Aug 21, 2016
In light of the idea that Jesus was mostly myth pattered after a teacher from a century past or maybe just pure fable I thought I would add a few words.
First if we remove the bias from historians because Jesus was a controversial religious figure then there would be little question that he was real.
Like Jesus, Socrates left no known writings and it was left to a disciple (Plato) to testify to his words and deeds.
Now with Jesus, instead of just one account we have four, the four gospels testify of him. We also have the Gospel of Thomas believed to be authentic. Now if Jesus were no more controversial than Socrates skeptics would not be straining every detail of history and reasoning in an attempt to either disprove his very existence or to relegate his story to an embellishment of some fairly regular guy.
Socrates only needed a small portion of the evidence that we have on Jesus to be accepted, yet few question his existence as testified to by Plato.
Bart Ehrman is a noted Biblical scholar as well as a non believer of orthodox Christianity and one of the few that has examined the history of Christianity without an ax to grind. He decided to look in deep into history, using Christian and non Christian sources, and examine both sides of the issue to see where the evidence points as to the existence of Jesus.
He wound up writing a book about it called “Did Jesus Exist?” It was well done and I recommend reading it. Here was his conclusions:
Jesus as a historical figure did definitely exist. Though Ehrman was skeptical of all the miracles attributed to him he did admit that he must have dome some extraordinary things to have created so much word of mouth that was passed down about them. He said this in his book:
“We cannot think of the early Christian Gospels as going back to a solitary source that ‘invented’ the idea that there was a man Jesus. The view that Jesus existed is found in multiple independent sources that must have been circulating throughout various regions of the Roman Empire in the decades before the Gospels that survive were produced. Where would the solitary source that “invented” Jesus be? Within a couple of decades of the traditional date of his death, we have numerous accounts of his life found in a broad geographical span. In addition to Mark, we have Q, M (which is possibly made of multiple sources), L (also possibly multiple sources), two or more passion narratives, a signs source, two discourse sources, the kernel (or original) Gospel behind the Gospel of Thomas, and possibly others. And these are just the ones we know about, that we can reasonably infer from the scant literary remains that survive from the early years of the Christian church. No one knows how many there actually were. Luke says there were “many” of them, and he may well have been right. And once again, this is not the end of the story.”
Indeed, if Jesus were a purely fictional character or patterned after someone from a previous century there had to be a starting point to the myth. Where was this point and who started the ball rolling?
There are a number of ideas on this such as:
(1) Constantine had the myth created so he could unify and control the people.
This does not hold water because there is overwhelming evidence that the Jesus story was already firmly in existence. We have fragments of the gospels dating back two centuries before the emperor’s life.
(2) People just started telling stories that got into circulation and embellished until the gullible started believing they were real.
Really? This is more difficult to believe than anything in the Bible. If you think this is the way it happened I have a bridge to sell you cheap.
(3) Mystics compiled the story as an allegory for teaching purposes and when the story got out into the masses they accepted it without question.
If such a story was fiction and the mystics knew it then word of this would have leaked out to some making a copy of it. And what makes one think that people would be so accepting and that no one would set them straight?
It is interesting to consider that none of the critics of early Christianity questioned the existence of the historical Jesus as they do today. Both the learned and unlearned accepted that he lived. The disagreement was over who he was and how accurate the stories were. Early critics approached it the way modern critics do George Washington. They accept that he was real but have found a number of stories about him they consider myth.
Now consider this. Let us suppose that we wanted to start a myth right now equal to the story of Jesus. Let us take a strong personality from the past and embellish him or her and claim this person is a son of God who came back from the dead. Who would we pick? Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, H. P. Blavatsky?
They are all interesting characters but fabricating a Jesus type myth around them would be close to impossible.
So, how about starting from scratch then? Let us write a story about a world savior who comes back from the dead, present it as true and see what happens.
Not much would happen. Few would accept it unless they knew for sure that such a historical person walked the streets of our cities.
“But,” says the skeptic, “we have instant communications today and a powerful media. The people 2000 years ago didn’t have this and they would have been easier to fool.”
Actually, not that much easier. The Roman Empire was a highly civilized state and communication spread rapidly by word of mouth. If someone came into Town Square with a fictional manuscript of a man who rose from the dead many would question this and want to at least meet someone who knew Jesus.
Getting such a story started back then would have been almost as difficult as getting one going today.
They say history repeats itself. If so, where is the repeat of another powerful myth like Jesus that has been taken as real in the past 2000 years? There is none. Any why? Because in the days of the written word it would be close to impossible to circulate such a myth without someone spilling the beans and revealing the truth.
Copyright 2016 by J J Dewey
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