I find it untenable to believe that a being named Jesus never existed. Scientific and scholarly examination of written texts has proven to me that evidence for the man’s reality far exceeds any data affirming the opposite. The examination of evidence is scientific for two reasons.
- 1) Papyrology is used to examine parchment documents, papyrus fragments, and historical cross-reference sources in exacting detail to uncover the best translation and interpretation of the documents. It is common that several different languages are involved in this process.
- 2) In addition, Paleographic studies by brilliant scholars compare the actual formation of letters (characters) from various time periods. This provides an extremely accurate method of dating texts, along with a more generalized carbon dating analysis.
The Dead Sea Scrolls located in 1947 and the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945 have helped determine the age of various manuscripts. Comparisons have shown that the overall authenticity of the New Testament has remained remarkably intact.
It has been shown, for example, that the earliest documents written about Jesus were probably penned around 40-70 A.D. while events that happened in Jerusalem were relatively fresh in the minds of ancient writers. Although, these original scriptures are lost, nevertheless, many of the extant texts we have today were written immediately after these original Q Texts.
Indeed, the gap between these early scriptures and their written form is extraordinarily small. Consider the situation with other trusted ancient sources which academia considers reliable and truthful.
- 1000 years lapsed between Caesar’s Gallic Wars and earliest known copies
- 400 years lapsed between Homer’s Illiad and earliest known copies
- 750 years lapsed between Pliny’s Natural History and earliest known copies
- 1,300 years lapsed between Herodotus’ History and earliest known copies
- 50 years lapsed between author and earliest known New Testament fragment
- 150 years lapsed between authors and most New Testament scriptures
- 225 years lapsed between authors and a complete New Testament scripture
Scientifically speaking, I believe there is more first-hand proof for the existence of Christ than for the existence of many of the ancient Greek and Roman thinkers. Even today, the ideas of these teachers, scientists, and philosophers are still considered so impressive as to be studied in colleges and universities throughout the world.
But scholars now seem to be divided about this question: Did Jesus’ followers consider him the Messiah—the divinely anointed Son of God—while he actually lived on this planet? Many would say his contemporaries considered him a great teacher and prophet who seemed to have uncanny insight into human nature.
Surely, the eight beatitudes he espoused in his Sermon on the Mount are an example of the simple, yet sublime ethics he believed would bring peace to all mankind. Their positive nature stating “Blessed are …” is in complete disharmony with the stalwart commanding “Thou shalt not …” of the Old Testament.
At one time or another during his lifetime, Jesus alluded to the fact that he was God, but never directly stated it.
- I am the resurrection and the life. (John 11:25, NIV – New International Version)
- I am the light of the world. (John 8:12, NIV)
- I and my Father are one. (John 10:30, NIV)
- I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:13, NIV)
- I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6, NIV)
- I am the only way to the Father [God]. (John 14:6)
But if Christ was not considered as the divine Son of God during his short lifetime, the gospel of Evangelist John elevated Jesus, for all time, to that exalted position probably within a century after Jesus' death by crucifixion. John is often thought of as the beloved disciple (John 13:23) depicted in paintings leaning his head on Christ’s shoulder at the last supper.
Although the supporters of this belief are legion, there are scholars who argue that John’s gospel is not the earliest written. Mark, Matthew, and Luke wrote their stories between 75-115 A.D. John, they claim, wrote his Greek gospel near the beginning of the second century. These scholars claim this John was not one of the original apostles.
Still, John himself claims at the very end of his gospel, “This is the disciple who bears witness concerning these things and who has written these things, and we know that his witness is true” (John 21:24). His witness focuses on Jesus' mission to bring the Logos to his disciples. The Greek word logos can be translated as "Wisdom," "Reason," "Word," "Rationality."
Writing in Greek, John begins his Gospel: “In the Beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This is followed by an exposition as to the nature of Jesus as the very Son of God himself. Philosophically then, Jesus’ being existed from eternity and thus is identical with God the creator. He is thought of as having a human nature and a divine nature combined as one called a hypostatic union.
In 1945 farmers in the Nag Hammadi area of Egypt discovered four earthenware jars that contained thirteen papyrus documents. These writings date back to the 2nd century A.D. and have been named the Gnostic treatises. Apparently they had been hidden by monks from a nearby monastery because they were thought to be heretical, and if found, would be destroyed.
Although they could not have been written during the lifetime of Jesus, what is important is this fact: The authors of these papyri wrote down what they believed people in Jesus’ life would have said about him, his nature, and his mission. They were everyday citizens who knew well Christ’s handed down message: Thomas, Judas, Mary, James, Philip, and a host of others.
The Problem with the New Testament
But like the last article I wrote in this series about the violence and evil not only sanctioned by Yahweh but ordered by him in the Old Testament, the New Testament is fraught with problems which, in my mind, far exceed those of the Old Testament.
Firstly, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sin. Let’s take a closer look at this. It is one thing to forgive another person if they have offended you in some way. If someone steals your new Mustang convertible and is caught by police, depending on circumstance and the thief’s sincerity, you might want to forgive that individual if he agrees to some kind of restitution, however small, and he shows signs of repentance.
Now, if this car thief has damaged your Mustang and ridicules you in court because he has no job or insurance, you would probably feel very different, particularly if the damage is not covered because of your deductible. If the hearing judge tells the thief, “Since you are young and with no means of reimbursement, all is forgiven, go in peace,” now, you might justifiably be angry at both the thief and the judge. A ruling like this by Judge Judy would probably warrant the end of her long-running TV program.
Yet, this is what Jesus would do. He told people their sins were forgiven without ever okaying this with the people affronted by someone else’s sin. Christian writer and staunch apologist, C.S. Lewis mentions this in his book, Mere Christianity (pages 51-52).
“This makes sense only if he (Jesus) really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin … Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman and something worse.”
Secondly, it seems that reverse engineering has been written into Christianity but probably not intentionally. Only after John and early church doctors had established the philosophy that the being, Jesus, was the Word, the Logos, the anointed Son of God, it appears that in the 9th century, an English monk and historian, Eadmer (died 1124?) prepared a tract mentioning a stainless conception of Mary into her mother Anne's womb (De Conceptione Sanctae Mariae).
This Immaculate Conception of Mary then became a celebrated liturgical feast in England. This unusual conception was necessary because the mother of God would need to be sinless—without blemish, or she would genetically pass on to Jesus the original sin all babies have suffered since Eve and Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. As a sinless person, Mary was capable of conceiving Jesus in her own womb via the Holy Spirit, rather than by sexual impregnation by her husband, Joseph. Now, Jesus had an earthly Mother Mary and a heavenly Father, Almighty God.
Duns Scotus (circa 1266) also insisted that Mary’s Immaculate Conception in her mother's womb was free from original sin. This had an additional benefit. She would not have to depart this life through the grave like the rest of humanity. Instead, she was lifted alive bodily into heaven.
Both Mary’s conception in her mother's womb and her assumption into heaven without dying became infallible dogma in the Roman Church many centuries later (Immaculate Conception 1854 – Assumption 1950).
Thirdly, all of scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments, is regarded as being inspired by God. Jesus necessarily believed this because, according to John, Jesus as the Word existed from eternity along with his Heavenly Father and was equally responsible for what John wrote down in his gospel.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). This means that the atrocities commanded by Yahweh in the Old Testament were equally legitimized and inspired by Jesus Christ himself. (See “The Unholy Book of the Dead Sea” in this Blogcritics series)
In the Old Testament, in order to test Abraham’s commitment to the Old Law, Yahweh commanded him to slay his ownly son, Isaac, and then burn his body in sacrifice. Thereafter, Abraham built an altar. With the help of young Isaac, father and son collected the very wood to be used to make Isaac into a burnt offering to the Almighty.
At the last minute as Abraham raises his arm above Isaac’s body, his hand clutching the sharp killing weapon, an angel of God grabs Abraham’s arm. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," the angel said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12).
Although Biblical believers are thrilled to chant Yahweh’s goodness in sparing Isaac, and Abraham’s courage in obeying him, little mention is ever made of the other murders of men, women, and children sanctioned by God and carried out by the chosen ones of the Old Testament. The more abominable commands of Yahweh are not often dwelt on: rape captured virgins, kill the elderly, take slaves, overrun and keep property. Yet, Christ as the eternal Logos, one with the Father, was there with Yahweh.
Lastly, consider the most heinous crime ever committed on planet Earth, a crime which is reverse engineered as an act of love and redemption for all human beings and for all time. I am speaking of God killing—the murder of Jesus Christ. This unspeakable act of allowing and even arranging human actions/history so that a group of people are driven to murder their God as a human/divine sacrifice for the sin of mankind has no possible equal in the past, the present, or the future.
Abraham was merely tempted by God to kill his son Isaac as an act of abeyance. Not so with God’s own Son, the Christ. What’s worse is that his death was to somehow atone to the angry, embittered God of the Old Testament for all the sin mankind could ever commit. It is impossible for me to make sense of this horrific act of indecency.
How has it become possible that torture and killing of a God, any God, are considered an appropriate blood sacrifice? How is it possible that religion has so twisted human thinking that this ghastly act of out-and-out murder has been glorified and honored for well over two thousand years?
“The law was given by Moses,” says John, “but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." If Christ was following the old law that he must die because of trumped up charges of blasphemy and being an enemy to the state, then the law of Yahweh in the Old Testament, and the grace and truth which allegedly came through Jesus Christ in the New Testament are utter madness.
In closing, yes, we probably do have the best possible translated renditions of the books of both the Old and the New Testaments. Science and scholarship have seen to that; but what about the "inspired" message in those books? Surely, the kind of blood sacrifice within its pages is responsible for the horrors committed in the name of religion down through the ages. Now, let's witness the world around us. That type of stultifying inhuman savagery among religious peoples still goes on.
If one day science locates aliens living within our universe, our planet will surely become black-listed. It is not hard to imagine what these intelligent beings will say: “Don’t ever go there; that’s the planet that killed its God.”