No. I’m not saying that Jesus of Nazareth is fiction. The majority of historians believe he existed, so I accept their expert opinion. I accept that there was a first century apocalyptic Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth who: developed a reputation as a healer and miracle worker; whose activities irritated the Jewish authorities; who was crucified by the Romans; whose followers believed that shortly after his death, he appeared to them alive again.
I am simply suggesting the possibility that the virgin-born, water-walking, water-to-wine converting, leprosy-healing, raiser-of-dead-people, victory-parade-donkey-riding, born-in-Bethlehem Jesus of the Gospels may not have existed. If the stories about Jesus in the Gospels are mostly literary and theological fiction, what does that do for the claim that Jesus fulfilled so many Old Testament prophecies?
Evangelical apologists Josh and Sean McDowell:
Floyd Hamilton, in The Basis of Christian Faith, writes, …there are in the Old Testament 332 distinct predictions which were literally fulfilled in [Jesus] Christ. Barton Payne lists 191 in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy.
[the McDowell’s then list the Bible passages containing these 191 “Jesus prophecies”]
After reading through this list someone might say: “Why, you could find some of these prophecies fulfilled in the deaths of Kennedy, Nasser, King, and other great figures.” Yes, one could possibly find one or two prophecies fulfilled in the lives of other men, but could one person fulfill all of these major prophecies?” Interesting enough, at one time a generous reward was available to anyone who could identify someone who fulfilled just half of the predictions concerning the Messiah, as listed in Messiah in Both Testaments by Fred John Meldau.
Peter Stoner, in the book Science Speaks, examines the mathematical probabilities that apply to the fulfillment of these predictions. …The following probabilities are taken from Stoner to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner says the following by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies :
-The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.
-He would be preceded by a messenger.
-He was to enter Jerusalem on a donkey.
-He would be betrayed by a friend and his hands and feet pierced.
-His betrayer would be give thirty pieces of silver. The betrayal money would be thrown into the house of God and used to buy a potter’s field.
-He would be silent before his accusers.
-His hands and feet would be pierced.
-He would die accounted among criminals.
We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. –-Peter Stoner
—Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 229-231
Gary: Wow! Jesus must be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, Lord and Master of Heaven and Earth based on those astounding statistics! Right???
What if the stories in the Gospels are fiction? What if the stories about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, entering Jerusalem on a donkey (or two donkeys, if we believe the author of Matthew), that Judas was given 30 pieces of silver, that Judas (or the Jewish authorities, depending which New Testament book you read) bought the Potter’s field with the silver, etc., were never intended to be taken literally? What if these stories were written for theological instruction, not to record actual historical events? These literary “embellishments” to the core, historical story of Jesus of Nazareth—the apocalyptic preacher and healer—would have been perfectly acceptable in the genre of literature which most scholars believe that the Gospels represent: Greco-Roman religious biographies.
And to top it off: the McDowells are assuming that the Gospels represent the testimony of eyewitnesses! As I have demonstrated in multiple previous posts, the overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars, including the majority of Roman Catholic scholars, do not believe that eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.
The Christian claim that Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies is based on a false assumption: that the Gospel stories about Jesus are historically accurate. It is entirely possible that the stories about Jesus which appear to fulfill Old Testament prophecy were invented to do just that!
End of post.