April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET
The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
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.”
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.
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Absolutely with you it agree. I like your idea. I suggest to take out for the general discussion.
Ok, finally. Not being a theologian or a historian if Jesus actually existed or not actually is my first question. There are no debates on if Aristotle for example, existed. All religious debates aside world history is world history.
you cant use the bible to prove jesus.
I COULd right a book and said it was Written by me under the influence of the holy spirit" Good point.
Anyone can claim anything, but that doesn't make it true. It is also true that just because they wrote about Jesus doesn't necessarily disqualify what they had to say, either, you know?
One of the things I love about Jesus is the way he rings true. I am mad as hell at him half the time, but he is a good guy. He befriends the friendless and cares about "nobodies." That's my kind of God. He is cool
Good Ol' Uncertain T
"Ok, finally. Not being a theologian or a historian if Jesus actually existed or not actually is my first question. There are no debates on if Aristotle for example, existed. All religious debates aside world history is world history."
Ask him if he's real. He will answer you, if you really want to know. Remember Jethro Tull, "So, I asked this God a question and by way of firm reply, He said, 'I;m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.'"
Jesus absolutely existed;
for what he thus clearly foretold here (=John 6/27, 40)
has thus absolutely come True now:
*****UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES*****
you cant use the bible to prove jesus.
I COULd right a book and said it was Written by me under the influence of the holy spirit
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
These guys were on fire.
"These guys were on fire."
So were David Koresh's disciples - literally!
Yes. That is exactly what I mean. I eapxlined to my brother last week, that our relationship with God suffers badly when we view God as a hockey goalie who is trying to keep us out of the Heavenly net. The picture from the scriptures is actually of a coach who is rooting for us and working with us (even when we stink). You see, we're not the puck we're part of the team. I anticapte that some will say; this sounds an awful lot like a license to sin. But that's not so. Not to belabor the analogy but with any devoted athlete they don't work hard and try to get better because they're afraid of getting kicked off the team. They work, because they love. Either the game or the thrill of success or even the team and the coaches. Until we get that mindset (love God, surrender to God, let God coach me to victory) we're going to lose. And losing is miserable.
good job.I love jesus and believe to him.my whole faimly are christian.whatever you guys are doing here,you are doing great,keep it up.may god bless you.and may the grace of the lord jesus christ always be with you all.
Ok i challenge all atheist/non-believers to a simple small short mature intellectual debate. I claim that there is a GOD, Higher Power, Intelligent Designer/Engineer, and Creator. You claim that there isnt a Creator and everything is a coincidence. (If what i say about your claims are wrong please correct me) Here are the rules: No THEORIES and no BIBLE VERSES. Proven known facts ONLY, none requiring faith. I simply ask that you consider my facts as i will yours. I will provide 10 facts in defense to my claim and you can list as much as you will.
1.The perfect unseen order of our solar system.
2. The accurate and precise distance of our sun and it's perfect compatibility with our moon. Its unfailing rising and sustaining power.
3. The engineering of the earth in every aspect.
4. Nature, it's power, beauty, and contributions.
5. Natural law.
6. Creatures, all of their different abilities, bodies, and behaviors.
7. The extraordinary and intelligently designed human body and mind.
8. My user name. Jesus indeed had the most influence and biggest impact on this world than anyone in all of time.
9. Due to how orderly and precise creation is, the chance of the big bang theory or coincidence happening is statistically 0. Scientists have come up with approximate numbers that far exceed the trillions, but these numbers are made up from their theories which is why i didnt paste the number. As of right now the chances of life forming from nothing is statistically 0.
10. Time & Life (consciousness)
Please be respectful and list your facts.
I agree with all except # 8. According to historians the most influential man was Mohammed (PBUH) – go see Michael Hart's Book – The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. I will also add more proofs:
11. The prophets – These great men all came with the same message "There is no deity worthy of worship, but God". This despite being 100s to 1000s of years apart. This without the spread of information through technology (i.e. internet) that we benefit from today. How could they all had the same message and yet be so scattered in time and space. The same source must have given them the message. That source is GOD.
12. The Quran – The miracle of the Quran is second to none. It is a miracle in language, message, science, etc. It is flawless. The sciencitific facts (i.e. the embroyotic process, the water cycle, the perservation of pharoah's body and much more) can only be from our maker.
Jesus was more influential than Mohamed in that even Mohamed was influenced by Jesus and believed that Jesus came from God (Allah).
NASA has recently concluded that Earth like planets are not that uncommon in the galaxy. They have seen up to 8 Earth like planets that have all the right features to possibly be habitable for life. As further research continues Im sure we'll find out soon enough that we are not one out of a gazillion bazillion planets to have life on it...
While it is possible to pray for smtoehing that is not within God's will to grant, prayer involves belief and action, and God will not override our freedom of choice.It is up to God to choose whether to grant the request or not based upon whether it is His will, however I read more times when Jesus tells us to be persistent in our prayer requests than to give up and not keep trying. Examples Luke 11:1-13 & Luke 18:1-8 teach that persistence is more important it seems than in the request.If God chooses to not answer a request, then that is His choice, however it seems that He reluctantly allows us to see the consequences of our bad choices by granting some of our bad requests if we show persistence.Thoughts or push-backs?
What you are saying is that, “we reap what we sow.” Galatians 6:7. Paul said, “God is not to be mocked,” in that he will not stop us reaping what we sow.
However as for granting us something bad if we request it, is not right. God will not tempt us with bad. In the Lords prayer he said, “Do not bring us into temptation.” Meaning he will give us advice from his Word to help us avoid temptation. But at the end of the day if we continue down a path that is not his will for us or we ignore his counsel or do not seek his advice, we will reap what we have sown.
Sometimes God doesn't give us money, but gives us talents to share. In my case, I would iianmge that if I had money, I would probably not use it as wisely as I should. In that case, I am blessed that we have what we need and no more. I would like to think that I would be able to manage my money wisely, but I know that God is much wiser than I. However, He has given me the ability to share what I have, however little it is, and what I do, in order to help others. God has blessed me with the ability to sew, and using that sewing ability and the ability to teach, I can help others to learn. Maybe it has no particular monetary value, but being able to take care of our own needs without relying on others to take care of them for us, has been a blessing for me.
The apostle Paul was a good example of this. He used all his time to spread the goodnews about Jesus and his coming Kingdom, while he financed his work by being a tent maker along with other christians.
I too believe it is very important to use ones life to be like Christ. Jesus said, "keep on seeking first the Kingdom,...... and all these other things will be added to you." Meaning he will supply what we need. As one of Jehovah's Witnesses I really believe that and spend many hours preaching the Kingdom. Jehovah has looked after us as a family.
Man Murdered me as Jesus.The year 2000 Lie Detector Test was taken as hard evidence accompanied by proof videos. As every human adult on this planet was ordered to be silent and I was to speak as The Creator Queen for The Creator King.Monarch to Subjects/Servants. Man has disobeyed Divine Supreme Orders.www.godthecreator1.com
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What was your distressing problem Beco?
While most credible scholars agree that Jesus was a real man, that doesn't mean he was the son of any god or could do anything supernatural. To date, there is not one shred of evidence supporting ANY supernatural claims. This applies to the past and present. This is an indisputable fact. The problem is that everyday people don't know this. So when they hear credible New Testament scholars saying Jesus was a real person, they could very possibly assume the supernatural stuff was real, too. I wish these scholars would clarify this point. In the articles and videos I've read and seen, I haven't seen them even address the supernatural issue.
It is because the miracles did happen. There were so many cridible witnesses involved at the time that it is indisputable. Even his enemies recognised his ability to perform miracles and never disputed it. These miracles proved beyond doubt that he was the Son of God, as they were superhuman and unexplainable even to modern science. Just because science today cannot explain these events, does not mean they didn't happen. It just means they don't understand everything God does.
Where is your evidence to say he didn't?
It's because you can't pick and choose what to believe in when it comes to God's word the Bible. Either you believe or you don't. If you believe in Christ, that means you believe in everything written about him in the Holy Scriptures.
This not believing in Jesus or his powerful works is nothing new, even his own people did not believe in him.
20 Then he started to reproach the cities in which most of his powerful works had taken place, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Cho·ra´zin! Woe to you, Beth·sa´i·da! because if the powerful works had taken place in Tyre and Si´don that took place in YOU, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Consequently I say to YOU, It will be more endurable for Tyre and Si´don on Judgment Day than for YOU. 23 And you, Ca·per´na·um, will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to Ha´des you will come; because if the powerful works that took place in you had taken place in Sod´om, it would have remained until this very day. 24 Consequently I say to YOU people, It will be more endurable for the land of Sod´om on Judgment Day than for you.”
That seems closed-minded to me, Art. If you had said, 'What convinces you that Jesus existed' I would have been interested in explaining my reasons for absolute belief, especially if you seemed even remotely interested in the possibility that he did exist and he manifested supernatural evidence of divinity. But you seem more interested in keeping your mind made up and consequently you don't want to see any facts that could dissuade you.
Art. You make a very strong definitive statement there is no evidence of supernatural claims in the past or present. To make this claim you must be all knowing yourself. If that was the case then you would know about me. 28 years ago I was in an accident which caused a traumatic pneumothorax (my lung was completely ripped off.) I survived breathing on my own for over 8 hours before surgery began, a number which is unheard of even with today's medical advances. Doctors at the time had no explanation for how I was able to survive for so long since most people die within two hours of experiencing my type of injury. In fact one of the treating physicians was so moved by my case that I am told he began considering faith in God for the first time. Even today when I share my story with physicians the response is the same, "You are lucky to be alive." That is doctor speak for "I have no way medically of explaining your recovery." Of course since you "know" of no evidence that my case had anything to do with the supernatural then you must be the first person to have come up with a medical/scientific explanation for my survival. I would love to hear it when you get a chance. But I suppose you have already written it in some medical journal so just post a link to that so I can read it myself.
Well, I don't know boys. I can't really tell you exactly what happened. I ain't too good with words, you know, like some of you folks. But, this much I do know: I WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I CAN SEE! GLORY GLORY GLORY
not bow down to graven iamegs it says not to have them. Does not bowing down to the image make it acceptable to have them?Well it sure would cut down on the amount of clutter made by Lego's and box cars in my home.I have to stop and think about the fact that mere days from when a child is born someone is bringing it it's first teddy bear, by it's first birthday his or hers room may be themed out in Nemo wall paper to Nemo bedsheets so forth and so on. And yet we wonder why we have such a difficult time getting our children, and even ourselves considering the distractions we make for ourselves, to concentrate on the things of the Lord.I have always admired the life of the Amish and it's simplicity. I know their lack of ornamentation comes from their very concern to be distracted from God.We would do well to consider the things in our homes and what they represent to us. Perhaps we don't bow down to fifty dollar figurine in our living room but why do we have it? Could keeping up with Jones' by having an Eddie Bauer label be our idol?Just food for thought?
That is true Aaron. Anything we place above God does actually become an idol. That could even be materialism, money, sports and even our favourite movie star.
To a Christian nothing should come above our worship of God, even disowning ourselves. Mark 8:34 Jesus said, "If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually."
|When I would like to place gallery or LightBox or yet a slider on my web page I always attempt to use jQuery script for that.
There are also other uses for a reverse numebr finder, if you are lost and getting no answer from the person at your destination, you can get the location and find your own way. Another thing you can do is get a mini background check because most reverse lookups utilize public records to obtain the info you are looking for.
Es una alusif3n a la Biblia. Thomas le pide ver las manos de Jesfas cuando e9l reustica para demostrar que es Jesfas (porque Jesfas tiene agujeros en sus manos de ser clavado en la cruz) Jesfas muestra los agujeros Thomas Thomas Entonces conoce a su Jesfas, porque e9l no creeda que fuera / podreda ser antes
fauthority @ Antes de hacer generalizaciones, te reeoimcndo, al menos, hacer algunas investigaciones lengua en la mejilla. Su estado de cuenta actual, simplemente demuestra que son ignorantes y no quieren volver sus reclamos con hechos y datos. Sobre la base de su poste sospecho que se suscitaron cristiana pero desde entonces han abandonado su fe, lo cual aplaudo. No creo que usted sabe mucho sobre la fe judeda o musulmana, sin embargo, bfpor que9 hablar de ellos?
naturally like your web-site but you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I'll surely come back again.
Yes I agree the spelling is not good. Even mine sometimes slips up and I apologise. I try and tpye mine out in 'Word' first and spell check it as there is no provision for spell check on this site.
oooops "type", you see what I mean. 🙂
llɐq ʎʞɔnq: The two Josephus references do not reference Jesus, as you as'sert. The Tacitus text references the "chrestus", and since Tacitius in other places gets "christians" correct, there is good reason to think he was not talking about Jesus, the Nazorene, or the Christ.
You need to do your research properly, this may help;
Josephus said, “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James,…”. Clearly calling Jesus, Christ.
Tacitus, “Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius:…”
Wikipedia says, “The word Christ (or similar spellings) appears in English and most European languages, owing to the Greek usage of Christós (transcribed in Latin as Christus)”