I was talking to a couple of nice friendly neighborhood Jehovah's Witnesses yesterday (there's a Kingdom Hall just around the corner from where I live so I tend to get them quite frequently) and we eventually got on to the subject of the existence of Jesus Christ.
They seemed somewhat taken aback when I suggested that there isn't one single solitary piece of *real* evidence for the existence of the historical Jesus: no contemporary historical record, no eye-witness account, no first-hand testimony. It's all down to hearsay.
They insisted that there *is* evidence for his existence, but, somewhat characteristically, they couldn't actually tell me what it was.
Anyone got any views on this?
It would certainly help to concentrate the mind if we could leave to one side the question of Jesus's alleged divinity and just concentrate on the evidence for his actual historical existence.
But perhaps that's asking too much ....
I think his physical existence is a furphy. (red herring, side-track, detour)
Even if you could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a historical man called "Jesus" existed, and was crucified, and somehow survived the experience, that would not mean that anything he said about the afterlife was any more accurate than anything you or I might say.
Yes, I tend to agree.
I was thinking more from the point of view of Jesus as an historical personnage. We don't tend to doubt the historical existence of, say, Julius Caesar, who lived a hundred years or so before the alleged birth of Christ. There are a handful of legends about him, I suppose, but I don't think anyone seriously questions the fact of Caesar's actual existence.
But Jesus .....His historical existence would seem to be based on nothing more than conjecture and second-hand testimony.
I suppose at the end of the day it's a case of the amount (and quality) of the surviving documentary evidence available.
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.
Tacitus had no reason to write a false statement.
Wasn't there speculation over the actual birth date of Christ being off due to the census at the time being held only every few years? I seem to remember reading that somewhere, included in this was the possibility that Christ was anywhere from six months to three years old by that time.
Now if only I could remember where I read it..
LOL Thom, you got me confused.
I do not pretend to be an expert in Christianity, but don't we have a bunch of gospels, including apocryphal, originally written by people (or from the words of people) who knew Jesus personally?
No, that's a common misconception, I think. The first gospel wasn't written until several decades after Christ's death. It's not totally beyond the realm of possibility that one or other of the evangelists may have known Jesus personally, or at least seen him - but, given the normal life expectancy rates at that time, it's highly unlikely and, more to the point perhaps, there is no indication in any of the gospels that the writers (whoever they were!) had actually known or seen Jesus.
It's also quite possible that the gospels may have been based on (verbal) testimony obtained from other people. But isn't that the definition of hearsay?
Also, whether or not these people knew Jesus as a personal friend doesnt mean that they correctly interpreted his messages. Its like Augustus, Agustus was this guy who believed in all things good. But when he tried to tell everyone that what they are talking about is sick and not right because that isnt the God he knows, then they hated him and rejected his testomony.
But for the question being asked, it is all hearsay. There is not one document of something originally written by Jesus. I suppose that is why they say they have "faith". But they relay the gospels as fact. If it were fact, then faith is a misnomer.
I would have to check my facts, dates, etc...but I believe it was Nicholas Notivich (spelling is off) that went on a spiritual journey to Tibet in the late 1800's or early 1900's and stopped in a monastery where the monks said they had documented proof in their ancient writings that said that Issa had made travels throughout the eastern world when he was a teenager and in his twenties. The monk actually showed him the book of writings and said that he knew , it had been passed down, that the monks who had meet and offered shelter and study of Tibetan Buddhism to this Issa, was referring to Jesus, and that he had gone to the east to learn of the spiritual/religions of the east and learn the mysteries of those religions, etc... When I look up which book I read this from I will let you know. But it sure could explain a lot about those years of his life that were never talked about in the Bible.
I also read, I will have to find those referneces too, that stated that Jesus "arose" after his crucificion as it is stated in the Bible, and went to live in India until he was 80 years old. Not sure if he "died" there. I think it had something to do with the difference between dieing and ascending from this plane of existence
OK, here is the book. It has almost thirty pages of notes and references from several countries author/historians of religions/spirituality. It is called "The Lost Years of Jesus" by Elizabeth Clare Prophet; Summit University Press. This was a really interesting book that was written like a mystery book. It was Nicolas Notovitch that discovered the long-lost document in 1887 at the Himis monastery in Ladakh, Tibet. A Swami Abhedananda published a Bengali translation of the Himis manuscript in 1929. A Nicolas Roerich quoted the same verses in a 1929 travel diary of his Asian expedition. And in 1939 a Lama at Himis presented a set of parchments to Elisabeth Caspari with the words "these books say your Jesus was here"
It says this book was written with all its pages of references and notes, as a historical breakthrough, intended to "shake the foundations of modern Christendom!"
here are some of the references in the book:
Catalogue General de la Librairie Francaise.(Periode de 1906 a 1909), s.v."Notowitch (Nicolas)."
Edgar J. Goodspeed, "Strange New Gospels" (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1931). p. 10.
Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "Notovich, Osip Konstantinovich"; Catalogue General de la Librairie Francaise (Periode de 1891 a 1899), s.v. "Notowitch (O.K.)."
L. Austine Waddell, "The Buddhism of Tibet" (Cambridge:W. Heffer & Sons, 1967), pp. 255-56.
Nicholas Notovitch, "The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ", trans. Virchand R. Gandhi (Chicago: Progressive Thinker Publishing House, 1907), p. xv; Waddell, "The Buddhism of Tibet", p. 257
David L. Snellgrove and Tadeusz Skorupski, "The Cultural Heritage of Ladakh" (Boulder, Colo.: Prajna Press, 1977), p.127
"New Publications: The Life of Christ from Tibet," New York Times, 19 May 1894, p.3.
F. Max Muller, "The Alleged Sojourn of Christ in India," Nineteenth Century, October 1894, pp. 515-21.
These are just a few of the refs.
It's been a long time since i looked at this book....what a read! I am going to read again.
My husband has made something of a study of this. There is no contemporary evidence of Jesus' existence (i.e. accounts written while Jesus was alive). The Gospels and other accounts were written many years afterwards - sometimes hundreds of years later.
It seems more than likely that Jesus DID exist - after all, the story must have started somewhere, even if you don't believe in His status as Son of God or His ability to do miracles. However, there also seems little doubt that the stories about him were embellished over time, so by the time the Gospels were written down, facts were intertwined with fiction.
For instance, the census for which Joseph and Mary supposedly had to go to Bethlehem - the Romans were sticklers for records, yet there is no record of any census before 7 AD, and even then, only men had to register and it was based on where your property was, not your birthplace. The Jews had foretold the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, so it's more than likely this was made up later, to try to persuade doubting Jews of Jesus' claim to be the Messiah.
The important thing is not to see this in black and white. It annoys me when people use these historical inaccuracies as a reason to dismiss the whole New Testament, when (as I said) it's perfectly possible the main story is true, embellished by well-meaning people anxious to show Jesus in the best possible light. But equally, I have trouble with people who insist the New Testament is true, word for word, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it's not.
There is also the fact that Romans weren't in the habit of conducting a census in the depths of winter (December 25th).
The death-at-midwinter-rebirth-in-spring stuff was pagan, and only became part of Christian doctrine after the conversion of Rome, when Christianity went about syncretising all the components of the folk beliefs of the subjugated peoples in all the parts of the far-flung Roman empire.
And Jesus wasn't the first instance of the "zombie god" legend, either!
Does anyone have any info on the supposed discovery of the burial place of Jesus somewhere in India? The corpse with nail holes in all the right places, and matching oral histories about his arrival, fleeing persecution by the Romans?
Thanks, gamergirl! Great find.
I also seem to recall an article in something like the National Geographic, with some recent expedition that used some form of modern technology to Xray/scan the alleged "body of Christ" without disturbing the tomb.
Some time in the past 5 years ... anyone?
I have such faith in this group's powers of research, don't I?
http://www.cbc.ca/arts/tv/story/2007/04 … -tomb.html
In the article above, it is discussed how the supporters/expert panel of scientists are rescinding their agreement that the "Lost Tomb" is actually containing of Jesus Christ.
http://www.religionnewsblog.com/17623/j … ocumentary
This article talks a bit about the trend, the fad if you will, of the media and Discovery Channel in particular involving their penchant for yearly Pre-Easter 'Jesus Mythbusting'.
Google is a great thing.
You guys keep fascinating me. I read somewhere that Jesus had a pretty long and productive (in terms of soul) trip to India *before* biblical events, but I never heard about him going there *after*...
Gamergirl, you rock.
I am all for mythbusting, in any form!
Flexible doubt beats any form of certainty, in my book ....
While I do not happen to hold the tenets of faith in Jesus Christ, I do have this intrigue regarding the man on whom the biblical Jesus is based. Any man who can have such a profound and spiritually shaking presence in time and history is worthy of pursuing knowledge of, in whatever way we can.
And no, I'm not talking about the face-to-hand meeting accompanied by groans of "Oh, God" in the way that a particular Gee-dub makes us react.
I read a fascinating one matching archaeology and ancient history, trying to trace back the probable place of origin of the Semitic people who eventually became the Tribes of Israel.
Seems the Garden of Eden has probably been cemented over and is now the city of Tabriz .... LOL.
It also raised some interesting possibilities about where the Lost Tribe might have ended up - Egypt via Bahrain?
It was a fun read. I'll have to dig it out again - or get it back from the person I lent it to.
You have certainly provided a huge amount of interesting and insightful information on this topic.
But very little yet from the Jesus brigade itself .....
Why is that, do you think?
Who do you mean "the Jesus brigade"? the disciples of then? now? Here are a few more references:
The Nag Hammadi Library in English translated by Members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, by James M. Robinson, General Editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978
"...these writings are an important contribution to history of religions and philosophies...a history of Gnosticism, that takes up about where the history of the Essenes as documented by the Dead Sea Scrolls, breaks off..."
The Lost Books of The Bible and The Forgotten Books of Eden, World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1926 and 1927.
these are a compilation of the books that councils of the early Catholic church would not allow to be in the Bible..."stories, tales and myths". There are stories of Jesus and "miracles" he performed as a child, for instance
From the introduction, "...very often the fiction writer depicts life and the great truth of life better than the historian. He does not pretend to write down what is exactly true, but tinges all things with his imagination. His feelings, however may be just and reliable...history may be true, but in a sense tradition is even truer. It has been said that history records what has been, but tradition tells what ought to have been..."
I read the Lost Books of the Bible and the most of the gospels from the Nag Hammadi, It definatly is interesting. Particulary, in reference to Mary Magdalene and the council where Jesus tells her things about matter or science, which in relation to that one guys (sorry) theory on this forum about Jesus being a time travel isnt so far out there or inconvievable.
Also, it really paints a different and more humananistic picture of Jesus as a child, who actually displayed normal child like tendancies, and was more a prodigy and that He and Judas were friends from the begining, unlike the Bible where Judas was picked out to be an Apostle. And not even Jesus was perfect in these gospels, for instance, he killed people for no other reason other than he felt like it because someone tried to tell him what to do.
As for the original intended question, did Jesus really exist. Well if he was actually God, then there would be no body to be found. Plus, it seems that even in greek myth, that Jesus existed. Not that it comes right out with it, but in one story, I forget which one, it talks about a God that came from a source unknow who was a traveler.
I could be bold and say, well, since Jesus seemed to be of superior intellect, then it's possible too, that Jesus took these stories and made it a reality because there wasnt much else written about this God. If so, then is Greek Myth a reality? If the things in the Bible are concluded as fact, and in them are beast that no one has ever seen, then why not all the stuff from the Greek? I see similarities in all the stores.
Or just another theory, the man called Jesus was a decoy for someone else, lets say, Judas. like in the gospels of Jesus childhood, Jesus hit Judas, and Judas hit him back and made him cry. Whats that all about? Was Jesus crying because he was hurt cause he knew the future, or was it because it actually hurt?
Proof of the existence of Jesus is not necessary for those with Twoo Fayff ...
In fact, were Jesus to reappear and demonstrate his divinity by feats of magickal prowess, thus rendering faith un-necessary, he would immediately disappear in a puff of oxymoronic logic.
See Oolon Colluphid's best-selling, "Well, that about wraps it up for God."
And here I was hoping to take credit for that as an original thought ... I should know better with you around, Mark ...
People like you will join the executives of the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation when my revolution comes .... bwahahahaha .... then you'll be sorry ....
.... glad to be of service ....
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Josephus yet, as he was the historian who lived very soon after the "death" of Jesus and is reputed to have mentioned Jesus by name, at a time before the writing of the gospels. Needless to say, all such claims have been disputed.
My own theory is that Jesus was a time-traveller from the future, who in one sense has not yet been born. This would explain so much--the lack of credible details abouts his early life, his ability to perform "miracles", his ability to cheat death, his sudden disappearance, and his promise that he would come again.
Please don't take me too seriously here--it's only a theory! It is also the basic plot behind the blockbuster novel I intend to write one day, so please don't steal it, anyone!
What a great theory - no more off the wall, I'd say, that the theory that he was the Son of God!
Unfortunately, Josephus wasn't born until 37 BC - ie well after the supposed crucifixion - so I'm afraid he, too, has to come under the "hearsay" category.
Actually, given that the census at the time was off, rendering the BC/AD calender sketchy, it is entirely possible, I think. Let's say Jesus was born somewhere between 2-6 AD. Now, if Jesus was thirty when he began to truly minister to the people, then that means he'd have started that right around the time when Josephus was born... right?
Though, that would've made Josephus 3 years old, tops, when the crucifixion occurred, if the bible timeline is correct versus real life.
I loved Douglas Adams - He has to be one of my all-time favorite authors - many of my spiritual beliefs are based on his sayings
LOL - Did you know Thom, that you signed up here through one of my trackers
It means you followed a link that I had left to hubpages and signed up - giving me a cut of any impressions of your pages.
So - get writing LOL - If you get enough traffic, I can retire.
Actually, the really interesting thing is how close our opinions are on many things
And now you know you can't trust a word Misha says
Hey!! Did Jesus sign up using your affiliate tracker, Mark?
How the heck did you find out who signed up under you, anyway?
There are many mythologies which include a god born of a virgin, who dies and comes back to life.
The people whose oral history was recorded as the Pentateuch (first 5 book of the Old Testament) didn't adopt that mythology until after they had adopted the Zoroastrian notion of a final cataclysmic confrontation between "good" and "evil", which they did about the time of the prophet Elijah.
But the idea had been around for centuries by then, so pointing to it elsewhere is not really evidence that "Jesus", as in an actual person, visited those places.
Things get very interesting when you start looking at mythology and comparing it with known facts and what can be learned from archaeology and even geology.
Many myths were created to explain things to pre-scientific people, for example there is even a myth to explain when Athenians have small bottoms (well, they did 3,000 years ago, not so sure now!). Other myths have their roots in real events, passed down as oral stories and gathering extra layers with each retelling. For example, the Great Flood may well refer to the filling of the Mediterranean (an event that has happened many times, even in post-geological times). "What happened to all the animals?" was the question asked by wondering children of their grandfathers. And so a story was created to answer the question. Even today, Mike Huckabee takes the legend seriously!
As for the legend of Jesus, many religions depend on the story of a God coming to save his people by dying and being reborn. The story of Mithras has many parallels with that of Jesus, and Mithras was a very popular god among Roman soldiers at the time of Christ. Also bear in mind that Christianity only succeeded because Paul won the battle with James over whether the new religion was to be for the Jews or the Gentiles. Had James won the tussle, it is possible that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD could have destroyed Christianity, and the stories about Jesus, along with it.
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I would like to raise the argument that Luke was a Greek trained doctor and historian and his record of Christ, were it not part of the Bible which people seem to scorn as evidence for some reason, would be viewed as a valuable and accurate source of evidence for Christ's existence. The fact that these stories were written a short time after Christ's life should not mean that they are all reduced to here say. I personally find it difficult to believe that the Apostles just made Jesus up as a joke, one that they were willing to be killed for. Could you imagine that? It would be like if the government declared that all people perpetuating a belief in Bigfoot are to be killed, and the people who started the myth still refusing to come clean and just admit it isn't true. To believe that some people who came much later than Jesus have been given to misinterpretations about him is quite accurate. But to believe that people who would have been alive when he was and who would have had to been blatantly lying would have done so--for no good reason--to the point where they were killed...well that's not an entirely sound idea in my opinion.
You're assuming that the Luke who wrote the Gospels was the same Luke who was a disciple. This is by no means certain.
Here's an interesting article.
http://www.masmn.org/documents/Books/Ma … ce/021.htm
It's only one view, but it illustrates how open it all is to interpretation.
I fully agree, it seems impossible that Jesus didn't exist. There had to be a foundation for the stories which led to the foundation of a great religion. But we all know about Chinese whispers - how a story gets embellished and distorted, the more it is repeated.
A good example happened just recently. Within hours of Heath Ledger's death, there were reports on the radio that he had been found HANGED in his apartment. Completely wrong, but in a less connected world, people who heard that would have walked away believing it.
Marisa Wright wrote:
You're assuming that the Luke who wrote the Gospels was the same Luke who was a disciple. This is by no means certain.
Nobody ever said that Luke was one of the 12 disciples. However, he clearly knew Peter very well, and it is often said that Luke's gospel is really Peter's, because Peter makes many appearances in Luke's gospel and the life of Jesus portrayed by Luke is seen from Peter's perspective.
Also, let me point out that the only thing we can hope for here is to prove Jesus existed as much as we can prove any other historical figure existed. We technically can never know which Luke was which, but all sorts of history is considered academically sound when it's realistically shakey. Columbus discovered America. Or wait no, it was the Vikings. Wait no, it was the Egyptions. Wait no, it was the Chinese from the other direction...actually, it was the Native Americans. But history likes to gloss over them. I'm just trying to point out that we can't be biased against Jesus just because he's a religious figure and people want to believe in him. I think there's as much evidence that he existed as there is for most other historical events.
Oh an interesting side note, have you ever noticed how scientists are willing to come up with more and more drastic theories about Atlantis, like how they might have had super weapons far beyond their time, but when it comes to a prominent religious figure, they find more and more mundane ideas about what could have really happened? Weird...
Many thanks for your interesting contributions.
I think the reason we know that many (most?) historical figures existed is because we have robust and reliable primary sources: contemporary records, first-hand accounts, eye-witness testimony, etc. Absence of such primary sources always raises a question mark. It's why we accept that King Richard the Lionheart existed, but maybe entertain a moment of doubt when it comes to Robin Hood ....
The fact that there are no such sources when it comes to Jesus doesn't necessarily invalidate the matter of his historical existence: it just raises a (perfectly justifiable) question mark, that's all.
And who exactly are these "scientists" who keep talking about Atlantis?
I'm not biased against Jesus. I am treating him with the same healthy spirit of enquiry that I would any other historical figure.
Mostly the one's who work on documentaries...or maybe they're historians. They're all the same to me. The point is, sometimes educated people are willing to stretch their beliefs to extremes in order to make something fit into their non-religious dogma. But when it comes to accepting something that might point in the direction of religion, many people (and this is not to imply you at all, but to point out something that irks me with some people) will steer clear of that path by miles.
If anyone here is also following the prayer thread, they can see how atheists are aften willing to believe on faith mathematical theories that involve the breakdown of physics as we know it to explain psychic phenomena. But they are often not willing to take the slight leap of faith to believe that there was probably a man who Jesus is based on. Like I said, I meant this entirely as an interesting side note. It is not meant to be an attack or even a point in my argument. It's just a funny thing that atheists and agnostics do sometimes. I could go on for hours about things that Theists do to annoy me, but I'm not talking about them right now.
This is true. There have been incidences in history where fatally flawed scientific theories and experiments were taken as fact only to be refuted later. Even science does have a measure of faith involved that a lot of people aren't willing to acknowledge.
And I have a crazy idea which could be considered sacreligious by some. But what if Jesus was actually a woman? Maybe that's why historical records don't match up because everyone is looking for the wrong gender
After all it is the people in charge who write history. It was a patriarchal society at the time. Men would not have wanted to give any kind of power to women, so presto Jesus becomes a man in the bible.
(I did preface this by saying it was a crazy idea! Just wanted to throw out a new angle on the whole subject.)
Those are called television documentary makers. Not to be confused with Scientists. Although, I 'll agree there are scientific "experts" who will say whatever the TV company tells them to say.
You can definitely open another thread on this and get eaten alive by "atheists" here
On a serious note, I would rather think about science and religion as of two complementary parts of our total knowledge.
Of course Jesus existed...I've seen him in quite a few films and he's been excellent in them all!!
A top actor that Jesus bloke!
Did Jesus Really Exist?
Sure, Jesus did exist. Jesus is mentioned in Quran as a real person.
History does not record all the persons living in that era, they don't have a list of such persons. It is a failing of the history that does not mean Jesus as a human being and as a son of Mary he did not exist. Right? please
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