Is Jesus a Myth: One of the World’s Most Controversial Figures

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Table of contents

  1. Arguments in Support of the Statement
  2. Whether It Is Reasonable to Doubt his Historical Existence 
  3. Conclusions

It would be hard to find a person in history that has been met with so much controversy than Jesus of Nazareth. According to those who wrote the New Testament, Jesus is God, who was born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, was crucified for the sins of the world, and three days later rose from the dead. Is there any evidence that Jesus was even a real historical person and that he claimed to be God? Many skeptics believe Jesus was only a moral prophet, a teacher of righteousness. The evidence that Christians use to claim the truth of Jesus as God is based on the four Gospels and Paul’s epistles, which were written many years after the death of Jesus’s. However, skeptics are not likely to accept this evidence because its considered Christian sources, expressing a bias in their writings and claiming to have an agenda. Other than the toughest skeptics, many can agree that Jesus existed and walked the earth. Others believe he was simply a myth borrowed from pagan traditional stories. The historical Jesus may not have been the person that many people imagine today but was he a real person? When it comes to Jesus many people have a lot to say and I hope to express some of those views shed some light on these topics.

Arguments in Support of the Statement

For the record, let's look at the idea of Jesus and who he claimed to be and include some of the Christian arguments supported by the Gospels and the interpretations of these Gospels by bible-believing Christians. The entire story of Jesus as God rises and falls with Christianity and if Jesus is not God or just a myth, as many skeptics have stated, then Christianity is false. Christians have claimed that the godliness of Jesus would have had to come from Jesus himself, otherwise, it doesn’t make sense that a group of faithful Jews would begin thinking a man was the Messiah out of nowhere. Also, Christians believe that the Gospels records Jesus saying things that suggested his title as the Messiah, claiming to have the power to forgive sins in Mark chapter 2:5-7. In Luke 12:8-10, claiming that he has unique knowledge of the Father, that can only mean one thing; he has the same nature as the Father. What about in Mark 14:60-64 when the high priest interrogated Jesus, asking him if he is the Messiah, and Jesus answered, “I Am”.

Lastly, In Matthew 26:61-66 Jesus again answered to the high priest, “You Have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the cloud of heaven”. If this was not a direct answer, then why did the priest tear his robes and uttered blasphemy? These verses are open to interpretation but we all can agree that each of the Gospel stories seeks to tell us a story of the life of Jesus and what he taught as well as the significance of his being. This is why many Christians believe that the Gospels to be reliable sources, “Luke writes at the beginning of his Gospel that he sought to do the same as many others who have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events which have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word’.

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Many times, we have heard that Jews don’t believe in Jesus and how this goes against their identity. Jesus or Yeshua in Hebrew was an Israeli born Jew who grew up in a Jewish community, practice Jewish laws and customs, worshiped the God of Israel. His followers were also all Jewish and all his teaching were all based upon and rooted in the Jewish Scriptures known as the Tanakh. We often hear today that Jews can’t accept Jesus and that faith in Jesus while being Jewish is incompatible. Many believe that Jesus was the founder of a new religion called Christianity, a pagan religion for the gentiles. Unfortunately, the only Jesus many Jews know of today is just the baby Jesus of Christmas but the one still hanging on a cross in churches is viewed as a false prophet, and founder of a new religion for the sake of which many Jews were persecuted and killed or the Jesus of the Crusaders and the Inquisition, “They are representative, however, not of orthodox or traditional Judaism but of reformed or progressive Judaism”. I come to learn that even the Holocaust is perceived by many Jews as something that was done in the name of Christianity. The sad fact is that many so-called Christians have committed atrocities against Jews in the name of Jesus. So, it's no surprise that Jewish people do not want anything to do with Jesus and his followers the way they know it from history. We understand the biggest issue of Jesus as the Godhead, meaning how can Jesus be God? But what about Jesus as a historical figure? The Jewish view of Jesus of Nazareth is of a man, a moral teacher, a prophet that lived during the rule of Rome in Israel and who was executed along with other Jews for speaking out against the Roman status quo, along with claiming to be God.

Whether It Is Reasonable to Doubt his Historical Existence 

Is it fair to assume since many have dismissed the idea of Jesus as the Messiah that is reasonable to doubt his historical existence altogether? Author Raphael Lataster who believes that the Christ of Faith has already been debunked by mainstream secular scholars is now challenging the idea of Jesus’s historical existence altogether. Lataster examines the thoughts of four historical scholars who have previously released publications about this issue and fuses their ideologies to help prove the notion that Jesus was never a historical figure. He starts off with the issue of the bible as a source for the historicity of Jesus and how it cannot prove anything historically in that context, “He continues by noting how historians appreciate numerous, contemporary, detailed, and somewhat disinterested sources, which corroborate others’ accounts without collaboration having taking place – just what we lack with regards to Jesus”. He includes that the Roman historian Tacitus' reference of Jesus was based solely on hearsay and not by historical research and therefore is not reliable and that the existence of Jesus rests upon the words of a Christian. To summarize, the author does not always agree with the historical scholars, claiming it is riddled with issues of presuppositions and illogical methods and shares his thoughts, “A proper probabilistic analysis, however, of the hypotheses of minimal historicity and minimal mythicism, reveals that it is also reasonable to outright deny Jesus’ historicity. Not simply because the sources are terrible, but because they indicate that Christianity evolved naturally from preexisting Jewish beliefs in a Celestial Messiah”.

Could there be any bias in Lataster’s own personal thoughts to his conclusion of these scholars’ views or are his claims reasonable to suggest? Although Lataster reviews four historical scholars to address his new claim, another historian points out some issues with his sources and some logical fallacies as well. First, Breda Watson, another historian assumes that the claim of secular scholars being more reliable than religious scholars is being hinted here, suggesting that the reference to “secular” scholars’ numerous times takes a shot at religious scholars’ insight on the topic. If so, this would be considered a logical bias but since this was never actually said we must caution not to use assumptions as fact. She makes mention of the very notion that Christian scholars specifically are always targeted as being bias and feel the need to defend their faith by imposing secular scholars who question their faith. Watson sees a logical fallacy here, 'but to regard only Christian scholars as bias and having an agenda, whilst ‘secular’ scholars were and are squeaky clean, neutral, balanced and open without any agenda, is special pleading”. Lataster suggests that the gospels have many issues and mistakes and fail to convincingly answer why the gospels are not reliable and if not convinced then the gospels should be given the benefit of the doubt unless strong evidence is produced. Also, any historical source regarded as doubtful shouldn’t be immediately rejected but quite possibly looked at in a different light, “In fact, the presence of mistakes and contradictions indicates real human source material!” We know we can account for the existence of Christianity through the simple fact that it has flourished over the millennia and that the letters of Paul offer enough of an explanation to this fact. On the contrary, where is the evidence, documents from the right period for the widespread belief in a pre-Christian Jewish Celestial Christ which is the root of Christianity altogether? Finally, are the origins of the gospels unchallenged? Are there contradictions on the book of Mark and it being the earliest of the gospels and having an influence on the other books of the gospel? I don’t think because of dating issues we should downgrade the gospels as primary sources. Another fallacy that mainstream historical scholars fail to consider is that people with large perceptions can envision the cause and effect phenomenon that can develop from rational situations like those mention in the Gospels, “It is not at all implausible that an astute analysis in the early first century CE of the way that a section of the Jewish population was behaving towards the Romans would at some point lead to the collapse of the temple”.

There are two sides to the mythicists argument on the gospels, one is to show that the gospel content is mythological and the other is show that they are not independent accounts and so cannot be used to corroborate each other historically. Mythicist have spent a lot of time and effort dissecting the origins of the scriptures and stories in the gospels, “ This position of strong scepticism holds that the gospels are entirely mythological texts and that we are mistaken in reading them as embellished accounts of a man who lived and preached in the Middle East around 2000 years ago”. After reviewing the facts, they conclude that much of the Gospels were derived from Jewish Scripture, mythical themes that were current in the religions at the time, particularly in Judaism, non-Jewish literature, Pauls epistles, and various other inventions. Some historical scholars reject this analysis out of hand and that its area of origins of the Gospel material is so vigorously debated but it has little to do with mythicist versus minimal historicity debate. The mythological point of the myth arguments has a significant weakness and that is both historicity and mysticism accept that much of the gospel content is mythological. It is also vital to mysticism that all the content about Jesus is mythical.

Conclusions

The number of problems and claims on each side of the argument would require an enormous amount of time and effort to piece together in order to get the entire picture of this important issue and even then, we can never know for sure? For nearly 2000 years this question has always been at the forefront of religion. Can we conclude that many historians reorganize that not believing in Jesus as a historical figure is a silly idea? Looking at the evidence there were all kinds of non-biblical people in the first century that talked about Jesus, such as Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, as well as others who had no biblical agenda to claim that he existed. However, if it isn’t in the gospel, we probably can never know Jesus as well as the few nonbiblical references. The purpose of conversations and study into this subject is not to ridicule other religions, but rather try to explain and recognize the position of those that reject Jesus’s existence. The more information that’s available, the better-informed people can be about their beliefs or views in one of the world’s most controversial figures.  

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