Jesus was a good man but his biographers got it wrong?


#1

In discussions with good persons who like to think that Jesus was a good person, and only a good person, it’s impossible for me to get beyond the whole idea that his biographer’s over-embellished, misquoted, or completely screwed up what Jesus’s nature really was. Given all the Roman Emperors and other people at the time who were deified after-the-fact by their over-zealous fans, I suppose it’s hard for such persons not to relegate Jesus to the same plane of guys who weren’t actually gods.

In a strange sense, this is good news for me in my growth, meaning that up to this speculative cop-out I can argue for Christianity well, but of course it is detestable news as well. After all, there’s no stronger argument against a religion than to bash its deity-credibility under the guise of “you’re all good guys.” (man I love puns)

Saying Jesus is good but not God is anti-theistic enough to be accepted by skeptics while friendly enough to appear as an arm-reaching gesture towards Christians which slowly eats away at the weak-man’s faith.

I’ll be the first to admit that my faith is very weak in the absense of evidence, and being able to respond to such “Biographer’s embellished Him” claims would be helpful to me as well.


#2

First of all, it’s important to note that faith is not born of evidence – it is a gift from God. It’s possible to construct rational arguments in support of faith, or even as a beginnng for it, but one should not seek to hang one’s faith on empirical evidence; it just doesn’t exist.

Having said that, I’ll point out an interesting argument I’ve seen a few times that touches on the question with which you’re struggling. Given that Jesus was an actual historical figure, and given that he said in no uncertain terms that he is the Son of God, we can assume one of the following:

  1. He was what he said he was.
  2. He was lying.
  3. He was delusional.

When one looks at the way in which the Church grew, and the vast numbers of people who gave their lives rather than betray their faith, and the unbroken chain of popes leading all the way back to Peter, it’s difficult to accept the second or third propositions.

If one considers that the Gospels “embellished” Christ’s words, and that he never in fact said he was the Son of God, and that the Resurrection was a hoax, we run into a problem: the Church grew despite horrendous persecution which claimed the lives of many Church fathers, who gave their lives willingly rather than abandon their belief in a myth or hoax that they helped to propagate.

I’m sorry that I can’t offer more tangible evidence, but there just isn’t any. You’ve been given the gift of faith – go with that for now, and don’t beat yourself up about not being able to slay every apologetic bogeyman that comes your way.

Peace,
Dante


#3

As far as I know, nobody ever died defending the idea that Caesar was God - least of all, anyone who knew him in person.

By contrast, almost everyone who knew Jesus personally went to the Colloseum to be put to death, or went to prison/exile for the rest of their lives, rather than say, “Ha, ha, you got me - I was only kidding about Jesus being God.” :smiley:

Even if it doesn’t convince you, it should make you stop and think.


#4

How is it that nobody today, anywhere, considers any of the Roman Emperors to be gods today? There would seem to be a difference…


#5

Nope, the Trilemma is incomplete; there’s always the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the gospels aren’t quite the gospel truth. Not necessarily in the sense that they are lying, but in the sense that they are corrupted over the years or in the memory of those who wrote them (there was, after all, a good long gap between the death of Jesus and the writing of the gospels), or simply wishful thinking.

If you buy into a legend, even one that you were around to see the more mundane beginnings of, you can believe anything.

When one looks at the way in which the Church grew, and the vast numbers of people who gave their lives rather than betray their faith, and the unbroken chain of popes leading all the way back to Peter, it’s difficult to accept the second or third propositions.

If one considers that the Gospels “embellished” Christ’s words, and that he never in fact said he was the Son of God, and that the Resurrection was a hoax, we run into a problem: the Church grew despite horrendous persecution which claimed the lives of many Church fathers, who gave their lives willingly rather than abandon their belief in a myth or hoax that they helped to propagate.

People have died martyrs for stupider ideas than that some guy was God.


#6

The “embellishing-biographers” is usually the *result *of presenting the “Lord, liar, or lunatic” argument, so nope, that don’t help. Thanks anyway I guess.

Yeah, and I should’ve been a little more clear about the faith thing. My point is that my faith is none-so-good and I’ve been trying to work on it recently, but in truth that’s completely unrelated to the topic I presented.

Also, the whole argument that the Church wouldn’t have survived without the martyrs and that the martyrs wouldn’t have been martyrs without the Church being right is also very weak and pointless against that which I have brought up – that Jesus’s biographers embellished the hell out of him. People die for lies and other stupid things ya’know (or at least that’s the general rebuttal to this claim). Take a look at Bhuddism and Islam: THEY had a rocky start yet they’re still around. (I think you see where I’m going with this so let’s just end that aspect here).

Oh yes, and I don’t view such people who present such things as “Apologetic Bogeymen”, I view them as people I’ve been given the opportunity to help. It’s not about my ego, it’s about their soul.

You are right though about not offering any tangible evidence: it usually takes a while before my questions are answered in their full contexts (otherwise they’re not answered at all).

Thanks anyway and God Bless.


#7

For starters read:
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
By What Authority - Mark Shea
Ravi Zacharias addresses these issues as well. He is Protestant but when it comes to Apologetics I sort of view him as the Stephen Hawking to C.S. Lewis’ Albert Einstein.
Ah if only he were Catholic…

Peace,
+N


#8

I agree with Jmcrae. St. Paul, St. Peter and many others who wrote that the knew Jesus and spent time with Him after He rose from the dead all died for their beliefs. I can understand someone telling lies if it benefits him, but these men had nothing to gain but suffering and death. Why would anyone die for what he KNOWS is a lie?

I doubt the skeptics will have an answer to that question. The reason is that the only answer that makes sense is that they really did see spend time with a dead guy who got up and walked and told them He was God come to earth.

This is one of many reasons that i see faith as complete trust in sound evidence. Faith, to me, is not a blind leap into a dark pit, but a clear-seeing step into the light of undeniable truth.

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
(Luke 1:1-2)

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
(2 Peter 1:16)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:1-3)

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8)


#9

Good day Mirdath, it’s been a while since we privately conversed, and though I didn’t quite get back to you, I decided anything I was going to bring up would be futile discussion in light of the very subject matter of this thread.

Though…

I should perhaps, probably now mention
That you are one of those souls in question,
As well as the spark and inspiration
Behind my present investigation.

(It’s poetic as well as off-the-cuff goes, but it lacks some of that good ol’ metaphor.)

In spite of the fact that I made this thread to address your very own argument, your presence here is greatly appreciated as now we have both sides represented in the debate, and the more of each side’s army is present at a battle, the more conclusive and yielding said battle is.

Or in other words: I appreciate your input and God Bless. :smiley:


#10

I thought I killed the cow of “wouldn’t die for a lie” early on before he ate all the metaphorical grass of my limited time to be here on CAF for the weekend.

Moo I say to you who brings this up again. It’s not that I personally don’t accept and believe the validity of this claim, but that it’s a useless debating tool. I need a “flying Rhinocerous with a Cimatar in both hands” kind of argument, not a cow.

Moo but no Thank Moo.


#11

Nice to see you too :smiley:

Moo I say to you who brings this up again. It’s not that I personally don’t accept and believe the validity of this claim, but that it’s a useless debating tool. I need a “flying Rhinocerous with a Cimatar in both hands” kind of argument, not a cow.

I was gonna roll my eyes and say ‘not this again’ but I see you’ve done that for me! Thanks! :slight_smile:

And frnate, Lewis was Anglican, wasn’t he?


#12

There was not all that big a gap, you know. The earliest gospels were most likely in written form by 50-60 A.D. along with Paul’s epistles. Revelation is possibly 90 AD at the latest. Considering that ‘word of mouth’ was used by JESUS HIMSELF in his three years of ministry, it really is not that likely that by the time the gospels were passed around in their first written form that ‘embellishments’ would have made it through. There were still many people who had personally known Christ who were alive and kicking, and still others who were at most ‘one generation on’, having been told of Jesus by a parent or older relative.

You must also remember that the culture of the time was very condusive to clear and ACCURATE oral records and had been so for many centuries.

Do you have children? Have you ever told a child a bedtime story one night and had them ask for it again the next night. . .only to correct you if you had said “black pony” the first time and then “white pony” the next night? Remember, you have (at the beginning) literally thousands of people who remembered what Christ said to them at a given time or place, because that is what people were conditioned to do–to listen well, to commit to memory, to repeat over and over to fix firmly in the memory.

At a time when people are still expecting Christ to come at any time, and there are many witnesses to His words and life, the idea that somehow the gospel writers–men who themselves had known Him (Matthew and John), or were closely allied or related to those who knew Him (Mark attached to the household of Peter) or who used as primary source His own Mother (Luke), who themselves believed in Christ passionately, somehow found Christ’s life and words so lacking that they had to make them ‘better’???

It doesn’t make sense. It presupposes that Jesus was not really God (God would not have to have somebody ‘embellish’ Him) and that Christianity was nothing but another attempt to gain some kind of vicarious ‘godhood’ and power by men.

Trouble is, those men wound up dying.
Trouble is, in the time of Christ, literally dozens of ‘messiahs’ had come out, claiming to be messiah, and being killed. How many of them are spoken of today?

So we are expected to believe that, despite the fact that every other ‘claimant’ to be Messiah had died (supposedly just like Jesus died), and their followers had just melted away because, hey, so-and-so was just another ‘good guy’, that the apostles and thousands of people who ‘knew’ that Jesus was ‘just another guy’, thought that they could ‘rewrite history’ and that somehow, THIS would make Jesus into somebody whose ‘claim’ would last? Though nobody else’s had?

For WHAT? Were they getting powerful? Heck no.
Did they expect their memory to ‘live on’? WHY? Supposedly, if they knew Jesus was not really God, what did they think awaited them? Why would they care if ‘their guy’ did ‘better’ than any other Tom, Richard, or Herod, eh?

It simply does not make sense. But then again, if the goal is to make Jesus into just a ‘good moral teacher’, whom you are free to follow just as much or as little as you will, and if Christianity is just ‘another fairy story’. . .well, then it makes sense. Discredit the man (while giving him the faint praise of ‘good man’) and you discredit (or so they think) the entire religion. And you can look like a great guy for ‘permitting’ those poor deluded Christians to have their ‘good guy’, and hope that they’ll ‘wake up’ to his lack of godhood.

It’s diabolical. May God turn their hearts to truth and away from lies and deceit.


#13

I was under the impression that the letters of Paul were written shortly after Christ’s death, in the 50’s and 60’s (a mere 20-30 years). The Gospels were written shortly thereafter (between AD 70-100). We’re talking between 20 and 70 years. Even at the high end it’s the second generation (those who knew the apostles) still has members alive.

While stories do become embellished over time, these people would have worked all the harder to make sure that didn’t happen. Their very lives were at stake.

Let’s say my grandmother won the lottery when she was 20 and I wish to write down her biography; however she died before I was born so I can’t talk to her directly. I will talk to her daughters and sons (my mother and aunts and uncles), their husbands and wives, my grandmother’s neighbors, friends, officials in the government, etc. There will still be plenty of people around who knew her and can confirm the story. Although their may be slight differences (1.5 vs 1.6 million) the story is still the same. I won’t find anyone who will say “no, she didn’t win the lottery, she remained poor her whole life.” If I do I’d have a strong reason to suspect their motives and knowledge.

People have died martyrs for stupider ideas than that some guy was God.

True. I have no reply to this comment as of yet.


#14

Mirdath, a little rhetorical question:

Supposing it could in some way be proved to you that the Gospels were *not *embellished, Jesus’s biographers did *not *misrepresent Him beyond mere differences in perspectives, and that such accounts of His life and resurrection were indeed accurate, would you then be able to accept Jesus as a God-figure and (gasp) your savior?

(Just a question ya’ know, but it would be helpful)


#15

For some reason I have a hard time seeing this sweet and just a good man, reeking havoc with the money changers at the temple, I believe he used the phrase “brood of vipers”, “destroy this temple and I shall raise it up, in three days” strong language for just a mere good man. To top things off, he has the nerve to call himself the Son of The Living God, and I believe “Me and My Father are one and the same”. Pretty strong words for just a mere good man. If he was just a mere good man, I don’t think he would have been crucified. The only one I believe who thought he was just a mere good man was Pontius Pilate. No, he had to be more than just a mere good man to be worthy of crucifixion and to have some guy named Paul running around killing and persecuting his followers for years after.

The reality is the argument of just a good man is self-refuting and is
rendered null and void.

The End.


#16

Oh well, I guess this is just gonna be another soon-extinct thread where nothing is accomplished and where nothing argued in favor of Christianity means anything unless you’re already Christian, in which case faith presupposes evidence anyway. Everything people have brought up so far is really bright and enlightening, but darkness prevails if you’re in another room…that is…unless there appears that flying rhinocerous with two cimitars who comes down and smashes through the wall, making the two rooms one and allowing the others to behold the light…

Well, I tried…Again…
:coffeeread:
:banghead:
:dts:
:yawn:
:sleep:


#17

Were it proven beyond doubt that Jesus rose from the dead, I would believe that he is more than human, possibly still alive, and certainly exists/existed on a level we cannot hope to reach as we are now. Whether that makes him a deity – I cannot say.

I already accept Jesus as a moralist and teacher with few equals, and one whose humanist philosophy I endeavor to follow in my own way; were it shown that the gospels are entirely factual, I would add ‘savior’ with a small s to those titles. That doesn’t make him a Savior, and it doesn’t mean I have an immortal soul to be saved – though both are, I suppose, possible.

So if you have a time machine, let’s go already! :slight_smile:


#18

What do you mean ‘just’ a good man? There is no ‘just’ about it. There are few enough good men; how can you have the hubris to belittle them as merely good, as if that is not enough?


#19

Mirdath,

Why would you waste your time following just a moralist teacher? There are plenty of other things to be doing if all you are going to do is declare Jesus “just a moralist teacher”. It’s not what he declared himself to be. He is either the Son of God or he is not. If he is not, then you are just wasting your time. But if he is, then you are really wasting your time!

Regards,

John Hughes


#20

Following someone who had some great ideas and insight is no waste of time, even if he was only human. Picking up on Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, and Turing are things I’m sure have paid off for you!

In matters of morals and ethics, why should I not look to those I – and many, many others – think have had good things to say on the subject? Why should I not try to be the best person I can, and take advice from known masters of the subject? I do not speak only of Jesus of Nazareth here, but Socrates, Siddartha, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Confucius, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, even Friedrich Nietzsche. Why should I not seek out advice to overcome my many faults and failings?


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.