Arguments in Favor of the Historical Jesus
The claim that Jesus was mythological, or not historical, as we have seen has a long history. It has ‘been refuted’ time and again by Christian apologists, who are often exasperated to learn that there are still some people who won’t let it go. The majority of scholars, as well as the general public – whether religious or secular – believe that Jesus Christ was historical (that there was a historical teacher who began the movement). The arguments used to support this theory are a mixture of inferences, deductions and references to ‘common knowledge’ and unfounded associations. We will go through each in turn, giving an example, and if possible, address weaknesses.
1 Argument from Archaeology
The argument from achaelogy is a modern argument for the historical Jesus based on recent archaelogical finds that confirm certain places or cities mentioned in The Bible. Although there have been no archaelogical discoveries that prove Jesus was real, there have been, so the argument goes, discoveries which enhance the reliability of the testimonies by confirming real names and places involved.
If these places mentioned by name by the writers of the gospels really existed, (so the argument goes) and the authors had included these seemingly innocuous details into their story, it raises the trustworthiness of the source.
Here’s the bottom line: ‘If Luke was so painstakingly accurate in his historical reporting,’ said one book on the topic, ‘on what logical basis may we assume he was credulous or inaccurate in his reporting of matters that were far more important, not only to him but to others as well.” (Strobel, 99)
A comparable argument would be that Dan Brown’s “DaVinci Code” is a true story (despite amazing events) because it includes so many true facts and research. First of all, reliable testimony about mundane historical events is simple not equal to testimony about miraculous events. If a modern witness gave us a lot of firm details about a suspect, but then said something outloundish like the suspect flew away on a pink giraffe, we would be less inclined to believe even the sober aspects of his account. Why is this not also true when dealing with The Bible? Secondly, this argument avoids the main reason the historicity of Jesus is challenged at all; the similarities to other traditions. Also, there are a few specific historical details recorded in the gospels that actually go against more trustworthy historical sources. As Richard Dawkins points out:
Moreover, Luke screws up his dating by tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking. There was indeed a census under Governor Quirinius – a local census, not one decreed by Caesar Augustus for the Empire as a whole – but it happened too late: in 6 AD, long after Herod’s death. Lane Fox concludes that ‘luke’s story is historically impossible and internally incoherent,’ but he sympathizes with Luke’s plight and his desire to fulfil the prophecy of Micah. (Dawkins, 94)
2 Argument from Martyrs
This emotionally-charged argument goes something like this: “If there was no Jesus Christ, what did all those martyrs die for?” www.allaboutreligion.com uses it the following way:
In light of the cruel and torturous deaths of the first and second generation Christians, all theories that Christianity is a fabricated myth, created for the personal gain of its followers, must be rejected. Even today, many will die for a belief, but none will die for a lie. (http://www.polycarp.net/)
The argument sometimes assumes that, if Christianity was a myth, its followers would have known about it and therefore been adverse to martyrdom. However, I believe the Christian martyrs were probably very convinced in their own minds that Jesus Christ was a historical person. Interestingly, not all Christian were willing to be martyrs. Christians who believed in Jesus as a spirit or non-physical entity, or who didn’t think Jesus felt real pain, or suffered like humans, felt no need to die as martyrs and conscientiously avoided persecution.
St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, two of the earliest Christian martyrs, were already fighting against these ‘heretics’ who weren’t willing to die for their cause. Ignatius gets very angry and gives, in essence, the very first instance of the martyrdom argument.
For if it is merely in semblance that these things were done by our Lord, I am also a prisoner in semblance. And why have I given myself up to death, to fire, to the sword, to wild beasts?” (Cited Frend, 138)
Why indeed? If he did not have an answer then, so close to the time of Christ, nor any proof to offer the heretics to change their views, how could the mere fact of his willingness to die for his beliefs be used as evidence nearly 2,000 years later?
3 Argument from Existence of the Church
Jesus must have existed, says this argument, because there is a Church, and it must have had a founder. This argument is used by, for example, W.K.C Guthrie in Ancient Mystery Cults.
If there were no other evidence for the real existence of the founder of Christianity, a strong case might still be made based on the difficulty a man might feel in accounting for the rise of Christianity without the impulse of a historic Jesus behind it. (Guthrie, 53)
An offshoot of this argument is sometimes that, unlike Christianity, all the various pagan religions died out, and Christianity survived despite very challenging periods of persecution. Either it was ‘God’s Will’, or Christianity had something no one else did: a historical founder. Burkert uses this argument against the ancient mysteries.
The basic difference between ancient mysteries, on the one hand, and religious communities, sects, and churches of the Judeo-Christian type, on the other, is borne out by the verdict of history…..With the imperial decrees of 391/92AD prohibiting all pagan cults and with the forceful destruction of the sanctuaries, the mysteries simply and suddenly disappeared. (Burkert, 53)
Notice, however, the contradiction implicit in this quote. The mysteries were first outlawed, and then their sanctuaries were forcibly destroyed; after which Burkert makes it sound like the disappearance of the mysteries is mysterious and unexplainable. Not irrelevant to the survival of Christianity is the fact that the early Christian church, against Christ’s instructions in The Bible, had both leadership and an organizational structure, not to mention a great deal of wealth once backed by Rome. This more than anything, can account for its preservation.
4 Argument from Prophecy
This is the argument used within The Bible itself to justify Jesus Christ, and continues to be used today. As written, the New Testament makes Jesus fulfill hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. Most of these ‘prophecies’ are written in past tense about specific events and give no indication that they are to be used for the future; however in order for orthodox Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah, he needed to appear as Jewish as possible. Therefore Jesus scrupulously jumps through hoops, doing a lot of strange and inconvenient things, (many that were done in private or secretly) so that the gospel writers can say “And Jesus did this, to fulfill the prophecy.”
For instance, although the ‘massacre of the infants’ or the persecution of the child-hero is a common literary motif, the writer of Matthew links it to a passage from Jeremiah:
This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)
Incidentally, very few biblical scholars consider any of the birth narratives of Christ to be historically genuine, so similar are they to pagan mythology. If this episode didn’t happen, it makes it all the more easy to see how the writer could take a common theme, apply to the character of Jesus Christ as a biographical episode, and link it to the Jewish Tradition.
The prophecy argument is also used by Jesus, the man in the gospels; however, being Jewish himself, it would be natural for him to use phrases and quotes from the Old Testament in reference to his own life.
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.” (Zechariah 13:7)
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Matthew 26:31)
Many of the major biographical details of Jesus in the gospels also arise out of prophecy. He had to be born in Bethlehem, for example, but he also had to be from Nazareth and then move to Egypt. And so it is. Moreover, (as we saw previously) the fact that these are real, historical cities and places lends credence to the idea that these events really happened. Since the identical correlation between Jesus’ life and the Old Testament prophecies is unlikely to be coincidental, the fact that Jesus actually did these things is taken as proof that he was the coming savior. However, it takes faith in the historical reliabity of the Bible before this proof can be at all convincing, and is thus a self-referential, equivalent to “I know The Bible is true because The Bible says so”. Non-Christians will argue that the gospel writers just wrote the story of Jesus to include as many of these prophecies as possible.
5 Argument from Ethics
This preconception, especially common in American Country music, is that all goodness, love and truth came into the world with Christ, and before him people had limited ethical ability. Alan Jackson, for example, sings:
I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love
-Where were you when the world stopped turning
Anyone familiar with world literature will know that this is blatantly untrue. Ethical considerations and practical morality have always been a concern for human civilizations. There are pearls of ethical wisdom that can be found several thousand years before the Christian era, and in the pagan milieu that gave birth to the Christian movement, the philosophical quest for concepts such as “Truth”, “Love”, “Goodness” and “Virtue”, was seen as a pressing issue of ultimate importance. Many contemporary philosophical schools urged restraint, humility, abstinence, or fasting. Jesus’ ethics, moreover, were nothing new. His famous moral precepts “love your neighbor as yourself” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are not unique to him, but can be found in much earlier religious literature; a point Bertrand Russell raises in his article, Why I’m not a Christian:
You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. (Russell)
Arguments Against the Historical Jesus
Even if none of the above arguments for Jesus hold water, it would still be very acceptable to believe, in the absence of other indicators, that he was a historical person. A common response to challenges that Jesus was historical is to say, “there is no evidence that can prove Jesus didn’t exist.” Of course this is true, but it is also meaningless: if Jesus did not exist, then why would there be any evidence? Likewise, evidence taken from external traditions, comparative mythology, or pagan sources are sometimes automatically discounted because they are not talking about the historical Jesus (and therefore not relevant) – although they could be very relevant indeed if Jesus was not historical.
The ‘arguments against the historical Jesus’ do not really prove that the Jesus did not exist or that there was no historical founder to Christianity; they simply draw attention to the problems, contradictions, or anomalies between evidence we do have and the idea that Jesus Christ was a historical person.
1 Argument from Impossibility of Miracles
Although few people have trouble understanding this argument, it can also seem fruitless. Does it matter whether Jesus turned water into wine, or walked on water? These are matters of faith, not history. Non-Christians readily accept both the idea that Jesus was a wise teacher (and a historical person), and also that the miracles are fictional embellishments. In other words, it is a common ideology today that the miracles are not really important to the message of Jesus Christ. This might be true if we believe that Jesus was merely a teacher – but as we mentioned before there is nothing particularly novel about his teachings anyway. If the miracles didn’t really happen, then there is no reason to accept other claims made about Jesus, such as his relationship to God and his ability to save souls. Discounting the miracles as impossible, therefore, robs Jesus of his supernatural status, and consequently refutes much of the New Testament.
The argument from the impossibility of miracles was used for example in the Westar Institute’s 1986 study created by Robert Funk. Funk organized the Jesus Seminar, an inter-disciplinary panel of top scholars, to investigate the historical accuracy of the New Testament sayings of Jesus. In 1993, the seminar published the findings of their vote-based investigation, in a work called, “The Five Gospels.” They concluded that only 16% of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels may have actually been spoken by him.
This may seem like a low number, but as critics of the Jesus Seminar point out, most of the members of the Jesus Seminars weren’t Christian, and disregarded all of the supernatural, miraculous events because they couldn’t have possibly happened. This harsh skepticism was used to remove the veil of divinity from Jesus Christ and reveal his humanity, but for spiritual persons who believe in the possibility of miracles, the findings of the Jesus Seminar are worthless as an investigation into the historical Jesus.
As critics claim, although you can demonstrate the extreme unlikelihood of a miracle, you cannot prove that one did not take place. After all, if the miracles recorded in The Bible really happened, they would surely be recorded in eye-witness accounts, which is what the New Testament gospels are believed to be.
2 Argument from Silence
The argument from silence generally refers to the fact that no contemporary sources outside The Bible say anything about the historical Jesus – but it can mean much more than that. It can refer to the fact that the earliest Christians hardly ever referred to the person of Jesus Christ, but only the ethics and workings of the church, or that when they did refer to him, they avoided any concrete specifics of his life besides common statements of faith which are most likely based on pagan mythology anyway. It can include the common criticism made against them – that they believed without being able to produce any evidence; which illustrates that, in the beginning, not only did they not have any physical evidence, they didn’t even have a tradition of physical evidence.
Generally, however, the argument from silence is that the few historical references to Jesus (including the gospels), were written after Jesus’ death. There are no contemporary accounts of Jesus of any kind – including the gospels, which at the very earliest were written several decades after the supposed death of Jesus. Kersey Graves used this argument as early as 1875:
The fact that no history, sacred or profane,—that not one of the three hundred histories of that age,—makes the slightest allusion to Christ, or any of the miraculous incidents ingrafted into his life, certainly proves, with a cogency that no logic can overthrow, no sophistry can contradict, and no honest skepticism can resist, that there never was such a miraculously endowed being as his many orthodox disciples claim him to have been. The fact that Christ finds no place in the history of the era in which he lived,—that not one event of his life is recorded by anybody but his own interested and prejudiced biographers,—settles the conclusion, beyond cavil or criticism, that the godlike achievements ascribed to him are naught but fable or fiction. It not only proves he was not miraculously endowed, but proves he was not even naturally endowed to such an extraordinary degree as to make him an object of general attention. It would be a historical anomaly without a precedent, that Christ should have performed any of the extraordinary acts attributed to him in the Gospels, and no Roman or Grecian historian, and neither Philo nor Josephus, both writing in that age, and both living almost on the spot where they are said to have been witnessed, and both recording minutely all the religious events of that age and country, make the slightest mention of one of them, nor their reputed authors. Such a historical fact banishes the last shadow of faith in their reality. (Graves)
Note that Graves is not arguing against a historical founder of Christianity – he is only arguing against the supernatural god-man found in the gospels. Christians claim, against this argument, that Jesus was a small time preacher living in the backwaters of the Roman Empire, and as such shouldn’t be expected to have received much attention anyway. However – in the gospels his death and resurrection were witnessed and believed in by both Roman and Jewish officials; the word would have been sure to spread very quickly.
It has always been unfailing source of astonishment to the historical investigator of Christian beginnings, that there is not a single word from the pen of any Pagan writer of the first century of our era, which can in any fashion be referred to the marvellous story recounted by the Gospel writer. The very existence of Jesus seems unknown. (Mead)
Christian apologists argue that a ‘lack of evidence’ is no evidence at all. Jesus, they say, was a wandering Jewish teacher who didn’t make much of an impression during his life time, and it is a wonder we have any testimony about him at all – and we do! Because The Bible is an eye-witness testimony from his followers.
However, we can see from Christian writings themselves that in fact, Christians knew next to nothing about their savior. They never refer to details about his life or works that are not recorded in the gospels, and before the gospels were readily available, they would quote from Old Testament prophecies and apply them to the figure of Jesus. The further back in history we go, the less they have to say about the historical Jesus. Early Christians provided a kind of logical argument to support the possibility of their ideas, but never provide proof, either from eye-witnesses, oral tradition or other sources, to convince their critics of their faith. Instead of refuting the position of their adversaries, through fact or logic, they resort to name calling and character attacks and rely purely on faith.
3 Argument from Early Church Controversy
One of the strongest arguments in favor of a mythological Jesus is based on historical documents and letters which demonstrate that from the very earliest, formulative period of Christianity, there was controversy over whether or not Jesus was real.
A brief introduction to the early literature of the Church Fathers shows clearly that early Christianity was full of disagreement and controversy. Letters between Christians say very little about their own religious beliefs, but focus on condemning and warning against all of the heresies, or those other communities who also worshiped Jesus, but whose beliefs were different from the author’s. The most controversial issue for Christians of the first three centuries was whether or not Jesus was a physical human being. Was he a real man, or just a spirit? Did he bodily resurrect, or resurrect in appearance only? Did he, in fact, even exist as a historical person? There were many who didn’t believe so.
St. Ignatius, who was martyred before 117ad, fought against the ‘docetist heresy’ that denied Jesus had ‘come in the flesh.’ Docetists, based most likely on the Platonic split between spirit and matter, believed that Jesus had come in the appearance or ‘semblance’ of a human only, but did not really have a human body. This belief undermines what became the Catholic view of the suffering servant (if no body, then no pain), and so the heresy was finally surpressed. For He suffered all these things for our sakes [that we might be saved]; and He suffered truly, as also He raised Himself truly; not as certain unbelievers say, that He suffered in semblance, being themselves mere semblance. (Ignatius, Letter to Smyrnaens)
His disciple, Irananeus, writing against the Valentinians (a different group, with similar beliefs) half a century later, said:
I have learned that certain ministers of Satan have wished to disturb you, some of them asserting that Jesus was born only in appearance, and was crucified in appearance, and died in appearance. (Iraneaus, Against Valentinius)
However, it is amazing that such a heresy could have occurred at all. Passages like the following from the gospel of John, show that similar beliefs were active and threateningly popular even before the gospels were written:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4: 1-3)
How had the message of Jesus Christ, spreading by word of mouth through apostolic tradition, been so vilely corrupted as to lead followers to question that Jesus Christ was a real, physical man? If Jesus’ disciples had seen him die on the cross, and later felt his resurrected physical body, and even watched him eat and drank after the resurrection, would they have neglected to mention that Jesus was real, and that he rose bodily from the dead? It would have been the single most important message to convey, in every detail. Those who didn’t believe that a man could rise from the dead in the same physical body as he had died in, wouldn’t believe the story, and would refrain from converting. But what we have are many, diverse communities, which believe in Jesus, but deny his physicality. And these are not a few, isolated incidences of the message going astray; Ignatius had to warn his followers about many, very distinct heresies which were believed in his day by other communities. It seems that more people had the “wrong” idea about Jesus, than those who got it right. Rather than one, Catholic (universal) message about Jesus Christ, the first few centuries of Christianity branched out in to dozens of Heresies, each of whom believed very different things about Jesus; and many of whom believed that the major events in Jesus’ life had been ‘in semblance only’. This rather lengthy quote from Ignatius demonstrates the wide range of heresies and their beliefs. This cannot be the result of one or two receivers of wisdom that accidentally misunderstood the true message of Jesus; it is as if, every time the story of Jesus Christ was told, everyone heard an entirely different message:
If any one preaches the one God of the law and the prophets, but denies Christ to be the Son of God, he is a liar, even as also is his father the devil, and is a Jew falsely so called, being possessed of mere carnal circumcision. If any one confesses Christ Jesus the Lord, but denies the God of the law and of the prophets, saying that the Father of Christ is not the Maker of heaven and earth, he has not continued in the truth any more than his father the devil, and is a disciple of Simon Magus, not of the Holy Spirit. If any one says there is one God, and also confesses Christ Jesus, but thinks the Lord to be a mere man, and not the only-begotten God, and Wisdom, and the Word of God, and deems Him to consist merely of a soul and body, such an one is a serpent, that preaches deceit and error for the destruction of men. And such a man is poor in understanding, even as by name he is an Ebionite. If any one confesses the truths mentioned, but calls lawful wedlock, and the procreation of children, destruction and pollution, or deems certain kinds of food abominable, such an one has the apostate dragon dwelling within him. If any one confesses the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and praises the creation, but calls the incarnation merely an appearance, and is ashamed of the passion, such an one has denied the faith, not less than the Jews who killed Christ. If any one confesses these things, and that God the Word did dwell in a human body, being within it as the Word, even as the soul also is in the body, because it was God that inhabited it, and not a human soul, but affirms that unlawful unions are a good thing, and places the highest happiness in pleasure, as does the man who is falsely called a Nicolaitan, this person can neither be a lover of God, nor a lover of Christ, but is a corrupter of his own flesh, and therefore void of the Holy Spirit, and a stranger to Christ. All such persons are but monuments and sepulchres of the dead, upon which are written only the names of dead men. Flee, therefore, the wicked devices and snares of the spirit which now worketh in the children of this world, lest at any time being overcome, ye grow weak in your love. (Ignatius to the Philadelphians)
Note in the above passage, that Ignatius is condemning those who are ‘disciples of Simon Magus’. Simon Magus was preaching Jesus Christ before Paul – this would make him the earliest tradition surrounding Jesus Christ. Is it possible that followers of Jesus situated historically closer to the actual events had a less complete message than those who came later?
The traditional argument is that Jesus was ‘really human’ because the earliest “Christians” (ie those who believe that Jesus was human) thought so. However, we may wonder why the same argument cannot be made that Jesus never existed because, because early Christians (those who were fighting against Ignatius) claimed so.
4 Argument from Similarity to Pagan Mythology
The most enduring and profound controversy in this subject is whether or not a person named Jesus Christ ever really existed…. when one examines this issue closely, one will find a tremendous volume of literature that demonstrates, logically and intelligently, time and again that Jesus Christ is a mythological character along the same lines as the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Sumerian, Phoenician, Indian or other godmen, who are all presently accepted as myths rather than historical figures. (Acharya, 44)
The argument from similarity is that, given the similarities between Jesus and some earlier mythological figures (such as Attis, Orpheus, Mithras, Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus, or Ascelpius) it is very likely that Christianity adapted or assimilated portions of these mythologies into their stories of Jesus Christ. Apologists have developed several responses to this argument.
The first is simply that Jesus was historical. Taking support from the academia’s continued pursuit into a historical founder for Christianity, this argument is immediately repudiated because (it is assumed) no serious scholar doubts the historical Jesus. However, this merely ignores the otherwise very troubling evidences, and is no improvement from Justin Martyr’s original argument dealing with the same similarities: “But in no instance, not even in any of those called sons of Jupiter, did they imitate the being crucified; for it was not understood by them, all the things said of it having been put symbolically” (Justin Martyr). In other words, Jesus was historical – all other instances of crucified saviors were symbolic, and thus not equal. This is also the same as C.S. Lewis’ later appeal and acceptance of Pagan Christs. For the skeptically-minded however, the only explanation ever put forward as to why pagan mythology and earlier saviors are so similar to the later, actual, life of Jesus is Justin’s Diabolical Mimicry argument, which blames the similarities on ‘wicked demons’.
But those who hand down the myths which the poets have made, adduce no proof to the youths who learn them; and we proceed to demonstrate that they have been uttered by the influence of the wicked demons, to deceive and lead astray the human race. For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, they put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets. (Justin Martyr, First Apology)
Another tactic of modern apologists is to claim that no such similarities exist at all, and they are all fabrications of modernity. To this end, they take any specific comparison made and demonstrate the ways in which the apparent similarity is actually coincidental – or else they undermine the research of the scholar making the claims. Although it is true that a great deal of the early arguments from similarity used poor translations or texts which are now no longer available, we know already from early sources, both Christian and pagan, that Jesus Christ was similar to other gods and that this was recognized. These similarities caused controversy and discord between Christians and pagans for several centuries – as Godwin points out, for example, using the the particular example of Attis:
In point of fact it appears from the testimony of an anonymous chrsitian, who wrote in the fourth century of our era, that Christian and pagans alike were struck by the remarkable coincidences between the death and resurrection of their respective deitites, and that the coincidence formed a theme of bitter controversy between the adherents of the rival religions, the pagans contending that the resurrection of Christ was a spurious imitation of the resurrection of Attis, and the Christians asserting with equal warmth that the resurrection of Attis was a diabolical conterfeit of the resurrection of Christ. In these unseemly bickerings the heathen took what to a superficial observer might seem strong ground by arguing that their god was the older and therefore presumably the original, not the counterfeit, since as a general rule an original is older than its copy. This feeble argument the Chrsitan easily rebutted. They admitted, indeed, that in point of time Christ was the junior deity, but they triumphantly demonstrated his real seniority by falling back on the subtlety of Satan, who on so important an occasion had surpassed himself by inverting the usual order of nature. (Godwin, 435)
Having knowledge of this controversy, (and not accepting ‘Diabolical Mimicry’ as a rational solution), we are well justified in looking for the similarities which were so obvious to those more familiar with the original pagan and Christian sources.
Conclusions and Summary
Now that we have examined the controversy surrounding the historical Jesus, we find that we can no longer rely solely on the historicity of Jesus Christ to differentiate him from the mythological traditions to which he is so similar; to that end, we are now free to explore the potential similarities on their own merits without the limiting assumption of a historical Jesus blinding us to the common practices of translation, assimilation, and syncretism of religious thought that were prevalent during the period which gave birth to the story of the Christian savior, and which can explain the rise of Christian belief without relying on faith or theology.
But these are just my thoughts… what do you think? Is there stronger evidence for Jesus than these arguments? Did I leave something out?
Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Challenge any of my conclusions – please share your opinion, but also give evidence to support it.
2) Share an alternative viewpoint or something I’ve overlooked.