Idle thoughts on the proof of an historical Jesus

Thomas

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Here and across similar forums often rages the debate regarding the historicity of Jesus, presented invariably as the Incarnate Son of God; a prophet; a messianic Jew; an apocalyptic messenger; a noble teacher; a lunatic; a trouble maker; a myth; an invention; a semi-historical personage, either an amalgam of or confusion of other, similarly suspect, characters.

Scripture as a 'reference source' likewise comes under continual examination, with the determinations that it is, in part or entirely, fabricated, and again, having been written sometime between 0-200 years after the event, it should be equally suspect.

+++

According to historians generally, there is more 'evidence' (circumstantial or otherwise) pointing to the existence of Jesus as Christianity regards Him, than there is for the existence of either Buddha or Mohammed.

The question arises, do the Buddhists contend with arguments that Buddha either never existed, or if he did his teachings is a complete fabrication? The earliest Buddhist scriptures date from at least 400 years after the death of their founder.

And likewise regarding Islam and the existence of Mohammed and the textual veracity of the Koran.

Then, of course, the Vedic texts could of course be the product of metaphysical insight, or mental disorder?

I wonder, can any Buddhists, Moslems or followers of Oriental traditions generally shed any light on this? Do all religions face this order of inquiry?

Or is it more to do with the general air of popular anti-establishmentism, skepticism and nihilism overtaking Western intellectualism?

Just a thought...

Thomas
 
The problem isn't so much of an historical Jesus - it's what sort of person such an historical Jesus was.

As an historical source, the New Testament suffers from making supernatural claims about Jesus, which must be accepted if his historical existence is accepted.

But historians are used to reading mystical literature ascribing supernatural claims to various figures, either religious or otherwise.

Even the normally sober Tacitus tells us that Vespassian was responsible for miracles. Do we therefore accept that Vespassion was a miracle worker, because Tacitus says so?

When other literature in other traditions ascribes supernatural attributes to various figures, would any Christian - let alone historian - therefore accept such claims?

In fact, that may be a more illuminating way to look at it - if we accept religious literature as hard historical fact, then surely that legitimises a whole string of historical personas as having supernatural attributes?

2c.
 
i have noticed what you are saying Thomas. i have also noticed it with the authenticity of the prophets in the Torah in Judaism. The gnostic writings are probably at the top of the list as well for being overly questioned.

i have heard all spiritual writings questioned, but not nearly as often as the 66 books. just my observation.
 
The existence of Muhammad has more historical extra-scriptural evidence than any of the other Abrahamic Prophets. There are extant letters between Muhammad and the court of Byzantium for instance. We even know the words engraved upon His signet ring for sealing those letters.

Regards,
Scott
 
Thomas, I think the reason that Jesus faces so much more scrutiny is due to the allegations that are associated with him. For instance the belief that he is God, Father of Creation and Judge of mankind. Those that believe will go to heaven, those that don't will go to hell. The references for these beliefs in the Bible are very scarce and open for interpretation.

Buddha is not looked at as God and therefore it doesn't matter how much historical evidence there is legitamizing his existence. People practice what they believe he stood for and embodied as a human being. Nor is Muhammad looked at as God.

Christianity deserves to undergo rigorous scrutiny with all of its claims and actions throughout history. It just got started too. More and more will be revealed to mankind regarding Christianity's roots as time moves forward. I think that if people tried to embody Jesus' belief for the mere sake of wanting to do the right thing rather than out of fear that they'll go to hell Christianity would be a better religion for all.
 
Bandit said:
i have heard all spiritual writings questioned, but not nearly as often as the 66 books. just my observation.
two things....

seems to me much of the questioning of the 66 books comes from those that utilize the 66 books as scripture in one degree or another. (the whole christian v. ity discussion)

and many of those hang their hat on the 66 books having 100% veracity and being written by 'the finger of G-d' dismiss all other books and thought out of hand...(I said many, not all, and not pointing any fingers here)
 
wil said:
two things....

seems to me much of the questioning of the 66 books comes from those that utilize the 66 books as scripture in one degree or another. (the whole christian v. ity discussion)

and many of those hang their hat on the 66 books having 100% veracity and being written by 'the finger of G-d' dismiss all other books and thought out of hand...(I said many, not all, and not pointing any fingers here)

i always tell people, if they cant find what they are looking for in the 66 books, to make up their own bible. i am aware of the other writings, but they do not make the grade, for me.
i am comfortable with the 66 books & do not feel any need to add or take away from the writings, it is some of the dogma that came about that i just dont agree with.

people attempt to discredit the bible all the time, more than the other religions, & we know why.
i dont see why christians cant have their own writings to go by when all other religions do. i am not catholic but there is one thing i stand behind the early RCC for, it is the collection that they chose to compile. there was way too much other stuff going on & i feel those men picked the right writings to compile. i feel if it was not for the efforts of the early RCC 100-300AD, we would have completely lost those writings. the truth is, i feel the Book of Acts is more than sufficient for those searching.

i wont debate the books & writings, but like i tell everyone, if they dont like the 66, feel free to make up their own bible. :)
 
lol bandit.. and there are several of those books that add to the 66 out there.. so ppl must be taking that advice.
 
Faithfulservant said:
lol bandit.. and there are several of those books that add to the 66 out there.. so ppl must be taking that advice.

hee hee:D i figure they already took my advice before i gave it. no point in arguing over that stuff. but i think some are trying to give me advice? LOL
everyone just make your own bible & let me make my own bible.
saves everyone a lot of stress that way.
 
"do the Buddhists contend with arguments that Buddha either never existed, or if he did his teachings is a complete fabrication?"
His "teachings" don't consist of factual assertions, but of a practice aiming to develop a certain way of viewing things. Whether there was or was not a historical prince Siddhartha Gautama of S'akya is of no particular relevance. So the same kinds of issues just don't really arise. If you tell a Christian that Jesus was biologically the son of Joseph, he will get upset because it would matter to the Christian faith whether that person was of miraculous origin or not. But tell a Buddhist that baby Siddhartha did not actually speak and walk at the moment of his birth, and no lotus blossoms sprang from his footsteps, and so on, and you will just get a shrug, because the fairy-tale elaborations do not have any centrality to Buddhism.
 
I said:
The problem isn't so much of an historical Jesus - it's what sort of person such an historical Jesus was.

As an historical source, the New Testament suffers from making supernatural claims about Jesus, which must be accepted if his historical existence is accepted.

But historians are used to reading mystical literature ascribing supernatural claims to various figures, either religious or otherwise.

Even the normally sober Tacitus tells us that Vespassian was responsible for miracles. Do we therefore accept that Vespassion was a miracle worker, because Tacitus says so?

When other literature in other traditions ascribes supernatural attributes to various figures, would any Christian - let alone historian - therefore accept such claims?

In fact, that may be a more illuminating way to look at it - if we accept religious literature as hard historical fact, then surely that legitimises a whole string of historical personas as having supernatural attributes?

2c.

In 1964, a group of four children were put into a bathtub for daily cleaning. The oldest was three and the youngest was 18 months. The parents had only put three or so inches of water into the tub. Then one went to answer the "new" phone installed in the house, and the other went to tend to an infant of a few months. In a matter of minutes the tub filled with more water (cold water), and everyone jumped out of the tub, except for the 18 month old, who could not. The three year old was towelling himself off, when for some reason he looked back into the tub, and saw the 18 month old staying under water for a long time. The three year old tried to grab and pull the 18 month old out of the tub, but the skin was slippery, and the 18 month old kept sliding back under water. So, he jumped in the tub and shoved her out, onto the floor with a thud, which made Daddy mad..."WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE!!!"

Finally, the Three year old ran to the top of the stairs and said (matter of factly), "Daddy, Coleen is dead...". The distracted father (tending to the infant said, "What Jimmy?". And the Child repeated his matter of fact statement, "Coleen is dead". The father, bellowed for his wife to get off the "new fangled phone" and tend to the infant, while he bounded up 14 steps in three, entered the bathroom and picked up the "lifeless" body of his daughter off the bathroom floor.

He looked at the Three year old and "ordered" him to put the rest of the children in one of the bedrooms and close the door (which the child dutifully did), then stepped back into the bathroom to observe what daddy would do next.

Daddy, was an Air Force Veteran, who had been taught a new concept called CPR, and Daddy was trying this new thing on the dead Coleen. Time later, Coleen coughed and cried a little bit, then fell asleep. Mommy and Daddy bundled Coleen up and were gone, while the neighbor watched the rest of us.

Late at night, they came home with Coleen bundled tightly, and put her in a crib next to their bed (that no one slept in before). The three year old snuck into Mommy and Daddy's room to look at Coleen, who had eyes wide open. "Get up" the three year old said. She did, but the look in her eyes was so serious and dark. Then she cried out a little, which woke Mommy and Daddy up, and she called out for Mamma (no brain damage).

The Local news paper the next week spoke about the close call, the little Coleen had with drowning in the tub. The article pointed out how the father saved the little girl's life through a new "Air Force/military technique". How they were concerned about brain damage, but all was well...

My point is. History is written though all the facts are not always evident. The "historian" has one perspective. But the whole truth may contain more, that was lost in the hullaboo...and the rest gets lost to antiquity.

History happens, but we're not privy to the whole history...hence it becomes somewhat scattered, and in time, lost...;)

my thoughts

v/r

Q
 
Quahom1 said:
History happens, but we're not privy to the whole history...hence it becomes somewhat scattered, and in time, lost...;)
Neat! A long time ago, I decided, that I wanted to know the whole story. And I decided this at a time - when I was not afraid to look ... and when I was ready to look someone in the face who said, "You're not allowed to look there," and say in return, Who says!

My search, and my willingness to inquire, wherever, whenever, & however, I thought the Truth might be discovered/discoverable ... has led me to a dead end on more than one occasion, and I am quite certain that I have encountered inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information on several occasions. Some of the things I've come across might have even been examples of disinformation, or intentionally misleading information. But I remain confident that I've also managed to root those out ... although I like to maintain the possibility that any given piece of information, or data, could be mistaken.

The picture, as a whole, however ... remains for me, a sound and a helpful one. And thus, while 99% of Christians are fairly convinced that Jesus of Nazareth lived 2000 years ago, it doesn't bother me in the least to consider that he probably lived 100 years before that. Why should it? Nor does it bother me that he might have travled to Egypt, to India, to Tibet, and to Rajputana ... teaching and learning from the many holy men that he encountered. What evidence do we have against this, after all ... since the supposed authority on the matter - the Holy Bible - is strangely silent about this missing 18 years of Jesus' life? ;)

If, in fact, I find in my hands, not one, but even several volumes, which purport to be direct communication from - Jesus Himself ... and not 2000 years old, but recorded only a few short decades ago ... again, why should this be the least bit surprising, or even questionable!?! Why should it be any less believable than the rather strange notion that somehow there exists a final and authoritative book ... which book - was repeatedly edited and translated, the contents being selected by various councils of men ... who each had any number of political, and other personal motives in mind? And further, when other sources exist - equally as old and every bit as historically accurate (to the best of our ability to discern) - why should we question these sources and subject them to more rigorous scrutiny and debunking ... than the Bible itself?

Notice that nowhere am I suggesting that one disregard the testimony found in the Bible, or even that we do not take seriously what we find there. Some may put forward such recommendations, but I merely suggest - that other sources can be found ... readily, by those who search without bias or prejudice .... which can tell us many things about the historical Jesus of Nazareth, including much that I think the average Christian would find of interest, the least of this being more grounds for a rational belief in the historicity of Christ, and of his Ministry & Mission.

Ahhh, but strangely, when even such a notion (such as, that these works exist, and can be found & studied) is put forward ... I find that few who claim to desire to know the truth, and to broaden their understanding ... leap forward. In fact, I find just the opposite. I find rejection, and the jealous guarding of what one has already come to cherish as sacred, holy and true. It is as if ... perhaps, one isn't really interested in furthering one's learning, after all. What one really wants, is simply more confirmation - not to have to see things the slightest bit different, or in any other light. This suggests to me, that one must therefore, already know all there is to know ... on the matter, and is therefore an authority. Or that one doesn't want to know more. For to simply say, "the Bible says," and point to x, y & z passage, gets us no farther than we were to start with. And to insist, with fervor and zeal, that "the Bible tells me all I want to know" - is well within one's right. But as I said to start with, I wanted to know more.

And not everyone has closed the door to further learning and discovery. I know many, many people ... for whom the search is ongoing, and growth is a close & cherished friend. And plenty of these ... are Christians, or believers in Christ, while others are not, as such. :)

Namaskar,

andrew
 
Thomas I would like you to know I have shared your question (giving credit to you) in a group I am member too..
I hope this is ok with you? if not let me know!
Izzy
Just found this site and looks interesting!
:)
 
Diddymus: Thomas, I think the reason that Jesus faces so much more scrutiny is due to the allegations that are associated with him. For instance the belief that he is God, Father of Creation and Judge of mankind. Those that believe will go to heaven, those that don't will go to hell. The references for these beliefs in the Bible are very scarce and open for interpretation.

Diddymus Jesus is not God to most Christians he is the Son of God, I do not recall Jesus saying he was God in any writings? still I am not a strong Biblical student, however if people think Christians think Jesus is God they are misguided!
Izzy
 
The question arises, do the Buddhists contend with arguments that Buddha either never existed, or if he did his teachings is a complete fabrication? The earliest Buddhist scriptures date from at least 400 years after the death of their founder.

I wonder, can any Buddhists, Moslems or followers of Oriental traditions generally shed any light on this? Do all religions face this order of inquiry?

Hi Thomas,

Didymus and bob x have mostly made the points I would have but here’s my take, as you ask. I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist but I’m slightly less ignorant of its teaching than other “religions” (only put quotes round that word because I don’t view Buddhism as a religion, although it has been given the trappings of one).

I have read stuff like the following on more than one occasion, and I concur with this: Whether or not the Buddha was a real person does not matter. Whether or not (if he did exist) he said what he said does not matter (by itself). Ultimately, arguing the toss over the exact meaning of a piece of writing to determine the “right” answer is missing the point. To you, the reader, the only thing that matters is this: What does this supposed teaching by this supposed person mean to you? (Does it make sense? Does it help you? Is it going to assist you in being a less unhappy / more happy person? Will it change the way you perceive and relate to others, the world and your place in it?) If yes, then can you make use of it?

It does not matter (to science) if Einstein existed, what matters is: is it true that E=mc2?

Following on from this, people interested in Buddhism are constantly engaging in all manner of such “inquiry” because it is a living teaching that individuals engage in on a 1 to 1 basis. The recipe is old but the loaf is made anew by each individual. I would not describe this therefore as nihilism, scepticism or anti-establishmentism. I don’t swallow something hook line and sinker just because (eg) the Dalai Lama says it. I think about it and if it sounds truthful, ethical or helpful I take it on board. Otherwise, I keep an open mind on it or decide my opinion is contrary for some reason.

s.
 
Diddymus: Thomas, I think the reason that Jesus faces so much more scrutiny is due to the allegations that are associated with him. For instance the belief that he is God, Father of Creation and Judge of mankind. Those that believe will go to heaven, those that don't will go to hell. The references for these beliefs in the Bible are very scarce and open for interpretation.

Diddymus Jesus is not God to most Christians he is the Son of God, I do not recall Jesus saying he was God in any writings? still I am not a strong Biblical student, however if people think Christians think Jesus is God they are misguided!
Izzy

At another website (Christian only) I innocently started a discussion: "Let's talk about the Trinity." Talk about open a can of worms. It appears that the doctrine of the Trinity and especially the nature of Jesus is perhaps the most controversial of all Christian doctrines.

I can assure you that there are a great number of references in the Bible as to the nature of Jesus, and the predominant viewpoint in the discussion (which is probably still raging) is that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

However many insist -- with Scriptural support -- that Jesus was God incarnate, and is in fact God Himself.

Unfortunately because of the nature of that website I cannot provide a link to the discussion. However when I last checked there were more than 150 posts as well as two spin-off discussions.
 
Diddymus: Thomas, I think the reason that Jesus faces so much more scrutiny is due to the allegations that are associated with him. For instance the belief that he is God, Father of Creation and Judge of mankind. Those that believe will go to heaven, those that don't will go to hell. The references for these beliefs in the Bible are very scarce and open for interpretation.

Diddymus Jesus is not God to most Christians he is the Son of God, I do not recall Jesus saying he was Godstill I am not a strong Biblical student, however if people think Christians think Jesus is God they are misguided! in any writings? Izzy

Then perhaps you should start cracking the book, and studying up. To most Christians Jesus is God, Son of God, Savior, Judge. And the Bible is pretty specific about it, both in the OT and the NT.

John 1: is a good start.

v/r

Joshua
 
If a foundation of Christianity (and some other religions) is that there is a soul that is supernatural or metaphysical, then should it be inconceivable to think that Jesus is/was?

I am leary with anyone who speaks about 'most Christians'. If there were only 1 million Christians does anyone really know more than .01% of them and what they think? I have every confidence that Jesus does, so that some could.
 
At another website (Christian only) I innocently started a discussion: "Let's talk about the Trinity." Talk about open a can of worms. It appears that the doctrine of the Trinity and especially the nature of Jesus is perhaps the most controversial of all Christian doctrines.

I can assure you that there are a great number of references in the Bible as to the nature of Jesus, and the predominant viewpoint in the discussion (which is probably still raging) is that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

However many insist -- with Scriptural support -- that Jesus was God incarnate, and is in fact God Himself.

Unfortunately because of the nature of that website I cannot provide a link to the discussion. However when I last checked there were more than 150 posts as well as two spin-off discussions.

Actually, very few denominations have problems with the Trinity, and those that do, number in less than 200 million people, as opposed to the 2.3 billion that call themselves Christian.
 
If a foundation of Christianity (and some other religions) is that there is a soul that is supernatural or metaphysical, then should it be inconceivable to think that Jesus is/was?

I am leary with anyone who speaks about 'most Christians'. If there were only 1 million Christians does anyone really know more than .01% of them and what they think? I have every confidence that Jesus does, so that some could.

Not my problem or opinion. Those are the statistics, based on those who identify by denomination, who's doctrine acknowledges or does not acknowledge the Trinity.

To state Jesus was, is a past tense indicative (was, but is no more). To state that Jesus "is" is present participle (current). That alone should give one an idea of what a "Christian" thinks of Jesus...
 
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