By John Blake, CNN
(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.
It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.
But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture. Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"
“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”
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On Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.
But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age. But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.
Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”
Your comments on Jesus deniers
He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.
“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”
Does it matter if Jesus existed?
Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.
“I don’t think I’m some Internet kook or Holocaust denier,” says Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor who argues in “Deconstructing Jesus” that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist.
“They say I’m a bitter ex-fundamentalist. It’s pathetic to see this character assassination. That’s what people resort to when they don’t have solid arguments.”
The debate over Jesus’ existence has led to a curious role reversal. Two of the New Testament scholars who are leading the way arguing for Jesus’ existence have a reputation for attacking, not defending, traditional Christianity.
Ehrman, for example, is an agnostic who has written books that argue that virtually half of the New Testament is forged. Another defender of Jesus’ existence is John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar who has been called a heretic because his books challenge some traditional Christian teachings.
But as to the existence of Jesus, Crossan says, he’s “certain.”
He says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.
“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American. If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”
Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?
Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.
If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.
It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”
“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”
The evidence against Jesus’ existence
Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points:
-The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.
-No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.
-The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.
Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God.
“There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century.
But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus.
“Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.”
Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed.
“Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.”
Those who argue for the existence of Jesus cite another source: the testimony of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ early disciples. Paul even writes in one New Testament passage about meeting James, the brother of Jesus.
These early disciples not only believed Jesus was real but were willing to die for him. People don’t die for myths, some biblical scholars say.
They will if the experience is powerful enough, says Richard Carrier, author of “Proving History.”
Carrier says it’s probable that Jesus never really existed and that early Christians experienced a mythic Jesus who came to them through visions and revelations.
Two of the most famous stories in the New Testament – the conversion of Paul and the stoning death of Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs - show that people seized by religious visions are willing to die, Carrier says.
In both the Paul and Stephen stories, the writers say that they didn’t see an actual Jesus but a heavenly vision of Jesus, Carrier says.
People “can have powerful religious experiences that don’t correspond to reality,” Carrier says.
“The perfect model is Paul himself,” Carrier says. “He never met Jesus. Paul only had an encounter with this heavenly Jesus. Paul is completely converted by this religious experience, but no historical Jesus is needed for that to happen.”
As for the passage where Paul says he met James, Jesus’ brother, Carrier says:
“The problem with that is that all baptized Christians were considered brothers of the Lord.”
The evidence for Jesus’ existence
Some scholars who argue for the existence of Jesus says the New Testament mentions actual people and events that are substantiated by historical documents and archaeological discoveries.
Ehrman, author of “Did Jesus Exist?” scoffed at the notion that the ancient world was full of pagan stories about dying deities that rose again. Where’s the proof? he asks.
Ehrman devoted an entire section of his book to critiquing Freke, the mythicist and author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” who says there was an ancient Osiris-Dionysus figure who shares uncanny parallels to Jesus.
He says Freke can’t offer any proof that an ancient Osiris figure was born on December 25, was crucified and rose again. He says Freke is citing 20th- and 19th-century writers who tossed out the same theories.
Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”
“He doesn’t know much about ancient history,” Ehrman says of Freke. “He’s not a scholar. All he knows is what he’s read in other conspiracy books.”
Craig A. Evans, the author of “Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence,” says the notion that Paul gave his life for a mythical Jesus is absurd.
He says the New Testament clearly shows that Paul was an early enemy of the Christian church who sought to stamp out the burgeoning Jesus movement.
“Don’t you think if you were in Paul’s shoes, you would have quickly discovered that there was no Jesus?” Evans asks. “If there was no Jesus, then how did the movement start?”
Evans also dismissed the notion that early Christians blended or adopted pagan myths to create their own mythical Jesus. He says the first Christians were Jews who despised everything about pagan culture.
“For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting,” Evans says. “I can’t imagine [the Gospel writer] Matthew making up a story where he is drawing parallels between Jesus’ birth and pagan stories about Zeus having sex with some fair maiden.”
The words of Jesus also offer proof that he actually existed, Evans says. A vivid personality practically bursts from the pages of the New Testament: He speaks in riddles, talks about camels squeezing through the eye of a needle, weeps openly and even loses his temper.
Evans says he is a man who is undeniably Jewish, a genius who understands his culture but also transcends his tradition with gem-like parables.
“Who but Jesus could tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?” Evans says. “Where does this bolt of lightning come from? You don’t get this out of an Egyptian myth.”
Those who argue against the existence of Jesus say they aren’t trying to destroy people’s faith.
“I don’t have any desire to upset people,” says Freke. “I do have a passion for the truth. … I don’t think rational people in the 20th century can go down a road just on blind faith.”
Yet Easter was never just about rationale.
The Easter stories about the resurrection are strange: Disciples don’t recognize Jesus as they meet him on the road; he tells someone not to touch him; he eats fish in another.
In the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to a group of disciples and gives them this cryptic message:
“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?
Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question. He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.
The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.
God does ever endure in His judgmental conditions upon the Faithful and even the faithless. Both the Faithful and the faithless have been marked for death and so thru generations' passings they may be atoned of the passed mistakes of their father 's ways and their father's ways all the way back to Adam and Eve's first sin of denying God's commandment to not eat the forbidden fruit.
Claim without evidence .
CNN, Why is Christianity the only religion you cast doubt upon? Why no articles questioning other religions?
Just because they don't write about it doesn't make them any less insane than Christianity.... so take comfort that us secularists do not prejudice against one over the other... they are all nuts.
God speaks to the whole humanity through His book Quran..
“Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]
“They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]
“The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]
“No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. The only people to heed your warnings are those who reverence their Lord, even when alone in their privacy, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat). Whoever purifies his soul, does so for his own good. To God is the final destiny. [35:18]
It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]
God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]
The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]
(Jews are condemned) for disbelieving and uttering about Mary a gross lie. [4:156]
A. They put up articles on many other religions.
B. It is not the article that mocks religion. Religions are great at making fools of themselves. That's what happens when you start making choices based on some idea that does not have even the slightest shred of evidence supporting it.
Next they'll be quoting Oolan Colluphid's trilogy.
They've published many articles examining many faiths, from a variety of perspectives. The real question is: why are you the only one that seems to feel threatened by such examinations?
Because Muslims fight back. It's like a gunman who won't try to attack other gunmans, they only attack those with no fear of retaliation. The war on Islam is something CNN fears.
Because America's Christianity is absurdly immense and ridiculous.
I believe in pixies.
Because it is written in the Pixie Chronicles that they exist.
And why do you believe the Pixie Chronicles?
Because they were written by Pixies.
One must engage in circular reasoning to believe in God.
I believe in God
Because it is written in the Bible.
And why do you believe the Bible?
Because it was written by God
Actually, You have to believe in an almost infinite number of logical absurdities and coincidences to believe there is no God. If there is no God, shouldn't there be absolute nothingness? Why and how does matter, space and dimensionality exist at all? How did inanimate matter arrange itself in such an orderly and purposeful way and then somehow become living and eventually become self-conscious and capable of love? Atheist answer: We just got lucky.
No, it's easy to not believe in god.. Why should there be "nothingness?". It seems like there's something everywhere we look.. Is nothingness even possible at all?.
If God knows everything, why didn't he know that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree? Why didn't he know where they were when he came looking for them as they hid in shame?
More importantly, how did he create 1 man and 1 woman that had male children yet spawned the entire human race? Yuck
What is cooler is that when Cain killed Abel god marked Cain to protect him when he was banished from Eden.... protect him from whom??? Coo-Coo
I'm superior to others because I believe in Jesus. The fact that I don't follow His teachings or act in any way that would have been acceptable to Him is irrelevant. As long as I say that I believe in Jesus, and feign outrage at people who don't makes me superior...
How is that any different than people who believe in global warming or creation or evolution, or anything else? We all think our own beliefs are correct. If we didn't, we wouldn't hold those beliefs. All sincere people must repent (change their mind) when they recognize that their logic is deficient or has been overcome with stronger logic.
So then, sincere people (believe they) have the right and proper position on the issue, any opposing beliefs are inferior and inaccurate. Obviously people with accurate and wise positions are, at least in regards to those specific areas, superior in their wisdom to people with inferior/inaccurate beliefs.
If you don't believe that your religious views are truth and all religious views (religions) that don't line up with yours are lies, you're a seriously self-deceived person.
Every single person has a religious belief. They all think their's is right. Typically, the self-described "tolerant" is most dangerous because they are blind to the fact that they openly seek to impose their morality on other people.
For all who know the TRUTH in their heart that Jesus is alive now and forever, behold the following Scripture and embrace it with such power that non-Believers cannot ever conquer! "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is the LORD of Lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." - REVELATION 17:14 (KJV)
Who uses "behold" anymore?
I think the owner of this article is an anti-christ, well as a christian, i pray that God have mercy on u. And here is a piece of advice for the owner of this article and cnn, dont do same for prophet mohammed cause bombs and rocket will start flying around. BE WARNED.
When someone cites the Bible as a source of evidence, they are on shaky ground already. But why would anyone want to heed the word of a filthy, bare-footed hippie? Jesus doesn't sound very Republican to me.
Your words will be presented to you once your time comes... you better have a good explanation for that
Tom, this kind of speech is tantamount to telling the cop, "That's OK pal, you'll get yours" It's something you say, to make yourself feel better about getting screwed over. Same with your prophecy. You attempt to scare this guy straight by telling him what's going to happen to him (your version) when he dies.
Let the matter be clear. The Word of God is true wether you believe it or not. The Lord was not worried about your opinion thousands of years ago, and He is not concerned wether you believe His Word in the new age. In the book of Isaiah He tells us that the nations of the world are counted as a drop in a bucket, the weight of dust on a scale. The Word tells us that in the last days the mockers, haters, doubters and deceivers of the Word would come. The hatred of the Word was here 2000 years ago when the Lord decided to walk the earth, and it will not go away until He comes again. The true Christains do not falter in the day of battle. Put on the whole armor of God , so you can with stand the wiles of the enemy. Revelations chp 22 tells of the victory party. The heavy weight champion of the world is the Word of God. The undisputed champion by knockouts. Every Kingdom that once had power and came up against the Word of God is powerless today. Egypt, Rome,Greece,Assyria, Babylon which is modern Iraq. These kingdoms of power lay in the dust of their former forms. The new so called powers will also be defeated according to Ezekiel 38 and 39 as well as other books of the bible. Every knee will bow and every tonuge will confess that Jesus is Lord!
"Let the matter be clear. The Word of God is true wether you believe it or not."
Is it really too much to ask for some evidence that is even slightly compelling to believe?
Believe what you want, it's your god-given right.
Dumb people: Criticize others, and think they know it all – No need for God, everything can be explained by science...
Smart people: Acknowledges that there is a spiritual world and something greater than us that we cannot comprehend – Understands that religion is a way to bring people together in the search of the higher power, and to better understand and what is the meaning of life and how to live it.
Dumb person: someone who insists that everyone believe as he does (i.e.: Tom).
Oh yes. Maybe the local martyrs brigade brings people together, just look at Israel and palistine. Stupid people: Use a Ad hominium attack.
God is ever to be upon the throne no matter who disparages Godliness and the ever Faithful in Christ's Teaching Way and Truths and Comforts.
Claim with no evidence.
It takes a lot more than a myth to start a religion that eventually covers the globe and has billions of followers.
Be honest; that's a guess, isn't it?
No it doesn't There are 14 million mormons who base their belief on a 19th Century fraud reading magic rocks in a big hat.
Are you kidding? This is a world of sheep!
Uh, to state the obvious, even if you believe, every other religion on the planet is a myth, and started that way, and grew to somtimes having huge numbers of followers as a myth. Otherwise, you just legitimized every other religion.
You said, "It takes a lot more than a myth to start a religion that eventually covers the globe and has billions of followers."
All you need is sufficient numbers of Oves aries sapiens.
God speaks the truth on Jesus in Quran..
“Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1
]“The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]
“They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]
“No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]
Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]
Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.
O people of the scripture, do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say about GOD except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of GOD, and His word that He had sent to Mary, and a revelation from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in GOD and His messengers. You shall not say, "Trinity." You shall refrain from this for your own good. GOD is only one god. Be He glorified; He is much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. GOD suffices as Lord and Master. Quran [4:171]
(Jesus) As a messenger to the Children of Israel: "I come to you with a sign from your Lord – I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by God's leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by God's leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers. [3:49]
I am not even particularly religious, but stories written six centuries late by a warlord and merchant hardly qualify as the true account of Jesus. Though Muslims were arguably much more tolerant than later Christians were of different faiths, the singular difference between the two faiths is that Muhammmad took to the sword and demanded executions of those who did not believe or insulted his new faith and Christ did not.
I am not even particularly religious, but stories written six centuries later by a warlord and merchant hardly qualify as the true account of Jesus. Though Muslims were arguably much more tolerant than later Christians were of different faiths, the singular difference between the two faiths is that Muhammmad took to the sword and demanded executions of those who did not believe or insulted his new faith and Christ did not.
Closed are the minds of non-believers while open are the minds of those willing to hear the Truth of Christendom's Faithful.
Closed are the minds of the believers in the face of overwhelming lack of evidence of god, and the massive canon of scientific knowledge supporting evolution, round earth, etc, etc.
Closed Open are the minds of non-believers while open closed are the minds of those willing to hear the Truth Claim of Christendom's Faithful.
Fixed it for you.
Grrrrr, was hoping the html strike tag would work.
I expected a leading story like this here today. Typical CNN (Christ Not Needed). Headed by John Blake. Isn't he an atheist?
All of the people who believe that the Shroud of Turin is fake, you are wrong.
It is right there the picture of Jesus has endured for over 2000 years.
It is not fake. It has been scientifically carbon dated to be over 2000 years old, and from Jerusalem.
Shroud was carbon dated to less than a thousand years old...
For all who know the TRUTH in their heart that Jesus is alive now and forever, behold the following Scripture and embrace it with such power that non-Believers cannot ever conquer! "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about." - PSALMS 17:8-9 (KJV)
The Bible is not ONE book. It is a library of books. The N.T. has 27 books. They are historically reliable and were written by those who were around when Christ lived. Acts, a history book of the church, does not contain significant historical markers such as Paul's death (A.D. 60ish), Nero's persecution (A.D. 60's), the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70). Why? Because it was written before those dates (say A.D. 55?). Luke was written before Acts (50?); Matthew before that (45?). Mark before that (40?). Jesus was crucified in A.D. 33. Short times pan between records and events. Paul encountered Jesus (Acts 7, 9) and wrote about him (1 Cor. 15). The evidence is there that Jesus lived. Saying Jesus was a myth is laughable to the learned but applauded by the ignorant. http://carm.org/when-were-gospels-written-and-by-whom.
did anyone seem Lady gaga Does a rogue planet, known as Nibiru invading our solar system from
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And its there ...
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I's amazing how many mentally ill people there are in the world. Believing in an invisible man they would have never known about until they were told he existed. If any of you had been born in the Middle East, or Asia, you would be trumpeting a different god with the same blind behavior.
Untreated mental illness is about the sum of it all.
i think you have a metal illness you need help.ps read your bible
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.