[ExI] Impending Newtonmass...
possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Fri Dec 26 04:31:37 UTC 2008
Damien Broderick wrote:
Non-bible scholars believe the whole thing was made up, like Zeus, Santa
Claus and Xenu. You might as well believe Joseph Smith saw angels and golden
plates and-- Oh, wait. Well, at least there's acceptable independent
evidence that Smith *existed*.
Damien, we both know there is a wide range of acceptance/non-acceptance of
the historical Jesus among scholars who research his life. I will say that
I definitely had an interesting time studying this subject online (and on
Christmas no less!). I thought the essay below brings up a powerful point
by showing the massive historical and social impact of Jesus and how such
things come from the actions of real people on real history and not simply
figments of the imagination.
Excerpted from the article, "Was Jesus a Real Person?"
The following facts about Jesus were written by early non-Christian sources:
- Jesus was from Nazareth.
- Jesus lived a wise and virtuous life.
- Jesus was crucified in Palestine under Pontius Pilate during the reign
of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, being considered the Jewish king.
- Jesus was believed by his disciples to have died and risen from the
dead three days later.
- Jesus' enemies acknowledged that he performed unusual feats they called
- Jesus' small band of disciples multiplied rapidly, spreading as far as
- Jesus' disciples denied polytheism, lived moral lives, and worshiped
Christ as God.
Theologian Norman Geisler remarked:
"This general outline is perfectly congruent with that of the New
All of these independent accounts, religious and secular, speak of a real
man who matches up well with the Jesus in the Gospels. Encyclopedia
Britannica cites these various secular accounts of Jesus' life as convincing
proof of his existence. It states:
"These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents
of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus."10
*Historical Impact *
An important distinction between a myth and a real person is how the figure
impacts history. For example, the Olympic Games originated on Mount Olympus
in Greece, home of the temple of the Greek god Zeus. But Zeus has not
changed governments, laws, or ethics.
The historian Thomas Carlyle said, "No great man lives in vain. The history
of the world is but the biography of great men."11 As Carlyle notes, it is
real people, not myths, who impact history.
As a real person, Alexander impacted history by his military conquests,
altering nations, governments, and laws. But what of Jesus Christ and his
impact on our world?
The first-century governments of Israel and Rome were largely untouched by
Jesus' life. The average Roman citizen didn't know he existed until many
years after his death, Roman culture remained largely aloof from his
teaching for decades, and it would be several centuries before killing
Christians in the coliseum became a national pastime. The rest of the world
had little if any knowledge of him. Jesus marshaled no army. He didn't write
a book or change any laws. The Jewish leaders hoped to wipe out his memory,
and it appeared they would succeed.
Today, however, ancient Rome lies in ruins. Caesar's mighty legions and the
pomp of Roman imperial power have faded into oblivion. Yet how is Jesus
remembered today? What is *his* enduring influence?
- More books have been written about Jesus than about any other person in
- Nations have used his words as the bedrock of their governments.
According to Durant, "The triumph of Christ was the beginning of democracy."
- His Sermon on the Mount established a new paradigm in ethics and
- Schools, hospitals, and humanitarian works have been founded in his
name. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford are but a few universities that
have Christians to thank for their beginning.
- The elevated role of women in Western culture traces its roots back to
Jesus. (Women in Jesus' day were considered inferior and virtual nonpersons
until his teaching was followed.)
- Slavery was abolished in Britain and America due to Jesus' teaching
that each human life is valuable.
- Former drug and alcohol dependents, prostitutes, and others seeking
purpose in life claim him as the explanation for their changed lives.
- Two billion people call themselves Christians. While some are Christian
in name only, others continue to impact our culture by teaching Jesus'
principles that all life is valuable and we are to love one another.
Remarkably, Jesus made all of this impact as a result of just a three-year
period of public ministry. If Jesus didn't exist, one must wonder how a myth
could so alter history. When world historian H. G. Wells was asked who has
left the greatest legacy on history, he replied, "By this test Jesus stands
Documentary evidence and historical impact point to the fact that Jesus did
exist. If Jesus did really exist, we also would expect to discover his
footprints imprinted within the details of history. Myths don't leave such
One of the keys here for Durant and other scholars is the time factor. Myths
and legends usually take hundreds of years to evolve—the story of George
Washington never telling a lie was probably a lie, until two centuries
turned it into legend. News of Christianity, on the other hand, spread too
quickly to be attributed to a myth or legend. Had Jesus not existed, those
who opposed Christianity would certainly have labeled him a myth from the
outset. But they didn't.
Such evidence, along with the early written accounts and the historical
impact of Jesus Christ, convince even skeptical historians that the founder
of Christianity was neither myth nor legend. But one expert on myths wasn't
Like Muggeridge, Oxford scholar C. S. Lewis was initially convinced that
Jesus was nothing more than a myth. Lewis once stated, "All religions, that
is, all mythologies … are merely man's own invention—Christ as much as
Loki."15 (Loki is an old Norse god. Like Thor, but without the ponytail.)
Ten years after denouncing Jesus as a myth, Lewis discovered that historical
details, including several eyewitness documents, verify his existence.
Jesus Christ has impacted history's landscape like a massive earthquake. And
this earthquake has left a trail wider than the Grand Canyon. It is this
trail of evidence that convinces scholars that Jesus really did exist and
really did impact our world 2,000 years ago.
One skeptic who thought Jesus was a myth was British journalist Malcolm
Muggeridge. But on a television assignment to Israel, Muggeridge was faced
with evidence about Jesus Christ that he didn't know existed. As he checked
out historical places—Jesus' birthplace, Nazareth, the crucifixion site, and
the empty tomb—a sense of Jesus' reality began to emerge.
Later he stated
"It was while I was in the Holy Land for the purpose of making three B.B.C.
television programmes on the New Testament that a … certainty seized me
about Jesus' birth, ministry and Crucifixion. … I became aware that there
really had been a man, Jesus, who was also God."14
Some German higher-critical scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries had
questioned Jesus' existence, pointing out that such key figures as Pontius
Pilate and the chief priest Joseph Caiaphas in the Gospel accounts had never
been confirmed as real. No rebuttal was possible until the mid-20th century.
Archaeologists in 1962 confirmed Pilate's existence when they discovered his
name included in an inscription on an excavated stone. Likewise, the
existence of Caiaphas was uncertain until 1990, when an ossuary (bone box)
was discovered bearing his inscription. Archaeologists have also discovered
what they believe to be Simon Peter's house and a cave where John the
Baptist did his baptizing.
Finally, perhaps the most convincing historical evidence that Jesus existed
was the rapid rise of Christianity. How can it be explained without Christ?
How could this group of fishermen and other workingmen invent Jesus in a
scant few years? Durant answered his own introductory question—did Christ
exist?—with the following conclusion:
That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and
appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of
human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded
in the Gospels. After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of the
life, character, and teaching of Christ, remain reasonably clear, and
constitute the most fascinating feature in the history of Western man.
Clifford Herschel Moore, professor at Harvard University, remarked of Jesus'
historicity, "Christianity knew its Saviour and Redeemer not as some god
whose history was contained in a mythical faith. … Jesus was a historical
not a mythical being. No remote or foul myth obtruded itself on the
Christian believer; his faith was founded on positive, historical, and
Few if any serious historians agree with Ellen Johnson's and Bertrand
Russell's assertions that Jesus didn't exist. The extensive documentation of
Jesus' life by contemporary writers, his profound historical impact, and the
confirming tangible evidence of history have persuaded scholars that Jesus
really did exist. Could a myth have done all that? All but a few extremely
skeptical scholars say no.
Dr. Michael Grant of Cambridge has written, "To sum up, modern critical
methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has 'again and again been
answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.' In recent years 'no
serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus.' "17
Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan declared, "Regardless of what anyone may
personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the
dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty
centuries. … It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its
calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that
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