other signs of carefully crafted literature. There is also an echo of a popular new genre just developing in that period - the novel - a popular theme in which was an empty tomb climax!
    G.Mark is a great work - but note that it is not at all clear what the intended GENRE of the document really was in the unknown author's mind.

    The War part2
    * 132CE and after - the Romans finish the job, Jerusalem and Judea and the Jews, are mostly destroyed by the end of the 2nd phase of the war.

    Stage 3 - OTHER Gospels appear, the 2nd century battle for Spiritual vs Literal Jesus

    After G.Mark other Gospels appeared - many (dozens) and varied - some later become our accepted four, some are gnostic works, and some are of even other types and quality and authorship.
    During the formative period we see two totallly opposite poles of belief appear -
    1 - the early gnostic and/or esoteric camp - who argue Iesous Christos was a spiritual being, or a phantom, or something not physical and historical (Paul and Paul2, Basilides, Valentinus etc.)
    2 - the later literalist who argue that Jesus was "truly" crucified under Pontius Pilate etc. as a historical event - starting with the suspect letters of "Ignatius" probably around the time of Papias.

    Fierce battles of dogma raged between the two camps over the 2nd century, critics disagreeing with even the core elements of the Christian stories :
    * 2 John, Polycarp, mention Christians who did not accept Jesus Christ came "in the flesh",
    * Timothy warning against the fables of genealogies,
    * Marcion denied Jesus was born of Mary,
    * gnostics such as Basilides and Bardesanes claimed Jesus was a phantom or spritual being,
    * the docetae argue Jesus was an illusion,
    * Barnabas denies Christ was "son of David",
    * Heracleon describes Jesus in esoteric terms : The "child" "in Capernaun" is one who is in the lower part of the Middle (i.e. of animate substance), which lies near the sea, that is, which is linked with matter. he child’s proper person was sick, that is, in a condition not in accordance with the child’s proper nature, in ignorance and sins

    We see a very odd case - church father Minucius Felix explicitly claims Christians do NOT worship a man crucified, ridiculing the whole thing along the idea that gods could become men. This appears to be a Christian who has heard of the Gospels stories and is EXPLICTLY DENIEING they are Christian beliefs. A church father explicitly denying the Gospel stories !
    His writing is as clear as mud to a blind man, probably why it escaped the church censors.
    Felix : "he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men ... when you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross you wander far from the truth", and also: "Men who have died cannot become gods, because a god cannot die; nor can men who are born (become gods) ... Why, I pray, are gods not born today, if such have ever been born?"

    We also see examples of 2nd century Christian writers who discuss Christian beliefs at length but conspicuously fail to mention Jesus -
    * Mathetes to Diognetus - responded to 'close and careful inquiries' and preaches in Neo-Platonic tones of the Logos, his Son, but no time, place, or identity for this incarnation are provided. The name Jesus never appears.
    * Tatian wrote Address to the Greeks - Esoteric Christianity at its finest - neither Christ nor Jesus not Son is mentioned anywhere - the Logos is the emphasis. In Ch.21, Tatian compared Christianity with pagan mythology and wrote: "Compare you own stories with our narratives. Take a look at your own records and accept us merely on the grounds that we too tell stories".
    * Athenagoras of Athens wrote a detailed esoteric Christian treatise On The Resurrection Of The Dead arguing that resurrection is possible (in a non-fleshly body), but without once mentioning the resurrection of Jesus, or even using the words Jesus or Christ ! He also composed In Defense of the Christians - no Jesus nor Christ is mentioned, but the Logos is directly equated with the Son of God.
    * Theophilus (of Antioch) wrote To Autolycus which does NOT mention Christ, nor Jesus.

    Stage 4 - Literalists win the battle
    By late 2nd century the battle is all over bar the shouting -
    * the Gospels are chosen and named,
    * the hierarchy is formed, the literal Gospel Jesus is dogma,
    * the Gnostic and esoteric writers are consigned to the flames,
    * the shouting continues for a couple of centuries - Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, Augustine...

    Stage 5 - Church rises to power out of the ashes of Rome and usher in the dark ages.
    The clear pattern to be seen from this chronology is that the original Jesus was a spiritual figure, and the historical Jesus was a later belief that developed after the war, when everybody was dead and Jerusalem was in ashes.

    The evidence of the 2nd century batttles of dogma emphasizes this - even then there were sceptics and critics who denied that Jesus and his actions were real.

    Quentin David Jones
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  3. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

    Nice - a good read.
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  5. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

    Can you give the source where paul describes Jesus as purely spiritual being ?
    If the source is 'authentic' then how come it could possibly survive the 'forging/purging' spree, for it would somehow indicate that there might not be any historical Jesus ?
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2005
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  7. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

    Iasion, that was a fascinating read (not all of which I've been able to get through yet).

    I'm particularly grateful for you to have finally answered for me the question I posed in this thread. It seems that scholarship has shifted on the dating of Luke in the last 30 years or so.

    There were also several fascinating links in your post. One led me to a essay (surprisingly liberal given and the NET Bible's overall message) about Carston Thiede's book on the papyrus fragment 7Q5 was interesting, because that book appears to have been incorporated whole into Thiede's The Jesus Papyrus (he uses the 7Q5 case to bolster his case that the Jesus Papyrus is also 1st Century but that just doesn't stand up at all - not nearly as well as his argument for 7Q5, which was effectively demolished in the review).

    Your post seems to have singlehandedly answered many of my requirements for good online secular Biblical scholarship and I'm very grateful.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2005
  8. Prester John The voice of Reason! Registered Senior Member

    Excellent posts, showing much of what is taken for granted as true about Jesus and the bible stories has at the very least serious doubts associated with it.
  9. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

    I never realised that the habit of hijacking scripture verses out of context had started so early. Neither had I previously cottoned on that prophecies made about a specific person who does in fact appear, was considered "open-ended" and allowed to stand for Jesus as well as whoever it was talking about in the first place. (I had thought it was only obscure prophecies of a distant Messiah, which turned out to be not so distant, as in Isaiah 7:14). The Judges line is, of course, about Samson, which remains such a well known story (of such Mature stature, if you'll forgive me) that it beggars belief that when Matthew first read out his gospel to his friends, someone didn't say, "Hey, that's Samson you're talking about ... and he wasn't a Nazarene, he was a Nazarite". Nazarites were celibate hermits who dedicated their lives to God - Judaic monks, in other words.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2005
  10. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

    itopal I'm not sure you understood my post at all - which is my fault, obviously. Everything I said in my post I was attributing to Matthew. It was Matthew who stated that Jesus being a Nazarene "fulfilled scripture", when the scripture was obviously about Samson. It's not as obvious in Isaiah, but Isaiah's reference to Immanuel is not necessarily anything to do with a future king at all - even a successor to Ahaz. It's a child who's about to be born (c. 700 BCE). But this prophecy (which came true as soon as Chapter 8 or 9 of Isaiah) is also held to be open-ended.

    Neither was I accusing you of "hijacking scripture" - I was accusing Matthew of so doing.

    I don't think it was the habit in 1st or 2nd Century Palestine (or wherever Matthew was) for "literary works" to be knocked out on typewriters in a lonely garret, stuffed in an envelope and posted off to a publisher. Were a time machine handy for us to see the composition, I would be very, very surprised if the author of the Gospel of Matthew did not, in fact, read it out to friends (possibly a congregation) prior to it becoming a widespread known piece of work.
    You make it sound like Nazareth didn't exist at all, which is not quite true. There is just no evidence for Nazareth to have existed in the first century. You make it sound like the city of Nazareth was founded in order to fill up a hole in the Gospel.
  11. The Devil Inside Banned Banned

    more can be read of the term "nazarene" in the book: "the hiram key".
    the theories presented here are very similar to what is found in that book.

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  12. Iasion Registered Senior Member

    Greetings everneo,

    Thanks for your reply

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    Well, Paul is highly complex and he says many things about Iesous Christos, which can be interpreted in various ways - this is why Paul's writings survived, because they can be interpreted so differently.

    And that is what we see in the early days -

    * Paul is seen as a founding Gnostic by the Gnostics,
    * Paul is seen as the founder of the literalists by the literalists.

    Eventually, the literalists won, and now we see phrases such as
    "in the flesh", "seed of david", "born of woman"
    as evidence that Paul preached a historical Iesous.

    I can not agree - Paul never names the woman, never gives dates, places, names etc.

    My argument is based on two issues:
    1 - Paul frequently talks about Iesous Christos in high spiritual terms

    Col. 2:12 "...having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, "

    Paul was not literally buried with Jesus, this is a spiritual conception.

    Rom. 6:5 "For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. "
    Gal. 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. "

    Paul describes being "crucified with Christ", abd being "part of his resurrection" - this cannot be literal, it shows Paul sees the crucifixion and resurrection as spiritual events of some sort.

    Gal. 5:24 "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. "

    i.e. Paul seems to mean that "to crucify" essentially means the opposite of 'raise' - i.e. to 'suppress' or to 'put down ' or to 'deaden ' - those who have attained to Christ have deadened the flesh with its 'passions and lusts ' :

    Clement of Alexandria clarifies this :
    Stromata 2,20 : ' "For the minds of those even who are deemed grave, pleasure makes waxen," according to Plato; since "each pleasure and pain nails to the body the soul" of the man, that does not sever and crucify himself from the passions. '

    Clement explictly describes the cross in terms of separating the soul from the body :
    For if you would loose, and withdraw, and separate (for this is what the cross means) your soul from the delight and pleasure that is in this life, you will possess it, found and resting in the looked-for hope '

    This interpretation of the cross, meaning to rise out of the body, matches with Gal. 6:14 :
    Gal. 6:14 "But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. "

    2 - Paul fails to mention anythign about a historical Jesus, even when expected

    Paul says nothing about :
    * Joseph, Mary, Herod, Pilate, Nicodemus, Lazarus...
    * the tiumphant entry, the table overturning, the speeches, the sermons
    * the miracles, healings etc.
    * the trial, the empty tomb !

    How could a Christian, preaching the truthfulness of Christian beliefs, NOT mention any of these things?
    Only if he had never HEARD of them.

    I would suggest reading Earl Doherty's Sounds of SIlence, a compelling argument :

  13. Iasion Registered Senior Member

    Greetings Cris, Silas, Prester John.

    Thanks for your comments

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    I hope my posts will contribute to the debate.

  14. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

    By God, no! I have been Silas from well before the appearance of that book (which, incidentally I only read the other day... now beginning to understand all this "goddess worship" stuff on the forums....)

    To quickly summarise the rest: I wasn't trying to imply that the Church is free of fraud at all. Also, we've argued about whether Matthew read out his work far more than my original flippant remark merited - when I said "It beggars belief that someone didn't say..." I actually didn't mean that someone expressing incredulity that Matthew would associate a well known Samson passage with Jesus would mean that Matthew had not done exactly that. If that makes any sense.
  15. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

    Only one addition of perhaps many i could offer. Thw Lords prayer may be a modificaion of asome original but the interesting tghing, and most significant, is that teh parayer was pofferred bY J as a way to pary : In Matthew 6:5-6 J say that praying in public includoing synogogues is a form of hypocrisy. One is showing his piety by the loud serious sounding prayer. J says to pray in your room with the door locked and not to -pray with repetition and then offers "pray thus . . ." and recites the lords prayer. Whatever the modificaions you see the fact is that the prayer was intended to be offerred in the privacy of the individual's locked room. I claim this is the significant departure from the "truth".

    Personally I think the crucification of J was a sham. Pilate declared J innocent of criminal acivity in MMLJ and then suddenly says, effectivley, "Whack him". J lastede 9 hours when the average survival time for his age, health was two-three days. Simon, from the crowd carried the cross to the site. The only nonparticipants mentioned were the "women" " viewing from afar": Mary (Magdallen probably, his wife and Lazarus's sister), Mary, Mary J's mom, James' Mom etc. No multitudes. were present, so fuck hollywood. J was seen the next couple of days eating fish and cheese etc. Some death huh? What is wrong with the picture of a religion based on the death sacrifice of J when his "death " lasted a couple of hours?

  16. Silas asimovbot Registered Senior Member

    That's a thing that I've always found intriguing - even when I believed. (Actually, you know, when I believed I never really believed in the Resurrection.)

    It's of course entirely possible, and given the disparity in all the accounts, overwhelmingly probable (by normal historiographical or judicial standards) that the entire Jesus tale is a fabrication, a mythology....

    Except that it always struck me that there were two anomalies which kind of added up. The obvious one was that Jesus was supposed to have risen from the Dead and been seen again by his disciples (or at the very least to be missing from his tomb). And the other less obvious anomaly is that his long agonising death was in fact considerably less long than those suffered by almost anybody else who was hung on the cross (and in those days there were a lot of them - Crassus crucified 3,000 slaves after the Spartacus revolt). Even when I was quite young I was able to make this connection between Jesus dying several days short of when he was supposed to, and his apparent Resurrection a few days later.

    But if this is the case, then it's almost proof that the events of that Passover actually did take place. For if you were writing a fictional myth about a man who rose from the dead, you would have to make it clear - in the fiction - that he really was dead.

    It may be that the anomaly that reveals how the impossible was achieved also proves the veracity of the story and the reality of the man. And I think that's an interesting thought.
  17. Prester John The voice of Reason! Registered Senior Member

    Does anyone know of a refutation of Earl Dohertys' work? I have seen him summirarily dismissed but thats not good enough, i mean look at the effort put into thoroughly debunking the creationist rubbish, a mere dismissal is insufficient.

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