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Jesus did not exist?

JesusA lot of it is our own fault as Christians: “Do you believe in Jesus?” has the same configuration as, “Do you believe in Santa Clause?” and “Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?”

For about three weeks now, there has been an almost-daily debate raging in our local newspaper whether Jesus was actually an historical person.

No, really!

When Dan Brown was in vogue, NZ Anglican clergy would come to me, some concerned, some intrigued – that Brown was writing history.

No, really!

More recently, Anglican clergy have recommended “Caesar’s Messiah” to me – the latest “ground-breaking” theory – Jesus was the invention of the Roman Imperial Court. The purpose of the Flavius Caesar ruling family in producing this construct: to offer a vision of a “peaceful Messiah” who would serve as an alternative to the revolutionary leaders who were rocking first-century Israel and threatening Rome.

This video, particularly, did the rounds:

12 seconds in to the above video by Caesar’s Messiah “expert” John Hudson:

In the first century it may have been thought that the gospels were the accounts of real events written by Galilean fishermen because that is what they claim to be and they claim to be four very separate narratives written independently by four different individuals…

No, really!

Matthew the Galilean fisherman?… nope – tax collector.
Mark the Galilean fisherman?… nope – companion of Saint Peter in Rome.
Luke the Galilean fisherman?… nope – a physician.
John the Galilean fisherman?… The beloved disciple?… Come on; surely one out of four is a pass mark for a scholar? In NZ at least?!

Claiming to be “written independently”? By this does “expert” John Hudson mean like the start of Luke: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account…”

No, really!

NZ appears ripe for the touting of every kooky theory. It is illegal to teach about religion in our state primary schools. Learning facts and understanding facts are often lost well behind ‘making meaning’ and ‘creating meaning’.

The book that claims the Shroud IS the resurrection was a best-seller here, the first book you saw when you walked into most bookshops. State-owned Television paid for “research” that produced “breakthrough” scholarship blaming Jesus’ death on Pilate alone. Let’s not even mention the slick popularity here of The Ant and the Ferrari.

No, really!

Alan Walsh, repeatedly appearing in the weeks of letters to The Press, says he has spent most of last year studying seven (unnamed) scholarly works to try and determine whether Jesus really existed. Apparently Jesus did not exist. He is not an historical individual. Alan Walsh writes (January 12):

People who would have been expected to have written about Jesus but failed to do so include: Philo of Alexandria, Seneca, Gallia, Justus of Tiberius, Ignatius of Antioch, Josephus (if one ignores the out-of-place paragraph noted), Tacitus, Pliny the younger, Polycarp, Suetonius, Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Lucian, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian of Carthage.

No, really!


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18 thoughts on “Jesus did not exist?”

  1. Hi Bosco, It must be a Christchurch thing I think. Even in the ‘land of a million ordinands’ I haven’t heard such things:) Of course there is a solid Sydney connection in your neck of the woods …

  2. One of my perennial favourites is the theory most recently resurrected (oh the irony), by the film director James Cameron. Cameron argued that because there were 1st century graves located in Jerusalem that had names of key figures in the Gospels (including a Jesus or two), it was unequivocal proof that Jesus was just a regular mortal human being.

    No, Really.

    This completely ignores the fact that all those names were common at the time (even Jesus because of the saving connotations in the name, I imagine would have been fairly popular in a period of Roman occupation at a time when at least some readers of the Old Testament were expecting a Messiah because of Daniel’s prophecy).

    1. Thanks, Nick. According to my information, “Jesus” was the sixth most popular male name among Palestinian Jews of the time. And, yes, Jesus was a regular mortal human being. I don’t like the word, “just”. Blessings.

  3. Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry

    Nothing new here but more of the same old same old! Like Jack Spong or Katherine Schori if the Gospels make the presentation of Jesus uncomfortable just invent “a new and improved one” as the ad men would say and if that does not work for you just say he never existed!

    1. Thanks, Bishop. I don’t want this thread to veer off onto a discussion of other bishops, just as I would not have them commenting here about you. I’m quite happy for comments to focus on our historical data on Jesus, and whether that matters. Blessings.

  4. But would it matter- whether Jesus was a historical figure?

    Only to people who cannot take wisdom from mythology or metaphor or tradition, or who want to read all writings as literal, or who need proof of things unprovable.

    The Bible is a collection of long-after-the-fact oral traditions, myths and stories from different cultures, accounts of dreams, literature etc etc…

    Interpreting it can either bring spirituality or dogma as we have often discussed here.

    Jesus may well be a mythological or part-mythological compilation- most other figures historically do become somewhat so, even where we have direct evidence concerning their life!

    If it’s where God speaks to me it’s good enough for me: magnum mysterium. The Christmas story contains wisdom and beauty and makes people think, but we can now get our heads around the fact if Jesus was indeed born it would be around Passover, and that Christmas was a festival politically reconstructed to draw adherents to this new religion.

    I think for me I am pretty open-minded about many things the different Christian religions believe about Jesus- until it deviates from the wisdom we call the teachings of Jesus, radiating out from ‘love God above all things, others as yourself’. God is love: the book of John has long been treated as more of an allegory, a sermon, than the synoptic gospel, does that make the wisdom therin any less true- ‘Dear friends, let us love one another; for love has its origin in God, and every one who loves has become a child of God and is beginning to know God.’

    Way, truth, life: whatever people believe or think it is compassion which brings every single person to God or spirituality or a good life…or however we name it- higher meaning which is so important to every society.

    Anyone who says they know all things about a figure who may or may not have existed over 2000 years ago is speaking a kind of dogma, whether or not it’s a historian or a theologian or a scientist, Christian or atheist- stating what happened when they do not know, translating languages which are not totally compatible with ours, using fragmented documents, restating one’s own received education- in that time frame almost all of this ‘knowledge’ is going to mean ‘interpretation’.

    Interpret then- in the light of God though- that’s what I see as ‘the Living Word’!

    Albert Einstein said ‘unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.’ If he lived to day he would add ‘for a given definition of truth…’!

    1. You won’t be surprised, I’m sure, Tracy, that I can tautoko a lot of what you are saying. It is also important to me that all this is not forever disconnected from my real, flesh and blood, concrete life, but was made flesh in an actual, historical human, and bit by bit, I hope is enfleshed in me (as well as a few others 🙂 ) Blessings.

  5. If I hadn’t been following the same debate on the letters to the editor pages of the press, I’d be inclined to suggest that a more appropriate refrain would be “Yeah, right”. (Or would that be plagiarizing the Tui ad campaign?)

  6. Indeed!

    Insistent question from young man a couple of years ago:
    ‘so, you definitely believe in a magic man in the sky?’
    ‘er, not exactly…’

    This occurred to me last night:

    My mind: the seat of all believed
    Comprises things I have perceived
    Plus many teachings well-received
    And bits of psyche, self-deceived.

  7. Thank God it’s not our job to convince anyone!!!

    If I remember correctly, it was Billy Graham who said:

    It’s God’s job to judge…
    It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to empower believers and convict the world…
    It’s [was] Christ’s job to be the sacrifice for our sin…
    It’s our job, merely to love…

    That quote comes to me often whenever I encounter situations where I’m tempted to take on the role and function of the triune God.

  8. Interesting fun fact: we have the same amount of information, from the same level of sources, about Jesus that we do about Socrates. Where are all the shows about how Socrates was just made up as an Athenian conspiracy?

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