What happens when we again examine the historicity of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
The internet is a wonderful place where a skilled researcher can uncover treasures of knowledge and benefit greatly from it. The internet is also a dangerous place where someone unskilled can go and think they’re finding treasure when they really have fools’ gold. Such is the case of mythicism.
Mythicism is this theory that does not stand a chance in the academy and has died every time it has been presented, but on the internet, it’s seen as a serious theory among scholars, although this is by people who never read the scholars themselves. I refer to it as a conspiracy theory for atheists. The problem is most anyone on the internet can be seen as a scholar today just because they have a website or can make videos.
“Well you have a website and videos.”
Right you are! I’m also not a scholar! I’d say I have greater expertise, but I have no Ph.D. or peer-reviewed work. Look at my writings and go back to the real scholars who have that and compare.
Last night, someone sent me an article. The article is long and so I asked for select parts he wanted to be addressed. Note also that it comes from NoBeliefs which is one of the worst websites to go to for information on this topic. Still, let’s see what these parts are that are puzzling to this person.
The first is right at the start.
No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.
Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness’ own knowledge.
Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay does not provide good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.
With the first part, if this was our standard, we would have to say 99% of people in the ancient world never existed. Do we have this of Socrates for instance? What of other Jewish sages like Gamaliel, Hillel, and others? Most teachers did not do any writing themselves, but rather they left it to their students to pass on their teachings.
As for contemporary writings, this assumes that the Gospels and the epistles are not contemporary, but we have no contemporary writings of Alexander the Great. Our writings of him come from about 400 years later. We have no contemporaries of Queen Boudica, General Arminius, or Hannibal. These were people also who did, in the eyes of historians of the time, a lot more noteworthy accomplishments than did Jesus. For the ancients, Jesus was not worth talking about.
What about the claim that the Gospels did not come from eyewitnesses? This can also be contested. Nowhere do we see interaction with anything like Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. This statement is just thrown out with no backing at all. Are we to believe that a church in Ephesus one day received a scroll and had no idea who it came from and said “Well, this looks like a good Gospel. Let’s use it!”
The writer not being named in a work does not mean the authorship was unknown. Most writers would not do such. Interestingly, when we have that in some of the Pauline epistles, they’re still viewed as forgeries so I have no reason to think that a name on the Gospel of Matthew explicitly would convince such skeptics.
Still, has Jim looked at any cases for authorship? Has he looked at why the church said Matthew, Mark, and Luke especially? Matthew was a tax collector. Mark was a Mama’s boy who ran back home early and caused a split between the church’s first great missionaries. Luke was a gentile only named in some Pauline epistles. If the church was making up figures as authors, why make up these? I could go on with cases for each, but those who are interested in the evidence, which I am convinced Jim is not, can go and look for themselves at this point.
What about hearsay? Unlike Jim, I did something that I guess would be a bit taboo here. I actually talked to a lawyer about it. Jim first off assumes that this is hearsay and second, documents connected to the events would be allowed to be used in a court of law. Still, I would dispute that the Gospels especially are hearsay and the material in 1 Cor. 15 definitely goes back to the apostles, the eyewitnesses, themselves.
Let’s move to the next part.
Epistles of Paul: Paul’s biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. Of the thirteen epistles, bible scholars think he wrote only eight of them, and even here, there occurs interpolations. Not a single instance in any of Paul’s writings claims that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does Paul give any reference to Jesus’ life on earth (except for a few well known interpolations). Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. Hearsay.
Epistle to the Galatians: In this letter Paul describes a meeting with Peter and James, the Lord’s brother (Gal: 1:18-20). The problem here involves the meaning of “Lord’s brother.” Some scholars think this means the biological brother of the Lord while others think it means brother in a communal spiritual sense, as all Christians are the Lord’s brothers and sisters. Note, never does any epistle refer to the brother of Jesus. In all cases, Paul uses the word “Lord,” consistent with the spiritual sense. In any case, even if this phrase did mean a biological brother, Paul could not have known that James had a brother. At best he could only have believed it because his information could only have come from another person, most likely James himself. That makes this letter hearsay.
Epistle of James: Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? Many claim him as the gospel disciple but the gospels mention several different James. Which one? Or maybe this James has nothing to do with any of the gospel James. Perhaps this writer comes from any one of innumerable James outside the gospels. James served as a common name in the first centuries and Biblical scholars simply have no way to tell who this James refers to. More to the point, the Epistle of James mentions Jesus only once as an introduction to his belief. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from a historical account. 
Epistles of John: Scholars tell us the epistles of John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation appear so different in style and content that they could hardly have the same author. Some suggest that these writings of John come from the work of a group of scholars in Asia Minor who followed a “John” or they came from the work of church fathers who aimed to further the interests of the Church. Or they could have simply come from people also named John (a very common name). No one knows. Also note that nowhere in the body of the three epistles of “John” does it mention a John. In any case, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. Not only do we not know who wrote these epistles, they can only serve as hearsay accounts. 
Epistles of Peter: Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery (for some examples, see the introduction to 2 Peter in the full edition of The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985). The unknown authors of the epistles of Peter wrote long after the life of the traditional Peter. Moreover, Peter lived (if he ever lived at all) as an ignorant and illiterate peasant (even Acts 4:13 attests to this). In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an author claiming himself to know what Peter said (hearsay), or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church. Encyclopedias usually describe a tradition that Saint Peter wrote them. However, whenever you see the word “tradition” it refers to a belief passed down within a society. In other words: hearsay. , 
Epistle of Jude: Even early Christians argued about its authenticity. It quotes an apocryphal book called Enoch as if it represented authorized Scripture. Biblical scholars do not think it possible for the alleged disciple Jude to have written it because whoever wrote it had to have written it during a period when the churches had long existed. Like the other alleged disciples, Jude would have lived as an illiterate peasant and unable to write (much less in Greek) but the author of Jude wrote in fluent high quality Greek.
So let’s go through one by one.
First off, the author has it wrong. Seven of the Pauline epistles are definitely seen as authentic. Second, some do think Paul could have met Jesus, which would make sense since Paul can reasonably go to Jerusalem for Passover and encounter Jesus. Still, if this is the standard that Jim wants, then we can throw out Hannibal and Queen Boudica and Arminius and others since we have no eyewitness testimony of them.
Second, I do not know of any scholars who see the claims about the historical Jesus to be interpolations. If Jim thinks so, he needs to produce them, and no, YouTube personalities do not count as scholars. Robert Price has argued that the 1 Cor. 15 creed is an interpolation, but the case has not convinced scholars and there is zero textual evidence of this. Furthermore, this is the material that would not be interpolated. No early opponent of Christianity was disputing the basic historicity of Jesus.
With Galatians, I would like to see these scholars who think this is someone other than the actual brother of Jesus. Even Catholics who would hold to perpetual virginity would not interpret the passage this way. It would also not be hearsay. It would be from Paul’s own eyewitness testimony himself of meeting James. As even Bart Ehrman has said, “If Jesus never existed, His brother would probably know it.” The only reason to view this with suspicion is you have a prior commitment you wish to show.
We can agree with James that it’s not meant to show a historical Jesus, but neither is it supposed to. Still, many scholars do in fact think that James is getting much of his information from the Sermon on the Mount. It is quite bizarre to think Matthew would make up a whole sermon later on just to agree with James’s epistle.
The Johannine epistles get pretty much the same treatment. Unfortunately, all of his sources are wikipedia or theopedia. (You know, the place where great scholars go for research.) Still, there’s no reason to think that these are written to tell us that Jesus existed, but that they showed up does show that a movement had started and what was it based on?
For Peter, Jim makes much out of saying that Silvanus wrote the letter. Yes, and Romans 16 points out that Paul used a scribe as well, but no one doubts Paul wrote Romans. Even a literate person back then used a scribe so this is not a problem. Also, Acts 4:13 does not mean that Jesus was illiterate and ignorant. It meant that he had not been formally schooled. Either Peter learned how to write Greek well after becoming an apostle, or else he used a scribe. Both of those still hold on to Petrine authorship.
The same can be said for Jude. It is a wonder why quoting Enoch means that Jude did not write it. No doubt then since Paul in authentic letters quoted pagan poets, he thought that those were Scripture too. Jude just took a point he thought was true and used it. Also, there is no reason the church needed to be around a long time. It would have been nice for Jim to engage with some scholars, but alas, he did not.
The next section is on lying for the church.
LYING FOR THE CHURCH
The editing and formation of the Bible came from members of the early Christian Church. Since the fathers of the Church possessed the scriptoria and determined what would appear in the Bible, there occurred plenty of opportunity and motive to change, modify, or create texts that might bolster the position of the Church or the members of the Church themselves.
The orthodox Church also fought against competing Christian cults. Irenaeus, who determined the inclusion of the four (now canonical) gospels, wrote his infamous book, “Against the Heresies.” According to Romer, “Irenaeus’ great book not only became the yardstick of major heresies and their refutations, the starting-point of later inquisitions, but simply by saying what Christianity was not it also, in a curious inverted way, became a definition of the orthodox faith.” [Romer] If a Jesus did exist, perhaps eyewitness writings got burnt along with them because of their heretical nature. We will never know.
In attempting to salvage the Bible the respected revisionist and scholar, Bruce Metzger has written extensively on the problems of the New Testament. In his book, “The Text of the New Testament– Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Metzger addresses: Errors arising from faulty eyesight; Errors arising from faulty hearing; Errors of the mind; Errors of judgment; Clearing up historical and geographical difficulties; and Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations. [Metzger]
The Church had such power over people, that to question the Church could result in death. Regardless of what the Church claimed, most people simply believed what their priests told them.
In letter LII To Nepotian, Jerome writes about his teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus when he asked him to explain a phrase in Luke, Nazianzus evaded his request by saying “I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool.” Jerome responds with, “There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation.”
In the 5th century, John Chrysostom in his “Treatise on the Priesthood, Book 1,” wrote, “And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.”
Ignatius Loyola of the 16th century wrote in his Spiritual Exercises: “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”
Martin Luther opined: “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”
With such admission to accepting lies, the burning of heretical texts, Bible errors and alterations, how could any honest scholar take any book from the New Testament as absolute, much less using extraneous texts that support a Church’s intransigent and biased position, as reliable evidence?
To begin with at the start, it would need to be shown that the text of the New Testament has been heavily edited and changed. Let’s go with a scholar of textual criticism on this. How about Bart Ehrman, who is definitely not a Christian? What does he say?
If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html
In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.
I’m also highly skeptical of this idea that the early Christians were killing those in their midst who disagreed. Perhaps Jim could give us some examples. Also, did some people just believe the priests? Sure. That’s still a problem today. It’s also just like some internet atheists write articles where they just believe what they read on Wikipedia.
Many of these quotes are also not what they seem. For instance, Chrysostom does not paint an absolute picture. One could compare what he did to telling the Nazis that there were no Jews underneath the floorboards of the house. The quote about Luther isn’t even listed in the source Jim gives. (This is another reason you don’t use Wikipedia boys and girls. It’s subject to change at any time. Go back to the original sources.)
What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what people later wrote 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!
If, indeed, the Gospels portray a historical look at the life of Jesus, then the one feature that stands out prominently within the stories shows that people claimed to know Jesus far and wide, not only by a great multitude of followers but by the great priests, the Roman governor Pilate, and Herod who claims that he had heard “of the fame of Jesus” (Matt 14:1)”. One need only read Matt: 4:25 where it claims that “there followed him [Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.” The gospels mention, countless times, the great multitude that followed Jesus and crowds of people who congregated to hear him. So crowded had some of these gatherings grown, that Luke 12:1 alleges that an “innumerable multitude of people… trode one upon another.” Luke 5:15 says that there grew “a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear…” The persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem drew so much attention that all the chief priests and scribes, including the high priest Caiaphas, not only knew about him but helped in his alleged crucifixion. (see Matt 21:15-23, 26:3, Luke 19:47, 23:13). The multitude of people thought of Jesus, not only as a teacher and a miracle healer, but a prophet (see Matt:14:5).
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?
For this, I refer the reader to my earlier article on how Jesus is not worth talking about. What amazes me is not how few people talked about Jesus, but that anyone really did at all.
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.” 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. 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.
Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus (also known as Philo of Alexander) whose 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.” Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca’s (4? B.C.E. – 65 C.E.) writings, nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? – 79 C.E.).
|* Note, Philo did write about a pre-Christian celestial “Jesus,” but this had nothing to do with the Christian Jesus (unless Christians “stole” Philo’s ideas). See Philo’s On the Confusion of Tongues (62-63, 146-147)
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?
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.
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. 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. 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.
Again, this is dealt with in my above article on how Jesus is not worth talking about. As for the confusion of tongues passage, I refer to an atheist on this one. Yes. Even atheists are rightly going after Carrier’s nonsense.
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.
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.
John 3:23 says, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . .” Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.
No one has evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus’s writings (even though he provides a list of cities in Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles appeared before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn’t come into existence until about 40 years after the alleged death of Jesus. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as established history. According to John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, “The only epigraphic evidence for Nazareth comes from a Jewish synagogue inscription, written in Hebrew. A small dark gray marble fragment from a third, or fourth century C.E. synagogue plaque was discovered at Caesarea Maritima in 1962, containing the earliest occurrence of the name Nazareth in a non-Christian source. This fragment and two others unearthed with it preserve a list of the traditional locations where Jewish priests resettled after the Roman emperor Hadrian banned all Jews from Jerusalem in 135 C.E.” [Grossan, 2001] And given the past history of made up objects for Jesus, even this might turn out as a forgery.
Some historians do not agree with this of course. Some think Nazareth existed, some don’t think it existed, and some remain skeptical, but the fact that historians still debate it should tell you that that we should not use this as a certainty. Moreover, some scholars think it as a moot point because they believe “Nazareth” refers to a Christian movement, not a city. For one example, Acts 24:5 refers to a sect of the Nazarenes. The Gospel writers then might have confused the term to mean the city (which by the time they wrote the gospels, a city did exist with that name). We have a lot of educated guesses by scholars, but no certainty.
For Matthew 4, who else would have known not all the kingdoms of the world can be seen from the top of a mountain? No one but everyone. What’s going on? Jesus is being taken to a high position not for the sake of seeing things per se, but for the sake of experiencing being in an honorable position and the kingdoms would be shown in a visionary way.
For John 12, Bethsaida was in the region of Galilee. Pliny the Elder even says the same thing. Also, many places were named Bethsaida and John can easily say this to specify the one he has in mind.
For John 3, the place is not attested elsewhere. So what? Why should we think every city should be attested? There is no great mythology or reputation tied to the town. Why should it have been mentioned?
For Nazareth, again, even Bart Ehrman has dealt with this one. The main one arguing it didn’t exist is Rene Salm who has no experience in arhcaeology at all. It is mythicists who are pushing this. The case is not one seriously discussed in scholarship.
So again, we leave another mythicist article convinced mythicists don’t know how to do history. It is a conspiracy theory for atheists.