The Church response to claims that Jesus never existed?


#1

How does the Catholic Church respond to arguments made by historians, scholars and archaeologists that claim that a biblical Jesus never actually existed but was, rather, an idealized mythological Jewish “national hero” cobbled together in the first century by Saul from bits of ancient agrarian myths to appease the Jews?

It is well known that the Jews resented Roman rule and the Hellenizing influence on their culture, religion and society. Many Jews – opponents of Rome and her Hellenistic allies – were xenophobic ‘nationalists’, with dreams of a warrior priest ‘messiah’ and of future empire. Did Saul simply accomplish the task of making the Romans kosher by making Judaism palatable to them?

There are no historical records or evidence to indicate that Christ ever existed. His contemporaries gave no mention of the man who allegedly revamped the whole of human spiritual thought and practice during the first century.

Rather interestingly, the ‘living godman’ (Jesus Christ), thought by later Christians to have been an historic contemporary of Saul, is unknown to Saul himself. He made no claim to have actually met Jesus in life and he says nothing about any ‘human’ existence’ the godman might have had. In Saul’s writings there is no miraculous birth, no holy family, no prodigious youth, no baptism. For a seeker of an ‘historic’ Jesus, there are remarkable voids in Saul’s writings.

The miracles that pepper the gospels, and helped elevate a Jesus figure into a deity, are nowhere to be found in Saul’s letters. Indeed, it is clear that Saul was not talking about any ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ at all (and he certainly made no reference to a ‘Jesus of Nazareth’). His entire testimony is entirely about an ‘other-worldly’ Christ, a deity that had existed from the beginning of time, whose supreme self-sacrifice had taken place ‘in times eternal’ or ‘before the world began’ (Timothy 2.1,9). In the mid-years of the first century, Saul brings into existence a Jewish variant of the birth/death/rebirth cult (which had characterised agrarian cultures for centuries) in which the individual (rather than a town or a community) has the opportunity for ‘salvation’.

There is nothing intrinsically improbable in a radical 1st century rabbi called Jesus. And any figure who emerged as a sage or soothsayer in ancient Palestine is unlikely to have left much evidence of his existence.

But whilst we might entertain, perhaps, a few epithets of reported wisdom from such a guru, it would remain extremely doubtful that any attributed words were actually spoken by him, whatever the claims made today for “oral transmission.”

On several occasions the gospel writers quite specifically report Jesus’ conversations when neither they nor any other humans were present. Who would have had the faintest idea of what Jesus said when he was on his own? For example, chapter 17 of the Gospel of John is entirely taken up with a monologue addressed by a solitary Jesus to God himself.

Matthew (4.3,10) tells of JC in the wilderness and having conversations with Satan.

Now how would Matthew know what was said? Are we to imagine Jesus reminisced, “Hey guys, one time I was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and guess who showed up … ?”

As it happens, we have an inordinate amount of Jesus dialogue. Nothing particularly novel or unique is put into his mouth, though much of it is contradictory or obscure. None of it comes from a reliable source.

The elapsed time between the gospel reports and the supposed events that they describe is at least 40 years for ‘Mark’ and 60-70 years for the other three Gospels. And just who was witness to that fabulous nativity, 30-odd years before the grande finale? At the most generous understanding, ‘Luke’ and ‘Matthew’ were recording hearsay testimony a century after angels, shepherds and wise men went calling.

The unembellished truth is that the gospel accounts were written by eyewitnesses to nothing but their own skills of fabrication.

Christianity subsequently fixed the 27-book canon of the New Testament in the 4th century. If Christ never existed, then that puts the whole of Christianity in a rather tenuous position. I’m not talking about the existence of God. That debate goes round and round and has for centuries. I am speaking of the existence of Jesus Christ, the man who claimed to represent God on earth and who launched an entire cult whose beliefs evolved into accepted traditions – and, in the case of the Vatican, considerable political power and wealth for those involved.

How does the Church tackle these issues?


#2

I am unaware of any official Church response to the Jesus Myth fad, but here is an amusing read: Refuting the myth that Jesus never existed

Which basically shows the whole angle to be an excercise in “arguments from silence, special pleading and an awful lot of wishful thinking” and that it would require one to disbelieve almost any major ancient historical figure.

Scott


#3

I think you need to read the entire New Testament, including the Acts of the Apostles and all the letters again, because you have clearly missed huge chunks of the narrative. The Church’s responses to uninformed charges like yours is to proclaim the Gospel as she always has and to celebrate Christ’s presence among us as she always has, and to pray for conversion of those who hear but do not listen.


#4

It’s generally held that we have stronger evidence for the existence of Jesus than we have for the existence of some of history’s greatest kings and emperors.


#5

The OP appears to have been pasted in chunks from pages on this website:

jesusneverexisted.com

Bisa, please cite your sources when using the work of others. A link would also be nice.


#6

The OP needs to read the work of, amongst others, Lee Strobel, and Josh McDowell.
Both have demonstrated that, not only is it reasonable to declare that Jesus Christ was a real person, but that His existence, and His life, as recorded in the New Testament, is so clearly evidential that it can been used in law school to teach the students the use of historical sources in the formation of legally provable arguments…

The question is not whether Jesus existed; it is whether or not one has the courage & the humility to choose to follow Him.
God bless.


#7

I’m guessing that Bisa is a “troll”, or someone who posts to a forum primarily to get a reaction, rather than to have a dialogue. He (I’m betting Bisa is male) posted an identical message in the “Ask an Apologist” section. I would be very surprised if he responded to any of your posts directly.

Under the Mercy,
Phaedrus


#8

Read Shattering the Christ Myth over at this Protestant Apologist’s website.

As for:

There are no historical records or evidence to indicate that Christ ever existed. His contemporaries gave no mention of the man who allegedly revamped the whole of human spiritual thought and practice during the first century.

I believe that Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny, Lucian, Thallus, and others, would disagree with you.

That’s to ignore the testimonies of the Gospels, Acts, etc…


#9

The basic moral fabric of western civilization for the past two thousand years was woven by liars and lunatics?

That in itself sounds more like a lie or a lunacy.


#10

[quote=Phaedrus]I’m guessing that Bisa is a “troll”, or someone who posts to a forum primarily to get a reaction, rather than to have a dialogue. He (I’m betting Bisa is male) posted an identical message in the “Ask an Apologist” section. I would be very surprised if he responded to any of your posts directly.

Under the Mercy,
Phaedrus
[/quote]

“He” is a “she” who used the freely available sources of www.jesusneverexisted.com to get answers to genuine questions. I was baptized a Roman Catholic and have been seriously considering returning to the Church. In my seeking I am reconciling some very profound questions concerning the nature of God, the nature of belief, the need for religion and faith in my life. I was asking for resources and recommendations. My thanks to the few who responded with resources and links.

As to the others who attacked and condemned me for challenging their beliefs (and calling me a troll, which is quite the snap judgement on your part), telling one to just “have faith” isn’t giving any real answers. It is avoiding the subject by turning the tables on me and making me look like the bad guy for asking hard, honest questions – which is likely more than you did in your apparently blind acceptance of doctrine and faith. I, on the other hand, am actively seeking out answers to questions I have about my faith – an experience that can only serve to deepen my faith in the long run.

So to puzzleannie:
I posted to get a response, not a conversion. You don’t seem to want to hear anything from anybody who might challenge your beliefs. Telling me to “have faith” is equivalent to just saying “I don’t know the truth, I just believe because it’s what I was taught to do and I take every word that everybody tells me at face value and would not DARE to challenge the authority of the Bible because I have been told that I should not do that.” If your personal faith is secure, and your reasons for having your faith, then you have no need to fear challenges to it from others, correct? If you had nothing truly useful or helpful to say, your best recourse would have been to keep silent.

It is people like puzzleannie and the judgemental attitudes of others who keep me away from active involvement the Church. I don’t want to play any “I’m more of a Catholic than YOU are” or “I have more faith than YOU do” games. That’s not what religion should be to me.

Again, my sincere thank you to those who responded with links and challenges. I will explore those more deeply. And I will be sure to avoid these kinds of forums in the future and instead direct my questions to local clergy where I will NOT be rebuked for seeking.


#11

[quote=Bisa]“He” is a “she” who used the freely available sources of www.jesusneverexisted.com to get answers to genuine questions. I was baptized a Roman Catholic and have been seriously considering returning to the Church. In my seeking I am reconciling some very profound questions concerning the nature of God, the nature of belief, the need for religion and faith in my life. I was asking for resources and recommendations. My thanks to the few who responded with resources and links.

/QUOTE]

You could saved us all a lot of trouble if your first post had contained the info in this post. As it was you cut and pasted sometripe from an anti-religious site , didnt source it, and made no comments about it of your own.

If you truly are seeking conversion you should go see a Priest.
[/quote]


#12

What about the early Christian martyrs? Do you believe they existed? Do you believe anybody died for their belief in Christ, or was that made up also? That is, what what point do you believe that “made-up” Christianity was begun (if that’s what you believe), and by whom, and for what reason, and how did it become so widespread?


#13


Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence forthe LIFE, DEATH, and
RESURRECTION of JESUS

NCIENT NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCES**[size=]A**[/size]

[/font]Non biblical accounts of
New Testament events and/or people


#14

[quote=Bisa]"

He" is a “she” who used the freely available sources of www.jesusneverexisted.com

to get answers to genuine questions. I was baptized a Roman Catholic and have been seriously considering returning to the Church. In my seeking I am reconciling some very profound questions concerning the nature of God, the nature of belief, the need for religion and faith in my life. I was asking for resources and recommendations. My thanks to the few who responded with resources and links.

Bisa, you ARE a baptized Roman Catholic. I think it is great that you are seeking a return to the church. Please remember that you cannot hear tone of voice when reading a post. And while some people may have reacted badly to your question, please remember that the Holy Mother Church is a wonderful place - accept that it is full of fallible humans who oft times make mistakes. Like you. And me.

As to the others who attacked and condemned me for challenging their beliefs (and calling me a troll, which is quite the snap judgement on your part), telling one to just “have faith” isn’t giving any real answers. It is avoiding the subject by turning the tables on me and making me look like the bad guy for asking hard, honest questions – which is likely more than you did in your apparently blind acceptance of doctrine and faith. I, on the other hand, am actively seeking out answers to questions I have about my faith – an experience that can only serve to deepen my faith in the long run.

Actually, asking someone to ‘have faith’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t ask questions’. Father Corapi puts it really well during his series on the Catechism. He states that there are some aspects of our relationship with God that depend upon Faith only - because God is a mystery that cannot be fully understood. Father Corapi then states that it is a step in that direction to say, “Ok, I do not understand but I accept the doctrine and I believe.” Then, from there, you can ask questions. I found this to be an act of prayer at the beginning of my journey back home.

So to puzzleannie:
I posted to get a response, not a conversion. You don’t seem to want to hear anything from anybody who might challenge your beliefs.

I cannot speak for her. My experience has been that, when someone tries to challenge my beliefs and I say “I know that because I have Faith” it is they who are frustrated and not me.

It is people like puzzleannie and the judgemental attitudes of others who keep me away from active involvement the Church. I don’t want to play any “I’m more of a Catholic than YOU are” or “I have more faith than YOU do” games. That’s not what religion should be to me.

If that is the truth, then you are going to have a rough time in life in general. The fact is the world is full of mean old people and some of them are members of the Catholic Church. To be a Faithful Daughter will mean putting up with them and learning to deal with them as a Catholic Christian. Not easy. But if it was then everyone would be a Catholic Christian.

Again, my sincere thank you to those who responded with links and challenges. I will explore those more deeply. And I will be sure to avoid these kinds of forums in the future and instead direct my questions to local clergy where I will NOT be rebuked for seeking

Or you could direct your questions to Father Serpa here on the board/forum. I have asked him some questions that I am sure stretched his patience and he has always responded with kindness and firm direction.
[/quote]


#15

Bisa,
First, welcome. I would have not written that had you not posted your response. If you re-read your OP, I think you’ll see that its tone is very challenging and seemingly closed to response. I would suggest that you would get a much warmer response on this forum (the best on the 'net, I truly believe), if you had stated your questions or even challenges in your own words and explained your purpose.
Having said that, I think Puzzleannie responded more kindly than you understood her words.
Now, I’d like to answer you directly. First, a link:

newadvent.org/cathen/08375a.htm

Now, as another poster said, why would anyone make up Jesus, being pretty sure that if you starterd preaching what he preached, you’d end up dying a similar death?
He never had wealth. In fact he lived his entire life a very poor man.
He never had power. As far as we know, he never had more than a couple thousand direct followers at any time in his life, and he drove most of those away with one sermon (John 6).
Why would his hand-chosen successor, Peter, be glad to die crucified upside down, peeing up his own nose for three days (pardon the graphics, but truth is truth) because he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus?
I always see comments about the power and cruety and murderous ways, and the wealth, of the “early Church,” but that kind of talk doesn’t start until at least the fourth century. Or sometimes, Constantine himself “invented” Jesus. Bur I’ve never seen a credible explanation of why the Apostles, those who knew him best and saw his torture and death were so willing, even happy, to die for him and his teaching with no apparently earthly reward.
I don’t think the folks over at jesusneverexisted have an answer for that, because the only answer is that Jesus existed, Jesus was God and man, Jesus loved each of us so much that he allowed himself to be tortured and to die for us.
Following Jesus, doing it the right way and doing your best is hard; it’s not a picnic. Some of the most brilliant minds in the history of the world (Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius Loyola, Theresa of Avila, Edith Stein, Carol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger and a lot more I can’t think of right now) after painful examination gave themselves entirely over to Christ. People that smart wouldn’t give up or spend their lives for a myth.
Oh, and if I were Satan, I’d set up a bunch of aparent live-die-live pagan gods before the Savior arrived, too. It obviousy didn’t work. Who remembers any of the others?
Just some food for thought.


#16

better than anything I could come up with

catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=2&art_id=29866

catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=2&art_id=29866


#17

Whatever a person’s motives are for posting a topic, remember that there many lurkers present who note how we respond and I would suggest every post be answered as if questions were asked in good faith even if they are not.

Scott


#18

I’ve been dealing with some atheists who say the same things. They also are fans of jesusneverexisted.com. They want eyewitness testimony to the man, Jesus. I don’t know where they got their list of criteria for the existence of a historical figure. I don’t know how widely accepted that particular criterion is. It seems like a list of criteria is subjective and depends on the hearer and what he or she considers “evidence” and how much evidence is considered “proof.” A photo would be nice, but we’re talking 2000 years ago.
~Steve~ (I know the screen name is funny…its my wife’s)


#19

Do you remember when the Passion of the Christ was made and Jews were denouncing it because they thought it would cause riots?

Since Jesus lived among the Jews, if anyone knew that Jesus did not exist, it would be them, for they persecuted the Christians.

But Jews have never denied that Jesus existed. How could they? He was part of their history.

The Romans were also present when Jesus existed. After all, they crucified Him. They also persecuted the Christian religion.

Thus, between the Jews and the Romans who persecuted Christians they would have loved to find a historical error in the Gospels or the New Testament, and thus discredit Christianity.

They never could do so. Thus the fact the Jesus taught publically and was known publically, and neither the Jews nor the Romans were able to find any historical errors in the Gospels is proof enough of the historical reliability of the NT


#20

didn’t they find some historical text saying Here is James brother, (as in cousin), of Jesus, therefore proving Jesus existed.


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