Big Think is a popular website with over 2,5 million followers on Facebook. They publish videos with people like Bill Nye and Michio Kaku. You can find a lot of good stuff on their page but I think they really jumped the shark with this article. I’ll try to show you why I think that’s the case.
The article I am reffering to is called: “A Growing Number of Scholars Are Questioning the Historical Existence of Jesus” and dates from December last year. The article mainly wants to show us why it is a growing number of scholars are questioning the historical Jesus. So let’s see what the article has to say.
“Today more and more, historians and bloggers alike are questioning whether the actual man called Jesus existed.”
The article starts out with a flat out assertion. It tells us that more and more historians are questioning whether the actual man called Jesus existed. Where the evidence for this? On what source is the writer Philip Perry basing this on? It gives us none, it flat out asserts this so called “fact”. And bloggers? What’s that about? Bloggers all of a sudden have some kind of academic authority? So when bloggers question whether or not the Holocaust happened, it must be true? Don’t get me wrong, I take this blog serious and I will proclaim as much of what scholars say as I can on this blog, but at the end of the day, it’s just a blog. One out of millions. I am no authority whatsoever.
“Unfortunately, many of the writings we do have are tainted, the authors being religious scholars or atheists with an axe to grind.”
Which writings are tainted? And why? Again, a flat out assertion. Granted, it might very well be possible that personal convictions may play a role when someone writes his or hers article, book, blog, etc. But I guess evolutionary biologists are not trust worthy when they tell us about the theory of evolution?
“One important point is the lack of historical sources. In the bible, whole chunks of his life are missing. Jesus goes from age 12 to 30, without any word of what happened in-between.”
This, I am afraid, is not a good argument to prove Jesus never existed. We do have historical sources for his life. Our Gospels provide us with enough evidence to prove that Jesus at least existed. I wrote a whole article on the historical Jesus you can check here.
“What we do have are lots of sources completed several decades after the fact, by authors of the gospels who wanted to promote the faith. The gospels themselves are contradictory. For instance, they tell competing Easter stories. Another problem, there aren’t any real names attached to many of them, but rather an apostle’s who “signed off” on the manuscript. There is also evidence that the gospels were heavily edited over the years.”
All very much true and all very much irrelevant if you want to prove Jesus existed. Mark based his independent account on earlier oral traditions about Jesus. Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark but also present us with information not found in Mark. This information the most probably got from another source called the “Q” source. Matthew and Luke also provide us with information not found in any other of the three synoptic Gospels and these sources are called the “M” and “L” source. So we have four independent sources written within a hundred years after Jesus died which is enough for historians to claim that Jesus at least existed.
“St. Paul is the only one to write about events chronologically. Even then, few facts about Jesus are divulged. Paul’s Epistles rest on the “Heavenly Jesus,” but never mention the living man.”
Wrong. Here’s a list of things Paul tells us about Jesus:
– Jesus was born as a human
– Jesus was a Jew
– Jesus was a descendant of King David
– Jesus had brothers, one of them named James
– Jesus had a ministry to Jews
– Jesus had twelve disciples
– Jesus was a teacher
– Jesus anticipated his own death
– Jesus had the last supper the night he was handed over
– Jesus was killed at the instigation of Jews in Judea
– Jesus died by crucifixion
‘’For such an important revolutionary and religious figure, there are surprisingly no eyewitness counts.’’
If someone actually studies the historical Jesus you would know that he wasn’t an important and revolutionary man. Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet from rural Galilee who got convicted as a state criminal for most probably calling himself the king of the Jews.
“And the writings we do have are biased.”
True, but that’s no reason to dismiss them as historical sources entirely. Bart Ehrman says:
“We don’t dismiss early American accounts of the Revolutionary War simply because they were written by Americans. We take their biases into consideration and sometimes take their descriptions of events with a pound of salt. But we do not refuse to use them as historical sources. To refuse to use them as sources is to sacrifice the most important avenues to the past we have, and on purely ideological, not historical grounds. So too the Gospels. Whatever one thinks of them as inspired scripture, they can be seen and used as significant historical sources.” – Bart Ehrman – Did Jesus Exist? (page 74)
“Roman historians Josephus and Tacitus do make a few, scant remarks about his life. But that was a century after Jesus’s time.”
Flat out wrong again. Josephus mentions Jesus in his “Antiquities of the Jews” written around 93/94 CE. So that’s within a hundred years after Jesus died. Tacitus mentions Jesus in his “Annals” written somewhere around 116 CE. Still a hundred years after Jesus died.
“So they may have garnered their information from early Christians. And those threadbare accounts are controversial too, since the manuscripts had been altered over time by Christian scribes whose job it was to preserve them.”
I really would like to know what the evidence is for this claim. The text by Tacitus is a Christian interpolation? It’s all known that Josephus’ text suffered from a Christian interpolation but when the interpolation is removed, the text goes like this:
“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. He was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. When Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease tot do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”
This is enough to at least prove Jesus actually existed.
“Today, several books approach the subject, including Zealot by Reza Aslan, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All by David Fitzgerald, and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.”
I am truly wondering if the author actually read all these books. I am guessing he didn’t. Ehrman is a defender of the historical Jesus, he wrote a whole book about it called: “Did Jesus Exist?”. David Fitzgerald is not a serious scholar in the field. The author then goes on mention Richard Carrier, who he most probably got all this wrong information from.
The article is poorly written for such a renowned website and the author is basing to much of what he says on scholars with very non mainstream views or who are not even serious scholars in the field. Big Think made a big mistake here.