I have wanted to do this blog for a long time, and since this is my first blog ever posted, I may miss a few things that need to be mentioned, so I will do my best to include as much as I can with few updates. There is so much to include on this subject, it could take novels to cover it all, therefore I will try to keep it short. Nobody likes reading a 455 page blog, so a lot will be left out. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
This blog addresses the historicity of jesus. It is a subject I have been investigated for several years. I even had the pleasure to become acquainted with John Hart, the author of a upcoming book which shines light on the jesus myth. His website, still under construction, can be foundhere.
I think the story of jesus is both a mix of myth and legend. I invite everyone (both religious and non-religious) to get involved in this, whether you agree or disagree.
Before the 1970s, many people thought that archeology was an excellent helping tool for the Bible, however this is no longer true. Scholars are questioning the whole model of “biblical archaeology,” which starts with the assumption that the Bible is a reliable guide for field research. Indeed, there is now so much contrary evidence AGAINST the historical accuracy of the Bible that the term “biblical archaeology” has been discarded by professional archaeologists and Syro-Palestinian archaeology has been suggested by some practicing in the field as a more appropriate term.
The Bible contains many stories that never happened. The Bible was wrong about the age of the earth; it was wrong about theArk; it was wrong about many of the stories in the OT; even the NT contains stories that are historically inaccurate. Many skeptics and moderate religious people are aware that these tales are not true and are not found in history; Genesis; Exodus; the conquest of Cannan; the vast empire of David and Solomon; Nazareth; etc.
(this is a short clip taken from a large lecture by Hector Avalos “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History. You can watch the whole thing on Google Videos, he goes into greater detail of all the things that no longer support biblical history.
I am very thankful to Edward Tabash for introducing me to Prof. Avalos and inviting us all to lunch. I hope we could do this again in the future.)
However, there is one story of the NT that many skeptics do not approach or consider to possibly be historically wrong:
the story of Jesus Christ.
I am a History major, particularly ancient history that includes the Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Hebrews, and Romans. After many years of searching for the truth if jesus was the messiah and savior, I never once verified if his story or historical existence was legitimate. For readers, the point of this blog is not to debate prophecies or his teachings; it is focusing on the history of jesus. As a historian, I examine the evidence for all figures in history under the same criteria to discover the truth. When I researched for the evidence of jesus’ existence, I was astounded what I found — rather what I didn’t find. There is no external historical evidence for the existence of jesus of Nazareth stories. This was puzzling, so I examined the gospels, since they were the only source I could use in my journey. Through my research, I discovered the Bible contains improbabilities, contradictions, discrepancies, forgeries, evident fictions, legendary embellishments, propaganda, interpolations, fabrications, and more and cannot be used as a reliable source.
I have asked every Christians I have ever came across to please provide any evidence they could show me for the historicity of jesus. To this day, after many years, not one could meet the challenge.
As a historian, when trying to establish what happened in the past, you need evidence of that time. You need contemporary unbiased evidence from many different sources, you want them to be independent, and you want lots of them. Being aware of the stories of jesus, how is it a man like this could exist without ever being mentioned once anywhere? We have no self-written manuscripts, no pieces of wood work crafted by jesus (who was supposed to be a carpenter, but there is evidence that casts doubt that he ever was), we have no sketch arts of him in person, no artifacts, dwelling, nothing. No written Roman, Greek, pagan or Jewish sources from this time know of any historical Jesus or Christ. No mention of him comes until the gospels many years later. Not a single historian, secular or religious, ever mentioned jesus, and we have dozens of great historians during that time. 1st century Palestine was a well recorded era, so how is it that a man like jesus could enter the Temple in Jerusalem on Passover and start a riot, and not be mentioned one time? All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. W. Trilling argues that “not a single date of his life” can be established with certainty, other scholars think the quest for historical jesus is hopeless. Skepticism about the details of his life can generate skepticism about his very existence.
When searching for evidence, apologists try to find a non-christian source that confirms the existence of jesus. The problem is none of these exist in the first century. Apologists use a list of names as evidence: Suetonius, Thallus, Mara Ben-Serapion, Tacitus, Pliny, Lucian, Phlegon, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Tome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian and others. This may seem appealing, however if you dig deeper into these names you quickly realize that most of these names can be taken off the list. And if you scratch beneath the surface, they ALL have to be discarded. Many of these do not even name Jesus, and many of these are not based on eye-witnesses accounts. Some of these names are church fathers writing in the second to fourth century and are therefore too late to be considered reliable for first-century confirmation. Being church leaders, their objectivity is also questionable. In a desperate but laughable attempt, some apologists present Josephus as the proof demanded by skeptics. What people like this fail to realize is that (ignoring that its not contemporary) these pieces presented in Josephus are forgeries latter inserted by Christians. The act offorgery is not uncommon in Christianity, just look at their holy book the Bible — it is full of forgeries.
A common argument put forth to answer the big question why did nobody ever wrote or mention jesus is that “perhaps jesus was not an important person to be mentioned.” This argument is comical. The jesus portrayed in the gospels was huge and well known by great multiples of people as a miracle-worker and a prophet, and surely would have been mentioned by a historian or philosopher. The gospels say that people from multiple cities even beyond Jordan (Matt. 4:25) or his followers were so large they were “innumerable” (Luke 12:1). If the poor, the rich, the high priests, the Romans, travelers and foreigners, and the scribes all knew about jesus, who would not have heard of him? If Herod really took the time to hunt down and try to slay jesus, but instead murdered hundreds of other babies, then this would have gotten the attention of historians all across the land. Some also argue that “perhaps all the records of jesus was lost or destroyed.” This argument is no better than the last objection. Jerusalem was the center of education recordings of the Jewish people, and the Romans kept many records, and even the gospels mention that scribes followed jesus – and some of those scribes had connections with the high priests. We have records of dozens of other named messiah-like figures, but never once is jesus mentioned. Given what I just explained earlier, all kinds of people, local and foreign, low class to high class, etc. all knew about jesus. With all this, we would surely expect there to be evidence about jesus, but we find none. Not one. Anywhere. Often when failure to confirm is to disconfirm.
There is not a single piece of evidence for jesus during his life and for several decades after his death. All we have left as a source for jesus is the gospels, and this is not looking good for Christianity. For instance, if you cannot believe the stories from Herodotus, then how can you believe the gospels? Fifty years after the Persian Wars ended in 479 BCE Herodotus the Halicarnassian asked numerous eyewitnesses and their children about the things that happened in those years and then he wrote a book about it. Though he often shows a critical and skeptical mind, sometimes naming his sources or even questioning their reliability when he is suspicious or conflicting accounts, he nevertheless reports without a hint of doubt that the following actually happened: the Temple of Delphi magically defended itself with animated armaments, lightning bolts and collapsing cliffs; the sacred olive tree of Athens, though burned by the Persians, grew an arm’s length in a single day; a miraculous flood-tide wiped an entire Persian contingent after they desecrated an image of Poseidon; a horse gave birth to a rabbit; and a whole town witnessed a mass resurrection of cooked fish!
But that is only addressing the story, but what about the validity of the gospel stories? Many people would believe the gospels are evidence for jesus, since they are supposed to be written by eye-witnesses. The problem with this is, the gospel writers never met jesus. They were written many decades after jesus supposedly died, the earliest gospel (Mark) was written about forty to forty-five years after jesus died. None of the gospels authors claim to be eye-witnesses and each gospel is written in the third-person. We have no idea who wrote the gospels or where they wrote them; we dont know who got to read them prior to the 2nd century or investigated their claims in any useful way; but it is clear none of them met jesus or can agree what jesus did. Some of their writings goes against what jesus taught or did, which Mark seems to know nothing about.
“We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University
“Mark himself clearly did not know any eyewitnesses of Jesus.” -Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
“The question must also be raised as to whether we have the actual words of Jesus in any Gospel.” -Bishop John Shelby Spong
Deeper investigation into the gospels cast doubt that some of them. The gospels were written by Greek-speaking educated rhetorically trained writers who were skilled in Greek composition (but never call themselves disciples), not by uneducated illiterate lower-class Aramaic-speaking disciple peasants who never went to school or knowledge of literature. How did the story reach these authors? Not by the disciples, but from someone who heard the story, who heard about the story. They were telling stories to convert people; they improved and changed the story sometimes. By the time the story reached these authors, the story had already been set in motion through oral traditions for several decades, which casts serious doubt on the validity of their claims.
There is proof that Mark may have not been a local living in Palestine or perhaps not even Jewish. Mark may have been written as a fiction. The authors Matthew and Luke got most of their info from Mark, often copying Mark verbatim.The gospels themselves are admittedly propagandist: “And many other signs truly did jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have through his name.” (John 20:30-31) This not the work of objective historical reporting.
We also know that many parts of the gospel have been later added into Scripture, such as the end of Mark 16, and the story of Jesus saying “let he without sin cast the first stone.” There is a whole list of pieces that were later added in, and so many of the books in the NT written by forgers (all this done by early christians). We know they were meddled with, mistranslated, and changed over the decades of oral traditions, and even many of the epistles are the products of forgers. Combined with what we dont know and what we do know about the gospels, there is no sound basis for trusting the gospels as reliable historical documents. Why trust these sources when we would never trust such documents from any other religious text?
The earliest writings about jesus come from Paul, a man who never met jesus. The story tells us that Paul never met jesus in person, instead he saw a light and heard a voice. Without any evidence to support this claim, it is very problematic to accept. If Christians accept this by itself as evidence, then why don’t they believe in the story of Joseph Smith or Mohammad? Paul has no knowledge of jesus early life, just his vague tales of his last great actions, and Paul often taught contrary to what jesus preached. The “silence of Paul” is a big problem for Christianity. Paul writes of other people seeing jesus, such as 500 people, but what he does not provide names, where they came from, were they all men, what did they see, what did they say, where did they go, did they see anything, and why is it that these people never spoke of it or wrote about it, or told a nearby scribe about it and record it? Of all the huge things jesus did in front of hundreds of people, surely this would have caught the attention of historians, but not one mentions him anywhere. It is very likely that these 500 people mentioned by Paul are just numbers written on paper; pure propaganda. If Paul’s writings like this are enough to convince christians, then why don’t all christians believe in the Loch Ness Monster or UFO sightings, since you can go and find hundreds of well-documented names, places, and detailed testimonies for stories like this.
Were the earliest christians reliable regarding the historicity of jesus? Not one single person, not even the scribes that followed jesus, recorded a single line regarding jesus. What we have learned is the the story has been in circulation by oral traditions for many decades and often changed or improved. What we have learned from the earliest christians is that they were comfortable with doctoring documents and forgeries, proving a pervasive dishonesty among early christians, as well as the gullibility of their peers. There was even massive disagreements among early christians who jesus was. I find it strange that in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd century, there were conflicting ideas of who jesus was, some say he did not exist “in the flesh.” One of the earliest church, Marcionism, taught that jesus did not exist in the flesh (there was no nativity, no baptism, nothing). Passages in the Bible attack these groups of people who do not acknowledge jesus came in the flesh, which points to that the idea that jesus was just a spiritual concept or fictional character was popular. However, the concept that jesus was indeed on the flesh and was a suffering messiah won the overall view of who jesus was. The reason for this was that suffering and flesh and blood sacrifice to create a new covenant. Also, it showed that the resurrection of the flesh of jesus proves that resurrection of the flesh is possible.
Paul reveals to us that the earliest christians were hallucinating on a regular bases, entering ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues–so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14). The whole book of Revelation, for example, is a veritable acid trip, and yet it got into the Bible as an authoritative document· That’s how respectable even the craziest of hallucinations were. Not only were they constantly channeling spirits and speaking in tongues and having visions of angels and strange objects in the sky, they were also putting on faith-healing acts and exorcising demons by laying on hands and shouting words of power. In other words, the first christians behaved a lot more like the crazy cultists than you’d ever be comfortable with. These aren’t the sort of people whose testimony you would ever trust if you met them today. And if you wouldn’t trust what they said now, you shouldn’t trust anything they said.
As mentioned above, archeology has failed to prove the Bible, such as the city of Nazareth never existed during the life of jesus. But many people would point to locations mentioned in the bible, such as the city of Jerusalem, and conclude that shows jesus must exist. Ignoring that one or more of the gospels writers got parts of the geography wrong, this argument put forth holds no water. In Homers Odyssey, this epic mentions, in detail, many islands and locations that existed in history, but does that mean that one-eyed giants, Greek gods and magical creatures are literal facts because the story depicts geography accurately? No, of course not.
So how did the myth originate? Many people would find it very unlikely that a religion such as Christianity without a central figure at its core. What they do not understand is that there are many ways it can arise without a central figure, and this is were history and biblical evidence points to. The fusion of apocalyptic and Messianic Judaism with Hellenistic culture gave rise to the “Jesus Christ” mystery religion among Hellenistic Jews. We can identify literary sources and traditions that are not only capable of providing all of the material for the Jesus story, but indeed it is clear that the Jesus story is developed from these source materials, and this fact undermines the possibility that the stories are based on observed historical events.
The blog does a wonderful job at explaining there is no evidence for such an event and that history cannot prove a miracle. It is said by Paul if there was no Resurrection, then their entire faith is wrong. I disagree. Without a savior, then you have no resurrection to begin with.