Did Jesus exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This book sells itself as a thinking person’s response. Right now, I’m wondering when the thinking person is going to start responding. Mills’s book is full of cliches and straw men that should be seen as an embarrassment to the atheist community.
So let’s get back into it and brace ourselves for what’s coming.
So how about the simple question of if Jesus even existed:
Probably not. If He did actually live, then He was almost certainly illiterate, since He left no writings of his own—at least none that we know about. At the time that He supposedly lived, however, most people were illiterate, so I don’t mean to be critical of Him on this point. I too would have been illiterate. But it is curious to ponder an illiterate God.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 35). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
If the answer to if he was illiterate is “Most people were” then you might as well say everyone was illiterate. Was Socrates illiterate? He didn’t write anything, but most people were so he probably was. Was Seneca illiterate? Well, we have some writings of him, but most people were illiterate so he probably was and these were by someone else. Why not?
Fortunately, for once, the interviewer had a pushback that was decent. What about secular references to Jesus?
And as per usual, Mills gave a reply that shows his ignorance on the topic.
You’re correct that there are secular historical references to Jesus. For example, Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Seutonius, Pliny, and Justin Martyr all make reference to “Christ” or “Jesus Christ” in their historical accounts. But there is one monumental flaw in this argument: Not one of these secular writers was born until decades after Jesus’ alleged crucifixion. Thus, none of these writers could possibly provide firsthand knowledge of anything having to do with the life of Jesus. Their historical references to Jesus do provide evidence that the Christ legend was extant during the period in which they wrote. But that’s about it. Moreover, many of these secular sources who allude, decades afterward, to the life of Jesus also detail the lives and folklore of numerous other “miracle workers” completely apart from Jesus. Tales of mystical hocus-pocus were widespread in the ancient world and were incorporated into the holy books of many different religions. Such credulity naturally provided fertile ground for the acceptance and growth of Christianity as well.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 35-36). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Don’t tell Mills that the overwhelming majority in the ancient world if not everything was written “decades after” the events took place. The majority of biographies of great people could even be written well over a century after they lived and are still considered valid. As for miracle-workers, Mills doesn’t give us any names. Note that many such miracle-workers would have been looked at with disdain by the elites of the time. Naturally, this leads to the idea of ancient people were stupid.
Reading Mills’s book, it looks like more modern people actually are.
The interviewer asks about contemporary references.
There is not a single reference to a “Jesus” or to “Jesus Christ” written by any secular source who lived during the years in which Christ supposedly walked the earth. To me, this fact is very revealing, since these years represent one of the most thoroughly documented periods of antiquity. Wouldn’t Jesus’ miracles have drawn the attention of hundreds of contemporary writers and record-keepers? Why is there no mention at all of Jesus’ existence? Why is there no historical record of Herod’s alleged Slaughter of the Innocents [plagiarized directly from Exodus] or of Matthew’s assertion that, following Jesus’ death, living corpses from nearby cemeteries were strolling the streets of Jerusalem? Were these “facts” too humdrum to be noted by historians of the day? To summarize my position on the “historical” Jesus, I once wrote a poem:
Today some say that Jesus died,
And still remains quite dead.
But these who speak have surely lied.
The real truth is, instead, T
hat Jesus Christ, Whose blood was spilled,
Is no corpse, I insist!
For how could someone have been killed,
Who never did exist?
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 36-37). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Somehow, I doubt there will soon be poetry seminars for Mills’s work.
As I have said in an earlier post, contrary to Mills’s thinking, Jesus was not worth talking about in His time. Mills says this is the most documented time, but gives no basis for that. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but he gives me no reason to think he’s right. The slaughter of the innocents would likely kill a dozen infants at most, hardly the most telling instance of Herod’s life. As for the rising of the saints, even if taken literally, it would likely be dismissed by anyone who wasn’t there.
At this point, even the interviewer doesn’t think he’s being fair and asks about someone like George Washington’s existence. Hardly a good parallel. Washington lived in a time where literacy was far more common and writing was less expensive. Better parallels could be people like Hannibal or Queen Boudica. Mills is right to point out the far better resources we have for Washington, but then he also says Washington has no miracles to his name. Naturally, this comes out. Dismiss all ancient claims of miracles and then say miracles have never happened. Really easy to do.
The interviewer then asks who moved the stone from Jesus’s tomb, which seems to me like a profoundly ignorant question to ask if the person you are talking to says He never even existed, to which Mills lists all the events he doesn’t believe in involving Jesus. Not really much new to cover.
And with that, we will be done as the historical Jesus is not the theme from now on, and we are still just in the first chapter.
I would like to say the worst is behind us, but with atheist books, you never know.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)