googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: 5 [Stupid] Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed

Friday, March 25, 2016

5 [Stupid] Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed

I'm not sure why people reject Jesus as their Lord. Well, I suppose it's because of their rebellious nature and their love of sin. What I mean to say is that I can't understand why they would reject Jesus in the face of such overwhelming evidence that He not only lived but that He demonstrated His divinity through miracles including His own resurrection.

People who reject Jesus must necessarily blind themselves to reality. They willingly close their eyes to the truth. They do what critics accuse creationists of doing – they ignore the evidence. I came across an article titled, 5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed. These flimsy reasons give us a glimpse at how desperate atheists can be when justifying their unbelief. I thought I'd list the 5 points along with a brief rebuttal to each one.

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef [Jesus son of Joseph].

As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing... In none of [the] vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned

This criticism is just bizarre. I'm no scholar or anything but I've written before about several 1st century, extra-biblical references to Jesus by people like Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger. But even setting those aside, what about Nero? He is notorious for his persecution of Christians. Am I to believe that the first-century church exploded to such a degree as to catch the notice of the Roman Emperor yet no one had even heard the name of Jesus?!

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.

Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings.

Another bizarre criticism. Actually, I'm not going to begin all my replies with the observation that the criticism is bizarre and just say in advance they're all bizarre. Anyway, this is a textbook example of an argument from silence. Just because Paul didn't mention a detail like the Virgin Birth, is not proof he was ignorant of the Virgin Birth. Yet even if he didn't know about the Virgin Birth, how is that evidence there was no Virgin Birth or even evidence there was no Jesus?

Keep in mind too that Paul only knew the post-resurrection Jesus. He wasn't there during Jesus' earthly ministry so it's not surprising that he wouldn't write much about it. However, he did write voluminously about the miracle he did witness – the resurrection! He cited it often to make the case for Jesus' authority. In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul writes,After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;It's as though Paul is inviting his readers to go and ask the 500 people if they'd seen the Risen Savior.

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.

We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began.... But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who. . . .

Mark and Luke were not Apostles of Jesus. However, Luke does begin his gospel with the claim that he compiled the testimonies of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2). These were not the testimonies of someone who knew someone. Mark 14:51-52 talks about a young man who was there at the arrest of Jesus. When the soldiers tried to grab him, he shrugged off his linen coat and ran away naked. Many scholars identify this young boy as Mark, a disciple of Jesus. If so, then Mark was indeed an eyewitness to at least some of the things recorded in his gospel.

What's most compelling, though, is John 19:35, And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. In this passage, John is claiming to be an eyewitness to the death of Jesus. He saw the soldier pierce His side with a spear. He saw Jesus die; later, he saw Him alive again. John ends his gospel with these words, John 21:24-25, This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.

So, yes, the gospels are the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. It's bizarre for someone to claim otherwise.

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

Claims of contradictions are perhaps the most often employed criticisms of the Bible. The article didn't cite any specific, alleged contradictions besides a vague claim to “incompatible Easter stories.” I've dealt with some specific claims surrounding the resurrection of Jesus like the death of Judas and the women visiting the tomb but supposed contradictions pretty much have to be addressed in context. There were none mentioned here so there are none to address. I will say, however, that I've yet to see any “contradiction” that hasn't been answered 100 times already.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.

They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.”

Speaking of contradictions, how can modern scholars claim to have uncovered the “real” historical Jesus when question 1 says no 1st-century reference to Jesus son of Joseph exists? Just curious.

Anyway, Jesus was the zealot who called the Pharisees a den of vipers. Jesus was the servant who washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus was the friend who mourned with the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus was the forgiving judge who showed mercy on a woman caught in adultery. Jesus was the imposing figure of whom His disciples asked, What sort of man is this that even the wind and sea obey him?

The “real” Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible. He was a lot of things but He was not imagined.

7 comments:

Josue Cruz-Perez said...

On #3 you forgot (or purposely didn't included for the sake of space) the Epistles from Peter where he claims to give testimony of what he has seen.

RKBentley said...

Josue,

I hadn't thought about Peter's testimony in particular so thanks for pointing that out. It is compelling evidence that Peter, who once denied even knowing Jesus, now refuses to stop preaching about Him even when threatened with death. He tells his accusers that it's because of the things he had seen. What a great point.

I knew that there were other passages I could have included but, for some reason, I was only thinking about passages in the gospels. In retrospect, I wish I'd included 1 John 1:1-3:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

In this passage, John is overtly claiming to be reporting things he witnessed first hand. Like I said in my post, it's just bizarre for a critic to assert the New Testaments “stories” don't claim to be first-hand accounts.

Thank you very much for your comments. Please keep them coming. God bless!!

RKBentley

Josue Cruz-Perez said...

Well, I guess if we account all first hand witnesses accounts of Jesus we would end up saying like John said twice, that all the books will not fit in the world, or in this case the internet!!

Nice new background btw.

God Bless you.

Josue

Steven J. said...

1) Tacitus is second century. Josephus is first century (though not contemporary with Jesus -- he was born after the traditional date for the crucifixion), but the Testimonium Flavius that Jesus was the Messiah is almost universally regarded as a later copyist's interpolation. I've run across arguments that his reference to "James the brother of Jesus" refers to some other Yakob and Yeshua, not the ones in the gospels, though this seems according to Wikipedia to be very much a minority view. Tacitus, at least, is evidence only of what Christians in the late first and early second century said about Jesus; it is not independent evidence that these things are true (though, again, the testimony of Josephus about James the brother of Jesus probably is). I concede that it is a stretch from the proposition "we have no contemporary accounts of Jesus" to "we have no reason to conclude that Jesus existed," especially considering how the passage of time swallows up evidence (hosts of lost books, letters, artifacts, etc.).

2) I tend to agree with you about Paul and the virgin birth. However, I note that Paul doesn't provide us with the names and locations of these five hundred witnesses; it's a very bold assertion with well-nigh no way even for first-century readers to test it. I note in passing that Paul counted himself as a witness to the risen Christ, although accounts of his conversion indicate that those with him did not see Jesus; Paul had a vision rather than Jesus appearing in the flesh and leaving footprints. Yet Paul considered this a perfectly real sighting of the risen Christ, on a par with those of James and Peter. It is entirely possible that he is referring to five hundred people who had a vision of Jesus while gathered together (and entirely possible that only some of them actually had and reported such a vision, and Paul simply assumed that all of them did).

3) I agree, the gospels of Luke and John claim to be based on eyewitness accounts (note: the beloved disciple is "he" in the closing comments, while the actual author is "I". There is no claim that the two are the same, and an implication that they are two different people).

4) For my own part, I don't see that contradictions argue for the nonexistence of Jesus. I regard the disparate accounts of the death of Judas as a genuine contradiction (or proof that the Holy Spirit is a lousy copy editor), but genuine contradictions between sources are a commonplace in history.

5) A similar point applies here: disagreements about how to read between the lines does not prove that the person described in the lines themselves is purely mythical, or even that nothing can be known about him. Note that authors trying to reconstruct the historical Jesus, while they regard the gospels as legend-encrusted propaganda, obviously don't regard Jesus as mythical or completely unknowable. While there's an obvious contradiction between the propositions "there's enough accurate information the gospels to reconstruct some facts about Jesus" and "there isn't enough to establish any fact about Jesus' biography -- not even that he existed to have one," it doesn't follow that any particular writer is contradicting himself, as opposed to contradicting other writers, since (I assume) no writer is advancing both positions himself.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

The critic I cited presented these as 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed. In spite of your quibbles, you seem to ultimately agree with me on each point. Therefore, I won't quibble with your quibbles.

God bless!!

RKBentley

Thomas A. said...

I am neutral in this discussion. I was born and raised Catholic but as I started studying other religions in college(15+) I felt egotistical to proclaim that my religion was the only true religion. I support and encourage Christians that walk Jesus's path of loving others as they want to be loved. I believe if he did walk this earth he was here to show the way NOT to be worshiped and put on a pedestal.

Anyways...

1. Was hoping you could shed some insight as to why we celebrate Jesus's birthday on December 25th? (a pagan holiday celebrating the birth of the SUN--for each day becomes brighter than the next for approx. the next 180 days)

2. Why do we not question the names of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John? These are clearly names that come from the British Isles not the region near Jerusalem.

3. Similar to my 2nd question -- Why is Jesus depicted as white when all evidence points to the people near the Bethlehem region being dark skinned?

RKBentley said...

Thomas A,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comments. I'll address your questions first – though I suspect you've already heard these answered before:

1) The Bible is silent on the day and month that Jesus was born. I believe December 25 was chosen specifically to compete with the pagan holiday of Saturnalia similar to the way Halloween has replaced All Saints Day.

2) Because English readers are more familiar with John than Ioannen. Actually, most English readers probably couldn't even pronounce Ioannen. Also, the English translation of many names is merely a transliteration of the original stem. Mark, for example, is merely MARKON without the case ending.

3) Again, the Bible is silent on a description of Jesus. Most artists tend to paint their artists in environments and with attributes the artist is most familiar with. European artists tend to make Jesus look more western and this is the art we tend to identify with. There are other depictions, in other cultures, where Jesus resembles the people of those cultures.

I'm more intrigued by your comments rather than your questions. On what grounds do you believe in some type of subjective truth? Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me. That is a pretty exclusive statement. Your feeling that it's egotistical or not fair hardly make it not true. I urge you to reevaluate your beliefs.

Please keep visiting and commenting. God bless!!

RKBentley