The Historical Jesus (Page 7)
Accept that James was the Teacher of Righteousness and you have laid before you the foundations of Christianity.
No, this still neglects the miracle acts of Jesus, especially the Resurrection, which also are foundational.
Without the miracle power of Jesus which he demonstrated there is no foundation of Christianity, because without this it is impossible to explain how Jesus was unique, or what makes him different than thousands of other ancient prophets and rabbis and heroes and martyrs of history.
In all other cases of important historical figures we can identify what made them special so that writers of the period left us their record of them, saying what their unusual deeds were. In all cases the important historical figure had a long career performing noteworthy deeds and attracting followers who were influenced by him over many years, inspiring them or leading them to recognizable accomplishments while he was still with them alive, or at least within the same generation.
In all cases -- Alexander the Great, Socrates, Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Julius Caesar, St. Augustine, Charlemagne, Mohammed, Napoleon, etc. etc. --- in every single case we can name certain acts the leader or hero did, acts which distinguish him in history, acts of exercising power, or teaching students for many years, or influencing them with his writings, impacting the lives of thousands during his career, and achieving status during his lifetime, or at least leaving behind works of art or literature which later became famous.
But what did Jesus do? What did he leave behind? What power did he have? What audiences did he influence which make him any more important than John the Baptizer or Hillel the rabbi and hundreds of others who attracted larger audiences than Jesus did and were more recognized as teachers in their lifetime than Jesus was in his short public career of 1-3 years?
No one can explain why there was any record of Jesus left behind, unless he did the miracle acts described in the Gospel accounts.
So these miracle acts -- or the record of them -- must be the "foundation" of Christianity, without which there is nothing important about the central Jesus Christ person, such as we can determine what is important about other historical figures who stand out as special in history.
Paul joined James' community and worked assiduously to undermine its teaching, thus earning himself the title: The Spouter of Lies. And, as I've said before, Ananus is the wicked priest who ordered the execution of James. Couldn't be simpler.
Those theories, which may be partly true, don't explain what makes Jesus noteworthy. And if he really was not noteworthy, then there's no explanation why we have epistles and "Gospels" written about him -- writings of that period just as we have a written record of other noteworthy historical figures -- and yet we have no "Gospel of John the Baptist" or "Gospel of James the Just" or "Gospel of Hillel" or "Gospel" of anyone else, reporting them as a miracle-working resurrected "Messiah" or "Savior" or "Son of God" etc.
I want to elaborate on this point I made earlier:
"A straightforward rule is that if the different accounts all agree on a particular point, that point is probably accurate, or the reported event is true, whereas the points where they conflict are dubious and so there is error somewhere in the accounts about that point. This rule is usually correct, and yet even when all the accounts agree there can still be some error in it. A good rule is: Where all the accounts agree, there's likely some historical truth to what is reported, so it can't be entirely dismissed."
Here are 2 examples of this. I.e., something is reported in the 4 Gospel accounts, and yet it contains some error, so the whole event did not happen exactly as reported, in all 4 accounts, meaning all of them contain the error. And yet still the event did happen, since all the sources agree that it did, and so the story is at least partly accurate. Or the story generally is true, but still there could be an error in all the sources.
example 1 -- THE RIOT AT THE TEMPLE
We're told in all 4 accounts that Jesus committed a violent act, assaulting the moneychangers and kicking over the tables. He even seized them physically and cast them outside. This is called "Cleansing of the Temple" -- meaning it became cleaner with those bad people driven out?
Did this really happen? If so, why wasn't Jesus arrested by the Temple Police, who did show up and did arrest some of the rioters? All 4 accounts do say later that the criminal Barabbas was arrested in such a riot, which was probably the same as this "cleansing of the Temple" riot. So, why wasn't Jesus also arrested, since he must have stood out conspicuously? if he was violently dragging the moneychangers kicking and screaming to the door and hurling them like a sack of potatoes down the stairs?
How could he do this and not get noticed by the police and be arrested right there in the process of doing such criminal behavior?
How long did this criminal behavior go on? It was more than only one victim -- he had to drag each hapless struggling moneychanger from their booth to the exit of this huge building, maybe 50 or 100 or 200 feet away, each one fussing and screaming for help, in a dense crowd, shoving people out of the way to get each victim one at a time to the door.
This is not a realistic scene presented to us in the accounts. And yet they all agree that it happened. So we must accept that there was such a riot, and some of the temple officials, especially moneychangers, got dragged from their place and tossed out the door. Along with a lot of other mayhem.
But why must we assume that Jesus is the one who initiated this riot? Why not assume rather that it was more spontaneous, and Jesus got blamed for starting it, since he was a conspicuous figure present? And the rioters may have hoped he would join their cause and do a miracle, since without some divine help this insurrection was likely doomed to failure.
Maybe it's not a coincidence that Barabbas also had the "Jesus" first name, probably a leader of fanatics causing trouble, and so "Jesus" was rumored as the initiator of the riot, and so the confusion over who started it helped put the blame on Jesus the miracle-worker who really had not participated in this brawl.
The attack on the moneychangers really makes no sense. These persons were doing no harm, in the proper business they were conducting, authorized by the Temple authorities. It is cheap low-class scapegoating to blame them for something and pretend to be doing a heroic deed by assaulting them violently like this.
Either Jesus was a demagogue-thug doing a grandstand stunt, which makes no sense, or he was a bystander as some low-class hoodlums went into a rampage, either wanting to incite an insurrection against the Establishment, or maybe just to commit robbery against the Temple.
So the general event happened, but we don't need to believe it was Jesus who started any such pointless riot -- throwing innocent people around and kicking over tables like a maniac.
example 2 -- PILATE'S BEHAVIOR AT THE TRIAL
We're told that "the Jews" demanded that Jesus be crucified but Pontius Pilate resisted their demand and defended Jesus as being innocent. And so the depiction of this "trial" is that "the Jews" rather than the Romans are the ones really responsible for the crucifixion.
All 4 accounts say there was a mob of Jews present who yelled "Crucify him! Crucify him!" which prompted Pilate to back down and consent to the demand and order the crucifixion.
So is the whole scene a fiction? No, the explanation is quite simple: It was a group of Jews who brought Jesus before Pilate, accusing him, and Pilate expressed doubts about it for about a minute or 2, because this was a group of Judeans vs. a Galilean (or group of Galileans) having some kind of petty squabble Pilate wanted no part of. But he was quickly converted by the Judean accusers who were very aggressive and who especially emphasized that there were insurrectionists among the followers of Jesus, especially those involved in the riot 2 or 3 days earlier. With this there was no more resistance by Pilate and he quickly ordered the execution.
But the Gospel writers exaggerated this initial hesitation by Pilate because they wanted to put the blame on "the Jews" who rejected the Messiah.
So the hesitation of Pilate is not fictional but really did happen. All 4 accounts say this, and even Paul in his epistles confirms that Jews condemned Jesus. All the evidence tells us that there was a conflict between Jesus and Jews or the Jewish Establishment or "the scribes and pharisees" etc. This is easy to believe, as there were many conflicting Jewish factions, with one faction hating another, even some wanting to kill those of a different faction, such as the Zealots and Sicarii murdering other Jews who were not militant enough, and so on.
Among the dissidents were some Essenes who believed traitors should be crucified, as is written in the Temple Scroll, i.e., that Jews who collaborate with Romans (or enemies of the Jews) should be crucified.
We should believe the sources we have, as long as they agree on something, and disbelieve them only when they conflict with each other or with particular evidence we have which undermines their credibility. And the sources here all say there was conflict between Jesus and some Jews, or some of the Jewish Establishment, and that these aggressively accused Jesus at the "trial" and demanded his crucifixion, while Pilate at first was hesitant or doubted the charges. But that hesitation need not have been long and likely was exaggerated by the later writers or storytellers who reported what happened and wanted to sensationalize it.
So the general depiction is credible, and yet there is fiction or sensationalism which easily got added and picked up by all 4 accounts.
ghostgeek: "The attack on the moneychangers really makes no sense."
What you're being given is a history lesson; that worship in the temple ended in 70 AD.
ghostgeek: Now ask yourself why the Synoptic Gospels are called that. It's because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. In other words they're not independant of each other so you don't have four separate sources, just Mark and possibly John.
ghostgeek: So what makes you think Mark's Gospel isn't a work of fiction? Is it because there are goblin hunters on every street corner where you live?
Here is an exchange from the Historical Jesus Chatroom. It's about the written sources for the historical Jesus.
Lumpenproletariat: The evidence is that Jesus did the miracle healings and resurrected after he was killed.
Joe In Cal: lump - I have tried to discuss things with you before. You are irrational.
[hereafter -- Lump and Joe]
Lump: you can't handle the facts.
Joe: Bald assertions are not facts.
Lump: When they're true they are.
The written record of the time says he did those acts. That's fact.
Joe: There isn't a written record of Jesus of the time,
so that claim failed,
and a claim is not a fact.
Lump: you deny the fact that there are any 1st-century written accounts about the Jesus events?
Joe: not of Jesus' time, nope.
Lump: Why do all the scholars say there are such written accounts?
Joe: none we have discovered.
Not one does.
Lump: the same as for any other historical figure.
How are there not such written accounts just as for all the other ancient historical figures?
Lump: All the scholars say the NT writings are from the 1st century. or 90% from 1st century.
Why should people believe you rather than all the scholars?
Joe: as I said before - I tried this conversation with you before. You are still irrational.
Lump: the experts?
Don't you know what a scholar is?
Joe In Cal Left the room
Lump: What's "irrational" about believing the scholars?
Can't handle the facts.
end of chatroom exchange
This exchange shows how debunkers pretend there is no historical record of Jesus. But that historical record does exist and attests not only to the existence of Jesus in the first century but also to his miracle acts, including the Resurrection. And ALL scholars recognize that these written accounts exist, and they use them for determining 1st-century events.
ALL scholars, with virtually no exception, say that written record does exist and that it is from the 1st century when Jesus lived.
One part of it, the epistles of Paul, were written about 20-25 years later, attesting to the Resurrection, and Paul was a contemporary to Jesus, making this a very legitimate historical source for the events.
But the 4 Gospel accounts are also a legitimate part of the historical record, being written 40-70 years later, which is not a long time span between the events and the later reporting of the events.
For ancient history the normal time span between the written record and the reported events in the accounts is much longer than only 40-70 years. In some cases this span might be only 50 years, but 100 years separation is more common. Very few of the ancient history events are reported by contemporaries to the events. The case of Julius Caesar reporting on his experiences is the exception. The general time lapse is easily 100-200 years later for much of our history of Roman times. Most of our knowledge of J. Caesar is from Tacitus and Suetonius and Plutarch writing 150 years later. They report much which would otherwise be unknown to us.
So we have here a case of a chatroom participant wanting to deny we have historical sources for Jesus, and yet the fact is that our written accounts for him are very reasonable sources for what happened by comparison to virtually all our other sources for ancient history, or for virtually all other ancient history persons.
We should argue about what the facts are, and we should doubt ALL sources and claims and assess them based on the evidence, and by asking all the critical questions.
But it is dishonest to claim there are no sources for the historical Jesus.
It's fine to examine these 5 sources (mainly the 4 Gospels and Paul) and use critical judgment in deciding whether to believe them, or rather, which parts to believe. But to deny that these sources exist, because somehow Jesus must go into a separate category than all the other ancient history figures, is dishonest and indicates prejudice and fear of the truth.
Any honest truth-seeker should easily be able to see that there is both fact and fiction in these 5 sources, and our task is to separate the fact from the fiction. And when we do this we do find that some of the Christian theology is flawed.
But also, the facts or evidence we find is that Jesus did perform the miracle healing acts, probably, and also that he rose back to life after being killed.
Even if much else of the Christian claims are made dubious, this major part of the Christian belief -- his miracle power -- is confirmed by the facts, or the evidence.
ghostgeek: Joe sounds like a guy who has an independent streak. Could be you should listen to him, Lumpenproletariat.
Joe sounds like a guy who has an independent streak. Could be you should listen to him, Lumpenproletariat.
Who's not listening to him?
If he chooses to turn tail and run away, what am I supposed to do?
What did he say that I refused to listen to?
Is he correct that there are no 1st-century writings telling us about Jesus? You mean all the scholars are wrong?
ghostgeek: Do scholars agree with each other? Not from what I've seen, so it seems safe to conclude that some of them have their heads stuck firmly up their arses. OK, that being so, why shouldn't we be a little more daring and say that it's possible the WHOLE tribe of scholars are "all at sea"?
ghostgeek: It's fairly well agreed that the gospels of Matthew and Luke are based on what Mark wrote. Less well publicised is the contention that John's gospel has as its foundation the Gospel of Luke. In other words it's wrong to say there are four independent sources attesting to the teaching and actions of Jesus Christ. The reality is that there's just one: Mark's Gospel.
Exchange from the Historical Jesus Chat Room
Joe In Cal: Joined the room
Lumpenproletariat: Is there any other reported miracle-worker from 500 BC to 100 AD? to be found in any of the writings?
Joe In Cal: serapis, of course
Lump: No, that's BEFORE 500 BC.
Joe: no it's not
Lump: ancient legend
Lump: When did Serapis live?
Joe: yeah, but not ancient but not 500 bc
Joe: i have no reason to think serapis ever did live
Joe: but his worshippers were claimed to be healers
Lump: which ones?
Lump: reported in what writings?
Lump: And when and where did Serapis REPORTEDLY live?
Joe: the religion began sometime around 325 bc
Lump: I'm asking about reported miracle-workers, to be found in the literature.
Joe: still going in the first century ad
Lump: But when did SERAPIS himself live?
Joe: when did yahweh live?
Lump: who knows?
Lump: The Jesus miracle-worker lived 30 AD. reported in the writings.
Joe: did he?
Lump: north end of the Sea of Galilee
Joe: according to the talmud he lived around 100 bc
Lump: reported in the writings, verified as 1st century.
Joe: never verified
Lump: 1st-century writings.
Joe: looks like you have nothing
Lump: agreed by ALL the scholars
Lump: you say don't believe the scholars.
Lump: OK, your belief is to reject all the scholars.
Lump: I'm asking about the reported FACTS as agreed by scholars, known from the writings, still in mss in museums etc.
Joe: you have nothing real to offer
Joe: l'll wait for someone real
Lump: from that historical record, where is there a reported miracle-worker from 500 BC to 100 AD?
Lump: OK, facts are not what matters to you.
Lump: I'm going to post this exchange in the Historical Jesus Forum. We agree that if we go by the recognized facts of history, there is only this one reported miracle-worker from 500 BC to 100 AD.
ORIGIN OF SERAPIS
Here's the Wiki on Serapis:
Serapis or Sarapis is a Graeco-Egyptian God. The cult of Serapis was created during the third century BC on the orders of Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.
The cultus of Serapis was spread as a matter of deliberate policy by the Ptolemaic kings. Serapis continued to increase in popularity during the Roman Empire, often replacing Osiris as the consort of Isis in temples outside Egypt. Though Ptolemy I may have created the official cult of Serapis and endorsed him as a patron of the Ptolemaic dynasty and Alexandria, Serapis was a pre-existing syncretistic deity derived from the worship of the Egyptian Osiris and Apis -------
[break from wiki page] -- So it says this Serapis character in history (if he existed) goes back to Osiris and Apis ("Apis Bull" which communicated between humans and Osiris), so Serapis, if historical, had to live back around 3000 BC. So we have some mention of him first in about 280 BC, more than 2500 years after he reportedly lived.
------ [continuation of wiki page] ---- and also gained attributes from other deities, such as chthonic powers linked to the Greek Hades and Demeter, and with benevolence derived from associations with Dionysus.
[end of wiki quote]
So, Serapis either is not historical, or if he is, his time was more than 2000 years earlier than any written claim about him as a healer.
So again, the conclusion is that there is NO REPORTED MIRACLE-WORKER from 500 BC to 100 AD in any ancient historical record. (other than the one conspicuous exception of Jesus about 30 AD, who is the only reported case, despite the repeated claims that there were others)
Why do so many crusaders want to claim there were others, and yet when asked for examples they have nothing to offer? even though they continue on making these false claims? Why do they do this?
TALMUD REFERENCE TO JESUS:
Talmud is inconsistent in dating Jesus. But even if the date there is confused, the Talmud is much later, after 300 AD, much too late to be taken as a source for Jesus in the 1st century.
So we have confirmation from a Jesus-debunker "Joe in Cal" that there is ONLY ONE documented miracle-worker in the ancient writings, reported in ancient writings near the time he reportedly lived. And there's no other reported miracle-worker who comes close to this as verified in multiple sources of the time.
This is a fact which must be admitted by anyone who checks out the facts, from the evidence, the ancient writings, which are our only source for the ancient history events.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HISTORICAL JESUS
What is the "Good News"?
Anyone exploring the Historical Jesus must ask this question. The "Gospel" (Good News) has to be something optimistic to be found somewhere in the claims about Jesus, in the Gospels or Paul epistles which are our best sources for getting at the original Jesus in history.
What was this "Good News" which now was to be proclaimed but was not already the case before Jesus? The "Good News" word, Euangelion, was not a significant word in the writings before Jesus. It did not have the religious-philosophical connection which it took on in the New Testament writings.
Prior to Jesus, what was lacking (no "Good News" yet) which became reality with Jesus in history so that after him this "Good News" now existed whereas it was not the case earlier?
Why are no miracle acts attributed to anyone other than to Jesus?
Why don't we have a John the Baptist miracle? Why not John the Baptist healing someone of blindness or leprosy? Why is only Jesus depicted doing this? Why not also James the Just or dozens of other prophets or holy men or rabbis?
Why is there no Resurrection act described of any other prophet or hero or Teacher or Divine Man or Holy Man etc.? Why didn't someone make up such stories about other heroes or prophets and publish those stories in writings near the time those people existed in history?
The only answer is that those others did not do such acts, in actual fact, whereas the historical Jesus did actually perform those acts.
If Jesus did not really do those acts, but the stories were invented, as fictions, then we need an explanation why such stories were not also invented about anyone else, but only about this one historical person, the historical Jesus, in Galilee who did something in about 30 AD which attracted special attention, and yet no one can explain why he attracted attention if it was not the miracle acts which drew the attention and caused his reputation of being a miracle-worker. Which was not the case for any other beloved Teachers or prophets etc. who did not perform such acts.
Why wasn't Jesus arrested at the Temple when the "Cleansing of the Temple" took place?
If he incited the riot which took place, why was he not arrested? Others were arrested, and yet he was not, even though the accounts say that he incited it. How could he have done what is described and not be conspicuous so that the police would have arrested him along with the others?
Why is it that Mary of Nazareth, the reputed mother of Jesus, who was at the crucifixion scene and later at the tomb, is described only as the "mother of James and Joseph" (Mt 27:56); or as "Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses" and "Mary the mother of Joses" (Mk 15:40, 47); or as "Mary the mother of James" (Luke 24:10)?
This Mary is supposed to be the mother of Jesus, the same Mary as in Mark 6:3, and yet at the crucifixion scene she is identified only as the mother of James and Joseph (Joses). If she was really the mother of Jesus, and she's right there watching him suffering, being crucified and tortured, why isn't she identified there as his mother? Why does the author neglect to identify her as mother of Jesus, but instead finds it important to identify her as mother of the other two who are not present?
John the Baptizer vs. Jesus
ALL four Gospels present John the Baptizer as important. But all of them try in one way or another to make John subservient to Jesus.
Why do they do this? Why don't they let John be equal to Jesus, or maybe even superior to him? What motive, or impulse drove all the Gospel writers to make Jesus superior to John, even though in some ways John appears as superior, being prior to Jesus, and the Gospel writers have to invent something artificial to make Jesus superior. Why?
This is only the beginning of this list. Many more questions will be added to these.
ghostgeek: Yeah, well, maybe you should ask yourself if these Gospels you prize so much are the truth, seeing as you've got a few questions needing answering.
Yeah, well, maybe you should ask yourself if these Gospels you prize so much are the truth, seeing as you've got a few questions needing answering.
No, these Gospels are no more nor less "the truth" than all the other writings, such as the ones we rely on for history events.
If the ancient history writings are not "the truth" or sources for what happened, then you have to dismiss ALL of ancient history, toss out all those history books and history classes, toss out everything about the Greeks and Romans and the rest, because we know none of that without the writings left to us from those times, telling us what happened.
Just because there are questions about what happened does not mean we expunge all the ancient history writings and pretend none of it happened because those writings are not "the truth."
There's nothing about asking questions which means we toss out all the sources for history because they are not "the truth" -- that there are questions does not mean we throw out the historical record.
ghostgeek: Right, so when a text talks about a bloke walking on water we're to treat it as gospel, are we? And we're to accept virgin births, even though such things never seem to happen nowadays? I don't think so.
List of JEWISH WRITINGS 200 BC - 200 AD
The intention here is eventually a lengthy list of Jewish writings and some notes on each. Just rudimentary beginning for now. The pre-Christian writings give clues about sources for some New Testament language and symbols.
There's no mention of any miracle-workers other than Jesus, through the several centuries. And virtually no miracles mentioned in the earlier-dated writings, showing that the miraculous was not an interest to Jews since the books of I-II Kings.
For now this listing will not include Apocryphal Gospels, but mostly Apocalyptic writings Jewish and Christian, and also some history writings.
Ascension of Isaiah
Dated 100-200 AD
Christian. This briefly mentions "signs and wonders" by Jesus. But gives much greater emphasis to predicting future miracles to be performed by the Antichrist. This is an example of how even the Christian writers downplay the miracles of Jesus.
Claims to be written by the Prophet Isaiah.
dated between 70 - 135 AD
Claims to be written by Baruch, who was Jeremiah's scribe, about 580-590 BC.
Book of Daniel
Claims to be written by Prophet Daniel 6th century BC
Before 100 BC (difficult to date, not much consensus)
"eternal life" is mentioned once.
Claims to be written by Enoch (in Genesis)
Date: late 1st century AD or later.
philosophical, prophecies attributed to Enoch
2 Esdras / 4 Ezra
Between 70 AD - 218 AD
Claims to be written by Prophet Ezra
This mentions Jesus Christ, gives some Christian beliefs.
"faith" and "belief" are mentioned
Book of Jubilees
160 - 100 BC
Claims to be announcements to Moses
Authorship anonymous. Dated between 140-70 BC.
about events 170 BC to 134 BC
Authorship anonymous. Dated 150 - 120 BC
about events 180-160 BC
Author probably an Alexandrian Jew. Date between 100 BC - 40 AD.
Tells events during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (222–205 BC)
Author unknown. Date between 20 and 130 CE
Dated after 70 AD
summarizes events 1st / 2nd centuries BC
Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs
Dated: no later than 2nd century BC
12 Apocalyptic sermons claiming to be from each of the 12 sons of Jacob
ghostgeek: Perhaps the reason there were virtually no miracles mentioned is because in reality such things don't happen. Ever thought of that?
Perhaps the reason there were virtually no miracles mentioned is because in reality such things don't happen. Ever thought of that?
You have a point. And they mostly omit Julius Caesar also, and Caesar Augustus, so they also didn't happen. Right.
Keep working on it.