[ExI] The existence of Jesus (Was: Political Origins of Life)

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 03:05:15 UTC 2012


On Mon, Feb 6, 2012 at 6:39 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com> wrote:
> BillK <pharos at gmail.com> jested:
>
>> But, of course, Jesus may not actually have said that ...
>
> Presumably this was said in jest, and it did make me laugh, but I'm now
> wondering how many people, on this list and elsewhere, that are not religious,
> actually believe there was a Jesus.

I'm inclined to think there was an actual person named Jesus of
Nazareth. He was the kind of guy that would not have gotten a lot of
attention at the time, there were dozens of would be messiahs in Judea
at the time, yet Josephus did (possibly) mention him. That's at least
independent evidence that he existed, which is more than you really
would expect for someone who really was destined to be obscure.

What he actually did, of course, is an entirely different story. Yet,
I think there is a rational basis to believe much of what was
attributed to him was actually said by him. Of course, I'm not in the
miracle crowd, but there wasn't much time for people to get their
stories straight on that stuff, and there is a reasonably high degree
of correlation in the four gospels (and some of the apocryphal stuff
as well).

> I don't mean believe in Jesus as in 'this guy who totally existed, was the son
> of some god or other', but in the sense of believing there was a single person
> that these stories are based on.  I'd have thought it patently obvious that Jesus
> is a kind of King Arthur or Robin Hood figure, a composite myth from many
> stories over a long period of time.  There is absolutely no historical evidence
> for such a figure (afaik, please correct me if I'm wrong on that.  With references,
> obviously!).

See Titus Flavius Josephus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus

>From Historicity of Jesus...
"Although a few scholars have questioned the existence of Jesus as an
actual historical figure, some scholars involved with historical Jesus
research believe his existence, but not the supernatural claims
associated with him, can be established using documentary and other
evidence. Most contemporary scholars agree that Jesus was a Jew who
was regarded as a teacher and healer, that he was baptized by John the
Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman
Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against
the Roman Empire."

> "Jesus may not have actually said that" sounds very like "King Arthur may not
> have actually lived at Camelot" to me.  Am I in a minority?

I think there is quite a difference (in terms of the evidence) between
Jesus and Arthur. Arthur was first mentioned in Historia Brittonum.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historia_Brittonum
Key here is that this first mention (written perhaps around 830,
nearly 300 years after Arthur's alleged death) proclaims Arthur to be
a battle leader being "with" the Kings, and not a king himself. The
earliest documents talking about Jesus, on the other hand, are
somewhat consistent with the story we still have today. So Jesus
doesn't have the problem of the story of what he did changing over
time to the same extent as Arthur.

Arthur is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or named in any
surviving manuscript written between 400 and 820. Jesus is mentioned
once in the writings of Josephus. James, the brother of Jesus, is
mentioned in Josephus in such a way that most serious scholars do not
doubt the veracity of that particular passage. So if James was a real
historical figure, then why not his brother?

People like Alexander the Great and Xerces are exactly the kind of
people that you would expect historians to pay attention to IN THEIR
DAY. So, of course, we have no debate over figures like these. But
people who became important only because of their ideas and much later
than their life time, are more suspect. Homer is a great example of
this. Many people don't think he was real, and at least a few scholars
even think Homer might have been a female (though the reason escapes
my memory at the moment).

The Gospel of Mark is assumed to have been written around 70 AD. And
the Q document was thought to have been assembled around 50 AD.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_document
Since there were living witnesses to the actual events by those dates,
one can assume that the truth wasn't stretched beyond recognition.

While not a believer, the historicity of the bible since the time of
David and Solomon is not too bad for a 2000-2500 year old document.
Much of what was thought to be legend has been affirmed by
archaeology. Before David's time, it is likely a fabrication. Job is
generally recognized by scholars to be the oldest book (when it was
written, not the time it was written about) in the canonical Bible.

-Kelly



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