Posts Tagged With: Christ

The Jesus “Myth” Myth

Recently, I ran across someone claiming Jesus was a myth. This, at first, made me laugh. Not from a religious perspective (though these claims seem to crop up during Easter like clockwork), but from the perspective of ancient history. I also shook my head on the realization that more and more people don’t test such claims. People are way too trusting. That’s another story altogether, but what does history tell us about this “Jesus didn’t exist” theory? Why has the evidence from history has compelled most scholars, regardless of their religious beliefs, to believe Jesus was real? First, this:

There are more ancient documents attesting to Jesus than any other individual from antiquity.

“So what?” says the skeptic. “Most were written by Christians.”

True, but since the writers were Christians (or what we would now consider such), does that automatically mean we should suspect deception? By that logic (or lack of), we should also be suspect of any non-christian writing about Christianity.

More importantly, the Gospels were all written relatively close to the time of Jesus. So people who had seen, known or encountered Jesus were still alive to verify the writings or serve as sources. Verses in Paul’s epistles have been recognized as coming from early creeds that date within a few years (the first two), if not months, from the death of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 there are various clues that indicate Paul is repeating an early creed, both in the language and style he uses and the underlying Aramaic. This is also why some of Paul’s writings predate the writing of the Gospels.

Also note that other sources do not deny Jesus existed. Jewish writers, who had more reason than anyone else to show Jesus didn’t exist, did not do so. Instead, they argued he wasn’t the Messiah. This brings us to the next important point:

The New Testament is not the only collection of ancient documents writing about Jesus.

Many Christians don’t even know this. Some examples: Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus in Annals; Suetonius, chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian; Flavius Josephus, Jewish historian in Antiquities; Julius Africanus in Extant Writings refers to the lost works of Thallus who describes the darkness and earthquake at the time of Christ’s death; in Pliny the Younger’s Letters; in letters from Emperors Trajan and Hadrian; Jewish documents the Talmud and the Toledoth Jesu; writings by Lucian, second century Greek satirist.

Understand that most of these writers were not “pro-Jesus” by any stretch. Even if some of the Josephus references were added later, as some claim, we are still left with a large body of undisputed writings. Nor have we mentioned the large body of apocryphal books that appeared in those ancient times.

And for those who claim the New Testament is unreliable, I’ll briefly state this: Pseudoscholars claim there are hundreds of thousands of variants between New Testament manuscripts. In reality, most of these variants are spelling variations, using different synonyms or language-to-language translation issues. What you are left with are a few verses like John 7:53-8:11 that are not in early manuscripts and Bibles denote them as such. These verses, and none of the variants, impact the orthodox beliefs of Christianity.

Claiming Jesus is a “myth” is nothing more than a futile attempt to rewrite history.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Was Christ Stolen from Myth?

Continuing the Bible-history-theme for Easter we now turn to attempts to revise the origins of Christ. There is an entire cottage industry proclaiming that the fundamental beliefs of Christianity were all stolen. These “shocking” claims are actually nothing new, other than to people not too deep into ancient history. The problem is that the people who read the claims for the first time do not test them. If they did, they would find that they have not been provided with the whole story. Take these two examples:

Claim #1: Virgin birth stolen from others, such as the Persian god Mirtha or the Egyptian Isis.

The myth actually states that Mirtha was born from a rock. Other supposed “Christian” elements have been read into Mirthaism which formed much later in Rome. And many of the claims, like Mirtha being resurrected, after three days no less, have no documentation in myth or history. The Egyptian Isis (see below) may or may not have given birth to her son miraculously. In either case, her son did not set out to save the world.

Claim #2: The Egyptian Osiris was a model for Jesus’ resurrection.

Have people really read the myth? Osiris was killed and chopped up by his brother. His wife/sister Isis puts him back together and he ends up running the underworld.

What people fail to see is that tales like Mirtha and Osiris have no indication of being anything other than stories springing from someone’s imagination. Never grounded in history. No historical eyewitnesses. No fulfilled prophecies. Ironically, similarities — sometimes vague or imagined, but occasionally similar — in myths and beliefs around the world quite often prepared them for the coming of Christianity. And if Christianity is the historical and true religion from the actual creator as it claims to be, wouldn’t this be expected?. Historian Rodney Stark thinks so in Cities of God:

These days scholarly neo-pagans are especially hostile toward any hint that Christianity had anything new, let alone better, to offer…it is their usual claim that Christianity can hardly have been inspired since it offers only a rather stale mixture of conventional pagan ideas of myths. Their point seems to be that one either embraces all of the gods or none.

Of course, from the beginning Christian theologians have been fully aware of similarities between the Christ story and pagan mythology. And it did not disturb them to admit that elements of God’s final revelation had seeped into human awareness to help prepare the way. Moreover, the familiarity of the Christ story was entirely consistent with the long-standing Christian premise that God’s revelations are always limited to the current capacity of humans to comprehend.

In other words, it is strange that peoples before or after the Christian era, often with no contact with Christians, would have beliefs that are sometimes vaguely similar to Christian ones. Humans seem to have an inborn realization of another existence. Never do we actually see evidence of other beliefs evolving into Christian ones. Just because a belief predates another, without a direct line to the latter, we cannot assume (as some do) the latter sprang from the former. This is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

It is not that the people spreading myths are being malicious. They are often just repeating the same incomplete claim read somewhere else, not bothering to study the rebuttals. People gravitate to affirmations of their beliefs, especially if it sounds plausible. Realize that many people have an agenda, intentional or not.

Assume nothing, test everything.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter & the Revisionists

As of late, it seems that skeptics and others with various revisionist ideas and pseudo-history, use Easter as the time to promote their views on the Bible and Jesus. The critical thinker can always spot those trying to push an agenda. When reviewing the books of these “alternative” theorists, there often seems to be a lack of scholarship as compared to their competition. Or they are very selective in their “evidence” and show little depth in research. So if you are someone who has only read the tabloid-like claims of these folks, or are worried about their ideas, here are some solid works on the New Testament and its contents:

The Case for the Real Jesus
The Many Gospels of Jesus
The Case for Christ
The Historical Jesus
The New Testament Documents: Are the Reliable?

These are the kind of books the revisionists don’t want you to read. However, anyone honest about seeking truth, owes it to themself to test everything.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Books | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Major” Codice Discovery

If you think nothing from antiquity is left to be found, once again archaeology has found yet another historic find. These codices date back to the dawn of Christianity and may contain some of the oldest references to Christ. Scholars are rightly being cautious. Remember the ossuary that supposedly contained Jesus’ bones? Or how the Gospel of Judas was going to rewrite Christianity? Both turned out to be over-hyped duds (pushed by skeptics). This doesn’t have the feel of another tabloid-adventure. Stay tuned for more.

Update: Now the codices are under suspicion of being some sort of fake.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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