Friday, December 22, 2006

Mythology or Historicity Implied?

I just finished writing some comments on another blog about the issue of the historicity of the person Jesus Christ - was he real? Or was he person made up and written by the gospel writers and letter writers? I have heard these claims a lot and it made me wonder, would this destroy my faith? I resound with an absolute 'yes'.

The claims of this faith are that Jesus was the Christ, lived amongst us as a human being, suffered the death of the cross, then resurrected and was seen by people. Can any one of prove that with 100% certainty...well...no...we weren't there (or witnessed any of these events). So yeah, there is reason to believe he could be imaginery - none of us saw this happen (why couldn't they have media or video recorders in that day?). But what we do have are some things called gospels, letters, and the early church writings - again we cannot even verify who wrote them as we were not there while they were penned. So, strike two against the faith.

But the gospels and letters were written and they are the only sources to explain that period of time, nothing else exists...this is either strike 3 or we just might get on base here. You see some see this as a strike-out - no outside proof from historians so this has to be false. Problem there is not many historians are concerned about recording these issues - unless they get bloody well violent (this movement did not). But the fact there is something recorded means that someone had a reason to write it - and since this is the only account of the life of Jesus or the disciples (for that matter) - then by nature they are all we can go by. Either they hold some legitimacy or they are an internal community making stuff up - to build a religion of their own apparently.

If they made it up, what was the motive for such writings? One would have to say, a new religion - a fulfillment of the messianic prophecies - since that's what comes out their writings. But why a new religion and why depart from traditions your family has held so dear, for so long? For a made up 'Jesus' person, a figment of the imagination, a supposed messiah, etc. I think most people don't realize how tough it would of been for these disciples to leave their long established faith (Israel) - it was their hope, their promise, their connection to God - it was basically their whole life (Torah and law).

But 12 people want a new religion and they come up with an elaborate story (betray one of their own - Judas) where Jesus lives, teaches, does miracles, dies, and resurrects to the benefit of the Gentiles & Jews - not a single member being a Gentile but they had concern for them too (including Romans and Samaritans). Such weird writings where they make themselves into, well idiots - Peter comes off as brash and a denier of this faith, John and James are young and zealous - wanna kill people at one point, Matthew is a 'tax collecter' (not very admirable), Judas kills himself, etc. They paint themselves down and make Jesus look, well 'great'. I get it, I really do. They made up a fake person so they could make up a fake religion - what I don't get is the motive? Why? Was Judaism really that horrible to them? Did they think this idea would free the Jewish people from Roman oppression? Was their fame in it for some of them? I mean what makes a normal bunch of people leave their God, nation, and lifestyle?

You see if it is fake then all promises are null n void and these gospels and letters have no authority whatsoever - and whoever follows them is doing it for recreation alone. Some of the promises being eternal life and a close understanding of who God is or 'was'. Basically, there would be as much truth in there as in Greek mythologies about Zeus - they would be on an even keel and either can be worshipped as God (as far as I am concerned).

The other big problem is Paul and his letters. These pieces of literature point to the same ideas - Jesus lived, died, and resurrected - same claims as the gospels. Paul seems to tell quite the tale about himself and his turn to Christ - being a former high person in Jewish ranks. He then turns only to have himself nearly killed a few times, hated by his own people (both Romans and Jewish), takes quite the beating in a lot of places he ventures too - and in the end for what - to push a myth on other nations of peoples? He also verifies the fact Peter, James, and John all backed his ministry and were his pals - even though he was a later addition. I mean maybe Paul was all lies too - who knows - we never watched him pen the letters. But what is his motive? It can't be fame or prestige - he has that. Money - he has that. Religion - he has that. He's sado-masichistic and just needs to take the beats to 'get off'? What exactly? He sure seems to love pain is all I know.

I look at that pile of trash and I think - no historicity in the gospels and letters in and of themselves - 'give me a break' Nell Carter. The fact they exist means a whole hell of a lot and to think otherwise means you either have never considered the times of the disciples nor have you considered motive of the suspects. No one seems to gain a damn thing of these early disciples of Christ - fact is - all of them die with nothing or under persecution (for their own beliefs). They are rejected of their own faith (Judaism), persecuted by their own faith (Judaism), risk family, friends, and livelihood (means of survival), and are then killed for that - and for what, a name? There's no logic in that or who is that stupid? Unless, they had some truth to what they were writing.

What do you think? Is this all a big hoax or does the bible in and of itself contain some historicity?

15 comments:

BrotherKen said...

Great post!

The authenticity of Christ is a definitely a key element of the faith.

"I have heard these claims a lot and it made me wonder, would this destroy my faith? I resound with an absolute 'yes'."

So true! Paul addressed this in his first letter to the Corinthians; "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." 1Cor 15:14

"But the gospels and letters were written and they are the only sources to explain that period of time, nothing else exists..."

There are actually some external sources. Jewish historian Josephus us one such source, though who is to say that his writings were not tampered with.

"If they made it up, what was the motive for such writings?"

That is certainly a key obstacle critics must hurdle when arguing the authenticity of Christ. The new testament writers died for what they wrote, most would buckle long before it got that serious. Not only that, think about the level of intelligence and forsight these writers would require to fabricate such an intricate story. If it was collaborative intelligence and not divine inspiration behind the writings what chance would they have of widespread belief?

No, most critics will at least admit the authenticity of Christ, they just downplay His message. Author Josh McDowell puts it this way in the book "The new evidence that demands a verdict"; Lord, Lunatic or Liar - Choose one. You cannot say that Christ was simply a great prophet and nothing more. Anyone who claims He is God must either be lying or not quite all there. The ONLY alternative is that He is who He claims to be - the Son of God and savior of the world.

It is pretty hard to imagine that a few fishermen, a doctor, a tax collector and a carpenter collaborated and fabricated this whole thing and the story still has the impact to change lives 2,000 years later.

Trailady said...

Awesome post, Society!

I cannot prove the Bible is true, I cannot prove creation even though there is startling evidence that points in that direction. The greatest proof that any part of our faith is real is a changed heart. I know God lives, because He is changing, growing and healing my heart. The truth goes against the grain in so many ways.

Most of the Disciples and Apostles died horrible deaths for their faith. NOT likely something you would sacrifice for a hoax. Their very blood cries out to us, challenging us to believe.

chris said...

I believe Jesus lived, and was the messiah. As far as the facts of his life are concerned. The Gospels were written many years after his death. So are all the facts straight? Probably not, but who cares! I believe!

Jim Jordan said...

Excellent use of reason, brother.
You are in good company to find that it is a logical impossibility to explain away the truth of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) set out to debunk the story of Christ as myth but came to the conclusion that it had to be true.

The truth be told many people saw the evidence at the time and denied their very eyes. For just as many gave their lives to defend the truth as those who saw the truth and denied it! It is only our own arrogance that would suggest that we do believe something "when we see it". We could only believe what we see if we were totally honest with ourselves, and no one is totally honest with themselves, therefore God alone brings in the merchandise and God alone puts it into the cabinets of our mind.

And why should supposed pastor Shuck remark that the "Gnostic" gospels are "the gospels voted off orthodoxy's island." [Thus they must be true?]
and
The point of recently translated and published documents is not that they give new information about the historical Jesus (if there even was such a person)
and
Not to mention the fact that this PCUSA pastor fawned over the "Secret Lives of Jesus" mockumentary while admitting he had never seen it.

I am aware that Pastor Shucks'irreverent post here sparked you to write about the truth of the gospel. It's OK to call a spade a spade: Mr. Shuck is rapidly becoming a cheesy polemicist.

Either we believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts or we are doomed to believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs. The latter is insanity and we should pray that the pastor from Tennessee not slip into that.

Have a Merry Christmas!

My Garden said...

If you don't believe the historical link of the bible through the time line of life, then what did happen during that time? That is a question that leaves a big whole, and for me, there is nothing else that fits...just simply put...

SocietyVs said...

Thanks everyone for your comments - I feel quite encouraged by everyone's thoughts and the fact this is something we have to wrestle with - well, thanks for commenting.

greenleaf said...

Even given that the writers of the New Testament were not recognized historians, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence which lends credence to the words in and of themselves... places, events, persons in the historical records.

But if someone chooses not to believe, that is perfectly fine, since that is the whole point... a person's on belief, their own faith.

I know it is true.

I know it is true because there is something deep within my heart that lifts and rejoinces and recognizes Truth... and that is all the evidence I need.

Merry Christmas!


(BTW, nice post)

hineini said...

Can it be true without having actually happened?

chris said...

Merry Christmas, Brother!!!!

SocietyVs said...

"Can it be true without having actually happened?" (Heinini)

True - I think the words can be true then they come from a deeper source - where and when?

Real - No.

Problem: The stories are written and they make certain claims about Jesus - ex: The Messiah - if this is false then this is a lie. Then the letter writers are also liars - including Paul. So, in essence, we have what appears to great morality surrounded by utter nonsense (or lies).

I think it seems like such a non issue but when you consider the reality of following myth - well - then we can only compare this book to Greek and Roman mythology and nothing more. I really find little problem with people following the teachings because they are good - nothing wrong with that in my opinion...but to say and prove these stories are not based in some historical person named Jesus - is not an easy thing to do (as some historians have claimed).

But either way, happy Christmas Heinini!

hineini said...

Maybe if I introduce my concerns with your project as some of the convictions we both seem to share about the oppression going on in our society. I have heard you write some very insightful things about the evils of society and the cost that certain people or groups, like First Nations communities, have to pay unjustly.

My concern is that in attempting to establish a verifiable historicity of early Christian texts, there are two consequences that I would guess would be distasteful for us both.

The first and clearest is that the traditional Christian dogma that has been the cause of much of the oppression in Western "Christian" society is also trying to establish the same historicity of the texts to prop up their monopoly on the "right" interpretation and theological conclusions. I am not trying to say that the claims to historical accuracy are ludicrous or even inaccurate. What I want to emphasis is that a healthy portion of doubt and uncertainty is a much needed vacination against the hegemonic attempts to grab and maintain power over the texts through defining not only their interpretations but their contexts and origins.

The second concern I have deals with any attempt to make a belief or relationship with the divine any more compelling. In my opinion one's faith is radically unique to each individual and must be worked out with fear and trembling. Attempts to subsume differences or police interpretations and theological exploration seems to me to be dishonest and based in a latent or conscious fear or worse an attempt to maintain a privilaged position from which to dictate further readings that support and enable further concentrations of power.

Now I don't want this to sound like I'm accusing you of some heinous plot. I don't think your trying to grab power. I hear a real sincerity and genuine excitement about what your learning. All I want to do is to point out some of the possible consequences for your project that have popped up in other similar projects.

Anyway, sorry for being wordy and thanks for bearing with me.

Happy Holidays

curious servant said...

In checking back in I see that blogger recognized me under another account... So I thought it fair to fess up to the "Greenleaf" comment above.

Happy new year all!

SocietyVs said...

"The first and clearest is that the traditional Christian dogma that has been the cause of much of the oppression in Western "Christian" society is also trying to establish the same historicity of the texts to prop up their monopoly on the "right" interpretation and theological conclusions." (Heinini)

I see nothing wrong with anyone trying to find the historical basis for the texts within the bible - some go this way and some go that way - but in the end it's open for us all the look - irregardless of agenda.

But on the point of agenda - Christianity did play it's part alongside the gov't in the abuses in Canada (very true) - but this isn't to say that Christian dogma is wrong? The system was wrong. Christian dogma was re-interpreted to fit into a system and work alongside governmental factors - which it did happily. But the interpretations were wrong and biased - to tame these so called 'savages and heathens' - and the mentality was one of brute assimilation and not respect. I read the gospels and letters and I have a hard time justifying the actions of this time period (or even further back the Crusades) - a lot of things have been done wrong in the name of 'Christ' - but they stand as mere mis-representations of the texts - and agenda is at the core of it. I see no problem in finding the most accurate interpretations of the texts since in them is real sincerity of a non-violent people.

"Attempts to subsume differences or police interpretations and theological exploration seems to me to be dishonest and based in a latent or conscious fear or worse an attempt to maintain a privilaged position from which to dictate further readings that support and enable further concentrations of power." (Heinini)

You know what this is happening around us in such a mass way that it is hard not to be pessimistic - everyone knows I am. I agree but at the same time it can be changed and it must be changed. Relationship is individual but the texts are shared - irregardless if some use it for a power-grab or for brutal honesty - they are available at any bookstore. So, in finding the best interpretation (which I am trying to do in general), I see righting some of thr wrongs of the power-hungry, the mis-guided, the agenda seekers, etc. If interpreted rigthly according to the authorial intent we might have to start challenging current interpretations which do little outside of offering salvation - when in reality the disciples did so much more than that (alongside salvific messages).

But for some reason you think I and the church are linked (well we are) and that I follow some evangelical strain of thought - this is most certainly wrong. I have read the scriptures and I have come to some conclusions that challenge the existing structure - so much so - to mention them in church settings would get me booted easily. But I just wanna be honest about the writings and some things are up in the air but some things are pretty plain and simple - but that's a whole other topic. All I am trying to say is that the historical basis for the person Jesus has validity and I respect the lives that maintained that validity (ie: the early disciples). How it got so warped is another question - again a historical one - but I see this as a time for the revolution of the ideas back to the sincere ones from which they arose.

BrotherKen said...

Society - very well said. The Bible, though it is not intended to be a history book, contains some history. Because I am convinced that it must be God inspired, I read it with an interest to learn about my creator. How my God has interacted with others gives me insight as to who He is and who I am in relationship to Him. Now if I just knew why He put me on this earth :-)

Karen said...

Bart Ehrmann, who is probably an agnostic, writes a lot about Jesus being misquoted; the problems with authenticity and mistakes in the writing and canonization of the Bible...but he never questions the man named Jesus who walked the earth--he refers to Him as an apocalyptic prophet.
Oddly, the realization for me that Jesus existed and of His deity, is that women played a crucial part in His ministry, and were the first to see and tell about His resurrection...and the fact that that WASN'T kept out of these manuscripts given the status of women in those days...spoke clearly to me of the validity of the events.