Historical Jesus? -- new book on the subject

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posted on Jul, 14 2013 @ 10:27 PM
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I know there's a segment of ATS'ers who are very interested in Jesus, whether or not he was historical figure, etc., so I am just bringing attention to an article, which is a book review, on the subject. The gist of the matter is that he may have been a real historical figure, but a bit of a religious militant too -- perhaps best described as a religious Robin Hood figure of sorts -- which jives with a similar interpretation in another book, "Pigs Witches Wars and Cows" (This latter book takes on a number of anthropological riddles, and may be worth one's effort to check out as well).


Any account of the historical Jesus has to be more argument than fact, but some arguments are sounder than others. Aslan wants to “purge” the scriptural accounts of “their literary and theological flourishes and forge a far more accurate picture of the Jesus of history.” The picture he uncovers is very different from the now-common view of an unworldly pacifist preaching a creed of universal love and forgiveness. Instead, Aslan’s Jesus is a provincial peasant turned roving preacher and insurrectionist, a “revolutionary Jewish nationalist” calling for the expulsion of Roman occupiers and the overthrow of a wealthy and corrupt Jewish priestly caste. Furthermore, once this overthrow was achieved, Jesus probably expected to become king.



The most fascinating aspect of “Zealot” is its portrait of the political and social climate of Jesus’ day, 70 years or so after the conquest of Judea by Rome, an event that ended a century of Jewish self-rule. The Romans replaced the last in a series of Jewish client-kings with a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, when Jesus was in his 20s, but even Pilate ruled by working closely with the aristocratic priestly families that controlled the Temple in Jerusalem and thereby all of Jewish politics. This elite reaped great wealth from the sacrifices the faithful were required to offer in the Temple, as well as taxes and tributes. In the provinces, noble families used the tax and loan systems to seize and consolidate the lands of subsistence farmers. They also began to adopt the customs of the pagan occupiers.

The dispossessed migrated to cities in search of work or roamed the countryside causing trouble. Some of them, called “bandits” by the Romans, robbed the wealthy (who were often seen as impious) and rallied the poor and discontented. They invariably offered religious justifications for their activities; many claimed to be the messiah, the prophesied figure who would eject the foreigners, raise up the oppressed, punish the venal rich and restore the Jews to supremacy in their promised land. Although Jesus himself wasn’t such a “bandit,” he definitely fit the well-known type of apocalyptic Jewish holy man, so commonplace in the countryside that the Greek philosopher Celsus wrote a parody version, a wild-eyed character running around shouting, “I am God, or the servant of God, or a divine spirit. But I am coming, for the world is already in the throes of destruction. And you will soon see me coming with the power of heaven.”


Salon: “Zealot”: The real Jesus



As a bonus, here is a link, which I have since found in the comments section of the article I cited, to various historical interpretations of Jesus, if such matters float your boat:

Historical Jesus Theories
edit on 14-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 14 2013 @ 10:50 PM
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So by getting rid of the things he doesn't like, calling them “their literary and theological flourishes," he gets a different story, "a far more accurate picture of the Jesus of history.”

One, how does he know which are the flourishes and which are the essential facts? He makes it up, getting rid of the things that don't fit.

Two, how is he able to judge that his version is more authentic than anyone else's? Well, it must be more authentic, because what's left is the part he likes.

I'm sorry to be so brusque, but unless there's some significant information that I'm missing, the review seems to damage his credibility beyond repair.

I'd love to be told about that information.



posted on Jul, 14 2013 @ 10:57 PM
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Thanks for sharing this information. In my opinion I doubt Jesus was a real historic figure. Probably real and mythological figures influenced the earliest stories of Jesus and then he just evolved as he became a revered figure throughout the world.



posted on Jul, 14 2013 @ 11:30 PM
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Originally posted by charles1952
So by getting rid of the things he doesn't like, calling them “their literary and theological flourishes," he gets a different story, "a far more accurate picture of the Jesus of history.”

One, how does he know which are the flourishes and which are the essential facts? He makes it up, getting rid of the things that don't fit.

Two, how is he able to judge that his version is more authentic than anyone else's? Well, it must be more authentic, because what's left is the part he likes.

I'm sorry to be so brusque, but unless there's some significant information that I'm missing, the review seems to damage his credibility beyond repair.

I'd love to be told about that information.


It's not the job of a book review to provide all the details, facts, footnotes, etc. of a book. The point of a book review is to give a summary of a book, describing it general make up and writing style. It is not the job of a book reviewer to convince the reader of an author's thesis; of course, there are also book reviews with agendas, which can be combative to, or supportive of a book's thesis, and the author as a writer. This one struck me as a fairly objective one describing the book and the author's methodology.

If the book's apparent POV and the author's methodology turns you off, don't read it. If one is interested in a historical interpretation of a possible actual Jesus, based on what is known of the historical record, rather than relying on the obviously biased information provided in scripture, then this book is possibly worth looking at. If one wants to stick to one's dogmatic, organized Christianity view of Jesus, then by all means, stick to the New Testament version of Jesus.

That said, there is something to be said for trying to use actual historical sources, facts and cultural/political context for understanding any historical figure or event. Relying on the religion's holy book, which, as is, has various versions and interpretations and translations, not to mention that its purpose is to push a certain ideology/theology, doesn't seem the best way to get to get at the facts.

In this regard, I didn't get the impression that the author was throwing out literary and theological flourishes because he doesn't care for them, but rather is attempting to get at the facts of the matter -- as much as one can -- thus trying to pry away such filters seems a sensible methodology. Would you have someone analyzing the history of the Soviet Union rely primarily on information provided by the Soviet government? Call me kooky if you must, but I wouldn't.

For the record, I mainly provided this thread as a FYI sort of thing. I haven't read the book, nor am I weighing in on a historical/factual interpretation of Jesus. I presented this for persons who are interested in pursuing the matter further, as there are a lot of ATS threads about Jesus, but it seems few delve into academic/historical analysis of him.
edit on 14-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 12:49 AM
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reply to post by MrInquisitive
 

Dear MrInquisitive,

Thank you for your clarification, and I think I might even be able to provide an additional resource for interested people. But first, from the review you linked to:

The historical Jesus’ call for justice is stirring, but the xenophobic and theocratic society he allegedly advocated is not — in fact, it sounds a lot like what the worst of (so-called) Christians seek today. I may not be a Christian myself, but even I can see that Jesus the Christ stands for something better than that.

Surprisingly, I found some good information from Wikipedia, which tells us that the movement for stressing the historical surroundings began in the '80s or '90s and received its name "The Third Quest" in 1997.

Some information from the article:


Although a new emphasis on historical Jesus research has emerged, Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter state that the third Quest has seen a fragmentation of the portraits of Jesus in which no unified picture of Jesus can be attained at all, and the differences among the portraits constructed by scholars involved in the third Quest are even greater than those in the second Quest. James H. Charlesworth also states that the scholarly consensus on the historical portrait of Jesus that seemed develop up to the 1980s has since "...collapsed into a chaos of opinions." Echoing the same scenario, Ben Witherington states that "there are now as many portraits of the historical Jesus as there are scholarly painters".

Thus although the reconstruction of portraits of the historical Jesus along with his life story has been the subject of wide ranging debate among modern scholars, no consensus on a portrait of Jesus has emerged. Amy-Jill Levine states that "no single picture of Jesus has convinced all, or even most scholars" and that all portraits of Jesus are subject to criticism by some group of scholars. However Levine adds that "there is a consensus of sorts on the basic outline of Jesus' life" in that most scholars agree that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, debated Jewish authorities on the subject of God, performed some healings, taught in parables, gathered followers, and was crucified by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate who reigned 26-36 AD.

en.wikipedia.org...

As I was looking through the article it appeared that there was a theory for any conception of Jesus one might have. It's a veritable shopping center of theories. May I suggest that people interested in this start with Wiki, find a theory they like, then check up on the supporters' works? I'm sure they'll find something to suit their tastes.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 01:29 AM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


Dear Charles1952,

Thanks for your follow-up post with the additional information. The quote you provided from the book review didn't register on my radar when I first read through the piece, but it certainly has some negative connotations to it, and I would have to say that I do not consider that quote terribly objective (although most of the review did seem quite reasonable). To the article's author's credit she did provide full disclosure that she is not a Christian.

Looking back at earlier paragraphs in the piece to see where she came up with that concluding paragraph, I see where she discussed that the purported historical Jesus as well as other Judean holy men at the time were railing against the foreign Roman rulers and against Judeans who were giving up their old religious ways in favor of becoming more cosmopolitan Roman citizens. To call such attitudes xenophobic and theocratic is a bit of a of a stretch, unless there is a whole lot more to back up these claims. Heck, last time I checked, nobody cares for a foreign ruler lording over one's homeland; that can hardly be considered a xenophobic notion. Consequently, I can understand your taking umbrage at this last paragraph.

In addition, from what I read into the review, it is not clear to me that the reviewer's POV dovetails with the book's. I got more of an impression that the "real" Jesus was -- like I said in my OP -- more of a religious/political Robin Hood, who championed the poor and weak against rich and the foreign occupiers, and who likely was involved in some use of force to fight the powers that be/were. And that he has since been portrayed more as a prophet of peace and brotherhood. To my mind, this possibly more reality-based, historical Jesus still sounds like he may well have been a noble figure, just not so perfect and peaceful as he is portrayed in Christianity. No doubt this will put off many Christians, but as a raging heathen anti-establishmentarian, I can better dig such a Jesus figure.

Also note that I added another source link at the bottom of my OP, to a webpage with links to various historical perspectives on Jesus.



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 06:49 AM
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Thanks, MrInq, for providing this! It was thoughtful of you - things have been a bit slow lately, but 'history analyses' are ALWAYS interesting.

Thanks to charles, also, for presenting the 'shopping mall' for Jesus' life.

S/F -

As for my part, I am decidedly UNDECIDED on whether or how Jesus lived and died.
I'll have some good browsing to do today, thanks to you both!



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 08:37 AM
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I have been studying the Quest for the Historical Jesus for a long time, and, just as was the case with the original movement, in 19th Century Germany, the current iteration has one basic problem -- there is a very limited amount of historical evidence available, what there is has been examined with a fine tooth comb for centuries, so there is, literally, nothing more that can be learned of the person of Jesus from those sources.

That doesn't prevent people from doing it, however, and they do so for the same reason, and with the same methodology as those Germans in the 1800s did -- they do it to find a Jesus who meets their specific expectations of who Jesus should be, and they do it by dismissing anything that is in opposition to those expectations (such as the Jesus Seminar "scholars" outright rejecting anything Jesus did or said that could be supernatural in nature, because Jesus was not supernatural, he was just a man,) or by pulling in third party sources that really don't have anything to do with Jesus, simply because they support those expectations.

The result, of course, is a distorted Christ, who often bears little resemblance to the one that an examination of all evidence would produce.

I've posted this before, but it bears repeating:


Historians of early Christianity begin to appear like jigsaw puzzle solvers who are presented with twenty-seven pieces of a thousand piece puzzle and find that only six or seven of the pieces even fit together. The reasonable thing to do would be to put those pieces together, make some guess about what that part of the puzzle might be about, and then modestly decline over-speculation about the pieces that don't fit. These solvers, in contrast, throw away the central piece, the Acts of the Apostles, that enables any connections to be made at all. Then they insist on bringing in pieces from other puzzles. Finally, they take this jumble of pieces, sketch an outline of what the history ought to look like (on the basis of some universal puzzle pattern), and then proceed to reshape these pieces until they fit in that pattern. (Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Real Jesus, pg 95)

The Quest for the Historical Jesus was rejected by its initiator in the 19th Century, Albert Schweitzer, as being a pointless exercise that served only to find an imaginary Jesus, and not much has changed since then.



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 08:53 PM
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reply to post by adjensen
 


You seem to be dismissing historians attempting a historical analysis of Jesus, in the very same way you that you claim they dismiss the purely supernatural version of Jesus.

Being that a lot of important historical archeological research has been done since the 19th century, it seems disingenuous to say that any analysis of a historical Jesus is going to be as stymied as the initial school of investigators was.

For historians who don't subscribe to subscribe to Christianity in particular, how else would you expect them to go about investigating the historical Jesus? Ot would seem that studying the culture and politics of that time and region is the best way to go. It is known from one ancient Greek writer (his escape me now), who wrote a parody on the matter, that there were many self-professed holy men in the region back then and many religious sects vying for followers. It stands to reason that Jesus was likely the most successful one of these fellows at the time. That the Romans apparently crucified him, and saved crucifixion for political prisoners of one sort or another, suggests that he was preaching something not copacetic to Roman imperialism/colonialism in the Holy Lands.

To say we should dispense with any sort of academic/scientific research to get the best historical perspective as possible on a purported historical figure, and rather stick to the holy book of the religion said to be based on the teachings of this person (a holy book mostly written well after the founder's death, with different interpretative viewpoints of its authors and some view points left out, and translated by various parties with their own agendas down through the ages) would seem to yield the most biased interpretation of all.

There are certainly older historical figures who are studied in this way. To say because of the dearth of data on the matter that it is not possible to investigate the historical Jesus is cop out.

I get it: Many Christians don't want their supernatural savior to be analyzed in terms of an actual historical personage based on the context of his times and place, feeling that this would tarnish his image, legacy and meaning. The purpose of academic historical research, however, is not to raise historical figures onto pedestals but rather to get the best picture possible based on facts and reasonable conjecture in order to understand the person's role in historical events -- in this case the founding of one of the world's primary religions.

As a non-believer, I see a historical search for the real Jesus as being a good thing for Christianity, in that it gives some factual basis for this man described in the New Testament, so that he becomes more than just a myth, which may then garner the figure and the religion more respect from non-believers. If some inconvenient or unflattering facts about him or the founding of the religion are unearthed in this process which then challenge the faith of some believers, oh well -- I thought the testing of faith has always been a leit motif in Judeo-Christian theology.
edit on 15-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)
edit on 15-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 09:54 PM
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Originally posted by MrInquisitive
As a non-believer, I see a historical search for the real Jesus as being a good thing for Christianity

To the contrary, given the dearth of historical data, the biased "research" that has been fairly consistent from the 1800s through the Jesus Seminar of today, no, the "Quest for the Historical Jesus" has little to no bearing on the actual historical figure of Jesus.

It is a perversion of historical research for political reasons, period. Neither historian nor Christian would see the results of such a project as being favourable. If you have an honest interest in this field, spend ten bucks on amazon.com and read a reasonable criticism of this sham.



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 10:48 PM
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reply to post by MrInquisitive
 


Iv'e heard this author's talks on TED and I think he (Reza Aslan) was on the Daily Show too. I tend to lean toward the composite theory: that the Biblical character,Jesus, was a composite figure, based on several messianic leaders of the time.


For historians who don't subscribe to subscribe to Christianity in particular, how else would you expect them to go about investigating the historical Jesus? Ot would seem that studying the culture and politics of that time and region is the best way to go. It is known from one ancient Greek writer (his escape me now), who wrote a parody on the matter, that there were many self-professed holy men in the region back then and many religious sects vying for followers. It stands to reason that Jesus was likely the most successful one of these fellows at the time. That the Romans apparently crucified him, and saved crucifixion for political prisoners of one sort or another, suggests that he was preaching something not copacetic to Roman imperialism/colonialism in the Holy Lands.


There were quite a few Greek and Jews writing parodies that mocked Christianity during 2nd century. Celsus might be who you're thinking of:


Celsus (Epicurean, 2nd Century A.D., writes in his True Word, a critique of Christianity): "I could continue along these lines, suggesting a good deal about the affairs of Jesus' life that does not appear in your own records. Indeed, what I know to be the case and what the disciples tell are two very different stories... [for example] the nonsensical idea that Jesus foresaw everything that was to happen to him (an obvious attempt to conceal the humiliating facts)."

"The men who fabricated this geneaology [of Jesus] were insistent on the point that Jesus was descended from the first man and from the king of the Jews [David]. The poor carpenter's wife seems not to have known she had such a distinguished bunch of ancestors."

"What an absurdity! Clearly the christians have used the myths of Danae and the Melanippe, or of the Auge and the Antiope in fabricating the story of Jesus' virgin birth."

"After all, the old myths of the greeks that attribute a divine birth to Perseus, Amphion, Aeacus and Minos are equally good evidence of their wondrous works on behalf of mankind- and are certainly no less lacking in plausibility than the stories of your followers."


freetruth.50webs.org...



edit on 15-7-2013 by windword because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 11:52 PM
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reply to post by windword
 

Dear windword,

I'm a little confused by your position. If, as you say, Jesus was a composite made up from other figures, then Jesus himself didn't exist.

That is a position extraordinarily few historians take, but that's not what confuses me. You quote:


For historians who don't subscribe to subscribe to Christianity in particular, how else would you expect them to go about investigating the historical Jesus? Ot would seem that studying the culture and politics of that time and region is the best way to go. It is known from one ancient Greek writer (his escape me now), who wrote a parody on the matter, that there were many self-professed holy men in the region back then and many religious sects vying for followers. It stands to reason that Jesus was likely the most successful one of these fellows at the time. That the Romans apparently crucified him, and saved crucifixion for political prisoners of one sort or another, suggests that he was preaching something not copacetic to Roman imperialism/colonialism in the Holy Lands. (Emphasis added)

Taking the position that Jesus did live and was crucified.

Then you helpfully remind us of Celsus. Who "knows things" about Jesus even though he lived in a different century. How did he know?

Celsus (Epicurean, 2nd Century A.D., writes in his True Word, a critique of Christianity): "I could continue along these lines, suggesting a good deal about the affairs of Jesus' life that does not appear in your own records. Indeed, what I know to be the case and what the disciples tell are two very different stories... [for example] the nonsensical idea that Jesus foresaw everything that was to happen to him (an obvious attempt to conceal the humiliating facts)." (Emphasis added)


So, even Celsus, who did not believe in the value of Christianity, believed in Jesus' existence.

But perhaps I'm not understanding what you meant to say?

With respect,
Charles1952


edit on 15-7-2013 by charles1952 because: Bracket problem



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 06:14 AM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


@Charles1952, for the record, the paragraph @Windword quoted, which you refer to, is a quote from my post, and so that is my characterization of Jesus the historical figure. I think WW quoted it to give context for the quotes by Celsus, rather than saying anything about the factual basis of historical Jesus's crucifixion. And the whole point of that is that there were apparently a lot of would-be messiahs back then. That's one of the running jokes in Monty Python's "The Life of Brian".

I mention Jesus being crucified because that is the general story regarding him. To be thoroughly historically rigorous, I -- nor anyone else, I believe -- cannot state with certainty that the historical figure Jesus was indeed crucified (at least as far as I know). But to your point, there could be several historical persons on which the Christian Jesus is based, and one or more of these could have been crucified (or not), but other aspects of the Christian Jesus could still come from stories about other historical persons as well. I'm not claiming that this is indeed the case, but just pointing out that it is a possibility.

As to what Ceslus says, as he also lived after Jesus, he only knows of him by hearsay and may well be basing his opinion on an already partially created mythology of Jesus the Messiah. If Jesus was indeed a common name back then, perhaps he was even getting his Jesuses mixed up.

I can, however, easily see Jesus as being a figure in the vein of King Arthur or Robin Hood, who is based on one or more historical persons. From a non-believer's POV -- at least my own -- I am intrigued why if there were so many such would-be messiahs at that time and place, why one particular one was so singularly successful. Obviously there is the argument for his divinity being the reason. However, for those of us who don't subscribe to that theory some more rational explanation is sought.

It may well be that the Christian Jesus arose out of a movement of various militant holy men who fought for the common person against the imperial Roman rule and the quisling upper-class Judeans, and thus was based on a conglomeration of historical persons. For instance, there's John the Baptist; maybe there were a few more key persons like that who helped to promulgate proto-Christianity, but who didn't get the credit due them.

An example of this is the US civil rights movement and Martin Luther King. He is often referred to as the bigger-than-life figure responsible for the movement and representing its primary leadership, yet there were many other instrumental people and any number of them were also assassinated, to wit: Medgar Evers and Malcom X, to name a couple. In the way MLK has been mythologized to some degree, with other important leaders getting short shrifted, so may have one particular historical figure, likely named Jesus, also gotten undo credit for efforts and/or ideas of others who had similar purposes.

Obviously I am just posing possibilities here. Everyone agrees the historical evidence is scant. It's not very likely that the facts of the matter will ever be determined for sure, but it is worthwhile to consider that the actual historical Jesus figure might not be exactly as portrayed in the New Testament. Not that this should undercut his symbolism or such, but rather just provides historical context for this religious figure.

Something I find quite ironic is that if Jesus was indeed a person who challenged imperial Rome and the ruling upper class, his religion was hijacked/co-opted by these very forces, i.e. it became the state religion of the later Roman empire and the establishment -- not unlike how various corporations have tried to co-opt environmentalism in advertising the greenness of their products.


@Windord, yes, I think that's the Greek whose name escaped me. Thanks for providing those quotes of his, which I had vaguely referred to in my previous post.
edit on 16-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 11:30 AM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


Hi Charles,


MrInquisitive is correct, it was his quote I cited and addressed in my quote from Celsus.

Unfortunately, we don't have the writing by Celsus which Origen was arguing against. We only have some of his quotes that are preserved in Origen's writing "Contra Celsus".

If it was me, the first thing I would attack, if debating the historicity of Jesus, would be the virgin birth, which is exactly what Celsus did. I don't know what information was available in the "gospels" at the time. Were they narratives of a story, or lists of sayings? Did Celsus question the supposed census that required Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem? Did he question the star that the 3 wise men followed. Did he question the title of Jesus of Nazareth, when Nazareth didn't yet exist? Was the purpose of Celsus argument to argue against the historical evidence of Jesus or to discredit the mythology of his being the "Christ".



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 12:56 PM
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Interesting, thanks OP


I've always believed Jesus was an historical character, a martyr who was, I suppose, essentially the 1st recorded "Hippy" and not what the bible says he is.

Should be an interesting read.
edit on 16-7-2013 by Mister_Bit because: grammar



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 01:37 PM
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reply to post by MrInquisitive
 

Dear MrInquisitive,

Please know, first and most important, that I am not attacking you or even intend to, in any respect. My sole purpose is to get a clearer understanding of your position and to see if there is common ground upon which we can build.

And the whole point of that is that there were apparently a lot of would-be messiahs back then.
Agreed.

I mention Jesus being crucified because that is the general story regarding him. To be thoroughly historically rigorous, I -- nor anyone else, I believe -- cannot state with certainty that the historical figure Jesus was indeed crucified (at least as far as I know). I'm not claiming that this is indeed the case, but just pointing out that it is a possibility.
I mostly agree with this. My only question is about "historically rigorous." I wonder if you meant "scientifically rigorous?" As far as I understand it, historians have developed their own set of rules to determine the accuracy of events and written records. Very few things can be proven with 100% certainty, at least for events occuring many years ago. We cannot prove for example that Edgar A. Poe wrote The Raven. It's possible that he stole the story from another writer, then killed him to keep it quiet. We still accept it, even when it's not absolutely "proved."

If we are to have an opinion on a historical subject at all, certainly the weight of historians' views should count heavily. Those opinions seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of a historical Jesus, and no single alternative has been given much credence.


If Jesus was indeed a common name back then, perhaps he was even getting his Jesuses mixed up.
Perhaps, but the focus on Mary and the geneology makes me think he had the right one.


Obviously I am just posing possibilities here. Everyone agrees the historical evidence is scant. It's not very likely that the facts of the matter will ever be determined for sure, but it is worthwhile to consider that the actual historical Jesus figure might not be exactly as portrayed in the New Testament.
I'm not sure everyone agrees on the scantiness of the evidence. Sorry to be repetitious, but under the rules historians follow, there is quite a bit of evidence supporting the historicity of Jesus and some major events of His life.


Not that this should undercut his symbolism or such,
I hope I'm not surprising you, but I don't give a fig for His symbolism. Throw it all away if you want, it doesn't matter to me. The "symbolism" attached to His life are symbols that we've seen in the work of philosophers and spiritual people throughout history. His "symbolism" was nothing new and could be recreated from many other sources. It's Jesus that matters.


but rather just provides historical context for this religious figure.
I love historical context. It helps in understanding, but context is something surrounding acts and people. It doesn't change what happened, just gives us a fuller picture.


Something I find quite ironic is that if Jesus was indeed a person who challenged imperial Rome and the ruling upper class, his religion was hijacked/co-opted by these very forces, i.e. it became the state religion of the later Roman empire and the establishment -- not unlike how various corporations have tried to co-opt environmentalism in advertising the greenness of their products.
I think the timing here is important. Christians were persecuted while they were young and struggling. They survived that, built a structure of churches, fought heresies, established a hierarchy, then Constantine converted. "Hijacked and corrupted?" That may be the subject of another thread, but it certainly hasn't been established to the satisfaction of historians.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 01:51 PM
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reply to post by windword
 

Dear windword,

I really like (talking?) with you, glad you're around.


Was the purpose of Celsus argument to argue against the historical evidence of Jesus or to discredit the mythology of his being the "Christ".
And I think you're finding the very basis of the question. Are we asking if there was a person named Jesus that was referred to in the New Testament, and many other writings? Not, whether He did everything that was attributed to Him, but whether He actually existed.

Because the experts on the question, the historians, have basically resolved that issue, we can go on to try to determine who He was and what He did.

My one great difficulty is with those who insist, over and over, that there never was a Jesus, that He was just a myth. I can mention the historians, and the other writers closer to Him in time,but that seems to have no effect. I don't know how to discuss the question with them.


If it was me, the first thing I would attack, if debating the historicity of Jesus, would be the virgin birth, which is exactly what Celsus did.
But that would not be an attack on the historicity of Jesus, the question of whether he existed, etc., but whether the stories about Him are true.


Did Celsus question the supposed census that required Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem? Did he question the star that the 3 wise men followed. Did he question the title of Jesus of Nazareth, when Nazareth didn't yet exist?
Those are interesting questions, of course. Shall we go into them? Or, is that another topic?

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 05:11 PM
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Originally posted by charles1952
reply to post by windword
 

Dear windword,

I really like (talking?) with you, glad you're around.


Me too, vice versa!



Was the purpose of Celsus argument to argue against the historical evidence of Jesus or to discredit the mythology of his being the "Christ".


And I think you're finding the very basis of the question. Are we asking if there was a person named Jesus that was referred to in the New Testament, and many other writings? Not, whether He did everything that was attributed to Him, but whether He actually existed.


I guess we need to look at what the definition of what "is" is.


The author of the book in question is a Muslim. He is driven, in his quest to find the historical Jesus, by his faith, as will be the case of any Christian scholar looking for the historical Jesus too. His findings are going to be, in my opinion, skewed toward his bias.


Because the experts on the question, the historians, have basically resolved that issue, we can go on to try to determine who He was and what He did.


This issue is far from resolved. Christians don't need proof and others have just acquiesced after hundreds of years of propaganda and threats.


My one great difficulty is with those who insist, over and over, that there never was a Jesus, that He was just a myth. I can mention the historians, and the other writers closer to Him in time,but that seems to have no effect. I don't know how to discuss the question with them.


If the biblical character of Jesus is a composite of several messianic teachers, their sayings and deeds, then it can be said that many messiahs existed at the time. In my opinion the anonymous books of the gospels are not credible as proof for the existence of the continuous life of one man, birth to death. And, the "church" that compiled and created the Roman Catholic religion has shown that it can't be trusted to present truth for us to take or leave.



If it was me, the first thing I would attack, if debating the historicity of Jesus, would be the virgin birth, which is exactly what Celsus did.
But that would not be an attack on the historicity of Jesus, the question of whether he existed, etc., but whether the stories about Him are true.


Did Celsus question the supposed census that required Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem? Did he question the star that the 3 wise men followed. Did he question the title of Jesus of Nazareth, when Nazareth didn't yet exist?
Those are interesting questions, of course. Shall we go into them? Or, is that another topic?


I get frustrated with forged, interpolated and mistranslated documents are constantly being presented at factual proof. Perhaps we can discuss it and still stay on topic. I'm not sure. It's a can 'o worms!



posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 08:53 PM
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reply to post by charles1952
 


Charles,

In no way did I think you were attacking me, Windword, or even the points we put forth. I was just clarifying who said what, and why (as I understood it anyway), and then I went on to explain how I could see a case where the historical Jesus could be the aggregation of several historical persons.

I've found all the comments in this thread to be very respectful and non-antagonistic, and all the participants have seemed to welcome an open discussion of this topic. Good stuff, good stuff.



To more of your points:

I qualified the historical veracity of Jesus being crucified because, as I understand it, there are no historical accounts that we have that were written at the time of his purported death. My understanding is that the primary accounts of Jesus, including the Book of Paul, were written years after the fact. That is why I say we can't be 100% confident of established narrative for Jesus; here I don't mean the things that would be considered supernatural, but just the more prosaic matters (in comparison to supernatural ones).

I am not suggesting that a historical Jesus needs to be determined on a scientific basis (that seems nye impossible). I am talking by rigorous historical methods. For example, we know a lot about Julius Caesar and other movers and shakers just before, during or after Jesus' time; there is a lot of writing about them by contemporaries and/or recorded government records. As far as I know, there are no such similar records regarding Jesus, besides possibly a mention in a census.

I readily admit that I am not knowledgeable of all the historical information known about Jesus; hence, my qualified statements regarding what we know about him base on historical records. If, however, you are referring to records written some time after his death, i.e. 20-200 years later, I'd say those still need to be taken with a jaundiced eye.

You could well be right that Celsus' mention of Mary and Jesus' geneology makes it clear he has the right Jesus in mind. I only brought up the point because I read a book about the rise of Christianity and the decline of paganism around the Mediterranean (I forget the book's name now), and the author made the point that there was often confusion discussing philosophers, priests and such because of common names.

Maybe my use of the term "symbolism of Jesus" is not the best phrase to use. By this, I mean in Christianity he represents the son of God and is the savior of humankind. And if more evidence is found that points to his earthliness and possibly having done some things not quite in his Biblical mold, i.e. being a bit of a holy man militant, as there were many back there and then, that this would somehow undercut his Divinity and his conventionally portrayed message of peace.

I hope that clears up most of your questions regarding what I wrote.

As to the irony of the co-opting of Christianity by the Establishment, including the Roman empire -- yes that is grist for a whole other thread. But assuming that some of the points about Jesus and early Christianity made by Aslan are correct, i.e. his message and actions were in response to foreign rule and the moneyed classes straying from their indigenous culture and religion, then the spread of Christianity by the later Roman empire and the stamping out of pagan culture across Europe seems to be at odds with the original precepts of the "historical Chrisitianity" (by this I mean something along the line's of Aslan's take on the matter, which seems a reasonable supposition given the historical context of the political/cultural environment in Jesus' place and time.

All due respect back at'cha, buddy.
edit on 16-7-2013 by MrInquisitive because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 17 2013 @ 11:07 PM
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reply to post by MrInquisitive
 

Dear MrInquisitive,

Thanks. I like threads where no one gets angry or hateful. That stuff is slow poison.

Your comment about the recording of events twenty years after the fact, opening a hole for error or corruption created a half-baked, rhetorical question in my mind. I don't think any of us knows, but what is the historical setting for that type of record keeping in Jesus' era? Could they have been story tellers who normally used word of mouth until a story became important enough to write down? Could they have notes which they kept until it was time to tell the whole story in one piece?

Of course anything is possible, but I wonder what Standard Operating Procedure for the Jews of that time was?


SWITCHING GEARS

One of the three objections which windword raised was the non-existence of Nazareth. I think I see where that idea comes from, but apparently there have been more recent finds which may not have been widely publicized.


www.evidenceforchristianity.org...

The fact is that there is plenty of evidence that there was Jewish occupation of the Galilean location known as Nazareth in the first century. The criticism above is based on rather old archaeological evidence which is now outdated. Recently, an arab merchant discovered the remains of a Roman bath house on the site of Nazareth from the first century AD.
See www.guardian.co.uk...

for more on this recent discovery. Professor Carsten Peter Thiede, a scholar in archeology and religion who spent 20 years excavating the area of Qumran and the Dead Sea with the Antiquities Authority, describes the place in his most recent book "The Cosmopolitan World of Jesus" (2005), in which he analyses the historical implications of the discovery of the bath house. Prof Thiede says in his book: “Returning to the discovery of the Roman baths in Nazareth, we realize that such an installation, should it really turn out to be Roman and to have been available to non-Roman inhabitants like Mary, Joseph and Jesus, would merely underline what we could have gathered from the sources anyway. The only real surprise to many may be the conclusion that Nazareth was anything but a nondescript village with a handful of poor Jews.”

Besides, the remains of a first-century synagogue in Nazareth were also found recently. www.uhl.ac...


And there's a time line problem as well. OK, assume that Nazareth didn't exist. That would mean that the Gospel writers, living in the first century, would have to invent and name a village which didn't exist until the second century. That doesn't seem very likely at all.

With respect,
Charles1952





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