Sunday, November 17, 2013

Was Jesus Christ real? Part I

I've been contemplating writing a series on here about whether Jesus really lived. But it might be a long series and I wasn't sure if I wanted to put in the effort. I'll give it a shot, but if I run out of steam I'll post a link or copy and paste a great piece written in 1922 that really dives deep into the evidence and surmises that he didn't exist.

So, what do I think? My entire life, even after I initially became an atheist, I thought he was at least a person. It seems awfully difficult to think he didn't walk the Earth given how many stories there are about him. But then again, there are plenty of stories about Zeus and Apollo, too. Could Jesus be made up? Could he be an idea rather than an actual person?

I suppose our first question to obtain our answer needs to be: What proof do we need to be convinced a person exists? Well, since we can't see him now that rules that out. The next method is pictures. No photography existed then, so that's out, too.

Given his supposed existence came at a time when technology was non-existent, we have to rely on first-person accounts, in other words, we need to learn about him from people who actually saw him. Guess what? That doesn't exist either. How do we know this? Well, for one, no one is alive who is more than 2,000 years old. "What about the bible?" you may ask. It's full of stories about Jesus, right? Not really. The entire story of Jesus is relegated to four gospels, which were not written by the actual people they are so named for, but are "according to" accredited.

These gospels are far from consistent (see my earlier post about them) and they're even further from accurate. And again, these aren't first-person accounts; they are stories told about a hundred years after Jesus allegedly lived, and through countless storytellers, writers and editors. We have ZERO original documents from the bible, meaning any scribe could have added or subtracted anything he wanted while transcribing or translating. And considering all of these details, one can hardly look at the bible as a historical tome, in fact almost nothing in the bible is fact.

So where does that leave us? We have no photos, no first-person accounts and no original documents. One way historians look to confirm facts from the past is through contemporary writings. What did the writers of that age have to say about Jesus? Nothing. 

According to the gospels, Christ performed miracles in a very public manner, and he was on the radar of authorities, obviously, if you believe the story of his crucifixion, which allegedly happened in front of scores of people. Are we to believe, after all of these remarkable (and public) scenes/miracles, that history failed to record his name? 

Though I often scoff at the fact that the bible and Jesus were associated with goat herders and uneducated men of the Middle East, the actual age was a time of great thinkers (philosophers) and scholars (historians), especially in Rome and Greece. This means every important fact or moment was noted/recorded by these great minds. 

Some of the finest writers the Jewish race has ever produced lived in that age. And yet, in all the writings of that period, there's not one line, not one word about Jesus. Great writers wrote extensively of minor events, but not one of them wrote about the mightiest character who had ever appeared on Earth; a man who fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, brought people back from the dead and arose from the dead, himself.

John E. Remsburg, in "The Christ," compiled a list of 42 writers who lived and wrote during the time or within a century after the time of Christ and not one of whom ever mentioned him.

The following paragraph comes from the aforementioned 1922 piece. 

"Philo, one of the most renowned writers the Jewish race has produced, was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived for many years after the time at which Jesus is supposed to have died. His home was in or near Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to have preached, to have performed miracles, to have been crucified, and to have risen from the dead. Had Jesus done these things, the writings of Philo would certainly contain some record of his life. Yet this philosopher, who must have been familiar with Herod's massacre of the innocents, and with the preaching, miracles and death of Jesus, had these things occurred; who wrote an account of the Jews, covering this period, and discussed the very questions that are said to have been near to Christ's heart, never once mentioned the name of, or any deed connected with, the reputed savior of the world."

So, given the methods we use today to determine facts, we have yet to find anything verifiable that Jesus actually lived. In Part 2, I will discuss Paul, who was charged with spreading the word of Christianity, and how he may have made up Christ in order to grow his flock.

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