WHAT ABOUT WRITINGS DURING THE LIFE OF JESUS?
What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what got later written about Jesus but what people did not write about him. Consider that not a single historian, philosopher, scribe or follower who lived before or during the alleged time of Jesus ever mentions him!
Incorrect. All of the New Testament authors lived "during the alleged time of Jesus".
So here we have the gospels portraying Jesus as famous far and wide, a prophet and healer, with great multitudes of people who knew about him, including the greatest Jewish high priests and the Roman authorities of the area, and not one person records his existence during his lifetime? If the poor, the rich, the rulers, the highest priests, and the scribes knew about Jesus, who would not have heard of him?
We don't know who did or did not record the existence of Jesus during His lifetime, since over 99% of the records from that time no longer exist. But what we can say with absolute certainty is that there is no document currently in existence from that era on which we would reasonably expect to see Jesus' name but on which Jesus' name does not appear.
Then we have a particular astronomical event that would have attracted the attention of anyone interested in the "heavens." According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." Yet not a single mention of such a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone, including the astronomers and astrologers, anywhere in the world.
Incorrect. Greek historian Thallus, who wrote in the latter half of the first century, wrote about the darkness. Though his actual account (like 99% of ancient history) didn't survive to this day, it is referenced by Julius Africanus in the 3rd century.
Nor does a single contemporary person write about the earthquake described in Matthew 27:51-54 where the earth shook, rocks ripped apart (rent), and graves opened.
Again, since most accounts didn't survive to this day, we can't say who did and didn't write about it.
Matthew 2 describes Herod and all of Jerusalem as troubled by the worship of the infant Jesus. Herod then had all of the children of Bethlehem slain. If such extraordinary infanticides of this magnitude had occurred, why didn't anyone write about it?
Someone did, namely Matthew. As for why anyone else didn't write about it, I again point out that 99% of writings from that era didn't survive, so we have no idea who did or did not write about it. Besides that, it wasn't "extraordinary infanticides" of any kind of magnitude. Considering the population of Bethlehem and the fact that it wasn't "all of the children" as Jim states, but only male children under two years old, probably no more than twenty kids or so were actually killed. Considering some of Herod's other atrocities, this one isn't particularly significant.
Some apologists attempt to dig themselves out of this problem by claiming that there lived no capable historians during that period, or due to the lack of education of the people with a writing capacity, or even sillier, the scarcity of paper gave reason why no one recorded their "savior."
Or, of course, that most of the records from that time didn't survive, as everyone (but Jim, apparently) agrees. And again, we do have a historian who wrote about it (Matthew), so accepting that this happened isn't a problem. Jim's argument seems to be "one isn't enough, we need more than one!", but the fact is that with most ancient history, we have only one source for most events, as we do for Herod's action here. For many of the events of Jesus' life, we have up to four sources, which exceeds the level we have for most other ancient events.
But the area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records.
True, but they didn't keep them for 2000 years.
Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And as for historians, there lived plenty at the time who had the capacity and capability to record, not only insignificant gossip, but significant events, especially from a religious sect who drew so much popular attention through an allegedly famous and infamous Jesus.
No doubt. But how much of what was written at that time survives to this day? Hardly anything.
Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus who's birth occurred in 20 B.C.E. and died 50 C.E. He lived as the greatest Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the Jewish events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus "the Christ."
Incorrect. Philo actually wrote very little about people from the area of Jerusalem, writing more about Alexandria (where he was from), or writing articles about Jewish law, apologetical works or philosophical treatises. There is no existing writing of his in which we would logically expect to find Jesus' name, but do not.
Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca's (4? B.C.E. - 65 C.E.) writings,
As with Philo, we wouldn't expect to.
nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? - 79 C.E.).
Ditto. Pliny mostly wrote on morality and science.
If, indeed, such a well known Jesus existed, as the gospels allege, does any reader here think it reasonable that, at the very least, the fame of Jesus would not have reached the ears of one of these men?
We don't know if it reached their ears or not. We have little record of what was reaching people's ears in that day. We only know a small bit of what they bothered to write about.
Amazingly, we have not one Jewish, Greek, or Roman writer, even those who lived in the Middle East, much less anywhere else on the earth, who ever mention him during his supposed life time. This appears quite extraordinary, and you will find few Christian apologists who dare mention this embarrassing fact.
There's nothing "extraordinary" or "embarrassing" about it. We don't know who did or did not write about Jesus, since most of what was written at the time doesn't survive to this day, and there is nothing which does survive on which we would reasonably expect to see Jesus' name. Most of what we know about all ancient historical figures comes from writings composed after their deaths.
To illustrate this extraordinary absence of Jesus Christ literature, just imagine going through nineteenth century literature looking for an Abraham Lincoln but unable to find a single mention of him in any writing on earth until the 20th century.
That would depend on whether I'm looking at literature on which I would expect to find Lincoln's name, wouldn't it? If I sorted through a bunch of newspapers from the 1820's, a Sears-Roebuck catalogue, and a Sherlock Holmes mystery and was unable to find a single mention of Lincoln, would that be unusual? Of course not. But it would if I was going through newspapers from the 1860's, of course, it would be. So it's all a question of whether the specific documents I am looking at are ones on which I would expect to see the name.
On the first-century documents on which we would expect to see Jesus' name, those written by His followers and others who would have reason to write about Him (such as Josephus), we see His name. On those on which we would not expect to see Jesus' name, we don't. There's nothing extraordinary about that.
In fact, if I was to take all existing literature known to have come out of the middle east in the first century, I would find few, if any, names mentioned as frequenty as Jesus'. The New Testament, most (if not all) of which was written in the first century, equals about a thousand pages in most Bibles, and mentions Jesus 983 times (in the King James Version). How many other people from that era have 983 mentions of their names in documents written in that century that have survived?
Yet straight-faced Christian apologists and historians want you to buy a factual Jesus out of a dearth void of evidence, and rely on nothing but hearsay written well after his purported life.
The New Testament writings, most (if not all) of which date to the century of Jesus' life, mentioning him almost a thousand times, is hardly a "dearth void of evidence". Again, Jim is, like with the Holocaust Deniers, holding the evidence to such a high standard that it's practically impossible for anything to meet those standards. He's frantically trying to find an excuse to write off the mounds and mounds of evidence.
Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus lived as God on earth, the Almighty gives an embarrassing example for explaining his existence. You'd think a Creator might at least have the ability to bark up some good solid evidence.
Yep, the Gospels do just fine.
Many problems occur with the reliability of the accounts from ancient historians. Most of them did not provide sources for their claims, as they rarely included bibliographic listings, or supporting claims. They did not have access to modern scholarly techniques, and many times would include hearsay as evidence. No one today would take a modern scholar seriously who used the standards of ancient historians, yet this proves as the only kind of source that Christology comes from.
Yeah, it's the "kind of source" that we get almost all ancient history from. Yet modern scholars have no problem accepting such evidence as valid. The only ones who don't are those mining for reasons to mistrust the Gospel accounts.
Couple this with the fact that many historians believed as Christians themselves, sometimes members of the Church, and you have a built-in prejudice towards supporting a "real" Jesus.
Sure, and modern historians have a built-in prejudice towards supposing the Holocaust actually happened.
In modern scholarship, even the best historians and Christian apologists play the historian game. They can only use what documents they have available to them. If they only have hearsay accounts then they have to play the cards that history deals them. Many historians feel compelled to use interpolation or guesses from hearsay, and yet this very dubious information sometimes ends up in encyclopedias and history books as fact.
Obviously. If historians were forced to refuse any historical texts written 'after the fact' or not by eyewitnesses, then we'd be rejecting 99% or more of ancient history, and much of modern history. That may be okay for Jim, but for all reasonable people out there, this would be a travesty.
In other words, Biblical scholarship gets forced into a lower standard by the very sources they examine. A renowned Biblical scholor illustrated this clearly in an interview when asked about Biblical interpretation. David Noel Freeman (the General editor of the Anchor Bible Series and many other works) responed with:
"We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything."
-David Noel Freedman (in Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)
The problem with Jim's complaint is that he isn't considering the reasons for the different standards of proof.
Consider a criminal trial: Let's say that a man is on trial for murder, and if convicted, will spend the rest of his life in prison. An incorrect verdict would mean that either he spends his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit, or that he will be set free after having committed murder. Which is worse? The American legal system considers it far worse (and rightly so) for an innocent person to be incarcerated than for a guilty person to go free. This is the reason for the assumption of innocence until guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now consider a civil trial: Let's say that Tom claims that Jim owes him $2000, but Jim claims he already repaid the debt. An incorrect verdict will mean either that Tom never gets the $2000 owed to him, or that jim ends up paying the $2000 despite having already paid it. Which is worse? Either one is really just as bad as the other, so making a judgment based upon a preponderance of the evidence is a reasonable standard. That's why civil trials tend to allow "hearsay" while criminal trials tend not to.
Now consider history: Let's say there's some evidence that "King Bolitar" existed and some evidence suggesting he was a fictional character. An incorrect verdict would mean that either King Bolitar is stricken from the historical record despite having existed, or that a fictional character ends up added to the historical record. Which is worse? Either one is really just as bad as the other, so a preponderance of the evidence is a reasonable standard. That's why historians allow "hearsay" accounts to be considered as evidence. They are considered as evidence for the Holocaust, as well.
Of course, one of the nice things about history is that a "hung jury" is perfectly acceptible. If the evidence for and against King Bolitar is mixed, there's nothing wrong with historians giving the historical record a "maybe", "probably real" or "probably not real". But if the evidence is not mixed, but consistently and overwhelmingly suggests that a given historical figure actually existed (such as several documents totalling hundreds of pages, all written within the century that the person lived, with consistent authorship credit to the most vital ones), then there is no reason for a "hung jury" or a vote of non-existence.
Only if an individual raises the level of evidence to such an insane degree that any text written after the event happened is no longer acceptible evidence, thus erasing practically all of ancient history from the records, would we have a reason to start doubting such an overwhelming amount of evidence.
The implications appear obvious. If one wishes to believe in a historical Jesus, he or she must accept this based on loose standards.
No, based on reasonable standards. There's a reason that these are the standards historians use.
Couple this with the fact that all of the claims come from hearsay, and we have a foundation made of sand, and a castle of information built of cards.
Except, again, the Gospel accounts aren't all "hearsay", since at least two of the authors are, by all evidence, eyewitnesses to most of what they wrote about. The others are only once-removed from their sources. That's superior evidence to almost all other ancient history.
CITING GEOGRAPHY, AND KNOWN HISTORICAL FIGURES AS "EVIDENCE"
Although the New Testament mentions various cities, geological sites, kings and people that existed or lived during the alleged life of Jesus, these descriptions cannot serve as evidence for the existence of Jesus anymore than works of fiction that include recognizable locations, and make mention of actual people.
Homer's Odyssey, for example, describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. Mythical stories, fictions, and narratives almost always use familiar landmarks as placements for their stories. The authors of the Greek tragedies not only put their stories in plausible settings as happening in the real world but their supernatural characters took on the desires, flaws and failures of mortal human beings. Consider that fictions such as King Kong, Superman, and Star Trek include recognizable cities, planets, and landmarks, with their protagonists and antagonists miming human emotions.
I will agree that mentioning real places isn't undeniable proof of it being non-fiction, but there is no reason to suppose that the Gospel authors were intending to write fiction.
Likewise, just because the Gospels mention cities and locations in Judea, and known historical people, with Jesus behaving like an actual human being (with the added dimension of supernatural curses, miracles, etc.) but this says nothing about the actuality of the characters portrayed in the stories. However, when a story uses impossible historical locations, or geographical errors, we may question the authority of the claims.
For example, in Matt 4:8, the author describes the devil taking Jesus into an exceedingly high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world. Since there exists no spot on the spheroid earth to view "all the kingdoms," we know that the Bible errs here.
Or, more likely, that what was happening here wasn't satan physically pointing down at the kingdoms from the top of the mountain, but giving Jesus visions of what satan was offering him. This is suggested by the fact that Luke states that satan showed him "in an instant all the kingdoms of the world" (Luke 4:5) and that Matthew says satan showed Him "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them". From the top of a mountain, even if the earth was flat, it would be impossible to see all kingdoms at once, since whatever direction you're facing, some would be behind you. Also, if you were high enough on a mountain to see all kingdoms on such a flat earth, how could you see all of their glory? Most of them would be so small you could barely make them out (if at all). On top of that, if the authors really believed that there was a mountain from which you could see all kingdoms, that would mean that the mountain itself could be seen from all kingdoms, and it's illogical that they would know of such a mountain. It's highly unlikely Matthew meant that satan was physically pointing at all of the kingdoms from the top of the mountain.
John 12:21 says, "The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee. . . ." Bethsaida resided in Gaulonitis (Golan region), east of the Jordan river, not Galilee, which resided west of the river.
Incorrect. Bethsaida was on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Gaulonitis was the political region it resided in, but Galilee was the geographical region it resided in. Even Historian Pliny the Elder agreed that Bethsaida was in Galilee.
John 3:23 says, "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . ." Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.
Ironically, there does currently exist a city called "Ainun" (an alternate spelling of "Aenon" - both mean "springs") near Salim, though the city was only given the name "Ainun" rather recently, so it does not reflect on what is written in the New Testament.
The problem here is that critics are only assuming that a region called "Aenon" did not exist at the time. There is no evidence that it did not exist, or any valid reason to assume it did not. If John mentioned the place, then it probably existed. Even Jim agreed earlier that the Gospel authors, though he believes they were writing fiction, were using real places in their stories. There are many other locations that have been mentioned by a single ancient historical source and for which no other evidence remains, yet historians never just assume those locations didn't exist. One mention in one document is usually enough to establish that it probably existed, unless there is other reason to suppose it didn't. In this case, there isn't.
There occurs not a shred of evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Leedom; Gauvin]
Jim goes on for a while here with an "argument from silence", talking about sources that DON'T mention Nazareth as if that proves Nazareth didn't exist. The problem is that even non-Christian historians agree that Nazareth had been around for centuries before Jesus came along: "...archeology indicates that the village [Nazareth] has been occupied since the 7th century B.C., although it may have experienced a 'refounding' in the 2d century b.c. " (John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew--Rethinking the Historical Jesus, (vol 1), p.300-301), Doubleday, 1991.
Nazareth was a very small, insignificant city, that wouldn't be getting frequent mentions in documents from that time. But it had been in existence for centuries before Jesus showed up.
If we have a coupling with historical people and locations, then we should also have some historical reference of a Jesus to these locations and people. But just the opposite proves the case. The Bible depicts Herod, the Ruler of Jewish Palestine under Rome as sending out men to search and kill the infant Jesus, yet nothing in history supports such a story.
Considering that most of the "history" from this time has been lost, this isn't surprising. But there's nothing we know about Herod which suggests he wouldn't go to such extremes to protect himself.
Pontius Pilate supposedly performed as judge in the trial and execution of Jesus, yet no Roman record mentions such a trial.
So Jim thinks we have some sort of huge list of the trials taking place in that area at that time, and...lo and behold!...Jesus' trial isn't among them? No, all records of the sort Jim is describing no longer exist. The records for practically all trials and executions from that time no longer exist.
The gospels portray a multitude of believers throughout the land spreading tales of a teacher, prophet, and healer, yet nobody in Jesus' life time or several decades after, ever records such a human figure.
What is he talking about? Even Jim agrees that the Gospels were composed within "several decades after" Jesus' supposed life.
The lack of a historical Jesus in the known historical record speaks for itself.
What lack? Again, we have several documents, including the four Gospels, all composed within the same century as Jesus' life, mentioning Him by name almost a thousand times. Two of the four Gospels were composed by eyewitnesses, and the other two are only once-removed from eyewitnesses. How does all of this equal a lack?
COMPARING JESUS TO OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURES
Many Christian apologists attempt to extricate themselves from their lack of evidence by claiming that if we cannot rely on the post chronicle exegesis of Jesus, then we cannot establish a historical foundation for other figures such as Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, etc. However, there sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus. There occurs either artifacts, writings, or eyewitness accounts for historical people, whereas, for Jesus we have nothing.
No, for Jesus we also having writings and eyewitness accounts.
Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind.
And how do we know that Alexander was the one who did these things, and not someone else? Do you think he left "Alexander Was Here" messages that survive to this day? No, we know which cities Alexander destroyed and created from historical documents written centuries after his death by non-eyewitnesses.
We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name.
There's a city called Apollo in Pennsylvania, an Apollo Library in New York and a famous building called the Apollo Theater in New York. Do these prove that Apollo existed? No, if a historian is going to give evidence that Alexander existed, he will use the historical record, the writings that exist about him, not the names of buildings, libraries and cities.
We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E.
Those certainly tell us SOME things about Alexander. But still, if we considered those documents to be the only valid evidence of Alexander, then we'd be getting rid of almost everything we know about him. Going strictly by Jim's standards, we'd still know very little about Alexander the Great. Isn't it good that reasonable historians don't use Jim's standards?
Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people. For example, some of the stories of Alexander's conquests, or Nero starting the fire in Rome always get questioned or doubted because they contain inconsistencies or come from authors who wrote years after the alleged facts.
But they don't use these to cast doubt on whether or not Alexander or Nero existed, as Jim would have us do. Doubts about such-and-such event only bring the event itself into question, not the known historical figures involved.
Inventing histories out of whole cloth or embellished from a seed of an actual historical event appears common throughout the chronicle of human thought. Robert Price observes, "Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Cyrus, King Arthur, and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle." [Price, p. 260-261]
I agree that this kind of stuff happens, but it tends to come from people who didn't know the historical figures first-hand or even second-hand. Using Jesus as an example, the Gnostic "Gospels" from the second century contain clearly made-up stories or embellishments, and the authors were not people who knew Jesus or His immediate followers.
Interestingly, almost all important historical people have descriptions of what they looked like.
As do almost all important FICTIONAL people, so how does our lack of a detailed description for Jesus suggest He is fictional and not historical?
In fact, the lack of a detailed description for ancient historical figures is quite common, at least for descriptions we know to be accurate (that is, described by or created by people who would have likely had access to that information).
We have the image of Augustus Caesar cast on denarius coins, busts of Greek and Roman aristocrats, artwork of Napoleon, etc. We have descriptions of facial qualities, height, weight, hair length & color, age and even portraits of most important historical figures.
True, but a lot of these images and descriptions, at least for the ancient historical figures, are based on mere guesswork by artists who never actually laid eyes on their subject, making them equal to artwork or other descriptions of Jesus that cropped up centuries after He walked the Earth.
But for Jesus, we have nothing. Nowhere in the Bible do we have a description of the human shape of Jesus. How can we rely on the Gospels as the word of Jesus when no one even describes what he looked like? How odd that none of the disciple characters record what he looked like, yet believers attribute them to know exactly what he said.
Odd that His followers were more intrigued by what He said than by how He looked? What's odd about that? And, again, a description of Jesus would not be evidence that he is historical and not fictional, since physical descriptions are as common, if not more common, for fictional characters.
Indeed, this gives us a clue that Jesus came to the gospel writers and indirect and through myth. Not until hundreds of years after the alleged Jesus did pictures emerge as to what he looked like from cult Christians, and these widely differed from a blond clean shaven, curly haired Apollonian youth (found in the Roman catacombs) to a long-bearded Italian as depicted to this day.
And we see the same kinds of differences in artwork depicting other ancient historical figures.
IF JESUS, THEN WHY NOT HERCULES?
If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then shouldn't they act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?
We don't. There's no evidence that all four Gospels were "hearsay". And the fact that most accepted historical documents are "hearsay" doesn't mean that historians have to accept all other "hearsay" documents as valid. There are other factors involved in determining the likelihood of their validity, such as their manuscript support, whether there are other accounts that confirm that account, whether the author appears to have been intending to write history as opposed to mythology, whether the author could have personally witnessed, or had access to, the information he is writing about, whether a given document seriously contradicts other accounts, etc.
To take one example, examine the evidence for the Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the "historicity" of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus.
Hardly. How long after Hercules lived did the authors write about Him? What is the likelihood that the authors were there to witness most of the events, or got their information from such witnesses? Do the various accounts of Hercules' exploits agree in major details?
Note that Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. Hercules got born as a human from the union of God (Zeus) and the mortal and chaste Alcmene, his mother.
Alcmene wasn't "chaste". She was a married woman at the time, knowingly committing adultery.
Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules.
A lot of famous people, real and mythical, had people who wanted to kill them. If there were similarities in the way the two figures set about trying to get rid of Jesus, such as if Hera slaughtered a bunch of other kids trying to get to Hercules, then maybe we'd have a comparison here. As it is, it's very weak. Her only attempt to kill him as a child was by throwing a snake into his crib.
Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds.
Jesus didn't travel the earth, and their miracles were completely different in style.
Like Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god.
Jesus was resurrected. Hercules was not. Hercules became a god. Jesus did not (he was a part of God all along). Not much of a coincidence, really.
Hercules gives example of perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.
Some critics doubt that a historicized Jesus could develop from myth because they think there never occurred any precedence for it. We have many examples of myth from history but what about the other way around? This doubt fails in the light of the most obvious example-- the Greek mythologies where Greek and Roman writers including Diodorus, Cicero, Livy, etc., assumed that there must have existed a historical root for figures such as Hercules, Theseus, Odysseus, Minos, Dionysus, etc. These writers put their mythological heroes into an invented historical time chart. Herodotus, for example, tried to determine when Hercules lived. As Robert M. Price revealed, "The whole approach earned the name of Euhemerism, from Euhemerus who originated it." [Price, p. 250] Even today, we see many examples of seedling historicized mythologies: UFO adherents who's beliefs began as a dream of alien bodily invasion, and then expressed as actually having occurred (some of which have formed religious cults); beliefs of urban legends which started as pure fiction or hoaxes; propaganda spread by politicians which stem from fiction but believed by their constituents.
That's basically a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo which, if applied consistently, proves that everything is a myth.
People consider Hercules and other Greek gods as myth because people no longer believe in the Greek and Roman stories. When a civilization dies, so go their gods. Christianity and its church authorities, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations or fear embarrassment against their Christian friends.
The only ones risking their reputations and causing embarassment are those who don't back up their claims with sound historical evidence (i.e. claiming a pre-Christian myth has a comparison to Jesus in a certain detail, but being unable to provide a single version of the story with that detail), or who hold the Christian claims to impossibly high standards while gullibly accepting the Christ-myth claims that lack even a smidgen of evidence. Those who argue that Jesus didn't exist using logic that would prove that practically everyone else in history didn't exist either (as Jim does), or by comparing Jesus to other pre-Christian deities that either didn't exist in mythology (such as Beddru, Mikado, or Gentaut, deities completely invented by Christ-mythers) or didn't, per their pre-Christian mythology, do what the Christ-mythers claim they did (like Horus having 12 disciples or Mithra being resurrected), are very much embarrassing themselves, the same way Holocaust Deniers do when they ignore the evidence for the Holocaust for invalid reasons.
Christianity depends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources.
Except by Jim's logic, anyone who writes about Jesus automatically becomes "unreliable" since they're writing after the fact. The Gospel accounts are, by accepted historical standards, quite reliable.
The faithful want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical "experts" around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic.
Only because the historical evidence is overwhelming, as even the most ardent skeptic can see.
The establishment of history should never reside with the "experts" words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian.
I agree. It should be based on evidence, which it is.
Historical review has yet to achieve the reliability of scientific investigation, (and in fact, many times ignores it). If a scholar makes a historical claim, his assertion should depend primarily with the evidence itself and not just because he or she says so. Facts do not require belief. And whereas beliefs can live comfortably without evidence at all, facts depend on evidence.
I agree. And since the evidence overwhelmingly confirms the historical existence of Jesus, that Jesus lived is a historical fact.
THEN WHY THE MYTH OF JESUS?
Some people actually believe that just because so much voice and ink has spread the word of a character named Jesus throughout history, that this must mean that he actually lived. This argument simply does not hold. The number of people who believe or write about something or the professional degrees they hold say nothing at all about fact. Facts derive out of evidence, not from hearsay, not from hubris scholars, and certainly not from faithful believers. Regardless of the position or admiration held by a scholar, believer, or priest, if he or she cannot support their hypothesis with good evidence, then it can only remain a hypothesis.
True, and the evidence for Jesus is very good, indeed.
While the possibility exists that an actual Jesus lived, a more likely possibility reveals that a mythology could have arrived totally out of earlier mythologies. Although we have no evidence for a historical Jesus, we certainly have many accounts for the mythologies of the Middle East and Egypt during the first century and before that appear similar to the Christ saviour story.
If you know your ancient history, remember that just before and during the first century, the Jews had prophesied about an upcoming Messiah based on Jewish scripture. Their beliefs influenced many of their followers. We know that powerful beliefs can create self-fulfilling prophesies, and surely this proved just as true in ancient times. It served as a popular dream expressed in Hebrew Scripture for the promise of an "end-time" with a savior to lead them to the promised land. Indeed, Roman records show executions of several would-be Messiahs, (but not a single record mentions a Jesus).
Really? What records are those? And do they live up to Jim's standards (that is, were they written before the person was executed, since anything written about a person after his or her death doesn't count, remember)?
We know that the early Christians lived within pagan communities. Jewish scriptural beliefs coupled with the pagan myths of the time give sufficient information about how such a religion could have formed. Many of the Hellenistic and pagan myths parallel so closely to the alleged Jesus that to ignore its similarities means to ignore the mythological beliefs of history. Dozens of similar savior stories propagated the minds of humans long before the alleged life of Jesus. Virtually nothing about Jesus "the Christ" came to the Christians as original or new.
For example, the religion of Zoroaster, founded circa 628-551 B.C.E. in ancient Persia, roused mankind in the need for hating a devil, the belief of a paradise, last judgment and resurrection of the dead.
Except most of those "parallels" only popped up within Zoroastrism after Jesus' time. Zoroastrism prior to the first century told a very different story that had no significant parallels to the Jesus story.
Mithraism, an offshoot of Zoroastrianism probably influenced early Christianity.
No, but it was heavily influenced by it. While Mithraism did precede Christianity and even Zoroastrism (Mithraism began around 1400 B.C.), it changed heavily when it reached Rome in post-Christian times and borrowed several things from Christianity, such as having 12 disciples (prior to Christianity, he had only one or two).
The Magi described in the New Testament appears as Zoroastrian priests.
No, they don't.
The Egyptian mythical Horus, god of light and goodness has many parallels to Jesus. [Leedom, Massey] For some examples:
Horus and the Father as one
In what sense? All parent-child teams could be called "one" in some sense? But does this mean that Horus is the manifestation of his father, Osiris, into a fleshly body? No.
Horus, the Father seen in the Son
Again, it what sense? One that compares to any father-son team, or one that compares specifically to Christianity?
Horus, light of the world, represented by the symbolical eye, the sign of salvation.
Horus was never called "light of the world" in pre-Christian times, and Jesus wasn't represented by a symbolic eye.
Horus served the way, the truth, the life by name and in person
There's no reference to this in Horus mythology.
Horus baptized with water by Anup (Jesus baptized with water by John)
There's no reference to Horus being baptized by anyone in Egyptian mythology.
Horus the Good Shepherd
There's no reference to Horus being any kind of shepherd, good or otherwise, in Egyptian mythology.
Horus as the Lamb (Jesus as the Lamb)
No reference to Horus being a lamb, literally or symbolically, in Egyptian mythology.
Horus as the Lion (Jesus as the Lion)
No reference to Horus being a lion, literally or symbolically, in Egyptian mythology.
Horus identified with the Tat Cross (Jesus with the cross)
Actually, the Tat Cross is identified with the Egyptian god Thoth (aka Tat) and barely figures into the Horus story. Horus certainly wasn't crucified on it or otherwise burdened by it.
The trinity of Atum the Father, Horus the Son, Ra the Holy Spirit
Ra isn't the "Holy Spirit" in any sense, but is the Egyptian sun god, and they weren't a "three-in-one" as the Christian Trinity are, and they were never referred to in Egyptian mythology as any sort of trinity. Besides that, Horus' father was Osiris, not Atum.
Horus the avenger (Jesus who brings the sword)
Except Jesus' sword had nothing to do with avenging anyone or anything, so this isn't a comparison. Jesus' sword was about division, not vengeance.
Horus the afflicted one
Jesus wasn't "afflicted" in any of the same sense as Horus.
Horus as life eternal
Neither Horus nor Jesus are, in and of themselves, "life eternal".
Twelve followers of Horus as Har-Khutti (Jesus' 12 disciples)
In Egyptian mythology, Horus never had twelve disciples. He had four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’). There’s another reference to sixteen followers, and a group of followers called ‘mesnui’ (blacksmiths) who join Horus in battle, but are never numbered.
According to Massey, "The mythical Messiah is Horus in the Osirian Mythos; Har-Khuti in the Sut-Typhonian; Khunsu in that of Amen-Ra; Iu in the cult of Atum-Ra; and the Christ of the Gospels is an amalgam of all these characters."
Earlier, Jim said, "The establishment of history should never reside with the "experts" words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian", yet that is exactly what Jim is doing here. Massey has zero evidence to back up his claims, yet Jim is gullibly using him as a source based on Massey's word alone.
Osiris, Hercules, Mithra, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus and others compare to the Christian myth.
Over 90% of the claims made of comparisons between these figures and Jesus are either comparisons from these figures that arose in post-Christian times, are completely non-existent comparisons, or are so far removed from actual context as to be meaningless. Of the rest, we find only the types of minor comparisons we would expect between any two figures.
According to Patrick Campbell of The Mythical Jesus, all served as pre-Christian sun gods, yet all allegedly had gods for fathers, virgins for mothers;
None of the above had a virgin for a mother.
had their births announced by stars;
None of the above had their births announced by stars.
got born on the solstice around December 25th;
While some of their birthdates may be celebrated on or around December 25th, there's no evidence that any of their birthdates were celebrated as 12/25 in their original mythology. Besides that, there's no evidence that the historical Jesus was born around this time, so it doesn't compare to the historical Jesus at all.
had tyrants who tried to kill them in their infancy;
Of the above, only Perseus and Hercules did. Perseus' grandfather tried to kill him and his mom by setting them adrift at sea while locked in a trunk, and Hera tried to kill Hercules by putting a snake in his crib. That's hardly a comparison to Jesus.
met violent deaths;
Prometheus and Hermes were both immortals who never died in any version of the story. Mithra didn't die in any pre-Christian version of the story, only in post-Christian versions. Perseus and Hercules had many different versions of their stories, and they died in only some of them. Osiris is the only one of the above whose general mythology agreed that he met a violent death. Considering how many figures, mythological and historical, met violent deaths, there's nothing significant about this.
rose from the dead;
None of the above rose from the dead.
and nearly all got worshiped by "wise men"
Worshipped by men who may or may not have been wise, perhaps, but as far as there being stories of a traveling group who visited them when they were one or two years old and brought gifts, that exists only in the Jesus story (note that, contrary to popular belief, the wise men did not visit Jesus on the night of his birth - it was a year or two later, and the Bible says nothing about there being "three" of them, only though they brought three gifts).
and had allegedly fasted for forty days.
None of the above fasted for forty days per their pre-Christian mythology.
The pre-Christian cult of Mithra had a deity of light and truth, son of the Most High, fought against evil, presented the idea of the Logos. Pagan Mithraism mysteries had the burial in a rock tomb, resurrection, sacrament of bread & water (Eucharist), the marking on the forehead with a mystic mark, the symbol of the Rock, the Seven Spirits and seven stars, all before the advent of Christianity.
Nope. While some comparisons to Jesus arose in Mithraism in post-Christian times, the pre-Christian version had none of the above, except for fighting against evil and "rock" symbolism in the idea that Mithra was formed within a rock or a mountain. And besides, in the Gospel accounts, the "rock" symbolism applies primarily to Peter, not to Jesus. And since Peter wasn't formed within a rock, it doesn't compare to Mithra at all. Again, Mithra didn't die in any pre-Christian version of the story, so there could not have been a burial or resurrection.
Even Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. To the Pagans, he wrote: "When we say that the Word, who is first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus)." [First Apology, ch. xxi]
Justin Martyr wasn't acknowledging any specific analogies, but was simply saying that the claims Christians make about Jesus are no more or less miraculous than the types of things followers of Jupiter claimed about his descendents.
Virtually all of the mythical accounts of a savior Jesus have parallels to past pagan mythologies which existed long before Christianity and from the Jewish scriptures that we now call the Old Testament. The accounts of these myths say nothing about historical reality, but they do say a lot about believers, how they believed, and how their beliefs spread.
Again, anyone believing the claims of those who say Jesus has significant parallels to past pagan mythologies is incredibly gullible, taking false claims at face value, not applying even an ounce of skepticism. Those who try to convince others of the claims rely on the lay-person's lack of knowledge about those mythologies. If you know little or nothing about Horus, then you won't know that the claims are false, so you just might be gullible enough to believe that the "comparisons" are valid. If you were to show the list Jim gives above regarding Horus to an actual expert in Egyptian mythology, he would spot the lies immediately.
When confronted with a list like Jim gives above, I challenge you to do what I did.
1) Visit mythology web sites that give the actual story of those deities and read for yourself what they are believed to have done. For example, google the word "Horus Egyptian Mythology" and you'll find several. Or get mythology books from the library or a bookstore and read up on them.
2) Ask those who present the evidence to prove to you that their "comparisons" are something more than just Christ-myth claims. Ask for confirmation of those details from a scholar, book or website that isn't specifically trying to draw comparisons to Jesus.
By the way, I did E-mail Jim asking him to show me such evidence. He wrote me back saying that "there isn't any source that will satisfy" me, even though I specifically said that any version of the story in which those things happen would satisfy me. I guess that means that Jim is acknowledging that there isn't any version of the story in which those things happen. When I tried E-mailing him back, he apparently had my e-mail address blocked. Oh, well. I put our letters atLetters/NoBeliefs.
In the book The Jesus Puzzle, the biblical scholar, Earl Doherty, presents not only a challenge to the existence of an historical Jesus but reveals that early pre-Gospel Christian documents show that the concept of Jesus sprang from non-historical spiritual beliefs of a Christ derived from Jewish scripture and Hellenized myths of savior gods. Nowhere do any of the New Testament epistle writers describe a human Jesus, including Paul. None of the epistles mention a Jesus from Nazareth, an earthly teacher, or as a human miracle worker. Nowhere do we find these writers quoting Jesus. Nowhere do we find them describing any details of Jesus' life on earth or his followers.
False. Paul calls Jesus a "man" in 1 Corinthians 15:47, and John confirms that he was in a fleshly body in 1 John 4:3. They also confirm many of the details of the gospels, including the betrayal during the last supper (1 Cor 11:23), that Jesus was descended from David (2 Timothy 2:8), and the epistles contain many references to His crucifixion and resurrection. The reason they mention far fewer biographical details is that they aren't biographical writings, of course. Yes, you would expect to see a few things mentioned, and, yes, you do.