Not Even a Carpenter: Why a Historical Jesus Is Doubtful

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

jesus collage
For the longest time, I’ve held to what is known as the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (TM)–the notion that there was indeed a historical Jesus, but he was deified and mythologized along the lines of contemporary myths and legends. One need look no further than here and here and here to see how well Jesus fits the bill. Like Perseus, Jesus was born to a High God and a mortal woman. Like Asclepius, he healed the sick and raised the dead. Like Osiris, he conquered death and extended immortality to his devotees.

Despite the similarities with mythical, pagan figures, I wasn’t ready to jump on board with mythicism (the theory that Jesus was purely mythical) just yet. Because it could be that Jesus was in the same category as Caesar Augustus and Alexander the Great, both of whom were undoubtedly historical, but nonetheless garnered mythic archetypes. So, the question becomes one of probability. Is it more probable that Jesus was pure myth (like Perseus, Asclepius, and Osiris), or that he was a deified man (like Augustus and Alexander)? Or, OR, could it be that Jesus was simply the Real McCoy? That he really did work miracles and rise from the dead?
fuck-no
First, we must consider what the earliest Christian writings have to say about Jesus. The Gospels and Acts are all dated to a period around 70-110 CE (and could be even later). The earliest written documents in the New Testament are actually Paul’s Epistles (c. 50-60 CE), among various other pseudo-Pauline letters (only seven of them are considered authentic). These documents present a very different picture of nascent Christianity than that which is found in the later works. In them, Jesus is basically a Gnostic Revealer and Dying & Rising Godman (like Osiris and so many others). With the exception of a few verses, all of which are easily explainable, Jesus appears to be a celestial rather than historical figure.

You jelly, bro?

No offense, Lord, but your ass is out of this WORLD.

Paul never mentions “Mary, Joseph, a birth in Bethlehem, King Herod, the miracles, ministry, [a] trial by Jews, or trial by Pontius Pilate.” The apostle, of course, never met the “historical Jesus,” and mostly speaks in terms of what a celestial Jesus has revealed to him, e.g., “The gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). To Paul, Jesus is essentially a Gnostic Aeon, an ethereal revealer of hidden and divine truths, as well as a dying and rising mystery-cult deity, a figure through whom one can be baptized into death and raised anew in the spirit (Rom. 6:3-5, Col. 2:12), just like Osiris, Dionysus, and so many others. Osiris, too, could be consumed in the form of bread.

Damn right. Fucking eat me.

Damn right. Fucking eat me.

Now, as Paul’s letters were primarily theological treatises, it maybe sorta kinda could be that he had little use for invoking biographical details about the life and times of Jesus. In the same way that it maybe sorta kinda could be that Jodi Arias remembers squat about carving up her ex-boyfriend.

It wasn't me! It was the one-armed man!

It wasn’t me! It was the one-armed man!

But this is doubtful, given that Paul’s letters report next to nothing of mundane, biographical detail, and he never even invokes the supposed words of Jesus in order to settle controversial matters in the early church. What little we do hear from Paul, such as Jesus being descended from David (Rom. 1:3), or born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), is demonstrably cribbed from Old Testament texts, not derived from historical data. Kinda like the genetic engineers of Jurassic Park who plugged the missing gaps with frog DNA to make dinosaurs.

Shit or get off the pot, dude.

The later Gospels aren’t historically reliable, as they are fictitious through and through. For instance, how do we know what Jesus prayed while away from his disciples on the Mount of Olives, with no one nearby to hear him (Luke 22:39-46)? Because Luke fucking made it up.

Then Jesus demanded, "Say what again, motherfucker?"

Then Jesus demanded, “Say what again, motherfucker.”

Reading the New Testament chronologically, going from the Epistles to the Gospels, Jesus looks less like a historical figure who was mythologized, and more like a mythical figure who was historicized. Such was the ancient practice of Euhemerization–placing a mythical figure in a historical setting. As a result, even the ancient historian Josephus considered Hercules historical!

Raise the roof! I'm a real boy!

Raise the roof! I’m a real boy!

Next, we must briefly examine the historical evidence for Jesus. Seeing as we just shit all over Josephus’ credibility, we can pretty much count him out. Not to mention, the Testimonium Flavianum, where Josephus supposedly mentions Jesus, is at least heavily tampered with, if not an outright forgery. Even if Josephus did mention Jesus, it wouldn’t prove anything beyond the fact that there were, at the time, Christians, who preached of their godman Jesus. Same goes for Tacitus. They may only be relaying historical hearsay from around the late 1st and early 2nd century. So, we’re balls deep in underwhelming evidence.

xxx

Yep. Right in the trunk.

Moreover, there is no contemporaneous mention of Jesus, i.e., nothing written about him during the time he is said to have lived. Now this, alone, does not suggest that there was no historical Jesus. “God knows” there were plenty of folks strewn throughout history that were never contemporaneously attested, but nonetheless existed. However, what it does tell us is that Jesus must not have been terribly significant, if indeed he ever lived. Various peoples and events in the 1st century Greco-Roman world were widely recorded, and there were plenty of contemporary historians who could have mentioned him, most notably Philo of Alexandria. But nary a word.

I wanted to, I just plumb ran the fuck outta ink!

I wanted to, I just plumb ran the fuck outta ink!

All of this begs the question: How does a virtual nobody become elevated to the status of a god? To the point that the earliest discussion of him in the New Testament is practically devoid of anything but lofty divinity? Caesar Augustus and Alexander the Great were significant historical figures, so it makes sense that they’d be so deified. But, a relative nobody? A person about whom contemporary and 1st century historians gave zero total fucks?

xxx

I am NOT fine with this.

We come at last to the question of probability: Does all of this make more sense in terms of a historical person mythologized, or a mythical figure historicized? Especially since the initial, Pauline Jesus smacks of the latter? It would seem Jesus is better explained as a god become man, rather than a man become god. Zero to hero seems far less likely than Jesus having simply begun as a mythical hero. How’s that for executing ye olde Law of Parsimony?

Mind = Blown

Mind = Blown

It’s not that any of this proves there was no historical Jesus. It’s a question of verisimilitude (probability to you laymen). Based on all of the available information, one has damn good reason to suspect that this magical space-cadet motherfucker never even walked the earth. Perhaps that’s why Glenn Beck’s man-crush, Thomas Paine, had exactly this to say:

These repeated forgeries and falsifications create a well-founded suspicion, that all the cases spoken of concerning the person called Jesus Christ are made cases, on purpose to lug in, and that very clumsily, some broken sentences from the Old Testament, and apply them as prophecies of those cases; and that so far from his being the Son of God, he did not exist even as a man — that he is merely an imaginary or allegorical character, as Apollo, Hercules, Jupiter, and all the deities of antiquity were. There is no history written at the time Jesus Christ is said to have lived that speaks of the existence of such a person, even as a man. -Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

Tommy, how could you? After all that...

Damn you, Tommy! Was anything real?

Advertisements
Comments
  1. 1) Do you seriously think that Second Temple Jews, who didn’t attend theatres or have long hair because they were considered pagan, would happily pilfer pagan religious ideas?

    2) So what if these descriptions in the epistles are from the Old Testament? They still make no sense if they are referring to a purely spiritual being. Especially since ‘born of a human’ was a common Jewish way of describing someone as Human.

    3) Paul also mentions the Messiah was crucified and buried, where does the Old Testament ever say this? So no, that objection cannot apply to all of what Paul says about Jesus. This is actually highly dishonest of you.

    4) We have early paraphrases of the Testimonium Flavianum which are much more skeptical of Jesus’ miracles, indicating that it ‘did’ originally mention Jesus before being corrupted.

    5) You ignore the second reference to Jesus in Antiquities.

    6) Most of our references to historical figures are much later. Usually they do not spring from nowhere like Ned Ludd of John Frum.

    7) The only historian who would have had any interest in Messianic Jewish leaders is Josephus, that is why Philo never mentions him.

    So sorry, your objections fall flat.

    • Dearest Reggie,

      Let’s take this one outside, shall we? Because there’s about to be blood. Without further adieu…

      >>>Do you seriously think that Second Temple Jews, who didn’t attend theatres or have long hair because they were considered pagan, would happily pilfer pagan religious ideas?

      Oh, fuck no! Unless you’re counting the Second Temple Jews about whom 2nd Maccabees laments “an extreme of Hellenization and increase in the adoption of foreign ways” (4:13). Maybe those Jews. Or the Second Temple Jews who embraced Hellenistic astrology, e.g., horoscopes found at Qumran. Maybe those Jews. Or Second Temple Jews like Philo of Alexandra, the Essenes, and Therapeutae, who espoused Hellenistic concepts like rebirth and immortality of the soul, in a disembodied state no less (Cher. 113; Cont. 68). Maybe those Jews. BUT NO OTHER JEWS. I STAND CORRECTED.

      >>>So what if these descriptions in the epistles are from the Old Testament? They still make no sense if they are referring to a purely spiritual being. Especially since ‘born of a human [sic]’ was a common Jewish way of describing someone as Human.

      There’s a book I’m dying to introduce you to, Reggie. It’s called the Bible. Here’s a passage from Philippians 2:

      5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

      6 Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
      7 rather, he made himself nothing
      by taking the very nature (or form) of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
      8 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

      9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
      10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
      11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

      In other words, Reggie, Paul viewed Christ as a preexistent, celestial figure TO BEGIN WITH, one who was “in very nature God,” though he took on the form of a man, “being made in human likeness,” i.e., the incarnation (which mythicism does not deny), after which “God exalted him to the highest place” in a new, divine body, not a body of “flesh and blood” (1 Cor. 15:50). The only question is whether, in his incarnation, he actually dwelled on earth or remained in the celestial sphere, à la the earliest redaction of The Ascension of Isaiah. That he was “born of a woman” and “arose from the seed of David” are clearly examples of scriptural pesher, not historical data. So 1) it provides us with nothing of historical or biographical value, and 2) such scriptural pesher could have, for the sake of “prophetic fulfillment,” been applied to either an earthly or celestial figure. He could have had a cosmic mother, as Paul certainly doesn’t indicate Mary. And he could have been the divine manifestation of David’s ancestry, which, come to think of it, is precisely what Paul believes. Really sucks, doesn’t it?

      >>>Paul also mentions the Messiah was crucified and buried, where does the Old Testament ever say this? So no, that objection cannot apply to all of what Paul says about Jesus. This is actually highly dishonest of you.

      Uh, where do I say that ALL of this was cribbed from the Old Testament? This isn’t a matter of dishonesty on my part; it’s a matter of piss-poor reading comprehension on yours. I’m astonished you can even tie your shoes or pump your own gas without shitting yourself. And anyone with a modicum of understanding about mythicism knows that Paul gives no historical context for Christ’s crucifixion, but places the blame on the archons and aions, the demonic rulers of this age (1 Cor. 2:8), much like the Ascension of Isaiah, where Satan and his angels crucify him in the firmament, above earth, prior to his celestial resurrection (9.14). Even the burial could have taken place in the celestial realm, as was the case with Adam’s burial in The Revelation of Moses (32-41). Remember, we are talking about Hellenized Jews who subscribed to Platonic ideas, who emphasized the spiritual over the temporal.

      But here’s the thing. Even if Paul considered Jesus an earthly figure, it would STILL be consistent with mythicism. Unless you mean to tell me that every supposed god who walked the earth, from Dionysus to Asclepius, was therefore REAL. Lolz.

      >>>We have early paraphrases of the Testimonium Flavianum which are much more skeptical of Jesus’ miracles, indicating that it ‘did’ originally mention Jesus before being corrupted.

      No, you have LATER paraphrases of the Testimonium Flavianum, which water it down precisely because of said skepticism. Besides, with or without all the dubious bells and whistles, the passage is COMPLETELY out of context, sandwiched as it is between two historical calamities. It sticks out like a sore thumb in a walrus’ vagina.

      >>>You ignore the second reference to Jesus in Antiquities.

      OOPS.

      The second passage in Jewish Antiquities appears to come authentically from Josephus’ hand, recounting a story about a certain Jesus and James, the latter who was illegally murdered by the high priest Ananus, and the former who received vindication by taking Ananus’ place as high priest (Ant. 20:9:1). The phrase Jesus “who was called Christ” appears in the text, though this is likely an interpolation. The story not only fails to comport with anything in Acts, but, in its historical context, it is speaking quite clearly of a Jesus and James the sons of Damneus, not Joseph. Therefore, neither this nor the Testimonium Flavianum constitute any 1st century reference to Jesus of Nazareth.

      FIXED. Next.

      >>>Most of our references to historical figures are much later. Usually they do not spring from nowhere like Ned Ludd of John Frum.

      Yeah, but not when someone is so monumentally fantastic that they’re deified to biblical proportions (pun intended), so much so that their worship spreads to every corner of the Greco-Roman world. Pretty odd that he was THAT superb, but received no secular attestation until a good 80 years after his supposed death. Unless… there was no such man to be mentioned to begin with. Then, the data as we have it makes perfect sense.

      >>>The only historian who would have had any interest in Messianic Jewish leaders is Josephus, that is why Philo never mentions him.

      Too bad Josephus never mentioned him.

      And the fact that Philo was waxing philosophical about a firstborn son of God, the very “image of God” and God’s agent of creation (Conf. 62-63, 146-47), a “being most perfect in all virtue,” who was able to “procure forgiveness of sins” (Mos. 2.134), but never took notice of any man in nearby Palestine who was said to embody those VERY ideas, despite the fact that he visited Jerusalem during Jesus’ alleged days, really, REALLY sucks for you. And, seeing as he discussed such historical movements as the Essenses and Therapeutae, you’re up shit creek when it comes to explaining why he wouldn’t discuss a religious movement that smacked of his very own teachings, had it actually sprung from events surrounding a historical personage as early as the 30’s CE.

      Sorry (not sorry) your objections fall flat. You’re a sweet kid, though. I’m going to buy you a nice fruit basket. After I finish fucking your mother.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s