When "historical Jesus" proponents actually get around to describing who Jesus Christ actually was, they invariably produce an individual who wasn't named either Jesus or Christ.
Christ is a title, so it's no wonder nobody thinks there was a guy in the middle east with a surname like that. 'Surnames', such as they are in that area are more likely to point to a birthplace or a father's name such as 'of Nazareth' or 'son of Joseph'
Jesus is the modern form, but the bible explains that in Hebrew it means God delivers. Which fits closer with what we would call Joshua. When we transliterate a Latinisation of Hellenisation of a Hebrew name - we'd expect some changes, that's just as the Romans and the Greeks rolled: they change names to their local culture.
And the reason I say "wasn't executed by Romans" is because he doesn't seem to have been executed by Romans
I've never checked, would you be able to point me to a list of all criminals executed by the Romans in that area in say, 32AD?
What he need to have actually demonstrated supernatural powers? What if he really did exist but produced a different story and philosophy that was so drastically distorted that we could hardly pin him as the source?
When we talk of a historical person we are talking about a character that can be constructed from historical sources using historical methodology. This is to say that the Historical Jesus was not the REAL Jesus but an account of the real Jesus (supposing such a being existed) that can be extracted from what little evidence there is that he ever did exist.
So who is the Historical George Washington? Did the historical George Washington tell the truth about his amateur lumberjacking? No. Did the historical George Washington skip a stone some superhuman distance? No. The historical Billy the Kid killed less than ten men - but the legendary Billy the Kid killed 21.
I think that is what Crash is talking about when he mentions the "Santa Claus named Lou". It is a reasonable question to ask how much of the characteristics must match before we call someone what I think we all mean which is a historical basis for the mythology.
We have a bunch of sources talking about a person called Jesus. The Historical Jesus is the character that is consistent between sources, consistent with the culture, time and geography and reality as we know it.
The Historical Jesus tends to have the following attributes:
was Named Yeshua or very similar was from Nazareth preached around 30AD was baptised by John the Baptist, was possibly a follower of John the Baptist before beginning his own ministry. Preached an impending end of world scenario Possibly had followers armed with swords, especially later in his ministry. Probably had some kind of violent tantrum at a Temple. He preached against divorce. Had twelve male disciples and a number of females in his close circle. Was arrested for sedition and crucified for same at or close to Passover.
That's pretty close to the Christian version of Jesus' story - That above list was from memory, present historians may have a slightly different notion.
Just like the historical Mohammed didn't fly around on a horse, but did wage war and preach his ideas of Islam. Jesus didn't feed 5,000 but he did he preach his ideas about Judaism.
Then the burden is on them to show that such a person actually existed.
Showing that a person actually existed 2000 years ago is very difficult. Especially a person in that time in that place. There is evidence for a historical Jesus - the five Gospels and the letters of Paul and that's really the meat and bones of it. Is it conclusive? No.
What I believe Crash's fundamental point is that it is necessary for someone proposing a historical Jesus to remove so much of the character of Jesus from the gospels that it necessarily makes his existence impossible to show.
Actually, his character remains largely the same after the analysis. He just isn't magic. It does make his existence impossible to show with any degree of certainty, but history is filled with uncertainty.
What then should be our tentative conclusion regarding the existence of a historical Jesus?
That it wouldn't have been extraordinary for Jesus to have existed, which explains the consillience of the information about what he is said to have done and/or said. Some of the things he is said to have said and done are thought to be contrary to the kind of thing people would make up in their situation (that is, they could have made them up, but if they had the opportunity to make something up - we'd expect something different). From what I can tell, the general consensus amongst historians is that there was a historical Jesus that lived and did some of the above things about which the Gospel stories were written, but little can be known of him for certain.
Well, I mean weight of evidence matters right? How many aspects of the character of a historical George Washington do you need to remove before you start to have doubt about his existence. Far more than is ever going to be reasonable.
Also, we are not talking about confirming the details of the life of Jesus we are talking about the basis for his existence to begin with. The truth of George Washington chopping down a tree is not apt to the existence of George Washington. The reality of the crucifixion of Jesus might actually be apt to his existence as the basis for the historical Jesus.
George Washington was to illustrate that there is a difference between the folkore person, the historical person and the real person. As I said, evidence of existence of a real Jesus and evidence for the historical Jesus are somewhat different prospects.
But there is a dependency relationship there. I need to be a little bit careful because I don't care to argue for the non-existence of a historical Jesus but I think it is fair to say that the Bible should be treated as one class of non-independent evidence.
By independent source, we mean independent of each other - rather than unbiased. In ancient history, there's nothing but bias. And the Bible is just a collection of works each with their own agenda. Many scholars believe the Gospels are representative at least two independent sources, and some limited information from the likes of Paul. Scholars also look to the Gospel of Thomas, which is thought to be of similar age to the other Gospels but is not in most Bibles.
So, these are your qualifications. But a slight tweak to any of these and you could have a case for matching the historical Jesus to any one of perhaps hundreds of roaming Cynic or Stoic preachers. So is our conclusion simply that ONE of these COULD have been the historical Jesus? I mean, that is fine with me, but I don't think that is what the people who are making a case for the historical Jesus are claiming.
Again - you have to understand what 'historical Jesus' means. It doesn't mean 'real Jesus' it refers to the Jesus that can be understood from historical sources under scrutiny using historical methodology. And yes, what we get is a fairly unextraordinary picture, but nobody is arguing that the historical Jesus was extraordinary.
Sure. But should the difficulty change our requirements for evidence?
I'm certainly not suggesting otherwise.
Okay then let me make a proposition for you. Perhaps we should have the same confidence in the existence of a historical Jesus as we do that of a historical Heracles or Odysseus. All of them are equally attested by a non-primary, largely fictional collection of ancient writings. I don't think crashfrog or even Jon could necessarily disagree with that would they?
I wouldn't have thought the comparison is quite close enough. There is a great deal of distance between the first written account of Odysseus, a King, and the time he is said to have existed. I would have thought Odysseus therefore is a closer analogue to Moses.
On Herakles I am unable to say, unaware of the sources regarding him as I am. I've not heard of any secular scholars that have thought the evidence of the existence of Herakles was remotely persuasive though so I'm guessing the case isn't good.
Sure, and they perhaps have very good reasons for that. I think though that there is not enough information to claim that any certain position is the "default" though which is what is currently being argued.
And that's fine. My position is straightforward: In a world where there was lots of religion, political tensions, in a culture where religious 'prophets' crop up and acquire followers during such times that one such 'prophet' managed to keep followers post mortem. Especially given that of all the Jewish prophets that desperate Jews could invent, Jesus is an unusual one to make up.
What I meant was that the parts of the bible that speak to historicity seemingly are derivative works from a common source.
That's not the consensus view of scholars, but it might be true.
Paul only barely gives weight to the gospels...
Paul's main advantage is that he was in the area very shortly after the purported events, quite likely as a skeptic. He doesn't tell us much in the way of biography. He was a contemporary of Jesus, though he obviously never met him. Luke and he state that Paul met someone(s) that he was persuaded had met Jesus. Hardly a nugget of historical gold, but there you go.
Okay, what is the significant difference between the consideration of a historical Jesus versus a historical Moses?
Jesus has, according to most scholars, multiple sources - the contents of which are occasionally counter to the anticipated agenda of the authors, and the sources attesting to his existence are written much closer to the proposed time of his existence.
Well, no, none of this is accurate. Confucious was called Confucious, that just wasn't his name.
He was first called Confucius 2,000 years after he was alive by an Italian.
Ghengis Khan was called Ghengis Khan.
And Yeshua was called Jesus Christ by English Christians and he was called Iesu by the Latin speakers. That's all we're saying. Just like the historical Santa Claus was called Nikolaos of Myra in his time, only acquiring the title 'Saint' posthumously (as is required).
Well, maybe we should be more specific. I mainly consider the gospels to be the books that are relevant to this discussion. It was my understanding that scholars believe that Mark was first, Matthew and Luke derived from Mark + Q and perhaps a document of parables. I can't recall of the top of my head what I remember about John but I do remember some discussion about it also being derived.
That seems to be about right. So something that appears in both Mark and Q (and/or John, which is sometimes considered independent I believe - though less reliable for many reasons) can be said to be multiple attestation from independent sources.
What do you mean when you said, "not the consensus view of scholars"? Are you talking about other books of the NT?
The five gospels and Paul are thought to represent more than a single source.
Hardly a nugget is right. Should we not be skeptical of someone who outright admits never to have met a historical Jesus?
It seems like a plausible claim - why would be skeptical of it? Of course, we should treat secondary sources as secondary sources, but I'm not presenting Paul as a primary source so I'm not sure why you stress this. Yes we should be skeptical. Our conclusions remain tentative etc etc.
I sense that I very well could be missing something here but I don't see how Paul is a very good source for a historical Jesus at all.
I'm not suggesting he's a very good source for a historical Jesus, just that he is a source for a historical Jesus.
I am curious about this part. What sources are those?
The five Gospels and Paul.
Who contemporary to Jesus writes about him counter to his agenda?
Nobody whose writings survive and have been found.
But there is no "historic Santa Claus", just as there's no historic James Bond.
For what it's worth:
quote:Santa Claus in this contemporary understanding echoes aspects of hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of gift-giver Saint Nicholas, the man from whom the name of Santa Claus derives and in whose honor Santa Claus may be referred to as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick
There is a person who was posthumously canonized who has later been called Santa Claus who has had legendary status and abilities associated with him over time.
I'm asking, Mod, because I think you're unclear on the difference between a fictional character inspired by a real person - as all fictional characters are - and the historical figure, if any, that is at the heart of a legend.
Sometimes a fictional character is more closely associated with a real historical figure. For example, there is no single historical figure that we associate with Dexter, the Serial Killer. He is a fictional killer based on known serial killers. On the other hand, Count Dracula can be seen to be based on the historical Voivoide Vlad Tepes III son of the Dragon.
That's why the word historical gets appended. It means to seperate it from 'folklore' or 'legendary'.
The real person that inspires a legendary figure is sometimes studied via so that an account of that real person is created which is called a 'history' and that character is called the 'historical x'.
The Historical Christopher Columbus didn't call himself Christopher Columbus (this again is an Anglicization of a Latinisation), didn't try to persuade the Portuguese courts that the world was round etc - Is Christopher Columbus a fictional character? Maybe, but we can confidently assert there was a real person we associate with that name and we can discuss the historical account of that person which we might call 'the Historical Christopher Columbus'.
If you're arguing that all fictional characters are "real" because some aspect of them can be traced to a real person who existed, then you're arguing against the existence of fictional characters. Fiction and reality can;t be separated like that.
I'm glad I'm not suggesting that fictional characters are real at all. I'm not suggesting the Christ the God is real. I'm just arguing that the character Jesus Christ can weakly be traced to a real person about which we can derive a very limited history.
Under the traditional meaning of words, the fact that there was an American ornithologist named "James Bond" and a handful of actual suave, sophisticated British secret agents with concealed gadgetry doesn't provide any support to the notion that James Bond is not an utterly fictional character.
Right. So, there's no "historical Dexter." Is the difference between Dexter and Dracula the fact that Dexter was likely inspired by a number of individuals whom we probably couldn't identify and Dracula was likely inspired by a specific individual, known to exist, who we can identify with a fair degree of certainty?
No, because there really was a guy who sailed from Portugal with the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria, and whose name when Anglicized from the Latinization really does wind up being "Christopher Columbus.
Right. So the fact there wasn't really a guy with the name Christopher Columbus is irrelvant to the discussion about the historical Christopher Columbus.
But it appears proponents of the "historical Jesus Christ" can't present evidence for even a single critical aspect of the Jesus Christ legend. That, along with the general ridiculous and condescending tone of their arguments, is for the most part what leads me to believe that there was no "historical Jesus Christ."
Fair enough. You don't accept the evidence, I get that. I'm just pointing out that the name issue is a non-issue but you keep bringing it up for some reason.
Well, ok. What real person, specifically, and what is the evidence upon which we can derive this history?
Yeshua of Nazareth, Jewish preacher. The five Gospels and Paul. You don't think that's sufficient, I get that.
That's a project I'd like to see historical Jesus defenders get on board with. Instead they insist on violating Indiana Jones' most important precept: "we cannot afford to take mythology at face value."
Historical Jesus reconstructionists do not make that error. They appreciate the documents they have to work with are biased, and filled with myth. They attempt to extract from them kernels of truth generally using the following criteria (taken from wiki):
Multiple attestation:- The criterion of multiple attestation or independent attestation is an important tool used by scholars. Simply put, the more independent witnesses that report an event or saying, the better. The gospels are not always independent of each other. There is a possibility that Matthew and Luke copied contents from Mark's gospel. There are, however, at least four early, independent sources.
Embarrassment - The criterion of embarrassment, also known as criterion of dissimilarity, is an analytical tool that Biblical scholars use in assessing whether the New Testament accounts of Jesus' actions and words are historically accurate. Simply put, trust the embarrassing material. If something is awkward for an author to say and he does anyway, it is more likely to be true.
The Criterion of coherence (also called consistency or conformity) can be used only when other material has been identified as authentic. This criterion holds that a saying and action attributed to Jesus may be accepted as authentic if it coheres with other sayings and actions already established as authentic. While this criterion cannot be used alone, it can broaden the database for what Jesus actually said and did.
And so on. When these criteria are employed a very limited historical Jesus emerges.