Did Jesus exist? Responding to Xeno’s strange library

I came across an interesting website floating around in the ether called “True Strange Library”

The website seems to be run by a one “Xeno” right here on wordpress, who apparently had an uncle in the music industry. The article in question is from 2010, however, based upon another article that was published today, the blog is still putting forth some skeptical articles against Christianity .

 

My presence here on wordpress is to try and counter some of that.

Normally websites such as this aren’t really an attention grabber, at least not for me, however, the blog says they have around 3.5 million readers. If that number is anywhere close to true, we have a large sum of people reading this type of stuff right here on wordpress.

We need to note one thing though, according to the website:

“We focus on stories that intrigue and educate, specializing in bizarre or lesser-known theories and fringe science. Nearly every day we present new unique content in one of our thirty categories, from aliens to war news.” [source]

Fringe science indeed. Now let me state again the only reason I’m paying attention to this kind of stuff is because these articles are right next door. Normally a website devoted to conspiracy theories isn’t in my scope of commentary.

Anyway, the article in question is their “Search for a historical Jesus” which argues Jesus did not exist. I intend to show this article to be extremely flawed.

The quotes of the article will be indicated by ***

The article starts of with some comments about life after death and some theories about human souls.

To begin:

***

The evidence for his life seems to be only the Gospels which didn’t show up until over 100 years after he was gone.

A gospel (from Old English, gōd spell “good news“) is a writing that describes the life of Jesus. The word is primarily used to refer to the four canonical gospels: the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke and Gospel of John, probably written between AD 65 and 110. They appear to have been originally untitled; they were quoted anonymously in the first half of the second century (i.e. 100–150) but the names by which they are currently known appear suddenly around the year 180.[1]

If the Gospels are, as they seem to be, separate accounts by different people who knew Jesus personally, why are parts of Matthew and Luke identical? This is known as the Synoptic problem.

 

***

 

First and foremost, the article quotes an (unamed) document which puts the gospels between 65 and 110. While I disagree with this general dating, the 65 is not “over a hundred years” it’s over 30 years.

Secondly the claim that the gospels were qouted anonymously to until 180 A.D. is questionable.

Papias (70-163 A.D.) attributed the Gospel of Mark to Peter.

Irenaus (130-200) did as well, and Justin Martyr (150) did too.

The Gospels were not just arbitrarily assigned authors all of the sudden in 180 A.D.

The dating of the gospels aside, the claim that they are the only source for Jesus’ existence or life is not true, as we will see.

In regards to why Matthew and Luke are identical in certain areas really doesn’t pose much of a problem for me, firstly Luke’s Gospel exists as a document based upon the testimonies of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2-3) there is no reason Luke cannot be quoting Matthew, or perhaps they both quoted the same oral traditions.

Either way, Luke’s Gospel is not a personal testimony of what he saw about Jesus, he seems to be using testimonies that the disciples gave to him, so it would make sense that he would quote them.

Moving on

***

We are in the age of “spam,” the age of computer viruses and email hoaxes. Email hoaxers often exactly “cut and paste” the text from a previous hoax to create a new one. Is this the real solution to the Synopic problem?

***

This is quite telling as the author seems to make a habit of imposing 21st century perspectives on ancient texts. The ease of the computer age makes spreading information convenient. Why a group of twelve Jewish men decided to spread the 1st century equivalent of an “email hoax” is not explained, however, I must ask when was the last time someone gave their lives for such a “gimmick”.

 

***

“I wondered if the Gospels were partly a Roman deception after they won against the Jews in order to keep their vanquished foes peaceful. Perhaps not. The Gospel stories seem to have evolved organically because they had a ring of truth and they helped people. Parts of the Gospels are certainly based on real history. But then so was Homer’s Odyssey, it seems …”

 

***

 

While the Gospels certainly help people today (in the sense of evangelism and giving Christians hope) they were hardly what would have been invented in the first century. What about this theory that the Romans invented the gospels to pacify the Jews? A theory this site still puts forward.

Aside from the fact there is literally no evidence this is the case, I might add the following:

 

In Judaism anyone hung on a tree was seen as under God’s curse (Deuteronomy 23:21)

Why would anyone invent a Messiah that was under this? Jesus was the exact opposite of what the Jews at the time were expecting. They didn’t believe in a Messiah who was from Galilee (John 7:41) and they certainly wouldn’t accept a Messiah under the Deuteronomy 23:21 verse.

Jesus spoke of His kingdom being not of this world, while the Jews were waiting for physical deliverance from Rome.

The statements by Jesus about destroying the temple, or about the temple being destroyed, would have been outrageous to the Jews at the time, and one cannot posit such a politically incorrect Messiah as a means of somehow “keeping the Jews peaceful” inventing Jesus would have had the opposite affect.

 

***

“The Jesus story, which borrows from or parallels other savior stories (Mithra, Horus, Osiris, Zarathustra, Tammuz, etc. ) seems to be a thought virus born not from the designs of a Roman hacker, but from basic human needs for mental protection from life’s troubles. The story says something important about the human mind. We aspire to truth, fairness, clean living, immortality, and super powers.”

***

The author seems to have changed views because their latest post is about how the Romans invented Jesus. Citing the usual “gods” as alleged parallels for the life of Jesus will not do. These theories have already been answered time and time again and will not be dealt with here.

However, citing a general human need as an explanation for Christianity is not sufficient either, there is hardly anything psychologically protective about Christianity. Teachings on eternal punishment, that many people are under God’s judgement, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that we will lose family for Jesus’ sake, plus the high ethical standards would if anything add more mental anxiety. Again, Christianity is a religion based upon historical people and historical claims. Looking to psychology is not going to suffice.

The article goes on citing examples of the ten commandments being borrowed from other ancient cultures (a non issue for me) and some thoughts on the AD/BC calendar.

***

Perhaps the most fallacious part of the article is the following:

 

***

We have archaeological evidence for people who lived after and before Jesus Christ:

  • Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon (356–323 BC). After 200 CE, his body went missing from the tomb, but it had been around for a long time. In addition to stories, we have hard archaeological evidence. We know Alexander lived and we know what this person who lived 323 years BCE looked like because there are coins and a Roman copy of a statue by Lysippus, in the Louvre Museum.
  • Plato (~428  BC to ~347 BC), unlike Jesus and Alexander, did a lot of writing when he lived and his students wrote about him.  We know what Plato looked like because we have physical evidence, a bust by Silanion, a Greek sculptor of the 4th century BC.  He died at 81. He was supposedly buried on the grounds of the Academy, the school he founded, after his death around 348. No one has located his grave because in 86 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla “ravaged the Academy”, which was about 2.5 km from the Acropolis near Colonus Hippius.  Today its modern name is Kolonos and it is a densely populated working-class district of the Municipality of Athens. }

 

***

The author also adds Odysseus and Gilgamesh in the list.

The intended meaning here is we have historical evidence of these guys, but not Jesus.

There’s a couple of problems with this.

First of all, citing a bust of Plato as though we should have one of Christ is not a good argument.

Jesus lived and preached among pious Jews who were forbidden from making such images as per the law, the representations of Christ didn’t arrive until very late in the gentile world. No Jews at the time would have had any motive to break the law against making images and made a sculpture of Jesus.

Secondly, who were His followers? Peasants. How on earth does anyone expect Jesus’ followers, or even the Jews at the time to have made a sculpture of Jesus? These were people worried about their next meal and not contracting leprosy not wealthy artisans.

What the author doesn’t mention is that we also have not only abundant historical evidence of Christ, but that there is more for Him than historical persons such as Pythagoras or Hannibal of Carthage.

 

Jesus was not a famous philosopher or a war general. He is famous now, but then Jesus was not even a blip on the radar. Jesus as a Man was a Jew from an obscure town who had a peasant following, who died the death of slaves that was designed to bring shame. He hung around the diseased and the poor. Jesus didn’t take over nations or write extensive philosophical treatises. Jesus was a tradesman who hung around other tradesmen.

Placing Jesus in with these figures is a category error.

***

“Isn’t it surprising that, given the boundless energy of Christians and their strong desire to prove their faith, that we have better physical evidence for Odysseus than Jesus Christ?  (Does someone have a photo of Odysseus’s gold brooch from the Argostoli museum? It would be surprising since we would not expect the Cyclopes that Ulysses fought to be real. And what of the Sirens? What of Medusa? And Cerberus/ Kerberos? Will we someday know the exact roots of these myths? The Greeks and Christians stories contain many elements  from earlier Egyptian stories … who adapted some of their stories from the Summarians.

 

***

No, as I stated Jesus was not to be compared to these men because of their prominence. Citing Greek mythology as a parallel to Christianity without giving instances or establishing a direct link is not going to be responded to.

The author then quotes a “Huffington Post” article that cites the theory that the story of Jesus was borrowed from the Sumerian gods without one quote or citation from any reputable source on Sumerian mythology. However, anyone familiar with these arguments can see where this is going, there are several resources I recommend for answering these charges. That is the end of the article after that.

 

Some final comments:

 

The author’s case was basically a blend of the “pagan god” thesis (which is answered in depth by apologists such as J.P. Holding) and an argument stating we have evidence for a famous war general and Plato so then why not Jesus.

The author never deals with the fact that Jesus is talked about by Roman historian Tacitus, Jewish historian Josephus, Roman official Pliny the younger, Syrian philosopher Mara Bar Serapion, and Lucian of Samosata. As well as possible references by Seutonius and Thallus.

Ultimately, in studying Jewish polemics against Jesus, one will never find the argument that He “didn’t exist” but that He did exist, and then they formulate arguments against His Messiaship. The Talmud for example.

If Jesus was invented whole cloth by His followers why didn’t the Jews notice? Why didn’t they recognize the alleged “pagan gods” similarities that Jesus supposedly has?

No one has ever put these theories forward in the ancient world, they all acknowledge His existence.

 

The belief that Jesus was not an historical person is the latest trend in trying to avoid the evidence in light of Jesus’ resurrection. I would strongly advise against following these types of conspiracy websites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Did Jesus exist? Responding to Xeno’s strange library

    1. Atwells thesis is so contrived I can’t imagine anyone using it as a case against the historical Jesus but critics of Christianity never stop amazing me.

      The evidence for a Man named Jesus who lived in first century Palestine is manifold to say the least. For starters anyone denying the historicity of Christ needs to come up with an alternate explanation of how Christianity came to be. I wrote an article on Atwells thesis showing the theory to be untenable so again, anyone denying the historicity of Jesus needs an alternate explanation. The simplest and most logical reason was that there was a Rabbi named Jesus.

      Getting into the specifics I believe the gospels themselves are sufficient but outside of the gospels there is abundant evidence for Jesus actually existing.

      Tacitus the Roman historian corroborates His existence in Annals 15:44

      Josephus mentioned Him twice. Although the first passage has some interpolations my understanding is there is an Arabic copy of his histories without the interpolations which still talk about Jesus. Putting the first reference aside there is still a second reference in book 20 which is not disputed.

      Pliny the younger mentioned Jesus in his letter

      Lucian of Samosata who was very critical of his sources mentions Jesus

      Mara Bar Serapion mentioned someone who could only for the bill if they were Jesus in his letter which is available at the British museum.

      None of these guys were Christians or had any vested interest. Tacitus is regarded as one of the most careful historians and his reference by itself should settle the debate.

      The truth is that denying the historicity of Jesus is a new trend, no critic of Christianity including Celcus or the Talmud or Trypho ever denied that He was a real person. The fact that the ancient critics took His existence as factual should be alarming to those proposing otherwise.

      All alternate theories don’t deal with the historical evidence they delve into the realm of conspiracy

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      1. There was “Christianity” of sorts prior to 73 when Atwell says the Romans, with the help of Flavius Josephus, creates the gospels as war propaganda. The messianic movement that rebelled against Rome and was a kind of Christianity. Christ simply means ‘anointed’ in Greek, right? It just refers to the relationship between a Jewish leader and God, so the zealots would certainly have been seen as Christian.

        Would you not agree?

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      2. I would not agree.

        Christianity started in 33 A.D with the Resurrection of Christ. I’m not sure the point being made when Atwell claims it existed prior to 73…. Obviously.

        Atwell cannot just state Josephus authored the gospel documents without solid evidence, otherwise theorizing will not get anyone the truth.

        I can theorize Atwell is a reincarnation of Celsus sent back from hell to try and disprove Christianity again, but there’s no evidence.

        The Jewish revolt of 66 was not a messianic movement but was the Jews response to Florus stealing silver from the temple as I understand it, there were no messianic claimants after Jesus until Bar Kotchba.

        Yes the term Christ means anointed one but the definition is far more narrow than you said. The Messiah was a specific King who descended from David and had to fulfill very specific requirements

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