Who Is This Jesus Guy?
So, I was challenged by a Christian on the historicity of Jesus (did Jesus really exist, and if he did, who was he).
My initial research led to several surprising things I did not know when I was a Christian, and several books which I plan on reading. For further research, I started reading More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, agnostic turned Christian after evaluating the claims and historicity of Christ.
I'm five chapters into the book and a little miffed. McDowell has made appeals to authorities and quotations from historians rather than actual evidence for the existence of Christ as portrayed in Scripture.
Some things I found in initial research as evidence against a Scriptural Christ:
- Outside of Jewish references to Christ, no other writers in the proposed lifespan of Christ or even a century after, spoke of Jesus Christ or Christians. The first outside reference was from Tacitus, a Roman historian:
Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.
- Most historians agree that the Scriptural Jesus did not exist in the form he was portrayed by the gospels, to varying degrees.
- Most historians do believe that a man called Jesus existed that started the sect called Christianity.
Armed with these evaluations, I engaged another Christian in this topic. His arguments for the historical Jesus led to a simple event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For one, I respect and know that this individual is an intelligent, researched person, so I listened carefully to his argument. It took something of this form:
- We know (based on agreement by most historians) that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth that was crucified and buried.
- We know that there were disciples (followers of this man) that announced seeing this Jesus after he was resurrected.
- We know these disciples were willing to die for this belief (at least nine of the original twelve disciples were martyred for their faith in this belief according to tradition).
- We have a handful of explanations for how or why this belief (that Jesus resurrected) was propagated and they could be summarized as follows:
- The disciples stole the body and covered up the whole event.
- Jesus did not actually die.
- Aliens, or another non-deity resurrected Jesus.
- The disciples and others who thought the tomb was empty went to the wrong tomb.
- All those professing Christ's resurrection were hallucinating.
- The resurrected person impersonated Jesus.
- Jesus Christ actually resurrected. My friend pointed out that opponents of Christianity generally rule out the supernatural and thus eliminate two of the theories above: aliens and Jesus actually resurrecting. The idea that Jesus did not die is dispelled by an adequate understanding of crucifixion, added to the beating, and the centurion on command to ensure prisoners' deaths. The wrong tomb and disciple conspiracy are countered by the claim that such an occurrence could have been proven false by a revealing of the body. Both the mass hallucination and impersonation seem far-fetched and unlikely.
This is where my friend left me. Given the presupposition that the supernatural is out the question, you're left without a theory. Our conversation ceased at this point because I wanted to process it further and he did not need to convince me then and there.
I will be reflecting and posting on this further. I still don't believe in the resurrection; it, to me, is one of the grandest fabrications probably ever created.