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Still Waters

'Did Jesus Exist?' A Historian Makes His Case

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So, did Jesus really exist? With his new book, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Bart Ehrman, historian and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, wanted to provide solid historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

"I wanted to approach this question as an historian to see whether that's right or not," Ehrman tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

The answer is straightforward and widely accepted among scholars of all faiths, but Ehrman says there is a large contingent of people claiming that Jesus never did exist. These people are also known as mythicists.

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These "mythicists" probably deny that Henry VIII existed, too.

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Bart Ehrman is a very popular best-selling author. His views are that Jesus did exist, and that he was a "normal" human being who was a wise teacher. That said, Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus was Son of God and the source of Mankind's salvation. Ehrman proposes that the New Testament Scriptures should be re-written accordingly. The last paragraph in the OP article is an indication of what I mean:

"Jesus' teachings of love, and mercy and forgiveness, I think, really should dominate our lives," he says. "On the personal level, I agree with many of the ethical teachings of Jesus and I try to model my life on them, even though I don't agree with the apocalyptic framework in which they were put."

There are many avid supporters of Bart Ehrman on UM; and very few posters who will argue against Bart Ehrman's views.

By the way, imo the word "apocalyptic" in the above article shows Ehrman's denial of the validity of the revelations and prophecies Jesus gave regarding salvation and the establishment of his Kingdom on Earth at Jesus' return, as well as Ehrman's denial of the global devastation that would precede the return of Jesus.

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These "mythicists" probably deny that Henry VIII existed, too.

Right, because there is no hard, conclusive evidence that he existed either. :rolleyes:

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Right, because there is no hard, conclusive evidence that he existed either. :rolleyes:

It is sad that someone is again going to make money over the question of whether or not Jesus existed...of course he did...Anyone that denies that has that requires such a burden of proof that Socrates would not be able to meet.

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It is sad that someone is again going to make money over the question of whether or not Jesus existed...of course he did...Anyone that denies that has that requires such a burden of proof that Socrates would not be able to meet.

I really didn't understand what you are saying in your last sentence.

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It is sad that someone is again going to make money over the question of whether or not Jesus existed...of course he did...Anyone that denies that has that requires such a burden of proof that Socrates would not be able to meet.

Is that really true? I don't know about any unreasonable burden of proof, but are there any contemporary accounts of Jesus? The accounts that do exist (ie the gospels) don't appear to be historically accurate and were written many years later.

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Bart Ehrman is a very popular best-selling author. His views are that Jesus did exist, and that he was a "normal" human being who was a wise teacher. That said, Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus was Son of God and the source of Mankind's salvation. Ehrman proposes that the New Testament Scriptures should be re-written accordingly. The last paragraph in the OP article is an indication of what I mean:

"Jesus' teachings of love, and mercy and forgiveness, I think, really should dominate our lives," he says. "On the personal level, I agree with many of the ethical teachings of Jesus and I try to model my life on them, even though I don't agree with the apocalyptic framework in which they were put."

There are many avid supporters of Bart Ehrman on UM; and very few posters who will argue against Bart Ehrman's views.

By the way, imo the word "apocalyptic" in the above article shows Ehrman's denial of the validity of the revelations and prophecies Jesus gave regarding salvation and the establishment of his Kingdom on Earth at Jesus' return, as well as Ehrman's denial of the global devastation that would precede the return of Jesus.

I think Ehrman is being diplomatic. He used to label Jesus as a doomsday prophet and that's a very unkind (but probably correct) label on him.

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Posted (edited)

It's a little tricky to comment, because the thread isn't about Ehrman's book, but about a radio blurb about Ehrman's book.

The blurb seems to suggest that the alternative to believing in Jesus' existence is to be a Christ-myther. That's not so. Daniel is ample precendent for a thoroughly Jewish apocalyptic novella about a charismatic prophet. Jesus is the main character in the Gospels, which have a "magical realistsic" setting like Daniel's, and he's also a character in an entirely different apocalyptic work, Revelation, which makes no pretense of being a historical narrative.

Revelation, the authentic epistles of Paul, and the Four Gospels are equally canonical. If the Jesus of Revelation comes from the visionary experience of its author, and if the Jesus of Paul comes from that author's visionary experience, then the more fleshy Jesus of Mark may well be within the range of its author's interior experience as well.

At the personal level, I'm fine with a historical Jesus. I think it is more likely than not that John the Baptist lived, and had a disciple cadre who took his movement to Jerusalem. I could believe that the leader of the cadre got himself killed. It's fine with me to call that leader "Jesus."

But John the Baptist is attested in only one other place than the same "magical realist" books that are the biographical narratives of Jesus. The one other place is Josephus, which today also contains a highly suspect mention of Jesus, and a second mention that may simply be confusion of names, but could also be an "improvement" during transmission through interested hands.

Josephus' apparent mention of John doesn't seem like it was trimmed to fit the Gospels, but it's a thin basis for confidence in a real John. Even if John's existence were more solid, the only documented connections between him and Jesus are the Gospels and an incident in Acts, written by Luke, whose Gospel says outright that he's retelling a story that's been told before.

It is perfectly obvious that somebody could believe I am mistaken about my guess, without their buying into some woo-woo theory that Wayists were copying Greek and Egyptian models. Jewish Wayists, copying Jewish models like Daniel, and writng down their acknowledged dreams and visions, like Paul and the author of Revelation, suffice to explain all the direct evidence.

=

Edited by eight bits

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Is that really true? I don't know about any unreasonable burden of proof, but are there any contemporary accounts of Jesus? The accounts that do exist (ie the gospels) don't appear to be historically accurate and were written many years later.

There non-Biblical accounts of Jesus...They are not hard to find...With that being said, it does not validate anything said about him in the Bible, just that he was a real person. I am not a New Testament scholar but I would assume many of the stories about Jesus in the Bible are taken from other sources. I do have books to back up that claim but I do not have the time right now to read them or page through them.

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Bart Ehrman is a very popular best-selling author. His views are that Jesus did exist, and that he was a "normal" human being who was a wise teacher. That said, Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus was Son of God and the source of Mankind's salvation. Ehrman proposes that the New Testament Scriptures should be re-written accordingly. The last paragraph in the OP article is an indication of what I mean:

"Jesus' teachings of love, and mercy and forgiveness, I think, really should dominate our lives," he says. "On the personal level, I agree with many of the ethical teachings of Jesus and I try to model my life on them, even though I don't agree with the apocalyptic framework in which they were put."

There are many avid supporters of Bart Ehrman on UM; and very few posters who will argue against Bart Ehrman's views.

By the way, imo the word "apocalyptic" in the above article shows Ehrman's denial of the validity of the revelations and prophecies Jesus gave regarding salvation and the establishment of his Kingdom on Earth at Jesus' return, as well as Ehrman's denial of the global devastation that would precede the return of Jesus.

I'm unfamiliar with Mr Ehrman's body of work but these statements of his place him in a group that the Bible foretells will have "a form of godliness, while denying the power thereof". I'm not criticizing him for his viewpoint, simply explaining my own.

As to denying global devastation preceding His return, I can deny the sky is blue if I choose to. Doesn't make the sky green or purple though. If Ehrman is expecting Christ to return then he must think humanity is going to sort out our issues without catastrophic violence occurring prior to that return. I applaud him for his optimism.

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Posted (edited)

There non-Biblical accounts of Jesus...They are not hard to find...With that being said, it does not validate anything said about him in the Bible, just that he was a real person. I am not a New Testament scholar but I would assume many of the stories about Jesus in the Bible are taken from other sources. I do have books to back up that claim but I do not have the time right now to read them or page through them.

Can you find any that are contemporary accounts after or not based on the Q source? I can't find any.

They only references I can find anywhere are in various gospels, canon or not.

Edited by Imaginarynumber1

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Can you find any that are contemporary accounts after or not based on the Q source? I can't find any.

They only references I can find anywhere are in various gospels, canon or not.

Well there is Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus. Granted some of those are a little after his life but still very close.

So there you have a few that are non-Christian sources but based on the rest of history and what was going on at the time, it is most likely that he did exist. When all of the evidence is added up the probability that he did not exist is slim. This does not say anything about anything he said, did, or his divinity though. I doubt that he was really anything special or out of the ordinary but he existed none-the-less.

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Posted (edited)

Well there is Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus. Granted some of those are a little after his life but still very close.

So there you have a few that are non-Christian sources but based on the rest of history and what was going on at the time, it is most likely that he did exist. When all of the evidence is added up the probability that he did not exist is slim. This does not say anything about anything he said, did, or his divinity though. I doubt that he was really anything special or out of the ordinary but he existed none-the-less.

Hmmm.. .I've give you Josephus, but the rest wrote about Christians, not Jesus.

From wiki;

There are Greco-Roman pagan passages relevant to Christianity in the works of three major non-Christian writers of the late 1st and early 2nd centuries – Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger. However, these are generally references to early Christians rather than a historical Jesus. Tacitus, in his Annals written c. 115, mentions Christus, without many historical details (see also: Tacitus on Christ).

There is an obscure reference to a Jewish leader called "Chrestus" in Suetonius. (According to Suetonius, chapter 25, there occurred in Rome, during the reign of emperor Claudius (c. AD 50), "persistent disturbances ... at the instigation of Chrestus".[48][49]

Mention in Acts of "After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome."

Charles Guignebert (Professor of the History Of Christianity at the Sorbonne), while rejecting the Jesus Myth theory and feeling that the Epistles of Paul were sufficient to prove the historical existence of Jesus, said "all the pagan and Jewish testimonies, so-called, afford us no information of any value about the life of Jesus, nor even any assurance that he ever lived."[50][51]

As to Suetonius' reference specifically;

The event was noted in Acts 18:2. The term Chrestus also appears in some later texts applied to Jesus, and Robert Graves,[66] among others,[67] consider it a variant spelling of Christ, or at least a reasonable spelling error. On the other hand, Chrestus was itself a common name, particularly for slaves, meaning good or useful.[68] With regard to Jewish persecution around the time to which this passage refers, the Jewish Encyclopedia states: "... in 49–50, in consequence of dissensions among them regarding the arrival of the Messiah, they were forbidden to hold religious services. The leaders in the controversy, and many others of the Jewish citizens, left the city".[69]

Another suggestion as to why Chrestus may not be Christ is based on the fact Suetonius refers to Jews not Christians in this passage, even though in his Life of Nero he shows some knowledge of the sect's existence. One solution to this problem, however, lies in the fact that the early Christians had not yet separated from their Jewish origin at this time.[70][71][72] Even discounting all these points, this passage offers little information about Jesus himself.[60]

I'm not saying he did or did not exist. I don't care one way or the other.

What seems more likely however, is that there was a person who did exist and this myth sprang up about him after his demise. Too many christian beliefs are too similar for them to be original. I would say that there is little to no historical evidence of a Jesus.

Edited by Imaginarynumber1

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Posted (edited)

Well there is Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus. Granted some of those are a little after his life but still very close.

So there you have a few that are non-Christian sources but based on the rest of history and what was going on at the time, it is most likely that he did exist. When all of the evidence is added up the probability that he did not exist is slim. This does not say anything about anything he said, did, or his divinity though. I doubt that he was really anything special or out of the ordinary but he existed none-the-less.

I conclude the same , there probably was a person named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans. Beyond that I cannot in all fairness add much else.

For those who accept the NT on faith, I have no real issue with that.

Edited by Sherapy

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Im workmg from memory so bare with me I may get the name wrong.there was only one reference I could find awhile back that supported a man spreading the word of Yahweh named Jesus. I believe it was a report of sorts from pontius to Cesar. I spelt Cesar wrong. Anyways it described a man with the characteristics of Jesus and I believe they indicated his name as Jesus. Ill look forthwith reference and get back if I find it.

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Hmmm.. .I've give you Josephus, but the rest wrote about Christians, not Jesus.

From wiki;

As to Suetonius' reference specifically;

I'm not saying he did or did not exist. I don't care one way or the other.

What seems more likely however, is that there was a person who did exist and this myth sprang up about him after his demise. Too many christian beliefs are too similar for them to be original. I would say that there is little to no historical evidence of a Jesus.

Yes, you are right for the most part. Christus is generally translated into "messiah." One problem with that is there were many Jewish messiahs during that time (which I think supports the probability of Jesus) but at the same time if they are refering to the messiah of the Christians, it can only be Jesus they are talking about because there were no other "Christian" sects. It does get messy though.

But yeah, I am with you in that I do not care one way or another...I also agree that these myths about him sprang up after his dimise. If it means anything I did ask our expert on Jesus at my school about this very question. He said Jesus was most certainly a historical figure. He gave me the name of a few books but I am yet to read them. But more importantly I study Judaism and based on the events of the time and the Jewish texts, it is almost certain he existed. But like you, I could give a crap one way or another because if he did exist he was just a unorthodox, hellenized, Roman supporting, rebellious, rabbi. He was not the son of a made up God...

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Im workmg from memory so bare with me I may get the name wrong.there was only one reference I could find awhile back that supported a man spreading the word of Yahweh named Jesus. I believe it was a report of sorts from pontius to Cesar. I spelt Cesar wrong. Anyways it described a man with the characteristics of Jesus and I believe they indicated his name as Jesus. Ill look forthwith reference and get back if I find it.

Did they discribe him as white? My wife's uncle (big time conspiricy theorist) talks about a letter like the one you mention that claims Jesus is white. I find it kind of humorous...

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I may in fact be wrong with my last post. I thought I found a Roman record to Caesar about a man spreading the word of Yahweh but I cannot locate it again. Pontius was the man condemning Jesus so I think I was wrong with that name also. I do apologize and if I fnd anything else ill post. So far no physical record from the time of Jesus exists. All hear say and mentions after the fact. I'm not sure anyone can prove his existence.

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Im workmg from memory so bare with me I may get the name wrong.there was only one reference I could find awhile back that supported a man spreading the word of Yahweh named Jesus. I believe it was a report of sorts from pontius to Cesar. I spelt Cesar wrong. Anyways it described a man with the characteristics of Jesus and I believe they indicated his name as Jesus. Ill look forthwith reference and get back if I find it.

I think the letter from Pontius to Caesar is generally considered to be a forgery.

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Did they discribe him as white? My wife's uncle (big time conspiricy theorist) talks about a letter like the one you mention that claims Jesus is white. I find it kind of humorous...

Yes I believe so but I cannot find the reference. Well not white I believe fair complexion or some other term like that. I hope I can locate the reference.

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I always found the off-the-cuff conspiracy theory of Jesus from Umberto Eco's magnificent 'Foucault's Pendulum' to be both hilarious and probably closer to the truth than any of us realize.

From the aforementioned book;

"Now that you mention it, let’s see. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are a bunch of practical jokers who meet somewhere and decide to have a contest. They invent a character, agree on a few basic facts, and then each one’s free to take it and run with it. At the end, they’ll see who’s done the best job. The four stories are picked up by some friends who act as critics: Matthew is fairly realistic, but insists on that Messiah business too much; Mark isn’t bad, just a little sloppy; Luke is elegant, no denying that; and John takes the philosophy a little too far. Actually, though, the books have an appeal, they circulate, and when the four realize what’s happening, it’s too late. Paul has already met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Pliny begins his investigation ordered by the worried emperor, and a legion of apocryphal writers pretends also to know plenty...Toi, apo-cryphe lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere. It all goes to Peter’s head; he takes himself seriously. John threatens to tell the truth, Peter and Paul have him chained up on the island of Patmos. Soon the poor man is seeing things: Help, there are locusts all over my bed, make those trumpets stop, where’s all this blood coming from? The others say he’s drunk, or maybe it’s arteriosclerosis...Who knows, maybe it really happened that way.”

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I think the letter from Pontius to Caesar is generally considered to be a forgery.

You may very well be correct. I can't find it again to say either way though.

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You may very well be correct. I can't find it again to say either way though.

You are originally from the Minnesota/Wisconsin area? So what is it, Minnesota or Wisc?

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Posted (edited)

You are originally from the Minnesota/Wisconsin area? So what is it, Minnesota or Wisc?

Both... lol grew up right on the tip of lake superior right on the border. Superior wisc. and Duluth MN. They are sister cities so to speak. So while I lived in superior until around 16 I spent just as much time in Minnesota. I moved to Minnesota at 17 officially and stayed there until about 26 then moved to Arizona.

Edited by Aus Der Box Skeptisch

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