Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

There is no Historical Jesus

with 36 comments

A stone tablet from Jordan is in the news, because by some interpretations it seems to show that the idea of a Jewish Messiah rising from the dead after three days preceded Jesus and the resurrection. Most experts agree the tablet is a genuine article from the time just before Jesus, but the ink is smudged (yes, sometimes people wrote on stone) so it’s not entirely clear if scholars are reading it right. Still, if it does say what some think it says, it’s one more nail in the coffin of the idea of a historical Jesus.

How’s that? Well, there is no historical Jesus. No contemporary writer mentions him, no contemporary records corroborate anything about his life or story. The earliest record we have of his life is the gospels, and they date from decades after his death. And even medieval scholars pointed out that not only is there a lack of historical evidence, even worse, pretty much everything Jesus said and did can be found in earlier writings ascribed to earlier prophets. Well, this lack of historical evidence rankles Christian scholars to no end, they need an answer to critics who ask “prove Jesus even existed in the first place.” Since there is no real evidence, they have fallen back on cataloguing the unique events in Jesus’ life and ministry to prove he existed. The resurrection after three days was one of the strongest points of this argument, and if this tablet proves genuine, it’s more indication that Jesus may have been more myth than man.

Will this change anyone’s mind one way or the other about Jesus? Probably not. I just find it interesting that arguably the most influential person in world history may not have actually existed at all. I mean, a lot of people have put a great deal of faith in the idea that Jesus really existed and his ministry really transpired more or less as the gospels state. Never underestimate the cleverness of people defending their faith though. The early church handled the problem of earlier prophets who apparently said and did the same things as Jesus by claiming that since Satan knew Jesus was coming, he sent earlier impostors to muddy the record and dilute the faith. The logical response to this argument is “You’ve got to be joking, you’re invoking a mythical supernatural being to prove Jesus was real?!” The Church’s response to that was the Inquisition, which is one way to end an argument I suppose.

Now some clever readers may be saying “but, but, what about Josephus!” He was a contemporary Jewish historian, he clearly mentions Jesus! Well, yes, Josephus’ works do seem to mention Jesus twice, particularly the Testimonium Flavianum:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

That seems pretty cut and dry, what’s the problem? The problem is that no one can find any evidence that this was written before the third century. And the fact that there is no mention of the Testimonium Flavianum in first and second century works regarding the early history of Christianity is highly suspect. The Testimonium Flavianum also states that many Jews joined his faith, which simply isn’t true, and one would expect a contemporary Jewish historian (Josephus was a historian) would know that. The idea that many Jews flocked to Christianity was a common early Christian belief, which strongly argues that the paragraph was written by a third century Christian forger and inserted into the works of Josephus to bolster the faith. Granted there are still some scholars claiming that the Testimonium is real, and honest debate on the subject continues. Most scholars, and me, remained unconvinced.

Does the debate about the authenticity of Jesus really mean much? Nope. I just find it a fascinating little window into the mysteries of human thinking. I mean, we are debating about whether a person really existed in the flesh and blood in order to prove that a supernatural being exists. Uh huh. In any case, what does it matter. Mythical or real, the story of Jesus has been one of the most influential stories in history. Hell, he even has a few followers to this day.

God Bless everyone!

(The above image of a bust of Josephus is public domain under US copyright law as it was taken from a book published in 1888. Is it really a likeness of Josephus? Who knows, though apparently it is a good representation of how typical Jews of the era looked like. And I’m referring to his hair style, not his nose. Apparently the idea that Jesus had long flowing locks of hair is also a myth. Is nothing sacred? And lastly, my comment about the Inquisition above was not meant to be taken literally.)

Written by unitedcats

July 8, 2008 at 7:32 am

36 Responses

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  1. Of course he exists! Why just this morning I saw his image in my scrambled eggs. Right next to his mother, naked, cavorting with a Greek fellow… ummm, is this a family blog?

    Ric

    July 8, 2008 at 11:55 am

  2. Personally I like the explanation given in Zeitgeist showing many religious figures being based on astrology. Information in story form has always intrigued me. My favorite being the Navajo legend that not only protected people from but also predicted outbreaks of Hantavirus.

    Still I agree that even if someone was able to prove 100% that Jesus never existed it doesn’t mean the message is wrong. Honestly, who believes the Seven Deadly Sins are a good thing?

    Steve

    July 8, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  3. I wonder if Doug Stych ever existed, to people 2,000 years from now it may seem impossible to prove he was a real person and not just a literary metaphor of some kind.

    Michael

    July 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    • Hardly. We have records. Birth, marriage, death records. We have audio and visual records. We have written records. We do not rely on texts that are written generations after someone dies, without any corroborating evidence. We also have DNA, fingerprints, and the memorabilia of anyone’s life, today.

      The story of the Egyptian god/man, Horus, parallels the life of Jesus, to a tee. The miraculous birth, born of a virgin. The 12 disciples. The miracles. The death and resurrection. -All written some 1,500 years before the “Jesus” story.

      The One-Eyed Undertaker

      February 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

  4. I think an obscure god-man named Joshua might have existed. Probably, he was never a prominent persona – so, none of the historians from his time knew about him. Then, his followers piled on borrowed myths from other religions to make him appear grand.

    The stuff of myths – usually, there’s a kernel of truth – however small behind them.

    Its a good thing that people can dissect Christianity freely. I was born a Hindu, though I don’t practice any religion. If I dissect Krishna or Ram, woe is me. The lunatic right fringe will constantly bay for my head ;-) Not that it stops me, of course :D

    Priya Raju

    July 9, 2008 at 1:57 am

  5. Hi Mr. Stych,

    I personally believe there is no such thing as historical fact. One cannot scientifically substantiate any past event, but can only review the current evidence and from them draw inferences, not fact. Even our current modern day technologies, photo, video, dna evidence, etc. can only be used so far to substantiate “fact” if one thinks in a purist sense. What is fascinating about this is, that if there was no Jesus, then how does this phenomenom exist? Don’t things that bring about such change historically usually have a catalyst? Instead of people devoting time to proving that Jesus might not have existed, don’t you think time better spent would be figuring out what or who should be credited with such a world changing event? Think about it–around that time period there was no such thing as a Christian, then Roman history acknowledges an explosion of them and tries to kill them all, and then 300 years later almost all of western civilization is claiming to be “Christian”? There seems to be much more evidence for Jesus than for anthropogenic global warming…

    A few followers? Some estimate about 2 billion. That is more people than I would ever inspire, whether I exist or not.

    John

    July 24, 2008 at 3:59 am

  6. A haunting question? To the religous sect. Yes he was a historic figure. But they need no proof. To the Spriitualist. He was a mythical figure. To me I believe there was a Jesus of Nazarene but because of the early church leaders, 3rd century to the current, they have infiltrated the minds of many with many mythilogical similarities, which has robbed the true essince of what Jesus stood for. LOVE God Bless. Larry

    larry

    August 5, 2008 at 4:41 pm

  7. The attempt to elucidate the Jesus myth for what it is can be unnerving. The mind-controlled followers will quote the book of lies, the Bible and say Harvey 4:19 says “beware there will Satan’s workers tempting you…” or some such and then they will kill you according to Murderous 3:4 that says “kill non-believers.”

    Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God. -Lenny Bruce (1923 – 1966)

    We are a bunch of ignorant fools fighting for our right to be foolish.

    frank costa

    October 14, 2008 at 11:09 am

  8. personnally i think jesus existed, but that he was high on opium which was indeed in great abundance back then.

    Ryan

    October 16, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  9. No, Ryan, not opium. Y’Shiva used cannabis.

    Mahakal / מהכאל

    October 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  10. Hebrew:

    ישוע

    Y’Shiva

    abbreviates:

    יהוהשוע

    I am who is.

    Mahakal / מהכאל

    October 21, 2008 at 10:39 pm

  11. Really…it doesn’t matter one fig whether Jesus actually existed in history. This thinking reflects the primitive mythical literal mindset and consciousness of the vast majority of people. Understand archetypal symbols and what jesus symbolizes…then you will understand the meaning of the mythical jesus. Whether Jesus actually existed or not only matters to people who look outside of themselves to feel safe and to feel a sense of lived meaning.

    Rob

    April 13, 2009 at 6:53 am

    • Rob, you speak as if you know as if it’s a fact that people made up much of what is written about Jesus.

      What evidence do you have since you were not there? Can you prove what you have said here?

      Brian

      August 9, 2009 at 7:06 pm

  12. I just discovered that there is no historical evidence to support either Jesus or the Gospels. It is rather naive to celebrate Easter and teach one’s children about Jesus, when we have to take “Christianity” leaders at face value … its a belief thing. As a metaphysical thinker, I can reconcile that there is a Jesus and there is a God … but why the heck did the church convert a normal “rabbi” with progressive thinking into a complete myth. Pontius in mentioned historically, so is Paul and John the Baptist, but no mention of Jesus in any historical documents. For those who follow the Bible for the essence and not the rule, my guess is that Jesus was a humble man that lived in poverty and taught progressive thinking and like most great thinkers and artists of our modern era, was not revered until hundreds of years after his life. History and the Bible is no exception is written by the conquerors and intellectual elite (amazing how censorship, embellishment existed even before the cut and paste era of today).

    Dareedle

    April 15, 2009 at 11:14 am

  13. If that makes you feel better about yourself, then great. Feel good. Feel good about yourself. After all, that is all life is about right?…feeling good? Until the day of course that you are snuffed out by disease, old age, etc. Then at the moment of your death you will be either scared out of your wits or crying for the God you deny. Enjoy being the dust that you are, because nobody is going to remember you, and why should they?

    EdS

    July 1, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    • Look, with the certainty anyone can posses, I really don’t think people even know their dead when they die; consequently it really doesn’t matter if anyone knows they lived. I fear not death!

      Erick

      September 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm

  14. There have been millions of people of history who have lived and no one have mentioned them by name, so from that flawed reasoning they never lived.

    Brian

    August 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm

  15. We aren’t talking of the billions of humans who have shuffled off this mortal coil unremarked and unremembered, we are talking about the founder of a religion that had and has a huge influence on history to this day. Moreover, I did not come to any conclusion as to whether or not Jesus existed, I just think it’s an interesting observation from several perspectives. Not the least of which is how people react to it. :) God bless.

    unitedcats

    August 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    • The argument was put forward that certain individuals never wrote about Jesus, so it is claimed that that is proof right there that Jesus never existed. So if one can use that argument against Jesus, then it can be used against anyone who have lived unknown to us, never really did exist after all.

      Brian

      August 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm

  16. The same people who reject Biblical and secular writings that show that Jesus is a real person (I say is because He is alive today, in heaven), are the same ones that have no problem believing that matter came from nothing. Now where is the evidence of that?

    Brian

    August 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    • There is scientific evidence of particles spontaneously appearing in a vacuum; in essence out of nothing. There is no god only existence; no beginning and no end, one big bang within another, ad infinitum. There is no purpose to life but life itself.

      Erick

      September 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

  17. Well, I certainly never argued that Jesus never existed. The impact he had on history alone would seem to indicate there most likely was a man behind the story. Though his life and teachings are subject to debate since the various sources do indeed differ. I recently read an interesting article along those lines: One World, Under God

    As for the The Big Bang, the evidence for it is very robust at this point. Hoiw this occured, scientists cannot yet say, though Brane Cosmology has some speculation along these lines. And in any event, I don’t have a problem with the idea that God may have created the Universe out of nothing in a period of time so short as to be unimaginable some 14 billion years ago, sounds pretty miraculous to me.

    unitedcats

    August 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm

  18. Unitedcats, the reason why they can’t explain it is because they realize that it’s impossible. And as for Brane Cosmology, it nothing more than a theory like all other made up explanations by quack science of how things came about; and we know that theory is not fact.

    It’s a shame that many so call scientists are willing to believe their own theory as fact. This is like me making up a fairytale based on some things that I discovered, and presenting it as if it my story was really real.

    So skeptics can say whatever they want about Jesus, they can’t say Christians theorize Him and then act as if He really existed.

    And since we have more evidence of Jesus’ existence than all the scientific theories in the world, there is no reason why Christians would make up stories about the things that He did, and at the same time willing to give their life for something that they know is not true.

    Brian

    August 9, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  19. The Universe works according to God’s rules, not our notion of what is or isn’t impossible. I don’t know if there is a God or whether he created the Universe, but if he did, he apparently created it out of nothingness some 14 odd billion years ago. Why, exactly, would that be impossible for God? People may not like the Big Bang theory, but they are free to do their own research and come up with a better theory that explains the observed evidence.

    You seem a bit unclear on the scientific use of the word theory. A theory is a testable hypothesis. When a theory is proposed, other scientists make predictions based on the theory, and then put them to the test. If the tests fail, the theory is abandoned, if the tests work, the theory is tested further. This is the scientific method, even if a scientist just “makes up” a theory, it passes or fails depending on what experiments show, not what scientists believe. If you don’t like a theory, you are more than welcome to test it and prove it false. So far the Big Bang has passed a lot of tests, and alternate theories have failed them.

    I didn’t say there was no evidence for Jesus and his ministry. There’s reams of secondary evidence, and no serious scholar or historian doubts he existed. It’s just that there’s currently no contemporary historical evidence that he existed. No contemporary writer mentions him, no contemporary records exist of him or about him, nothing. With any luck at all some will be found someday, much remains to be discovered in Pompeii and Herculean for example, and it’s entirely possible contemporary writings about Jesus will come to light some day.

    I for one look forward to that day, but my faith is not dependant on the issue in any way. God Bless!

    unitedcats

    August 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

  20. Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning the so call Big Bang; God could have created the universe from the Big Bang. What I question is there interpretation.

    And as for the called contemporary writers not mentioning Jesus; that by itself is not evidence that the Jesus of the Bible did not exist.

    Whoever questions the Bible, they would have to prove that the authors made Jesus up, is inaccurate or a lie…..disbelieving is not evidence.

    Brian

    August 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm

  21. No physical, forensic, written, eyewitness, works of carpentry, etc to indicate there was a divine man named Jesus. Christianity has carried on only because of fear and guilt that it instills upon the believer. Through family traditions for centuries are the reasons we believe. Our parents taught us this. I was raised a catholic rushed off to be baptized at 4 months old, to become what my parents wanted me to become……..just like them. Sent to parochial school to learn only about catholicism. Never allowed to question, never allowed to learn about others outside the faith. Taught that this fictional character Jesus (Yeshua) was the right and only way. Religious brainwashing 101.

    For the first time in centuries young people today are starting to make educated religous decisions themselves and learning about all major belief systems and those that don’t believe at all. Deciding for themselves whats best not what mom and dad taught us only because their mom and dad taught them and so on all the way back in time. Christianity is a form of racism. We are taught only our way is right and others are wrong. Christianity segregates people.

    Hopefully a century from now the inhabitants of the earth will look back and say how silly christianity and other belief systems were from the past. How people back then (now) believed because of ignorance, family tradition, and fear and guilt. Maybe a century from now all people of the world will be treated equally, and not segregated from each other because of our ignorance and fear from the past of religions that preached “we are right and everyone else is wrong” nonsense.

    richard

    August 26, 2009 at 8:58 am

  22. UNITEDCATS: What secondary evidence? The bible gospels were written by people we don’t even know. They were written several years after this fictional character Jesus was suppose to have died. Thats not evidence. The gospel writers would have been jews and the documents written in aramic the language of the jews of this time but the documents they presented were written in greek and contradict each other. But we are taught through family tradition to believe this crap.

    Your secondary evidence is not evidence at all but just third party heresay, which would never stand up in any court of law, because it is not evidence.

    Evidence first hand or secondary would be: eyewitness accounts, written documents, physical evidence, etc. (and there were several prominent jewish/roman writers at the time and not one mentions a divine jew named Jesus of Nazereth who performed miracles and was crucified. Outside the bible there is no mention of the crucifixtion anywhere. There is no written documents of miracles, good deeds etc of a divine man named Jesus.

    Reading the bible (best selling fiction book of all time) describes Jesus as a non productive individual, an alley bum, hobo, that just tripped around a few towns in the middle east, and did nothing progressive in his life. He was the unemployed son of a carpenter. Born to a 13 year old girl (goes against all my morals) and she was married to a much older man. Today if a 13 year old girl walked down ANY street in america wearing a toga telling people she was impregnated by a holy ghost and was going to have a divine son, and was married to a much older man would bring out the white coats from the nearest mental institution. But because this happened 2000 years ago christians don’t seem to have a problem with that. But if it happened today, we would just roll our eyes. It is so easy to be deceived by family tradtion throughout the centuries. UNBELIEVABLE!

    richard

    August 26, 2009 at 9:14 am

  23. Well, that’s a new one! LOL I’m taking fire from the front and the rear! I guess that means I’m in the middle ground? Yes, by secondary evidence I mean hearsay evidence, which really isn’t evidence.

    I think you overestimate modern Americans. 10% of them have doubts about the Moon landings, 30-40% of them believe in UFOs or 9-11 conspiracy theories, and over half don’t believe that humans evolved from primate ancestors. I rest my case. —Doug

    unitedcats

    August 26, 2009 at 6:00 pm

  24. Let’s assume you’re right in saying there’s no reliable evidence for Jesus other than the bible, and plenty of damning evidence against his existence (I can’t comment as I personally haven’t done the research)…

    You agree that you can’t prove that to be the case as no time machines have been invented yet.

    But… what if you *did* have a time machine? What if you discovered that he *did* exist? What would you do with all your well-formed arguments about the near zero likelihood of him existing? There’s only one choice. You’d have to fit the evidence to the facts.

    Question is – could the so-called damning evidence fit a Jesus existing?

    I realise that the converse question is true of a believer in Jesus – ie what if he *didn’t* exist?

    I guess my ultimate point is that we as human beings don’t have a particularly good track record of detailing history super accurately for future generations (although with the advent of the printing press and the digital age we are getting somewhat better – at least with significant world events…). We’re also prone to jumping to conclusions when we don’t have the whole picture. So that’s why we have to “believe” and “trust” in things.

    I know this sounds foolish in light of your logically worded musings, but I believe and trust in Jesus.

    paul

    November 14, 2009 at 5:56 am

  25. Faith per se is not foolish, I have no problem reconciling God/Jesus with logic/science. They aren’t mutually exclusive no matter what the extremists say. If I judge people though, I judge them on their actions, not their faith. IE I don’t really care what people believe, as long as they don’t use their beliefs to justify hurting others.

    Thinking about it further, I think it’s foolish to let faith supersede logic or to let logic supersede faith. I think faith plays a crucial role in what it means to be human. That seems like a logical observation to me at least.

    As always, thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    unitedcats

    November 14, 2009 at 8:45 am

  26. Christianity invented two illnesses. Original sin and eternal damnation. Christianity states they are the only belief that has a cure for both of these illnesses. The belief of a divine jesus. Back in the day most people were simpletons lived by the guilt and fear the church instilled upon them, and relied on everything their priests told them. Today most progressive western culture countries are rapidly moving away from christianity. The future christianity will come from under developed continents such as Africa and Asia, and will start the process all over again, just like it did in western cultures centuries before.

    charts.1

    November 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

  27. Jesus is an archetype…a symbol of the Higher Self. Jesus is a mythical figure like Apollo, Dionysus, and, Zeus. Christianity is a syncretism of Judaism, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Pagan ideas and symbols. Look at symbols throughout history in other cultures and religions…that is a key to this puzzle. You will see the same archetypes that appear in Christianity appear in the other myths and religious writings. The Madonna with Child is a symbol of the Mother principle and appears in at least 4 other religions besides Christianity. The virgin birth symbol is the same. The dying and resurrecting god-man myths predate Christianity. Mithra was one such deity. Christianity is a syncretism of symbols and beliefs that form a myth. Jesus was originally a mythical, other worldly figure in Gnosticism that came from the “Pleroma” that the early church made into a literal historical entity. There was tremendous political advantage to the church in formulating a litaralist dogma…It made the church extremely wealthy and conferred the same power as a King on their popes. That happened in 325CE at the Nicean Council, where the christian creed was created and the books that would formulate the bible were chosen. To that time there had been hundred of gospels and stories and myths about the mythical magical savior god man.

    Robert

    August 19, 2011 at 11:59 am

  28. I dont know nif Jesus did exist but when some say that the apostles wouldn’t have given their lives for a mythical God – what abot the muslims terrorists on 9/11?

    Calico

    January 9, 2012 at 12:11 am

  29. A roman centurion was recorded by a roman historian as telling somone he (jesus) had risen somone from the dead (again). The real problem about history is this, not many people could write back then and those that could where taken as the gospel truth, legends on the other hand come from oral memories later recorded by people who are literate, would you go to your great grandmother and say she was a lier?. The romans only mention him as been a trouble causer, if he did exist he wasn’t anything like the gospels tell you, in other words you are right, there was no such jesus as according to the image portrayed in the bible, the historical one was probably verry different. And probably executed for been a “trouble causer”. :)

    John

    July 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    • there couldn’t have been a man named jesus 2000 plus years ago, or born in 4 ad or ce, wtfe, for the simple facts that there was no J in the alpha-bets in hebrew, aramaic, coptic, then in the transition language of pheonician to greek, or greek, or latin and all the way up north to rune and old english, there was no letter J, and even the sound of IH, or IE, didn’t make a J sound until middle to present english and late latin and late greek. Hebrew didn’t have that consonant at all. It’s just the biggest and most played out lie in history, a covet and inception by the rteligious clergy, to continue on the same old legends/myths, from the definite Pagan origins and routes since babylon and egypt.

      rightreich

      July 22, 2012 at 1:38 am

  30. Jesus Christ, by any name, has never been considered the founder of Christianity. Saul of Tarsus, otherwise known as Saint Paul, is considered the founder by most Biblical scholars. Saul considered James the Just, the brother of Yeshua, to be the founder of Christianity. And the term “Jesus” is not used until 1626, in a revised edition of the King James Bible (1611).

    Saul of Tarsus is the one to distrust, I promise. Sadly he was a very real man and he did some very bad things, chiefly writing the majority of the New Testament. He never met the figure Jesus Christ, and yet he founded a whole religion on him. Saul of Tarsus was both a Roman citizen and a Pharisaic Jew, and (according to the book of Acts, written by his companion Luke) a vigilant persecutor of Yeshua’s apostles and their many followers.

    As far as Yehoshua goes, the dogs drug away his body a long time ago. The proof of his life has vanished beneath a book about wrath and hatred. I am sorry. If his life were to be proved, it would destroy the (false) basis of Christianity, which is a pretty good reason to hide the body and cover up the tracks.

    Thank you for the lively discussion.

    Kleopatra Caesar

    January 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm


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