Most laypeople are probably amazed at the claim that there is no evidence that Jesus existed. How can that be? When you come to Israel, you can visit the places where Jesus was born and baptized. Catholics know the relics of Jesus, e.g. B. Cross fragments, thorns from the crown of thorns – even the foreskin of Jesus is worshiped: “At various points in history, several churches in Europe have claimed to have the foreskin of Jesus. sometimes at the same time. Various miraculous powers have been attributed to him. “(Wikipedia)
And of course what about the gospels? What better proof than these four epic stories about Jesus? For a long time, the Gospels were valued as valuable eyewitness accounts: they represent Jesus at a specific time and place and mention well-known historical figures. In addition, they are surely guaranteed by “divine inspiration”.
But the Gospels are literary creations with too many mistakes to trust the inspiration hypothesis. Biblical archaeologists have felt that it would be good to have something more tangible than stories. They have been digging in the Holy Land for a long time, hoping to find artifacts that – without any reasonable doubt – could link Jesus to history. For example, the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum were identified. Although it dates from the second century, it may have been the site of the synagogue where Jesus preached (Mark 1:21). So far, however, no plaque has appeared on which his appearance is noted: “Jesus of Nazareth stood here and preached.”
If an artifact of this kind were discovered – Aha! Prove one last! “- how would that help? It would break the curse Bart Ehrman noticed:
“Throughout the first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, scientist, politician, philosopher, or poet. His name never appears in a single inscription, and he never appears in a single private correspondence. Zero!”
Ehrman asserted himself against mythical scholars; He is certain that despite this silence, Jesus existed in contemporary records. The Gospels show Jesus to be extremely popular, attract large crowds from many regions and are triumphantly greeted in Jerusalem. But there is no indication of this in records made at that time. To put it very clearly: Jesus is not There where he should be. So an affirmative artifact – a plaque that Jesus had visited in the Capernaum Synagogue – would be a big deal. Provided it could definitely be dated to the middle of the first century.
And while believers could breathe a sigh of relief and know for sure that Jesus was walking on earth, what difference would it really make? Artifacts confirm events and personalities, they confirm what people believed, however They do not confirm theology– the truth of these beliefs.
That brings us to important New Testament questions. The confusion that Jesus is not mentioned in the records of the first century is supplemented by another confusion: Jesus, the extremely popular wandering preacher, master of the parables and miracle worker, is also missing in the earliest New Testament writings, ie letters.
The letters, particularly those of the Apostle Paul, focus on the theology of crucifixion and resurrection, but reveal little interest in what Jesus himself was like – what he said and did. How is that not strange? Scholars who value the Gospels – and we will review these documents shortly – have their hopes for a reliable oral tradition that is said to have been in circulation. That is, they assume there have been decades of stories about Jesus circulating in various Christian communities.
If this is the case, why are the letters strikingly lacking details about Jesus? For example, Paul never mentioned the empty tomb; He showed no awareness of the parables and miracles of Jesus. Why didn’t someone who had traveled so far in the early Christian world learn about it from oral tradition? From what he wrote in Romans 13, Paul does not even seem to have known that Jesus was executed by the Roman authorities. And that’s an embarrassment: Mark’s account of the Eucharist seems to be based on Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 11 – which Paul brags that he received directly from the Lord, that is, from his visions.
Yes, a true first-century Jesus artifact would anchor it in the context of Christian tradition, but we still couldn’t explain why the earliest New Testament writings show so little interest in Jesus’ service – indeed. so little awareness of it.
Unless … we admit that the authors were not interested in the story; They were under the spell of theology. After finding out that a resurrected god – by no means a rare belief in antiquity – was a key to securing eternal life, theology was all that mattered:
“What Jesus did not do on earth was irrelevant to what he could do for you now, as he was raised to heaven’s highest throne, and it was the heavenly Jesus sold to the masses, not just any dead carpenter from Galilee. ” (P. 57, Richard Carrier, The end of Christianityedited by John Loftus)
Mythists also argue that the absence of earthly Jesus in the letters drives their argument that an earthly Jesus was not there at all – which would also explain his absence in contemporary records. The evangelists were theologians, as were the authors of the letters, but they – as storytellers – used this format to advance the same agenda.
Do not minimize this admission towards the end of the Gospel of John (20:31):
“But these are written so that you can believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by faith you can have life in His name.”
This is a confession of the propaganda agenda and has long been recognized by scientists. In his 1935 book JesusCharles Guignebert, professor of Christian history at the Sorbonne, wrote:
“It was not the nature of Jesus that interested the writers of our gospels, it was the nature of Christ as their faith presented it. They are only interested in not reporting what they know, but in proving what they believe in. “
“… only interested in not reporting what you know …”
We can rightly assume that they knew very little about Jesus. There is no evidence that they had access to a “reliable oral tradition,” and when the Gospels were written, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Very few eyewitnesses to Jesus’ events would have been alive. It is no wonder that the evangelists do not name their sources; not even Luke – don’t be fooled by the fact that he appears as a historian when he opens his gospel. And John’s author, who wrote 70 to 80 years after Jesus’ death, went so far as to invent a disciple that was unknown to the synoptic authors. This is a nice try and a good laugh (John 21:24):
“This is the student who testified and wrote these things and we know that his testimony is true.”
NaturallyPropagandists assure readers that they are telling the truth.
It is not difficult for laypeople to see what the evangelists were up to – but it requires determination and skill. The Church has always advised: “Don’t look too closely” – encouraged by the apostle Paul’s contempt to think (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21):
“Where’s the one who’s wise? Where’s the clerk Where’s the debater of this age? Didn’t God make the wisdom of the world foolish? Because, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, through the folly of our preaching, God decided to save those who believe. “
Just believe in itSwitch off curiosity and skepticism.
This can be an adventure: go through the gospels and look for objects that reveal their imaginative origins: the voice of a god who comes from clouds; the dress of a holy hero heals a woman; A paralytic can suddenly walk because a holy hero forgives his sins. A mentally ill man is healed when the holy hero turns his demons into pigs. The holy hero glows on a mountain top while chatting with long-deceased holy heroes. The holy hero can perform voice-activated resurrections, turn water into wine, go on water, and make a storm go away by shouting at him.
When laypeople can escape the guardianship of priests and preachers – and just say it No Following the apostle Paul’s thoughtless advice – they know very well that they can enjoy these story elements in comics, Disney animations, science fiction epics, world folklore and fairy tales – or Harry Potter as a fantasy, but should ask like all over the world They are expected to take them seriously in religion.
This brings us back to the problem of the gospels; They are the only documents that tell us about Jesus and they are absolutely inadequate. They suffer from exactly the same problem as the holy places of Jesus in Israel and the countless relics: there are no documents to verify. Even if a dramatic Jesus artifact was discovered, we stick to this fantasy literature, which is heavily loaded with theology and for the most part is pretty bad (see my articles).Who the hell hired Matthew to write a gospel?” and “Put the Gospels on the wrong foot”).
After going through the gospels to make lists of fantasy things, there is more homework to do. We knows how the evangelists created their stories without real information. They searched the Old Testament and other ancient literature for ideas and used their imaginations.
See for example:
Robert Price, The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems
• David Chumney, Jesus darkened: How searching the scriptures stood in the way of telling the facts
Randel helms, Gospel fictions
• Robert Conner, Apparitions of Jesus: The resurrection as a ghost story
• Dennis MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark
I actually prefer the Gospels as a battleground. Trying to get Christians to study the issues that raise doubts that Jesus was a real person – well, usually they won’t hear about it since then everyone knows that Jesus existed except for a few evil atheists!
I am happy to end this debate. Let’s go back to the Gospels – even take them at face value if you want to play the game that way. How do we start? The very first verse of Mark, the first gospel that was written, contains an error – and it descends from there.
David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years and a PhD in Bible Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Difficult Problems in Christian Thinking and Belief: A Minister who became an atheist shows why you should drop faithwas published by Intellectual press It was reissued in 2018 with a new foreword by John Loftus.
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