Was There A Real Jesus?
James C. Rocks
Like it or not there is no easily verifiable evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. More to the point the evidence that does exist is at best anecdotal, much of it flawed and presumed fake. As such, whilst I cannot disprove the existence of Jesus Christ, my assumption is that he did not exist because there is no specific need to have a real person at the root of the Christian myth since commonalities with pre-existing religions suggest that aspects of the character (if not the whole) is based on earlier myth rather than a real person. Secondly, there is a lack of specific evidence inasmuch as there are no direct eye-witness accounts, several key accounts increasingly considered later interpolation and the commonalities mentioned earlier. Finally, it is irrational to accept something based on anecdotal evidence no matter how much of it there might be. A number of specific sources are referenced by Christians. Christians like to quote Josephus (37-100CE) as a source but that is problematic because he could not have directly witnessed the events surrounding the claimed Messiah. Secondly Josephus is quoted as saying: "Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." Writers like Herodotus and Josephus wrote extremely well in terms of style & content (a huge part of the reason why they are considered so credible) but the writings of Josephus that refer to Jesus Christ are considered by many historians to be false (a later interpolation). They simply do not fit with the known style & normal kind of content of the writer and they are introduced in places in his work where they simply should not be. According to one historian Josephus' writings are like reading "War & Peace" by Tolstoy and then all of a sudden it starts talking about Jesus Christ like something out of a "Wish You Were Here" TV holiday guide! This is confirmed by the fact that even a casual read makes more sense without the "interpolations". There is a second reference in Book 18 of "Antiquities of The Jews" which says: "But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so, he assembled a council of judges, and brought it before the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned." In reality, the passage uses the words, "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, who was called James..." which raises again the spectre of interpolation. In favour of it being genuine is the fact that it doesn't go overboard as the other strongly suspected interpolation did, that Origen mentions this passage (which still allows over a century for the passage to have been interpolated) and the claim that the words reflect Jewish rather than Christian usage are inconclusive. Written in Greek, the original would not have contained the concept of "so-called" (the actual phrase would be "Him called Christ") raising again the spectre of later interpolation. Another quoted source is the Gospels. Named Mathew, Mark, Luke & John in the latter half of the second century, the gospels of Luke and Matthew conflict in key areas such as genealogy, that the gospels of Luke & Matthew are largely copies of Mark and that Mark (earliest of the four) dates largely between 70 & 90CE. Of interest is that much of the important stuff for Christians, such as appearances of Jesus after his resurrection, were added later. A modern claim against the possibility that Jesus Christ was not real is the comparison between modern religions and Christianity because no modern religions appear to form without a charismatic leader, a claim that could be considered valid except that communication was significantly poorer in ancient times. Also, ancient religions enshrined ideas of god-like creatures and resurrections (primarily referring to spiritual awakenings) with claims of virgin births and crucifixions common, the mystery religions were typically Gnostic and based around the idea of a wholly spiritual figurehead and it only had to happen once. In conclusion, two thousand years after the claimed time of birth, life & death of Jesus Christ there is remains no validatable evidence of the literal existence of Jesus Christ and, whilst I concede his existence as a possibility, I cannot accept the literal existence of Jesus Christ or even that such a real individual was necessary for Christian mythology to form.