Is it Possible that the Jesus of the Gospels…Never Existed?

Image result for image of jesus

I’ve always been skeptical of mythicists.  You know, those atheist extremists who don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth even existed.  What a bunch of loons, right?  How could it be possible that the most influential person in all of western civilization, and maybe even the entire planet, did not exist?

But I’ve started to wonder…

I mean, I still think that there was a Jesus.  I’m just not so sure that he was anything like the Jesus presented in the Gospels.  You know, the perfect Jesus who loves everyone, including his enemies.  The peasant carpenter whose sermons and parables rival the brilliance of the world’s greatest philosophers and poets.  Isn’t it really weird that a country boy would have such a brilliant command of language, oratory skills, in depth knowledge of religion, a skilled use of philosophy, and impeccable debate skills?

Is it possible that a clever book author made up all these stories?  Is the Jesus of the Gospels a fictional character?

Let’s take a look at the Jesus about whom Paul preached.  Let’s look at some of Jesus’ sermons, parables, and miracles recorded by the Apostle Paul, the author of the earliest books found in the canon of the Christian New Testament.  What do we find?  How many of Jesus’ sermons, parables, and miracles do we find?

Answer:  None.

What descriptions does Paul give us of the historical Jesus.  Well, let’s see.  Paul tells us that Jesus was born of a woman and was a descendant of King David.  He tells us the words that Jesus allegedly used at the Last Supper.  But…that’s about it.

But what about the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15?  Many scholars date this creed to within three years of Jesus’ death.  Ok, well, what does this creed tell us about Jesus?  Answer:  He was crucified, he was buried, he rose on the third day, and he appeared to numerous people.  That’s it.

So it seems that prior to the writing of the first gospel in circa 70 CE, we have very, very little historical information about the Jesus whom Paul and his followers worshiped.

Is it possible that Paul’s Jesus and the Jesus of the Gospels are two very different men…or characters?  Is it possible that the rhetorically eloquent Jesus of the Gospels is a literary invention; an invention of the author of the Gospel of Mark; expanded upon by the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John???

I wonder…

 

 

 

 

End of post.

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24 thoughts on “Is it Possible that the Jesus of the Gospels…Never Existed?

  1. I think this is a good question, myself…

    If that 1 Cor 15 creed has been around since within a year or two or three after Jesus crucifixion (and, obviously, claimed resurrection), then one must ask: What was so important, so astounding, so amazing, so desirable, so attractive, so encaptivating and charismatic about that person that anyone would think him to be a “candidate” for resurrection in the first place?

    Heck, when I die, I can’t imagine for a moment anybody would think it likely that I got resurrected. Nobody thought MLK got resurrected. Or Ghandi, or Lincoln, or Churchill (or, anybody else, that I’m aware of). Sure, there are quacks that think Elvis is still alive, but even that is a far cry different than believing somebody *resurrected*.

    So – who WAS Jesus, that there would be people that would have even responded “yeh, that makes sense”, when told that Jesus had been resurrected?

    We both know the story of Schneerson – the Rabbi that Chabad believes *will be* resurrected, and take his place as Messiah. But, why did they believe that about Schneerson? Well, he was an amazing man, in so many respects. Tremendously highly regarded by a huge community of Jews that were drawn to him because he illuminated spiritual truths to them, made them want to be closer to God, to be more “authentic Jews”, and so on. He was an inspiration and an example for many, many people.

    And – although the Chabad Jews think (or, thought) of him as being Messiah, that was hardly the “general notion” among Jewry. Nonetheless, he didn’t get that kind of recognition for being a slouch, or for preaching to some small, cult group of 120 people. He had tens of thousands of followers.

    So – what about Jesus? Was he the “nobody” that Ehrman makes him out to be?

    Forget what the gospels say. There *must* have been *some reason* that this crucified Jesus would even be considered a “possibility” for resurrection in the first place – because, as is evident in that creed – that was the story that was already being circulated in a very short time after his crucifixion.

    I’m just sayin’ — If there was an historic Jesus – the one that Josephus and Philo talk about – then there *must* have been *some reason* he was even worth them talking about in the first place. So, I kinda think maybe the mythicists are a bit on the loonie side.

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    1. @ftbond

      I’m just sayin’ — If there was an historic Jesus – the one that Josephus and Philo talk about ..

      While I haven’t personally read much of Philo what I have gleaned from those scholars who have read his surviving works extensively, I always understood he never mentioned the character Jesus of Nazareth or anything about him.

      So I am going to call bullshit on your statement.

      In the interest of clarity , however, I am more than willing to apologize and eat humble pie, please provide a link to any text of Philo where he mentions the character Jesus of Nazareth.

      Just sayin’

      Thanks

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    2. Quite right ark. Philo of Alexandria didn’t say squat about Jesus. Neither did Josephus. The so-called ‘jesus passages’ about the nt Jesus we’re added centuries later and all major scholars accept them as ‘interpolations’.. ie. They were forged by later Christian Apologists who needed the evidence from history that they lacked.

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    3. The claim of an apparent ”meeting” ( or some-such – correct me if I’m wrong here) ) Philo is supposed to have had with Peter(?) etc is attributed to Eusebius.
      As it was Eusebius who was the first to quote the Testimonium Flavianum and who was not averse to lying for Jesus one can be forgiven for being just a shade skeptical of anything attributed by him.
      For what it’s worth – and I’m sure you’ll be aware – no other Christian apologist, writer, so-called Church Father ever quoted the TF before Eusebius in the 4th century.

      It is a similar story regarding the Tacitus passage.

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    4. As Christians, we believes what our Apologists told us that they said. Most never easy the works themselves, I did and have them on the shelf even now, but none… Including me… ever read the real scholarship on whether these made up quotes and misquotes of words that were supposedly said in these books were reliable and true records, and not just forged wishful thinking.
      My guess is that your commenter hasn’t even read the josephus, Tacitus and Philo for himself let alone done the work of a true Berean to “see if these things be so”.
      He’s just parroting what his trainers feed him.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. You are correct, Ark. Philo never said one word about Jesus. He did say a lot about Pilate, however. How odd that he would not mention Pilate’s most famous subject.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. One thing I have noticed about ftbond, is his(her?) excellent ability to cherry pick every single argument to provde a refutation of what ever you post.
      However, not once in anything I have read of him/her has he/she a single scrap of verified evidence to support any claim made.
      And if memory serves I do not recall ever receiving a response to any comment I have directed at him/her either.

      In internet dialogue there really is nothing worse than a smug, drive by arsehole.
      commenter, and especially own that does no have their own blog.
      I would have spammed his/her comments long ago.

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    7. Have you ever thought, ft, that you could be looking at the resurrection claims the wrong way round?

      It is more likely that resurrection beliefs came first, initially based on people’s ‘visions’ of what they took to be the risen Jesus. Others’ beliefs then came about, not as a direct result of personal experience, but through reports of these visions, and reports of reports. Stories of these hallucinatory experiences were then incorporated into creeds and ultimately into the gospels.

      No-one needed to find Jesus captivating, astounding and all those other adjectives you apply to him; most converts, like Paul, would never even have met him. It’s all a matter of interpretation. Either a few early believers convinced themselves they’d experienced their late charismatic companion alive again, or, if he didn’t actually exist (and he is so mythic this is a possibility) they concocted a back story for their experiences, cobbling this story together from the scriptures (what we call the Old Testament).

      One of these seems to me to be the most likely explanation of the ‘resurrection’. There is so much special pleading in the gospel accounts, so much that is clearly made up and designed to fulfill prophecy, so many inconsistencies and anomalies, that the whole thing smacks of imaginative invention, designed to lend credence to a few people’s hallucinatory experiences.

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    8. Good points, Neil, but I think FT should consider this:

      Maybe no one initially said, “Wow! Jesus has been resurrected!”

      Maybe the first Christian belief was: “Hey guys! Jesus’ body is missing from his grave.” Then weeks or months later, one of them had a “vision” (a vivid dream) in which Jesus appeared to them (in the dream). The dream seemed so real that the person believed that Jesus had really appeared to him. Soon others were having vivid dreams of Jesus. Something miraculous must be going on! Maybe the reason that Jesus is “appearing” to so many disciples is because God has raised him from the dead! But if God raised him from the dead (resuscitated his body) why isn’t he here with us alive again, as was the case (allegedly) with the people that Elijah and Elisha raised from the dead? Answer: Maybe he was resurrected? Well, how could just one person be resurrected? At the resurrection, all the righteous dead will be resurrected. Well, maybe Jesus was the first to be resurrected (the first fruits) and the rest of the righteous dead will be resurrected at any moment! Yea, that’s it!!! Jesus had preached the End is Near, and now it is coming to pass. The resurrection of the righteous dead has begun! Jesus has been resurrected and his body taken to be with God! That is why we can’t find his body.

      This seems much more probable than that Jesus’ very dense disciples immediately believed that Jesus’ body had been reanimated and simultaneously transformed into a supernatural, heavenly body that would never die again (resurrection).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The only non-christian references to him are more than a little suspect and the one potential contemporary person, if not a witness, whose writings we do have – Philo of Alexandre – mentions nothing.

    To be honest as good a scholar as he may be, when it comes to Jesus, I don’t care what Ehrman claims , or how qualified he might be, even he has had to spin a Jesus figure out of whole cloth while blatantly ignoring the obvious fact that there is not a scrap contemporary evidence whatsoever.

    If Moses was made up then why not Yeshua?

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  3. Speaking of 1Corinthians 15 … I just noticed something. Paul writes: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

    What scriptures is he talking about? Wasn’t he the first one to write about Yeshua?

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  4. Has simply NOBODY in this thread not quite realized that I didn’t make any arguments in my post?

    Nobody?

    I mean, it looks like everybody is wanting to *debate* something, and I was simply saying “yeh, it’s a good question… What about the Jesus *not* in the gospels? The one that Josephus and Philo mention”?

    And – you guys are right. Philo *didn’t* mention him. I meant Tacticus, and just messed up the reference.

    Neil: re: “Have you ever thought, ft, that you could be looking at the resurrection claims the wrong way round? ”

    Oh, wow… goodness, no, Neil. Why, I’ve never had such a thought in my life. You must be a genius to think that way. Why, I’ve never read such things on about a million other skeptic blogs. So, wow – this is the very first time I’ve *ever* heard such an idea.

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  5. re: “Good points, Neil, but I think FT should consider this: Maybe no one initially said, “Wow! Jesus has been resurrected!”

    Wow! golly, I just don’t know HOW you guys come up with all these ORIGINAL ideas! I mean, just, WOW – I had *never heard* that idea at all! Gosh, you guys are so smart. Really.

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  6. Gary: re: “Try not to be a prick, ft. Neil did not insult you. No need to be so snide with him.”

    Neils a big boy, and can take care of himself, and besides, Neil knows full well that the “idea” he presented me with is something we’ve discussed before.

    Just like YOU know that idea that “nobody said ‘resurrection'” is something *we’ve* talked about before.

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    1. I see you’re up to your usual wriggling and squirming, ft. If you’d already heard of the ideas Gary and I suggested, then why, in your original comment, did you ask the question you did if, as you now say, you already knew the answer?

      Discussing anything with you is impossible, ft, as rather than address points put to you, you simply shift your position. Your tactics range from, ‘I didn’t say or mean that’ (when you did), to ‘I’ve heard your argument before’ (so why ask about it?) and ‘I’m going to throw out another contentious remark which I’ll disown when people respond.’

      Either learn how to argue cogently, ft, or try to be honest at least once in a while.

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  7. Neil –

    re: “If you’d already heard of the ideas Gary and I suggested, then why, in your original comment, did you ask the question you did if, as you now say, you already knew the answer?”

    It is very, VERY safe to say that I ask the question in my original comment because I have not found a satisfactory answer to it, and certainly not one from either you or Gary. You and I have talked before, and, I’ve read numerous posts of yours, so your idea was not at all new to me (and, not at all new, for that matter), and with Gary, I’ve had a lengthy discussion over exactly the scenario he posted, which I also find unsatisfactory.

    I hope that answers your question. There’s no squirming in it that I can see. It’s about as direct as I can get.

    If I had to put it another way, I’d say it like this: I think your theory and Gary’s theory are both bogus.

    I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m squirming. I can’t do any better than that.

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