I've never spent any time reading the bible (As a somewhat arrogant young person, I preferred non-fiction.) and I'm not all that interested in whether or not a human named Jesus really existed. If he did, I'm absolutely convinced that he never had the slightest intention of having a religion started in his name. But this is an interesting article with some good links.


One of my favorite points is, wait for it, there's no birth certificate. (I have a new respect for "birthers.")

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The string of comments is very interesting too.

I tend to think Jesus existed.  An itinerant rabbi named Yeshua preaching in ancient Judea--and not making a whole lot of sense sometimes--is a perfectly ordinary claim, so ordinary evidence will do.

Only two New Testament writers say anything about Jesus' birth: Matthew and Luke.  Both place his birth in Bethlehem, the City of David, to fulfill Old Testament prophesies, and both have to solve a somewhat thorny problem: Jesus, according to Luke, is from Nazareth. Luke invents a census that absurdly requires everyone in the Roman Empire to return to their ancestral homes to register, so Joseph must register in Bethlehem, even though his ancestor, David, has been dead for a thousand years.  I wouldn't know what continent to go to, let alone what town.  A month or so after Jesus' birth, Joseph and his family return to Nazareth.

Matthew has three wise men follow a star to Jerusalem, where they visit the evil King Herod.  The star waits patiently while they parley with the king, then leads them to Bethlehem, where Joseph apparently lives.  There is no mention of Nazareth until Matthew spins the tale of Herod and the slaughter of every Jewish boy under the age of two, echoing the story of Moses.  Joseph takes his family to Egypt, lying low until Herod has died, but doesn't return to Bethlehem because Herod's son has become king.  Instead, Joseph travels north and settles in, rather than returns to, Nazareth.

Two possibilities: one is that both Matthew and Luke have taken aat face value the Greek version of the Old Testament, which prophesies in Isaiah that a "virgin" (probably a mistranslation that should read "young woman") will give birth and that her son will be a Nazirite, a lifelong servant of the Lord.  It's easy enough to bastardize "Nazirite" into "Nazarene," and once you've done that, you need to explain how the Messiah could have been born in Bethlehem, yet be "from" Nazareth.  Matthew actually has a plausible story, except that there is no historical record of Herod's slaughter of the innocents.  Luke regales us with a real stretcher.

The other possibility is that there really was a Jesus of Nazareth and both Matthew and Luke had to explain away an inconvenient but well known fact.

I guess it's a toss-up, but it really doesn't matter.

If you read things like that, you need to also read a good presentation of why almost all historians and Bible scholars do think there was a historical Jesus.  Such as Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.

Otherwise, it amounts to saying "OK, I would like to believe Jesus didn't exist (for whatever reason).  I'll hunt up some arguments so I can believe this". 

The "growing number" of mythicist scholars reflects the growth of the New Atheist movement.  No new evidence has been uncovered in favor of mythicism, but rather scholars have appeared who support views that are popular among atheists.  Richard Carrier is the most serious of them.  He does have a PhD in ancient history, so he's familiar with historians' methods of determining what actually happened, unlike many mythicists.  But he has no academic job, so he's missing a lot of that contact with academic historians, the serious challenge to his beliefs. 

One argument for Jesus' historicity is that if Jesus started out as a new god that was worshipped, then became regarded as historically existing, it would have started a schism in Christianity.  When there's some change in religious belief, it always causes a schism between those who accept the change and those who reject it.  There would have been a new heretical Christianity.  There are lots of Christian heresies recorded from that time, but no heresy on the question of whether Jesus was a historical person. 

I don't know if Bart Ehrman makes this argument or what he thinks of it. 

The other possibility is that there really was a Jesus of Nazareth and both Matthew and Luke had to explain away an inconvenient but well known fact.

Yes, that sort of "argument from embarrassment" is one criterion that historians use.  A myth - something that started as a story or a fantasy - looks different from an account of what really happened, that's been patched or altered to suit someone else.  Historians and Bible scholars almost all agree that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. 

Thaks for posting this article.

a number of people on nexus seem to have their minds made up that Jesus existed. The books I have read - cant quote, too long ago - made points such as, there is no evidence that Nazareth existed, so that part of the Jesus legrnd goes down the toilet. The likelihood that he performed the miracles is approximately zero. They were never documented anywhere else. Most of us dont accept his birth as the son of Mary and the holy ghost. We are left with a hippie who who hung around with 12 men, said be nice to each other, although the bible Hesus was schizophrenic, saying love one another, but also he supported Hebrew law and punishment, and had some violent moments, and cursed a fig tree.

If There was a hippie Jesus, or several, and the myth grew and morphed snd glommed on to other myths, that seems to me that we are saying there really wasnt a jesus. Which is a point made in the article. Whether he was one man, or several, or none, there is no evidence the bible character as described in the bible existed. Saying he existed but not like the bible Jesus, we might as well say Zoroaster existed, and Apollo existed, and Quetzalcoatl,.... just not like their stories. As someone who came from a Missouri farm, I say "show me" and no one ever has.

This gets atheist contrarians riled up, and without a way-back machine, as suggested in the article, it will be hard to sort out.

But I liked your link. Thanks.

I agree with you BP, that whether the guy actually existed is neither here nor there. He certainly was never anything like what his followers made up in any case.

The lack of evidence never mattered to the religious, hence their faith. While it's interesting from a historical perspective, it doesn't matter. Atheists have to argue whether or not the character Jesus is worth being worshipped.

I suppose it would help as fodder for future skeptics though. Somebody on the fence about signing up for the Jesus cult would see information doubting his actual existence and possibly decide NOT to sign up.

Good point Christine, and I think it might be effective for some. On the other hand, even in the string of comments on the original article, there was a contingency who claimed that even if what's his face didn't exist, his MESSAGE is still real and valid. [Twisted thinking R us.]




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