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There Was No Jesus, There Is No God

Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment”.

From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, and Bart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith.

These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify.

Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious.

The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose.

The criterion of Aramaic context is similarly unhelpful. Jesus and his closest followers were surely not the only Aramaic-speakers in first-century Judea.

The criterion of multiple independent attestation can also hardly be used properly here, given that the sources clearly are not independent.

Paul’s Epistles, written earlier than the Gospels, give us no reason to dogmatically declare Jesus must have existed. Avoiding Jesus’ earthly events and teachings, even when the latter could have bolstered his own claims, Paul only describes his “Heavenly Jesus”.

Even when discussing what appear to be the resurrection and the last supper, his only stated sources are his direct revelations from the Lord, and his indirect revelations from the Old Testament. In fact, Paul actually rules out human sources (see Galatians 1:11-12).

Also important are the sources we don’t have. There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom are obviously biased.

Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his life.

And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian scribes (the manuscripts were preserved by Christians), the fact that both these authors were born after Jesus died (they would thus have probably received this information from Christians), and the oddity that centuries go by before Christian apologists start referencing them.

Agnosticism over the matter is already seemingly appropriate, and support for this position comes from independent historian Richard Carrier’s recent defence of another theory. Namely, that the belief in Jesus started as the belief in a purely celestial being (who was killed by demons in an upper realm), who became historicised over time.

To summarise Carrier’s 800-page tome, this theory and the traditional theory – that Jesus was a historical figure who became mythicised over time – both align well with the Gospels, which are later mixtures of obvious myth and what at least “sounds” historical.

The Pauline Epistles, however, overwhelmingly support the “celestial Jesus” theory, particularly with the passage indicating that demons killed Jesus, and would not have done so if they knew who he was (see: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10).

Humans – the murderers according to the Gospels – of course would still have killed Jesus, knowing full well that his death results in their salvation, and the defeat of the evil spirits.

So what do the mainstream (and non-Christian) scholars say about all this? Surprisingly very little; of substance anyway. Only Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey have thoroughly attempted to prove Jesus’ historical existence in recent times.

Their most decisive point? The Gospels can generally be trusted – after we ignore the many, many bits that are untrustworthy – because of the hypothetical (i.e. non-existent) sources behind them.

Who produced these hypothetical sources? When? What did they say? Were they reliable? Were they intended to be accurate historical portrayals, enlightening allegories, or entertaining fictions?

Ehrman and Casey can’t tell you – and neither can any New Testament scholar.

Given the poor state of the existing sources, and the atrocious methods used by mainstream Biblical historians, the matter will likely never be resolved. In sum, there are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence – if not to think it outright improbable.
Raphael Lataster is the author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God.

This article is part of The Conversation’s End of Year series.

 

Source theconversation.com

43 Comments

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  1. How about the Gnostic Gospels or Josephus in looking to see if there is an historic Jesus? Are there any Roman accounting for crucifictions?

  2. Why dont they shoot the head of sony already the jap cunt cant stop bsing his clients lol.
    Poxy ps4 pro doesnt even have external hard drive options or 4k capabilities. Omg monopoly is more fun!

  3. On what basis do you claim it’s fiction? Thats just an opinion not based on Historic research at all Peter the fisherman sums it up for you ” For we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were first hand eyewitnesses of His majesty.” You are entitled to your prejudice opinions but don’t try to claim the backing of genuine Scholarship.

  4. If there is no Jesus and no God for life in this world would be different. Mankind will be destroyed long before the revelation. This planet will not exist as it is today and there is no Adam and eve and there is no garden of eden. So what would you think existed? Evil and impossible to live eternally.

  5. For the Faithful and the Reverent, there is indeed a God the Father and His Son, Jesus the Redeemer! No one should force either mindset to Believe or not to Believe. The Choice is a personal and private one! I Believe and Pray in the AM and the PM and in between for ALL that I have to be thankful for, as well as for the well-being of the less fortunate and those in need! Christ suffered and died so that We could have the option to Accept or otherwise, with the hope of Salvation and Eternal Life!

  6. It’s hilarious that people waste so much time on things like this. People needing to prove whether or not he “existed” is really laughable. The truth is if you don’t believe in Jesus or God that’s your prerogative and ultimately your OPINION simply because you WEREN’T THERE. If people choose to believe in a higher power or Jesus or Christ or God or Buddha or a pile of rocks SO BE IT…live and let live and STFU. It’s not rocket science. Live your life…

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