Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Christianity; Fact of Fiction? Was Jesus Real, or was His the Greatest Story Ever Told?

Scholars, Archaeologists, Skeptics and Believers alike have been asking this same question since the birth of Christianity.

Albert Schweitzer, and New Testament scholar Nicholas Perrin both, argued that since most biblical scholars are Christians, religious bias is inevitable and thus cannot be trusted.

Traditionally, howevr, Western scholars considered the Gospel accounts of Jesus to be authoritative and inspired by God, but starting in the late 18th century, scholars began to submit the Gospels to historical scrutiny. From 1744 to 1767, Hermann Samuel Reimarus composed a treatise rejecting miracles and accusing Bible authors of fraud.

In The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, a secular historian, posed this same question:
“Did Christ exist? Is the life story of the founder of Christianity the product of human sorrow, imagination, and hope—a myth comparable to the legends of Krishna, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, and Mithras?”
Durant pointed out how the story of Christianity has “many suspicious resemblances to the legends of pagan gods.”4 Later in this article we will see how this great historian answered his own question about the existence of Jesus.

So, how can we know for sure that this man, whom many worship and others curse, was real?

The quest for the historical Jesus has always been closely related to the Christian search for God. This is both good and necessary, provided that one properly understands the relationship between history and theology ("the Jesus of history" and "the Christ of faith") and does not confuse the two.

Though the historical evidence of Jesus illustrates that earliest Christianity was very much a “Jewish phenomenon,” the historical evidence of Jesus also shows, Jesus’ message cannot be easily identified with the teachings of other Jewish groups.

Now, we may want to ask another question; which first-century historians who wrote about Jesus did not have a Christian agenda?

First of all, let’s take a look at Jesus’ enemies.

Jesus’ many Jewish opponents who had the most to gain by denying Jesus’ existence, though denying his status as a Christ and Savior, they never went as far as denying his existence.

In fact, several Jewish writings tell of Jesus’ existence. Although these consist of only a few brief, bitter passages intended to discount Jesus’ deity, these very early Jewish writings don’t begin to hint that he was not a historical person.”

A noted Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who was born just a few years after Jesus died, who began writing under Roman authority in a.d. 67 and who would have been keenly aware of Jesus’ status among both Romans and Jews, wrote about Jesus as a real person.

There is current confirmation of at least 19 early secular writers who lived in ancient times, but who are said not to have been religiously motivated, who made references to Jesus as a real person.

Cornelius Tacitus, one of history’s greatest scholars, who was born around 25 years after Jesus died, affirmed that Jesus had suffered under Pilate.

All of these independent accounts, both religious and secular, speak of Jesus as a real man who matches up pretty good with the Jesus of the Gospels.

Encyclopedia Britannica even went as far as to cite these various secular accounts of Jesus’ life as convincing proof of his existence. It states:
“These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus.”
Some German higher-critical scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries had questioned Jesus’ existence, pointing out that such key figures as Pontius Pilate and the chief priest Joseph Caiaphas in the Gospel accounts had never been confirmed as real. No rebuttal was possible until the mid-20th century.

Archaeologists in 1962 confirmed Pilate’s existence when they discovered his name included in an inscription on an excavated stone. Likewise, the existence of Caiaphas was uncertain until 1990, when an ossuary (bone box) was discovered bearing his inscription. Archaeologists have also discovered what they believe to be Simon Peter’s house and a cave where John the Baptist did his baptizing. 

Still, many scholars, archaeologists, writers and general skeptics, two of the most prominent being Earl DohertyG. A. Wells and Robert M. Price, question with works such as the 2005 documentary The God Who Wasn't There, whether Jesus ever existed, and whether attempts to use the Gospels to reconstruct his life give the Gospels too much credit.

Richard Dawkins, wrote that while Jesus probably existed, it is "possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all."

The philosopher Bertrand Russell doubted the existence of Jesus: and Peter Gandy argues that Jesus was derived from pagan gods like Dionysus.

Luigi Cascioli went as far as filing a lawsuit against the Vatican, accusing the Church of inventing the story of Jesus' existence. And tough the case was thrown out of court in February, 2006, the plaintiff got the attention and publicity he was looking for. 

When first getting caught up in the controversy, deciding to investigate the age old question, I of course did extensive online searches. When doing the Google search for "Christianity Fact of Fiction" I got 33,000,000 results, when Googling "Was Jesus Real" I got a whopping 413,000,000 results. Apparently a lot of people are obsessed with these questions!

Also apparently, there have been many books written on the subject, considering Amazon alone shows 148,485 results for Jesus, 73,853 results for Jesus Christ, 14,797 results for Jesus of history and no less than 282,283 results for Christianity. More books have been written about Jesus than about any other person in history.

Of these many books, I did my best to find some written by reputable authors and with good reviews, but only a couple really stood out: The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide (Essential Guides), and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. However there is a DVD available by the acclaimed director Peter Sykes, called JESUS - Fact Or Fiction, gives the truth about Jesus a freshness that is often missing in most other presentations. Despite the quite mundane cover, I think it's 5 stars material (see description of DVD at the bottom of this article).

And so the argument against Jesus' existence continued, being made public on CNN TV when Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, stated:

“The reality is there is not one shred of secular evidence there ever was a Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and Christianity is a modern religion. And Jesus Christ is a compilation from other gods: Osiris, Mithras, who had the same origins, the same death as the mythological Jesus Christ.” - Ellen Johnson, atheist

When Johnson and a panel of religious leaders were discussing the question, “What happens after we die?” on a Larry King Live CNN broadcast, the usually composed King paused thoughtfully, replying, “So you don’t believe there was a Jesus Christ?”

Johnson responded with conviction, “There was not. It is not what I believe; there is no secular evidence that JC, Jesus Christ, ever existed.”

King had no follow-up and went to a commercial break. No discussion of any evidence for or against Jesus’ existence was forthcoming. The international television audience was left wondering then, just as we are today.

The question, “was Jesus real?” may well be the greatest mystery in history.

What do you believe? Was Jesus a real, historical person? Do you believe he was really the Son of God? Please, my Conspiracy Watch readers want to know what you believe, so leave your comment, bellow.

Written By: Tom Retterbush

JESUS - Fact Or Fiction, Interactive DVD
Directed by Peter Sykes

This is an interactive DVD with more than 100 options to explore questions on 1) Deism vs. Christianity 2) Scientific and Historical Evidence for the Bible 3) Exploration on Absolute vs. Relative Truth 4) Atheism vs. Deism 5) Life after Death, expert profiles on the professors, scientists, philosophers answering the questions, and real life stories of personal spiritual journeys. List Price: $14.95
Order it directly from for only $3.08, HERE

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