Monday, June 07, 2004

(Not) The Father Dowling Mysteries

Below is a post to excellent Frayster The_Bell regarding the historical existence of Jesus, based on a somewhat sloppily written book with a seemingly excellent research base and engaging and (to my mind) convincing thesis.

excerpt from The_Bell's post:

For what it is worth, I also agree that there was probably a historic Jesus and even that he was a specific person rather than a conglomeration of the myriad "the-end-is-near" preachers, mystics, and prophets knocking around Judeah at that time. However, I do agree that the writers of the Gosepels probably borrowed some of the stories, imagery, etc. from other sources, just like the story of Genesis borrows a lot from Babylonian myth and other legends. The use of metaphor does not make the historical Jesus any less real or the spiritual Jesus any less significant for believers.

Sorry it took me a while to respond...

just curious, have you read "The Jesus Mysteries" by Freke & Gandy? While certainly an uneven book, their points that there is little corroborating evidence for Jesus' existence historically seems compelling.

I would suggest you read it, as their full argument is more than the sum of its parts, but the thing that rang true for me is that we know many details about the life of Mohammed, for example, and he lived in ~300 CE, right? The records of Jesus' activities seems critically sketchy, even compared to people of his own time. We have a lot of knowledge about Alexander the Great, about Caeser (Julius and Augustus), about a number of scholars from classical times and earlier, and many of these have multiple historical sources. I've never heard of a source outside of religious texts discussing Jesus (which, as Freke and Gandy point out, you would expect had there been as much stir about him as there is supposed to have been). They were unable to find indictments against him or a record execution in the Roman's rather complete (they claim) preserved legal records, and they find no contemporary or early philosophers disucssing him, or any grouping of any people with names remotely like those of the 12 apostles.

There were several "Jesus" found in the historical records, but none who were in the right place at the right time; they also noted that the imagery of "God on a cross" did not appear in Rome until some 100 or so years after Christ is thought to have died; even then, this representation was not of Jesus, but a graffiti meant to mock Dionysis worshippers.

There is certainly something left to be desired in their arguments, but all the same, I haven't heard any rebuttals of their more supportable arguments. The best I've heard is "we have to view the Bible as a historical document", which even if you do, it has a hard time standing up because it is not only self-contradictory, but has limited corroboration in other contemporary documents.

I'm curious to know what you think; and I strongly recommed the book, despite my reservations about their writing style and occasional weaknesses.

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