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We can only sketch in a few bold strokes the embarrassment of critical research. It lies in this; while the historical credibility of the Synoptic tradition has become doubtful all along the line, yet at the same time we are still short of one essential requisite for the identification of the authentic Jesus material, namely, a conspectus of the very earliest stage of primitive Christian history; and also there is an almost complete lack of satisfactory and water tight criteria for this material.

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In only one case do we have more or less ground under our feet, when there are no grounds either for deriving a tradition from Judaism or for ascribing it to primitive Christianity. Recognising that it follows an attempt to write a history of the tradition concerned, we may formulate it as follows: the earliest form of a saying we can reach may be regarded as authentic if it can be shown to be dissimilar to characteristic emphases both of ancient Judaism and of the early Church, and this will particularly be the case where Christian tradition orientated towards Judaism can be shown to have modified the saying away from its original emphasis.

Perrin 34 Although the CDD is a reasonable academic process, it has a few disadvantages.

First of all, it is made possible by first completely ignoring the mythological and pagan elements in the gospels. In other words — if Jesus was pagan, i. Therefore, scholars focus on what Jesus, as a hypothesized historical figure, must have been. Since many of the elements in the Bible came either from preChristian Jewish movements or post-Jesus Christian apologetics, Jesus according to the CDD is to be found somewhere between these two.

This has been the motivating reasoning behind research into the historical Jesus for the last few decades. Based on the fact that the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ are almost completely filled with earlier Jewish ideology or later Christian theology which developed over time and hence can say little about a historical founder , the only way to talk about the historical Jesus intelligibly is to talk about the type of person he could have been: he was either Jesus the Jew who got immediately transformed into something very different by his followers or nothing at all.

We could theorize that Jesus was the person who put these pieces together and fueled them with passion, but it is also possible to remove the hypothesis of a historical Jesus without weakening an understanding of the historical developments. Consequently, when searching for the historical Jesus with academic rigor, it is possible to go too far and actually weaken the position that there was one at all.

This meant that although the New Testament might be a primary source for a study of the early church, it was only a secondary one for a life of Jesus. Since the faith of later generations was really based upon the shining faith of the first Christians and not upon Jesus himself, theologians should forget about seeking the earthly Jesus and analyze the formation of the kerygma. Illustrating this point in his classroom, he asks students to take a test about what kind of person they think Jesus was. Was he outgoing, shy, friendly, pensive, exciting, etc.

Then they take the same test, only about themselves. The results show that people picture Jesus to be just like themselves; and the same is true, McKnight concludes, of religious historians. Our rationality cannot be extricated from our sentiments and feelings, our hopes and fears, our hunches and ambitions. Maybe we have unthinkingly reduced biography [of Jesus] to autobiography The fragmentary and imperfect nature of the evidence as well as the limitations of our historical-critical abilities should move us to confess, if we are conscientious, how hard it is to recover the past.

We wield our criteria to get what we want. While they maintain that Jesus was at least in part historical, they also accept that much of the New Testament is not historically accurate. The theological conclusions of those who pursue the historical Jesus simply correlate too strongly with their own theological predilections to suggest otherwise. McKnight finishes his article with an unintentional demonstration of the way faith can cloud academic judgment: As a historian I think I can prove that Jesus died and that he thought his death was atoning.

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I think I can establish that the tomb was empty and that resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb. But one thing the historical method cannot prove is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. At some point, historical methods run out of steam and energy. Historical Jesus studies cannot get us to the point where the Holy Spirit and the church can take us.

The main problem with the human, Jewish Jesus at the center of modern research into biblical history is that nobody really believes in him. In proving the historical Christ, they are also, albeit indirectly, disproving the Jesus of Faith. There have been a few contemporary researchers who disagree with the trendy insistence on the historical Jesus.

These scholars are aware that the Jewish Jesus, while necessary to preserve the possibility of a historical Jesus of any kind, is very tenuously based on the Bible and the assumption that Jesus was real; and that although he remains the focus of academic investigation, a very different hypothesis, which does not presume the historical Jesus, is also possible. This theory may sound unbelievable at first, but bear in mind that it is already not so different from the orthodox position.

The Jesus that they believed in and even died for was not the historical Jesus still being investigated by modern scholarship. The Christ-Myth Theory is in general not supported by the academia because they have already decided to look for the historical Jesus, and acknowledge that comparative mythology cannot shed light onto the object of their investigations.

Those few historians and academics that are interested in researching the mythical Christ hope to present an argument strong enough to withstand the foregone presumption of critics that the theory is outdated or has already been adequately disproved. Acharya S. The most enduring and profound controversy in this subject is whether or not a person named Jesus Christ ever really existed For the general public however, whether or not Jesus Christ as presented in the gospels was a historical figure is a source of much interest, and books on the subject have been both well-received and heavily criticized.

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Titles taking the Christ Myth approach include G. There was also Robert M. Critics respond that modern scholars affirm the historical Jesus and that Christ-Myth Theory is centuries old and based on bad scholarship; which is generally true. Going further, they reject outright any similarities — which for them either do not exist at all usually because, as Justin Martyr affirmed, Jesus actually existed as opposed to the others who did not or are a case of reverse borrowing i.

Unfortunately, they also ignore all of the critical research that has gone into the historical Jesus, cite historical evidences that were discarded as proof by experts centuries ago, and use regurgitated arguments that have no logical foundation to prove that Jesus existed as a historical person. In fairness, the same can be said for most online supporters of Christ-Myth theory. What is Jesus?

Is Jesus the Son of God, Savior, miracle worker, who was born of a virgin, died, came back to life and ascended into heaven? Or was Jesus one of dozens of Jewish rebel leaders during the Roman occupation of Jerusalem? Among scholars, the former is generally refuted or ignored and the later is affirmed.

However, not only is the historical Jesus of modern academics completely different from the Jesus Christ of the gospels, there is also a very specific reason — one which is not based on evidence — for the current academic support of the historical Jesus. Christians believe in the historical Jesus as well — which is not irrational because they are supported by the academic community — and also have faith in the miraculous events.

They are, in effect, the very things least likely to have been said or done by Jesus, not because they are unrealistic, but because they are not unique to an authentic, Jesus-inspired tradition. The result is a historical founder of Christianity which, rather than providing a doorway or foundation for Christian faith, is actually diametrically opposed; for if the historical founder of the scholars did exist, it is only possible due to his dissimilarity from the Jesus Christ of the gospels. At the same time, the idea that Jesus Christ was the historical founder of Christianity is so heavily defended by Christians and biblical scholars that to even raise the possibility of an alternative theory — one in which the savior figure of the gospels may not have been historical — is automatically derided.

This has unfortunately led to the development of rhetoric, assumption and a great deal of obstinacy on both sides of the controversy. Once we understand that various interpretations of Jesus Christ have been made, ranging from Jesus as only a physical man, to Jesus as only a supernatural deity, and that a definitive conclusion is perhaps more a matter of belief than evidence, we may be able to view the entire matter more objectively and review the evidence based on its own merits.

At the same time, the difficulty of approaching this subject without presumptions or ideological baggage must be acknowledged. The idea that Jesus really existed and that the Bible is at least in part historically valid is a paradigm supported by modern culture even among the non-faithful. Due to the number of magazine articles and TV documentaries exploring the investigation into the historical Jesus, showing new archeological discoveries purporting to prove biblical testimony, reviewing the findings of biblical scholars or debating controversies such as the Turin Shroud, there is a passive acceptance that, whatever Jesus might have been, he almost certainly was historical.

The controversy now rages stronger than ever — but both sides recycle arguments and evidence that the other side then blithely discredits or ignores. The current state of frenzied disagreement is all too often based on bias, semantics and sophistry rather than a close investigation of the evidence, and also fails to give — on either camp — a clear explanation of Christian history that fully supports the evidence available. An objective analysis of the evidence simply cannot be done without first identifying the general ideologies and assumptions surrounding the historical Jesus, which will be done in the next chapter.

After examining some of the modern ideas concerning the historical Jesus Christ, which pre-condition how adherents approach this debate, I will identify the evidence and documents used to support the idea of a historical Jesus and question whether they can be accepted as proof. On the one hand, they are right — any reliable historical records that prove that Jesus was historical would automatically weaken theories to the contrary.

In fact, even academics that believe Jesus was historical openly acknowledge that there are far too few reliable historical records of Jesus Christ. The handful that does exist — they maintain — are enough. The majority of scholars, as well as the general public — whether religious or secular — believe that Jesus Christ was historical that there was a historical teacher who began the movement ; however, the arguments used to support this theory are often a mixture of inferences, deductions and references to common knowledge and unfounded associations. Because many readers will have these same concepts nagging in the back of their minds, it will be worthwhile to review them.

Would the martyrs have died for a myth? Can archaeology or other sources prove the veracity of some parts of biblical narrative? Is there any historical evidence, either from within the Christian communities or without, that can support the idea of a historical Jesus? In order to be thorough, these questions need to be answered. In this chapter, therefore, we will deal with the evidence and arguments commonly used to support the idea of a historical Jesus.


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This makes it appear that the Bible records sound historical testimonies of things that really did happen. If these places, mentioned by name by the writers of the gospels, really existed, and the authors had included these seemingly innocuous details into their story, it appears to raise the trustworthiness of the source. First of all, reliable testimony about mundane historical events is simply not equal to testimony about miraculous events. Why is this not also true when dealing with the Bible? Secondly, this argument avoids the main reason the historicity of Jesus is challenged at all — the similarities to older traditions.

And thirdly, there are a few specific historical details recorded in the gospels that go against trustworthy historical sources. As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins points out in The God Delusion:2 Moreover, Luke screws up his dating by tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking.

Even today, many will die for a belief, but none will die for a lie. However, I believe the Christian martyrs were very convinced in their own minds that Jesus Christ was a historical person. Interestingly, not all Christians were willing to be martyrs. Ignatius and St.

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Ignatius, outraged, gives in essence the first instance of the martyrdom argument. For if it is merely in semblance that these things were done by our Lord, I am also a prisoner in semblance. And why have I given myself up to death, to fire, to the sword, to wild beasts? If he did not have an answer then, so close to the time of Christ, nor any proof to offer heretics who denied the physicality of Jesus, how could the mere fact of his willingness to die for his beliefs be used as evidence nearly 2, years later?

This argument is used by, for example, W. Guthrie in Orpheus and Greek Religion: If there were no other evidence for the real existence of the founder of Christianity, a strong case might still be made based on the difficulty a man might feel in accounting for the rise of Christianity without the impulse of a historic Jesus behind it. German scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert uses this argument against the ancient mysteries: The basic difference between ancient mysteries, on the one hand, and religious communities, sects, and churches of the Judeo-Christian type, on the other, is borne out by the verdict of history Not irrelevant to the survival of Christianity is the fact that the early Christian church had both a fixed authority and an organizational structure, not to mention a great deal of wealth; and that all traces of paganism were either destroyed or assimilated.

This, more than a founder, can account for its preservation. Most of these prophecies are written in past tense about specific events and give no indication that they are to be used for the future; however, in order for orthodox Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah, he needed to appear as Jewish as possible. When Herod realized that the Magi had outwitted him, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

The prophecy argument is also used by Jesus himself in the gospels; however, being Jewish, it would have been natural for him to use phrases and quotes from the Old Testament in reference to his own life. He had to be born in Bethlehem, for example, but he also had to be from Nazareth and then move to Egypt.