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Pope's book on Jesus debunks Christmas myths
November 22nd, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Pope's book on Jesus debunks Christmas myths

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) – It's Christmas, but not as you know it: a new book by released this week by Pope Benedict VI looks at the early life of Jesus - and debunks several myths about how the Nativity really unfolded.

In "Jesus of Nazareth - The Infancy Narratives," the pope says the Christian calendar is actually based on a blunder by a 6th century monk, who Benedict says was several years off in his calculation of Jesus' birth date.

According to the pope's research, there is also no evidence in the Gospels that the cattle and other animals traditionally pictured gathered around the manger were actually present.

Full Story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (577 Responses)
  1. fernace

    Why should we be surpised! People always want to rewrite history; they're doing it right now! The truth is, it's been done throughout human life on Earth & will continue! We don't really *know* what happened, we base assumptions on the written records from the period! Through translation & impression there could be numerous errors in any representation of the past! The point isn't the minutiae, but the fact that Jesus was recorded in an important book! Whether we're christian or atheist we can't disagree that a book thats been around over 2000 yr's & still has us discussin it more than any book in history, is significant! Really, all old texts are! I believe Jesus (Yeshua) was a very spiritual & advanced person who taught the words of the spirit that moved him! He was 1 of the 1st recorded humanitarians & 1 of the most important! Christmas is based on a pagan tradition & was usurped by christians, to celebrate Jesus birth! That stuff doesn't matter, his teachings do, because they make sense!!

    November 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I am not impressed with Jesus. Anybody can teach love and peace. Hardly unique.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Colin

      Apple Bush- yes, he does seem to be overrated. I think "love thy enemy" was original, but nobody follows that, anyway.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Colin, indeed. No one really follows any of it on the scale where it could be useful. Faith builds churches, that is about it.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      fernace et al,

      The "blood" of Christ Jesus will ever be an acclaiming conscription thru relief-based emotional prescriptions foresaken though not by the unrelenting mobs nor even the jealous masses allotments sakes! Only thru the individualists coming to self-minding emotional terms can one's sinfilled detriments be erased! The onguard podium does entertain the amassed audiences no matter the speaker who acclaims their wordages to be more then mere words but are as a model of enlightenment to be ever made as thoughtful conscious recognitions of even after the speaker does close out their speech! How soon one forgets and how long and of what does one dwell?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Lilith

      Dear lionlylamb:
      You make little sense.
      Love, Lilith XOXO

      November 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Mr. Lamb, well said, well spoken. Fire up the bong.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Sweet Lilith,

      Your name reminds me of Adam's 1st mate/wife! her wantings do be more than Adam could cherishingly take and in Adam's fetteredness did Adam complain. Lilith did speak out Gd's hidden name and was wisked away to God's presence and did become God's wife and goddess until even God could no more take her mindedness ways so God did punish her for desires to be above all men and even God, Lilith did bcome as a curse to all the families young children. She came in their dreams all the children of mankind and still does to this very day and age.

      The moral is, "Let no man be above their wife and no woman be above their husband for to do so would invite Lilith's scurge upon their still young children!

      November 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Mr. Lamb, my how Jewish folklore is so relevent in our century.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If Christ's teachings were so important why do christians instead follow the words of Paul?

      The entire biblical story of Christ's birth has been shown to conflict with actual history. The artificial "history" created in the bible, however, very neatly "fulfills" jewish prophecy. It puts Jesus into perspective by people who are willing to look at the truth.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  2. Gadflie

    A 179 page book based on about 2 pages of actual (very contradictory) information? Interesting.

    November 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Dominic Abbandando

      You think you know better than the Pope?

      November 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      After all, he is infallible.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      There is no actual proof that a Jesus from Nazareth even existed. Nazareth was a cemetery , never a town at that time. The entire infancy narrative was cooked up by the gospel inventors. In fact the dating of the birth in Luke in impossible, as Quirinius was not governor when Herod was king. I'm surprised ole Benny even opened this can of worms.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      noodles doodles and toodles,

      Show us all where it is so written on the net that "Nazereth was a cemetary" I looked but could not find it therefore your words are but lies!

      November 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html

      November 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      noodles doodles and toodles,

      Went to the sight and was dismayed No credentials did I find nor did the sight's owner spring out,,, :-(

      All I found was 2 books for sale. Oughtta say something regarding the sight wanting ones monies from culpable and emotionally unstable victims searching high and low for something to side up for in a world full of turmoil and deception, May advice to you is as follows;

      What was first made can never again become that which was made first for only in varying differential constructs can another thing be made upon ever to be outdone against that which was firstly made.

      November 22, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      Well you missed the two Christian, (Catholic), archaeologists. You really don't want to look do you ?
      So stay deluded. It's your life.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:09 am |
  3. Rational Libertarian

    These aren't really revelations. I imagine most people who have an interest in the whole Jesus thing would have been aware of this.

    November 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  4. Meatwad

    Why I love Thanksgiving by Meatwad.

    I love Thanksgiving because there is a lot of turkey bird to eat and I like pie too y'all. Plus I always where my hat.

    November 22, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Lilith

      I like it when you turn yourself into an igloo. Are you doing that soon?

      November 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I can turn myself into an igloo or a hot dog. I am watching the balloons on T.V. right now. I like balloons.

      November 22, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  5. Colin

    Well, the book debunks some myths. It still leaves a lot in place. Indeed, there are a number of problems in knowing exactly what transpired around the birth of Jesus that appear to be insurmountable.

    The only two accounts we have are in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, both of which were written about 70AD – 74 years after the event. Mark and John do not mention Jesus' birth. No other book of the Bible talks about Jesus’ birth and no other writing from the time does.

    All we have is the accounts in Matthew and Luke. The fact that they were penned 70 years later in an age with virtually no writing would make them suspect, even if Matthew and Luke were interested in historical accuracy, but they were both committed followers of Jesus and wrote in an effort to convert others to their faith (Matthew was writing, it seems, to convert Jews and Luke principally gentiles). Both accounts are riddled with supposed supernatural occurrences. Their credibility is highly questionable to say the least. They also contradict one another in pretty significant ways.

    For a start, both knew they had to claim that Jesus was born in Bayt Lahm ("Bethlehem") in order to claim he was the messiah – as the Torah clearly stated that the messiah would come from Bet Lahm – but they apparently didn’t collaborate in finding a solution.

    In Matthew, Mary and Joseph are originally from Bethlehem. Three wise men come from the East, following a star which is to lead them to the great messiah prophesized by the Torah. King Herod hears of this and calls the three wise men before him in Jerusalem. He asks them to tell him when they find Jesus. The star reappears and they follow it to Bethlehem and present the baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Jerusalem, they hightail it back East.

    Herod hears of this, throws a fit and kills all babies under two years of age in Bethlehem. However, Joseph and Mary have been earlier warned by God in a dream that this is coming and have fled south to Egypt. They stay there until God tells them in another dream that Herod is dead. However, on returning to Bethlehem, they hear that Herod’s son Archelaus has taken the throne in Jerusalem and this poses a continuing threat to the child Jesus, so they continue north to Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus is raised.

    In Luke, Mary and Joseph are NOT originally from Bethlehem, there are no wise men from the East, no star to be followed, no flight to Egypt, no slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem and no gold, frankincense and myrrh. Instead, Mary and Joseph are originally from Nazareth but have to return to the land of David, their ancestor from 1,000 years ago, to be assessed in a Roman tax imposed under Caesar Augustus. So Joseph and Mary, who is heavily pregnant, set off on the 70 mile trip from Nazareth due south to Bethlehem. There is no room at any inn, so Jesus is born in a manger. Three shepherds in a nearby field are told by a singing chorus of angels that the king of the Jews has been born and they come and pay homage. Eight days later, Jesus is circu.mcised and, after the period of Mary’s “purification” under Jewish law, Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem and presented. In the temple, they offer Yahweh two turtledoves and two pigeons as a sacrifice then return to Nazareth, where Jesus is raised.

    The second problem was that of Jesus’ non-royal pedigree. Israel of the time, although under Roman rule, was a semi-autonomous region under a Roman overseer, not unlike occupied France. It was also was ruled by a paternal hereditary line of Jewish kings. Claiming the throne required ancestry as surely as it did in medieval England (and still does). This hole is also plugged by Matthew and Luke in very different ways.

    They both purport to give a genealogy of Jesus that traces him through Joseph back to David but..….Noticed a problem yet? Jesus’ genealogy? What genealogy? He is supposedly the son of God, born of a virgin. His paternal genealogy is as simple as it gets, isn’t it? Jesus-God. God begat Jesus, end of story. Ah the perils of incorporating pagan virgin birth mythology into pre-existing Jewish cultural tradition.

    Nevertheless, Matthew in Chapter 1 and Luke in Chapter 3 both have a swing at it. They disagree immediately and wildly. They can’t even agree on who Joseph’s father was! Jacob according to Matthew, Heli according to Luke. The names continue back, virtually never agreeing and Matthew has 28 generations tracing Jesus back to David, whereas Luke has 43.

    Then we have the problem of the virgin birth itself. The authors of Matthew and Luke were Greek speaking Jews who had relied on Septuagint, the standardized Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah (or Tanakh to be more accurate). The original Hebrew Book of Isaiah held that the messiah would be born of a “young woman,” it did not say that she was a virgin. But, when the Septuagint was translated into Greek, in about 250 BC in Egypt, the authors mistranslated the Hebrew word for “young girl” – altnah – into the Greek word for virgin – parthenos. Hence, the authors of Matthew and Luke both erroneously felt the need to make Mary a virgin.

    In short, we do not, cannot and likely never will know what transpired around Jesus’ birth. It was most likely a totally normal, nondescript birth much the same as any other at the time. It was only after he found fame as an adult that his followers, like those of any religious or cult leader, felt the need to embellish his birth to supernatural status and fit it into to the expectations of the people they were trying to convince or influence.

    It is a pity really, as it would be a fascinating event were it true. But, unfortunately being interesting, nice, or warmly comforting does not make it true.

    November 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • truth be told

      Being True makes it Truth and 10,000 losers coming out of the woodwork with mountains of drivel like colon will not make it any less True.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      "Being True makes it Truth"

      LOL!! No flaws in that reasoning.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • nope

      @app...
      nope

      November 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      I will give you credit for knowing the chronology. But, I don't agree with your conclusions. Matthew and Luke surely do differ, likely hearing their stories from different sources (versus making it up whole cloth as you seem to believe). If Luke, for example, didn't know the story of Jesus' family fleeing to Egypt, he would assume that they returned to Nazareth. Ditto, Matthew likely did not write about Jesus being presented at the temple because he did not know of it. As for Jesus' paternity, what better statement could God make concerning his view of adoption? Jesus in his life said, "Who are my mother, brother, and sisters? Whoever does the will of God." Joseph was Jesus father in the same way any adopted parent is the parent. As for the details in the genealogy being different, that's definitely true. But do errors in a transcribed family tree, seventy years after the event and second hand, discount the whole story? The only problem with the Nativity story is if you are a literalist – either believer or non-believer. For everyone else, the story is packed with meaning and is why so many have found spiritual relevance from it from generation to generation.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Nobel

      @Colin, you should read the Bible first, get some more knowledge about Jewish culture/traditions and a better knowledge about the Septuaginta, before writing some nonsense words.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      @Tom Paine

      Do you believe, based on your own observations, that the bible is the inspired word of god?

      November 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      @ Apple. I base my beliefs on many things. I base it on my study of the Bible, its origins, and the culture that existed back then. I base it upon actually visiting the sites and comparing it with what was written. And I base it upon the experience of so many people over the eons. People of days gone by may not have had the scientific knowledge we do today but they were not lacking in intelligence. They knew the Nativity story is absolutely incredible and that the two versions of it do not dovetail nicely together. But they believed it nonetheless. There is a reason why this story has and will continue to resonate.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      @Tom Paine

      That is nice but do you believe the bible is the inspired word of god?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      @ Apple. Yes. But that does not mean that I believe that there was a man with a quill in hand as God dictated it to him. The Bible is inspired, and continues to be. It has been inspired every generation that men and women wrote, edited, transcribed, compiled, and translated it.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      So you think all of the mistakes, mistranslations and contradictions are ispired by god?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Colin

      Tom Paine. You seem to put a lot of weight on the fact that ithe Bible is "popular." That is a bit like my wife's opinion, isn't it – true but irrelevant -:)

      When one steps back and looks at it, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests it is anything more that 2,000 year old Juseo Christian mythology and superst.ition. There were 200 million people living when Jesus was born. Why does the Bible onle concentrate on 0.0001% of the humans alive at that time? Why is there no mention of the Chinese, Russians, Indians, Australian Aboriginals etc. It is pretty obvious to me that the Jews created god and not visa-versa.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      @ Apple....lol. No, hardly. I think God inspired people. Honest to goodness people. People who while believing in an omnipotent, eternal, and graceful God are still full of their own imperfections and limited by their own experiences and knowledge. I nevertheless feel God made them capable of communicating what needed to be communicated to pass on a message of grace, justice, and redemption that is vital today.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      @nobel: "before writing some nonsense words"

      like the bible?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      How did god inspire them and why is the message of the bible vital today? P.S. Do you dismiss the OT?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      @ Apple. The same way God inspires people today. Through their thoughts and by what they take in from other people and nature around them. Dismiss the Hebrew Bible? Hardly. The New Testament makes no sense without the Hebrew Bible. It would be like looking at a tree without any roots.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      @Tom Paine

      Does god communicate with us telepathically then?
      Is the god in the hebrew bible the same one as the god in the NT?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Lilith

      It is not the inspired word of God then, it is the words of men who have heard stories and wrote them down. Period. If you find these words inspiring, more power to you. But to call them God's words is a fallacy. They aren't. At best, the NT is hearsay, and in the manner of Chinese telephone, differ each time a different person tells it.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      Goodnight all. You all have made the points you want to make and I have made mine. Others can weigh them out on their merits. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      There is NOTHING about "adoption". The entire first chapter of Matthew is spent doing the genealogy to make it look like Jesus is of the Davidic line. Then at the end, it says Joseph was NOT the father. How can they "know or not know". Either it's "inspired" or it's not. The gospels can't even agree on the day he died for god's sake. The original Mark had no resurrection. How in hell could they leave THAT out ?

      November 23, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • Tom Paine

      @Noodles. Jesus himself talks about being encrafted onto the vine in the Gospel of John (a parallel with adoption). You may believe the Gospel of John is made up whole cloth too but it shows that, at the latest in the second century, that Christian understood themselves to be adopted into God's people not by blood by by faith (by faith we are saved through grace is how Paul put it). Is it that much of a jump that Christians understood that Jesus too was adopted or engrafted into the line of David? The Bible is highly problematic if you take it totally literally (which atheists want us to do to point out absurdities and fundamentalist want us to do because they can't accept truth that is not easily explained). But Jesus himself spoke in parables and used analogy and metaphor extensively. Why shouldn't we? As for Mark, there are many explanations as to why there is no post resurrection appearance in it (at least with its original ending). The author could have died or the original ending could have been lost as the original manuscript got passed on. If you read through Mark it is obvious that it points to the resurrection in many places. There is no ancient parallel of ending a Gospel with the women fleeing in wonder and in fright (keep in mind that the angels declaring Jesus is risen in the original ending). Christians obviously understood that the Gospel was incomplete and they penned in an ending for Mark in the years shortly thereafter. Enough for now. Glad to respond when I get back home this evening.

      November 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Tom Paine

      P.S. A word on inspiration. We look at a great painting and we say the painter was inspired when she painted it. We listen to a symphony and we say the composer was inspired. Do we think of this as just a cute saying or having some real meaning to it? And if artists who play or paint can be inspired, why not writers of theology? It has nothing to do with telepathy. When people try to make something sound absurd with their questions, it often simply reflects an overly literal questioner.

      November 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      Nothing was "inspired. The reason the crap in the Bible is there, is because it was VOTED, non-unanimously, by humans into the canon. You need a history course, Mr Paine. Stop trying to contort reality to fit your old fake book.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      Jesus didn't "say" anything in the gospels. The WRITERS wrote what they BELIEVED about him. When they wrote the gospels, they had no clue what he actually said. How would YOU know what someone actually said 60 years ago ?

      November 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Russ

    The article says: "He also debunks the claim that angels sang at the birth, a staple theme of Christmas carols."

    Let's not overdo it here. Maybe he said they weren't at the stable. But the Bible is clear that they announce Jesus birth to the shepherd "nearby" – by "praising"...

    "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Lk.2:13-14)

    November 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Russ, angels most definately did not sing at Jesus' birth.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Author

      Russ,

      A couple of literary devices:

      Melodrama:
      The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions.

      Waxing rhapsodic:
      "wax rhapsodic" means to speak or write about something with an effusively enthusiastic or ecstatic expression of feeling.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Apple Bush & Author:
      the primary problem with any such Jeffersonian-style attempts to remove the miraculous is this:
      the text is fully interwoven. sure, the shallow skeptic can totally dismiss the full account. but the knowledgeable historian recognizes two central problems:

      a) the miraculous accounts are all in the earliest records – which NOTABLY are within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. (i.e., Christianity does not get off the ground if these things are readily debunked)

      b) there clearly was a historical person with which "the most influential movement in history" (as it's frequently called) began. and we have NO other historical access to that person. any attempt to remove the miraculous (which is integrally interwoven) results in losing any access to the historical person.

      Since even the most liberal historians point out that denying the historical reality of Jesus is preposterous (see Bart Ehrman's new book, especially the foreward), we are left with a quandary. Either engage the texts as we have them, or ignore the historical fact of Jesus.

      However, to do the latter is to fall into the same sacrifice of the intellect often ascribed to religious conservatives. So, will you engage the texts – or ignore history?

      November 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Russ, I disagree.

      November 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Russ

      "Liberal historians"

      Since when did the term liberal connote anti religious sentiment? I know many liberals who are devoutly religious, and I know many non liberals (such as myself) who think religion is the last bastion for the frightened and retarded.

      Also Russ, I think I'll acknowledge history and ignore fairy stories.

      November 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Russ, your "A" is unfortunately not correct. Not even close. The ONLY records we have of Jesus' birth are the ones incorporated into the Bible itself. The only other mention is that of Josephus who claimed that his father was a high priest.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Author

      Russ,
      "a) the miraculous accounts are all in the earliest records – which NOTABLY are within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. (i.e., Christianity does not get off the ground if these things are readily debunked)"

      Who? How is someone going to debunk something that they were not present for?

      1. A few shepherd boys of +/- 00 A.D. lived long enough to hear the stories - they might say, "Wow, cool, I wish that had happened to us!" Or folks who witnessed a traveling preacher around 30 A.D., upon hearing the magic fish/bread stories said, "Wow, cool. I wonder if that's the same guy we saw 30 years ago, Ari? I wish he would have fed OUR group like that!"

      November 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • End Religion

      Russ: there is no evidence jesus, son of god, existed. Your god has told you lying is a sin. Please stop.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Rational Libertarian:
      I did not say liberal = anti-religious. The question at hand is reliability of the texts. Liberals are the least likely to give credence to the text. Hence pointing out that even Bart Ehrman (who does happen to be a self-proclaimed agnostic, something rare – if not anti.thetical – among conservative ranks) has written a book ("Did Jesus Exist?") pointing out that the scholarship does give evidence of the historical person of Jesus. Despite (and almost directly to the contrary) of how he is often sited on this blog...

      So, yes. Acknowledge history.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Gadflie: I think you misapplied my statement (purposefully?).

      I didn't say Jesus is in all historical records in the history. I was saying that all the historical accounts of Jesus (which you rightly pointed out are only the biblical accounts) have the miraculous interwoven from the earliest records. That's directly to the contrary of some who have argued they were later interpolations/accretions/etc.

      And yes, notably, those accounts ARE within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. 1 Cor.15 was written within 20 years (if not 15) of Jesus' death. What bigger miracle is there than the resurrection itself?

      November 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Author: that line of logic would lead you to discount almost ALL ancient historical records.

      In terms of number of manuscripts available, the NT is unparalleled among ancient literature. Just check out some of these numbers (both of manuscripts themselves & proximity to the source in comparison to other period literature):
      http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/21/an-interview-with-daniel-b-wallace-on-the-new-testament-manuscripts/

      November 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • End Religion

      Russ: there is no evidence jesus, son of god, existed. Your god has told you lying is a sin. Please stop..

      November 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ End Religion: per your own handle...
      you might want to actually check the historical data before you discount entire fields of historical discipline.

      the Bible has been the most read & most scrutinized text in history. that, in and of itself, does not ensure it's factual accounts – but considering the scholarship there, it's a pretty shallow and naive (and that's being charitable) thing to dismiss out of hand.

      i'd recommend checking some sources. the article I gave "author" above is a decent brief overview. for more in depth reading, check out Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses." But even if you find those distasteful (because they are actually Christians), just read the foreword to Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" He obliterates (as an agnostic scholar) your contention that there is "no evidence" for Jesus.

      Here's a quick link to Ehrman's foreword...
      http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/30/the-historical-evidence-of-the-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth/

      November 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • End Religion

      Russ: there is no evidence jesus, son of god, existed. Your god has told you lying is a sin. Please stop...

      November 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      Clearly you didn't read it yourself. Ehrman says "Jesus never existed"

      November 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Russ

      @ End Religion: since you are clearly unwilling to click the link, here's the foreword from Bart Ehrman's book "Did Jesus Exist?" Again, he is an AGNOSTIC, liberal scholar, often regarded as the far left of biblical scholarship... in other words, if you had a friend in the field, it'd be him...

      *****
      Every week I receive two or three e-mails asking me whether Jesus existed as a human being. When I started getting these e-mails, some years ago now, I thought the question was rather peculiar and I did not take it seriously. Of course Jesus existed. Everyone knows he existed. Don’t they?

      But the questions kept coming, and soon I began to wonder: Why are so many people asking? My wonder only increased when I learned that I myself was being quoted in some circles—misquoted rather—as saying that Jesus never existed. I decided to look into the matter. I discovered, to my surprise, an entire body of literature devoted to the question of whether or not there ever was a real man, Jesus.

      I was surprised because I am trained as a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity, and for thirty years I have written extensively on the historical Jesus, the Gospels, the early Christian movement, and the history of the church’s first three hundred years. Like all New Testament scholars, I have read thousands of books and articles in English and other European languages on Jesus, the New Testament, and early Christianity. But I was almost completely unaware—as are most of my colleagues in the field—of this body of skeptical literature.

      I should say at the outset that none of this literature is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world). Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools, none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed. But a whole body of literature out there, some of it highly intelligent and well informed, makes this case.

      These sundry books and articles (not to mention websites) are of varying quality. Some of them rival The Da Vinci Code in their passion for conspiracy and the shallowness of their historical knowledge, not just of the New Testament and early Christianity, but of ancient religions generally and, even more broadly, the ancient world. But a couple of bona fide scholars—not professors teaching religious studies in universities but scholars nonetheless, and at least one of them with a Ph.D. in the field of New Testament—have taken this position and written about it. Their books may not be known to most of the general public interested in questions related to Jesus, the Gospels, or the early Christian church, but they do occupy a noteworthy niche as a (very) small but (often) loud minority voice. Once you tune in to this voice, you quickly learn just how persistent and vociferous it can be.

      Those who do not think Jesus existed are frequently militant in their views and remarkably adept at countering evidence that to the rest of the civilized world seems compelling and even unanswerable. But these writers have answers, and the smart ones among them need to be taken seriously, if for no other reason than to show why they cannot be right about their major contention. The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist.

      Serious historians of the early Christian movement—all of them—have spent many years preparing to be experts in their field. Just to read the ancient sources requires expertise in a range of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and often Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic, not to mention the modern languages of scholarship (for example, German and French). And that is just for starters. Expertise requires years of patiently examining ancient texts and a thorough grounding in the history and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the religions of the ancient Mediterranean world, both pagan and Jewish, knowledge of the history of the Christian church and the development of its social life and theology, and, well, lots of other things. It is striking that virtually everyone who has spent all the years needed to attain these qualifications is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure. This is not a piece of evidence, but if nothing else, it should give one pause. In the field of biology, evolution may be “just” a theory (as some politicians painfully point out), but it is the theory subscribed to, for good reason, by every real scientist in every established university in the Western world.

      Still, as is clear from the avalanche of sometimes outraged postings on all the relevant Internet sites, there is simply no way to convince conspiracy theorists that the evidence for their position is too thin to be convincing and that the evidence for a traditional view is thoroughly persuasive. Anyone who chooses to believe something contrary to evidence that an overwhelming majority of people find overwhelmingly convincing—whether it involves the fact of the Holocaust, the landing on the moon, the assassination of presidents, or even a presidential place of birth—will not be convinced. Simply will not be convinced.

      And so, with Did Jesus Exist?, I do not expect to convince anyone in that boat. What I do hope is to convince genuine seekers who really want to know how we know that Jesus did exist, as virtually every scholar of antiquity, of biblical studies, of classics, and of Christian origins in this country and, in fact, in the Western world agrees. Many of these scholars have no vested interest in the matter. As it turns out, I myself do not either. I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian agenda. I am an agnostic with atheist leanings, and my life and views of the world would be approximately the same whether or not Jesus existed. My beliefs would vary little. The answer to the question of Jesus’s historical existence will not make me more or less happy, content, hopeful, likable, rich, famous, or immortal.

      But as a historian I think evidence matters. And the past matters. And for anyone to whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist. He may not have been the Jesus that your mother believes in or the Jesus of the stained-glass window or the Jesus of your least favorite televangelist or the Jesus proclaimed by the Vatican, the Southern Baptist Convention, the local megachurch, or the California Gnostic. But he did exist, and we can say a few things, with relative certainty, about him.

      November 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      lol@russ... thank you for letting me manipulate you into posting the intro here. Now read his last paragraph carefully, and my assertion. Can you use your tiny brain to see that he is saying what I am saying?

      Maybe some dude named Jesus was around at that time and managed to get mentioned in your book of lies, I don't know. I am willing to believe that. But there is no proof he was a son of god, or performed any actual miracles, or was supernatural in any way.

      BTW, I have some all-heal green tonic for sale. It's is a known cure-all from the Orient. Makes you feel in tip-top shape almost immediately. Of special note to you, it will cure herpes. It's only $4.99 for a pint.

      November 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Russ

      @ End Religion: and I'd tell you to read his third to last paragraph...

      Point being, here's the far left fringe of biblical scholarship – and you regard him as winking at your position (when he's giving a scathing treatment of it). No, at no point did I imagine I'd convince someone who has "end religion" as your handle that you should become a Christian. But in the face of the scholarship, it's amazing how – even now – you dismiss it out of hand. Hopefully others reading here will actually engage the scholarship instead of buying what you're selling.

      November 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      The Bible is "clear" about nothing. The gospels contradict themselves a lot. Humans cooked it all up many years later. They would have had no way of what happened that night. Grow up.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Russ

      @ noodles:
      1) the Bible is very clear.
      depending on your criteria (if you go by cultural influence or numbers of adherents), a case could be made that it's the clearest book in history. your problem is that it's clear about things with which you disagree.

      2) you said "the gospels contradict themselves a lot."
      the entire debate here would be in the details. while I'd be glad to enter into a discussion about that (considering the early church reject Tatian's Diatesseron – which offered a "harmony" of the gospels into one account), it misses the more foundational point. there is NO debate among the Gospels about ALL the major doctrines: Jesus lived the life we couldn't, died the death we deserve, and rose up from the grave. just take the resurrection alone, for that matter. it's the center of the faith. if it happened (which is the debate here), what would any other details matter by comparison? and all of the Gospels are abundantly clear on that.

      again, your problem is how incisively clear the accounts are.

      3) you said "humans cooked it all up years later."
      that's true of myths – which are normally written 100s of years after the fact, with virtually no access to the historical reality itself. but the Gospel accounts claim to be either eyewitnesses themselves or direct reportage from eyewitnesses. and in the case of Paul, he writes 1 Cor.15:1-3 within 15 years of Jesus' death – a passage which claims the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once. Certainly he knew many of those folks were still alive – and within the Roman Empire (especially the tight knit Jewish community) travel & correspondence were a given. What's he doing? he's inviting fact checking.

      your timeline fails. eyewitnesses were still alive. Christianity would not have gotten off the ground if such ridiculous claims were so readily debunked – and they would have been.

      4) you said "there's no way they would have [known?] what happened that night."
      Mary was not only still alive at the crucifixion, it's clear in Acts that she herself was a follower and adherent – which says A LOT, considering women had no leadership powers (so no special treatment) and normally family members are the first to expose charlatans (note: even his brothers came to believe in Acts 1, after being skeptics earlier). If there was ANY eyewitness to be found for that night, it was Mary. And clearly from the accounts, Luke (the author of Luke-Acts) had access to her.

      SUM: at least engage the scholarship. out of hand dismissals that ignore 2000 years of people raising & answering such objections are naive at best.

      November 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    November 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayerbot. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, over and over and over and over....

      November 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • truth be told

      Thanksgiving, a day set aside by an American President for the country to give thanks to God.

      November 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Thanksgiving was celebrated by colonists 200 years before Lincoln. He just nationalized and made it religious. It was a secular celebration. Politics as usual.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • truth be told

      From its earliest practice Thanksgiving was a day set aside in America to Thank God. Calling it secular does not alter fact. Thanksgiving is, was and forever shall be a day to honor and thank God.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Let me guess TbT, being fact makes it factual? LOL

      You are wrong as usual my friend. Go have some pie.

      November 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  8. prophet

    We have A Saviour and A God and this is a Fact but its up to the individual to ask God and not to rely on religions, remember Our Saviour came to Save us from sin and religion.

    i have still found it possible to Forgive these evil people because God knows who they are and they cannot hide from Him. You cannot hide, You can try but you can't do it because He knows who you are.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      "We have A Saviour and A God and this is a Fact"

      It is the opposite of fact. It is also your fervent belief. It is *anything* but fact.

      ***
      "i have still found it possible to Forgive these evil people"

      How generous of you, especially since your god commanded you to turn the other cheek.

      ***
      "because God knows who they are and they cannot hide from Him. You cannot hide, You can try but you can't do it because He knows who you are."

      Does he have a big database like the CIA? I have one question.... can we hide from him?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      I Love How "Religious" People Think They Are So "Rrighteous" When They Capitalize Everything. Praise Jebus.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  9. prophet

    i was raised as a catholic and the someone told me who Our Saviour really was and His Name and after 45 years i began praying to Our Saviour Using His Name and i always Believed in God but i knew that the christians had it wrong and now i know they did and now without even being in a religion or a community i have found what is True and its better than what christians are saying. They mislead people so much that its incomprehensible the magnitude of their deceit. They are waterless rivers.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • End Religion

      yeah, you and 100 million other people "know" the "one true truth," unfortunately you all have a different "truth" and so maybe you should stop calling it that when it is just a belief.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  10. prophet

    i was raised as a catholic and the someone told me who Our Saviour really was and His Name and after 45 years i began praying to Our Saviour Using His Name and i always Believed in God but i knew that the christians had it wrong and now i kn ow they did and now without even being in a religion or a community i have found what is True and its better than what christians are saying. They mislead people so much that its incomprehensible the magnitude of their deceit. They are waterless rivers.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  11. prophet

    these people are evil and i would say most of them, a lot of them don't even believe in God they just do it for the money or whatever.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Just call me Lucifer

    Yep... take the word of the junior Nazi as truth. Pedophiles wearing girly outfits should always be trusted when it comes to truth. Truth about a myth for chrissakes. These pious idiots gotsta go... and the sooner the better. I'm the devil they created, and I approve this message.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  13. prophet

    i used to be beaten by the catholic's the carmalites and when they were beating us their saliva dripped as they beat us.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      they were generating lubricant for other purposes...

      November 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  14. prophet

    as a Believer in Our Saviour i have to say to these poor children that there are people who do understand what you went through at the filthy hands of the catholics. The problem is this is still going on even now. They just know how to hide it as a lot of Government officilas are in on it with them.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      Why do you capitalize "believer" ? Are you a divine being ?

      November 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  15. prophet

    they are not even fit to be in a society of people and yet they preach Goodness,

    a retired franciscan monk in USA said recently that children offered themselves to the clergy.CNN did the story on it.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lilith

      Link, please. I don't believe a fvckingword you have said thus far, and you are no more a prohet than I am the Queen of Sheba. Oh, yeahm WHAT is "Our Savior's" name? Skippy? Since no one else has gotten it right, according to your meandering drivel.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  16. prophet

    the amount of children that have been abused and are even now by these horrific people and yet they stand there and they say they believe in God.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Lilith

      And the creepy Pope that sanctions it all just wrote a book. How nice.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  17. prophet

    they can;t even get Our Saviours Name right, how can they be trusted with giving the correct information.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • End Religion

      cuckoo! cuckoo!

      November 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Lilith

      I just told you it was Skippy.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  18. prophet

    of course the deception is that if joseph wanted to really help with the truth he would write a book about how the greeks and catholics are trying to de-judaise Our Saviour.

    i can you tell you Mr ratzinger didn;t even write the book the clergy that are in apparant control of the vatican i.e the schemeing clergy wrote it and put the puppets name to it.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      is that Saran Wrap you're wearing, cuz we can clearly see you're nuts?

      November 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  19. Jesus

    Way to go Obama!

    November 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  20. Bill Deacon

    Amen

    November 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.