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DIG DIRECTOR

The Rev. Madison Shockley
The Rev. Madison Shockley is a minister of the United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif. and a regular commentator on religion, race, politics and popular culture....










 

Jesus: The Man, the Myth

(Page 2)

The Death of Jesus

The death of the man from Nazareth was historically inconsequential—a crucified Jew in Jerusalem among so many hundreds crucified during the riotous atmosphere that often surrounded the Passover observance. Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom, was always an anxious time under Rome’s oppressive occupation. The historical fact is that Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire. The charge was political sedition, considered a capital crime. For being known as the “King of the Jews” he was crucified by Rome because assuming such a title challenged the sovereignty of the Caesar. The trial scenes recorded in the Gospels were a fiction devised by the early Christian writers to put blame for Jesus’ death on Jewish leadership and deflect responsibility from Roman officials. They did this so that the new religion could survive in a hostile Roman Empire. Not only do they deny any Roman responsibility for the crucifixion, the Gospel of Matthew has a Roman centurion confess, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (27:54).

The Resurrection

Was the resurrection a historical event? No. It is a thoroughly theological concept. We learn a lot from the resurrection literature of the early Christian writers. Most of the resurrection stories find the disciples either hiding in fearful seclusion or having returned to their former lives (mostly as fishermen). So why was resurrection necessary?

With his death, his message, his meaning and his mission were now left to others to remember, interpret and continue. It all would have been so simple if Jesus had just written his sermons down. The most likely explanation as to why Jesus didn’t write his own Gospel is that Jesus was probably illiterate. Early Christian communities viewed themselves as authentically representing the words, ministry and mission of Jesus. The only way they could do this was if Jesus were still alive. So, they resurrected him.

The Gospels

But Jesus’ story proved quite malleable in the hands of the skilled editors who would later tell his story. Initially, a wide variety of such remembrances, interpretations and extrapolations emerged from the early Christian communities that had known the historical Jesus. This group—its members generally were known as “the disciples”—was soon distilled into an authoritative clique that the early church came to revere as “the Apostles.” Paul is the only apostle from whom we have authentic written product. However, he, by his own admission, was a lesser apostle because he never knew the historical Jesus but rather was commissioned as an apostle (“as one untimely born”) by the “risen” Jesus.

Though the documents that ultimately became the four Gospels bear the names of two apostles (Matthew and John) and two alleged companions (Mark, supposedly a friend of Peter, and someone named Luke, supposedly a friend of Paul—though the only evidence for this is “Luke” himself), they are all anonymous. These characterizations were added in the Second Century in order to add authority to the Gospels. As literary production proliferated, the early church began to list (canonize) certain documents as useful and all others were deemed heretical. It wasn’t until the Fourth Century that the Christian “canon” was closed.

However, all of the Gospels (in their final form) and Paul refer to Jesus as far more than a Jewish sage, wisdom prophet and sometime healer and exorcist. But it is exactly this “more” that reveals the fluid treatment that the historical Jesus received at the hands of his biographers. It seems that they mapped his footsteps rather than followed them. Each created the Jesus he needed for his constituency. Matthew mapped a very Jewish Jesus for his Jewish Christian community. Mark mapped a martyr Jesus to encourage his besieged community facing the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish war with Rome. Luke mapped a Holy Spirit that inhabited Jesus to do the work of God and inhabited his church to be the embodiment of the divine presence. John mapped a cosmic Jesus from the beginning of time to the end of eternity. All of this is evidence that the decades separating these writings from the life of Jesus were filled with theological imagination. It wasn’t until the authority of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, combined with a nascent church bureaucracy that alternative interpretations of Jesus were quashed. Only then would the Christian Church (big C) emerge as an international operation of culture and power with Jesus (the) Christ as its imperial head and the bishop of Rome as his vicar.

So Who Is Jesus Today?

Liberation theology is a branch of Christian theology that understands God to be primarily at work in the world for the liberation of the oppressed. Drawing from the story of the Israelite Exodus (Exodus 3:16), the Israelite prophetic tradition and the teachings and preaching of Jesus, liberation theologians see a clear and consistent “preferential option for the poor” (a phrase borrowed from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ campaign for human development). Liberation theology identifies Jesus with the marginalized in every society, whether they be peasants in Latin America, African Americans in the United States or gays and lesbians everywhere. So, for black liberation theology Jesus is poor and black. When James Cone declared in 1969 that “Jesus is black” he caused no little controversy in religious circles. The claim by black theology that “Jesus is black” (note the present tense) had both theological and racial implications. First it meant that Jesus was not white. Jesus could not be white because whites were the embodiment of black oppression in America. Theologically, the claim meant that the Eurocentric faith produced by imperialistic Christianity was a gross distortion of the original Jesus movement. This distorted theology produced icons and images of a white-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed Jesus totally unreflective of the Palestinian peasant named Jesus, who lived at the nexus of the African and Asian continents. The assertion that Jesus was not white sent a shudder through a mainstream Christianity that was suddenly forced to confront its own racism and examine its version of Christianity, which was little more than a baptized Western culture. This same Christianity has not hesitated to traffic in slavery or condemn the Third World to colonial subservience.

The claim that Jesus is black, or gay, or a woman, or a peasant, is not an assertion about Jesus’ personal identity. It is more a way of making demonstrably clear what the central focus of Jesus’ ministry would be today. A popular phrasing of this approach simply asks, “What would Jesus do?” Liberation theology sees Jesus engaged in a ministry outside the four walls of the church and less engaged in a priestly ministry of liturgy and incense.

Conversely, the traditional mainline churches continue to hold themselves out as the embodiment of the continuing presence of Jesus—whether the Roman pontiff as the vicar of Christ, or the Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist claims of apostolic succession (for their bishops) or the Protestant focus on the local gathering of Christians in the church (derived from the Greek ekklesia) as the “body of Christ.”


The “Jesus movement” (i.e. those who followed Jesus prior to a formal church evolving) was left leaderless and without direction. The anticipation of Jesus’ death in the Gospels benefited from their hindsight of knowing how the story ended. But for the original disciples Jesus’ death was probably a sudden and unexpected occurrence.

Continued: Conclusion

 

Dig last updated on Dec. 20, 2005


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Dig Director's Blog

Apr. 12, 2006

Hallelujah! Easter is almost here. Aren’t you glad? What’s that low sigh I hear? Ohhhhh that’s right, you’re one of those progressive Christians. Easter is probably the most conflicted time of the year among progressive churches, even more so than Christmas. Even a progressive Christian can reasonably assert that Jesus was really born, even as the debate goes on among others about how he was born. But this is not so with Easter. Either he was resurrected or he was not. And when we say he was not, then someone somewhere will quote I Corinthians 15:12 to us, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”

- - -
Dec. 22, 2005

Shockley addresses reader comments regarding the historical Jesus and representations of “the Christ.”

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Dec. 21, 2005

The culture wars have clearly gotten out of hand when the front line is Christmas.

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By Lee Salisbury, December 29, 2005 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Apollo, Robin Hood deemed more likely as historical figures than Moses or Jesus


In the recent War on Christmas hullabaloo, the question asked, “Is there nothing sacred anymore?” My answer: Yes, there is something sacred.  Most sacred is our innate curiosity, our ability to reason, and a determination to know truth.  Any attempt to hinder human thought processes is great sacrilege. 

Last century a student of mythology, Lord Raglan studied all the myths and legends that influenced western civilization in his 1936 book entitled The Hero.  His basic premise is that the mythical hero’s life is a remnant of ancient ritual drama enacted at the coronation of priest-kings.


According to Raglan, rituals involved specific acts performed for magical purposes.  Ritual dramas required participants play specific roles.  A quasi-boiler-plate plot always determined the character’s role. Eventually, myths of priest-kings outlived the ritual and became many myths and folktales from which we derive many legendary heroes such as Hercules, or Moses, or Robin Hood. 

Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter continued this archetypal tradition of mythical characters.  They affirm inherited patterns of thought derived from past collective experiences of humanity.  Freud believed these archetypes to be present in our subconscious psyches.  Thus, their popularity, as well as opposition from adherents of competing myths, continues today. 

Raglan concludes there are at least twenty-two standard archetypal characteristics of this duplicated singular myth.  The closer the legendary character fits these characteristics the less likely the hero is a historical personage.  Historical persons dramatically differ from Raglan’s twenty-two characteristics are as follows:

1.  He is born of a virgin mother.
2.  His father is a King. 
3.  The father has a unique relationship with the mother.
4.  The circumstances of the child’s conception are unusual, often humble. 
5.  He is reputed to be the son of a god.
6.  There is an attempt to kill the child/god shortly after birth.
7.  He is spirited away, escaping a premature death.
8.  The child is raised by foster parents in a far country.
9.  We are told virtually nothing of his childhood years.
10.  On reaching manhood, usually at age 30, he commences his mission in life.
11.  He successfully overcomes the most severe trials and tests.
12.  He marries a princess.
13.  He is acknowledged as a king.
14.  He rules.
15.  He prescribes laws.
16.  He loses favor with the Gods or his subjects.
17.  He is forcibly driven from authority.
18.  He meets with a violent death.
19.  His death occurs on the top of a hill.
20.  His children, if any, do not succeed him.
21.  His body is not buried conventionally.
22.  He has one or more holy resting places.

Lord Ragan counted each hero’s archetypal event.  Alexander the Great received the most points for a historical personage, seven.  Here is how some people you might have heard of scored.

•Oedipus scores 21
•Theseus scores 20
•Moses scores 20
•Dionysus scores 19
•Jesus scores 19
•Romulus scores 18
•Perseus scores 18
•Hercules scores 17
•Llew Llaw Gyffes scores 17
•Jason scores 15
•Robin Hood scores 13
•Pelops scores 13
•Apollo scores 11

Following are some thoughts on Lord Raglan’s analysis:

A score of six or less qualifies one as a historical figure.  This is not definite proof that the person existed, since most cartoon characters score low too. 

A score of more than six indicates the hero does not represent a historical figure.  This does not mean that the hero is totally fictitious.  Rather it does indicate that many aspects of the hero’s life have been replaced by the archetypal fiction. 

Some may ask why do humans seem compelled to revere their heroes as sacred.  Humans need hero figures to compensate for their own disappointments, disillusionments, and lack of meaning in life.  Some make heroes of Tiger Woods, George Bush, or Billy Graham.  Others make heroes of Jesus, the prophet Muhammad, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or even Ron Hubbard (Church of Scientology).

Now that we have survived the War on Christmas, maybe we can turn to what is truly sacred, the freedom to think and reason and then let the facts speak for themselves.  Lord Raglan’s analysis is not the final word on our heroes, but it certainly merits serious consideration.  Yes, admitting such may hurt some Christian’s feelings.  Nevertheless, considering what and why the things we hold sacred from another’s perspective may generate some much-needed tolerance.  What could be a better resolution for the New Year than tolerance?

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By John, December 29, 2005 at 8:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Many thanks to TJD for the post.

R.A. Earl:

You write that since the revelations of 2000 years ago, we have not heard from God.  I beg to differ with your statement; George W. Bush claims to have been in contact with God and to have received guidance from God.  Remember the “higher father” comment of “W” when asked if he took advice from his father (meaning his biological father, George H.W. Bush).

So, through G.W. Bush we have heard from God, and Bush’s God has re-emphasized the points made in TJD’s post; especially the first post about deceiving and misleading by using parables.  Bush used one heck of a parable/weapon of mass deception when speaking of Iraq’s weapons of mass distruction.

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By Musa, December 28, 2005 at 11:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is very important for us to understand that most of the ideas that characterize modern Christianity were contrived through a series of ecumenical councils the most significant being the Council of Nice or Nicia, held a full 300 years after the birth of its presumed yet reluctant (Mathew 19:17, John 10:30-36) founding figure. The council was convened by what had been earlier Christians supposed most ardent foe, the Romans. The Nicene council fell under the direct control of the Roman emperor Constantine not the “bishops” who had only nominal authority. Ultimately, as is the case with any imperial dictator, what Constantine/Rome wanted, Constantine got, hence the Nicene Creed http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nicene.htm. This was a very ominous period in the history of black people because it was through this historical development that the near complete destruction of African civilization was conspired and consummated.  In the following centuries successive bands of conquerors would continue to invade a weakened Africa taking from it all that was needed to build succeeding civilization. In the process Africa and the history of her people would be maligned and distorted, a process that continues to this day.

In this context, it is also very important to know that much of the most potent philosophy attributed to the person we have been taught to call Jesus (Yeshu, Yeshuah or Joshua) was actually much older than Jesus and did not even emanate from the historical knowledge base of the Hebrew Israelites people. In fact:

The word Holy Bible is derived from the Greek words Helios Biblos. Helios means sun and Biblos is derived from the Egyptian word for papyrus which means paper. Accumulated papers make books. “Holy Bible” means Sun Book…
Anthony T. Browder, From the Browder File, The Institute of Karmic Guidance, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 54

A significant sacred text of the Nile Valley Africans, is the Pert em Heru which translates Book of “Coming or going forth by day”, with the poetic implications being that one move into the bright light and life giving energy of the world, thus attaining enlightenment. This is why the Son of Christian dogma is said to be the light of the world. In a much more literal way the Sun is the light of the world. This relationship between the Sun/Son is made clearer when one considers the date set aside for the Christian messiahs birthday, December 25th, 3 days following the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere when the daylight can be observed to increase after 3 months of apparent decline. Special emphasis was placed on this geocentric celestial event thousands of years before the supposed birth of Jesus. In ancient times black people were known as “the children of the Sun” not because they worshiped the sun per se but because their scientific understanding put the Sun at the center of their physiological “universe”. Through deep knowledge of physiological laws and their spiritual correlates they erected humanities first civilizations.

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By Jim Prues, December 28, 2005 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here’s another take on the right’s obsession with attack in the name of Jesus.

http://www.world5.org/News/howjesusbe.htm

peace,
Jim

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By TJD, December 28, 2005 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“What I find really strange is that since that burst of revelation 2000 years ago, has anyone heard from God since? Or do we now just wrap up those who hear from Him in straight jackets and house them in rubber rooms?”

We elect them president!

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By mike fowler, December 28, 2005 at 7:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wonderful article. About the Jesus picture some find objectionable: What about that cover on Time Magazine last year with a blond Christ child and alabaster Mary? For the traditionalists?

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By R. A. Earl, December 28, 2005 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to TJD for that post. It’s a lot of work to pull together such annotations and references, especially when the source is such an incoherent collection of obfuscational allegory and myth.

I’d like for someone to tackle each and every point, using references from those same sources to refute TJD’s conclusions. I have no doubt it can be done with equal persuasiveness given the ambiguity of the source.

Perhaps if God had had a better editor when he “revealed” his messages to mankind, we’d not be mired today in such ecclesiastical muck.

What I find really strange is that since that burst of revelation 2000 years ago, has anyone heard from God since? Or do we now just wrap up those who hear from Him in straight jackets and house them in rubber rooms?

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By TJD, December 27, 2005 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Outside of the hearsay contained in the Gospels (remember that they were all written decades after his death), there is no documentary evidence to tell us anything about Jesus.  The historical record lacks any mention of his personality and contains no evidence that he even existed at all.  Thus, we have to rely solely on Scripture to adduce anything about his character. So, what do we know about the personality of the biblical Jesus? Much has been written that describes him as a great moral teacher, as the apotheosis of love, as the savior of all mankind, as being pure and good.  Very little has ever been presented to contradict this image of Jesus. However, a close perusal of the Gospels offers many instances that would serve to undermine the purely positive assessment of his character with which we are most familiar and allow us to obtain a more balanced view of his personality. Consider whether any of the following examples of his behavior characterize a virtuous man:

1)  He purposely deceived and willfully misled his followers concerning the most important issue in their lives, i.e. their salvation, by speaking in parables (Mt. 13:10-15; Mk. 4:11-12; Mk. 4:34; Lk. 8:10 and Jn. 16:25). Although Paul says to speak “words easy to be understood” when talking about matters of faith (1 Cor. 14:8-9) and Jesus himself said he would not always speak in parables but would one day “… shew you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25), he choose to convey his message almost entirely by means of enigmatic and ambiguous parables. One has to ask, if he planned on speaking more plainly in the future, then why wait?  If his message is so important that the salvation of mankind hinges on it, then why not express it in a straight forward and clear manner from the beginning?  Jesus explains that the reason he speaks in parables is so that no one that is not one of his intimate disciples will understand him “lest…they…should understand…and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Mt. 13:10-15 and Mk. 4:11-12).  But someone not of his intimate circle might be tempted to echo Sophocles and ask Jesus: “How couldst thou…afflict me by fables, while possessed of truths so sweet?” He may also want to share with him a line from Euripides which says that “…wisdom is shown in clearness, not in obscurity.”

2)  He demonstrated little respect for the environment when he killed a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season (Mt. 21:19-20; Mk. 11:13-14, 20-21). This is also another example of his moral weakness [this time petulance].

3)  He showed little respect for animals. Jesus sent devils into 2,000 pigs causing them to jump off a cliff and be drowned in the sea (Mt. 8:28-32; Mk. 5:12-13 and Lk. 8:32-33).  And it was not only the pigs that were harmed.  How about the villagers who owned them? Their livelihoods were no doubt dependent upon their herds; and the loss of 2,000 pigs must have been a devastating blow to their economic well being.  But no mention of just compensation for their loss is mentioned in the bible. The only reaction mentioned in the gospels is that after the city dwellers heard what had happened from those that tended the pigs, they came up to Jesus and asked him to go away (Mt. 8:33-34; Mk. 5:16-17; and Lk. 8:36-37).  Luckily for Jesus, there were apparently no personal injury lawyers in the crowd.

4)  He was a false prophet who told his followers that he would return during their lifetimes (Mt. 10:23, 16:28, 24:34; Mk. 9:1, 13:30; and Lk. 21:32).

5)  Sometimes he demonstrated a lack of compassion.  Jesus shows no empathy for the bereaved saying to a man who had just lost his father: “Let the dead bury the dead” (Mt. 8:21-22). And he won’t even let his followers say farewell to their families before abandoning them (Lk. 9:59-62). He also shows an insensitivity to cripples when he gives the impression that their affliction is a punishment from God for their sins. How else can we interpret the meaning of his statement to a cripple man after healing him: “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you” (John 5:14). Any compassion he did possess seemed to be directed mainly to Jews. For example, he initially refuses to heal the Canaanite (Mk. 7:26 says that she was Greek) woman’s possessed daughter saying “it is not meet to take the children’s [Jews] bread and to cast it to the dogs [non-Jews]” (Mt.15:22-26).  So Jesus’ purported love of mankind apparently didn’t extend beyond the Jews.  He makes this clear when he says “…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”(Mt. 15:24). He also avoided a chance to help the poor.  Mary, the sister of Lazarus, wastes expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet rather than selling it and giving the money to the poor as Judas suggests.  But Jesus thinks his feet are more important, saying that poor people will always be around, but he won’t be (Jn. 12:3-8).  The cost of the ointment was 300 pence (denarii) which according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible would be nearly a year’s wages for a laborer.

Some of his sayings could form the platform for the Republican Party or serve as the motto for predatory capitalists. For example: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Mt. 25: 29).  Jesus will give to those who already have and take from those who have nothing. 

Jesus will send his angels to gather up “all that offend” and they “shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 13:41-42, 50).  The existence of hell undermines any claim that Jesus is the apotheosis of love.


6)  He was not a nuanced thinker.  He often spoke in absolute terms apparently unable to recognize any middle ground.  He once said, “He that is not with me is against me (Mt. 12:30)” and elsewhere he said “He that is not against me is for me”(Mk. 9:40 and Lk. 9:50).  Also his demands on his disciples were sometimes extreme:  “…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”(Lk. 14:33).

7)  Jesus was not a strong supporter of family values. He spoke rudely to his mother, saying: “Woman what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:4 and Mt. 12:47-49). He also said that his disciples must hate their families (Lk. 14:26). In addition, he said that he would reward men who abandon their wives and families for his sake: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Mt. 19: 29 and Mk. 10: 29). 

8)  The disciples claim that Jesus knows everything (Jn. 16:30) and elsewhere in the bible it is said that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).  Yet Jesus said that he didn’t know when the end of the world would come (Mt. 24:36 and Mk. 13:32) and according to 1 Kings 3:12, Jesus was no match for Solomon.  And on one occasion, Jesus said that “…the moon shall not give her light, and the stars fall from heaven” (Mt. 24:29).  Apparently, he believed that the moon produces its own light and that the stars are lights held in place by a firmament only a few miles above our heads.  Here he demonstrates a woeful ignorance of astronomy which is unusual in an omniscient god.

9)  Jesus was a poor judge of character.  For example, he chose “a devil” for an Apostle (Jn. 6:70). 

10) Jesus was intolerant.  For example, any city that doesn’t “receive” the followers of Jesus will be destroyed in a manner even more savage than that of Sodom and Gomorrah and their inhabitants will be “thrust down to hell” for not “receiving his disciples” (Mk. 6:11; Lk. 10:10-15; Mt. 11:20-24)

11) Jesus was a fear monger who used intimidation to compel belief: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned”( Jn. 15:6).


12) Aside from his character, what about his nature?  Was Jesus divine or merely human? The answer depends on which biblical verses you read.  Jesus is God according to Jn. 1:1,  8:58, 10:30, 38, 14:9, 20:28; Col. 2:8-9; Titus 2:13; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 1:17; and Rev. 22:13.  But Jesus is not God according to Mt. 19:17; Jn. 14:28; Col. 3:1; and 1 Cor. 11:3; and he is downright human according to Jn. 8:40, 20:17; Acts 17:31; and 1 Tim. 2:5.  Even John the Baptist is confused.  John baptizes Jesus and declares him to be “the Son of God” (Jn. 1:29-34).  But later, he isn’t so sure (Mt. 11:3).

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By Roger, December 27, 2005 at 12:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am very impressed by the group of participants in this discussion.  Very level headed. Thanks,
Roger

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By Dennis, December 26, 2005 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Also, the question “Was Jesus bar mitzvahed?” is misplaced on three counts.  First, no one “is bar mitzvahed,” they only become bar mitzvah.  It’s something you do by turning thirteen, not something anybody does to you.

Second, the institution of bar mitzvah doesn’t go that far back in history—because, third, the synagogue and the reading of the Torah and the prophets on a weekly basis were just being invented then.

So, if you want to know whether or not Jesus would have been literate, that is not the question to ask.

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By Dennis, December 26, 2005 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Replying to some questions posed earlier: “Jesus” is the Latinized form of the Hebrew “Yeshua,” a variation on “Y’hoshua,” which we English speakers know better as “Joshua.”  Jesus and Joshua are the same name.

Not only in Greek does the same word stand for “virgin” and “maiden” (or “young woman”).  The Hebrew word in the original, “b’tulah,” has the same double meaning.

And let me recommend the book From Jesus to Christ, by Paula Fredriksen, for those who want careful scholarship and reasoned argument on the development of the Jesus myth in the early Church.

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By R. A. Earl, December 26, 2005 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Religions fascinate me.

To date I haven’t found one which makes enough sense to me to persuade me to hitch my wagon and follow along. To date I haven’t felt the need for the emotional/spiritual support from organized, apportioned and predigested dogma that many others seem to require. Perhaps I’m just a born heretic or heathen or whatever the current label is for non-believers.
But I keep looking and reading. Why?

Because, that same underlying “common sense” I use to conclude that I have no need for whatever the (Christian) religion is providing, tells me that it could be an arrogant mistake to just assume that millions and millions of others who do believe are just suffering from some form of mass hypnosis, hysteria or psychosis. So I keep looking for the answer to WHY? Ain’t found it yet.

I can only shake my head in profound puzzlement at those who eagerly and cheerfully slip the ring in their noses and jog along behind the Falwells, Dobsons, Robertsons, Buchanans, Bakers, Roberts, Angelys, Hinn, etc. These characters are obviously great actors, illusionists, magicians, showmen and salesmen. Talk about shepherds fleecing their flock!

Imagine what an avalanche of cash David Copperfield could haul in if he ever went into the “religion” business. I read where he once made a Boeing 747 “disappear” in front of an audience at the Las Vegas airport. If this is true, then he could convince today’s crop of “believers” of just about anything! Perhaps this “Jesus” person was just a really good early version of David Copperfield?

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By Tony N, December 26, 2005 at 9:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We can choose to believe or disbelieve Rev. Shockley’s claims that the death of Jesus was the full responsibility of the Roman Empire and its “oppressive occupation”, and that it was fiction by early Christian writers to blame Jesus’ death on Jewish leaders to deflect responsibility from Roman officials.  Just like early Christian writers, Shockley doesn’t provide conclusive evidence to support his opinion as non-fiction.  History – real or fiction – depends on who writes, what impartial evidence is available and which evidence is used.  It is improbable that ancient Jewish sources will tell the unvarnished truth about what the Jews might have done to Jesus, especially if his teachings threatened their behaviors and conduct.  (This is not without precedent.  The Hebrew invasion of the “promised land” involved massacres of the indigenous Canaanite children, infants and even livestock, which biblicists have tried to rationalize or explain away.  More recently, the Zionist writers of history and their supporters continue to deny that an ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs by Israel took place in 1948, despite evidence to the contrary from courageous Israeli historians and the United Nations.)

Regardless, Shockley’s reminder that “liberation theology…understands God to be primarily at work in the world for the liberation of the oppressed”  is appropriate.  2000 years after Jesus Christ, this Christian mission is applicable to the descendents of the early followers of Jesus.  This time, there is ample evidence to prove that the policies of certain Jewish leaders (or Zionist leaders to be more accurate) are oppressing and harming Palestinian Christians in Palestine.  In 1948, when Israel became a state on the Palestinian land, there were about 400,000 Palestinian Christians in Palestine.  In 1948, 100,000 Christians were expelled from Palestine. Today, less than 40,000 remain, and many have lost hope.  Their plight remains unknown because of Israel’s powerful public relations machine.  Incredibly, some of us are more confident about one man who existed 2,000 years ago and the facts and myths about him, even though most of us are unable to learn the truth about what’s happening today to a nation of people. 

According to the Christmas Message from Dr. Victor Batarseh, Mayor of Bethlehem (Palestine): “Our Savior Jesus Christ’s birth 2005 years ago took place here in Bethlehem. God chose Bethlehem, the city of bread, as the birthplace of the bread of life. As we celebrate Christmas …I invite you to join us in this occasion and to pray also for the Palestinians who are affected by the Israeli occupation. Come and see what is going on!  Our great holy city of Bethlehem that depends upon tourism and pilgrimage for its economic survival, has its share of repercussions on the various aspects of life including isolation, separation and devastation. There is a policy that the Israeli government is applying by negative impacts of its military occupation, the travel restriction, military checkpoint harassment, and the illegal Israeli segregation wall in and around Bethlehem, to collapse its economy…The pilgrims who will travel to Bethlehem for Christmas this year will find that the city of Christ’s birth is being walled off. Fears are growing that the city may soon become a prison. Will the 30 ft (8 meter) wall surrounding the city of Bethlehem hinder you from coming and supporting the Palestinian people? I hope you take the same decision that the shepherds have taken in the past and say: “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see what has happened, what the Lord has made known to us”. Your visit to the Holy Land, especially to Bethlehem stands as a great challenge to the isolation and humiliation’s Israeli policy, which is applied on the Palestinian people away from world’s eyes.”
http://www.bethlehem-city.org/news/BM-Xmas Message.htm

Western press reports lead us to believe that, at the traditional midnight Christmas Mass in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the Latin Patriach of Jerusalem “struck an optimistic tone in his message” (Associated Press).  You’d have to read al Jazeera to learn more of what he actually said and its context:  “The top Roman Catholic official in Jerusalem used his annual Christmas sermon in Bethlehem to deplore the ongoing injustice that is delaying a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Patriarch Michel Sabbah addressed his message to all Israelis and Palestinians as thousands of pilgrims descended on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, which enjoyed its busiest Christmas of the young century, despite icy rain. Sabbah told worshippers: “To our political leaders, who by their policy can decide for the life or the death of so many in this land, we say: Be builders of life, not of death. “Any delay of a solution, with the ongoing injustice under its different aspects, the wall, the gates, the prisons or the assassinations, will only add fuel for violence. “We hope that we can begin a new period in which all violence will stop on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian alike,” he said. He also added: “Leaving all violence, all vengeance, freeing political prisoners and putting the past behind can create a new land in which we can assure security for Israelis ... and give Palestinians liberty and an end to occupation.” …“We say it again: security for the Israelis means liberty and sovereignty for the Palestinians. These are two interdependent and inescapable realities,” said Sabbah who on 11 December led a demonstration by peace activists against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank and prayed for its removal. “And the half measures, half liberty, or half sovereignty lead us to nowhere except to fall again in an interminable cycle of violence and insecurity,” he said after another year without the creation of a Palestinian state. “Our Holy Land thirsts to recover its peace and holiness. So give the two peoples the life, the security and the dignity they ask,” the patriarch said. “We hope that our leaders will now take the time and will spend their energies to accomplish what had to be accomplished a long time ago: peace and justice for two peoples capable of living side by side in peace.”
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6AB21AB6-1DEF-49F8-8E0B-D18A03EE63A3.htm

The following site provides further information on what Israel is doing to Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land.  In addition, the former Christian mayor of Bethlehem, Hanna J. Nasser, has spoken often about what Israel has been doing to Palestinian Christians. 
http://www.jerusalemites.org/crimes/crimes_against_christianity/index.htm
_____________________________________________

Rev. Madison Shockley wrote: “The death of (Jesus) from Nazareth was historically inconsequential—a crucified Jew in Jerusalem among so many hundreds crucified during the riotous atmosphere that often surrounded the Passover observance. Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom, was always an anxious time under Rome’s oppressive occupation. The historical fact is that Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire… The trial scenes recorded in the Gospels were a fiction devised by the early Christian writers to put blame for Jesus’ death on Jewish leadership and deflect responsibility from Roman officials…
Liberation theology is a branch of Christian theology that understands God to be primarily at work in the world for the liberation of the oppressed. Drawing from the story of the Israelite Exodus (Exodus 3:16), the Israelite prophetic tradition and the teachings and preaching of Jesus, liberation theologians see a clear and consistent ‘preferential option for the poor’ (a phrase borrowed from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ campaign for human development). Liberation theology identifies Jesus with the marginalized in every society, whether they be peasants in Latin America, African Americans in the United States or gays and lesbians everywhere… (imperialistic Christianity) distorted theology produced icons and images of a white-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed Jesus totally unreflective of the Palestinian peasant named Jesus, who lived at the nexus of the African and Asian continents…A popular phrasing of this approach simply asks, ‘What would Jesus do?’ ”

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By Richard, December 25, 2005 at 10:26 am Link to this comment
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Why go to the moon?
Have we gone back? No.
Why?

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By R. A. Earl, December 24, 2005 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
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jbuuty in #42 wrote, in part…

“Plainoldbill also says, “NO PERSON ALIVE OR DEAD really “KNOWS” anything about the “REAL JESUS.” It is true that no person today knows with absolute certainty a lot of things about the real Jesus. No person ‘dead’, seems like a real miss. It would seem that John, Peter, Judas, etc. would have some idea. Even today, we’ve got some idea. We can reject it, we can accept it, we can just not care at all. But we can have some idea about the real Jesus.”

First, I believe I was the culprit posting that phrase, (see #40) not PlainOldBill.

Secondly, I might be a little picky here, but I think having only “some idea about the real Jesus” is a pretty shaky “rock” upon which to build religions which command allegiance and funding from the millions who’ve succumbed to the dreamed up dogma and dictums. You’d think that if you’re going to break, blindfold and halter the masses, the LEAST you could offer is a little honesty and a few FACTS instead of hocus pocus, smoke and mirrors!

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By Jbuuty, December 24, 2005 at 7:31 pm Link to this comment
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Excuse my last post, which I did not proofread. It was full of grammatical errors. I also, very mistakenly, attributed some comments to PlainOldBill that were made by R.A. Earl. I want to apologize to both PlainOldBill and R.A. Earl.

  People are often very willing to pronounce upon the matter of Jesus and history without really investigating the historical material. It seems that either faith, or lack of faith, is all that qualifies someone to make absolute judgements about historical data.

  Don’t get me wrong. The decision to be, or not to be, a follower of Jesus is up to the individual concerned. I don’t ever want to discredit someone’s faith, or belief. This is true for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, etc.

  About 8 years ago I became very interested in the Historical Jesus research, and by extension in other aspect of New Testament studies. I make no claims to being a New Testament scholar. My knowledge of Greek is rather limited and I know no Aramaic and very little Hebrew. I did, however, read nearly 100 works examining the history of Jesus and the New Testament. I’ve read most of the major volumes, including Crossan’s and other liberal scholars, as well as NT scholars all over the theological spectrum. Anyway, I may, therefore, overreact to oversimplifications of the arguments.

  What generally bothers modern readers of the Bible is the presence of miracles and the simple assumption of God’s presence. Unfortunately for modern doubters, to decide ahead of time - in the negative - concerning miracles, or the existence of God is a philosophical decision rather than a scientific or historical decision. What becomes obvious with an honest historical assessment of the Bible is that the writers truly believed that Jesus performed miracles, that he arose from the dead, and that he was in some way divine. A movement as significant as early Christianity, and one which often suffered persecution as it did, doesn’t grow rapidly through the intentional manufacture of myth. And early Christianity, unlike the Robertsons, Falwells and Dobsons of today was not well-funded!! Historically, one can say that the writers of the New Testament and the early followers really believed. And we can’t really make an historical pronunciation on the veracity of their beliefs. This is where faith comes in.

  For myself, on the strength of personal spiritual experience and historical evidence (note I say evidence, not proof) I believe that Jesus is truly risen from the dead and Lord of Heaven and Earth.
And this does not preclude tolerance.

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By jesus Rocks, December 24, 2005 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment
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The one thing I find incredibly humorus is some people say their is no God and for me knowing him it seems odd for someone to say He doesn’t exist.  Dogmas regarding a man they don’t know, He exists, not existed, The Man Jesus-Get used to it, even if you don’t know him now you will surely meet him to ask for yourself if He exists, but then that will be a different story.  But then Jerry fallwell wont be able to help you.

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By R. A. Earl, December 24, 2005 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment
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In #46, Ron Ranft wrote, in part, “... As for the above comment about that we are not that dumb, of course we are, as a species. We have along history of being, not dumb, but stupid.”

I stand corrected. I meant stupid, not dumb. And I have to agree the historical record clearly indicates that “mankind” has made, and continues to make, collosal blunders in virtually everything “he” attempts.

I remain confounded by those who, while agreeing that we (mankind) have no direct knowledge re: Christ, will simultaneously offer up as EVIDENCE to support their point of view, lists of references and writings of “scholars.”

Published “scholarly” research, when based on UNRELIABLE, UNSUPPORTABLE sources (e.g. Biblical passages or other “ancient” hearsay writings), CANNOT PRODUCE RELIABLE FACT. Just because some writing is OLD doesn’t make it any more reliable a source than if I wrote it! But somehow, ancient scrolls, as with wine, just keep getting better with time.

You can’t have it both ways. Either there is EVIDENCE to support a claim or what’s written is OPINION, ASSUMPTION, and/or CONJECTURE (I could have included “fantasy” or “wishful thinking” but I don’t want to be unkind). It should be ILLEGAL to publish such “stuff” without a warning label to that effect.

I do not think you can end up with FACT when you don’t START with FACT. Do you?

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By John, December 24, 2005 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
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R. Ranft,

Your comments about why humans needed to create stories about a higher being/wiser person to explain the unknowable reminds me of Voltaire’s admonition that if “God didn’t exist, he would have to be created”.  How true he was.

In addition to creating a “God” to explain the unexplainable, I belive humans also create a “God” in order to have someone to blame for their on faults.  G.W. Bush’s argument that God instructed him to attack Iraq provides a grand example of such a need for humans to blame someone.

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By Ron Ranft, December 24, 2005 at 1:59 am Link to this comment
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A comment about R E Earl’s comment about the something that seperates humans from other living creatures “spirituality,connection to a a greater power.” Can’t buy that as it is. What more than likely was ignited was a sense of heightened curiosity beyond mere need for survival. And with humans need to understand they made up stories to attempt to explain that which was unknowable at that time. Every culture developed some form of greater beings. Maybe it is rooted in that need to always have someone greater, wiser, more knowledgable than themselves to turn to in times of need. Maybe a carry over from Mom and Dad.

So exploration and an ever widening experience comes into conflict with those old myths and they begin to die or get co-opted by other, larger myths whose proponents are more numerable and better organized.

Then come the scientific method that directly opposes those myths. Scientists create complex compounds and amino acids in recreations of primordial soup. Darwins original theory which was just about animals changing and adapting to suit their needs and envrionment leads to findings that life has been doing that on this planet for billions of years and we are presently the end product. Old, well-organized, well-funded myths see that their hold on humans is in jeapordy. Religion is big business with a product whose very foundation depends on the existence of one man and there is no proof he ever existed. So how do you keep the faithful in check? You say that you have to believe because we say so, it is called faith. And all those people who say it isn’t so are doing the Devil’s work. And they point to Revelations. The Catholic Church did the same thing during the Black Plague. It seems every time I’ve turned around in my lifetime someone has predicted Christ’s return, the end of the world, or the Rapture. So far they are batting zero.

They say Christ walked on water. Physics says not possible unless it is frozen. Christians say this is proof he was God. I might invoke the laws of probability that is was a one in a billion chance that he did in fact do it but then that would mean a number of people would have done it and we for sure would have heard about it.

Science is stronger than religion. If we had relied on religion we never would have gone to the moon. And if we were left to the devices of the religious leaders who have always stood in the way of human progress, we would working and giving everything to them in hopes we would be rewarded later when we got to Heaven or whatever it is each religion has for people when they die. Sorry, just realized that most of the world already does that, don’t they. That is how Falwell, Robertson, Graham, the Bakers, and others of their ilk got their wealth and clout, isn’t it.

Was there a guy named Jesus of Nazareth? Probably, in fact more than one. Could he have said some things that were interesting and different? Sure, I can say that it was probable and possible. Were there people who much later thought it was a really good message that other people would like to hear? Again, sure. Were there then people who saw this as an opportunity to milk it for all it was worth and it didn’t have a whole lot of if’s, ands, or buts about it. Jesus wasn’t going to come back and prove them liars. And all they had to say was, God told us and you need to believe it and have faith, oh, one more thing, he says if you don’t give me 4 million by Sunday he’s going to call me to heaven.So what happens, he gets 4 mill and then some. Personally, I’d have called his bluff. Which raises a question I’ve always wondered about. If all these devout Christians believe they are going to heaven, why do they work so hard at avoiding dieing? I think that is why there is that rule about not going there if you commit suicide, which is one advantage the Muslims have. But I think that one got put in because if all your faithful were killing themselves in an attempt to go to heaven, who would cough up the money for the plate on Sunday.

As for the above comment about that we are not that dumb, of course we are, as a species. We have along history of being, not dumb, but stupid. Whenever you elect a man who gets you in a war and says God told him to do it and he is on our side and you don’t put him in the nut house, then you have to say that you’re either stupid or you believe he is right!

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By Eric, December 23, 2005 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment
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After reading that 3 piece article, all I could think was: what a watered down, weak tea version of Christianity it presents. Where is the sense of awe and wonder and reverence? At best, we are told, there probably was an actual historical guy named Jesus, who said some nice things, attracted a few followers, then was killed for his troubles just like thousands of others under the Romans. Everything else, the Virgin Birth, his miracles and Resurrection, were just embellishments added on later, mere fictions to make the story “better”, I suppose. Wow, that’s about as “inspiring” as a bowl of cold noodles! Is it any wonder that so-called “progressive” Christianity inspires virtually no one, whereas regular Christianity is gaining in vitality?

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By Jesus Rocks, December 23, 2005 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment
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I still can’t understand why people refer to writings concerning Christ Jesus, Why not refer to the accounts of the Bible?  If you cannot trust the Bible then truly you cannot trust the writing refering to the historical document.

Jesus did refer to himself as the “Son of God”  That was the reason that he was crucified.  Not because of any other reason except that He equated himself with God alone.  That was the problem then and that is the problem now.  The truth is, is that Jesus is God Himself. 

By the way Jesus did start a Church, just not the kind that everyone thinks of.  Peter’s revelation of the Christ as the Son of the Living God was what Jesus was building His church on- Here is the quote below.

Jesus saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Hope this helps, the best way to refer to God is by reading the Bible instead of the writings of agnostics.

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By Jbuuty, December 23, 2005 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment
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I would encourage the people at Truthdig to seek another point of view. I’d recommend Tom Wright who is an Anglican Bishop of Durham in England. He is probably the premier New Testament scholar of our time. He is more theologically conservative than readers of Truthdig, but not necessarily more politically conservative. John P Meiers, a liberal Catholic NT scholar would be another possibility. James Dunn, a British scholar, retired professor of NT at the University of Nottingham is another more convervative alternative.

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By Jbuuty, December 23, 2005 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment
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The problem isn’t that I listed books as evidence. I listed books from several perspectives. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to try and explain all of the arguments on this forum, but I did attempt to point in a direction for those who seem to be believe that the pseudo-scholarship of the Jesus Seminar is somehow definitive. The problem in the comments on this article is that most people seem to think that the choice is between the Jesus Seminar and fundamentalism. None of the authors that I listed can even be closely identified with fundamentalism. Neither the fundamentalists, nor the Jesus Seminar take history seriously. The authors that I listed are serious historians, rather than theologicans or philospophers.
Crossan is not a Biblical scholar. Generally, serious scholars of the historical Jesus only cite Crossan to show how non-scholars misconstrue the evidence. He is an entertaining writer, and he is convincing to those who don’t the subject matter well.
Plainoldbill says “please don’t offer up what the Bible says as FACT. We’re not that dumb.” By what criteria does he know that the Bible isn’t factual? I imagine that it is philosophical rather than historical criteria.
Of all (and this is true) ALL ancient documents the manuscripts of the books of the Bible come from the nearest historical proximity to the time period they described. Manuscripts of the works of Plato come from hundreds of years after he died, yet no one doubts the existence, nor the authenticity. The same is true for most of the works on Roman and Greek history that are widely accepted. Check it out, you find out that this is true.
Teachings of biblical inerrancy are doctrinal and philosophical, not historical. But so are teachings of the fictional nature of the Bible. For me it isn’t faith that leads me to see the general accuracy of the Bible. It was historical enquiry.
For example,Shockley answers the question about a physical resurrection of Jesus with a categorical, NO! This is not an historical answer, but a theological and philosophical one. The evidence shows that the early followers of Jesus truly believed that he had physically arose from the dead. However, the actual fact of the resurrection cannot be established, nor disproven, historically. All accounts of it - which are found only in the Bible - show that only his followers saw it. It wasn’t a public event. Shockley’s answer is unconcerned with historical truth. Anyone concerned with historical truth can only answer the question tentatively.
Plainoldbill also says, “NO PERSON ALIVE OR DEAD really “KNOWS” anything about the “REAL JESUS.” It is true that no person today knows with absolute certainty a lot of things about the real Jesus. No person ‘dead’, seems like a real miss. It would seem that John, Peter, Judas, etc. would have some idea. Even today, we’ve got some idea. We can reject it, we can accept it, we can just not care at all. But we can have some idea about the real Jesus.

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By R. A. Earl, December 23, 2005 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
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In reply to 39 from Thomas…

It is this “selective perception” that makes us ALL fallible, Thomas. That’s why, in the scientific community, unless you supply valid, authoritative, REFERENCES to support a fact or claim, what you’ve written is, at the very least, taken with a grain of salt.

And this is why practically EVERYTHING written and repeated ad nauseum about Jesus is unsupportable assumption. There simply isn’t any legitimate, reliable EVIDENCE that I’ve seen or heard to support any of the claims.

Wanting or wishing it to be true DOESN’T make it true for anyone other than the person doing the wanting/wishing. Why is that so difficult for everyone to accept?

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By R. A. Earl, December 23, 2005 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
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In item 34, PlainOldBill posted:

“Re Item 30 - Comment by Jbuuty
Thank you for your post…  As Luke Johnson says (somewhere - paraphrase) “When we look at various ‘debunking’ writers about the real Jesus, we see portraits, not of Jesus, but of the writers themselves.””

I think this is very true…“When Peter talks about Paul, he most often says more about Peter than Paul.” BUT SO WHAT’S THE POINT? Is it not just as true (to paraphrase the paraphrase) “When we look at the writings of authors who SUPPORT the “real” Jesus, are we not just as exposed to the views, opinions, beliefs and prejudices held by those authors?”

My whole point, in a nutshell, is that NO ONE (I hope that’s clearly stated)... NO PERSON ALIVE OR DEAD really “KNOWS” anything about the “REAL JESUS.” So when any of us posts ANY statement claiming this, that or the other thing about Jesus, what he did, what he said, what he meant etc., WE’RE JUST BLOWING SMOKE… and yes, this INCLUDES ME.

But it’s fun to air our glib opinions and unsupportable assumptions isn’t it? Anyone who actually believes that what’s written in the Bible is historically accurate TRUTH is, as far as I’m concerned, about as gullible as it gets.

So many people make the FUNDAMENTAL ERROR that their beliefs = truth for all. MAJOR MISTAKE, folks. We each experience life through our individual lenses… and in my experience, NO TWO PEOPLE experience it in the same way.

So how about we all just post our views prefaced by IN MY OPINION or IN MY VIEW instead of flat-footedly making unsupportable statements as if they were FACT? Alternatively, how about some FACTS for a change. That would be fun.

And, please, don’t offer up what’s written in the Bible as FACT. We’re not that dumb.

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By Thomas, December 22, 2005 at 11:31 pm Link to this comment
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Those who wish to believe will see only the evidence that strengthens their faith, while those opposed will choose the facts that support their view. How is one to ever arrive at “Truth”?

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By R. A. Earl, December 22, 2005 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment
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I’ve recently had one of those epiphanies where many pieces of the puzzle fall into place. The “picture” became clear as I listened to Tom Harpur being interviewed on the radio. (Tom is a former Anglican priest, journalist, broadcaster and author of several books… one of the latest being “The Pagan Christ.”)

I think most of us accept to some degree that homo sapiens “evolved” from earlier and earlier models of homo. Using only education, reason and logic as my guides, I make the ASSUMPTION that our earliest ancestors were more animal-like than modern human-like and as such didn’t have much of a grasp of, or use for, “spirituality” or a “god” of any kind. They were too busy eating or being eaten. They were, for all intents and purposes, just another animal amongst equals.

I also ASSUME that SOMEHOW, at some point during our evolution, the spark that seems to separate us from all other living things was ignited in us - a sense of SPIRITUALITY - a connection to a greater power - the cosmos - or whatever. (Perhaps our fertile imaginations and egos also came into focus around this time. Both these attributes are as essential as the opposable thumb for us to have rocketed to stardom in the animal kingdom as we have).

And the rest, as they say, is HISTORY.

We, on the flimsiest of evidence, began to build imaginary theological castles in the air… silly enough alone… but then we MOVED IN!

The whole scenario would be as hysterically funny as a Laurel & Hardy movie if it weren’t for the MISERY suffered by BILLIONS in the name of “religion” ever since.

While we fret that AIDS and “Bird” flu epidemics are about to destroy us we seem completely unaware of the TSUNAMI of ecclesiastical con games full of lies, deceit, misinformation, and psychological destruction that washes to and fro over us continually. Religions (especially some of the fundamentalist varieties) seem to have almost perfected a marvellous anesthetic that enables the conflicted but misguided masses to scratch that “unreachable itch.”

Do you think further evolution will somehow switch on genes that will enable us to find our way back from this relatively sudden (in evolutionary terms) detour from rational thought and behavior? Or have we been relegated to live in FANTASYLAND forever?

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By S L Piper, December 22, 2005 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment
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I support and accept the work of the Jesus Seminar because their motive and intent is not to justify what they already think, or what they were taught, but to research what they can reasonably verify, and to what degree. 

One thing that, for me, differentiates the Jesus Seminar from the fundamentalist movement, is the fundamentalist seem to use religion to limit and control people (and their vote and money) in a way that rationalizes and endorses materially successful social entities.  The Jesus Seminar seems to be separating fact from fiction from manipulation—with their best estimates or probability of accuracy. 

Also recomment John Dominic Crossan—the man has a first class intellect; passion for truth & honesty; wry humor; and honest acknowlegement of both the shortcomings and contributions of existing church structures.

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By Timothy F. Travis, December 22, 2005 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment
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The comments in this forum in support of a historical Jesus reflect writers’ faith but faith does not constitute evidence. Nor does religious testifying and witnessing make something true regardless of the numbers doing so or their station. 
If there were evidence for a historical Jesus the clergy would be all over it and only stupid people would deny the facts. Since there is no evidence all beleivers have is faith, which would be fine if the clergy would just be honest about it. How can the clergy claim to represent truth when they are not honest? 
(Come on guys: citing a list of books in support of a historical Jesus is not evidence.)

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By John, December 22, 2005 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
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My only comment is that I look forward to the reports on the continued “digging” on this most important topic.

Write on brother!

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By PlainOldBill, December 22, 2005 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
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Re Item 30 - Comment by Jbuuty
Thank you for your post - it saved me the trouble of writing a similar one myself.  The Jesus Seminar does not represent mainstream NT biblical scholarship.  As Luke Johnson says (somewhere - paraphrase) “When we look at various ‘debunking’ writers about the real Jesus, we see portraits, not of Jesus, but of the writers themselves.”

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By V.A. Austinson, December 22, 2005 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
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Thank you Rev. Shockley…well done!!  Many of us grew up with a Christian background but have never embraced or participated in any organized Christian church because of the dominant fundamentalist viewpoints.  Perhaps the growing progressive Christian approach will fill a void for many of us as well as enable us to actively participate in an organized church.

Rev. Shockley asks the question “was the resurrection a historical event?” and answers it with a no….it was a theological concept.  I agree that the concept of suffering, death and resurrection was around long before the historical Jesus.  Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the 5 Gospels not as history with a moral, but as myths with a meaning.  Not myth that is a story that is untrue, but a story that contains many spiritual truths. Once the Bible is looked at as a compilation of spiritual facts rather than historical facts then perhaps they may be spiritualy discerned.  Perhaps the Biblical characters including Jesus the Christ are not intended to be viewed as histoical characters, but instead personify spiritual principles imminent in each of us.

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By Rick aka Reign of Reason, December 22, 2005 at 9:31 am Link to this comment
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The last few paragraphs sum up the crux of the debate for me—as resolve it as far as a rational approach to religion:

Fundamentalism focuses on control and adherence to dogma.

Progressives focus on pragmatic benefits to those in need.

WWJD?

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By Locke, December 22, 2005 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
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“The Jesus Seminar would have been just as valuable if they had used tea leaves and a Magic 8 ball.”

Comments like these show a lack of respect and rationality.  Tea leaves and magic 8 balls don’t require reasonable evidence to provide answers. The Jesus Seminar looked at the evidence we have to discover what the historical Jesus, as a person, was like.  To suggest that these scholars simply consulted a mythic “authority” to derive practial answers from available evidence is unfair and disrespectful.

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By Jbuuty, December 21, 2005 at 11:47 pm Link to this comment
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The Jesus Seminar shouldn’t in any way be considered the final word on the person of Jesus. Most Biblical scholars - and not just conservative ones - have rejected its methodology, its results and its principle goal, which was publicity.
There are a lot of good books out there about the historical Jesus. See the 3 volume work of John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew. Or the multi-volume work of NT Wright on Jesus and the Origins of Christianity. And there are others: Ed Sanders, Raymond Brown, Gerd Theissen, James Dunn, C. Stephens Evans and many others.
To use the Jesus Seminar as the way to get at the truth about Jesus is in reality similar to propaganda. Kind of like using the Heritage Foundation to get at the truth about Bill Clinton.

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By Dave, December 21, 2005 at 11:32 pm Link to this comment
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No doubt we are all entitled to our opinions. And opinions galore there are.  But any honest person who sets out to determine whether or not Jesus really existed and did the things stated in your King James Bible will find out in the end that Jesus of Nazareth is the central figure of all human history and most assuredly did the things written in that Bible.  Jesus proved by his works that he was very God of very God and and no one has ever proven otherwise.  Further, he lives in the hearts of millions today and alters their lives for the better.  The text of the King James Bible is attested by the versions of history and tracible by many paths back to the first and second centuries.  It is not a “cut-and paste” by Constantine or anyone else.
  The natural human does not want to be answerable to God and will go to great lengths to deny his existance and the existance of Jesus Christ.  Voltaire denied God and Jesus all his life but screamed in horror on his deathbed in front of witnesses that he was damned forever and entering the flames of hell. A terrifying witness indeed to one who resisted Christ Jesus all his life.
  You will meet Jesus some day and he will be your loving savior (as he is mine) or you will meet him as judge at the Great White Throne Judgement.  Why not trust him today and prove to yourself that he existed then and still does now?  Hell is forever and so is heaven. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

The research I’ve done in the last 20 years convince me that the the opinions expressed by the author of the above article are silly and dangerous in the extreme.

I hope you all will consider that very soberly.

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By Jeffrey Moskin, December 21, 2005 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment
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“The importance of going back to the original source. The early Christians were reading the Septuagint—Greek, not Hebrew, their Bible. I wonder. How did the language change the meaning? How has translation changed it through all this time?” - Deborah Connor.

Well, for one thing, the word for “Virgin” is the same in Greek as the word for “Maiden.”

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By Timothy F. Travis, December 21, 2005 at 8:24 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Shockley,

U write: “The truth about Jesus is that he was a human being who lived and died as every person born ever has.”

What is your basis for this statement? Is there any evidence, at all, that “Jesus” is anything other than a total fabrication?

Sincerely,
Timothy F. Travis

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By LAM-05, December 21, 2005 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
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JUST A QUESTION OR FIVE:
    1.-DO ALL LETTERS OF COMMENT GET POSTED?
    2.-HOW LONG FROM RECEPTION TO POSTING?
    3.-WILL MINE (PREVIOUS) GET POSTED?
    4.-IF NOT…..WHY NOT?
    5.-IS IT -POSSIBLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER
      COMMENTORS THROUGH YOUR FORUM?                       

ALSO:

    I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THE 24 ‘COMMENTS’ SO FAR.
FRANK MLYNARCZYK #22 AND ESPECIALLY DEBORAH CONNER
#24 WERE THOUGHT PROVOKING. DEBORAH SEEMS VERY KIND.
I HOPE MY TONE (PREVIOUS COMMENT) WAS NOT TOO HARSH
FOR YOUR FORUM, OR FOR YOU TO CONSIDER POSTING. I ASSURE YOU, REVERAND, THAT I READ YOUR ARTICLE TWICE
BEFORE I SENT MY COMMENTS. I FOUND IT TO BE INCITEFUL AND THOUGHT PROVOKING. I WAS PROVOKED. THANK YOU.

LAM-05

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By bruce, December 21, 2005 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
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I beleive that Jesus is myth.  Good myth in many ways, but myth.  The myth of Jesus is as good as many other savior myths.  There is truth in much of what Jesus said, but it can be also derived from experience, human social interaction and much history or other religions and movements.
We can be good without god.  An empirical ethics based upon reason and evidence is a better, more solid foundation to living a worthy life today.  This does not mean the Jesus is bad or shouldn’t be repected for what it is, just that we have grown beyond the need to invoke the supernatural to derive a humane more code

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By Joan Mortenson, December 21, 2005 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment
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May I add the names of two more authors (in addition to John Shelby Spong and the author of this piece)—John Dominic Crossan (THE HISTORICAL JESUS, JESUS, A POLITICAL REVOLUTIONARY, WHO KILLED JESUS and WHO IS JESUS—and Marcus Borg (MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME.  I agree with Virginia Laddey that all we need to take away from the message of Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount. 

May I also add two books by Karen Armstrong—THE HISTORY OF GOD and THE BATTLE FOR GOD.

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By deborah conner, December 21, 2005 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks for this. (Some good resources: The Bible Unearthed, and the Jesus Mystery books.)

The importance of going back to the original source. The early Christians were reading the Septuagint—Greek, not Hebrew, their Bible. I wonder. How did the language change the meaning? How has translation changed it through all this time?

Most important, as we frame the human relation to deity (knowing these are psychological statements; with mythos it’s only the psychological perspective we can speak from), is looking at the language that speaks of man’s dominion over the earth. The source, going back as far as you can go: what did this word ‘dominion’ mean? What responsibility did it imply?

The Mishna will look back at Abraham and see him as a metaphor for unquestioning devotion and love; his son as the law. Law here in these earliest times was the important consideration. I’m thinking of regional gods, because so often religious writings were (and are) statements of identity.

When I hear people make statements that frame things such as ‘the “Protestant” come closest to the original “Hebrew”..’ Don’t we understand we’re spanning ages, peoples,tribes… that the perspective we speak from is specific—e.g.,historical, psychological (and should always be careful to ask “whose?”) Yet this understanding is exactly what has not been carried over to the broaderculture. And its critical to address in our time.

Psychology must do what Philosophy has failed to do. Without a sense of speaking symbolically, scripture has been taken literally and has become all important in our current world as all around us this end time myth is playing itself out.

It’s a mass psychosis.

We must say so, understand and address it as such.

What part, we must all ask, do we each have in it? What can we do to heal?

So Constantine sat down with his Hebrew / Aramaic scrolls when he and his committees began to cut and paste the Holy tome that has morphed down to us as the King James. Nonsense. (Even Philo, mystic Jew (if Jews be “mystic”, and Joseph Dan says no), was reading Greek; it’s doubtful he read Hebrew at all.) But cut and paste and mold they did. A work of art.
Scripture is, has ever been, identity statement—as it was for the tribes of Canaan, as it was for the early Christians, as it is for the tribes of Lynchburg, VA. Not based or meshing with any reality, with any true history.

And this has only become a problem in a literal world that doesn’t understand this. That doesn’t even know how to understand it.

Everyday we use tools we don’t understand. We turn on the tube, send an e-mail. It might as well be magic for all we know; in the unconcious mind—where we really think—is IS a sort of magic. We trust its authority implicity… those who fix things, invent things. We live so far away from nature, we really don’t know much firm reality. We don’t need to, it touches us so little. Cause and effect? We climb in a car, buy food, buy a solution, with money made by pushing magic buttons. Who is this invisible god? Let the autorities tell you: IT IS WRITTEN

THUS… We look in the instruction manual for the Magnivox, the WORDPERFECT, the toaster, the Cosmos. Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.

In this literal world, the dinosaurs become tricksters and the voyage to the sacred river a tour bus: See where baby Jesus was born?

How is this different from “Would you like to buy a piece of the cross? A metatarsal of a saint? Time off in Purgatory?”

The high elect KNOW… well, it isn’t gnowing, which is lowly, which is based in simple sympathy and compassion. Yet our Straussian groupies are firm believers in a high elect who shall run all things. The evangelicals are endtime Millenialists, just as the Nazis. All reason, abandoned. All but cunning.

And now this identity statement is running the most powerful arsenal (a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun) the world has ever imagined.

Between the philosophy that too often stays in tower, and (most of all) what passes in even the educated public as ‘truth’ re scripture and history, we need a course correction.
The US is drowning in what must be understood as a cult. Faith is one thing, but making faith ‘fact’ and the law of the land, is another. This is the cult’s agenda, and we know where it leads. We can theorize about reality until the cows come home, but recognizing a distortion of reality… well, this is the issue. It’s happening, happening on a grand scale with major consequences for all.

It does not have to be like this. We change it one by one by one. Don’t let your heart be broken. What beats your heart beats all hearts. What other truth do you need?


***

In History, Archaeology, there’s been an explosion of work. A great deal of synthesis. And synthesis seems the task of our age. Re the historical ground, a good intro online:
Romans, Jews, and Greeks: The World of Jesus and the Disciples http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2004/2004-7.html
Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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By Michael, December 21, 2005 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment
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Response to Virginia Laddey… The turn Christianity made with “An eye for an eye…” was in twisting the verse’s true meaning as part of Christianity’s claim to being the newly revealed truth. The meaning of “An eye for an eye ... ” is that the punishment should fit the crime. (At the time it was written, it was common for those in power to inflict cruel and inhuman punishment on people—and their relatives—for even the most minor offenses.) Unfortunately, Christianity has turned a verse that calls for justice into a purported call for revenge.

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By Frank Mlynarczyk, December 21, 2005 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
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Has anyone commented on a reference I came across a couple of years ago (and have since been looking for corroborating evidence/refutation/evaluation) by serious analysts, by Alvar Ellegard, who wrote: Jesus - A Hundred Years Before Christ? Some of the references cited by Hayden Wolfe (above #6) sound like they probably contain some of the arguments set forth by Ellegard, viz., that 1) contemporary historical evidence is non-existant, not even Philo of Alexandria mentions such a person and he was a contemporary in perhaps the most important religious center in the world at that time and a prolific writer; 2) Paul’s letters seem to speak of a person who lived in the distant past (and, oddly, an historian might wonder, why there was no “Letter to the Alexandrians”? (that I am aware of)); 3) Josephus, not a contemporary but writing in the second half of the first century, doesn’t say much about the historical figure, and what he does say looks to me to be a later interpolation; plus 4) Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in the early second century, may have been a key figure in the launching of the synoptic gospels, much later than many scholars heretofore thought.

In any event, my own view is that it really doesn’t matter. The message matters. And if the world lived according to the ethics rather than the theology, everyone would be better off.

(Coincidentally, and apropos of nothing, my mother-in-law was a high school teacher of, and a life-long inspiration to, none other than Robert Funk. This article inspires me to read what he wrote, including his chef d’oeuvre which he gave to my mother-in-law and inherited by my wife. I wish I had looked into what his life’s work was about before he died. Sounds like we had at least one common interest.)

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By Very Concerned, December 21, 2005 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment
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This is a very thought-provoking article, for those who are open to it. Some never will agree.

Just finished reading The End Of Faith by Sam Harris and recommend it to all as a sobering account of religion’s effect on all peoples. 

I take Sam’s underlying message to be this:
Religious divides could end this world if we don’t somehow reconcile our differences.

In the 1960’s I didn’t think I’d have children in such a dangerous (Cold War) world. That eased over time and now I have two that I love very much. I’m now more concerned this breach has the potential to be lethal, from the standpoint it seems non-negotiable with most.

This is because people cling to all manner of beliefs and REFUSE to entertain they could be wrong about life today and what happens next.

Pardon my oversimplifications here, I feel it’s a book we need to read and absorb, no matter where we think we are in the spectrum.

My next book is ‘Misquoting Jesus’ which surely applies directly to this great conversation.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5052156

Peace and truth to all who read this message.

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By Mark Plus, December 21, 2005 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment
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Harry Hughes, Ph.D. points to the puzzling lack of physical evidence about Jesus’ existence, though at one time christians argued otherwise. Premodern christians claimed to have plenty of relics with chains of custody going back either to Jesus himself or to people who knew him, including alleged vials of his mother Mary’s milk, his foreskins (more than one apparently), nails or splinters from his cross and even his burial shroud. Christians a few centuries back felt the need for tangible evidence that Jesus existed, but modern christians, under the influence of the Enlightenment’s critique of religion, for the most part dismiss the claims formerly made about these objects. In a way christians now concede that Jesus left a mysterious physical void if he did exist, and it might not even make much difference to their faith if it seems likely that he didn’t exist at all.

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By Yonk, December 21, 2005 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment
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Since the Talmud talks about Jesus and his followers, it is very logical to believe he lived otherwise Jews would deny this not just his divinity.
The fact that he lived does not mean that he is what people purport him to be.
A person once asked me if I didn’t believe in history. I responded did he think if a 100 years from now one would read a history of the Reagan era by a Kennedy and one by George Will, would they see the same history or just the biased views of the author.

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By Just Jim, December 21, 2005 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment
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Thank you for explaining the historical Jesus.  Believing in the mythology surrounding this character is embarrassing in this age of enlightenment.  Believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus makes as much sense, maybe better sense, than believing in the mythological Jesus.  If Jesus had lived and is in heaven, he would look down on the Evilgelicals and cry.

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By Lisa, December 21, 2005 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment
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Paul was a major contributor to the Jesus movement/ideology as most books in the New Testament are either written by him, to him, or associated with him.  It should be mentioned that many of the mythological aspects of Jesus are practically parallel to Mithra (ie virgin birth, resurrection), which should not be surprising as Paul was Roman and Mithraism was a prominent pagan religion at the time.  To incorporate currently held mythology/religion into a new religion contributed to increasing its popularity.  It could be speculated that the early christian church was a result of melding Mithraism and Judaism.

It should also be noted that if Jesus did, in fact, exist he would have been married, as it was highly unusual that a jewish man wasn’t.  Kudos to Eric for pointing out that Mary Magdelene was not a prostitute.  Speculation exists that she was from a politically prominent family and most likely his wife and was a significant contribution to his ministry.

Other books that attempt to depict Jesus as a historical man with a profound message include those by author John Shelby Spong.  I believe his (John’s) goal is to reconstruct Jesus’ message to be more beneficial in a humanitarian sense than continue to cling to the ‘myth as fact’ ideology which is spurning many who prefer secular/scientific perspectives.  Interestingly enough (imo), acknowledging the mythology of Jesus only enhances the message he was attempting to promote:  that human kindness and compassion superceded dogmatic rules and regulations of leadership.

Who can begin to even honestly contemplate ‘what would Jesus do’ when his message is lost in the rhetoric of dogma of “don’t do as I do, do as I say” currently practiced in main stream christianity.  Is it no wonder that many have walked away from the path that reeks of hypocricy?

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By Barkley, December 21, 2005 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
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This is from a non-believer in religion and no disrespect is meant.

I have also heard that Jesus was an"amalgamation(?)” of 3 or more real people of that era.  Jesus is his given Latin name if I am correct and in his time, he would have had a different name .

Does someone have this other name?

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By Adam, December 21, 2005 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment
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As a moslem, I believe Jesus did not die but was raised to heaven. I also believe he will return and complete what he has to do and then die (as all mortals must).

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By Virginia Laddey, December 21, 2005 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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The miracle of Christianity was the right-hand turn from “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” of Semiticism to an anthropromorphic diety (i.e.the fatherhood of god, the brotherhood of man) as a result of the infusion of Hellenistic philosophy in the area. Whoever did the Sermon on the Mount is the Savior I follow.

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By J. Rivero, December 21, 2005 at 10:51 am Link to this comment
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Dear Sirs:

The term “Aryan” has its roots in the sanskrit language (the root of all european languages). This language originated somewhere in central asia and then it came to India (with the “Aryan” invaders, iranians). “Aryan” means a person of superior character, disciplined, just, barely anythhing to do with the color of skin.

Arabs are indeed caucasians (they have similar features as people from the Caucasus, an area between norhtern Turkey and southern Russia).

The jewish religion originated in Asia, and then sometime between the 6th and the 8th century, the Kazars, a tribe from central asia became jewish ‘on masse’. This changed the physical feature of what we know now as a Jew. However, the ethnicity is not what defines a religion (a very hitlerian point of view) it is the affiliation to the religion what conforms a religious group.

Sincerely J. Rivero

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By Frank Dolce, December 21, 2005 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Barton -

How do you know Jesus wasn’t “Aryan” or fair skinned? The Aryan people came from Northern India/Central Asia and migrated to Europe. It likely some of these people ended up in Palestine. It is just as likely that Jesus looked like an Arab as a northern European. Technically Arabs are Caucasians too.

What does a Jew look like? I’ve known plenty of fair skinned Aryan looking Jews. Are Jews an ethnic group or are they people of different races following a religion?

Regards,

Frank

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By Eric, December 21, 2005 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
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Vigilius,

Was the the Gospel of Thomas indeed a “fake” as you state or simply that it did not fit with the goals and aspirations of the early church and thus was intentionally silenced, much like making smear campaign of making Mary Magdelene a prostitute?!?

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By Harry Hughes, Ph.D., December 21, 2005 at 9:50 am Link to this comment
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The most telling comment by the Reverend Madison Shockley follows:

  “The first problem in disentangling the man from the myth is that we have no direct contemporary historical evidence of Jesus’ existence.”

  There exists a preponderance of evidence for the lives of rulers and the civilizations they presided over that date back thousands of years prior to the alleged birth of Jesus. For historians, scientists, and all rational people, truth demands evidence.

  I believe that in many ways humans were essentially no different 2000 years ago than they are today.  The “cult of personality” that surrounds modern cultural pop figures (and murderers) would certainly have enveloped Jesus. 

    Thirty years or so ago, Elvis Presley could not appear in public without having parts of his clothing torn off.  Certainly, someone regarded as a messiah would have received similar treatment.  Jesus’s fanatical followers no doubt would have collected relics left in his wake; a bowl or utensils with which he ate or drank from, a slab of housing material from a home or bed in which he slept overnight on his journey, the nails driven through his hands and feet, something/anything.

  In other words, if Jesus really lived, wouldn’t we have something like a “Jesus museum” of some sort, no matter how meager its contents?  Even the one bit of solid material that Christians had clung to as evidence of Jesus’s existence, the Shroud of Turin, turned out to be a hoax.  We possess more tangible evidence for the existence of blue-green algae that thrived hundreds of millions years ago (their fossil impressions left in ancient sediment banks) than we do of Jesus.

  What would be the motive for inventing a messiah through the force of mythology?  The power and wealth of the church and those who operated its logistical operations through subsequent centuries could answer that question better than I.

Harry

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By Hayden Wolfe, December 21, 2005 at 9:48 am Link to this comment
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Another thought to consider is that there was no historical Jesus but rather that he was nothing more than a mythological invention.  Consider the earliest Christian writings, Paul’s epistles, which contain only two references to an earthly ministry.  These two references are thought by many scholars to be later additions by early redactors.  For further reading on this idea check out “The Jesus Puzzle” by Earl Doherty; “Jesus: God, Man, or Myth?” by Herbert Cutner; “The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence” by John E. Remsberg.

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By Palm Springs, December 21, 2005 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
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Was Jesus Bar Mitzvahed? If so, his literacy isn’t in question. Perhaps like Socrates he understood that the written word is easily misinterpreted, exploited and subverted - only a sincere oral tradition maintains consistency and context.

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By richard riewer, December 21, 2005 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
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I saw a composite of what the historical Jesus might have looked like and he didn’t look anything like the idealized version painted by the masters and promoted by the Catholic Church for the last sixteen centuries. Marketing genius.

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By Sagredo, December 21, 2005 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
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Dr. Albert Schweitzer should not be referred to as “Sir.” The great humanitarian was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955 which entitled him to use the letters OM after his name.

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By Ole Engholm, December 21, 2005 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
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I am amazed and full of admiration for Rev. Madison Shockley - such a well written and clear summary of a very comprehensive and complicated subject.

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By bob barich, December 21, 2005 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
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Dear Sir:

By way of introduction, I am a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist based in Los Angeles. I am Jewish, by faith.Your views and explanations of Jesus and the Christian faith are, indeed, enlightening and reflect my understanding of the historical Jesus,as taught by my rabi. I hope that your cogitate interpertations help create a better understanding of the relationship between Christians and non-Christians. Keep up the good work!

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By Vigilius, December 21, 2005 at 6:23 am Link to this comment
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The Jesus Seminar would have been just as valuable if they had used tea leaves and a Magic 8 ball.  You can’t really think that the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas holds any validity to the true gospels?  There is a reason it was not circulated by the early Christians.  It is because it was fake.

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By David Barton, December 21, 2005 at 4:04 am Link to this comment
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Plese get rid of that ridiculous picture of an Aryan Jesus. He was Jewish, no northern European.

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