WHO WAS JESUS?
has been a consistent promotion by the media and most scholars of the fiction that there is a history of the life of Jesus. In
your review of Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, you continued in print to perpetrate the
myth that there was an "historical Jesus" (by this statement historians mean that the documents concerning the person of Jesus
are too unreliable as to rise to the level of history.) Allow me to go over the convincing arguments presented by these historians.
Silence of the Epistles: Paul who is attributed with 13 out of the 21 Epistles admits:
"For the Jews demand signs
and the Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ cru-cified, a stumbling block to the Jews and a foolishness to gentiles"
(1 Corinthian 1:2224).
And all of the Epistles confirm these words of Paul's, for the Epistles are without miracles (signs),
without sayings (wisdom), and without confirmation of Old-Testament prophecy, which the Jews believed that the Messiah must
fulfill (more signs). All we have in the Epistles is Christ crucified and salvation through faith. We do not have the Christ
of the Gospels in the Epistles. The only reasonable explanation is the Gospels are fiction. This conclusion is strengthened
from other inferences drawn from the Epistles. (Acts because of the style and contents is just as unreliable as the Gospels.)
First Paul, based upon the content of his Epistles, appears to have traveled and preached in at least some of the communities
to which the Epistles have been addressed to. His travels undermine the Christian rebuttal that the silence of the Epistles
was because he had not come across the Gospels. Any eyewitness account, or a Gospel derived from such account, would most
probably have been circulated--just as the various Gospels were later circulated. Paul would have known of them and used them.
Yes, for him not to use the teachings of Christ is like a Christian preacher today producing 160 pages of instruction and
exhortation to Christian communities, yet deliberately excluding the teachings of Christ. Just as that would have be inexcusable
today, so too it would have been in Paul's time. Thus we must conclude from this train of thought, that Paul did not encountered
the teachings of Christ. (The Eucharist and salvation through faith, given the overall silence, seem likely to have been derived
from church teachings.) If we assume the other position, that Paul did come across some teachings, then his silence indicates
that he though such teachings to have been fiction. The two most reasonable inferences to be drawn from the silence of the
Epistles are that the Gospels have not yet been invented, or Paul considered them to be unreliable.
Support of hypothesis that the Gospels are comes from their very form, that of a mythic tale. Consider the mythic elements:
walking on water, splitting of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed 5,000, the healing of the sick and disabled, the calming
of the storm at sea, the resurrection, and the claim to be the greatest of Yahweh's prophets (I am not sure how to handle
the claim of being the "son of god," for in those times such claim had different significance, ones which at this point are
off the topic). Moreover, Paul would have recognized how the Gospel of Mark was designed to fulfill the Jewish expectation
of the new and greatest prophet fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. But at his early date, neither he nor the Counsel
in Jerusalem were turning to the oracles of the Old Testament to find out about the life of Christ--a thing done by the authors
of the Gospels. (The best scholarship on this point is the Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions, available through The Skeptic).
History is not crafted to fulfill the factual expectations of its audience or for theological purposes.
to view the Epistles in light of the Gospels: The contrast between Paul's and the other Epistles and that of the Gospels is
strong evidence for the argument that the Gospels are not to be read as history; and continuing with the same argument, nor
can we suppose their teachings put in the mouth of Christ were the actually teachings of Christ. We can suppose that they
were consistent, in the main, with the teachings of the Christian Counsel in Jerusalem (whom Paul refers to and relied upon),
but given the silence thereon the Epistles, we cannot reasonable suppose them to be the actual words and teachings of Christ.
The rewrite: Of the 661 lines of Mark, over 600 are found in Matthew and over 350 in Luke. Not only is their new materials
added such as the virgin birth (Mark begins with the Baptism), but the old has been reworked. For example the story of how
Jesus cured a blind man (Mk 8:23-25). Mark has him do it the traditional way (see Josephus' account of the emperor Vespasian
69-79 AD, and the Old Testament's version in The Book of Tobit). But for Luke and Mathew, the power of Jesus was such that
he did not need ritualistic magic or medicinal spittle, or a brief interlude for the cure to work. This example is typical
of the reworkings of the miracles found in Mark. Similarly the teachings have been reworked. Clearly this and other changes
(Helms is the best source thereon) are indicative that the authors of Mathew and Luke considered Mark totally unreliable as
history and teachings. Why else would Matthew and Luke change the words and deed of the Son of God, unless they thought Mark's
Gospel to be fiction? Professor G. A. Wells, in Did Jesus Exist? Shows (like Helms) where the authors of
Matthew and Luke made changes to Mark, and the purpose for such changes. Wells writes: "What we are to understand him to have
said at the last supper, on the cross, and by way of instruction to the Eleven after his resurrection depends entirely on
which Gospel we consult" (at 157). This reworking is strong evidence that the authors of the Gospels did not consider their
works to be preserving the actual events and teachings.
The silence of the historian: Josephus, a religious leader
at the time of the destruction of the Temple, 70 AD, was silent. (Historians have convincingly reasoned that the 3 lines about
Christ and another several about James the brother of Christ and about John the Baptist were interpolations). Tacitus (writing
around 110 AD) was merely repeating what Romans believed about the Christians. The very references demonstrate that he had
not consulted archives (see The Historical Evidence for Jesus, G. A. Wells, p. 16). Suetonius (writing about 100 AD) though
mentioning the Christians, is silent about Christ. The Jewish writings about Christ though in the form of history, are seen
as being the opposite of the Gospels: one for the purpose of aggrandizement, the other for the purpose of slander. Interestingly,
The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd Ed. has no entry for Christ but there is for Paul. And Lewis Hopfe's
Religions of the World, Third Ed., a college textbook, assumes the negative: "The only truly objective facts
we have about the life of Jesus are that a group of people who were called Christians began to be recognized in the Roman
Empire around 60-65 AD (at 375)." Though Christian propagandists write otherwise, ancient historians failed to record to take
note of the Messiah.
Once the Gospels are recognized as fictions,
then the search for the source of the myth and of the teachings becomes all the more significant and interesting. Scholars,
including some noted Catholics, have turned to other mystery religions as an influence upon the development of Christianity.
Kerry Temple the managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine (Catholic) writes of the parallel with the worship of Mithras:
"Mythic quality of the New Testiment: Tales of virgin births, divine heroes, and miracle workers were relatively common
2,000 years ago and simply did not mean what they do to us today. One such mythical hero was Mithras, a Persian deity introduced
to Rome midway through the first century, shortly before the synoptic gospels were written. He, too, was said to have been
sent by a father-god to vanquish darkness and evil in the world. Born of a virgin (a birth witnessed only by shepherds), Mithras
was described variously as the Way, the Truth, the Light, the Word, the Son of God, and the Good Shepherd and was often depicted
carrying a lamb upon his shoulders. Followers of Mithras celebrated December 25 by ringing bells, singing hymns, Black Friday,
commemorating Mithras' sacrificial bull slaying." (Reprinted in The Humanist, May/June 1991, p. 9).
Mythras was one
of those foreign, and according to Tacitus, "evil things that had come to Rome [in the first century AD] and flourished"--Tacitus
said this in a passage about the Christians. Relying on snippets in Paul, Wells writes: "The Pauline Christians thought of
the earthly Jesus as a holy martyr of 100 B.C., the Jews as a heretic" (199). Others think him to be an Essene (Hebrew sect)
leader-- point of debate among scholars. The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to "the sects leader who had been tortured and killed
by the official priesthood of Jerusalem some time before 63 B.C. (Wells, 199). The Essenes Righteous One and Christ could
well be the same person. With so little known, speculation is adrift.
There is even a problem of naming. The name
of the Essene Righteous One was not recorded, and 'Jesus" is but a common first name meaning god is help in Hebrew.
"Christ" is not a proper Hebrew name but an epithet meaning anointed. Today we crown kings, the Hebrews anointed
with oil their kings. Messiah derived from a similar sounding also means anointed. And to be anointed to the Hebrew was to
be chosen through Yahweh to rule Yahweh's people. The family name of Jesus was not recorded. When Paul writes of "Christ crucified,"
he is writing of the anointed one being crucified. There is much that is not write in the translations of the Bible, for those
who have done it have brought later understandings and dogmas to their desk.
This brings us back to the question of
what ought to be said in a publication dedicated to reasoned skepticism about a popular mythic and religious figure? Certainly
the review should not treat the Gospels as sources for history ("So it seems likely that John was an established teacher before
Jesus began his ministry(at 91)." One can call this to the reader's attention that the Gospels are not to be considered history,
but rather fiction of a lofty sort upon which were added theology and dogma. Among the theological tenets was the apocalypse,
the primary theme of the book being reviewed in The Skeptic. The review ought to fault the author of the book for
not warning the reader as to the fact that there is no historical Christ, an argument that all biblical scholars are well
aquainted with, and since the begining of this century when in German the question was serious discussed, and which now has
been taken as a serious problem even by the American Christians who consider themselves bibilical scholars. Even before then,
some the Deist consider all of the bible too unreliable for a source of history--most notable is the American patriot Thomas
Paine. There is no excuse for not raising the question within the context of the book and a fortiori the review that there
is no history of Jesus.
More on the historical
1/2, 1/6, 1/19, 16/4, 16/6, 16/11, 16/13, 16/25, 16/27 through 30, 19/5,24/3, 20/12, 24/2. 24/10, 24/11, 24/12. In ?1/2", the first number corresponds to the address, the second to the id #. 1 = enlightenment, 16 = newtestament, 19 = againstreligion, 20 = chxbible, 24 = bible, thus "1/2" = skeptically.org/enlightenment/id2.html).