This page is a response to the website www.JesusNeverExisted.com, created by Kenneth Humphreys.
A visitor asked me to look at this site, and I felt it needed a response. The website's text will be italicized. My responses will not be.
Most of this site's texts are on other pages than the main one, so I will respond to each of the other pages individually. Some of the pages deal with arguments other than the one that Jesus never existed. I may add those pages on later, but for now, I'll just respond to those which argue that Jesus never existed.
He has a whole series of pages arguing against the Old Testament (and its heroes such as Abraham and David), which I would like to get to eventually.
He also has a series on "The Terrible Cost of Christendom", where he essentially ignores all of the good Christians have done throughout history (and the fact that far more people have been persecuted and murdered for being Christian, than for not being Christian), and focuses only on the wrongs they've done, concluding that Christianity is a "worldwide criminal organization", essentially blaming an entire group for the actions of a small minority.
(From the main page)
On this page, Humphreys has some "facts" (I use that term loosely) titled "What They Don't Tell The Children", as if these are things that Christians believe, but decide to keep to themselves. Most of these are things he argues for later on the sub-pages, so I'll deal with them there. Many of these are things that even non-Christian historians (including sources Humphreys uses on his site) don't believe. Others are simply opinions that Humphrey has, opinions that even most non-Christians would disagree with.
He also has a list of comparisons between Jesus and the Sun, which I already have a page about at Copycat/JesusSun
Was there a Jesus? Of course there was a Jesus – many!
The archetypal Jewish hero was Joshua (the successor of Moses) otherwise known as Yeshua ben Nun (‘Jesus of the fish’). Since the name Jesus (Yeshua or Yeshu in Hebrew, Ioshu in Greek, source of the English spelling) originally was a title (meaning ‘saviour’, derived from ‘Yahweh Saves’) probably every band in the Jewish resistance had its own hero figure sporting this moniker, among others.
Perhaps this is true, but what of it? There have been many American war heroes named "George" (Washington, Patton), but this doesn't suggest that others named George didn't exist.
Josephus, the first century Jewish historian mentions no fewer than nineteen different Yeshuas/Jesii, about half of them contemporaries of the supposed Christ! In his Antiquities, of the twenty -eight high priests who held office from the reign of Herod the Great to the fall of the Temple, no fewer than four bore the name Jesus: Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus and Jesus ben Gamaliel. Even Saint Paul makes reference to a rival magician, preaching ‘another Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 11,4). The surfeit of early Jesuses includes:
Humphreys then goes on to describe, in detail, other contemporaries of Jesus who shared his name. I'm not quite sure what his purpose is here. Does having a popular name suggest that one does not exist?
But then with so many Jesuses could there not have been a Jesus of Nazareth?
The problem for this notion is that absolutely nothing at all corroborates the sacred biography (emphasis his).
Humphreys fails to realize that the Gospels are not "a biography", but four separate biographical writings. They corroborate each other, as do the other New Testament texts and many other texts. That's a little like taking all historical documents about, say, Christopher Columbus, and claiming that "absolutely nothing at all corroborates them", since, aside from the documents which do exist, no documents exist.
And besides that, he seems to have little doubt that the above-mentioned Jesus' existed at the time, despite the fact that they have less than 0.1% of the amount of documentation on them that we have on Jesus. Talk about different standards of proof!
He seems to take a mention by the Jewish Historian Josephus as evidence of existence, yet forgets that Josephus also mentioned Jesus at least once, probably twice (one reference Humphreys denies, and one he completely ignores). Josephus referenced Jesus as "the so-called Christ" in Antiquities 20.9.1 (the only person Josephus ever referred to as any sort of "Christ" or "messiah", by the way). There's also a longer reference to Jesus in Antiquities 18.3.3, but this passage has been altered and (while the evidence is against it) some claim that Jesus was not originally mentioned by Josephus in this passage. I discuss the evidence about the Josephus writings at FAQs/Josephus. It should be noted that Humphreys responds to the 18.3.3 passage (but ignores the 20.9.1 passage) at this site, which I will respond to later.
and yet this 'greatest story' is peppered with numerous anachronisms, contradictions and absurdities. For example, at the time that Joseph and the pregnant Mary are said to have gone off to Bethlehem for a supposed Roman census, Galilee (unlike Judaea) was not a Roman province and therefore ma and pa would have had no reason to make the journey.
It is true that Galilee was not, at the time, a Roman province, but it was a tributary under Rome's rule. Its governor was Herod, a Roman. The people were being taxed by the Romans, so a census would be in order.
Even if Galilee had been imperial territory, history knows of no ‘universal census’ ordered by Augustus (nor any other emperor)
First of all, this is an argument from silence. Since we have very few records from this era, a lack of such evidence wouldn't be surprising.
Second of all, there is indeed evidence of such a census (this evidence is from Glenn Miller's page at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/quirinius.html)
1) In 2 B.C., Caesar Augustus wrote: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country" In order for the "entire Roman people" to have given their approval, a census would have been necessary sometime soon before 2 B.C.
2) Orosius also confirmed that Roman records of his day showed that a census was held in roughly 3 B.C.
3) Josephus said, in Antiquities 17:41-45, that an oath of obedience to Caesar Augustus was required in Judea soon before Herod's death.
4) An inscription found in Paphlagonia (eastern Turkey), dated to 3 B.C., mentions an "oath sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts."
5) Moses of Khoren, an Armenian historian, said the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted by Roman agents in Armenia where they set up "the image of Augustus Caesar in every temple.''. The similarity of this language is strikingly akin to the wording on the Paphlagonian inscription describing the oath taken in 3 B.C.
As Miller says, "These indications can allow us to reasonably conclude that the oath (of Josephus, the Paphlagonian inscription, and Orosius) and the census (mentioned by Luke, Orosius, and Moses of Khoren) were one and the same. All of these things happened in 3 B.C."
– and Roman taxes were based on property ownership not on a head count.
Here in America, they don't tax children, yet they're still counted in the census.
Then again, we now know that Nazareth did not exist before the second century.
Humphreys has a whole page about this argument, which is again an argument from silence. But even historians that Humphreys uses as sources for his site disagree with him on this one. He frequently uses John P. Meier as a source for his material on this site. Meier wrote, "...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.
It is mentioned not at all in the Old Testament
An argument from silence. There were many, many towns not mentioned in the O.T.
nor by Josephus, who waged war across the length and breadth of Galilee (a territory about the size of Greater London) and yet Josephus records the names of dozens of other towns.
And there are undoubtedly dozens of others that he didn't mention. Does this mean they didn't exist, either?
In fact most of the ‘Jesus-action’ takes place in towns of equally doubtful provenance, in hamlets so small only partisan Christians know of their existence (yet well attested pagan cities, with extant ruins, failed to make the Jesus itinerary).
More argument from silence.
What should alert us to wholesale fakery here is that practically all the events of Jesus’s supposed life appear in the lives of mythical figures of far more ancient origin. Whether we speak of miraculous birth, prodigious youth, miracles or wondrous healings – all such 'signs' had been ascribed to other gods, centuries before any Jewish holy man strolled about. Jesus’s supposed utterances and wisdom statements are equally common place, being variously drawn from Jewish scripture, neo-Platonic philosophy or commentaries made by Stoic and Cynic sages.
I respond to the "copycat" argument at this site: Copycat.
According to the Biblical account, Pilate offered the Jews the release of just one prisoner and the cursed race chose Barabbas rather than gentle Jesus.
But hold on a minute: in the original text studied by Origen (and in some recent ones) the chosen criminal was Jesus Barabbas – and Bar Abba in Hebrew means ‘Son of the Father’!
"Abba" is a general paternal word, referring to any father figure, not just to the Heavenly one. It's not much different than someone having the last name "Patterson" nowadays.
Are we to believe that Pilate had a Jesus, Son of God and a Jesus, Son of the Father in his prison at the same time??!!
A ridiculous argument. One is a name, and one is a title; one refers specifically to God, one does not.
Perhaps the truth is that a single executed criminal helped flesh out the whole fantastic fable. Gospel writers, in scrambling details, used the Aramaic Barabbas knowing that few Latin or Greek speakers would know its meaning.
Even more ridiculous. If the Gospel authors were just making up names, why would they have given him the first name "Jesus"? Later copies of the Gospels dropped the name to alleviate confusion as to how such a criminal could share a name with our Savior. It was a common name that Barabbas just happened to share.
The New Testament is awash with prayers, hymns, and confessional statements. Tellingly, the early church did not attribute to its superhero the actual words of any of its prayers or hymns (something we might have expected of a great 'Teacher') ... A sole exception appears to be 'Our Father' – but is it??
Jesus did not write any hymns, and all of the prayers uttered by Jesus were indeed attributed to him by the early church. There is no evidence that any of the prayers are later additions to the texts. Had they been a later addition, we would expect to find some copies of the writings that are missing these prayers.
What becomes obvious is that the 'Lord's Prayer' evolved along with the legend of 'the Lord' himself.
In the first four centuries of Christianity references to the 'Lord's Prayer' actually are quite rare. Sure, it is to be found in Matthew chapter 6 and Luke chapter 11.
There you go. Since the evidence strongly suggests that Matthew and Luke were written in the 1st century, and there is no evidence that the Lord's Prayer was absent from the earliest texts, the evidence is that the Lord's Prayer was written in the first century.
But none of the Christian Apologists, for example, even mention it by name!
None of which apologists? There are modern apologists who do mention it by name. Exactly which group of apologists is he talking about? And even if he does have a specific early group of them in mind, so what? Even if the name "Lord's Prayer" was attributed to that specific prayer at a later date, that doesn't suggest that the prayer itself was created later.
Archaeology provides little evidence either: the 'Bodmer XIV' papyrus and another found in Antinoöpolis point to the 3rd or 4th centuries.
Except that no one ever dates a writing from when the earliest copies of the writings show up. If so, we'd be dating much of Josephus' writings to many centuries after he died. Again, the evidence strongly suggests that Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels in the 1st century and that the Lord's Prayer was a part of them at that time.
But a version of the prayer is to be found in a curious early second century document called the Didache. In this tract (aka Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) we find a familiar refrain (chapter 8.2):
'Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord hath commanded in his gospel so pray ye: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil: for thine is the power, and the glory, for ever.'
Proof positive? Not at all – we are talking of a document rejected by the Church in the 3rd century! The twelve apostles mentioned in the full title of the Didache are not twelve flesh and blood disciples of a Jesus but a reference to the twelve sons of Jacob representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Didache does not appear in any Bible because it is quasi-Jewish scripture!! According to this pre-gospel tract, "in the last days" it is "the Deceiver of the world" who is to appear as "the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders " not any divine carpenter (chapter 16.3,4)! The legend is still evolving. In the Didache there is no virgin birth, no ministry, no crucifixion. 'Jesus' gets 4 mentions, to be sure, but each time merely as the bringer of some knowledge of 'the Lord' (that is, God).
Yes, the Didache was rejected as inspired by the church. But he seems to avoid the fact that a reference to the Lord's Prayer (and some other teachings of Jesus) in it does prove that the Lord's Prayer existed in the 2nd century. "Rejected as inspired" does not equal "non-existent".
Older Jewish devotions provide even earlier antecedents for the prayer. One version of the Kaddish has it:
"May His great name be hallowed in the world which He created, according to His will, and may He establish His Kingdom … speedily and at a near time."
Yes, the ideas of God's name being hallowed and the longing for the establishment of His kingdom were not ideas that began in the 1st century, nor were the ideas of forgiveness or the doing of God's will. No one is claiming that Jesus was the first person to pray for these things, just that these ideas were organized by Jesus into a prayer that He requested that we pray.
The invocation 'Father' (Abinu or Abba) is common in Jewish liturgy (for example, in the 5th, and 6th benedictions of the Shemoneh 'Esreh – the '18 blessings' – which according to tradition, were composed during the Second Temple period (6th century BC - 70 AD). In Hasidæan circles the invocation 'Our Father who art in heaven' was not unusual.
Given. Is anyone claiming otherwise?
The first and principal part of the 'Our Father' is a prayer for the coming of the 'kingdom of God', exactly as is the Kaddish.
Not true. The Mourner's Kaddish (the one being referenced here) is as follows:
"Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen."
As you can clearly see, its "first and principal part" (the first thought expressed, and the thought expressed most often) has to do with praising God's name, not with establishing the kingdom of God.
In contrast, the primitive Christian community expressed 'eschatological' hope was for a return of its hero – NOT the advent of the 'kingdom.'
Obviously, both were of interest.
The 'Our Father' expresses nothing of the Christian belief that the Messiah had arrived in the person of Jesus.
Yes, it is quite limited in what it expresses, only being a few lines long. Does Humphreys honestly say that if the Lord's Prayer doesn't express something, then its not a part of Christian belief?
" Give us our daily bread" is taken from Proverbs (30.8) composed between the 6th - 3rd century BC.
" Forgive thy neighbour if he hath hurt thee: and then shall thy sins be forgiven to thee" is taken from Ecclesiasticus (28.2) a 2nd century BC production.
Humphreys is engaging in a straw-man argument here. No Christian argues that Jesus was the first to pray for forgiveness, sustenance, or the establishment of the kingdom.
There is no 'Lord's Prayer' in Mark but 'Mark' (12.29-30) has 'one of the scribes' ask JC 'which is the 1st commandment?' and the godman gives a very Jewish answer:
"The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: (Mark 12 29)"
Building on this micro story, 'Luke' has JC responding to one of his disciples.The fellow had caught sight of Jesus praying (talking to himself if we believe in the Trinity!).
Only if you misunderstand the Trinity. Jesus was praying to God the Father, not to Himself.
'Teach us how to prayer' he asks. The response is the short version of the 'Lord's Prayer' found in Luke.
'Matthew' re-worked Luke's prayer into the longer version known to all.
Except that there is no evidence that Matthew's Gospel simply expanded from Luke's Gospel. In fact, Luke's Gospel was likely written after Matthew's. Matthew himself likely heard the Lord's prayer himself, while Luke heard about it second-hand.
In short, the godman's prayer was derived from older Jewish sources. The 'Our Father' – far from being unique, original or evidence of a godman – is nothing more than a handful of recycled Jewish invocations, composed into a pithy format.
This statement is so full of opinions and straw-men that I'll just let my original statements be the response to it.
'Jesus of Nazareth' supposedly lived in what is the most well-documented period of antiquity – the first century of the Christian era – yet not a single non-Christian source mentions the miracle worker from the sky.
Actually, there are several that mention Him. Notice that Humphreys doesn't give a time frame in which "not a single non-Christian source mentions" Him (and as an aside, where does he get the "from the sky" bit?). The further we get from the 1st century, the more non-Christian sources do mention Jesus. We have Josephus and Tacitus writing about Jesus in the early 2nd century, and many more as we move into the 3rd and 4th.
All references – including the notorious insertions in Josephus – stem from partisan Christian sources
Of course, Humphreys ignored Josephus' mention of Jesus in Antiquities 20.9.1, which no one claims stemmed from Christian sources, and only argues against Antiquities 18.3.3, which is the one in doubt.
(and Josephus himself, much argued over, was not even born until after the supposed crucifixion). The horrendous truth is that the Christian Jesus was manufactured from plundered sources, re-purposed for the needs of the early Church.
It is not with a human being that the Jesus myth begins. Christ is not a deified man but a humanised god who happened to be given the name Yeshu. Those real Jesuses, those that lived and died within normal human parameters, may have left stories and legends behind, later cannibalised by Christian scribes as source material for their own hero, but it is not with any flesh and blood rebel/rabbi/wonder-worker that the story begins. Rather, its genesis is in theology itself.
I'll hold my response until he gives his "evidence" a bit later.
Makes You Think
Many elements of the 'Passion' make no sense historically.
A trial for Jesus, when suspected rebels were habitually arrested and executed by the Romans without trial? Philo of Alexandria (On the embassy to Gaius, XXXVIII) speaks of Pilate's ' continual murders of people untried and uncondemned.'
What's interesting here is that other Christ-mythers have argued the exact opposite! They've claimed that the Romans were far too civilized for Jesus to have gotten such a short and unfair trial as the Gospels describe. But to answer his complaint, the reason Jesus wasn't just arrested and executed was that He had too many followers in the immediate area who would have strongly, and perhaps violently, objected to an execution without any sort of trial.
Looking further, I see that Humphreys later argues against the idea of the persecution of Christians under Rome, saying that Jews were protected under Roman law. Yet here he argues that the idea of a trial for a Jewish troublemaker is nonsense! So not only is his argument the polar opposite of what other Christ-mythers argue, it's also the polar opposite of what Humphreys himself argues later.
And why would the Romans have allowed a convicted felon to be almost immediately removed from his cross and put in a tomb? Crucifixion was chosen precisely to make a public point that the most cruel and humiliating form of punishment awaits those who oppose Rome's will. Roman disposition on this point was perhaps best summed up by Quintilian (AD 35-95, Decl 274) when he wrote that:
"Whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect."
A century earlier, after the 'slave revolt' led by Spartacus, 6,000 prisoners were thus crucified along the Via Appia between the cities of Rome and Cappua, as a gruesome deterrent to further rebellion. Doubtless the corpses were left on their crosses to rot or to provide food for wild beasts and birds of prey.
The Romans had no reason to keep Jesus on the cross any longer than necessary, however. They weren't crucifying Him because He opposed Rome's will, but because the Pharisees requested that they do so. Once Jesus had died, the Pharisees were satisfied. Keeping Jesus up longer would only serve to upset His many followers and perhaps cause a revolt against Rome. When Jesus' followers asked to remove Him from the cross, what possible reason does Humphreys see for them to say no?
But of course if the 'Passion' were really a pageant of a re-born sun-god it makes perfect sense that the 'sacrificed' actor be taken off-stage, subsequently reappearing in a later act, 'reborn'…
That's an awfully big and unsubstantiated "if".
Where Did They Get Their Ideas From?
Asclepius: Believed by the Greeks to have once lived as a man and raised to a god after death. He was fathered by a god – Apollo – but with a human mother (Coronis, a beautiful maiden of Thessaly). He was raised by the centaur Chiron in a cave and from him learned the art of healing. But Asclepius committed the unpardonable sin of raising a man from the dead, enraging Hades for cheating him of dead souls. Zeus, afraid that Asclepius might render all men immortal, slew him with a thunderbolt. Apollo interceded on behalf of his son and persuaded Zeus to make Asclepius the god of medicine. As an immortal, Asclepius was able to cure the sick from the realm of the gods.
Certainly, for centuries, sick people went to the temples dedicated to Asclepius hoping for a cure. It was said that those who came to Asclepius on crutches went away dancing happily. Famous temples of the god were at Pergamum, Epidaurus, Cos and Rome. Full participation in the healing program involved sleeping inside the temple compound – in effect, the first hospitals – where 'holistic' treatment involved massage, baths and dream interpretation. Fortunate individuals did indeed experience a "healing miracle" and gave testimony to the cure effected by this Greek god.
The early Christians attacked the cult of Asclepius with great venom, indicating a close rivalry between the two cults and a certain embarrassment among Christians repeatedly being told that Asclepios had already done all of Jesus' tricks and had done them better
I'd love to see Humphreys' source for the idea of Asclepios' followers repeatedly telling Christians that Asclepios had already done all of Jesus' tricks and had done them better, or for his having done all of Jesus' tricks in general. Yes, it is true that Asclepios was credited with having raised one person from the dead (through the blood of Medusa, not through faith as Jesus did, however). But that's the only "trick" he has in common with Jesus. Asclepios did not heal through faith (he healed through medicine), or walk on water, or turn water into wine, or prophecize his own betrayal, or return from the dead, or any other of Jesus' tricks. A handful of similarities means little when we see the vast differences between Asclepios and Jesus.
Humphrey mostly uses this page to make a repeated "argument from silence" claiming that Nazareth did not exist in Jesus' day. As I mentioned earlier, his own sources disagree with him on this. Again, I offer this: "...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. Meier is an archeologist who Humphreys lists as a source on several of his pages. And this page: http://www.nazareth2000.gov.il/s_tra.htm is more specific about the evidence, saying Nazareth was founded between 600-900 B.C. and has been consistently inhabited since about 200 B.C.
None of this would matter of course if, rather like at the nearby 'pagan' city of Sepphoris, we could stroll through the ruins of 1st century bath houses, villas, theatres etc. Yet no such ruins exist.
Yes, ruins tend not to exist in cities that have been consistently inhabited for over 2000 years. They're almost exclusively found in cities like Sepphoris which have fallen into disrepair and abandonment.
If Nazareth really had been barely a hamlet, lost in the hills of Galilee, would not the appellation 'Jesus of Nazareth' have invoked the response 'Jesus of WHERE?'
That's essentially the response we see in the Bible. "And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46), and Pilate writing "Jesus of Nazareth" on the cross' title was to downplay His importance by pointing out that He came from an obscure village.
The writer of Matthew (re-writer of the proto-Matthew stories) heard of 'priestly' families moving to a place in Galilee which they had called 'Nazareth' – and decided to use the name of the new town for the hometown of his hero.
Nice theory, but the writer of Matthew (most likely Matthew himself) wrote the Gospel in the 1st century. I would argue that it was written before 67 A.D., but even the majority of non-Christian scholars at least agree that it was written in the 1st century.
The original gospel writers refrained from inventing a childhood, youth or early manhood for JC because it was not necessary to their central drama of a dying/reborn sun-god.
Or, more likely, because the authors and their immediate sources didn't know Jesus during His childhood years. With only a few exceptions, they got to know Jesus during His ministry, which is when the stories start in earnest. We aren't seeing anything in the Gospels that the writers didn't claim to witness, or couldn't easily have gotten from those who witnessed the events. With the Gospels, we are seeing exactly what we would expect to see from a historically true text, and not what we would expect to see from a work of fiction.
But as we know, the story grew with the telling, particularly as the decades passed and the promised redeemer and judge failed to reappear. The re-writer of the Gospel of Mark, revising his text sometime between 140 and 150 AD, cites the name of the city just once, at the opening, with these words:
"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee ..." (Mk I, 9)
From then on the name is completely forgotten. We may reasonably suspect that this sole reference is an interpolation.
Sole reference? Nazareth is also mentioned in Mark 1:24, Mark 10:47, Mark 14:67, and Mark 16:6. Or may we reasonably suspect that those were interpolations, also?
[Luke] makes mistakes in his geography. He knows little about the place and in his mini-drama describes an impossible incident:'... and brought him to the precipice of the mountain that their city was built upon.' (Luke 4) Nazareth, in fact, is located in a depression, set within gentle hills. The whole region is characterized by plains and mild rises with no sharp peaks or steep cliffs. The terrain is correctly understood as a high basin, for in one direction is the much lower Plain of Esdraelon. But there is no disguising Nazareth is built in a valley and not on a mountain. Even the mediaeval town sat below the summit – protected from the wind. Beginning only in 1957, the Jewish suburb called 'Nazerat Illit' ('Upper Nazareth') was built to the top of the hills to the east of the city.".
J.P. Holding covers this one nicely on this page: http://www.tektonics.org/TK-LK.html (scroll down to Luke 4:29), saying:
"Nazareth was and still is situated in a hollow "high up against the slopes of a mountain" so that it is enclosed on three sides by portions of the mountain. The "brow" refers rather to a 30-40 foot limestone cliff at the southwest corner of city, and our verse is read incorrectly as implying that the city was built ON the brow of the hill, when it is actually saying that it was built on the hill, and the brow is part of the hill also. "
In the 3rd century Church Father Origen knew the gospel story of the city of Nazareth – yet had no clear idea where it was – even though he lived at Caesarea, barely thirty miles from the present town! Even in Origen's day, as the Church became more institutionalised, intense rivalry was developing between the patriarchs of Caesarea and Jerusalem. This rivalry was only resolved (in Jerusalem's favour) at Chalcedon in 451. Part of the rivalry centred on control of 'Holy places'. Hence, 'finding' the lost city of Nazareth was a matter of major importance,
Perambulating to the rescue, in the early 4th century, came the 80-year-old dowager Empress Helena. Preparing the way for an imminent meeting with her maker with a program of 'Works', she made a conscience-salving pilgrimage to Palestine. In the area of Nazareth she could find nothing but an ancient well – in fact the only water source in the area (which in itself demolishes the idea there was ever a 'city' ). No doubt encouraged by canny locals, Helena promptly labelled the hole in the ground 'Mary's Well' and had a small basilica built over the spot. Conveniently, the gospels had failed to make clear exactly where Mary had been when the archangel Gabriel had come calling. Thus the Well site acquired local support for the divine visitation and Nazareth acquired its first church.
Helena created the pilgrimage business which has never ceased.
I'd love to know his source for this story. Did those involved write that they did these things? Did those close to them write that these things happened? Or did somebody many, many centuries later think that this must be the way things happened, and so made up a nice little story to tell?
During the 2nd and 3rd centuries Greek sage and Jewish scribe, pagan hierophant and Egyptian priest, all contributed to the fabulous 'Christian' legend. The common hope was for an afterlife, no longer just for the elite but for all and sundry. To Constantine the superstition was useful.
Problem: All of the New Testament writings were complete long before the time Humphreys is talking about here.
Humphreys also describes Jesus as a "Synthetic, composite character, combining characteristics of Serapis (king and judge), with Greek sage (wisdom, compassion), Antinous (perfect man, protecting sacrifice) and the Roman variant of the sun-god – Mithras."
Sharing characteristics with other people, real or fictional, doesn't make one fictional. Besides that, some of the characteristics Humphreys mentions here either don't apply to Jesus (He refrained from judging, and wasn't a king in the same sense that Serapis was) or to the person Humphreys claims it does (Antinous was not a "perfect man" and wasn't any sort of "sacrifice"). He also doesn't say what Jesus and Mithras have in common. However, he does have a page about Mithras later, which I'll respond to.
Most of the text on this page just links to other articles on his site, so I'll deal with that on those separate sites. Besides that, he shows how artwork from non-Christian deities and heroes is similar to Christian art, how Jesus sometime resembles Apollo or Dionysus or Socrates in paintings or sculptures. Most of his examples of artwork for non-Christian deities is post-Christian, so its hard to say who is influencing who. But it's all moot anyways. If artists making images of Jesus were influenced by images of others, this doesn't suggest that the stories about Jesus are false in any way, only that the artists themselves were inspired by earlier artwork (as artists usually are).
On this page, Humphries tries to show that Christianity is merely a fusion of different belief systems, but only succeeds in showing that some other religions are such fusions. All he manages to show is that some other belief systems adopted parts of Christianity, and even argues that "The hugh (sic) statue of Serapis and his temple were torn down by a rampaging Christian mob in 391, making way for the new tenant – Jesus Christ.", suggesting that Christianity was not willing to adopt parts of other belief systems, but set out to destroy them and replace them with Christianity. He again shows how artwork between Christian and non-Christian religions have parallels, but, again, this is not evidence that the Jesus story borrowed from other stories. He gives only two examples of how Christian beliefs borrowed from other belief systems, both of which turn out to be invalid.
The Ptolemies intended that the new god should have universal appeal in an increasingly cosmopolitan country. In consequence, Serapis had more than 200 localised names, including (according to correspondence of Emperor Hadrian) Christ!
Let's take a look at what Hardian said, shall we? He said, "'Egypt, which you commended to me, my dearest Servianus, I have found to be wholly fickle and inconsistent, and continually wafted about by every breath of fame. The worshipers of Serapis (here) are called Christians, and those who are devoted to the god Serapis (I find), call themselves Bishops of Christ.'–Hadrian to Servianus, 134A.D. (Quoted by Giles, ii p86)". So obviously Hadrian was talking about followers of Serapis absorbing Christian beliefs and traditions, not about Christians absorbing anything from Serapis worship (note that this was written over 100 years after Jesus' time). So this does not support Humphreys' claim of Christianity being influenced by other religions.
The Egyptian Greeks, who traditionally had believed in immortality only of the soul, abandon cremation and adopted Egyptian mummification – in the optimistic belief in a resurrection of the body, a notion that fed into early Christianity.
Actually, the Egyptians believed that the physical body traveled to the afterworld, not that it would be resurrected in this world. And besides that, the idea of resurrection was around in the Judeo-Christian beliefs long before Jesus.
There are many Christian bibles. Several hundred in fact (and this number excludes the thousand-plus foreign language editions). Every group that has ever claimed the title ‘Christian’, from gnostic sects of the second century, through countless ‘heresies’ of the Middle Ages, to Mormons of the twentieth century, has had recourse to its own version of the holy testament.
Yes, they've had "recourse" to their own version of the Holy Testament. Is Humphreys saying there should be a law against it, that churches should be legally forced to use previously-established Bibles? But having recourse to do something doesn't mean that they desire to do it, as is obvious to anyone who knows the first thing about modern religion. The vast majority of religious denominations do not have their "own version of the holy testament", but used established mainstream bibles such as the King James Version or the New International Version. If you went to a Baptist church, a Lutheran church, and a Presbyterian church, you'd likely find the exact same Bibles. Even the Mormons use the King James Version, as a matter of fact (the only thing unique about theirs would be the footnotes and appendix). The only major denomination with its own version of the Bible would be the Catholics, and there is no significant differences between those texts which do appear in both books, the only difference being some added texts (the apocrypha) in the Catholic Bible.
This fine tuning of God’s word, which began at the very inception of Christianity, continues even in our own day. Though this plethora of bibles shares a common core, many contain material omitted by others, and vice versa. Even where the content is ostensibly the same, verses have been removed or added, words transposed, rearranged or rephrased. Evidently, God, as the ultimate ‘author’ is endlessly searching for that fine nuance, that pithy turn of phrase.
Straw-man argument here. No serious scholar makes the claim that God is the sole author of the Bible. The authors are people like Moses, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc., people who were inspired by God, but that doesn't mean that God dictated the Bible or forced them to write it a certain way.
What is not apparent, when we pick up the holy book, is the extensive editing that has prepared that volume for public consumption, and this editing applies just as much to the central story and its main characters as to any subsequent tinkering
There is no evidence that the central story and/or main characters were altered over time. If they were, we would expect to find different versions of the Gospel writings in which we find a different central story and/or characters.
– more so, in fact. In the first two centuries of the Christian era, when a ‘Bible’ as such did not exist and the proselytes of the new faith were scouring the Jewish scriptures for confirmation of their heresy, many scribes turned their hand to ‘gospel’ writing. These publications were severely ‘limited editions’, painstakingly written by hand. Often untitled and unsigned these texts passed from hand to hand, in time acquiring the authority and aura of an antique and blurring the distinction between fiction, history and scripture.
And such "Gospels" as he describes here were quickly rejected by Jesus' actual followers, who knew enough about Jesus to spot such forgeries. Just like if I were to create a biography of, say, Elvis Presley that I just made up out of thin air, no Elvis fan would take is seriously.
It was well into the second century before a number of these ‘testimonies’ were collected together and bound into a single volume. From the mass of available material ecclesiastical editors selected what would and what would not be included in the Good Book. But of course different editors made different choices.
Search the Bible in vain for the gospels of Thomas, Matthaias or the ‘The Twelve’; for the Acts of Andrew or Acts of John; for the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache; for the Shepherd of Hermas or the Apocalypse of Peter. Yet for the first two centuries of Christianity all of these were holy scripture, the revealed Word of God.
According to whom?
On the other hand rejected by the early church fathers were Paul’s letter to Philemon, the second and third letters of John, the second letter of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, all part of the canon after Christianity became the state religion!
Which early church fathers rejected these writings? Notice that Humphreys is being purposefully vague here.
Clearly the Big Guy had had a major rethink.
Repeating his straw-man argument here.
Roman bibles after the fourth century hedged their bets and included ‘doubtful’ and previously rejected material at the end as ‘Apocrypha’ (‘hidden’).
Minor point, but "Apocrypha" means "of questionable authority", not "hidden".
I wonder which "bets" Humphreys sees the Romans as "hedging". Does he think the Catholics believe that the inclusion of the Apocrypha makes them "more saved" than they would be without it?
Clearly this was God’s rough draft, not really meant for publication. Luther kept the apocrypha in his bible whereas Calvin and most other Protestant reformers excluded them.
I haven't read the Apocryphal books myself, but the Catholics in my family say there are no important doctrinal issue presented in them.
To regard this wholesale editorial selection and censorship, and the rewriting which accompanied it, as a function purely of the human mind, influenced by considerations of ambition and wealth, power and politics, is, of course, to lose sight of the hand of god; the divine, beavering away in overdrive in central Europe and the eastern Mediterranean centuries ago!
I wonder how he determined that "ambition and wealth, power and politics" figured into the determination. He probably just wants to make the waters appear as muddy as possible.
The ‘books’ are arranged in a particular order, one that appears to be an unfolding story – from Jews to Jesus, from Jesus to Church, from birth of the Messiah to a vision of the Day of Judgement yet to come. It appears to be chronological. It is not. The order is largely reversed. Exodus was written before Genesis.
Scholarship hasn't reached a definite conclusion here, but most scholars do seem to favor Genesis being written first.
‘Prophesies’ written after events are reassigned to an earlier authorship in order to establish their veracity.
An unsupported theory. I can see why a non-believer would want to believe that it is so, however.
An ancient and heroic ‘history’ reflects the contingencies of a much later time. The final book, the ‘Revelation of St. John’ is the earliest, not the latest, part of the New Testament, save for the correspondence of St Paul, which itself pre-dates all the gospels
"Revelation of St. John" is most commonly dated to 96 A.D., making it one of the latest writings (if not the last) in the New Testament. Some argue for it having been written as early as 68 A.D., which would still make it later than many of the non-Pauline writings (and likely later than three of the four Gospels).
– and not one of the favoured gospels took on their present form before 150 AD.
The evidence strongly favors at least three of the Gospels (all but John's) being written before 70 A.D., and no serious scholar would put them as late as 150 A.D. And there's no evidence that they changed after they were written, except perhaps for the ending of Mark (which he brings up, and I'll respond to, later).
No more true is this process of time-reversal or ‘back projection’ than of the life and times of the Jesus character himself, who began his existence as a celestial superhero, acquired an earthly death; subsequently was given an adulthood; and completed his career with a spectacular nativity!
I'd love to see his evidence for this wild claim.
What becomes very obvious when the parts of the book are rearranged into the order in which they were written is that the story grew with the telling. For example, if we look at the central mystery of Christianity, the ‘Resurrection’, we find that in Mark’s gospel (the earliest) the visitors to the tomb find a sitting figure, ‘a young man in a white robe’ (Mark 16.5). He could have been anybody.
If you read on through Mark 16:7, it becomes clearly implied that this "young man" is an angel.
Thirty years later the story is rather different:
Thirty years? Ten or fifteen on the outside.
we can choose between the sudden appearance of ‘two men’, standing in ‘shining garments’ (Luke 24.4); or ‘a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven … His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow’ (Matthew 28.2,3).
All of which describe, as Mark did, angels at the tomb. Other than the question of whether there was one or two, the stories are the same. The reason for the discrepancy between one and two is that there were multiple eyewitnesses from whom they got their stories, so some may have seen a second angel while others did not. Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke or John claim to have been present at the angelic visitation mentioned here. They got their stories from the women who were present, who arrived at the tomb, and entered it, at different times. If the authors had simply made up the visitation at the tomb, they would have made sure the details matched. An event with multiple eyewitnesses, being on the scene at different times, will end up with differing details. In other words, we are once again seeing what we would expect to see if the Bible were true, and not what we would expect to see if it were a work of fiction.
Often an anachronism within the gospels provides a clue to the true authorship of the text. For example, all three synoptics have Jesus use the phrase ‘take up his cross’. This is Mark:
"And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mark 8.34)
Matthew (16.4) and Luke (9.23) use almost identical words.
What’s ‘wrong’ here is that the crucifixion has not yet happened – the phrase belongs to a Christian Church a century or more into the future!
What on Earth is he talking about? Is he saying that the idea that Jesus was crucified didn't take hold until at least 100 years after the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, which describe His crucifixion, were written? This would be an odd belief, particularly since Humphreys apparently does agree that Paul's writings were from the first century, and they speak clearly of Jesus' crucifixion (Romans 6:6, 1 Corinthians 1:23, among others) Or is he making some other claim that I can't fathom?
UPDATE: A visitor explained Humphreys' position more clearly (thanks, Myron!). Essentially, Humphreys is saying that since Jesus made this comment before going to the cross, it would not have made sense to His followers. They would not have associated crucifixion with unjust religious persecution since they hadn't experienced unjust religious persecution via crucifixion yet. Therefore, Humphreys concludes, the words must have been put into Jesus' mouth sometime after the crucifixion. However, Jesus was known for being able to see what was coming and for speaking of events which had yet to happen, knowing that His followers would come to understand when the event came to pass. For example, He spoke of Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial, and even of His own resurrection before the events happened, and the context for the events occured later. So, no, this can't be assumed to be an anachronism, and there is no evidence that it is, especially with it appearing in three different books.
Which (if either!) is correct, for example, in the fishy bread story?
"And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men."
"And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away."
The first quotation is from Mark 6.41,44: the second only a page or so later from Mark 8.6,9!
Ummm...these are two separate, though similar, incidents.
Did Jesus go ‘immediately' into the desert after baptism, as Mark tells us:
"And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him." (Mark 1.12,13)
Or did he take himself off to a wedding as John would have it?
"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him... The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Phillip... And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage." (John 1.32;43: 2.1.2)
Humphreys is misreading John here. John the Baptist is talking about the day he baptized Jesus (note the phrase "bare record"), not actually baptizing him. In other words, Jesus was baptized, went into the wilderness, came back, witnessed John talking about the baptism, and then went to the wedding.
Was Mark correct when he quoted Jesus that there would be ‘no signs’:
"And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation." (Mark 8.12)
Or was John nearer the truth when he says:
"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book." (John 20.30)
The Mark passage is taken out of context. If you read from the previous verse, you find this:
"And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him [Jesus], seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation."
So the "generation" Jesus is talking about is the Pharisees themselves, who failed to recognize any of the signs of Jesus' divinity, while His true followers did receive such signs.
By a convoluted process of interpolation, accretion and redaction, the whole compendium of fables and fancy was brought into being. The four Gospels had a precedent in the ‘sayings of Jesus,’ epithets of wisdom attached to a shadowy Christ figure. Progressively anthropomorphized into a human figure, a series of anecdotes, ‘reminiscences’ and stories were attached to his name.
Is there any evidence of these stories being built gradually as Humphreys describes, such as, oh, early versions of the Gospels which have some aspects, but not others? If not, what evidence does Humphreys have to support this wild assertion?
Where Did They Get Their Ideas From?
Apollonius (Commemorative medallion) Apollonius of Tyana:
Apollonius was born during the reign of Augustus Caesar in the year 3 BCE at Tyana, in Asia Minor. His parents were wealthy and Apollonius was educated first at Tarsus, and then at the Temple of Aesclapius at Aegae. At sixteen he became an adherent of Pythagoras and a wandering ascetic. In his desire for knowledge he travelled to most of the known world. According to legend he performed miracles wherever he went and was listened to by adoring crowds.
Apollonius claimed to receive revelations from the gods. In truth, he probably learnt techniques of mystical deception from the Brahmins of India and the Magi of Babylon. In Ephesus he correctly warned of a plague and also claimed to have had a vision of the assassination of the Emperor Domitian. In Rome he supposedly brought the daughter of a consul back to life. Nero apparently expelled him from the city but Vespasian, Titus and Nerva all sought his advice. Hadrian collected his letters and writings. The great Emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius admitted that he owed his philosophy to Apollonius
"From Apollonius I have learned freedom of will and understanding, steadiness of purpose, and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason."
Apollonius’s neo-Pythagorean philosophy embraced the sharing of goods, a condemnation of cruelty, and compassion for his fellowman. He taught in many of the centres of learning of the Greco-Roman world. Stories about him abounded, such as when in his mother’s womb, his mother was forewarned by an Egyptian god of her portentous off-spring. He reputed lived to be one hundred years. His followers claimed he was taken up into heaven. In Tyana a temple was built and dedicated to him, and statues of him resided in other temples.
Julia Domna, the mother of the Emperor Septimus Severus, commissioned the philosopher Philostratus to write the biography of Apollonius, using the notebooks kept by Damis, a lifelong companion of the great sage. This book appeared in 210 AD.
But by the 4th century an established Christianity began attacking Apollonius as a charlatan, a black magician, and the anti-Christ. The Church was, after all, basing its claims of Jesus' divinity upon the miracles that he is said to have performed – but Apollonius performed the same miracles earlier and called them not miracles but expressions of natural law!
Actually, the earliest stories of Appolonius were written about 180 A.D., and, as Humphreys admits, the main biography of Appolonius was written in the 3rd century, long after Jesus' time. Even their source, the notebooks kept by Damis, have been rejected by even non-Christian scholars as being "full of historical anachronisms and gross geographical errors." (John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew--Rethinking the Historical Jesus, p.576-578, Doubleday, 1991). Almost certainly, the few similarities between the stories of Appolonius and Jesus were a case of the later stories of Apollonius being inspired by the earlier stories of Jesus.