July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) - When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.

Two thousand years ago, I was told, in an ancient land called Galilee, the God of heaven and Earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity.

Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return he was nailed to a cross. Though Jesus could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die.

Indeed, his death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins.

But the story did not end there, because three days later, he rose again, exalted and divine, so that now, all who believe in him and accept him into their hearts will also never die, but have eternal life.

For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God.

In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable.

After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran.

My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.

That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.

I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith.

I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.

The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face.

Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world.

The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts.

The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.

I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart.

Meanwhile, I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text.

Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him.

The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.

Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

I wrote my newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.

Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus.

Reza Aslan is a bestselling author and a scholar of religion. This article was adapted from his newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." The views expressed in this column are Aslan's alone.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. obinna

    impressive article..

    BTW the church that is supposedly spreading the good news of Jesus the Christ tends to reduce the charisma of Jesus the Christ making it even more difficult to follow him.

    I came to the conclusion that religion is a cage. you need to see what religion is doing to my country Nigeria

    July 21, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Colin (the original)

      It is a good story. A refreshingly honest account of the difficulties in discerning anything about Jesus life. 99.9% of Christians are woefully ignorant of the historical difficulties with their Sunday school stories about Jesus..

      July 21, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Reza Islam2

      The only time CNN agrees with any muslim is when a muslim is going after christianity. Period. And you really wonder if CNN is really happy when there's a fight among religious groups?

      Now one step up... you really wonder if CNN (and other like-minded folks) are inflaming the conflicts? Maybe even started it? I maybe a little paranoid. Because I think all the current problems USA is facing is Bush's fault.

      July 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  2. My review

    "The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known"......I'm not a big church goer but you have to love the whole anti-establishment thing.

    July 21, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  3. Colin

    God is evidenced by those who hate Him and deny Him

    July 21, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      We don't hate your god any more than you hate the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. We simply do not see evidence to support the existence of your god and until there is evidence, we are not going to take the words written by man in a 2000 year old outdated book as evidence...we are not so gullible or weak minded.

      July 21, 2013 at 6:49 am |
      • Bc2hndr

        So...what primordial soup did you come from? Our very existence is not based on chance but on creation. How strange it is that so many of those who wrestle with these mysteries do not recognize the Creative Power that produced them. Even though many naturalists stand in awe of the creature, few seem to recognize and honor the Creator. Breathing the marvelous blend of nitrogen and oxygen that makes it possible for them to live, evolutionists refuse to acknowledge that the precise 79 percent to 21 percent mixture of gases was provided by something other than blind chance. Looking through eyes so delicately arranged that no combination of scientific genius can even understand, much less duplicate, their operation, unbelievers deny the miracle which makes it possible for them to see. Through ears, which connect to a brain more complex than the largest computer on earth, doubters listen to lectures on humanism and evolution.

        July 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
        • Damocles

          Oh, yes, the marvel of deific engineering... the human body.... frail, prone to diseases, unnecessary organs, can't regrow limbs... in the grand scheme of things, below average.

          July 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Colin

      If it wasn't for hate you'd have nothing to say and you prove it every day.

      July 21, 2013 at 6:53 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        Hate is what you spew every day. I think someone needs to buy you a dictionary so you can learn the meaning of the word (maybe your Mommy can save some of her booze money and get you one from the dollar store for your birthday).

        July 21, 2013 at 7:03 am |
        • Chris

          @ truthprevails, it's a hopeless cause. The brainwashing has done its job.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
        • Man who believes

          What a hateful remark.

          July 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Colin

      There is no we only poor pathetic you, unloved, unlistened to in your own country and ineffective to mine.

      July 21, 2013 at 6:54 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        So CA you stole Colin's name and in turn make yourself look like the ass everyone has always known you to be. Doesn't your imaginary friend say that stealing is a sin?
        By the way loser boy, unlike you, I am loved and listened to. AtheistSteve is my husband and there is plenty of love within our relationship. Does your blow-up doll tell you he loves you?

        July 21, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      So fake Colin I gather from the reasoning behind your comment that you must hate Zeus, Odin, Ra and every other of the thousands of gods proposed by man. That's a lot of hate to deal with. How can you live with such evil in your heart?

      July 21, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • sirhuxley

      I love woo-woo!

      August 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Keith

        What did this unhinged person say, "god exists because people hate him?" so if we take this insanity to its logical conclusion, god will disappear if we all love him.
        this is a new low these people are DESPERATE.

        August 20, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 21, 2013 at 6:33 am |
  5. required

    If Jesus were to have commented on this page, I expect it would be that he'd say he hated it. The reason being that Jesus sourced from heaven, arriving to not say a word to defend himself, but in being here, he was able to save others, and die for their sins... but many, including the author do not believe him and what he did.

    What Jesus did was stand there in the night, as Roman soldiers came up to him and others, heavily armed and ready to take him, directed by high priests and his ex-buddy Judas, that wanted some coins more than his friend that wanted to save him. He was then taken to a prison, interrogated by high priests, Pilate, and Harrod Antipas, as witnesses lied about him, and soldiers laughed at him, while beating him, and stripping him naked 3 times in public. When he could have opened his mouth to defend himself, he didn't. He willingly was taken to be whipped with ropes that had rocks, metal and glass attached, to both heavily beat and cut him. Many people died from this before it was over. Jesus survived that, carried a beam part of the way to where he'd be crucified, and then was crucified, like thousands of others that rebelled against the Romans during that time.

    Jesus did this for a reason, to save the lost. He didn't do it for himself, he did it for those he loves, that believe him.

    July 21, 2013 at 4:56 am |
    • required

      I would guess he hated the book too if he hated this page.

      July 21, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • follower

      Thank you for speaking truth. How sad the author claimed to find the truth then lost his way. The Bible incorrect? Not. Many have tried but failed to prove God's word to be wrong. If science or archaeology doesn't support something from the Bible it's simply not been "discovered" yet. A few quick examples. The book of Daniel speaks of Asphenaz as the Chief of the eunuchs in Babylon. For years historians claimed that name didn't exist in that culture and then a writing was found stating Nebuchadnezzar and his chief Asphenaz...Again in Daniel Belshazzar is mentioned as ruler when it fell to Cyrus the Great, History shows Nabonidus as the king there at that time. As it turns out, Belshazzar was his sin ruling while he was away for approximately 10 years so there were co regents at that time. There's much more. Google it. Again if it appears to be incorrect, it's not. God's word is true. My prayers go with the author the find Jesus Christ, the savior. As it is written, "Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." I pray we all do this willingly before it is required in the future.

      July 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      I don’t think that he would be too happy with people walking around wearing a medieval torture device around their neck either. Think he might have PTSD after something like that.

      August 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  6. required

    "I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving."

    The Holy Spirit formed Jesus in Mary's womb, and was described to Mary before he was born. Your description of Jesus is wrong. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to them after he rose again. Did you miss that part? When was the last time you did that? Are you more intelligent than him? What can you do that Jesus could do? Did you show up to Paul and blind him? Did you send another to give him back his sight? Did you talk with Paul and others about what they'd do or tell them how they'd die?

    You look at the surface wanting the physical, but the treasure is spiritual.

    Jesus Christ of Nazareth was sent by God to do a job, a job where 72,000 angels would gladly step in to stop the sacrifice, and only 1 of them would have been enough to end it. He didn't open his mouth to stop them. The most powerful man ever to grace the earth with his presense, did not say anything to stop them. It is his strength of will to save others that you missed. All the heavens filled with angels and God would have stopped it an instant, if he would just ask them to stop it.

    God had already said it would happen, and it did, just as the apostles described it. Your denial does not change that.

    He hates it when you don't believe him... not saying a word to stop them... there to save people... and being killed for it. He's Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Christ is there for a reason... and he's still there... right hand of God is still there.

    July 21, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      What job ? The ancient angry deity requires his son to die so he can feel better, instead of just saying "I forgive you".
      No human has ever been "formed" by a ghost. Neither have you proven it. Th reason that was written in to the gospel was to make it appear to fulfill the Isiah business about "a woman of marriageable age" having a child. The word "virgin", (as all scholars know), was a mistranslation. Why is it you people have no knowledge of you own "holy" books.

      July 21, 2013 at 3:36 am |
    • required

      God's words prove who he is and I believe him. I have evidence of what he made, I just look at my hand, it's there.

      I have seen through the mirror that wasn't here.

      July 21, 2013 at 4:03 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        It is man's word. Given that there is no evidence to support the existence of your god outside of the bible, there is no possible way to know that the book is the word of your god. There is no way to know it was inspired by said god unless you provide the evidence outside of the bible that this god exists, until you are able to do that the book remains the word of man and nothing more.

        July 21, 2013 at 6:28 am |
        • Colin

          When you spend your eternity in hell you can reflect on your stupidity.

          July 21, 2013 at 6:50 am |
        • Jim

          There is so much foretold, Alexander the Great, the fact that Jews keep the passover(Either mean Jews got together and decided to either burden all Jews forever -including THEMSELVES- or the Exodus story is true as was to be kept), the place Jesus would be born, how he would die, and the fact that this ...uh... so called lie... was such a neat way to harm people that 12 men, who WOULD HAVE KNOW IT WAS A LIE, died, according to the non biblical source Josephus, to protect a known lie... Hmmm. Who is really the ones living in fantasy?

          July 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        Colin: When you provide the evidence outside of the bible for hell, we might have reason to believe it exists. Until that evidence is provided, it it your belief and your imaginary friend god apparently says it is a sin to judge others...so it is your hell, you enjoy it. I will live the only life I am guaranteed of while you waste yours living for something that can't be shown to exist.

        July 21, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Colin

      God is evidenced in creation,
      God is evidenced by the personal testimony of those who have met Him
      God is evidenced in the founding of America
      God is evidenced on American currency
      God is evidenced in the multiple beliefs across the earth
      God is evidenced in the fulfilled prophecy of Israel
      God is evidenced in love and human emotion
      God is evidenced in His Son Jesus

      July 21, 2013 at 6:38 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        God is evidenced in creation,

        >No, nature is not evidence of a god
        God is evidenced by the personal testimony of those who have met Him

        >No, those personal experiences and testimonies vary from person to person and are not considered anything more than personal

        God is evidenced in the founding of America

        >No, The USA is a Secular nation as is clearly stated by the Constitution.

        God is evidenced on American currency

        >No, 1956 is when that crap was put on the currency

        God is evidenced in the multiple beliefs across the earth

        >2 billion people our of the 7 billion believe in your god and thus it is not evidence

        God is evidenced in the fulfilled prophecy of Israel

        >self fulfilling...if it had not been fulfilled, they would be still be trying to fulfill it

        God is evidenced in love and human emotion

        >No, those things are inherent to mankind and existed long before any god was imagined

        God is evidenced in His Son Jesus

        >No evidence that jesus was the son of your god (if he existed)

        July 21, 2013 at 6:47 am |
      • Colin

        God is sovereign, the word god describes an idol.

        July 21, 2013 at 6:51 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          God or god. It doesn't matter what title you give it...it's still made up bullshit.

          July 21, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      "Eternity in hell" ? For what / For not assenting to what he doesn't believe / Is your god SO stupid he wouldn't know someone says they believe when they really don't ?

      You do know the Hebrew did not believe in immortality, don't you. Jesus was a Jew. So was Paul. Neither believed in immortality. Or hell. Sheol was not hell. Neither was Haedes. You are so ignorant you don't even know where the concept of hell came from, or when it became popular.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:35 am |
      • What they believed then

        2Ki 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Psalm 39 :
          "Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
          before I depart, and am no more"

          Psalm 115 :
          The dead do not praise the Lord,
          nor do any that go down into silence".

          Psalm 6 : "For in death there is no remembrance of you, in Sheol, who can give you praise ?"

          Any scholar knows, Elijah was a special case. Go get an education.

          July 22, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • John Schwartze

      This is perhaps the most inventive lie devised by the Church – Someone who is supposed to be GOD dies. You can take that as a sure sign that person is NOT GOD. So the church turns it around and says "He died for you." What a mind job......

      July 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  7. ChrisA

    "I have modeled my life... after the illiterate, marginal Jew..."??

    Luke 4:16
    "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up:and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to READ"

    This guy just lost all credibility.

    July 21, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      How would anyone 75 – 100 years later possibly know what he did on any given day ? Do you even remember exactly what people were doing 25 years ago. No photos. No calendars. No phones. No newspapers. No pads of paper. Nothing to refer to. I think YOU just lost all credibility.

      July 21, 2013 at 3:26 am |
  8. edmundburkeson

    The only infallible, inerrant, resource Reza discovers, is the Jesus of History movement. And now he feels confident he has found a Jesus he can live with – one that absolutely contradicts who the Jesus of history claimed to be. Reza has not found Christianity but secularism.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • edmundburkeson

      Reza has trouble with insignificant variations in the Biblical text. What about the tremendous contradiction that exists between his Jesus of History and Jesus own statement about his mission. Reza doesn't seem to have as much trouble with contradictions as he claims.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:44 am |
      • Aria

        Reza is not a Christian.

        July 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      The Jesus of history made no verifiable claims.
      All the claims were made by the followers.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:48 am |
  9. Thought Purification

    a word for advice for Mr. Reza – do not ever visit muslim countries and get rid of those stray Quran or two from your mom's closet.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  10. aallen333

    35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

    41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

    43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

    52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

    53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

    Many Disciples Desert Jesus

    60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

    61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:35-64)

    July 21, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Doobs

      Wow, a big, long bible quote. How impressive.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Matthew 28:17
      And when they saw him they worshiped him, but they doubted.
      Proof that whatever they were seeing. it was no physical body.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:27 am |
      • Russ

        @ Bippy: John 20...
        27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

        If it's not a body, what is Thomas touching?

        July 21, 2013 at 12:35 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Good question. If Thomas didn't believe what was standing right next to him, then that indeed IS the question.
          The fact is, in Hebrew culture, a "shade" was neither a ghost nor a "risen" body.
          The disciples on the road to Emmaus also didn't know what they were seeing.
          Saying someone "rose" from the dead, did NOT mean "regains physical body" in that culture.
          It meant the was "exalted" to "immortal status", much as we would say Babe Ruth is "an immortal great" baseball player. It does not mean Babe Ruth is still alive.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:52 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy: certainly seems the whole "touching" thing would rule out the shade/ghost/apparition option. not to mention he eats breakfast with them on more than one occasion...

          so yes, he can walk through walls (like a ghost?) but he also eats & can be touched (like a solid).
          he's alive... but in a way unlike anything they've ever seen or heard of... in 'nature', at least.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:58 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Physical bodies do not go through walls.
          Whatever it was they were seeing, it was no physical body. You people say he physically rose from the dead.

          And BTW, whatever a believer writes is in no way to be accepted as "truth" without external evidence. Pious fraud was the order of the day ? There is no evidence. Why did the Jews and Romans not go looking for him, if he was important enough to waste their yime on Passover weekend, when NOT ONE Jew was ever once tried on Passover weekend ? No Galilean peasant was ever tried in frint of Roman aristicrats. What happened to all the other dead people that rose with him ? Where were all the empty tombs ? Why did not one Jewish historian say one thing about the temple curtain being torn, even while talking about all sorts of other lesser detals ? Where are the "split rocks" ? Why was not one of all the other zombies reported as seen if they also were walking around in Jerusalem ?

          July 21, 2013 at 2:10 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy:
          1) physical bodies DO go through walls (cannonballs, for instance). they just don't normally leave them intact.
          one theologian has compared it to a metal pole going through water. it's as though he's of a higher order of physical existence.

          2) you're asking for 'other' records that don't exist. the only extant records on this matter are the Gospels themselves. it even sounds like you're appealing to their account in asking for 'other' accounts.

          but recognize that you are on the horns of a dilemma here: this was such a backward place to the Romans they didn't write much about it, and yet something happens here that in rather dramatic fashion (see Rodney Stark's "Rise of Christianity") has that backward region overtake the greatest civilization in history to that time in just over two centuries – without military might or political clout.

          so which extreme are you going to hold up: that there should be records (when the fact that there are any is somewhat begging the question) or that Israel was so disregarded & these sorts of things so commonplace, how in the world did Christianity so suddenly take over?

          July 21, 2013 at 2:29 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Don't be ridiculous. Physical bodies do not go through walls and remain viable, and intact, and you know it. Try it right now. You will be injured. You know it. Stop playing with words. When have you ever once seen a physical body go through a wall ? A cannonball is not a living organism. Fallacy of the false analogy. There is only ONE order of physical existence, and you know it. You people invent crap so much. Historians agree that the reason Christianity took hold was that Constantine saw a use for it, and pretended to convert, (even while continuing to worship his other gods).

          BTW you failed to answer all the questions about all the other zombies that rose.

          Also it says they thought they were seeing a shade.
          Luke 24:37 But they were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a "shade".

          The Hebrews did not believe in immortality. Neither did Paul.

          Psalm 39 :
          "Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
          before I depart, and am no more"

          Psalm 115 :
          The dead do not praise the Lord,
          nor do any that go down into silence".

          Psalm 6 : "For in death there is no remembrance of you, in Sheol, who can give you praise ?"

          When Saul first talks about the resurrection, other than himself as a "revealed" thing, he says that he "appeared to Cephas". The word "appeared", is an ok translation but not exactly correct, in context. The Greek word is "ophthe". It has a *passive* element. In English it is an intransitive verb. "Appeared" is a word which means "to become visible", or "was made visible". The Greek verb is the past tense of the passive verb "horao", "to see", ("was seen"). The passive translation is "The Anointed has been seen by Cephas". HOWEVER, normally a Greek translation of "by whom" would be translated in Greek using the "hypo" (preposition), to indicate "agency". THAT is not here, in the Greek. It really should be translated as "The Anointed has been seen FOR the advantage of Cephas or to BENEFIT Cephas, or for Cephas' *Advantage*". It does NOT mean "Cephas saw the Anointed". It means the "Anointed was made manifest for Cephas' advantage". That begins to look very different, than Cephas saw something. It's more like Saul's vision.

          There are many serious Christian scholars that do not buy into the resurrection as a literal event.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:52 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy:
          1) we're talking about something unique in history – the resurrection of Jesus. if you're seriously going to engage the issue, don't purposefully misrepresent me.

          a) i said before it was LIKE (i.e., a simile) a higher order phase of existence. it IS an analogy. that's why i compiled MULTIPLE. i didn't say *I* could run through walls. I said that's what the Gospel accounts claim Jesus could do. that's a verifiable fact (that the text makes this claim). so again, don't act so surprised.

          b) likewise, of course I know a cannonball is not a living organism. again – that's what makes it an *analogy.* it's not false because it's not exact – it's inherent to the definition of analogies.

          c) the resurrection of Jesus is not like the other resuscitations in Scripture. with the roughly ten other occurrences in the Bible, the party resuscitated will die again (Lazarus, for example). Jesus, on the other hand, claims he will not ever die again. he is utterly transformed. it's what Paul talks about as a glorified body.

          2) you keep saying "historians agree..." but not backing it up. I've given you Rodney Stark's "Rise of Christianity" as a published, widely-respected historians account of (as the subti.tle says) how a marginal, obscure movement became the most dominant religious force in just a few centuries. note: he's rather thorough – and the evidence goes directly contrary to your contentions.

          for example, Christianity was already over 40% of all the Roman urban centers before Constantine officially converted. it wasn't so much that he ushered in something new as he recognized something inevitable that he should do to serve his political career. but it had ALREADY happened. it wasn't the RESULT of his actions. Stark makes that clear – and he cites Christians service (to the poor and outcast, but especially in two huge plagues that came through in the 2nd & 3rd centuries, often willingly giving their lives to see others live) as central to their rise in Roman cities. point being, it was how they conducted themselves (enacting the same sacrificial love they saw in Jesus) that drove the movement.

          regardless, it is readily historically evident that Christianity was pervasive long before Constantine. It already had hold of the Greco-Roman world.

          3) Zombies? really? are you reading the accounts at all?

          a) it's not that the zombie movies were enacted and rotting corpses rose. a qualitatively different occurrence happened (along the lines of Jesus' new qualitative resurrection – bringing *permanent* life).

          b) if you read the accounts of Jesus appearing, he is different, but not a "shade." he walks with the guys on the road to Emmaus for a while. if he were a zombie, they would have noticed. if he was transparent, they would have notice. no, the issue is not that he seems unhuman -but rather he has been changed in a way that he is *almost* unrecognizable, until he reveals himself fully.

          but in this NEW transformed existence, he still eats, drinks, is touchable, etc. he's still physical in all the ways they'd expect a human to be. AND YET he cannot die again. he can walk through walls. he clearly is something more now than he used to be (he didn't do that prior to his death & resurrection). he has conquered death – and is something MORE than any other physical existence we know. that's kind of the point.

          4) you claim the Hebrews didn't believe in immortality...

          a) why does David say his newborn, dead son will not come to him, but he will go to him? why are Elijah & Enoch taken straight into heaven? why does Pr.12:28 say there is no death in righteousness? etc.

          Sheol itself is mentioned 65x in the OT. It is dark, silent, deep, and generally gloomy. You are right that there are mixed interpretations on it among rabbis, but what is not unclear: there was an expectation of something more after death.

          Job both references Sheol (Job.10:20-22) but also hopes to see his "redeemer" in the flesh WHILE he's living (Job 19:25). Daniel 12:2 talks about a resurrection at the end of time, as does Ezekiel 37.

          b) all these things are even MORE evident in the NT.

          yes, there was some debate here. the Sadducees (the liberals who were cozy with Rome) didn't believe in the resurrection – and Jesus rebuked them for it when they tried to trap him (Mk.12:18-27 – "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living!"). Jesus' whole argument is BASED on his exegesis of the OT claim that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob... and the word "is" means they are alive like God is.

          but it is unquestionable that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection. And Paul was a Pharisee, who did believe in the resurrection of the dead before converting – as he makes clear in Acts 23:6-7, where he highlights this difference by using it to get the Sadducees and Pharisees to fight over resurrection.

          5) I have a postgraduate degree in this field. I can read the Greek. you are mistaken. no serious scholar doubts that the clear intent of the NT (across MULTIPLE authors) is to teach a real, physical resurrection occurred in our space and time. now, you are right to note that some modern cynical scholars have ruled that possibility out (a la Hume's historical approach which BEGINS by discounting anything miraculous), and so they try to find a figurative way of interpreting it – but the whole of the NT corpus points to the real, tangible resurrection of Jesus as the central hope of Christianity.

          as Paul says in 1 Cor.15: if it didn't happen, Christians are to be pitied above all men.

          July 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
      • Reality

        Then there is this:

        As with all NT passages, Matt 28: 16-20 has been thoroughly analyzed for historic authenticity by many contemporary NT scholars.

        See for example, Professor Gerd Luedemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years,

        "Matt 28:16-20 The description of Jesus's appearance is minimal, as attention is focused on the content of Jesus' message to the Eleven.

        Luedemann notes that "the historical yield is extremely meager." He accepts the early tradition that various disciples had visionary experiences, most probably located in Galilee, and that these experiences led to the founding of "a community which preached the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus as the Messiah and/or the Son of Man among their Jewish contemporaries." [Jesus, 255f.]

        See also: http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb018.html

        July 21, 2013 at 12:45 am |
        • faith

          we know that it is impossible that jesus lived. what is written about him is pure fabrication. evil profiteers exploited ignorant, unintelligent, hallucinating vermin to peddle their filth.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:28 am |
        • Russ

          @ faith: as i wrote to Bippy below...

          Bart Ehrman is one of the most liberal biblical scholars on the planet. Here's the introduction to his book "Did Jesus Exist?" In short, even the most liberal scholars believe there is ample evidence Jesus existed.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:43 am |
        • faith

          thank you russ,
          i am aware that mr ehrman errs in this matter. what we no as atheists, according to our in-depth research and carefully crafted doctrines based on our findings, it is impossible for such a person to have lived. remember, too, thousands of crazed lunatics dotted the ancient landscape. and, just think, "jesus" never wrote down one word

          @ faith: as i wrote to Bippy below...
          Bart Ehrman is one of the most liberal biblical scholars on the planet. Here's the introduction to his book "Did Jesus Exist?" In short, even the most liberal scholars believe there is ample evidence Jesus existed.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:04 am |
        • faith

          we know that it is impossible that jesus lived. what is written about him is pure fabr ication. evil profite ers exploited ignorant, unintel ligent, ha l lu cinating vermin to pedd le their fil th.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:22 am |
        • Russ

          @ faith: you clearly didn't read it. bart ehrman is a self-proclaimed "agnostic with atheistic tendencies." he's coming from WITHIN your camp. and if you won't listen to the scholars with whom you agree, to whom will you listen?

          go read the introduction. he doesn't agree with my position as a whole, but he certainly makes it plain the Jesus existed and that (as he says) anyone who has done the scholarship readily sees that.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:32 am |
        • Reality

          Before Ehrman:

          From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

          "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

          “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

          “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

          “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

          I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

          See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

          Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

          Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

          There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

          See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

          From ask.com,

          "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

          Then there are these scriptural references:

          Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

          Added suggested readings:

          o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.

          2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
          – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

          30-60 CE Passion Narrative
          40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
          50-60 1 Thessalonians
          50-60 Philippians
          50-60 Galatians
          50-60 1 Corinthians
          50-60 2 Corinthians
          50-60 Romans
          50-60 Philemon
          50-80 Colossians
          50-90 Signs Gospel
          50-95 Book of Hebrews
          50-120 Didache
          50-140 Gospel of Thomas
          50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
          50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
          65-80 Gospel of Mark
          70-100 Epistle of James
          70-120 Egerton Gospel
          70-160 Gospel of Peter
          70-160 Secret Mark
          70-200 Fayyum Fragment
          70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
          73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
          80-100 2 Thessalonians
          80-100 Ephesians
          80-100 Gospel of Matthew
          80-110 1 Peter
          80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
          80-130 Gospel of Luke
          80-130 Acts of the Apostles
          80-140 1 Clement
          80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
          80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
          80-250 Christian Sibyllines
          90-95 Apocalypse of John
          90-120 Gospel of John
          90-120 1 John
          90-120 2 John
          90-120 3 John
          90-120 Epistle of Jude
          93 Flavius Josephus
          100-150 1 Timothy
          100-150 2 Timothy
          100-150 T-itus
          100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
          100-150 Secret Book of James
          100-150 Preaching of Peter
          100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
          100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
          100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
          100-160 2 Peter

          3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
          – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
          4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
          5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
          6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
          7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
          8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
          9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press,
          20. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/
          21. Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.
          22. The Search for the Historic Jesus by the Jesus Seminarians:
          23. Jesus Decoded by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco (Da Vinci Code review)jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php
          24. JD Crossan's scriptural references for his book the Historical Jesus separated into time periods: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf
          25. JD Crossan's conclusions about the authencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes in the last 200 years:
          26. Common Sayings from Thomas's Gospel and the Q Gospel: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan3.rtf
          27. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by t-itle with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html
          28. Luke and Josephus- was there a connection?
          29. NT and beyond time line:
          30. St. Paul's Time line with discussion of important events:
          31. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan's books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.
          32. Father Edward Schillebeeckx's words of wisdom as found in his books.
          33. The books of the following : Professors Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.
          34. Father Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.
          35. Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus

          July 21, 2013 at 7:30 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Why was there no resurrection in the first version of the Gospel of Mark ? If Mark actually believed it, why would he leave it out, and someone add it later ? THE most important part of the story ?

        July 21, 2013 at 2:20 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy: the Gospel of Mark's original ending leaves the disciples at the empty tomb in awe. they leave & "tell no one." and yet, if you're reading the book... obviously they told people about this "amazing thing."

          also, PRIOR to Mark's Gospel, you have Paul's account (1 Cor.15:1-3), written within 20 (if not 15) years of Jesus' death – and he even names eyewitnesses. what's he doing? inviting fact-checking. many of those people would still be alive.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:36 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Reading what "book" ? This text was in no way a part of any Bible, or combined with anything, at that point, and the writer/editor had no way of knowing it would be. It simply ends. You making up stuff again.

          Paul says he got his gospel by "inspiration" and from his "vision". Right. And now people's visions are supposed to be evidence. He also admits he was a liar. Surely you know how many liars there were who admitted lying. Shall I give you those ?

          July 21, 2013 at 3:09 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy:
          1) the "book of Mark" as it was originally circulated.
          don't be so dismissive. how else do you think it came to readers? it wasn't a letter.

          2) you didn't even read the passage. Paul says he passed on what he received. the Greek terms there are technical. he's referencing how oral tradition was passed down (which – before you dismiss – you might want to check how that worked for the Dead Sea scrolls). he's talking about what he heard directly from the eyewitnesses – not his own conversion (Acts 9) which you are confusing with what he's saying here.

          notably, Acts (written by Luke) corroborates what Paul claims – both about his experiences and his direct access to eyewitnesses.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:14 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Nope. Hebrew culture was a writing culture. It was not a culture of "oral traditions". The Dead Sea Scrolls were not passed down in oral form of any kind. Where is your proof ? The Greeks had oral tradition. The Arabs had oral traditions passed down by trained experts whose JOB it was to do that. The Hebrews did NOT. Talking out your ass again. You people really do just make up stuff. You have not a shred of proof there was any "oral" tradition. The Gospels were written by believers, for believers, for use in liturgies, to remind themselves what they already believed. They are evidence of nothing. The Hebrews didn't even have a word that meant "history" as we mean that as "accurate recounting of events".

          July 21, 2013 at 3:31 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          There is as good, if not better, evidence, that the witches of Salem Mass actually were witches, than there is for the resurrection. If you believe one and not the other you are inconsistent, and prove you are biased in yous acceptance of evidence.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:55 am |
        • faith

          excellent question. you see, this dilemma proves the entire new testament is totally invalid.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:46 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy
          1) the claim was a book, not a letter. that IS written.

          2) there is clearly ORAL as well as WRITTEN tradition in the Hebrew culture. you are making a false dichotomy. and you are discrediting yourself.

          for example:
          Google the Talmud... or even Midrash.

          3) as for the Dead Sea scrolls, i cited it as an example of passing on tradition (the word Paul uses in 1 Cor.15 is "paradidomi" in Greek, traditio in Latin, from which we derive our word tradition). he is appeal to a technical form of succession – and that can take BOTH written and oral forms.

          you really can't have it both ways here. most liberal scholarship assumes a lot of the background to MOST biblical texts were oral traditions along with no longer extant texts. if not, you have a bigger problem: direct written connection to the originals.

          furthermore, the Dead Sea scrolls – when they were found in the 1940s & 50s – were tangible evidence of something many higher critical scholars had claimed was impossible... namely, the faithful transmission of these texts over a millennium. the prevailing sentiment prior to that time was that copyists would certainly have made so many errors, the texts we have must be almost nothing like the originals – or at least seriously changed in vital ways. the earliest texts at that time were Masoretic texts from the 10th c AD. The Dead Sea scrolls were an entire millennium earlier – with VIRTUALLY NO CHANGES, certainly none of substance.

          point being, ancient, so-called "primitive" tradition was MUCH more effective at faithful transmission of the original content than anyone could have hoped for. and Paul was appealing to THAT long history in representing the same sort of attention to detail in passing on the details of the good news of Jesus' resurrection.

          and if you really want to go deep in the resurrection discussion (and the silliness of your Salem Witch comparison), read NT Wright's rather exhaustive scholarly examination of the resurrection: "The Resurrection of the Son of God." He examines it from most major angles: theologically, philosophically, historically, socially, etc.

          July 21, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • Veritae

          I don't know who the heck you are, but you have reminded me of something very, very important. Something I've neglected while pursuing a degree in philosophy and religious studies which just have graduated. I can't believe it.... I read the Book many times during my life, but have neglected it over the last few years. I used to know the stuff your putting out, but have forgotten it out of neglect.

          Thank you for reminding me to get back on the right track.

          Good evening.

          July 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, all of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.

      To wit:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

      July 21, 2013 at 12:32 am |
      • Russ

        @ Reality: no real historical value to the Gospel of John?
        Google the pool of Bethesda. That alone debunks your argument.

        Furthermore, the author demonstrates not only accurate knowledge of pre-70 AD Jerusalem, but the names he uses are accurate to the statistical data we have only been able to compile in the last 15 years (about name usage by region and decade). Someone who did not have firsthand knowledge of the region at that time could not have successfully fabricated that. While not directly proving the eyewitness account, it does necessarily place the author (or his source) at the time & in the region the Gospel claims.

        For more on that...

        July 21, 2013 at 12:49 am |
        • Reality

          John 5:1-15

          New King James Version (NKJV)

          A Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda

          See Professor Gerd Ludemann's analysis of said passage in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 455-458 with his conclusion:

          "The nucleus of the tradition vv. 2-9a, is unhistorical. The same is true of the secondary expansion......"

          See also:

          http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb127.html and http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

          July 21, 2013 at 7:50 am |
      • faith

        let us never be surprised at the lengths to which zealots will go! not a word of truth is present in the utter nonsense written and forged years ago that proclaims the anointed one had come. not a word

        July 21, 2013 at 1:37 am |
      • faith

        let us never be surprised at the lengths to which zealots will go! not a word of truth is present in the utter nonsense written and forged years ago that proclaims the anointed one had come. not a word. we know this to be true

        July 21, 2013 at 1:43 am |
        • Russ

          @ faith: repeating an unfounded statement doesn't make it true.
          got any substantive support for that extremely broad brush your painting with?

          July 21, 2013 at 1:52 am |
        • Russ


          July 21, 2013 at 1:53 am |
        • faith

          i appreciate your concerns. i really do. you need to recognize that as atheists, we are intelligent, scientifically savvy and logical scholars and academics and researchers and we no what terrible things religions have inflicted on the world.

          therefore, there cannot be and there is no validity to any religions or gods

          @ faith: repeating an unfounded statement doesn't make it true.
          got any substantive support for that extremely broad brush your painting with?

          July 21, 2013 at 2:15 am |
        • Russ

          @ faith: that's a non-sequitur. i could give you the reciprocal quote for theists (intelligent, savvy, scholars, etc. blaming atheism for many evils). your assertion that somehow this decides the debate is unfounded.

          July 21, 2013 at 2:39 am |
    • Austin

      Johns Gospel is fillied with supernatural splendor, and majesty. This book is one to be savored for a life time.

      I am in love with the gospel of John.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:37 am |
      • abbadon

        you are a nitwit

        July 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Lamental Jester

      "What does God need with a starship?" -Captain James T Kirk

      August 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

    He did not "give his life". His life was "taken", because like all trouble makers during Pax Romana, he was executed, without a trial. He was an apocalyptic preacher. One among many. (That is IF he existed at all, and there is not a shred of evidence that one man named Yeshua ben Josef ever existed at all).

    Hopping from one delusion to another.

    How sad.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Austin

      nice comment.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Russ

      @ Bippy:
      1) you said: "...if he existed at all..."

      Bart Ehrman is one of the most liberal biblical scholars on the planet. Here's the introduction to his book "Did Jesus Exist?" In short, even the most liberal scholars believe there is ample evidence Jesus existed.

      2) you said he was just another failed apocalyptic preacher... "one among many."

      we do have evidence that many other people in this time claimed to be a messiah/etc...
      yet within 250 years of his death, only one such messiah's followers dominated the Roman Empire.

      if Jesus was so common (as you claim), what was the difference?

      July 21, 2013 at 12:32 am |
      • Yuri

        He dressed well?

        July 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      I do not care what Ehrman says. Dr. Richard Carrier has made a much more coherent argument, and Ehrman can't answer him. Ehrman came from a fundie background, and has never seriously considered that Jesus was a fiction. All the questions of the Jews to Peter in Acts are understandable if he was made up. The Jews did not know what Peter was talking about. Read it. Then read about all the other dying and rising, born of virgins, sons of the gods, messiahs of the time. This messiah got NONE of the tasks accomplished a real messiah was supposed to do. Even the apostles thoiught so : "Wilt thou Lord at this time restore the kingdom to Israel", at the VERY END of the "ministry".

      The "difference" was that this one was picked by Constantine as a political tool to unify his emipre. It has NOTHING to do with religion. It's all about human power and politics. Christianity was a nothing cult until a Roman emperor saw it's political usefulness.

      July 21, 2013 at 2:03 am |
      • Russ

        @ Bippy:
        1) I never thought I'd see the day... an atheist throwing Ehrman under the bus as too conservative. funny.

        2) what are you basing your exegesis of Acts upon? it's clear they thought "these guys are out to make us guilty of this man's blood" (Acts 5:28) and Paul's entire argument with King Agrippa hinges on the fact that "these things were not done in a corner" but are common knowledge (Acts 26:26). the book – if fabricated – begins to fall apart both narratively and practically.

        3) also, LONG before Constantine rose to power, Christianity had taken over all the urban centers... without any military might or political maneuvering. it's virtually unprecedented. again, check out Rodney Stark on that. a historian must grapple with the question: HOW did Christianity do that? your argument skips the first, most critical 250 years of Christianity.

        as Yale scholar Kenneth Scott Latourette put it:
        "Why, among all the cults and philosophies competing in the Greco-Roman world, did Christianity succeed and outstrip all others? Why did it succeed despite getting more severe opposition than any other? Why did it succeed though it had no influential backers in high places, but consisted mainly of the poor and slaves? How did it succeed so completely that it forced the most powerful state in history to come to terms with it, and then outlive the very empire that sought to uproot it? It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy perhaps unequaled in our history. Without it, the future course of the Christian religion is inexplicable."

        July 21, 2013 at 2:48 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          What exactly does "a vast release of energy" even mean ? He's speculating about a phenomenon he wishes he has the explanation for. THAT is not scholarship. Sorry. Try harder. You both should be ashamed.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:01 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          BTW, I like Ehrman. I disagree about this issue. Even Einstein made mistakes.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:02 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy: oh, i'm sorry. i forgot you know history better than the historians.
          seriously, you might want at least to look him up before you dismiss his entire expertise because you don't like a phrase he used... or didn't understand it.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:09 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        You FAR exaggerate it's importance, and independent nature. There was no "orthodoxy". There were countless "Christianities", even on those days. Show me prove of the demographics at any one time. There are many reasons it remained as a sub-cult of the Jews. In the year 400, ST, John Chrysostom was yelling at his congregation to stop going to the synagogue. (See he Christmas sermon).

        July 21, 2013 at 2:59 am |
        • Russ

          @ Bippy: as I said elsewhere on this page, Rodney Stark's "Rise of Christianity" would help you a lot on this.

          July 21, 2013 at 3:10 am |
  12. Reality

    A bit wishy-washy is "Professor" Aslan as he is listed as born a Shiite than became an evangelical Christian and now he has returned to his roots as a Shiite.

    With this in mind, some questions and answers for Aslan to address in this forum:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

    July 21, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  13. Austin

    You worship not the Living God, but the dead Jesus. You don't care one whit about what He did to change the face of religion,

    July 20, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Austin

      "You worship not the Living God, but the dead Jesus. You don't care one whit about what He did to change the face of religion,"

      this isn't about religion. this is about the prophetic God that fulfilled the old covenant in messianic glory.

      if you think Chirst was resurrected on the festival of first fruits, ordained and foreshadowed to moses by God in 1400 BC, and that Christ is risen but the bible is flawed, you are clueless.

      July 20, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
      • Jeff

        And he believes in all that. But you don't care about His life, only his death. You don't care about his Ministry, only yours.
        You are the clueless one.
        Instead of quoting the Bible, LIVE IT. That's hat HE is doing, and that's what YOU'RE missing.
        I am sorry for you. You miss a lot when you decide it's only your way or the highway.
        Between the two of you, this guy is closer to God than you'll ever hope to be. You are a judgmental HYPOCRITE.
        I'm out of here. I need to talk with people who actually have a notion of what emulating Jesus actually IS.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:05 am |
        • Austin

          Jeff, there is something in the Bible you disagree with. say , ho.mo se.xuality.

          or whatever it is.

          when you reject the word, it's because you choose a particular sin over the authority of God. you are drawing a bunch of conclusions that you have no clue about when it comes to me. why? becuase I believe that God is soverign enough to inspire the bible? Yes, absolutely I do.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:16 am |
      • Austin

        "Instead of quoting the Bible, LIVE IT"

        there you go Jeff, here is some more deep seeded motivation of yours.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:17 am |
        • Dippy

          Seated, not seeded. You write like a juvenile, Austin. Try to do better.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:23 am |
        • Austin

          really does it matter now? as long as you understand the poast. we can talk.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:26 am |
        • Dippy


          July 21, 2013 at 1:04 am |
  14. Russ

    Reza Aslan says: "I have modeled my life... after the illiterate, marginal Jew..." who gave his life fighting for the poor, etc.

    But Jesus READS in Luke 4. Ironically, he reads about 'preaching good news to the poor.'
    on what basis does Reza Aslan claim Jesus was for the poor? the Gospels.
    but that's the same place that tells you he's literate... and God...

    and there's the rub.

    July 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Austin

      nailed it. this guy is hip though.

      July 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
  15. Austin

    The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

    The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a doc.ument written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

    July 20, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Austin

      after you have the supernatural seal of the Holy Spirit, and if you know how God reveals the truth of His Word

      Revelation 19:13 ►
      He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.

      John 1 >>
      New International Version
      The Word Became Flesh

      1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

      After you experience the revelation of the living Word , Jehovah, Shammah, Our Lord is Here,

      then you can spot a secular demonic lie.

      July 20, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
      • Tandy

        The author was referring to the various translations and mistranslations by hundreds of people over the years in translating the OT, like unicorns and such. And what books were included in the Council of Nicea... Do get a clue, mmmkay?

        July 20, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
        • Austin

          Tandy, when you experience the seal of the Holy spirit, and He communicates with you through the Word, then you can be sure that God approves of the bible.

          Am I correct?

          July 21, 2013 at 12:00 am |
        • Austin

          If there were abominations in the Word on God, He being holy, would not accept it. He would not use it as a tool. He would have something that is ordained.

          which it is. and that is why the Holy Spirit does center within you through the word, and this is why your flesh wars against the word. You are warring internally. and you need help. we all do.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:03 am |
      • Reality

        Only for the new members of this blog:

        "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

        Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

        July 21, 2013 at 12:04 am |
        • Austin

          Tom Horn?

          July 21, 2013 at 12:08 am |
        • Austin


          they acknowledge God but do not acknowledge His stature and authority.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  16. Austin

    Also, i can imaging that you have a deeper seeded issue at hand and a passive aggressive reason you are picking on Christ, which just happens to be the one you arent supposed to pick on.

    That is the nature of this thing.

    July 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • niknak

      Since neither have ever existed Austism, then why does it matter?

      July 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
      • Austin

        you are wrong , that is why it matters.

        The Holy Spirit leads and authentic ministry of supernatural faith. I do not portray this holy spirit, I am only telling you the truth about what I encountered.

        July 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
        • Topher

          Austin, is that me?

          July 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
        • Jeff

          You are wrong, Austin.
          Do you only worship the dead Jesus, the one who arose again?
          Does His life works not matter to you? Is His whole ministry, the events leading to His crucifixion, nothing at all to you?
          THAT'S what she's emulating. THAT'S what she's all about.
          The before, IN ADITTION to the after.
          Rabbi Jesus. Get to know Him.
          She HAD a spiritual revelation that was different from your experience, that's all.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
        • Austin

          I am sorry bud, this person is sold out to discredit the Word of God.
          this is a demonic lie. you have absolutely no discernment skills.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
        • Jeff

          You have no reading skills, bud. You read just what you want to read, and base your "truths" on your dreams. That's discernment? That's BS.
          She didn't sell out. She came BACK. You are a hypocrite. Take the plank out of your eye. You don't even know what discernment MEANS, let alone apply it to this woman in any meaningful manner.
          You are embarrassing yourself. Stop your supposed proselytizing, because you have lost your focus on what is true here.
          You worship not the Living God, but the dead Jesus. You don't care one whit about what He did to change the face of religion, only what you're taught now.

          In short, you worship the BIBLE. Not Him.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
        • Austin

          hey Poe, stop pushing my buttons.

          If you can't worship the word of God, from moses on up, you are on your own.

          I do worship the word of God,. I worship Jesus Christ, who is the living Word, and He gave us His word and it is clear.

          do a topical on destructive doctrines.. if you read straight through the new testament, you will pick up big on this topic.

          You to me, do not sound like someone I would take any advice from spiritually if you do not defend the word. and He, Reza, has clearly indicated that He is an apostate imposter of wisdom.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
        • Austin

          Reza thinks he can discredit the bible and put his own brand on God?

          July 20, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Jeff

      Did you bother to read the article and truly understand it?
      Why is her epiphany any less a spiritual revelation? She believes 100% in Jesus. She has been saved already. What is it that you think she is missing?
      She is spreading the word through her book. You are spreading yours through the internet. What's the difference?
      Stop acting like a hypocrite. She is every bit as worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven as you are. Shame on your lack of humility an your hubris.

      July 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
      • Austin

        what are you talking about ? He says that every book of the nt is written by someone who didn't even know Jesus, goes on to say that Jesus not who He says He is.

        This individual is a false teacher. and as I stated below, this is forgivable. but this is secular garbage and misleading information.

        July 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
        • Jeff

          SHE said nothing of the sort. Read it again.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
        • Austin

          The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

          The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a doc.ument written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

          also, there is a video link with "him" talking about the authors of the new testament saying that none of them were eye witness associates of Christ.

          This person is here to subtly trick you into a secular acedemic dead religion.

          do you honestly believe that Christ is risen, and that God could not inspire the Bible authoritatively?

          July 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
        • Austin

          google the name of the author, click image,and listen to the video that i did.

          this is deception.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
        • Jeff

          It is a guy, you're right. And that was the last thing you were right about.
          You're a zealot yourself. There is no hope for somebody so closed-minded that they can't see the forest for the trees.
          You've been decieved yourself. God help you.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
        • Austin

          peace to you buddy.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:06 am |
  17. Russ

    Reza Aslan says: "the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history..."

    if there's anything 3 rounds of the so-called "quest for the historical Jesus" have taught us, it's that separating the "historical" Jesus from the earliest historical doc.uments we have (namely, the Gospels) is a false dichotomy – not to mention self-refuting.

    Furthermore, it most often leads to self-projection (for example, the heavily criticized "Jesus was a cynic philosopher" conclusion of John Dominic Crossan).

    July 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  18. aallen333

    You cannot separate Christ from His deity. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The people tried to stone Him because he told them, 'Before Abraham was, I Am'. It is widely understood that 'I Am' is another name for God. Either Jesus is who He said He was or He is not. I choose to believe He is.

    July 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • niknak

      I choose to believe he is not.
      As in not real and only alive in your head.
      You have bought into a big lie. A very lucrative lie for sure, but a lie nonetheless.
      But keep right on believing as the Ponzi scheme will collapse without mindless sheep like you.

      July 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  19. Austin

    Hey Reza , you are a sell out. You are a seed on the rocks, a seed in the ravens mouth.

    I have experienced the revelation of the Holy Spirit. I was given more faith, supernaturally.

    Jehovah Shammah
    Our Lord is There.

    July 20, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Austin

      I know how you felt when you went to college and had the deck stacked against you. Maybe right now you can take a gut check, and let God show you . Its not too late. Keep seeking Him.

      You think you are acedemic and smart? Who can you trust?

      I swear on my lifeblood, that the Holy Spirit gives faith supernaturally and that He is risen. a, O pius and devoted, no, I don't measure up to moral excellence naturally. I experienced the supernatural spirit and it was through the word of God.

      The Holy Spirit is a sanctifying spirit that bears the truth of God's word on a persons heart.

      2 Corinthians 4:6
      6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

      John 15:26-27
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Work of the Holy Spirit

      26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      July 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
      • Austin

        Reza. It is not too late for you. Despite your article, you still have every day of your life to trust in HIm.

        and what you have done here is nothing bad at all. You are not disqualified. and the blood of Jesus is never failing.

        He is faithful to forgive and He loves you.

        July 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
      • niknak

        To long, to boring.....

        July 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
        • Dippy

          Too, not to.

          July 20, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
      • Topher

        Austin, is that me?

        July 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Autism

      Forgive me please. I'm going through my "born again" phase.
      I'll be OK.
      It will pass.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:25 am |
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About this blog

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.